Part I: Rationalism and Communism
I. Criticism Is Neither Rejection Nor Negation
1. Need all critics be class enemies?
“Criticism is neither rejection nor negation. All critics of Marxism are not necessarily anti-Marxist. Marxism is not a system of dogmas; it knows no final and absolute truth. Regarding experience as the only source of knowledge and truth, it is bound to adjust itself continuously to unforeseen events and changing circumstances. But every system of thought tends towards orthodoxy, which is a sign of stagnation. Constant criticism is the guarantee against that danger. Holding that thought is determined by being, Marxism admits not only the possibility, but necessity, of self-development. Therefore, I cannot rule out criticism. Indeed a critical Marxist is the conscience keeper of Marxism. Its own critical nature guards the purity of Marxist thought. The Radical is a Marxist in this sense, not as a blind believer. He accepts the positive contributions of Marxism, in so far as they are not contradicted by subsequent social experience and scientific knowledge, and inspired by the heretical and iconoclastic spirit of that precious heritage, proposes to elaborate, enlarge and enrich it. So, let there be no guilty conscience on account of our critical view of Marxism. We should be proud of our intellectual honesty as well as the effort to make some contribution to revolutionary theory and practice” (Pages: 43- 44, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’ )
2. What is Marxism?
“I do not regard Marxism as a methodology. You must have noticed that I have always insisted on the view that Marxism is a philosophy, something more than a system of economics, or a political theory, or again a technique of revolution, as it is called by some. Indeed, it is more than all that taken together. Primarily, it is a system of pure thought, a philosophy, the intolerant orthodox may condemn this view as idealism; it may be, and idealism may not be such a bad thing, after all. I do not stick to Marxian methodology. I am concerned with its essential philosophical features, and these again are to be seen in their historical setting. As a philosophy Marxism is the outcome of the development of thought from the dawn of history; therefore, it is the heritage of humanity; it is the ideological equipment belonging to everybody fighting for a better world. Anything in Marxism that cannot be reconciled with that appreciation of it, I reject.” (Page: 110- 111, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’)
3. Marxism and Philosophy
“Marxism revolutionizes philosophy itself. It sets new tasks to Philosophy; previously, philosophy has simply tried to explain the world, but in future it must point out the way to a reconstruction of the world”. (Page: 139, “Anthology of M. N. Roy’s Writings: Essence of Royism”)
4. Marxism – Intelligent Understanding
“Its mechanical orthodox protagonists regard Marxism as the philosophy of the proletariat. If that was a correct appreciation of Marxism, if it was the ideology only of the proletarian revolution, Marxism would be of no immediate use for us in this country. We cannot take up that position, because our point of departure is acceptance of Marxism, and that is not a mechanical acceptance. We do not profess Marxism fanatically as converts to a new religion. Our profession is based upon an intelligent understanding. Therefore, we cannot be forced to the position where Marxism appears to have no practical application to the problems of the Indian revolution”. (Page: 139, “Anthology of M. N. Roy’s Writings: Essence of Royism” )
5. Radicalism and Marxism
“We need only remember the cardinal principle of the philosophy we profess, viz. Marxism. Man is the maker of his destiny. But Marxism is not conceived as a philosophy. It has been degraded to what is called “a revolutionary technique” to be with the masses, at all cost. The man, however, must differentiate himself from the masses before he can be the maker of his destiny. To be radical is to grasp the matter by its root. Now, “the root of mankind is man himself.” That is not my opinion. That is a quotation from Marx, Intelligence, the ability to control emotion with reason, differentiates man from the masses.
While not underestimating the importance of the role emotion plays in human behavior, our political practice must be guided by intelligence. There must be a clear understanding of what we are doing, and for what we are doing, and for what purpose we are doing a particular thing. That is the essence of scientific politics.” (Page: 17- 18, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’)
6. Should Marxists be averse to enriching Marxism?
“In this context, I may take the liberty of drawing your attention to an assertion made while raising the question whether I was not revising Marxism. It is, that Marxists have enriched Marxism by incorporating all the new scientific knowledge gained since the days of Marx. I am afraid that is not true; the discoveries of modern physics have rendered nineteenth century Materialism completely untenable; yet, the Marxist pundits even to-day fight philosophical criticism based on twentieth century physics by quoting scriptures from Engels’ Anti-Duhring, written nearly a hundred years ago. Anyhow, once you admit that is permissible to adjust Marxian theory to human experience made since the days of Karl Marx, then you will come to realize that everything I have said can be fitted into the scheme of Marxism as a philosophy. If that cannot be done, then we shall have to place all the works of Marx in the dusty archives, attaching to them nothing more than historical value for to-day or for the future.” (Page: 146, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’)
7. Twins of Irrationalism
“Both Communism and Fascism stand for collectivism. The Communist collective ego is the proletariat class; and the Fascist collective ego is the nation. Both sacrifice the individual on the altar of the collective ego. It makes no difference whether it is the class or the nation. That being the case, when Communists establish a National State and become the prophets of patriotism, their collective ego can hardly be distinguished from that of the Fascists. In either case, it is totalitarian. So, the dividing line between Fascism and a decadent Communism is very thin. If one is not very rigid about the philosophy of life, does not insist on the purity of his ideas, and does not continually subject his ideals to a searching criticism, without knowing it, any day he may step over the borderline, to find himself in a peculiar company.” (Page: 94- 95, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’)
8. 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’ )
9. Man, the maker of his own destiny
“Communism does not recognize the individual; his very existence is ruled out as an abstraction. The theory is that the individual exists only as a part of the collectivity. With this theory, communism breaks away from its philosophical anchorage. It does not result from the fundamental philosophical principle of Marxism, namely, being determines consciousness. Collective life is conditional upon man’s consciousness of the existence of others, and his consciousness is the result of this being. Social organization presupposes the existence of individuals. Collective effort is the means to the end of man’s self-expression, which is another name for freedom, Man must be there before he can cooperate or collectivise with others. Marx was more explicit than the above philosophical formula; he actually declared: “Man is the root of things.” This liberating doctrine was formulated by Protagoras two and a half millenniums ago, and has been the basic impetus for all social and cultural progress ever since. The ancient Greek sage said “Main is the measure of everything.” (Page: 101, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’)
10. Negation of Freedom will not lead to a higher form of Democracy
“The new philosophy I plead for is Marxism, freed from the orthodoxy, from its association with the new status quo. To do that, we need only to realize that Marxism is not identical with communism; the one is a philosophy, and as such, a statement of eternal truths; the other is a political practice. If we hold high the flaming torch of Marxism, understood as the sum total of the entire human heritage, the way beyond Communism will be clearly visible. What is to be done concretely, is to replace the economic man by the moral man, to realize that humanism is not incompatible with the materialist philosophy. When I ask you to see beyond Communism, to find a ray of hope penetrating the deep gloom of our time, I do not suggest that the reorganization of society so as to eliminate the injustice and inequalities of the old order is not necessary, It must take place; but the pattern must change, as also the means of attaining it. The problem of harmonizing planned economy with individual freedom should not baffle human ingenuity. What is necessary is regarded only as the means for the attainment of the goal of freedom. Once that is done, the vision of the ideal will serve as a constant corrective for all aberrations in the practice of Communism. It is also humanly possible to prevent that the individual citizen is swallowed up by the Leviathan. Again, we need a faith: democracy is possible; only it must outgrow the fetters of parliamentary formalism. On the other hand, we must discard the fallacious doctrine that negation of democracy (dictatorship) will lead to a higher democracy.” (Page: 105, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’)
11. Updating unavoidable
“Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach should be good enough for our philosophical guidance. But by experience we have found out that those philosophical principles, formulated one hundred years ago, have been proved to be inadequate in the light of human knowledge acquired since then.” (Pages: 24-25, ‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’)
12. Revolution and Radicalism
“Iconoclasm is the fundamental spirit of revolution. But iconoclasts themselves often set up new icons. The iconoclasts who went ahead of us destroyed old icons, but have set up new ones. Since they are the high-priests of the new temple, they do not want that their icons should be destroyed. But if we want to follow their footsteps and act as revolutionaries, we shall have to pull down the new icons. As revolutionaries, we claim the right to tear down their icons just as they had to tear down older icons. That is the path of revolution, which we must travel in quest of freedom. If your ideal is not freedom, but proletarian dictatorship or closed system of Communism, then we must part company, for you to lag behind, and others to march forward towards unexplored regions.’’(Page: 76, ‘NEW ORIENTATION’)
13. No inevitability
“Marxism knows no inevitability. The belief in inevitability is fatalism. Marxism knows only necessity. That which is determined takes place. But a thing or event is determined by a number of causes. Its fructification or its abortion may have been determined by some additional causes unknown to us. Therefore, nothing can be inevitable. Nowhere in Marxism is it asserted that Socialism becomes inevitable at a certain stage of social development. Marxism only says that at a stage of the evolution of society socialism becomes necessary for further development. If by some other reason any particular community has been doomed to disappear, the change to Socialism will not take place. There will be no further development, but disintegration. That has happened in history. Marxism does not allow the assertion that a similar tragedy will not happen again.” (Page: 144, “Anthology of M. N. Roy’s Writings: Essence of Royism” )
14. For Marxism to be the Philosophy of the Future
“I do not want to be a bastard of Karl Marx. I want to be his spiritual descendant. Only in that sense can Marxism be the philosophy of the future and claim to be the only system of human thought which defies the danger of dogmatism and can develop with the development of human society. I conceive Marxism in that way, and therefore I call myself a Marxist, even when I do not recognize the authority of Marxian scriptures and scholasticism.” (Pages :147- 148, New Orientation )
1. ‘NEW ORIENTATION’, M N Roy, Ajantha Publications (India)
Jawahar Nagar, Delhi,11 00 07.
2. Anthology of M.N. Roy’s Writings : ‘ ESSENCE OF ROYISM’,
Compiled by G.D. Parikh, Nav Jagritisamaj Publication,
J – 149, Lokmanya Nagar, Mahim, Bombay – 400 016
(First Edition: December 1987)
3. ‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’, M.N. Roy and Philip Spratt
(First Edition: December, 1947; Third Reprint: October, 1986)
Ajanta Publications (India), Jawahar Nagar,
Bungalow Road, Delhi, 110007
II. The Indian Scenario
( Though primarily addressing Indian sub-continent, this section has relevance to all countries with predominantly pre-capitalist economy.)
