A Rational Critique of Marxism and Communism -II
IX. Selected from the book: ‘Reason, Romanticism and Revolution’
1. “To attach class labels to ideas is evidently a false practice. Ideas are created by men, and as such belong to the entire race, and not to any particular class. They are, of course, not static; from the dawn of civilization they have been in a continuous process of evolution, having been influenced by the natural and social conditions under which various human communities and classes lived in different parts of the world, in different epochs of history. But ideas have their autonomy and a logic which is not dialectical, but dynamic. Therefore, political doctrines of the bourgeois revolution, theories of the classical capitalist economics and the principles of the Hegelian philosophy could all go into the making of Marxism which called itself the ideology of the proletariat, but the positive elements of which will survive the proletarian revolution. Marxism was not a negation, nor a negation of a negation, of the older ideas that it took over. Without those ideas there could be no Marxism. Therefore, the laws of the dynamics of ideas cannot be called dialectical.” (Pages:399, 400)
2. “As against the “utopia” of the forerunners of Socialism, Marx offered his “scientific Socialism. He criticized his predecessors because they had no knowledge of the proletariat; that they built out of their imagination fantastic pictures of a new social order that they appealed to morality; that, in short, they did not have a philosophy of history. An unbiased study of the pre-Marxian history of socialist thought shows that some of the charges against the Utopians were simply unfounded. As regards the charge of appealing to morality, they were guilty, but only from the Marxist point of view. For rejecting that appeal, Marxism was doomed to betray its professed ideas and ideals. The contention that “from the scientific point of view, this appeal to morality and justice does not help us an inch farther”, was based upon a false notion of science.” (Page: 405)
3. “Marx distinguished himself from his predecessors by declaring that he wanted to proceed scientifically; nothing was to be taken for granted or deduced from preconceived notions. He would make inferences only from the empirical laws of social evolution and forces of modern society. He proposed to prove that Socialism was bound to come, as a “necessary product of historical development”. The “evolutionary laws of history”, which enabled him to found scientific Socialism and predict the inevitable advent of Communism, was the Hegelian notion of progress through conflict. It was certainly not an empirical law; it was a preconceived notion; and Scientific Socialism was derived from it. As a notion, it belonged to idealist philosophy, even when Marx’s imagination put it on its feet. The result was that “the picture given at the end of Capital, Vol.1, answers to a conception arrived at by speculative Socialism in the forties.” The picture conjured up in the Communist Manifesto is much more so. Marx had not yet hit upon his master-key of economic determinism. Later on, to elaborate the philosophical presuppositions of Marxism, Engels wrote that a particular economic phenomenon had already ceased to exist “when the moral consciousness of the masses declares it to be wrong.” The idealism of the dialectic method cannot be suppressed. Moral consciousness is not an economic force. And Marxism, in so far as it was true to the tradition of man’s age long struggle for freedom, could not get away from the appeal to morality. Its historical significance lies in that fact. But the much vaunted historical sense failed Marx when he ridiculed his predecessors, and believed himself to be a prophet of immaculate conception, possessed of the light of revelation.” (Page: 406)
4. “The error, if not insincerity, of Marx’s rejection of the earlier socialist thought is proved by the fact that his whole fight against the German philosophical Radicals, who called themselves “true Socialists”, was a defence of the utopianism of the French Socialists. The German Socialists, whom the founder of scientific Socialism vehemently combated, characterized pre-Marxian Communism as utopian and maintained that, as against the empiricism of the French and English social reformers or revolutionaries, they reached Socialism scientifically.” (Page:407)
5. “In the same article, in which for the first time Marx advanced the theory of the inevitability of the collapse of the capitalist order and the advent of Socialism, he also for the first time advocated armed revolution for the overthrow of the established State and the social system. So, at its very conception, Marxism was self contradictory. If the decay and disappearance of any social system was inevitable, a violent revolution for its overthrow was palpably unwarranted. Conversely, if the change had to be brought about by force, it was not inevitable. Because it could be prevented by the use of superior force.”(Page:409)
6. “Trying to combine rationalism, the view that history is a determined process, with the romantic view of life which declares the freedom of will, Marxist historiology contradicts itself. Not that the two cannot be combined; they are combined in Hegel’s dialectics. The notion of progress is a product of reason and romanticism. Nature is a rational system; so is society, because it is a part of nature, social evolution being a continuation of biological evolution. If the mechanistic view is not to be tampered with, then neither a dues ex machina should be allowed to wind up the clock of the evolution of the physical Universe, nor any conscious effort of man is to influence the unfolding of social forces. And the mechanistic view of the physical, biological and social evolutions is the very essence of Materialism.” (Pages:409, 410)
7. “The recognition of the decisive role played by thinking man, that is to say, by ideas, in historical processes, runs counter neither to the rationalist notion of progress nor to the mechanistic view of evolution. The harmony between the rationalist conception of progress and the romantic idea of revolution also takes place in the materialist philosophy, which is not a negation of Idealism, but absorbs and goes beyond by tracing the roots of ideas in the rational scheme of nature. The thinking man acts upon the process of social evolution not as a dues ex machine; he is an integral part of the process. The human brain is also a means of production – of ideas, which motivate action to create history.
