The Rationale, Basis and Development of the Idea of Socialism

The watchwords of the French Revolution, “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” each represent an essential aspect of the social life of humanity in its evolutionary development.  The concept of liberty arises first as the mental power emerges from the vital infrarational existence.  This leads eventually to an age of individualism and the idea of either representative or direct democracy in which the individual has the opportunity to participate in the direction of the society.  At some point however, unbridled individualism leads to severe imbalance such as we see in today’s world, where 1% of the world’s people have control of as much in assets as some 40% or more of the rest of the people of the world.  This creates the circumstance for the second term of the French Revolution, “Equality” to have its chance.  Capitalism is the economic model of the individualistic age.  Socialism is the economic model of the age of Equality.

Sri Aurobindo observes:  “Socialism, labouring under the disadvantageous accident of its birth in a revolt against capitalism, an uprising against the rule of the successful bourgeois and the plutocrat, has been compelled to work itself out by a war of classes.  And, worse still, it has started from an industrialised social system and itself taken on at the beginning a purely industrial and economic appearance.  There are accidents that disfigure its true nature.  Its true nature, its real justification is the attempt of the human reason to carry on the rational ordering of society to its fulfilment, its will to get rid of this great parasitical excrescence of unbridled competition, this giant obstacle to any decent ideal or practice of human living.  Socialism sets out to replace a system of organised economic battle by an organised order and peace.  This can no longer be done on the old lines, an artificial or inherited inequality brought about by the denial of equal opportunity and justified by the affirmation of that injustice and its result as an eternal law of society and of Nature.  That is a falsehood which the reason of man will no longer permit.  Neither can it be done, it seems, on the basis of individual liberty; for that has broken down in the practice.  Socialism therefore must do away with the democratic basis of individual liberty, even if it professes to respect it or to be marching towards a more rational freedom.  It shifts at first the fundamental emphasis to other ideas and fruits of the democratic ideal, and it leads by this transference of stress to a radical change in the basic principle of a rational society.  Equality, not a political only, but a perfect social equality, is to be the basis.  There is to be equality of opportunity for all, but also of status for all, for without the last the first cannot be secured; even if it were established, it could not endure.  This equality again is impossible if personal, or at least inherited right in property is to exist, and therefore socialism abolishes — except at best on a small scale — the right of personal property as it is now understood and makes war on the hereditary principle.”

When it denies the individual right to decide and control any of the property, socialism starts down a path of community ownership, management and control of all assets and decisions with respect to their use.    “For so only can the collective reason and intelligent will of the race overcome the egoism of individualistic life and bring about a perfect principle and rational order of society in a harmonious world.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 19, The Curve of the Rational Age, pp. 200-201