On the eve of Nehru’s dying anniversary, a Nehruvian lesson: Contradictions usually are not a nasty factor


Nehru’s distinctive high quality as a political thinker is probably most seen in his skill to confront contradictions with honesty fairly than being alarmed by them. These schooled in Hegelian dialectic regard contradiction as one thing to beat and enhance within the subsequent stage. If you’re a Marxist, it includes antagonistic class distinction that’s overcome via violence. The purpose that has been decisively made for a lot of thinkers and students is that contradiction — in historical past, society, life, considering — is a nasty factor, a rational error, some extent of disaster, and an issue to be eradicated, resolved. When you contradict your self, try to be embarrassed about it, and that you must rectify it.

Professor of philosophy at JNU, Babu Thaliath, introduced it to my discover that Hegel’s dialectic, his understanding of contradiction, is a perversion of Heraclitus. When Heraclitus famously mentioned, you can’t step into the identical river twice, he merely identified that actuality, or reality, is in flux, and whilst they’re related to one another, they aren’t the identical. It’s time that makes contradictions seem, and they’re unresolvable.

The Mexican poet-critic, Octavio Paz, in a speech delivered at an Worldwide Spherical Desk on Nehru in Delhi in 1966, made a number of distinctive observations about him as a person of contradictions. Paz mentioned, “It’s exceptional that Nehru, despite his primarily being a political chief, didn’t fall into the temptation of suppressing the contradictions of historical past by brute pressure or a verbal tour de passé”.

This constructive commentary goes towards the grain in understanding contradiction, as one thing that should be rooted out of historical past. It’s an moral level being made towards any ideology of violence that seeks to remove society’s contradictions by way of violence. As soon as violence is accepted as a good and justifiable means to finish a sure drawback in society which is each historic and political, then we find yourself justifying any kind of struggle, be it class struggle, or race struggle. All fashionable ideologies of struggle comply with this logical precept of utilizing violence as a rightful means to a wonderful finish.

Nehru might sense the restrictions of all the nice and passionate concepts that thrived round him and moved him too — nationalism, scientific rationality, communism.

In The Discovery of India, Nehru thought-about the historic necessity and vitality of nationalism, and on the similar time was conscious of its “limiting components”. Within the Azad Memorial Lectures in 1959, Nehru acknowledged how Marx was “moved by the ghastly circumstances that prevailed within the early days of industrialisation”. However he felt {that a} “really democratic construction of the state” generates sufficient transformative scope for a peaceable different to exchange the concept of violent revolution. Communist leaders on the earth have been in the end statist, utilizing state energy to liquidate opponents and quell dissent. Nehru, in distinction, welcomed political rivals into his authorities. Whilst Nehru argued concerning the deserves of scientific thought and rationality as instruments of a progressive future, he was additionally conscious of “(the) limitations of purpose and scientific methodology”.

He wrote in The Discovery: “There’s something missing in all this progress, which might neither produce concord between nations nor inside the spirit of man.” Progress is a blind machine that removes timber to create area for buildings. Nehru argued in favour of “synthesis” and “somewhat humility in the direction of the knowledge of the previous.” Caste and the “slim and restricted non secular outlook” weren’t a part of this knowledge. What Nehru needed was an artificial type of tradition and considering, one thing that might accommodate variations and create newness.

Nehru’s concept of newness was not the overall abolishing of the previous however its transfiguration, which included each rejection and continuity. What needed to be rejected have been the static social buildings and methods of considering. What wanted to stay was the spirit of accepting distinction. This may increasingly sound much less forceful compared to the novel theories of social change, but it surely makes extra sense immediately when bigotry and prejudice within the identify of ethnic and nationalist identities are again with a vengeance, and the avowed guarantees and desires of modernity are tottering.

Nehru was making an attempt to kind out the contradictory impulses of historical past by telling us to be much less boastful, much less certain, about our concepts. Ideological conceitedness erects a confrontationist world the place it’s unimaginable to discover a assembly level with out struggle — actual or argumentative. Ideologies inform us there may be just one victor. We’ve seen what that horrible concept did to Europe within the final century, and its failure to stop Europe from repeating it on this century. Any political concept that identifies an enemy, whose elimination is fascinating, will all the time lose its brains.

Within the 1966 speech, Paz additional made the philosophical comment: “[Nehru] was trustworthy to his contradictions and for this very purpose he neither killed others nor mutilated himself. Everyone knows to be able to suppress our contradictors, we should start to suppress the inner contradictor we supply inside.”

This frames the issue of rooting out contradictions inside ourselves (and needing the identical in others) as one thing harmful. We’re a mixture of sure and no, of being certain and uncertain, of being half persuaded, and half unconvinced. What sure political types of rationalist thought demand of us is to “take a place”, or decide. It asks of us what Jacques Derrida invokes from Kierkegaard: “The moment of resolution is insanity.” It’s the insanity of struggle, the place the opportunity of accepting contradiction, to have interaction the opponent in essential dialogue, is rejected. Even Carl Schmitt clarified in Political Theology that the sovereign resolution (to wage struggle) doesn’t rely upon its substance however its reality. Warfare is a call with out substance, the place contradictions are violently erased with out consideration.

In A G Noorani’s verdict, Nehru was “ambivalent” about utilizing the strategies of struggle within the annexation of Hyderabad. With Nagaland, Nehru’s angle was comparable. He was seen as paternalistic in each contexts. In opposition to China, he misplaced the guess on ideological belief and expectations. Nevertheless, Nehru’s ambivalences, hesitations and errors don’t seem Manichean, when in comparison with Mao Zedong, Stalin and Hitler.

Nehru had got down to “uncover” India. After spending 5 months within the Ahmednagar fort-prison in 1944, he wrote, “[What] have I found? It was presumptuous of me to think about that I might unveil her and discover out what she is to-day and what she was within the long gone.”

It’s a uncommon second of admission, the place political ethics meet energy/information. Nehru realised that India can’t be found. He acknowledged the futility of his ambition to outline India as an epistemological entity that lends itself to an mental justification for energy. This moral humility was not current in a Lenin or a Castro. This failure of objectivist information to outline a nation when it comes to class, race or faith, is in tune with Nehru’s considering. India, for Nehru, is a spot the place no single concept, or tradition, or identification, can dominate.

The author is the creator of Nehru and the Spirit of India


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