|VOLUME 2|ISSUE 1|JULY 2018|ISSN: 2581-3595|​




This research paper includes the study about the Constitutional history of Socialism in India. It acknowledges the emergence of Socialism in the nation. It talks about Marx theory and also about the various socialistic programme carried out by the national leaders in order to promote Socialism in the country. This paper emphasizes mainly upon the Nehru’s concept of Socialism and how he was influenced by Karl Marx and did the work done by him in order to spread the message, the research paper also includes the views of Nehru who was well aware about the sufferings of the country and he also knew that the only solution available was the reconstruction of the society on the grounds of socialist lines. Whereas, Ambedkar also always wanted to uplift the underprivileged section of the society. He upholded that the whole constitution was drafted by the makers keeping in mind that the whole society should be at benefit. He also thought that including the word “socialist” would take away the liberty of the people to decide how the society would work in the future This research paper contains the grounds on which the word ‘Socialist’ was added in the Preamble through the 42nd Amendment which was again witnessed to be the most controversial amendment in the history of constitution. It highlights the need felt for the explicit inclusion of the word ‘Socialist’ in the Indian Constitution. The writers also intent to reveal how socialism has evolved in the country in a periodic manner.

KEYWORDS: Socialist, Indian Constitution, Socialism, Amendment, Preamble, Constituent Assembly.


The word ‘Socialism’ has come from the Greek word ‘Socius’ meaning Society. Hence it is natural from the meaning that it is concerned with society or collective life. It can be considered as the result of the injustice of the capitalist (social) structure. It is also regarded as a tool to revolt against the exploitation of man by man. It is considered to be a protest against the construction of an economic and social system on the basis of incentive of profit, and not service. The meaning of socialism has evolved over time as different people have put forth their opinions. According to Marxists, socialism was basically an economic movement whereas to the communists it is something which is already achieved in Soviet Russia. Its main aim was to uphold the principle of equality which was evident from the actions of the state. Such a movement was needed as the needy and poor were deprived of their basic necessities and the state had the responsibility to protect their rights. Nehru believed that capitalism had outlived its day and socialism was more relevant in the present era. His idea of socialism developed from his four-day visit to Moscow where Marxist ideas were implemented. Nehru has worked hard to bring India on the path of Socialism and also made it a political issue by linking it to the National Movement inside the country. He also gave it an international overview.


The given study aims to focus on the following research questions:

How did Socialism ideology enter into India?

What were Nehru’s views and contentions about Socialism?

Why the word “Socialist” was not included into the constitution while it’s making?

What made socialism to be included in the constitution?


The objectives why this research study is done are as follows:

To know about the history of socialism

To study the opinions of various political leaders on socialism.

To learn the importance and relevance of the word “socialist” in the constitution.

To understand the reason why socialism was added in the constitution. 


Socialism in India was the invention of the intellectuals and was not the product of working class movement. It was developed in the same time with the national movement and many nationalists were passionate socialists. With the development of the Soviet Union along the way of communism and its insistence on an egalitarian, planned society many of the nationalists and intellectuals got attracted towards it and Nehru was fore standing among them. As Ashok Mehta mentioned that “In the thirties men of intelligence were either socialists or fascists. We were socialists.”[1] Nehru was neither the founder of a socialist party nor the socialist state of India. He was also not the member of the socialist party which was formed in 1934. Yet it was Nehru who worked hard to place India on the way towards socialism and also made socialism a political issue by joining it to the National Movement inside the country and gave it an international overview. Socialism came in India as a source of ideas providing economic content to the Congress Movement.

It is a true fact that Nehru’s socialism was influenced by his Marxist readings and his visit to soviet Russia as well. Nehru was well aware of the poverty of masses their feudalism, superstition, psychology of dependence and general backwardness and he also knew that the only remedy was the reconstruction of the society based on socialist lines. As soon he returned from Europe in 1927 he plunges into the campaign to convert Congress to more radical ideology. The mouldable period of the Indian National Congress offered Nehru a good opportunity to develop his talent for leadership and to generate his radical ideas. He became the spokesperson of young radical Congressmen and also of the socialist ideas. Mostly, the important resolutions of the congress were drafted by Nehru. In 1929, All India Congress Committee passed one of the important resolutions stressing in the needs for the revolutionary changes in economic and social structure for removing the gross inequalities that existed.

