Go to Today's Edition   Previous Editions   April 21, 2010   Article By Category

The caste basis of Indian socialism
Posted on April 21, 2010 | Author: Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar | View 450 | Comment : 23

Jawaharlal Nehru had said that socialism is a form of casteism, one that rightly puts the bania in his place. Will today's socialists please own up too.

I have written repeatedly that socialist leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, as well as left intellectuals, suffered from a deep inferiority complex. They simply did not believe Indian business could compete globally.

My view has been contested hotly by some readers. One says there was no trace of inferiority in Nehru's Discovery of India, or in Constituent Assembly and Lok Sabha debates.

"It sounds illogical that Nehru and others who spent the better part of their lives fighting for independence on the grounds that we were competent enough to rule ourselves, should after independence feel inferior to the ousted colonial powers."

When Gandhiji was asked what he thought of western civilisation, he quipped “it would be a good idea”. Very funny, and very superior.

Yes, early leaders of independent India saw themselves as morally, civilisationally, and intellectually superior to whites. Many were also bitterly critical and ashamed of the caste system and Indian feudalism, and sought to modernise traditional social structures. Nevertheless they claimed moral superiority.

Yet this superiority complex on morality co-existed with an inferiority complex on business. Leaders claimed that Indian industry had been stunted by British rule. So, did they plan to open up and compete globally after a transition period to overcome the alleged British stunting?

Not at all. As a matter of principle they sought selfsufficiency over trade, and attacked foreign investment, to attain what they called economic independence to buttress political independence.

This approach, they claimed, reflected not an inferiority complex but the superiority of their socialist thinking. Many had witnessed the collapse of capitalism during the 1930s, and saw the Soviet model as the one to follow.

Yet their lack of intellectual honesty was plain in their refusal to draw lessons from the phenomenal post-war success of capitalist countries — including Germany and Japan, the losers of World war II — which soon left the Soviets far behind.

Anand Chandavarkar's recent book Unexplored Keynes and Other Essays has a lovely anecdote about Nehru's unwillingness to see beyond Fabian socialism. Nehru asked B P Adarkar, Trade Commissioner to West Germany," What is the secret of Germany's phenomenal economic recovery?".

Adarkar forthrightly responded: "Mr Prime Minister, I know the answer but you will not like it. It is free enterprise." An impassive Nehru merely looked out of the plane window!

Some socialists — intellectuals and politicians — defended their policies on the ground that infant industry protection was legitimate, mainstream economics. Yet they did not bat an eyelid in protecting textiles, the second oldest industry in the world after prostitution.

Indian socialists sought to protect infants, geriatrics and all others without discrimination. For all their claims to moral superiority, this reflected a deep inferiority complex in economic matters.

Rajni Kothari and several other contributors to Economic and Political Weekly forecast in 1991 that economic reforms would make Indian industry collapse or become indentured labour to MNCs. They also claimed that accepting patents in the Uruguay Round would destroy India's pharma industry.

Events soon proved them economically illiterate and intellectually bankrupt. Kothari moaned in 1989 that India had moved from self-reliance to Reliance. He could not even conceive that it would be a change for the better!

Nimai Mehta of American University makes a separate point. Nehru and other Indian leaders did not have an inferiority complex, he says. Rather, they had a superiority banias complex with respect to their own citizens — shudras and lower castes — whom they regarded as lesser mortals requiring a guiding hand from great minds.

"The trade of ordinary Indians, whether in gold or food grains, was suspect from the start. In this sense, Nehru perhaps was equally infected by what Hayek has termed as socialism's fatal conceit — the belief that others should live their lives as per his wishes."

Mehta is right. Nehru and Co felt that Indian Brahmin-intellectuals were superior to whites, but also that Indian marwaris and banias were inferior. Their superiority complex on the moral and intellectual plane co-existed with a deep inferiority complex on the business plane.

Their solution was to go for central planning. This approach assumed that benevolent planners knew better than producers or consumers what should be produced or consumed. The licence-permit raj asserted that people were best off when they had no power at all to decide what should be produced or consumed — that was best left to the rulers!

But this was more than what Hayek called the fatal conceit of socialism. Their socialist conceit was compounded by caste conceit. India's high-caste leaders could not stand the marwari and refused to believe that any economy could thrive if it gave marwaris more freedom than Brahmins.

Let me quote a telling passage from Nehru's Autobiography.
"Right through history, the old Indian ideal did not glorify political and military triumph, and it looked down upon money and the professional money-making class. Honour and wealth did not go together, and honour was meant to go, at least in theory, to the men who served the community with little in the shape of financial regard."

(Readers, please note this was Nehru's own Brahminical viewpoint: non-Brahmins like Shivaji and Jagat Seth would have disagreed.) “The old culture managed to live through many a fierce storm and tempest, but though it kept its outer form, it lost its real content.

Today it is fighting silently and desperately against a new and all-powerful opponent — the bania civilisation of the capitalist West. It will succumb to the newcomer, for the West brings science, and science brings food for the hungry millions.

But the West also brings an antidote to the evils of this cut-throat civilisation — the principles of socialism, of cooperation, and service to the community for the common good. This is not so unlike the old Brahmin idea of service.

So there you have it from the horse's mouth. Nehru himself says that socialism is a form of casteism, one that rightly puts the bania in his place. Will today's socialists please own up too?

Comments (23)

Wherever in this earth if there is any system other than differentiation between Male and Female,all other system is a farse and evil which is an ungodly practice,as this is agaist the Law of Natural Justice.

Posted by VIJAYAKUMAR VELUTHAKKAL,Training Consultant at Peak Performance Trainings|05 May, 2010

already sent my comments before ! pl check at your end!

Posted by ashok sehgal,president at G M E M C G|05 May, 2010

ashok sehgal's one simple question - Is this the picture of India Nehru imagined before he died ? Answer is: Nehru had dreams: he could not imagine soething that he could strive to achive. secondly - did he share his inner most desire of seeing India on the world map the way he imagined it to be! does any one know presicely Answer is NO: it isn't possible if a person could not himself articulate clearly what was his precise desire of seeing India in the World map, except that he wanted himself to be a leader of non-alligned movement . Nehru coluld not articulate precisely the vission of India he imagined and how will India achieve that vision. what majority of India thinks and do they really respect their feelings - A survey can reveal this if the question is formulated. If I were a politician I would include oposition party's incomplete projects into my agenda without condemning them I would never insult them in public by highlighting their weak points to gain extra milage Iwould give them important portfolio and monitor them. This would be a freat and sensible political strategy for some politicians. But for the common citizens, those politicians who fail to achieve what they promised or what the citizens thought desirable and achievable, they would criticise those politticians however great. Also, if someone desgns a political and admistrative system that leads to corruption and inefficiency, the person would still be blamed and criticised for failure to envision the adverse consequences of his design irrespective of his own personal honesty and integrity. When someone leads a Nation or a group of people on a path chosen by the Leader and path brings more sufferrings than good, the Leader will always be blamed for failure to deliver. Nation is no one's private family that children will forgive the father for his failure to achieve the vision he chose for the family: In a nation, all leaders are accountable for non-deliverance or poor del iverance. If you accept the leadership, you take the entire blame for failure to deliver and shoud be willing to be discarded. To remain in the history as a successful leader, your successes must far outweigh your failures.

Posted by Basudeb Sen | 03 May, 2010

one simple question - Is this the picture of India Nehru imagined before he died ? secondly - did he share his inner most desire of seeing India on the world map the way he imagined it to be! does any one know presicely what majority of India thinks and do they really respect their feelings - If I were a politician I would include oposition party\'s incomplete projects into my agenda without condemning them I would never insult them in public by highlighting their weak points to gain extra milage Iwould give them important portfolio and monitor them - I

Posted by ashok sehgal , president at gmecg | 03 May, 2010

Service mentality and generally trying to be good with other Human beings is the most beautiful characteristics of the lives born in India from immemorial times. Some used it to occupy and rule over us and sadly some elements claim total monopoly (folly) as if they are only service oriented. The great Indians survived all this attacks and they are and ever will be good at heart human beings.

