A Fellow-Traveller of Soviet Foreign Policy-1
The Gita has laid down a profound principle in the following words: “The person is characterised by his credo. Whatever is a person’s credo, that he is.”
And a person’s credo can be identified not so much in the words he speaks or writes as in the actions that flow freely out of him. The speaker or the writer who fails to act in terms of the faith he propounds in his speeches and writings is no more than a sophist who may be successful with some people or for some time but who is sure to be found out sooner or later. The tragedy of a sophist is that his own words fail to sink into the inner recesses of his being and inspire his actions in life.
Most of us ordinary human beings are sophists to a certain extent. We speak and write many words which we never mean. But some of our own words do find a way within, and we act in terms of the credo contained in those words. So if our professions are compared with our practices, a residue can always be discovered where the two correspond with one another. If the rest of our professions are peeled off, the core of our personality stands revealed.
Now, if we were to identify Shri Jawaharlal Nehru’s person in terms of the professions put forward in his books and speeches, we must, like his American admirers, come to the conclusion that he is without a doubt a very complex person. For, in his written and spoken words, he has not been an unadulterated admirer of the Soviet Union and the creed of Communism. In fact, he as a writer and speaker seems to be an admirer of many things which completely contradict the communist credo.
He has composed some essays on the beauties of Buddhism as he understands it. Whenever he has turned his face to the “materialistic” West, he has talked fondly of India’s “ancient heritage” and “moral-spiritual values”. As and when there has been tension on the international stage, he has dramatised himself as a devoted disciple of Mahatma Gandhi. He has also spoken and written a lot about the profundities of parliamentary democracy. On an occasion, particularly in moments of frustration in his whole-time pursuit of power, he has contemplated the cosmos and mumbled about the mysteriousness of it all.
But he has never been so complex in his actions. In fact, he in action has been more straight and simple than most of us moderns are. There has never been a trace of tortuousness in his actions, which have always travelled along a single track. He might have often failed to have his own way because this nation has yet to fully affirm his own cherished faith. But he has never failed to charter the nation’s course in very clear-cut terms.
Had he been a Soviet-addict only in his writings and speeches, he would have presented no serious problem. We have had so many socialists who in their speeches or writings have been, till recently, like blue-blooded communists in their admiration for the Soviet Union. But whenever the interests of the Soviet Union have clashed with the interests of their own nation, our socialists have acted like true nationalists. Whenever the Soviet Union has outraged their sense of human values, our socialists have denounced the Soviet Union.
But Pandit Nehru has never been like our socialists whom he has often pooh-poohed as a “debating club”. He has always tried to translate his admiration for the Soviet Union into clear and concrete action. That is the point, and the only point, where his professions have corresponded with his practice. The whole history of his career in national and international politics is characterised by this close correspondence. We shall review that history in the following articles.
Pandit Nehru had entered the Comintern network for the first time in 1924-25 when he was clandestinely contacted by Eileen Roy, the first wife of M.N. Roy, who had set up in Paris the Comite Pro-Hindou in collaboration with the famous French communist, Henri Barbusse. This organisation was a communist front financed by the Comintern for planting the communist conspiracy in India. He left for Europe in March 1925, ostensibly for the medical treatment of his wife but really in order to establish a liaison with the world communist movement. He himself admits: “Further treatment in Switzerland was recommended for my wife. I welcomed the idea for I wanted an excuse to go out of India myself. My mind was befogged, and no clear path was visible; and I thought that, perhaps, if I was far from India I could see things in a better perspective and lighten up the dark corners of my mind.”1
Those were the days when the socialist parties affiliated to the Comintern were being Bolshevised in keeping with the decisions of the 5th Congress of the Comintern held in June 1924. Soviet Russia’s attempt to turn these socialist parties into mere mouthpieces of Soviet foreign policy had split the socialist movement. The Social Democrats in most European countries were getting separated from the communist cliques, and the Second International was getting revived as a challenge to the Third or the Communist International. So the Comintern was moving towards denouncing all Social Democrats as Social Fascists who were, in its own terminology, “imperialism’s second line of defence”.
The Comintern called a Congress of Oppressed Nationalities in February 1927 to crystallise its new line in the colonies of the various Western Powers. The Congress met in Brussels and Pandit Nehru attended it on behalf of the Indian National Congress. He writes: “Towards the end of 1926 I happened to be in Berlin, and I learnt there of a forthcoming Congress of Oppressed Nationalities, which was to be held at Brussels. The idea appealed to me, and I wrote home, suggesting that the Indian National Congress might take official part in the Brussels Congress. My suggestion was approved; and I was appointed the Indian Congress representative for this purpose.”2
And he swallowed the Comintern line against the Social Democrats - hook, line and sinker. He himself confesses: “The Brussels Congress, as well as the subsequent Committee meetings of the League, which were held in various places from time to time, helped me to understand some of the problems of colonial and dependent countries. They gave me also an insight into the inner conflicts of the Western Labour world. I knew something about them already; I had read about them, but there was no reality behind my knowledge, as there had been no personal contacts. I had some such contacts now, and sometimes had to face problems which reflected these inner conflicts. As between the Labour worlds of the Second International and the Third International, my sympathies were with the latter. The whole record of the Second International from the War onwards filled me with distaste, and we in India had had sufficient personal experience of the methods of one of its strongest supports-the British Labour Party. So I burned inevitably with goodwill towards Communism, for whatever its faults, it was at least not hypocritical and not imperialistic. It was not a doctrinal adherence, as I did not know much about the fine points of Communism, my acquaintance being limited at the time to its broad features. These attracted me as also the tremendous changes taking place in Russia.”3
This unflinching faith in the Comintern qualified him for an important position in the League against Imperialism, the permanent organisation created by the Congress of Oppressed Nationalities. He was elected to the Executive Committee of the League and attended several of its meetings while he was staying in Europe. He had also qualified as a worthy visitor to the Soviet Union, where he was taken in November 1927.
He returned to India in December 1927 to attend the Madras session of the Indian National Congress which was being held that month. Now he was a man with a firm faith. He says: “I was returning from Europe in good physical and mental condition. I felt I had a clear perception of world affairs, more grip on the present day world, ever changing as it was. I had read largely, not only on current affairs and politics, but on many other subjects that interested me, cultural and scientific. I found the vast political, economic, and cultural changes going on in Europe and America a fascinating study. Soviet Russia, despite certain unpleasant aspects, attracted me greatly, and seemed to hold forth a message of hope to the world.”4
The first job he did for the Comintern on his return to India was to draft a number of resolutions in keeping with the Comintern line and present them to the Madras Congress. All of them were passed. He records: “I presented a bunch of resolutions to the Working Committee-resolutions on Independence, War Danger, association with the League against Imperialism, etc.-and nearly all of these were accepted and made into official Working Committee resolutions.”5
By now the Comintern had finalised its thesis on the “capitalistic encirclement of the Soviet Union” according to which the leading Western Powers, particularly Britain and France, were getting ready for waging an “imperialist war” against the Soviet Union. That thesis was to be proclaimed by the VI Congress of the Comintern held in 1928. Meanwhile, the Comintern network everywhere had been instructed to raise a hue and cry against the “impending imperialist war”. According to the “information” brought to India by Pandit Nehru, the British Government was getting ready to invade the Soviet Union from the North-West Frontier Province of India and the Persian Gulf.
He incorporated this “information” and its implications for India in the War Danger resolution which he presented to the Madras meeting. The resolution read:
“This Congress has noted with grave concern the extraordinary and extensive war preparations which the British Government is carrying on in India and in the eastern seas, specially in the North-West Frontier of India. These preparations for war are not only calculated to strengthen the hold of British Imperialism on India in order to strangle all attempts at freedom, but must result in hastening a disastrous war in which an attempt will be made to make India again a tool in the hands of foreign imperialists.
“The Congress declares that the people of India have no quarrel with their neighbours and desire to live at peace with them, and asserts their right to determine whether or not they will take part in any war.
“The Congress demands that these war preparations be put an end to, and further declares that in the event of the British Government embarking on any warlike adventure and endeavouring to involve India in it for the furtherance of their imperialist aims, it will be the duty of the people of India to refuse to take any part in such a war or to co-operate with them in any way whatsoever.”6
Those who have studied the history of inter-war years know that Britain and France were not plotting for any war against the Soviet Union. But they were certainly objecting to Soviet Russia’s interference in their internal affairs through communist fifth-columns created by the Comintern in these countries and their colonies. It is recorded history that Soviet Russia was trying to arm the Pathan tribals on India’s North-West Frontier, and let them loose on the Punjab. The preparations referred to in the resolution were aimed at tackling the tribal uprising. Pandit Nehru had, however, already become used to looking at the world through Comintern glasses. He had been fully indoctrinated by now so far as Soviet Union’s foreign policy was concerned.
He could accept the new Comintern thesis because he had already accepted the other communist lie that the “imperialists” had tried to “strangle” the Soviet Union at its very birth in 1917-18. It never occurred to him that if any Great Power in Europe or America or Japan had seriously desired to destroy, the “proletarian revolution” in 1917-18, it had only to use a single battalion of trained soldiers. Even in 1927, when he was visiting the Soviet Union, the communist regime would have collapsed like nine-pins if any first class Western Power or Japan had made a move against it. But the non-communist nations at that time were too busy in quarrelling with each other to be able to conspire together against the Soviet Union. In fact, around 1928, the capitalists in Europe and America were getting ready to do business with the Red regime which in their estimation had stabilised itself in Russia.
The ideological background of this War Danger resolution was fully floodlit by a series of articles which Pandit Nehru wrote in various Indian newspapers immediately after the Madras Congress. All these articles were collected in his first book, Soviet Russia, published in October 1928. Herein he revealed very clearly how deeply he had been infected by the Comintern line on the world situation.
Commenting on relations between India and Soviet Russia, he wrote: “We have grown up in the tradition, carefully nurtured by England, of hostility to Russia. For long years past the bogey of a Russian invasion has been held up to us and has been made the excuse of vast expenditure on our armaments. In the days of the Tsar we were told that the imperialism of Russia was for ever driving south, coveting an outlet to the sea, or may be India itself. The Tsar has gone but the rivalry between England and Russia continues and we are now told that India is threatened by the Soviet Government.”7 He should have known that the rivalry between British imperialism and Tsarist imperialism in Central Asia, Persia, and Afghanistan was no fiction, and the British in India had to be alert.
In any case, in his opinion now Soviet Russia could never want war, for: “Russia has only recently passed through a period of international war and civil war, of famine and blockade, and above everything she desires peace to consolidate her economic position and build up on a sure foundation tier new order of society. She has already attained a large measure of success and is working at high pressure and with ‘full steam’ to develop peacefully her vast territories. War, even successful war, must put a stop to this process of consolidation and development, and is bound to delay indefinitely the full establishment of her new social order.”8 He would advance similar arguments for Red China even though the People’s Army had invaded Korea and Tibet, and instigated insurrections in Indo-China. Till his own country was invaded in 1962, the real warmongers for him were the Western democracies and their allies in Asia.
The real warmonger for him in 1928 was Britain. Taking stock of Britain’s post-war policy in Europe, he assured his readers: “The whole basis of this policy has been to encircle Russia by pacts and alliances, ultimately to crush her. England has worked unceasingly for this end and has made the League of Nations an instrument of her policy. Locarno was the result of this policy, and the occasional flirtations of England with Germany have also the isolation of Russia for their object… Thus it is absolutely clear from the official utterances and policy of British politicians that they eagerly desire a conflict with Russia and prepare for it and only await a suitable opportunity to wage open war.”9
India had nothing to fear from Bolshevik Russia. According to Pandit Nehru: “It is inconceivable that Russia, in her present condition at least, and for a long time to come, will threaten India. She can desire no additional territory, and even if she did the risks are too great for her. She is still mainly an agricultural country trying to develop her industries. For this she requires capital and expert knowledge. She gets neither from India. She produces raw materials in abundance and not manufactured articles for export and dumping in foreign countries. So does India. The two countries are today too similar to be exploited by each other, and there can be no economic motive for Russia to covet India.”10
On the same premises, Red China had no reason to invade India. The communists in India are in fact using Pandit Nehru’s logic to refute “Indian propaganda” that India has been the sinned-against. There is, however, no truth in this logic except that it is a paraphrase of Lenin’s theory of imperialism which he had concocted in order to damn the capitalist countries.
The real barrier between India and Bolshevik Russia, according to Pandit Nehru, was not the latter’s creed of Communism but Britain’s imperialist interests. In his own words: “Ordinarily Russia and India should live as the best of neighbours with the fewest points of friction. The continual friction that we see today is between England and Russia, not between India and Russia. Is there any reason why we in India should inherit the agelong rivalry of England against Russia? That is based on the greed and covetousness of British imperialism, and our interests surely lie in ending this imperialism and not in supporting and strengthening it.”11
Indians should, therefore, “make it clear that we shall not permit ourselves to be pawns in England’s imperial game, to be moved hither and thither for her benefit. We must continually proclaim, in the words of the Madras Congress resolution, ‘that in the event of the British Government embarking on any warlike adventure and endeavouring to involve India in it for the furtherance of their imperialist aims, it will be the duty of the people of India to refuse to take any part in such a war, or to co-operate with them in any way whatsoever’. __And if this declaration is made repeatedly and emphatically, it may be that England may hesitate to embark on this adventure; and India and the world may be spared the horrors of another great war.”12
Thus the real inspiration behind his resolution on War Danger presented at the Madras Congress was his eagerness to protect Soviet Russia from a war which he believed Britain was threatening. The resolution had nothing to do with India’s own struggle for independence. Even its language was largely borrowed from resolutions being passed everywhere in those days by all sorts of communist fronts.
The same resolution was presented to and passed by the Calcutta Congress which met towards the end of 1928. It said: “This Congress reiterates the War Danger resolution of the Madras session of the Congress, and wishes to declare that the present Government of India in no way represents the people of India, and their policy has been traditionally guided by considerations of holding India under subjection and not of protecting her frontiers. __The people of India have no quarrel with the neighbouring states or the other nations of the world and they will not permit themselves to be exploited by England to further her imperialist aims.”13
This Congress passed another resolution for participation in the League against Imperialism. __The resolution said: “This Congress welcomes the Second World Congress of the League against Imperialism to be held next year and authorises the Working Committee to appoint a representative on behalf of the Congress.”14
And with a view to colonise the Indian National Congress with Comintern agents, Pandit Nehru persuaded its Calcutta session to pass another resolution which stressed: “This Congress, being of opinion that the struggle of the Indian people for freedom is a part of the general world struggle against imperialism and its manifestations, considers it desirable that India should develop contacts with other countries and peoples who also suffer under imperialism and desire to combat it. __The Congress therefore calls upon the All India Congress Committee to develop such contacts and to open a Foreign Department in this behalf.”15
The Foreign Department could not be set up at that time because very soon the country was plunged in the Simon Commission agitation and the Salt Satyagraha. Pandit Nehru’s opportunity came only in 1936 when, as President of the Congress, he created a Foreign Department and staffed it with card-carrying communists, notably Z.A. Ahmed and K.M. Ashraf.
An Autobiography, p. 147. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 161. ↩
Ibid., p. 163. Italics added. ↩
Ibid., p. 166. Italics added. It was not long before he started attacking his colleagues in the Congress as reactionaries and the rest. He was even reported to have said that the Mahatma had gone senile. The exchange of letters between him and the Mahatma provides an interesting episode - how he aggressed, how he took fright, and how he retreated fast. (Footnote added in 1993.) ↩
Ibid., p. 167. ↩
All India Congress Committee, The Background of India’s Foreign Policy, New Delhi, April 1952, pp. 46-47. ↩
Soviet Russia, p. 126. ↩
Ibid., p. 127. ↩
Ibid., pp. 129-30. ↩
Ibid., p. 131. ↩
Ibid., pp. 131-32. ↩
The Background of India’s Foreign Policy, p. 48. ↩
Ibid., p. 47. ↩