Author Archive: Mohandas Gandhi

Gandhi was a prolific writer, his Collected Works now numbering 98 volumes. We have chosen, therefore, to post only those Gandhian texts relating to neglected aspects of his work. For example, his Constructive Programme (see below), was one of his chief concerns in the last ten years of his life, and yet has been misunderstood or ignored. His correspondence with Bart de Ligt is also relatively unknown (see also below), yet relates to controversies over whether or not satyagraha was a viable strategy against Nazi domination, a controversy far from being resolved.

“There is no such thing as Gandhism.”

by M. K. Gandhi

Editor’s Preface: In our continuing series on original texts, we are posting here Gandhi’s little known rejection of “Gandhism”. The editorial notes at the end give textual and other details. JG

Poster art courtesy Elevate to Great;

There is no such thing as Gandhism, and I do not want to leave any sect after me. I do not claim to have originated any new principle or doctrine. I have simply tried in my own way to apply the eternal truths to our daily life and problems. There is therefore no question of my leaving any code behind like the code of Manu [an ancient Hindu Lawgiver]. There cannot be any comparison between that lawgiver and me. The opinions I have formed and the conclusions I have arrived at are not by any means final. I may change them tomorrow if I find better ones.

I have nothing new to teach the world. Truth and nonviolence are as old as the hills. All I have done is to try experiments in both, on as vast a scale and as best as I could. In doing so I have sometimes erred and learnt by my errors. Life and its problems have thus become to me a series of experiments in the practice of truth and nonviolence. By instinct I have been truthful, but not necessarily nonviolent. As a Jain Muni [Jain holy man] once rightly said, I was not so much a votary of Ahimsa as I was of Truth, and that I put the latter in the first place and the former in the second. For, as he phrased it, I was capable of sacrificing nonviolence for the sake of truth. In fact, it was in the course of my pursuit of Truth that I discovered Nonviolence. Our scriptures have declared that there is no Dharma [law] higher than truth. But nonviolence they say is the highest duty. The word Dharma, in my opinion, has a different connotation as used in the two aphorisms.

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Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place

by M. K. Gandhi

Editor’s Preface: We are presenting here the full text of Gandhi’s Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place, published on March 11, 1941 (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House). Although for decades he had been airing these views, this last version consolidated his ideas into something of a manifesto that, he hoped, would shape the campaigns and purpose of his later years. Gandhi conceived of satyagraha as having two branches, the Constructive Programme and nonviolent Civil Disobedience, and after decades of civil resistance campaigns had increasingly turned his attention to social action, local community development, self-improvement schemes, education and the like, which he attempts to codify here. Although this pamphlet was written and published near the end of his life, Gandhi had already articulated these views, as early as his South African campaigns, and before his return to India in 1918. The Constructive Programme also had a profound influence on the post-Gandhian, Indian nonviolent movement, now referred to, somewhat misleadingly, as the Sarvodaya Movement, although it was many movements interpreting Gandhi in diverse ways. See also the textual note at the end of the article, for further bibliographical information. JG


Cover of first printing; courtesy

The constructive programme may otherwise and more fittingly be called construction of Poorna Swaraj or Complete Independence by truthful and nonviolent means. (1) Efforts for the construction of Independence so called through violent and, therefore, necessarily untruthful means we know only too painfully. Look at the daily destruction of property, life, and truth in the present war.

Complete Independence through truth and nonviolence means the independence of every unit, be it the humblest of the nation, without distinction of race, colour or creed. This independence is never exclusive. It is, therefore, wholly compatible with interdependence within or without. Practice will always fall short of theory even as the drawn line falls short of the theoretical line of Euclid. Therefore, complete Independence will be complete only to the extent of our approach in practice to truth and nonviolence.

Let the reader mentally plan out the whole of the constructive programme, and he will agree with me that, if it could be successfully worked out, the end of it would be the Independence we want. Has not the Colonial Secretary Leo Amery said that any agreement between the major parties will be respected? We need not question his sincerity, for, if such unity is honestly, i.e., nonviolently, attained, it will in itself contain the power to compel acceptance of the agreed demand.

On the other hand there is no such thing as an imaginary or even perfect definition of Independence through violence. For it presupposes only ascendancy of that party of the nation which makes the most effective use of violence. In it perfect equality, economic or otherwise, is inconceivable.

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Gandhi On Economics

by M. K. Gandhi

Editor’s Preface: Several of our articles, most recently “Mahila Shanti Sena”, have made reference to Gandhi’s economic theory. The following compilation of quotes will give a flavor of his thinking. Please consult the note at the end for links regarding this aspect of Gandhi’s thought. JG

Economics & Ethics

Book cover courtesy

I must confess that I do not draw a sharp or any distinction between economics and ethics. Economics that hurt the moral wellbeing of an individual or a nation are immoral and, therefore, sinful. Thus the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral. (Young India, 13-10-1921, p. 325)

The economics that disregard moral and sentimental considerations are like wax works that, being life-like, still lack the life of the living flesh. At every crucial moment new-fangled economic laws have broken down in practice. And nations or individuals who accept them as guiding maxims must perish. (Young India, 27-10-1921, p. 344)

