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recognition of American neutral rights by Britain and France, attempted
to employ the economic weapons of pre-revolutionary days. His embargo
upon American commerce and the later variants on that policy, designed
to force the belligerents to recognize the American position, actually
were more costly to American shippers than were the depredations of the
French and the British, so they forced a reversal of American policy.
The war against England that followed did not have the support of the
shipping interests, whose trade it was supposedly trying to protect. It
was more an adventure in American imperialism than it was an attempt to
defend neutral rights, so it can hardly be said to have grown out of the
issues which led to Jefferson's use of economic sanctions. The whole
incident proves that the country which attempts to use this method in
international affairs must expect to lose its own trade in the process.
The cause must be great indeed before such undramatic losses become

The same principle is illustrated in the attempt to impose economic
sanctions on Italy in 1935 and 1936. The nations who made a gesture
toward using them actually did not want to hinder Italian expansion, or
did not want to do so enough to surrender their trade with Italy. The
inevitable result was that the sanctions failed.

The success of non-violent coercion is by no means assured in every
case. It depends upon (1) the existence of a grievance great enough to
justify the suffering that devolves upon the resisters, (2) the
dependence of the opposition on the cooperation of the resisters, (3)
solidarity among a large enough number of resisters, and (4) in most
cases, the favorable reaction of the public not involved in the
conflict. When all or most of these factors have been present,
non-violent coercion has succeeded in our western society. On other
occasions it has failed. But one who remembers the utter defeat of the
Austrian socialists who employed arms against Chancellor Dolfuss in 1934
must admit that violent coercion also has its failures.[52]


[51] Louis Martin Sears, _Jefferson and the Embargo_ (Durham, N. C.:
Duke University, 1927); Julius W. Pratt, _Expansionists of 1812_ (New
York: Macmillan, 1925).

[52] De Ligt, 131. For other statements concerning the virtual
impossibility of violent revolution today see De Ligt, 81-82, 162-163;
Horace G. Alexander, "Great Possessions" in Gerald Heard, _et. al._,
_The New Pacifism_ (London: Allenson, 1936), 89-91; Huxley, _Ends and
Means_, 178-179; Lewis, _Case Against Pacifism_, 112-113.


There is a distinction between those who employ non-violent methods of
opposition on the basis of expediency and those who refuse to use
violence on the basis of principle. In the minds of many pacifists the
movement for Indian independence under the leadership of Mohandas K.
Gandhi stands out as the supreme example of a political revolt which has
insisted on this principle, and hence as a model to be followed in any
pacifist movement of social, economic, or political reform. Gandhi's
Satyagraha, therefore, deserves careful analysis in the light of
pacifist principles.

Western critics of Gandhi's methods are prone to insist that they may be
applicable in the Orient, but that they can never be applied in the same
way within our western culture. We have already seen that there have
been many non-violent movements of reform within our western society,
but those that we have examined have been based on expediency.
Undoubtedly the widespread Hindu acceptance of the principle of
_ahimsa_, or non-killing, even in the case of animals, prepared the way
for Gandhi more completely than would have been the case in western

The Origins of Satyagraha

Shridharani has traced for us the origins of this distinctive Hindu
philosophy of _ahimsa_. It arose from the idea of the sacrifice, which
the Aryans brought to India with them at least 1500 years before Christ.
From a gesture of propitiation of the gods, sacrifice gradually turned
into a magic formula which would work automatically to procure desired
ends and eliminate evil. In time the Hindus came to believe that the
most effective type of sacrifice was self-sacrifice and suffering,
accompanied by a refusal to injure others, or _ahimsa_.[53] Only the
warrior caste of _Kshatriyas_ was allowed to fight. In his
autobiography, Gandhi brings out clearly the pious nature of his home
environment, and the emphasis which was placed there upon not eating
meat because of the sacred character of animal life.[54]

It is not surprising that a logical mind reared in such an environment
should have espoused the principle of non-killing. In his western
education Gandhi became acquainted with The Sermon on the Mount, and the
writings of Tolstoy and Thoreau, but he tells us himself that he was
attracted to these philosophies because they expressed ideas in which he
already believed.[55]

