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Henry Judd

World Politics

Nehru Visits United States:
A Profile of India’s Government Leader

(31 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 44, 31 October 1949, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Not so many years ago this writer had the opportunity to meet Jawaharlal Nehru in India and spend several hours in discussion with him. At that particular moment England was at war and was doing its utmost to drag a highly reluctant India into the conflict. The Indian Congress Party was meeting at Poona, India, to decide what should be done about organizing resistance to British attempts; responding to the mass sentiment which existed at the time, the Socialist Party (at that time affiliated with the Congress) was presenting a proposal for open mass resistance to the British. Their viewpoint was essentially that a particularly effective moment for gaining India’s independence was at hand.

If their viewpoint had carried, the story of India would have been far different, not to mention the story of Asia itself. Power literally lay within the grasp of the Indian nationalist movement; the reactionary pro-Moslem Pakistani movement was weakness personified – all was set for a call to immediate action. A unified and united India, really free of British domination, was the perspective.

It was one of those historic moments when a political leader indicates his real character and understanding. One conversation with Nehru, plus a few days observation of him in action at the Congress gathering was enough to answer the question. Here was a weak and characterless individual who accomplished what little he did largely by default – i.e., finding others still weaker than himself.

Nehru well earned his title of “India’s High Priest of Confusion” – and even those among the Socialist leaders Who nursed various illusions about him were shortly cured. Nehru is the only man in political life whom this writer has ever seen speak both “for” and “against” a resolution (the resolution to launch an immediate campaign for India’s freedom) and then, when voting came, “abstain”! This feat was typical of the man who impressed one most of all by the circuitous Way in which he spoke, never arriving at any conclusion – in fact, never saying anything definite.

By contrast with him, Mahatma Gandhi was a refreshing example of simplicity, logic and sincerity. An honest and open conservative is worth an infinite number of self-labeled “Marxists” and liberal “socialists.”

But look at Nehru now! Here he is making a triumphal tour of America, welcome everywhere, impressive as ever with his handsome appearance and with his charming manners. His presence reminds us somewhat of another famed Oriental charmer (Mme. Chiang Kai-shek). What, by the way, has happened to her? We do not mean to imply, of course, that Nehru belongs to the outrightly reactionary category, completely feudalists in approach, that Chiang Kai-shek does. That role in India is filled by others in Nehru’s party, men who constitute the real High Command (Patel, C.R., etc.) and who manipulate Nehru as they please. Nehru is unquestionably a liberal, but a liberal pushed into power at a moment not exactly favorable to liberal behavior!

Is This Gandhi’s Heir?

Nine years have passed since we last saw and heard Nehru. He recently addressed a distinguished audience of American liberals in the luxurious Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. We listened as respectfully as possible to a lengthy and rambling speech which, literally, told us exactly nothing. His involved way of talking had surely not changed; nor his capacity to say nothing in an affected way. His well-known touchiness, vanity and dislike of criticism were carefully concealed behind gobs of diplomatic friendliness and unctuous flattery of those Americans present.

Is this Gandhi’s heir, the “idol of the Indian masses” as our American press would have us believe? No, this is a Nehru who clearly has lost whatever contact with the “marketplaces of India” he once had; This is the diplomatic front of a newly created, weak and confused national state which is unsure of both its direction and the perspective history offers it. Worth infinitely more as commentary an Nehru’s speech was a remark overheard afterwards as two portly American dowagers waited for their elevator: “I was so relieved to hear him say that they are reimbursing all those landlords when they divide their land!”

Nehru will continue his tour of America for the next few weeks, welcomed everywhere by the most conservative and reactionary elements of the American population in a manner befitting a future ally of the United States. What would Gandhi, his master and the rightful author of the doctrine of non-violence, have to say at the sight of Nehru receiving an honorary degree at the hands of General Dwight Eisenhower, conqueror of Germany and now president of Columbia University? Or his dining at the Waldorf-Astoria with Lieutenant General Walter Smith at his elbow?

The purpose of Nehru’s visit is essentially exploratory in nature. Relations between America and India must necessarily deepen and expand within the next period. The America perspective to contain Asiatic Stalinism, now victorious throughout China, depends upon its ability to gain support from the ruling Congress Party of India.

For its part, the Congress Party – the party of India’s landlord and capitalist class – is in serious straits and badly in need of help. We cannot describe all the aspects of this here; suffice it to say that the worst need of all is for capital, new and fresh capital. England can no longer be a source for such capital, particularly since the pound devaluation. Only America has capital to offer, and all seekers after it eventually come to the White House in Washington.

But, at the same time, it would be foolhardy for Nehru to be openly pro-American or offer to become the leader of an American bloc in Asia. He must proceed much more cautiously and avoid open commitments. That will come later, after others have worked out terms and details involving loans, guarantees, promises and conditions. That will come later, after developments in Stalinist China are clearer.

In any case, Nehru provides an absolutely vital link between the hard-headed industrialists and businessmen of India and the equally hard-headed imperialists of America. We know that Nehru has much to worry about; but if historic precedence runs true to form he need have no fears about his job over the next few years! No American-Indian alliance in Asia is conceivable without his blessing.

He Isn’t Talking About It

Nehru’s visit, then, is a masterpiece of evasion and evasiveness. His speeches will tell us nothing of his intent or perspective. He will talk of the need and desire for investment capital, but always “neutralize” this by insisting upon no conditions being attached to such investment. He will talk of India’s commitment to Gandhist non-violence doctrine, but assure his audience that India “knows its responsibilities.”

He will carefully ignore any attempted critical questions or remarks, such as his refusal to answer questions posed by a group of American journalists as to why Socialists, Communists and trade-union leaders are still jailed in his country. Of the real basic problems facing India – the end of feudal land relations, the rivalry with Pakistan, condition of the industrial working class, etc. – Nehru has literally not had a word to say, as of this date.

Within two years, the party of Nehru has proven its inability either to unify India or find a new place for it in the world. Within two years time, it must turn elsewhere, to the mighty American imperialist center, for assistance. We would hardly be wise to bank upon a brighter future for such a party or government than that of the Kuomintang Party and its “government” in China. The real future of India, it would seem to us, lies in the hands of the mass, growing Socialist Party of that country. This, is the party with a great future ahead of it, if it continues to offer its own independent program for India and does not fear to combat the Congress Party at every instance.

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