A note on socialist thinking of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was born on November 14, 1889 at Allahabad. After initial schooling he was sent to England, where he received his education at Harrow and Trinity College. He took a leading role in the national movement and was jailed for several times. He was a widely travelled person and also a prolific writer. His most important works include “An Autobiography” (1936), “Glimpse of World History” (1939) and “Discover of India” (1946). His works bear an ample testimony to his dynamism, understanding, originality and clarify of thought.

Childrens Day, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Birthday, Panditji, Chacha ...

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Socialist thinking of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru :

He was associated with the Indian National Congress in different capacities. He became the General Secretary of the All India Congress Committee. In 1973 and was the President of the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress in 1979. He as deeply involved in formulating the various programmes of the Congress. After India achieved Independence, Nehru as the first Prime Minister of India had the unique opportunity to give a practical shape to the ideas held earlier. Truly, he is regarded as the builder of modern India.

Jawaharlal Nehru became interested in Socialism during his student days in London (1910-12). He was particularly moved by the ideas of Fabian Socialism. His ideas on socialism were mainly drawn from books. They were not based on any practical experience. So these ideas were vague, humanitarian and utopian, rather than scientific. It was in later years that he developed some concrete ideas on socialism.


Nehru’s ideas on socialism were also deeply influenced by Russian Socialism. He visited the Soviet Union in November, 1927. He was particularly moved by her rapid economic progress. The establishment of a classless society based on equity stimulated his socialist urge. No doubt, he disliked the violence, ruthlessness and wholesale regimentation practiced by the Soviet system. But he believed these to be temporary features. In the future the theory of communism could be applied to other countries as well, minus these evils. Soviet Union held forth a message of hope.

Nehru was also deeply influenced by the Marxist philosophy. Marxism supplied a philosophy which could be worked into practical shape. He was inspired by the Marxist approach to history. The scienti­fic anti-superstitious orientation of the Marxist philosophy of history appealed to him. Much of the Marxist philosophical outlook Nehru accepted without difficulty, such as its monism and non duality of mind and matter, the dynamics of matter and the dialectic of continuous change by evolution as well as a leap, through action and interaction, cause and effect thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. The world economic crisis of 1929-32, seemed to justify the Marxist prognosis.

In his Autobiography he confessed that the communist philosophy of life gave him comfort and hope. It attempted to explain the past and offered hope for the future. Nehru believed in a scientific approach to social problems and Marxism offered this kind of scientific approach to-social problems. Besides, Marxism emphasized upon the role of techno-economic forces which was appreciated by Nehru.

But Nehru had an idealist approach to life as well. He was against any dogma. He found that Marxism as practiced in the Soviet Union was full of dogmas. Hence he never became a thoroughly convinced Marxist. He deeply appreciated Marx but he remained a socialist and not a com­munist. M.N Das has rightly commented. “The Marxian diagnosis of the ills of modern society made a deep impression on Nehru’s socialistic ideas. He resolved the prophecies of Marx to understand more deeply the fundamental causes of the socio-economic conflicts which afflicted the world.”


Another source of influence on Nehru’s socialist thought was Mahatma Gandhi. He was highly impressed by Gandhiji’s earnestness, devotion work and commitment. But there was a lot of difference between the two. Gandhiji represented the traditions and values of the East, whereas Nehru was more westernized. Gandhiji was an idealist but Nehru was a realist. In Gandhiji’s economic philosophy, the village occupied a central position. For the development of the rural areas, he emphasized upon rural and cottage industries Nehru’s economic ideas were tempered by science and technology. He stressed upon heavy industries as a means of overall economic development.

But if Gandhiji was moved by the poverty, inequality, disease, squalor of the masses, so was Nehru. Both rejected violence and coercion as means to bring about socio-economic transformation. Both gave utmost importance to humanitarianism and basic freedoms. Like Gandhiji, Nehru also advocated purity of ends as well as means.

Besides, Nehru did not want to introduce the foreign brand of socialism in India. Socialism was to grow out of Indian conditions. Hence socialism was to be practical and indigenous. Under Nehru’s leadership at the Avadi session in 1955, the Indian National Congress accepted the ideal of a socialist pattern of society. Nehru believed that socialism was the panacea of all human ills. It was only through socialism that poverty, unemployment and economic miseries could be removed. Socialism was a means to change the political and social structure.

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