M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru

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great political thinkers

  1. self. This is the way of living things. But this is the third I heard : to command is more difficult than to obey. And not only that the commander beareth the burden of all who obey, and that this burden easily crusheth him :—an effort and a jeo­pardy appeared unto me to be contained ir all commanding : and whenever living things command they risk themselves."14 The Ideal Society and the Ruler

  2. The ideal society, then, would be divided into three classes : pro­ducers (farmers, proletaries and businessmen) ; officials (soldiers and functionaries) ; and rulers. The latter would rule, but they would not officiate in government; the actual work of government is a menial task. The rulers will be philosopher-statesmen rather than office-holders. Their power will rest on the control of credit and the army ; but they themselves will live more like soldiers than like finan­ciers. They will be Plato's guardian again ; Plato was right—philo­sophers are the highest men. They will be men of refinement as well as of courage and strength; scholars and generals in one. They will be united by courtesy and corps de esprit: "These men are kept rigorously within bounds by morality, veneration, custom, gratitude, still more by reciprocal surveillance, by jealousy inter pares ; and on the other hand, in their attitude towards one another they will be inventive in consideration, self-command, delicacy, pride, and friendship."1'

  3. But Nietzsche was not, however, a worshipper of the state ; he was far from it. He was a passionate individualist, a believer in the hero. The misery of a whole nation, he said, is of less importance than the suffering of a great individual; "The misfortunes of all these small folk do not together constitute a sum-total, except in the feel­ings of mighty men."

  4. Faith in an International Ruling Race

  5. Nietzsche was also not a nationalist, and shows no excessive ad­miration for Germany. He wanted an international ruling race, who are to be the lords of the earth : "a new vast aristocracy based upon the most severe self-discipline, in which the will of philosophical men of power and artist tyrants will be stamped upon thousands of years."

    1. Thus Spake Zarathushtra, p. 159.

    2. Quoted by Nordau, Degeneration (New York), 3 895, p, 439.

    However his doctrine of aristocracy ruling the earth is not tenable. The aristocracies of birth are nowadays discredited. The only prac­ticable form of aristocracy is an organization like the Fascist or the Nazi Party. Such an organization rouses opposition, and is likely to be defeated in war ; but if it is not defeated it must, before long, become nothing but a police state, where the rulers live in terror of assassina­tion, and the heroes are in concentration camps. In such a community faith and honour are sapped by delation, and the would-be aristocracy of supermen degenerates into a clique of trembling poltroons.

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  7. GEORGES SOREL (1847-1 922)

  8. His Career and Deep Moralisro

  9. Hardly is there any political philosopher of the twentieth century which has aroused so many misinterpretations as does Georges Sorel. Sorel has been claimed for the Soviet theory of the state as much as for the fascist political philosophy, indeed, the complicated and very often rather baroque character of his works explains to some extent those misinterpretations. The following remarks attempt to give an unbiased outline of the political ideas of this great French thinker who is difficult to interpret.

  10. Sorel was born in Cherbourg in 1847. After he had matricu­lated in his home town, he attended the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and became an engineer. For nearly 25 years, he served as a Govern­ment Engineer and was busy in building French bridges and roads. Having reached the age of forty-five, he asked to take retirement from government service. Up to this period he did not make any distinctive mark of his literary career. Only as a mature man he began with his literary work which broke out of him like a volcano : before he died in 1922—the year of Mussolini's march on Rome-Georges Sorel wrote seventeen books, lengthy introductions to eight books, written by others, and published numerous articles and essays in forty-one reviews. Until today nobody has attempted a satisfactory monograph of Sorel's formidable work which is so difficult to understand as a unity.

  11. Sorel was much devoted to his wife, who had died childless. She had been his most devoted and faithful comrade. To her memory he dedicated later on the following moving words :

  12. "Happy is the man who has met a devoted, energetic, and proud woman who never allows his soul to be contented, who knows how to recall the obligations of his task and who occasionally reveals to him even his own genius."

    1. 1 The Third Republic : Political Thought in France by J. P. Mayer (Routledte & Kegan Paul, London, 1944, Revised ed).

    Sorel's deep moralism—so reminiscent of Proudhon—has 'its roots in his marriage."1 He himself acknowledged the morally puri­fying effect of a good and happy marriage: It was here that he had discovered the bulwark against the tendency of levelling down the moral values by the decadent sensualism of his age. This tendency

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  1. he regarded as quite unfair and discouraging for the healthy growth of human society, and he was much critical of it.

