Girish Mahajan

Anarchism in India

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Anarchism in India

Anarchism in India has never taken the name anarchism, and is relevant primarily its effects on movements for national and social liberation.


Gandhi and anarchism

The local conditions were pertinent to the development of the heavily anarchic Satyagraha movement in India. George Woodcock claimed Mohandas Gandhi self-identified as an anarchist. Anarchism in India finds its first well-known expression with a statement by Gandhi:

In Gandhi's view, violence is the source of social problems, and the state is the manifestation of this violence. Hence he concluded that "[t]hat state is perfect and non-violent where the people are governed the least. The nearest approach to purest anarchy would be a democracy based on nonviolence." For Gandhi, the way to achieve such a state of total nonviolence (ahimsa) was changing of the people's minds rather than changing the state which governs people. Self-governance (swaraj) is the principle behind his theory of satyagraha. This swaraj starts from the individual, then moves outward to the village level, and then to the national level; the basic principle is the moral autonomy of the individual is above all other considerations.

Gandhi’s admiration for collective liberation started from the very anarchic notion of individualism. According to Gandhi, the conscience of the individual is the only legitimate form of government. Gandhi averred that "Swaraj will be an absurdity if individuals have to surrender their judgment to a majority." He opined that a single good opinion is far better and beneficial than that of the majority of the population if the majority opinion is unsound. Due to this swaraj individualism, he rejected both parliamentary politics and their instrument of legitimisation, political parties. According to swaraj individualism the notion that the individual exists for the good of the larger organisation had to be discarded in favour of the notion that the larger organisation exists for the good of the individual, and one must always be free to leave and to dissent. Gandhi also considered Leo Tolstoy's book, The Kingdom of God is Within You, a book about practical anarchist organisation, as the text to have the most influence in his life.

Bhagat Singh

Before 1920, an anarchist movement was represented by one of the most famous revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement, Bhagat Singh. Singh was attracted to anarchism. Western anarchism and communism had influence on him. He studied the writings of Mikhail Bakunin, Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Singh wrote in an article:

Singh was involved in the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and Naujawan Bharat Sabha (Translated to 'Youth Society of India'). By the mid-1920s Singh began arming of the general population and organised people’s militias against the British. From May 1928 to September 1928, Singh published several articles on anarchism in Punjabi periodical "Kirti", a pro-independence paper, on which he equated the traditional Indian idea of "universal brotherhood" to the anarchist principle of "no rulers". Despite being influenced by the writings of Lenin and Trotsky, Singh never joined the Communist Party of India because of the anarchist influence on him. Anarchist ideas played a major role in both Gandhian and Singhian movements for swaraj.

Har Dayal's anarchist activism in US

Indian revolutionary and the founder of the Ghadar Party Lala Har Dayal was involved in the anarchist movement in United States. He moved to the United States in 1911, where he became involved in industrial unionism. In Oakland, he founded the Bakunin Institute of California which he described as "the first monastery of anarchism". The organisation aligned itself with the Regeneracion movement founded by the exiled Mexicans Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón. Har Dayal understood the realisation of ancient Aryan culture as anarchism, which he also saw as the goal of Buddhism. The Ghadar Party attempted to overthrow the British in India by reconciling western concepts of social revolution - particularly those stemming from Mikhail Bakunin - with Buddhism.

MPT Acharya

MPT Acharya was a contemporary of Har Dayal in London and fellow revolutionary in India House. Like a number of other Indin revolutionaries of the time, Acharya turned to socialism at the end of first world war to aid the Indian cause. However he was disillusioned by the communist movement and by early 1920s had turned towards Anarchism, along with Virendranath Chattopadhyaya. He took an active role in promoting Anarchist works in and was contributed at this time to the Russian Anarchist publication Rabotchi Put. In 1931, he lived in Amsterdam working with the school of Anarcho-syndicalism. Acharya came to be acquainted in early 1930s acquainted with Marxist-leaning Indian industrialist from Bombay, Ranchoddas Bhavan Lotvala. Lotvala had financed The Socialist, one of the first Marxist periodicals in India. Lotvala also financed the translation and publication of many leftist literature including the Communist manifesto. The British-Indian ban on Acharya was lifted in 1935 and he returned to Bombay that same year, where he managed a living as a journalist. During this time, Acharya wrote eight articles during this time which would later be collated to be published as a book called Reminesces of a Revolutionary. From Bombay, Acharya established correspondence with Japanese anarchist Taiji Yamaga and Chinese anarchist Lu Jinbao. The result of the correspondences led to the three establishing contacts with Commission de Relations de l’Internationale Anarchiste (Liaison Commission of the Anarchist International). In the following years, Acharya contributed to anarchist publications such as Freedom in London, Tierra y Libertad in Mexico and Contre Courant in Paris. He also remained in correspondence with Albert Meltzer for more than fifteen years.

In the following years Acharya was appointed secretary of the Indian Institute of Sociology, established under Lotvala's patronage in 1930s. In later years, Acharya's influence on the institute saw it adopts a number of statutes in 1947 and subsequently the institute adopted the name of Libertarian Socialist Institute. His views on economic matters were profound and in 1951, Free Society Group of Chicago published his work How Long Can Capitalism Survive? in 1951.

Dave Andrews

Australian Christian anarchist Dave Andrews lived in India between 1972 and 1984. In 1975, He and his wife founded and developed a residential community in India called Aashiana (out of which grew Sahara, Sharan and Sahasee – three well-known Christian community organisations working with slum dwellers, sex workers, drug addicts, and people with HIV/AIDS). When Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984, thousands of Sikhs were murdered by violent mobs. Andrews resisted this through non-violent methods of intervention. The Andrews' were forced to flee India soon thereafter.


Anarchism in India Wikipedia

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