The central topic of this session is the work of Gandhi (and at least one of the thinkers who influenced him: Leon Tolstoy). Gandhi’s work is sprawling, it comprises over 100 volumes. These books deal with a great variety of themes; I want to focus here on one area of his life and work which, however, is central and overshadows the rest: the area of politics and political action. I title my talk: “Gandhi for Today”—because it is not enough just to know about Gandhi as a historical figure, but to follow Gandhi, to enact his teachings in our time.
The subtitle of my talk is “Self-Rule, Non-Violence, Struggle for Justice.” The Indian terms for these notions are: swaraj, ahimsa, and satyagraha. Swaraj tells us what is democratic government; ahimsa tells us how to achieve and practice it; satyagraha tells us about the goal of politics: pursuit of truth, justice, and the “good life.” These are the ideas we have to re-learn today. Gandhi struggled for Indian self-rule or “home rule” against the mighty British Empire (where the sun did not set). Today, many people struggle for self-rule against a mighty world-empire, and against many other forms of domination. Gandhi struggled for Indian self-rule mainly non-violently. Today, many movements aiming at independence or freedom resort to violence (virtually as the only and preferred method). Gandhi struggled for self-rule with the aim to establish a rule of justice, non-domination, and ethical rightness. Today, many movements seek self-rule only in order to establish a new form of domination and exploitation (their own domination). So, we have to re-learn a lot from Gandhi.