These philosophical implications of Marxism were not clearly thought out by its founders. Therefore, the Marxist view of history is vitiated by the contradiction between rationalism and the romantic notion of revolution. With his rationalism, which is the essence of materialist philosophy, Marx was a Humanist, and as such a romanticist. He combined, as Heinemann wrote, “the righteous fury of the great seers of his race, with the cold analytical power of Spinoza.” A different personality could not be the prophet of revolution; because, any successful revolution is conditional on a combination of thought and action inspired by a harmony of rationalism and the romantic view of life.
The harmony is in the thesis that “philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” This basic doctrine of the Marxist philosophy of revolution is a legacy of Renaissance Humanism, which saw the relation between history and philosophy. Inspired by the humanist tradition, Bacon in his Advancement of Learning emphasized on the necessity of shifting importance from precept to application, from theory to practice, from philosophy to history. Bacon, at the same time, was a rationalist, the exponent of inductive logic, which made Newtonian mechanistic natural philosophy possible. Inspired by Bacon’s humanist approach to history, Vico’s Scienza Nuova unfolded the romatic vista of humanity creating itself. The relation that connects Marx and Bacon can be traced backward through earlier phases in the history of philosophy.” (Pages : 410, 411)
8. “Dialectics is a rationalist notion; dialectical Materialism, therefore, is a rationalist notion and a rationalist philosophy. On the other hand, the appeal to violence, being an echo of the last phase of the Great Revolution, is a romantic extravagance. The two aspects of Marxism thus stand in the relation of thesis and antithesis. The synthesis is the statement that “by changing the world, man changes himself”. In other words, man’s ability to change the world, to expedite evolution through revolution, and the moral right to do so, result from the fact that man is a part of nature, which is a ceaseless process of change, a dialectic process, in the Hegelian language. But the world is greater than the greatest of men; and will always be so. Therefore, man’s ability to change it is limited by the axiom that the whole is greater than its part. By disregarding this self-evident truth, revolutionary activism becomes irrational and runs up against the law of nature and the nature of man. Then, revolution only mars the salutary and uninterrupted progress instead of being truly beneficial for mankind, as Godwin warned.” (Pages:412, 413)
9. “Owing to the Hegelian association of his adolescence, Marx himself was not sufficiently aware of his spiritual ancestry. Under the influence of the Hegelian dialectics, he rejected eighteenth century Materialism as mechanical. At the same time, he disowned the humanist tradition of the earlier advocates of social justice, ridiculing them as Utopians. Though he thus believed that he was beginning from scratch, as the founder of a new philosophy and the prophet of revolution, Marx belonged to the intellectual lineage of Democritus, Epicurus, Lucretius, Bruno, Gassendi, Hobbes, Holbach, Diderot and Feuerbach, to mention only the most illustrious of them. His place in the history of philosophy, therefore, is no less significant and honourable than any one of his forerunners. Indeed, his contribution to the cause of human freedom was greater, because he had the advantage of living in an age when scientific knowledge could throw light on the old problems of philosophy.
To be able to offer a rational explanation of the world of experience, and to avoid the pitfalls of mysticism, philosophy must be monistic; monistic metaphysics does not preclude pluralism in the process of becoming; and only a materialist metaphysic (irrespective of the change in the concept of matter in physics) can be strictly monistic. Marx’s proposition that consciousness is determined by being placed materialist metaphysics on a sound scientific foundation. His subsequent thought, particularly sociological, however, did not move in the direction indicated by the significant point of departure. Marxism, on the whole, is not true to its philosophical tradition. In sociology, it vulgarizes Materialism to the extent of denying that basic moral values transcend space and time. With the impersonal concept of the forces of production, it introduces teleology in history, crassly contradicting its own belief that man is the maker of his destiny. The economic determinism of its historiology blasts the foundation of human freedom, because it precludes the possibility of man ever becoming free as an individual. Yet, contemporary sociological thinking has been considerably influenced by the fallacious and erroneous doctrines of Marxism which do not logically follow from its philosophy.
In addition to the accumulated achievements of the agelong struggle of metaphysics against dualism, philosophically, Marxism inherited also the liberating tradition of Humanism. The two apparently conflicting trends of thought – mechanistic naturalism and romantic Humanism – harmonized in Feuerbach, who therefore could throw off the Hegelian influence more completely than Marx. Nevertheless, in Feuerbach’s materialist Humanism, man remains an abstraction, veiled in mystery, an elementary, indefinable category, as simply given, to be taken for granted. The fiery prophet of social justice in Marx was more a Humanist than a Hegelian. But his critical mind did not miss the weakness of Feuerbach’s Humanism and realized the necessity of explaining the being and becoming of man, if his sovereignty as the maker of his destiny was to be empirically established. It was in search of a rational foundation of the humanist view of life that Marx under took his analytical study of history. At the same time, anthropology had discovered that the struggle for physical existence was the basic human urge – a biological heritage. Marx identified the primitive man’s intelligent effort to earn a livelihood with the biological struggle for existence, and came to the conclusion that the origin of society and subsequent human development were economically motivated. The point of departure of the Marxist historiology was the mistake of confounding physical urge with economic motive.” (Pages:418, 419)
10. “For a considerable time after the origin of the species, homo sapiens were not moved by any economic motive, but by the biological urge of self-preservation. He earned the means of subsistence, and for the purpose devised primitive tools out of sheer physical necessity. Anthropological research does not show any economic motive in the human struggle for existence in the earlier stages of social evolution. What it does show is that the struggle for physical existence provides stimuli for mental development. Consciousness and other rudiments of mind are a biological heritage antecedent to the appearance of homo sapiens. Thus, further evolution is determined by the physical conditions of the being and becoming of man. But economic determinism of history from the origin of society cannot be logically deduced from that fact. In other words, economic determinism is not a corollary to Materialism. Moreover, it is antagonistic to Humanism, because it subordinates man to the inexorable operation of the impersonal forces of production. In an economically determined society, man is not a producer, but a means of production.” (Pages:419, 420)
11. “Marx’s effort to place Feuerbach’s materialist Humanism on a rational foundation led to the exactly contrary consequence. Feuerbach’s mystic abstraction was replaced by an economic automation; and the abstract conception was transferred from the debased man to society, which was endowed with a collective ego.” (Page:420)
12. “Marx’s failure to work out a sociology consistent with materialist philosophy was due to his passion for social justice, inherited from his humanist predecessors, though he disdained them as Utopians. Marx, however, was not the dry-hearted mathematical prophet of history, as he has been celebrated by his followers, and as he might have believed himself to be. With a burning faith in revolution, he was a romanticist and as such a Humanist. The idea of revolution is a romantic idea, because it presupposes man’s power to remake the world in which he lives. If purposeful human effort is left out of account, social development becomes a mechanistic evolutionary process, making no room for sudden great changes and occasionally accelerated tempo. As the prophet of revolution, Marx was a romanticist. He proclaimed his faith in the creativeness of man which, accelerating the process of evolution, brought about revolutions. Marx being a Humanist, the force of his theory of revolution was its moral appeal. Even his critics, who do not depart from objectivity, honour Marx for a passionate search for truth and intellectual honesty. Without a moral fervor of the highest degree, without an intense dislike for injustice, he could not undertake the lone fight to improve the lot of the oppressed and exploited.” (Page:420)
