An Apologist for Soviet Sins
An ordinary apologist for Soviet sins always points out the “progressive character of Soviet foreign policy” whenever he is faced with an overwhelming evidence of Soviet crimes in the domestic sphere. And he generally turns towards “Soviet achievements at home” whenever he finds that a defence of Soviet foreign policy at some point is a somewhat more difficult job. But Pandit Nehru is no ordinary apologist. He does take the first turn and tries to draw people’s attention towards Soviet foreign policy whenever the ugliness of the domestic Soviet scene becomes too obvious even to his indoctrinated “insight”. But whenever it comes to defending the defects in Soviet foreign policy, he comes out as quite an extraordinary apologist. In fact, Soviet foreign policy has been his one permanent fixation all through these nearly thirty-five years during which he has worshipped at the altar of Communism. This will become more than amply evident when we take up his foreign policy in the later part of this series. Just now we are analysing his various books for finding out his basic beliefs.
His fourth book, The Unity of India, is a collection of articles and speeches from 1935 to 1940 in the context of various national and international issues. Its compilation and publication in London in early 1941 was also arranged by Krishna Menon who says in the Foreword: “Jawaharlal Nehru entrusted to me the task of making the necessary selection of his writings and putting them together for the publishers. I had no opportunity of consulting him about the form of this book, nor has he seen any of its proofs…To Jawaharlal Nehru I am deeply grateful for his generous confidence.”1
In the same Foreword, Krishna Menon gives a warning to those people who had started holding that recent happenings inside the Soviet Union as well as the doings of the Soviet Union abroad had cured Pandit Nehru of his old addiction. As we shall see later on, there was also at this time an acute difference of opinion inside the Congress High Command regarding the so-called “radicalisation” of Congress policy under pressure from Pandit Nehru and his leftist followers, for all of whom Mahatma Gandhi harboured a more than blind fondness. Says Krishna Menon: “It should help those who are prone to think that Jawaharlal Nehru can be cajoled or coerced or that the movement of Indian awakening can be diverted from its basic purposes to discover their tragic error. Such a discovery would be the beginning of an understanding of renascent India.”2 What he meant by the terms “awakening” and “renascent India” should be clear to everybody. He was pointing out that by the year 1941 the Soviet Trojan horse inside India had travelled too far to beat a retreat simply because some “reactionaries” objected to its transgressions. And the “basic purposes” he had in mind meant a steady colonisation of the Indian National Congress by the Communist Party of India so that in due course this country could be converted into a Soviet satellite.
This book was published by the same firm which had earlier brought out Pandit Nehru’s Glimpses of World History. A second impression was printed in 1941 and a third one in 1948, by which time world events had clearly shown the intrinsic character of the Soviet Union as a totalitarian tyranny and an imperialist monster for which human history held no example. But that did not deter Pandit Nehru from going on parading the Soviet Union as a paradise at home and a force for peace abroad.
This book is very important in so far as it is a close paraphrase of Georgi Dimitroff’s United Front published by this General Secretary of the Communist International at the end of 1937. Dimitroff’s exercise depicted “development of the political line of the Communist International” after August 1935 when tile Comintern did a volte-face against its earlier pro-fascist performances and propounded, in its Seventh World Congress, the policy of “anti-fascist people’s united front”. We shall have occasion to review Pandit Nehru’s advocacy of a “united front” in India. In the present context we are reproducing only his record as an apologist for Soviet sins.
On March 5, 1938 he had given an Address to the National Academy of Sciences at their Annual Meeting held in Allahabad. He could not miss this opportunity for doing a bit of clean communist propaganda. He said: “We have seen how a consciously held objective, backed by coordinated effort, can change a backward country into an advanced industrial State with an ever rising standard of living. Some such method we shall have to pursue if we are to make rapid progress.”3 He was to redeem this promise when he rose to supreme power and launched his Five Year Plans after the Soviet style. Of course, we have witnessed inside India during 1956-61 the “ever-rising standard of living” and the record of “rapid progress”. The Soviet Union up to 1938 had put up a better performance because she had managed to kill millions of peasants, and workers and to discover “plots and counterplots” of unprecedented magnitudes.
During February-March 1939, Pandit Nehru had published a long article - A Survey of Congress Politics, 1936-39. Coming to his survey of the international scene, he wrote: “I had been considerably upset by the course of events in the Soviet Union, the trials and the repeated purges of vast numbers of Communists. I think the trials were generally bonafide and there bad been a definite conspiracy against the regime and widespread attempts at sabotage. Nevertheless, I could not reconcile myself to what was happening there, and it indicated to me ill-health in the body politic, which necessitated an ever-continuing use of violence and suppression. Still the progress made in Russian economy, the advancing standards of the people, the great advance in cultural matters and many other things continued to impress me. I was eager to visit the Soviet Union, but unfortunately my daughter’s illness prevented me from going there.”4
No one should imagine that he wanted to visit the Soviet Union in order to discuss his doubts. For, doubts he had none. He himself said so in the next paragraph of the article: “Whatever doubts I had about internal happenings in Russia, I was quite clear in my mind about her foreign policy. This had been consistently one of peace and, unlike England and France, of fulfilling international obligations and supporting the cause of democracy abroad. The Soviet Union stood as the one real effective bulwark against Fascism in Europe and Asia. Without the Soviet Union what could be the state of Europe today? Fascist reaction would triumph everywhere and democracy and freedom would become dreams of a past age.”5
But unfortunately for him, the Soviet Union, “the sole defender of democracy” and “the one real effective bulwark against Fascism”, signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany and threw Europe into the throes of the Second World War. By the normal laws of human psychology, he should have felt ashamed of himself and admitted his mistake publicly like his master, Mahatma Gandhi. But, as we have already pointed out, he is no ordinary Soviet-addict. His psychology, therefore, has also been extraordinary. He had up his sleeve an apology for the Soviet Union, and he produced it as early as September 21, 1939 when he wrote: “Soviet Russia is at present a mystifying factor in the world situation. It is obvious that whatever Russia does will have important and far-reaching results. But as we do not know what she is going to do, we have to leave her out of our present calculations. The Russo-German Pact came as a shock and surprise to many. There was nothing surprising in it except the manner of doing it and the moment chosen for it. At any other time it would have naturally fitted in with Soviet foreign policy. But there can be little doubt that at that particular moment it brought dismay to many friends of Russia. There seemed to be too much over-reaching, cynicism and opportunism about it. That criticism applied to Hitler also, who overnight had dropped his fierce anti-Communism and apparently made friends with the Soviet. A cynic said that Russia had joined the Anti-Comintern Pact; another that Hitler was turning Communist as well as a patron of the Jews. All this seems to us fantastic nonsense, for there can be, and there is going to be, no real alliance between Hitler and Stalin. But both are willing enough to play at the game of power politics. Russia has suffered enough at the hands of England to resent it bitterly.”6 So, Russia had committed no crime; she was simply repaying England in the latter’s own coin!
But the rape of poor Poland by the “socialist and anti-imperialist” Soviet Union was somewhat more difficult to defend. The admirers of the Soviet Union had constantly pointed out that she did not covet foreign territory. They had, of course, forgotten that the Soviet Red Army had tried to occupy Poland as early as 1920 an only the weakness of the Red Army had prevented it from playing its essentially imperialist role. And Soviet propaganda had turned this necessity into a virtue. Now all of a sudden the Red Army had marched into Poland which had not offended the Soviet Union in any way except refusing to ally with the Soviet Union which was Poland’s sovereign right. Moreover, Poland had seen the fate of Czechoslovakia which was allied with the Soviet Union, and which the latter had done nothing to save from Hitler. It was no fault of Poland that she saw no protection in a Polish-Soviet Alliance. She had instead depended on the protection promised by England and France which nations at least showed a sense of honour by declaring war against Nazi Germany.
Pandit Nehru-was, of course, shocked. But like every inveterate Soviet-addict, he was quite capable of absorbing this shock also. He guessed and philosophised as follows: “The Soviet’s march into Eastern Poland was another shock. But it is yet difficult to say whether this was to counter the German army or to weaken the Poles or merely to take advantage of a particular situation from the nationalist point of view. From the meagre information that we possess it seems, however, that Russia’s advance into Poland has certainly come in the way of German designs. It has prevented German occupation of Eastern Poland and cried a halt to the German army. More important still is the occupation of the entire Polish-Rumanian frontier by the Soviet army. This has made it certain that Germany cannot take possession of the Rumanian oil-fields which she coveted, and probably that she cannot draw upon the vast wheat supplies of Rumania. The Balkans are saved from German aggression, and Turkey breathes with relief. All this may mean little today, but in the future, as the war progresses, it will have a vital significance. It may be thus that Soviet Russia has rendered a great service to the cause of the Western Allies, and Bernard Shaw’s dictum that Stalin has made a cat’s-paw of Hitler has some truth in it.”7 He had nothing to say when, after the fall of France, the German armies occupied Rumania and the Balkans, and Soviet Russia kept on looking the other way.
Everyone except Pandit Nehru and his communist comrades could see that the Nazi-Soviet Pact alone had given a free hand to Hitler for his triumphant march into Western Europe and the Balkans. The Pact had also strengthened Hider’s resources so that he could turn back and devour the Soviet Union. The nemesis came very soon. And it is recorded history how the poor and down-trodden people of Russia rose against Nazi hordes in defence of their Fatherland after the Red Army had collapsed all along the front, and after Stalin, who was responsible for inviting the German armies, ran away from Moscow like a rat.
Again, everyone knew in 1948 how Stalin had conspired with Hider for a division of Europe and Asia between Germany and Russia. The records of the Ribbentrop-Molotov talks had been published by that time. They did not betray any socialist or democratic intentions on the part of the Soviet Union. If anything, they showed that Soviet Russia was as ruthless in pursuit of her imperialist designs as Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Her record in Eastern Europe and China during 1945-47 had further confirmed that Soviet Russia intended to streamline her system of imperialism. But for Pandit Nehru all these facts did not mean a fig. He quietly permitted his minion to bring out another reprint of his “philosophisations” in the middle of 1948. He had become the Prime Minister of an independent India by that time due to the good graces of a British Government. And Krishna Menon was by now a responsible representative of the Indian Republic in his capacity as India’s High Commissioner in England.
We do not know if there have been any more reprints of this book in India or abroad. Pandit Nehru has been a bestseller for years now. We should not be surprised if this book runs into more reprints without a comma being erased or a footnote being added, as if it were not a piece of puerile journalism but a sacrosanct scripture. Even in 1948, it was obvious that old copies of this book should have been hidden away from the public. But that sort of discretion demands a sense of shame. And Pandit Nehru has prospered without that sense over the past forty or more years.
The fifth book by Pandit Nehru, The Discovery of India, was published in early 1946. In this book, after taking his autobiographical thread upto 1936, he suddenly switches over to India’s past history and culture till he reaches the point at which he had left. Then he resumes his commentary on events in India and abroad and comes up to the year 1942. This book, too, has seen many reprints and is supposed to bring into high relief Pandit Nehru as, “the statesman-philosopher”.
In the very first chapter he wrote: “A study of Marx and Lenin produced a powerful effect on my mind and helped me to see history and current affairs in a new light. The long chain of history and of social development appeared to have some meaning, some sequence and the future lost some of its obscurity. The practical achievements of the Soviet Union were also tremendously impressive. Often I disliked or did not understand some development there and it seemed to me to be too closely concerned with the opportunism of the moment or the power politics of the day. But despite all these developments and possible distortions of the original passion for human betterment, I had no doubt that the Soviet Revolution bad advanced human society by a great leap and had lit a bright flame which could not be smothered, and that it had laid the foundation for the ‘new civilisation’ towards which the world would advance. I am too much of an individualist and believer in personal freedom to like overmuch regimentation. Yet it seemed to me obvious that in a complex social structure individual freedom had to be limited, and perhaps the only way to real personal freedom was through some such limitation in the social sphere. The lesser liberties may often need limitation in the interest of the larger freedom.”8
And again, when he returned to modern India: “We realized in our hearts that we could not do much till conditions were radically changed-hence our overwhelming desire for independence-and yet the passion for progress filled us and the wish to emulate other countries which had gone so far ahead in many ways. We thought of the United States of America and even of some eastern countries which were forging ahead. But most of all we had the example of the Soviet Union which in two brief decades, full of war and civil strife and in the face of what appeared to be insurmountable difficulties, had made tremendous progress. Some were attracted to communism, others were not, but all were fascinated by the advance of the Soviet Union in education and culture and medical care and physical fitness and in the solution of the problem of nationalities-by the amazing and prodigious effort to create a new world out of the dregs of the old.”9
Thus we see that Pandit Nehru was quite a Soviet-addict up to the eve of his becoming the first Prime Minister of independent India in August 1947. Since then he has not written any major book from which we may find out his basic beliefs, but his speeches on foreign policy and other subjects leave little doubt that, by and large, his fascination for the Soviet Union has remained undiminished.
Jawaharlal Nehru, The Unity of India, Lindsay Drummond, London, 1948, p. 5. ↩
Ibid., pp. 181-82. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 116. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., Italics added. ↩
Ibid, pp. 308-09. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., pp. 309-10. Italics added. ↩
Jawaharlal Nehru, Discovery of India, Signet Press, Calcutta, December 1947, pp. 12-13. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 311. ↩