Distrustful of political parties and democratic institutions, Roy writes:
- The real guarantee of parliamentary democracy is not law but the moral conscience of the majority in power. In the last analysis, dictatorship also rests on a moral sanction; it claims to be the means to an end. But group morality is a doubtful guarantee against the temptation of power. Values operate through individuals. Therefore, a government composed of spiritually free individuals accountable, in the first place, to their respective conscience, is the only possible guarantee for securing the greatest good to the greatest number.
- What is suggested is not a rule of the intellectual elite, but such an organization of society as will give unlimited scope for the unfolding of the creative genius of man, by placing the executive power of the state under the control of free individuals free from the influence of vested interests and also from the vagaries of the collective ego, so very susceptible to demagogic appeals. Democratic practice should not be confined to periodical elections... Government for the people can never be fully a government of the people and by the people.
- Good institutions cannot succeed in an atmosphere where men cannot be good or have to suffer for being good. ...Democracy can work only in a rational social atmosphere, and a rational attitude to the problems of society and life is conditional upon the rejection of faith in anything outside nature and above man and without the will to be free in this mortal world, and the belief that man is capable of remaking the world, democracy is not possible.
India today relies heavily upon participatory, democratic groups and this may be in part due to the influence of people like M.N. Roy. His ideas, like those quoted above, sometimes sound a bit utopian or naive, but they are nevertheless powerful calls to the rest of us that we can improve our society and strive for something better than what we currently have.
The Bottom Line
This is a great book for both those interested in humanist philosophy and those interested in the recent history of India. Narisettis selection of Roys writings provides some very interesting insights on both and though the target audience of the book may be relatively small, I think that they will benefit greatly from this. I hope that the writings of other humanists from not only India but also elsewhere are released as well.