BUNCH OF THOUGHTS
Birth of Democracy as a reaction The evil of Capitalism Next reaction, Communism Falsity of its prophecy and promise, ex: Russia Both theories shifting from original stand Both stemming from materialism Failure as a theory Wrong concept of equality Our view of individual and society Man, not system, important. ,
After the British have left our country we are faced with the problem of deciding the right pattern for our future national reconstruction. There are two major patterns of social set-up which are in vogue in the modern world.
Fate of First Reaction
One, the older of the two, is called Democracy. It originated as a reaction to the unbridled monarchy in the countries of Europe. The individual was then a mere serf, devoid of all initiative and freedom, just a toy in the hands of the divine kings. People rose in revolt, overthrew the divine right of kingship and smashed the power of monarchy for all time. The inspiring slogan of liberty, equality and fraternity was on the lips of everybody. It was loudly trumpeted from housetops that the long dark night of slavery and tyranny had finally ended and a new era of individual freedom, sanctity of the individual rights and equality of opportunity for all had dawned.
But, by about the same time, the age of machine also had set in. Industries had begun to flourish. Science and technology had begun helping industrialists to set up bigger and bigger plants. Millions of labourers were employed in those engines of mass production. Under the slogan of equality of opportunity persons with greater intelligence and wealth monopolised all those new avenues of production of wealth and became the unchallenged financial overlords. On the strength of their overwhelming power of money they even captured the political machinery. And the common people were left high and dry, except for a solitary political right to vote, which too they were not free to use under the oppressive economic conditions.
Thus the high-sounding concept of individual freedom only meant the freedom of those talented few to exploit the rest of the common people and reduce them to abject serfdom. The horrible conditions of the labourers -men, women and even children working in those factories defied all description. They were now groaning under the heels of the new tyrants in place of the old.
Tragedy of Second Reaction
It was at this stage that Communism came up as a reaction against the new tyranny of Capitalism. Communism started with the assumption that industrial revolution was bound to result in dire economic disparity, giving rise to two classes, the haves(Capitalists) and the have-nots (Proletariat, i.e., working class). There would, therefore, ensue a class * Talk delivered at Bangalore on 2nd November 1949.
conflict in which, they again assumed, the proletariat would come out victorious. After that, there would be an end to the misery of the masses as the state, run by the working class, would take over the entire burden of looking after the material needs of the people by controlling all means of production and distribution of wealth. Thus, it was prophesied that greater the industrialisation of a country, greater the economic disparity and therefore, greater the class conflict and sooner the ushering in of the rule of the proletariat.
But this prophecy which was the climax of its materialistic interpretation of history was completely belied by the future course of history. Out of all countries it was in Russia, industrially a most backward country, that Communist revolution registered its first success. Even to this day countries like America, England and Germany which are in the forefront of industrial progress in fact where the industrial revolution first took shape have not shown any signs of advancing towards Communism. On the contrary, it was China, another industrially backward country, which has become Communist in recent years. Thus the claim of historical inevitability of Communism based on its materialistic interpretation of human history has been shattered on the rock of hard realities.
Secondly, what is the condition of the common mass of people in that promised land of freedom, peace and plenty? It is all too well known that the dictatorship of the proletariat has been reduced to the dictatorship of the dictator of the dictatorial party, i.e. the Communist in these countries. Mass liquidations, slave camps, communes, forced labour, brainwashing and all such inhuman engines of dictatorship have reduced the individual to such low depths of misery and slavery as was unheard of even under the unbridled kingship or during the worst days of Capitalism. That is how their call of you have nothing to lose but your chains to the masses has resulted in practice!
The Promise and the Performance
Have they, at least, succeeded in their goal of satisfying the primary material needs of their people, which was their first promise to them? Take the example of Russia, the first great country, which made the experiment in a thorough-going manner. They liquidated all private property, all the industrialists, and took over all industries in their own hands. On the agricultural front, they liquidated all the landlords and the peasants, grouped them into communes and collective farms. So, it was from all aspects a thorough going experiment. Naturally we ought to expect a tremendous growth in the prosperity of Russia during the past fifty years.
Some say, "Look, they have been able to send a rocket to the moon". But so far as the masses, in whose name they speak, are concerned, going to the moon is not their main problem. Belly is their major problem. It was, in fact, the main pivot of the Communist revolution. Have the Russian Government been able to give two square meals to the residents of their country? That is the first question. As a matter of fact the success of any government or any particular theory of government is to be measured in terms of its capacity to give every citizen two square meals, a place to rest in, sufficient clothing, treatment in case of illness, and education. That is the acid test.
