Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XV Part III

International Unity: Some Lines of Fulfilment

Sri Aurobindo was speculating about different types of alignments the impulse towards internationalism could take in the post World War I scenario. It is a trend in nature that in the clash of equally potential powers, the one predominant among equals emerges to call the shots. Thus the clan chiefs were replaced by the feudal king who in turn was replaced by a centralized monarchy. Sri Aurobindo extended this line of thinking to explain that a king-nation could emerge from the conflict of nations and empires : ‘ so, conceivably, if the empires and nations of the world failed to arrive at a peaceful solution among themselves, if the class-troubles, the inter-commercial troubles, the conflict of various new ideas and tendencies resulted in a long confusion and turmoil and constant changing, there might emerge a king-nation with the mission of evolving a real and settled out of a semi-chaotic or half-order’ (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg 402). The USA had not yet emerged as a super-power at time of this writing in 1916, it was still the British Empire where ‘the sun never sets’. Hence England had the potential to emerge as a king-nation: ‘an imperial nation, such as England for example, spread all over the world, possessing the empire of the seas, knowing how to federate successfully its constituent parts and organize their entire potential strength, having the skill to make itself the representative and protector of the most progressive and liberal tendencies of the new times, allying itself with other forces and nations interested in their triumph and showing that it had the secret of a just and effective international organization, might conceivably become the arbiter of the nations and the effective centre of an international government. Such a possibility in any form is as yet extremely remote, but it could become under new circumstances a realizable possibility of the future’ (Ibid, pg 402-403).

Another alternative for organizing a global world order would have been the emergence of a group of powerful nations or a combine of two to three imperial Powers ‘sufficiently near in interest and united in idea to sink possible differences and jealousies and strong enough to dominate or crush all resistance and enforce some sort of effective international law and government, (Ibid, pg 403). Sri Aurobindo cautioned that such an alignment would proceed through the ‘brutality of moral and economic coercion’ but could still gather optimal support to be the starting-point for freer and better forms of global unification.

Sri Aurobindo makes an interesting speculation at the end of this chapter written when World War I was coming to its end regarding the future trends of the much eulogized class-conflict that had the potential to usurp any ‘inter-governmental and political evolution’ towards an unified world-order. Indeed, he wondered that if such speculations proved worthwhile, there would be a dynamic change in the ideas and life of men and breaking down of barriers between countries. ‘Labour internationalism broke down, like every other form of internationalism – scientific, cultural, pacific, religious – under the fierce test of war and during the great crisis the struggle between Labour and Capital was suspended….The hope of a concert between Labour and Capital idyllically settling all their acute causes of conflict in amoebaean stanzas of melodious compromise for the sake of the higher national interests is likely to be as treacherous and delusive. Even the socialization of governments and the increasing nationalization of industry will not remove the root cause of conflict. For there will still remain the crucial question of the form and conditions of the new State socialism, whether it shall be regulated in the interests of Labour or of the capitalistic State and whether its direction shall be democratic by the workers themselves or oligarchic or bureaucratic by the present directing classes. This question may well lead to struggles which may easily grow into an international or at least an inter-European conflict; it might even rend each nation in two instead of uniting it ….’ (Ibid, pg 403- 404).

In a footnote added after three decades, he commented on his own observations:

‘This hypothetic forecast was fully justified – and tended to become more and more so – by the post-war developments of national and international life. The internecine butchery in Spain, the development of two opposite types of socialism in Russia, Italy and Germany, the uneasy political situation in France were examples of the fulfilment of these tendencies. But this tendency has reached its acme in the emergence of Communism and it now seems probable that the future will belong to a struggle between Communism and a surviving capitalistic Industrialism in the New World or even between Communism and a more moderate system of social democracy in the two continents of the Old World. But generally speaking, speculations noted down in this chapter at a time when the possibilities of the future were very different from what they are now and all was in a flux and welter of dubious confusion, are out of date since an even more stupendous conflict has intervened and swept the previous existing conditions out of existence. Nevertheless, some of them still survive and threaten the safe evolution of the new tentative world-order or, indeed, any future world-order’ (Ibid, pg 404).

Despite his modest reappraisal of his own thoughts, the disintegration of USSR, the fate of East European Leftist regimes, the breaking down of Berlin Wall and the phenomenal glorification of Capitalism in Communist China validate his visionary foresight.

Date of Update: 21-Oct-13

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu