M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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C. D. H. COLB

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    1. will stimulate will make the application of coercion infrequent. The guild society will see a wide extension of decisions reached by mutual negotiation. The coercion of individuals is provided for as a last resort but it is to be sparingly invoked. As for the coercion of func­tional groups, it is much better policy to trust them than to attempt to coerce them. But "trust does not and cannot involve the aban­donment of all Powers in the last resort." One is left in doubt^ how­ever, as to the precise form this ultimate coercion will take since the right of striking is upheld by Cole, as by all guildsmen, and the eco­nomic boycott has previously been declared "to be possible but not desirable."

    2. In case of any conflict between the co-ordinating authority and any particular association, the individual alone may decide what conduct to pursue. The co-ordinating authority may coerce, but such coercion is purely physical and not moral. There will be no excuse to call the individual coerced 'traitor'. It should be remem­bered that the loyalties of the individual in a functional society will be distributed. His membership of different associations fulfilling varied functions does not involve one loyalty being subordinated to another.

    3. Theory of Liberty as Applied to Industry

    4. In Cole we observe the most forcible enunciation of the theory of liberty as applied to industry. Viewed more narrowly, his doc­trine is that of radical socialism, which recognizes the trade union world as an organ of revolt against capitalism and as the most effective means of attaining its ultimate supersession.

    5. However, it should be pointed out that while he (Cole) denied the sovereignty of the state, he did not deny the necessity of retain­ing unity in society. His guild commonwealth is co-ordinated. It is highly decentralized, both territorially and functionally, but its unity is preserved by vesting ultimate authority in the commune. The commune, we may recall, possesses the power to act as an ultimate court of appeal in disputes between functional bodies, to pass consti­tutional laws, and to control the coercive authority. The essence of a common authority is power to act in capacity of ultimate jurisdiction ; the guild society has such authority.

    6. The State on an Equal Footing with Guilds

    7. Cole did not give the state the same authority which was given by Hobson. He attempted to put the state on an equal footing with the guilds. The state, according to him, is to be an association like any other association. Its functions are to be proportionate to the duties to be performed by it. The guilds are to control and manage the whole of production. The state is to perform such functions as the regulation of marriages and divorce, education of children, prevention and punishment of crimes, defence of the country etc.



    1. 514

    2. GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS



    1. In cases of conflict between the guilds and the state, the institution known as the Supreme Court of Functional Equity is to have the final word. It is also to possess the supreme power of coercion. It is in this way that the sovereignty of the state is to be taken away from it.

    2. Cole, in fact, did not content himself with this role of the state. He went a step further in minimizing the importance of the state. He came to the conclusion that the state could be allowed to wither away and ultimately disappear altogether "either after a frontal attack or by atrophy following upon dispossession of its vital power." The state, in short, is to be replaced by the communes. According to the new scheme, the various guilds are to be organized into com­munes and are to be given separate powers and functions. Cole writes : "Orage and Hobson wanted the guilds to be 'chartered' corporations, acting under licence from the state ; whereas others, of whom I was one, were social pluralists, and believed that the sove­reign state should in due course be replaced by some form of federal authority, resting on a partnership -fietween 'producers' and 'consu­mers' and other 'functional' representatives."113

    3. Estimate of Cole's Theories of State and Administration

    4. Although the above scheme of Cole appears to be very attractive and it attempts to abolish slavery from the industry with a view to establishing true democracy in its fuller sense, it is not free from certain defects. There is always a likelihood of conflicts. The re­presentatives of the consumers and the producers will come to its session not for the purpose of deliberation, but as delegates of a frac­tion of the community, to represent its special and private will. Questions that concern the community as a whole can best be dealt with by the representatives of citizens. The common fact of citizen­ship is the widest common foundation for the organization of a state. Citizenship alone can serve as the most inclusive bond, and it alone offers the basis for common co-operative deliberation.

    5. The principle underlying the organization of Cole's guild society is the principle of function. If this means broadly that claims to rights by individuals and groups must find their validity in social purpose, such a doctrine, we hold, is undeniably sound. It is true that in some respects the workers in a particular industry or service have an immediate interest; but then, it is to be noted, in other res­pects other groups have a special interest. If that be true, the logical conclusion is to place socialized inafustry in the hands of the state under a system which will allow wide decentralization and the active participation of the workers.

    6. Cole was conscious of the heterogeneity even within the guild :

    1. G. D. H. COLE

    2. 515

    1. hence he favoured due consideration to the special interests of craft organizations. Yet it is well to remember that to cover basic dis­similarities by a glib phraseology of 'function' or 'vocation', is as un­real as it is remote from profundity.

    2. Cole's treatment of the role of the Church in a functional society is also not satisfactory. A church, he stated, should have no repre­sentation in the commune, since its function is purely spiritual, while that of the other bodies is material. In case there is clash between the Church and the other body and the commune is to decide the dispute, it would violate the principle of self-government, since it includes no representatives of the Church.

    3. In Cole's guild society the courts will occupy an important role, since the conflicts of spheres of jurisdiction between functional bodies will be manifold. We have a right, then, to demand greater detail than Cole has given us in the structure of the judiciary. He has not told us fully about the hierarchy of courts, appeals, and the preven­tion of abuse either in appointment or in the exercise of power by the judges.

    4. Cole's scheme, truly speaking, is not a theory of the state. It is a theory of 'administration of the functions of the state'. It is in the field of administration that his most suggestive contribution to the politics of socialism lies. The collectivist socialism implies all the evils of autocratic rule, centralization, and bureaucracy. So the Webbs and MacDonald realized the necessity for decentralization and for the participation of experts and workers in the management of socialized industry. It became their favourite slogan that 'eco­nomic power precedes political power'—by which was meant that the workers could achieve real freedom and democracy only by getting economic self-government. And the Fabian doctrine was modified in part due to the criticism of the guild-socialists, of whom Cole was a foremost leader.

    1. 27

    2. HAROLD J. LASKI (1893-1950)



    3. Family Background and Environment

    4. Right from his birth to death in 1950, Harold J. Laski was con­cerned mainly with the liberty and rights of the individual. As a progressive intellectual he insisted more on an experimental political philosophy based on a dynamic theory of state functions and a social psychology of the motives and desires of men than on abstract principles of politics. He always remained in search of a new faith, and came under the various influences which made him change his political ideas from time to time. At the successive stages of his career we find him as an ardent proponent of some sort of individua­listic federalism, Marxian socialism and democratic trade unionism. His activities as a political philosopher, teacher, party leader, public speaker and confidential adviser to public men were so numerous that he found no time to revise his political writings and give them a consistent statement. Nevertheless, the cornerstone of his political philosophy was his faith in the individual. To establish this we must examine carefully his career.

    5. Harold Laski, the second son of Nathan and Sarah Laski, was born in a Jewish community on June 30, 1893. This was the period when different ideologies, such as Utilitarianism, Fabian Socialism and Communism were spreading with a view to reforming the various prevalent conceptions regarding sovereignty, parliamentary democracy and economic and political liberties of the individual. Laski, the product of such a period, imbibed its spirit fully. As a young boy he spent most of his time reading books on science and liberalism. They predisposed htm to oppose all orthodox opinions and dogmas regarding the social and political institutions.

    6. It is interesting to note that the political movements which impressed young Laski in his under-graduate days, and to which he constantly referred in his early articles, were the Women's Suffrage Movement, Trade Union Movement in France and the alliance between Ulster and a section of the Conservative Party to sabotage the Liberals' Home Rule Legislation for Ireland. These movements of the per-war period were rooted in a violent outburst against the spirit of Victorian Liberalism. In this period the belief in the gradual progress in the status of women and the respect for constitutional procedures were rejected by the more violent suffragettes and the radical trade unionists. It seemed as if the orderliness and respect-



    1. HAROLD J. LASKI

    2. 517

    1. ability of the nineteenth century had become such a strain on the feelings of a number of men that they were trying to destroy the liberal world in which they lived. It was at this period that Laski spent his formative years in school and college, and he became a rebel against such an atmosphere. He felt the need to dedicate his life to find out a new world with a view to relieving the down-trodden common man from want, ignorance and misery that were noticed as the common feature of the Victorian era. He took part in Suffragette Movement and helped the strike of chain-makers by collecting money. At this time, though he remained content with constitutional agitation, yet the idea of revolution was agitating his mind. He wrote a short book with the title The Chosen People (which remains unpublished) in which he told that we should welcome the ideas of Darwin and Marx in order to get rid of the traditional outlook that had become outworn. Further, he maintained that social truth could only be discovered in an atmosphere of freedom.

