An Incurable Soviet-Addict
If we contemplate the several varieties of Soviet-addicts, we can classify them into three clear-cut categories.
In the first place, we have those dupes who believe that all the dreams which mankind has ever dreamt have become physical reality inside the Soviet Union. These people can talk and write endlessly about the miracles that have materialised in Soviet society. But no one can ever involve them into a discussion based on known facts. Faced with facts, they either denounce you in the choicest terms of communist swearology or simply turn away their faces and get back into their trance.
We find lots of such people in every communist party and quite a few in the communist fronts. There is no way of curing such people except unloading them physically inside the Soviet borders where the Soviet Secret Police and the Slave Labour Administration is quite capable of bringing them back to sanity. In a democratic society, such Soviet-addicts cannot be dealt with without outraging the conscience of our liberals and leftists.
The second type of Soviet-addict hardly ever talks of the Soviet Union. His mind is always preoccupied with the “plenty of evil” prevailing in “your so-called democracies”. You point out a single drawback in the Soviet system and this fellow starts reading out an endless inventory of drawbacks in the “so-called democracies”. If you point out that two evils can never explain away or abolish one another and that the Soviet Union does not become white simply because the rest of the world is (or has been painted) black, he sees no merit in this logic. In fact, this fellow lives in a dark night and sees darkness everywhere. It is only when you praise the Soviet Union that his face brightens up.
We find quite a few such Soviet-addicts in the ranks of the card-carrying communists. Their strength, however, is concentrated generally in the communist fronts. The only effective way of dealing with such people is to subject them to at least some of the evils they imagine as existent in non-communist countries. For, most of these people come from classes which have really never known hardship but which, due to some sickness in their mental make-up, become enemies of the system which provides them protection and privilege. But, again, a democratic society cannot deal with this type of sickness without raising a hue and cry amongst our liberals and leftists.
The third type of Soviet-addict is somewhat more sophisticated. He is prepared to listen to most of the criticism levelled against the Soviet Union by a capable critic. He is also prepared to admit that quite a large part of that criticism is valid so far as facts are concerned. But he insists that one should look at the Soviet Union somewhat “more objectively” and in a “larger historical perspective”. Is it not true, tie starts by saying, that the Soviet Union is carrying on an experiment which is unique in human history and which, if successful, will lead the whole of humanity out of “capitalist slavery” and into “socialist freedom”? Is it not true, he proceeds, that the Soviet Union is surrounded by a hostile capitalist world which stops the flow of foreign capital into the Soviet Union, which smuggles into the Soviet Union all sorts of saboteurs, which has been always preoccupied with preparations for a new war against the Soviet Union, etc? And if the Soviet Union, he explains, has been forced into committing some mistakes either due to the vastness of its vision, or due to its “imperialist encirclement”, one should not view the Soviet Union in a hurried and hostile manner. One should, he concludes, try to understand the vision which inspires the Soviet Union, and take into account the overwhelming odds against which the Soviet Union has been struggling ever since its birth.
Such apologists of the Soviet Union have more or less completely swamped the universities of the Western world, particularly those of the Anglo-Saxon countries. Today, nobody can be counted a scholar in any field unless he is prepared to “study the Soviet system, objectively and sympathetically”. Harold Laski of the British Labour Party spent a life-time apologising for and explaining away the crimes of the Soviet Union in terms of this or that “compulsion of events” or “historical necessity”. And Laski has been copied wholesale and on a large scale in almost all our strongholds of scholarship. These “scholars” are very hard to crack because their gaze “is fixed on the distant goal”, while their opponents “cannot see beyond their own nose”. These “scholars” refuse to deal with “dirty facts”. Their proper province is “the sweep of the human vision and human history”. And the only way to deal with these “philosophers” is to apply the whip on their bare backs. Only a touch of cold physical reality can bring them down from their sojourn in the stratosphere and make them feel in their flesh that the mass murder of millions of innocent human beings should never be philosophised out of existence. But, alas! we are no longer living in medieval times. Alas! we have become too modem to deal methodically with these monsters masquerading as sociologists, economists, and historians. You cannot mention the whip to a modem democrat without being branded as a fascist.