Posted by karthikeyan arumugathandavan,design consultant at 5D6S|24 Apr, 2010

Holistic Wellness--an alternate business and life model away from caste system more so from the subtle barbaric clutches of Nehru family and other families at national and regional level

Wellness is an important aspect from childhood to death. Without wellness the individual doesn’t see much in life. The purpose of education, training, property, planning, social intercourse etc, are meant for getting wellness on a sustained basis through out life. Holistic wellness comprises all aspects of wellness namely materialist, spiritualist and lateral. Holistic wellness comprises of-- holistic wellness at individual level and holistic wellness at societal level which are interconnected.
Holistic wellness at individual level covers such subjects as the general well being, happiness and fulfillment in life. Most individuals are trained from childhood through education by acquiring required knowledge and skills in various aspects of life. They include basic education, professional education, professional fulfillment, marriage, children, family , upbringing of family, sleep, rest. recreation and hobbies. During the course of life every individual encounters materialist issues such as proper and hygienic food, sanitation, health care and so on. Here issues such as unadultered and hygienic food, impact of environment, herbs for healthcare, herbs for beauty care, medicines for beauty care & medicines for health care, hospital care, naturopathy etc. are involved leading to fulfilling holistic materialist wellness.
Holistic wellness at spiritualist level involves proper orientation in thinking, harmony from within and outside, peace from within and outside, prayer or surrender to god and/ equanimous bent of mind. Each culture has its own methods to address these issues. However yoga, meditation, lateral thinking, out of box thinking and laughing at oneself, will help the individual himself to adapt within and outside for harmonious holistic wellness at spiritual and societal level. At societal level,holistic wellness involves all the above aspects of the individual level applying at family level, community level, state level, national level and global level. All education imparting knowledge and skills in various faculties, national planning, production of goods and services indicated by GDP and per-capita income, local security, national security and global security are for Holistc Wellness at societal level from materialist angle, spiritualist angle and lateral angle.
The present day world is addressing h olistic wellness more in the materialist angle. There is substantial need to address issues at spiritualist level. Though spiritualism is an old subject, there is muddling confusion between symbolisms .There is a need to understand soft/ spiritual angle leading to harmony and peace from within and outside for individuals and groups including at national level. This involves mental hygiene at individual level, family level, national level and global level on an aggregate. Issues of prayer, surrendering before God or equanimity of mind / thought or spiritual innovation- need to be addressed at all levels for achieving synergy, peace, harmony, justice and development every where. Holistic wellness is an all comprehensive concept, impacting everybody individually and severally. By addressing the issue of holistic wellness, all issues at individual and societal level in all spheres namely economic, business, political, governance, justice, cultural, science, spiritual etc, will be add ressed.We need to have a re- look at ourselves from the past prism, present prism, and the innovated prism for achieving holistic wellness of all. So, holistic wellness is a huge business for ever.
Materialist Spiritualist Mission Trust has been addressing the above issues and sufficient research has already been done.
please visit

With regards
C.Venkataramanaiah BE(Gold Medallist),MBA(IIM-B,74-76)

Posted by Venkataramanaiah Chekuru,CEO at CVR SYNERGY MANAGEMENT SERVICES|24 Apr, 2010

No. Not necessarily so. Indian politicians have thought of socialism as ideal way of life mainly due ti diverse nature of its citizens with regard to caste, creed, religion, faith, language etc. I am sure they were well aware of the competence of Indians' talents but at the same time they had in mind the limitations of the resources at their disposal.

