A Rational Critique of Marxism and Communism – XVI
[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.”