Peace Profile: Jayaprakash Narayan

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  • This article was downloaded by: [The Aga Khan University]On: 27 October 2014, At: 02:37Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Peace Review: A Journal ofSocial JusticePublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:

    Peace Profile: JayaprakashNarayanS.P. Udayakumaraa S. P. Udayakumar runs the South Asian CommunityCentre for Education and Research at Nagercoil,Tamil Nadu, India.Published online: 12 Mar 2014.

    To cite this article: S.P. Udayakumar (2004) Peace Profile: JayaprakashNarayan, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 16:4, 505-512, DOI:10.1080/1040265042000318761

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  • Peace Review 16:4, December (2004), 505-512

    Peace Profile: Jayaprakash Narayan

    S.P. Udayakumar

    Looking back at his long and active politicallife,Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known in India as ':J.P.," claimed that he discerned in it "a uniform line of development," although an outsider may perceive it "as a zigzag and tortuous chart of unsteadiness and blind groping." There was groping, he concedes, but he asserts that it was certainly not blind. Narayan passed through various political stages in his life before he reached near-Gandhian stature in Indian public life with his personal integrity, renunciation of power and positions, and sincere dedication to the ideals of democracy, freedom, human dignity and equality.

    N arayan's political life can be summarized in a single phrase: "quest for revolution." He could think well ahead of the entire nation when the Indian subcontinent was waging a relentless struggle against the British colonialists and decide that mere freedom from the colonial shackles could not alone bring freedom and salvation to the teeming millions. His was the dream of liberating India fiom the chains of both colonial appropriation and age-old exploitation. He knew very well where he was going or had to go, but "how to get there" was his problem. He was a young follower of Mahatma Gandhi, and then an avowed Marxist in the U.S. and again a follower of Gandhi on returning to India. He never completely abandoned the one for the other.

    After a long and tortuous struggle, he synthesized the two big minds and the ideals of\Vestern democracy and evolved a new political philosophy, which may be called "Gandhian socialism." He pondered about the social and political evils in India, the problems the nation faced and the impending bleak future. Aspiring to a "total revolution in every sphere and aspect of society," he placed his hope on the youth of the country and led them in the pace-setting struggle. The arduous life of struggle, harassment and imprisonment, which was dedicated to certain ideals and values, was in a constant search for the ideology and methodology for India's salvation. Having been passed on to the younger generation, the legacy ofj.P. still remains as a guiding star on the Indian political hmizon.

    The young.J.P., a science student in Patna College in Bihar, was drawn to the Indian independence struggle. Although he had established contact with a member of the revolutionary movement, he was attracted by Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement. \\Then the latter called lor non-cooperation with all law courts and educational institutions maintained by the government in early 1921, J.P. ldi Patna College even though the exam was only a few weeks away.

    ISSN 1040-2659 print; ISSN 14-!i!l-9982 onlinc/O,U040505-0B 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd DOl: I 0.1080/ I 04026.104200031 1!761




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    At that time, he conceived the lofty notion of freedom and went on to envisage the freedom of humankind.

    Being unprepared to go back to any educational institution maintained or aided by government and having heard that it was possible to work one's way through in U.S. universities, he sailed for the U.S. with his father's help. He studied at the universities of California at Berkeley, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio by working in fields, factories, restaurants and slaughterhouses. While at Wiscon-sin, he came into close contact with a group of communists, read communist thinkers' works avidly and became an ardent Marxist. He became convinced that political freedom alone was not suflicient but must be accompanied by equality and the end of exploitation, poverty and hunger. Narayan was fascinated by the Marxist theory of revolution and it seemed to offer a surer and quicker way to freedom than Gandhi's technique based on non-cooperation and civil dis-obedience. To his great chagrin, Marxian philosophy offered, besides freedom, equality also. What Lenin had achieved in the Soviet Union proved for him beyond any doubt that the Marxian way of revolution was by far superior. He did not have any inkling at that time that Gandhi was also concerned about the menace of poverty and had his own theory of social revolution.

    \Vhcn J.P. returned to India in November 1929, the country was undergoing a new political upsurge similar to that of 1920 1921 when J.P. left Patna College. Despite his conversion to Marxism, he had remained an Indian nationalist to the core and cherished the Indian independence struggle. The circumstances were also very diflcrcnt andJ.P. came into close personal contact with Gandhi, since his wife had lived with Gandhi's family in their Sabarmati ashram in Gujarat. Narayan met .Jawaharlal Nehru, who had gone to sec Gandhi, and the two developed a close friendship. On Nehru's persuasion, J.P. joined the Congress Party and vigorously participated in the second civil disobedience campaign in 1932-1933. When the top Congress leaders were all arrested, J.P. became the Acting General Secretary of the party in 1932 and kept the campaign alive. He himself was arrested on September 7, 1932.

    T he Communist Party of India (CPI), as per the policy reversal of the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in 1928, focused on building themselves up rather than cooperating with the nationalist organizations in their struggle for independence. They denounced the Indian National Congress and called the congressional leaders the lackeys of the bourgeoisie. This came as a rude shock to J.P. and he became convinced that the socialist struggle in India could not be carried on under the leadership of the CPI or the guidance of the Comintern. At the same time, he was equally convinced that the struggle for socialism and equality could not be put aside until the achievement of indepen-dence. He wanted to combine both struggles and felt the need for a socialist party that would be free from the Comintern's control and act within the nationalist fr

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    prison with an idea and a vision and eventually launched the Congress Socialist Party (CSP) in 1934. He claimed that the CSP had the true understanding of Marxism and was applying it correctly to the Indian situation.

    Although he fostered a Marxist program of Soviet type, J.P. was certainly influenced by Gandhian precepts of decentralization, renunciation of coercion, and refraining from a blind rush for modern machinery. He was not in favor of copying the Soviet model blindly in India. For instance, in the introduction of cooperative and collective farming, he thought there should be no coercion but only encouragement and promotion through propaganda, demonstration, sub-sidy and preferential taxation. In view of the large population and land shortage, he felt India would need few labor-saving devices (at least until industrial development absorbed the surplus rural population) and no large conglomeration of villages with huge collective forms. According to his socialist scheme, cities would be built with geographical planning and concentration would be avoided by diffusing industrial sites. The agro-industrial villages, besides being units of agricultural production, would also become units of industrial production. Thus the impact of Gandhi's ideas was very much prevalent i