Monday, 6 January 2014

Radical Humanism, M.N. Roy and The Movement - 2

 2.   The New Renaissance Movement

                    2.1. What do We Mean by Renaissance:

 “An all round progress of the Indian people, such as will bring them abreast with other peoples of the modern civilized world, requires a social revolution, and the social revolution, in its turn, requires a philosophical revolution; in other words, a change in the traditional mentality of India. That change is known in history as a Renaissance. The object of the Renaissance Movement in India is to bring about that change and to carry that message of the revolt of man far and wide, so that a sufficiently large number of men and women see that established notions, old beliefs, traditional authorities, venerable dogmas, are setting limits to the possibility of development of the Indian people. It is no longer a question of changing one political government for another: the mentality of the Indian people must change before it can go forward in its march towards real freedom and progress and thus come abreast with the rest of modern mankind”  M.N. Roy. Though primarily addressing his comrades in the Indian sub-continent, its importance in the post communist century cannot be ignored, the least by the under developed and developing countries. Roy’s insistence on the need, philosophy and methods of creating a Renaissance Movement needs careful study and detailed discussion. No serious minded humanist can ignore his lectures collected under the title ‘Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage’.

2.2. The Necessary Steps for Social Change:

       “One need not be frightened by the term revolution. It does not mean anything more drastic than a radical readjustment of social relations which have become antiquated: in other words, a thorough overhaul of the established social order. A social organization, with its economic relations and political institutions, is not static. It continually grows and evolves. In course of time, the limits under which a system has progressed and developed become too restricted for further growth. Within those limits, the unbounded potentialities of human creativeness can no longer be unfolded. Therefore, it becomes necessary to reorganize the established social order with the purpose of widening the horizons of freedom, giving greater latitude to the creativeness of man.
“From these few words of explanation, it is quite clear that, when we say India must experience a social revolution, we are simply saying that certain things must be done if the Indian people are to come out of the long period of intellectual stagnation, social and economic backwardness and cultural comma. But we shall not be able to tackle this problem of social reconstruction with the proper spirit and the confidence of attaining success, unless we can learn from history a lesson which is often forgotten, or simply ignored by the more impetuous romantic prophets of revolution. History teaches us that no great change in political institutions, in legal systems and economic organizations is possible before the community requiring such a social revolution undergoes what can be called a philosophical revolution. An impending revolution is heralded by the more forward-looking spirits, who realize the necessity of a change and also have the courage to challenge the moral sanction of the established social order. In other words, a change in the mental outlook of a sufficiently large number of members of a community is the precondition for a successful and constructive change in the material conditions of life.”
 (Pages 9 to 10,  M.N.Roy   :  ‘Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage’, Renaissance Publishers Private Limited, 15, Bankim Chatterjee Street, 2nd Floor, Coffee House, Calcutta 700 073.)

