Home Nonviolent defense Mahatma Gandhi, the peacemaker – The Hindu

Mahatma Gandhi, the peacemaker – The Hindu


Gandhi viewed the problem of peace as an ethical rather than a political issue.

Gandhi viewed the problem of peace as an ethical rather than a political issue.

Mahatma Gandhi was mindful that world peace is not possible without the spiritual growth of mankind. So far, the 22 years of the 21st century have not been peaceful. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine poses the greatest threat to world peace since the end of the Cold War. Many believe that mankind will never achieve peace. But we all know that peace is the result of a long process of compassionate dialogue and tireless caring across cultural, religious and political boundaries.

Gandhi viewed the issue of peace as an ethical rather than a political issue. For him, the important thing was to be on the side of the righteous. In a letter published in Harijan on December 9, 1939, he wrote: “Moral influence would be used on the side of peace… My nonviolence recognizes different kinds of violence—defensive and offensive.” It is true that in the long run the difference disappears, but the initial merit persists. A non-violent person is bound, when the occasion arises, to say which side is right. So, I wished the Abyssinians, Spaniards, Czechs, Chinese and Poles success, although in each case I wished they could have offered non-violent resistance… But who am I? I have no strength except what God gives me. I have no authority over my compatriots except purely morally. If God considers me a pure instrument for the propagation of non-violence… He will… show me the way…”

A peace strategy

This letter explains a lot about Gandhi’s psychology as a moral wartime leader. It also clearly shows that he was a man of peace, who, beyond the violent values ​​of his time, could fight for non-violence and dialogue between nations. Based on this assumption, it appears that the most appropriate way to interpret Gandhi’s endorsement of violence over cowardice is to view him as a coherent thinker of peace. It would therefore be wrong to say that there were gradual changes in his views on war and peace.

If it is accepted that Gandhi always had a strategy of peace even when he wrote about violence rather than cowardice, one can establish a continuity between his writings on war and peace at different stages of his struggle. Gandhi wrote: “I believe that where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence… But I believe that non-violence is infinitely superior to violence, forgiveness is more manly than punishment… But… forgiveness only when there is the power to punish…. A mouse hardly forgives a cat when it allows itself to be torn to pieces by it. I therefore appreciate the sentiment of those who call for the condemn punishment of General Dyer and his ilk. They would tear him to pieces if they could. But I don’t believe that India is a helpless creature. Only I want to use India’s strength and my strength for a better purpose. That said, Gandhi never dissociated non-violence from violence, neither in reality nor as major concepts of his political philosophy. Therefore, one can understand his position, when he asserted that an action “can take on the appearance of violence” and yet be “absolutely non-violent in the highest sense”.

Many famous critics of Gandhi’s nonviolence have pointed out the powerlessness of Gandhi’s nonviolence in the face of totalitarian regimes. Hannah Arendt said, “If Gandhi’s immensely powerful and successful strategy of nonviolent resistance had encountered a different enemy – Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, even pre-war Japan, instead of England – the result would not have been decolonization, but slaughter and subjugation. .” However, unlike Arendt, Gandhi believed that without a concrete ethical foundation, politics could not function in a democratic and non-violent way.

The political task

Thus, for Gandhi, the essential task of politics was to bring about moral progress. While Hitler believed in eliminating morality from politics, for Gandhi it was very important that the moral legitimacy of nonviolence be a peacemaking strategy. This is why Gandhi is impossible to classify in terms of conventional categories of peace studies and conflict resolution. Gandhi remains an original thinker on peacebuilding and also an astute peacebuilder.

From Gandhi’s perspective, non-violence is an ontological truth that stems from the unity and interdependence of humanity and life. While violence damages and undermines all forms of life, non-violence uplifts all. Gandhi therefore advocated an awareness of the essential unity of humanity, and this awareness required a critical self-examination and a shift from self-centeredness to a “shared humanity”. This “shared humanity” cannot exist today if it is not aware of its own shortcomings. It must strive to eliminate its own imperfections, in order to be able to foster a pluralistic peace. Needless to say, in an age of increasing “globalization of selfishness”, there is an urgent need to read and put into practice Gandhi’s social and political philosophy in order to re-evaluate the concept of peace.