That economics is untrue which ignores or disregards moral values. The extension of the law of non-violence in the domain of economics means nothing less than the introduction of moral values as a factor to be considered in regulating international commerce. (Young India, 26-10-1924, p. 421)

Ideal Economy

According to me the economic constitution of India and, for that matter, the world should be such that no one should suffer from want of food and clothing. In other words, everybody should be able to get sufficient work to be able to make ends meet . . . And this ideal can universally be realized only if the means of production of the elementary necessaries of life remain in the control of the masses. These should be freely available to all as God’s air and water are or ought to be; they should not be made vehicle of traffic for the exploitation of others. This monopolization by any country, nation or group of persons would be unjust. The neglect of this simple principle is the cause of destitution that we witness today not only in this unhappy land but other parts of the world too. (Young India, 15-11-1928, p. 381)

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The Mahatma Gandhi / Bart de Ligt Public Correspondence On Peace and War

In the years immediately following World War I, Western pacifists were seeing with alarming clarity the possibility of another war, and speaking out with increasing urgency against militarism. Having suffered through the trauma of appalling destruction, pacifist writing in the 1920s and 1930s has the aura of a survival myth. The advent of Gandhian satyagraha presented pacifists with a possible strategy for averting tragedy, as an antidote to war, and moved Bart de Ligt to write publicly and openly to Gandhi, to enlist him in the pacifist cause. Gandhi’s nonviolence was never a fixed principle; was ever evolving. The Salt March of March 1930, which some see as pivotal to the development of Gandhian nonviolent resistance, had not yet taken place when these letters were published. On the one hand, there are pacifists determined to staunch the advent of another daimonic war, and on the other hand there is Gandhi in a death struggle with the British for Indian independence, his nonviolence, by his own admission, imperfect. De Ligt’s call for Gandhi to reject war, to commit satyagraha to the ending of war was a prophetic call. [JG]

Letter One: Bart de Ligt to Gandhi; May, 1928.

Most venerated Gandhi:

Without doubt, there is no man who attracts the attention of the modern world as you do. And you are certainly worthy of this admiration because you have been able in a wise, heroic way to awaken everywhere confidence in that moral force which slumbers in each individual. To oppose the severe oppression of so-called Christian civilization, and the violence of proud and pretentious Westerners, you have awakened in the East immense spiritual forces, making it seem that Christ reigns over your “pagan” world rather than in our official Christian churches. You have not only proclaimed the gospel of non-resistance — or spiritual warfare — but you have yourself practiced it and have paid with your own person.

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The Mahatma Gandhi / Vladimir Tchertkov Public Correspondence On Peace and War

Tolstoy family gathering, 1905; Tchertkov to Tolstoy’s right; photographer unknown.

My article, “My Attitude Towards War”, published in Young India, 13th September 1928, has given rise to much correspondence with me and in the European press that is interested in war against war. In the personal correspondence there is a letter from Tolstoy’s friend and follower, V. Tchertkov, which, coming as it does from one who commands great respect among lovers of peace, the reader will like me to share with him. Here is the letter:

Personal Letter from Vladimir Tchertkov

Your Russian friends send you their warmest greetings and best wishes for the further success of your devoted service for God and men. With the liveliest interest do we follow your life, the work of your mind, and your activity, and we rejoice at each of your successes. We realize that all that you attain in your own country is at the same time also our attainment, for, although under different circumstances, we are serving the one and the same cause. We feel a great gratitude to you for all that you have given and are giving us by your person, the example of your life, and your fruitful social work. We feel the deepest and most joyous spiritual union with you.

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Lok Sevak Sangh: The Servants of the People

by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Gandhi, c.1948; public domain image, courtesy; photographer unknown.

After Indian independence, Gandhi advocated the dissolution of the main political party, the Indian National Congress, which he had previously led. The struggle had shifted, he said, from securing independence to seeing to the needs of the people. Party politics could not serve this purpose and so he conceived of more localized structures to be called Lok Sevak Sangh, or the Servants of the People. Just weeks before his assassination, Gandhi drafted a constitution for Lok Sevak Sangh, which Geoffrey Ostergaard refers to in his article also posted today. Lok Sevak Sangh has not been given enough attention, but bears comparison with anarcho-syndicalism, the Muslim Brotherhood’s social program, or the current emphasis of the Occupy Movement on social programs. The draft constitution was published on 15 January 1948. Two weeks later, on 30 January, Gandhi was assassinated.


The Draft Constitution:

Though split into two, India having attained political independence through means devised by the Indian National Congress, the Congress in its present shape and form, i.e., as a propaganda vehicle and Parliamentary machine, has outlived its use. India has still to attain social, moral and economic independence in terms of its villages as distinguished from its cities and towns.

The struggle for the ascendancy of civil over military power is bound to take place in India’s progress towards its democratic goal. It must be kept out of unhealthy competition with political parties and communal bodies. For these and other similar reasons, the AICC resolves to disband the existing Congress organization and flower into Lok Sevak Sangh, the Servants of the People, under the following rules with power to alter them as occasion may demand.

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“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