Mohandas Gandhi

Gandhi Lectures

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

Politics and religion fused: Homo religioso, according to Eric Erikson's Gandhi's Truth. Dr. Erikson (1902–1994) was a psychoanalyst.

Gandhi presented five challenges to his political opponents

1. He challenged the Eurocentrism of the colonial powers.

2. He challenged Western materialism. He said people had false needs and were addicted to corrupt, Western ways.

3. He challenged Christian supremacy, arguing for religious pluralism.

4. He challenged political realism and Machiavellian politics that emphasized violent solutions to sociopolitical and economic problems. His thesis was civil disobedience or passive resistance to aggressors.

5. He challenged the knowledge or epistemology and aesthetic values of the West, saying there was a simpler economic life to be led in the villages and that science could not answer questions of morality.

Gandhi's program is a constructive program. In the Western tradition of politics, truth and governmental practice have not been a primary virtue. One has only to think of the prescriptions of Plato, Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Carl Schmitt to realize our theorists have invariably thought the masses are too stupid to have the knowledge to will the truth, particularly in politics. Too, in an era of special interest group politics and political action committees, the truth has been redesigned by the advertising industry and the consulting firms. Truth has been put into the service of power politics. The truth has been rendered ideological and a tool of the hegemonic ruling group. Thus, Gandhi's Truth is not the operational and practical truths of capitalist civilization.

BIG LIE: The bigger the lie, the more it is believed. It shows the gullibility of people before authority. People are predisposed toward infantile thoughts since these ideas soothe the wounded narcissism in having to adapt to the punishing work ethic of capitalist civilization. Gandhi simply did not and could not realize that the axiom of the Big Lie is the foundation of modern day Realpolitik.

What are the issues of Gandhi's program?

1. What is the relationship between Hindus and Muslims? Hindus and Christians?

2. Untouchability?—a caste system in India that is one of the most backward in the world.

3. Prohibition on alcohol. Is it practical?

4. He had a labor theory of value in which he advocated home spinning and weaving with village industries. Too, he advocated village sanitation as the mortality rate in India is one of the highest in the world.

5. He was for the emancipation of women.

6. He advocated strikes against owners but was not a socialist insofar as he did not believe the workers should seize the ownership of the means of production or violently overthrow the state. Basically, he was for cooperation.

He was influenced by Henry David Thoreau and Count Leo Tolstoy.


He espouses the doctrine of satyagraha in which there is passive resistance or civil disobedience to unlawful authority. Satyagraha is the grasp of truth or soul force. It is war without physical violence which is a form of controlled aggression. He called it love, but it really was a driving will to power based on the search for truth that led to the takeover of power. He did not see the British as taking part in India's future as equals. This inability to compromise when you have The Truth accounts, in part, for India's backwardness. His program can be called one of proactive passive resistance or civil disobedience--but he got right into your face through using the world media to shame the English. He was very successful.

He was for the common people and the weak--but one must be highly ethical and disciplined by denying the body material goods and even biological nourishment.

IV. South African Climax (1913-1914)

By early 1913, the Indians in South Africa had three main grievances: a ban on Asian immigrants, a three pound annual tax to be paid by each indentured laborer who remained in South Africa as a free man, and a court decision holding that only Christian marriages were legal. Using the principles of non-violent struggle, he led a miners' strike. He was arrested several times. As a final outcome, the Indian Relief Act, which went into effect on July 1914, made non-Christian marriages valid, abolished the three pound tax on indentured laborers who remained in Natal, banned the importation of indentured laborers from India after 1920, and allowed Indians born in South Africa to enter the Cape Colony, although Indians could not move freely from one South African province to another. It was a partial victory which satisfied him because he believed the gains were only tactically a victory as he entertained the idea of a long-term struggle for equality.

He fought in the name of the British Constitution, which bound the Empire together, for its ideals contradicted English practices. Hence, he shamed the rulers in England and South Africa before the world to attain his political goals.

V. Indian Home Rule

He rejected modern civilization with its factories and mines, which he said turned men into beasts. This critique is not necessarily true. It can be a very reactionary statement which if fully implemented will make a country permanently backward and uncompetitive in world markets. You have a moral obligation to help your people have a baseline of material satisfaction and the hedonistic good life if it is within the resources, capabilities, and talents of the people.

He called civilization a disease, particularly the English. This statement is racist and ethnocentric. The English brought the rule of law and rationalized administration to a chaotic country. There were definite benefits. He called the Parliament of England its epitome of corruption. But the English Parliament has been one of the most progressive in the world with centuries' long political stability, prosperity, and representative government given to its people and its dominions.

Gandhi said that true civilization is "good conduct"—but that is a relativist statement, depending upon the state of the material means of production.

Poverty is a virtue. This statement is absurd and reactionary. Look at the ghettoes. Tell people that and see what the response would be.

He believed in restoring a lost time by establishing the cottage industries, in which there was a time of simplicity of labor. He particularly thought weaving had a soothing effect on the spirit. Again, this statement is nonsense and reactionary. It would lead to the inability to advance the national interest and endanger the national security. After all, India does have nuclear weapons to defend herself against Pakistan and China.

He said machines put people out of work. No, machines put people to work and make them more productive in an era where there is the internationalization of the forces of capital and its distribution. If you have no machines, you will not have the developed tax base to support a viable government in an age of Realpolitik.

He wanted only indigenous education with Hindi the sole language. This is impossible given that knowledge is a highly competitive commodity in which you must have access to the language and cultures of all civilizations to compete in the struggle for existence among nation-states.

Cities are focal points of sin. Yes, but you cannot have civilization and the products of a viable body politic without concentrating people in metropolitan areas in an age of late capitalism. If you distribute the citizens in the countryside, you will never be able to use scarce resources and talents to the best possible effect in promoting the welfare of your citizens.

He said it is unmanly to obey unjust laws. You must fear God and not government. Our founding fathers said you must respect God in private and render rational compliance to legitimate and authoritative government if there is to be a balance between freedom and equality with the vigorous participation of an educated and well-fed electorate. What is manliness?

Quote: "After a great deal of experience it seems to me that those who want to become passive resisters for the service of the country have to observe perfect chastity, adopt poverty, follow truth, and cultivate fearlessness. Manliness is applying reason and will to make the environment conform to your moral sense of how reality can be shaped proactively, not reactively."

You can't give in to your passions. Contradicts what we know about human nature and the fragility of civilization.

He says give your money away; otherwise, you cannot be chaste. He wants to recreate the conditions of a primitive communal communism, in which there is an equality of squalor, poverty, and ignorance. You can't be noble if you live at the level of an animal. You need to amass capital in order to develop national power which is the first order of business of a newborn state. To do that, your citizens must be making money in order to be taxed. You cannot simply print money and not produce. Marx said you cannot go against the laws of historical materialism and restore a lost era without being irrational and self-destructive. Russia, as a peasant society in 1917, illustrated that point poignantly.

He said force and money are incompatible with Truth. He is wrong. There is the reality principle at the level of the individual, family, society, state, and civilization, which says that if you are to adapt to your environment you must have the necessary weapons to struggle. By definition, there are times when the state must have the monopoly on the means of organizing violence and fashioning a banking system if you are to survive in the state of nature that is called world politics, let alone maintain the legitimacy and orderliness of society to maintain and reproduce itself in terms of its values, populations and ability to mobilize the masses for crises.

Quote: "We want our ancient schools and courts to be restored. The common language of India is not English but Hindi. You should learn it. We can hold communication with you only in our national language." Again, this statement is extremely reactionary because England was the dominant power in the world at the time. There is no reason, practically, why you should not know two languages and more if necessary.

Why is language such an issue? Your language has reference terms that form your national self-consciousness. Language gives you autonomy as a person and nation. He who controls language and communication has power because he can dictate how you think, which preempts the necessity often to rule by naked force. How you feel at home in the world is affected by the use of your native language and the language of the occupier. However, you can feel at home nationally and internationally by speaking and thinking in both Hindi and English. They are not mutually exclusive as Gandhi would like his followers to believe.

He vehemently rejects the material goods of England. Such an attitude if created in the national political economy would generate massive unemployment in India. She cannot compete today in the international marketplace because she is not worldly with her peasant mentality prevailing in most of the country. Of course, at that time, there was The Manchester System in which India was being exploited for raw materials. But even in independence, Gandhi rejected machines, the forces of production in science and technology, and wealth. India suffers today because Gandhi made a virtue out of necessity.

What are his political goals?

1. Home-rule

2. Soul force or satyagraha was to be both means and ends to the problem of politics. To grasp truth is to be free. I think that is a naive, peasant viewpoint.

3. He entertained the concept of Swadeshi, which means you are to use only the goods made in India. Autarky is a reactionary doctrine that leads one to boycott goods from other nations and consequently you have trade wars that might lead to general warfare. He is again too idealistic and reactionary. He did not understand the nature of the modern state and the international division of labor.

4. He asks the English to remove the salt tax, restore native money, give the highest posts to the Indians, and to withdraw her troops. Indians are not to use machine-made goods and the language of the British administration because they tied into economic and ideological domination. He said that the English civilization is corrupt because of its emphasis on the body and its basis on military might and not righteousness. But these are the arguments of the weak and meek. As Freud said the injunction of Love Thine Enemy is a humanitarian ideal that goes against the laws of self-preservation when confronted by an enemy who truly is a hateful psychopath. Churchill is not Hitler or Stalin. The ultimate goal is Swaraj or self-government.

VI. The Untouchables

There can only be national salvation through the farmer and not the professional classes. Agriculturists are seventy-five percent of the population. They are not corrupted by civilization of the English, and even though ignorant, poor, and starving, they are nonetheless more pure and virtuous in spirit and soul.

How do you cleanse yourself? His moral and political unit was the Ashram, which is religious. You do several things there to prepare yourself for a life of service and selflessness.

1. Take a vow of Truth. What is truth? It is a lifestyle in which you deny the physical world.

2. Ahimsa--you do not kill to attain a political or personal goal. Too demanding if you are in a position where your personal survival is at stake in a political fight to the finish. You are forbidden even to think of evil toward another. He admits it is an ideal. Human nature by its very definition is violent and is a process of containing evil by civilization and its institutions. People naturally have evil thoughts towards others; otherwise, you would not have the will to power even to begin the search for truth, like Freud. He conceived of psychoanalysis by his own understanding of the aggression he felt toward his father. He was his own first patient. Too, according to Darwin, the instinct to kill is a trait of natural selection, enhancing the species' adaptability to change in the environment. We are natural born killers who are not always lovers. Pure thoughts are foreign to human nature.

3. Vow of Celibacy. You must marry without lust. However, we know from psychology that to enjoy mental health you must exercise your libido. It is for saints to totally sublimate sexuality. Bramacharya is the doctrine of physical self-purification.

4. Vow of the Control of the Palate. He said food stimulates your animal passions. It is a sign that civilization has taken hold. In actuality, we are animals in the makeup of our natures. You need protein simply to work effectively. Again, we call this the reality principle and a principle of natural selection.

5. Non-Thieving. He said just take enough for oneself, which is the fundamental law of nature. There is some resemblance to John Locke. But Locke said we can produce surpluses in order to exchange goods which we cannot practically make.

Gandhi included the "Vow of Non-Possession" under this principle of non-thieving. However, this precept can be considered the ethic of the weak and the underdeveloped nations in which you submit to the laws of necessity and make negatives virtues. There is naiveté in such thinking because the world is now too complex to ignore it. The world will come to you whether you like it or not. Why Freud called religion a delusion; it leaves you stripped of the powers to resist bullies, imperialists, and genocidal killers.

Education Through the Vernaculars

It is one's duties to learn all of India's various dialects. It is a matter of national pride and the start of the process of national integration of often diverse and hostile tribes.

The Vow of Khaddar is to spin with one's own hands so as to honor manual labor.

There is to be a Religious use of Politics.

Politics is the art of rationally using and centralizing the means of violence to attain goals. Love weakens the will for critical challenges.

VII. Organized labor is more dictatorial than capital. Labor must know its place. The laborers should suffer to reform their masters to create a family feeling. If you are unjustly treated, you should resign. Reading Marx would have been a good antidote to this sheer nonsense. He does not understand the master/slave relationship of work: force needs to be countered by force when the fruits of your labor are stolen. Period. That is the chronicle of history. He does, however, argue for the nationalization of labor-saving machinery out of love for all the people.

There is a hierarchy of four castes.

Brahmin: the person who has knowledge

Kshatriya: the rulers

Vaishya: traders and farmers

Sudra: those who labor

The Untouchables are not even part of this system for they have status neither through lineage nor occupation. They are the pariahs or Scheduled Castes.

Quote: "Two of the strongest desires that keep me in flesh and bones are the emancipation and the protection of the cow. When these two desires are fulfilled there is Swaraj, and therein lies my own Moksha [salvation]."

What is Orthodox Hinduism?

1. Belief in scriptures and divine incarnations and rebirth.

2. Belief in "Cow Protection"—"mother" to millions of Indians.

3. "Idol-worship"—pagan element.

4. Four standards of innocence (purging the senses to achieve spiritual bliss), truth, self-control, and renunciation of all wealth.

5. God is Oneness with an affirmation of rebirth and salvation.

6. Hinduism is not a missionary religion.

Gandhi believed in caste because it was inherent in human nature. Laws of heredity determine occupational and patrilineal status. Hence, he was not an egalitarian. Duties are conferred, not privileges to caste membership. A caste member does not have the right to be or act superior. More theory than practice.

Quote: "I do not believe in the exclusive divinity of the Vedas [religious hymns]. I believe the Bible, the Koran, and the Zend Avesta [Zoroastrian scriptures] to be as much divinely inspired as the Vedas." He will reject any Hindu scriptures repugnant to his moral sensibilities because scriptures are based on interpretations through the ages, though divinely inspired. So he contradicts himself. Religion has always evolved according to historical circumstances to be relevant at the particular time at handt. It undergoes descent by modification of its tenets in a process of natural selection. Memetics.

Religion, in the end, rationalizes economic necessity and the status quo. Much hypocrisy and delusional thinking go into making a religious system. Whether directly or not, religion as an institution with a dependent economic tie to the power base tends to play people for "suckers." Yes, please be exploited, and you will be reincarnated in a higher form in another life is the metaphysical basis for Hinduism.

Needless to say, many Indians with a scientific mind do not take to the line of thinking.

Quote: "Ideally, however, I would rule out all machinery, even as I would . . . seek the absolute liberation of the soul. From that point of view I would reject all machinery; but machines will remain because like the body, they are inevitable. The body itself ... is the purest piece of mechanism; but if it is a hindrance to the highest flights of the soul it has to be rejected!" He means both the body and machinery. The doctrine is mystical and nihilistic since it works toward a cessation of all intellectual and animal sensibilities in the name of abstract moral ideals that cannot be given a material mediation to the suffering masses. He demands standards of self-denial that are virtually sadomasochistic and work against the laws of human nature, which are to fulfill desire, not deny it. It is man's natural obligation to fulfill his lustful desires to be mentally and physically healthy. Self-renunciation leads to the oceanic feeling of oneness with the universe; it makes no sense to voluntarily succumb to the death instinct in the name of the abstractions of Hinduism.