Archive for the ‘Political Philosophy’ Category
Humanist Politics – 2
IV. Elections and Rationalists
1. (a) “Only when the monster called the masses is decomposed into 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.” (1)
1. (b) “If you deal with men, ultimately you can 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 into 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.”(2)
2. (a) “To ensure that elections reflect an intelligent public opinion, there has to be an intelligent public opinion first. Then only elections can become an instrument of democracy not sprung on unprepared electorates in a concerted effort to sweep them off their feet. Such an alternative approach to election begins with people in their localities meeting in local or regional conferences for serious discussions, not for public harangues, but for educative and enlightening propagation of these ideas. Through such informal regular meetings an intelligent public opinion is created. Having come to understand political questions and economic problems for themselves, the people will see that they need not vote for this or that party, leaving all judgment to them and relying on their promises, but that they can judge independently and elect candidates of their own choice from among themselves. These will be independent candidates; that is to say, they will not depend for their election on any political party, and therefore they can depend on their own conscience and be responsible to the people directly. That will do away with the evils of party politics and the scramble for power and its demagogy and corruption.” (3)
2. (b) “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 People’s 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)
3. (a) “For this work, we need not wait for an election. We select one constituency. 20 or 25 people there will come to feel the necessity of devising new forms of political practice, because they are dissatisfied with the present state of affairs. They resolve to make an experiment. They begin by creating the precondition for Democracy by spreading education among the people. At a later stage, it should be possible to call a number of local conferences in a constituency and elect delegates from them to a conference of the entire constituency. And at the election time, when all parties come and offer their candidates, the people’s committee may decide to vote for none of those party candidates, but elect one from among themselves as their candidate, and the people will vote for him. The person who will be thus elected and go to the Parliament, will not be responsible to any existing political party machinery. He will be and remain responsible to his local Democracy, of which he himself is a part; he will be directly responsible to the people who sent him to the Parliament; he will not have to act on the behests and discipline of any extraneous authority, and he will have to report to and inform his fellow- citizens in his constituency about all his actions and the problems of the wider community, and take his mandate from them alone in all matters and act accordingly to his best ability and conscience.” (5)
3. (b) “This process may take a long time. That is the common objection against it. But once we make the choice and begin moving in the new direction, it is not really such a long way as it appears to be. The precondition is to discard the traditional notion of human nature, and to know that it is neither evil nor divine, but that man is essentially rational; that, given the opportunity, every human being is capable of thinking for himself, judging right and wrong, making judgments and acting accordingly. Unless by his own nature, as a biological being, man was capable of thinking rationally and behaving morally, it would be a vain dream to visualize a free, just and harmonious social order. For the time being, it is true that the common people are illiterate; they may not be able to govern country. But at the same time, is it not a fact, that left to themselves, even the most ignorant peasants can manage their affairs better than our present government? The distrust for the ability of the common people to think for themselves and take care of themselves is only a pretext for seizing power in their name and abusing that power to suppress their liberty.” (6)
4. (a) “In the next elections we may not yet get rid of the bad effects of party politics. But we may already help in the appearance of a considerable number of independent candidates who in the assemblies will not be subjected to the whip of the parties, whether in power or in opposition, but who can raise the voice of the people inside the parliaments.”(7)
4. (b) “ Thus, while the big parties may fight for power among themselves, there will be a few people to express the will of the people without reservations and extraneous contingent considerations of fear or favor. Their voice, in its turn, will quicken the consciousness of the people outside who follow the proceedings in the assemblies. And what is more, after the elections, independent candidates, who depend directly on the people of their locality for their election, cannot forget their constituencies but must keep constantly in touch with them for their mandate and support. Also those Humanists who have stimulated this political awakening in the constituency will not leave the voters to relapse in to apathy after elections, but constantly remind them of their rights and responsibilities. They worked in their constituency not to be elected and then go away to the centres of power, but they remain there with the sole function of educating the people and helping them establish a democratic local republic. In these local republics, it is possible to have direct democracy, and their functions can be expanded as the citizens grow increasingly discriminating and conscious. In them, power and sovereignty will remain in the hands of the people themselves, and in this way the precondition for a government of the people and by the people will be created. Because ultimately the nature of the basic units will determine the structure of the whole State built upon them. A democratic State in a large country is possible only on the basis of such small organized local democracies which can remove the sense of helplessness of the individual citizens, and through which alone individual voters can exercise control over the State by means of an intelligent active public opinion. To promote this is the most effective practice of New Humanism in the political field.” (8)
