Jawaharlal Nehru And How His Love For Marxism Affected India

Aravindan Neelakandan

Nov 14, 2018, 06:04 PM | Updated 06:03 PM IST

Jawaharlal Nehru  shakes hands with then Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow. Keystone/GettyImages) 
Jawaharlal Nehru shakes hands with then Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev in Moscow. Keystone/GettyImages) 
  • Genesis and Growth of Nehruism by Sita Ram Goel is an extraordinary insight into the life of Jawaharlal Nehru and his ‘Marxist addiction’, which influenced his policies for India.
  • In 1950, Bertrand Russell recommended a book written by an Indian author and published by a nondescript Indian publisher. None other than Sri Aurobindo personally blessed the book. It was a book written by Ram Swarup (1920-1998), Russian Imperialism: How to stop it. The publisher of the book was then living in Calcutta. In the morning of the summer of 1950, an official from the Home Ministry visited him to convey a message from then home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The message was crisp: “The Home Minister wants me to convey to you that if the work started by you is not encouraged and assisted right now, it will have to be done by Indian Army one day.” Alas! The same year the home minister became immortal. Four years later the publication would be asked to close their stall by the West Bengal government on instructions from the prime minister himself.

    The cover of Genesis and Growth of Nehruism
    The cover of Genesis and Growth of Nehruism

    The publisher was no ordinary man. The formidable Sita Ram Goel (SRG 1921-2003) spent time between 1955 and 1960 to study the writings and speeches of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, his official letters, his answers at press meetings and Parliament etc. The result was a series of articles which originally started getting serialised in ‘Organiser’ and in 1963 it was published as a book, In Defence of Comrade Krishna Menon - the subtitle stated it all: A political biography of Pandit Nehru. The book was then republished with minor edits ‘mostly in language’ in 1993 under the title Genesis and Growth of Nehruism. In 2018 the book was republished by Voice of India.

    The book is an extraordinary exploration of the life of India’s first prime minister who seemed to have suffered from ‘Soviet addiction’ as the author clearly proves. The book studies in a scholarly fashion how Nehru became afflicted with the Marxist virus and progressively transformed into an effective crypto-Marxist. The foreword to the first edition of the book was written by Philip Spratt the Comintern agent turned Gandhian. For the record, Spratt was also the editor of Swarajya. In the foreword Spratt clearly identifies Nehru as a Communist and hints at his dark inner processes that facilitate his communist mindset:

    He is in a sense aware of dark side of Communism as it has existed up to now , but he neutralises this awareness with the Communist procedure of considering history in block-stages.

    In a way the entire book is more a psychological study of how Nehru’s addiction for Marxism influenced his policies and stands, often placing his ideological fantasies over the national interest. The Soviet Union initially treated India with a great disdain. Despite Nehru cajoling Soviet representatives even before Independence, the USSR under Stalin took a very harsh stand on India. So when the Indian embassy was opened in the Soviet Union and Nehru’s sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit was made India’s first ambassador, the Soviets did not even bother to supply furniture to the embassy.

    Vijayalakshmi Pandit’s repeated requests to get an audience with Stalin were ignored. Ultimately, India had to get the furniture for its embassy in Moscow from Stockholm, incurring heavy expenditure. Questions regarding this humiliation and wasteful expenditure imposed on the Indian embassy by the Soviets were raised in the Indian Parliament. The prime minister of India rose to the defence of the Soviet Union that would have made even the red communist party flag blush.

    “How a house has to be furnished in Moscow, of course, honourable members do not realise,” said Nehru, the internationalist, pointing out that it would be heavily expensive to airlift furniture from India. Alternatively, the Soviet Union itself could provide the furniture but right now Soviet people “are building dams, reservoirs and factories and the rest which they consider important”. So it is not easy to get these “small accessories of life”. Of course, czarist furniture is available but they are expensive. So we need to buy even tables and chairs for the embassy from Stockholm. This was Nehru answering the Indian Parliament justifying the calculated insult Stalin meted out to Indian embassy in Moscow.

    The chapter titled, ‘A devoted disciple of Stalin’ is worth reading by every misguided Nehru-admirer who may be by chance a lover of democracy at heart. Nehru adored Stalin. In 1953, when Stalin died Nehru passed a resolution in the Indian Parliament to mourn the death of the most cruel mass murderer in the history of humanity ranking along with Hitler. He called Stalin as one who was “more than the head of the State” and as “a man who favoured peace” and described his own generation of Indians as “children of his age”. SRG conclusively proves that the real master of Nehru in his heart of heart was not Mahatma Gandhi but Marshal Stalin.

    In 1955, Nehru was allowed to visit Soviet Union as a state guest. He described this visit to the USSR as a ‘pilgrimage’. Soon Nikita Khrushchev would expose Stalin for what he really was, though the full exposure to the Soviet Union of the monster had to wait another three decades. SRG makes a very incisive analysis of the reactions of Nehru to this new revelations from the USSR about his hero Stalin:

    So far he had been praising the Soviet Union because Stalin was there. Now he was praising it on the plea that Stalin was no more there! He conceded, although indirectly, that the old critics of Stalin’s Russia whom he had attacked and ridiculed as reactionaries for more than thirty years, were right. But in the next breath, he took a right-about-turn and came back to his old position of admiration for the Soviet Union. He barked back at the critics that now that Stalin had been denounced they should have no cause for complaint. All his Marxism could not help him to see that a whole epoch of human history could not be blamed upon an individual. Stalin was as much a creature as a creator of Communism. And Soviet Union was still swearing by that ideology. Thus he had passed the supreme test laid down by the Soviet bosses: Are your for or against the Soviet Union. ... He had qualified for that class of Soviet addicts who will always stand by the Soviet Union till either the Soviet Union breaks down under the weight of its own crimes or they themselves suffer a fall due t their frightful follies.

    A prophetic statement indeed to have been made in 1963 when the Soviet Union was considered as both eternal and invincible!

    Goel brings out another very important dimension of Nehru in his 1993 edition. In September 1948, Nehru went to London to attend a Commonwealth conference. On his return, he wrote to Patel that “even Lady Mountbatten was worried about” and “Members of the Parliament spoke about” Patel’s crackdown on communist leaders. In the same letter, he pointed out to Sardar that regarding RSS there was ‘”a widespread impression in England that they are Fascist communal-minded people”. So at this juncture removing the ban on RSS, he wrote to Patel, would make an impression that Indian state was encouraging “certain Fascist elements in India”. SRG points out that except Edwina Mountbatten, Nehru never gave the name of any of the “Members of Parliament” who complained about the crackdown of communist leaders or those who expressed concern about the RSS.

    SRG sarcastically comments that poor RSS being a patriotic organisation had no such patrons abroad who could weigh more on Nehru than the opinion within the country or even his own Congress Party.

    When in London Lady Mountbatten had told Nehru “about a proposal to hold a Conference in Calcutta under the auspices of the Women’s International Democratic Federation”. When the matter was referred to the Home Ministry, H V R Iyengar, secretary of the ministry, prepared a long note on the nature of this federation and the consequences that would follow if the conference was allowed. Nehru forwarded the Home Ministry’s note to Edwina Mountbatten along with a long letter dated 11 November 1948, expressing his own helplessness. In this letter written by Prime Minister of India to Lady Mountbatten in an apologetic tone, he reminded her how on previous occasions like during ‘South East Asia Students’ Conference’ he had bravely withstood the objections and conducted it. But now he was helpless. He then pleaded with her reasserting his love for communism, “You know that I have had strong leanings towards Communism and have many friends among Communists.“

    While a section of Internet-Hindutvaites try to make cheap attacks on Nehru using his relation with Edwina Mountbatten, SRG makes a deeper analysis of the problem. Like many of the British elites, Lady Mountbatten was drawn towards Marxism and the relation between the two becoming injurious to Indian interests is more because of this common admiration for Marxist tyranny.

    Running 225 pages, the book is a razor sharp analysis of what Steven Pinker would identify today as ‘tyranophilia’ that afflicted Nehru. Goel calls it ‘Soviet-addiction’. In fact, this was either aggravated by or co-produced Hindu-phobia. Thus Nehru was a deeply flawed individual who unfortunately also was India’s first and longest reigning prime minister. The result is that even after leaving out those who are dynasty-cultists out of vested interests and Hindu hatred, a considerable section of the society still admires Nehru innocently. Many Indians want to give the benefit of the doubt to Nehru and think that his misplaced romantic love for socialism was used by the Chinese who betrayed him. Nehru as brought out by this book was no intellectual romanticist but a power-hungry leader who was willingly afflicted by Marxist virus. He could project himself as a democratic person through the choicest of the words though he did everything to subvert democracy in India.

    Republished in 2018 after 25 years of its second edition and priced at Rs 295, this book is a must read for every Indian. All the data that SRG uses, have been drawn from the volumes of speeches and letters of Nehru himself and there is no gossip mongering. In those days when one had no internet and digital reading, one can only imagine the amount of midnight oil burnt and extreme attention with which SRG should read going through all those flowery languages and then zooming in on the exact passages that betray the real nature of Nehru.

    Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

    Get Swarajya in your inbox.