|Mohandas Gandhi born 149 years ago today|
He liberated an entire subcontinent from imperial rule without firing a shot. The United Nations has designated his birthday, October 2nd, as the International Day of Nonviolence. Nevertheless, he did not win the Nobel Peace Prize and is recognized by the Nobel Committee as the "Missing Laureate."
He wasn't a rich man. He never held formal political office. He wasn't a saint or divine figure. He was just a man. An attorney who had taken a vow of poverty and celibacy. His name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
How did he do it? Through overcoming his own limitations with meditation, experiments with truth and practicing nonviolence as a way of life and then applying it to his community and country through the tradition he was brought up in. This was done through a constructive program when possible and an obstructive program when necessary. According to Gandhi, "a nonviolent life is an act of self-examination and self-purification, whether by an individual, group or nation."
Mohandas Gandhi, who greatly influenced American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., spoke of social responsibility and trusteeship. Gandhi, a self-described socialist, was not an enthusiastic proponent of an expanded social-welfare state as commonly understood arguing:
"The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence. Hence I prefer the doctrine of trusteeship. [...] What I would personally prefer would be not centralization of power in the hands of the State, but an extension of the sense of trusteeship, as, in my opinion, the violence of private ownership is less injurious than the violence of the State. However, if it is unavoidable, I would support a minimum of State-ownership."Furthermore the critique made by both King and Gandhi of a "thing-oriented" society or the state as a "soulless machine" looks to the person or the individual not an economic mechanism or economic class. The focus is on the human person and polices that recognize and respect the uniqueness of each human being and their dignity.
Both rejected the doctrine of the ends justifying the means recognizing that means and ends are interrelated and cannot be separated.
|Gandhi idea's inspired Martin Luther King Jr in America and Oswaldo Payá in Cuba.|
Although Gandhi regarded the union and independence of the Indian peoples as his goal, his reactionary-Utopian social theory and the reformist methods of struggle connected with it caused his activity to fail in facilitating overthrow of the colonial yoke [...] The social essence of the Gandhi doctrine and its fundamentally reactionary role in the history of India's national liberation movement has hardly been treated in Marxist literature. Yet this doctrine still retards the development of class awareness among the Indian masses.What was this social essence of Gandhian thought that so troubled the Marxist Leninists in the Soviet Union? First, the reformist methods of struggle referred to in the above quote was nonviolent resistance and secondly his social theory rejected class struggle as another manifestation of destructive violence. On September 11, 1906 a new word came into existence that would give a better understanding of Gandhi's social theory and method of struggle which he described as:
'Satyagraha.' Truth (Satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement 'Satyagraha,' that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase 'passive resistance,' in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word 'Satyagraha' itself or some other equivalent English phrase.The Marxist-Leninists embraced revolutionary violence and a movement led by a small vanguard of intellectuals and professional revolutionaries that would carry out the changes necessary by whatever means necessary and rejected nonviolence as naive. They followed the doctrine of Lenin as presented in his 1902 revolutionary tract What is to be done.
Over a century has passed since both sets of ideas have been set out and applied around the world. An analysis done by Maria J. Stephen and Erica Chenoweth systematically explores the strategic effectiveness of both violent and nonviolent campaigns using data on 323 campaigns carried out between 1900 and 2006. There findings demonstrate that major non-violent campaigns were successful 53% of the time versus only 26% for major violent campaigns and terrorist campaigns had a 7% success rate.
The ideas and legacy of Mohandas Gandhi have remained relevant over the past century and continue to resonate today.
|Mohandas Gandhi reading|
"The world of tomorrow will be, must be, a society based on non-violence. That is the first law; out of it all other blessings will flow. It may seem a distant goal, an impractical Utopia. But it is not in the least unobtainable, since it can be worked for here and now."
- Mohandas Gandhi
"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that."
- Martin Luther King Jr.
"The cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized."
- Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas
|Author at the Gandhi memorial in Geneva, Switzerland with Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva|