19A039 Gandhi, Reconsidered by Jim Davies, 9/25/2019   


Mohandas Gandhi was one of the great human beings of the 20th Century, and there's a lot that freedom-seekers can learn from his example. Of Indian origin, he trained as an attorney in London and set out for Pretoria to start his career but in 1893 was thrown off a train in Pietermaritzburg because, despite his first class ticket, he was "colored." The experience changed his entire outlook.

He led non-violent resistance movements in both South Africa and India until his death by assassination in 1948; his great mission to see the British colonists depart, fulfilled.

The resistance technique he developed he called Satyagraha, meaning devotion to the truth, and it involved not obeying the ruler, but not using violence against him either. In South Africa he and his followers burned their ID cards (which classified them as colored) and declined to obey other orders. In India he taught villagers not to buy cloth imported from Britain but to weave their own; this was far more expensive, but monkey-wrenched the colonial economy. Similarly he led a march to the sea where they made their own salt, a vital commodity which the colonial rulers had monopolized; again, disrupting the economy without using any violence. Gradually, the rulers began to treat him as a serious nuisance.

Towards the end of British rule he met with the Governor and his entourage and was asked if he seriously expected them to just walk away from India; he said "Yes" and explained that it was impossible for 100,000 Englishmen to rule 350 million Indians without the latters' cooperation; and he intended for that cooperation to be withdrawn. A few years later, that is exactly what happened. The lesson for anyone else being ruled by a small élite is obvious.

That all said and meant, I think the adulation of Gandhi is overdone.

That he caused a nuisance to the respective rulers is beyond doubt. That he did bring about some relaxation of their arrogant laws is also true. But he did not cause the British to leave India and he did not end what was later called "apartheid" in South Africa. The British left India because by 1945 they were close to bankruptcy from the follies of two major wars and had concluded that their many colonies were liabilities, not assets, and they set about shedding them as fast as they could. India was just the biggest of many.

Further, they were in such a hurry to quit that the job was not well done; the rivalry between Hindus and Moslems became so intense that they split the new nation in two (later, three: Pakistan, Bangladesh and India) with terrible violence erupting between the millions relocating between the territories. Gandhi wasn't responsible directly, unless he hurried the process along; and that is just what his admirers claim he did. He certainly opposed the partition, but he was unable to stop it. Had independence been delayed a year or two, it might have been arranged much more peacefully.

Gandhi also set his sights far too low. Instead of using his ideas and influence to bring about an end to government altogether, he aimed only to end colonial government; the replacement was, for several decades, markedly worse. At day's end he was still a statist. His is the story of all other revolutions in history.

As the avalanche of Transition to Liberty gains momentum here, a few years from now, we shall for a while be in a state of turmoil; the old order will still be around, dangerously armed, even as their resources are draining away. We can well emulate Gandhi's Satyagraha and politely ignore their orders, while refraining from the use of our ever-growing arsenal of firearms. That will usefully hasten their dissolution. But unlike him, we shall keep our eyes fixed on the main objective: the elimination of all government. We shall instead issue invitations to study in the Freedom Academy, until there is not one person who has not done so and in consequence ended his employment by the archists.

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