Gandhi on Socialism & Communism
from Essential Gandhi
edited by Louise Fischer
[Gandhi’s hostility to violence an untruth, his objection to the omnipotent State, which embodies both, and his economic ideas made him anti-Communist.]
I do not believe … that an individual may gain spiritually as those who surround him suffer … I believe in the essential unity of man and … of all that lives. Therefore, I believe that if one man gains … the whole world gains with him, and if one man falls, the whole world falls to that extent. I do not help opponents without at the same time helping myself & my co-workers.
Bolshevism is the necessary result of modern materialistic civilization. Its insensate worship of matter has given rise to a school which has been brought up to look upon materialistic advancement as the goal of life and which has lost touch with the final things in life … I prophesy that if we disobey the law of the final supremacy of spirit over matter, of liberty & love over brute force, in a few years’ time we shall have Bolshevism rampant in this land which was once so holy.
Whilst I have the greatest admiration for the self-denial & spirit of sacrifice of our [Communist] friends, I have never concealed the sharp difference between their method & mine. They frankly believe in violence & all that is in its bosom.
Their one aim is material progress … I want freedom for the full expression fo my personality. I must be free to build a staircase to Sirius is I want to…
…I look upon an increase of the power of the State with the greatest fear because, although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality which lies at the root of all progress…
I do not believe in the doctrine of the greatest good for the greatest number. It means in its nakedness that in order to achieve the supposed good of fifty-one percent the interest of forty-nine percent may be, or rather should be, sacrificed. It is a heartless doctrine & has done harm to humanity. The only real, dignified, human doctrine is the greatest good of all, & this can be achieved only by uttermost self-sacrifice.
No action which is not voluntary can be called moral. So long as we at like machines there can be no question of morality. If we want to call an action moral it should have been done consciously & as a matter of duty. Any action that is dictated by fear or by coercion of any kind ceases to be moral.
Democracy & violence can go ill together. The States that are today nominally democratic have either to become frankly totalitarian or, if they are to become truly democratic, they must become courageously non-violent. It is a blasphemy to say non=violence can be practiced only by individuals & never never nations which are composed of individuals.
I am too conscious of the imperfections of the species to which I belong to be irritated against any member thereof. My remedy is to deal with the wrong wherever I see it, not to hurt the wrong-doer, ever as I would not like to be hurt for the wrongs I continually do.
The Communists seem to make trouble-shooting their profession. I have friends among them. Some of them are sons to me. But it seems they do not make any distinction between fair & foul, truth & falsehood. They deny the charge. But their reported acts seem to sustain it. Moreover, they take their instructions from Russia, whom they regard as their spiritual home … I cannot countenance this dependence on an outside power.
[The] means to me are just as important as the goal, & in a sense more important in that we have some control over them, whereas we have none over the goal if we lose control over the means.
Nothing … should be done secretly. This is an open rebellion … A free man would not engage in a secret movement.
[On one of Gandhi’s silent Mondays, a group of fifteen “Socialist” students visited him. Gandhi jotted down replies to their questions on slips of paper , his practice on days of silence.]
Now tell me how many of you have servants in your homes? [They said a servant in each home.] And you call yourselves Socialists while you make others slave for you! It is a queer kind of Socialism which, I must say, I cannot understand. If you will listen to me, I will say, do not involve yourselves in any ism. Study every ism. Ponder & assimilate what you have read & try to practice yourself what appeals to out of it. But for heavens sake, do not set out to establish any ism. The first step in the practice of Socialism is to learnt o use your hands & feet. It is the only sure way to eradicate violence & exploitation form society. We have no right to talk of Socialism so long as there is hunger & unemployment & the distinction between high & low amongst us & around us.
Socialism is a beautiful word & so far as I am aware in Socialism all the members of society are equal — none low, none high. In the individual’s body the head is not high because it is at the top … nor are the soles of the feet low because they touch the earth. Even as members of the individuals body are equal so are the members of society …
In [Socialism] the prince & the peasant, the wealthy & the poor, the employer & the employee are all on the same level … In order to reach this state we may not look on this philosophically & say we need not make a move until all are converted to Socialism. Socialism begins with the first convert … This Socialism is pure as crystal. It therefore requires crystal-like means to achieve it. Impure means result in impure end. Hence the prince & the peasant will not be equalled by cutting off the prince’s head nor can the process of cutting off equalize the employer & the employed. One cannot reach truth by untruthfulness. Truthful conduct alone can reach truth. Harbor impurity of mind or body & you have untruth & violence in you.