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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15511/does-gandhi-deserve-a-place-in-the-libertarian-tradition/

Does Gandhi Deserve a Place in the Libertarian Tradition?

February 2, 2011 by

If you abjure all violence, you must abjure the state. Thus, while not all libertarians are pacifists, all pacifists are libertarians, whether they realize it or not (and, admittedly, a great many pacifists have not realized it). Gandhi, it appears, did realize it. FULL ARTICLE by Jeff Riggenbach

{ 89 comments }

Walter Sobchak February 2, 2011 at 9:28 am

I myself dabbled in pacifism once, not in ‘Nam of course.

Interesting info on Gandhi, thanks.

Enjoy Every Sandwich February 2, 2011 at 9:34 am

A terrific article. I learned a lot from it and have resolved that I must learn more about Gandhi.

Thus, while not all libertarians are pacifists, all pacifists are libertarians, whether they realize it or not (and, admittedly, a great many pacifists have not realized it).

Well, all true pacifists. Just as many people who call themselves libertarian are nothing of the sort, many who profess to be pacifists simply want individuals to surrender completely to the State.

Jordan Viray February 2, 2011 at 1:26 pm

“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest”

Gandhi’s quote suggests that he wasn’t completely pacifist. On the other hand, it does bolster the case for him being libertarian.

As for the author’s idea that all pacifists are libertarians, I have to share your objection. It’s entirely possible for a pacifist to reject the libertarian tenet that the basis of the state is violence.

Matthew Swaringen February 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Where is the state that doesn’t use force or threaten it? Or do you mean hypothetically they think it is possible?

J. Murray February 2, 2011 at 2:32 pm

People tend to assume that Democracy means that each individual that happens to live in the society agrees with whatever 50%+1 of the voters on any issue decide. Because of this, they view any disagreement as failing to comply with terms of a contract that is assumed is signed purely by living under a democratic system. That’s how pacifists can justify a large, sweeping state. Because you get to vote on a matter you will automatically agree with the outcome, regardless if you voted for a different outcome or not.

Jordan Viray February 2, 2011 at 3:14 pm

There is no state that does not have the threat of force i.e. aggression as its basis. But to many pacifists, as J. Murray pointed out, Social Contract theory provides a justification of the State. It’s contradictory, sure, but logical inconsistency tends to be the case for most individuals.

Alexander S. Peak May 1, 2011 at 11:56 pm

Jordan Viray writes, “Gandhi’s quote suggests that he wasn’t completely pacifist.”

All true pacifists are opposed to gun control, since gun control is inherently violent. Likewise, all true pacifists are opposed to the state, since the state is, by definition, violent. It’s not that Ghandhi’s quote suggests that he wasn’t completely a pacifist, but rather that it suggests he may have been a purer pacifist than most who proclaim to also be pacifists.

Jordan Viray writes, “It’s entirely possible for a pacifist to reject the libertarian tenet that the basis of the state is violence.”

No, it’s possible for someone who incorrectly claims to be a pacifist to reject the libertarian tenet that the basis of the state is violence. But it is not possible for someone who actually is a pacifist to not also be a libertarian anarchist.

Respectfully yours,
Alex Peak

Jordan Viray May 4, 2011 at 10:48 pm

All true pacifists are opposed to gun control, since gun control is inherently violent. Likewise, all true pacifists are opposed to the state, since the state is, by definition, violent. It’s not that Ghandhi’s quote suggests that he wasn’t completely a pacifist, but rather that it suggests he may have been a purer pacifist than most who proclaim to also be pacifists.

It is true that consistent pacifism must oppose the state and its activities such as enforcement of gun control. Gandhi’s quote, however, is not railing about the existence of the state from pacifist principles in the way you are suggesting; rather he is criticizing the specific Act of gun control. Why is not taxation or some other law the “blackest” misdeed? It is the disarming of the Indian person that he is concerned about. Taxation, furthermore, directly and actively affects the great majority of the populace whereas the state violence from gun control in India affected far fewer.

Here’s the entry for “pacifism” in the Oxford English Dictionary:

“the belief that war and violence are unjustifiable and that all disputes should be settled by peaceful means.”

Gandhi, of course, preferred non-violent means but it is clear from that quote that he believed violence was occasionally justifiable e.g. in self-defense. The “true pacifist” (a phrase no less problematic than “a true Scotsman”) can reasonably be defined as someone who holds to pacifism absolutely. Such a “true pacifist” would not allow for violence in self-defense. Gandhi, then, cannot be completely pacifist. As said, however, his stance on violence with regard to self-defense does bolster the case for him being more libertarian.

Jordan Viray writes, “It’s entirely possible for a pacifist to reject the libertarian tenet that the basis of the state is violence.”

No, it’s possible for someone who incorrectly claims to be a pacifist to reject the libertarian tenet that the basis of the state is violence. But it is not possible for someone who actually is a pacifist to not also be a libertarian anarchist.

On one level that is true, but of the libertarian anarchist population, those who do not believe in violence as justified for self-defense is vanishingly small. At any rate, it is difficult to conceive of a libertarian society that did not also accept violence in defense of private property and life. Indeed; any militaristic nation would ensure the quick demise of such a society.

As J. Murray pointed out, pacifists (though they may not be “true pacifists”) can and do justify the existence of the state. The realization that the basis of the state is violence is not something automatically known.

Slim934 February 2, 2011 at 9:48 am

Wait a minute, what about his active recruitment of Indians to help the British put down a Zulu uprising (which was brought on by a new British tax) in the 1906 time frame?

He also actively recruited for Indian enrollment not only as medics but as combatants during World War 1.

This is not to say that as a whole that he would still not qualify as a libertarian (especially later in life), but I see no need to whitewash over his obvious inconsistencies in relation to distrust of the state.

Matt Stiles February 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Mises served as an officer in the Great War. One of his only good paying jobs was in the civil service, IIRC. Does that make him an inconsistent libertarian?

Fanta February 2, 2011 at 5:45 pm

No, it just means that he isn’t a utopian Rothbardian who would deprive himself of a life for the sake of some arbitrary principles. BTW: Mises was first and foremost a classical liberal that saw government as a necessary social apparatus, so I don’t know where you think you’re going with that false premise.

Jordan Viray February 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Liberty, free markets and non-aggression are not arbitrary principles.

