Gandhi’s Clarification of Satyagraha as Holding to Truth

“You asked me why I consider that God is Truth . . . I would also say with those who say that God is Love, ‘God is Love.’ But deep down in me I used to say that though God may be Love, God is Truth above all. I have now come to the conclusion that for myself God is Truth, but two years ago I went a step further and said Truth is God. And I came to that conclusion after a continuous and relentless search after Truth, which began nearly fifty years ago. I then found that the nearest approach to Truth was through Love.”
M. K. Gandhi


Shanti Sena: The Peace Army of India

by Asha Devi Aryanayakam

Editor’s Preface: This article is taken from The War Resister, issue 92, Third Quarter 1961. We have posted a number of other articles on Shanti Sena, which may be accessed via our search function. Notes about the author, references, and acknowledgments are found at the end. JG

“Soldiers Painting Peace”; mural by Banksy; courtesy

The conception of a Peace Brigade or a Peace Army was first placed before the Indian people by Gandhi in 1938. He was then engaged in the great experiment of reconstructing Indian national life through nonviolence. The movement for political independence was only a part of the story. The monster of communal tension had just begun to rear its ugly head and the Peace Army was Gandhi’s answer to the problem. With his characteristic straightforwardness, he placed his proposal in down-to-earth practical terms without any philosophical introduction.

As he wrote, ‘Some time ago I suggested the formation of a Peace Brigade (Shanti Sena), whose members would risk their lives in dealing with riots, especially communal. The idea was that this brigade should substitute for the police and even the military. This sounds ambitious. The achievement may prove impossible.’

Gandhi then suggested qualifications for the volunteers, which are mentioned by Donald Groom in his contribution to this issue of the War Resister [posted below under this date]. As Gandhi wrote, ‘Let no one understand from the foregoing that a nonviolent army is open only to those who strictly enforce in their lives all the implications of nonviolence. It is open to all those who accept the implications and make an ever increasing endeavour to observe them. There never will be an army of perfectly nonviolent people. It will be formed of those who will honestly endeavour to observe nonviolence.’ (Harijan, 21.7.1940.)

Read the rest of this article »

The Peace Brigade Volunteer: What is Expected

by Donald G. Groom

Editor’s Preface: This article is taken from The War Resister, issue 92, Third Quarter 1961. We have posted a number of other articles on Shanti Sena, which may be accessed via our search function. Notes about the author, references, and acknowledgments are found at the end. JG

“Shanti/Peace” in Sanskrit; courtesy

In my view there are two main aspects of the World Peace Brigade, that of individual and group action carrying out service or direct peace action; the other the supporting action of thousands and millions who have heartfelt sympathy with its purposes. All will have faith in the revolutionary power of love and compassion in all spheres of human activity and in the innate goodness of man, even though the upholding of this faith may involve suffering and death. But those people who are chosen for direct involvement in the problems of human suffering, tension, fear and all forms of violence would have to function at a different level and demonstrate the power of nonviolence for peacemaking which could only come through a high quality of life and discipline. What is expected therefore from such volunteers?

Read the rest of this article »

Danilo Dolci’s Nonviolent Revolution in Sicily

by Prof. Giovanni Pioli

Dolci organzing the fishermen of Trappeto, 1952; courtesy

Editor’s Preface: This article continues our series of historically important articles from the War Resisters’ International archive, our goal to trace the influence of Gandhian nonviolence on the early pacifist movements. This is from The War Resister, issue 71, Second Quarter 1956. We have previously published articles by or about Dolci, one of the great exponents of Gandhi’s constructive program. These may be accessed via our search box. Please consult the notes at the end for further information. JG

Pamphlets, bulletins and books have now been written by Danilo Dolci and the valiant men and women who join him for a time to share his experience, his poverty, his distress and his hard labour for the uplift of those submerged, demoralised ‘criminal’ masses who struggle — even beyond legal limits — for the bare necessities of life. Italian social workers, pacifists, and humanitarians respect this literature, dealing with conditions in Trappeto and Partinico, situated in the Province of Palermo, Sicily — infamous as a centre of Sicilian banditry and the mafia.

Read the rest of this article »

Spinning for Freedom: On How Viewing Khadi as Theatre Unravels the Narrative of Mahatma Gandhi

by Dr. Susan S. Bean

Painting of Gandhi, c. 1945, by J. L. Bhandari; courtesy

Prologue: The story of khadi (homespun) and its creator Mohandas Gandhi is well known in India and around the world. In his political campaign for Indian self-determination (swaraj), Gandhi famously promoted the practices of making thread through spinning by hand, and wearing simple khadi garments – not only as key symbols of national identity, but also as a central statement of resistance to the colonial regime. As writer, producer and director, Gandhi instigated a national drama centred on the roles of spinner and khadi-wearer. Made from hand-spun yarn, his khadi would emerge from India’s handlooms not just to costume the nation but also to change the essential character of its people, altering colonial subjects into ‘citizens’. Seen as theatre, the narrative of khadi reveals how Gandhi transformed this cloth into much more than a mere textile, and how khadi exerted transformative and long lasting effects in India’s national movement. The drama of khadi illuminates the potency and tenacity inherent in this humble homespun cloth; already having proved itself within the framework of the freedom struggle, the story of khadi still resonates more than sixty years after India gained Independence. (1)

Read the rest of this article »

Islam and World Peace

by H. Ahmed

Editor’s Preface: This article is from The War Resister, issue 70, First Quarter 1956, and continues our series of essays on nonviolence in Islam. Please consult our Islam category for further articles. Reference and acknowledgments are at the end. JG

“Islam is Peace”; courtesy

In the limited space at my disposal, I will concern myself with the fundamental principles of pacifism in Islam, as taught by the great Prophet of Arabia. As in the case of almost all the other religions, Islam has also been betrayed by its followers, so much so that the other day I came across a rather blunt remark that there is no place for nonviolence in Islam and that Islam does not advocate the establishment of world peace. And it is very often that we come across such remarks.

There is a bar to all knowledge, and that is contempt prior to investigation. Any scholar who studies the original Islam without preconceived ideas will realise that Islam is also a religion of peace and that it also advocates pacifism. It aims at the welfare and prosperity of every human being without the difference of caste, creed, colour or nationality. The teachings of Islam lead one to the golden rule of “Live and let live for mutual forbearance and tolerance”. The Prophet of Arabia declared, “Faith is restraint against all violence”. Further exhorting his followers to non-violence, he said, “Let no Muslim commit violence!” Can there be a clearer injunction than this?

Read the rest of this article »

Gandhi’s Better Angels: A Vision for a Nonviolent Future

by Max Cooper

Cover art courtesy

Amongst the scores of letters he attended to every day, Mahatma Gandhi responded to one V.N.S. Chary, on April 9, 1926. Chary’s original letter does not survive, but we may reconstruct from the Mahatma’s response that he raised a particular existential question that has long troubled many practitioners of nonviolence: Is overcoming violence really possible? Is violence not simply an ineluctable feature of embodied existence and human nature? Questions in this spirit have a long history, having been explored by thinkers such as Heraclitus, Freud, Nietzsche, and others, who have often emphasized the essential duality of worldly existence – of the mutual necessity of opposites – for good to exist, so must evil; to know peace, perhaps we must know violence.

In his letter, Mr. Chary appears to have cited examples from the animal world: Hawks eat snakes; snakes eat lizards; lizards eat cockroaches, who themselves eat ants. This violence is simply natural, and it occurs perhaps for a greater good. If beings did not eat other beings, life on earth would not be possible. Beyond Chary’s points, we might also reflect that even our own human bodies are unavoidably violent; besides periodically crushing or inhaling insects unawares, our own white blood cells are constantly exterminating malignant bacteria; if they failed to kill these bacteria, we would die. Is violence not necessary for life, and should we not see it as unreasonable, or indeed impossible, to hope for a renunciation of violence?

Read the rest of this article »

Gandhi: The Great Spirit

by H. Runham Brown

Editor’s Preface: H. Runham Brown was a British anarchist and secretary of War Resisters’ International. He was appointed in 1931, soon after being released from prison, having served two years for conscientious objection. He authored books about peace and the Spanish civil war, and Hitler’s rise. This article is taken from The War Resister: Quarterly News Sheet of the War Resisters’ International, issue XXXI, Summer 1932. Please also see the archive reference information and acknowledgments at the end. JG

Few people in the West can understand why a man should go on a hunger strike. It appears to them that he is only hurting himself and they would rather hurt somebody else. We do not here ask that so strange an action should be understood, but that a fact should be taken notice of. From time to time a man in prison refuses to take food until his objective has been attained. He is forcing the issue. Such action may be wise or foolish; it depends on the man.

Read the rest of this article »

Gandhi and the Indian Nationalist Struggle

by A. Fenner Brockway

Editor’s Preface: Brockway’s short article appeared in The War Resister: Quarterly News Sheet of the War Resisters’ International, issue XXVII, Winter 1930-1931. It is another in our series tracing Gandhi’s impact on European and American individuals and movements, and is also another posting in our WRI project category, accessible at this link. Please also consult the notes at the end for biographical information about Brockway, archive reference, and acknowledgements.  JG

The method of nonviolence as a positive instrument for securing freedom and justice is being employed in India on a scale never before attempted in human history. The development and results of the Nationalist struggle will be of greatest importance to the future of our movement as a practical contribution to the solution of the world’s problems.

The Indian people have adopted the method of nonviolence for two reasons. With Mr. Gandhi and his immediate followers it has been a matter of principle. Mr. Gandhi sees brute force as the instrument of tyranny and its mentality as the philosophy of tyranny; he cannot therefore adopt it as the instrument and philosophy of freedom. But with many of Mr. Gandhi’s colleagues, nonviolence has been a matter of expediency. The Indian people are unarmed; the British have guns and armoured cars and bombing aeroplanes. Under such conditions the method of force would be suicidal.

Read the rest of this article »

Letter to Mahatma Gandhi

by Vladimir Tchertkoff

Editor’s Preface: The prominent religious figure Vladimir Tchertkoff was Tolstoy’s editor in the latter part of Tolstoy’s life. This letter, dated 9 March 1931 is taken from The War Resister: Quarterly News Sheet of the War Resisters’ International, issue XXIX, Summer 1931, and is another in our WRI project. We have also previously posted several articles by Tchertkoff, including unpublished correspondence with Gandhi and a previously unpublished Tolstoy translation. Please consult the Editor’s Note at the end for further biographical information and links. Tchertkoff’s other articles may be accessed via our WRI Project category. JG

Dear Mahatma Gandhi,

Allow me, on behalf of myself and our Moscow friends, to express our deep and heartfelt joy at your liberation from prison. We earnestly desire for you the necessary strength to continue your righteous and great work. May God help India to attain as quickly as possible that emancipation from foreign dominance that she so fervently desires. We yet more desire for you and ourselves the emancipation of everyone, not only from foreign oppression, but particularly from all servitude of man to man, even though it be within the limit of one and the same race; and especially from the last remnants of that superstition that one can [anymore] protect any righteous cause by force of arms or military preparations.

Read the rest of this article »

Message to India

by Mohandas Gandhi

Pencil drawing of Gandhi, 1931, by Kanu Desai; courtesy Golden Vista Press

Editor’s Preface: This article, another in our WRI project, is from The War Resister: Quarterly News Sheet of the War Resisters’ International, issue XXVII, Winter 1930-1931. Pre-World War II, European pacifists were slow to come under the influence of Gandhi. They had disavowed violence in all its forms, but were not always sure that Gandhian satyagraha was an equal commitment. WRI consistently supported Indian independence and self-rule, and about this aspect of Gandhism there was no ambivalence. Please also see the archive reference information and acknowledgments at the end. JG

Here in Gujarat well tried and popular public servants have been arrested one after another, and yet the people have been perfectly nonviolent. They have refused to give way to panic, and have celebrated the arrests, by offering civil disobedience in ever-increasing numbers. This is just as it should be.
If the struggle so auspiciously begun is continued in the same spirit of nonviolence to the end, not only shall we see Purna Swaraj [complete independence] in our country before long, but we shall also have given the world an object lesson worthy of India and her glorious past.

Swaraj [self-rule] won without sacrifice cannot last long. I would therefore like our people to get ready to make the highest sacrifice they are capable of. In true sacrifice all the suffering is on one side; one is required to master the art of getting killed without killing, of gaining life by losing it. May India live up to this mantra . . .

Read the rest of this article »

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi