Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Mahatma Gandhi- the roi faineant of the Freedom Struggle

'Treat the servant kindly, with the idea of turning his
gratitude to account, and you will get, as you deserve, no
gratitude, nor any value for your kindness; but treat him kindly
without any economical purpose, and all economical purposes will
be answered; in this, as in all other matters, whosoever will
save his life shall lose it, whoso loses it shall find it.'
(Ruskin, Unto this last)
'If Swaraj cannot be attained by the sin of killing Englishmen, it cannot be attained either by the erection of huge factories. Gold and silver may be accumulated but they will not lead to the establishment of Swaraj. Ruskin has proved this to the hilt.' (Mahatma Gandhi- Sarvodaya)

Ruskin's critique of Political Economy amounts to this- by engaging the affections of the workers you can reduce their pay. More, they might even be ready to die for you- thus raising the Manager to the rank of a Napoleon.
Gandhi's message is- 
1) 'The  British rule India because Indians are disunited, immoral and ignorant.
2)  If some Indians use violence to throw out the British, then India will be ruled by those violent men- a disaster.
3) Worse still, if India industrializes and negotiates independence from Britain on the basis of mutually beneficial trade and defense ties- then India will have become like Britain. Its entire economy would be evil and the opposite of true 'Swaraj' (Autonomy).
Consequently, by engaging the affections of the Indians- without considering how to repay that affection or justify that trust- Gandhi gains power to preclude it being gained by either the terrorists or the modernizers.
But to what purpose? It is to save the country from an imaginary danger- viz. the notion that if we respond to price signals in the market, or new ideas on the basis of their predictive power or the utility of the technology associated with them, we are somehow destroying our human ethos in every other sphere of life and condemning ourselves to a miserable bondage to our own greed.
Gandhi's mass politics was a politics to preclude mass politics attaining anything or evolving to any meaningful end. His brand of political engagement was designed to show the futility of Politics, the poisonous nature of Economic amelioration.
Fine. Very good. If Gandhi had simply performed sallekhana in his Ashram- no blame would attach to him. Why did he keep interfering in mass politics? Was it not, simply, to prevent leadership passing to others who might actually achieve something for the masses? 
Sri Lanka gets universal franchise in 1930. Why not India? 
Gandhi had a chance to win over the British. Had he taken a big delegation to the Round Table and assigned his followers different roles- Sarojini go talk to the women, Nehru go talk to the intelligentsia, Tata, you go and explain to the Industrialists in the North that Indian self government means industrialization- i.e big orders for capital goods for your factories. Birla, you explain to the City that, since ancient times, India has been 'the sink of gold'. With representative government you get rational fiscal and monetary policy- Public Finance put in good order such that savings currently unproductively tied up in gold become available for productive investment. That gold then supports confidence in the Sterling Area. 
Okay, the British military- commanded by people like Massingbird who thought cavalry still had a role- had their heads in the sand. Still, there were good military historians and analysts who could appreciate that an industrialized India greatly strengthens Imperial defense.
Essentially, Gandhi had the chance to repair the damage Tilak did to Gokhale when the latter had his chance to win over the Westminster parliamentary committee on Indian reform. 
But, Gandhi was not interested. His principles, his fundamental beliefs were stronger than the duties implicit in the leadership role the Indians had allotted him. This was a tragedy not just for India but also the anti Fascist countries.
Gandhi used words like swaraj and swadesi- which already had a well
established, specifically anti-Colonial, meaning- but he interpreted those words in a completely different way such that Colonialism became irrelevant. 
Gandhian 'swadeshi' consists of forbidding specialization and the gains from trade- i.e. enforcing village autarky- which means periodic famine without hope of relief. This is not just a more grinding poverty but also more complete rural isolation and imbecility.
Gandhian education means no Science, no Art, no crafts, no hermeneutics- nothing. Just everybody listening to that ghastly old wind bag while spinning yarn in a manner that subtracts value from the raw material. This is not just a swinish reveling in ignorance- but Ignorance as a Church Militant- Ignorance elevated to the level of the highest metaphysical principle.
Gandhian justice, Gandhian social reform is a sort of playing with the victims as though they are children. Once the playing and petting is over they should just kindly go back to the atrocious conditions in which they live. Yes, Gandhi will raise money for them. However, they protest that very little of that money comes their way- that too at a time when Gandhi was paying lawyers not to practice law all though, as educated, well connected, people, they could surely have found other means of livelihood.
While in Orissa, Gandhi comes across some poor women- whose tattered clothes scarcely covered their body. They knew all about him and came forward to give the one small coin they had to him. Gandhi takes the money. Is this moral greatness or something vile?
Yet Gandhi is great. If he was using Politics to show Politics was futile, Politics had the last laugh by claiming that he actually achieved something- viz Independence. Why? Well if Gandhism succeeded in something, if it was not (as he intended) utterly futile, then it follows Gandhism was a means to an end, not an end in itself. Ergo, once Independence is achieved, Gandhism can be discarded as having served its purpose, only being retained as a sort of totem or mascot.
In ancient China, when an official failed to please the Emperor, not only was he executed and his clan decimated, he was also made to perform posthumous service by being appointed a minor God in charge of law and order in some fractious province.
This is what happened to Gandhi.
The sentiment that all protest should be Gandhian is really the hope that all protest should be ineffectual. However, where protest is based on a practical notion of how things should change, protest can actually be successful and useful to the community. The fact that, by bringing about change, protest ceases to conform to the Gandhian template- or advance any nutty ideology in any particular- then, allows windbags a channel to vent their frustration at being cheated of their meat and drink without being accused of sour grapes.

