Jayaprakash Narayan: From Socialism to Sarvodaya (1957)

In a passage that is as relevant today as it was in 1957, Jayaprakash Narayan writes,

The party system with the corroding and corrupting struggle for power inherent in it, disturbed me more and more.  I saw how parties backed by finance, organization and the means of propaganda could impose themselves on the people; how people’s rule became in effect party rule; how party rule in turn became the rule of a caucus or coterie; how democracy was reduced to mere casting of votes; how even the right to vote was restricted severely by the system of powerful parties setting up their candidates from whom alone, for all practical purposes, the voters had to make their choice; how even this limited choice was made unreal by the fact that the issues posed before the electorate were by and large incomprehensible to it.

The party system as I saw it was emasculating the people.  It did not function so as to develop their strength and initiative, nor to help them establish their self-rule and to manage their affairs themselves.  All that parties were concerned with was to capture power for themselves so as to rule over the people, no doubt, with their consent!  The party system, so it appeared to me, was seeking to reduce the people to the position of sheep whose only function of sovereignty would be to choose periodically the shepherds who would look after their welfare.  This to me did not spell freedom–the freedom, the swaraj (I), for which I fought and for which the people of this country fought. (II)

_____

Notes

(I) Vinoba Bhave, in “Sarvodaya: Freedom From Government”, writes that, “These two things together make swaraj–no submission and no exploitation.”

(II) Both excerpts taken from Robert Graham’s Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume Two: The Emergence of the New Anarchism (1939-1977).  (Montreal/New York/London: Black Rose Books, 2009), pp. 183-192.

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