Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Mohandas Gandhi opposed the State. The State is the military, police, prisons, courts, tax collectors, and bureaucrats. He saw the State as concentrated violence. "The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." Gandhi recognized that the State claims to serve the nation, but he realized that this was a fallacy. "While apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, [the State] does the greatest harm to mankind."1
According to Dr. Dhawan, Gandhi was a philosophical Anarchist because he believed that the "[the greatest good of all] can be realized only in the classless, stateless democracy."2 While Gandhi advocated democracy, he differentiated between direct democracy and western democracy. Commenting on the parliamentary system, Gandhi says, "If India copies England, it is my firm conviction that she will be ruined. Parliaments are merely emblems of slavery."3 He had no more appetite for majority democracy of America, "It is a superstition and an ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority."4 By centralizing power, western democracies feed into violence. Thus, he thought decentralization was the key to world peace.
Towards a non-violent society: a position paper on anarchism, social change and Food Not Bombs by Chris Crass Gandhi writes of Tolstoy in his autobiography, "It was forty years ago, when I was passing through a severe crisis of skepticism and doubt that I came across Tolstoy's book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, and was deeply impressed by it. I was at that time a believer in violence. Its reading cured me of my skepticism and made me a firm believer in ahimsa(non-violence)... He was the greatest apostle of non-violence that the present age has produced".
Anarchist ideas also influenced Gandhi's ideas about the future society. In the book Gandhi Today, Mark Shepard explains, "India could become strong and healthy, Gandhi insisted, only by revitalizing its villages, where over four-fifths of its people lived - a figure that still applies today. He envisioned a society of strong villages, each one politically autonomous and economically self-reliant. In fact, Gandhi may be this century's greatest proponent of decentralism - basing economic and political power at the local level."
After Gandhi was assassinated, the person who was known as "Gandhi's spiritual heir", Vinoba Bhave led several major campaigns to reclaim land for the poor. In 1951 Bhave and the many workers from Sarva Seva Sangh (Society for the Service of All), started the Bhoodon (land gift) movement. Many felt that Bhave was a saint in the Hindu tradition, and so when he began walking across the country asking for acres of land from landowners, he received land gifts, which were then given to the poor. One and one third million acres, according to Shepard, were actual reclaimed by the poor (far more than had been managed by the land reform programs of India's government). Bhave was involved with other projects and campaigns to bring about the "non-violent revolution". Bhave was an anarchist.
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