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During his nearly two-year sojourn in Europe between 1926 and 1927, Nehru became deeply involved in the politics of the League against Imperialism, and his work as an executive council member firmly established him as a pivotal partner in the international struggle against empires. This chapter brings together Nehru’s sources from this period with newly opened archival documents from British colonial intelligence files and the Communist International papers. It illuminates the once unknown activities of Nehru during this critical year as he traveled in the service of the League against Imperialism to Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Paris and Moscow. It argues that Nehru’s anti-imperialist worldview rooted in Brussels had been significantly strengthened by his LAI service.
This chapter brings Nehru’s relationship with the LAI to a crisis point. It examines the second world congress of the LAI in Frankfurt where many communist members launched an attack on their non-communist colleagues. The shift was emblematic of the Comintern’s directives for communists to abandon the united front strategy and alliances with socialists and nationalists in the colonies. By reading the archival record of the Frankfurt Congress, however, the picture is more complex. Not all communists within the LAI subscribed to the dictates imparted by Moscow, and instead many communists and non-communists continued to work together to chart a future for the LAI beyond the sectarianism introduced by Moscow’s third period. The eventual split between Nehru and the LAI in 1930 was informed less by sectarianism in Frankfurt and more by the INC’s retreat on the goal of independence in 1929. Even after the split, however, this chapter concludes that Nehru and his comrades never fully closed the door on reconciliation and future collaboration for the greater cause of anti-imperialism, although such cooperation would never take place under the more rigid institutional framework of the LAI.
After establishing his place in the League against Imperialism, Nehru returned home armed with a new set of ideas about India and the world, and an arsenal of partners against imperialism that he could call upon for inspiration, financial support and collaborative partnership. This chapter offers a new reading of Nehru’s political activities in India as ones informed by anti-imperialist internationalism rather than simply dictated by local and national imperatives. It also argues that the terrain of Indian nationalist and trade unionist politics in colonial India was not always amendable to Nehru’s vision, and this chapter identifies the most formidable obstacles the Indian leader encountered.
This chapter argues that the ruptures and uncertainties at the close of the 1920s fragmented the League as an institution and aligned the Berlin headquarters more closely to Moscow, but it also created opportunities for more flexible connections and solidarities outside the institutional framework of the LAI and the Comintern. The chapter argues that Nehru’s commitment to internationalism in the 1930s was most clear in his maintenance of connections with the LAI and many of his former colleagues from the institution. Nehru frequently revisited the League against Imperialism in London where the international center relocated after a Nazi raid of the Berlin office sent the secretaries into exile in 1933. In London, Nehru attended League meetings in 1935 and 1936 where he met with former LAI comrades and encountered new ones, most notably V.K. Krishna Menon and George Padmore. Rather than a retreat, Nehru’s anti-imperialist internationalism expanded dramatically in the 1930s.
Nehru’s commitment to peace and anti-fascism were hallmarks of his political activities in the run-up to the Second World War and ones grounded in his anti-imperialist ideas dating back to the late 1920s. This chapter considers three specific cases in which Nehru amalgamated anti-imperialism with anti-fascism and peace in ways that reaffirmed his existing ideas about the world, but also produced significant contradictions. First, it examines Nehru’s involvement in the International Peace Campaign and the ways that the peace movement’s primary objectives stood in contradiction to anti-imperialist internationalism. Second, it traces Nehru’s activism on behalf of Republican Spain in which he advocated military intervention and force on behalf of Republican Spain but in the name of peace. Finally, the chapter examines Nehru’s travels to both Egypt (1938) and China (1939). These diplomatic interfaces for the most part reinforced his core belief in similarities and solidarities with China and Egypt, although Nehru often had to overlook and ignore conflicting evidence and realities on the ground in order to fit these places into a his existing anti-imperialist worldview.
In February 1927, Jawaharlal Nehru attended the inaugural meeting of the League against Imperialism (LAI) in Brussels. This chapter argues that the Brussels Congress, as it came to be known, was a catalyst in expanding Nehru’s vision for anti-colonial resistance beyond the confines of India or even the British Empire as he came to see the nationalism and anti-imperialist internationalism as mutually interdependent. The LAI introduced Nehru to several critical ideas. The first was that anti-imperialism meant the blending of anti-colonial nationalism and working class mobilization. The second was that imperialism had to be challenged by a global anti-imperialist movement that included leaders in the colonies, advocates for working class equality, and the Soviet Union. Finally, the anti-imperialist movement sought to prevent another world war by overturning the primary causes of war: capitalist and imperialist exploitation of workers and the colonized. Nehru’s political vision came to be informed by these core ideas, and he came to see the Indian anti-colonial movement as interconnected to the global struggle against imperialism.
The introduction introduces the key themes of the book and lays out several arguments. First, Jawaharlal Nehru’s politics were never confined to the Indian nation after 1927, but rather for him the nation was interconnected with anti-imperialist internationalism. This argument contends with histories that prioritize Nehru’s nationalist activities over his internationalist ones. Moreover, nationalism and internationalism were never oppositional for Nehru, but were symbiotically connected. Finally, this book makes several claims about the interwar world. As historians, we have been trained to identify our historical figures through the lens of geography or political groups rather than recognizing the intersections between socialism, communism, nationalist, pacifism and civil liberties worldwide. Such categories were highly unstable during the interwar period. What was so unique about the 1920s and 1930s was the ability to move across and within such categories and to rethink solidarities beyond the rigid frameworks afforded by strict orthodoxies or institutionalization.
This concluding chapter accounts for the demise of anti-imperialist comradeship in two acts. First, it moves away from Nehru’s story and considers the circumstances leading to the Second World War that irreversibly closed the possibilities for “blending” communism and non-communism. In particular, it traces the closing of the LAI and IPC, as we as the last days of Münzenberg and Chatto, neither of whom lived to see the end of the Second World War. Second, it returns to Nehru’s history and considers how the achievement of India’s independence served not as a step toward global anti-imperialism as he had imagined, but rather became the primary obstacle in creating internationalist solidarities with the wider world after 1947. It focuses on Nehru’s participation in the Asian-African Conference in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, a conference widely considered to be the sequel of the Brussels Congress. Instead, it argues that the Bandung Conference marked the triumph of the nation-state and interstate relations in the arena of Afro-Asian politics, and it stood in contradistinction to the anti-imperialist internationalism of the interwar years.
In this book Michele L. Louro compiles the debates, introduces the personalities, and reveals the ideas that seeded Jawaharlal Nehru's political vision for India and the wider world. Set between the world wars, this book argues that Nehru's politics reached beyond India in order to fulfill a greater vision of internationalism that was rooted in his experiences with anti-imperialist and anti-fascist mobilizations in the 1920s and 1930s. Using archival sources from India, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, and Russia, the author offers a compelling study of Nehru's internationalism as well as contributes a necessary interwar history of institutions and networks that were confronting imperialist, capitalist, and fascist hegemony in the twentieth-century world. Louro provides readers with a global intellectual history of anti-imperialism and Nehru's appropriation of it, while also establishing a history of a typically overlooked period.
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