News & Views
INDIA’S leaders have had the ambition of making India not only a regional but world power. However, with Narendra Modi at the helm in India and Donald Trump’s election to the US presidency, the future of mankind is bleak. Earlier, two megalomaniacs and fascists like Hitler and Mussolini were instrumental in bringing colossal death and destruction in the Second World War. Of course, today the global warming and resultantly fresh water crisis, over-population and desertification of the planet are said to be the major threats to the future of mankind. Albert Einstein said: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” Bear in Mind that the US, USSR, Britain and France were atomic powers, whereas today there are eight to 12 nuclear states – declared or undeclared.
During early 1950s, eminent philosopher Bertrand Russel in an essay titled ‘The future of mankind’ had written: “Before the end of that century, unless something quite unforeseeable occurred, one of three possibilities would have realized. The first one was the end of human life or all life on the planet as a result of war, and then as a consequence hunger, starvation and disease. The second was reversion to barbarism in view of the first one, and third one was unification of the world under a single government, possessing a monopoly of all the major weapons of war.” He was pro-US and the West, and wished the US to be victorious in the war and be the only super power to run the world. But the US got that status not through direct war but proxy war after Soviet forces landed in Afghanistan.
Many a civilizations has emerged and waned; and the world has witnessed many changes. “Birth, growth, breakdown and disintegration is the cycle of all civilizations”, said Toynbee. In the process, political systems evolved from the economic relations that emerged with the changes in tools of production. The historical evidence suggests that fundamental character of the historical process is determined by the modes of production, as the relationship between the slave owner and the exploited slave was different in form if compared to the relationship between the exploiting medieval landlord and the exploited serf. Similar difference in form can be discerned between the exploiting capitalist and the exploited worker. According to Marx, the modes of production determine the character of class relations and the class struggle, which is the basic structure, whereas the socio-political theories and the political organization becomes super-structure.
Change in the mode of production after the Industrial Revolution warranted a system of government or in other words super-structure, which happened to be democracy. Often, the change was evolutionary, but when the forces of the status quo resisted the vociferous demand of the people, the change was violent in nature. However, at every stage of development, the creative individuals – the locomotives of history – prepared the ground for the next stage. They were the leaders with vision and consciousness of social, cultural and economic conditions who approached the innermost feelings of the people, and mobilized them to bring about a basic change in the system, and put the society on the road to development, progress and prosperity. Philosophers and thinkers like Democritus, Plato, Aristotle and many others laid down theories, some of which hold good even today.
Democritus (460-370 B.C.) argued: “The world consisted of an infinite number of atoms moving in an infinite void. These atoms were invisible and indivisible particles of matter, which were indestructible”. He also believed that all sensation is a form of touch resulting from atoms colliding with sense organs; but true knowledge comes from intellect. The world owes them a great deal for their contribution, as had they not propounded any theory at all, later scientists and analysts would not have consequently examined and revealed the truth or reality. Muslim philosophers, thinkers and scientists like Aviceena, Al-Kindi, Al-Khwarizmi, Imam Razi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Al-Haitham and many others played an important role in the progress of mankind. When the West was passing through the Middle Ages, a part of it an era of darkness, Spain was the great Islamic civilization that acted as a transmitter of culture to Europe.
Towards the end of the Middle Ages, in Europe, there emerged a group of liberal intellectuals. And this new class of intellectuals included Leonardo de Vinci, Galileo, Descartes, Kepler and Kant. The 15th and 16th centuries were eras of consciousness, periods of Protestantism and Renaissance. The 17th century was an era of freethinking; 18th century a period of freedom, humanism and revolution like French Revolution, and of course Industrial Revolution. It has been acknowledged that before the French Revolution, Voltaire and Rousseau were two voices of a vast process of economic and political transition from feudal aristocracy to rule of middle class. 19th century presented ideologies like existentialism, Marxism, Socialism and the ideas of Nietzche and Hegel. 20th century was a period of decline – materialism, consumerism and unbridled capitalism in name of free market, two world wars and liberation struggles.
October 1917 revolution in Russia indeed had given hope to the working classes of the world. After Second World War, the countries that got rid of colonialism were again subjected to neo-colonialism. Karl Marx’s Historical Materialism owes its origin to Hegel’s Dialectical Movement. The dialectical process makes change the cardinal principle of life; no condition is permanent; in every state of things there is a contradiction, which only “strife of opposites” can resolve. Fichte said: “Thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis constitute the formula and secret of all development and reality”. In Europe, the Middle Ages’ social foundation was feudalism and religion and kingship was its super-structure. In the 15th century, religious reformers like Calvin and Luther campaigned to transform the Catholic ethic into a moving and creative force, which opened new vistas leading to enlightenment. And the history’s march continued and will continue.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.