It was towards the close of the eighteenth century that reaction against this state of affairs began to take an organized form. The movement that was then started has been given the name of Democracy. It was recognized that the remedy lay not in the hands of individuals but in the hands of the State. As I have said an individual residing in Lahore or Delhi can hardly be expected to know that a poor woman’s child is dying of starvation in a lone hut in the Himalayas. Nor would people in towns be generally aware of the conditions prevalent in the rural areas. But the State could be expected to possess, or should at least have the means of acquiring all this information. It was, therefore, thought that it was the duty of the State to undertake measures of relief and reform. As a corollary, it was urged that others besides the rulers, nobles and ministers should have a voice in the direction of a country’s affairs, so that policies may be settled by the centre on the basis of the fullest information and knowledge. The first urge under Democracy was, therefore, to secure representation for different classes and interests, so that those in authority could be kept informed of conditions in different parts of the country and could have available to them advice from different sections. For some time these representatives exercised only advisory functions, but even that was a great step forward, inasmuch as it secured that those in power should have fuller information and knowledge concerning the needs and difficulties of those over whom they ruled.
At the outset these representatives belonged mostly to the landholding classes and the benefit of their advice, therefore, accrued principally to members of their own classes. Gradually merchants and manufacturers began to assert themselves, and the new movement known as Liberalism was started which charged itself principally with the safeguarding and promotion of the interests of these classes. As a consequence, the franchise was extended so as to cover these classes also, and they began to influence and even to direct the policies of the State.
Later on, another class began to struggle for recognition and for securing its rights. These were the workers in factories and offices, and when they perceived that only landed, commercial and industrial interests were represented in the legislature, they said that governments responsible to the legislatures so composed were not fully alive to their needs and sufferings, so they began to claim the right of direct representation for themselves. The policy and programme put forward on behalf of this class is known as Socialism. The principal object of this movement is to secure a more equitable distribution of wealth between the owners of capital and the working classes. For this purpose they are anxious to take the direction of government into their own hands, believing that this would result in a just redress of the grievances of the workers and other poor sections of the community.
The next stage came when it began to be felt that all these movements were national in scope and that their benefits were limited only to certain countries. It was said that improvement in the condition of workers in England, for instance, would afford poor satisfaction if workers in France continued to suffer privations and hardships. The remedy suggested was that workers in different countries should unite and co-operate with one another through international organizations and associations. Another incentive behind this movement was that it was believed that the capitalist classes were organizing themselves in active opposition to the working classes in different countries. It was felt that this could be successfully combated only by workers organizing themselves on an international basis. This movement is known as International Socialism.
The struggle for securing equitable treatment for workers and others received a great impetus and took on an entirely fresh orientation from the doctrines propounded by Karl Marx. This man was a German, Jew by race and Christian by faith. After anxious thought he arrived at the conclusion that the policy advocated by Socialism, that of persuading the capitalist classes by pressure was too slow and could not be expected to achieve the desired end within a reasonable length of time. He believed that it was futile to expect that those, who wielded political power, would be willing to reform themselves as the result merely of social or political pressure. He advocated that the only effective way of bringing about reform was for workers to seize power. Instead of carrying on agitation over a number of years for specific reforms and improvements, it would be far more effective for workers to take possession of the machinery of government and to carry out wholesale reform in the social, economic and political spheres. He, therefore, urged their direct participation in the political sphere with the object of seizing political power by means of which a complete social and economic revolution could be achieved.
Marxism is thus a development of International Socialism which aims at the achievement of its objects through political revolution rather than through economic change. It also points out that one reason for the failure of Socialism is that socialists believe in cooperation with the capitalist classes, whereas no real improvement can be hoped for without the overthrow of capitalists.
According to Marx, Democracy and all systems which base themselves upon the cooperation of the different classes proceed upon entirely erroneous principles. Under his system no quarter can be given to the capitalist classes and all power and authority must be appropriated by the workers.
