19th April 2017
Laski’s ghost haunts India even today. Nehru and Laski – some further notes.
I have commented on Laski extensively on this blog.
I was curious exactly how Nehru came in touch with Laski. Was Nehru his student (clearly not)? So what happened?
LASKI’S INFLUENCE ON NEHRU
The following extract is directly from Wikipedia:
He taught generations of future leaders at the LSE, most famously, his prize student, V.K. Krishna Menon. According to John Kenneth Galbraith, “the center of Nehru’s thinking was Laski” and “India the country most influenced by Laski’s ideas”. It is mainly due to his influence that the LSE has a semi-mythological status in India. He was steady in his unremitting advocacy of the independence of India. He was a revered figure to Indian students at the LSE. One Indian Prime Minister of India said “in every meeting of the Indian Cabinet there is a chair reserved for the ghost of Professor Harold Laski”. His recommendation of K. R. Narayanan (later President of India) to Jawaharlal Nehru (then Prime Minister of India), resulted in Nehru appointing Narayanan to the Indian Foreign Service. In his memory, the Indian government established The Harold Laski Institute of Political Science in 1954 at Ahmedabad.
Speaking at a meeting organised in Laski’s memory by the Indian League at London on 3 May 1950, Nehru praised him as follows:
|“||It is difficult to realise that Professor Harold Laski is no more. Lovers of freedom all over the world pay tribute to the magnificent work that he did. We in India are particularly grateful for his staunch advocacy of India’s freedom, and the great part he played in bringing it about. At no time did he falter or compromise on the principles he held dear, and a large number of persons drew splendid inspiration from him. Those who knew him personally counted that association as a rare privilege, and his passing away has come as a great sorrow and a shock.|
Unfortunately this still doesn’t tell me how Laski managed to influence Nehru. Was it only through Menon?
HOW LASKI GOT IN TOUCH WITH NEHRU
Yes. it was through Menon.
Here’s the evidence: “Laski met Gandhi and Nehru through Menon and the India League.” [Source]
Further: “Together with Victor Gollancz and John Strachey he [Laski] launched the Left Book Club, with which many South Asian writers and activists, such as Mulk Raj Anand, Indira Nehru (Gandhi), and Jawaharlal Nehru also became involved. ” [ibid]
NEHRU CORRESPONDED REGULARLY WTIH LASKI
The network of Nehru’s correspondents was vast, and included intellectual and literary luminaries (George Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, Ernst Toller, Romain Rolland, Harold Laski), British political figures (Brailsford, Cripps, Ellen Wilkinson, Eleanor Rathbone, Hewlett Johnson, George Schuster, Lord Lothian, Roger Baldwin), as well as Annie Besant, Rabindranath Tagore, General and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Moustapha El-Nahas, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Claire Booth Luce, Essie Robeson. [Source]
In 1938 Nehru was welcomed in a rally in which Laski spoke
The rally to welcome Nehru drew a large crowd to Kingsway Hall on June 27, 1938. The Dean of Canterbury, Stafford Cripps, Harold Laski, Ellen Wilkinson, R. Palme Dutt (the Communist Party’s expert on colonial affairs), and Robeson were among those who spoke to the gathering. [Source]
Happy to get inputs into this from any reader who has a moment.