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Revolutionary Gandhi, Marx and Mao
By Vimla Thakar
Of the learned emancipators and revolutionary visionaries of the twentieth century whose only concern was the welfare and prosperity of the humanity and who put forth their views on science and essence of revolution, we shall touch upon Marx and Mao only very briefly.
The third visionary, Gandhi, was born in this land. Even though these great enlightened visionaries and reformers are born in a particular land, a particular religion, community or class, their vision is not limited to that narrow social milieu in which they take birth. Their philosophy is not limited and narrow or circumscribed by geographical boundaries. Their vision encompasses the whole humanity. Indians saw Mahatma Gandhi as one such pioneering revolutionary philosopher in the role of a leader of India's freedom struggle.
Protecting human dignity and uplift human values and spirituality was his basic goal and life's work. Besides being the leader of the independence struggle and the New Age, he was also in search of the kind of science and technology which did not lead to the decadence or degradation of the individual or human race. For him there was no difference between means and end. To Gandhi, end was only the fruits of the means. If the means are pure then the end will also be pure, in fact it was necessary for the means to be pure and true for the end to be pure and true.
Though such thoughts sound evangelistic, it would be difficult to find such practical thinking anywhere else. If we want a good crop, then it is necessary that the seed be good, unbroken and uninjured. If the revolutionary is himself or herself fragmented, how can s/he create a new world? S/he is the seed of the seed of the new society who should be complete and unbroken. This way, Gandhi thus made an analogy between science and revolution. The fitness of the means will dictate the fitness of the ends. Means has to justify the end and not the visa versa. This raised a serious problem in contemporary thinking. Can we evaluate the success of revolution with mere figures? Has the individual risen or has s/he been debased? He raised a very fundamental question about the support and dignity for the revolutionary?
If, to rid India of British rule could be considered a hostile or negative part of his work, then the more constructive and affirmative work involved raising the pertinent question of the reconstruction of the country and how the country will develop after the British have left? He thought deeply on this issue and put forth a new proposition and science towards resolving this issue. Gandhi thought that we have not paid the required attention to the kind of education we need and also towards those involved in the work of education. If all did their duty, we could utilize the energies of our youth to the maximum for the welfare of our people and we would have a happy populace.
By enacting laws against untouchability, the government has tried to wash off our sins, but that has not helped to change our behaviour and attitude towards these communities. We have to make enormous efforts to change these attitudes among our people. This applies equally to our attitudes towards women. That is why we have to value and respect their contribution to the society and remove this discrimination towards them.
There is a similar problem about prohibition (of alcohol). We have a good policy on this issue and this should continue and if we are totally successful in implanting these policies we shall gain a lot as a nation.

The idea gram swaraj (self-rule for villages)
The concept of gram swaraj that Vinobaji envisioned was a village community which was not dependent on the government for their needs, but was self sufficient and self dependent in matters of food, clothes (by use of charkha), security, health, education, and resolving quarrels and disputes by strengthening and empowering the villagers. It would be ideal for people to take care of themselves and the government should only help facilitate this.
Even if Maharashtra and Gujarat states have been divided, we all still belong to the same India nation. We, the people of all the states are brothers, citizens of the same country. All the regional languages are our own. The decision to live together or to live in a fragmented society does not depend on our whims and fancy; we have to live together for the sake of our nation, our mother land and for the welfare of the whole country and world. We should not forget that we are all sailing in the same boat.

Do not forget the tribals (adivasis)
Gujarat state has a large tribal population which is scattered in the mountainous region and who are hard working and live very frugally but in ignorance. We have to take special efforts for their development and welfare.
We are heirs of Gandhiji, let us be deserving of their legacy. May god give us the strength and wisdom to follow in his footsteps; maybe materially poor but spiritually rich, let us as servants of the country march towards the glory of our nation with the blessings of the almighty.
I thank all of you to have urged me to come on the occasion of comment of this noble work.
"May all be happy
May all be free from disease
May boons be showered on all
Let none meet miseries."
- Sabarmati Ashram, 1 May 1960
Fasting does not mean starvation, rather fasting means living with oneself.
Live with yourself, but don't make the mistake of thinking of starvation as fasting, otherwise instead of living with yourself you will be constantly living [thinking of] with food.
It may sometimes happen that you forget about food while you are engrossed in yourself, but that is a different matter. Such moments cannot be planned, but just happens just by chance.
When Gandhiji put forward his ideas and program to the nation in 1920, no one understood him. What does khadi, serving the harijans, and Charka (spinning wheel) have anything to do with getting independence? The spiritualizing of political life was beyond people's understanding. People used to ridicule these ideas. No one thought that what had not happened so far is about to happen and that one individual was on the horizon bringing these ideas. He came to make the history.
If we are going to liberate the depressed exploited people through the use of hatred, anger, and envy, what is the guarantee that the person who brings about this liberation will not himself become an exploiter or a ruler like the one he has liberated these people from? Is there any surety of this? We have seen that this can happen as we have seen in Russia and some other countries. How a new order can establish has been described by Milovan Djilas in his book The New Class. He described how the old older was replaced by the new exploiters. The change was so subtle that the working class did not realise that a new class of exploiters was taking the place of the old one.
