A revolt from the past, MK Gandhi and the Salt Satyagraha. Johnny Walker:Keep walking America.

A pinch of salt rocks an empire.

A pinch of salt rocked an empire.  MK Gandhi and Satyagraha as freedom from Britain.

Let Satyagraha present itself as a lesson and practice of a just war applicable to mankind.

When by prayer as a condition applies for all acts against enemies and enemy territory, Satyagraha may be considered by some as acts of terror and by others a moral obligation to promote the well-being and prosperity of all human kind. Some like MK Gandhi argued in his famous struggle for Independence from British Imperial domination, that prayer along with fasting was important in warfare because it properly emphasized the absolute authority and power of God in determining human affairs.

charkha12    fascismandnazism sovereigntyofgod

Gandhi and Indians. Tamils, Calcutta Men, Mohamedans, Hindus, Brahmins, Banyas and still more.

indianIndian Opinion (I.O.), gave following information: “This weekly newspaper is published in four languages, namely English, Gujarati, Tamil and Hindi in the interests of the British Indians residing in South Africa. The policy of the paper would be to advocate the cause of the British Indians in the subcontinent.  It would persistently endeavour to bring about proper understanding between the two communities.” Then it recounted “The advantages to the Indian community in subscribing to and supporting this paper” and “The advantages to the European community“, and “To Europeans and Indians alike, it would serve as the best advertising medium in those branches of the trade in which Indians are especially concerned.  The meetings were well publicized in Indian Opinion. These organizations sponsored the distribution of over 500 complimentary copies to the officials and prominent people in South Africa and in Britain and India. The paper sought to shape a national identity amongst Indians divided along various lines. It had boldly declared in an editorial during its first year: “We are not, and ought not to be, Tamils or Calcutta men, and Mohamedans or Hindus, Brahmans or Banyas, but simply and solely British Indians.”  That was the period when Gandhiji firmly believed that the British empire was essentially and inherently good, and based on the values of justice, fairness, racial equality, and freedom, and whatever deficiencies were there, were aberrations introduced by colonial administrations. He had faith in Queen Victoria’s promise in 1858, after the ‘First War of Independence’ in India, of equality of all British subjects irrespective of ‘race or creed’. He wrote in Indian Opinion (9.7.1903) under the title “This memorable Proclamation Magna Charta of the British Indians, is worthy of the attention and the study of the people of South Africa, especially at a like this, when a sustained agitation has been set up against British Indians.” So, he was sure that justice could be achieved if it was sought through constitutional means, and hence his stress on representations, and petitions to press for redress of the difficulties faced by Indians in South Africa. The primary concern was thePROTECTION of Indians against injustice. For example, Indian Opinion (23.7.1903) wrote under the title ‘The Lion and The Lamb’: “In our days, the European lion wishes to repeat the feat on the Indian lamb. He therefore in fact says to the Indian, ‘I will have none of you, for you swell in shanties, and live on the smell of an old rag’ such is the gist of the minute presented by His Worship the Mayor of Durban on the proposed Indian Bazaars.”  Indian Opinion started publishing news and views concerning South African Indians including reports on discriminatory law cases involving Indians, letters to editors of local press correcting adverse reports about Indians, important happenings in India, and contributions on social, moral and intellectual subjects. There was an article on ‘Indian Art’ [I.O. 17.9.1903; CW 3:447], an example of intellectual and aesthetic writing by Gandhi as also of the fact that his ideological stance was still in the process of maturing: “The Times of India gives a very interesting description of the new palace which is being built at Mysore for the Maharajah. We reproduce portions of it for the edification of our South African readers, both European and Indian. The former will be able to realize what Indian art means, as also that India is not a place dotted merely with huts inhabited by savages. To the Indians who have never been in India, it would be a matter of national pride and satisfaction that the enlightened potentate of Mysore is bent on encouraging Indian art, and on reviving it in a most practical form.” It also included a writeup on India art from the late Sir William Wilson Hunter’s Indian Empire, giving a highly appreciative overview of multifaceted Indian architecture.

http://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/history-of-indian-opinion.html

Butchers go free: Gandhi and the French Revolt of 18th Century. Not.

revolutionfrench

MK Gandhi

MK Gandhi v. the French Revolution.

