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Revelation of the day: Apparently, Gandhi claimed that Jews could… 
7th-Feb-2006 11:11 pm
Scholar
Revelation of the day:

Apparently, Gandhi claimed that Jews could fight Nazism through civil disobedience.

Here's what I'm wondering: was Gandhi being naive or pragmatic? I think Gandhi was a pretty intelligent person, so I have trouble believing he was naive enough to actually believe that civil disobedience would have worked in that situation. If a Nazi has an assault rifle in a Jew's back, and is marching him off to the gas chamber, it won't matter much if he/she refuses, as s/he'll just be shot instead of gassed. I think Gandhi would have realized this. The other explanation is a bit more cynical. Gandhi may have simply wanted to avoid contradicting the non-violent approach which was working so well in the Indian Nationalist movement. So, rather than undermine what he had worked to build in India, he claimed that the same would work against Nazism.

The reason why non-cooperation worked in India is because the British needed their citizens to cooperate in order to govern them. However, the Nazi's obviously had no need for Jews to cooperate, since they had no qualms about just killing them. Rather than adding a contingency to his non-violent philosophy, simply stating that non-cooperation only works when the political structure one is protesting requires cooperation, and that when violence is directed toward one, self-defense is appropriate, he overapplied his principles to a situation where they clearly couldn't work.

Perhaps it was of little consequence. For one, Gandhi's opinions did not have much of an impact on what was going on outside of India. For another, very few were aware of the full extent of what Nazis were doing to Jews. No special allowances were made in immigration laws. The US didn't have much interest in what was going on until Pearl Harbor, and when they entered the war, it was with the same concern as the rest of the allies--maintaining political sovereignty. Perhaps there simply wasn't enough information available for Gandhi to have an informed opinion on the matter.

I'm curious what others think about this. Was Gandhi just underinformed? Would he have maintained his position if he knew more about what was going on? Was he simply trying to maintain a consistently applicable non-violent philosophy for pragmatic reasons? Was he being overly idealistic? Am I wrong to think that civil disobedience would not have been an effective way for Jews to "fight" Nazism?

(x-posted to my journal)
Comments 
8th-Feb-2006 05:05 am (UTC)
You may be forgetting that most people, and I would assume that Gandhi was one of them, did not know about the concentration camps and, if they did know about them, oftentimes they did not realize what exactly was happening within said camps.

Gandhi might have been overly idealistic, but he probably, like most people, did not know the extent of the violence and the attrocities that were being committed in Europe.
8th-Feb-2006 05:15 am (UTC)
Actually, I brought up that possibility in my second to last paragraph ("...very few were aware of the full extent of what Nazis were doing to Jews.").

If he were aware of the full extent of what was happening, do you think he would have changed his position? Perhaps this is mere idle speculation, but it's so interesting...
8th-Feb-2006 05:28 am (UTC)
Oh, sorry. I've had a long day. ^^;

It's too difficult to say, I think. The fact is, he probably didn't have any idea and, as you mentioned, India's situation was much different. He might have kept the same attitude, since to encourage violence in one country may have insighted more violence in India. But I feel uncomfortable taking a position on a hypothetical argument.
8th-Feb-2006 06:55 am (UTC)
I understand...both on the long day and on your hesitance to speculate.
8th-Feb-2006 05:41 am (UTC)
...the Nazi's obviously had no need for Jews to cooperate, since they had no qualms about just killing them

While I don't think it necessarily disproves your point, it's helpful to point out that the British did their fair share of killing Indians.
8th-Feb-2006 06:53 am (UTC)
I guess it depends what you consider a qualm. I think that with certain exceptions (most notably the Sepoy "Mutiny" and the Jalianwallah Bag massacre), the British generally prefered not to kill Indians. They were too busy exploiting them economically for anything like that.
4th-Oct-2006 02:42 pm (UTC)
I was extremely puzzled when I found out that Gandhi had said this. I doubt he was being merely pragmatic, I think that would amount to "lying" to him. I suppose he was pretty keen on not lying. Nor do I think that not being aware of Nazi brutalities would have changed matters. Non-violence cannot work against war, Gandhi would have known that. So, I can't really say what might have caused him to say that.
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