Saturday, October 28, 2023

Sri Aurobindo: Gandhian politics, Tolstoyism and Bolshevism

Sri Aurobindo

In 1920, Sri Aurobindo said that Mahatma Gandhi’s political method, founded on Tolstoy’s ideas, could lead to the imposition of Indianised Tolstoyism or Bolshevism on India. In a letter (written in April 1920) to his brother Barin Ghose, Sri Aurobindo wrote:  

“People now want to spiritualise politics – Gandhi, for instance – but they can’t get hold of the right way. What is Gandhi doing? Making a hodge-podge called satyagraha out of ahimsa paramo dharmah [non-violence is the highest law], Jainism, hartal, passive resistance, etc.; bringing a sort of Indianised Tolstoyism into the country. The result – if there is any lasting result – will be a sort of Indianised Bolshevism.”

Sri Aurobindo was probably right in caricaturing Gandhian politics as Indianised Bolshevism. After independence, India became a soft-Bolshevik state. Nehruvian socialism and Indira Gandhi’s personality-cult socialism were the manifestations of Bolshevism. 

In a talk in July 1923, Sri Aurobindo said, “Gandhi’s position is that he does not care to remove violence from others; he wants to observe non-violence himself.” On the linkage between Gandhi and Tolstoy, Sri Aurobindo said in June 1926, “Gandhi is a European – truly, a Russian Christian in an Indian body. And there are some Indians in European bodies?” 

(Quotations in this article are from India’s Rebirth, by Sri Aurobindo)

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