Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Roy, M.N.

Manavendranath Roy was an influential Nationalist during the British rule of India, an early propagator of Communism in Mexico and China, and the founder of Communist Party of India. However, his creation of a “New Humanism,” which emanated from studying the philosophical consequences of modern science, later morphed into the inspiration for India’s modern-day Radical Humanist and Rationalist movements, which exist on the fringes of a society steeped in religious and ideological dogma.
Roy first emerged on the Bengal national stage  of extremist politics  during World War I to fight against Britain. He travelled widely in Asia  to try secure arms from Germany agents who promised to help support the overthrow of British rule. Roy’s quest also took him to the United States in 1916 where he met and married Evelyn Trent (1892-1970), a Stanford  University graduate who was attracted to Roy’s intellect. They  traveled together to Mexico to help start  the Communist Party ). Roy’s activities attracted the attention of Lenin who invited the couple to Moscow in 1919, where they morphed into revolutionaries and published journals (JOURNALS like Masses,) Roy also worked with Stalin in the international communist movement. He formally started the Communist Party of India (CPI) in Tashkent in1920 and was later sent to China in 1927 by Stalin to help  the Communist Party there in 1927..
Having DIVORCED Trent in 1927, he married Ellen Gotschalk (1904-60) a German intellectual.
Roy returned to India in 1930, actively entering  nationalist politics. A decade later he founded the Radical Democratic Party though within eight years, became disillusioned with party structures which, he wrote, against the sovereignty of the individual. Following India’s independence from British rule in 1947, Roy disbanded the party in favor of a Renaissance Movement in 1948 and by 1952 was named a vice chairman of The International Humanist Union, Amsterdam. By xxxx, he articulated a new philosophical thought, which he dubbed as New Humanism. Towards the end of his life, Roy wrote his memoirs.
Philosophy : At the heart of Roy’s New Humanism lies the study of the philosophical consequences of modern science. While classical philosophy attempted to answer ontological, cosmological and epistemological questions, Roy thought modern philosophy could no longer suffice since it required scientific knowledge. Thus, he felt, that modern philosophy had become irrelevant and only modern scientific philosophy, which synthesizes results from myriad branches of science could meet modern needs. Roy believed that current reality was always tentative and partial, as scientific research will go on forever and newer findings needed to be incorporated into New Humanism.
While typically solutions for problems faced in nature were offered up by philosophy, Roy believed modern philosophy could no longer do that since it lacked scientific knowledge. Thus, he turned to the philosophy of science noting that scientific research had entered into realms previously left to metaphysical explanations. Because different phases of evolution and human existence were studied by different brances of science, rather than just philosophy, it need to be the philosophy of science that explained existence as a whole, Roy postulated.
Roy’s New Humanism believed all life evolves out of inanimate matter and the descent of humans can be traced to the laws governing the universe. Rationalism and morality in humans is causally connected, thus forming a harmony and Roy believed that disturbing irrational elements can be gradually eliminated through a scientific outlook. Humanist axiology deduces all values from supreme value of freedom while ethical values are derived from biological heritage and not transcendental.
The problems of appearance and reality, the space-time continuum, the beginning and end of universe and thus the mysteries of life all came into the realm of philosophy of science, according to Roy. Roy further stated that there is no mystery of life and that all phenomena of life was explained through scientific discoveries. This generates out of critical examination, rational coordination and then logical deduction of perceptual data which follows from it. That thinking became the essence of Roy`s approach.
Politics : Roy preferred an organized democracy with a pyramid political structure where the power is always vested in sovereign individuals. He viewed delegation of power as taking away democratic principles from people and believed only decentralization of power could strengthen democracy. The function of state, to Roy, was to coordinate the activities of all institutions from a village all the way to a state, with the Indian parliament at the apex of a pyramid state structure. He believed that People`s Committees would the core nationwide network, a political democracy that was quite different from the state as visualized by other Communists of that era. Roy believed that a democratic control of the political machine would guarantee freedom of the individual and that political and economic democracies should work hand-in-hand. According to Roy, a centrally planned economy and ownership vested in the state would never end the exploitation of labor.
Roy was firm that any form of dictatorship tended to perpetuate itself and that under the pretext of efficiency and collective effort, a political dictatorship will destroy individual freedoms. And, thus, a Communist society could then never be a higher form of democracy.
Roy also wrote that a laissez faire doctrine was essentially a sanction for exploiting men by other men, and that a rational human being had to overcome the economic one. Roy visualized a social order where all production would be based for use and distribution according to social requirements with his People’s Committees allowing direct adult participation in economic activities.
Roy believed that a wide diffusion of power under Radical Democracy could lead to rational politics and thus a moral society. He wanted education to be about propagation of scientific principles and science to be integrated into social organization to reconcile the individual and collective society. Roy saw this as a social revolution to impart ideas, and that the urge for freedom as the highest principle of struggle for existence with the search for the truth as a corollary to that urge.
Roy’s lasting vision—one that has endured well beyond his political beliefs in India today—is the desire for secularism, or a  clear separation of state and religion. He wanted to keep religious faith at the personal level and removed from affairs of the state entering.

Select References:
1. M. N. Roy: Reason, Romanticism and Revolution 2 Volumes,. Indian Renaissance Publishers,
   Kolkata, India 1952.
2. Sibnarayan Ray (editor) Selected works of M N Roy,
   Oxford (UNIVERSItyR Publications 4 volumes (YEAR?)
3. Ellen Roy (editor) Politics, Power and Parties by M N Roy
   Indian Renaissance Publishers, Kolkata, India1960.
4. V.B. Karnik: Political Biography of M. N. Roy:
5.Narisetti Innaiah: M.N.Roy : selected writings ( Prometheus books ,USA)

: Innaiah Narisetti