Marxists and Gandhians, alike, have not come to terms with this domination of capitalism which has become near total in its late phase currently, using technology to intensify surplus extraction at the expense of the vast majority of humanity and the environment. While capitalism has also incorporated some of the alternatives proposed by Marx and Gandhi to better entrench their hold on humanity, Marxists and Gandhians have remained with their heads buried in the nineteenth and early twentieth century refusing to address the dynamic ways in which capitalism has come to control the destiny of humankind.
This was driven home to me two days ago when I attended a meeting of a committee constituted by the Government of India to design the celebration of the sesquicentenary of Gandhi's birth. Speaker after speaker spoke about the greatness of Gandhi, whether it was his nonviolence or his social reform or his decentralised economics and the need to popularise these among today's youth. However, none of these speakers thought it fit to ponder as to why despite so much state support for Gandhi's ideology it is today marginalised from mainstream developmental discourse and policy making in this country and is somehow existing on the margins on the strength of meagre doles from the Government and has little appeal for the youth. There was a clamour for these doles to be increased but no demand for a modification of the capitalist system itself or a modernisation of Gandhism, so that a more just social and economic developmental system can take centre stage. There was no discussion at all on how to use renewable energy and appropriate technology, especially in the field of water management which is emerging as a major crisis, to increase productivity in rural areas. Neither was there any discussion of the retrograde colonial legacy of policing and maintaining law and order which has effectively killed satyagraha as a political weapon. It must be remembered that satyagraha never really succeeded during colonial rule due to the draconian policing system that the British had put in place and this same system was retained after independence to smash many non-violent mass movements for justice in independent India.
There are claims being made of total sanitation and electrification having been achieved but in both spheres the reality is quite discouraging. Community and individual rights are being trampled on to promote centralised industrial development and only crumbs are being thrown to the majority of the population.
So in the end, like in the case of Marx, there will be celebratory programmes for Gandhi also, much more extravagant, because there is a state giving lip service to his philosophy, but no contemporary solutions to the social, economic and environmental crises being brought on by capitalist development are likely to emerge without a creative synthesis of Gandhi's thoughts with current technological and political possibilities.