The Concept of Democratic Socialism

Speech at a symposium on 'Our Conception of Democratic Socialism' organised by the Congress Socialist Forum, New Delhi, 19 April 1958.

We have to mould our thinking in the light of the tremendous technological progress taking place today. The pace of its progress is so great that our thinking tends to become out of date.

The effect of the Russian Revolution and Gandhiji’s teachings on Indian thought is tremendous. So far as our country is concerned, Gandhiji's teachings and personality have the most profound effect on our minds and movements. I myself do not understand the ‘trusteeship theory’ of Gandhiji, just as I am unable to comprehend many other ideas of his, but I have realised that Gandhiji's teachings should not be taken literally; it is the spirit underlying them that really matters.

Karl Marx has given a brilliant exposition of the social forces of his time, but many of his theories have not come true. He was a great man in many ways, but to make him a prophet of the future is wrong. The idea of socialism is the product of the Industrial Revolution. Science and technology have made great strides during the last half a century. The conditions today are materially different from those prevailing in Marx's time, on the basis of which he had formulated his theory of class conflict, which might lose its validity in the context of abundance promised by science and technology.

There is the need to clearly define the social and economic goals of society. It is easy for a professor to have this clarity, but the politician is conditioned by the diverse pulls exercised by the electorate whose level of consciousness is not so well developed.

Democracy has a tendency to throw up second-rate and third-rate people rather than the best element in society and thus encourage mediocrity. This is, however, not the fault of democracy as a system but of the people concerned whose level of thinking and social consciousness can be raised by education over a long period.

There are some other problems which have arisen in the most prosperous and advanced countries of the West. In Sweden, which is almost a perfect model of a welfare state with provision of social security for everyone, the problem of juvenile delinquency has assumed serious proportions. Leisure is another problem created by highly advanced productive techniques and automation. To utilise and enjoy the leisure calls for better-trained minds than those required for work. The problem of the atomic age and many national problems can be solved only on an ethical basis. This can, however, be achieved only when the ethical standard of the entire humanity is raised, which is a very difficult task.

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