Dialectical Materialism and Democracy

P.R. Sarkar
Social advancement is the triadic blending of thesis, antithesis and synthesis. When a particular theory or thesis loses its competence and power to effect the collective welfare, an antithesis is created against the prevalent theory. As a result of clash and cohesion between these two opposing forces a resultant is created, and this resultant is called synthesis. Is it true that the welfare of society is only possible in the stage of synthesis? When those who have the duty and responsibility for materializing social welfare neglect minorities or the people in general, the synthesis of a particular age transforms itself into the thesis of the next age.

The underlying principles that are relevant to the question of social justice are: the universe is a moving phenomenon, like a moving panorama; everything in this empirical world has its roots in relativity; and everything is moving within the orbit of time, space and person.

In the stage of synthesis a particular social, economic and political theory may be beneficial in a particular place or to a particular group, but this is no guarantee that the same theory will prove equally beneficial with changes in time, space and person. In changed circumstances oppressed people, who pass their days in distraction and despair as victims of social injustice, put up an antithesis against the synthesis of that period. Numerical majority and physical might are not the sole prerequisites for the emergence of an antithesis. If the oppressed are an intellectual group, then no matter how few their numbers, they can put up an antithesis. As soon as the antithesis is created the former ideology ceases to be a synthesis. It becomes the thesis in the next phase. So, in the second phase, an antithesis will again emerge against that very thesis. In this phase, as long as a synthesis does not emerge, unabated struggle will continue. Theoretically, synthesis is not the absolute factor, the final clash or the last word, for thesis, antithesis and synthesis take place within the bounds of relativity.

According to PROUT, changes take place in a cyclic order. In some era of the past the toiling masses were dominant. At that time there was no human society or civilization, and even the concept of the family was almost non-existent. Such a period was called the Labourer (Shudra) era. After this Labourer era came the Warrior (Kśatriya) era. As a result of clash and cohesion, the dawn of the Intellectual (Vipra) era became discernible on the horizon of the social cycle. When the warriors, those with herculean strength, started ignoring and hurting the sentiments of the intellectuals, the intellectuals evolved an antithesis against the thesis of the warrior era out of vindictiveness and revenge. But the saga of exploitation and suffering knew no end. When the intellectuals started an offensive against the bourgeois (commercial, Vaeshya) class, the dissatisfied and disgruntled bourgeoisie launched a crusade against the thesis of the Intellectual age. When those once disgruntled classes began to engage in exploitation, profiteering and black marketeering, thriving off the life blood of others, then the exploited, oppressed and rebellious people started a bloody revolution for the destruction of the bourgeois class.

Such movement of the social cycle will never cease, will never stop. Spiritual revolutionaries (sadvipras) will inspire and mobilize the crusading human spirit against barbarity, injustice and rapacity and help accelerate the speed of antithetical social movement. Afterwards, during the stage of synthesis, they will take the leadership of society into their own hands. If proper adjustments are maintained with time, space and person, the spiritual revolutionary inspired synthetic age will be permanent. In a society governed and administered by these spiritual revolutionaries, the synthetic structure of society will remain intact, although different eras may come and go. The era of labourers will come but there will be no exploitation by the labourers. The Warrior era will come, but exploitation by the warriors will not be possible because of the synthetic order prevailing in society.

Only spiritual revolutionaries can constantly maintain proper adjustment with time, space and person. Those who propagate materialist philosophies, but are are morally and spiritually conscious, are quite incapable of constantly maintaining such proper adjustments, for all changes take place within the purview of relativity. Those who have accepted the Supreme Entity as their goal – those who really believe in universal humanism and reflect universalism in the fullest measure – are alone capable of constantly maintaining proper adjustment, for under the influence of a spiritual ideal their temperaments become great and benevolent. Due to their benevolent idealism and mental development they naturally look upon all with love and affection. They can never do any injustice in any particular era or to an particular individual. Sadvipra society is both the aspiration and demand of oppressed humanity; dialectical materialism is fundamentally wrong and defective.

In all countries and at all times, spiritual revolutionaries must wait until the emergence of an antithesis against any particular thesis. So long as an antithesis has not evolved, spiritual revolutionaries will go on working throughout the world to bring about the psychological background for the antithesis of the next phase. The moment the auspicious dawn of renaissance or synthesis comes, spiritual revolutionaries will take the reins of the leadership of society into their own hands.

The welfare of society is not possible through dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism may be suitable and appropriate for the well-being of human society in a certain age, but in the very next era it may prove to be a brutal instrument of exploitation and destruction. PROUT is the only solution, for it recognizes and accepts the necessity of changes in time, space and person. It will go on constantly maintaining ratio. The policies and programmes of PROUT formulated for a particular era, for a particular place and for particular people will not remain fixed in new conditions and will adjust with changes in time, space and person. Such are the fundamental principles advocated by PROUT. Thus, dialectical materialism cannot do any good for human society and may only have some use for a particular era, time or person.

Let us now discuss democracy. It is claimed that democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. After the Labourer era power passed into the hands of tribal chiefs. In the course of time clan leaders became feudal kings. The theory of democracy was born out of feelings of revolt against the tyranny of the monarchy exercised by these feudal kings. The history of democracy is very ancient. History teaches us that it originated during the reign of the Licchavii Dynasty in ancient India. Being so ancient, it is not surprising that democracy has some defects.

Let us now analyse the assertion, “Democracy is government by the people”. In a democracy, do people have the requisite education and consciousness to judge what is right or what is wrong, what they should do or what they should not do? Does the power of understanding and judgement come as soon as one attains a prescribed age? Is age the yardstick of wisdom and education? Alas, this happens to be the accepted fact! If those who talk big about the democratic system read the history of the Licchavii Royal Dynasty they would learn that in those days not everyone had voting rights. Only the Licchavii leaders, not the people in general, could exercise and enjoy adult franchise.

Democracy can only be effective and fruitful where there is no kind of exploitation. Every person has certain minimum requirements in life which must be guaranteed. There may be a little adjustment in these minimum requirements as per differences in time, space and person. The people of Kashmir may need a great quantity of warm clothing. Therefore, they should be provided with more woollen clothes than the people of Bihar. The minimum requirements vary with the change of era and time. In ancient times, people were satisfied with a dhoti, a shirt and a pair of wooden sandals. Not only that, they did not even feel the need for shoes. But today a suit is an absolute necessity. In olden days people would travel long distances on foot, but today a cycle or motor car has become essential.

Minimum necessities must be provided to every individual. There is no limit to these minimum requirements. Every progressive society should bear in mind that the minimum requirements will go on increasing day by day. In the not too distant future a day will come when every individual will acquire a rocket. Then, for example, it will be very common for one's father's house to be on this planet and one's father-in-law's house to be on Venus.

The social system that will come into being, keeping parallelism and harmony with time, space and person, will be called progressive socialism. Our PROUT is that very progressive socialism. Society will have to make provisions to ensure an increase in the living standard of every individual. When progressive socialism is established within the framework of democracy, then democracy will be successful. Otherwise, government of the people, by the people and for the people will only mean government of fools, by fools and for fools.

Mass education is one of the basic necessities for the successful and effective running of democracy. In some cases even educated people unjustly abuse their voting rights. People cast their votes at the insistence and inducement of misguided local leaders. To approach a polling booth like a herd of cattle to cast votes in ballot boxes is meaningless. Is this not a farce in the name of democracy? Thus, the spread of education and proper knowledge is essential. Education does not only means literacy or alphabetical knowledge. In my opinion, real education means proper, adequate knowledge and the power of understanding. In other words, education should impart an awareness of who I am and what I ought to do. Full knowledge about these things is what education means. Merely having some acquaintance with the alphabet is no education.

Literacy certainly serves some purpose. I am not saying that literacy is absolutely useless and lifeless. There are some countries in South America where only literate people enjoy franchise. Political parties in these countries launch literacy campaigns and people naturally cast their votes in favour of those parties which have made them literate. Thus, the government remains free from all responsibilities and expenditures in this regard. But this system cannot serve its full intended purpose. First, it is not reasonable to think that mere literacy will awaken full wisdom about what to do and what not to do. Second, if the responsibility of literacy is left to political parties, then those political parties will spread their respective party propaganda popularizing themselves among the people. People will become intellectually bankrupt, and this curse will undermine their rational judgement and discrimination. Nevertheless, education is of prime importance. Without education democracy can never be successful.

Morality is the second fundamental factor for the success of democracy. People sell their votes because they lack morality. There are some countries in the world where votes are bought and sold. Can we call it democracy? Is it not a farce? Democracy cannot succeed unless 51% of the population rigidly follow principles of morality. Where corrupt and immoral persons are in the majority, leaders will inevitably be elected among these immoral people.

Today there are too many obstacles on the path of morality. Urban civilization is one of the chief reasons of moral degeneration because many people are compelled to live undesirably in small, congested places. This is inimical to morality in individual life. Solitary living for some time is essential for the cultivation and development of morality. Where the population is very dense, milk and vegetables are in short supply, and these are indispensable for healthy survival. When the demand is more than the supply, adulteration goes unchecked. To meet the deficit in the supply of milk, people mix water with it. To meet the demand for diamonds, imitation diamonds are produced, because the demand is more than the supply. Cities become dens of corruption because of antisocial elements, but generally such things are not noticeable in villages. In villages everybody knows everyone else. Everybody knows the livelihood of their neighbours. But even after twenty years of living in a city people seldom get acquainted with their neighbours. They don't even know that there are many swindlers lurking in their midst. However, the slogan, “Go back to the village” alone will not suffice. City life has a great attraction for people generally so they run to cities for their livelihood. To stop this trend intellectuals and others will have to look for their livelihood in villages. The supply of cheap electricity and the expansion of cottage industries in villages are of paramount necessity today. By cottage industries I do not mean outdated, primitive handicrafts. Cottage industries must be efficient, modern mechanized units. From the economic viewpoint decentralization is an absolute necessity. With the exception of heavy industries and essential government offices, all industry should be shifted to the villages. To stop overcrowding in the cities this is the only feasible approach. Villages are not congested, so antisocial people will not be able to hide themselves there. If they try, the police can easily detect them.

In a democratic society immorality is a big issue which cannot be avoided. Some people say that if mustard seeds are sprinkled over any person possessed by a ghost, the ghost takes to its heels. But if the ghost hides in the mustard seeds themselves, then of course there is not the ghost of a chance of escape from the ghost. Similarly, the ghost of immorality lies hidden in today's democratic system. Democracy induces sentiments like provincialism, communalism, casteism, etc., which are devoid of morality. Suppose that in a certain constituency person A represents a majority community, but B, C, and D are capable and competent representatives. In such circumstances, representative A is sure to fully exploit the majority community by kindling casteism or narrow-minded communal sentiments in order to win elections. Such antisocial activities create suspicion in people's minds and thus deal a staggering blow to their morality. In some democratic systems social discrimination becomes so rampant that different groups and parties find ample scope to propagate and disseminate their defective ideas and fissiparous sentiments. So we see that morality, which should be the basic factor of democracy's victorious march, goes unprotected. Thus in a democracy some people indulge in casteism and extract maximum advantage from it. Political parties also nominate those persons who belong to majority communities as their representatives. The masses, being uneducated, cannot see through these games.

Thirdly, social, economic and political consciousness is also indispensable for the success of democracy. Even educated people may be misguided by shrewd and cunning politicians if they are not sufficiently conversant with social, economic and political issues. Democracy can be successful only when people imbibe these three kinds of consciousness. Without this awareness, the welfare of the society is not possible either in theory or in practice. Intellectuals, therefore, must never encourage unrealistic ideas of this sort.

But even if these three requirements for the success of democracy are met, the real welfare of the society is not possible by dialectical materialism or by democracy. The only solution is an enlightened, benevolent dictatorship – that is a morally and spiritually conscious dictatorship. Moralists, though in a minority today, have no reason to worry. Once society is led by people who are intellectually and intuitionally developed, there will certainly be no scope for exploitation and injustice. Now a question may arise. If in a nation or country every person enjoys human rights, why should a particular person have voting rights while others do not? After all, this world is the common inheritance of all, and every human being has the right to enjoy and utilize all mundane, supramundane and spiritual resources. But just because everybody has the individual right to enjoy everything, it does not follow that everybody has the individual right to run the administration of a country. For the good and the welfare of the people in general, it is not fitting to leave the onus of the administration in the hands of all. Suppose a certain couple have five children. All of them are happy and comfortable in the family. But if the children, on the plea of being in the majority, suddenly claim full authority and the right of the management of the family, is it feasible? Say they call a meeting and pass a resolution that all the glasses and crockery should be smashed. Can we call it a wise resolution? Let me give you another example. Students compared to teachers are always in the majority. Now if the students, on the plea of being in the majority, put up the demand that they them selves should set the examination and be the examiners, can that demand be granted? So you see, democracy is not a very good or simple system. But unless an alternative, better and more agreeable theory or system is evolved, we will have to accept democracy in preference to other systems, and make use of it for the time being.

From: A Few Problems Solved Part 2, PROUT in a Nutshell Volume 2 Part 6, The Great Universe: Discourses on Society, Universal Humanism

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2011

2 thoughts on “Dialectical Materialism and Democracy”

  1. mistake in translation:

    “The social system that will come into being, keeping parallelism and harmony with time, space and person, will be called progressive socialism. Our PROUT is that very progressive socialism.”

    Baba defined PROUT as: pragatishiila samaja tantra = progressive SOCIAL SYSTEM; not progressive “SOCIALISM”

    socialism in Sanskrit/Hindi/Bengali is: “samaj VADA”, which is also the self-described terminology used by the communist parties in India.

    this error should be corrected in PROUT publications and on all websites.

  2. since there is no edit function, here are the details behind my previous comment:

    #1: The term “progressive socialism” only appears in one single discourse, i.e. Dialectical Materialism and Democracy. And that happened because the original Hindi term pragatishiila samaj tantra was wrongly translated as progressive socialism. When it should have been written as progressive social system.

    #2: So the term “progressive socialism” has no place in our Prout vocabulary. And no one should think that Prout is a form of communist socialism or that communist socialism is related with Prout.

    #3: In that Hindi discourse on page 155, Baba uses the term “pragatishiila samaj tantra.” And that means progressive social system. The term “pragatishiila” means progressive; “samaj” means social or society, and “tantra” means system.

    #4: The term for socialism in Hindi is samaj vada. And in India the socialist party, i.e. communist party, is samaj vadii.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *