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INDIVIDUALISTIC DEMOCRACY

Man may for a time, for a long time even, live by the mere tradition of things whose reality he has lost, but not permanently; the necessity of questioning all his conventions and traditions arises, and by that necessity reason gets its first real chance of an entire self-development. Reason can accept no tradition merely for the sake of its antiquity or its past greatness: it has to ask, first, whether the tradition contains at all any still living truth and, secondly, whether it contains the best truth available to man for the government of his life.

This reason which is to be universally applied, for Aurobindo though, cannot be the reason of a ruling class. It cannot be the reason of a few pre-eminent thinkers. It must be the reason of each and all seeking a basis of agreement. Hence arises the principle of individualistic democracy, that the reason and will of every individual in the society must be allowed to count. Secondly, each individual must be allowed to govern his life according to the dictates of his own reason and will so far as that can be done without impinging on the same right in others.

SOCIALISM AND THE LIMITS TO DEMOCRACY

In practice it is found that these ideas will not hold for a long time. For the ordinary man is not yet a rational being; emerging from a long infra-rational past, he is not naturally able to form a reasonable judgment, but thinks either according to his own interests, impulses and prejudices or else according to the ideas of others more active in intelligence or swift in action who are able by some means to establish an influence over his mind. Secondly, he does not yet use his reason in order to come to an agreement with his fellows, but rather to enforce his own opinions by struggle and conflict with the opinions of others. Socialism, in recent history, is a good case in point. Labouring under the disadvantageous accident, for Aurobindo, of its birth in a revolt against capitalism, an uprising against the rule of the successful bourgeoisie and the plutocrat, socialism has been compelled to work itself out by a war of classes. On the one hand, it is well to get rid of this great parasitical excrescence of unbridled competition. On the other hand, socialism sets out to replace a system of organized economic battle by an organized order and peace, and in the process it therefore must do away with the democratic basis of individual liberty.

IMPOSITION OF THE COLLECTIVE STATE

It is the individual who demands liberty for himself, a free movement for his mind, life, will, action; the collectivist trend and the State idea have rather the opposite tendency, they are self-compelled to take up more and more the compulsory management and control of the mind, life, will, action of the community – and the individual's as part of it – until personal liberty is pressed out of existence.

But if both equality and liberty disappear from the human scene, there is left only one member of the democratic trinity. But such fraternity without liberty and equality can be nothing more than the like association of all individuals, functional classes, guilds, soviets – under the absolute control of the collective State. In Russia the Marxist system of socialism was turned, as such, almost into a gospel. Originally a rationalistic system worked out by a logical thinker, Marx, as a discoverer and systematiser of ideas, it was transformed by the peculiar turn of the Russian mind into something like a social religion, a social cult. Thereby the seizure of the life of the community takes place, by a dominant individual leader, a Führer, Nazi, Fascist or Communist party.

If this trend becomes universal, it is the end of the Age of Reason. Reason cannot do its work, act or rule if the mind of man is denied freedom to think or freedom to realize its thought by action in life.

 
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