Robespierre’s directorship is a locus classicus of governmental use of terror ostensibly in the public interest. Gandhi doubted the benefit; he said, in 1909: “There is a forceful book by Carlyle on the French Revolution. I realized after reading it that it is not from the white nations that India can learn the way out of her present degradation. It is my belief that the French people have gained nothing of value through the Revolution.” —And, in 1920 (in a passage just after another allusion to the French Revolution):“[O]rder established by a tyrant in order to get hold of the tyrannical reigns of Government… is no order for me but it is disorder. I want to evolve justice out of this injustice.” —And, in 1942:“I believe that in the history of the world there has not been a more genuinely democratic struggle for freedom than ours in colonial India. I read Carlyle’s History of the French Revolution while I was in prison, and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has told me something about the Russian revolution. But it is my conviction that in as much as these struggles were fought with the weapon of violence they failed to realize the democratic ideal.  In the democracy which I have envisaged, a democracy established by non-violence, there will be equal freedom for all. Everybody will be his own master. It is to join a struggle for such democracy that I invite you today.”  Here the phrase “everybody… his own master” is a call to self-discipline among the citizens of free India. Only such inner moral strength, so widespread as to be culturally predominant, could compensate adequately for the absence of tyrannical or quasi-tyrannical authority imposed by Government.  When Gandhi felt outraged (which was often the case) he normally did not express it directly as outspoken rage, but instead took up certain forms of vigorous dialogue, political activism and constructive work. It seems to me that Mao’s concept of political common sense:“We cannot love our enemies. We cannot love the ugly things in society; our goal is to wipe out such things;  that is human common sense” is gradually being superseded in some quarters by Gandhi’s common-sense view that win-win solutions to social conflicts are better than win-lose. I don’t mean that a nonviolent approach to socially pathological people willing to devour other people (in one way and another) is so problem-free as to be a simple panacea. It was, in Gandhi’s opinion, a necessary but insufficient precept of effective liberation. This can be a mere platitude but I would suggest that it is better than a likewise simple precept of “beating dogs in the water.”

http://www.academia.edu/292882/Lu_Xun_Social_Darwinism_and_Mahatma_Gandhi

How does the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution affect governmental authority? Satyagraha and its defense.

bill of rightsThe Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution is part of the Bill of Rights and protects against unfair treatment in legal processes. The Amendment requires that felonies be tried only upon indictment by a grand jury. The grand jury is a pre-constitutional common law institution and constitutional in its own right. The Equal Protection Clause is located at the end of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment where “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” “When I tell you that a party must prove something, I mean that the party must persuade you, by the evidence presented in court, that what he or she is trying to prove is more likely to be true than not true.  The burden of proof rests ultimately with the people.”  When the burden of proof perished in the blood bath known as partition did MK Gandhi’s truths prove to be more relevant than those of the Sovereign British Empire? Here is how anyone in their country of origin can help.  For starters, stay away from governments whose ruling body accommodates ruin as a means of self-rule.  “Once this implication is accepted we can coherently go on to speak of limited government coupled with unlimited sovereignty. Arguably this is what one should say about constitutional democracies where the people’s sovereign authority is thought to be ultimate and unlimited but the government bodies—e.g., legislatures and courts—through whom that sovereignty is exercised on the people’s behalf is constitutionally limited and subordinate.”  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/constitutionalism/#SovVerGov

gandhiquotes

Here is what George Orwell thought of Gandhi and His Philosophical Musings.

Gandhi's critic.

Gandhi’s critic and ruling.

Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent, but the tests that have to be applied to them are not, of course, the same in all cases. In Gandhi’s case the questions on feels inclined to ask are: to what extent was Gandhi moved by vanity – by the consciousness of himself as a humble, naked old man, sitting on a praying mat and shaking empires by sheer spiritual power – and to what extent did he compromise his own principles by entering politics, which of their nature are inseparable from coercion and fraud? To give a definite answer one would have to study Gandhi’s acts and writings in immense detail, for his whole life was a sort of pilgrimage in which every act was significant. But this partial autobiography, which ends in the nineteen-twenties, is strong evidence in his favor, all the more because it covers what he would have called the unregenerate part of his life and reminds one that inside the saint, or near-saint, there was a very shrewd, able person who could, if he had chosen, have been a brilliant success as a lawyer, an administrator or perhaps even a businessman.

