Jayaprakash Narayan (also Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan) was born in a middle-class family of Bihar. He received his education both in India and U.S.A. While still a young boy, he became an ardent nationalist and leaned towards the revolutionary cult of which Bengal was the noble leader at the time.
But before his revolutionary leaning could mature, Gandhi’s first non-cooperation movement swept over the land as a strangely uplifting hurricane. He had an unusual experience of soaring up with the winds of a great idea.
It was then that freedom became one of the beacon-lights of his life, and it remained so till his death. His passion for freedom, with the passing of years transcended the mere love for the freedom of his country and embraced the idea of freedom of man everywhere and from every sort of trammel – above all, it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the mind and freedom of the spirit. This freedom Jayaprakash Narayan never thought to sacrifice either for the sake of bread or for power, security, and prosperity, glory of the state or for anything else.
Difference with Communists
Although a Marxist, Jayaprakash Narayan never became a protagonist of Russian communism. He had a deep moral revulsion against the atrocities of Russian Bolshevik party.
Lok Nayak Narayan’s differences with the Indian communists and their brand of Marxism arose soon after his return to India from U.S.A.
Naturally Narayan kept away from the CPI and joined the ranks of the soldiers of freedom under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. But as Marxism had left its own deposits in his mind, he could not commit himself whole-heartedly to Congress policy and program, in spite of the famous Karachi declaration. The Karachi Resolution appeared to him quite vague and inadequate. He realized that the Congress, even under the leadership of Gandhi, could not provide Indian people with a real socialist program and conduct the fight for independence in a more revolutionary manner. With the result, Narayan (who had socialist leanings since he came under the influence of Marxism) formed the congress Socialist Party with the help of other disillusioned congressmen of socialist persuasion. The Congress socialist Party, he said “played a notable part in giving shape to the socio-economic content of congress policy and a keener edge top the struggle for freedom”.
As a Socialist
For nearly twenty-four years, from 1930 to 1954, Jayaprakash Narayan worked as a socialist. He had been the foremost leader, propagandist and spokesman of Indian socialism. Mahatma Gandhi had accepted him to be the greatest Indian authority on socialism. He not only took the initiative in the formation of the Indian Socialist Party in 1934, but also showed a remarkable genius in popularizing the party and its program.
For Democratic Methods
Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan concluded in favor of democratic methods and realized the need for decentralization. He also realized that means must be morally consistent with the ends. He interpreted socialism in the context of Indian needs and the dominant values in Indian culture. He stood for reduction of land revenue, the limitation of expenditure and the nationalization of industries. The fundamental social and economic problem in India was to eliminate the exploitation of the masses, and this could be achieved if the people through their efforts came to control their political and economic destiny. He felt the need for village reorganization and urged like Gandhi that villages should be made self-governing and self-sufficient units. This necessitated a drastic reform of land laws. He submitted a resolution to the Ramgarh Congress in 1940 in which he emphasized upon the idea of transferring land to the actual cultivator. Supporting co-operative farming in India he wrote: “The only solution is to clear away all the vested interests that lead in any manner whatever to the exploitation of the tiller of the soil; liquidate all agrarian debts; pool the holdings and establish co-operative and collective farming, state and co-operative credit and marketing system and co-operative subsidiary industries”. Co-operative efforts alone, according to him, could provide the balance between agriculture and industry. The primary economic problem is Asia, particularly in India (also in China), is agrarian reconstruction. Hence, the state has to set up its own industries, and also embark upon other avenues of economic rehabilitation. Jayaprakash considered the present individualistic organization of agriculture wasteful. The acceleration of production in the agrarian sector was dependent upon “co-operative and collective farming”.
Even as a socialist, Jayaprakash Narayan was not opposed to dominant values of Indian culture. Indian culture has exalted the ideal of the emancipation of the individual from the thraldom of the lower ego and acquisitiveness. It has never sanctioned a false immersion in the petty satisfactions of the narrow self. Sharing has been one of the most dominant ideals of Indian culture, and hence it is ridiculous to condemn socialism as an importation from the West. The organized economic doctrines of socialism have been formulated in the west, but its fundamental idealism is a part of Indian culture also.
In fact, socialism for him was always a way of life. It represented a set of values to which he owed allegiance voluntarily, and which he tried to put into practice in his lifetime. These values he did not see developing anywhere as a result of merely institutional changes, whether economic or political. And some years after it became quite clear to him that socialism, as we ordinarily understand it, could not take mankind to the sublime goals of freedom, equality, brotherhood and peace. Socialism, no doubt, gives promise to bring mankind closer to these values than any other competing social philosophy. But he was persuaded to believe at Bodh Gaya Sarvodaya Sammelan (in 1953) that unless socialism was transformed into Sarvodaya, the beacon-lights of freedom, equality and brotherhood would remain beyond its reach.