Every political party in India- not just the I.N.C in its various mutations- owes Gandhi everything especially the trade-mark impotence and fatuity that allow them an abiding identity. The Communists say- 'Gandhi didn't just show us how to do mass politics, he also demonstrated, in an unequivocal manner, that under Bourgeois leadership nothing at all could be achieved by such means. Swami Sahajanand's conversion to Marxism proves this to the hilt. ' Hearing this, the Liberal begins to laugh. He says, 'Yes, but by showing you how to do mass politics he weaned you away from both conspiratorial politics as well as the notion that class enemies should be liquidated. But this made it inevitable that sooner or later you would embrace Economism. In other words you become indistinguishable from Left Liberalism- as is happening in Bengal. Thus, Gokhale- himself the disciple of Ranade- wrought better than he knew in anointing Gandhi as his successor.'

Gandhi's big contribution was his moral critique of terrorism and secret societies. The danger in India, at that time, was that such secret societies would recruit along kinship or caste lines simply as a safeguard against infiltration by the secret police. But this raised the specter that the Raj would be replaced by the domination of a particular elite caste- thus alienating other sections of society.
True, had a true hero like Bagha Jatin continued to elude Police Commissioner Tegart, his nobility and charisma would have brought allies from, for e.g, Muslims of Punjab and N.W.F- thus showing his secular credentials. Those of his followers who took a Marxist route would have been able to show the workers and peasants that Independence did not mean domination by 'upper castes'.
Still, facts are facts. Bagha Jatin was killed fighting bravely. The arms promised by the German Crown Prince never arrived because the Czechs betrayed the secret to the British. People like Birla, who had given money to the Jugantar revolutionaries, now faced an ignominious type of persecution by the British who were firmly back in charge. Support for Gandhi kept people like Birla out of the hands of black-mailers and police spies. At that time when the Indian police wanted to bring down an enemy of the Raj, they did not scruple to blacken the man's character with every type of prurient slander. The big advantage of Gandhism is that safeguarded people's reputation and moral character. This really helped women come into the public sphere.
In the early 1930's there was an infamous case of a woman doctor who was sexually harassed by a older male colleague. When she sought legal redress, the Judge threw out the case on the grounds that she was no better than a 'public woman' and thus deserved no sort of consideration. Under the banner of Gandhism, however, woman of the highest social standing could go to jail- even share cells with prostitutes- and emerge with their reputation not merely unsullied but enhanced.
If Gandhi engaged the affections of the people- no blame attaches to the people. Love of Gandhi tended to ennoble them and increase their effectiveness in the public sphere. But, Gandhi's goal was different from that of the people. Perhaps, in fairness to him, we should admit that he gave ample evidence as to his true intentions. Still, his wily political dealings leave a bad taste in the mouth. Some deceit seems to lie at the bottom of it.
He promised to deliver Home Rule within a year. He failed. Nothing dishonourable about that. He should simply have bowed out. The fact that there were other politicians who were equally poor strategists; the fact that the I.N.C was heavily freighted with incompetent windbags- though corrupt machine politicians took over the actual running of things once Ministries were formed; in short, the fact that Gandhi was no worse than his acolytes, still, was no reason for Gandhi to keep popping back onto the political stage. The National interest demanded that there be a process of attrition- old windbags being replaced by younger windbags- as well a recognition of, and learning from, mistakes.
In one sense the clinging to Gandhi after his first failure was an example of 'cognitive dissonance' such as that of the early Christians (in the opinion of Radhakrishnan) who decided that the fact that Christ's prophesies had so signally failed was actually coz he was all Mighty God and God, it is well known, is a lying bastard.
Gandhi never admitted making a mistake- except when the admission was for a reason more egregious than the offence. He set a pattern for politicians to be judged not by their achievements but the stratospheric high mindedness of their stupidity. 
But why? What was his motivation? Was it a Hindu thing?
No his self professed Gurus were Western wankers and/or nutjobs.  
Ruskin, of course, was just a mentally unstable wind-bag. Carlyle, also a great masturbator, was fucked in the head. Emerson- windbag. Thoreau- eccentric provincial. Tolstoy- great writer though he was- had his own psychological problems. Gandhi, however, had superb organisational skills, fund raising talent and indefatigable journalistic energy. Moreover, by abandoning the nuclear family for a commune based type of living which included a broad cross section of people, Gandhi's inter-personal skills were always better than any one he came across. 
If only, as a young man, he'd had a chance to learn economics from people like Ranade, Gokhale, the Servants of India and so on- if only (despite great personal success) he wasn't beating his head against a wall in South Africa for so many years- Gandhi could have been a great boon not just to India but all peace loving countries by showing how mass politics can be constructive, knowledge based, and free from corruption.
The craziness of Gandhi's thinking was exposed long ago. Annie Besant showed how the nonsense of Khilafat contributed to the Moplah atrocities. Sir Sankaran Nair's short book 'Gandhi and Anarchy'- which Arthur Koestler drew on later on in 'the lotus and the robot'- had revealed Gandhi's true intentions. Even Tagore- in his befuddled manner cried foul- though Gandhi's fund raising ability impressed him and he hoped the Mahacrackpot would secure the future of his own crack-pot Shantiniketan. Everyone, at some point or another saw through Gandhi. Yet the Pied Piper went merrily on his way to universal applause. Perhaps, the Hindus thought his tactics would win over the Muslims, the Rich thought he would defuse the resentment of the poor, the High Castes that he would placate the 'Untouchables'. But, nobody he sought to placate was ever actually that stupid. Gandhi became a symbol of the weakness and impotence of the educated Indian class. He was a roi faineant- anointed by class which funked its historical mission,  a community unable to fulfill the progressive visions of the previous generation.
At least, this was his own view of things. Writing in 1924 about the anti Hindu violence he had sponsored he says ''The Hindus have written to me complaining that I was responsible for unifying and awakening the Mussalmans and giving prestige to the Moulvis which they never had before. Now that the Khilafat question is over the awakened Mussalmans have proclaimed a kind of Jehad against the Hindus... The tales that are reported from Bengal of outrages upon Hindu women are the most disquieting if they are even half-true. My own experience but confirms the opinion that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. Need the Hindu blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards, there will always be bullies... But as a Hindu, I am more ashamed of Hindu cowardice than I am angry at the Mussalman bullying.''

Notice that Gandhi is claiming to be 
1) a leader
2) a Hindu
3) a Hindu leader when it comes to supporting Khilafat
4) not a Hindu leader at all when it comes to defending Hindus. No, then he is simply ashamed of them and tells them to either buck up or grin and bear it.

But this was also his attitude to India. Indeed, it was his attitude to anyone who took his side. 
Why people should call this 'Saintly' behaviour is beyond me. Unless their Mommies and Daddies were truly shite. Or unless they have kids. One must always lie to kids. That's Religion.
Every scheme, every deal, every institution Gandhi was associated with suffered in the process- becoming either corrupt or a source of lasting evil or both. However Gandhi's fatuity, the insouciance with which he stumbles from debacle to debacle, endows him with a charmed life.  His confidence in himself always remains unshaken. To the last, he remained, in his own eyes, a true Mahatma.

In the end, the great lesson he teaches us is that nothing is more immoral, in the Political sphere, than talk of morality. None more deceitful than the possessors of 'inner truth'.

If Gandhi is relevant today- it is to the proponents of Hindutva. He represents the great stab in the back which prevented democracy from yielding social reconstruction. It was he who condemned Indian Democracy to conferring on all, not the security of citizenship, but the paranoia of futile identity politics. 
Yet one word of his redeemed his whole Indian career, one utterance in a wilderness of words that was not utter vanity- that word was Ram and because it was Ram, nothing more than Ram, his legacy can yet be transfigured and India, perhaps, recover from the ruin that he wrought and the evils he inaugurated.

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