Nehru's Speech: Away from Acquisitive Society

By Jawaharlal Nehru

Speech to All-India Congress Committee, Indore, January 4, 1957

Planning essentially consists in balancing: the balancing between industry and agriculture, the balancing between heavy industry and light industry, the balancing between cottage industry and other industry. If one of them goes wrong then the whole economy is upset. 

If you concentrate too much on industry, leaving agriculture to look after itself, the country gets into difficulties. In some of the East European countries there have been some inner conflicts and trouble, and probably the real basis of these conflicts was economic. The economy of these countries was not a balanced one. Too much stress was laid on a very rapid development of industry, specially heavy industry, with the result that agriculture suffered, and with it the whole economy. 

A very eminent economist of one of these Eastern European countries delivered a speech about two or three months ago, in which, criticizing their own plan, he recommended to the people in those countries that they should look at India’s Second Five Year Plan, which was a much more balanced effort. And curiously enough, he recommended much greater stress on village industry and handicrafts to those people. 

It is extraordinary how the wheel has come full circle in the case of the Eastern European countries. They started with great emphasis on heavy industry, but suddenly found that, while heavy industry was necessary and important, they must have other bases for their economy, that is, the development of village industry and handicrafts. 

That is a lesson for us. We believe generally that the industrial progress of India will depend and must depend on the growth of heavy industry. There will be no industrial progress unless machines are made here, unless iron and steel are manufactured here.

At the same time we have always to remember that unless we balance heavy industry with the growth of village industry, we shall produce an unbalanced structure which may crack up and fall to pieces. Therefore, the importance of village industry, household industry, cottage industry and small industry is very great. 

It is great from the employment point of view, of course; but it is also great from the point of view of balanced production. It is great from the point of view of producing consumer goods. In a static economy, some kind of balance can be achieved at the cost of poverty and the starvation of the people. But in the economy of a developing country, one has to take care at every step lest one step should unbalance some other, and create difficulties. We in this country have tried to lay stress on food production, on heavy industry and on cottage and village industry in a balanced way.

Many of our friends and colleagues, including those who belong to other parties, talk about socialism in what I would call, with all respect, a very rigid way. I do not criticize them, and I do not wish to claim that what we say about socialism is the final word on it. I look upon it as a growing, dynamic conception, as something which is not rigid, as something which must fit in with the changing conditions of human life and activity in every country. 

I believe that socialism can be of many varieties. Socialism in a highly developed industrial community may be of one type, while in an agricultural country it may be of a somewhat different type. I do not see why we should try to imitate another country, although we should take advantage of the experience gained elsewhere. 

If I wish to industrialize my country, I have to learn not only higher techniques of industrialization from the countries where such techniques have been adopted and are flourishing, but many other things, such as the way they industrialized. It would sometimes be useful to copy what other countries have done; sometimes it would be useful to avoid it. I do not see why I should be asked to define socialism in precise, rigid terms. What I want is that all individuals in India should have equal opportunities of growth, from birth upwards, and equal opportunities for work according to their capacity.

Much can be said about socialism, but I should like to stress one thing. The whole of the capitalist structure is based on some kind of an acquisitive society. It may be that, to some extent, the tendency to acquisitiveness is inherent in us. A socialist society must try to get rid of this tendency to acquisitiveness and replace it by co-operation. 

You cannot bring about this change by a sudden law. There have to be long processes of training the people; without this you cannot wholly succeed. Even from the very limited point of view of changing your economic structure, apart from your minds and hearts, it takes time to build up a socialist society. The countries that have gone fastest have also taken time. 

I would like you to consider that the Soviet Union, which has gone fast in industrialization, has taken thirty-five years or more over it. Chairman Mao of the People’s Republic of China—which is more or less a Communist State—said, about three or four years ago, that it would take China twenty years to achieve some kind of socialism. Mind you, this in spite of the fact that theirs is an authoritarian State, and the people are exceedingly disciplined and industrious. Chairman Mao was speaking as a practical idealist. We must realize that the process of bringing socialism to India, especially in the way we are doing it, that is, the democratic way, will inevitably take time.

We have definitely accepted the democratic process. Why have we accepted it? Well, for a variety of reasons. Because we think that in the final analysis it promotes the growth of human beings and of society; because, as we have said in our Constitution, we attach great value to individual freedom; because we want the creative and the adventurous spirit of man to grow. It is not enough for us merely to produce the material goods of the world. We do want high standards of living, but not at the cost of man’s creative spirit, his creative energy, his spirit of adventure; not at the cost of all those fine things of life which have ennobled man throughout the ages.

Democracy is not merely a question of elections. The question before us is how to combine democracy with socialism, through peaceful and legitimate methods. That is the problem India has set before itself. It is a difficult problem, and yet I think we can face it with a measure of confidence. We have achieved many things in the past which were difficult, and there is absolutely no reason why we should not achieve this also. We cannot achieve it by any compulsion or coercion. We have to win the goodwill and co-operation of the people. Even authoritarian governments cannot function without a large measure of goodwill and cooperation, let alone democratic governments. 

It is important that we take our people into our confidence, be frank with them about our failings, our difficulties, our hopes and aspirations, so that they may understand. I want you to go to them, to make this election campaign a great campaign of comradeship with our people, of friendship with them, of talking, and discussing these problems with them—not merely a campaign of delivering speeches and reciting slogans.

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