Now, most non-communist countries of the world have their own fair share of these various kinds of Soviet-addicts. But, fortunately, these sick people exist singly and separately in most of the places. India alone has the privilege of having all the three categories of Soviet-addicts rolled into a single personality - that of its Prime Minister and unrivalled leader, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. We have seen how he can get into a trance about the “Soviet experiment”. We shall now see him trying the other tricks. That takes us to his autobiography which fie started writing in 1934 and which was first published in England in early 1936. It was immediately became a bestseller and ran into many reprints. Till 1955, the edition from which we shall quote, it had been reprinted as many as twenty times. In the Preface written by Pandit Nehru himself in January 1936, he says: “My intention was to trace, as far as I could, my own mental development and not write a survey of recent Indian history.”
Coming to the one philosophy of life which finally gripped him, he writes: “My thoughts travelled more to other countries, and I watched and studied, as far as I could in goal, the world situation in the grip of the great depression. I lead 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 towards the communist side.”1
But unfortunately for his trance, some ugly facts about the Soviet Union were too obvious and they forced themselves on his attention. He at once turned his face towards the capitalist world and wept: “I 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 realised more and more bow 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.”2
There has been a widespread belief that Pandit Nehru, the successor of Mahatma Gandhi, does not approve of violence and that while he likes communist goals, he disapproves of communist methods, particularly communist violence. But we have his own confession in this context. He himself says: “Violence was common in both places, but the violence of the capitalist order seemed inherent in it; whilst the violence of Russia, bad though it was, 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 towards 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 favour of Russia, and the presence and example of the Soviets was a bright and heartening phenomenon in a dark and dismal world.”3
In an earlier article we have seen how he wanted his readers not to bother about communist theory but to contemplate only communist creations. Now he did a right-about-turn and asked his readers to concentrate on communist theory alone. He wrote: “But 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 arose 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.”4
And contemplating the communist theory himself, he again went back into his trance. He warmed up:
“Russia 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 organised, 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 catastrophic failure.
“The 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.”5
Next, he fitted India’s struggle for independence into the Marxist frame of history. According to him, “As this conviction grew upon me, I was filled with a new excitement and my depression at the non-success of civil disobedience grew much less. Was not the world marching rapidly towards 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 longer 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 favour.”6
At long last he had a “philosophy” of life. And this “philosophy” enabled him to see a “fascist danger” in India as soon as he was released from jail in September 1935. Taking his aim at Subhash Chandra Bose who was, in later years, to break the morale of the British Indian army and install this nincompoop on the throne of independent India, he wrote: “There are already clearly marked fascist tendencies in India’s young men and women, especially in Bengal, but to some extent in every province, and the Congress is beginning to reflect them. Because of fascism’s close connection with extreme forms of violence, the elders of the Congress, wedded as they are to non-violence, have a natural horror of it. But the so-called philosophical background of fascism - the Corporate State with private property preserved and vested interests curbed but not done away with - will probably appeal to them.”7 Fortunately for him, “the elders of the Congress” did not understand his language and, therefore, failed to cure him out of his self-righteousness.
