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The Socialist Opposition in Nehruvian India 1947–1964

Boris Niclas-Tölle

This book examines the political and developmental thought of the democratic socialist opposition party of India during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. It thereby contributes to a modern global history of political ideas and examines the role of Marxism, Gandhi and modernisation theory for the political development of India during the Cold War. The study focuses on the modernisation policies implemented by the Nehru government: Increasingly facing competing claims from Nehru to be pursuing socialist policies after the mid-1950s, the movement eventually broke apart and large numbers of socialists were assimilated by the Congress Party where they continued to shape Indian politics.
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3. Socialist Consolidation: The Socialist Party of India 1947–1952


3.1 Introduction

In this chapter, I examine the transformation of the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) from a pre-1947 revolutionary movement into the Socialist Party of India (SPI), a democratic party organisation able to compete in the first Indian general election of 1951–52.

Having fought the British by means of sabotage and agitating for insurgency from the underground almost until the moment of independence, it was difficult for the socialists to find a political identity within the newly founded Indian National Congress Party (INC) after 1947. The foundation of a Muslim and a Hindu state contradicted their understanding of a united revolution of colonial subjects against foreign imperialists. Nevertheless, it was approved of by right wing and conservative groups, who had gained power within the Congress. Founding the SPI thus was a matter of resetting their socialist agenda in a fundamentally changed political environment, as well as emphasising their distinctiveness as representatives of such an agenda. The specific content of this agenda was strongly influenced by the growing apprehension of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. Even though US and Soviet foreign policies neglected the role of India prior to the 1950s, questions of anti-communism and strategic alignment possessed an increasing relevance in Indian politics. At the same time, however, European attempts to preserve colonial power throughout the world posed a challenge to Indian foreign and domestic policy.145 ← 73 | 74 →

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