His philosophy of Satyagraha is both a personal and a social
struggle to realize the Truth, which he identifies as God, the
Absolute Morality. He seeks this Truth, not in isolation,
self-centeredly, but with the people. He said, "I want to find
God, and because I want to find God, I have to find God along
with other people. I don't believe I can find God alone. If I
did, I would be running to the Himalayas to find God in some
cave there. But since I believe that nobody can find God alone,
I have to work with people. I have to take them with me. Alone I
can't come to Him."
He sacerises his revolution, balancing the religious and the
His awakening came on the hilly terrain of the so-called Bambata
Rebellion, where as a passionate British patriot, he led his
Indian stretcher-bearer corps to serve the Empire, but British
brutality against the Zulus roused his soul against violence as
nothing had done before. He determined, on that battlefield, to
wrest himself of all material attachments and devote himself
completely and totally to eliminating violence and serving
humanity. The sight of wounded and whipped Zulus, mercilessly
abandoned by their British persecutors, so appalled him that he
turned full circle from his admiration for all things British to
celebrating the indigenous and ethnic. He resuscitated the
culture of the colonized and the fullness of Indian resistance
against the British; he revived Indian handicrafts and made
these into an economic weapon against the colonizer in his call
for swadeshi--the use of one's own and the boycott of the
oppressor's products, which deprive the people of their skills
and their capital.
A great measure of world poverty today and African poverty in
particular is due to the continuing dependence on foreign
markets for manufactured goods, which undermines domestic
production and dams up domestic skills, apart from piling up
unmanageable foreign debts. Gandhi's insistence on
self-sufficiency is a basic economic principle that, if followed
today, could contribute significantly to alleviating Third World
poverty and stimulating development.
Gandhi predated Frantz Fanon and the black-consciousness
movements in South Africa and the U.S. by more than a
half-century and inspired the resurgence of the indigenous
intellect, spirit and industry.
Gandhi rejects the Adam Smith notion of human nature as motivated
by self-interest and brute needs and returns us to our spiritual
dimension with its impulses for nonviolence, justice and
He exposes the fallacy of the claim that everyone can be rich and
successful provided they work hard. He points to the millions who
work themselves to the bone and still remain hungry. He preaches
the gospel of leveling down, of emulating the kisan (peasant),
not the zamindar (landlord), for "all can be kisans, but only a
He stepped down from his comfortable life to join the masses on
their level to seek equality with them. "I can't hope to bring
about economic equality... I have to reduce myself to the level
of the poorest of the poor."
From his understanding of wealth and poverty came his
understanding of labor and capital, which led him to the
solution of trusteeship based on the belief that there is no
private ownership of capital; it is given in trust for
redistribution and equalization. Similarly, while recognizing
differential aptitudes and talents, he holds that these are
gifts from God to be used for the collective good.
He seeks an economic order, alternative to the capitalist and
communist, and finds this in sarvodaya based on nonviolence
He rejects Darwin's survival of the fittest, Adam Smith's
laissez-faire and Karl Marx's thesis of a natural antagonism
between capital and labor, and focuses on the interdependence
between the two.
He believes in the human capacity to change and wages Satyagraha
against the oppressor, not to destroy him but to transform him,
that he cease his oppression and join the oppressed in the
pursuit of Truth.
We in South Africa brought about our new democracy relatively
peacefully on the foundations of such thinking, regardless of
whether we were directly influenced by Gandhi or not.