The first formal introduction of the socialist belief from the Congress was done by Nehru himself when he presided over the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress in 1929. Nehru stated, “the philosophy of Socialism has gradually permeated the entire structure of society the world over, and almost the only points of dispute are the pace and methods of advance to its full realization. India will have to go that way, too, if she seeks to end her poverty and inequality, though she may evolve her own methods and may adapt the ideal to the genius of her race”[2].

The three important areas where Nehru emphasized on wer

(1) Inevitability of the adoption of the socialist goal of India.

(2) The need of modifying socialist methods according to the Indian conditions

(3) To be flexible in practice and policy, taking into account the mixed, heterogeneous character of the Congress and keeping them (Congressmen) together in the fight of independence.

Nehru encouraged that Congress needed an economic oriented programme towards the development of the condition of the peasants and workers. Nehru influenced the congress to recognize that the reason for poverty and misery of people is not only because of foreign exploitation but also because of the outdated economic structure of the society. It was to be followed by social and economic reforms towards the path of bringing radical changes in the areas of    agriculture and industry, the distribution as well as the ownership of land and different forms of economic power.  Nehru declared himself as a socialist and republican in 1929, and he urged the Congress to follow socialistic programme. In Lahore he stated that “We have to decide for whose benefit industry must be run and the land produces food. Today the abundance that the land produces is not for peasant or the labourer who work on it, and industry’s chief function is supposed to be to produce millionaires. However, golden the harvest and heavy the dividends, the mud huts and hovels and nakedness of our people testify to the glory of the British Empire and our present social system”[3].

Nehru approved a minimum wage for labour, abolition of intermediaries in the rural economy and also approved changes in land laws. Nehru was for the idea that Swaraj should be correspondent with the political and economic emancipation. Previously Congress was focusing on the thought on nationalist lines and not included a pronounced stand on social and economic problems. As Dr. Gopal stated that “His mild tactics on behalf of socialist strategy were committing the Congress to positions which no amount of pressure within or outside could have secured”[4]. In 1931 for the first time congress in the Karachi session agreed and adopted Nehru’s resolution on economic policy and fundamental rights and pledged itself in favour of economic development. However, there was nothing unusual about the Karachi session and therefore was not declared as a socialist faith. Yet, it brought the idea of economic freedom and economic interests of the people in the picture of India after Independence. The main theme of the resolution was to bring end to the exploitation of the people and economic freedom for starving millions. This also included a basic idea of democracy, nationalization of key industries and transport.

 It therefore provided freedom of expression, religion and thought; equality before the law; protection of regional language and culture; a living wage, good conditions of work, employment; old age insurance; the right to form unions, associations; abolition of untouchability, free and compulsory education adult franchise. It argued in favour of secular state, a reduction of land revenue and progressive tax and rent. There was nowhere mentioned about the abolition of landlordism or socialization of land. Nehru was also not satisfied with this programme and considered to as non-socialism. Nehru’s socialist mission influenced the Congress to take its first step towards socialism not particularly on the ideological side but towards the making of a few concrete measures for the economic liberty of the people. No doubt Karachi session gave a new look to Congress and brought it closer to the Socialism. This is to be considered as one of the most important contributions of Nehru towards Socialism during freedom struggle.

The aim which Nehru insisted upon was National freedom and Socialism. Nehru’s biographer, Michael Brecher mentioned that “inauguration of national planning in 1951 and, more particularly, the Avadi Resolution on a ‘socialist pattern of society’ in 1955 may be traced to the Karachi resolution of 1931”[5]. Nehru realized that as soon as the economic problems will get solved other problems like the communal and religious problem would lose their importance. In 1936 as Nehru was the president of the Indian National congress at Lucknow, he pleaded for the inclusion and adoption of socialistic policies and ideas. He stated that “I am convinced that the only key to the solution of the world’s problems and of India’s problems lies in Socialism, and when I use this word I do so not in a vague humanitarian way, but in the scientific economic sense. Socialism is, however, something even more than an economic doctrine, it is a philosophy of life and as such also it appeals to me. I see no way of ending the poverty, the vast unemployment, the degradation, and the subjection of the Indian people except through Socialism. That involves vast and revolutionary changes in our political and social structure, the ending of vested interests in land and industry as well as the feudal and autocratic Indian states system.  That means the ending of private property, except in a restricted sense, and the replacement of the present profit system by a higher ideal of cooperative service”[6].