Posted by Kailash Chand Jain | 24 Apr, 2010

Rajam Naidu, your doubt is valid. For centuries, Indian were ruled first by Islamic and then by Christian foreogners. Slavery for such a long period had destroyed independence of the mind. Indians had become very dependent. Since political Independence, the people born and/ or brought up under British slavery peruiod have ruled India and they along with some these people trained . The dependence on masters that had gone in the blood stream of the Nation takes lot of time and generations to get cleaned. The current generation below the age of 30 are about 50% cleaned of dependence. After another two/ three decades the real independece period may just begin for Indians again. We are still dependfent on foreigners: if the praise us we feel very happy, if they crticise us we get angry and feel insulted though we cannot defend ourselves against those criticisms, if something goes wrong in our country we blame the Americans, we continuie to tolerate politicians who exploit us, we treat our governments as our masters rather than as our servants, we cannot invent new technology, we have to buy technology from foreigners, we are jeaklous of foreigners - all these are syndromes of a dependent nation. Independent nations behave differently.

Posted by Basudeb Sen | 23 Apr, 2010

When I read through the article I got a question in my mind are we really independent ? Birtishers policy was divide and rule. That legacy is continued by all our political leaders today. For name sake we are independent the rulers changed from white skin to brown or Indians, but philosaphy remained. That means we are not independent. Coming to socialism or linguistic division of states or reservations always make us think about an identity which is away from the thought I am an Indian.
Come let us think first we are Indians and we need leaders who can think above all these.

Posted by Rajam naidu,CEO at SDK Technologies|23 Apr, 2010

The Indian Democracy and socialism is caste based. But the for the Independence, there was a unity in diversity. All castes and religions fought for Independence, the cause of the nation. That is how our past leaders gone ahead for the socialistic pattern of society to mutually respect the other religions and the castes. The initial 4 castes have developed in to many castes and the religions also followed suits.The main requirement was to remove the differences among the castes and among the religions. The answer was the socialistic pattern of society where all are equal. The constitution of India was framed accordingly to achieve the unity in diversity which was evident during the fight for Independence. stating our leaders during the Independence movement were not intellectuals is incorrect. Otherwise we would not have got the independence. Any small organization when started will have their initial problems and it takes time to clear the teething probl ems. This is a Nation got independence after 200 yrs of slavery. Instead of blaming our past great leaders, what our present day intellectuals doing? The honesty, sincerity, hard work for the nation does not exist. Corruption has gone into the blood stream of the nation.So where ever the corruption crossed all the limits various hostilities have started which have to be solved politically and Army,Navy,Air force, police are only to stop violence on the innocents. The elections are being used for the caste power. Now money, liquor,criminals are being used. Now even purchase of elected members are on. Our politicians and parties must wake up on this issue.Such criminalization of politics, ignoring the common man, and unfortunates can only lead to more troubles in our country of course with the help to them by unwanted elements. Comparing Germany, Japan with our country is not relavent. They were not having any expenditure on defance and their only investment on progressive projects brought them up. Our country had to face caste, religious troubles,social evils of vereitis, 4 wars and the war within retarded the progress.Socialistic pattern is balancing and the improvement is on. Capitalistic country would have widened the gap of class cultures and would have added on to the caste differences and other evident troubles.So we cannot say any inferiority or superiority complexes affected our past great leaders.They have analysed and taken correct actions. At present only requirement is second war of independence against corruptions, injustice to unfortunates, and many other social evils reappearing, with severe punishments and social promotions.

Posted by Lt Col Ravindranath , CHA at Health care | 23 Apr, 2010

First of all do away with all reservations,as it only perpetates new caste system.Let merit be the only critera.Under privilaged of any category should be given all facilities in acquiring education,but no reservation ,in any stage of higher eduction,it only encourages living on crutches and dilution of merit.

Posted by ashok vinayek | 23 Apr, 2010

Our politicians are fanatics of the first order and each one wishes that only the candidate of his caste should come to power irrespective of education and merit. They are dead scared of meritorious candidates.This is universal and applicable in job places also. The greatest flaw in our system is we still maintain caste and religion in all the application forms. This must be abolished and all concessions must be based on merit cum means. Only then, these fanatics will be cowed down. Will this happen ?

Posted by Gopala Iyengar Govinda Rajan,CEO at Techno Software International|23 Apr, 2010

I wish Mr. Iyer had also mentioned about yet another insidious contribution of the maiden government of free India that continues to hang around our necks like an albatross - the archaic, exclusivist and anti-merit system of bureaucracy founded upon the model of Indian Civil Service.

