Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gandhi and The Myth of Non-Violence | Socialist Alternative | Sourced

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    • Mahatma Gandhi is feted as the leader of the non-violent campaign for India's independence. Many believe he showed how to change the world peacefully. But as Simon O'Neill explains, this is a myth that hides the truth about both the independence movement, and Gandhi's role in it.

      The independence movement was ultimately held back by Gandhi's elitist ideas. According to George Orwell, who was a police officer in India, "Gandhi made it easier for the British to rule India, because his influence was always against taking any action that would make any difference." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 2, p136.)

    • Then at the height of the struggle, a crowd of villagers responded to police violence by burning a police station, killing 22 police officers. Once again, a horrified Gandhi promptly cancelled all civil disobedience across India.

      As Congress leader Subhas Bose wrote, "to sound the order to retreat just when public enthusiasm was reaching the boiling point was nothing short of a national calamity". (Subas Chandra Bose, The Indian Struggle 1920-1934, p90.) Other Congress leaders sent letters of protest to Gandhi from prison. But Gandhi replied that the men in prison were "civilly dead" and had no say over policy.

      Gandhi's backdown demoralised the movement for several years. Congress had failed to provide a secular, united voice for the oppressed masses, and the movement began to polarise on religious lines.

    • A movement united along class lines could have constructed a united India. But Gandhi had derailed the popular upsurges of 1919-1934, and angry peasants and workers now turned to opportunist religious leaders, who demanded independence on the basis of Partition - the division of Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan. In the chaos, millions were murdered in religious violence. India and Pakistan today remain close to war, and both countries suffer massive inequality and oppression.

    • On the Nazis and the Holocaust

      Prescribing non-violence as the antidote to the Nazi war machine, Gandhi said: "The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre ... could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the God-fearing, death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep." - M.K. Gandhi, Zionism and Anti-Semitism, from Non-Violence in Peace and War (Ahmedabad: Navajivan, 1942), Vol 1.

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