Making his own choice of communism quite clear, he now bewailed his “bourgeois background” which prevented him from becoming a better communist. He said: “As between fascism and communism my sympathies are entirely with communism. As these pages will show, I am very far from being a communist. My roots are still perhaps partly in the nineteenth century, and I have been too much influenced by the humanist liberal tradition to get out of it completely. This bourgeois background follows me about and is naturally a source of irritation to many communists. I dislike dogmatism, and the treatment of Karl Marx’s writings or any other book as revealed scripture which cannot be challenged, and the regimentation and heresy hunts which seem to be a feature of modern communism. I dislike also much that has happened in Russia, and especially the excessive use of violence in normal times. But still I incline more and more towards a communist philosophy.”8
The communists themselves were saying repeatedly that Marx had failed to see the future course of history quite clearly because, in his life-time, capitalism had not become “monopoly capitalism” or “a world imperialist system”. The prophet par excellence of this “imperialist era”, according to official communist dogma, was Comrade Lenin. Yet Pandit Nehru went on waxing eloquent on the beauties of Marxism as a scientific system which could lay bare many secrets. In his own words, “Marx may be wrong in some of his statements, or his theory of value; this I am not competent to judge. But he seems to me to have possessed quite an extraordinary degree of insight into social phenomena, and this insight was apparently due to the scientific method he adopted. This method, applied to past history as well as current events, helps us in understanding them far more than any other method of apporach, and it is because of this that the most revealing and keen analysis of the changes that are taking place in the world today come from Marxist writers. It is easy to point out that Marx ignored or underrated certain subsequent tendencies, like the rise of a revolutionary element in the middle class, which is so notable today. But the whole value of Marxism seems to me to lie in its absence of dogmatism, in its stress on a certain outlook and mode of approach, and in its attitude to action. That outlook helps us in understanding the social phenomena of our own times, and points out the way of action and escape.”9
But he was perhaps too conscious of recent history to miss the point that Marx had been proved wrong on every single count as far as the course of contemporary history was concerned. So, he took refuge in Lenin who had tried to force history into the Marxist mould, as soon as it was seen that history on its own did not pay much attention to the mumblings of Marx. He wrote: “Even that method of action was no fixed and unchangeable road, but had to be suited to circumstances. That, at any rate, was Lenin’s view, and he justified it brilliantly by fitting his action to changing circumstances. He tells us that, ‘To attempt to answer yes or no to the question of the definite means of struggle without examining in detail the concrete situation of a given moment at a given stage of its development, means to depart altogether from the Marxian ground.’ And again he said: ‘Nothing is final; we must always learn from circumstances.’ “10
He could now place the communist mafia as an entity apart and above the ordinary run of “bourgeois” politicians. He philosophised: “Because of this wide and comprehensive outlook, the real understanding communist develops to some extent an organic sense of social life. Politics for him cease to be a mere record of opportunism or a groping in the dark. The ideals and objectives he works forgive a meaning to the struggle and to the sacrifices be willingly faces. He feels that he is part of a grand army marching forward to realise human fate and destiny, and he has the sense of ‘marching step by step with history’. Probably most communists are far from feeling all this. Perhaps only Lenin had this organic sense of life in its fullness which made his action so effective. But to a small extent every communist, who has understood the philosophy of his movement, has it.”11 It need not be said that he included himself in this “grand army”.
And finally he hugged the “proletarian politicians” to his own “bourgeois” bosom in the following words: “It is difficult to be patient with many communists; they have developed a peculiar method of irritating others. But they are a sorely tried people, and, outside the Soviet Union, they have to contend against enormous difficulties. I have always admitted their great courage and capacity for sacrifice. They suffer greatly, as unhappily untold millions suffer in various ways, but not blindly before a malign and all-powerful fate. They suffer as human beings, and there is a tragic nobility about such suffering.”12
This fraternisation with the communists has ever since been a permanent feature of Pandit Nehru’s politics, national and international. He has never failed to understand the communists even when they have indulged in large-scale murder, arson, loot, and rape, even when they have openly preached and practised high treason against his own country. And he also believes that howsoever badly the communists may behave towards others, he himself can always bring them round by means of his superior understanding. He is like that eighth wife of a Chinese landlord who, when told that her husband had strangled his seven earlier wives, smiled and said, “Oh, they didn’t understand the old dear!”
Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography, The Bodley Head, London, 1955, p. 361. ↩
Ibid., Italics added. ↩
Ibid., pp. 361-62. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 362. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., pp. 362-63. ↩
Ibid., p. 363. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 590. ↩
Ibid., p. 591. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., pp. 591-92. ↩
Ibid., p. 592. ↩
Ibid. Italics added. ↩
Ibid. Italics added. ↩