1. Why We Are Bound To Differ
“In our country, the bourgeoisie did not grow as a fully differentiated and sufficiently large class. Therefore, we do not have a stereotyped articulate capitalist society, for which the Marxist pattern of revolution was prepared. In India, the classes are inbred, the vast bulk of the people being more or less an amorphous mass. A monolithic party of the proletariat can have no social basis. The ideology, programme and demands of any particular class cannot rally the whole people. At the same time, a vast majority of the people can be mobilized with a humanist appeal – a programme of political freedom, social reconstruction and cultural progress, all palpably beneficial for most men and women. That is possible. Because, Indian society is not a healthy organism; it is diseased. It is based, on the one hand, on decomposed feudal relations and, on the other, on weak, halting, capitalist relations. There is no economic cement to hold it together, no economic cohesion. On the basis of such a society, no stable State can be built. There could be a stable imperialist State imposed from outside. That is now gone. The rising national State will not be able to stabilize itself, because it will be confronted with baffling economic problems and deep-seated social contradictions. Such an unstable State can be pulled down easily, if the proper method is adopted. Therefore, we are so very particular about the philosophy of our politics and the structure of our party. It must be a party not of the economic man, belonging either to the bourgeoisie or to the proletariat; it will be the party of the moral man. Its appeal will be directed to human beings, not to classes. Appeal to class interest goes over the head of the people, because classes are not clearly differentiated; the proletariat is half-peasant; the peasantry is half-feudal and largely proletarianised; the urban petit-bourgeoisie is proletarianised, but not free from the feudal mentality. Capitalist and feudal relations are inextricably interwoven. There is no sufficiently large group with a common interest. Therefore, the appeal to revolt against the intolerable conditions of life must be addressed to individual men and women, particularly to those who are qualified to appreciate human values. A party of moral men, moved by the ideal of human freedom, therefore, alone can be the instrument for pulling down the Fascist State rising on the unstable foundation of a disintegrated society. The type of the revolution will be determined by the peculiarities of social conditions and cultural atmosphere; a new type of revolution requires a new kind of party as its instrument. That is historical determinism, which is the core of Marxist wisdom.” (Page: 132- 133, New Orientation)*
“In the capitalist society, the Marxian view would be that the proletariat is the only revolutionary class. But socially, we are not living in the twentieth century. We are living in an earlier epoch. Let us remember the fundamental principle of Marxism: Consciousness is determined by existence. In India, we are having our political being in the social atmosphere of the seventeenth or sixteenth century. Our political consciousness therefore, must be determined by that particular nature of our social being. The idea that the proletariat is the most revolutionary class cannot spontaneously grow in us; it can only be artificially cultivated. Because, our appreciation of the roles of the various social classes in contemporary India must be determined by their actual position. It would be completely un – Marxian to assert that in India today the proletariat is the most revolutionary class, and that the other classes cannot have any revolutionary role. That idea cannot enter in our mind in the scientific process of ideation; at best it is an idealistic proposition. Instead of looking at the thing as it is, and letting environments react on our consciousness, thereby determining the process of our thought, we would be cramping our mind with what we have read in books.” (Page:142, : ESSENCE OF ROYISM )
3. Philosophical Radicalism
“What is called philosophical Radicalism, that is, the philosophy of the bourgeois revolution, was a revolutionary ideology in a social atmosphere which happens to be also our environment in India today. That being the case, it should not be difficult for us to reconcile our Marxist conscience with what is known as the philosophical Radicalism of the bourgeois revolution.
Things must be connected directly. A certain mode of thought is liquidated by another mode of thought which immediately follows it. The religious mode of thought was liquidated by the rationalist mode of thought which resulted from a change in social environments brought about by the development of science. Today we know that bourgeois Radicalism was defective. It did not go very far. It had still some connection with the religious mode of thought, and ultimately became itself a form of religion. Even the modern idealist philosophy is only a form of rationalized religion. Nevertheless, it is equally true that philosophical Radicalism was the solvent for the religious mode of thought. It was the direct outcome of scientific knowledge and of the changes brought about by it in the social atmosphere, namely, the revolution in the process and means of production.
The religious mode of thought still prevails in our country. The popular mind is still swayed, consciously or unconsciously, by religious prejudices. So much so, that even Marxism, somehow or other, has been transformed into a sort of religion. It is conceived as a creed or held as a faith. In the ideological field we have still to dissolve and liquidate the religious mode of thought. Before that is done, any other form of thought or any other philosophy will simply not be understood. Therefore, the intervening period of philosophical Radicalism must be there. It is the intervening link. There must be a connection between the past and the future.” (Pages:143-144, : ESSENCE OF ROYISM )
4. Our Inverted Projection
“Only as Marxists we can be the representatives of the proletariat as well as of the bourgeoisie. Here the principle of identity is in operation. Marxism enables us to see that there are two relations in society: one of antagonism and the other of identity. At a later stage, there will be a conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. But today, in the atmosphere of the sixteenth or seventeenth century’s social conditions, in which we are having our being, the actual identity is much greater than the would-be difference. Consequently, as Marxists, it becomes permissible for us to advocate a programme of social revolution which under normal conditions would mean the establishment of capitalist society.
Marxism thus being a sort of inverted projection with us, we are the bearers of a light projected from the future, as far as our country is concerned. That appears to be a rather strange position. For us, as social beings, to be Marxists should appear anomalous. Because we are trying to apply Marxism to the problems of a time before Marx lived. In a sense for us, Marx is still to be born. How can we, then, call ourselves Marxists? We can do so only by differentiating Marxism from the personality of Karl Marx.” (Pages:144- 145, : ESSENCE OF ROYISM )
5. French Revolution
“The French Revolution was not an accident. It was not an isolated event. It was part of a whole process. The period of revolution, which culminated in the French Revolution, actually began as far back as the fourteenth century, even earlier. The germs of the bourgeois revolution, which undermined religion, as well as overthrew feudalism, sprouted in the Christian monasteries. The process continued for several hundred years before it broke out into momentous events which took place much earlier than the French Revolution. The latter generally believed to be the beginning of a period of mischievous events in Europe, was preceded by great revolutions in England as well as the American Revolution. England had experienced political revolution even earlier. The Magna Charta was the result of revolution. On the Continent of Europe, great revolutionary outbreaks had occurred during three hundred years before the process culminated in the French Revolution. The most outstanding among them were: the foundation of the Italian Republics; the heretical movement and uprising in central and eastern Europe; the German Peasant War; and the rise of the Dutch Republic.” (Pages:159-160, : ESSENCE OF ROYISM )
“If we wish to find a historical analogy to the task set to ourselves, we should fix upon neither the Russian Revolution nor any other revolution of our time. We shall have to go further back and find our prototype in the Jacobins of the French Revolution. The Social foundation of the party we propose to organize is very analogous to that of the Jacobins. The leading cadre of our party will be to a very large extent come from the identical class. The Jacobins carried through the bourgeoisie revolution in the teeth of the opposition of the bourgeoisie. The representatives of the bourgeoisie, who had heralded the revolution, went over to the camp of counter-revolution, and the Jacobins carried it through against the feudal aristocracy as well as the big bourgeoisie. The relation of classes in contemporary India is somewhat analogous. But the analogy is bound to be incomplete. There is a difference of nearly two hundred years.
For the ideology of Jacobinism, we must turn to the French Materialists of the eighteenth century – the Physiocrats and the Encyclopedists – and they were the direct predecessors of Marxism in the line of philosophical ancestry. On the other hand, in Jacobinism, the rationalist philosophy culminated and exhausted itself. Jacobinism made a Goddess of reason; a religion was made of Rationalism. Rationalism played its role as a solvent of the religious mode of thought. But in Jacobinism, it exhausted all its possibilities and opened the way for the development of eighteenth century Materialism towards Marxism. Historically, in the philosophical sense, we in India today are standing in such a period of transition. We are very much influenced by the scientific mode of thinking. We are also attracted by the materialistic philosophy. But at the same time, as whole, the people who will take part in this revolution, and even many of those who will constitute its leadership, may be attracted rather by Rationalism than by out and out Materialism.” (Pages:147-148, ESSENCE OF ROYISM)
7. Twentieth century Jacobinism
“Another characteristic feature of the tendency we represent is that it is a tendency towards a direct development in the direction of socialist reconstruction of society. That tendency was there also in Jacobinism. It was represented by Baboeuf and his followers. They also were the product of that period of the French Revolution which was under the leadership of the Jacobins. But at that time, the tendency could not assert itself, because consciousness – the ideas and thoughts – had to be determined by the environments of the time. The bourgeoisie were afraid. They could not carry through the revolution. The petit-bourgeoisie, which at the time of the French Revolution included the working class just as is the case in India today, carried through the revolution. But once the revolution was carried through, it was the bourgeoisie who came into power. Nevertheless, the tendency to develop directly towards Socialism was there all the time, represented first by Baboeuf, and later on by Blanqui and others, and ultimately by the Paris Commune. The tendency did not disappear with the failure of Baboeuf. It manifested itself throughout the entire period of the French Revolution, and disappeared only with the fall of the Paris Commune.
The Indian Revolution is taking place in an entirely different period of history, when the relation of classes on the world scale has completely changed, and the economic conditions and technological development necessary for the reconstruction of the world as a socialist society have been created. Therefore, once the revolution takes place in our time, though with a Jacobin ideology and with a Jocobinist programme, the tendency towards a direct development in Socialism, which was inherent in Jacobinism, will most probably prevail in our country. For all these reasons, I would suggest that our ideology, the ideology of the party which is to lead the Indian Revolution, be named Twentieth Century Jacobinism. I make the suggestion tentatively. It is made pending the formulation of some other name which may be more appropriate. Marxism applied to a bourgeois democratic revolution, Marxist theory applied in practice to the problems of the bourgeois democratic revolution, is Jacobinism. Therefore, Marxism applied to the social problems of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, to be solved in the atmosphere of the twentieth century, can be called Twentieth Century Jacobinism.
An orthodox exposition of Marxism, of the Anglo-Saxon or German or Russian variety, will not help us, I want to make you understand this point; we have the privilege – history has given it to us – of not only carrying through a peculiar, a new and unprecedented type of revolution and create a new form of State opening up the possibility of a new line of development as transition to socialist society; we are also privileged to make some original contribution to what is known as Marxism. If we do not do that then we have no business to call ourselves Marxists.
The point is that we are functioning in a very peculiar situation, living simultaneously in two periods of history. This peculiarity of our being must determine our thought, which therefore, cannot fit into any of the known patterns. We approach every problem from the point of view of a philosophy called Marxism. In my opinion, it is not a narrow philosophy of any particular class, but the quintessence of the entire process of human development. The result of our Marxist approach may, and I am inclined to believe that it is bound to be, an amplification of Marxism. Don’t be hidebound the believe that the whole truth has already been discovered, that the text should not be changed, and that we can only interpret it. That is scholasticism. Marxism is something entirely different.
