We are glad to inform you that the United Nations General Assembly’s Third Committee has passed Resolution A/C.3/68/L.57 on the promotion and protection of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran with 83 votes in favor and 36 against. The resolution will be formally adopted in December this year.
We are publishing the news of joining together of 25 organizations for the purpose of urging to pass the Iran Human Rights Resolution:
All peace loving individuals, groups, organizations and other activists interested in Human Rights are requested to spread the message.
Humanist Politics – I
III. What we mean by Humanist Politics?
1.“ Humanist politics may appear to be something novel, because while politics has been qualified by a variety of adjectives, these have never included the term “humanist”. The world has heard of anarchist, democratic, conservative, revolutionary and liberal politics; there has been nationalist, imperialist and socialist or communist politics, and it might be asked what is the need of introducing yet another brand of politics in this medley of political notions which has already created more than enough confusion. The need arises from the fact that none of them seem capable to solve the present crisis and to enable men to be freer and happier. The necessity of humanist politics was born of the conviction that the crisis of the modern world can be solved only by emphasizing the human element in public affairs, or rather by giving the human individual a more prominent place in political theory and practice. All sorts of forces, elements and factors are considered as ends and means in politics, but it is often forgotten that there is no purpose in all this unless it creates the welfare and happiness of men, and that it is men alone who can bring it about, not impersonal forces and factors.” (1)
2.“ Humanism as a social philosophy is concerned with human behavior, with human relations. But a social philosophy, in order to be convincing, must be integrated in to a complete system of thought, including a cosmology and other branches of knowledge. This has its relevance to humanist politics, and before making humanist politics plausible, the philosophical background of Humanism had to be outlined to show how it leads upto this new form of humanist politics.” (2)
3.“ The traditional Humanism could not explain how and why man can be depended upon for behaving rationally and morally, that is, a responsible citizen of a given society. Consequently, it came to be believed, even by the best of Democrats, that though sovereignty indeed belongs to the people, the people, composed as they are of men and women not sufficiently educated, enlightened and qualified for administering public affairs, must delegate their power to elected representatives, and hence democratic government came to be known as representative government. “ (3)
4.“ It is not difficult to see the difference between a democratic government and a representative government. Democracy has been defined as government of the people, by the people, for the people. Of that generally accepted definition, however, two-third has been silently eliminated and in reality, democracy has come to be nothing more than at best government for the people. A government of the people and by the people has never yet existed anywhere in the world. The people do not govern; they simply delegate their sovereign right to their representatives, and the representatives govern; that is to say, the representatives meet in parliament, the parliament forms a government, and both parliaments and governments tend to become increasingly remote and independent of the theoretically sovereign people.” (4)
5.“ Education for democracy is hardly found anywhere. A certain degeneration of education in this sense is inevitable under the formal parliamentary democratic system. That is in the nature of formal parliamentary system of party politics. As soon as a party comes to power, it naturally wants to remain and consolidates itself in power. There is plausible reason for this: A party comes to power and forces a government with a programme. Four or five years are not enough to implement that programme. Therefore, the party must ensure another term in office. In order to guarantee re-election in the next elections, automatically a party in power takes to the practice of indoctrination and varying degrees of intellectual regimentation of the people. Education under the formal parliamentary system is influenced by parties in power and this is a kind of intellectual regimentation, which may be almost imperceptible.“ (5)
6.“ The essence of parliamentary democracy is believed to be the existence of opposition parties…………………………………….. In order to come to power, the opposition party must be able to sway the majority of voters away from the party at present in power……………………….. …………….Therefore, an opposition party, which wants to succeed in the given atmosphere, has to appeal to the same backwardness, the same ignorance, the same prejudices and blind religious faith of the people as does the party in power. Thus, even the opposition party will be no guarantee for democracy, indeed it is more likely to reinforce and galvanize the very conditions which a truly democratic practice should tend to remove.” (6)
7.“ Humanists do not confine their concern with the life of society to the small sector of human existence which is conventionally called politics. But by their new approach, they indicate a way out of the present crisis of politics and its problem.” (7)
8. “Until now political thinking has placed all emphasis on the interests of the State. For the interest of the State everything is justified. The constitution of a democratic State includes an imposing catalogue of civil rights, but they all include also one clause which entitles the executive to suspend the entire Constitution – if necessary, in the interest of the State. That is to say, for the interest of the State, the freedom of the constituent units of the State can be completely abolished.” (8)
9. “No freedom, no welfare, no progress or prosperity can be actually experienced except by individuals. The concept of national prosperity and greatness, of social progress, – which ignores that all these blessings of a nation or society can be measured only by the progress, prosperity, welfare and freedom of its individual constituents, – is a fraud and a delusion.
We are dealing with relations in which emphasis has always been laid on one of the related things only: man has always been relegated to the subsidiary position. In the relation between the State and the individual, between man and society, everything else was always more important than man. So also, when we think in terms of freedom and organization, we remember that we must be free to organize and that organizations must be free to do this or that, but we are apt to forget that organization has no sense and purpose except to increase our freedom.” (9)
10. “Education for democracy does not consist in teaching just reading and writing, but in making the people conscious of their humanness, to make them conscious of their right to exist as human beings, in decency and dignity. Education means to help them to think, to apply their reason. That is to say, the new humanist political practice must begin as a cultural movement. It must get out of the struggle for power of the political parties. Even a humanist political party, to have to come to power would have to join the scramble, would have to play the game according to its rules; otherwise it would stand no chance at all. And if it refuses to play the game, it is not a political party in the proper definition of the term.” (10)
11. “ Needless to say, a democracy cannot be educated from today to tomorrow. But a beginning can be made here and now. For example, if in the next elections there would be only two hundred people throughout the country ready to practise humanist politics, they could begin work in a dozen constituencies and there begin the task of awakening the urge for freedom in the individuals and raise the intellectual and cultural level of the people. These are after all not just high- sounding phrase; they express themselves concretely in a change of outlook and of their backward habits.” (11)
12. “ The scramble for power creates a vicious circle. Maintaining that State power is now indispensable for social change, humanist politics attacks the problem from the root, which is man. It states that man is the basic unit of society. Therefore, a free society can have no meaning except in the form of freedom of the individual human beings. In order to achieve greater freedom, the conscious urge for freedom, the desire for a democratic society, for a democratic way of life, must be awakened in a growing number of individuals. Because any democratic change in society can be brought about only by the basic individual constituents of society and unless these have the conscious desire to bring about that change, it cannot be brought about.” (12)
13. “ It might be argued by enthusiasts of social change that that will take a very long time. That is not necessarily so. But assuming that it will take a very long time, is there any alternative? And it would have to be such an alternative as would bring about the kind of social change that we want to bring about, namely greater freedom for the individual constituents of society. Of course, those who still have faith in the dictatorial alternatives will not see the force of this argument. But those who have lost the faith that freedom can be attained by means of an even temporary denial of freedom, those who are alarmed by the signs of growing regimentation and eclipse of the individual everywhere, they have no other alternative. Humanist politics is the only way before them.” (13)
1. P. 114: Politics Power and Parties, M.N. Roy; 1981, Ajanta Publications(India), Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 110007.
2. P. 115: ibid.
3. P. 116: Ibid.
4. P. 116: Ibid.
5. P. 118: ibid
6. Pp. 124 -125: ibid.
7. P.119: ibid.
8. P.120: ibid.
9. P.121: ibid.
10. P.125: ibid.
11. P.122: ibid.
12. P.122: ibid.
13. P.122: ibid.
(to be continued)
The concept of an Ideal State
1. “Political thought, ever since the days of Plato has theorized about the Ideal State, – a political organization of society in which the relations between man and man would be governed by justice.
Throughout the Antiquity and the Middle ages, political thought was dominated by abstract notion which served either the harmless purpose of building utopias or the sinister design of hiding the concrete realities of life. Plato was not quite the utopian that he has been made out by many uncritical historians of political philosophy. Nevertheless, his doctrine of the ideal state rested on a postulate which still holds good. For him, justice was not a vague conception. His definition of the notion of justice, which confounded thought throughout ages, was bitterly criticized by his opponents, particularly the sophists. But Plato did give a definition of the notion of justice, which set a concrete ideal for politics. Justice is good life; to establish good life, therefore, is the purpose of politics. In other words, an ideal state is that which established good life.
This clear purpose of politics could be confused so long as life was divided in to two compartments – spiritual and temporal. What appeared to be bad for the temporal life, for life on this earth, was not the criterion of good life. There was a life after – the spiritual life. The goodness of that life could not be measured by the standards of the life on this earth. Bad life on this earth could after all be the condition for a good life after. In other words, the hope of a good life after, justified a miserable life on this earth.
Political thought was developed in this direction by astute theologians in Europe as well as in India. Thomas Acquinas was a landmark in the history of political thought. He was a European by accident of birth. The political philosophy of the ancients, which started not from Plato’s idealism, but from the dictum of the Sophist Protagoras, that man is the measure of everything, was completely overwhelmed by theological sophistries which subordinated human relations to the metaphysical laws of a teleological moral order of the Universe.”(1)
2. “The store of cultural values, piled up since the dawn of civilization, is far from being exhausted. That precious heritage of the past provides a solid foundation for the magnificent structure of the future dreamt alike by romanticists or revolutionaries, idealists or utopians. If the germs of Socialism or Communism grew in the womb of the capitalist society, then the inspiration for a truly liberating philosophy for the future should also be found in the moral and spiritual values of the so-called bourgeois culture. No Marxist could disagree, without belying the master. To be true to their liberal tradition, the democratic Socialists should also find the ways and means to enable individual citizens to stand out in sovereign dignity, which is not attainable within the limits of formal parliamentarism based on atomized electorates.” (2)
3. “Politics cannot be divorced from ethics without jeopardizing the cherished ideal of freedom. It is a fallacy to hold that the end justifies the means. The truth is that immoral means necessarily corrupt the end. This is an empirical truth.” (3)
4. “Democratic practice which is no more than mere counting of heads is, in the last analysis, also a homage to the collective ego. It allows scope neither for the individual, nor for intelligence. Under the formal democratic system, unscrupulous demagogues can always come to the top. Intelligence, Integrity, wisdom, moral excellence, as a rule, count for nothing. Yet, unless the purifying influence of these human values is brought to bear upon the political organization of society, the democratic view of life cannot be realized.
The contemporary world is not poor in men and women incorporating those values of the humanist tradition. But disdaining demagogy, they can never come to the helm of public affairs. On the other hand, a dictatorial regime, even if established as the means to a laudable end, discourages the rise of that type. Thus, between formal democracy and dictatorship, humanity is deprived of the benefit of having its affairs conducted by spiritually free individuals, and is consequently debarred from advancing towards the goal of freedom.” (4)
5. “Moral sanction, after all, is the greatest sanction. It has been shown above that the real guarantee of parliamentary democracy is not law, but the moral conscience of the majority in power. In the last analysis, dictatorship also rests on a moral sanction; it claims to be the means to an end. But group morality is a doubtful guarantee against the temptation of power. Values operate through the behavior of individuals. Therefore, government composed of spiritually free individuals, accountable to their respective conscience, is the only possible guarantee for securing the greatest good to the greatest number.”(5)
6. “Even if elections are by universal suffrage, and the executive is also elected, democracy will still remain a formality. Delegation of power, even for a limited period, stultifies democracy. Government for the people can never be fully a Government of the people and by the people, and the people can have a hand in the Government of the country only when the pyramidal structure of the State will be raised on a foundation of organized local democracy. The primary function of the latter will be to make individual citizens fully conscious of their sovereign right and enable them to exercise the right intelligently. The broad basis of the democratic State, coinciding with the entire society, will be composed of a network of political schools, so to say. The right of recall and referendum will enable organized local democracy to wield a direct and effective control of the entire state machinery. They alone will have the right to nominate candidates for election. Democracy will be placed above parties representing collective egos. Individual men will have the chance of being recognized. Party loyalty and party patronage or other forms of nepotism will no longer eclipse intellectual independence, moral integrity and detached wisdom.
