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Sherman Stanley

Gandhi Gives “Advice”
to British Imperialists

(March 1939)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 20, 31 March 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Mohandas K. Gandhi, the Mahatma of India, has offered the world his advice on the present world crisis. Perhaps this is the result of inspirational dreams after his 4-day fast in Rajkot. Almost anything can happen on an empty stomach!

This advice is about as useful as his advice to the Czech masses during the first Munich crisis. Then he urged them to lay down in front of the onrolling German tanks!

Now Gandhi urges the “democratic” imperialist nations to disarm themselves “simultaneously.” Then, the idea is, Hitler will be shamed into doing likewise. Or, perhaps, Hitler will drop dead with surprise when “peace-loving” Chamberlain scuttles the British navy!

Incidentally, we never heard of Ghandi [sic] demanding the disarmament of the British and Native armies that trample upon India. And we recall how in 1914 this “pacifist-at-any-price” gentleman urged 1½ million Indian soldiers to fight on Britain’s side during the World War.

Crazy Like a Fox

Gandhi’s advice would be in the nature of a joke, or the empty hallucinations of an old man if it were not for certain other facts in his interview with a N.Y. Times correspondent. To expect the “democratic” imperialisms of this world to strip themselves of armaments on the very eve of what may be a new world struggle between themselves and the fascist imperialism is equivalent to expecting the capitalists of this earth to hand over their factories to the workers. But Gandhi is no senile, half-crazy old man. As the saying goes – “he is crazy – yeah, like a fox!” Inside this shrunken-up head lurks one of the shrewdest brains of the Far East.

By posing as an “absolute” pacifist, Gandhi attempts to perform the double purpose of (1) deceiving his own following who genuinely oppose war – especially on the side of Britain, and (2) preparing for his inevitable – and ardent – support of British imperialism when the war does come. Gandhi figures that people will say: “It must be a good war – even Gandhi is for it”

When the pro-British Times correspondent asked him bluntly, “What will the Congress party do should Britain become involved in a European war,” Gandhi refused to answer. “But won’t you try to go to the root of the situation?” the correspondent persisted. “A wise journalist never goes to the root,” responded “pacifist” Gandhi. Yes, and a shrewd politician never commits himself, especially when he’s carrying on negotiations with his supposed-to-be enemies!

For even at this moment Gandhi is bargaining with the British for concessions and reforms to the New Slave Constitution that the imperialists wish to impose upon India. What does Gandhi offer the, British? Support of the Indian Nationalist Congress in wartime, millions of native soldiers to fight on European and Asiatic battlefields, a billion dollars to the British war-chest. In 1914–1918 Gandhi raised $750,000,000 for the British. This time he promises more.

Hokum Doesn’t Go

But the Mahatma will have a hard time putting across his act. India’s masses are fed up with this hokum, especially since they realize that it will mean their lives at the service of their bitterest enemy. The Congress left-wing and revolutionary socialists are pledged to utilize Britain’s participation in a war as an opportune time to free India by revolutionary means. “No support to Britain in any war it may conduct,” is their slogan.

Gandhi fears the sentiment of the working and peasant masses. When asked if India is progressing, he replied, “Yes, it is. I get frightened sometimes, but there is progress at the bottom, and that progress is sound.” What frightens Gandhi is the realization that revolutionary action at the bottom means a clean sweep at the top!

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