13. “In the absence of an adequate knowledge about the origin of life, in the past, Humanism could not be placed on a rational foundation. The advance of scientific knowledge since the middle of the nineteenth century, while compelling certain revisions of mechanistic cosmology and materialist metaphysics, contributed to the triumph of rationalist Humanism. The fact that life is found to be associated with dead matter in a particular state of organization connects man, through the long process of biological evolution, with the background of the physical Universe. The supreme importance of man results from the fact that in him the physical process of becoming has reached the highest pitch so far. Humanism thus ceases to be a mystic and poetic view of life. Based on scientific knowledge, it can be integrated in the materialist general philosophy, and the latter, then, can be the foundation of a sociology which makes room for human creativeness and individual liberty without denying determinism; which reconciles reason with will; which shows that cooperation and organization need not stifle the urge for freedom. Harmonised with Humanism, materialist philosophy can have an ethics whose values require no other sanction than man’s innate rationality.”(Page:421)
‘Reason, Romanticism And Revolution’
Ajanta Publications India,
X. Selected from the book: ‘Reason, Romanticism and Revolution’
1. “The historical significance of Marxism is that it was an attempt to harmonise the rationalist and the romantic views of life, which clashed at the time of the French Revolution and had pulled the subsequent intellectual and cultural history of Europe in two contarary directions. The harmony was latent in the Hegelian system, which incorporated the traditions of the Reformation, classical rationalism, eighteenth century enlightenment, and also Rosseau’s romanticism. Fuerbach’s Humanism and the philosophical Radicalism of his followers also tended to harmonise the rationalist and romantic views of life. Nevertheless, Marx combated these latter schools because they rejected dialectics as an idealistic, teleological conception not compatible with the ideal of freedom.”(Pages:392, 393)
2. “Although in the last analysis Marx rejected eighteenth century Materialism on the authority of Hegel, he did make an effort to criticize the philosophy of sensation. He held that mind was not a tabula rasa, passively receiving impressions; that sensations and perceptions were interactions of the subject and the object. In holding this view, Marx anticipated subsequent clarification of the problem of cognition in the light of biology, particularly physiology and psychology. The object is transformed in the process of being known; knowledge results from the subject action upon the object. The emphasis is on action which practically rules out pure thought as an instrument for acquiring knowledge and discovering truths. Consequently, the foundation of Marxist Materialism is not matter, as conceived by science and philosophy ever since the time of Democritus; it is man’s relation with matter, Again, an essentially idealistic position!”(page:395)
3. “By laying too much emphasis on revolutionary action, Marxism tipped the scale on the side of irrationalism, to degenerate eventually into a faith. At the same time, the Marxian theory of revolution is cynical. Its basic dogma is that human beings are never motivated by moral impulses. By rejecting the belief that human nature by itself is sufficient cause for the endless progress of mankind, it declared that revolutionary action by determined minorities was the decisive factor of history. The Marxian interpretation of history and theory of revolution, thus, create the cult of supermen (the revolutionary vanguard of the proletariat organized in the party), and opens up the perspective of dictatorship as the alternative to democracy.” (Page:413)
4. “The philosophical significance of Marxism is that it offered a solution of the problem of dualism which had vitiated philosophy, ever since the speculations of the ancient forerunners of science about the origin of the world were overwhelmed by metaphysical assumptions. In course of time the world was split up into two – one of mind and the other of matter; and ultimately, in the Cartesian system, philosophy came to the conclusion that there was no bridge over the gulf between the two. The corollary to the conclusion was doubt about the objective validity of knowledge acquired through the senses and denial of the reality of the physical world. Philosophy being the love of knowledge, by coming to the conclusion that knowledge is impossible, it committed suicide.”(Page:416)
5. “Matter as a conceptual metaphysical category is the ultimate reality, capable of producing life. Consciousness, cognition, mind, ideas follow in course of biological evolution. The world of experience as a whole is real; transcendental reality is a figment of imagination. Mind as well as matter, the physical world as well as the world of thought and ideas, are equally real. But philosophy must have a realistic scientific understanding of their relation. Marx’s contribution to this understanding won for him an outstanding place, in the history of philosophy.”Page:417)
6. “In the beginning, Marxism tended towards a harmony of reason and romanticism. Had it developed consistently with its original philosophical premises, which implied that the laws of social evolution did not preclude the freedom of human will and endeavour, Marxism might have rescued the idea of revolution from its traditional association with the romantic extravagance of zealots and the orgy of violence let loose by willful minorities; it might have promoted a scientific humanist movement as heralded by Feuerbach and his followers, known as the German Philosophical Radicals. But the lure of a short-cut on the model of the Great Revolution induced Marx to go at a tangent, to become the fiery prophet of the coming revolution which would place the proletariat in power. He left the high-road of the rational and humanist thought built by generations of fighters for the spiritual and social liberation of man ever since the Renaissance, to sponsor a revolutionary movement which, guided by a self-contradictory theory, was bound to run into a blind alley. The Marxist neo-romanticism merged man into the masses and ascribed mystic powers to the latter.”(Page:425)
7. “The philosophical reaction heralded by the Reformation, unwittingly helped by British empiricism and finally ushered in by Rousseau, reached its apotheosis in Schopenhauer. “In one form or another, the doctrine that Will is paramount has been held by many modern philosophers, notably Nietzsche, Bergson, James and Dewey. And in proportion as Will had gone up in the scale, knowledge has gone down. This is the most notable change that has come over the temper of philosophy in our age. It was prepared by Rousseau and Kant, but was first proclaimed in its purity by Schopenhauer.”(Page:440)
8. “Fascism and Communism both claimed the historical missioin of building a new civilization, one on the ruins, and the other on the basis of the positive achievements of the nineteenth century. Either of them could, therefore, find in Nietzsche support for its doctrine and practice. But the Dionysian role on Nietzsche was predominating; his condemnation of modern civilization appeared to be so very sweeping that the Fascists monopolized him as their philosopher. But if Nietzsche was against Socialism, he was even more hostile to Nationalism. Nietzsche’s Superman was the “good European”, embodiment of all the intellectual, cultural and moral values of modern civilization which the Fascists proposed to destroy as decadent and foreign to the German spirit. The Nazis vulgarized the nietzschean idea of “Beyond good and Evil” to justify their negation of morality. But Nietzsche distinguished bad from evil. The idea was a declaration of revolt against the conventional meanings of the terms and the “salve morality” which it sanctioned. While ridiculing the idea of evil, he evidently had Schopenhauer’s philosophy in mind. Moreover, it would also be a plausible interpretation of the famous Nietzshean doctrine that good and evil stood for God and the devil, between which tow equally powerful imaginary rulers of his destiny, man was reduced to a position of utter helplessness. The archetype of Nietzsche’s Superman was presumably Goethe’s Mephistopheles, the cynical philosopher laughing at the hypocrisy of the man who had neither the courage to be bad nor the strength to be good. The doctrine of the eternity of the dual principles of good and evil must have attracted Neitzsche to the religion of the Magis. Since God was the embodiment of both the principles, it logically follows that spiritual freedom lay beyond good and evil.”(Pages:442,443)
9. “Nietzsche closed an epoch, and stood at the gates of a new one, which was destined to be dominated by two apparently, antagonistic movements. Both drew inspiration from him; the Fascists hailed him as their philosopher for his glorification of irrationalism and the cult of the hero; the Communists took from him lessons in cynicism, brutality and moral nihilism. And Nietzsche’s philosophy was not economically determined.
The aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy which could serve the purpose of Fascism were given a fantastic form by Stefan George and his followers. They declared that the entire European history since the age of Socrates was “the tragedy of the triumph of the intellect”. The Apollonian era must now be followed by a new Dyonisian one, which will dream of a cosmic cataclysm. In human relations, complete subordination and passionate devotion to the superman should replace the farce of democracy and corrupting and devitalizing intellectual pretensions. Stefan George sang the ode to the coming leader. “Plough over our bodies, and nobody will ever call you to account. “Unknown until the first world war, he sprang into fame as the poet-philosopher of the Nazi movement, and he had drawn inspiration from Nietzsche.