Vanmind February 20, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Ha! As if making more money & owning more stuff amounts to a “better life.” That’s no more true than an ascetic’s claim that self-denial is a path to a “better life.”

And what’s with the “arbitrary principles” lie?

Gil February 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Or his support for Hitler because “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

jon February 2, 2011 at 10:08 am

probably they don’t realize it because so many yahoos call themselves libertarians but still say “well, there has to be something, though,” and then immediately talk about state police or military.

Barry Loberfeld February 2, 2011 at 10:26 am

FROM To Refuse Allegiance to the State: An Open Letter to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee

“The War Resisters League affirms that all war is a crime against humanity” — so reads its credo. But it is all too obvious that its supporters oppose only foreign militarism. They actually advocate domestic militarism, the deployment of armed forces by the State against its own citizens. Their “pacifist” position rejects retaliation by “the army” against invading soldiers, but sanctions the use of coercion by “the police” against people who have themselves committed no violence. How can we pretend that the violence of domestic militarism — even when we call this state coercion “socialism,” “progressivism,” “egalitarianism,” or any other egregious misnomer — is not real violence? Are its weapons less real? Its jails? (Of course not, which is precisely why the Appeal acknowledges the “personal risks” of refusing to obey the orders of those who command the weapons.) And how could anyone justify this violence? As retaliation (rejected, we’ve noted, as an option for the foreign military) against such perverse analogies — persuasion cast as coercion — as “economic violence” and now even “verbal violence,” i.e., speech? Don’t pacifists believe “Violence only leads to more violence” — a declaration that in fact appears on the page opposite the Appeal? Indeed, why is state coercion even seen as a tool – worse, the only tool — to achieve social ends? How can one oppose the use of force for “nation building” abroad, but not at home? Is it unthinkable that maybe “there are other, more peaceful and effective approaches to dealing with real threats” such as ignorance, illness, and poverty? And how can anybody defend taxation (for domestic militarism) and “tax refusal” (of foreign militarism) — the way one defends both censorship (of others) and free speech (for oneself)? Is this right of “conscience” a right of every man — or just the privilege of the Left?

Jim P. February 4, 2011 at 9:21 pm

That was a great open letter. Well said.

Allen Weingarten February 2, 2011 at 10:36 am

Pacifism can be effective when dealing with moderate governments, but not when dealing with trenchant regimes, such as Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s USSR. or Mao’s China.

Dale P February 2, 2011 at 11:00 am

there was an alternative history sci-fi short story where the nazist took over India. to deal with Ghandi a nazi officer pulled out his gun and shot Ghandi.

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

That is what gets to me about Gandhi, his obsession with Pacifism to the point of stupidity. While it is a strategic tool against British Imperialism, it has its limitations. It is not as if the British could not and did not use the British Indian army to enforce order during the civil unrest caused by Gandhi’s civil disobedience movements. But after WW2 ended, they where no longer sure about the loyalty of the Indian Army. That is why they left. A non-pacifist leader named Subash Chandra Bose played a pivotal role in achieving that. A story that gets left out.

Sione February 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Abhilash

How was Ghandi’s strategy stupid? He won the brass ring, didn’t he? I mean the Poms departed…

As it happens the British establishment had been discussing Indian independence well before WW2. It had been a matter of concern to them since the early ’20s. Basically the deal was that they realised that the costs of retaining the Raj were high (and the likes of Ghandi were making them higher) for limited benefit at home. There was a loss of will to continue with imperial rule over India and that mirrored a growing loss of consent by Indian subjects to be ruled by foreigners over the sea in London. Ghandi certainly played a big part- hardly stupid, he appears to have attained his goal and won the game.

In the end the Brits departed because they were not prepared to continue to consume the resources and expend the effort necessary to rule. Britain was no longer great. It was a failing power, a declining empire in the early stages of experiencing the economic realities of its newly restricted position in the world. Being in the position of having to pay the costs of fighting two world wars, rebuild the UK (as it became), while continuing to prosecute socialism at home certainly didn’t help them to keep the Empire! What!

Sione

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 6:24 pm

His stupidty was in beleving that what worked with the British works for everyone else. Here is solution to avoid WW2

“I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions…If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.”

What do you think?

Sione February 3, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Abhilash

Interesting. Certainly unconventional. I’ll have to find out more (such as the context in which he wrote or said that).

Don’t forget that Hitler and Mussolini were well supported and funded by Western interests in the first instance. Left to themselves they would have collapsed the economies of both nations soon enough. Perhaps Ghandi foresaw their inevitable failure (inevitable even within the context of an absence of hostilities) and sought a means of waiting them out with minimal loss of life.

On a related matter I am lucky to know several families that exited Europe after the WW2. Some had experience of the Russian socialist system, some of the German socialist system, and some of both. Some of them got to experience the violence of war up close, first hand. In all cases they departed without goods or property. They made new lives for themselves in new locales. The property and the wealth they left behind (much of it already had been stolen from them prior to their departures) was consumed for unproductive ends. Each of the places they departed is now what could be cheerfully dismissed as a “hole”. An issue to consider is that the inevitable decline of those places took several decades to arrive at its conclusion.

One of the old boys told me that when he returned to the “old country” for a visit he was asked to take back his old factories and restore them (he is a very wealthy man). He told the occupiers that they had spent over 40 years in occupation and had achieved nothing but ruin. It would take him at least a decade or even two to get things repaired and moving properly again. He informed them he was 88 years old already. He said to them, “Keep your loot. See if you can eat it. Learn what your fathers ruined.” Then he explained how he’d arrived in Australia with nothing and built up a business and much wealth. He likes to say, “head and hands”. He says that a lot.

His lesson is this. Life is short. Too short to spend enslaved and suffering under coercive collectivism. Too short to further abbreviate in the pursuit of violence of warfare or even in trying to steal from other people. Too short to spend in the service of criminals. Better to bail out and start elsewhere. He repeats that one should, “Let the mad eat themselves.” After all, they are always hungry.

Perhaps Ghandi was viewing the European exhibition of violence and atrocity from an analogous position. He is reported to have once quipped that British civilisation would be a very good idea. Do you think he may have considered that sentiment should be applied to the rest of Europe as well?

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar February 3, 2011 at 7:35 pm

You are leaving too much to speculation, I think.

Sione February 2, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Dale

Riiiiight. So a fantasy book is what is needed to understand whether Ghandi was successful….

Sione

Abhilash Nambiar February 3, 2011 at 10:21 am

Not needed. If you understand why he got killed, you will understand where he failed.

Sione February 3, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Abilash

I agree. The fantasy book is not needed.

The Poms departed from India. In attaining that objective Ghandi saw success. No need to read a fantasy book to understand that the strategy he promoted was exactly correct, most effective as it exploited the British where they were weakest…

The sci-fi fiction story supposedly demonstrates how simple it would have been to stop Ghandi. Bang! Ghandi is dead. India stays as a European colony- a territory of empire. Perhaps the idea was to demonstrate that Germans are more effective and efficient than the civilised poofy Pommies as well. Perhaps the theme is that ruthless violence ultimately succeeds. None of that is valid or justified.What is mising from the sci-fi story is context, let alone fact of reality.

In a fiction story an author can make up any fantasy his heart desires. The author supplies the context and he can design the story to head off wherever he likes. In reality no-one has such omnipotence.Let’s say Ghandi had indeed been executed by the British. Would that have prevented Indian independence? Unlikely to have been the case. There would have been consequences to such an execution. More than likely those would not have been favourable for the Raj. More than likely that there would have been much violence, death, disaster and mayhem on a grand scale. Lots of dead Poms (likely damn near all of them on the sub-continent). Much as the empire was declining, so the Indian intellectuals (the men of ideas) and leaders were striving for Indian rule of India (perhaps some of them wanted the power to rule for themselves). The context was that even in the absence of Ghandi there were social and political and economic pressures building towards independence. Killing him would not alter that context.By the way, the Nazis couldn’t even rule Europe, let alone Russia. What ever makes anyone think they could have successfully ruled over India?In the end, as much fun as fantasy can be, it is still fantasy. Nothing to learn about the reality of Ghandi or of India there.

Sione

Gil February 2, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I agree. He knew the British had a certain reputation to uphold hence his methods would have no effect against those who want to base their reputation on violent conquest.

Sione February 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Gil

You are quite wrong in your analysis. Ghandi was not concerned about a “certain reputation”. He was quite aware of the violence of the British (they didn’t build up an Empire by singing peace songs and gazing deeply into each other’s eyes). He appears to have been aware that the Empire survived upon acceptance of an idea (or a set of them). He was able to exploit that by substituting it with a more powerful idea (or set of them). He also seems to have realised the weaknesses of the British economic and political situation. He also understood that those who rule an empire with guns, violence, jails and threats are at a disadvantage when their opposition fails to engage them on those terms (with guns and violence and threat) but rather, refuses to co-operate, refuses to obey, refuses to collaborate, refuses to grant sanction or acceptance. He must have realised that this situation ends up consuming ever greater expenditures of resource in the ever frustrated efforts to impose/maintain power to rule. He definitely understood that, against the methods he promoted, expressions of violence by the rulers would result in ultimate failure.

Interesting to contrast the British failure against Ghandi’s strategy with their effectiveness against prior uprisings and revolts on the sub-continent. Well worth reading the history. Fascinating indeed, or so I’m finding.

Sione

Joe February 3, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Allen,
You hit the nail on the head. If Stalin and the USSR were in India and not the British then Ghandi would have been dog food and you would not have heard about him.
I really can’t see what the fascination is with Ghandi. I guess people see him as a pure soul with a pure means to an end. Life has more reality than what the British allowed Ghandi to do. Let’s just say he was lucky when it comes to history. As for a pacifist being a libertarian it does not compute with me. You must always defend your freedoms. If someone comes into my house using force than I must also use force.

Sione February 4, 2011 at 12:19 am

Joe

How do you know what Ghandi would have done were the Soviets in India? Answer: you do not know.

What you are attempting is a big “IF” speculation in the absence of real context.

“IF” the Soviets were present.

“IF” Ghandi behaved exactly as you’d like to pretend he would have in the circumstances.

“IF” the context was entirely what you conjured up (ruthless Soviets, imbecilic Ghandi, terminally foolish Indian people,….).

“IF”, “IF”, “IF, “IF”.

Note that all those “IFs” are according to your own made-up formula in order to generate the prepackaged answers you want to present. Rather invalid and unjustfiable.

Fact of history. Ghandi succeeded.

By the way, here is another fact of history. The USSR collapsed and failed. Interestingly enough it did not require a huge bloodletting for that to occur. Something about a people withdrawing their belief in a system of governance, withholding their consent for it to rule them – albeit for a short period. Think on that and think on how Ghandi’s strategy was about trying to enable exactly that situation (and without violence).

If anyone comes into your house with a machete or a gun and demands your obediance, what are you going to do? You’d likely just obey. Answering force with force? Cheap talk for the pub.

On the other hand Ghandi was extremely brave and quite clever. He achieved something of merit. Perhaps THAT is why he is studied and admired. May well be.

Sione

Joe February 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Sione,
I wasn’t worrying about what Gandhi would have done. That is not important. Either way he would have been dog food for Stalin.
As for the collaspe of the USSR and bloodletting. At the end there was not a lot of bloodletting but just think all the Russians who were exterminated on the way to the collaspe.
As for answering force with force. If someone is going to take me out I am not going to lay down and just die. You can choose your way of death, it has nothing to do with my approach. Your idealism is not worth a cup of coffee. There is evil in the world and you just have to accept that fact. You and Walt Disney have the same world view.
Your talk is not even cheap, it is worthless. So quit watching tv and get out in the real world and see how it all works. Actually go to India and see how the other half live. See what Gandhi has done for the caste system and the untouchables.
So quit being an elitist and when someone doesn’t see your world view just know that you don’t have all the answers and if we could all just get along.

Sione February 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Joe

For the sake of the discussion let’s examine the fantasy that Stalin and his mob invaded India. The point for you to understand is that upon adopting this scenario you are also supplying an entire family of assumptions, prejudices and biases at the same time. You are introducing your own context (which you do not appear to be aware of and worse you do not appear to be prepared to examine any of it critically).

In the fantasy scenario of Stalin invading India, how Ghandi acts, which strategy he adopts and the nature of the leadership he supplies to his followers does matter. Would he behave as ineffectually as you’d like to pretend or would he operate in a different manner? You do not know the answer to any of this…and yet you allow yourself a free pass to introduce fantasy assumptions about him (reducing him to a cartoon necessarily obedient to your prejuduces and biases) in order to arrive at a convenient prepackaged result. It’s an invalid approach, as it is possible to smuggle in whatever contextual details one enjoys (whether conscious of it or not). In the process (as you have applied it) little of value is learned.