Posted by Hari Prakash Mishra,|22 Apr, 2010

Correct. All \'isms\' are political slogans to fool the common people. But in the present day World, all most all political parties across the World work with slogans of one variant of socialism or the other. Yes, there are in the parliament some persons who have clear vision and can draw up the top priority list for the next five years that would best serve the National interest. This group includes Manmohan Singh but none among the leftist or regional or socialparties have capability for clear vision. But what will a clear vision of a person do? Parliamentary democracy with political parties have no incentive to work with a clear vision for the Nation: each party is only interested in using and abusing the power of the Government and as political parties to benefit the parties and their members. They think whatever little they do for the common citizens is the great luck of the forefathers\' of the citizens. Earlier monarchs and Kings oppressed people: now the new socialist / democratic multiple monarchs oppress the citizens. Citizens should take back all oppressive and potentially oppressive powers from the political parties and governments and make the politicians servants of the people in the literal sense. They should search for leaders who have high quality brains, who have integrity and honesty, who have knowledge and who need little money from tax payers to do their job of leading the nation - all at the same time.

Posted by Basudeb Sen | 22 Apr, 2010

Capitalism are Socialism are one and the same as long us you do not try to understand either of them. It is a continuing futile attempts to fool one's self and others for want of simple publicity.

Posted by karthikeyan | 22 Apr, 2010

I have a very simple question to ask - is there any capable man in our parliament who has the clear vision and can draft " Priority list "set targets atleast for five years -and is able to predict dates of comletion of task fully or partially ( definite%) ?
I happen to visit Koln a small town in germany and it came as a pleasent surprise to me that Common man had an access to read reports precisely what their local authorities are doing - and that too on weekly basis as it was written of the board right ar the squre next to the famous church. Its an open secret even tourist can read it ! wow ! this is called transparency! if you do something you dont have to justify all the time and keep on giving explanation to any one for this matter unless untill its challenged

Posted by ashok sehgal,president at G M E M C G|22 Apr, 2010

this is to say that Indian people are the ones who keep Butter in our handa and searching or the Ghee-There is a deeper WISDOM behind this statement and this answer all your questions

Posted by VELUTHAKKAL vVJAYAKUMAR , Training Consultant at Peak Trainings | 22 Apr, 2010

Early Independent Indian political leadership did scarecely have high quality intellectuals capable of assimilating the lessons both the Western and Indian political philosophies and history and capable of independent political philosophical thought. They were born in India o\f British slavery and educated bunder the British education system with emphasis on English language and literature and law. Very few could develop tyhemselves to pursue mathematical logic and modern science and yet be active in political thought. They hated the Britishers to rule in India just as Sagina Mahato (Dilip Kumar Saira Banu starrer film) did and yet they had grown up in the environment where the White man was the heroic ruler (as did Dilip Kumar see as a tea garden worker) and behaved like a model ruler when they got the opportunity (as did Dilip Kumar sing ' Aab to Maine Sahab Bon Giya' when he was suddenly made Labour Welfare officer in the same tea garden/ factory). Leading a strig gle for freedom is different from leading a nation economically and politically. There wasn't a model readily available, nor were they capable intellectually to develop a model of their own idependent thinking. They had to depend on something developed in the West. They could not acceptyed the mainstream dominating model. Free enterprise democracuywas out off the question. That would not give the businessmen of politics the control they would like to have as rulers just the local white authorities of the Colonial India. The only attractive theory was Socialism and dictatorship of the politicaal leadeship in all walks of life - an under-developed, intested model largely developed by intellectually less capable intellectuals of the West.. It is another matter that they did not understand why no version of socialist political dictatorship failed to gain ground in the rich, industrial West despite the presesnce of large inequalities and exploitative profits by the capitalists. They failed to undestand why socialist political dictatoship was not accepte by the manstream philosophers on both sides of the Atlatic and had to be picked by political leaders fighting to end oppressive morachial rule in largely aggrarian economy of Russia. They hated the British as their former rulers and they hated Americans because the Britishers did so, both jealous of the ruiches and technological superioroty of the US. The only free enterprises the early Indian political leaders and thinkers could accept were the political parties and the governments at various levels. They lived with casteism in their early lives and British education tught them to justifiably hate casteism that they thought was of Hindu oprigin. So they had the opportunity to exploit the slogan of anti-casteism to look modern and develop the new castes of MPs, MPLs, members of Central/ State/District/ politburo committes of political parties. Casteism is inherent to Indian life - every one thinks that he needed to belong to a s uperior class, despite the Upanishadic philosophy of the ultimate oneness of all living and non-living beings. Irrespective of whatever your occupation is or attainments are, you belong to the lowly class if you are not a recognised supporter of a major political party in the state or the country or did not secure any favour from the legislative bodies or the political executive. It does not matter whether the Indians are classified among the most corrupt nations or merely emerging economies with low per capita incomes despite 50 years of command economy socialist dictatorial economic planning. In the British days one was required to write letters with " I beg to submit that.... I pray for your kind consideration .... I remain your most obidiently' sentences to the White bosses and School principals/ headmasters. Now you use the same language to appeal to the Native political bosses. The Maoists, much like the current political bosses and the Coal fied and other Maffias, alos ope rate with the same vision of socialistic political dictatorship to rule their territories and exploit the meek subjects.