In fact, the Hindese have long employed the non-violent methods of
resistance which Gandhi has encouraged in our own day. In 1830, the
population of the State of Mysore carried on a great movement of
non-cooperation against the exploitation by the native despot, during
which they refused to work or pay taxes, and retired into the forests.
There was no disorder or use of arms. The official report of the British
Government said:

"The natives understand very well the use of such measures to
defend themselves against the abuse of authority. The method most
in use, and that which gives the best results, is complete
non-co-operation in all that concerns the Government, the
administration and public life generally."[56]

In about 1900 there was a great movement of non-cooperation under the
leadership of Aurobindo Ghose against the British Government in Bengal.
Ghose wanted independence and freedom from foreign tribute. He called
upon the people to demonstrate their fitness for self-government by
establishing hygienic conditions, founding schools, building roads and
developing agriculture. But Ghose had the experience Gandhi was to have
later. The people became impatient and fell back on violence; and the
British then employed counter-violence to crush the movement

The term "Satyagraha" itself was, however, a contribution of Gandhi. It
was coined about 1906 in connection with the Indian movement of
non-violent resistance in South Africa. Previously the English term
"passive resistance" had been used, but Gandhi tells us that when he
discovered that among Europeans, "it was supposed to be a weapon of the
weak, that it could be characterized by hatred and that it could finally
manifest itself as violence," he was forced to find a new word to carry
his idea. The result was a combination of the Gujerati words _Sat_,
meaning truth, and _Agraha_, meaning firmness - hence "truth force," or
as it has been translated since, "soul force."[58]


[53] Shridharani, _War Without Violence_, 165-167.

[54] M. K. Gandhi, _The Story of My Experiments with Truth_, translated
by Mahadev Desai and Pyrelal Nair (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Press,
1927-1929), the earlier portions of Vol. I.

[55] _Ibid._, I, 322; Shridharani, 167.

[56] Quoted by De Ligt, _Conquest of Violence_, 89.

[57] _Ibid._, 89-90.

[58] Gandhi, _Experiments with Truth_, II, 153-154.

The Process of Satyagraha

Shridharani, who considers himself a follower of Gandhi, has given us a
comprehensive analysis of Satyagraha as a mass movement. He begins his
discussion with this statement of the conditions under which it is

"Satyagraha, as an organized mass action, presupposes that _the
community concerned has a grievance which practically every member
of that community feels_. This grievance should be of such large
proportions that it could be transformed, in its positive side,
into a 'Cause' rightfully claiming sacrifice and suffering from the
community on its behalf."[59]

This necessity for community solidarity is often overlooked by followers
of Gandhi who advocate reforms by means of non-violent direct action in
our western society. Given the grievance of British rule, Shridharani
believes that the Hindese were willing to accept Satyagraha first
because, unarmed under British law, no other means were available to
them, and then because they were predisposed to the method because of
the Hindu philosophy of non-violence and the mystic belief that truth
will triumph eventually since it is a force greater than the

The first step in Satyagraha is negotiation and arbitration with the
adversary. Under these terms Shridharani includes the use of legislative
channels, direct negotiations, and arbitration by third parties.[61] In
reading his discussion one gets the impression that under the American
system of government the later stages of Satyagraha would never be
necessary, since the Satyagrahi must first exhaust all the avenues of
political expression and legislative action which are open to him. If
any sizeable group in American society displayed on any issue the
solidarity required for successful use of this method, their political
influence would undoubtedly be great enough to effect a change in the
law, imperfect though American democracy may be.

The second step in Satyagraha is agitation, the purpose of which is to
educate the public on the issues at stake, to create the solidarity that
is needed in the later stages of the movement, and to win acceptance, by
members of the movement, of the methods to be employed.[62] According to
Fenner Brockway, the failure of Satyagraha to achieve its objectives is
an indication that the people of India had not really caught and
accepted Gandhi's spirit and principles.[63] This means that on several
occasions the later stages of Satyagraha have been put into action
before earlier stages of creating solidarity on both purpose and method
have been fully completed. Despite Gandhi's tremendous influence in
India, the movement for Indian independence has not yet fully succeeded.
In view of the fact that so many of the people who have worked for
independence have failed to espouse Gandhi's principles whole-heartedly,
if independence be achieved in the future it will be difficult to tell
whether or not it was achieved because the Indian people fully accepted
these principles. Many seem to have done so only in the spirit in which
the American colonists of the eighteenth century employed similar
methods during the earlier stages of their own independence

