Special on 44th BJP Foundation day
– Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Party with a Difference
We can organise the people only if we are able to establish our credibility in their minds. The people must feel convinced that here is a party different from the crowd of self-seekers who swamp the political stage, that its aim is not somehow to sneak into office and that its politics is based on certain values and principles.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has accepted the concept of Gandhian Socialism after due deliberation. Gandhiji did not propound any ‘ism’ as such. But his views revealed an integrated approach to life and even to modern problems.
Gandhiji did not regard man only as an economic being. Like all our ancient seers, Gandhiji wanted man to strive for the fulfilment of not only his material but also his spiritual needs. Earlier, we had Swami Vivekananda speak in terms of a spiritual socialism. The Bhagwad Gita refers to Samya Yoga. When the Ishavasya Upanished remonstrates against casting covetous eyes on another’s wealth, it is only commending a society based on aparigraha (non-accumulation). The adage, ‘All land belongs to Gopal’ also reflects the same spirit. Every aahuti (offering) at the yajna is followed by the chant idan na mama (This is not mine). Here too, it is the same non-accumulative idea that is stressed.
Emphasis on Human Values
There is a basic difference between Gandhian Socialism and Marxist Socialism. Gandhian Socialism starts with human values as historically evolved and tested and then attempts to reconstruct the economic and social systems on the basis of these values. In Marxist ideology, on the other hand, human values are made subject to social relations, material conditions and conditions of production. Both Gandhism as well as Marxism claim to end exploitation of man by man. But Marxist Socialism cannot tell us why it wants to do so unless it gets out of itself, whereas the basic premise of Gandhi’s philosophy is that exploitation of man by man is a violation of human values.
Exploitation is due to Loss of Values
The exploitation of man by man has not come on account of evolution and progress in human values. It is, instead, the result of loss of values during some phase of the progress of the socio- economic systems and the material forces operating in that system. Gandhian socialism insists that if economic exploitation of man by man is to be ended it cannot be ended within any value-neutral and so-called scientific social system; it can be stopped only through a value system on which the changes in the social system are to be structured as well as tested.
Marxists are unable to tell us as to what will happen when Capitalism is abolished, except that they will establish a classless society. In practice, however, something far worse has been happening where they have succeded as their system has turned out to be tyrannical, dictatorial and destructive of human values.
Integrated way of looking at Reality
Marxists and many other so-called scientific socialists often describe Gandhiji as anti-science. This is an utter travesty of truth. Gandhiji’s whole life was nothing but a grand search for truth. And what is science if it is not a search for truth? But scientific methods cannot be applied to the search of man for his inner self or his quest for understanding spiritual reality or the reality of the mind. Gandhian socialism emphasises the reality of both the material and the spiritual, and it is only through this integrated way of looking at reality that human values can be discovered.
Violence is Self-defeating
Another basic difference between Marxist socialism and Gandhian socialism is over violence. All communist revolutions have come through violence and, tragically, they have survived by still greater use of violence against their own people. A Marxist revolution eats its own children. Gandhiji did not rule out the use of violence in certain situations, but he had warned Indian politicians that to rely on violence as an instrument of social and political change or for the resolution of class conflict would ultimately be self-defeating.
Distribution of Power
Yet another point of difference between Marxist views and Gandhian views is regarding the question of distribution of power, to which the problem of violence is related. Marxist socialism does not possess an independent theory of the state or of distribution of political power. That is why Marxists do not believe in democracy, Although Gandhiji, like Marx, believed in the ultimate withering away of the State, he warned against the danger of the immense concentration of power in the hands of the State without any countervailing checks. There is difference between Marxism and Gandhism also with regard to the path and process of this withering away. In communist countries, the state has acquired more and more power and is now using it against its own working class and the proletariat in whose name it rules. Recent happenings in Poland provide a glaring example.
Gandhian socialism regards decentralisation as the basis of its political system. In this there are two streams of political institutions and processes, both running parallel to each other. On the one hand, there will be institutions of representative democracy and, on the other, there will be institutions of participatory democracy.
Panchayats and District Boards should be given real powers and adequate financial resources
Today in India there is no democratic participation below the level of Parliament and State legislatures. All powers vest in the bureaucracy. Under this system, therefore, it is not possible to involve people in the efforts for national reconstruction and to make them feel responsible for shaping their own destinies. Panchayats and District Boards should be given real powers and adequate financial resources. Their autonomy should be guaranteed by the Constitution and should not be on the sufferance of the State Government.
These and other local bodies can be of service not only to their own members but also to one another and can be linked with the higher bodies. These institutions which Gandhiji used to describe as local republics can play a valuable role in curbing authoritarian tendencies and trends.
Gandhian socialism is totally against state monopoly of economic power, while in communist countries, socialism has become synonymous with such state monopoly. Concentration of political and economic power in the hands of the State have made communist regimes utterly repressive and antithetical to socialist humanism. In order to prevent the concentration of economic power either in the hands of the State or in the hands of a few individuals, we have to accept a decentralised economy. Both communism and capitalism have generated a new kind of inequality, inhumanity, violence, selfishness, greed, unrestrained consumerism and alienation. Gandhiji’s idea of trusteeship points a third way to the world. It can imbibe good points of both capitalism and communism while rejecting their bad points. If society is to harmonise the interests of consumers, producers, the state, owners of property and labour, joining in a common endeavour, then there is no other alternative except trusteeship.
Gandhiji’s concept of trusteeship does not depend simply on the good sense of those who are in power. Its real importance can be understood only in the context of institutional changes and organised people’s power.
To be continued…
(Presidential address of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpeyee at BJP National Council, Bombay, 28-December, 1980)