ONLINE BOOKS > GANDHIAN VALUES AND 20TH CENTURY CHALLENGES > Lecture Two
Ladies and Gentlemen! Yesterday I made a brief statement about Gandhian philosophy, concepts and values and I must reiterate by saying that it was a very small part of what Gandhi had written or said about the subject and it would require a tremendous amount of intellectual effort to understand him completely.
I now move from Gandhian philosophy and values to Gandhian response to challenges of the present and next centuries. Gandhian praxis will also come for discussion in this lecture. The term ‘praxis’ does not mean mere practice; it means practice based on a given theory and a set of values.
Gandhi does not need revalidation for industrial and post industrial societies as their compulsions are pushing them into pursuing, wittingly and unwittingly, some of the Gandhian responses to the challenges facing them. If immediate revalidation of Gandhi is necessary, it is for the poor developing world which is getting more and more enmeshed into situations of dependency, poverty and retarded development. There are massive international and domestic pressures on them to follow those paths of development that have been traversed by the developed world. Their economic development has come up against this prepared position and enduring attitude of all those for whom change is anathema, whether because of privilege, bigotry or apathy. Those who had followed these models have either signally failed or after having achieved partial successes have come up against new barriers.
There is a dilemma, therefore, before the world. Gandhi has already become relevant for the developed nations and one may assume that they may have to adopt a Gandhian model on the 21st century unless they find a better alternative. The danger is that they may adopt some distorted version of Gandhi as the Communists have distorted socialism and thereby perpetuate their hegemony over the poor nations. On the other hand, the developing countries have no other choice but to adopt right now the Gandhian path if they do not wish to remain world’s periphery or ghettos. Yet they are too far from it.
The structure of the world models prepared for the next few decades and the issues that emerge from those models are not all directly appropriate for two-thirds of humanity. Growth versus no growth, technological optimism versus pessimism, resource discovery and depletion, population, etc., are issues which emerge from these models. But the choice of parameters, major interactions and feedback loops, the use of global averages and the non-probabilistic nature of predictions, etc., are all made from the vantage points of the developed world. They are not reliable because on present assumptions, only 0.1 per cent of the data of the variables required to construct satisfactory models is available, they are skillfully used for constraining developing nations’ choices and objectives.
The structure of these models should make the poor nations sit up and see the dark future that is being prepared for them. There was a model called the Rio model, prepared by Professor Tinbergan and his colleagues which differentiated between the problems of the developed world from those of the developing world. This model was killed because it had come to the uncomfortable conclusion that the developed must undergo structural change with no further growth rate except that required by technological change, while there should be no growth constraints on the developing countries.
No one should deny the utility of mathematical and computerized models for social sciences. But this utility should not be exaggerated. Their very assumptions generally lead them to blind alleys because they assume that “there will be in future no great change in human values or in the functioning of global population-capital system as it has operated in the last one hundred years”. The so-called detached neutrality of mathematical models is a political camouflage for forecasting and extrapolating the doom-laden trends, say, in energy, pollution, population technological determinism and all those situations which point towards human decay. Indeed, these models are a “massive propaganda for a more repressive world order on the basis of crude assumptions and cruder methodology”.1
All computerized models of the future have one extrapolation directly aimed at the poorer nations, namely, the exponential rate of population growth. No one can afford to underestimate the need for adopting population control measures by the poor and developing countries but no one should entertain illusions about the success of such a programme if dire poverty continues to persist for half of the population of the developing world. Undeniably, population growth will further accentuate poverty but a computerized model which does not take into account the restructuring of the economies of the developed countries and more equitable distribution of resources of wealth between countries as well as transfer of population, cannot suggest a solution either for the prevailing world economic disorder or population explosion.
It is not possible to provide in this brief lecture Gandhi’s answers even to major, not to speak of all, global challenges of the present century or one or two after it. I shall limit my attention to four issues: (a) poverty, (b) alienation, (c) technology, and (d) the Gandhian praxis.