5. (a) “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.” (9)
5. (b) “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. Demagogy will be placed under a heavy discount. Mechanical counting of heads will cease to be the criterion of democracy. Democratic practice will not be reduced to periodical elections.” (10)
5. (c) “It will be some time before reoriented democracy can be the master of the situation. In the transition period, the Constitution should provide for creative genius, intellectual detachment and moral integrity occupying a high place in the state, so as to advise, guide and influence the operation of executive power. In the transition period, democracy must be elective as well as selective. 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.” (11)
6. (a) “At election times, all parties go to the people and make promises; they all know that not half of their promises can be fulfilled; but they rely on the fact that the voters cannot understand, and therefore, can be duped. Can that state of affairs not be changed? It can be. To change this state of affairs is the first necessity, the biggest task for anybody who wishes to participate in politics – not for selfish ends. One need not go to the people only to catch their votes. To help them cast their votes intelligently would be an immensely more important work. The electorate should be asked to examine the programmes of all the parties, to see if the promises can be fulfilled or, if fulfilled will really improve matters. But this new political practice presupposes a radical change in the idea of human nature. It is an appeal to reason, which presupposes the belief that man is a rational being. Political practice is guided by the notion that the ordinary man cannot think for himself; therefore he must be persuaded to follow parties and politicians. Since this unnatural relation between the people, the parties and politicians constitutes the foundation of what is called party politics, the latter prevents the people even to think for themselves. Politics is not only a scramble for power, but competition in all manner of questionable practices. (12)
6. (b) “The position may appear to be a vicious circle. But there is a way out, which party politicians would not take, because that would mean the end of their days. Appeal to reason is the way out. And modern science indicates the way. Science teaches that human nature is not to believe, but to enquire, that human nature is rational. It is true that the rational nature of man has been buried very deep. But being the essence of human nature, it can be recovered. Let some people have the conviction and the courage to act accordingly. Let them raise political practice on the level of reason and intelligence. I have no doubt the appeal to reason will find a response. The new politics will bear fruit sooner than one dares imagine; only, the measure of success will not be power, but gradual disappearance of that evil. Even a few people can lay down a solid foundation of democracy and freedom, if they forgo the quest for power, do not participate in the scramble; do not ask for the vote of the people to rule in their name; but, on the contrary, remind the voters of their human dignity, capacity to think and to act creatively.” (13)
6. (c) “Thus the electorate will gradually become critical and discriminating; the time will come when the voters of a locality will tell the candidates of all parties to leave them alone; amongst themselves they will find men in whom they can have confidence and who will remain responsible to them between two elections. Once that happens, the end of the party system will begin, and with the parties, the main cause for concentration of power will disappear. In the process, we shall already have laid down the foundation of a decentralized State of local republics, which will combine all functions of the State as they affect the local life. National culture, national economy and national political institutions will be cast on the pattern of the functions of these local republics; power will remain with them, to be wielded directly by the individual members of small communities. Being thus reared upon a broad foundation of direct democracies, the State will be really democratic. Usurpation of power will be out of the question. Thus, a pluralistic modern society can be built up at the same time while doing away with centralization of power, political and economic.” (14)
(1) P 59 : Politics Power and Parties, M.N. Roy; 1981, Ajanta Publications(India), Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 110007.
(2) P 175 : ibid.
(3) P 175: ibid.
(4) Pp 59, 60: ibid.
(5) P 60: ibid.
(6) P 185, ibid.
(7) Pp 175,176: ibid.
(8) P 176, ibid.
(9) P 167, New Orientation, M.N. Roy; 1982, Ajanta Publications(India), Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 110007.
(11) Pp 167, 168: ibid.
(12) Pp 185, Politics Power and Parties, M.N. Roy; 1981, Ajanta Publications(India), Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 110007.
(13) P 186, ibid.
(14) P 187, ibid.
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
Radical Humanists are revolutionaries. This fact is realized and recognized early by the opponents of love of freedom than those who actually are in need of the message of liberation. While the Pakistani army occupied Bangladesh and carried out a systematic annihilation of intellectuals as part of the genocide, they did not forget to locate Radical Humanist activists in Bangladesh. The following part is taken from a volume published as commemoration of M.N.Roy’s birth centenary. In the article, ‘M.N.Roy’s Influence on Bengali Muslims’, Dr. Tajul Hossain, ‘ surgeon and physician who held high responsible positions in the Bangladesh republic’ recounts the efforts of early Radical Humanists in spreading the philosophy of Radical Humanism. We are also told about the martyrdom of two valiant Radicals: Habibur Rahman and Jyotirmoy Guha Thakurata. We express our indebtedness to Indian Renaissance Institute for the commemoration volume. The relevant part is presented without any changes under quotation marks:
“Roy visited Dacca early in 1948 accompanied by Professor Sibnarayan Ray. Maulana Akram Khan was invited to preside over a meeting of Roy but he declined. Muslim students in Salimullah hall were much interested in listening to Roy on Islam and they invited him. Some personal friends of Roy in the cadre of the former ICS gave him a reception in the Dacca Club. Radicals who migrated from Calcutta formed a new base in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and gradually developed social roots there. Many enthusiastic University and College teachers showed a growing interest in the philosophy of New Humanism and joined many group discussions.
Following the summer camp of May, 1948, K.K. Sinha, Jyotirindra Mohan Sarker and I went to Dacca to arrange a study camp there, with the help of Jyotirmoy Guha Thakurata, Habibur Rahman and others. About 20 participants discussed New Humanism for 5 days. One public meeting was arranged with a good audience which was addressed by Sinha and me.
A programme was drawn for Jyotirmoy and Habibur Rahman to visit some of the district towns like Rajshahi, Mymensingh, Comillah, Sylhet and Chittagong. Individual radicals like Nuruzzaman in Rajashahi, Roonu Choudhury in Mymensingh, Shyamadhan Sengupta in Sylhet, and Anil Roy in Chittagong arranged meetings in Public Halls and Bar Libraries where the principles of New Humanism were explained. Some individuals established discussion centres in different places. Habibur Rahman made the former RDP office at Dacca his residence and he conducted there regular evening and weekly discussion meetings for over 10 years before he was transferred to Rajshahi University. Here, he was killed on March 27, 1971 by the Pakistani Army. He made an enormous contribution to the spread of radical humanism amongst his colleagues and students, in Dacca and Rajshahi.
Salahuddin initiated the establishment of a Friends’ Centre at Dacca with the cooperation of some Quaker social workers from Britain. At a later date, Jyotirmoy became its very vital participant and remained so for more than 10 years besides carrying on his activities in the University and the Humanist forum. He was also killed on March 27, 1971 in his University residence by the Pakistani Army. But he left behind an abiding influence on the Dacca elite circle by virtue of his personality which combined truthfulness, goodness and deep interest in art and literature.”
For A Revolution From Below – An M.N.Roy Commemorative Volume,
Published on behalf of the
Indian Renaissance Institute
By Minerva Associates (Publications)Pvt. Ltd.,
Calcutta, 700 029.
First Published: March 1989.
1. “The State is the political organization of society. As primitive communities grew larger and more complex, and various aspects of public life had to be coordinated,the State was created for this purpose. The function of the State was the public administration of society. Therefore, a democratic State must be coterminous with society. Today, the State has become an abstraction. In the written Constitutions, the State is divided in three branches, the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. If that is all that the State is, then the States must exist only in the capitals and nowhere else. The State, supposed to be the political organization of society as a whole, has come to be completely divorced from the life of society, if you think of society in terms of the human beings constituting society. The individual has nothing to do with the State, that is, the political administration of his society. It exists only in some central place, faraway, beyond the reach and influence of the members of society, and from there makes decisions and imposes its decisions and the people have no say in them.” (1. Page:61)
2. “The first need is to break in our minds with the prejudice that power is the object of all politics, that anybody who wants to participate in politics and achieve anything at all, must have for his first and foremost object to come to power, on the assumption that otherwise nothing can be done, and this is the whole of politics. Party politics in our time is based on that assumption. Power must be captured in some way or other, be it by constitutional or by violent means. All schools of politics, revolutionary and otherwise, have that in common between them; they all must fight to come to power first before they can do anything in pursuance of their programmes. A party is organized with the object of capturing power. It is done with the ostensibly plausible argument that some people know just how society should be organized, and therefore the voters must vote for them so that they come to power and impose the blessings they have in mind from above on the people, who would otherwise never even think of those blessings, much less achieve them on their own.
That is why we say that party politics implies the denial of democracy; it implies that people cannot do anything by themselves; it is a denial of the potential intelligence and creativity of all men, of the sovereignty of the people. Democracy is an empty concept if sovereignty does not mean the ability of the people to do things themselves. If there must always be some-body to do things for them, it means the denial of the sovereignty of the people, the denial of the creativity and the dignity of man.”(2. Pages:62, 63)
3. “Against the prejudice that there can be no politics without parties and that parties can do nothing without power, there are two propositions. Firstly, power is not the primary object of politics; it is a means and there are other means; and secondly, party politics leads to concentration of power and hence carries in it the germs of the destruction of democracy. Political ends can be achieved without capturing power. Politics can be practiced without a party organization. The object of such a political practice will be to give the sovereign people the opportunity of exercising its sovereignty, to persuade the people not to surrender it by voting for anybody else expecting him to do the things they want to be done, but to vote for themselves, and do things themselves. To do those things being the function of government, by doing them themselves, they will increasingly assume the functions of government, and thereby create a government of the people and by the people.” (3. Page:63)
4. “I believe that the object of all political thinking, the object of social philosophy as well as of political practice, is to ensure the freedom of the individual in society. But when we come to examine the relation between the individual and the State, we are dealing with a different problem. The State is not necessarily identical or coterminous with society. At the same time, if the State is to be regarded as the political organization of society, as it should be, then there is no reason why the State should not be coterminous with society. And if the State can be coterminous with society, the conflict between man and State should be no more difficult of solution than the apparent contradiction between the individual and society.” (4. Pages 18, 19)
5. “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.” (5. Pages 19, 20)
6. “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 practiced must realize that without education democracy is not possible.
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.”(6. Pages:58, 59)
7. “Only when the monster called the masses is decomposed into 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.”(7. Page:59)
8. “We start from the proposition that institutions, political or economic, are created by men. They are created by man to serve his purpose, which is the purpose of having a full life, a good life, and of developing all aspects of his life and all his potentialities. Every institution is as good as the men who work it. But in the modern world the relation between individuals and institutions has been reverse. Supreme importance is attached to institutions, and man is subordinated to them. Social progress is not visualized as the resultant of the development of individuals or groups of individuals, but as structural changes imposed from above, from time to time. This reversal of relations between man and man-made institutions evidently is a denial of the fundamental concept of Democracy, because it completely eliminated man and his sovereignty from the picture of things. Therefore, if a better form of political theory and practice is to be evolved, we shall have to see if this abnormal relation can be reversed again, if man can be placed in his proper position of primacy and supremacy.”(8. Pages:56,57)
9. “So long as individuals cannot judge and discriminate and decide what is right and wrong, there cannot be a good society. Disgust with power politics will produce no result unless it compels us to remember the fundamental principles of democracy, the sovereignty and dignity of the individual, in the light of modern scientific knowledge.
Power can be divorced from political associations and defined as the ability to do things. Thus conceived, it is precisely man’s power which can make a better job of human society. But the usefulness of power is eclipsed and leads to abuses when it is concentrated to such an extent that the community as a whole becomes totally powerless. When that happens, the most powerful State may have the most powerless citizens. Power being associated with the function of the state, some political theoreticians of recent times have defined the state as an organ of coercion, an instrument created by a certain class or section of society with the purpose of exercising its domination over the rest. The corollary to this definition is that a just and fair social order is impossible as long as the State exists. Therefore, thinking out their thoughts consistently, these political theorists came to the conclusion that in an ideal society the State would wither away. The anarchist denial of the very necessity of the State is only an exaggerated version of what may be called the communist utopia.
The ideal of a stateless society is obviously an absurd utopia. The apostles of the withering away of the State have proved that in practice.”(9. Pp. 72, 73.)
Politics, Power and Parties,
Ajanta Publications India,
Delhi – 110 007