As Nehru was not attracted to the Gandhi’s Khadi development still he realized that it was useful for that time. If Gandhi made the Congress famous among the people and influenced them for participation, Nehru’s Socialist appeal influenced the intelligentsia and the youths to participate into the national struggle and socialist movement in India. Nehru’s prejudice for socialism was not accepted by the right wing of the Congress including Sardar Patel and Rajendra Prasad. Nehru knew that the main purpose of the national movement will be exploited if he did not stand for the betterment of the poor. Nehru played a significant role in the national movement as he gave an economic and socialist orientation to it.

Nehru influenced the youths and created in them the consciousness of the urgency of transformation of political, social and economic structure. Like this Nehru made a tangible contribution in transforming and modifying of the Congress party as a tool for bringing many changes which the country needed. Nehru’s appeal of socio-economic reforms and elimination of the vested interests influenced both urban as well as the rural classes. Nehru’s concept of socialism was an alternative to the ultra-radical call of communism. Though, the latter was not able to make its appeal to the extremist sections, it could not progress beyond this limited boundary. Nehru only succeeded in getting Indians consent on socialism by adapting the appeal of communism to the cultural and social context of the country but also created a progressive consciousness in the educated urban people and created a bridge between the urban and rural sections of the country. He made the urban people aware of the sufferings the rural people.

Nehru’s biggest achievement was the adaption of western ideas of socialism India. India had a very complex agricultural system with inequalities of ownership, insecurity of tenure, fragmented landholdings and middlemen between the state and the cultivator. Primitive methods used for production, peasant’s conservative outlook made this much more complicated. Nehru realized this problem in 1926 and then after in 1926 the U.P provincial Congress Committee declared, “The existing land system must go and that there should be no intermediaries between the state and the cultivator”[7]. During that time, it was a bold as well a new idea.

As from the beginning Nehru was against the vested interest. In year 1928 in United Provinces Congress Conference Nehru argued about the abolition of the Zamindari system and also the land distributed to the tenants. In 1929 at his presidential address to the Congress he announced, “Real relief can only come by a great change in the land laws and the basis of the present system of land tenure. The ownership of large estates by individuals, which is the outcome of a state resembling the old feudalism of Europe, is a rapidly disappearing phenomenon all over the world”[8]. Yet, in those days also Nehru spoke about the compensation should be given for the land rather to confiscating it. Dr. Gopal felt that even though Nehru spoke about the revolutionary methods of Socialism, the idea of socialism which he forecasted was of a mild variety well described as Utopia, Gandhian Socialism. His devotement to the Congress was very deep and it was to preserve the unity of the party that he didn’t allow any socialists to join his working committee in 1936. Gandhi was well aware about the fact that discipline and political freedom were the most important aspect to Nehru and his priority over revolution or violent social and economic change. Dr. Gopal mentions that, “During the next ten years no single individual did more to build in the Congress an awareness of economic issues, but Jawaharlal was also the best shield of the Congress against left-wing groups and organizations”[9] Nehru did not weaken the collective organization or break with Gandhi on the ground of socialism.


India was to become a democratic republic with a socialist welfare state. This was discussed in the “Objectives Resolution[10]” by Nehru and various Constituent Assembly[11] debates, which have colossal value in understanding the unfolding of the socialist doctrine which would be in accordance to India. Capitalism was viewed as contradictory with the general public as visualized by the constituent assembly and socialism as the most vital means of eliminating poverty[12]. The difficulty faced by the constituent assembly was that the socialists could agree upon the type of socialism to be used in the constitution. Mises define socialism as a system wherein all means of production are in particular use of community at large. There were 3 groups amongst the constituent assembly:

The Marxist and communists who promoted that the state must control all means of production and distribution.

The second group, which included Nehru, supported socialism as they were dubious about capitalism. They wanted India to get rid of the clutches of capitalism. They thought socialism as a symbol of economic progress.

The third group were Gandhian socialists, who believed that the state must neither follow capitalism nor socialism but create own Indian Socialism which would be Gram Swarajya.

Amid the discussions, notwithstanding these differences in opinions, an attempt was made to reach to a consensus within the framework. At that point of time, India was largely and illiterate and agrarian population which wanted land reforms, worker rights, abolition of untouchability and not a federal government or judicial system. Due to a great number of British educated lawyers, the focus was on liberal ideologies. They wanted slow happiness in a nice manner. Even Lord Buddha viewed it as “Bahujan Hitaya Bahujan Sukhaya” which means welfare of many people.

Due to the existence of this difference of opinion, the inclusion of socialism in the constitution is quite philosophical and controversial.


Why was the word “socialist” not included even when all of Ambedkar’s point of view directed to create a socialistic nation? Wasn’t Ambedkar aware of this word? If he was, then didn’t he include it despite the advice given by K.T. Shah during the constituent Assembly debates? The concept of State Socialism was brought up by Dr.B.R Ambedkar in his memorandum entitled “State and Minorities” given to the constituent assembly in the year 1946. In the memorandum he has pointed out that the born or naturalised citizens of India should be treated equally.

B.R. Ambedkar, father of the constitution, was against declaring India’s social and economic structure in the constitution. Amid the constituent assembly debates in 1946, Ambedkar said that he is against two concepts. Firstly, Constitution is only a component to regulate work by different organs of the state. It isn’t where by specific individuals or specific gatherings are introduced in office. What the state policy should be and how the society must work in relevance to the social and economic working are matters which should be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances arising in the future and not to be imposed by the state. Ambedkar’s contention was that if socialism were laid down in the constitution itself, then it would be violating the chief aspect of the constitution, which is democracy. He said that if the state says that the social organization in the country should be in a particular manner, then the state is taking away the liberty of the people to decide the way in which they want social organization to exist.

It is flawlessly conceivable today, for the greater part individuals to hold that the communist association of society is superior to the industrialist association of society. Hence, he did not see why the constitution should force the people to live in a certain way and leave it on them to decide the same. This is one reason why socialist was not taken into account while drafting of the constitution.

Ambedkar’s second objection was that inclusion of the word “socialist” was quite unnecessary as socialist principles and policies were already embodied in the constitution by inserting Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.

Referring to the Directive Principles of State Policies, Ambedkar asked K.T.Shah, that if these are not socialistic in their content and direction then he fails to understand that what socialism is.

Ambedkar was very clear in his thoughts that he wanted the people to decide the kind of economic policy that they wanted to adopt. He also did not want the word “socialist” to be misused in the later generations as it was being done in the USSR at the time of making of the Indian constitution. For example, the constitution specifies that there is a need to eradicate inequality and poverty from the nation, but this should be done through a leftist approach or a right – winged approach should be on the people to decide and not on the state to impose.

Some of the important articles in the constitution related to Fundamental duties and Directive Principles of State policies, which have an essence of socialism in them, are as follows:

Article15- Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. — (1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to—

(a) Access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and places of public entertainment; or

(b) The use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public.

(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.

 [(4) Nothing in this article or in clause (2) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.]

 [(5) Nothing in this article or in sub-clause (g) of clause (1) of Article 19 shall prevent the State from making any special provision, by law, for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes insofar as such special provisions relate to their admission to educational institutions including private educational institutions, whether aided or unaided by the State, other than the minority educational institutions referred to in clause (1) of Article 30.][13]

Article38- State to secure a social order for the promotion of welfare of the people[14]. (It directs the state to make the country secure for the social welfare of the people.)

Article 39- Certain principles of policy to be followed by the state[15]. (It concerns with the equal justice, legal aid etc. which are socialistic in nature)

Article 41- Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases[16]. (It secures the people with the right to work).

Article 42- Provisions of just humane conditions of work and maternity relief[17].

Article 43- Living wages for workers[18].

 These entire articles promote socialism. And this was the very contention of Ambedkar as to why the word “Socialist” was to be added despite the presence of these articles in the constitution and despite the suggestions given by various other scholars at the time of framing of the constitution.


After many years of the constitution, the government, following numerous discussions and debates, decided to add the words “socialist” and “secular” in the preamble. This was done by the way of 42nd Amendment which was enacted during the Emergency (25 June 1975- 31 march 1977) by Indian National Congress headed by Indira Gandhi. In the prior preamble, the words were like this “Sovereign Democratic Republic”. After the Amendment, the preamble read “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”.

Justice, Equality, Fraternity, Liberty; these words were already included in the Preamble which gave a socialist essence to the constitution, but in an indirect manner. So, it was desired that if these words were actually written in the preamble directly, then it would give a very specific meaning to the preamble. Adding it separately would tend to make it look that the nation wants to be more socialist in nature rather than being capitalist. The state wanted to make sure that even if India remains poor in economic development but it should prosper in individual freedom.

Adding the word ‘socialist’ in the constitution was a political move by Indira Gandhi, which was also unconstitutional. The people of India gave to themselves the constitution of 26th January, 1950 and whose essence was given in the preamble. Now, changing the preamble itself would mean to change the object of the constitution. Indira Gandhi, to attain majority, wanted to depict herself as a saviour of the minority and poor people. She wanted to show that the other party who discouraged this amendment did not support the poor people. With such tactics and ‘Garibi Hatao’ slogan, she could win the hearts of thousands of people. So, the word “Socialist” was added to ensure that the minorities would be safe in the country and the rich class of the nation would not dominate the poor people. This also ensures transparency between the people and the state and makes the people to believe that the government cares about the problems of the underprivileged class.

