There is perhaps no one in this world whose life is not impacted by the ideas of both Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Karl Marx. Barring the Gods, there is perhaps no one with influence at par with these two men. In their own unique ways both ideated upon, as well as fought oppression. Karl Marx attempted the first scientific critique of capitalism. According to him philosophers had interpreted the world in various ways, the point however was to change it. For this change Marx gave the idea of revolution- a violent insurrection for complete change in a short span. For Marx ’violence’ was the midwife of change, for there was no birth in the world without bloodshed. In contrast, truth and non-violence was the creed, the way of life of M.K. Gandhi. For him if the aim was to establish Ram Rajya, the methods can’t be those of Ravan. Thus, on the question of violence as means to fight oppression, both differed fundamentally. But, it must be noted here that in the last Gandhian mass movement that is the ‘Quit India Movement’ Gandhi implicitly allowed the use of violence. It was the final nail in the coffin of the mighty British empire.
Revolutions lived up to their potential in the 18th and 19th century. The French revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848 were the high watermark in the saga of revolutionary protests. The Russian Revolution of 1917 was perhaps the greatest of all revolutions. But, since then there has been a waning utility of revolutions in the political toolkit. It is employed every now and then but without any success. In fact the state responds with suppression which is both absolute as well as profound. The repression of the Tiananmen Square protests being a classic example.
Contrast this with the Gandhian methods. These methods were successfully deployed in North America as well as South Africa by Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela respectively. They not only successfully fought an oppressive system but brought a change which had wider acceptance as well as greater legitimacy. Martin Luther King Jr. once remarked, “To other countries, I may go as a tourist but to India I come as a pilgrim… if this age is to survive, it must follow the way of love and nonviolence that [Gandhi] so nobly illustrated in his life.”
Violence though a useful political tool has little political utility. It doesn’t ensure mass participation. It is loathsome and creates a feeling of disgust. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi himself “I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” For Gandhi whatever be one's sympathies or convictions, violence is a poor means to an unsatisfactory end. Even for Marx, violence was not an arbitrary tool to be used whimsically, rather it was an organic impulse after development of revolutionary consciousness. However with greater intent on violence than the development of revolutionary consciousness, the followers of Marx only betray his ideas.
The genesis of peaceful protests too can be traced back to Gandhi. The ideals of Gandhi have been so deeply imbibed amongst us Indians that non violent peaceful protests (satyagraha) are the most sought after political recourse. This is not limited only to India. Martin Luther King Jr. said about the peaceful protests, “Gandhian method of non violence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom”.
All of these principles were in full display in the recently concluded Republic Day celebrations marred by ugly scenes of unruly violent behaviour by some alleged protestors. It has done an unrepairable damage to the farmer movement which was gaining strength with time. Just a few stray incidents of violence and the visuals of toppling of the Tiranga on the auspicious occasion of 72nd Republic Day has put a question mark on the authenticity of the entire protests. Delhi Police while displaying exemplary restraint has won over hearts and accolades. Suddenly, now the protestors have lost considerable popular sympathy. Demands are raging for arrest of the protesting leaders. The government is certainly back in control. This is nothing but Gandhian methods triumphing over those of Marx. The same can be said of the wholesome condemnation of Trump’s supporters who seized the Capitol in Washington DC.
Today protests are de-regueur. However, protests are not easy to sustain. Even Gandhi recalled his protests mid-way viz. the non cooperation movement as well as the civil disobedience movement whenever they took a violent turn. Gandhi was not only a master politician or strategist but also a skilled psychologist. He understood mass psychology like no other. World over today, there is no dearth of protests, what is missing though is a Gandhi. It doesn’t take much time for things to spiral out of control and turn violent. A Marxian end to a Gandhian method is a contradiction, which comes with a heavy price. It is for this reason why Gandhi and not Marx works.
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