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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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6. Conclusion


There is no question of whether or not a socialist philosophy manifested itself in post-colonial India. The question is rather how it manifested and what it signified. Benjamin Zachariah argued that “socialism” was part of a political language to legitimise a variety of technocratic development policies.499 His deconstruction of this language is highly useful to comprehend various undetermined and misleading invocations of “socialism” in Indian political history. However, this cannot be the reason to largely omit the case of India in the historical examination of socialist philosophies. Instead, it raises even more the question: why and how was socialism able to gain such popularity in India? As Zachariah’s work suggests, it is difficult to clearly pinpoint a single consistent significance of the term “socialism”. While this makes it difficult to demarcate any isolated kind of “original” or “core” socialism, debates about the significance of socialism in post-colonial India were not crucial despite but because of the heterogeneity of answers that they produced.

In this thesis, I focused on the evolving self-conception of the most eminent Indian socialist movement and its relations to the Indian government. Although other organisations and individuals represented divergent and followed other, no less valid, variants of socialist philosophy, the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) and its various successor parties seized an elevated political position as a nationwide organisation. Their widely respected influence as a political avant-garde faction qualify the movement to be regarded as a key actor in socialist debates in India. I...

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