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Gandhi and the Politics of Non-Violence

Gandhi's life was history's longest experiment in nonviolent political action. The result of the experiment is fairly clear: An exploitative class structure cannot be broken without violence somewhere along the way. Property rights, defended by state violence, have never yielded to the peaceful pressure of the exploited class. Put in other terms, no exploiting class has ever left the stage of history without being pushed.
THE IDEAS of Mahatma Gandhi have had a lasting impact on the left, from the civil rights movement of the 1960s right through to the movements against corporate greed and racism that are developing today. Many see Gandhi as the embodiment of politically-effective pacifism.

The success of his nonviolent strategy, however, is largely a myth.

The most common version of the Gandhi myth is the simple assertion that a struggle based on pacifism forced the British out of India. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed this view many times when explaining the methods of the Civil Rights movement he led:

"This method was made famous in our generation by Gandhi, who used it to free his country from the domination of the British Empire."

King believed that:

"Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk."

This view of Gandhi's contributions has lent credibility to the principle of nonviolence in the fights against injustice around the world since then.

But the Indian revolt against British rule was anything but nonviolent. Gandhi's tactical ideas, moreover, had serious limitations as a guide to struggle. Movements that began under Gandhi's sponsorship often ended in premature retreats or escalated into physical confrontations. And the final ouster of the British in 1947 can't be counted as a victory for Gandhi's methods, since India's independence came as the movement was shoving Gandhi and his nonviolent philosophy to the political margins.

Gandhi, nevertheless, did make major contributions to the movement. Most crucial was his success in leading masses of people into struggle against British rule -- something he did better than any other Indian leader. But while Gandhi's political leadership was the spark for these struggles, it was not their cause. The struggles arose from real, deep grievances against British rule, and the masses, once mobilized, showed repeatedly that they were willing to adopt militant tactics when nonviolent ones didn't work.

I urge all of you peace fetishizers to read this debunking of the "nonviolent" tactic of social change (written by Meneejeh Moradian and David Whitehouse):

homepage: homepage: http://www.isreview.org/issues/14/Gandhi.shtml

Or, to put it ANOTHER way... 27.Oct.2002 01:20

American Points

In state penitentiary parlance, Gandhi, although a good inspirer, would be known as "a little punk-bitch" to the millionaires of the world, or a true "house nigga" to field slaves of the US south.

Gee, wouldn't it just be DREAMY if the genocidal billionaires of the modern world would just respect us for our minds? <--(sarcasm)

green monster again 27.Oct.2002 08:05


Sounds like you wish you were a billionaire...

Marines (FWR) aren't known for their brains 27.Oct.2002 10:04


Don't feed the troll, people. Just keep moving... nothing to see here...

Only Respect overt POWER!!! 27.Oct.2002 17:48


"American Points" is right, it really *does* matter how others view and think about you. I do personally seek the--"props" is it AP?--of the super rich; I only wish I could be as sharing as Bill Gates (though, he did have to be *taught* how to be giving in philanthropy school, aka, Lakeside Academy in $eattle, Washington area)

I agree, the state penn is the most civil and humane place to be in the United States.

I'm with you Points, what good are "principles" if no one else is going to respect them? One might as well support the most powerful principles and in this case, AN EYE FOR AN EYE is the best choice, damn the blindness.

Lastly--American Points for president in 2004 (or whenever, we just need the strong and wise "leadership")

HERE is what *must* be overthrown . . . 28.Oct.2002 17:28


plu*toc*ra*cy Pronunciation Key (pl-tkr-s)
n. pl. plu*toc*ra*cies
Government by the wealthy.
A wealthy class that controls a government.
A government or state in which the wealthy rule.
[Greek ploutokrati : ploutos, wealth; see pleu- in Indo-European Roots + -krati, -cracy.]
pluto*crat (plt-krt) n.
pluto*cratic or pluto*crati*cal adj.
pluto*crati*cal*ly adv.

Source: The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition


\Plu*toc"ra*cy\, n. [Gr. ?; ? wealth + ? to be strong, to rule, fr.? strength: cf. F. plutocratie.] A form of government in which the supreme power is lodged in the hands of the wealthy classes; government by the rich; also, a controlling or influential class of rich men.
Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1996


n : a political system governed by the wealthy people
Source: WordNet 1.6, 1997 Princeton University

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

A Plutocracy is a government system where wealth is the principal basis of power (from the Greek ploutos meaning wealth).

The influence of wealth on governance can be expressed either via the wealthy classes directly governing, or (more typically) by the wealthy classes using money to control the government. This control can be exerted positively (by financial "contributions" or in some cases, bribes) or negatively by refusing to financially support the government (refusing to pay taxes, threatening to move profitable industries elsewhere, etc).

