Mahatma Gandhi: the fake prophet – by Farooq Sulehria

by admin

Source: ViewPoint

During WW1 Gandhi took upon himself to play the recruiting agent to enlist Indians for British army. He could one day call himself ‘an anarchist’ while next day could visit Italy on Mussolini’s invitation and attended Balilla’s demonstration

When Burmese leader Aung Sang Su Kyi was recently released, she paid rich tributes to leader of the Indian liberation movement, Mahatma Gandhi.

Not very long ago, Barack Obama said if given a chance he would like to have a meal with his “real hero” Mahatma Gandhi, although the apostle of peace did not eat a lot.

Obama’s response came to a question from a ninth grade student at the Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, who asked him if he could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who it would be.

Obama’s tribute to Gandhi was hypocritical as well as ironical. Hypocritical in view of his Afghanistan war and dronning of Pakistan. Ironical, because Gandhi is the finest personification of this hypocrisy.

Revered as Mahatma (great saint), a moniker Rabindra Nath Tagore bestowed upon him, Gandhi is held in great esteem almost across the world. Hence, many a Gandhi-bhagat would shake their heads in disbelief if they find out that thus spoke Ahisma-prophet: ‘There can be no partnership between the brave and the effeminate. We are regarded as cowardly people. If we want to become free from that reproach, we should learn the use of arms.’

Prophet continues: ‘…we should have the ability to bear arms and use them….If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible dispatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the Army’.

These saintly commandments were addressed to Indians during the First World War as Gandhi took upon himself to play the recruiting agent to enlist Indians for imperial British army busy fighting the war. Perplexed Indian protested: how could a man of non-violence participate in war?.

Mahatma is good for nothing if he can not clarify such worldly confusions. Thus replied Mahatma: ‘I accept the benefits and protection of the British Empire, I have not tried to destroy it, why should I allow it to be destroyed?’

Among the worldly benefits ethereal Mahatma reaped were two war medals and the rank of Sergeant Major for his services in helping white armies crushing Zulu rebellion and winning Boer war in South Africa.

Hence, ‘Gandhi was the best policeman the Britishers had in India’, declared Member Parliament Ellen Wilkinson, after her official visit to India in 1932.

Our Ahisma-preaching Mahatma did not lend support to imperial wars only. Though he did not live long to see India going nuclear or capturing East Pakistan yet India had locked horns with Pakistan over Kashmir before he died. Instead of resisting Pakistan Ahisma-style, Gandhijee blessed Prime Minister Nehru’s decision to dispatch Indian troops to Srinagar. The Ahisma advice: ‘Discard every trace of violence from your heart,’ was good only when the purpose was to ‘give absolute protection to every English man, woman and child’.

Contradictory? Yes, but Viceroy of India Lord Irwin explains this contradiction: ‘He is a curious little devil-always working for an advantage. In all his actions I see the ‘bania’ (money lender, which Gandhi was by caste) predominating over the saint’.

Hence, he could one day call himself ‘an anarchist, but of another type’ while next day could visit Italy on Mussolini’s invitation where ‘anarchist-of-another-type’ could call upon the Duce and attended Balilla’s (Fascist Boys) demonstration.

Likewise, he could call himself a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jew. whatever. Err….there was one exception. He never called himself a (godless) Bolshevik. On the contrary, he claimed ‘If anything can possibly prevent this calamity (Bolshevism) descending upon our country, it isSatyagraha (non-violence)’.

Declared a ”fake prophet” by Leon Trotsky, Gandhi he could champion the cause of Harijans (untouchables) and broke the taboos by visiting their slums or taking bath at Harijans’ well. However, he would never eat out of untouchables hands after all being Sanatni (fundamentalist) Hindu ‘I believe in the Varnasharam Dharm (caste system).’