A famous writer was known to state, “Check your premise.”

If you seriously want to understand Ghandi the man, his ideology, his actions, his moral system, decisions, actions etc. the only way to progress is to study the real history, what actually occurred, the how and why of it. You need to address reality.

“As for the collaspe of the USSR and bloodletting. At the end there was not a lot of bloodletting but just think all the Russians who were exterminated on the way to the collaspe.”

Sure. Shocking. It was inhumane and evil what was done.

One can also ask this:
As for the collapse of the British Empire in India and bloodletting. At the end there was not a lot of bloodletting but just think all the Indians who were exterminated on the way to the collapse.

Is it relevant?

Now before insisting that the magnitudes and details of the various slaughterings and sufferings differ and are exceptional in various ways and suchlike, you may want to carefully consider relevance to the matters under particular investigation here (Ghandi’s nature, his ideas, etc and also premise, selective context smuggling, analysis and also the invalidity of relying on fantasy to evaluate reality…).

So in conclusion, avoid selective introduction of context and check your premise.

As for the remainder of your missive, you demonstrate the cheap talk of a blowhard full of piss, bad manners and stale air. More than likely you’d not whistle “pooh” in the situation where you are being forcible coerced to act in a manner detrimental to your interests. Of course, as I don’t know you this is only supposition on my part, supposition based on having previously encountered the same type of rhetoric as you’ve presented here. Perhaps you would stand alone as you’d have me believe. Most people don’t (and I’ve seen enough fighting and violence to know). Be that as it may, the likelyhood is that you don’t know for certain what you’d do as you’ve not been tested. I wonder if that doubt is what makes you angry.

Now Ghandi, on the other hand, he was tested- many times it would appear. Worth considering that.

Sione

As an aside: After coming across the essay by Jeff Riggenbach and reading the comments (in particular those of Abhilash Nambiar) I’ve been researching Ghandi and also the details of how Indian independence occurred. That’s the way to find out. What one does not do (not if one wants to understand the actual history) is engage in the equivalent of fantasy role playing games.

Joe February 4, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Sione,
I was not talking about Stalin invading India. I was saying instead of the British control we had Russian control. Now based on history and what Stalin stood for, Gandhi would not have stood a chance. If Stalin can murder over 30 million of his own people I can project what he would have done to the Indians. Actually I’m not just talking about Gandhi but any pacifist that would go head to head with a communist or socialist idealology. I could have used Mao or Pol Pot, pick your savior of the people.
If India is now Independent than I will live under another system. The caste system is a demoralizing system that keeps millions of humans in poverty and despair. To be a untouchable is not a life but a despicable condition of survival.
So you assume that other people have not seen violence and fighting. I’m battle tested so don’t break into my house.

Agora February 2, 2011 at 10:59 am

There is an idea that anarchism is just kindergarten for communism. Maybe Gandhi would have believed in non-coercion in forming some kind of egalitarian society (every house with its own weaving loom), but his economic views seem a bit out of touch with reality (even for India). Can somebody here care to comment on this part of his “libertarianism”.

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 11:50 am

You see pictures of that time and most people in villages are wearing few clothes. They where not making a fashion statement, they had few clothes to wear. Gandhi used to travel the length and breath of the country and was haunted by the image of woman washing one end of her Sari while still wearing the other end. She had nothing to change into while washing her cloth. It is after this that he too started wearing little clothes. He wanted to feel closer to the poor, which where then and now, the majority in India. That is because clothes sold in India at the time where spun in mills from Manchester and was too expensive for them. But the cotton was from India. There was protectionism at work.

If you can make clothes that where cheap enough for the villagers to buy, you are in business. Think how a weaving loom in every house contribute towards that goal. A mill takes a huge initial investment, something beyond the means of most. Even if they pool all their wealth and build one, it can be shut down for any number of legal reasons. Law suits costs money, even the lawyer fees and court fees are beyond what most can afford. But how many houses can you break into before you destroy every weaving mill?

Think of all the variety of clothes that can come out from it. Huge supply means prices are low. Competition would ensure that quality products come out. Add that to a ritual that includes burning of foreign clothes and you have the foundation for a robust clothing industry that did not need any state protection and was robust enough not to depend on a state.

But no one got it. Or they pretended they didn’t.

However something along similar lines was tried for dairy products in the Indian state of Gujarat (Gandhi’s state), but not by Gandhi. Milk cartels in Gujarat where successfully broken. That is the story of Amul.

Agora February 2, 2011 at 12:26 pm

I listened to some author lecturing about India on C-Span2 a few years back and him making a comment describing the low annual economic growth of post-War India as the “Hindu Rate of Growth”. I thought it was just the “Socialist Rate of Growth” that India adopted after the War (the Evil Colonialism=Capitalism view) which has caused this stagnation. However, is there a cultural reason for this stagnation? For example, the concept of time-preference and capital accumulation that might be lacking in India do to some of the religious beliefs. This lack of investment for the future be an important issue as well? Care to comment?

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 2:02 pm

The “Hindu Growth rate” was in reality “A socialist growth rate”. Nehru was impressed with the Soviet five year plans and its promise of ‘development within a single generation’. It is debatable whether he did more damage with his good intentions or whether the British did more damage with their bad. He and the Indian National Congress where staunch secularists, so the term ‘Hindu Growth rate” is certainly misleading.

As for whether culture have something to do with it? Perhaps. As far as religious beliefs are concerned Nehru was an agnostic atheist and Gandhi was some sort of universalist. However Nehru was born into the Brahmin caste, the highest and Gandhi was born a Vaishya, the second lowest caste. And they are products of their culture, so in that sense, culture plays a role.

Brahmins are by tradition intellects, we all know how little appreciation intellects have towards the understanding and significance of Capital accumulation. Vaishyas where merchants. They could appreciate the importance of capital accumulation. You can see where Nehru and Gandhi falls in this picture.

Indians of the time took to Nehruvian economic reform instead of Gandhian one. But to be fair, what choice did they have? Gandhi had already been killed in the post-Independent India. I am sure had he been alive, some sort of rivalry would have developed between the two.

