Fraternity as an Organizing Principle of Society Fails Without Liberty and Equality

The watchwords of the French Revolution, “liberty, equality, fraternity” embody three principles which together provide guidance for the development of human society.  Each has been attempted to some degree in a sort of isolation from the others, and as a result have led to failure in achieving the long-term goal of a harmonious and progressive human society.  Fraternity is the most recent term to have its place in the sun, as the ideals of liberty and equality have been virtually discarded, their weaknesses exposed.  If we follow the line of development of the first two, the idea of fraternity will be tried to the exclusion of the others.

Sri Aurobindo comments:  “But if both equality and liberty disappear from the human scene, there is left only one member of the democratic trinity, brotherhood or, as it is now called, comradeship, that has some chance of survival as part of the social basis.  This is because it seems to square better with the spirit of collectivism; we see accordingly the idea of it if not the fact still insisted on in the new social systems, even those in which both liberty and equality are discarded as noxious democratic chimeras.  But comradeship without liberty and equality can be nothing more than the like association of all — individuals, functional classes, guilds, syndicates, soviets or any other units — in common service to the life of the nation under the absolute control of the collectivist State.  The only liberty left at the end would be the “freedom” to serve the community under the rigorous direction of the State authority; the only equality would be an association of all alike in a Spartan or Roman spirit of civic service with perhaps a like status, theoretically equal at least for all functions; the only brotherhood would be the sense of comradeship in devoted dedication to the organised social Self, the State.  In fact the democratic trinity, stripped of its godhead, would fade out of existence; the collectivist ideal can very well do without them, for none of them belong to its grain and very substance.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Human Cycle: The Psychology of Social Development, Chapter 19, The Curve of the Rational Age, pp. 203-204