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The Philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi – Part VI

Prof. Santanu Sen

It has become as it were, a part and parcel of the bourgeoisie order in modern India seek to find a new application of ‘Gandhism’ in defending modern social system against the encroachments on the part of the exploited classes.

The Gandhian methods of non-violent resistance turned out to be effective enough in the struggle against colonial oppression and for national independence, combined at times with extreme violent methods of struggle used by the masses in defiance of Gandhi’s techniques. They resulted in the establishment of an independent Indian society. Regrettably, after independence this Gandhian doctrine proved ineffective in substantially changing the plight of hundreds of millions of working people. The ruling classes of modern Indian society do their best to split the working class movement and diminish the influence of the leftwing circles and of ‘Scientific Socialism’. Hence the bourgeoisie’s efforts to combine the most diversified method of class struggles ranging from political manoeuvrings to brutal reprisals. Thus any effective application of Gandhian methods to promote the interests of the working people of India today is in defiance to the interests of the bourgeoisie becomes apparent when the left winger parties launch mass ‘Satyagraha’ campaign in support of the social, economic and political demands of the working people.

The present version of ‘Gandhism’ has retained its general democratic features. This is especially important in the context of the intensive penetration of the U.S. Cap. and ideology in India and the onslaught of Indian monopolies. A broad cooperation of democratic progressive forces is still possible within the framework of an anti Imperialist and anti-monopoly movement. Unfortunately, ‘Gandhism’ is developing along different lines after Gandhi’s death. In the post war period and especially in the past few years, some of the non Marxist ideological trends within the national liberation movement have been biased towards scientific socialism (National Democracy). This can be said of ‘Gandhism’ too. While stressing on the democratic content of ‘Gandhian ideology, one should not be blind to the fact that many of its followers today are unfortunately promoting its growing departure from ’Scientific Socialism’.

One many not agree with Gandhian philosophy, but one should know, study and respect it as an important and objective phenomenon in Indian history. Disagreement does not necessarily rule out respect for Gandhi himself who set a good example. He did not share all the ideals of the October socialist revolution in Russia. He criticised Russian communists for their atheism and adherence to class struggle. At the same time, he recognised the justice and enormity of the goal set by the Russian communists and the greatness of Lenin as the leader of the revolution.

Gandhi’s ideas and policies did not foster the development of the Indian working people’s class  consciousness and limited the possibility of their influence as a class, yet the course of the struggle for liberation should be recognised because they were instrumental in involving the masses of India in the political struggle that was headed by the national bourgeoisie. There can be no doubt about the fact that ‘Gandhism’ was the motivating force and the banner of a truly popular movement, although led by the bourgeoisie. It matched the level of the country’s social and economic development, the political awareness of the peasants and the greater part of the Indian proletariat.

It was Gandhi who provided a link between the I.N.C. (Indian National Congress) and the masses. That is why he is so important to the national bourgeoisie in its drive for power.  There can be no doubt that Gandhi’s political activity was in the interest of the Indian Capitalists. This statement would be biased and incorrect if we fail to take into account the following two considerations.

Firstly, in terms of gaining independence, the interest of the Indian bourgeoisie coincided with those of the entire nation. Every one strove for the same political goal which was national sovereignty. There were practical and political difference concerning the role of the various classes and the importance of the social question for the national movement; that is those issues which were already in the course of the national struggle, and pre-determined the social essence of the Indian state. Thus Gandhiji objectively assisted the bourgeoisie in promoting its class interests and more importantly helped to achieve the general national goals.

Secondly, Gandhiji’s stand coincided objectively with the interest of the national bourgeoisie. History made them fellow travellers but not comrades in arms. The ideals that inspired Gandhi were not bourgeoisie but anti-bourgeoisie in his lifestyle, disposition and social activity. He was closer to the ordinary people than to the bourgeoisie. He predicted that at some point he would part ways with the I.N.C. and the national capitalists. This process probably started in 1946A.D-1948A.D. The bourgeoisie had achieved its grails and now sought to become consolidated as a politically dominant class, whereas Gandhiji’s aim was to change the life of the Indian peasants and to all appearances he had prepared even to resort to non-violent resistance to do so. Having played a major role in the history of India, Gandhiji truly deserves to be called-“The father of the Nation”,

He succeeded in organising and leading a truly massive liberation movement which from time to time shook the British administration and eventually brought about its collapse. The movement was truly national not only in terms of its goals but also because it united all the ethnic groups, castes and religious communities. Gandhiji was a determined advocate of the unity, co-existence and co-operation of India’s entire population. His ‘Satyagraha’ broke down ethnic, religious, caste and regional barriers.  Gandhiji campaigned for the unity of India and its people throughout his life, beginning with the first ‘National Satyagraha’ that led to a joint and concerted action of the Hindus and the Muslims and continued as struggle against the caste arrogance. He  fought for the discrimination against the untouchables with great determination since the 1930’s, against the Hindu-Muslim strife and for the country’s territorial integrity in 1947 A.D. and 1948 A.D. Gandhiji perished in this struggle for preserving the unity of India.

Apart from non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy includes India’s independence, unity and ‘Sarvadaya’. Jawharlal Nehru would also add to this list fearless (Abhaya) .  This was a quality highly characteristic of Gandhiji, a quality that ensured his determination in pursuing his goals no matter how the opponents of social change might interpret Gandhiji’s principles.  The potential they offer by way of promoting the interests of the masses, democratic  movement and national and social progress is far from exhausted.

The Indian people hold Gandhiji in high esteem. Even the people of Russia respect M.K. Gandhi for his enormous  contribution to the struggle against imperialism and colonialism. The Gandhian philosophy of non-violence rejects war as a means of resolving international conflicts. He was a sincere and consistent advocate of international peace. In his day, he seriously denounced the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by America in the final days of the Second World War (1939 A.D. – 1945 A.D.).

M.K. Gandhi was a passionate crusader for peace and an uncompromising opponent of racism. He is one of these whose ideas lie in the basis of India’s foreign policy of peace. Even to this day the patriotic forces of our country rally round Gandhiji’s ideals and his determined struggle for peace and for strengthening of India’s independence and National unity.


  1. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Vol – V)
  2. The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Vol – X)
  3. M. K. Gandhi, Towards Non-Violent Socialism (Navajivan Publication House, Ahmedabad)
  4. Jawaharlal Nehru, An Autobiography (Allied Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Bombay)
  5. Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi (Asia Publishing House, Bombay)
  6. Mahatma Gandhi, Young India (S. Ganesan Publisher, Madras)

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