At about the time when the autobiography first appeared I remember reading its opening chapters in the ill-printed pages of some Indian newspaper. They made a good impression on me, which Gandhi himself at that time did not. The things that one associated with him – home-spun cloth, “soul forces” and vegetarianism – were unappealing, and his medievalist program was obviously not viable in a backward, starving, over-populated country. It was also apparent that the British were making use of him, or thought they were making use of him. Strictly speaking, as a Nationalist, he was an enemy, but since in every crisis he would exert himself to prevent violence – which, from the British point of view, meant preventing any effective action whatever – he could be regarded as “our man.” In private this was sometimes cynically admitted. The attitude of the Indian millionaires was similar. Gandhi called upon them to repent, and naturally they preferred him to the Socialists and Communists who, given the chance, would actually have taken their money away. How reliable such calculations are in the long run is doubtful; as Gandhi himself says, “in the end deceivers deceive only themselves”; but at any rate the gentleness with which he was nearly always handled was due partly to the feeling that he was useful. The British Conservatives only became really angry with him when, as in 1942, he was in effect turning his non-violence against a different conqueror.

But I could see even then that the British officials who spoke of him with a mixture of amusement and disapproval also genuinely liked and admired him, after a fashion. Nobody ever suggested that he was corrupt, or ambitious in any vulgar way, or that anything he did was actuated by fear or malice. In judging a man like Gandhi one seems instinctively to apply high standards, so that some of his virtues have passed almost unnoticed. For instance, it is clear even from the autobiography that his natural physical courage was quite outstanding: the manner of his death was a later illustration of this, for a public man who attached any value to his own skin would have been more adequately guarded. Again, he seems to have been quite free from that maniacal suspiciousness which, as E.M. Forster rightly says in A Passage to India, is the besetting Indian vice, as hypocrisy is the British vice. Although no doubt he was shrewd enough in detecting dishonesty, he seems wherever possible to have believed that other people were acting in good faith and had a better nature through which they could be approached. And though he came of a poor middle-class family, started life rather unfavorably, and was probably of unimpressive physical appearance, he was not afflicted by envy or by the feeling of inferiority. Color feeling when he first met it in its worst form in South Africa, seems rather to have astonished him. Even when he was fighting what was in effect a color war, he did not think of people in terms of race or status. The governor of a province, a cotton millionaire, a half-starved Dravidian coolie, a British private soldier were all equally human beings, to be approached in much the same way. It is noticeable that even in the worst possible circumstances, as in South Africa when he was making himself unpopular as the champion of the Indian community, he did not lack European friends.

Written in short lengths for newspaper serialization, the autobiography is not a literary masterpiece, but it is the more impressive because of the commonplaceness of much of its material. It is well to be reminded that Gandhi started out with the normal ambitions of a young Indian student and only adopted his extremist opinions by degrees and, in some cases, rather unwillingly. There was a time, it is interesting to learn, when he wore a top hat, took dancing lessons, studied French and Latin, went up the Eiffel Tower and even tried to learn the violin – all this was the idea of assimilating European civilization as thoroughly as possible. He was not one of those saints who are marked out by their phenomenal piety from childhood onwards, nor one of the other kind who forsake the world after sensational debaucheries. He makes full confession of the misdeeds of his youth, but in fact there is not much to confess. As a front piece to the book there is a photograph of Gandhi’s possessions at the time of his death. The whole outfit could be purchased for about 5 pounds***, and Gandhi’s sins, at least his fleshly sins, would make the same sort of appearance if placed all in one heap. A few cigarettes, a few mouthfuls of meat, a few annas pilfered in childhood from the maidservant, two visits to a brothel (on each occasion he got away without “doing anything”), one narrowly escaped lapse with his landlady in Plymouth, one outburst of temper – that is about the whole collection. Almost from childhood onwards he had a deep earnestness, an attitude ethical rather than religious, but, until he was about thirty, no very definite sense of direction. His first entry into anything describable as public life was made by way of vegetarianism. Underneath his less ordinary qualities one feels all the time the solid middle-class businessmen who were his ancestors. One feels that even after he had abandoned personal ambition he must have been a resourceful, energetic lawyer and a hard-headed political organizer, careful in keeping down expenses, an adroit handler of committees and an indefatigable chaser of subscriptions. His character was an extraordinarily mixed one, but there was almost nothing in it that you can put your finger on and call bad, and I believe that even Gandhi’s worst enemies would admit that he was an interesting and unusual man who enriched the world simply by being alive . Whether he was also a lovable man, and whether his teachings can have much for those who do not accept the religious beliefs on which they are founded, I have never felt fully certain.

Of late years it has been the fashion to talk about Gandhi as though he were not only sympathetic to the Western Left-wing movement, but were integrally part of it. Anarchists and pacifists, in particular, have claimed him for their own, noticing only that he was opposed to centralism and State violence and ignoring the other-worldly, anti-humanist tendency of his doctrines. But one should, I think, realize that Gandhi’s teachings cannot be squared with the belief that Man is the measure of all things and that our job is to make life worth living on this earth, which is the only earth we have. They make sense only on the assumption that God exists and that the world of solid objects is an illusion to be escaped from. It is worth considering the disciplines which Gandhi imposed on himself and which – though he might not insist on every one of his followers observing every detail – he considered indispensable if one wanted to serve either God or humanity. First of all, no meat-eating, and if possible no animal food in any form. (Gandhi himself, for the sake of his health, had to compromise on milk, but seems to have felt this to be a backsliding.) No alcohol or tobacco, and no spices or condiments even of a vegetable kind, since food should be taken not for its own sake but solely in order to preserve one’s strength. Secondly, if possible, no sexual intercourse. If sexual intercourse must happen, then it should be for the sole purpose of begetting children and presumably at long intervals. Gandhi himself, in his middle thirties, took the vow of brahmacharya, which means not only complete chastity but the elimination of sexual desire. This condition, it seems, is difficult to attain without a special diet and frequent fasting. One of the dangers of milk-drinking is that it is apt to arouse sexual desire. And finally – this is the cardinal point – for the seeker after goodness there must be no close friendships and no exclusive loves whatever.

Close friendships, Gandhi says, are dangerous, because “friends react on one another” and through loyalty to a friend one can be led into wrong-doing. This is unquestionably true. Moreover, if one is to love God, or to love humanity as a whole, one cannot give one’s preference to any individual person. This again is true, and it marks the point at which the humanistic and the religious attitude cease to be reconcilable. To an ordinary human being, love means nothing if it does not mean loving some people more than others. The autobiography leaves it uncertain whether Gandhi behaved in an inconsiderate way to his wife and children, but at any rate it makes clear that on three occasions he was willing to let his wife or a child die rather than administer the animal food prescribed by the doctor. It is true that the threatened death never actually occurred, and also that Gandhi – with, one gathers, a good deal of moral pressure in the opposite direction – always gave the patient the choice of staying alive at the price of committing a sin: still, if the decision had been solely his own, he would have forbidden the animal food, whatever the risks might be. There must, he says, be some limit to what we will do in order to remain alive, and the limit is well on this side of chicken broth. This attitude is perhaps a noble one, but, in the sense which – I think – most people would give to the word, it is inhuman. The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection, that one is sometimes willing to commit sins for the sake of loyalty, that one does not push asceticism to the point where it makes friendly intercourse impossible, and that one is prepared in the end to be defeated and broken up by life, which is the inevitable price of fastening one’s love upon other human individuals. No doubt alcohol, tobacco, and so forth, are things that a saint must avoid, but sainthood is also a thing that human beings must avoid. There is an obvious retort to this, but one should be wary about making it. In this yogi-ridden age, it is too readily assumed that “non-attachment” is not only better than a full acceptance of earthly life, but that the ordinary man only rejects it because it is too difficult: in other words, that the average human being is a failed saint. It is doubtful whether this is true. Many people genuinely do not wish to be saints, and it is probable that some who achieve or aspire to sainthood have never felt much temptation to be human beings. If one could follow it to its psychological roots, one would, I believe, find that the main motive for “non-attachment” is a desire to escape from the pain of living, and above all from love, which, sexual or non-sexual, is hard work. But it is not necessary here to argue whether the other-worldly or the humanistic ideal is “higher”. The point is that they are incompatible. One must choose between God and Man, and all “radicals” and “progressives,” from the mildest Liberal to the most extreme Anarchist, have in effect chosen Man.

