Monday, June 24, 2013

Socialists around the world never fail to use the name of Mohandas Gandhi to push their agenda. However, Gandhi was far from being a leftist, and his political positions were in direct opposition to the left.

In his autobiography, Jawaharlal Nehru lamented that Gandhi put up with capitalism but considered socialism as an inherently violent system. He added that when Gandhi used the word ‘socialist’ to describe himself, he intended it as a peculiar form of “muddled humanitarianism” and did not mean it in the economic sense. According to Nehru, Gandhi’s opposition to the economic ideas of socialism did not result from the ignorance of the subject as Gandhi had “read many books on economics and socialism and even Marxism, and [had] discussed it with others.”


Gandhi was repulsed by the Marxist concepts of class wars and violent revolutions, and as Nehru put it, “He suspects also socialism, and more particularly Marxism, because of their association with violence.” Nehru also complained about Gandhi’s advocacy of trusts run by wealthy people for the benefit of others and claimed that he was “always laying stress on the idea of the trusteeship of the feudal prince, of the big landlord, of the capitalist.”

Elsewhere, Gandhi opposed the socialist position on private property when he told a group of land owners, “I shall be no party to dispossessing propertied classes of their private property without just cause... But supposing that there is an attempt unjustly to deprive you of your property, you will find me fighting on your side.”


Economics is not the only field where Gandhi’s ideas clash with those of the left. Socialists in western countries are obsessed with the issue of abortion to such an extent that it is one of the main issues which define them. According to the socialists, the inferior status of women in western societies is the result of women giving birth to babies and women should undergo abortions in order to blunt the advantage of men and become their equals. This argument has taken deep root in western countries where millions of infants are killed every year with a large number of these deaths classified as “live birth abortions”. Gandhi wrote of the practice of abortion in Young India, “It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime.”


Yet another issue which highlights the differences between Gandhi and the leftists is the right to own weapons. While the left wants to outlaw guns in general with only the communists entitled to the ownership of guns, Gandhi stated in his autobiography that depriving the whole nation of arms was the blackest law passed by the British.


Gandhi also differed from the left on the issue of caste. While the Marxists saw the existence of castes as an opportunity to cause divisions by pitting different castes against each other in order to spark a class war, Gandhi discerned the importance of castes which played the role of economic guilds. He wanted an economic system in which various castes cooperated with each other as equals by specialising in their trades. Gandhi was aware of the methods of communists and socialists who caused divisions among the people and stated that the communists and socialists “believe in generating and accentuating hatred”.


Apart from these issues, socialists opposed the principle of individual freedom and looked up to the government to solve all problems by imposing controls. In contrast, Gandhi opposed granting power to the state as he believed that “the state represents violence in a concentrated and organized form.” Gandhi considered governments to be harmful as they destroyed individual freedom. He wrote in favour of individual freedom, “I want freedom for the full expression of my personality. I must be free to build a staircase to Sirius if I want to.” Gandhi opposed all controls and when the topic of food control was discussed in 1947, he stated that “control gives rise to fraud, suppression of truth, intensification of the black market and artificial scarcity.”

Gandhian Socialism---

Decentralization of political and economical power, a skeptical approach towards technology and large scale industrialization with an emphasis on self-employment and self-reliance are key features of Gandhian Socialism.


India’s history books in the past sixty years have been written by Marxists, and Gandhi’s views have been distorted to fit in with the Marxist agenda. These books suppress Gandhi’s views on Marxism and socialism and instead present a sanitized version of history with Gandhi merely as a hero to be worshiped before invoking the doctrine of socialism. Instead of deifying Gandhi as a Mahatma and blindly worshiping him, Indians would do well to objectively examine his works and understand his political views.

Narayan Murthy, founder of Infosys, once said he is a socialist at heart and a capitalist by profession. Gandhi wanted the capitalist or the wealth creators to be the trustees of the wealth they create. In that trusteeship remains one of the most relevant of Gandhi's concept, which something which most of us can easily relate.

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