                2.3. Renaissance, Not Revivalism:

  The term Renaissance is foreign: it is not even English; originally French, it was taken over in English literature. Being so very foreign, the term naturally lends itself to misunderstanding and wrong interpretations. Etymologically, it means rebirth. That seems to fit in with our own hoary ideas. Indians also believe in rebirth: Man dies, and is reborn, again and again. But India has not died; so how can she be reborn? The misunderstanding may not go to such a ridiculous extent. It does, however, confuse Renaissance with revivalism. The Renaissance movement must guard itself against this confusion. Renaissance is not revival, for the simple reason that the past can never be revived. The past is dead, and the dead must be buried………………………………
                 “There are instances of intellectual and aesthetic values created in the past being forgotten. Attempts should be made to revive them. If we want to cherish the memory of our past, if we want to draw inspiration from our past so that we can travel on the right road in to the unknown future, we shall have to distinguish between what is dead and what is immortal in the past. Renaissance may be equated with revivalism to the extent that it distinguishes the immortal human values created in the past from the concrete material past which is dead, and endeavours to rescue those values, if forgotten, out of the ruins of the past which is dead. Because certain things in the past have been forgotten, we shall have to revive them, if we discover them to be still valid. But the sense in which revivalism is preached generally in our country is not only not Renaissance, but counter-formation. There are people in our country who talk about Renaissance, and yet propose revival of Ramraj, return to the Vedic culture and idealise the Vikram era, so on and so forth. Assuming that there ever was a golden Age in India and that in that legendary past India had attained a level of culture and civilization, not yet reached by other nations of the world, it is simply not possible to go back to that age. But if there was really a Golden Age, and at that time Indian genius created values such as do not die with the bodies of their creators, then they have been simply forgotten. Traces of them may be still lying buried under the debris of traditional junk heaped up through the ages. Having discovered those traces of old glory, we may be able to reconstruct in imagination. In case of intellectual values, such as philosophical systems or scientific thought, the process of reconstruction will be logical. But to rescue the forgotten or neglected heritage, we must dig deep in to the debris of the dead past, clear away the thick cob-webs of legends, myths and mythology, which are cherished as India’s cultural tradition.
 “That exactly happened in Europe during the period which is known as the Renaissance.” (Pp. 11 to 13, ‘Humanism, Revivalism and The Indian Heritage’ ibid)

2.4. Let Us Educate the Educators:

But the philosophical revolution which will prepare the ground for the      social revolution cannot be brought about by people engrossed in the present politics. It is the task of men who refuse to participate in the vulgar scramble for power, and would try to raise political practice on a moral level. Their efforts will create the renaissance movement, a humanist movement, which will think in terms of the rise, progress and welfare of man. The main function of the movement will be to awaken in man, in as many men as possible, the urge for freedom. That is a work of education of enlightenment. At present, we are still in the stage of educating the educators. To create a sufficiently large number of them, we shall have the help of modern science. Our old culture and scriptures won’t help us in that task. It is only in the light of modern science that we can show that man has unlimited potentialities of development. It is in that light that God is revealed as a creation of man. It is in the power of the creator to destroy his creation or recreate it. Only this belief, this confidence, can awaken in man the urge for freedom and the zeal to work for his freedom. And this confidence is created by modern scientific knowledge.” (Pp 20 to21, ibid.)

2.5. The Humanist Mission

Humanism is an old philosophy. Humanists have always approached all problems of life from the assumption of the sovereignty of man. But man remained unexplained, veiled in mystery. Now we know approximately what makes man a man, what is the source of his sovereignty, his creativeness. It is his capacity of knowing, as distinct from the common biological property of being aware; and knowledge endows him with power - not to rule over others, but to create for the benefit of the race, and pursue the ideal of freedom further and further. As the content of knowledge is truth, the enlightened man finds in himself the sanction of the moral values cherished by him. The humanist mission, therefore, is the pursuit of knowledge and dissemination of knowledge already acquired.” 

(Pp. 12, 13; M N Roy: Politics Power And Parties, 1981, Ajanta Publishers, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi – 11 00 07)

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Notes on Certain Aspects of the Structure of Modern Humanist Thought - 2

2.     Naturalism, Humanitarianism and Modern Humanism

There is a wide spread misconception regarding Humanism. This relates to the difference between Humanism and Humanitarianism.

Humanism as a world view enjoys wide support among thinking people globally. At the same time, the term is either misunderstood or at the worst misrepresented by certain forces at play even in the Rationalist fold. Some people would like to see the idea added to their decadent ideology so as to make their organization look relevant and contemporary without themselves undergoing any meaningful change as a result of their accepting Humanist Philosophy. They use the word Humanism in place of humanitarianism as if they would very much like to pluck out the secular and atheistic core from it. Humanism is the philosophic child of the Renaissance movement. The Amsterdam Declaration of 2002 clearly stated what Humanists mean by ‘Humanism’ basing upon which the International Humanist and Ethical Union works. The IHEU Minimum Statement on Humanism says:

“Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.”(2)

From the above it is quite clear that humanists reject all super natural concepts as non-existent and invalid. Since Humanists do not consider supernatural ideas or collectivities founded on unquestionable dogmas to be the source of their ethics, their humanitarianism is founded on secular ethics. Root of such an ethics is to be sought in the rationality of the individual.

