On the Passing Away of Marshal Stalin

Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan

A component part of what is called ‘Nehruvian socialism' was a critical and sympathetic attitude to the Soviet Union under the leadership of Stalin and to Stalin himself. This is apparent in the writings of Nehru and is particularly evident in his condolences to Stalin in the Indian parliament on March 6th, 1953, where he argued that the Soviet leader had been an important factor for world peace. (http://revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv10n2/nehru.htm). Nehru s moving speeches cause great apprehension to contemporary historians such as Ramachandra Guha who write that Nehru was ‘over-generous' in his tribute to a leader who was ‘the greatest criminal in history'. But then Guha follows in the track of Robert Conquest whom he considers to be an important and serious historian of the Soviet Union. As the study of Soviet history has moved on in recent decades from cold war intelligence based constructions such ‘historians' have undergone a loss of credibility.

Less well known than the Lok Sabha tributes are those of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in the Rajya Sabha. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan himself as Indian ambassador to the Soviet Union had met Stalin twice in January 1950 and April 1952. (See: http:// www.revolutionarydemocracy.org/rdv12n1/3convers.htm). Western diplomats exerted great efforts to learn about the discussions of Radhakrishnan and J.V. Stalin. In the Rajya Sabha in his tribute Radhakrishnan noted that ‘No one can deny Stalin's ardent patriotism. When he started his career, Russia was in a very backward state. Through his stupendous efforts mainly, that country has been raised to the position of the greatest power in Europe and one of the two great powers of the world'. He then cited Churchill at Tehran where the British leader had in his toast to the Soviet leader said that he well merited the title of ‘Stalin the Great'.

Vijay Singh.

COUNCIL OF STATES Friday, 6th March 1953.

The Council met at half past two of the clock in the afternoon.

MR. CHAIRMAN in the Chair.


THE PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS (SHRI JAWAHARLAL NEHRU): With your permission, Sir, I should like to say a few words about the passing away of Marshal Stalin. The House learnt two days ago about his illness and early this morning we learnt of his death. We meet and make reference in this House when any high dignitary of our country or any Head of State of any other country passes away. In the present case, we refer not merely to a high dignitary, but a person who, by whatever standards one may judge him, and however much people may differ in their judgment of him, stands out high above his fellow-men of this generation as a person who has influenced vast numbers of human beings in his own country and also in other countries, a person whose life has been one of storm and stress and trouble—first trying to achieve the freedom of his country from the type of rule that they had then, then civil war in his country and later facing a great invasion in the last World War, in between in building up that country. And thus in the course of his life he came to be known not only as a great warrior with an indomitable will, but a great builder also. And probably his greatest achievement by which he will be remembered will be as a great builder, because there can be no doubt— whatever other opinions people may hold—that he has brought about an astonishing change in his country and built it up almost from scratch after the first World War and the civil wars that followed. That is a tremendous achievement and no doubt history will record it as such.

In our generation we have seen a few very great men of different moulds because greatness need not be uniform. In fact, greatness has a certain individuality. And so Marshal Stalin stands out as an individual of a particular type of greatness and also as a great leader who had that remarkable, quality, which very great leaders possess, of winning the affection and confidence of large numbers of people. There is no doubt that the news of his death has come as, what might be called, a personal blow not only to his own people in his country but to vast numbers of others who have developed that almost, if I may say so, mystic bond with the great leader. So it is right that we pay a tribute to the memory of this great man.

You, Sir, had occasion to meet him and for some time to live in that environment where he was supreme and you are perhaps in a better position to judge of him and his work than most of us here. A short while ago, our present Ambassador in Moscow also met him and only two or three days ago, I read a long report that he sent to us about this meeting—which was an interesting report and which showed the friendly feelings which Marshal Stalin had for our country and our people—and many of the questions he put, chiefly relating to our cultural background, also show his peculiar interest in India’s culture. I believe it is right to say that Marshal Stalin’s weight and influence had been cast in favour of peace. He was not a pacifist; he was a man—a stout warrior— who would not bend and who would be, if I may say so, ruthless in the pursuit of his objectives. But I believe that it was perhaps largely due to him that a number of crises, that might have developed into war, were prevented from doing so.

I should like to express the hope that now that he has passed away, perhaps this event might turn people’s minds in the direction of peace, because sometimes we grow rigid—countries and those who are responsible for their destinies grow rigid in their ways of thinking and it becomes a little bit difficult for one of them to respond to the other. But if something happens to shake them up a little, to make them think afresh, they may grow less rigid and may grow more responsive because obviously the world cries for peace. So, perhaps we may think that this event, sad as it is, may lead people to come to open their minds a little more to each other, to grow less rigid and cooperate in the work of peace.

I hope, Sir, that you would be good enough to convey the feelings of this House to the Government of the Soviet Union and if I may suggest, Sir, as a tribute to his memory, this House might adjourn later on.

MR. CHAIRMAN [Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan – Ed.]: Members of the House, I should like to associate myself with the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister in regard to the passing away of Stalin, the great leader of the Soviet Union. It was my privilege to represent our country in the Soviet Union for about two and a half years and I had opportunities of meeting Mr. Stalin and our discussions were full, free and frank. He showed the friendliest interest in our progress and I may say that never during that period of two and a half years or during my conversations with him was there the slightest suggestion, implicit or explicit, that we should line up with the Soviet Union in the present conflict.

The Prime Minister has referred to the work which he has done. ‘Proposing his toast in Tehran, Mr. Churchill, the present Prime Minister of Great Britain, observed: “He ranks with the mightiest figures of Russia’s history and he well merits the title of Stalin the Great.” That is what Mr. Churchill said at Tehran while proposing the toast of Stalin. For good or ill, his life work has affected vitally world history. And every country feels the impact of it. I must say that he was not unaware of the lack of what we call civil liberties in Soviet Russia. When questions of that type were put to him, his only answer was, “Look at our chequered history; look at the historical circumstances through which we passed. They will account for the absence of those liberties, and also if peace, progress and security are achieved, those things will be found again.” When I said that Marxism was incompatible with these, his only remark was, “I am not a dogmatic Marxist, I am a creative Marxist.”

If only the war association among the allies had continued in the post-war years, the world would have found itself in a healthier frame of mind. A country which suffered twenty million casualties, and had a third of its territory over-run, will not think of war lightly. Stalin’s great ambition was to leave his country, when he died, not in peril but in peace. That ambition has been fulfilled. It is now for his successors to strive to their utmost to maintain this atmosphere of peace and do their very best for continuing friendly relations with other powers. We are today extending our sympathy to the great Russian people and their Government. This is an hour of their test, sorrow and concern, and our hopes are that they will consolidate their country, improve their relations with others and strive for peace. Calamities may bring about psychological changes, and this great calamity which the Russian people have suffered might induce in them a great change so as to make them extend their hand of fellowship and friendship to the other nations of the world. With the expression of that hope and desire, I shall, Mr. Prime Minister, convey to the Soviet Government the deepest sympathy of this House in their hour of sorrow and trial. As a token of our grief, I would request you to stand up for a minute in silence.

(All members then stood in silence for a minute.)

MR. CHAIRMAN: The House stands adjourned till 9 A.M. tomorrow.

The Council then adjourned till nine of the clock on Saturday, the 7th March 1953

Source: Parliamentary Debates, Council of States, Official Reports, Council of States Secretariat, New Delhi, Volume III, No. 1-30, Wednesday, 11th February to 17th April 1953, 6th March 1953, Columns 1953-1958.

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