Gandhi: ASIAN PEACEBUILDER
By Robert Ellsberg
Gandhi believe that exploitation was made possible because by the active and passive cooperation of the exploited themselves. How else to explain that a single trading company, eventually reinforced by the thousand soldier, held hundreds of millions in captivity in their own lands? India’s moral weakness and visions of religion, caste, class, and language, were Britain's strength. Also, the nation’s educated were enthralled by Western culture and manner. A country that had been self- sufficient for food and clothing for a thousands of years and that of one principal of textile for centuries had been impoverished in the space of a hundred years. Land was taken up for the cultivation of cash crops like indigo; food was hoarded by the profiteers and famine for the first time swept over the countryside while wheat was exported to England. Peasants were forced to sell all their crops to pay massive taxes, only to re purchase their own food at increase prices. Government – supported moneylenders gave credit to farmers at staggering interest rates. The cottage textile industry was ruined with the importation of cheap English cloth made from Indian cotton. The village industries, which had supplies the peasant with 20- 60% of their basic needs, were destroyed. With nothing to replace these, industries the villages, once the cradle of Indian civilization, fell into ruin and stagnation. The cities, strongholds of British power and money, began to swell, draining the countryside of its population and wealth, as the country grew deeper into dependence on Britain.
How to respond to this? Resistance, certainly, but what kind? The essence of slavery is in the slave’s acceptance of that self-image. We must refuse to cooperate with the oppressors, not allowing his perception of us to determine our own self- image. To gain self respect and dignity is an assertion of independence. At the same time we must respect the individuality of the oppressors, refusing to indulge him in his own self –image. In the Indian context noncooperation not merely to boycott foreign goods and institution but to refuse to adopt the foreign ways and values of the oppressors and to develop a respect for our own. We must refuse to let our means to be determined by the means of oppressor. In the other word we ourselves refuse to exploits others. Gandhi pleaded that the liberation of the “untouchables” was thee key to; waraj (self rule). India could not subjugate these millions while pleading for the deliverance of the in-humanity of others.
Non cooperation meant, in essence, the refusal to acknowledge through participation slave- master relationships, or tutor- pupil, as Britain preferred to consider it. Gandhi foresaw that the end of British rule would date from the moment they were compelled to negotiate with the Indians as equal. This denial of opponent’s definition and categories was the most vital resistance. It was not necessary to push immediate total concession from Britain. The mere “consciousness of independence” would bring little solace to the poor and oppressed without independence in fact and the mere speech making would not change the actual economic dependence into the India have sunk. The nonviolent economic revolution was aimed ultimately not ending at British oppression (if so, any means would have been justified), but at bringing an end to oppression. This meant not promoting new master in placing of the old; the people must become a master of their own. This process is would be simultaneous with the decentralization of the economic and political base of the country-distribution among common people of the means of satisfying basic needs and determining political issues. Until then, who ruled from Delhi would make no actual difference in the act of dependence. A starving man would trade his liberty for a piece of bread, Gandhi observed. A way had to be found of responding to the immediate needs of the poor while simultaneously building the future.
Gandhi believed that the source of the strength and continuity of Indian tradition had been the village. The greatest accomplishment of the British imperialism had been the ruined of the village economy, prerequisite for the establishment of the mercantile relationship. The economic basis of freedom struggle as well as foundation for the future nonviolent society must be the revival of the village autonomy and self-sufficienty. Swaraj meant refusing to the exploiter. It meant economic equality- leveling down the few rich and the labeling up of the masses of helpless poor and independence for the villages for the crushing weight of the cities. The split between the town and country was the chief source of in equality in society. Centralization of production has meant the destitution of the masses and the decay of India. To reverse this process would weaken the foundation of imperialism and bring immediate relief to the poor millions.
To the astonishment of England, Gandhi proclaim that it would forced to relent to the weapon of peace, the charka, or spinning whee. If all have no choice but to leave without a fight. Nehru called khadi (hand spun cloth) the "livery of freedom".While manufacture of khadi was of course a practicalaspect of the boycott of foreign cloth, it was also something more. Gangdhi encouraged the boycott of cloth manufactured in Indian mills as well. Such capital intensive means of production in a land of idle millions was prompted, not by economic considerations, but by the greed , and was thus an instrument of exploitation. Khadi was the beginning of a silent economic revolution whose effects would extend beyond any short range political goals.