There may be religious people who wrongly qualify certain actions which are humanitarian in nature as humanism. A contributing factor that helps to sustain the confusion is the fact that humanitarianism is contained in the Ethics of Humanism. The Amsterdam declaration has amply made it clear that Humanism imposes no creed upon its adherents. It further clarifies that Humanism is committed to education that is devoid of indoctrination.

It has been noticed that certain rationalists have been using these terms in a manner that creates confusion. Hence, this attempt to point out the clear difference that can be discerned when knowledgeable persons use these words. Dr. D.D. Bandiste, in his book, ‘New Humanism – A revolutionary Philosophy’ has discussed this aspect. Since his treatment of the difference will be useful for our readers I propose to heavily depend on him in this section. I strongly recommend the book (3) for students of Humanism.
Humanists are secular and rational. They are scientific in outlook. In their Ontology (= the part of philosophy which deals with the science of BEING), they are Naturalists.

What about the broad class of humanitarians?

Humanitarians may include religious people. It is possible that some humanitarians are believers in some sort of God, Soul, life in the Here-after etc. There are humanitarians who strongly believe that the basis of their humanitarianism is belief in religion or some such thing as ‘Spirituality’. In fact, some people seem to argue that the religious people are the best examples of Humanitarians.

Humanists believe that ideas are formed in the human brain through sense perception. Knowledge, according to them, is not derived from superstitious scriptures or infallible prophets. Hence their good works are conscious efforts based on rational thought. Take the case of humanitarians who are not secular humanists. Their values are sought to be explained using concepts which they claim to be outside or beyond human understanding! Even service for the welfare of fellow human beings will be described as service or duty to some supernatural entity! All the greatness of their altruism fades when we hear from them that they do good to please some non-existent entity. One may not respect a person when he affirms that he is moral because he fears God. The ethics of religionists sound horrible to humanists when destitution and poverty are justified by some humanitarians on the ground that it is due to the existence of these inequalities that they ‘fortunately’   engage themselves in the service of their God.

Humanists consider themselves to be the makers of their own destiny. This sense of freedom makes them self confident. They cheerfully embark on various activities useful to the mankind. Their altruism gives them great pleasure. They hate to become servants of any unjust force or collectivism. Humanists endeavour to make people self-reliant.

Many people have wrong notions about the humility shown by religious humanitarians. Isn’t it just the expression of mental slavery? They are virtuous only because they are cowed down by some weird beliefs. To use the term HUMANISM wherever humanitarianism is intended results in devaluing the iconoclastic and secular connotation originally and essentially contained in Renaissance Humanism. No humanist can afford to be ignorant of the fine distinctions. To the unaware, my clarification, following Dr.Bandiste, is as below:
The word ‘humanitarianism’ without any qualifier like secular may be taken to mean non-humanist enterprises. Secular Humanitarianism is an integral part of Humanism. Hence, HUMANISM need not be mixed up with religious humanitarianism. Humanism and Humanitarianism are not words equivalent in meaning or in use. Where acts of kindness are in mind, the words altruism, philanthropy, humanitarianism etc. are available for use.

Modern Humanism can be considered to have started with the appearance of the first Humanist Manifesto of 1933. It was the result of the works of a liberal Protestant group known as Unitarians. They rejected the idea of Holy Trinity. They thought Jesus Christ was a human being. Believing in one God, they supported social reforms and advocated individual freedom in matters of religion. Their liberal interpretations of matters of Church and theology resulted in the movement known as religious Humanism.  Their emphasis on the human individual enabled them to include skeptics and agnostics in their movement. They published a more secular version of their Manifesto in 1973 (the second Humanist Manifesto). Many considered the movement as a reasonable alternative to religion. That their trajectory was progressive and secular is evidenced by the publication in 1980 of the Secular Humanist Declaration. The ideas of Renaissance encouraging exploration and enquiry were instrumental in the splitting away of Roman Catholic Church. To deny the anti-clerical spirit contained in Humanism is nothing but falsification of history.