For the achievement of this object he believed in violent revolution by organization and attack. It is this teaching of Marx which has taken practical shape in Bolshevism.
Marx was also of the view that the capitalist classes had been so long in power, and the workers had become so demoralised that the workers could not be expected to be able to safeguard their interests as soon as capitalists were driven out of power. You have heard the story of a poorly paid groom, who was urged by a friend to ask his master for a rise in pay and to leave the master if he refused to give him a rise. After considerable hesitation and much persuasion he made up his mind to act upon the advice. One morning when the master returned from his ride, the groom asked for permission to make a submission. On being told to go ahead, he blurted out “Sir, everybody in my position is getting much better pay than I am getting. I beg, therefore, that my pay should be raised, or.” “Or, what, thou varlet?” thundered the master, administering a smart cut with his whip. “Or, I shall carry on as I am,” whimpered the terrified groom. All his determination to secure a rise by threat of leaving his master evaporated as the result of just one stroke of the whip.
It is quite true that long suffering and privation deprive people of their stamina and will. I myself have tried to create some sort of ambition, some desire for improvement in the depressed classes. They will listen patiently but remark in the end with a somewhat superior smile, “God has ordered things as they are; it is no use trying to alter them.” As if anybody who attempts to change or reform the existing order must be out of his mind. It is this attitude which led Karl Marx to observe that it was dangerous to vest workers and masses with direct authority in the beginning. According to him it was necessary to start with a dictatorship under which workers should be organized and educated and all class distinctions removed so that the next generation should grow up in an atmosphere of equality, and without any sense of inferiority. It is only then that political authority should be vested in the masses. Premature transfer of authority might put the whole movement in jeopardy.
Marx died, but no appreciable improvement followed. In fact, things became worse and worse. But here and there some men began to organize workers along the lines laid down by Marx. One of these was Lenin who subsequently became the first Dictator of Russia. Lenin and his colleagues gave definite shape to Marxian theories and carried on active propaganda among workers. They drew pointed attention to the contrast between the miserable conditions in which workers had to live and the luxury and extravagance which surrounded employers and their families. As their propaganda spread, it brought into existence several anti-Capitalist societies.
When worker organizations became strong enough, their leaders called together a meeting for the purpose of settling a line of action in the event of their coming into power. In the course of discussion at that meeting serious differences of opinion were disclosed between Lenin and Martov who was also a powerful leader in the workers’ movement. Lenin carried the majority with him and his party came to be known as Bolsheviks (that is the major party) and Martov’s as Mensheviks (that is the minor party).
Lenin was a more orthodox follower of Marx than Martov. He believed that for the more effective achievement of their objects workers should not ally themselves with any other group or party. Martov, on the other hand, was of the view that until power was wrested they should work in cooperation with other active groups. In other words, Lenin put complete faith in the integrity of his own programme and policy and did not think it was necessary to rely on the help or cooperation of any other group or party to attain success.
Another difference between the two was that Martov advocated the establishment of a republican form of government from the very start, whereas Lenin held the view that dictatorship was inevitable during the first stages. It is possible Martov was influenced by the thought that if a dictator was chosen, Lenin would be the obvious choice.
Again, Martov insisted that under the new order, death penalty should be abolished from the start in accordance with the orthodox socialist principles. Against this, Lenin, while admitting the principle that the death penalty ought ultimately to be abolished, contended that it was not practicable to do so at the very outset. He urged, for instance, that it would be necessary to put the Czar to death after driving him out of power, for, so long as the Czar was alive, the Republic would be in danger. His hatred of the Czar was so deep that he was prepared to fight for the retention of the death penalty even though its only use was to put the Czar to death. As I have said, Lenin was able to carry a majority of the party with him, but when the revolution broke out and the Czar was compelled to abdicate, it was the Mensheviks who first came into power, as the other parties in the country were more ready and willing to lend them their support. This did not last very long, however, and the Bolsheviks were very soon able to assert themselves and to seize power.