Therefore, the word “socialist” was included in the preamble after so many years.

Is the word “Socialist” important in the preamble right now?

 The Amendment by which this was done explicitly unveils the Indian philosophy of economic development. But the major question arises that can this word be removed from the preamble at this point of time? The term socialist may give a sense of security to the labour and working classes and if this word is removed from the constitution, it may give rise to insecurity in the masses. Secondly, the Indian philosophy in highly influenced by socialism and thus this ideology syncs with the current pattern of growth and progress. Before the introduction of this word, the intent of socialism was fulfilled by Directive Principles of State Policies. It should be noticed that the socialism which India has adopted has quite a flavour of Gandhian socialism which is ‘Democratic Socialism.’ These words were added with a particular intention and if these words are removed now, then it will express a wrong message in the minds of the minorities and the labour force. This word is like a pillar of the constitution and removing it will not only collapse the constitution but also the whole country. The removal of this word will contradict the ideal philosophy which will depict a wrong meaning before the nation. The constitution was meant to be made as a safeguard for the people; hence its main objective should be to make the people of India feel safe. Thus, deleting this word will not be a great idea. The inclusion of this word in the preamble hence proves to be a very smart decision by the then government.


This research paper helped us to understand the emergence of socialism in India and how the emergence of this word went through a rise and fall. We learned about the views and contentions of various political leaders and the way in which each of them contradicted the other to put forth their own point of view. India was meant to be a socialist country at the time of its making, but still it was thought to be necessary to put the word “socialist” in the preamble to indicate the importance of this concept. According to our point of view, socialism has high ideals which help the country to maintain its integrity. Adding the word ‘socialist’ in the preamble doesn’t make much of a difference and as Ambedkar has said that the Constitution implies that the provisions are based on socialism. Thus there was no need to include the word socialist in the constitution. If the provisions are based on socialism there shouldn’t be any problem in including the term in the constitution. Hence, the controversy seems baseless. We are of the opinion that inclusion of the term ‘socialist’ is for the good of the society and thus it fulfils the very purpose of formation of constitution i.e., to protect the rights of the less advantaged.


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Dr.Gopal. (n.d.). Formative Ideology of Nehru.

Gupta, A. S. (n.d.). Nehru and Indian Socialism.

Nehru, J. (n.d.). Discovery of India.

Nehru, J. (n.d.). India’s freedom , Selective Speeches.

Nehru, J. (n.d.). Nehru Glimpses of world history.

Sarkar, B. (2013). Dr. B.R.Ambedkar’s theory of State Socialism. International Research Journal of Social Sciences, 38-41.

SCC ONLINE. (n.d.). Retrieved 02 08, 2018, from www.scconline.com: http://www.scconline.com

[1] Nehru-India’s Freedom, Selective Speeches, Essays, Letters, p.14.

[2] Nehru-India’s Freedom, Selective Speeches, Essays, Letters, p.15

[3] Dr. Gopal, ‘Formative Ideology of Nehru’, Economic and Political Weekly, May 22, 1976

[4] M.Brecher, Nehru- A Political Biography, p.177

[5]Supra note 1, p.35

[6] Selected Works, Vol. 7, From Speech at Bombay 19th May, 1936, topic — Nationalism and Class-Struggle, p. 249

[7] Nehru, India and the World, p. 31

[8] Dr. Gopal, Nehru—Political Biography, p. 137

[9] Nehru Glimpses of World History, p. 886.

[10]Nehru December 13 the Resolution. CA Debates, Vol I: 57-62 (B. Shiva Rao (2006) Vol II: Page 4)

[11]Assembly discussed it from 13-19 December 1946 and on December 21st its consideration was postponed. Discussed again on January 20-22, 1947. On the last day all members standing adopted it UNANIMOUSLY. (B. Shiva Rao (2006) Vol II: Page 4).

[12]With the exception of C Rajagopalachari and KM Munshi, almost all members of the Constituent Assembly believed in some form of a socialist state

[13]www.scconline.com, bare acts, Constitution Of India, Article15

[14] Constitution of India, Article 38

[15] Constitution of India, Article 39

[16] Constitution of India, Article 41

[17] Constitution of India, Article 42

[18] Constitution of India, Article 43