After all, Marxism is not a body of dogmas. It is rather a method. As such, it has a permanent abiding value; As a method of approach to all the problems, it holds good for all time and under all circumstances. The method is applicable to the problems of two thousand years ago, and will be equally valid for an approach to problems of two thousand years hence. But the formulas of Marxism or the peculiar prescriptions of Marxism may not be immutable, and may have to be changed from time to time.” (Pages:148-150, : ESSENCE OF ROYISM)
8. The Revolutionary Class
“There is the middle class, a small class of people who have enough education to come out of the atmosphere of medieval backwardness which breeds the belief that all this misery is made by God and therefore we must submit to it. The very fact that nearly fifty years ago, there were perhaps only a dozen men who conceived the idea that things might be changed, proves that to-day there must be many more ready to revolt against this cultural tradition of ours. The tradition is the foundation of Indian Fascism. It is neither any symbiosis nor anybody’s cartel. In Germany, it might have been the cartels, in Italy something else, but the foundation of Indian Fascism is God, the belief in God: that everything is created by God and the only thing that we can do is to sing Ramdhun, spin and wear khaddar. The Indian masses are going to be regimented in this uniform of khaddar. The proletariat may not put on the physical uniform, but will be readily regimented spiritually. Don’t ignore the fact that Holi is a greater holiday for the God of the Indian Marxists than the First of May or Ninth of November. If Hitler could hypnotize the German proletariat, how much more easily will the still feudal-minded Indian “proletariat” be swayed by the Mahatma of Indian Fascism! Therefore, success of revolution in this country depends upon the type of people who fifty years ago showed signs of revolt, if it is ever to take place in our time. What are you after all? Why cannot you have confidence in yourselves? You are revolutionaries, not as worshippers of the Marxist God, but on your intrinsic merit. And why should you think that we are the privileged few? We come from the middleclass. If we can be what we are to-day, there is no reason why others of our class cannot be like us. Search yourselves for the reasons of your being de-classed. It is because your class is doomed to degradation and slavery. Why not try to find revolutionary elite in a class which has really been proletarianised and which has the intellectual equipment to be conscious of the urge of freedom?” (Pages – 122- 123, New Orientation)
Notes and References:
1.‘New Orientation’, M N Roy, Ajantha Publications (India),
Jawahar Nagar, Delhi,11 00 07.
* Radical Humanists since then decided to dissolve their political party. The argument still holds good for humanist activists in the movement.
2. ‘Anthology of M.N. Roy’s Writings :
ESSENCE OF ROYISM’
Compiled by G.D. Parikh
Nav Jagritisamaj Publication
J – 149, Lokmanya Nagar
Bombay – 400 016
(First Edition : December 1987)
III. Pragmatism In Politics Leads To Scramble For Power
– On the way to a Political Philosophy for Materialists
1. Locating Errors – by Individuals, Parties or in the Theoretical Formulation?
“Marxism is a philosophy; Communism is only a political practice – the means to an end. Neither of them is an ideal. Nevertheless, while Marxism has become a religion for its uncritical adherents, Communism is regarded by its votaries as a utopia. As long as one could only imagine about it, any skepticism about it might be dismissed either as irrelevant or prejudiced. Now it is no longer a matter of imagination. If we are Marxists, our ideas must be influenced by experience. There is the experience of the Soviet Union, and the record of the Communist Parties in other countries. That experience compels scepticism. The political practice of the Communist Parties is neither intelligent nor honest. The history of the Soviet Union makes one doubt whether Communism will lead to the ideal of freedom. I shall have more to say about the utopia of Communism. For the moment, the point is that our disapproval of the communist practice is not new. The error was to identify it with Marxism. The confusion about our attitude towards Marxism resulted from that error. On the other hand, our critical acceptance of Marxism seems to have created the belief that there is such a thing as pure Communism distinct from Communist practice.” (Page: 44, NEW ORIENTATION)
2. “Political practice without a philosophy is a vulgar scramble for power.” (Page: 18, NEW ORIENTATION)
3. Need for Ethics
“Politics is a form of human activity; Human life must be guided by a philosophy.
That philosophy may change from time to time. But there are certain values, certain
principles, which transcend time and space. Otherwise we shall have to lose faith in the progress of humanity. How can we judge that civilization is a progress of humanity? How can we judge that civilization is a progress from barbarism? There must be something common to barbarism and civilization. We can judge that this or that thing distinguishes civilization as a greater human endeavour, and therefore civilization is a progress from barbarism. Otherwise, there is no standard for measuring progress, and no ground to believe that civilization is better than barbarism.
Therefore, a philosophy, to be a guide for all forms of human action, must have some ethics, some morals, which must recognize certain things as permanent and abiding in humanity. And only a group of human beings be it a political party or any other kind of organization primarily moved by those abiding (and I should say even permanent, as permanent as humanity itself) values, can claim to be the maker of the future.”(Pages:– 18- 19, NEW ORIENTATION )
4. “Without a philosophical revolution, no social revolution is possible. We shall have to remember that. We cannot make philosophical revolution by learning fallacious theories, sticking to exploded dogmas and running after false ideals.”(Page – 19,New Orientation )
5. “I lay emphasis on the word Radicalism. I shall show that it is something different from Communism, Socialism or any other brand of “leftism”. Otherwise, it would be a fraud to call ourselves Radical Democrats.” (Page – 23,New Orientation )
6.“A group of people inspired by certain philosophical principles, by a certain view of life, logically has a distinctive approach to all problems of life, including politics, trade unionism, propaganda, agitation, and everything else. Radicalism is not revolutionary Nationalism, nor is it slightly heretical Communism. It is a distinctive philosophy.” (Page: 24, NEW ORIENTATION)
7.The horoscope has been falsified
“The development of capitalist economy did not take the pattern set by Karl Marx; the modern State is too powerful to be overthrown as at the time of the French Revolution or of the Russian Revolution; the modern weapons and the modern technique of military operations have rendered the old technique of revolution – seizure of power through insurrection – impossible. That being so, if a radical reconstruction of society was still a historical necessity, there should be other methods of attaining the object; a new way, or new ways, of revolution must be discovered. Fanatically holding on to an untenable faith won’t do. It is permissible for revolutionaries to be intelligent as well as indomitable.”(Page: 35, NEW ORIENTATION )
