Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The New International, September–October 1951


Asoka Mehta

India’s Foreign Policy Examined

Socialist Party Leader Explores Government’s Position

(May 1951)


From The New International, Vol. XVII No. 5, September–October, pp. 283–288.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


We are pleased to publish the article that follows as a valuable contribution to understanding the position and the views of the Socialist Party of India. Both because of its own unique development, and because of the enormous and growing international importance of present-day India, the Socialist Party of India occupies a position of first-rate significance with all but limitless possibilities of development as a force of worldwide weight.

The difference between the Socialist Party of India and the Social-Democratic parties of Europe has been noted on other occasions. The following article, which first appeared in the May 20, 1951, issue of the S.P.I.’s English organ, Janata, further emphasizes the difference. Despite the urgent appeals by American Social- Democrats and liberals that the Indian socialists mend their ways and align themselves in the camp of American imperialism, the Indians have steadfastly maintained their independence not only from Washington but also from Moscow. They have refused to be dragged into the trap of fighting Stalinism under the command of American imperialism or into the trap of fighting capitalist imperialism under the command of Stalinist totalitarianism. We can only greet enthusiastically this stand which is so close to our own, and wish for its further extension. It is a strong and living link in the chain of working-class and socialist internationalism that must be re-forged throughout the world, and proof that the chain can and will be forged again.

The author, Asoka Mehta, is general secretary of the Socialist Party of India. The article, which has been slightly abridged for reasons of space, while remaining faithful to the author’s thoughts, shows, among other things, the considerable interest among India’s socialists in the developments in Israel. The “babus” referred to are Bombay Jews who settled in India many centuries ago. There are several such colonies or residues of colonies along the Western coast of India, some going back 700-800 years in their origins, whose religion, as well as other modes of life, have been largely Hinduized. Yet the attraction of Israel has recently become very great and many of these Jews have left the land in which they had become so deeply rooted to move to Israel. This phenomenon has been regarded with interest by many Indian observers, and accounts for Mehta’s comments. – Ed.

* * *

The internal policy and the foreign policy of a country always interact. There are occasions and situations where foreign policy exerts the dominant influence. In the case of our country, however, for obvious geopolitical, if for no other reasons, it is the internal policy that has to play the dominant role. A significant foreign policy can develop only on the basis of a vital internal policy.

The government of India’s foreign policy today is therefore, like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. The failure of the Indian government to evolve and unfold a policy that enthuses the people and fills the sail of the ship of state with the wind of popular ardor fatally weakens the foreign policy.

Before we discuss a vital internal policy for India and outline its impact on the foreign policy, it is necessary to dispose of the attitudes of two groups in our country, belonging to two rival camps but in fact stemming from the same point of view. These two groups have little faith in the creative abilities of our people. In the crisis-laden world around us, they do not credit our people with power of decisive action. For them the world is operated only by a Great Power: people, even of a great and ancient land are devoid of real meaning to them.

Both in defense and in internal development the two groups look to outside aid and lead. For them the people of India in the present phase of history are destined to play the second fiddle.

One group relies wholly on the United States. It would like India to be the barnacle of the American ship. It longingly looks to the armed might of the U.S. for defense and to dollar aid for economic development. Collaboration with America becomes the keystone of the arch of its policy.

The other group looks with the same eye of faith toward the Soviet Union. The attitude of this group, which is to be found in almost every country of the world in a larger or smaller measure was recently aptly stated by Signor Valdo Magnani and Signor Aldo Cucchi, two dissident Communist deputies from Italy:

There is a widespread opinion in the Communist Party that revolution can take its flag forward only by means of war ... It is thought, in other words, that in the present stage of the world struggle revolution can win only on the bayonets of an army that invades our country.

I know that these comrades are thinking of the Red Army or the armies of the People’s Democracies. But the opinion that revolution can win only on the bayonets of an army crossing our frontiers, what does it represent today? It means that war is considered inevitable, and this is an error that prejudices the whole struggle for peace. The strength and capacity of the Italian working class is under-estimated, and everyone waits for forces from abroad to solve the situation. This is another error.

This is not an isolated view, or an aberration, but a “new” theory of revolution. That fact is brought out by Svetozar Vukanovic in a brilliant brochure entitled How and Why the People’s Liberation Movement of Greece Met with Defeat:

Where are the roots of this “new” theory of revolution formulated by the leadership of the Soviet Union (the theory that under present-day conditions the victory of the revolutionary movement in this or that country is impossible without the direct armed intervention of the Soviet Army)?

