Humanism , an approach to society, in which man’s dignity and great value as an individual are upheld, as well as his right to free development, while the principles of equality, justice and kind treatment of one another are recognised as the norm in relations among people.
H. emerged in Italy and spread all over Western Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. The capitalist relations that were taking shape at that time in Italy required that feudalism and the hierarchical dependence of one social stratum on another be eliminated. Bourgeois ideologists had, therefore, to interpret the issue of man’s nature and of the principles underlying human relations in a way differing radically from the religious-scholastic approach.
During that early period of capitalist development, the bourgeoisie still represented the interests of all society and of its progressive thinkers, who opposed the feudal order and the church ideology that justified it from the general democratic positions: they upheld the principle of men’s equality before the law and their individual freedom, which to them meant substantiating the “natural” equality of all the people. The living man attracted all 109 their attention. Fiction, sculpture and painting are all devoted to man, with his needs and worries, his thirst for life and happiness, love and friendship. Fine examples provided by ancient art are widely imitated; hence the name given to the period—Renaissance.
Religion saw man primarily as a spiritual being, with religious beliefs occupying a central place in him; the new approach, on the contrary, emphasised man’s sensual needs and demanded their satisfaction in this world, and affirmed the superiority of reason over faith. The great humanists— Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Pisano, Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Michelangelo, Erasmus of Rotterdam, Ulrich von Hutten, Cervantes, Thomas More, Tomasso Cainpanella and many others—refused to see man’s nature as sinful. Man’s needs and his striving for sensual joys were declared natural and essential, so absolutely necessary and normal. From these positions, the theism, mortification of the flesh and renunciation of sensuality preached by the church were seen as abnormal and unnatural. Man’s sensual needs are decreed by Nature itself; they are the same in all men and are the basis for equality in relations among people. All men are born equal and should be equal in their actual life on earth. The recognition of each man’s personal dignity, irrespective of his birth and social position, was directed against feudal-estate inequality.
The Enlighteners, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the French and English materialists developed the humanistic ideas of the Renaissance and prepared European bourgeois revolutions in ideological terms; Francis Bacon, Holbach, Hobbes, Helvetius and Diderot elaborated the bourgeois ideals of freedom, equality and brotherhood. But as capitalism advanced, these ideals were discredited and it became more and more clear that equality before the law was not enough to make humanity really equal in the future. Early in the 19th century, humanistic views developed along two basic lines: the first was associated with the principle of man’s moral self-improvement, stemming from the theory of the German materialist Ludwig Feuerbach; the second was embodied in the doctrines of the Utopian socialists, who saw society’s transformation as a sine qua non for establishing genuinely human relations among people (see Utopian Socialism). The means suggested for effecting such a transformation were, however, idealistic and amounted to no more than enlightenment and propagandistic activities.
p The representatives of the Renaissance put forward the slogan of H. in opposition lo Christian ideology. Yet, up to the present time, certain church ideologists draw on some humanistic tendencies found in early Christianity in an attempt to identify it with H. The futility of such attempts was revealed by Marx, who showed that Christianity, with its promise of equality in the world to come, was essentially anti-humanistic.
As capitalism advances, it is becoming increasingly clear that formal equality before the law is not enough to establish men’s genuine equality and genuinely human relations, and that man cannot be really free if the right to property is recognised as his intrinsic (natural) right, as was done by bourgeois humanists, and if man’s individual, egoistic interests are regarded as fundamental ones. Marxism substantiated a qualitatively new, higher form of H.
According to the materialist view of history, man’s needs are the outcome of society’s historical development. Marx explained why, at certain periods, men enter relations with one another under which the needs of some are satisfied at the expense of others, while considering the succession of various forms of material production.
The existence of antagonistic classes, the alienation of labour and the estrangement of one person from another (the dehumanisation of society) are interconnected. Marxism came out against all forms of the alienation of man, against the distortion of man’s essence.
To make relations among people really humane, social relations must be transformed and a level of production development achieved that would make it possible to eliminate the social division of labour prevailing under capitalism, which 110 crippies man, and would turn man from the means into the objective of social development. Socialist revolution is the first step in that direction. Socialism lays the foundations for tackling the great humanistic tasks facing mankind. It eliminates exploitation of man by man, liberates the working people from political and national inequality, abolishes the opposition between mental and physical labour, between town and countryside, does away with poverty and unemployment among the broad population and places the treasures of world art at their disposal. Socialism consistently works to ban war from the life of society, and to prevent a world nuclear war. Its motto is "Everything for man, for the benefit of man”. Under socialism, the groundwork is laid down for the future civilisation of communist society, which is the highest embodimenl of H. and under which "the rich man profoundly endowed with all the senses" (K. Marx, F. Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 3, p. 302) will become a reality (see Harmonious Development of the Individual; Individual under Socialism).
Today a fierce ideological struggle is being waged over the issues involved in H. Even overt anti-communists who oppose the principles of H. as Marxists understand it and renounce (he achievements of the socialist community declare themselves “humanists”. Communists are fighting to implement genuine social justice in opposition to the anti-humane essence of capitalism. While they approach humanistic ideals from class positions and consider them not in an abstract way, but in concrete historical terms, Communists also favour an alliance with those representatives of non-Marxist H. who participate in the struggle for peace and democratic freedoms, and against the oppression of Ihe working people.