Modern History Sourcebook:
Marxism, Capitalism and Non-Alignment
India's first Prime Minister after independence, (1947) was the creator of such
terms as "neutralism", "Third World",
Capitalism and India's
our struggle toned down and established itself at a low level, there was little
of excitement in it, except at long intervals. My thoughts traveled more to
other countries, and I watched and studied, as far as I could in jail, the
world situation in the grip of the great depression. I read as many books as I
could find on the subject, and the more I read the more fascinated I grew. India with her
problems and struggles became just a part of this mighty world drama, of the
great struggle of political and economic forces that was going on everywhere,
nationally and internationally. In that struggle my own sympathies went
increasingly toward the communist side.
had long been drawn to socialism and communism, and Russia had appealed to me. Much in
Soviet Russia I dislike-the ruthless suppression of all contrary opinion, the
wholesale regimentation, the unnecessary violence (as
I thought) in carrying out various policies. But there was no lack of violence
and suppression in the capitalist world, and I realized more and more how the
very basis and foundation of our acquisitive society and property was violence.
Without violence it could not continue for many days. A measure of political
liberty meant little indeed when the fear of starvation was always compelling
the vast majority of people everywhere to submit to the will of the few, to the
greater glory and advantage of the latter.
was common in both places, but the violence of the capitalist g order seemed
inherent in it; while the violence of Russia, bad though it was t aimed
at a new order based on peace and cooperation and real freedom for the masses.
With all her blunders, Soviet Russia had triumphed over enormous difficulties
and taken great strides toward this new order While the rest of the world was
in the grip of the depression and going backward in some ways, in the Soviet
country a great new world was being built up before our eyes. Russia,
following the great Lenin, looked into the future and thought only of what was
to be, while other countries lay numbed under the dead hand of the past and
spent their energy in preserving the useless relics of a bygone age. In
particular, I was impressed by the reports of the great progress made by the
backward regions of Central Asia under the
Soviet regime. In the balance, therefore, I was all in favor of Russia, and the
presence and example of the Soviets was a bright and heartening phenomenon in a
dark and dismal world.
Soviet Russia's success or failure, vastly important as it was as a practical
experiment in establishing a communist state, did not affect the soundness of
the theory of communism. The Bolsheviks may blunder or even fail because of
national or international reasons, and yet the communist theory may be correct.
On the basis of that very theory it was absurd to copy blindly what had taken
place in Russia,
for its application depended on the particular conditions prevailing in the
country in question and the stage of its historical development. Besides, India, or any
other country, could profit by the triumphs as well as the inevitable mistakes
of the Bolsheviks. Perhaps the Bolsheviks had tried to go too fast because,
surrounded as they were by a world of enemies, they feared external aggression.
A slower tempo might ; avoid much of the misery caused
in the rural areas. But then the question rose if really radical results could
be obtained by slowing down the rate of change. Reformism was an impossible
solution of any vital problem at a critical moment when the basic structure had
to be changed, and, however slow the progress might be later on, the initial
step must be a complete break with the existing order, which had fulfilled its
purpose and was now only a drag on future progress.
only a revolutionary plan could solve the two related questions of the land and
industry as well as almost every other major problem before the country....
apart, the theory and philosophy of Marxism lightened up many a dark corner of
my mind. History came to have a new meaning for me. The Marxist interpretation
threw a flood of light on it, and it became an unfolding drama with some order
and purpose, howsoever unconscious, behind it. In spite of the appalling waste
and misery of the past and the present, the future was bright with hope, though
many dangers intervened. It was the essential freedom from dogma and the
scientific outlook of Marxism that appealed to me. It was true that there was
plenty of dogma in official communism in Russia and elsewhere, and frequently
heresy hunts were organized. That seemed to be deplorable, though it was not
difficult to understand in view of the tremendous changes taking place rapidly
in the Soviet countries when effective opposition might have resulted in
great world crisis and slump seemed to justify the Marxist analysis. While all
other systems and theories were groping about in the dark, Marxism alone
explained it more or less satisfactorily and offered a real solution.
this conviction grew upon me, I was filled with a new excitement, and my
depression at the nonsuccess of civil disobedience grew much less Was not the world marching rapidly toward the desired
consummation? There were grave dangers of wars and catastrophes, but at any
rate we were moving There was no stagnation. Our
national struggle became a stage in the 1onger journey, and it was as well that
repression and suffering were tempering our people for future struggles and
forcing them to consider the new ideas that were stirring the world. We would
be the stronger and the more disciplined and hardened by the elimination of the
weaker elements. Time was in our favor.
from Toward Freedom: The Autobiograplly of Jawaharlal Nehru (New York: John Day
Co., 1941), pp. 228-231;
Development and Nonalignment (1956)
are now engaged in a gigantic and exciting task of achieving rapid and largescale economic development of our country. Such
development, in an ancient and underdeveloped country such as India, is only
possible with purposive planning. True to our democratic principles and
traditions, we seek, in free discussion and consultation as well as in
implementation, the enthusiasm and the willing and active cooperation of our
people. We completed our first FiveYear Plan 8
months ago, and now we have begun on a more ambitious scale our second FiveYear Plan, which seeks a planned development in
agriculture and industry, town and country, and between factory and smallscale and cottage production. I speak of India because
it is my country and I have some right to speak for her. But many other
countries in Asia tell the same story, for Asia
today is resurgent, and these countries which long lay under foreign yoke have
won back their independence and are fired by a new spirit and strive toward new
ideals. To them, as to us, independence is as vital as the breath they take to
sustain life, and colonialism, in any form, or anywhere, is abhorrent....
. . Peace and freedom have become indivisible, and the world cannot continue
for long partly free and partly subject. In this atomic age peace has also
become a test of human survival.
we have witnessed two tragedies which have powerfully affected men and women
all over the world. These are the tragedies in Egypt
Our deeply felt sympathies must go out to those who have suffered or are
suffering, and all of us must do our utmost to help them and to assist in
solving these problems in a peaceful and constructive way. But even these
tragedies have one hopeful aspect, for they have
demonstrated that the most powerful countries cannot revert to old colonial
methods or impose their domination over weak countries. World opinion has shown
that it can organize itself to resist such outrages. Perhaps, as an outcome of
these tragedies, freedom will he enlarged and will
have a more assured basis.
preservation of peace forms the central aim of India's policy. It is in the
pursuit of this policy that we have chosen the path of nonalinement
[nonalignment] in any military or like pact of alliance. Nonalinement
does not mean passivity of mind or action, lack of faith or conviction. It does
not mean submission to what we consider evil. It is a positive and dynamic
approach to t such problems that confront us. We believe that each country has
not only the e right to freedom but also to decide its own policy and way of
life. Only thus can true freedom flourish and a people grow according to their
believe, therefore, in nonaggression and noninterference by one country in the
affairs of another and the growth of tolerance between them and the capacity
for peaceful coexistence. We think that by the free exchange of ideas and trade
and other contacts between nations each will learn f rom
the other and truth will prevail. We therefore endeavor to maintain friendly relationS with all countries, even though we may disagree
with them in their policies or structure of government. We think that by this
approach we can serve not only our country but also the larger causes of` peace
and good ; fellowship in the world.
from a speech in Washington, D.C.,
December 18, 1956, printed in the U.S. Department of State
Bulletin, January 14, 1957, pp. 4950.
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Halsall Aug 1997