This theory (just like the theory about the impossibility of realizing socialism in a single country without the help of the Soviet Union) is an expression of the centralistic and hegemonistic policy actually pursued by the Soviet government. For, the Soviet government tries to have all the Socialist countries made dependent on, and subordinate to it, to have all revolutionary movements obligatorily adopt, not that policy which might correspond to material or spiritual conditions of the people of their countries, but whatever policy corresponds to the interests of its own centralistic, hegemonistic policy.

The India Socialists reject this “new” theory of revolution, whether it be oriented to the Capitol or the Kremlin. They reject the “centralistic, hegemonistic” claims of either of the Great Powers. As such their foreign policy is an assertion of democratic and pluralistic world-view. It rejects monolithic pretensions of power blocs and believes in developing an independent initiative. They pitch the tent of their independent foreign policy on the highland of Indian people’s strength and self-confidence. They are therefore convinced that the sine qua non of an independent foreign policy is a socialist home policy.

A weak and confused home policy, as pursued by the Congress Party today, undermines the morale of the people and makes them prey to a foreign policy that stems from the “new” theory of revolution. Prime Minister Nehru’s “independent” foreign policy lacking the ballast of a sound, socialist home policy has failed to evoke the enthusiasm of the people, of “the workers in fields and factories,” of whom the Congress Party was once fond of talking, and is resulting in polarizing Indian opinion into two rival camps of followers of Washington and Moscow. “Independent” foreign policy of Nehru should not mean dividing the country impartially between the “friends” of the two power blocs!

Before we trace the outlines of a socialist foreign policy let us briefly list the fundamentals of a socialist home policy. They are (1) economic equality, (2) social mobility, (3) political democracy.

In India today sharp inequalities exist. The pyramid of distribution of the national income shows the shape of a wide flat base and a tapering apex. The table sketches the design of the tapering apex.

Range of


% of


% of



















100,000 and over



While in progressive countries economic disparities have narrowed, in India they have widened ...

In Communist Poland, in a factory, the spread-out in the incomes of a manager and an unskilled worker is seven to one, in India it is eighty to one! And it needs to be noted that the wages of the unskilled workers are almost the same in Bombay as Warsaw.

In Socialist Israel the managing director of an establishment with few family encumbrances may earn less than an unskilled worker with a large family working in the same factory.

In Labor Britain a coal miner earns £300 a year and a junior civil servant £400 a year, while a manager of a coal mine earns £700 to £800 a year.

Even in a country like France the spread-out between the salary of a secretary-general of an administrative department and his peon is eight to one. In India it would be fifty to one.

Economic inequality not only drains the pool of capital accumulation needed for economic development but divides and dispirits the people.

Even more important is the need of social mobility.

In Communist Poland, in the past four years, 8,000 workers have risen to the position of managers of industrial factories. In the universities almost 75 per cent of the students are drawn from peasant and worker families.

Even in capitalist America, a significant proportion of even business leaders came from lower income groups:

It is this lack of social mobility that has robbed our freedom of its élan. For decades there has been social stagnation and social regression in our country. That has created a climate of indifference and disenchantment. A vital home policy that would give India economic equality, social mobility and rapid development would have changed the climate and released the creative impulses of our people.

Without releasing such impulses, even foreign aid is meaningless, and that is a lesson which notwithstanding the bitter experience of Nationalist China has yet to be learned by the “friends” of Washington. Israel, for instance, received last year over £75,000,000 as foreign aid in different forms. As a matter of fact Israel ministers are in the habit of going out constantly to Europe, America and South Africa on “begging tours” as our ministers are wont to tour round the country laying foundation stones of edifices and institutions that generally fail to get built! These foreign loans have been able to irrigate Israel’s economy because of the new élan of the people. Woodrow Wyatt after a visit to the country reported:

So far, the great majority of the immigrants accept the atmosphere of unstinting work. “We are clerks,” said the Indian Jew from Bombay, “but now we must do it.” All around him the ex-babus from Bombay had set to with enthusiasm to construct the cooperative village, constructing the roads, preparing the ground, and building the simple houses.

Wyatt believes that “a government operating on sound democratic socialist lines” has, to no small extent, worked the miracle. (The Jews At Home, p. 10.)

