The Political Development of the modern world has been influenced and shaped by the three concepts of nationalism, democracy and socialism. Chronologically, nationalism is the earliest, and socialism the latest. Taking Europe to be of representative character in this respect, we find that right from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, its map was drawn and re-drawn according to national urges. Nationalism united the people and forced different united people and forced different principalities to forgo their autonomy in favour of a national government. It also differentiated one set of people from another, and slowly we find that national interests, rather than whims or wished of an individual, increasingly guided the conduct of war and peace. As nations came to acquire a distinctive character, the form of government also became a matter of interest and controversy. When Alexander pope tried to summarily reject all controversies regarding form of government, he only exhibited his subconscious interest in the matter. He wrote :
For forms of Government let
What ever is administered best,
Pope Did Not Answer The Question
Pope, however, did not answer the knotty problem: under which form of government we get, or can hope to get, or can hope to get, the best administration? Monarchy was the form in vogue then, and all the ills of the Government were due to, or could easily be made to look as due to, that system. Moreover and more political philosophers came forward to question the divine right theory of kingship. All men came to be regarded as equal. All this gave birth to democratic ideas. Interest in city republics of Greece was revived. By the time of the French Revolution democracy had become more than a century for democracy to take practical shape and strike root in the many countries of Europe.
With the growth of industrial revolution it was soon realised that real power rested in the hands of the few. There was exploitation not only in the economic field, but in the political sphere also. The common man was either denied franchise, or conditions in which the right of franchise could be freely exercised, did not exist. The urge for social justice gave birth to a political philosophy—which was termed as socialism. Till Marx made a system of it, socialism was a vague tendency representing the utopian ideals of a number of social workers, trade union leaders and political philosophers. Not that Marx’s enunciation of his philosophy lacked any of these traits, or that socialism became any more practicable, but he contributed to socialist thought an analysis and a theory, which elevated it into a definite political philosophy. Even after Marx, there have been socialists who have differed from him, but in their main premises and ultimate objectives they have not been able to make any distinctive mark. The influence of Marxian methodology has made socialism an anathema to many people, and has made it incompatible both with nationalism and democracy.
Nationalism Is A Fact
Nationalism is still the single dominate factor influencing policies of the Governments of the world. But there are very few who expressly recognise its force; and some even want to put an end to nationalism, considering it a curse for humanity. The latter have not succeeded in freeing themselves from this elementary urge; they have only created a number of complexes and thus weakened their national policies. Today most people claim to follow a combination of the two ideals. Thus there are national democrats, national socialists, and democratic socialists. Taken singly, there could be nationalists, socialists and democrats.
Most countries of the free would can be included in the first category, viz. national democrats. They take nationalism for granted and keep democracy as an ideal before them. These people are not very much enamoured of socialism and some even consider it to be detrimental to democracy. Nazism and Fascism were forms of national socialism. The communist countries USSR, China, Yugoslavia etc. could also be called national socialist. The only difference that is visible is that the latter do not deify nationalism. But impact of nationalism can easily be noticed. Hitler, by placing an undue stress on nationalism. Definitely roused his own people but antagonized the rest. The communist countries are acting in a subtler manner. By claiming to be a world movement they easily undermine national loyalties of other people and thus serve their own national expansionist designs.
Socialism Is A Force
Bhartiya Jana Sangh places equal reliance on nationalism and democracy and recognises that socialism too has some part to play in the present stage or development of the country.
In countries of Asia and Africa that have got their independence from the western colonial powers, the political philosophy in vogue is democratic socialism. Having acquired freedom they seem to have forgotten nationalism, which, in fact, had been the source of inspiration in their freedom struggle. Being associated with the West, they have some faith in democracy. But at the same time they cannot escape the demonstration effect of the fashionable slogan of socialism. Moreover socialism satisfies the lust for power of the cliques that rule and delude the masses. In a society which abounds in poverty and ignorance, socialism has an-appeal but it is not a cure. Thus we see that the free and developed countries of the world are national democrats; regimented—developed or under-developed-ones are national socialists or communists; and free but under-developed countries are democratic socialists. These are broad categories. But there are exceptions which it is difficult to place in any of the three. Pakistan, for example, is neither national democratic nor national socialist.
Democracy Is A Goal
India with the Congress Party in power, can be termed a democratic socialist country. Presently, in the under-developed stage of the country’s economy, and in the early period of our independence, due to the legacy of British Parliamentary institutions we can both afford to be socialistic and democratic socialism. Today it simply means assumption of certain responsibilities in the field of economic development by the State. There are certain field where in private capital, due to its limited capacities in an under developed country, cannot possibly enter. The State has to come in. Then there are certain regulatory functions which are a must for a developing State. There is then the question of reducing inequalities. In these respects India has got to be socialist. But there are some harmful effects also. In the first place due to socialism the State definitely takes over a large sphere of enterprise and thus keeps away the entrepreneur even from activities which he can legitimately discharge to the advantage of the State. The State activities become monopolistic. Here again, to satisfy the socialist craving of the fanatic few, the Government diverts its energies in taking up other industrial activities and/or nationalising what has already been developed by private enterprise. Instead of supplementing economic activity which, in a developing country, is a legitimate responsibility of the State it starts supplanting the already developed industries.
To be continued…
(Organiser, Diwali, 1963)