Ambedkar: On China and Communism

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The name Babasaheb Ambedkar for most Indians is of the personality who was the ‘Father of the Indian Constitution.’ Countless books, movies and commentaries have thrown light on his contributions as a social reformer, political thinker, economist and much more. The more we read about his life and his worldview, the more we realised that it was simply impossible to condense it into a single article. It is with this humility in mind that we are limiting the scope of this article to his views on China, Communism and India’s Foreign policy. The article has links to relevant resources you can refer to, to get a well-rounded understanding of his thoughts as one of the finest statesmen this country has ever produced.

A conflict with China

Back in the day, Ambedkar had written an essay titled ‘India and the necessity of a Second Capital’. It might come as a surprise to many that he in fact wanted India to have two different capitals to ease the tension between the north and the south. In fact he went on to suggest the city of ‘Hyderabad’ as an ideal location for the same. Along with the various political and social reasons, he also defined the merits in his argument from the defence perspective. He notes: “Although India and China today are friends, how long the friendship would last no one can definitely say. The possibility of conflict between India and China remains.” He further adds: “Although India is trying to live in peace with its neighbours it cannot be assumed that India will not have to face war sometime or other and if war comes, the Government of India will have to leave Delhi and find another place for its location.” 

“The possibility of conflict between India and China remains.”

In 1951, while addressing a group of students in Lucknow University, Dr. Ambedkar had said, “India has failed to develop a strong foreign policy. Tibet has been garrisoned by China; it will have long-term threat to India.” It is quite evident that his intellectual domain was not just limited to politics or social reform, but he also had in-depth knowledge of India’s defence realities. 

Against China’s permanent UN membership

As early as 1951, Dr. Ambedkar had spoken up against India’s position supporting China’s permanent membership in the UN. New evidence has emerged that in 1950 the United States had wanted India to be a part of the UN Security Council and Jawaharlal Nehru had conceded India’s right to the seat citing the legitimate claim that China had to be integrated into the international community. The election manifesto of AISCF led by Dr. Ambedkar in 1951 had criticised India’s position to ‘fight the battle for’ China’s permanent membership in the UNO.’ 

Instead he wanted India to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. The words in the manifesto are very clear “This quixotic policy of saving the world is going to bring about the ruination of India and the sooner this suicidal foreign policy is reversed the better for India.” His dissatisfaction with India’s foreign policy was one of the reasons why he resigned as the Law Minister from Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet.  

Communism is unsuitable for India

Dr. Ambedkar had a pragmatic view of both Communism and Capitalism. In the book ‘The Radical in Ambedkar’ by Suraj Yengde, the author argues that “Ambedkar sympathised with India’s ‘dislike’ for capitalism, but he feared that taken to its extreme it could lead to communism. His concern was that while avoiding capitalism, parliamentary democracy should not be weakened; if care were not taken, it would be ‘like throwing the baby out of the bath but in emptying it of dirty water’. This was also an outcome of his worries with communism which he found to be too dictatorial and violent and thus unsuitable to India’s fragile democracy.”

“…communism which he found to be too dictatorial and violent and thus unsuitable to India’s fragile democracy.”

Dr. Ambedkar himself had authored an essay titled ‘Buddha or Karl Marx’ where he drew comparisons between the teachings of Lord Buddha and Socialist revolutionary, Karl Marx. The essay has a very detailed comparison about the various tenets of Buddhism and Communism and what one should make of them. The following excerpt gives readers an insight into his thoughts about Communism, which was rapidly gaining ground in different parts of the world in the 1950s as an ideology and economic system.

“… much of the ideological structure raised by Karl Marx has broken to pieces. There is hardly any doubt that Marxist claim that his socialism was inevitable has been completely disproved. The dictatorship of the Proletariat was first established in 1917 in one country after a period of something like seventy years after the publication of his Das Kapital the gospel of socialism. Even when Communism—which is another name for the dictatorship of the Proletariat—came to Russia, it did not come as something inevitable without any kind of human effort. There was a revolution and much deliberate planning had to be done with a lot of violence and bloodshed, before it could step into Russia. The rest of the world is still waiting for the coming of the Proletarian Dictatorship.”

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