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Gandhi and the (establishment-supported) Myth of Effective Nonviolence

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. This view of Gandhi's contributions has lent a false 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.

The misconception of Gandhi as the one who kicked the British out of India was most effectively propagandized by Hollywood's Oscar-winning movie GANDHI, and more recently Michael Moore's excellent documentary BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE even mentions Gandhi as the widely-accepted prime example of effective nonviolent social change.

With such widespread (and establishment-supported) falsehoods concerning Gandhi's effectiveness at changing society without violence, I urge all of you peace fetishizers to read this thoughtful debunking of the "nonviolent" tactic of social change (written by Meneejeh Moradian and David Whitehouse):



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