The challenge of poverty of two-thirds of the human race is most serious. Most of these people are living on or below the poverty line and every attempt to raise their standards of living or to bridge the gap between them and the affluent rest have, by and large, failed. The problem of poverty of two-thirds of the world is a function of three factors: (a) one-third of the world uses more than three-fourth of the world resources and the growing gap between the rich and the poor countries as growth proceeds; (b) a built-in structure of demand and policy framework to keep the consumption growing so as to maintain full employment in the developed world; and (c) concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a small minority within the poor countries and their attempts to imitate the standards of living of the developed world.
The nation still remains the unit of analysis for economic activity despite all attempts to internationalise it. The world is getting shrunk under the impact of technology and multinationals. Yet the natural resources as well as knowledge and technology are a national asset and not an international asset. If humanity is one, then human beings must be the unit of economic activity. This is possible in two ways and both have been suggested by Gandhi. First, the resources of the world must be put into a common pool to be utilized for the benefit of all humanity. This would require some kind of a world government. Gandhi was not a utopian to believe that everything can be achieved at once. He was for a step by step approach. The Gandhian pre-condition for world government is complete destruction of the military power of the nations. Other pre-conditions are not worth considering until the first one is satisfied. What is actually happening is absolutely to the contrary. SALT I and SALT II suggest that the world will be run on the principle of spheres of influence and balance of military power.
The second way out is that so long as the nation remains the unit of economic activity, everything must move as freely as possible between nations. If it is demanded that capital, commodities, manufacturers, technology, management can move freely from one country to another and if all these are now increasingly being controlled either by national governments or by multinationals which cut across nations, then there must be a relatively free movement of people across borders to redress the imbalance. There are vast areas in the world which are unpopulated and there are other which are over populated. This does not mean that the responsibility of controlling population in over populated countries should be switched over to others. It simply means that even if population control becomes effective, the problem of poverty and inequality will not be removed until a relatively free flow of everything including population is allowed.
There can be no solution to poverty, no matter how the world is ordered, so long as the ruling elite of the poor countries resort to tyranny and corruption to achieve for themselves a standard of living that is compatible with the ruling elite of the developed countries. So long as they are unable to create legitimacy for themselves and identify their own interests with those of the masses, their demand for reordering the world will have no credibility. They will have to avoid the temptation of imitating the affluent societies. First the Gandhian principles have to be applied to their order of priorities before they can credibly demand something of their counterpart in the developed world for the restructuring of the world order. The first priority is that the power elite of the developing countries must learn to accept the average living standard of their own societies without exploitation or their masses. If they do so, they will not only widen the area of mutual cooperation among the developing countries but would be in a strong moral position to demand the restructuring of the world order. Today most of them are subjects or ridicule and contempt from the developed world.
So long as the relationship between the rich and the poor nations is confined to transfer of resources of about one per cent of the national income of the former to the latter, debt recycling, access to capital income of the former to the latter, tariff reduction, commodity funds and buffering of price stabilization, price parities in international trade, etc., there will be no hope of removing poverty. Not that these issues are not important but they are peripheral to the main structuring of the global economy and the massive redistribution of resources required to remove poverty. The third world is talking of aid when a very subtle economic war has been launched on them. In turn the third world power elite is launching a war on its own people.
Poverty and increasing marginalization of vast populations reflect the insensitivity, the depletion of values, alienation and the cruel triviality of the power elite, and helplessness and consequent resort to violence on the part of those who are being forced to remain in poverty and cultural deprivation. The harshness and sharpness of this antagonism, whether muted or open, are coming out clearly.
The Gandhian framework is a direct and irrefutable answer to the challenges faced by the third world countries. First Gandhi would insist that the life-style of the power elite has to be identified with the little man for having a moral right to demand the restructuring of the world order. Those in the third world who are concerned with the fate of their nations and people and desire to participate in the economic and political development process must imbibe those very tough qualities. There can be no self-reliance model of development without self-reliant moral and intellectual qualities of the leadership. One must be of the people before one can claim to be for them. This is no empty Gandhian moralizing but Gandhian praxis.
Then next problem is alienation. Alienation is the most serious and pervasive problem of modern human societies, more particularly of the developed societies, both capitalist and communist. Alienation got its first coherent place in the Hegelian-Marxian philosophy. Marx only talked about alienation of man as a producer and consumer and not in respect of all his other activities. If we add to the Marxian list three other types of alienation, we get the complete Gandhian definition of alienation. These are alienation of man from nature, alienation from his inner self, and alienation of consumption from production.