Posted by Basudeb Sen | 21 Apr, 2010

When the British left, Indian society cam under the control of Sagina Mahato\'s of the Dilip Kumar starrer film.

Posted by Basudeb Sen | 21 Apr, 2010

Nehru went for socialism out of conviction,because he wanted to help under privlaged ,because he thought state has the the resources which can be utilised witout any prfiteering.In case of Indira Gandhi it is mainly to remain in power.

Posted by ashok vinayek | 21 Apr, 2010

I entirely agree with my TOI friend Swami.Nehru & his likes, educated in Cambridge were leftists ,a fashion during those times.Great people have this great ability to change with times.Nehru did'nt.He was a man of suspicion of wealthy nations wealthy people.Hence he hated the West the US Indira Gandhi was worse.Nehru atleast had strong & logical views on what he thouht were right.He did not gag the views of opponents.Indira Gandhi had no idea about long term Nation building.For her every action followed her big ego.Whether its nationalisation of Banks or war with Pakistan.Millions of Indians have been denied the fruits of freedom of access to goods & services & freedom to do business.Is there way we can sue these leaders and the party they belonged for denial of our fundemantal right to business.Ofcourse Manmohan Singh & co are a great hope to this country.What a transition.

P osted by t.v.krishnamurthy | 21 Apr, 2010

I disaggree with the conclusions drawn as it is limited to the Indian Caste system. In the western world, the Caste system was replaced by the class system and the banias of west ( Jews in Europe and Americas- Great Britain, a nation of shopkeepers did not contribute) were also sufferer of the socialist ridicule.
The basic reason for this deep- rooted distrust was the concept of labour - which was equated with physical work which entitles a man to earn sufficiently for self / family at subsistence level. The earnings of the trading community / money lending ( present day - financial institutions) were never accepted as a just reward for risk taking. Cheers,

Posted by Neeraj Prakash,|21 Apr, 2010

I read the article, well I'll not term it as inferiority complex but its easier to quote history, and form a tradition which can be retold for generations. to me Nehru and the other leaders just wanted to give value to thier philosophy only, socialism may have been good for India, however I dont see any significant implementation of the same in indian economy.

the one who rpoduces have always been poor the one who trades was always reach. I checked it which my own experiences. I got a chance to travel across the country over a period of time, and I feel pity on the ideology of socialism by Nehru.

SOCIO ECONOMIC DISTPARITIES and contration of money, unfortunately took place at the time when were following so called 'SOCIALISM'.

Posted by Zamarrud Jahan Jahan,Voice and Accent Trainer at HCL Technologies BPO Services Ltd|21 Apr, 2010

Photo Gallery
Speeches (Audio)