However, Gandhi’s pacifism can be separated to some extent from his other teachings. Its motive was religious, but he claimed also for it that it was a definitive technique, a method, capable of producing desired political results. Gandhi’s attitude was not that of most Western pacifists. Satyagraha, first evolved in South Africa, was a sort of non-violent warfare, a way of defeating the enemy without hurting him and without feeling or arousing hatred. It entailed such things as civil disobedience, strikes, lying down in front of railway trains, enduring police charges without running away and without hitting back, and the like. Gandhi objected to “passive resistance” as a translation of Satyagraha: in Gujarati, it seems, the word means “firmness in the truth.” In his early days Gandhi served as a stretcher-bearer on the British side in the Boer War, and he was prepared to do the same again in the war of 1914-18. Even after he had completely abjured violence he was honest enough to see that in war it is usually necessary to take sides. He did not – indeed, since his whole political life centered round a struggle for national independence, he could not – take the sterile and dishonest line of pretending that in every war both sides are exactly the same and it makes no difference who wins. Nor did he, like most Western pacifists, specialize in avoiding awkward questions. In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: “What about the Jews? Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?” I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question, though I have heard plenty of evasions, usually of the “you’re another” type. But it so happens that Gandhi was asked a somewhat similar question in 1938 and that his answer is on record in Mr. Louis Fischer’s Gandhi and Stalin. According to Mr. Fischer, Gandhi’s view was that the German Jews ought to commit collective suicide, which “would have aroused the world and the people of Germany to Hitler’s violence.” After the war he justified himself: the Jews had been killed anyway, and might as well have died significantly. One has the impression that this attitude staggered even so warm an admirer as Mr. Fischer, but Gandhi was merely being honest. If you are not prepared to take life, you must often be prepared for lives to be lost in some other way. When, in 1942, he urged non-violent resistance against a Japanese invasion, he was ready to admit that it might cost several million deaths.  At the same time there is reason to think that Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, did not understand the nature of totalitarianism and saw everything in terms of his own struggle against the British government. The important point here is not so much that the British treated him forbearingly as that he was always able to command publicity. As can be seen from the phrase quoted above, he believed in “arousing the world,” which is only possible if the world gets a chance to hear what you are doing. It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary. Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference. But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one’s own government, or against an occupying power: even so, how does one put it into practise internationally? Gandhi’s various conflicting statements on the late war seem to show that he felt the difficulty of this. Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement. Moreover the assumption, which served Gandhi so well in dealing with individuals, that all human beings are more or less approachable and will respond to a generous gesture, needs to be seriously questioned. It is not necessarily true, for example, when you are dealing with lunatics. Then the question becomes: Who is sane? Was Hitler sane? And is it not possible for one whole culture to be insane by the standards of another? And, so far as one can gauge the feelings of whole nations, is there any apparent connection between a generous deed and a friendly response? Is gratitude a factor in international politics?  These and kindred questions need discussion, and need it urgently, in the few years left to us before somebody presses the button and the rockets begin to fly. It seems doubtful whether civilization can stand another major war, and it is at least thinkable that the way out lies through non-violence. It is Gandhi’s virtue that he would have been ready to give honest consideration to the kind of question that I have raised above; and, indeed, he probably did discuss most of these questions somewhere or other in his innumerable newspaper articles. One feels of him that there was much he did not understand, but not that there was anything that he was frightened of saying or thinking. I have never been able to feel much liking for Gandhi, but I do not feel sure that as a political thinker he was wrong in the main, nor do I believe that his life was a failure. It is curious that when he was assassinated, many of his warmest admirers exclaimed sorrowfully that he had lived just long enough to see his life work in ruins, because India was engaged in a civil war which had always been foreseen as one of the byproducts of the transfer of power. But it was not in trying to smooth down Hindu-Moslem rivalry that Gandhi had spent his life. His main political objective, the peaceful ending of British rule, had after all been attained. As usual the relevant facts cut across one another. On the other hand, the British did get out of India without fighting, and event which very few observers indeed would have predicted until about a year before it happened. On the other hand, this was done by a Labour government, and it is certain that a Conservative government, especially a government headed by Churchill, would have acted differently. But if, by 1945, there had grown up in Britain a large body of opinion sympathetic to Indian independence, how far was this due to Gandhi’s personal influence? And if, as may happen, India and Britain finally settle down into a decent and friendly relationship, will this be partly because Gandhi, by keeping up his struggle obstinately and without hatred, disinfected the political air? That one even thinks of asking such questions indicates his stature. One may feel, as I do, a sort of aesthetic distaste for Gandhi, one may reject the claims of sainthood made on his behalf (he never made any such claim himself, by the way), one may also reject sainthood as an ideal and therefore feel that Gandhi’s basic aims were anti-human and reactionary: but regarded simply as a politician, and compared with the other leading political figures of our time, how clean a smell he has managed to leave behind!

Women in Satyagraha.

Women in Satyagraha.

Sartorial elegance, The “Half Naked Fakir.” Churchill on Gandhi, 1930.

 

“It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious middle temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor.”

Sir Winston Churchill.

ChurchillWho really won World War II?

Home spun cotton

Home spun cotton.

 Naked fakirism.

Winston Churchill disparagingly referred to Mohandas Gandhi as the ‘half -naked fakir’. Gandhi regarded the expression as a compliment. He felt unworthy of being called “a fakir and that (too) naked –a more difficult task.”

‘HALF-NAKED FAKIR’ The story of Gandhi’s personal search for sartorial integrity | Peter Gonsalves . Academia.edu.