What I learned from Harold Laski?
He shaped my political beliefs in my younger days
My another favourite writer and thinker was Harold J.Laski (1893-1949). I must have read and re-read almost all his volumes at one time. Now, as I read his biography (Harold Laski: Isaac Kramnick and Barry Sheerman, 1993), I felt inspired and also sad. What a brilliant mind and yet what a sad end to his otherwise brilliant career and impact.
Laski was a close personal friend of Nehru and Nehru, strictly speaking, became a socialist, less by the Soviet experiments,more because of his friendship with Laski and also the many Labour leaders and also writers and journalists like Kingsley Martin, the editor of the New Statesman. This weekly magazine was a socialist organ, founded by the Webss, they also founded the London School of Economics.I became an ardent reader of this magazine all through my years in England and used to invite its editor, Mr. Martin to speak to the Indian students association at Oxford, of which I was president for some time. Mr.Martin’s editorial writing had a slant and a style(”the cut of the jibe”)influenced my own style of writing the English language!
One reason why Laski is important to Indians is the fact that he was so famous only in India,thou8gh he was a well-known name in UK and USA and also known in the then Russia as a chief exponent of Marxism while being committed to Parliamentatry Democracy.His interpretation of Communism had many takers in the West and also in India.
Laski was teacher of V.K.Krishna Menon as he was to so many later leaders of Asian and African countries.He was a professor at the London School of Economics for 30 years and was chairman of the British Labour Party when it won the general elections in 1945 that unseated Churchill as a war time leader!Becuase of his peculiar skills of intllectual exposition of Socialism and attack on the sort of Capitalism that was in vouge he was largely suspect to be a Red Professor. In India, his version of socialism was almost what Nehru propounded,though Nehru had to balance his socialism, democracy and economic planning carefully while keeping his special friendship with the Soviet Russia.
His famous books are:”Grammar of Politics”,1925(I bought the hardcover edition inChennai in 1953!).Liberty in the modern state, The Dilemma of our Times,1952, Faith, Reason and Civilization,1944, Karl Marx, An Essay (Fabian Society)’Reflections on the Revolution of our Times,1943. I have given only the titles I consider very original and of lasting value. When an Indian edition of the “Grammar of Politics” was brought out Nehru wrote an introduction. Laski would be remembered as one of the seminal minds of the 20th century and one who gave liberty, personal freedom a central place in our democratic beliefs and actions.