Tuesday, October 7, 2008

In the olden times people fought to satisfy national greed and dynastic ambition


The Place of Democracy in Human Evolution by C. C. DUTT

The word 'democracy is, theoretically at least, simple in its signi- ficance. It means a form of government in which the supreme power is wielded by the people, where the supreme authority vests in the whole body of the people. It is obviously something quite different from a theocracy, an autocracy, an oligarchy or a monarchy, absolute or limited. Lincoln's definition is the aptest we can think of, govern- ment of the people, by the people, for the people. A sovereign people may exercise its power directly, as in the little republics of olden times; or it may function through its elected representatives, as in a modern republic like, say, France. It is an essential condition that every adult subject should have the right to control the affairs of the State. For, it is obvious that by restricting the franchise a government, democratic in form, may be reduced virtually to an oligarchy...

Sri Aurobindo's characterisation of the ancient Hindu State throws a great deal of light on the point:

"The King was the living representation of the Divine and the other orders of the community the natural powers of the collective self."

"The old Indian State was a complex of communal freedom and self-determination with a supreme co-ordinating authority."

The whole system had for its basis the village community and the township, which were, respectively, the rural and urban units of autonomy. These units have been described as republican in character, and not without reason. But what is truly singular in the Hindu socio-political system is that it

"tends to fuse together in different ways the theocratic, the monarchic and aristocratic, the plutocratic and democratic tendencies in a whole."

There were a few small States in northern India (like the Kshudraka, Mallvaka and Yaudheya) which were definitely republican in form. These were, by no means, typical of ancient India. The normal Pre-Mauryan realm was as described above, a harmonious combination of various human elements, where there was little to provoke discord between the component parts. This state of things, however, did not last, when powerful alien hordes like the Sakr;, Hunas and Yavanas pressed hard on the frontier. India, too, J so many other lands, developed large empires which complf swamped the old Hindu State. But the spirit of communal freedom and self-determination survived for a long time in the village Panchayats and is probably not quite dead even today.

Coming back to the industrialism and the imperialism of modern times, it is not difficult to understand how these two trends of the human mind run together, and how they are both inconsistent with democratic ideals. There is nothing intrinsically degrading in organising a country industrially. Nor is there apparently any moral bar to a country conserving its raw materials and vastly increasing its manufactures. But if this policy is pushed on to its extreme limits, what would be the immediate effect?

Obviously, over-production, if the country is, at all efficient industrially. Over-production is, however, an evil only if no ready market can be found for the goods turned out. If the country concerned has its own colonies and dependencies, the manufactured goods can be dumped down there and disposed of by the use (or misuse) of political power. But if it has not, then it has to persuade or coerce other countries into purchasing them. In either case, political complications are bound to set in, political complications that are not likely to bring either freedom or happiness to the nation at large. In all such matters, the people who play a prominent part are the big capitalists who organise themselves into trusts, and, when necessary, control the elections. Wars have been fought before now at the instance of petroleum magnates, iron and steel kings and armament manufacturers. After a disastrous war has been fought and millions of men have been killed and cities have been burnt to ashes readjustment of territories is sought to be made in the interests of the capitalists. In the olden times people fought to satisfy national greed and dynastic ambition. Today the lure is money and money, almost nothing else...

Man will, in future, be probably led to experiment with a free class-less state-less organisation based on fraternal comradeship. Communism is being tried today. But it has practically dropped its inter- national aspect. A scheme of anarchism, spiritual if not philosophic, may well be man's future pursuit for a while. Thus will man be led on, by his reason, to try one panacea after another for his ills. He will never get on to the right path till he realises that the liberty and equality which he has so long been seeking must be the liberty and equality of the soul. This realisation can come only when he has eliminated his egoism, transcended his rationalism and climbed up to a suprarational and spiritual plane. C. C. DUTT

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