Only after negotiation and arbitration have failed does Satyagraha make
use of the techniques which are usually associated with it in the
popular mind. As Shridharani puts it, "Moral suasion having proved
ineffective the Satyagrahis do not hesitate to shift their technique to
compulsive force."[65] He is pointing out that in practice Satyagraha is
coercive in character, and that all the later steps from mass
demonstrations through strikes, boycotts, non-cooperation, and civil
disobedience to parallel government which divorces itself completely
from the old are designed to _compel_ rather than to _persuade_ the
oppressors to change their policy. In this respect it is very similar to
the movements of non-violent resistance based on expediency which were
considered in the preceding section.


[59] Shridharani, 4. Italics mine.

[60] _Ibid._, 192-209.

[61] _Ibid._, 5-7.

[62] _Ibid._, 7-12.

[63] A. Fenner Brockway, "Does Nonco√ґperation Work?" in Devere Allen
(Ed.), _Pacifism in the Modern World_ (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday,
Doran, 1929), 126.

[64] Nehru in his autobiography expresses strong differences of opinion
with Gandhi at many points. In one place he says: "What a problem and a
puzzle he has been not only to the British Government but to his own
people and his closest associates!... How came we to associate ourselves
with Gandhiji politically, and to become, in many instances, his devoted
followers?... He attracted people, but it was ultimately intellectual
conviction that brought them to him and kept them there. They did not
agree with his philosophy of life, or even with many of his ideals.
Often they did not understand him. But the action that he proposed was
something tangible which could be understood and appreciated
intellectually. Any action would be welcome after the long tradition of
inaction which our spineless politics had nurtured; brave and effective
action with an ethical halo about it had an irresistible appeal, both to
the intellect and the emotions. Step by step he convinced us of the
rightness of the action, and we went with him, although we did not
accept his philosophy. To divorce action from the thought underlying it
was not perhaps a proper procedure and was bound to lead to mental
conflict and trouble later. Vaguely we hoped that Gandhiji, being
essentially a man of action and very sensitive to changing conditions,
would advance along the line that seemed to us to be right. And in any
event the road he was following was the right one thus far; and, if the
future meant a parting, it would be folly to anticipate it." Jawaharlal
Nehru, _Toward Freedom_ (New York: John Day, 1942), 190-191.

[65] Shridharani, 12. He lists and discusses 13 steps in the development
of a campaign of Satyagraha, pp. 5-43.

The Philosophy of Satyagraha

It seems clear that Satyagraha cannot be equated with Christian
pacifism. As Shridharani has said, "In India, the people are not
stopping with mere good will, as the pacifists usually do, but, on the
contrary, are engaged in direct action of a non-violent variety which
they are confident will either mend or end the powers that be," and,
"Satyagraha seems to have more in common with war than with Western

Gandhi's campaign to recruit Indians for the British army during the
First World War distinguishes him also from most western pacifists.[67]
In an article entitled "The Doctrine of the Sword," written in 1920,
Gandhi brought out clearly the fact that in his philosophy he places the
ends above the means, so far as the mass of the people are concerned:

"Where the only choice is between cowardice and violence I advise
violence. I cultivate the quiet courage of dying without killing.
But to him who has not this courage I advise killing and being
killed rather than shameful flight from danger. I would risk
violence a thousand times rather than the emasculation of the race.
I would rather have India resort to arms to defend her honour than
that she should in a cowardly manner remain a helpless victim of
her own dishonour."[68]

Both pacifists and their opponents have noted this inconsistency in
Gandhi's philosophy. Lewis calls Gandhi "a strange mixture of
Machiavellian astuteness and personal sanctity, profound humanitarianism
and paralysing conservatism."[69] Bishop McConnell has said of his
non-violent coercion, "This coercion is less harmful socially than
coercion by direct force, but it is coercion nevertheless."[70] And C.
J. Cadoux has declared:

"The well-known work of Mr. Gandhi, both in India today and earlier
in Africa, exemplifies rather the power of non-co-operation than
Christian love on the part of a group; but even so, it calls for
mention ... as another manifestation of the efficacy of non-violent
methods of restraint."[71]

Gandhi's own analysis of his movement places much emphasis on the
mystical Hindu idea of self-inflicted suffering. In 1920, he said,
"Progress is to be measured by the amount of suffering undergone by the
sufferer."[72] This idea recurs many times in Gandhi's writings. The
acceptance of such suffering is not easy; hence his emphasis upon the
need of self-purification, preparation, and discipline. Because of the
violence used by many of his followers during the first great campaign
in India, Gandhi came to the conclusion that "before re-starting civil
disobedience on a mass scale, it would be necessary to create a band of
well-trained, pure-hearted volunteers who thoroughly understood the
strict conditions of Satyagraha."[73]


[66] _Ibid._, xxvii, xxx.

[67] Speech at Gujarat political conference, Nov., 1917, quoted by Case,
_Non-violent Coercion_, 374-375. See also Shridharani, 122, note.

[68] Quoted in Lewis, _Case Against Pacifism_, 107. A slightly different
version is reprinted in Nehru, _Towards Freedom_, 81.

[69] Lewis, _Case Against Pacifism_, 99. He goes on to say, "He is
anti-British more than he is anti-war. He adopts tactics of non-violence
because that is the most effective way in which a disarmed and
disorganized multitude can resist armed troops and police. He has never
suggested that when India attains full independence it shall disband the
Indian army. The Indian National Congress ... never for one moment
contemplated abandoning violence as the necessary instrument of the
State they hoped one day to command." Pp. 99-100.

[70] Francis J. McConnell, _Christianity and Coercion_ (Nashville:
Cokesbury Press, 1933), 46.

[71] Cadoux, _Christian Pacifism_, 109.

[72] _Young India_, June 16, 1920, quoted by Shridharani, 169.

[73] Gandhi, _Experiments_, II, 509-513.

The Empirical Origins of Gandhi's Method

Gandhi's autobiography brings out the origins of many of his ideas. We
have already noted the importance of his Hindu training. He arrived
empirically at many of his specific techniques. For instance, he
describes in some detail a journey he made by coach in 1893 in South
Africa, during which he was placed on the driver's seat, since Indians
were not allowed to sit inside the coach. Later the coachman desired his
seat and asked him to sit on the footboard. This Gandhi refused to do,
whereupon the coachman began to box his ears. He describes the rest of
the incident thus:

"He was strong and I was weak. Some of the passengers were moved to
pity and they exclaimed: 'Man, let him alone. Don't beat him. He is
not to blame. He is right. If he can't stay there, let him come and
sit with us.' 'No fear,' cried the man, but he seemed somewhat
crestfallen and stopped beating me. He let go my arm, swore at me a
little more, and asking the Hottenot servant who was sitting on the
other side of the coachbox to sit on the footboard, took the seat
so vacated."[74]

He had a similar experience in 1896 when his refusal to prosecute the
leaders of a mob which had beaten him aroused a favorable reaction on
the part of the public.[75] Gradually the principle developed that the
acceptance of suffering was an effective method of winning the sympathy
and support of disinterested parties in a dispute, and that their moral
influence might go far in determining its outcome.

On his return to India after his successful campaign for Indian rights
in South Africa, Gandhi led a strike of mill workers in Ahmedabad. He
established a set of rules, forbidding resort to violence, the
molestation of "blacklegs," and the taking of alms, and requiring the
strikers to remain firm no matter how long the strike took - rules not
too different from those that would be used in a strike by an
occidental labor union.[76] Speaking of a period during this strike
when the laborers were growing restive and threatening violence, Gandhi

"One morning - it was at a mill-hands' meeting - while I was still
groping and unable to see my way clearly, the light came to me.
Unbidden and all by themselves the words came to my lips: 'Unless
the strikers rally,' I declared to the meeting, 'and continue the
strike till a settlement is reached, or till they leave the mills
altogether, I will not touch any food.'"

