by Robert Ellsberg
Sometimes a man lives in his dreams. I live in mine, and picture the world as full of good human beings—not “goody-goody” human beings. In the socialist’s language there will be a new structure of society, a new order of things. I am also aspiring after a new order of things that will astonish the world. If you try to dream these daydreams you will also feel exalted as I do. M. K. Gandhi
On the day of India’s independence, the consummation of a lifetime of struggle, Gandhi did not participate with other Congress leaders in the celebration. That day for him was an occasion of deep sorrow, which he observed by fasting. India’s future lay in the hands of those who were determined to pursue the path of industrial and military strength, centralization of the means of production and political power, men who believed that India could be remade from the top down.
As nonviolent revolution could not be the equivalent of violent revolution without the violence, but something qualitatively different in assumptions and goals, true swaraj (self-rule) could not be the parasitic apparatus of bureaucratic administration minus the British. Gandhi’s conception of swaraj was quite different: not the goal of an Indian nationalist government, but a process that would replace the state by the self-rule of each individual. As the best function of school should be to enable the student to educate himself, the role of government, as Gandhi saw it, was to make itself more and more unnecessary, by enabling people to do without it; not simply by eliminating its functions, but by encouraging self-reliance, personal responsibility and devotion to social welfare, while dispersing the means of administration among radically decentralized institutions through which the masses might learn the art of self-management. A true Independence Day could not be represented by the arbitrary date of British submission, but that time when each individual was self-governing and self-sufficient for his/her basic needs. Swaraj was the rule of nonviolence, order arising from freedom, not to pursue selfish passions and desires, but to submit voluntarily to the law of one’s being. That freedom was not a privilege or right guaranteed by constitution but a perpetual call to the soul. Swaraj was thus a moral principle, which embodied certain political principles and economic conditions: decentralism, village autonomy, self-sufficiency, voluntary poverty, and bread labor; it was a philosophy of work.