As far as I can understand, there is no cultural set up that discourages savings, investment or capital accumulation. However there is neither one that encourages any of these either. What is emphasized is duty. Traditionally, people where supposed to do their duty regardless of how hard (or easy for that matter) it was, or what the consequences where. Within that framework whatever capitalistic leanings could be entertained was allowed. Does it make some sense?

Agora February 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Thank you. Interesting insight. Now one more. Can Gandhi be in anyway held accountable in the horrible event of the partitioning of Pakistan and India?

integral February 3, 2011 at 2:34 am

He said that he accepted the reality of Pakistan, but he refused to recognize it as a legitimate state.

Abhilash Nambiar February 3, 2011 at 8:18 am

Not the partition itself. That was Jinnah’s doing. But he can be held responsible for mishandling the crisis after the partition. He was very influential and advocated non-violence as a solution to the partition issue. Apparently he was more influential among Hindus rather than Muslims. They took him seriously just like before and got slaughtered. Which is why one frustrated Hindu nationalist finally did him in.

Joe February 8, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Agora,
I have found a wonderful website that will answer a lot of your questions on India. Particularly the economic problems and how they can be resolved. Here is the website:
http://sauvik-antidote.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-gandhi-and-second-republic.html
On this site please look up the economist Peter Bauer. He is probably the emminent resource to read when trying to understand India and other Third World countries economic problems.

Joe February 8, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Agora,
Please read this article and it should give you some perspective:
http://www.box.net/shared/8rt608sr03

Joe February 2, 2011 at 5:00 pm

During the Industrial Revolution in England the mills were turning out cheap clothes for the masses. The upper crust didn’t use cotton so the clothes manufactured were for the working class. Why couldn’t India do the same?

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 6:26 pm

The economy of British India was not funded through investment. It was funded through taxation. The Indian economy was mamanged not according to the needs of the market, but the needs of the British empire.

Sione February 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Joe

Your “projections” remain worthless fantasy, as previously explained. Try to focus.

If the USSR was in occupation of India that would require that the USSR had a successful bluewater navy and merchant marine (of the type the Britain had built up over generations) or that the USSR was in control of Afghanistan and (what is now) Pakistan. Try to think what that would require. It means a completely different history from that which actually occurred. It demands of the Russians an utterly different economy and a vastly different culture from that which they actually evolved. It requires Afghanistan to have been subjected to long term Russian rule (which demands a different culture and much altered nature for the Afghans and a massive consumption of Russian resource at some point in order to get control over the region and keep it- even for a limited period). It requires the nature of Lenin and Stalin and their minions to have been very different from that which it was (in order to gain and retain control over what would have been a very, very different economy/culture/group of nations/territory than that which they actually did preside over in reality).

There remains the question of what Ghandi would have done in the circumstances, what his experience would have been etc. Would he have been a member of the Comunist Party? Would he have sought independence or sought a different goal? There remains the question about what this all would have meant for Indian politics and ideology and culture.

Again, try to understand that you are smuggling in a barrow-load of your own assumptions, premise, biases, prejudices and prepackaged context in order to make your silly scenario work out as you’d like it to. As previously explained, the method is invalid. It’s worthless. So quit with the silly “projections” and start studying reality as it is. THAT is how you’ll learn about reality.

If you are not prepared to revise your approach and continue to insist upon fantasy scenarios, then one may as well ask you how the fantasy would all turn out if Ghandi had been premier of the Soviet Union. That exercise is just as irrelevant to reality as is yours.

“So you assume that other people have not seen violence and fighting.”

No. That’s something you dredged up out of your imagination (a bad habit you’ve gotten into there laddie- less imaginings, less “projections” & more dealing with reality is the best medicine for the likes of you).

What I wrote was that my supposition was that you’d likely not whistle “pooh” in the situation where you are being forcible coerced to act in a manner detrimental to your interests. I thought this likely as I’d encountered your sort of rhetoric on previous occasions and observed that most people who talk like that do not stand alone when placed in such a situation.

Battle tested? Sure you are. Full of doubts. More than likely.

Sione

Joe February 7, 2011 at 11:14 am

Sione,
Let’s make it plain for you. Stalin would have killed your boy Gandhi. He would have been just another of the millions he killed. You can’t seem to grasp that reality. Other than that all your BS means nothing.

Sione February 7, 2011 at 11:41 am

Joe

You squeal like a stuck pig.

Quoting, “You can’t seem to grasp that reality.”

The reality is that it is you who are engaging in a delusional fantasy. What you are imagining did not happen. It is not real.

It can’t be made any simpler for you than that. Again, you need to quit with the delusions and start learning about what actually happened in reality (and why).

Sione

Joe February 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Sione,
OK I finally figured it out. You have a learning disability.
“The only real power comes out of a long rifle.”
“You cannot make a revolution with silk gloves.”
“Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.”
“Death is the solution to all problems. No man-no problem.”
“The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
The above quotes were made by Stalin. Now you tell me that Gandhi would of had a chance? I do deal with reality and again you need to know that Gandhi would have been dog food.
Also, read this from a East Indian Libertarian about Gandhi. It will give you the other side of the story.
http://sauvik-antidote.blogspot.com/2010/10/on-gandhi-and-second-republic.html

Sione February 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Joe

Ah, the stuck pig continues its squeals.

You are still engaging in a campaign to pretend a substitution of delusional fantasy in place of reality is valid knowledge. That scheme doesn’t work. No matter how much cutting/pasting/linking you do, no matter how many times or how energetically or how hard you assert the fantasy, it remains a mere fantasy- unreal, a fiction, a fairy tale dredged out of your shallow imagination and nothing more. The exercise you undertake is without validity. Squeal on all you want, but your appraoch is without merit and nowt of reality is learned from it (apart from an inslight into your base nature).

You originally asked why it was that other people found Ghandi fascinating. By now you should have started to realise something of why. The reasons include what Ghandi taught, his attributes of leadership, the nature of what he did, how he did it and, of course, his achievement. He was an important man. He attained his goal (and by employing unconventional means at that). He did that regardless of your fantasy. Ghandi was clever, he faced severe tests and stuck to his approach (he “backed himself”).

Contrast the reality of Ghanid’s actions and success (that is, the reality of history) with the fiction of your fantasy. It is clear which of the two is a nothing.

Sione

PS. If it is reality you wish to understand, it is reality you must study. Fantasy is no substitute.

Brian February 2, 2011 at 11:24 am

Pacifism is evil.

darjen February 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm

No, pacifism is not evil.

Gil February 3, 2011 at 12:42 am

Well Pacifism is definitely not good.

http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/PSEUDOSC/ProblemWithPacifism.HTM

integral February 3, 2011 at 2:41 am

I can certainly understand why that writeup was in the pseudo-science department.

Gil February 3, 2011 at 3:33 am

Yeah, Pacifism is a pseudo “-ism”, isn’t it?

David February 2, 2011 at 11:35 am

The Salt March to the Sea alone qualifies the Mohatma as an example to libertarians everywhere.

Excellent article, Mr. Riggenbach. Thank you.

J. Murray February 2, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Gandhi wasn’t a pacifist. He chose non-violent resistance as a weapon against the state. Gandhi was no stranger to violence nor did he truly disapprove of it. If not, he would never have said the following:

“I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence….I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour….But I believe that nonviolence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment.”

Mohandas Gandhi

Basically, don’t use violence, unless you need to use violence.

I also find his methods a little odd. Satyagraha makes very clear that all followers are required to follow all the laws and instruction of the State without complaint. Not only that, but to actively convince yourself that you’re doing it voluntarily. How’s that for libertarianism? Do what the State tells you to do and agree to it without hesitation, because that’ll show them! I fail to see how going along with State control, and even refusing to vocalize your discontent, is tantamount to a libertarian philosophy.

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Not withstanding what he said, he was certainly a pacifist in practice and as he matured, he was more addicted to pacifism than ever before. Satyagraha is not a very loaded term. Jeff has given translations like “devotion to truth,” “firm insistence on truth” or “persistence in the pursuit of truth.” I think a more literal translation would be “desire for truth” because satya means truth and agraha means desire. In any case it has no implication requiring obedience to anyone let alone the state. Where is that coming from?

Gandhi consistently encouraged people to willing break unjust laws to raise the conscience of the law maker to their unjustness. It was a scary thing to do. The police have clubs and sticks and would break your bones and you are probably too poor to afford a doctor.

As for “..don’t use violence, unless you need to use violence.” That is the line that every statist leader every where in the world always uses when justifying violence. Under than narrative most violent acts can be justified under ‘I could not think of anything better’ or ‘I did not know any better’. That is exactly what Gandhi wanted to keep away from.

J. Murray February 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satyagraha#Satyagraha_in_large-scale_conflict

I know it’s Wikipedia, but the references are in old books I don’t have access to link.

See pre-requisites 1 and 2. Also see the 7th rule that’s essential for every Satyagrahi in India.

And in Rules for satyagraha campaigns, see item 13, which is Gandhi effectively establishing himself and his movement as a replacement state as it requires utter obedience. Except, of course (have to give yourself an out), if you don’t agree with it as in Rule 14.

I know you’ve gotten caught up in sayings and such from third party sources, but I’m someone who is primarily concerned with actions and Gandhi never really followed along with his own teachings. Some of them are meaningless to me (he’s notorious for violating brahmacharya daily, mainly with young women), but he was still more than willing to apply force, even though it wasn’t purely physical. Pacifism is something that rejects ALL force, not replaces physical violence with psychological warfare, which is what Satyagraha does, both against enemies and it’s own followers, such as making a complete outcast of anyone that actually did raise a fist to defend themselves or their property.

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Gandhi did try to distinguish between just and unjust laws. If you break an unjust law while following all the just laws, you direct attention to the injustice. It is about consciousness raising.

I do not know what ‘real’ pacificism is. There is pacificism defined broadly and then there is pacificism defined narrowly.

Civil disobedience does not mean total disobedience. There is disobedience only towards the unjust law. And when large-scale mobilization is taking place to highlight an injustice, some form of internal discipline must be maintained. People have to be obedient to the leader they organized under. Otherwise there would be chaos. But it would be wrong to say that Gandhi was a replacement to the State. Those who found his conditions to be too trying did not have to join it. Many did not, but those that did where all volunteers. He does not have any sort of monopoly – join him or else!?

I shall make no comment on his personal habits as that is not directly relevant.

I will give you one thing, his obsession with his brand of Pacifism to the point of stupidity does get to me. So does his tendency to marginalize those that did not act in line was part of it. I think it is correct to call that aspect psychological warfare. But I would attribute it to his personality more than anything else.

Satyagraha itself does not mean much more than “desire for truth”. How will that move someone to act, really depends on the person.

scott February 3, 2011 at 1:07 am

Gandhi the racist. I also have my doubts about wikipedia, but I have recently read a few accounts of Gandhi’s racist and statist views towards black South Africans. I was wondering if any one else has read the same thing? I’m using Wikipedia because I don’t have any other material to send via this blog. Essential though, it mirrors what I have recently read. My point is that Gandhi was not a libertarian or a pacifist on the mere fact of his racism towards blacks. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandhi_Behind_the_Mask_of_Divinity

Abhilash Nambiar February 3, 2011 at 8:24 am

I think you have found Gandhi’s Achilles’ heel.

Jim P. February 4, 2011 at 8:50 pm

That doesn’t mean that Gandhi has no role in the libertarian tradition. I don’t think it makes sense to expect perfection or 100% consistency from anyone. For example, would you exclude Thomas Jefferson from the libertarian tradition because he owned slaves? People change over time and make mistakes and are inconsistent. They are born into cultural norms through no fault of their own and have to struggle against them. None of us can live up to that standard. I can’t pretend expertise on the life and times of Gandhi, but it seems clear that his ability to know the nature of violence is quite an incredible contribution to the future of humanity.

noah February 2, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I noticed this Gandhi quote in another thread, but without context I’m not sure what to make of it:

“Real socialism has been handed down to us by our ancestors who taught: ‘All land belongs to Gopal; where then is the boundary line? Man is the maker of that line and can therefore, unmake it.’ Gopal literally means shepherd; it also means God. In modern language it means the State, i.e. the People.”

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm

Gopal mean cowherd not shepherd. Krishna one of the most popular Hindu gods was a cowherd during his youth. He was born as a prince and died as a price. But his kingdom was relatively speaking of minor size. It is very difficult to explain what he meant without going into nuances about Hindu philosophy which is very difficult to explain from scratch anyway. Suffice to say, Gopal has no equivalent in modern language. It is one of those terms that the natives will intuitvely grasp, but which will make the socialists go ,’Say What?!’

Which Gandhi? February 2, 2011 at 4:10 pm

Gandhi inculcated and abandoned ‘non-violence’ whenever it seemed to suit his agenda.In the end he was more of an effing crackpot than anything else (I would be dead if I said this in India,and the villages in a 10 mile radius would be burned; so much for his followers being non-violent).He was conflicted with his admiration for the Brits on the one hand, with his Nationalistic ideals on the other. Ask his followers about the Boer wars and the Kaffirs or about his willingness to send Indian Soldiers to fight in WW2 if the Brits conceeded to his demands. The best thing I can say about him is that he did not screw up India the way Nehru did.

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm

You won’t be dead. Gandhi is not above criticism in India. He is a hot topic of discussion. His legacy is no longer so clear cut. If you said what you did among his hard-core fans, you might get beaten up. Too bad he is not alive to dissuade them.

Contemplationist February 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm

We had a nationalist successor waiting to govern the country – Sardar Patel. But Gandhi betrayed his trust and advised that the Fabian Socialist Jawaharlal Nehru be made the prime minister instead. The Congress party workers and leaders had voted by a substantial majority for Sardar Patel to lead the nation. If that had happened, India would be a first world country today. Instead we got a Fabian Stalin-admirer who implemented Five year plans, shut down trade, instituted licenses, quotas for everything and nationalized most industries. All thanks to Gandhi

Abhilash Nambiar February 2, 2011 at 5:14 pm

What if full power was returned to the kings. 600 little kingdoms, each developing at a pace that suits them best. How would that have been? Would that not have been the path to untold prosperity?

Bala February 4, 2011 at 5:11 am

I’m quite sure it was not for nothing that some people call Patel the Bismarck of India. That, to me, says a lot.

Sione February 2, 2011 at 5:11 pm

What an interesting and complex man. I shall have to find out more about him and his ideas.

Thanks for the essay.

Sione

niku February 3, 2011 at 2:05 am

http://www.archive.org/details/IndiaOfMyDreams
India Of My Dreams, M.K. Gandhi

Jeff, please browse through the book.

Juliusz February 3, 2011 at 4:07 am

I’ve read before that former socialist India was in fact Ghandi’s (political?) philosophy legacy . I am ignorant in that matter I admit, so… does anybody has some source of information about that topic pls?

Abhilash Nambiar February 3, 2011 at 10:02 am

No, the former socialist India was Nehru’s legacy. Nehru was India’s Prime Minister from 1947 to 1964. Gandhi was killed in 1948. He did not have much to contribute towards nation building. He was more involved in the partition related Hindu-Muslim riots during the independence era but failed to manage it properly, which eventually did him in.

darjen February 3, 2011 at 9:18 am

As a big fan of non-violence, non-cooperation, and civil disobedience, I was pretty disappointed to learn that Gandhi willingly participated in the Zulu war and recruited combatants for WW1.

Abhilash Nambiar February 3, 2011 at 10:16 am

I am not a big fan of Gandhi, he has his flaws. His ideas have limitations. There are other stars in the Indian independence struggle that played important roles. But Gandhi used to shine bright like a sun, and other stars are not visible when the sun shines. But a bright sun do not shine as long as some dim stars…and it shows. He has lost his shine.

It is perfectly normal that as people grow old and mature, their ideas evolve, their sense of judgment matures and they are able to act in admirable ways. So Gandhi the person seems less spectacular than Gandhi the legend. That is normal, that is the way it should be, and that is also disappointing.

Renegade Division February 3, 2011 at 8:39 pm

“I am not a big fan of Gandhi, he has his flaws. His ideas have limitations.”

Of course you aren’t a great fan of Gandhi, one of the biggest butchering of Gandhian ideas is done by Indian government, when they want you to use non-violence but they themselves will use all sorts of violence. Take for example on 2nd October in India in the name of Gandhi’s birthday alcohol is banned all across the nation, in the name of Gandhi they will commit acts of violence against any peaceful person who is merely sipping a liquid, Gandhi would never ever approve of that.
The fact is this ends up creating a cognitive dissonance against Gandhian ideas among Indian youth, I too suffered from it, I hated Gandhi growing up, but over the years I started reading more about him and realized he is a lot more libertarian(in fact I might even say he is completely libertarian when it comes to initiation of aggression).

The only place where Gandhi clashes with most libertarians is on whether by using violence you can stop your aggressor in long run. Gandhi believes means are everything, means are the end, but libertarians believe that as long as your means aren’t initiation of aggression in itself it is a perfectly effective tool to use.

When you talk about Gandhi not being the legend everybody thinks he is, you really gotta read Gandhi, he is the last person to ever believing he is any sort of Mahatma, and not just for being modest or anything, he knew the kind of shit he pulled off, he knew how many times he got things wrong.

Claiming Gandhi did things like getting involved in Zulu war is like saying Rothbard isn’t a Libertarian or great because when he was young he got involved with the communists.

Gandhi gets things wrong all the time, and there isn’t a single piece he has written where he hasn’t tried to remind people of this, of course you gotta read Gandhi for this.

If Rothbard classified Libertarianism from two origins, natural rights based libertarianism and utilitarian libertarianism, then Gandhi comes from the third origin, libertarianism based on non-violence. If you believe in natural rights of man, you have to be a libertarian to be consistent, if you believe in maximizing utility for the society you have to believe that society can only have maximum utility through maximum liberty, similarly if you have to have maximum non-violence in a society then getting rid of state and respecting property rights is the only possible and logically consistent solution.

About Gandhi talking about Jews and WW2 where he said that people should let themselves be killed by Nazis, that one place he couldn’t properly apply his own theory, I have written a blog post about this How could Gandhian philosophy help Jews in Germany, my point there is that although Gandhi did say that Jews should simply walk into the gas chambers, it is too late for the Jews who are standing in front of gas chambers to apply Gandhian philosophy, its too late for them to do Satyagraha(by too late I mean too late for Satyagraha to be effective), for it to be effective they should have started applying Gandhian philosophy when they were asked to give up their businesses, or their guns, or their gold.