Gandhi insisted that the fast was not directed at the mill owners, but
was for the purification of himself and the strikers. He told the owners
that it should not influence their decision, and yet an arbitrator was
now appointed, and as he says, "The strike was called off after I had
fasted only for three days."[77] The efficacy of the fast was thus borne
in on Gandhi.

In the Kheda Satyagraha against unjust taxation, which was the first big
movement of the sort in India, Gandhi discovered that "When the fear of
jail disappears, repression puts heart into people." The movement ended
in a compromise rather than the complete success of Gandhi's program. He
said of it, "Although, therefore, the termination was celebrated as a
triumph of Satyagraha, I could not enthuse over it, as it lacked the
essentials of a complete triumph."[78] But even though Gandhi was not
satisfied with anything less than a complete triumph, he had learned
that when a people no longer fears the punishments that an oppressor
metes out, the power of the oppressor is gone.[79]


[74] _Ibid._, I, 268-269.

[75] Of the incident he says, "Thus the lynching ultimately proved to be
a blessing for me, that is for the cause. It enhanced the prestige of
the Indian community in South Africa, and made my work easier.... The
incident also added to my professional practice." _Ibid._, I, 452-457.

[76] _Ibid._, II, 411-413.

[77] _Ibid._, II, 420-424.

[78] _Ibid._, II, 428-440.

[79] See the quotation from Gandhi in Shridharani, 29.


It will be impossible for us here to consider in detail the great
movements of non-cooperation on which Gandhi's followers have embarked
in order to throw off British rule. In 1919 and again in the struggle of
1920-1922, Gandhi felt forced to call off the non-cooperation campaigns
because the people, who were not sufficiently prepared, fell back upon
violence.[80] In the struggle in 1930, Gandhi laid down more definite
rules for Satyagrahis, forbidding them to harbor anger, or to offer any
physical resistance or to insult their opponents, although they must
refuse to do any act forbidden to them by the movement even at the cost
of great suffering.[81] The movement ended in a compromise agreement
with the British, but the terms of the agreement were never completely
carried out. Repressive measures and the imprisonment of Gandhi checked
the non-cooperation movement during the present war, at least


[80] Gandhi, _Experiments_, II, 486-507; Shridharani, 126-129.

[81] The rules, first published in _Young India_, Feb. 27, 1930, are
given by Shridharani, 154-157.


Gandhi also made use of the fast in 1919, 1924, 1932, 1933, 1939, and
1943 to obtain concessions, either from the British government or from
groups of Hindese who did not accept his philosophy.[82] Of fasting
Gandhi has said:

"It does not mean coercion of anybody. It does, of course, exercise
pressure on individuals, even as on the government; but it is
nothing more than the natural and moral result of an act of
sacrifice. It stirs up sluggish consciences and it fires loving
hearts to action."[83]

Yet Gandhi believed that the fast of the Irish leader, MacSweeney, when
he was imprisoned in Dublin, was an act of violence.[84]

In practice, Satyagraha is a mixture of expediency and principle. It is
firmly based on the Hindu idea of _ahimsa_, and hence avoids physical
violence. Despite Gandhi's insistence upon respect for and love for the
opponent, however, his equal insistence upon winning the opponent
completely to his point of view leads one to suspect that he is using
the technique as a means to an end which he considers equally
fundamental. He accepts suffering as an end in itself, yet he knows that
it also is a means to other ends since it arouses the sympathy of public
opinion. He regards non-cooperation as compatible with love for the
opponent, yet we have already seen that under modern conditions it is
coercive rather than persuasive in nature. Despite Gandhi's distinction
between his own fasts and those of others, they too involve an element
of psychological coercion. We are led to conclude that much of Gandhi's
program is based upon expediency as well as upon the complete respect
for every human personality which characterizes absolute pacifism.


[82] See the list given by Haridas T. Muzumdar, _Gandhi Triumphant! The
Inside Story of the Historic Fast_ (New York: Universal, 1939), vi-vii.

[83] _Ibid._, 89.

[84] _Ibid._, 90. Lewis quotes Gandhi thus: "You cannot fast against a
tyrant, for it will be a species of violence done to him. Fasting can

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