As a Bombayman I know hundreds of babus of my city. I have not seen this spirit among them after the achievement of freedom. The main fault lies in the unimaginative and uninspiring home policy of the Congress governments. What Bombay babus are able to do in Israel surely can be got out of them in Bombay, provided the right appeal and the atmosphere are created. The experience of the Socialist Party in this direction, in recent months, confirms this analysis.

A socialist home policy would provide India with a program, an ideology, a faith distinct from the American way of life or the Soviet way of work. It is the absence of such a program, ideology and faith, and not just absence of guns and butter that makes India’s claim for an independent policy sound almost hollow.

The new home policy would offer a rallying point to similarly situated countries in South and South-East Asia. Against the “hegemonistic” efforts of Moscow and Washington would emerge a new focus for Asian countries readily acceptable because it will be based upon equality between nations, as its very basis is faith in one’s people and working for the release of the creative energies in them.

Socialist India would strive to develop close economic and political relations with Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon, Indonesia and other countries of north-west and south-east. The coordination would be attempted on three levels: government, party and the people. The close association between socialist movements in these countries would give an added meaning to the cooperation fostered on the government level.

Such a group of states irradiant with democratic socialist ideology and energized by the élan of the people would be able to fill the vacuum that

might arise in any part of North-West and South-East Asia by the withdrawal of Western Powers or the weakening of the Kremlin influence. Today India’s ineffectiveness arises from the fact that she has no means of filling up the vacuum that would occur by the withdrawal of the French and the British from Indo-China and Malaya. In Indonesia India’s efforts were persistent and successful because there was a third “power,” neither colonial nor Communist, that could fill up the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the Dutch. In Indo-China our government recognizes neither the Bao Dai regime nor the Ho Chi Minh regime. “Neither this nor that” may be a convenient stratagem but not effective statesmanship.

The Third Force can grow only on the basis of a vital home policy, it cannot be built up by becoming an honest broker of peace between the two rival power blocs.

Infiltration is a favorite tactic of the two power blocs, particularly of the Soviet bloc. The Chinese occupation of Tibet has already honeycombed parts of Assam with Communist guerrillas. It will not be possible for long to continue the policy of friendship with Soviet China while repressing Communist activities at home. As Yugoslavia has shown it is possible to develop resistance to Communist overtures in the people. An indigenous faith and élan can make the Chinese too, thoughtful and respectful about Indian ideology. China has greater economic difficulties than India and it will not be easy for the new regime to organize economic reconstruction. If India is moving along democratic socialist lines simultaneously, the allegiance of the Asian people would rather swing to Delhi than to Peking. And such an allegiance becomes a mighty weapon of foreign policy.

The nationalist movements in Africa have received no little inspiration from India and they look for support to us. So far little interest has been shown in them. The first step would be to make our people aware of these movements. Leaders of African nationalism should find in India friendship and understanding. That understanding could then be extended to other countries of North-West and South-East Asia. The Third Force has to become the spearhead of the aspirations of the submerged people for freedom and new life.

The Socialist Party, with its limited resources, has been doing some of these things in its non-official capacity. In parts of Africa the glow that once used to be felt at the name of the Indian National Congress is now felt at the name of the Indian Socialist Party. If there had been a Socialist government in India, the glamorous personality of the Prime Minister would not have been the sole focus of attention and allegiance to India.

Socialist India would take a keen and sustained interest in the Movement for World Government. This movement may be weak today, but sooner than later men’s minds, weary with war, will turn to it. It needs today the fostering attention of a state that is willing to slough the skin of sovereignty. What other country is better suited for this role than Gandhi’s India? A World Assembly elected by the people must bring to a focus people’s emotions and will for world unity. Socialist India would quicken this impulse for a vital change in international relations because the rock on which its edifice is built is faith in the creative abilities of the people.

A tragically divided world is hungry for a new faith and a new adventure. Not by indulging in patchwork solutions, but by functioning as an “honest broker of peace” in international disputes can one evoke that faith and embark on a voyage. What the world needs is a re-enactment on the international level of Gandhi’s march to Noakhali: in a sick and a split world a nation marching forward with faith and confidence to sanity with the courage that only a man heavy with mission has. Socialist India would give our people a touch of that courage and impart to our foreign policy its driving power and radiant glow. That would be the bursting on the world scene of the Third Force more vital than the two armored blocs.

Top of page

Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 22 November 2018