His saintly heart ached for women too. He encouraged women to educate and dwell his Asharam. But girls got to be careful not to attract boys elseMahatma would have them head-shaved. For proletariat and peasantry, the saintly advice was: ‘capital and labour need not be antagonistic to each other.’. After all, ‘Even in the most perfect world, we shall fail to avoid inequalities, but we can and must avoid strife and bitterness. There are numerous examples extant of the rich and the poor living in perfect friendliness. We have but to multiply such examples.’ Unfortunately, no report of ‘voluntary abdication’ by any ‘model landlord’ or multi-millionaire reached Gandhi until his death at his multi-billionaire disciple’s Birla House.

But didn’t he live like poor? True. But, as was quipped those good old days, ‘it costs a great deal of money to keep Gandhijee living in poverty’. And ‘great deal of money’ was ensured by Birlas and Tatas (Indian Rockefellers). This money not merely ensured to cover Gandhi’s ‘living-in-poverty’ costs but also guaranteed that radicals like Subhash Chandra Bose are cowed. Reverently called Netaji, Left-wing Bose, twice got elected president of Congress party defeating Gandhi’s faction. But Birla/Tata money helped Gandhi organise a coup. Bose, resigned Congress’ presidentship, fled India and formed Indian National Army (INA). Thousands of Indian soldiers in British army as well as Indian youth joined the INA. His popularity far surpassed Gandhi’s during the WW II as was evident by his election to the slot of Congress president. Bose’s legend as INA commander was not the first challenge that Gandhi faced as India’s ‘undisputed’ leader. In early 1930s, 23-year-old Bhagat Singh eclipsed Gandhi and his Congress by challenging British colonialists through his Hindustan Socialist Republican Army. Hanged to death, Bhagat Singh is to Indian sub-continent what Che is to Latin America. His popularity, during his short-lived struggle far surpassed Gandhi. As a matter of fact, it was the revolutionary and militant struggle inspired by Bhagat Singh and subsequently INA that liberated India. The text-book ‘cliche’ that Gandhi’s Ahisma forced British colonial masters to quit India is not merely trivialising of India’s (and Pakistan’s) revolutionary heritage but also an ignorant historical reductionism.

7 Comments to “Mahatma Gandhi: the fake prophet – by Farooq Sulehria”

  1. critic 2010-12-03 00:15

    I was curious, so I looked up Trotsky’s letter to the workers of india ( in which he called Gandhi a false prophet. In this letter, he says: “To realize such a policy a revolutionary party, basing itself on the vanguard of the proletariat, is necessary. Such a party does not yet exist in India.”

    It’s fascinating (and tragic) to me to see the left back in 1939 still plugging away at the “we ALL need to support a party that doesn’t exist yet!” meme. Here you have a brilliant, pragmatic politician – a true practitioner of the much touted by the left (but never yet practiced) indigenous, grassroots mass politics. After all, you can accuse Gandhi of being a member of the “conciliationist colonial bourgeoisie” but you must credit him for coming up with a truly original political philosophy deeply rooted in his local context. Yet despite all this, he is reviled for being a hypocrite because he doesn’t live up to some mythical standards of “revolutionary”.


    Leon Trotsky

    An Open Letter to the Workers of India

    (July 1939)

    Written: 25 July 1939.
    Source: New International [New York], Vol.5 No.9, September 1939, pp.263-266.
    Translated: New International.
    Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.
    Public Domain: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive 2005. This work is completely free to copy and distribute.

    Dear Friends:

    Titanic and terrible events are approaching with implacable force. Mankind lives in expectation of war which will, of course, also draw into its maelstrom the colonial countries and which is of vital significance for their destiny. Agents of the British government depict the matter as though the war will be waged for principles of “democracy” which must be saved from fascism. All classes and peoples must rally around the “peaceful” “democratic” governments so as to repel the fascist aggressors. Then “democracy” will be saved and peace stabilized forever. This gospel rests on a deliberate lie. If the British government were really concerned with the flowering of democracy then a very simple opportunity to demonstrate this exists: let the government give complete freedom to India. The right of national independence is one of the elementary democratic rights. But actually, the London government is ready to hand over all the democracies in the world in return for one tenth of its colonies.

    If the Indian people do not wish to remain as slaves for all eternity, then they must expose and reject those false preachers who assert that the sole enemy of the people is fascism. Hitler and Mussolini are, beyond doubt, the bitterest enemies of the toilers and oppressed. They are gory executioners, deserving of the greatest hatred from the toilers and oppressed of the world. But they are, before everything, the enemies of the German and Italian peoples on whose backs they sit. The oppressed classes and peoples – as Marx, Engels, Lenin and Liebknecht have taught us – must always seek out their main enemy at home, cast in the role of their own immediate oppressors and exploiters. In India that enemy above all is the British bourgeoisie. The overthrow of British imperialism would deliver a terrible blow at all the oppressors, including the fascist dictators. In the long run the imperialists are distinguished from one another in form – not in essence. German imperialism, deprived of colonies, puts on the fearful mask of fascism with its saber teeth protruding. British imperialism, gorged, because it possesses immense colonies, hides its saber teeth behind a mask of democracy. But this democracy exists only for the metropolitan center, for the 45,000,000 souls – or more correctly, for the ruling bourgeoisie – in the metropolitan center. India is deprived not only of democracy but of the most elementary right of national independence. Imperialist democracy is thus the democracy of slave owners fed by the lifeblood of the colonies. But India seeks her own democracy, and not to serve as fertilizer for the slave owners.

    Those who desire to end fascism, reaction and all forms of oppression must overthrow imperialism. There is no other road. This task cannot, however, be accomplished by peaceful methods, by negotiations and pledges. Never before in history have slave owners voluntarily freed their slaves. Only a bold, resolute struggle of the Indian people for their economic and national emancipation can free India.

    The Indian bourgeoisie is incapable of leading a revolutionary struggle. They are closely bound up with and dependent upon British capitalism. They tremble for their own property. They stand in fear of the masses. They seek compromises with British imperialism no matter what the price and lull the Indian masses with hopes of reforms from above. The leader and prophet of this bourgeoisie is Gandhi. A fake leader and a false prophet! Gandhi and his compeers have developed a theory that India’s position will constantly improve, that her liberties will continually be enlarged and that India will gradually become a Dominion on the road of peaceful reforms. Later on, perhaps even achieve full independence. This entire perspective is false to the core. The imperialist classes were able to make concessions to colonial peoples as well as to their own workers, only so long as capitalism marched uphill, so long as the exploiters could firmly bank on the further growth of profits. Nowadays there cannot even be talk of this. World imperialism is in decline. The condition of all imperialist nations daily becomes more difficult while the contradictions between them become more and more aggravated. Monstrous armaments devour an ever greater share of national incomes. The imperialists can no longer make serious concessions either to their own toiling masses or to the colonies. On the contrary, they are compelled to resort to an ever more bestial exploitation. It is precisely in this that capitalism’s death agony is expressed. To retain their colonies, markets and concessions, from Germany, Italy and Japan, the London government stands ready to mow down millions of people. Is it possible, without losing one’s senses, to pin any hopes that this greedy and savage financial oligarchy will voluntarily free India?

    True enough, a government of the so-called Labor Party may replace the Tory government. But this will alter nothing. The Labor Party – as witness its entire past and present program – is in no way distinguished from the Tories on the colonial question. The Labor Party in reality expresses not the interests of the working class, but only the interests of the British labor bureaucracy and labor aristocracy. It is to this stratum that the bourgeoisie can toss juicy morsels, due to the fact that they themselves ruthlessly exploit the colonies, above all India. The British labor bureaucracy – in the Labor Party as well as in the trade unions – is directly interested in the exploitation of colonies. It has not the slightest desire to think of the emancipation of India. All these gentlemen – Major Atlee, Sir Walter Citrine & Co. – are ready at any moment to brand the revolutionary movement of the Indian people as “betrayal”, as aid to Hitler and Mussolini and to resort to military measures for its suppression.