(1)’The Naturalist Tradition in Indian Thought’ by Dale Riepe, Motilal Banarsidas, Delhi.


(3) ‘New Humanism – A Revolutionary Philosophy’(1996),Dr. D.D. Bandiste,
New Age International Limited,4835/24, Ansari Road,Darya ganj,
New Delhi.


·      ‘India’ refers to the geographical areas under British colonial period and hence includes Bangla Desh and Pakistan as well.

Radical Humanism, M.N. Roy and The Movement - 1

Radical Humanist Philosophy has been presented as Twenty –two Theses in the form of aphorisms by M.N. Roy probably in the model of Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach.

Humanists start their quest from a concrete reality – the individual. This starting point – the existence of the individual human being as the reality precedes any theory or ideology regarding his life, welfare and destiny. What Radical Humanists want to stress is this: any theory or ideology that suppresses the reality, nature and functions of the individual as individual cannot be accepted by Humanists. Any social theory that discounts the basic element of society – the individual human being – is bound to fail. Hitler created a National socialist Party. In fascist parties individuals are said to have no unique importance save as the cogs in the wheels of their inhuman organizational structure. We have by now realized that communism too failed because of this negation of individual freedom. Capitalism, because of its undue importance to profit motive, creates a condition detrimental to the majority of the populace – not only workers, its ethics being anti-humanist, it ultimately harms even all other weaker capitalists. Whatever be the labels being used, we do not have pure socialism or capitalism anywhere in the world.  No country has an economic system in which unbridled freedom for the entrepreneur is guaranteed. Even the militant communist countries have given in to forces of capital. This situation of the contemporary world drives thinking people to pessimism and illusory solutions. Rationalist and humanist movements everywhere have some good-natured idealists who want to divert the movement towards propagating and practicing their collectivist political ideologies. In fact, many humanists and rationalists were communists, previously. Radical Humanists and particularly M.N. Roy have the unique distinction of putting the entire theory and practice of communism and Marxism to rational analysis even while remaining within a Marxist party and continuing as leaders and activists of a Marxist party.  M.N. Roy’s ideas expounded through the discussions are indispensable reading for any humanist who still holds strong sentiments or weak convictions regarding socialism or communism and wants to correctly assess what a humanist’s approach to these economic theories could possibly be. True to their conviction, the Indian Radical Democrats disclaimed themselves as a political party and decided to work as individuals on the basis of ‘The twenty two theses of Radical Humanism’. 

My conviction is that Roy’s ideas furnish essential guide lines for creating a New Renaissance movement.




I.                  The Twenty-two Theses of Radical Humanism

Thesis One

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.

Thesis Two

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.

Thesis Three

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.

Thesis Four

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. 

Thesis Five

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.

Thesis Six

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.

Thesis Seven 

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.

Thesis Eight

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.

Thesis Nine

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.

Thesis Ten

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.

Thesis Eleven

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.

Thesis Twelve

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.

Thesis Thirteen

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.

Thesis Fourteen

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.

Thesis Fifteen

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.

Thesis Sixteen

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.

Thesis Seventeen

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.

Thesis Eighteen

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.

Thesis Nineteen

The ideal of democracy will be attained through the collective efforts of spiritually free men 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.

Thesis Twenty

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.

Thesis Twenty-One

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.

Thesis Twenty-Two

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.

* Though he himself did not elaborate Thesis by Thesis, some books are available which try to explain the important aspects as well as help clarify possible ambiguities:

a.  Prof. R.L.Nigam’s ‘Radical Humanism of M.N.Roy An Exposition of his b.  22 Theses, Indus Publishing Company, New Delhi, 1988,
c.  Justice VM Tarkunde’s book on Radial Humanism
d.  G.D.Parikh’s  ‘Essence of Royism’ are  important.
e.  ‘New Orientation’


f.  ‘Beyond Communism’

 are some of the most important books for understanding this philosophy.