In this week we shall examine Gandhi’s first campaign in South Africa, the relationship between it and European traditions of passive resistance, and the extent to which Gandhi built on existing Indian traditions of nonviolence and resistance? Gandhi later contended that he had created a new form of struggle, which he called ‘satyagraha’ and, later on, he coined a new term in English - ‘nonviolence’ to describe what he was trying to achieve. This was a direct translation of the ancient Indian term ‘ahimsa’. To what extent can we say that he was in fact creating something very new?
Ronald Duncan (ed.), Selected Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, Part III, ‘The practice of satyagraha’, pp. 65-99.
David Hardiman, Gandhi in His Time and Ours, chapter 3, pp. 39-65.
Claude Markovits, The Un-Gandhian Gandhi: The Life and Afterlife of the Mahatma, chapter 8, ‘Gandhi and Non-Violence’, pp. 146-61
Questions for discussion:
How does satyagraha differ from other forms of nonviolent resistance?
Why did Gandhi reject the label ‘passive resistance’?
Was it primarily a western technique that was Indianised, or rather an India technique that was valorised by Gandhi through reference to certain western thinkers?
What aspects of the society and culture of South Africa were particularly important in the formation of Gandhi’s idea of satyagraha?
How effective is self-sacrifice in nonviolent resistance? Is it most effective in an Indian rather than western context?
Indian traditions of nonviolent resistance
A.L. Basham, ‘Traditional Influences on the Thought of Mahatma Gandhi,’ in R. Kumar (ed.), Essays on Gandhian Politics.
Aurobindo, ‘The Doctrine of Passive Resistance’, in Sri Aurobindo, Bande Mataram: Early Political Writings. Argument by a contemporary nationalist for the need to use civil disobedience against the British rather than force. D. Hardiman has a photocopy.
Dharampal, Civil disobedience and Indian tradition with some early nineteenth century documents. Sets out details of protests in north India in early British period. Not available in Warwick library – ask David Hardiman if you require it, as he has a photocopy.
Howard Spodek, ‘On the Origins of Gandhi’s Political Methodology,’ Journal of Asian Studies, 30, 1971, pp.361-72.
Gandhi in South Africa and the origins of Satyagraha
Obtain any good biography of Gandhi and read the sections on South Africa.
M.K. Gandhi, ‘On Satyagraha’, in Robert L. Holmes and Barry L. Gan, Nonviolence in Theory and Practice
Jonathan Hyslop, “Gandhi, Mandela and the African Modern” in A. Mbembe and S. Nuttall (eds.), Johannesburg – The Elusive Metropolis
Jonathan Hyslop, ‘Gandhi 1869-1915: The transnational emergence of a public figure’, in Judith M. Brown and Anthony Parel (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Gandhi
H.J.N. Horsburg, Non-violence and Aggression (esp. chapter 3)
Steven Duncan Huxley, Constitutionalist Insurgency in Finland: Finnish “Passive Resistance” against Russification as a Case of Nonmilitary Struggle in the European Resistance Tradition, Chapter 2 (available only in photocopied version from David Hardiman). Provides an important critical examination of the relationship between ‘passive resistance’ and ‘satyagraha’.
Raghavan Iyer, The moral and political writings of Mahatma Gandhi, 3 volumes. See in particular vol.3, Non-violent resistance and social transformation. Gandhi’s ideas, in his own words, are set out subject by subject.