When the first Nazi soldiers asked Jews to do something, they should have started Satyagraha right then and there itself, if Nazis backed out at that, then its all well and good, but if they don’t, then Nazis are exposed for their real intention at that point, much earlier than when they were managed to do some serious damage, they would have exposed Nazis to the remaining Jews and the German people. I mean six million of Jews died in the hands of Nazis anyways, exposing Nazis earlier would have made it much more difficult for Nazis.

That Satyagraha would have been as successful as Rosenstrasse satyagraha.

If you really wanna understand Gandhi you need to put your prejudices aside and understand he has been massively hijacked by the leftists and the government. You won’t find Gandhi promoting Socialism anywhere, his response for Socialism even in its most glorious days is very careful and neutral, “if you wanna establish Socialism,and you can do it non-violently, then go ahead, but if you wanna use violence then this society will have no peace in it”.

If Gandhi was alive today he would be totally libertarian, maybe a kind you won’t like or disagree with, but if you asked him why Somalia even without a government is not successful and peaceful, his answer would be that because Somalian anarchy was formed on violence therefore its existence is strafed with violence. All his focus in Liberty movement would be how to achieve it and how not to.

Sione February 4, 2011 at 12:27 am

Renegade Division

Most interesting analysis. Thanks for posting it.

Sione

Bala February 4, 2011 at 5:19 am

I’m quite surprised that no one has mentioned that Gandhi wanted the Congress Party to be disbanded after independence but couldn’t have his way. He was for what is called “gram swaraj” or village self-rule. He was not for a big State. I guess that makes him more of a libertarian.

Bala February 4, 2011 at 5:28 am

I forgot to add this. Gandhi led the Dandi March as a symbol of protest against the salt tax imposed by the British. More libertarian acts?

Renegade Division February 4, 2011 at 8:13 pm

Gandhi in his lifetime:
Protested an act which required all Indians in South Africa to carry their documents with them all the time.

Protested suspension of Habeus Corpus and other civil liberties by the British

Ran one of the largest anti-tax protest in the history of mankind

Supported third-party arbitration system for justice rather than a nationalized court system

Believed in strong property rights for other people(he said that if someone entrusts you with their property you should defend it with your life, this is more hardcore than what most libertarians would agree for another’s property).

Ned Netterville February 4, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I did a book review of Mark Kurlansky’s book entitled NONVIOLENCE, TWENTY-FIVE LESSONS FROM THE HISTORY OF A DANGEROUS IDEA. (http://www.voluntaryist.com/forthcoming/kurlansky.html) Kurlansky distinguishes between pacifism and nonviolence: “Pacifism is passive; but nonviolence is active. Pacifism is harmless and therefore easier to accept than nonviolence, which is dangerous…Nonviolence, exactly like violence, is a means of persuasion, a technique of political activism, a recipe for prevailing.” Gandhi’s Satyagraha was nonviolence, and it prevailed in throwing off English oppression of Indians. Gandhi was anything but stupid. Nonviolence is clearly far more effective in accomplishing the objective of throwing off oppression than is violence. If you doubt it, read Kurlansky’s book. Those who turn to violence are the stupid ones. If Gandhi was stupid, so was Jesus and so was Thoreau.

Bala February 4, 2011 at 7:51 pm

“Gandhi’s Satyagraha was nonviolence, and it prevailed in throwing off English oppression of Indians.”

This is a claim or rather a theory. I don’t think I agree that Gandhi’s non-violent protests forced the British out of India. I think the exit of the British from India had more to do with the collapse of their economy and the consequent decline of their military might as well as fear of an imminent revolt by the Indian regiments of the British Indian army thanks to Subash Chandra Bose’s efforts to raise the INA.

Renegade Division February 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm

This is a claim or rather a theory. I don’t think I agree that Gandhi’s non-violent protests forced the British out of India.

How can you ever identify if it was Gandhi who caused British to leave India or was it economy or Hitler?

In fact let me ask you this, how do we know if great depression was caused by New Deal or cured by New Deal? The fact is since we cannot know merely by observing things without a theory, we Austrians believe in methodological dualism.

Similarly how by merely observing can you tell if non-violence would work or not? You must go deep into non-violence methods and then understand it and then come to the conclusion.

Bala February 4, 2011 at 8:32 pm

I agree. My aim was only to point out that the popular theory isn’t necessarily the correct explanation and that Gandhi and his non-violent methods may be highly over-rated.

Renegade Division February 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I too have noticed a big difference between Pacifism and non-violence and what you described is quite true:
“Pacifism is passive; but nonviolence is active”

Rest might be a bit not accurate, here is a more accurate distinction.
If someone slaps you on one cheek, if you don’t do anything and just walk away when he is done slapping you, then you are being pacifist but not non-violent, at least not in the Gandhian way. According to Gandhi that is merely cowardice.
On the other hand if someone slaps you on one cheek and you invite him to slap you on the other cheek, and again and again until it changes his mind, then its Gandhian non-violence.

The reason why Gandhi is against using violence because violence merely prevents him from committing any more attrocities upon you, similarly being coward or pacifist against an aggression would also would not stop him, by inviting him to commit all his evil deeds to you, you take all his anger upon yourself, you prevent anyone else from being hurt by him.

This is why Gandhi’s non-violence parallels with war, rather than merely with a state of lack of violence. If we merely replace non-violence with violence, and every peaceful action with its violent counterpart then it would seem like Gandhi was a military war commander who wouldn’t tolerate any injustice against him and respond back with full viciousness.

Sione February 4, 2011 at 4:46 pm

OK. That looks like a good book to go out and get.

Sione

Ankur February 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Ehh i don’t exactly buy it. Remember, Gandhi was heavily involved in politics as the British were pulling out, most notably when he commandeered the Pakistan-India partition, even though it displaced millions of Sikhs whose homeland had been split between two countries. Many, many Sikhs were killed trying to escape Pakistan. Also, many Muslims died trying to cross the border to Pakistan. In addition, tensions between both countries still exist and has resulted in many assassinations, bombings, and indeed, even wars.

I’m not saying that’s what Mohandas Gandhi wanted, but I don’t think he was as ‘wise’ and ‘farsighted’ as everyone thinks. Unintended consequences affect him too.

Disclaimer: I am a Sikh, so of course I will be biased. But that also means that I have heard firsthand all of the horror stories of the destruction of the culture and lives of the Sikh people of the Punjab as a result of the partition that was Gandhi’s brainchild.

cheap clothes October 9, 2011 at 9:43 pm

All pacifists are libertarians.Great article, the great author.

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