Alienation negates man’s essential being and the essence of man, indeed the very foundation of man’s consciousness as a species. As Marx wrote: “The unconsciousness which man has of his species is thus transformed by estrangement in such a way that species life becomes for him a means”. Gandhi’s insistence on bringing the ends and means debate tight into the core of his philosophy and his concern with socializing the individual conscience, etc., were designed to fight against the kind of alienation mentioned by Marx. Gandhi was looking for what he called “hands that make all of them as one man.”
It is one thing to analyse the problem of alienation in modern societies but quite another to find a solution to that problem. The Gandhian answer to alienation emanates from his values and praxis as much as from reformulating the objectives of a society and methods of achieving those objectives. So long as there is divorce of ethics from economics or politics, man will remain alienated and will not be able even to determine the path for the desired social development.
It has to be recognized that the split between ethics, on the one hand, and economics and politics, on the other, accompanies a tremendous economic growth and consciousness and exercise of human rights. But now both the economic system and the political system, whether democratic or authoritarian, are pressing heavily against an individual and he seems to have lost his identity. The split between man and nature or man and science is more of a recent development. The race for technological development has overtaken man in every aspect of his life.
Gandhi’s answer to these problems was quite categorical. On the economic side, particularly in respect of property relations, he opposed both the modern corporate culture of capitalist countries and the bureaucratic statism of communist countries. In both cases, the worker is alienated as he has not much say with the collective self-worship of the decision making machine.
In trusteeship, Gandhi produced a grand alternative to the prevailing economic organizations whether in the communist or in the capitalist countries. Trusteeship is a much misunderstood concept. Both the capitalists and the communists seem to consider it some kind of umbrella under which the existing system can justify itself in a modified form. It is our failure that we have not filled the gap between image and reality.
There are three important aspects of trusteeship which correspond to the Gandhian values. First, it demands transfer of ownership individual either directly or via the State. Also from the State common ownership among those who would run an enterprise, those who would consume its products and those who will represent larger against sectional interests, with all the built-in provisions for social priorities. Second, trusteeship is not a limited economic exercise; it is a nonviolent movement or method of dispossessing the owners of wealth and property, the details of which have been given by Gandhi himself, but in actual practice they have to be worked out in each different situation. Third, the trusteeship will have to satisfy conditions of ethical economics, i.e., create those conditions of production and consumption economics which do not permit greed, conflict or alienation among different classes of the society, including the workers. The ethical norms which emanate from the Gandhian philosophy would remain the guiding principles of these organizations.
At the centre of the economic debate lies the question of equality. Equality is an important concept for Gandhi and is a structural component of Trusteeship. However, Gandhi’s concept of equality was different both from that of Marx and of the anarchists. In Marx, almost by definition, if classes based on property relations were abolished, equality would be automatically ushered in. Gandhi believed that the abolition of private property was a necessary but not a sufficient condition for equality. Besides economic power, there were other sources of power which created inequality. He also refuted the anarchist and the other Utopian notions which proclaimed the right of the worker to the whole produce of his labour. This was a mechanical egalitarianism which Gandhi rejected.
Although he rejected Utopian and the absolutely moralist view of it when he said: “Economic equality must never be supposed to mean possession of an equal amount of worldly goods by everyone,” he denounced all elitist theories of inequality which have been justifies for so-called growth. Gandhi divided human needs into those which are natural, though they keep changing, and others whom only social relations and social preferences determine. There is equality in the former and inequality in the latter. Economic elitism has no justification whatsoever not because it creates inequalities but because it creates alienation.
The second principle of Gandhian equality is control over those demands which are above the line of natural needs. Otherwise, no matter what the structure of society, it will lead towards inequality. Without economic equality, there can be no other equality, but there will be neither economic equality not the end of exploitation unless the gap between the principles of natural needs and others which Marx called the external needs, is narrowed. This distinction conforms to the Gandhian nonviolent production system.
The split between ethics and politics has to be removed by recognizing that moral values create power just as political power creates its own rules and values. Gandhi recognized the supremacy of politics by suggesting that if moral politics is not the basis of society, pure power politics will be the determining force. Indeed this is what has happened to the politics of this country. To meet this problem Gandhi first evolved an ethical religion and then translated it into politics and insisted that all ethical men must take part in politics. There is no real politics without ethics and no real ethics without politics. He said: “I could no t be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind and that I could not do so unless I took part in politics. The whole gamut of man’s activities today constitutes an indivisible whole”. Gandhi made it absolutely clear that there is no escape from politics and those who were taking the so-called apolitical attitude or politically neutral stand were either deluding themselves or making frivolous attempts to escape from crisis.
The Sarvodaya workers who were, by and large, men of dedication and caliber and were moulded by Gandhi, negated Gandhi by walking out of politics after his assassination. That is why despite their very useful constructive work, their contribution to social regeneration of India has not been significant. In the Gandhian political framework, there is no such thing as constructive work without politics, just as there is no good in politics without constructive work. One reinforced the other and also kept a check on the inanity and possible corruption of the other.
It is wrong to believe, as often people do, that Gandhi was against political power. Gandhi was a very power conscious man. What he was against was the concentration of total power in the hands of the State only or in the hands of few individuals. Gandhi subscribed to the thesis that power corrupts but he also stressed the fact that powerlessness corrupts even more. He had a positive view of political power when he said: “To me political power is not an end but on e of the means of enabling people to better their conditions in every department of life.” Gandhi was fully conscious of the difficulty of political choices and decisions relating to power but he called upon the power elite to squarely face them.
Gandhi had pointed out from time to time the serious limitations from which modern representative democracy suffers. He himself pointed out how it could get corrupted and be used against the people. But at no time did he say that the representative democracy has to be ruled out. He believed that the real political power should not lie with the Government and the Assemblies only. He wanted wisdom and morality together with political power to bear upon the problems of society and polity.
Gandhi like Marx, believed that the term ‘people’ is a mere abstraction. Marx talked of class power. Gandhi instead suggested a system of parallel institutions of participatory democracy as the power base. This parallel polity was meant not to supplant the institutions of representative democracy but to fill the great divide between the government and the grassroots. Institutions of parallel polity were to be the countervailing power and outlets for direct participation of the people on a continuous basis. It is here that the idea of ‘small’ is relevant becomes meaningful. When he talked about village republics, panchayats or other similar smaller institutions in other areas, he was opting for a system of parallel polity that combined democracy with mass politics. He called these institutions as ‘Concentric Circles’ spread throughout the country, in which people would be participating. That democracy and mass politics do not go together may be true of the past or present, but not of the future. Only in this way could the individual become a unit of participation with free choice.
There are local bodies in every political system including representative democracies but they are organized on a hierarchical basis as a part of the same system. Gandhian countervailing polity is not hierarchical but parallel.
Gandhi’s attitude toward technology is misunderstood. Removal of poverty was his foremost consideration. He wrote: “I would favour the use of the most elaborate machines….if thereby India’s pauperism and resulting idleness can be avoided”. I can give any number of quotations and instances cited by him in favour of technology. What he forcefully argued was against technological determinism in which the world has landed itself. He emphatically insisted on certain norms to be followed with regard to the direction of research in science and technology and its application. A technology which created imbalance between men and nations, dehumanized man or alienated him from his work or his fellow workers or created unemployment was not acceptable to him. More than once Gandhi declared that technology which removed burden from man was a good starting point, but one should not stop there.
Technology’s positive role has been quite extraordinary, particularly in the last one hundred years. It has liberated man from the fear of the devastating forces of nature and made it possible for him to satisfy all his needs thus removing fear of poverty and deprivation. But, on the other hand, technology, while widening choices, is reducing human capacity to choose because of man-machine imbalance. By plundering and destroying nature, it is bringing man back to the position of man-nature conflict. While creating a possibility for a world view, it is distorting man’s view of himself. Technology in a few hands is becoming a barrier to the solution of human problems. It is creating a synthetic civilization making it possible for one set of men to manipulate others through psycho-analytical devices and is providing the instruments needed to destroy human freedom.