Has Russia answered this test? Russia has an extensive territory. At one time, it was the biggest wheat-producing country in the world. In proportion, the population is small and so a smaller number of mouths to feed. They have all the modern implements of agriculture. Added to that are the colossal resources of the all-powerful State at the back of each and every plan. In spite of all these, in order to feed the resident citizens of Russia, the Russian Government has to actually import wheat and other edibles from Canada, from USA and other countries. A more convincing proof of the utter defeat of Communism need not be called for now!
The Grand Retreat of Both
Faced with such tragic consequences, the Communist countries, too, are having second thoughts about their system of absolute governmentalisation. They have begun to realise that the destruction of individual freedom kills the creative urge and incentive for work in the individual. They are, therefore, gradually moving towards individual freedom. They are being compelled, as in some East European countries and even in Russia, to allow the individual to own a few things and a little freedom to enjoy his property.
Chester Bowles of America has stated: "Russia is now allowing, what are called, kitchen farms to be personally cultivated by farmers to the tune of 34% of the total land they cultivate. But the production from these 34% personal holdings (which do not have the benefit of heavy farm-machinery which is all monopolised by the State) has been 60% of the total produce, whereas 66% of the State-owned farms has yielded but 40%." That has once again proved that the promise of total governmentalisation, i.e., absolute collectivism, with which they started, is beating a hasty retreat in the land of its own birth.
On the other hand, those countries where Democracy was born with the promise of absolute individualism have also gone back upon their original stand. Having seen the tragic results of the unrestrained equality of opportunity and of freedom of the individual, they were forced to undertake drastic measures to curtail in practice those theoretical concepts in the interest of the common social good. In fact, that is how they were able to avoid revolution and maintain their democratic structure.
We thus find that both the above theories, Democracy and Communism, have two things in common, i.e., both were born as reactions to the previous order and both have had to resile from their original stand and forced to move towards each other Democracy from its individualism towards collectivism and Communism from its collectivism towards individualism. In respect of both their birth and growth there is a remarkable similarity though, of course, their starting points were diametrical opposites because of historical reasons.
Stemming from the Same Root
This need not cause any surprise to us, for if we go deeper and get at their roots we find that both of them stem from a common concept of the goal of human life. According to the Western thought from which both the concepts of Democracy and Communism took birth the life of man for all practical purposes is limited to the physical plane. And the human being is just a bundle of physical wants. Accordingly, production and distribution of material objects, which were believed to satisfy the material appetites of man became the one all-consuming passion of all their theories. Further, equality of man was propounded on the material plane because all men were equally in need of all these basic material needs.
As the individual was only a physical entity goaded entirely by those physical desires, there was no reason for him to look upon society as anything more then an instrument to serve his needs. But a society made up of such individuals exclusively dedicated to their own selfish interests could not be expected to endure even for a day. Society, for its sustenance, demands a spirit of sacrifice on the part of its constituents. And without society, individuals also cannot carry on their physical existence. So a sort of compromise, a contract, had to be worked out between the conflicting interests of the individual and the society.
This contract theory is thus the result of the concept of an inherent conflict between the individual and the society. It is this basic conflict that expressed itself in the form of Capitalism on the one hand and Communism on the other, i.e., on the one hand, the individual becoming the enemy of society and on the other, the society becoming the enemy of the individual. And as we have seen, both the systems are now trying to mitigate the evils that have flowed from the common materialistic concept of human goal.
But to identify man with a mere bundle of material desires is to
equate him with an animal. If man is just an animal, why should he lead an amicable and
ordered life? All that can be said is that human beings do not prey upon one another like
animals, simply because if X wants to devour Y, some Z will try to devour
Let us take an instance of this twentieth century. Once in Calcutta, two little children playing on the roadside fell into an open manhole. A gentleman who was hurrying to his office, happened to see the children suddenly disappearing in the manhole. Without even waiting to take off his coat he jumped into the manhole, caught hold of the children who were being washed away in the current and pushed them outside. But he himself was caught in the mud and died. Why did he die? What is that told him, "Go, that is your direction?" Materialism does not explain.
The Real Basis
There is only one explanation. And that is, there is one common Living Reality in all of us which furnishes the common inner bond. Our philosophy call it Atma. We love and serve one another not because of the external relations, but because of the community of that Atma. Yajnavalkya tells Maitreyi:
Uk ok vjs eS=ksf; iR;q% dkek; ifr% fiz;ks
(O Maitrey! Man is not loved (by wife) because he is the husband, but because of the Atma in him) It is in this sense, i.e,, the same spirit being immanent in all, that all men are equal. Equality is applicable only on the plane of the Supreme Spirit. But on the physical plane the same Spirit manifests itself in a wondrous variety of diversities and disparities.
According to our philosophy, the very projection of the Universe is due to a disturbance in the equilibrium of its three attributes sattva, rajas and tamas and if there is a gunasamya, perfect balance of the three attributes, then the Universe will dissolve back to the Unmanifest State. Thus, disparity is an indivisible part of nature and we have to live with it. Our efforts should be only to keep it in limits and take away the sting born out of it.
So any arrangement that tries to remove the inherent disparities altogether on the basis of superficial equality is bound to fail. Democracy, even at this advance stage in the Western countries, is after all, the rule by a few who are well versed in the art of politics and capable of winning the masses to their line. The concept of Democracy as being by the people and of the people, meaning that all are equal shares in the political administration, is, to a very large extent, only a myth in practice.
Communism, too, has completely failed to realise any of its declared concepts of equality. It had envisaged that after the establishment of the dictatorship of proletariat all will have food and other necessities of life satisfied. Then there will be no room for mutual conflict thus obviating the necessity for a central authority. Thus the State would wither away and a governmentless anarchic society would come into being. According to Communism, this is the highest state of equality that man can conceive of .
But Communism, based as it is on materialism, cannot explain how that ideal state can come to life. If men are mere animals, i.e, mere material beings, they do not devour each other only because of the fear of the powers that be. But when this power or authority is no more, then why will they live without strife? Man as an animal is a victim of passion and passions get more intense when gratified. How then will such a dissatisfied man live in peace and harmony with others? And what guarantee is there that even after the satisfaction of his personal needs, man, who is more ingenious than other animals will not follow the dog-in-the-manger policy? So even if we support that equality is established, it will again lead to inequality. Thus another bloody revolution will be necessitated. Which means, violent upheavals and strifes are the cornerstones of this theory. To raise always the slogan of revolution is to encourage and invite armed strifes, anarchy and murder of peace.
The picture which is thus visualised neither contains any signs of the withering away of the central power nor any possibility of the emergence of peace after the disappearance of the authority even if by chance it takes place. That during the past fifty years the Communist State in Russia has not shown any signs of withering away but has grown all the more powerful, is a living proof of the utter falsity of its theoretical base.
Not Equality but Harmony
Our philosophy, on the other hand, has pictured the highest state of society and offered for it a cogent explanation too. It is described as:
u jkT;« u p jktk··lhr ~ u n.M~;¨ u p
(There existed no state, no king, no penalty and no criminal. All protected one another by virtue of dharma). Dharma is the universal code of right conduct that awakens the Common Inner Bond, restrains selfishness, and keeps the people together in that harmonious state even without external authority. There will be no selfishness, no hoarding and all men will live and work for the whole.
And it is dharma that is the distinguishing feature of human life
(Food, sleep, fear and lust are common to both animal and man. The special attribute of man is dharma; without it he is no better than an animal)
It is through the full manifestation of dharma in human life that human beings will be able to live in that state of highest harmony in spite of the inherent disparities in nature. It is like the co-operation of a blind man with a lame man. The lame man gets a leg and the blind man an eye. The spirit of co-operation takes away the sting of disparity.
Our view of the relation between individual and society has always been not one of conflict but of harmony and co-operation born out of the consciousness of a single Reality running through all the individuals. The individual is a living limb of the corporate social personality. The individual and the society supplement and complement each other with the result that both get strengthened and benefited.
Mistaking Means for Ends
The essential point, therefore, is the moulding of individuals after the real image of man imbued with the sublime principles of innate oneness and harmony, i.e., of dharma. Indeed, a system works ill or well according as the men who work it out are bad or good. That is why, in the absence of men inspired with the right spirit, Democracy deteriorates into mediocracy and is often reduced to mobocracy. The tragedy of the various theories and isms propounded by the West is that they were taken to be the ends in themselves to the utter neglect of building the quality of man. They ignored the simple yet fundamental truth that systems and isms are at best only means for the fulfillment of mans life. It is mistaking the means for the ends that has landed these attempts in results diametrically opposite to what they had prophesied or expected.
Even to this day, democratic countries are plagued by grave social problems arising out of this basic confusion of placing system above man. They system of Democracy that they have evolved breeds two evils self-praise and vilification of others which poison the peace and tranquility of the human mind and disrupt the mutual harmony of individuals in society. In the present set-up both these are to be freely indulged in during elections.
This is the reason why in our national tradition, we did not bother much about the external form of the government but concentrated upon the moulding of man as the chief guiding factor in all our systems. Many forms were tried here right from republic to monarchy. And we find that the monarchy, which bred such tyranny and gave rise to bloody revolutions in the West, was found to be a highly beneficial institution continuing for thousands of years showering peace and prosperity on the whole of our people, with the spirit of freedom alive in every sphere of life.