Gandhiji made a very sublime statement. Marx had said that proletariat unity would bring about revolution and realisation would dawn that god had not made the difference between the rich and the poor. Gandhiji gave a new dynamism to this thinking. Everyone made fun of Gandhi about his insistence on thinking about the means and end. Why does he talk about search for truth, about self-purification, about soul force and spirituality? Gandhi used to talk about these matters because he wanted to liberate the exploited classes but at the same time ensure that the liberators do not become the exploiters of tomorrow. That is why he took upon himself to bring about this transformation in human beings.
One should think seriously about this new dimension of human nature. This is the unique and extraordinary gift of the Indian culture and legacy. Indian culture never believed in the duality concept of god and the devil. It has never believed that all the people are evil or that a person is virtuous at all times. The Christian religion believes in two sides of human nature - the good and the wicked - that is, there is the power of god and the power of the evil or the devil.
Because of this cultural difference and uniqueness of the Indian culture, Gandhiji raised the doubt about how we can think about exploiters as a class by itself. And how do we differentiate ourselves from this class and think we are free of this class hatred? It is not as if exploitation and injustice is a trait of present exploitative power holders. Don't you and I also exploit? Where is the root of this problem? Is it unique to a particular class of people in the society? Or is it innate in human nature? Are there not the seeds of exploitation present in mind of the revolutionaries also?
This is a serious concern. With innocent simplicity Gandhi questioned where does the root of exploitation lie? Are classes in society formed due to the structure of the society? Or is it something innate inside us? Are you and I not exploiters also? No one will like being asked this question.
Even within families we find emotional and mental exploitation. This covers servants, children and friends. The teachers exploit the students. Then where is the boundary line between the exploiter and the exploited. Can we say that there are certain number of exploiters and certain number are the exploited? Don't the poor also aspire to become rich and get the maximum with the minimum efforts? Gandhi made it clear that if you want a classless society, then the first thing to do is to destroy the seed of violence and exploitation from your own life.
Gandhi vowed never to take what does not belong to him, committed himself to truth and non-violence. He was a religious man. The language was ancient, but the interpretation of words was revolutionary. This duality is found in all his words and speech. In some places he has borrowed from Jain definitions and some places he has depended on the vocabulary of the ancient Indian puranas. His use of ancient religious texts gave rise to many misunderstandings. Gandhi stressed that exploitation was not rooted in the structure of the society but the roots are in every individual, which have to be uprooted. Unless we uproot the roots of exploitation from within, we cannot have a classless society.
Gandhi never thought it appropriate to ignite hatred, envy, or jealousy, and never thought of them as a power for inspiration. This kind of incitement might be seen as a short-cut to achieve one's goal, but is harmful to the working class, the society and human race. That is why he said he did not want independence (swaraj) achieved through violence. I don't even want a reconstruction of the country through violence.
His basic education conceptualised that with the awakening of the farmers would come awareness and this would lead to a change in their outlook. He preferred an economy based on agriculture and agro-industry. Neither Mao nor Gandhi considered mechanisation a taboo in a decentralised economic order. People mistakenly considered Gandhi as being against technology. He considered technology suitable for that age and circumstances. He was not in favour of borrowing western ideas of industrialisation. The population to land ratio in Asia was very different from that of Europe or America. That is why he did not consider it appropriate to ape the west. Using machines instead of human labour in our country would lead to unemployment. Only a decentralised economic order was appropriate for our conditions, he thought. He expressed these thoughts in many ways.
Centralisation or decentralisation could not depend on the whims and fancy of experts. A new model was expected for Africa and Asia. He had a vision and philosophy of small industries, cottage and village industries. The conference on pollution held in Stockholm raised alarm bells about the rate at which the power was being used for production. The Conference expressed the fear that this kind of use of power could not last for long; the earth would become uninhabitable for creatures of this earth due to the pollution of air and water.
The movement run by New Age and New Race, a popular institute in Australia, advocates moving away from cities and going closer to mother earth. Man gets lost in big cities. Some youth in the USA has started living in communes away from factories looking for a simple life which does not pollute the earth.
American and European economic goals are being imposed on Asia and Africa. Their life styles are being projected as ideals in these countries, without realising that Asia and Africa do not have the kind of resources the West has and therefore it is not possible to have their standard of living in these countries. These thoughts were not because of the need to sacrifice, but were necessitated by biology and environmental science.
The West first designed gigantic demonic manufacturing capacities, for which they then have to find markets, for which employ psychological methods to persuade people to buy the products - this whole process is thoughtless - a mistake which they have now realised.
The fundamental slogan of the campaign of the youth in France 1968 was to find the lost man. They felt that one does not see the ‘independent' man in the whole spectrum from capitalism to socialism. No where can one see a beginning of this happening. As early as 1920, Gandhi said that the American and European models are not relevant to Asia and Africa, and today in 1970, the experts of the West have started thinking along these lines. They now realise their mistake of making their models the ideal for Asia and Africa.
The third role of Gandhi as a reformer and revolutionary is deeply linked to the above thinking. Gandhi did not talk about just economic and political freedom. He talked about liberating man from his own self, releasing him from his own negative thoughts was his primary aim. He therefore talked about revolution within human beings which would result in truth, spiritual [not in the religious sense] and soul force (ahimsa or non-violence). Liberation meant freedom from all manner of servitude. He said truth is my battle cry, truth was my security and truth was my god.
If all the government and non-government organisations that claim to be revolutionary were tested on the parameter of truth you will find that their words do not reflect in their actions. There is no trace of truthfulness in their means or methods. If we stick to truthfulness and honestly then purity of mind and purity in living will automatically follow.
The emphasis that Gandhi laid on the purity of means and his commitment to following it is reflected in the Chauri Chora incident. He withdrew such a large scale agitation revolution he had started that had spread all over the country and accepted his mistake. His followers could not practice even a minuscule of what he preached and to extent that he could. He was well aware of how much leaders needed to be true to their commitment to purity of means to achieve their ends because he knew if this was not followed a new era of exploitation would begin.
Gandhi kept inspiring people in this manner. He had a human psychological approach to issues. He was not an out and out reformist. No matter how many principles you try to introduce in the conscious self of the person, much of the awareness only comes from the unconscious mind. The conscious mind has only what we have learnt and experienced in this life, but the unconscious mind stores the experience of the whole community. Our mind thinks about aggression and violence day in and day out. We commit violence with our eyes, speech and thoughts. No matter how much we try to tell our conscious mind, it is not enough to cleanse us of the 23 hours of the activity of our mind. How will we remove the store of violence from our unconscious mind? We want to change the habits of human being without killing him. If we kill the individual then his body is gone, his body loses its consciousness. Can they make a new world in this manner? This will destroy the whole mankind.
The meaning of non-violence is creative force, creative love. Cowardice reduces the man to negativity. Gandhi was a saint with a mother's heart. His heart always overflowed with love and simplicity. If humankind worked on these principles and values, then along with peace in the world, the whole mind-set of humankind would undergo a total transformation. Gandhi wanted to bring about a change in both outward and internal mind in the human being at the same time. Whether he was successful or not in this mission is a secondary matter; success will come some day, human beings have no choice but to learn to love instead of hate one another.
Those who believe that human nature does not change, that hate, anger and envy are their innate characteristic do not know that human nature is not static, they do not know that human nature has not fully evolved as yet.
Gandhi saw this as a challenge. If there is no truthfulness in any revolution, it will not bear fruit. Thousands of crores in khadi business will not help. The soul that is required for the success of khadi is not there anymore. Like his philosophy of life, Gandhi believed that self-sufficiency in commerce and industry and a decentralised economic system which has uprooted exploitation was necessary - this was the transcendental thought behind is concept of revolution.
Satyagraha (soul force - non-violence) for revolution and truthfulness for the individual was the twin foundation he professed.
National boundaries are products of the intelligentsia's imagination said Marx. The exploitation that became obvious after the industrial revolution of the West made Marx say, that poverty and exploitation is man-created and called on the proletariats to rise, awaken and unite. This was the hope and faith Marx had. The means of production should belong to those who produce. He was the one who thought of class struggle and revolt.
Mao had said that revolution would be brought about by the exploited and downtrodden in the villages. He shattered the myth that farmers are not capable of revolution. A bloody revolution took place there too.
Gandhi concern was how to place the means of production in the hands of the producer. Vinoba picked up the threads from here leading a campaign to expand this commentary. The socialist motto is to keep the means of production in control of the State. But taking away the means of production from the individual and placing it in the hands of the State does not necessarily lead to ‘socialism'. It does not look as if injustice and exploitation ends with State controlling the means of production.
Of the trinity of the unproductive, the producer and the consumer, the bureaucrat of the government is the unproductive one and thus the trinity remains which leads to a new centralisation.
Men do not own the earth. Ownership has to be with the village. This was Vinoba's philosophy. Where State ownership was introduced, decentralization was not possible. Vinobaji said that the ownership of land has to be ‘villagified'.
The Gandhi - Vinoba era showed a thought process and richness of our culture. That the landlessness can be got rid off was demonstrated by Vinoba's bhoodaan (gift land) campaign.
We still have to create a new democratic society without State ownership. Will revolutions come to end after Marx, Mao and Gandhi? Will their teachings be used for doing whatever we feel like the way the Bible, Quran and the Gita are being used? Will the revolutionaries be able to move ahead after analysing what is relevant in the teachings of these great men and applicable in today's world?
We have to remove antagonism between people. We have to create a new age society taking into consideration the human beings' mind-set and his limitations. We need to search our souls and create awareness among people. Then only will human beings rise as humanistic beings, individually and as a community and society.
The article is translated from Gujarati by Hina Manerikar