Home Why Gandhi was Wrong; Non-Violence Doesn't Work
Home Why Gandhi was Wrong; Non-Violence Doesn't Work

Why Gandhi was Wrong; Non-Violence Doesn't Work

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.


  1. Anonymous28/7/08

    Once again..you hit the nail on the head. Western leaders have their heads in the sand because doing the right thing is tough and doesn't "feel good." Nobama and his magical mystery tour would prefer Kumbaya over standing in defence of freedom. Thank God for our soldiers which afford us our precious freedom. Freedom over peace (at any price) any day!

  2. Right on the money. Non-violence is best used against an opponent employing non-violence.

    When the opponent seeks to kill non-violence is sheer suicide.

    Most of the world wants Israel and the Jewish people to be the eternal poster child for non-violence with the US as its runner up.

    Non-violence just makes it easier for our enemies to kill us.

  3. Anonymous28/7/08

    What Muslims (even 'peaceful' Sufis) think of Hindus:

    "The honour of Islam lies in insulting kufr and kafirs. One who respects the kafirs dishonours the Muslims. The real purpose of levying jiziya on them is to humiliate them to such an extent that they may not be able to dress well and to live in grandeur. They should constantly remain terrified and trembling. It is intended to hold them under contempt and to uphold the honour and might of Islam."


  4. Keli: The US is violent so it couldn't be a posterchild. It simply covers it up by having other people do it's dirty work, like arming and funding arabs to kill Jews.

  5. Sultan, you do indeed hit the nail on the head in this excellent post.

    By the way, it seems a bit much to me for a BNP supporter - the British equivalent of a Klansman - to preach about tolerance towards Hindus. The BNP's policy towards Hindus is kick em out.

    (And why Ahmad Sirhindi should be taken to represent the whole of Sufi opinion is a mystery...)

  6. sure but the BNP leadership thinks playing divide and conquer by pretending to fight also for hindus and jews will give it the edge and a moderate image

    some BNP members may legitimately feel that they should be intervening for Hindus, but the leadership is another matter


  7. 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.

    Gandhi actually said that?

    Is there a reliable source for this?

  8. see here


  9. Gandhi was a gandoo...he is one of the most hated politician in India
    it's because of him that we have millions of Islamic cockroahces in our country.
    gandhi should be in hell.

  10. Anonymous5/4/15

    Gandhi was wrong on so many fronts, he went too much with his non violence theory. When he was born, India was under British rule, when he grew yup India was under British rule, he saw it all, I don't think he could have not seen the poverty, the British rule atrocities...he got educated practised in India for a while, all the while British were right there, and in some cases may be he even might have interacted with some of them....But still he wasn't hurt, what changed him was getting thrown out of a train, and suddenly all the British raj was now a big deal...was he blind till then, it he just chose to ignore as it was not going to hurt him.... And finally of all the father of nation stuff...I don't accept him as that, he was just a human, a simple one, and he committed very big mistakes that has induce violence till date... He was incompetent as a leader. He defied the sayings of geeta... And finally getting killed for country and dying for it is large difference that peopl of India should understand..they don't remember the likes of bhagat Singh but they chose to remember a person who ruined and pushed India in to reverse gear, the one who gave leaders like nehru and his predecessors who destroyed India to the core


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