    In no way superior is the policy of the present day Communist International. To be sure, 20 years ago the Third, or Communist, International was founded as a genuine revolutionary organization. One of its most important tasks was the liberation of the colonial peoples. Only recollections today remain of this program, however. The leaders of the Communist International have long since become the mere tools of the Moscow bureaucracy which has stifled the Soviet working masses and which has become transformed into a new aristocracy. In the ranks of the Communist Parties of various countries – including India – there are no doubt many honest workers, students, etc.: but they do not fix the politics of the Comintern. The deciding word belongs to the Kremlin which is guided not by the interests of the oppressed, but by those of the USSR’s new aristocracy.

    Stalin and his clique, for the sake of an alliance with the imperialist governments, have completely renounced the revolutionary program for the emancipation of the colonies. This was openly avowed at the last Congress of Stalin’s party in Moscow in March of the current year by Manuilski, one of the leaders of the Comintern, who declared: “The Communists advance to the forefront the struggle for the realization of the right of self-determination of nationalities enslaved by fascist governments. They demand free self-determination for Austria … the Sudeten regions … Korea, Formosa, Abyssinia … .” And what about India, Indo-China, Algeria and other colonies of England and France? The Comintern representative answers this question as follows, “The Communists demand of the imperialist governments of the so called bourgeois democratic states the immediate [sic] drastic [!] improvement in the living standards of the toiling masses in the colonies and the granting of broad democratic rights and liberties to the colonies.” (Pravda, issue No.70, March 12, 1939.) In other words, as regards the colonies of England and France the Comintern has completely gone over to Gandhi’s position and the position of the conciliationist colonial bourgeoisie in general. The Comintern has completely renounced revolutionary struggle for India’s independence. It “demands” (on its hands and knees) the “granting” of “democratic liberties” to India by British imperialism. The words “immediate drastic improvement in the living standards of the toiling masses in the colonies”, have an especially false and cynical ring. Modern capitalism – declining, gangrenous, disintegrating – is more and more compelled to worsen the position of workers in the metropolitan center itself. How then can it improve the position of the toilers in the colonies from whom it is compelled to squeeze out all the juices of life so as to maintain its own state of equilibrium? The improvement of the conditions of the toiling masses in the colonies is possible only on the road to the complete overthrow of imperialism.

    But the Communist International has traveled even further on this road of betrayal. Communists, according to Manuilski, “subordinate the realization of this right of secession … in the interests of defeating fascism.” In other words, in the event of war between England and France over colonies, the Indian people must support their present slave owners, the British imperialists. That is to say, must shed their blood not for their own emancipation, but for the preservation of the rule of “the City” over India. And these cheaply to be bought scoundrels dare to quote Marx and Lenin! As a matter of fact, their teacher and leader is none other than Stalin, the head of a new bureaucratic aristocracy, the butcher of the Bolshevik Party, the strangler of workers and peasants.

    * * *

    The Stalinists cover up their policy of servitude to British, French and USA imperialism with the formula of “People’s Front”. What a mockery of the people! “People’s Front” is only a new name for that old policy, the gist of which lies in class collaboration, in a coalition between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. In every such coalition, the leadership invariably turns out to be in the hands of the right wing, that is, in the hands of the propertied class. The Indian bourgeoisie, as has already been stated, wants a peaceful horse trade and not a struggle. Coalition with the bourgeoisie leads to the proletariat’s abnegating the revolutionary struggle against imperialism. The policy of coalition implies marking time on one spot, temporizing, cherishing false hopes, engaging in hollow maneuvers and intrigues. As a result of this policy disillusionment inevitably sets in among the working masses, while the peasants turn their backs on the proletariat, and fall into apathy. The German revolution, the Austrian revolution, the Chinese revolution and the Spanish revolution have all perished as a result of the policy of coalition. [1] The self same danger also menaces the Indian revolution where the Stalinists, under the guise of “People’s Front”, are putting across a policy of subordinating the proletariat to the bourgeoisie. This signifies, in action, a rejection of the revolutionary agrarian program, a rejection of arming the workers, a rejection of the struggle for power, a rejection of revolution.

    In the event that the Indian bourgeoisie finds itself compelled to take even the tiniest step on the road of struggle against the arbitrary rule of Great Britain, the proletariat will naturally support such a step. But they will support it with their own methods: mass meetings, bold slogans, strikes, demonstrations and more decisive combat actions, depending on the relationship of forces and the circumstances. Precisely to do this must the proletariat have its hands free. Complete independence from the bourgeoisie is indispensable to the proletariat, above all in order to exert influence on the peasantry, the predominant mass of India’s population. Only the proletariat is capable of advancing a bold, revolutionary agrarian program, of rousing and rallying tens of millions of peasants and leading them in struggle against the native oppressors and British imperialism. The alliance of workers and poor peasants is the only honest, reliable alliance that can assure the final victory of the Indian revolution.

    * * *

    All peacetime questions will preserve their full force in time of war, except that they will be invested with a far sharper expression. First of all, exploitation of the colonies will become greatly intensified. The metropolitan centers will not only pump from the colonies foodstuffs and raw materials, but they will also mobilize vast numbers of colonial slaves who are to die on the battlefields for their masters. Meanwhile, the colonial bourgeoisie will have its snout deep in the trough of war orders and will naturally renounce opposition in the name of patriotism and profits. Gandhi is already preparing the ground for such a policy. These gentlemen will keep drumming: “We must wait patiently till the war ends – and then London will reward us for the assistance we have given.” As a matter of fact, the imperialists will redouble and triple their exploitation of the toilers both at home and especially in the colonies so as to rehabilitate the country after the havoc and devastation of the war. In these circumstances there cannot even be talk of new social reforms in the metropolitan centers or of grants of liberties to the colonies. Double chains of slavery – that will be the inevitable consequence of the war if the masses of India follow the politics of Gandhi, the Stalinists and their friends.

    The war, however, may bring to India as well as to the other colonies not a redoubled slavery but,’ on the contrary, complete liberty: the proviso for this is a correct revolutionary policy. The Indian people must divorce their fate from the very outset from that of British imperialism. The oppressors and the oppressed stand on opposite sides of the trenches. No aid whatsover to the slave owners! On the contrary, those immense difficulties which the war will bring in its wake must be utilized so as to deal a mortal blow to all the ruling classes. That is how the oppressed classes and peoples in all countries should act, irrespective of whether Messrs. Imperialists don democratic or fascist masks.

    To realize such a policy a revolutionary party, basing itself on the vanguard of the proletariat, is necessary. Such a party does not yet exist in India. The Fourth International offers this party its program, its experience, its collaboration. The basic conditions for this party are: complete independence from imperialist democracy, complete independence from the Second and Third Internationals and complete independence from the national Indian bourgeoisie.

    In a number of colonial and semi-colonial countries sections of the Fourth International already exist and are making successful progress. First place among them is unquestionably held by our section in French Indo-China which is conducting an irreconcilable struggle against French imperialism and “People’s Front” mystifications. “The Stalinist leaders,” it is stated in the newspaper of the Saigon workers (The Struggle – La Lutte), of April 7, 1939, “have taken yet another step on the road of betrayal. Throwing off their masks as revolutionists, they have become champions of imperialism and openly speak out against emancipation of the oppressed colonial peoples.” Owing to their bold revolutionary politics, the Saigon proletarians, members of the Fourth International, scored a brilliant victory over the bloc of the ruling party and the Stalinists at the elections to the colonial council held in April of this year.

    The very same policy ought to be pursued by the advanced workers of British India. We must cast away false hopes and repel false friends. We must pin hope only upon ourselves, our own revolutionary forces. The struggle for national independence, for an independent Indian republic is indissolubly linked up with the agrarian revolution, with the nationalization of banks and trusts, with a number of other economic measures aiming to raise the living standard of the country and to make the toiling masses the masters of their own destiny. Only the proletariat in an alliance with the peasantry is capable of executing these tasks.