Fascism as well as Communism thus was the concrete outcome of the philosophical reaction which, reinforced by the “crisis of the physical theories”, led to the orgy of irrationalism in the beginning of the twentieth century.”(Pages:444, 445)
10. “With their faith in the Marxian determinist view of nature and history, Communists might appear to be rationalists. But the dogmatic assertion of determinism itself was a negation of reason. It amounted to a blind faith. Moreover, irrespective of the nature of that theory, in practice their appeal was exclusively emotional, the object being to promote a blind faith in the mystic power of the masses, and in the infallibility of the revolutionary vanguard, of the working class, that is, themselves and their party. The Communists were no less contemptuous of the liberal tradition and democratic practice of the nineteenth century than the Fascists. Both stood for collectivism, totalitarian regimentation and dictatorship. Both were equally cynical about morality; and both preached the cult of leadership. The ideological difference was superficial. The struggle between the two which all but destroyed the civilized world, was exclusively for power to dominate the world.”(Page: 445)
11. Marx’s failure to work out a sociology consistent with materialist philosophy was due to his passion for social justice, inherited from his humanist predecessors, though he disdained them as Utopians. Marx, however, was not the dry-hearted mathematical prophet of history, as he has been celebrated by his followers, and as he might have believed himself to be. With a burning faith in revolution, he was a romanticist and as such a Humanist. The idea of revolution is a romantic idea, because it presupposes man’s power to remake the world in which he lives. If purposeful human effort is left out of account, social development becomes a mechanistic evolutionary process, making no room for sudden great changes and occasionally accelerated tempo. As the prophet of revolution, Marx was a romanticist. He proclaimed his faith in the creativeness of man which, accelerating the process of evolution, brought about revolutions. Marx being a Humanist, the force of his theory of revolution was its moral appeal. Even his critics, who do not depart from objectivity, honour Marx for a passionate search for truth and intellectual honesty. Without a moral fervor of the highest degree, without an intense dislike for injustice, he could not undertake the lone fight to improve the lot of the oppressed and exploited.
One of the most impassioned fighters against cant and hypocrisy, Marx was a great moralist in the tradition of the ancient prophets of his race. His merciless exposition of the essence of capitalism was a severe moral condemnation. In the last analysis, Capital is a treatise on social ethics – a powerful protest against the servitude of the toiling majority. It may be presumed that Marx abstained deliberately from making the moral appeal of his economic theories explicit, because he hated the cant of the sanctimonious defenders of the established order of inequity. Nevertheless, it was as a moralist that he influenced history. Only his orthodox followers seem to be immune to that influence.
Marx talked of Socialism as “the kingdom of freedom”, where man will be the master of his social environments. One who preached such a humanist doctrine could not be a worshipper at the shrine of an exacting collective ego, even of the proletariat. According to Marx, under Socialism human reason will overcome irrational forces which now tyrannise the life of man; as a rational being, man will control his destiny. Freed from the fallacy of economic determinism, the humanist, libertarian, moralist spirit of Marxism will go into the making of a new faith of our time. It is a part of the accumulated store of human heritage, which must be claimed by the builders of the future, who will not belong to any particular class.” (Pages:420,421)
12. “The positive elements of Marxism, freed from its fallacies and clarified in the light of greater scientific knowledge, are consistent with a more comprehensive philosophy, which can be called Integral or Radical Humanism: a philosophy which combines mechanistic cosmology, materialist metaphysics, secular rationalism and rationalist ethics to satisfy man’s urge for freedom and quest for truth, and also to guide his future action in pursuit of the ideals.”(Pages:421,422)
‘Reason Romanticism and Revolution’
Ajanta Books International,
I – UB, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 110 007
XI. RADICAL HUMANIST PHILOSOPHY IN 22 THESES
[M.N. Roy was never a mere critic. As a philosopher – revolutionary he was bold enough to suggest alternatives and travel through un-trodden paths. He had the intellectual acumen and moral integrity to suggest alternatives. It is proposed to present ‘The Principles of Radical Democracy’ (widely known as ‘The Twenty-two Theses of Radical Humanism’) below. One thesis (No. 19) has since been modified. The revised version is the one included here. The thesis (No.19), originally adopted by the Third All-India Conference of the Radical Democratic Party held in Bombay from December 26th to 30th , 1946 is given at the end separately.]
The Twenty-two Theses of Radical Humanism
Man is the archetype of society. Co-operative social relationships contribute to develop individual potentialities. But the development of the individual is the measure of social progress. Collectivity presupposes the existence of individuals. Except as the sum total of freedom and well-being, actually enjoyed by individuals, social liberation and progress are imaginary ideals, which are never attained. Well-being, if it is actual, is enjoyed by individuals. It is wrong to ascribe a collective ego to any form of community (viz. nation, class etc.), as that practice means sacrifice of the individual. Collective well-being is a function of the well-being of individuals.
Quest for freedom and search for truth constitute the basic urge of human progress. The quest for freedom is the continuation, on a higher level – of intelligence and emotion – of the biological struggle for existence. The search for truth is a corollary thereof. Increasing knowledge of nature enables man to be progressively free from the tyranny of natural phenomena, and physical and social environments. Truth is the content of knowledge.
The purpose of all rational human endeavour, individual as well as collective, is attainment of freedom, in ever increasing measure. Freedom is progressive disappearance of all restrictions on the unfolding of the potentialities of individuals, as human beings, and not as cogs in the wheels of a mechanized social organism. The position of the individual, therefore, is the measure of the progressive and liberating significance of any collective effort or social organization. The success of any collective endeavour is to be measured by the actual benefit for its constituent units.
Rising out of the background of the law-governed physical nature, the human being is essentially rational. Reason being a biological property, it is not the antithesis of will. Intelligence and emotion can be reduced to a common biological denominator. Historical determinism, therefore, does not exclude freedom of will. As a matter of fact, human will is the most powerful determining factor. Otherwise, there would be no room for revolutions in a rationally determined process of history. The rational and scientific concept of determinism is not to be confused with the teleological or religious doctrine of predestination.
The economic interpretation of history is deduced from a wrong interpretation of materialism. It implies dualism, whereas materialism is a monistic philosophy. History is a determined process: but there are more than one causative factors. Human will is one of them, and it cannot always be referred directly to any economic incentive.
Ideation is a physiological process resulting from the awareness of environment. But once they are formed, ideas exist by themselves, governed by their own laws. The dynamics of ideas run parallel to the process of social evolution, the two influencing each other mutually. But in no particular point of the process of the integral human evolution, can a direct causal relation be established between historical events and the movement of ideas (‘ideas’ is here used in the common philosophical sense of ideology or system of ideas). Cultural patterns and ethical values are not mere ideological superstructures of established economic relations. They are also historically determined – by the logic of the history of ideas.
For creating a new world of freedom, revolution must go beyond an economic reorganization of society. Freedom does not necessarily follow from the capture of political power in the name of the oppressed and exploited classes and abolition of private property in the means of production.
Communism or socialism may conceivably be the means for the attainment of the goal of freedom. How far it can serve the purpose, must be judged by experience. A political system and an economic experiment, which subordinate the man of flesh and blood to an imaginary collective ego, be it the nation or a class, cannot possibly be the suitable means for the attainment of the goal of freedom. On the one hand, it is absurd to argue that negation of freedom will lead to freedom, and, on the other hand, it is not freedom to sacrifice the individual at the altar of an imaginary collective ego. Any social philosophy or scheme of social reconstruction, which does not recognize the sovereignty of the individual, and dismiss the ideal of freedom as an empty abstraction, can have no more than a very limited progressive and revolutionary significance.
The state being the political organization of society, it’s withering away under communism is a utopia which has been exploded by experience. Planned economy as the basis of socialized industries presupposes a powerful political machinery. Democratic control of that machinery alone can guarantee freedom under the new order. Planning of production for use is possible on the basis of political democracy and individual freedom.
State ownership and planned economy do not by themselves end exploitation of labour: nor do they necessarily lead to an equal distribution of wealth. Economic democracy is no more possible in the absence of political democracy than the latter is in the absence of the former.
Dictatorship tends to perpetuate itself. Planned economy under political dictatorship disregards individual freedom on the pleas of efficiency, collective effort and social progress. Consequently, a higher form of democracy in the socialist society, as it is conceived at present, becomes an impossibility. Dictatorship defeats its professed end.
The defects of formal parliamentary democracy have also been exposed in experience. They result from the delegation of power. To make democracy effective, power must always remain vested in the people, and there must be ways and means for the people to wield the sovereign power effectively, not periodically, but from day to day. Atomised individual citizens are powerless for all practical purposes, and most of the time. They have no means to exercise their sovereignty and to wield a standing control of the State machinery.
Liberalism is falsified or parodied under formal parliamentary democracy. The doctrine of laissez faire only provides the legal sanction to the exploitation of man by man. The concept of economic man negativates the liberating doctrine of individualism. The economic man is bound to be slave or a slave holder. The vulgar concept must be replaced by the reality of an instinctively rational being who is moral because he is rational. Morality is an appeal to conscience, and conscience is the instinctive awareness of, and reaction to, environment. It is a mechanistic biological function on the level of consciousness. Therefore, it is rational.
The alternative to parliamentary democracy is not dictatorship; it is organized democracy, in the place of the formal democracy of powerless atomized individual citizens. The parliament should be the apex of a pyramidal structure of the State reared on the base of an organized democracy composed of a countrywide network of people’s committees. The political organization of society (the State) will be coincident with the entire society, and consequently the State will be under a standing democratic control.
The function of a revolutionary and liberating social philosophy is to lay emphasis on the basic fact of history that man is the maker of his world – man as a thinking being, and he can be so only as an individual. The brain is a means of production, and produces the most revolutionary commodity. Revolutions presuppose iconoclastic ideas. An increasingly large number of men, conscious of their creative power, motivated by the indomitable will to remake the world, moved by the adventure of ideas, and fired with the ideal of a free society of free men, can create the conditions under which democracy will be possible.
The method and programme of social revolution must be based on a reassertion of the basic principle of social progress. A social renaissance can come only through determined and wide-spread endeavour to educate the people as regards the principles of freedom and rational co-operative living. The people will be organized into effective democratic bodies to build up the socio-political foundation of the post-revolutionary order. Social revolution requires in rapidly increasing number, men of new renaissance, and a rapidly expanding system of people’s committees: and an organic co-ordination of both. The programme of revolution will similarly be based on the principle of freedom, reason, and social harmony. It will mean elimination of every form of monopoly and vested interest in the regulation of social life.
Radical democracy presupposes economic reorganization of society so as to eliminate the possibility of exploitation of man by man. Progressive satisfaction of material necessities is the precondition for the individual members of society unfolding their intellectual and other finer human potentialities. An economic reorganization, such as will guarantee a progressively rising standard of living, is the foundation of the radical democratic state. Economic liberation of the masses is an essential condition for their advancing towards the goal of freedom.
The economy of the new social order will be based on production for use and distribution with reference to human needs. Its political organization excludes delegation of power, which in practice deprives the people of effective power; it will be based on the direct participation of the entire population through the people’s committees. Its culture will be based on universal dissemination of knowledge and on minimum control and maximum scope for, and incentive to, scientific and creative activities. The new society, being founded on reason and science, will necessarily be planned. But it will be planning with the freedom of the individual as its main purpose. The new society will be democratic – politically, economically as well as culturally. Consequently, it will be a democracy which can defend itself.
The ideal of democracy will be attained through the collective efforts of spiritually freemen united in the determination of creating a world of freedom. They will function as the guides, friends and philosophers of the people rather than as their would-be rulers. Consistently with the goal of freedom, their political practice will be rational and therefore ethical. Their effort will be reinforced by the growth of the people’s will to freedom. Ultimately, the radical democratic state will rise with the support of enlightened public opinion as well as intelligent action of the people. Realising that freedom is inconsistent with concentration of power, radical democrats will aim at the widest diffusion of power.
In the last analysis, education of the citizens is the condition for such a reorganization of society as will be conducive to common progress and prosperity without encroaching upon the freedom of the individual. The people’s committees will be the schools for the political and civic education of the citizen. The structure and function of the radical democratic state will enable detached individuals to come to the forefront of public affairs. Manned with such individuals the State machinery will cease to be the instrument in the hands of any particular class to coerce others. Only spiritually free individuals in power can smash all chains of slavery and usher in freedom for all.
Radicalism integrates science into social organization and reconciles individuality with collective life; it gives to freedom a moral, intellectual as well as a social content: It offers a comprehensive theory of social progress in which both the dialectics of economic determinism and dynamics of ideas find their due recognition; and it deduces from the same a method and a programme of social revolution in our time.
Radicalism starts from the dictum that “Man is the measure of everything” (Protagoras) or “Man is the root of mankind” (Marx), and advocates reconstruction of the world as a commonwealth and fraternity of free men, by the collective endeavour of spiritually emancipated moral men.
Thesis Nineteen before revision:
The ideal of Radical Democracy will be attained through the collective efforts of spiritually free men united in a political party with the determination of creating a world of freedom. The members of the party will function as the guides, friends and philosophers of the people rather than their would be rulers. Consistently with the goal of freedom the political practice of the party will be rational and, therefore, ethical. The party will grow with the growth of the peoples’ will to freedom, and come to power with the support of enlightened public opinion, as well as intelligent action of the people. Realising that freedom is inconsistent with concentration of power, its aim will be the widest diffusion of power. It’s success in attaining political power will only be a stage in that process, and, by the logic of its own existence, the party will utilize political power for its further diffusion until the State becomes co-terminus with the entire society.”