There have not been many examples of a "true" plutocracy in history as such, although they typically emerge as one of the first governing systems within a territory after a period of anarchy. Plutocracy is closely related to Aristocracy  http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aristocracy as a form of government, as generally wealth and nobility have been closely associated throughout history.

In the present era, there are numerous cases of wealthy individuals exerting financial pressure on governments to pass favourable legislation. Most western partisan democracies permit the raising of funds by the partisan organisations, and it is well-known that political parties frequently accept significant donations from various individuals (either directly or through corporate institutions). Ostensibly this should have no effect on the legislative decisions of elected representatives, however it would be a bit idealistic to believe that no politicians are influenced by these "contributions". The more cynical might describe these donations as "bribes", although legally they are not.

See also:

Pareto principle (on unequal distribution of wealth)
corporate police state


"Plutocracy" Defined

The term "plutocracy" is formally defined as government by the wealthy, and is also sometimes used to refer to a wealthy class that controls a government, often from behind the scenes. More generally, a plutocracy is any form of government in which the wealthy exercise the preponderance of political power, whether directly or indirectly.

Plutocracy may also have social and cultural aspects. Thus, in Democracy for the Few  http://progressiveliving.org/who_rules_samples.htm political scientist Michael Parenti is led to comment "American capitalism represents more than just an economic system; it is an entire cultural and social order, a plutocracy, a system of rule that is mostly by and for the rich. Most universities and colleges, publishing houses, mass circulation magazines, newspapers, television and radio stations, professional sports teams, foundations, churches, private museums, charity organizations, and hospitals are organized as corporations, ruled by boards of trustees (or directors or regents) composed overwhelmingly of affluent businesspeople. These boards exercise final judgment over all institutional matters."

The question of whether or not the United States could be said to be a plutocracy is discussed at length in Who Rules America  http://progressiveliving.org/who_rules_samples.htm by sociologist G. William Domhoff. There Domhoff remarks: "The idea that a relatively fixed group of privileged people might shape the economy and government for their own benefit goes against the American grain. Nevertheless, this book argues that the owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant power figures in the United States. Their corporations, banks, and agribusinesses come together as a corporate community that dominates the federal government in Washington. Their real estate, construction, and land development companies form growth coalitions that dominate most local governments."

The argument to the effect that the US is a functional plutocracy (that is, that the wealthy exercise a preponderance of American political power) is different from, enormously better documented, and altogether more credible, than claims to the effect that there exists a small circle of conspirators bent on ruling the world, claims for which no credible evidence exists. (Domhoff explicitly disavows the existence of any such conspiracy.)


See the resource on the Bush cabinet, with links that illustrate its plutocratic nature
Go to the Essay on Politics
Go to the PL Political Field Guide
Return to the PL Site Map

Some other enlightening and useful links:

Corporate Capitalist Plutocracy

The Plutocratic Presidency, 17892002

The Corporate Domination of American Culture and Politics

HERE is what *must* be overthrown . . .
HERE is what *must* be overthrown . . .

another lesson from history 29.Oct.2002 00:26

spring bronze

no violent revolution has ever produced significant
change in the human rights situation.

can you name me even one? china: becamse a military dictatorship,
millions of people dead, or in slave labor prison camps.
russia: see china. USA: civil war ended slavery but
hundreds of thousands of people were dead, furthermore
African American people were so oppressed after the war
that millions of them left for the north, and still
voting was not allowed until 100 years after the civil war.
South Africa: ok, now that is different problem, because it was violence.

but nelson mandela wrote a book about it, called
'long walk to freedom'. a vast number of ANC people
were anti-violence including the great leader chief luthuli.
at the meeting where they decided to start MK (terrorist arm)
, there was huge debates about it, quite a large number of
those folks were 100% against violence. ANC
was separated from the MK (terrorist organization)
for this reason. mandela also delinated different
types of violence and was extremely clear about how
all steps possible should be taken to never have
anyone die. the first type of violence they did
was sabotage, ie blowing up empty buildings.

but in the end even mandela understood very well some things
that most pro-violence american kids do not. he never
sought to humiliate his enemies. he also never sought
to kill people. he knew that 99% of the work would be
in dialog, negotiation, protests, lawsuits, demonstrations,
international political pressure, and on and on and on,
and that violence was a tiny part. (but he felt it
was necessary of course, otherwise he wouldnt do it)
even manedla, who said he used nonviolent tactics not out of morality,
but simply because they achieved better results.
mandela also recruited ex-military people, had his 'troops'
undergo military training (and had some himself),
and tried to build something with order and discipline.

now, compare mandelas attitude with the average 'fsu' angry
cop hating 'lets break stuff' kid on the streets of america. a mind poisoned with
15+ years of gi joe, transformers, gobots, schwarzennegger movies, reaganism,
a 'kill or be killed' american mentality, ruthless competition
as a core moral value, law of the jungle, violent movies,
violent video games, violence as entertainment, violence
as heroic, violence as sexy, etc etc etc etc etc .

that happened in south africa too. mandela told the
whites that if they didnt make a deal the kids would
be so enraged they would openly rebel (ie there would
be a civil war, as many thought). but that is the point
mandela was there to make the deal because he had
negotiating skills and understood many things besides

what do we have, where is our mandela? we dont have one
just angry kids who hate police. they dont understand
a damn thing about violence, it is sad. for them
it is a game, a joke, a creative outlet for their anger.
this is exactly the type of violence where innocents
are most likely to get killed. even the MK with its
supposedly moral goals wound up killing lots of civilians,
such as in a pub bombing when many civilians were killed.
for these american kids, they dont really understand
the bigger picture of how things can change, or why,
or what is needed (not that i do), and have not even
bothered to think much about change or how it will happen,
or even how their violence will fit into this.
their view of violence is a way to have fun and express
themselves and be naughty and get an adrenaline rush and
make themselves feel good ... when in fact they are
accomplishing nothing but undirected bashing of
whatever is on hand, not caring who gets hurt or what
effect it has outside of their own personal feelings.
for logic they have rudimentary 3000BC 'vengeance' or 'eye for eye'
ideas that civilized people threw out hundreds of years ago.

forgot to say 29.Oct.2002 01:05

axle grease

violence is an elitist weapon. 99% of 'the people'
abhor violence. they only condone it when 'absolutely necessary'.
according to killology.com in WWII soldiers literally
would not fire their weapons b/c of natural antiviolence
instinacts. how many? EIGHTY PERCENT. thats how many.
that is why the pentagon has spent millions, billions?
of dollars to 1. train soldiers to become more accepting
of violence 2. wage massive propaganda campaigns about
how violence is absolutely necessary 3. wage propganda
campaigns about how violence is being limited as much
as possible to military targets. 4. wage propagnada
campaigns depicting violence in a positive light, linking
it to freedom, democracy, home town values, etc. you can see this
in the gulf war quite easily with all the press censorship.
you can see it in the laundrymat in the non-yuppie part
of town where 'money for college' posters are all over
the cork board. you can see it in high schools, in recruiting
centers, etc etc etc.

But you might also notice that the pentagon is spending
these huge sums of money not on weapons or guns (although it does)
but on what amounts to basically non-violent action.
The pentagon is using massive nonviolent action, ie media
campaigns, propaganda, and so forth, in order to push its viewpoint.
That is because the Pentagon knows what Mandela knew,
and what Hitler probably knew too:
the real struggle is not on a battlefield, it is in
the hearts and minds of the great majority of people.
You must absolutely win the confidence and hopefullness
of average people in any conflict of any type. All they
want is to live their lives, survive, and have
hope that they are choosing the winning side in any
insane conflicts that pop up. This is what every
government has to fight against, it has to convince them
that IT is going to win, but of cousre it cant,
so most governments force people into combat (the draft,
conscription, whatever), and thus they win the
hearts of the average person, for the average person
feels that to oppose the war is the same as opposing
their loved one/friend/neighbor/whoever that got
forced into fighting for the government. But even this
needs to be explained and propagandized extensively,
with army funding movies about 'how its not all that
bad at the front' with comedians and USO shows and so
forth being shown to people back home. Also extensive
contact is provided between soldiers and home, as well
as the all-important medal, or decoration for survival,
or the also important regal burial ceremonies. All
of this amounts to basically a propaganda campaign
waged on the people, to get them to join the government
in their hearts and minds.

Thus non violent tactics are actually an extremely
important part of warfare itself, even the most
imperialistic bloody conflicts, such as the US
commits from time to time, could not move an inch
without this huge propaganda network brainwashing
the populace into supporting war. But that
actually is good for anti-war people, because it means
all they have to do to fight against war is to
have a better propaganda machine, to win the hearts
and minds of the populace that war is unnecessary,
to make people think that warfare leads to losing,
always, that there are alternatives to war,
and that those alternatives are not crazy liberal
bullcrap, but that they actually mean somehting
and actually work as well as violence seems to.
For people continually say 'well we have to use violence
there is no other choice. we hate war but we have no choice'
These people are not stupid, they just dont have
faith in peace, they just have been attacked
so many times by the pentagon propaganda machine
that they come to beleive all the stuff it keeps
telling them about the wonderful world of violence
and warfare and how much freedom and democracy it
has spread. That is why they go to their factory
jobs in the defense plants, building widgets and
doodads for airplanes and guns and mess halls and
so forth. Their thoughts spread out through watercoolers,
oped pieces in school newspapers, church conversations,
cafe conversations, who they vote for, what issues
candidates can bring up in the elections (war, no war),
if they support defense plants/bases coming to their
town, if they agree to get defense contracts from
the govt, etc etc etc etc. They are convinced they
are doing the right and necessary thing even though
its not something to celebrate. But if they could
only be convinced the other way, which can only
be done through dialog and understanding and communication...
they will turn the other way, the pentagon , with
all its wonderful bombs and missiles and ships, will
have no idea what to do, for even the biggest
military force in the history of the earth cannot
do a damn thing without the philosophical, emotional,
and political support of its home populace.

it has had to worry about this since at least wwii
or maybe before, although im no expert,,,, but many
military leaders play politics alongside their wargames,
such as the snubbing of patton in WWII europe invasion,
and post WWII.... the actions against mccarthur during
Korea, the entire vietnam 'waffling' behavior, and
even reagan had to come on and explain why we would
be selling iranian arms to a buncha jungle rebels in nicaragua.
he could not just ignore it.

so i guess what i am saying is that even the most powerful
military violent forces on the planet or in history
have to worry about things that hve nothing to do
with violence: thus non-violence must be an integral
and primary part of any 'change' movement, particularly
against a militaristic government... in fact
that is perhaps the greatest 'weak spot' of a military
machine... not its organization or its oil supply
or its superior technology, but simply the morale
of the 80% of troops that are not on front lines,
who make supply chains... and the much much larger
numbers who are farming, gatheirng, building,
mining, and in general supporting the acts
of the military itself. the morale of these people
is what drives war, not titanium alloys or
stealth compounds or computer theatre threat
displys or whatever. if you take away the morale
of the people that the war is proper and justified,
then all that technology is like a heap of
empty meaningless boxes and pointy objects. useless.

the military way to destroy morale has even been
nonviolent; massive leafleting or maybe radio braodcasts
and so forth have been done at least since wwii by
the us forces.... propaganda films, propaganda
everything, all are essentially nonviolent ways
to persuade people thru argument or whatnot that
you think different from them and they should try out
your way.

ok, actually some very cruel
raids in germany, like Dresden, or the 'shoot
anything that moves' missions chuck yeager describes
in his autobiography, those were violent ways
to terrorize and demoralize the civilian population
so they would stop supporting hitler. but really
they end up hating the americans too dont they?

fascinating linked article but 29.Oct.2002 09:37

bella to

the article basically says that 'the INC didnt go
communist so it is their fault 1 million people died
during pakistan-india partition'. thats nice except if
u want to start blaming deaths on political party then
maybe you should say 'the soviets didnt go anarchist so
its his fault 20 million people died' or same of Mao. or
other communist dictators.

i also dont see how the conclusion of the article are proper.
not once does it mention gandhi's attitudes towards communism.
this is sort of important imho if one is writing an article
about how gandhi killed 1 million people because he wasnt
a communist. maybe he had a reason? how many would have
been killed if an indian stalin had risen to power?

"Gandhi's life was history's longest experiment in
nonviolent political action. The result of the experiment
is fairly clear: An exploitative class structure cannot
be broken without violence somewhere along the way"

this was not what the paper proved at all. to prove this
the paper would have to find violent political actions that
actually did break exploitative class structures. i cant
think of any, can you?

"Carpet-bombing civilian targets, showering thousands of anti-personnel weapons into rice paddies, or inflicting a starvation blockade upon an entire population, to take three examples, have been characteristic tactics of bourgeois war. Indeed, their use is a good reason to overthrow the bourgeois order. Conversely, it's hard to conceive of them as tactical options in a movement that aims at the liberation of ordinary people.\
movements that aim at the liberation of ordinary people
have quite often used brutal and disgusting tactics, because
as violent warriors they nearly always come to the conclusion
that they must do what is necesssary for the greater good
by sacrificing morality and the lives of some 'nobodies'.
mao and stalin are good examples but i bet there are others,
north vietnam or north korea perhaps. they always use
the excuse that they were at war against capitalism... but
funnily enough the capitalists always use the excuse they
were in a war against communism... so that is why they
kill millions of people. and somehow the leaders of these
two groups never seem to kill each other, rather they end
up sitting around the coffee table smiling and playing footsy (like roosevelt, churchill,
stalin during wwii, or like nixon and mao, or like the
entire corporate america and the present chinese regime).

furthremore, what does the word 'socialist' even mean anymore.
europe has many policies called socialist, or so does canada,
like health care. but on the other hand, the nazi part
is a 'socialist' party. the communist countries are called
'socialist'. and then again the american democrat poarties'
full name is 'socialist'. i am sure people who are familiar
with intellectualism will understand the specific meaning
as used in the paper, but 'ordinary people' might have
a hard time.