DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of Social Thought Notes Chapter 31 MN Roy (1886—1954)
Write a short note on M.N. Roy’s major works.
M. N. Roy was a great writer with a powerful pen and imagination. Some of his writings may be given as under :
- India in Revolution,
- Revolution and Counter-revolution in China,
- Our differences,
- Science and Philosophy,
- On the Congress Constitution,
- People’s plan,
- National Government or People’s Government,
- Rise of Romanticism and Revolution etc.
India in Revolution.
This was the first attempt in the series of writing. It was published in 1922. He criticised the insincerity of English rulers regarding Mon-Ford Reforms of 1919. He criticised liberals and Moderates in Indian Politics for their blind faith towards the English rulers, whole extremists were the adventurists and revivalists.
Indian Problem and its Solutions.
This was published in 1923. He highly admired Mahatma Gandhi for :
- Preparing the Indian masses for national struggle for emancipation.
- For his theory of non-violence and non-cooperation.
- For organizing the forces of nationalism under the banner of Indian National Congress.
He also criticized Gandhian philosophy.
During 1924, Roy gave another book called “One year of Non-Cooperation” that gives Gandhiji’s criticism. He appreciated the role of Gandhiji in organising a mass movement in the history of national Congress.
During 1926, he wrote “Future of Indian Politics”. This was written at the death of C. R. Dass. He gave the beginning of ‘Peoples Party’ to the formation of proletarian movement further. For national revolution students, workers and peasants and intellectuals should come under one flag. He attacked the Swaraj Party as the defenders of landlords. He wanted to shift the social basis of national move¬ment from feudal lords.
During 1930, Roy gave the “Revolution and Counter-Revolution in China” in which he gave impressions of communist movement in China.
As for literary book he gave ‘Materialism’ in 1940 though it was written in 1934. He gave in this book philosophy of historical materialism and economic interpretation of history according to Karl Marx.
In 1940, he conducted a study circle of his friends and followers at Dehradun. He gave a booklet named “Scientific Politics”. Here he deviated from Marxism.
After 6 years, he conducted another seminar in which he completely departed from Marxism. He gave radicalism or integral humanism. This new philosophy of Radical humanism was published in two volumes named “New Orientation and Beyond Communism to Humanism”.
On 15 August 1947, he wanted to give his philosophy in solid form. New Humanism and Politics, Power and Parties and Reason, Romanticism and Revolution are two volumes wherein he gave political philosophy on radical humanism. Roy wrote many articles in different papers and magazines that will give his thoughts of politics among the thinkers of the modern world.
Discuss M. N. Roy’s ideas about radical humanism.
M. N. Roy was deeply influenced by Karl Max and Lenin, Hobbes, Hegel and all belonging to 18th century and united all these ideas into one philosophical system.
Roy defined Radical humanism as a philosophy of freedom based on modern scientific knowledge. Human nature is rational and ethical, it can construct a social edifice characterized by freedom, humanity, liberalism and justice. He put forth that contemporary life was degraded and demoralized but he attributed all this to “the errors and inadequacies of previous ideologies”. Because of all these he felt need for new and true revolutionary, social and political philosophy which could fill a fresh and re-invigorating ethical outlook and realize the real nature of man.
During the period 1947-54 he became a radical humanist. The fundamental principles of this philosophy are materialism, humanism, rationalism and morality. In his opinion modes in civilization is passing through a moral and cultural crisis. Humanist values had undergone a drastic degeneration.
He wanted to restore to the person his moral and spiritual integrity lost by him. Roy sets his face against religion as a source of morality. Being metaphysical religion was inclined to super-natural values. He was not a spiritualist like Tagore or Aurobindo.
He was a convinced materialist. Religion became a conventional thing and science had pushed it aside and hence social behaviour or political life was not bound any more by it. His ethics based on reasoning or rational outlook and not on any metaphysical plane. He put forth that rationality never depended on any divine or religious power.
It depended as a product of biological evolution. Hence he based his thoughts on natural rationality of man. Human conscience is the reflex of rationality. He pleaded for new humanism based on the application of natural reason and secular conscience. Individual liberty should be made alive from the debris of state collectivism. State power should be distributed to individual freedom.
By this individual sovereignty would prove to make the new history. Biological struggle for self-preservation and self-reproduction was the basis of the concept of individual freedom. Freedom was a social necessity and an incentive to an emancipated life. New humanism is cosmopolitan in its outlook. It aims at creation of the world- brotherhood, a cooperative fellowship of humanity. Social and political reconstruction based on moral renaissance of man. Hence only creation of awareness for freedom was necessary.
It has been remarked that, M. N. Roy, “wanted a divorce between morality and irrationality. The attempt to build a structure of thought as will provide a foundation of morality contributed the philosophy of Radical humanism.” Humanism was first profounded by the distant past when Greek sophists like Proiogores taught the ideals of naturalism, universalism, rationalism and humanism.
Erasmus, More, Buchnan and Harder also believed it. Turgott and Condorcet like Roy saw that progress of science had forced man from the superstitious and supernatural fears. Roy pleaded for ethical approach to individuals like radicals Hutchesun and Bentham.
According to V. P. Verma “It professes faith in the creative power of man not on the basis of mysticism, credulity or scriptural sanction but on the solid testimony of vast scientific and historical researches which testify to the creative activities of man”.
Roy also spoke about this : “Morality must be referred back to man’s innate rationality. Only then man will be moral, spontaneously and voluntarily”.
Materialism stands as one of the chief fundamental principles of ‘Radical Humanism’. According to him matter was real and indepen¬dent. Mind was the developed state of the matter.
In the words of Dr. B. S. Sharma, Roy’s materialism stands thus, the term “matter ” was not used as previously used by classical philosophers, i.e., in terms of ultimate constituents called atoms existing in space and time. In the modern sense it was an energy. The mass and motion of a thing were simply due to electrical charge. Space and time as such represented respectively geometrical and chronological functions of material existence.
In this way, Roy had a quite different view of matter as depicted by classical thinkers. Hence he called his materialism as physical realism, ultimately, matter was electrical energy and is self moving and acting. Matter was subject to cause and effect. As he put it “matter still remains an observable phenomenon – a measurable quantity”.
Origin of life and mind depended on this concept of matter. Physical universe gives possible biological evolution. Four bodies – our organs of sensation, the nervous system, the brain, the entire cognitive apparatus had peen produced through this inanimate matter.
There was no life on earth. With the collection of water organism appeared on earth’s surface. Life appeared by chemical energy released by inorganic compounds.
The origin of life is thus : “There is no difference between organic and inorganic matter. All living bodies are formed out of such chemical elements as carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulphur, potassium, sodium etc. No such elements have been found in vegetable and animal bodies as are absent in the inorganic substances. When a certain combination of a number of chemical elements produces the phenomenon of life, It enters into the organic domain”. The primitive form of life developed with its appearance.
It was not dependent on inorganic matter anymore. Matter had power to develop itself complex, conscious, knowing and thinking beings. Then came the existence of mind at the higher stage. Mind came into human form and actions and reactions appeared between mind and matter. Mind gave reality of things. This was the Praxis of Marx.
He explained this “When a thing reproduced by man, according to lies perception, corresponds with the original object of his perception, there can no longer be any possible doubt about the objective reality of things and correctness of our perceptions cf them. Once the taste of the pudding has been ascertained by the simple but convincing method of rating it, there can no longer be any doubt about it.”
Man belonged to physical nature as is derived from matter and is bound by the same physical laws of nature. Universe is a moral order governed by inherent laws. Roy called them natural laws derived from experience – regularity of nature are facts of human experience. Man with the help of reason established these laws with nature. Reason or brain came in contact with physical nature. Hence reason came “from the consciousness of man’s being an integral part of law governed by physical universe.” Universe gave rise to brain which is governed by law and mind is rational.
Rational power in man is instinctive. Objects of experience are based on relationship of cause and effect. Belief remains there even if the things are not perceived and experienced. Conceptual thoughts are based on experiences, which are described by words and language. Thoughts and languages being under the process of development go together. This takes a long process.
By instinct man is rational, hence all religious and super natural experiences are meaningless. Mystic experience is swept away as ‘mental makeup is heavily loaded with preconceived notions”. Religious experience is described as ‘psychological derangement, an artificially created psychological condition”. Roy calls the trance or a religious man, a symptom of a bad case of hysteria. For religious experience conscious mental activity has to be suspended and as such man instead of rising to spiritual heights goes down to spiritual depths.
Place of Ethical Values.
The materialistic point of view is clear in his concept of morality and freedom. Morality is neither dependent on reason nor the fear of God. It is based upon his environment, Rules of morality are man’s heritage and ensure social life. – Though morality is objective if has a utility. He gives a subjective notion of morality when he takes what is good and bad for him as good and bad for others.
Freedom means the removal of hinderances. It has been rightly pointed out that “In the early stages of evolution, it manifests itself as the biological struggle for existence ; at a higher level it does not remain mechanical adaptation, but becomes conscious and purposive and for the same reason, man acquires scientific knowledge. It is the basis for his constant search for knowledge which enables him to be progressively free from the tyranny of natural phenomenon and physical and social environments.”
The urge for freedom cannot be completely satisfied because the existence of man in the environment can never be mastered.
As Hobbes said likewise Roy puts it that man is self-centred and he assumes social obligations for his self-interest. It was the self-preservation that drove man to society. Individual interest and social good coincide. Self-regarding sentiments should not be destroyed and should be involved into wider areas of life. Society and state are for preserving human freedom. On the other hand these devices dominate men and take away their freedom. So also religion is destroying their freedom by superstitions. Marriages, family and class are other hinderances to human development and freedom.
According to him Marx forgot that individuals make the class through their willingness. But the present notion of the class priority over individual reserves the course. It means denial of freedom of individuals in the name of society or class and no healthy society could come up. Hence concept of class or society should be made relative and society should be means to an end but not on end in itself.
Individuals who constitute the states were ends in themselves and that their freedom was most valuable and essential. He felt that the greatest hinderances to individual freedom along with other factors, was society and class. In his organised Democracy and in People’s Plan he suggested means by which an individual could remain free by remaining a part of the class.