This article about Acharya, Singh and Gandhi was originally published in Azadi, a 4 page newsletter by the Indian Anarchist Federation.
Originally published in Azadi Vol 1 – Issue 4 (December 2017).
Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.
Anarchism in India – Acharya, Singh and Gandhi: “Gandhi From his Actions is Clearly a Reactionary Figure”
Anarchist historians like Peter Marshall and Colin Ward et al in their works, while recounting instances of anarchist ideas in India often mention Gandhi and Bhagat Singh. I want to correct this judgment which is based on either incorrect understanding of anarchism or the figures under question.
First, Gandhi. Gandhi did show praise stateless society but this is a stand taken by many conservative and reactionary forces in India since late 19th century. Gandhi was squarely against class struggle – he did not see any antagonism between the two classes. Gandhi sided with most reactionary section of the Congress on question of caste and land
reforms. He could not even advocate for inter-caste marriages and dinners. He did not see anything wrong in the Indian patriarchal families. His opposition to heavy industries was something that big industrialist found worrisome but this was soon corrected when Nehru became the leader of the Congress in 1940s.
Bhagat Singh on the other hand was a staunch Leninist who barely understood and it seems even tried to understand what anarchism was. He could not be blamed as the Bolshevik propaganda of a “successful revolution” in Russian was too powerful. His understanding of anarchism was that of a revolutionary terrorist movement – bomb throwing, which was taken seriously in Gadar circles.
The only activist who actually had a grasp of anarchism in India was MPT Acharya – and to a lesser extent Har Dayal.
“Is it to make large cities with miserable people, barely eking their existence that we want to have ‘Swaraj’? I consoled myself by answering that the misery was due to foreign
Government, but under Indian Government, it would all vanish, because our countrymen will be friends of the poor when they come to rule. Late on, however, when I went to Europe and saw misery there, my illusions about “National” rule were shattered.” – Acharya.
His rejection of state and strong anti-capitalist believes stemmed from understanding of essentiality human freedom. He wrote extensively about anarchism in Europe and USA. He started the first anarchist press in India – ‘Libertarian Socialist’. Though much can be criticized about Acharya, he clearly is the only activist and writer who took anarchism seriously and hence rejected the regressive believes in nationhood, capitalism and also
prepared for a free society.
Har Dayal was also influenced by Syndicalist movement and formed the Bakunin society but his influence of anarchist is hard to discern from his writings on education and his book on self-help. This might be due to the limited access we have to his documents. But at this point he appears to have been less animated by anarchist ideals.
In conclusion. Gandhi from his actions is clearly a reactionary figure. All his anarchist credentials arise from isolated study of his preaching and tactics. These break down by slightest of scrutiny. Bhagat Singh was also not an anarchist in any meaningful way. The only anarchist activist during the pre-1947 period in India was MPT Acharya.
You can download the full issue of Azadi (a 4 page newsletter by the Indian Anarchist Federation) Vol 1 – Issue 4 (December 2017); here.
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