Commitment to Sarvodaya
Jayaprakash completely broke away with Marxism and turned to Sarvodaya philosophy. He attempted to reinterpret the basic question of individual behavior that he was to exhibit in the realm of politics from an ethical view point. The study of matter is an objective exploration, whereas that of consciousness is subjective realization. The study of matter, the objective exploration, science in short, is necessarily amoral. The Marxists (and the materialists generally), having reduced consciousness to a behavior of matter, naturally knocked the bottom out of ethics. They talk a good deal no doubt of revolutionary ethics, but that is nothing more than the crassest application of the theory that the end justifies the means. Once an individual persuades himself, sincerely or otherwise, that he is on the side of the revolution (or the Party of the People), he is free to commit any infamy whatsoever.
Not only the Marxist and materialists but also those who differ from them in philosophy attempt to understand consciousness by the methods of science. Mental science also, therefore, provides no sure basis for moral behavior. Nor is it ever possible for science to understand consciousness, which can only be subjectively experienced. Subjective experience is by its very nature incapable of being expressed in material categories. Therefore all the mystics and yogis, who had experience of subjective reality, or absolute consciousness, have been unable to express it in any language.
Modern science has reached a point where the dualism of matter and consciousness becomes too tenuous to be real. And it cannot resolve this dualism completely, because in objective study the seer and the seen must remain different, no matter how “inextricably commingled”. It is only in the ultimate spiritual experience that this dualism can be removed and the seer and the seen become one.
Non-violent Social Revolution
For establishing such a type of society Jayaprakash relied on a non-violent social revolution, which Gandhi had long back advocated and which Vinoba had also tried a few years back to bring about thorough his programs of Bhoodan, Gramdan and Sampattidan. Other revolutions, Jayaprakash believed, failed because those who brought them about used means that were inconsistent with their ends. But in the Sarvodaya method of revolution (which is the only non-violent method of revolution) the ends and means become one. This is a new technique of which the world has had no experience yet. It is, therefore, common for new ideas to be treated with suspicion and reserve. But for us ‘in India who have had the privilege of witnessing the miracle of national freedom being won with radically new ideas and methods, which too had been met first with doubt and division, it should not be difficult to appreciate the new ideas and methods of Vinoba that are after all in the nature of an extension and development of the earlier ones used by the Father of the Nation. We in India have also the additional privilege as one of the youngest nations of today, of being in a position to benefit from the success and failures of others.
Call for Total Revolution
By the lapse of years, Jayaprakash Narayan’s belief that for the reconstruction of socio-economic structure of Indian society, practice of self-discipline and the establishment of self-government in the country, which he often called a ‘participating democracy’ were essential, became more and more firm. He questioned, “How long can a dictator, may be seemingly a popular one, go on whipping and prodding you up? That is why Jayaprakash gave a call of ‘total revolution’. It was in the last months of 1973 when he was at Paunar that he felt an inner urge to give such a call to the people. He arrived at the idea of ‘total revolution’ and got an inspiration to proceed in that direction after his encouraging experiences of a peaceful revolution in a sub-division of Muzaffarpur, a stronghold of Naxalites in Bihar, and re-settlement of the Chambal Valley dacoits. His faith in the power of the people and through them in the philosophy and action of ‘total revolution’ was further strengthened by the subsequent events in Gujarat, where a powerful student led movement to disband the State Legislature came up in 1974.
As his call for ‘total revolution’ foreboded a death-knell for the then government, the latter imposed an emergency on the country in the last week of June, 1975. Jayaprakash and his followers and sympathizers were sent to prison. But he was not dismayed; and while in prison, he tried to elucidate the aim of his ‘total revolution’ in order to remove any kind of misgivings about it. He writes in his Prison Diary (1977); ‘The struggle for freedom was not fought simply for national independence. The establishment of democracy in free India was also an important goal of the struggle. It was in view of this goal that the constituent Assembly had drawn up a Constitution for democratic India and adopted it on the 26th November, 1949 on behalf of the Indian people”. Because the spirit of the constitution was much abused and the real democracy seemed to be in great danger particularly during the past few years in India, the call for ‘total revolution’ was given to the nation.
Jayaprakash Narayan’s total revolution’ is a “combination of seven revolution – social, economic, political, cultural, ideological or intellectual, education and spiritual”. This number, according to him, may be decreased or increased. For instance, the cultural revolution may include education and ideological revolutions. Likewise, social revolution in the Marxian context covers economic and political revolutions and even more than that. This is how we can reduce the number to less than seven. We can also add to this number by breaking up each of the seven revolutions into different categories. Economic revolution may be split up into industrial, agricultural, technological revolutions, etc. similarly, intellectual revolution may be split up into two – scientific and philosophical. And so on and so forth.
The idea of ‘total revolution’ aims at bringing about a complete change in the present structure and system of the Indian society. It may be regarded as a considerable development of the philosophy of Sarvodaya. Jayaprakash was a great humanitarian, and his socialism, gradually developed into the philosophy of ‘total revolution’ is not only a system of social and economic reconstruction of the Indian society, but it is also a philosophy of moral and spiritual rebirth of the Indian people.