Why Gandhi was Wrong – Non-violence Doesn’t Work
By Daniel Greenfield
Canada Free Press
Gandhi’s tactic of non-violence is often foolishly credited with the peaceful liberation of India.
This claim would be more impressive if the British Empire hadn’t expired but was still around with a large retinue of colonies, instead of having disposed of its colonies, many around the same time as India. And considering the bloodshed of Partition, despite Gandhi’s best attempts at appeasing Muslims it was hardly peaceful. Yet despite the hypocrisies that have dotted Gandhi’s life, his ideas continue to have a powerful hold on the Western imagination.
Few would seriously argue that had Gandhi been facing Imperial Japan (whose brutal conquest of Asia he briefly supported) or Nazi Germany or even the British Empire of the 19th century, that non-violence would have been nothing more than an invitation to a bullet.
Yet that is exactly what first world nations are expected to do when confronted with terrorism. Not long after 9/11 slogans were already appearing on posters challenging, “What would Gandhi do?”
We can hazard a guess at what the man who urged Britain to surrender to Hitler and told the Jews to walk into the gas chambers, would do. We can do better than guess at the outcome. The same outcome that surrender to tyranny always brings, whether in the name of non-violence, cowardice or political appeasement, a great heap of skulls shining in the sun.
Gandhi’s non-violence or Tolstoy’s more honestly named, Non-Resistance to Evil through Violence who heavily influenced Gandhi or Tolstoy’s own influence through the writings of Rousseau represent a pacifist strain that runs through Western civilization. It is a particularly futile and dangerous strain that values internal nobility over the lives and welfare of others.
Non-violence is either redundant or dangerously misguided.
When confronting an opponent, that opponent’s goals are either violent or peaceful. If his goals are peaceful then non-violence is redundant. If his goals are violent, then non-violence achieves nothing.
The political victories of non-violence have come mainly from a nation that wanted a peaceful outcome seeing violent suppression of protesters through violent law enforcement tactics. While this produced political victories, it also demonstrated the inherent pointless of it, as it only worked with a nation that was already prepared to reach a peaceful agreement.
Had Martin Luther King tried his tactics in the early 19th century South, he would have gotten nowhere. Had Gandhi pitted himself against Imperial Japan, he would have been beheaded. Clearly non-violence is a tactic that can only work against essentially peaceful opponents who are easily embarrassed by a few jailed protesters.
It fails utterly against opponents who genuinely want to conquer or kill you and are willing to do whatever it takes to see that it happens.
Had the application of non-violence been limited to a form of civil protest in democracies, there would be no objection. It is when Gandhi is cited as a model for confronting dictatorships and tyrannies that we reach the fundamental gap between reality and the ideology of non-violence.
Can non-violence stop an enemy bent on your destruction? The answer is no. Non-violence can only enable such an enemy. But the nasty trap in the philosophy of non-violence is that it presumes that a source of the violence is in the victims themselves.
This is why when Gandhi advised the Jews to go willingly into the gas chambers, he described any protest by the Jews to the West as itself violent. Only by being willing unprotesting sacrifices could the Jews fit Gandhi’s model of non-violence.
This is shocking only to those who fail to realize that “Blame the Victim” is inherent in the philosophy of non-violence. Unsurprising from a man who degraded and abused his wife and drove his sons away, and yet continues to be regarded as a sort of saint.
The self-destructive nature of non-violence is that it only works when the source of the violence really is within the individual practicing it. Non-violence only works therefore when non-violently confronting those whose goals are ultimately non-violent. It is self-destructively useless when confronting those whose goals are violent. But because it teaches that we are the source of the violence, it repeatedly blames the target of the violence for doing anything whatsoever to resist the violence.
In Gandhi’s non-violence, a rape victim who screamed for help would be guilty of practicing violence rather than non-violence. In Tolstoy’s rendering of non-violence, there is no difference in moral culpability between attacked and attacker. This simplistic picture leaves no room for self-defense and no place for a society that seeks to protect its own people. When viewed this way it exposes the ideology of non-violence for what it really is, a self-indulgent selfish form of martyrdom that emphasizes inner nobility over social utility.
At the heart of non-violence is hypocrisy. Quaker non-violence prevented them from funding a militia to protect colonial settlers against attacks. It prevented them from serving on either side in WW2. It did not however prevent them from composing lists of victims for the Nazis. It has not prevented them from agitating on behalf of terrorists today.
Tolstoy’s non-violence did not prevent him from distributing and promoting the writings of violent anarchists, it did however prevent him from condemning the Pogroms. Gandhi’s non-violence did not prevent him from self-interestedly welcoming a Japanese occupation of Asia or urging a British surrender to Hitler.
The common denominator of non-violence is a contempt for the victim of violence and a slavish need to appease or appeal to the violent. Given a choice non-violence will elevate the perpetrator of naked violence, over the peace-loving people and nations doing their best to stop him. The former has the glory of an unambiguous sinner ripe for conversion, while the latter appears to the philosopher of non-violence as an obscene heresy that uses violence to achieve peaceful ends.
For the democracy confronting a destructive ideology, non-violence is nothing more than a suicide pact. The refusal to resist evil grants hegemony to evil. But the refusal of the philosophers of non-violence to admit the necessity of violence instead drives them to demonize those who would resist evil with violence, as the source of the violence.