Nehru is unquestionably one of the world’s great men. He is known as a political leader. But like many of his countrymen who have earned that distinction, he has much more than political leadership in him. His main work till now has been with the political welfare of his people, but that side of his life is just one aspect of a personality more than usually many-sided and complete. Those who know him at close quarters will testify to his wide-roving curiosity, his intense and passionate interest in every phase of life. I have rarely met another with so wide a range of interests and enjoyment, one who seemed to find such intense pleasure in so many different things, great and small, science and philosophy, history and archaeology, sport and solitary walks. Few loved leisure more or used it better. He is not an erudite scholar, but he knows a good deal about a good many things. He seldom travelled without books. The nobility of his worn features at sixty, the look in his eyes of yearning, and his nature, warm, full of sensibility and even tenderness, if such a term can be applied to one who for a long period of his life had dealt in the rough and tumble of public life, reveal a reflective and artistic temperament, which throws itself with delight into the daily tasks, whether he be addressing large crowds in India or debating with fellow Prime Ministers in London. As a man he is sensitive, gentle and kind. He is loyal to his friends, sometimes loyal to a fault. His sincerity is transparent, even when he says things which would have been better left unsaid. His weaknesses are on the surface and make him the more likeable.
He has few friends. He is essentially a lonely nab, The crowds attract him and he is attracted by them. In company he is youthful, light-hearted, these are the usual devices of covering up one’s inner loneliness.
His writings show a warm love for humanity, an intensity of emotion, a wide range of imagination. He, again and again, holds up before our vision vast horizons, large perspectives. In his delineation of history there is more vision than analysis. His mind is fitted to deal with large issues rather than with small disputes, dominant principles rather than with the casuistries incidental to passing controversies. If the gifted writers are those who communicate to their readers the tremor of their souls, then Nehru is a great writer. The discoveries of modern science enchant him and give him a sense of proportion and poise. What, after all, is human civilisation, which may be at best 6,000 year old compared to the age of the human race, of life on this planet, of the planet itself, of the solar system, of the galaxy in which our solar system is but one grain of dust, or of the immensely vaster and older stellar cosmos?
Where the personal element appears in his writings, we find a very loveable modesty, an admission of uneasy thoughts and doubts, and an impatience of change which he does not conceal.
Since I first heard him he has improved as a public speaker. The strength of conviction, the fervor of emotion, the sincerity of feeling, make a deep appeal to the crowds who hang on his words. His great speeches on the big things of life when he feels them in his bones belong to the highest kind of oratory. On such occasions he orders his ideas, but leaves the words pretty much to the inspiration of the moment. We hear it said that Nehru speaks too often. But leaders have to spend a large part of their time capturing the imagination of the people.
It is fortunate for this country that Nehru has been at the head of the administration after the transfer of power on August 15, 1947. When the two Dominions came into being, cutting in two the Provinces of the Punjab and Bengal, communal fury spread over large parts of the country. Gandhi attempted to extinguish these flames by his missions of peace in Bengal and Delhi, and in the end he paid the price of his life for the noble cause of communal unity. “Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Nehru risked his life to bring peace and protection to the afflicted, and worked for the same end. While Gandhi took his stand on the will of God and the inner voice, Nehru is sustained in his conviction by his high sense of duty and political reason. They adopt different approaches but aim at the same goal.
They both believe that economics and politics are not the whole of life. Beyond all material interests, behind all clash of creeds, beyond all the illusions of egoism, individual and collective, there is in almost all men a sense of values, of social obligations, of things of beauty, which are somehow beyond question, and which humanity must not betray whatever be the cost it may have to pay in discipline and endurance. The kingdom of heaven is within us fighting against the brute forces of the world. The essential decency of human nature is attracted by love as a virtue. It only requires cultivation for us to be able to sacrifice the profits of power for the integrity of spirit.
Political freedom both of Gandhi and Nehru is essentially a means of the increase of virtue and greatness, for moral and spiritual emancipation, for liberation from the sins of inertia and cowardice, hatred and uncharitableness. Political liberty is a means for the establishment of social equality and fraternity. We must widen and fortify the freedom we have won, secure justice for all classes, vanquish the oppression of economic dictatorship. We must achieve a casteless and classless society through a non-violent social and economic revolution.
While Nehru does not belong to the Socialist Party, he represents the socialist movement in the country. While he is keenly appreciative of the social work which the Soviet Revolution has achieved, he is critical of the mechanisation of life which it has produced. As a sensitive artist and believer in human freedom, he has no sympathy with the tendency to standardise men’s lives, their work and play attitudes. By making all citizens at home and school, in factory and field, conform to certain rigid patterns, we create deep discords, tensions and inhibitions. Nehru is opposed to any system which eliminates the human from man.
In the supreme issue which divides the world today, democracy versus totalitarianism, Nehru’s sympathies are clear. Democracy is based on a growing solicitude for freedom and justice while totalitarianism is based on a negation of both. Nehru is on the side of democracy, but he knows clearly the motives which help to spread communism, the attraction it has not only for the proletariat but for the intellectual cynics and diffidents. Communism thrives on the mental and social wreckage which the two world wars have produced. Hunger and misery generate hate and Communism.
If governments do not learn to adjust themselves, to remove poverty and unemployment, frustration and discontent, they invite the spread of Communism. As long ago as 1930, in his Presidential Address at the Lahore Congress, Nehru defined his position: “I must frankly confess that I am a socialist and a republican, and am no believer in kings and princes, or in the order which produces the modern kings of industry, who have greater power over the lives and fortunes of men than even the kings of old, and whose methods are as predatory as those of the old feudal aristocracy. …….The Congress, it is said, must hold the balance fairly between Capital and Labour, and Zamindar and Tenant. But eh balance has been, and is, terribly weighted on one side, and to maintain the status quo is to maintain injustice and exploitation. The only way to do right is to do away with the domination of any one class over another.”
His friends complain that Nehru is growing less enthusiastic about these great ideals which he proclaimed all through his political life, that as the bead of the Government he is compromising with vested interests, that he is not able to rise above his surroundings. It is true that these ideals cannot be accomplished within a few weeks or months. Even to boil water, we require time as well as heat. The Socialist programme is a long one on which we have to work with zeal and determination. It is too soon to judge, as Nehru has not been long in office. It is possible that any hurried decisions may precipitate chaos, which will expose the country to the very danger which we wish to avert. It is unfortunate that the Socialist Party, which worked as vigorously and suffered as nobly as any other section of the Congress, is in the Opposition. Every revolutionary party like the Congress shows its unity and strength before it comes into power but, after defeating the enemy and achieving power, it begins to crumble and split from internal strife. Labels do not matter. Different systems may be helpful or harmful in different circumstances. We should not give up our faith in establishing a Socialist Democracy. If we stifle opposition, resent criticism, we tend to become totalitarian. The present government is facing that danger. A government which is insensitive to criticism, which is not conscious of its failures, will cease to command respect. Chivalrous, proud, eager and impatient to bring about revolutionary changes in India’s social and economic structure, Nehru can still direct the Socialist movement to the benefit of India and the world. Nehru the Prime Minister must get closer to Nehru the Socialist.
Nehru Birthday Book
We must rescue the race of man from its tendency to self-destruction. It can only be done by steadfast loyalty to the principles of democracy and freedom. Nehru has a clean and consistent record as an advocate of these great ideals. Even in pre-Independence days, he stood against Fascism and Imperialism, in Manchuria, China Abyssinia, Spain, Czechosolovakia. He has now become recognised by the oppressed and suffering people as the friend to turn to for sympathy and advice, for practical help too, when help is feasible. He is convinced that India represents the voice of Asia and will have a formative role in shaping the future of the world.
In his inaugural speech at the recent Delhi conference on Indonesia, Nehru said : “We represent the ancient civilisation of the East, as well as the dynamic civilisation of the West, Politically we symbolise, in particular, the spirit of freedom and democracy, which is so significant a feature of new Asia.” Nehru is anxious that Asia should not lose her individuality. She must preserve her character while accepting whatever is vital in other countries. If we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future. Under his leadership, Asia is reclaiming her place in the world’s councils.
There is one thing of which all men are equally ignorant, and that is the future, but we can be sure of this that Nehru’s achievements are of the kind that do not vanish on the wings of time. He has built for himself an imperishable monument, and his name will be long remembered as one of the great fighters for human freedom.