Observations on ANARCHY 42

OBSERVATIONS ON ANARCHY 42:
ANARCHISM AND INDIAN THOUGHT

THE QUOTATION FROM ADI DOCTOR’S BOOK, which Tristram Shandy singles out as a valid observation, strikes me as a bit asinine. The Gandhians certainly preach against materialism but they don’t tell the peasants that they should be satisfied with their lot. They’ve been arguing for more attention to be paid to raising living standards of the masses by concentrating on small scale projects in agriculture which would bring pretty immediate returns, rather than some of the grandiose politically inspired projects whose returns are long run, if at all, and which exacerbate the present inflationary trend. (There’s some signs that the government under Shastri is beginning to see the point.) More generally, the Gandhians argue, sensibly it seems to me, that stateless communism can’t be achieved if you adopt the materialistic standards of the West. The trouble with the idea of free distribution when combined with “materialism” was pointed out by Keynes: There is never likely to be enough caviare to go round. A sensible limitation of people’s demands seems to be an indispensable condition of free distribution. In addition, there’s the point that the multiplication of wants in the West, engineered by the advertising racket, provides a very useful means of social control by the rulers. The big stick is a very crude means of control; the dangling carrot is much better. Naked power is transformed into manipulative power. Gandhi latched on to the truth pointed out by Rousseau speaking of the Red Indians: How do you enslave men who go naked in the chase? Gandhi’s and Vinoba’s success, such as it is, stemmed in large part from the application of this principle. Gandhi once said: “My enemies can do me no harm for I have nothing to lose, as they have nothing to gain.” Gilbert Murray writing about Gandhi also saw the point: “Persons in power should be very careful how they deal with a man who cares nothing for sensual pleasure, nothing for riches, nothing for comfort or praise or promotion, but is simply determined to do what he believes to be right. He is a dangerous uncomfortable enemy—because his body, which you can always conquer, gives you so little purchase upon his soul.” After a couple of years as a privileged plutocrat in this goddam half-starved country, I appreciate the sociological significance of the old saying about the rich man finding it easier to pass through the eye of a needle, etc. When one is almost infinitely better off than most other people around one, one can’t behave decently except by ceasing to be better off. What I admire about Gandhi, in contrast to paper anarchists like me (and most of us) is that he really believed what he said, i.e. his beliefs were existential, expressed in action.
AN ENGLISHMAN IN INDIA.