    2. Influences on Laski

    3. Laski's first book was a translation of Leon Duguit's book, Law in the Modem State on political pluralism from French. At the same time, he was greatly influenced by the writings of the late F. W. Maitland while studying history at Oxford. Ernest Barker was mainly responsible for it. Barker, his tutor, himself being interested in the academic revolt against Hegelianism, encouraged him in his study of medieval lawyers. Gierke. Maitland, Figgis had justified the theory of corporate personality as applied to religious and industrial organi­zations in society. Laski drew inspiration from them, and his earlier writings were devoted to the task of supporting the the of corn-rate personality of religious bodies and guilds which were able t*~ maintain their rights and independence against the state in the Middle Ages. He argued that trade unions should have a similar position in the modern society. But bis theory of groups was different from that of Figgis, Gierke and Maitland. It was purely individualistic in essence, because he maintained it for safeguarding individual liberty. For this purpose he also made a special study of the legal system which protects the rights of associations and free speech in America.

    4. Attack on the Monistic Theory of State

    5. Laski thus started his career with an attack on the monistic theory of the state sovereignty, as expounded by the idealists, considering H as dangerous to the individual liberty. To defend individual liberty against the coercive authority of the state, he, on the one hand, tried to establish the corporate personality of groups, and, on the other, he elaborated the individualistic theory of obedience to the state. His formula of 'contingent anarchy', appearing as it does in his indi­vidualistic theory of obedience, worked as a revision of the relations



    1. 518

    2. GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS

    1. between the individual and the state. He criticized traditional politi­cal thought for its concentration on state power at the expense of the political society (the people), for its over-simple assumptions about human nature and for its penchant for deductive reasoning. He remarked :

    2. "The simple a priori premises of Hobbes or Locke, the in­triguing mysticism of Rousseau's General Will, eloquence about the initiative of men and its translation into terms of private property are no longer suited to a world that has seen its founda­tions in flame because to its good intentions an adequate know­ledge was not joined. What we need. . . .is the sober and scienti­fic study of the conditions of social organizations."114

    3. His Concern for the Individual Freedom

    4. Quite often Laski called for a new inductive political philosophy, centred less on political principles than on administrative functions and based on a realistic social psychology that would do more justice to the complex character of human personality and motivation than did the psychology of Aristotle or Machiavelli or Hobbes. He did not approve of the classical theory or human nature that regards it as static and fixed. On the contrary, he asserted that human nature is dynamic and evolutionary. Like Graham Wallas, he thought that the new political theory, seeking an institutional structure that would offer opportunities for the creative expression of the diverse impulses of men more adequate than those provided by the sovereign state, should be grounded in a satisfactoiy knowledge of the motives and desires of men. Each man must be encouraged to realize his own personality, while the state must be so organized as to give scope to the individual's sense of spontaneity and his creative impulses, thereby fostering 5lie emergence of a wide diversity in the desires, attitudes and values of its citizens.115 Since he was primarily concerned with the preservation and promotion of individuality and spontaneity, he rejected order and unity as the final values.


      1. 2 Iasjki : Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty (New Haven, Yale Univer­sity Press, 1917), pp 21-25.

      As hinted at, Laski studied carefully the pluralistic and prag­matic philosophies of Figgis and Maitland and James and Dewey, and found a point of view that was extremely congenial to his own oppo­sition to the revived state idealism, and to his conviction, which marked him as heir to the utilitarian tradition of Bentham and the Mills, that the state was to be judged in the light of its actual contri­butions to the well-being of its citizens. The test of validity of state action is a pragmatic and utilitarian test That is, how far successful it is in achieving its purpose, namely, the promotion of the good life

    1. HAROLD J. LASKI

    2. 519

    1. for its citizens. Viewed in this fashion, the state becomes, he thought, what Duguit called "a great public service corporation."

    2. Authority as Federal

    3. Further, as he was aware of the dangers of concentration of powers in the state, he called its authority as federal. There are, he argued, various associations in the society, and each of them has an important part to play in the development and enrichment of an indi­vidual's personality. But each association has only a partial con­tribution to make to the individual. The state, as one of these associa­tions, can satisfy only the partial needs of the individuals, and there­fore their allegiance to the state is partial. The state cannot regulate the whole life of a man, and it must share this function with other associations. The state, in this sense, is not unitary ; it is not abso; lute ; it is not independent. It is rather pluralistic and federal as society is federal.

    4. Laski thus argued in his earlier writings that the authority of the state should be federalized and mass participation in political activity be increased. If these principles reflect his adherence to the ideals of individual and group freedom, they also constitute limitations upon the exercise of powers, weapons for defending labour and its organizations against hostile action on the part of the state. There was, therefore, a fundamental ambivalence in .his attitude towards the state's final coercive power, and he conceived of the authority of the state as conditional. The state is given power to control men and their voluntary groups in order that it may satisfy their common needs ; it commands obedience to its laws from them as long as they are in their interest. But gradually his belief that the individual cannot develop his personality and enjoy freedom in the presence of economic insecurity, which he had maintained somehow or other from his early childhood and which he called as the 'central conviction' of h is life, became stronger after the publication of Grammar of Politics (1925) due to the changed political and economic situtations in Europe.

    5. Commitment to Marxism

    6. There was a great economic crisis in Europe which he ascribed to the inefficient capitalist system. He felt that even the British and American democracies were unable to tackle their economic problems of this period. As opposed to the failure of economic policies in capitalist democracies, the Soviet Union had made great economic progress and had directed its efforts towards the equaliza­tion of wealth and the establishment of economic security for all the citizens. The comparison of the British and the American systems with that of the Soviet Union convinced him that the democratiza­tion of state power was not the real solution of the Problem, and that individual liberty was merely a function of economic equality. Con-



    1. 520

    2. GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS



    1. sequently, his faith in some sort of humanistic socialism, mainly rooted in his sense of social justice, which he had maintained from his young age, became stronger. He himself had admitted that "I have, I suppose, been a socialist in some degree ever since the last years of my school days."116 He also had recorded the influence exerted upon him while he was a Schoolboy in Manchester by a "great schoolmaster who made us feel the sickness of an acquisitive society," by the books be had read, especially those of the Webbs, and by a speech in which Keir Hardie had described the labour struggles of the Scottish miners. He became sick of the old economic structure of society and gradually started looking towards Marxism for an answer. While accepting Marx's economic interpretation of politics and living under his strong influence he called his early pluralism a half-way house to the real solution of the problem. For him "the pluralist attitude to the state and law was a stage on the road to an acceptance of the Marxian attitude to them."* His argument vas that as the state was an 'exe­cutive instrument' of the economically dominant group in society, it was necessary to destroy first of all the class-structure of society before limiting the powers of the state. In a classless society, he thought, the purpose and the function of the state would automatically change. With this also changed his definition of individual liberty as found in the first edition of Grammar of Politics (1925). He asserted that liberty was not so much a positive thing as it was a negative condition. As such, the strong state action was essential both to protect the indivi­dual liberty and change the old economic structure of society.

    2. Disapproval of Russian Method


      1. 4 "The Crisis in the Theory of the State" in Vol. II of Law (1937), p. xii.

      Although Laski approved of the necessity of strong state (during the period of transition from capitalism to socialism) with a view to bringing about a new economic structure and, at the same time, regulating the federal life of society, he was never in favour of the method which Russia had applied in replacing her old economic system by a new Marxist system. He also did not welcome the dicta­torship in the Soviet Russia and the Marxian identification of state with society. His fundamental belief was in the freedom of the mind, and he regarded society as.federal ir: character. He always- insisted upon the democratization of the state power. The groups, he said, must enjoy necessary freedom in their own sphere of action, and they should participate in the process of administration. Without this the state would become coercive, and the liberty of the individual would remain in danger. He firmly argued that the benefits of civil liberties could not be sacrificed for the sake of a strong state for creating a


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