Gandhi’s negative views on technology appear on issues such as few nations controlling technology and using it as a base for perpetuating an iniquitous and exploitative international order through colonialism or other systems. He thoroughly opposed all those technologies which destroyed the existing technological base of a poor country without creating an alternative endogenous base. Above all, he was against technology which legitimized cultural transmission of those values via scientists and technologists which stood against the spirit of self-reliance, dignity and self-respect. Gandhi did not angrily reject technology; he most coolly rejected the technologists of easy political or cultural virtues.
In the context of the debate going on in the country about the big and the small, Gandhi placed no absolute value on big or small. Each had its own place. There is no scale-determinism or absolutism of any kind. The Gandhian system is scale-neutral unless other considerations are brought in. These considerations have such a wide field that the whole spectrum of technologies and scales can be fitted into the Gandhian framework, some by inclusion and others by exclusion. Two overriding Gandhian considerations are, full employment and consistency with his value system. Values accorded to systems of production and consumption will determine the scale and not the other way out.
As I mentioned in my first lecture, Gandhian values as well as his praxis are embodied in that tenet of Hindu philosophy according to which man’s action throughout his life is guided by four principles — Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. Gandhi gave a big twist to these four principles by making Dharma stand even above Moksha. He made Dharma the beginning as well as the end by saying that Moksha and Dharma can be interpreted as being the same.
The Gandhian praxis starts with the individual and his Dharma. Every individual is responsible for his own actions not only individually but also collectively. Individual man might be a victim of circumstances or social forces, but he need not remain so if he is prepared to pay the required price and this he would be ready to pay only when he is following the path of truth as defined by Gandhi. Although Gandhi has been called “as one of the most revolutionary of individuals and one of the individualistic of revolutionaries in the world today” he was against unrestricted individualism which he called “the law of the beast of the jungle.” Man must learn he said, “to strike the mean between individual freedom and his social restraint, the willing submission to social restraint for the sake of the well-being of the entire society of which he is a member.”
If man followed Dharma, he would be able to stand alone, but “the power to stand alone in the end cannot be developed without extreme humility. Without this power man is nothing worth.” Only that man can rise above himself, who tries to reduce himself to zero, namely, to destroy his ego. Only that kind of individual can play a conscious role for social change and yet not be forced to act against this will.
Gandhi took the position that an individual must be a morally responsible citizen. On the one hand, “he must assist an administration most effectively by obeying its orders and decrees”; on the other hand, he affirmed that “it is the inherent right of the subject to refuse to assist a government that does not listen to him.” Indeed, if the state is oppressive, corrupt and inhuman, then the individual must rebel. In such a situation, “loyalty to a state so corrupt is a sin; disloyalty a true virtue.” Gandhi thus took a middle position imbibing both dialectical conflict and harmony.
Gandhi made a sharp distinction between the Dharma of the common man or the masses and that of the power elite. Gandhi said that although “primary virtues” can be cultivated by “the meanest of the human species,” the more austere ones were to be followed by the elite. The quality and the effectiveness of mass action depended upon the quality of the elite. The air of such radical idealism is too rarified for the common man. Therefore, if sometimes the norms and codes of Gandhian action appear to be impracticable, it is because we fail to make a distinction between the two different sets of norms that Gandhi set for the masses and the elite.
The Gandhian process of social change and transformation depended upon the creation of a revolutionary elite minority which will be the elite class in the best sense of the term. This class with have to identify itself with the masses by denying itself most of the material advantages, probably in proportion to the power it exercises. The self-conscious moral revolutionary minority will set ethical standards and principles first for its own practice and then the society for its restructuring.
Gandhi did not prescribe suffering or sacrifice for the masses as he did for the revolutionary elite. He never minced words about a true Satyagrahi being a superior person by virtue of his capacity to understand, serve and suffer. Since suffering could be wise or unwise, useful or useless, he insisted on a Satyagrahi being a person of stout heart and clear head.
People are not born to be revolutionary elite, nor have they to be perfect revolutionaries before they act. Revolutionary action and the development of revolutionary consciousness are simultaneous and dynamic. Gandhi said: “There never will be an army of perfectly non-violent people. It will be formed of those who will honestly endeavour to observe nonviolence.”
There seems to be some similarity between the Gandhian view and the Leninist view of a revolutionary minority force leading the revolution but the similarity in only in principle and not in practice. The role of this minority to usher in dictatorship of the party of the class and its total reliance on violence separates it from the Gandhian revolutionary minority. More significantly, Gandhian revolutionary minority will guarantee rights and freedoms of others more than of their own; they will try to awaken the consciousness not only of the rebellious masses but also of their opponents to avoid the so-called revolutionary hatred, which in the long run is bound to become counter-revolutionary. Gandhi’s passion for freedom underlays his desire for revolution.
To these revolutionary minorities Gandhi gave the name of Satyagrahis. If one goes by the condition laid down by Gandhi for them, they are highly steeled, disciplined and morally superior. They have confidence and belief in themselves. They know how to undertake Tapas or suffering. They would not resist evil with evil nor have any hatred for those whom they resist. They will not resort to any violence of any kind, physical or mental, and finally they will use Satyagraha as a means of self-purification for testing the quality of their own actions.
Satyagraha can also be dynamic mass action. It is not passive resistance as some people believe. As mass action, it takes three forms: non-cooperation, civil disobedience and direct action. Non-cooperation is withdrawal of cooperation for a corrupt government but civil disobedience is a kind of civil resistance which involves a continuous and prolonged struggle to achieve given objectives. Direct action is a total rebellion against an oppressive government and the classes which support it. Direct action and civil disobedience are powerful weapons but can become dangerous, if not combined with nonviolence. That is why Gandhi said, “disobedience without civility, discipline, discrimination and nonviolence is certain destruction.” Direct action is also what Gandhi called a complete civil disobedience implying a refusal to obey every single law of the State.
Mass Satyagraha has to be both spontaneous and organized and it is the duty of the leaders of the movement to see that the struggle is conducted peacefully and in a calm atmosphere. Spontaneity can result in anarchy if it is not give an organizational shape. Gandhi called his civil disobedience “a sovereign method of transmuting this undisciplined life-destroying latent energy into disciplined life-saving energy whose use ensures absolute success.”
In Satyagraha too, Gandhi took a middle position combining dialectics and harmony. On the one hand, he said that Satyagraha is a “struggle against compulsory cooperation, against one-sided combination, against armed imposition of modern methods of exploitation, masquerading under the name of civilization.” And, on the other hand, he said that “the nation’s non-cooperation is an invitation to the government to cooperate with it on its own terms and is every nation’s right and every good government’s duty.”
Since independence, our leaders have been discarding the right use of Satyagraha by saying that it was relevant for the independence struggle only. This is complete negation of the very concept of truth, nonviolence and struggle. Gandhi very clearly said that Satyagraha was relevant to Kalyug as much as to Satyug. He said that Satyagraha was a universal law for universal application. Indeed, Gandhi called Satyagraha a process of education, self-education and instrument for making of right public opinion. Had Satyagraha not been given up by our leaders, we may not have had to witness its misuse as well as growing outbursts of violence, destruction of property, political blackmail and the lowest common denominator in politics that we see today.
Finally, we come to nonviolence which is not only one of the central concepts and values of Gandhian philosophy but is also the essence of his praxis. Nonviolence was both a creed and a way of life for Gandhi and he went to the extent of saying that he would lay down his life in defence of it. On the other hand, in respect to colonialism he said: “I would risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race.” He said he would not mind sacrificing India if such an action was required for the sake of humanity at large.
The concept of nonviolence as used by Gandhi has been much misunderstood and thus often rejected as impracticable. Gandhi said: “Perfect nonviolence while you are inhabiting the body is only a theory like Euclid’s point or straight line.” When this principle is carried to the field of politics, it means that “a society organized and run on the basis of complete nonviolence would be the purest anarchy.” This is the idealistic state to which man and society have to move and it may take centuries to arrive somewhere near that position. Till then the practice of nonviolence will remain imperfect.
The practice of nonviolence has to grow from lower to higher levels, but, however would always fall short of perfect nonviolence. In his own lifetime Gandhi enumerated several contextual exceptions to the general concept of nonviolence because he approached the problem dynamically and dialectically.
There is a close relationship between violence and power. However, it needs to be emphasized that nonviolence has a force of power. Although a non-physical and moral force, it is a powerful concept. Ahimsa for Gandhi “is not a denial of power as influence or persuasion, pressure or moral force, but only of power in its compulsive forms.” (Iyer). Power and freedom are dialectically linked, and the link was nonviolence. Gandhi reiterated: “Individual freedom can have the fullest play only under a regime of unadulterated Ahimsa.”
There are several theories of violence which justify its existence and resort to it. They must be enumerated for discussing the Gandhian concept of nonviolence. First, violence is generally accepted as a means of political expression, i.e., as an instrument for the maintenance of power on the side of the governments and a demonstration of acute opposition on the side of the governed. Second, there are certain popular psychological explanations for violence such as theories of rising expectations, frustrations and deprivation. Third, in affluent societies violence is explained by relative deprivation and fragmentation of the support for political authority structure.
These and other theories of structural violence and glorification of violence as an instrument of change or even self purification have led to violence being preached as a policy. A Gandhian response to these theories is not that of a pacifist, that would be against nonviolence as a dynamic policy. Gandhi showed the superiority of nonviolence over violence for bringing about social transformation, even when the two are inextricably mixed. Violence, even when committed in the best interest and with good motives, dehumanizes man. That is why Gandhi rejected all those interpretations of Gita which glorified war and violence. “Man to man the strength of nonviolence is in exact proportion to the ability, not the will, of the nonviolent person to inflict violence.” There is no such thing as defeat in nonviolence.
Since the late sixties, violence in the form of individual and group terrorism has come to acquire some legitimacy. It is the weapon of the corrupt and the inhuman. The present era has been called the era of the balance of terror. The nuclear weapon powers hold populations of nations as mutual hostages. The connection between the legitimization of the doctrines of nuclear war and the rise in international terrorism is obvious. They are two sides of the same coin. If governments practice institutionalized terrorism in nuclear war doctrines with the acquiescence of their own people, political organizations, groups and individuals do not lag behind in adopting the same value system. If the whole globe can be held hostage by the governments of nuclear weapon nations and their allies, is it surprising that plane loads of passengers get held up as hostages?
Gandhi condemned terrorism and questioned the doctrine that it can ever lead to achievement of any worthwhile goal. Terrorism is counter-productive and self-destructive. In the Gandhian framework neither terrorism nor nuclear deterrence has any place. To Gandhi even the exceptions of nonviolence have to be arrived at non-violently. Volitional violence diminishes man. Nonviolence in practice helps the limited individual to extend his limit and break down walls between the self and others to be the basis of group actions, human system and international institutions.
While Gandhi would not have disapproved of a step by step approach towards the goal of complete and general disarmament, he would never have accepted the legitimacy either of nuclear weapons or the philosophy of terrorism. Our resistance to NPT, to restricted regional nuclear weapon free zones, etc., steps which legitimize nuclear weapons is in full accordance with the Gandhian view. What the world needs today is the application of the concepts of Satyagraha and the mobilization of international opinion against the legitimization of the doctrine of mass terrorism and holding the population of the globe as hostages in the name of freedom or socialism.
A long time ago, the challenges of the twentieth century were summed up by George Orwell in his unforgettable novel, 1984. The warning that Orwell gave to the western world in terms of a grim fantasy has become a brilliant forecast. There is a siege mentality, a political hysteria and unbridled terrorism overtaking the world, thus making the strongest parallels between modern society and the world of 1984. Teams of experts are planning the logistics of future wars. Gandhi to me is the only answer to 1984.
In the beginning of these lectures I had drawn attention to the fact that a certain kind of valuelessness is spreading throughout the world and more particularly in India. In also said that the Indian power elite, particularly the intellectual elite, have not cared to analyse Gandhi’s philosophy, values and praxis. In view of the fact that most prevailing philosophies and systems have failed to provide answers to the contemporary challenges, a second look at Gandhi has become absolutely necessary. We in India need not worship him anymore. What we need is a sharp and honest analysis of his ideas.
*Broadcast from All India Radio, 11 December 1979.