The following piece is an excerpt from an article published in the June 1958 issue of ‘The Indian Libertarian.’ C Rajagopalachari was the founder of the Swatantra Party–the only political party in India that espoused Classical Liberal principles. In the piece, written 10 years after Independence, Rajaji (as he was fondly called) talks of the need for a political alternative that challenged socialism. This piece was written shortly after he parted ways with the Congress, and shortly before he founded the Swatantra Party in 1959.
MK Gandhi and C Rajagopalachari (Image Source: http://www.mkgandhi.org/)
The political organisation that successfully fought the British power in India was at the close of that struggle put in power by the latter. The British Parliament not only acknowledged the independence of India but transferred the reins of executive authority to the Congress Party to start with. This Party continues to govern the affairs of the country after ten years of that event.
It is well known or, to use the safer journalistic phrase, it cannot be denied that there is considerable searching of heart at the present moment among the leaders of the Indian National Congress. All is not well, it is felt, but no remedy has been found that meets the situation, and consequently the customary attitude in similar situations in the case of individual sickness is adopted, to say that there is nothing very serious to worry about.
No theory of civil life, no ‘ism’ will work satisfactorily unless the citizens in the democracy are willing to undertake the responsibility of thinking and judging for themselves. This willingness, and by desuetude the capacity also, are rapidly decreasing. Instead of independent thinking and free judgement, the manners of parrots have been growing among men, even among those rightly credited with intellectual capacity of a high order. They repeat the words uttered by the established guardians without paying thought to the meaning and the implications. I am not objecting to any particular opinion but to the parrot culture that has seized the country.
No Discussion of Socialism
For instance, there is more than one road to national welfare. The Welfare State was the first formula adopted by the leaders; it was soon followed by the ‘Socialistic pattern’, and then came the Socialist State.
Did people who successively re-uttered these phrases follow the various meanings of the various phrases? Has there been any known public or even private discussion of the merits of the various ideals connoted by these terms?
Do men and women who repeat the word ‘Socialism’, as a name for what is claimed to be the straight way leading to welfare, remember what Gandhiji said about it–Gandhiji whom they profess not only to admire but also to follow in all things? Do people who now accept National Socialism do so after having considered and rejected the doctrine of trusteeship which Gandhiji told his disciples was his way and was preferable to the egalitarianism of the Socialists and the interference by law with ownership of property and its traditional incidents and obligations which Socialism meant?
Have we Thought?
Have men thought about the matter and all its consequences, including the concentration of all economic power and influence in those who for the time being wield authority? Have they even thought about whether the management of things by men is likely to be carried out better when they have a proportionate interest in their good stewardship and in its results or when they do it on salaries and on behalf of the State? Or has Socialism been adopted only as parrots learn to speak?
We need an opposition that thinks differently and does not just want more of the same; a group of vigorously thinking citizens which aims at the general welfare, and not one that in order to get more votes from the so-called have-nots, offers more to them than the party in power has given, an opposition that appeals to reason and acts on the firm faith that India can be governed well as a democratic republic, and that the have-nots will not reject sound reason.
It is not the quality of true faith in democracy to fear that truth will not succeed with the electors. What will lead to permanent welfare the voters will accept, if not at once, at least in course of time. We must have the faith that they will see through the corrupt offers of immediate gains at the cost of injury to the general welfare. On such faith an opposition should come into being that will set a proper balance to the authority of the party in power and put our free commonwealth on its two feet.
Such an opposition, even if it should not succeed in ousting a powerful majority from its seat, may at least see that its power is not absolute power, which corrupts absolutely, but something controlled, so that the evils that flow from power may be kept within limits.
Some people, frightened by the hopeless prospect of bidding against a Socialist Government for the favour of the have-nots, believe that the only course open is to wait for the fading away of the Congress by reason of it its own weaknesses and diseases, and then to form a new political party on right lines.
This cannot be done. No party can issue out of chaos except one backed by physical force and terrorism.
If we desire a parliamentary party to come into being for steadying the machinery of government, it must be accomplished when the government is running under Congress rule. It would be fatal to wait for its disintegration, which will result only in rule by force.
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.