    In its initial stage the revolutionary party will no doubt comprise a tiny minority. In contrast to other parties, however, it will render a cleat accounting of the situation and fearlessly march towards its great goal. It is indispensable in all the industrial centers and cities to establish workers groups, standing under the banner of the Fourth International. Only those intellectuals who have completely come over to the side of the proletariat must be allowed into these groups. Alien to sectarian self-immersion, the revolutionary worker – Marxists must actively participate in the work of the trade unions, educational societies, the Congress Socialist Party and, in general, all mass organizations. Everywhere they remain as the extreme left wing, everywhere they set the example of courage in action, everywhere, in a patient and comradely manner, they explain their program to the workers, peasants and revolutionary intellectuals. Impending events will come to the aid of the Indian Bolshevik-Leninists, revealing to the masses the correctness of their path. The party will grow swiftly and become tempered in the fire. Allow me to express my firm hope that the revolutionary struggle for the emancipation of India will unfold under the banner of the Fourth International.

    With warmest comradely greetings,

    Leon Trotsky,
    Coyoacan, Mexico
    July 25, 1939.


    1. The experience of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-1927 is of the most direct significance for India. I heartily recommend to the Indian revolutionists Harold Isaacs’ excellent book, The Tragedy of the Chinese Revolution.

  2. Sarah Khan – I agree with your assessment of Gandhi and I think that is what he was going for as well – being truly an Indian leader of the people, with an understanding that being a Brahman he had the responsibility of leading the people. He indulged in people politics, but wasn’t necessarily an adherent of leftist politics – which is markedly different.

    What I do however find controversial in his politics is his unyielding touting of Ahimsha – yet he time and again failed to live up to this ideal. An example of this being the recruitment to British Army – he of course did this to gain political preference with the British but his calling off of civil obedience after Charui Chaura – Now he should place qualifications to rule of Ahimsa – in that he allows certain exceptions (such as fighting for the state) or its totally unqualified- in that non-violence is only way, without exceptions. He seems to have it both ways, within span of only 5 years!

  3. @Sindhyar

    Thank you. The comments you referred to were written by critic at the ViewPoint website.

    I however agree that there are grey areas in Gandhi’s life and ideology, particularly the expedient manner in which he used the notion of Ahmisa.

    Perhaps this then also provides us with an opportunity to think about grey areas in our own leader, such as Jinnah and Bhutto senior?

  4. Of course – Bhutto and Jinnah, while they had never strictly adhered to religion, allowed religion to come in to politics. Jinnah tacitly by his demand for a separate nation, and Bhutto by introduction of Objective Resolution, Islamic clauses and anti-ahmediya laws.
    In their careers there are many miscalculations. Jinnah’s call for direct action day led to large blood shed- and this was a precursor for things to come, had he used his insurmountable intellect to understand the situation. Nor did he control the pace of division, where apart from the violence that, could have been foreseeable erupted, there was also lingering border disputes that still remain.

    Similarly Bhutto’s failure to fully implement leftist policies, including nationalisation of lands or at the very least carrying out the land reforms, reforming the bureaucracy and Army, among other things are things that are worth arguing over -but all Humans are bound to make mistakes!
    In this instance however, we’d stay with Gandhi 🙂

  5. I dont know really in which century are you living but certainly not the present one. During the war, soldiers were sent to fight to help the british with a promise that the undivided state of india then, would get the right to have a govt. from its own people. The promise was not there. Also, Gandhi had no option. Most of the population would have faced hunger and poverty if they didn’t support. The power lies with the riches. My point is, get your points corrected. If jinnah is a saint, he had never even thought of bringing pakistan to what it is now. The neighbour never says Jinnah was wrong, but Gandhi was right. Learn positive things.
    Write something good and please refer foreign authors to have a complete idea.
    A border friend

  6. I would say pedophile muhammad to be a fake prophet.
    All he did was for united india.
    Its jinnah who lost control after loosing 1937 elections

  7. This diatribe doesn’t even deserve the dignity of a rebuttal. keep living in la la land in your failing state.

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