8. Is not practice the criterion of truth?
“They talk learnedly about historical determinism. What is that? It means that political events do not take place at random; they are caused. But that is a tautology. How are events caused? Whatever may be the origin of thoughts or ideas, any event presupposes some thought, and thought in its turn is influenced by being. Experience determines our thoughts and ideas, and these set the pattern of historical events. We started with certain ideas about revolution, and revolutionary practice; since then we have had some experience. In the light of those experience, we shall have continually to test our faith and our dogmas. That is Marxism, as I understand it. For me, Marxism is as I understand it, not as Palme-Dutt or Dimitroff, or even as Comrade Stalin teaches it. And that is how I understand it. If somebody disagrees, not with rational argument, but on the strength of authority, I should refer him to the highest authority – to comrade Marx himself” (Page: 46, NEW ORIENTATION)
9. Can Antagonism Be Spring Of Progress?
“It is simple enough to quote scriptures. Marxism says that class antagonism has been the spring of all progress throughout history. Communism will establish a classless society. Thereupon, class antagonism will disappear. There is an obvious corollary to the assumption: with the disappearance of class antagonism the spring of progress will dry out, and the wagon of history get stuck in the morass of a utopia. It is a utopia, because there is no reason to believe that history is heading towards the disappearance of humanity. That calamity may happen, but not in the course of dialectic development which is theoretically endless. But the utopia of Communism promises only death. In a classless society, dialectics will cease to operate; history will come to a standstill and humanity will die out. This brand of what is called orthodox Communism or Marxism does not open up a vista of unlimited progress and freedom. It tells us that on such and such a day the world is going to die. I do not believe in horoscopes. Not even if it were cast by Marx himself.” (Pages: 47- 48, NEW ORIENTATION )
10. “I tell you, there is no Communism in the world today: Communism has become the most extreme form of Nationalism. We have not destroyed Communism. The Communists have done that. It is idle to owe allegiance to a lost cause, a discredited ideal, an exploded dream. Let us be realists, and find new ideals.”( Pages: 58- 59, NEW ORIENTATION)
11.New ideas As The Motive Force
“Materialist philosophy does not exclude ideas, and the potentiality of ideas; As a matter of fact, ideas are the urge for all human activity, and all human progress. Materialism traces the origin of ideas to the physical being of man. They are not revealed; nor do they exist independently of our physical existence. But Materialism does not say that ideas have no more than a subsidiary place in the history of human progress. On the contrary, every great social or political movement was heralded by new ideas, which operated as the motive force of the movement. When these ideas exhaust all their possibilities and can no longer move men to great and heroic actions, the period of social and political development heralded by them comes to an end, and humanity begins to look out for newer ideas. New inspirations, new ideals, a new faith, in order to begin a new surge ahead. The over emphasis laid on the class character of ideas, the mechanical term “super structure”, compelled Marxists to overlook the very fundamental principle of philosophy. Consequently, Marxism ceased to be a philosophy and became only a mere political practice; and political practice or a theory of political action or social revolution without a philosophical basis is bound to degenerate into pragmatism. As a matter of fact, some people in our country talk about Marxism as a technique of revolution!” ( Page: 78, NEW ORIENTATION)
12. Marx did not go to Moscow to learn his philosophy
“Now, if Marxism, or the theory and ideology of the revolution of our time, is a creation of the proletariat, then we cannot explain how these ideas were formulated by Karl Marx at a time when the proletariat was still in its infancy. You will similarly see that the ideas and theories of the bourgeois revolution were developed by men long before the bourgeois revolution, long before the bourgeoisie had become a dominant social force. The ideologists of the bourgeois revolution lived in the atmosphere of feudal society, and themselves belonged to the feudal society. Many of them, subjectively, never broke away from the tradition of feudal culture. A man like Voltaire, for instance, subjectively was a reactionary, Then there is Balzac, a man whose contribution to the history of revolutionary thought is considerable; subjectively, he was a defender of feudal society, aristocratic culture and mediaeval traditions. Yet, nobody has done more to undermine the moral foundation of feudalism. Marx did not go to Moscow to learn his philosophy. He learned his philosophy from Hegel, who is said to be the philosopher of Fascism. How is it that the same Hegel gave birth to Marxism and also to the philosophy of Fascism? In order to understand the historical significance of these facts (there are many more), we shall have to abandon the dogma that ideas are mere super-structure built on established social relations. As against the dogma, the fact is that the so-called bourgeois ideology developed before the establishment of the bourgeois society; the so-called proletarian ideology (Marxism) also preceded the rise of the proletariat. I use the adjective “so called” because there is no such thing as bourgeois ideology or proletarian philosophy. Ideas are the common heritage of mankind. The idea and ideal of a new social order have to be conceived first; then, efforts for building it can begin. You cannot build a house without having an idea in your head. What sort of house do you want to build? A house requires a material foundation composed of bricks and stones and mortar, and it also requires an ideal picture in the brain of the architect. And that brain does not follow the foundation of the house. The brain of the architect precedes the house, just as Voltaire and Balzac preceded bourgeois society, and Karl Marx lived a hundred years before the age of proletarian revolution. Therefore, it is wrong to say that ideas and ideals have no place in Materialism. If that was true, then Materialism could not claim to be a philosophy. If Marxism was devoid of ideas, and spurned ideals, then, it could not inspire efforts for the building up of a new social order.” (Pages: 78- 79, NEW ORIENTATION)
13. Radical Democracy alone can save the world
“The triumph of Radical Democracy is the only hope of the world. Neither Communism nor the old-fashioned democracy can save it. Radical Democracy alone can save the world; therefore, the new faith of revolutionaries, the new hope of mankind must be found in the philosophy of Radicalism. To rescue Marxism from the rut of orthodoxy – call it revision, if you please, words don’t frighten me – has become a historical necessity. Realization of the necessity sets us free; and only spiritually free men can lead the struggle for human freedom.” (Pages: 82- 83, NEW ORIENTATION )
M N Roy
Ajantha Publications (India)
11 00 07.
IV. Human being in focus
1. HUMANISM IS NOT A WORD USED AS FAÇADE BY COWARDS OR AS CAMOUFLAGE FOR SOME HEINOUS PURPOSE
“The human species was born with the most basic and powerful means of production, which was not produced by man, but inherited from his animal ancestry. With the help of that creative weapon, he produced the first non-biological means of production. Man is greater than any means of production, which are his creation. But while settling the fate of humanity, you take into calculation everything except man. That is the defect of Marxism, as of all other forms of philosophy; and it is owing to that defect that the world has come to its present impasse. We propose to free Marxism from its basic fallacy.” (Page – 66, ‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’)
2. HUMAN BRAIN, THE MOST POWERFUL MEANS OF PRODUCTION
“Until the Renaissance, the world was guided by one form of determinism, the belief that everything goes on according to a Providential Will; everything is preordained; men have only to fall in line. The Renaissance was a revolt of man against that fatalistic attitude. But later on, for various other reasons (it will be impossible to go now into that past history in detail), that spirit of the revolt of man was forgotten, although on the foundation of that spirit other forms of social philosophy were created, which, consciously, or unconsciously, resurrected the teleological view.
Just think out what it means that everything is determined by the means of production. Previously, everything in this world was traced to some super-human power. Marx traced it to the means of production. But may we not ask who created the first means of production? What was there originally? Did the first man appear with hammer and sickle in hand? No. But he did come into the world with another means of production, the most powerful ever created. And that was his brain, which was a creation neither of mystic social forces, nor of God. The history of the growth of that instrument of creation, with which man appeared on the scene, is to be traced all the way down the process of the evolution of the higher biological forms. That history finally vanishes into the background of the physical world. The brain is the most powerful means of production: When you talk about means of production, do not forget that. We are all born with it, and it remains our basic asset, provided that we can appreciate its worth and make proper use of it. If you prefer a crude hammer, or even an electric hammer, or something still better, the most modern technological inventions, to your brain, I wish you luck.”(Pages -65, 66;ibid)
3. MARX HAS PLACED HIMSELF ON THE HEAD, LET US PUT HIM ON HIS FEET
“We do not accept the Marxist doctrine that moral values, cultural patterns, aesthetic tastes, are all ideological super-structures of economic relations. They talk of bourgeois art and bourgeois philosophy. If these were super-structures of the economic relations of the bourgeois society, then they are the outcome of capitalism. But what is the fact? What is called bourgeois philosophy, modern idealism, rose before the establishment of the capitalist social order. Karl Marx may have put Hegel on his feet, but he has certainly placed himself on the head. Was he not the prophet of the ideology of the proletariat, which was still to appear on the scene as a dominating factor? He disproved his theory that a particular ideology was the creation of a class which adopted it.” (Page – 70,ibid)
4. INDIVIDUAL AND SOCIETY
“We shall have to begin from man. The doctrine is preached with an air of superiority that the individual is an abstract concept; it is argued that, just as in physics the atom has been found to be an abstraction, just so the individual is the non-existing social atom. The corollary to the doctrine must be that society was created, by some super-human force, as a group, and not by men. But, curiously enough, the collectivists also maintain that man is the maker of his world. So, after all, it is admitted that society is the creation of man. Why did man create society? And how? He did it in course of his struggle for existence. Coming out of the background of biological evolution, the human species start their struggle as individuals. In course of time, they realized that, together, they could carry on the struggle for existence more successfully. That was the origin of society.” (Pages – 87, 88;ibid)
5. FAILURE OF PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY
“Apparently, Fascist dictatorship is more democratic than the communist dictatorship, because its collective ego is the whole nation. Apparently; because, if the nation is at all a democratic concept, then why should there be a national dictatorship? The nation need not dictate itself. The fact, however, is that Fascism, as the highest form of Nationalism, does establish a dictatorial State, which claims to incorporate the collective ego of the nation. Nevertheless, formally, in so far as it claims to represent the entire nation, Fascism is a higher form of democracy than proletarian dictatorship, which admittedly claims to represent only one class. Because of this apparent distinction, when the Fascists also revolted against parliamentary democracy, they captured the imagination of large masses of people in a much shorter time than the Communists.
That is a very tragic fact, which has to be taken into consideration by those who want to find a solution of the crisis of our time. No use shutting our eyes. The Communist manifesto was issued about a hundred years ago. Seventy five years thereafter a revolution on its (pattern took place in one country. As a reaction to that revolution developed Fascism, and within ten years, Fascism swept the whole of Europe. The people followed the Fascists and not the Communists. That is a fact which cannot simply be explained by saying that the Social Democrats were treacherous cowards, so on and so forth. The fact must set us thinking, and if we do think, we must realize that not only parliamentary democracy was a failure, but the Marxist theory of democracy was fallacious, dangerously so. Therefore, it did not have a sufficiently strong appeal for the people.” (Pages – 89, 90;ibid)
6. 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;ibid)
7. THE ANTI-HUMAN NATURE OF COMMUNISM
“Let it be remembered that, whatever function it may perform, under different circumstances, essentially the State is the political organization of society. Therefore, the Marxian Utopia of the State withering away under Communism can never be reached. And if freedom of the individual is possible only in that Utopia, man can never be free. That negation of freedom is logically inherent in the Communist theoretical system. It seems that Marx himself and the early Marxist theoreticians did not think out their thought to the logical consequences. Marx was a humanist, and he formulated his philosophy as a philosophy of freedom. However, if the theory, with all its apostolic fervor and idealistic excellence, remained so very fallacious, it could not convince thinking people. Therefore, something more was added to it; a collective ego was assumed. Society was to be reorganized to promote collective social progress. Communism lost its original merit of a Utopia. A libertarian philosophy provided sanction for the negation of the concept of freedom by denying the very existence of men and women as individuals.” (Page – 86,ibid)
8. HUMAN INDIVIDUAL THE MEASURE
“A free society must be a brotherhood of free individuals, based on the sovereignty of the individual. That is our message. For some time, ours may have been a voice in the wilderness. But to-day it is getting a larger and larger audience. It can no longer be suppressed, nor neglected. It is the voice of resurgent humanity; the powerful voice of Prometheus unbound.” (Page – 102,ibid)
M.N.Roy and Philip Spratt
(First Edition: December,1947
Third Reprint: October,1986)
Ajanta Publications (India),
V. The Riddle of Dialectics!
1. Ideological Statements as Propositions of pure thought
“In the realm of ideas, deductions can be made with mathematical certainty from logically sound premises. It is permissible to test the logical soundness of the premises; but after they have stood the test, deductions made from them are valid, not tentatively, but as conclusively established propositions, provided that the methodology of the process is not fallacious, and the deductions themselves are not self-contradictory.” (Page – 36,‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ )
2. Beware of rigid blue prints of future society
“Only dogmatic defenders of the economic interpretation of history claim to be able to forecast exactly what will happen to humanity in future. I would sound a word of warning against that method of casting the horoscope of mankind. Experience of modern times has proved it to be unreliable. To have anything more than an approximate idea of the future being beyond the reach of human ingenuity, any picture of things to come must necessarily be of the nature of utopia.” (Page – 35,‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ )
3. Materialism is a cosmological concept where as Economic Determinism is applicable only to society
“There seems to be some difference about materialist philosophy itself, I do not think that it can be identified with economic determinism. The latter is applicable only to society and even there it does not explain every aspect of social evolution. The former is a cosmological conception, applicable for explaining the entire scheme of nature, including society.” (Pages – 36, 37;‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ )
4. Beware of Extravagant Empiricism
“I do not think that materialist philosophy justifies the economic interpretation of history. The quintessence of Materialist philosophy is monism. Economic determinism is a dualist conception; therefore, it cannot be deduced from Materialism; much less can the two be identified. The concept of causality must be freed from the fallacy of dualism, if determinism is to withstand the positivist onslaught. Causality must be conceived as a function of the physical and social processes, and proved to be so. If it implies two things, one acting upon the other, there is absolutely no escape from the extravagant empiricism of Bertrand Russell, for instance, who argues that, since nobody can ever see all the crows in the world, ‘all crows are black’. We can defend the proposition against pan-empiricism only be proving that a certain biological organism, by virtue of its own structure, produces black feathers. So long as a bird is constructed as a crow is constructed, it must be black. Causality is not an empirical, but a logical concept. Economic determinism cannot be established either empirically or logically.” (Pages – 41, 42;‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ )
5. Dialectics ceases to operate !!!
“A classless society will be stagnant. Because, according to Marxism, class struggle is the lever of all progress. In a classless society, the dialectics of history will cease to operate; progress will come to a standstill; humanity will die, Marxism, as understood and expounded by its dogmatic apostles as the last word of wisdom, the final truth, is thus not the philosophy of freedom, but a sentence of death for mankind. In theory, economic determinism logically leads to such an absurd conclusion. In practice, it becomes a negation of the Marxist utopia. The State does not wither away under Communism. Since the State, particularly as a dictatorship, is an instrument for the suppression of all forces discordant with the established order, its not withering away under Communism proves that economic relations do not constitute the whole of human life, or that even under Communism they are not equitable. In either case, the economic interpretation of history is proved to be false; and a scheme of political practice and social reconstruction elaborated with that false philosophical sanction, can no longer serve the purpose of the struggle for freedom.” (Page – 42;‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ )
6. For an appropriate nomenclature
“Materialism has been so badly misinterpreted and vulgarized by its protagonists that, as soon as you say that you are a materialist, you are taken for a man without morals, without principles, a Jesuit and a cut-throat. From that point of view, the apprehension regarding the declaration of our adhesion to Materialism is quite well-founded, and if we modify the term, the apprehended reaction may be obviated. As regards the substitution of the term Materialism by another, I have been thinking about it for many years. Strictly speaking, the term has lost its meaning. It makes a wrong impression. But it has not been possible to find a more appropriate term. Terms like Monistic Naturalism or Physical Realism may be considered. But then we shall have to write an essay to make people understand. In the beginning, it may create more confusion. The communists will say we are dishonest, that we reject Materialism, but do not dare to say so. Others will think that we still remain materialists, but have not the courage to say so, and are only trying to insinuate ourselves into their favour.” (Pages – 28, 29;‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ )
7. 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, everyone 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 any one 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, 47, 48;‘BEYOND COMMUNISM’ ).
M.N.Roy and Philip Spratt
(First Edition: December,1947
Third Reprint: October,1986)
Ajanta Publications (India),