  2. Faith in Moral Values

  3. Without his faith in moral values and without his belief in the proletariat, which he developed as a result of his feelings of bitter resentment and contempt against the middle classes whose contact he came into as an officer and which is also fundamentally connected with his moralism, it would hardly be possible to understand the various stages of Sorel's spiritual and political development. His first writings, which he published in 1889, show conservative attitude but soon he got interested in Marxism and accepted the perspective of the revolutionary cataclysm. In 1899, he gave up socialism for syndicalism. He contributed a series of articles on syndicalist philo­sophy and those articles were compiled in the form of his famous book, Reflexions sur la Violence, which he published in 1906 and with which he became the intellectual leader of French revolutionary syndi­calism. During the World War I, he showed his antipathy towards democracy and the middle classes ; later on, he bitterly attacked the treaty of Versailles and hailed Lenin as the liberator of the proletariat in a powerful postscript to the fourth edition (1919) of the Reflexions.

  4. His Marxism

  5. It is always well to remember that Sorel, although he professed the creed of violent revolution, was still a Marxian, with the convic­tion that capitalism carries fatally within its own nature the seeds of its destruction. He took up the position that Marxism could not be understood without syndicalism, and syndicalism was meaningless without a clear apprehension of Marxism. He formulated an anti-state principle and, as such, he rejected the state entirely. He did not find any gain from political action even if the workers came to have complete control over it. His main aim was to set up an orga­nization of the working class for industrial self-government. That organization was to be separate from the state and was not to take part in political affairs. It was not to co-operate with the state in any way. The state was to be destroyed and new social system con­sisting of autonomous economic groups was to be established.

  6. Sorel firmly maintained that social classes were differentiated by dissimilarity of cultures and economic distinctions. Every class, according to him, developed separately its own peculiar social charac­teristics, its own ethics and its own mode of action. Every class attempted to impose its own system upon others. The propertied class, as such, used the territorial state for that purpose. It gained control over the state and used it to dominate the working class either by military force or by electoral manipulations. And it was of no use to the workers to capture the state from the middle-classes because the state was entirely unsuited to the proletarian rule. Hence


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  1. the state had to be replaced by a new social system adapted to the special qualities of proletarian class. The new social system was to be arranged according to the economic functions. Workers in every vocation were to be grouped in syndicates and unions. They are not only to fight for higher wages, shorter hours and better working con­ditions, but were also to manage and administer the industry as their cwn. Thus, the central political organization was to be eliminated. In a new saystem, the workers were to act as their own masters and, thus, their creative and productive faculties were to develop.

  2. An Apostle of Violence

  3. Sorel had an insight to push to their logical conclusions the anti-intellectualistic philosophies of 'activism', and the unrestrained fashion of expressing himself that was fitting to an apostle of violence. Although he had become an apostle of violence before he professed the pragmatic faith, he had manifested his predilection for it clearly enough in its generally anti-intellectualistic aspects, and had shown himself an unconscious disciple of the 'will to believe' by his doctrine of social myths, and in particular the myth of the general strike. This is the kernel of Sorel's contribution to syndicalist theory, and it has had such surprising applications in fact that one may be justified in examining its relations to pragmatism at some length. In syndi­calist theory generally, the general strike has been conceived as the means by which society will pass from capitalism to socialism ; it is the catastrophic revolution of the Marxian prophecy.

  4. The 'Will to Power' and the Change in Society

    1. 2 Ibid,, pp. 116-17.

    All political, social, moral and religious revolutions of the past have been made by minorities. The masses have always been passive. The militant Christians forced the edict of Milan in 313 and the Jacobins were also a resolved minority. "The majority of a country cannot generally perform great changes which are based on absolute theories. A society develops itself historically and the masses remain >n their traditions."1 Thus, Sorel wrote in 1889 in his book he Pro­cess de Socraie. The 'will to power', not numbers, creates a new social substance. Elites of soldiers, officers, and generals have alone won battles, the captains of industry have built up capitalism ; Catho­licism, too, has been formed by a religious elite. According to Sorel, the elites of the future will be the proletarian elites, and thus he shared the viewpoint of Karl Marx. The workers, Sorel further developed his views on this point, must be as certain of their victory as the martyrs of the first Christian centuries. This certainly alone gives them perseverance in thei battles and makes them overcome all obstacles which they may meet on their strenuous way. The discipline of elites cannot grow within a political party. The centre of the formation of a proletarian elite must be seen in the syndicalist

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  1. movement. Here is the school of revolutionary creed for the working classes. In strikes, the appropriate means for bringing about social and economic changes according to Sorel, as also according to all other syndicalists, the leaders of the syndicates try out their social responsibility until the masses in the factories are ripe for the 'myth' of the general strike.

  2. The 'Myth' of General Strike

  3. Sorel felt that mtimidation by the employers and repression by the government would alike be rendered impossible by the fact that the strike would be general, extending over the entire country, whereas the army would be scattered and dispersed. However, his concep­tion of general strike is a very different one. For him it simply suffices that the idea of a general strike as the means to the Marxian revolution exists widely as a belief which gives the proletariat courage and the will to revolt. In common with all the beliefs of a similar nature which have inspired men to sacrifice and even to martyrdom, it is mythical in its character, and not to be treated by critical analy­sis. His principle of general strike announces the birth of a new society which is to follow the period of capitalism. A. militant energy, discipline, love of work, purity of morals—these are the virtues of a proletarian elite to be qualified for building a new order of society. As such, he had given a most striking exhortation, in the spirit of his interpretation of the "will to believe*, to French and Italian syndical­ism, urging the necessity of creating a heroic 'myth'—the catastro­phic regeneration of society through the general strike—a sublime fanaticism of violence to revitalize the sick soul of Europe, Valne of 'Social Myths'

  4. The syndicalist doctrine Sorel seized upon to turn into 'myth', a motive force for that belief which he saw with James that man must have faith in order to act, or that the pragmatic essence of his (Sorel's) thought follows a reasoning which perhaps he put in some­thing like the form of James's faith-ladder* of inferences, by which men actually proceed to a deternunfttion. It is, however, evident from Sorel's entire set of political writings that he thought too r»uch ever to be anything but an intellectual in the labour movement himself. He himself consistently attempted to avoid the pragmatic test for his myths, and warned his disciples against the querulous effort to test a 'myth' in terms of its actual consequences. Thus he writes in the Reflexions stir la Violence : "I do not attach importance to the objections given to the General Strike on the ground of practical considerations. There is no way to be able to forecast the future in a scientific manner or even to discuss the superiority which certain hypothesis can have on other." He further writes about the value of 'social myths': "Experience proves to us that the constructions of a future, undetermined by time, can be of a great value and need not have any disadvantages while they are of a certain nature ; that is to


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  1. tay, while they concern myths in which they find the strongest ten­dencies of one people, party or class, forces which present themselves to the spirit with the insistence of instincts in all circumstances of life, and which give an aspect of plain reality to the hopes of the next action on which the reform of the will is founded. We know that these social myths prevent no man from knowing how to make profit from all the observations he makes in the course of his life and are so obstacle to the fulfilment of bis normal occupation."

  2. His Pragmatic Interpretation of a Myth

  3. Sorel, for all his pragmatism, had insisted that the myth was not to be tested in any way. That is the sort of condemnation which is passed on bis theory of violence by Ecglish socialism and milksop parliamentarianism. The greatest cross Georges Sorel has to bear is the accusation that is very often made against him that his theory of myths is no more than a 'false translation' which turns the real opinions of the revolutionary syndicalists into a mere 'intetlectual-istic sophism'. Such accusations regarding his doctrine of the myth snd his pragmatism have made his position difficult and there is every likelihood for misunderstanding his entire social philosophy. But if we study his doctrine of myth in the light of his above remarks, its value remains untarnished. Further, his pragmatic interpretation of the doctrine of myth as 'will to believe'., which he mostly drew from William James, is fully m consonance with the pragmatic spirit. In support of this remark, let us examine certain statements of William James himself about pragmatism : ". . ..an idea is 'true' so k>ng as to believe it is profitable to our lives. That it is good, for as orach as it profits, you will gladly admit. If what we do by its aid 8 good, you will allow the idea itself to be good in so far forth, for We are the better for possessing it. But is it not a strange misuse of the word 'truth', you will say, to call ideas also 'true' for this t&ton ?"» James further expresses : ". , . .that truth is one species °fgood, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, *nd co-ordinate with it. The true is the name of whatever proves itself 10 be good in the way of belief, and goad, tw, for definite, assignable r]*uons. .. .If there be any life that it is really better we should ^ad, and if there be any idea which, if believed in, would help J* to lead that life, then it would be really belter for us to believe in *M idea, unless, indeed, belief in it is incidentally clashed with other geater vital benefits. 'What would be better for us to believe !* ^nis sounds very like a definition of truth. It comes very near to toying 'what we ought to believe* and in thai definition none of you would find any oddity. Ought we ever not to believe what it is better

  4. Jane*, William : Pragmatism (Longmans, Green St Co., London, 1907), P. 75.

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  1. for us to believe 7 And can we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and what is true for us, permanently apart ?"4

  2. Although true ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate and verify, and false ideas are those that we cannot, the truth of an idea is not a stagnant property inherent in it. If we ask as to what the words verification and validation themselves prag­matically do mean, the answer is that they signify certain practical consequences of the verified and validated date. But it is hard to find any one phrase that characterizes these consequences better than the ordinary agreement—formula—just such consequences being what we have in mind whenever we say that our ideas agree with reality. They lead us, namely, through the acts and other ideas which they instigate, into or up to, or towards, other parts of experience with which we feel all the while—such feeling being among our potentialities—that the original ideas remain in agreement. The connections and transitions come to us from point to point as being progressive, harmonious, satisfactory. This function of agreeable leading is what we mean by an idea's verification. Over and above, the pragmatistic requirement is that a particular idea to be in perfect agreement with reality ought to be pleasant and agreeable to a person in search of faith. Sorel's doctrine of myth, which he interpreted as 'will to believe', was to serve as a belief, a motive force to encour­age the proletariat to will to revolt. And a 'will to believe' is a pre­requisite condition before a firm action is being taken in any direction. It has a value in itself. The sacrifices of the Napoleonic soldier to the glory, of the Roman to the conquest of the world, of the Chris­tian to his other-worldly faith—these are things which no intellectua-listic philosophy may explain. History shows such faith rewarded by success, and it is a faith that does not go with intellectualism. Hence Corel's main aim was to inspire the working classes to revolt without questioning the efficacy of his method. The philosophy of revolution, as maintained by Sorel, was an attitude of mind, a way of thinking, which he firmly maintained and which suited his -special temperament. In this way, it was mostly agreeable to him and hence pragmatic in essence.

  3. Sorel's Theory of Elites

    1. 4 Ibid., pp. 75-77.

    Sorel's theory of elites has its roots in his appreciation of the moral forces which are substance and strength of the human being-Here it should be understood that he was much more influenced by Proudhon than by Karl Marx though the latter's early writings show a clear ethical tendency very much in contrast to the positivist-deter-ministic touch of his later works. It is true that Sorel's theory of history is deeply indebted to Marx which can be clearly seen by studying the preface which he wrote to R. A. Seligman's L' inter-


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  1. pretation economique de V historie : "Never discourse of the Right, political institutions, ideologies of art, of religion, of philosophy, without representing in its entire reality the economic life of the people under consideration, with its historical class divisions, with its development of technical processes, and with its natural conditions of productivity. The rapprochement thus established between the inner structure of a society and its superstructure throws a vivid light on those things which the society contains, and leads often towards a way of grasping its history." Yet Sorel was always very conscious of the difficulty, if not of the impossibility, of giving a general and direct series of causes interrelating the economic sphere of societies with the non-economic realm.

  2. His Theory of History : Human Will Power and the Historic Process

  3. Consequently, Sorel maintained that contingency and human will-power play a decisive role in the historic process. In this respect he largely draws on Vico's social philosophy, interpreted in latter's doctrine of the ricorsi, the 'repetitions'. But Sorel attempted to transform the doctrine of the ricorsi in an original sense. While Vico gave the ricorsi a providential meaning, Sorel taught that the ricorsi were by no means only a historic division into epochs. The 'repeti­tions' can happen, he asserted, more frequently in the course of the historic process than Vico assumed and, furthermore, development and primitivity may occur simultaneously.

  4. History shows that the heritage of the great teachers of humanity can only be preserved by a truly heroic effort of the human will. Decadence is nothing else than the manifestation of our vulgar, barbaric and absurd instincts which have been covered for a moment by an artificial order which genius has imposed on us. Sorel was a most bitter critic of his own time, a true contemporary for Jacob Burckhardt and Nietzsche. Sorel strongly criticized democracy be­cause democracy, it was his firm belief, attempts to shape out a cheap happiness to all men, without acknowledging qualitative differentiations or asking for moral energy. During democratic elections he saw only one master ruling the whole scene and that was money. He also criticized the marriage system. According to him, marriage is only an alliance of interests. Look at the divorce statistics of the capitalist countries. He was against neo-Malthusianism. He said that we were living in an age of inescapable mediocrity. Here Sorel was deeply influenced by the Caesarisra, of Louis Napoleon and its consequence on French history. Renan's Reforme Intellectuelle et Morale was one of the books with which Sorel was thoroughly fami­liar. The Reforme exerted a profound influence on Sorel. The dis­illusionment about Germany and the horror of the consequence of the unchecked application of universal suffrage in France are indeed the guiding principles of the Reforme.

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