Such an atmosphere will foster intellectual independence dedicated to the cause of making human values triumph. That moral excellence alone can hold a community together without sacrificing the individual on the altar of the collective ego, be it the nation or the class. People possessed of that great virtue will command the respect of an intelligent public, and be recognized as the leaders of society automatically, so to say.” (6)
7. “Until the intellectual and moral level of the entire community is raised considerably, election alone cannot possibly bring its best elements to the forefront, and unless the available intellectual detachment and moral integrity are brought to bear on the situation, democratic regimes cannot serve the purpose of promoting freedom.”(7)
8. “Public life in the political field is dominated by political parties. Their main object is to capture power, because it is believed that nothing can be done except by governments in power. If the best of programmes is ever to be realized, the first need is power. Once it is taken for granted that capture of power, by whatever means, is the precondition of any good to be achieved, and without power nothing can be done, the logical conclusion is that anything and everything done for capturing political power is justifiable. Once popular mentality is dominated by the principle that anything done for a good end is right, morality disappears, and that is the main evil in the public life of all countries in the world today. All thinking people complain about this, and are looking for ways and means to introduce decency and morality in public life. Morality has disappeared because it is forgotten or ignored that only individuals can be moral. Morality is an attribute of men and men have been lost in the masses. If you deal with men , ultimately you an appeal to their reason and deal with their conscience. But in the mass, men’s reason and conscience are also submerged and suspended. Masses respond more easily to emotional appeals, because men merge in to masses on their lowest common denominator. The level of the politicians then adjusts itself to this mentality. Elections do not ensure democracy but put a premium on demagogy.” (8)
9. “Although the problem of reconciling the apparent contradiction of man and State has occupied political thought ever since antiquity, the eclipse of the individual at the cost of growing emphasis on the State, first under theocracy, later in monarchies, yet later in parliamentary democracies, not to mention the modern dictatorships, is one of the outstanding features of history. The 19th century held out hope for the triumph of the individual. But the two concepts with which it was heralded were defective. They were, parliamentarism in the political field, and laisser faire in economics. Parliamentary democracy formally recongnised the sovereignty of the individual, but in practice deprived all but a privileged few of effective use of that sovereignty. The sovereign individual became a legal fiction. For all practical purposes, most individuals were deprived of all power and even of their dignity
In the economic field, the doctrine of laisser faire gave unbridled liberty to a small minority to exploit the vast majority of the people everywhere. Free enterprise meant freedom of a few to exploit many. That being the practical manifestation of 19th century Radicalism – the political expression of which was Liberalism – it was bound to be discredited and lead to a new period of crisis.” (9)
10. “In the critical moment when this perspective became obvious, Socialism appeared on the scene and seemed to hold out the only hope for the majority of human beings. But Socialism frankly places the collectivity above the individual. Now, if society originated in the need of man to progress according to his inborn urge for freedom, with the help of the collective efforts of others like him; if society was created as an instrument to promote the progress of man as an individual, then Socialism or any collectivism should be regarded as an antithesis of the entire history of social evolution.” (10)
11. “So long as Socialism continued in the tradition of 19th century Liberalism, it attracted a large number of adherents from among the best of men everywhere. But it could not succeed anywhere. Ultimately, Socialism had to advance the concept of dictatorship as antithesis to parliamentary democracy, if it was to have any chance of succeeding. Parliamentary democracy had failed to achieve its ideals. The experience of parliamentary democracy had in fact raised the question whether democracy was possible at all.
As people were losing hope in one form of political organization, it was necessary to advance an alternative. The alternative advanced to the disappointing form of parliamentary democracy was dictatorship. Only after a certain section of socialists came forward with that novel proposition, could Socialism gather strength. With that strength did it finally capture power in one country, and to many open-minded people, it appeared that the world had at last emerged from the crisis precipitated by the failure and decline of 19th century Liberalism, and entered a new chapter of human progress.” (11)
12. “These collectivist ideas have had yet another consequence. They have resulted in a certain mental attitude, a habit of thinking, which completely disregards considerations of ethics, of morality in social behavior. They have led to confusion about the relation of means and end. On the one hand, an end is made of the means. On the other, any means is believed to be good enough to achieve a desired end. For the last hundred years, a growing section of mankind had come to believe that Socialism, or Communism as it came to be called subsequently, is necessary for establishing freedom and progress, and ultimately it came to be believed that Socialism or Communism as such is the goal. But why should Socialism or Communism be our goal? Presumably because we believe that under Socialism or Communism we shall have greater freedom and happiness. Thus it is obvious that Socialism or Communism is only an instrument, a means to an end, and not an end in itself.” (12)
13. “The political and social practice of Liberalism having negativated the moral excellence of its philosophy, parliamentary democracy was bound to be discredited. If that was not the case, the stormy rise of Fascism could not be rationally explained. Fascism grew out of the crisis of parliamentary democracy, within the limits of which the social and economic problems confronting Europe in the inter-war period could not be solved. In order to survive Fascism, democracy must outgrow the limitations of formal parliamentarism based on an atomized and therefore helpless electorate. An organized democracy, in a position to wield a standing control of the state should be the political foundation of the new social order. By reorienting itself in this direction, democratic Socialism will open up before the modern progressive humanity a new vista of political and economic reconstruction, which will neither postulate an indefinite period of blood and tears, nor be clouded by doubts about the alternative courses of peaceful development.”(13)
1. (Articles written by M.N. Roy for the weekly journal, Independent India.),1945. Acknowledgement: Essence of Royism, compiled by G.D. Parikh, Nav Jagrity Samaj Publication, 1987. ( Chapter:1. Problem of Freedom, Pp – 32,33.)
2. Pages – 163, 164: New Orientation, M.N.Roy, Ajanta Publications (India), Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 110 007
3. Page – 164: ibid
4. Pp – 165, 166: ibid
5. Page – 166: ibid
6. Page – 167:ibid
7. Page – 168: ibid
8. Pp – 174, 175: Politics power and Parties, M.N. Roy, Ajanta Publications(India), 1981.
9. Pages 19, 20: ibid
10. Page – 20: ibid
11. Page – 21:ibid
12. Pp – 22, 23:ibid
13. Pp – 162,163: New Orientation, M.N.Roy, ibid
( to be continued )
If we are to consider the powers and ideas that are at work in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. it is easy to understand that they are not stable democracies. The present global scenario gives us some idea regarding the new wave of Islamo-fascism taking root in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Turkey etc. They are astonishingly successful either in capturing power or remaining as the dominant threat to individual liberty when viewed from the democratic point of view. From the Humanist, Rationalist, Skeptical and Atheistic perspectives, genuine democrats are always marginalized individuals or communities in these countries. The situation poses the grave problem of the role of humanists before, during and after elections as also the ‘how’ of their work as agencies for change. It must be possible for secular democrats to create telling impact upon the political losers as well as winners , even while their work is perhaps limited to the cultural field . Radical Humanists have long back considered this aspect. The inquiries have led to the concept of ‘Partyless Democracy’ (ie., political activity without parties )in which activists will go on working to create and spread democratic values among the voters, continually pressurizing the political groups and parties . Initially starting as study groups and discussion groups, the initiatives can take the form of ‘Citizens for Democracy’ , ‘Peoples’ Committees’ etc.. These are not intended as bodies striving to capture power. Though hoping for Radical changes, these groups won’t form political parties. The terms ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers’ become unnecessary. The fact is that the work of education for enlightenment is not a temporary make shift arrangement, but a continued effort for creative development. This idea is sure to be dismissed at the first instance itself by totalitarian forces. For them such endeavors are scoffers, construed as counter revolutionary. However, historical experiences have taught the human race very many things. The Radical Democratic idea put forward by M N Roy deserves to be put to test in the unstable democracies. This necessitates a clear understanding of how our notions of democracy and governance sprouted and developed and whether they actually are concepts that satisfy the requirements connoted by their definitions. The entire practice in the western world remains open before us which can be critically assessed. Perhaps it is better not to re-phrase the original ideas of Roy and his comrades in my own words. Hence, I am giving below the relevant sections in Roy’s own words which I believe will contribute to the clarification of related concepts.
I. Education for an Ideal State
1. “One of the oldest sages, Plato, attempted to visualize the possibility of an ideal State. He was the first to formulate a democratic theory based on the experience of the practice of direct Democracy in the Greek City States. On the basis of that experience of the politics in the market place of Periclean Athens, he came to the conclusion that Democracy presupposes education. Even when democracies were composed only of a few thousand people, voters could be misled, unless they were educated. This ancient wisdom is even more true in our time. Those who are trying to give democracy a chance to be practised must realize that without education democracy is not possible.” (1)
2. “But experience has proved that education measured in terms of literacy alone does not create guarantees for democratic government. What is needed is a different kind of education, an education which will not be imparted with the purpose of maintaining any given status quo, but with the sole purpose of making the individuals of a community conscious of their potentialities, help them to think rationally and judge for themselves, and promote their critical faculties by applying it to all problems confronting them. No government promotes that kind of education. The purpose of government education is to create mental conformism. You have to sing patriotic songs, salute national flags and read patriotic history as compiled and edited by governments, so that all people be merged in to a homogenous collectivity and forget that they are individuals endowed with certain sovereign faculties and entitled to be free. Hence there is danger in the demand that governments provide all education, especially in backward and largely illiterate countries. Because, Democracy will not be possible until people are taught to remember precisely their critical faculties which governments naturally fear, and apply them for the administration of their community. And this is not taught under government- sponsored systems of national education.” (2)
3. “Other ways and means must be found to create that atmosphere of intellectual awakening which is the precondition for democratic practice. Such an intellectual resurgence of the people will take place together with the resurrection of the individual from the grave of the mass. Only when the monster called the mass is decomposed in to its component men and women, will an atmosphere be created in which democratic practice becomes possible, in which there can be established governments of the people and by the people. In such an atmosphere, it will become possible to practice direct Democracy in smaller social groups, because to make individuals self reliant, they must be freed from the feeling of being helpless cogs in the wheels of the gigantic machines of modern states, which allow them no other function than to cast a vote once in several years, and give them no idea of how governments function, so that they cannot even effectively help their government, if they wanted to.” (3)
4. But once the precondition is created, that every citizen and voter will have a minimum degree of intelligent understanding and the ability to think and judge for himself, then this helplessness and hopelessness of the individuals will disappear; they can create local democracies of their own. The voters need no longer remain scattered like isolated atoms. They can organize themselves on a local scale into peoples’ committees, and function as local republics, in which direct democracy is possible. Then at the time of elections, these people will no longer have to vote for anybody coming from outside; they will not only discuss in their committees the merits of candidates presented to them for taking or leaving, but nominate their own candidates from among themselves. To create this condition is the most important political activity.” (4)
(to be continued)
1. P.58, ‘ Politics Power And Parties’, M N Roy,AjantaPublications, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi,110007
2. Pp. 58- 59, ibid
3. P. 59, , ibid
4. Pp. 59- 60, ibid
1. What is rationalism?
“The most acceptable definition should be that rationalism is accordance with reason. That is platitudinous. Verbal definitions usually suffer from that defect. The definition of this particular term immediately provokes another question: What is reason? Unless we can trace reason to the common denominator of monistic Materialism, rationalism has no meaning for me. I attach greater importance to meaning – than to verbal definition. Albertus Maguns, for example, was a great rationalist one of the greatest of all ages. But there is a world of difference between his rationalism and ours. Modern rationalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was essentially teleological. Reason was conceived as a metaphysical category or it remained veiled in mystery. It was not a personal idiosyncrasy of Robespierre to have raised Reason to the pedestal of a goddess; nor was it a perversity on the part of the Hibbertist members of the Convention to have a Parisian prostitute impersonate the deity of the Revolution. Unless reason is identified as inherent in physical nature, and its operations are brought within the reach of – intelligence, rationalism is hardly to be differentiated from a sophisticated religion, a philosophical or scientific faith. Therefore, we are searching for the material content of the concept of reason.
In biology, we come up against such terms as instinct, intuition, impulse, etc. Are they all elementary indefinables? Are they just given a pariori? Materialism knows no elementary indefinable. It reduces everything to the common denominator of the physical Universe, subject to its fundamental law. Not finding a rational explanation of reason – in biology, I go farther. The entire physical Universe is a determined process of becoming. Therefore, I identify reason with determinism in nature. All biological processes, including man’s mental activities, take place in the context of the physical Universe, being integral parts thereof. So reason is a property of physical existence. It is neither metaphysical nor a mystic category.” (Pages: 43- 44, ‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’)
2. Monistic Explanation
“We trace the origin of ideas into the context of the pre-human biological evolution. Biological evolution, in its turn, takes place in the context of physical nature. Thus, our ideas, the ideas to which we must concede a sovereign independent role, if we are to interpret history without teleology, rise out of the background of physical nature. By doing that, we do not leave the ground of Materialism, to fall into the morass of metaphysical Idealism. On the contrary, by doing that, we solve one of the baffling problems of philosophy, the problem of dualism. There is no contradiction between the living and the non-living world. We reduce everything to one unitary background.” (Page: 93, ‘ BEYOND COMMUNISM’
3. The Problem of Ethics
“My approach to the problem of ethics is also materialistic. I believe that not only is a materialist ethics possible, but that materialist morality is the noblest form of morality, because it enables man to be moral without debasing himself before imaginary super-human powers. Unless ethical concepts and moral values can be derived from the process of pre-human biological evolution, they cannot stand criticism except on the authority of God or some ad hoc metaphysical assumption. Either morality is inborn in us, or we are moral under the dictate of some external agency. You cannot have it both ways. If you reject the proposition that man is moral because he is rational, then, you have to reject morality, or you have to accept the morality of the priests and pundits. Morality is a kind of human conduct. If human beings are rational, there must be a connection between morality and rationalism. Morality is an appeal to conscience. But what is conscience? Here is another concept which has remained veiled in mystery even in modern rationalist moral philosophies. I conceive conscience as awareness of social responsibility. The sense of social responsibility does not necessarily run counter to individual freedom. On the contrary, it can easily be shown how it results from the urge for freedom. The struggle for existence, in the form of that urge in human beings, led to the foundation of society. Unless the relation was deliberately distorted, means should not defeat the end. Founded with the purpose of enabling its constituents to pursue the urge for freedom more successfully, society should not be an instrument for the suppression of freedom. The existence and continuation of society are conditional upon its individual members feeling their social responsibility, and discharging it loyally. In a rational system, social responsibility, therefore, is not antagonistic to individual freedom. If human beings become conscious of their essential rationality, the harmony of social responsibility, that is to say of respect for others’ urge for freedom, with the freedom of each citizen would be automatically established. Let me illustrate what I mean.
If I started with the conviction that I was a member of society because, in cooperation with others moved by the same urge, I could develop my potentialities more successfully, social responsibility should be my natural impulse. I do not like anybody restricting my freedom; therefore I should willingly grant the same right to every other member of society. Consciousness of the urge for freedom is the decisive factor; once that is there, the respect of others’ freedom naturally follows, and social responsibility is voluntarily undertaken by all. Imagine a community of people, every one of them acting according to this conviction, and we shall have a moral society. It will be moral, because it is rational. Because I do not want anyone to do any harm to me, I should not do any harm to others. This reciprocity is the foundation of society. In a rational society, appeal to conscience is not a mystic device for subordination to some metaphysical compulsion or divine coercion.
If we do not trace ethical sense to the rational instinct of man, then moral values become dogmatic propositions: somebody dictates them to us. The relativist attitude to morality is the natural reaction to dogmatic, irrational, coercive ethics. And moral relativity is immorality. As soon as you take a relativist attitude to morality, you take your stand on the declining plane of Jesuitism. Everything will be tested by result, and if the most immoral behavior will lead to a good result – good for you – you will say that it is moral. Therefore, if we want at all an ethics, we shall have to start from the proposition that there are such things as human values; and human values are eternal, in so far as humanity is eternal. The term eternal is not used in the physical sense. What is meant is that ethical concepts and moral values originated with homo sapiens; they have no super-human origin, nor any divine, transcendental sanction. Since all human urges can be traced back to pre-human biological evolution, morality also must ultimately be derived from that source. There was no class struggle in the pre-human world. Ethical behavior being of pre-human biological origin, moral values of the human world are universal. The humanist approach to history, the humanist philosophy, enables us to conceive of universal human values. Therefore, I place ethics in the context of the rational scheme of the physical Universe. A rational ethics is possible only as a part of materialist philosophy.” (Pages: 46- 48, ‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ )
4. Soul, Instinct and Conscious Thought
“Modern science knows a good deal about man’s emotions, and can trace them wholly to physico-chemical processes. Once you know these processes, you can actually change the emotions of men. We can therefore make the hypothetical assertion that emotions have no extra-physical origin or significance. Of the soul, however, nothing is known for the obvious reasons that there is no such thing. But if it is identified with man’s highest emotions, then it is reduced to a part of man’s psycho-physiological nature.
Much emphasis is laid in modern theories on instincts and intuitions. On which moral judgment is supposed to be based in preference to man’s reason and intelligence. But if we trace the biological development of man back beyond the appearance of the human species, you can find rudimentary forms of the power of thinking and reasoning and even of moral judgment already in the lower animals. Instinct and intuition are nothing mysterious, but an undifferentiated form of rationalism, which can however teach us a good deal about the working of man’s reason. So long as the cortex in the cerebral processes was not sufficiently differentiated, these functions took place in the neural system as a mechanical biological reaction. Therefore they cannot be analysed in terms of conscious thought. But the cerebral activity was there in elementary form even before the appearance of homo sapiens.” (Page: 137, POLITICS POWER AND PARTIES )
5. Science and Philosophy
“But scientific knowledge as learned in schools and colleges is not enough to make a Humanist. You may learn something about physics and yet not be a scientist. There may be even recognized scientists who have not necessarily imbibed the scientific spirit. Knowledge in our days has become departmentalized. But true scientific knowledge presupposes an understanding and coordination of all the departments of science. The function of philosophy is precisely that. It must supply a coherent picture of the various branches of knowledge acquired by human experience at a given time. An integrated picture of the knowledge of modern science leads to an integral scientific Humanism, because it can explain man.” (Pages: 136- 137 , POLITICS POWER AND PARTIES )
6. Man’s Basic Urge Is Not To Believe
“Man must regain faith in himself if the civilized world is to get out of the crisis of our time. But he cannot be self-reliant unless he outgrows the time-honoured prejudice that, if he is ever to shine, he can do so only in the reflection of a Divine Light. New Humanism maintains that modern science, particularly the science of life and man, that is, biology, has destroyed the foundation of this prejudice. The foundation was ignorance. The light of scientific knowledge has revealed the truth about human nature. Man is essentially a rational being. His basic urge is not to believe, but to question and to know. He gropes in the darkness of ignorance, a helpless victim of blind faith in forces beyond his control, until the light of knowledge illumines his path. The only truth accessible to man is the content of his knowledge. Anything beyond the reach of his knowledge is nothing-an illusion.” (Pages: 107- 108, POLITICS POWER AND PARTIES )
7. Materialism Explains Existence
“The so-called spiritual or idealist philosophies have brought the world to its present state.The collectivist ideologies have wrongly been attributed to materialist philosophy. But philosophical Materialism is a more rational and consistent system of philosophical thought than other schools of philosophy. If the object of philosophy is to explain nature, explain existence, explain the world, and if for explaining the world we have to go beyond the world into regions of which nothing is and can be known, that would not be an explanation. Materialism is the only philosophy which has tried to explain the world without having to transcend this physical universe. A reasonable philosophy cannot possibly have unreasonable results as its logical consequence unless it is misinterpreted and misapplied.” (Page:29, POLITICS POWER AND PARTIES)
8. Search For Truth Is The Corollary To The Search For Freedom
“Freedom is a human ideal, whereas truth is a metaphysical category. How can we deduce the one from the other? Quest for freedom in human evolution is purposive. The struggle for existence is no longer carried on by mechanical adaptation. On the human level, it is carried on by purposive efforts for the conquest of nature. What differentiated man from his immediate ancestor? ……………………………………………………… ……………………..The moment an ape discovered that he could break a branch and pluck fruits with it, the process of mechanical evolution ended; purposiveness became the basic feature of the subsequent biological evolution. Man’s struggle for the conquest of nature began. The struggle of existence became quest for freedom. From that very modest beginning, we have come to the twentieth century with its modern technology; powerful instruments for conquering nature, all invented by man, no longer for mere existence, but in quest for freedom. Science is a search for truth, and it is the result of man’s quest for freedom. Therefore we say that search for truth is the corollary to the quest for freedom. In quest of freedom, ever since biological evolution became purposive, man strove for the conquest of nature; knowledge of nature was a precondition for the success of that striving. Science was thus a by-product of man’s quest for freedom, and science reveals truth.” (Pages: 30- 31, ‘Beyond Communism’)
9. Religious Mode of Thought and Scientific Mode of Thought
“Ever since antiquity, European culture developed as part of church. The conclusion that we can deduce from this fact is that, at some stage of development, every group of people, no matter where they live, necessarily thinks in terms of religion. That is to say, the entire intellectual and emotional history of any people during a certain period of its development is influenced by the religious mode of thought. Later on, the religious mode of thought becomes inadequate. Within the framework of that mode of thought, human intelligence, will and emotions find no further scope. Consequently, human genius, which had previously created the religious mode of thought, created a new mode of thought. That new mode of thought was the scientific mode of thought, which has dominated European intellectual history ever since the time of the Renaissance.” (Page : 40, Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage)
10. Origin of Religion
“A critical history of the development of religion reveals the fact that religion originated in the ignorance of man. The primitive man’s inability to explain natural phenomena in terms of nature, without going beyond the limits of nature, compelled him to assume super-human beings as the prime movers of various natural phenomena. Those assumed natural forces eventually came to be the gods of natural religion. The polytheism of natural religion was subsequently replaced by monotheistic religions.
One specific feature of the history of Hinduism is that Vedic polytheism was never rejected in favour of a monotheistic religion. The idea of a Supreme Being as a Super-God was conceived. But the conception lacked uniformity. The religious thought in ancient India developed from polytheism to pantheism. The concept of a personal God, as in Islam or Christianity or Judaism, is absent in Hinduism. The Avatars are not personal Gods. They are incarnations of some divine force which is impersonal. The Hindu conception of the Supreme Being was never personified. It logically led to pantheism, which identified the entire existence with God.” (Pages : 50- 51, Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage )
11 . Man As Creator of Concepts
“As a matter of fact, the concern for the physical aspects of life is fundamental, common to all human beings. Religion originated in it. The urge to explain the various natural phenomena induced man to assume the existence of super-natural forces. In course of time, scientific knowledge enabled him to dispense with ad hoc assumptions which constituted the basis of religion. Consequently, the psychological necessity of religion disappeared: the foundation of the religious mode of thought was blasted. This happened in Europe several hundred years ago. The concern of European mankind reverted to the original human nature, that is, concern with the world in which he lived, concern with his power as a human being to acquire greater and greater knowledge and derive greater and greater power from this knowledge, power for still greater conquests of nature. That is the way of modern thought. It is clear to see that it is not a peculiarity of a particular race or people, but results from the ability of man to explain natural phenomena no longer by assuming super-natural forces, but in the light of ever expanding knowledge of nature.” (Pages : 55-56, Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage)
12. Spiritual Aspects Inherent In Man
“Materialism does not preclude the appreciation of what is called the higher aspects of human life. It only maintains that all the so-called spiritual aspects of man’s life do not transcend this world, but are inherent in man as a biological being. In proportion as man develops intellectually, his knowledge broadens, the higher values inherent in man, the capacity of taking interest in other things than the physical existence, the cultivation of finer sentiments, arts, science, etc, become more and more possible. But the uninformed criticism of Materialism is that, believing himself only slightly differentiated from lower animals, man is concerned only with eating and drinking, and consequently degrades himself morally and spiritually. The corollary to this unfair and unfounded criticism is that modern thought being materialist, India must eschew it if she wants to preserve her spiritual integrity.” (Pages:56- 57, Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage )
13. The Danger of Neo-mysticism
“You must be aware that there is a very popular movement on the basis of the teachings of number of “modern saints”. This movement is composed of educated people. They are not advocating a religion without God and without Revelation, as their European counter-parts are doing. As a matter of fact, mysticism which is the rationalized form of religion, and which is very popular among our intellectuals, in the last analysis relies precisely on a kind of revelation. This revelation may not be the revelation of a Prophet or a Seer, but a revelation believed to be within the reach of every single individual. It means that reason, spirit of enquiry, quest for knowledge, are subordinated to a faith; that knowledge, science and all the conquests of man during the last four or five hundred years, are inferior as human values to what one can find in himself in an imaginary moment of beatitude, a state believed to be sublime, though impossible to understand, explain and know.
As far as I know, it seems that this kind of neo-mysticism or pseudo-scientific religion is gaining ground among the literary people of our country. It is almost of the same order as the popularity of dogmatic Marxism among another group of intellectuals in our country. Thus, the literary life of India seems to be getting polarized between dogmatic Marxism and cultural reaction.
Consequently, there must be room for a “Third Force” in the literary and cultural life of our country. The rise of this third force alone will be able to resist the danger of cultural reaction and Fascism, on the one side, and of dogmatic Marxism, on the other. The attention of those who are getting alarmed by the possibility of a rise of dictatorship in our country is generally directed towards the Left, against the anticipated danger of a dictatorship coming from the Left. But if you analyse the relation of political forces in our country, you will see that, if India is going to have a dictatorship, it is not so likely to be a communist dictatorship as a fascist dictatorship.
That need not mean that we shall have Storm-Troops or mass massacres, because all these things are not necessary in our country. The vast bulk of the people are so deeply predisposed to accept any authority, so eager to be regimented, so afraid of the hardship of thinking for themselves, that, if and when, for whatever reasons-political or economic – any party or group of politicians will find it necessary to establish a dictatorial regime, they will be able to do so with as much popular support as they care to whip up. Since Fascism can be established in our country with popular support, since we can practice one of the fantastic ideas of Lenin, namely, a democratic dictatorship, Fascism is clearly a very insidious danger.” (Pages : 65- 66, Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage )
14. We can combat Spiritualism
When the European Renaissance asserted the sovereignty of man and placed man in the centre of the world, man himself was unknown. They drew inspiration from the early philosophers who had said that man is the measure of things. But man himself remained a mystery. Until then the prevailing belief in Europe was that man is superior to other animals because the divine spark operates through man. Man is some representative or fraction or expression of God. Therefore man is superior to other animals. If that is the conception of man, if human dignity and sovereignty is deduced from that belief, then certainly the height of man’s ambition must be to get out of his human existence, because it is subsidiary to a divine existence, to merge in which is the ideal of mankind. With that kind of mentality any society will come to stagnation and ultimate break down.
History shows us that the same experience was made by other peoples who attained a high degree of civilization, but because of the total absence of initiative to improve their worldly conditions, because of this fatalistic mentality, those civilizations broke down. To believe that life is something bad and we must run away from it, is not a philosophy which can improve human existence. People who are not fascinated by such a philosophy are welcome to do so, but those who preach it do not usually believe in it themselves; they only preach it to others, to the common people. The belief that life is a predestined evil keeps the common people plodding and suffering until they die. A philosophy which may give us a few saints, but can produce for vast bulk of mankind only such debased results, cannot be really called divine.
Our business is not to go and argue with the preachers of that philosophy. Our task is to inspire the common people to revolt against it, to make them feel that, if they are miserable, it is not because it is predestined, but for certain causes which can be changed. We can do this even in terms of their own religious beliefs. If God is good, how can he make such a bad creation, a world in which there is no sympathy, no kindness, no goodness? If God has made such a mess of our life, let us take our life in our own hands and try to make something better of it.
The need for a philosophical revolution compels us to oppose the established traditional, authoritarian philosophy with a new philosophy. We shall have to oppose the philosophy of spiritualism, or whatever you may call it, by one of Humanism. Our spiritualists will combat Materialism. Therefore I do not use this term. I oppose their spiritualism with Humanism, which is a philosophy with the object of enabling man to attain freedom. What is freedom? Freedom is not a distant utopian ideal. It is the progressive liberation of man from the various limitations on the development of his potentialities. The modern science of biology teaches us that every human being, barring the mentally defective, is endowed with the properties of developing intelligently, morally and mentally. It is merely a question of opportunity to make these potentialities actual. Freedom is nothing more than that opportunity: the opportunity for all human individuals to develop their potentialities. That is freedom and nothing more, nothing metaphysical, nothing mystical or abstract.
The second question will take us a little further. One may ask whether we can make men conscious of these potentialities. Our answer will be in the affirmative, and it is on the strength of scientific knowledge. When an individual or a group of men are habituated to a certain way of thinking, it naturally takes some time to jolt them out of that mental rut and persuade them to travel a different way. But as that habit was created over a long period of persistent preaching, it can be changed again by appealing to those instincts of mankind which are antagonistic to those other-worldly proclivities. We have in man the tendency to believe as well as to doubt. The first has been fostered and glorified in our country for ages. Therefore our people are very largely believers. But the tendency to enquire, to doubt, and ask questions is also inherent in every human being, as the history of mankind teaches. So, if we continue to insist that man must enquire about the Why and How of everything, that tendency in men will be strengthened and will ultimately prevail. And in proportion as this scepticism, this spirit of enquiry will develop, the habit of belief, created by the religious mode of thought, will be undermined, and the beginning of a mental change, of a philosophical revolution will be made.
