Netaji Subash Chandra Bose has been portrayed as a “Nazi Sympathiser”

I have zero fascination for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – AOC. I hear half the people (Dems) talking about her as if she is Jesus incarnate circa 2019, and the other half (Reps) trashing her as if she is the harbinger of Armageddon.

I personally find her to be a diluted version of Hilary — but at least Hilary was original. AOC feels manufactured, like the pop groups that are assembled on AGT and then shoved down the throats of millions as the next Beatles. If she is the DNC’s best long-term bet right now, the party is doomed. Trump, as much as I hate for it to happen, will surely be back in 2020 on the back of a more convincing victory. And the republicans will probably hold office for another one or two more terms.

However, when Alex VanNess sent out the tweet that stirred this storm, he committed two grave fallacies — that of Association and Hasty generalization.

He probably remembered this picture:

and assumed that Netaji was fond of Hitler and/or approved of his horrendous actions. However, a brief read through Netaji’s Wikipedia page[1] would utterly destroy this fallacious assertion.

Netaji had radically different ideas than other prominent Indian leaders. He was not a man of peace and words, but that of action. He was a vocal proponent of absolute independence for India from the start, in stark contrast to the INC and its leadership who would prefer the “dominion route” where India would be technically free in terms of trade, armed forces, monetary policy, etc, but the British empire would still exercise control on key issues like waging international wars.[2]

He also wanted “socialist authoritarianism”[3] for India for at least 20 years after Independence, on the lines of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s regime in Turkey so that the nation could make the astoundingly great leaps required for a newly independent state. However, some people still try and over-simplify it claiming, “Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose wanted ruthless dictatorship in India for 20 years

Whereas Gandhi sought compromises with the British, Bose sought absolute victories. Gandhi was willing to wait a long time for independence, Bose wanted immediate action, if not immediate results. Gandhi was anti-materialistic and hostile to modern technology, Bose saw technology and mass production as essential to survival and dignity. Gandhi wanted a decentralized society and disliked the modern state; Bose wanted a strong central government and saw the modern state as the only solution to India’s problems. And finally, Bose did not share Gandhi’s dedication to non-violence.

He was not someone you could easily bucket into either the “right” or the “left”.

This period in Europe had a profound effect on Bose’s politics. For one thing, his exposure to the left sharpened his faith in revolutionary socialism, and his determination to lead a socialist revolution in India. For another, his exposure to the right gave him an admiration for the techniques of organization and administration that the Nazis were trying out in Germany, and that Mussolini’s fascists had been trying out in Italy.

We now have to deal with the question of Bose’s political ideology at this point, especially the question of whether or not he was a fascist. Well, in a word: yes, Bose was now a fascist. He had no problems with openly admiring fascism. At the same time, he was not a Nazi, in the sense that he was not a racist, and he had no interest in theories of national purity and cultural supremacy. Bose did not seek a Hindu India, or some pure version of Indian culture. He had long outgrown his old politics of Hindu nostalgia. He welcomed Muslim participation in Indian nationalism, and he did not hesitate when it came to forming alliances with Muslim politicians.

For Bose, fascism was a technique of political organization, and a diagram for relations between government and society. Bose was not a democrat. He may have been one in the 1920’s, but by the late 1930’s he was quite certain that parliamentary democracy was not suitable for India. In his mind, India needed firm control by a single party, which would direct every aspect of social, political, economic and even personal life.

He believed that India’s problems – such as caste discrimination, class injustice, the need for economic modernization, etc. – were so deep-rooted that mey could only be weeded out through massive state intervention. For this, Bose believed, the machinery of the state had to be in the hands of a single, powerful, reforming party organization, such as the Nazi Party in Germany or the Communist Party in the Soviet Union. At this point, he still believed that this party would be the Congress.

Now you can argue against his stance, citing the dangers of “slippery slope” for a totalitarian regime. After all, most of them start out well-intentioned. But that does not make him a Nazi sympathizer.

And for that, all you need to do is go through his letter, dated 25 Mar 1936, to Dr. Thierfelder of the Deutsche Academie.[4]

“When I first visited Germany in 1933, I had hopes that the new German nation, which had risen to a consciousness of its national strength and self-respect, would instinctively feel a deep sympathy for other nations struggling in the same direction. Today I regret that I have to return to India with the conviction that the new nationalism of Germany is not only narrow and selfish but arrogant.”

The only reason he still approached Germany and Hitler was because they were part of the Axis powers, directly in conflict with Britain during WW2. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”.

Netaji had radically different ideas and he was not afraid to voice them. He was not a meek follower, but a commanding leader. Yes, he met Hitler. But that wasn’t because he had any adulation for him. For Netaji, Hitler was just another “tool” that he could use to secure India’s independence faster.

However, on finally meeting him in 1942, Netaji realized his folly. Hitler’s view of Aryan supremacy also extended to treating Indians as inferiors. [5]

It happened on May 29, 1942 at the Reich Chancellery. Though a few other ministers like Ribbentrop were present, Hitler was the sole actor at the show. He seemed to have been reasonably briefed in advance by his military intelligence on the internal situation in India. After an exchange of initial formalities, Hitler gave a long lecture on the world situation of the day. He spoke extensively on the Soviet threat to India once she was freed from the British, and euphorically boasted that for Germany, it is only possible to reach India over ‘the dead body of Russia’. It was more a ‘talking shop’ staged with racial hatred and national chauvinism, banal boasting and empty threats. Netaji firmly drew attention to the comments in ‘Mein Kampf’, and advised Hitler to make a public declaration on his stand and intentions about India. He noted that otherwise enemies would use his comments in the book for anti-German propaganda. But Hitler was not interested in continuing on this topic. He stated that it would take 1-2 years for Germany to spread its influence over India, and for India herself it would take 100-200 years to put her house in order and for reconstruction to achieve Indian unity. Instead of amending his stand on India, he proudly reiterated his well known ugly racist chauvinism against India. In his talk with Netaji, Hitler gave sufficient indications about his expansionist intentions towards India. It was not clear whether Netaji understood it and took it seriously. Possibly, at that juncture of history, there was no other alternative for him but to depend on the devil. Hitler did reassure Netaji that if and when German forces reached the Indian frontier, he would be invited to set foot on Indian soil in the company of German liberators to trigger ‘the revolution’. It was an empty promise and a cruel joke.

It was not a meeting of two national leaders, rather it was a frosty encounter between Hitler the demon-genius and Netaji, a nationalist giant. Netaji spoke very little to his colleagues in Berlin about his unpleasant meeting with Hitler, except that it was not possible to continue a logical dialogue with him. After this episode, Netaji seemed to awaken from his illusion about Hitler.

Captain Lakshmi Sehgal[6] , one of the first woman commanders of the INA, said

How do you explain Netaji’s attempt to seek support from Hitler?

A. That is absolutely false! In fact during his meeting with Hitler, Netaji had told Hitler that his policy and his treatment of the Jews were extremely deplorable and that with such a policy he would never secure that support of Indians. However, his meeting with Hitler was concerning a very political matter which was related to providing recognition to the Indian Government in exile and nothing more.

Finally, this accusation, coming from an American, whose first President owned hundreds of slave while in office, it is hypocritical at best.[7]

Footnotes

[1] Subhas Chandra Bose – Wikipedia

[2] Political views of Subhas Chandra Bose – Wikipedia

[3] Subhas Chandra Bose

[4] Newsbag

[5] Subhas Chandra Bose in Nazi Germany

[6] Re-visiting History with Capt. Lakshmi – The Social Science Collective

[7] George Washington and slavery – Wikipedia

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