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Radical Humanist Democracy – III

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)

References:
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)

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Anarchism and Humanism


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.)
Reference:
Politics, Power and Parties,
M.N.Roy.
Ajanta Publications India,
Jawahar Nagar.
Delhi – 110 007

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