Therefore, the fundamental principles of the philosophy of Humanism, with which the spiritualist philosophy has to be confronted, can be very simply stated. These principles are that man is inherently a rational being, and being rational, it can be shown that he is also inherently a moral being. Given rationality and the sense of decency on the part of its members, you will have a well organized, harmonious and moral social order. If these properties were not inherent in human beings, you could never have a harmonious and decent social order. Previously, we had to refer back to God in order to attribute those properties to mankind. Man had to be moral because a universal moral principle operated through him. In other words, man as man cannot be moral. Therefore, even today, if anybody doubts the dogmas of religion, he is condemned as immoral which implies that man can be moral only under the coercion of a police man, whether he be in heaven or at the street- corner. Man does not steel because of the police man at the street corner, and he does not commit a sin because of the policeman in heaven. I don’t call this a very high moral principle.
It is only when we can prove that the ability of moral judgment is inherent in man as man, man as a biological being, that rationality, the ability to judge and discriminate, is also inherent in man as a biological property , that we can possibly subscribe to the doctrine that man is the maker of history and of his own destiny. So long as man is ultimately subordinated to a super-human power, obviously he cannot make his destiny. To remove man’s faith in super-human powers is a precondition for any improvement of his condition on this earth. That is what we mean when we say that a philosophical revolution must take place which will establish the scientific mode of thought in the minds of the Indian people in the place of the outworn fatalistic and paralyzing religious mode of thought. (Pp: 109 – 112, Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage).
15. Human Action and Human Will the Primary Factors of Social Existence
The essence of religion is primitive rationalism; man creates gods as hypotheses for an explanation of natural phenomena. Because man is rational by nature, rationalism is the essence of man. To have discovered this real essence of man was a great advance in the struggle for freedom. The aggregate of social relations presupposes existence of individuals, who entered into relation. They did that because of their essence of rationality; obsessed with the Hegelian organic conception of society, Marx ignored the self-evident truth that society is an association of individuals. That obsession led him to take society as simply given, as if by Providence, and regard social relations as the ultimate reality. Social relations result from the activities of individuals constituting the society. Being human creations, they can be altered by man. Human will and human action are the primary factors of social existence.” (Page: 392, Reason Romanticism and Revolution )
16. Importance of Conceptual Thought
“The brain indeed is a part of the physical organization; and sensation and perception can be explained as physical functions. But conceptual thought is a purely mental phenomenon, and it distinguishes the most primitive man from the highest animal. The discovery of fire might have been an accidental physical act without any thought. But subsequent application of fire for the purposes of the most primitive human existence presupposes mental activity.” (Page : 393, Reason Romanticism and Revolution)
17. The Precedence of Matter over Mind
“The origin of mind is to be traced in his physical and biological history. In that sense mental activities are determined in the earlier stages by physical existence and thereafter by social conditions. But the becoming of man involves the parallel process of mental and physical activities. The relation between the two is not that of causality, but of priority. From primitive consciousness mind evolves in the context of a biological organism. The latter being an organization of matter, the priority of being must be conceded to matter.” (Pages: 395- 396, Reason Romanticism and Revolution)
18. As Thinking Being Man Endowed With power of Judgement
“It is an unfortunate fact that owing to long disuse, because traditions and social institutions never appealed to them, a large number of men have been made to forget that they are born as thinking being and endowed with the power of judgment, that they can discriminate between what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad, without having to rely on any external authority for that knowledge. If the modern world is to come out of this perilous crisis, if the sovereign people is to emerge from this state of degradation, there is no other way than to make a growing number of men conscious of their essential human attributes: To awaken their self-respect and self-reliance, their pride to be men.”(Page:58, ‘Politics Power And Parties’)
19. Philosophy of History
“The fundamental principle of the philosophy of history is humanist. History is the record of man’s evolution. Man’s evolution out of his biological background is not a part of history proper. History is very largely social history. It records the events of man’s life as a social being. There is a very large gap between the appearance of homo sapiens, the appearance of the human species, and the origin of society. That is a very long period, which has to be counted in terms of geological time. Events taking place during that period generated the driving forces of social evolution. The investigation into the earliest stages of social evolution belongs to anthropology, the science of man. How did man as an anthropological phenomenon develop before he became a social being? Then follows the development of particular groups of men: how a herd of homo sapiens, a herd of biological beings who were removed from other animals, but not yet quite human, develop into an organized unit called society? Instincts, intuition and such other mystic human properties grew in the context of the process of biological evolution during that period of the early history of mankind, which may be called the prehistoric period. It is quite evident that, unless we understand the mechanism of the mysterious forces called instincts and intuition, it will not be possible for us to understand how events took place in history as they did and not otherwise.
In order to dig out the roots of human society, we need not only to study anthropology; we shall have to beyond: to study biology and geology. In the opposite direction, anthropology throws light in the dark corners of psychology, and the latter merges into physiology. That leads us to an understanding of the entire structure of the human body and the various branches of science which have developed from the understanding of the human organism, including the brain, the seat of thinking and all the properties which distinguish man from the lower animals.”(Pages: 27- 28, ‘Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage’)
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Third Reprint: October, 1986) , Ajanta Publications (India), Jawahar Nagar,
Bungalow Road,Delhi, 110007.
II. POLITICS POWER AND PARTIES, M.N.ROY ,(First Edition : April 1960
Reprint : January 1981), Ajantha Books International,I – U. B Javahar Nagar,
Bangalow Road, Delhi – 110 007.
III. Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage, M.N.Roy
Renaissance Publishers Private Limited, 15, Bankim Chatterjee Street,
Coffee House, 2nd Floor, Calcutta, 700 073.
IV. Reason Romanticism and Revolution, M.N.Roy,
Ajanta Books International, L – UB, Jawahar Nagar,
Bungalow Road, Delhi – 110007.
We are inviting your attention to a call for action by the International humanist community. You are requested to do everything possible to make this campaign a success. Please access the following links for detailed information :
“The events in Bangladesh are only the latest instance of a fierce global crackdown on ‘blasphemy,’ with the criminalization of atheism and religious dissent,” said protest coordinator Michael De Dora, director of CFI’s Office of Public Policy. “To all those who believe that the freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, we call upon you to join us, religious believer and atheist alike. We can show those whose lives and freedoms are threatened that they are not forgotten, and send a message to these oppressive regimes that their abuses will not be ignored.” Let us make this world a better place to live in.