An old post of mine from a couple months ago covering not just the limitations of non-violence but of Gandhi’s politics as well for tactics of national liberation based around an ISR article from way back when. Check it out.
Gandhi’s politics of nonviolence although, injecting a lot of momentum into political movements since India’s independence, similarly restricted radical action and working class emancipation. Gandhi being backed more by ruling class interests may have shown a precursor to his position on strikes as we see here that his position was:
In India we want no political strikes…We must gain control over all the unruly and disturbing elements… We seek not to destroy capital or capitalists but to regulate the relations between capitol and labor. We want to harness capital to our side. It would be folly to encourage sympathetic strikes.
He used his moralistic status and power in the Congress Party to break both strikes and more militant (yet violent) tactics to move more cooperative actions between Muslims and Hindus against law enforcement and landowners. Gandhi “went so far to reassure landlords that;
“I shall be no party to dispossessing propertied classes of their private property without just cause. My objective is to reach your hearts and convert you so that you may hold all your private property in trust for your tenants and use it primarily for their welfare. But supposing that there is an attempt unjustly to deprive you of your property, you will find me fighting on your side.”
Thus showing where his actual class interests lied, rather than what his image that appropriated religious garb and appealed to just to the peasantry. Although he felt close to the peasantry and wanted the best for them (debatable), he ended up alienating them through scolding them for fighting landlords on just causes. This brought difficulties forward during mass actions with all classes falling into interior conflicts surrounding communalism resulting action of Hindis and Muslims harming each others communities and the possibility of a united India. With this though, and Gandhi’s actions assisting the the Indian’s and Pakistani’s achieving somewhat self determination and liberation from Britain formally in 1947 (with some aid from the United States) they still had problematic conflicts and enslavement to western capitol. We can see that
The movement didn’t have to turn out in such a mess. Potentially revolutionary situations existed in the periods 1919-22 and 1946-47, but no mass party with revolutionary goals had been forged to steer the movements to victory.
Which resulted in Class society once again to be still engrained in the structure of India along with the bloody partition becoming a large possibility. This resulted not just because of Gandhi and the Congress Party, but also the faulty leanings of the Communist Party of India.
The myth of Gandhi’s nonviolence being a movements sole method being successful needs to be combated in left circles. For although;
Gandhi’s principle of nonviolence, whose moral force propelled several mass movements forward in their initial phases, repeatedly held back the struggles at key moments. As a result, privileged groups in the urban centers and countryside were able to detach the struggle for political independence from the struggle for radical social change–and thus thwarted Gandhi’s own goals of social justice. The British were gone, but the bureaucracy and police they built up still functioned with little change–and continued to repress workers’ and peasants’ uprisings. Gandhi’s will had been strong, but class forces proved stronger.
And Gandhi never promoted the class force–workers–that could have helped him in his final struggle to unite Hindus and Muslims. Only class struggle could have achieved what Gandhi’s purely moral mission attempted.
For nonviolence is a tactic, not a means to an end. These tactics have to be democratically decided by those who are oppressed in selected situations, along with seen as how effective they may be. However, issues do arise as well, when class lines are drawn and radical moments are destabilized by liberal tendencies and still siding with the ruling class.
Texts and Content influenced by ISR Article written by Meneejeh Moradian and David Whitehouse in Issue 14 of October-November 2000