Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters


Musings on a Socialistic World-State-I

In October 1917, at a time when the Russian Revolution was progressing towards its triumphant culmination, Sri Aurobindo was musing on how a progressively unified humanity would deal with the future challenge of Socialism or the full evolution of the omnipotent and omnipresent Social State (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.501-502). There could be three situations worth considering:

(a) If Socialism triumphed in leading nations, it would seek to ‘impose its rule everywhere not only by indirect pressure, but even by direct interference in what it would consider backward countries’ (Ibid, pg.502). Sri Aurobindo’s foresight was proved even after six decades when the Soviet Union indulged in what would later turn out to be a pointless interference in Afghanistan that neither gave it a strategic foothold, nor contained radical Islamists.

(b) If Socialism commanded the majority in an international authority, Parliamentary or other, it could not be easily overruled (ibid). History is witness to how certain States had to become satellite States of USSR who despite having separate governments and policies were nevertheless dominated by it with threat of intervention by the Warsaw Pact.

(c) A sort of International Socialism could develop if all nations became socialist in form so that all separate socialisms could be co-ordinated into ‘one great system of human life’.(Ibid)

Centralised Control

In the same write-up, Sri Aurobindo considers the problem of centralised control ushered by an International Socialism:

‘But Socialism pursued to its full development means the destruction of the distinction between political and social activities; it means the socialization of the common life and its subjection in all its parts to its own organised government and administration. Nothing small or great escapes its purview. Birth and marriage, labour and amusement and rest, education, culture, training of physique and character, the socialistic sense leaves nothing outside its scope and its busy intolerant control. Therefore, granting an International Socialism, neither the politics nor the social life of the separate peoples is likely to escape the centralised control of the World-State’ (Ibid).

More than three decades after this write-up, Sri Aurobindo commented in a foot-note (in 1949-50) how the centralizing principle in Socialism had been confirmed in the total governmental control in Germany and Italy. He added, ‘The strife between national (Fascist) Socialism and pure Marxist Socialism could not have been foreseen at the time of writing; but whichever form prevails, there is an identical principle’. Both movements could rouse masses; fascism through the slogan of national supremacy and Marxism through its idea of equal society. Both acted through strong governmental control in economic and social policies. At the end of a century, neither survives in pure form. We have today neo-Fascist policies as exhibited by the British National Party’s immigration stances and US President Trump’s immigration recommendations in 2017. The collapse of the Soviet Union has shown that socialism with its implicit centralizing tendency cannot persist in the old way. Yet, despite the glorification of globalization, it is a fact that the pooled earnings of the planet’s 200 companies surpass the pooled GDP of all but ten nations of the world. If the Time-Spirit opts for at least fundamental equality if not absolute equality as the sine-qua-non of the new world-order, some form of socialism minus its discrepancies, needs to be put in place, even in the matrix of a non-socialistic order (there has been a suggestion to conceptualize an island of socialism within capitalism while another think-tank believes that though capitalism has failed, the concept of neo-socialism can be revived signaling a partnership between government and business). It is significant that even after spelling out the pitfalls of Socialism, Sri Aurobindo comments, ‘The dream of the cosmopolitan socialist thinker may therefore be realized after all’ (Ibid, pg.503).


Date of Update: 23-Nov-17

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu