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The popular image of Ghandi as some sort of latter day saint has taken a bash in a new book which alleges he was a racist and a sexual deviant. “Great Soul”written by former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld, makes several new claims about the man who led India to independence.

The book alleges that as an older man he held “nightly cuddles” – without clothes – with seventeen year-old girls in his entourage, including his own niece. It also suggests that he was in love with German-Jewish architect and bodybuilder, Hermann Kallenbach, for whom he left his wife in 1908.

In another startling revelation, the book claims he held racist views against South African blacks.

“We were marched off to a prison intended for Kaffirs,” he is quoted as saying during a visit to the country. “We could understand not being classed with whites, but to be placed on the same level as the Natives seemed too much to put up with. Kaffirs are as a rule uncivilized.”

The Wall Street Journal review of the book said it recast Gandhi as “a sexual weirdo, a political incompetent, a fanatical faddist, implacably racist, and a ceaseless self-promoter, professing his love for mankind as a concept while actually despising people as individuals.”

I suppose as time passes, certain historical figures will have their reputation revised. Whether it be right or wrong, few will argue that Ghandi did make a remarkable impact on the history of the last century.

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45 thoughts on “GHANDI REVISED?

  1. I don’t think the revelation about Ghandi’s racism towards South African blacks is new, he was a man of his time.

  2. Actually, the contents of the book as described in the post won’t surprise most Indians. Two reasons.

    Firstly, most educated Indians know that a vitriolic and rabid section of whites will forever grudge the fact that not only their rule, but also their self-serving and self-important world-view received a serious beating at the hands of this five-foot-nothing “naked fakir” and all the people that he strongly influenced, including Dr. King. As a matter of fact, this book about Gandhi seems to be very similar to the rants of the KKK against Dr. King.

    The second reason is that, while some of the stuff apparently mentioned about Gandhi in the book (in as much as I gathered from the post) are close to being true, they are susceptible to incorrect interpretation by minds which are not switched on to a more mystic-driven spiritual thinking. For example – Gandhi did not engage in “cuddles”, but had a way of practicisng control & abstinence – which was to lie next to naked women without being aroused. I myself find the practice to be a bit bizarre, to say the least, but trust an ignorant and bigoted hatemonger to pervert Gandhi’s motive.

    Couple of corrections:

    a. The name was “Gandhi”, not “Ghandi”

    b. Gandhi was only one of the forces that advanced the cause of Indian independence. An equal impetus came from those who preferred more direct and violent means – both organized (like Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army) and unorganized (like the many so-called “terrorists” that the British either hanged or incarcerated in infamous prisons like the Cellular Jail in the Andamans). So, to say that Gandhi led India to independence is simplistic.

  3. ignorant and bigoted hatemonger

    Why is it ignorant and bigoted to discuss the ” all ” about an important historical figure?

    Were those who wrote of JFK’s affairs ignorant or bigoted for revealing these things?

    What here leads you to such charges?

  4. Just goes to show that even the greatest and most noble of human beings have their flaws, as do all of us…. apart from Sarah Palin of course 😉

  5. Phantom,
    Mumbai Indian probably knows more about his own country’s history than you or I and he is also proud of his roots and his heritage.
    It’s a kind of patriotism thing that you Americans also have, and which we Brits are being weaned from by our politicians who are anxious not to give offence…
    PS
    I don’t think I would have been very good at Mr Gandhi’s way of practicisng control & abstinence…. 😉

  6. I’m sure that he does know more. It would be rather astonishing if he didn’t

    But I wasn’t aware that historical figures, even revered ones, couldn’t be written about any more, without being called a bigot.

    The Indians, including Gandhi, don’t refrain from criticizing the West. Which is fine. But that being the case, I see nothing wrong with calling weird sexual practices what they are!

  7. There is nothing ignorant or bigoted about discussing the “all” about anybody, as long as the perspective is researched into and quoted, even though not agreed to, by the author

  8. Of course Gandhi was a racist. His view of blacks would have made an Afikaaner blush.

    I remember once pointing this out in here and receiving the usual incredulous reaction from people whose heads are filled with government-approved ahistorical mush. A pile of that mush is that certain heoric figures must be unexamined lest the full truth be known (Lincoln, Gandhi, Mandela …)

    Speaking of of the racist, genocidal, war-criminal and all-round hero Lincoln, a recent book spilled the beans on him also:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/8319858/Abraham-Lincoln-wanted-to-deport-slaves-to-new-colonies.html

    That’s nothing new here of course, I said it before.

  9. Phantom –

    There have to be good guys? This is your typical propaganda – one side good, one side bad. Read and think for yourself.

    Insofar as there were good guys they were Americans who wanted to be left alone.

    Insofar as there were bad guys, we know Lincoln was a racist who launched a pre-emptive war of aggression to stop the southern states (consitutionally) seceeding frmo the union, we know he launched a total war against civilains, we know many tens of thousands of American civilians were killed by his orders, we know he shut down a free press, we know he had political opponents intimidated into silence and even exiled.

    In all, Gadaffi is an amateur compared to Lincoln.

  10. I hear new, “tell all” books are soon to be published uncovering the sordid and bigoted doings of a number of ATW grandees….
    Shock! Horror!!
    One of the awful things about gettin’ old is that your boyhood heroes and heroines turn out to be flawed human beings after all…
    Oh well…

  11. Ahhh…..

    So Jefferson Davis and his lash wielding slavemasters were the good guys ( we can read between the lines, kemosabe )

    The secessionists wanted to be let alone, but they did not leave their slaves alone, and they certainly did not want to leave the new western territories alone

    Lincoln is often regarded as the nation’s greatest president by historians. Pity a few bloggers don’t love him so much.

  12. M.I.

    “Firstly, most educated Indians know that a vitriolic and rabid section of whites will forever grudge the fact that not only their rule, but also their self-serving and self-important world-view received a serious beating at the hands of this five-foot-nothing “naked fakir”

    That, while true, could possibly be a rather delusional viewpoint, but does give those so inclined, the excuse to carry the conventional post independance ‘chip on the shoulder’, – usually as a convenient excuse for subsequent failure to deliver on their promises when campiagning for said independence. Whatever!

    My recollection of those times is that the larger proportion of Brits were only too pleased to see India get its independence, if for no other reason than it was entirely a figment of colonial fantasy to imagine that so few Brits could effectively govern a population so large and diverse as India. The only rabid and vitriolic ones were those in the F.O. and possibly Buck House, and their cronies.

    Sure Gandhi was lead player, – it would have been surprising if he had not been so, – after all, he lived and worked in the UK for many years and knew just who and what he was dealing with. However, I think, at most, – apart from being a hero figure, – he was merely helping events that would have happened anyway. Time and opinions were already moving against the concept of colonialism, but he certainly helped the inevitable to happen.

    As things stand, and with the benefit of hindsight, I would suggest that India really did get the best of the deal, – are we not still giving you aid and assistance, despite your belated national financial successes? Perhaps some of that success may be due to the ‘reverse colonialisation’, that has since occurred? – I jest, of course!

  13. I believe that most Brits, Americans, and westerners in general are extremely pleased to see India doing better now, and want nothing but the best for the vast country.

    Which is why Mumbai Indian’s comments are shockingly out of touch. They may have had some validity in 1959, but they have zero merit today.

  14. Phantom,

    His comments are just another, and possibly quite relevant, comments, and are as they appear to him. After all, he is resident there. We have said how things seem to us non-residents, surely he is just as entitled to his slighly different, and possibly more valid, pov?

    Who knows, it may not be ‘him’ that is out-of-touch! – and is he not entitled to also have a hero? – or do all others pale into insignifiance when compared to those of the New -(and still a lot to learn) – World?

  15. Just so Ernest.
    We are so used to denigrating our past and our heroes, it comes as a shock when someone is both proud and defensive of theirs…

    Before I became a fully fledged yuppie – and a snob to boot, I worked with a guy who had served with the army in India.
    He was a nice bloke, but I couldn’t accept his treatment of and attitude to, the Indians he had met during his service days.

    But we also have to be clear that whilst it is wrong to treat others with contempt or violence, it is by no means confined to any one group of people or a historical period.

    I would say it’s always about the relationship between the conquered and the vanquished, the invader and the dispossessed.

    For example I have a lot of sympathy for the Germans, not the Nazis. I think the Germans are burdened for a long time to come with the enormity of what was done in the name of the German people.
    Unfortunately though, their governments started a world war….
    twice.
    I hope Mumbai Indian will continue contributing here on ATW. His pov is as valid as anyone else’s.

  16. Agit8ed, it’s a long shot, I know, but just imagine the EU were to start some unjustified and criminal war on behalf of all Europeans.

    Would you, as an Englishman, feel the guilt of it?

  17. Noel,
    Agit8ed, it’s a long shot, I know, but just imagine the EU were to start some unjustified and criminal war on behalf of all Europeans.”

    Would you, as an Englishman, feel the guilt of it?

    As an Englishman?
    Yes, of course, though God knows what I would DO about it! I hope I would have the guts to refuse to participate, but it’s never just about the individual is it Noel?

    I think we’ve talked before about Catholics being reluctantly dragged in to supporting the IRA/Sinn Fein, for example.
    We know that most Catholics are not extremists, we know that Oliver Cromwell (one of my heros) was extremely cruel towards the Irish…
    Most of us are both cowardly and afraid of violence. We have family, children, friends that influence our thinking.
    I believe for example we were right in both world wars, but not in Iraq, nor Afghanistan.

    In the event of an unjust war the guilt lies with those of us who could have done something to stop it, but didn’t and taking refuge in,
    “I was only obeying orders”

  18. “Insofar as there were bad guys, we know Lincoln was a racist who launched a pre-emptive war of aggression to stop the southern states”

    1. Denouncing as a racist someone whose views on race were ahead of his time is something left wing student types do.
    2. Lincoln could not have launched “a pre-emptive war” to stop the South seceding given that 7 states had seceded before he even took office. Lincoln did not want war.

  19. Just to clarify when I say that his views were ahead of his time, I mean that he supported emancipation even though he was sceptical that blacks could be integrated into society. Denouncing him for not having the views on race we take for granted in 2011 is daft.

  20. Ross –

    Just to clarify when I say that his views were ahead of his time, I mean that he supported emancipation even though he was sceptical that blacks could be integrated into society.

    No, Lincoln did not support emancipation. This is part of the Lincoln myth.

    He was absolutely clear that if he could stop the states seceeding without freeing a single black from slavery then he would do so.

  21. They are indeed if done by the general public. The ones by historians, I take more seriously.

  22. He did say that, and he did mean it when he did say it, but yet he did emancipate them.

    As I keep saying, we want to pay less attention to what people say and more attention to what people do.

    Even great historical figures.

  23. I’d say the historians are even worse than the public. On the 17 sets of rankings listed on Wikipedia the abysmal Woodrow Wilson* is ranks no lower than 11th whereas the excellent Calvin Coolidge ranks no higher than 23rd.

  24. Lincoln supported emancipation (its no myth that he signed the Emancipation Proclaimation), although his primary concern was keeping the union together (which is what he considered to be the best and most gradual way towards the end of slavery).

  25. Pete

    When would Jefferson Davis have freed the slaves?

    – –

    I used to have this kind of discussion with fellow Navy people from the South. It’s quaint that this type of talk still happens.

  26. Phantom –

    I don’t know if Davis would have ended slavery, but it was certainly on the way out. In fact the American Revolution mainntained slavery in the first instance. The 1772 Somersett case outlawed slavery in England. Abolition was spreading to the colonies, particularly the American colonies and then the revolution cut the drift.

    Ereywhere else in the 19th Century slavery was being abolished peacefully. It would have been abolished in the South. All of which is to evade the point that Lincoln did not launch his war of aggression to abolish slavery. His was not for slavery because he was an admitted racist who would have sustained slavery if he could have done so

    “I am not now, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social or political equality of the white and black races. I am not now nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor of intermarriages with white people. There is a physical difference between the white and the black races which will forever forbid the two races living together on social or political equality. There must be a position of superior and inferior, and I am in favor of assigning the superior position to the white man.”

    – Lincoln, Illinois, 1858

    His concern was to wipe out the states’ independence and impose centralised control of all the states. This is the very point of the war. Lincoln said so and he did it. It was Lincoln’s intention all along to wipe out independence and liberty in favour of a central, corporate state. This is what he did. So I do chuckle when you say:

    As I keep saying, we want to pay less attention to what people say and more attention to what people do.

    Because you ignore what Lincoln did. You ignore that he killed more Americans than anyone in history.

    You ignore that he launched war against civilians that caused many thousands to be killed, raped and burned out of their homes.

    You ignore that he intimidated political opponents and sent some into exile.

    You ignore that he closed down a free press and completely shut down dissenting newspapers.

    You ignore that he suspended the Consitution.

    You ignore that he suspended habeas corpus.

    You ignore that he closed courts by force.

    You ignore that he had citizens and officials arrested arbitrarily.

    You ignore also that slavery was a national disgrace and that he did nothing to free slaves in the northern states when elected to office. What do they teach you about your own history over there? Don’t tell me. The Lincoln is enthroned like Zeus in his temple tells me everything about the lies and myths perpetuated.

  27. Phantom –

    That’s the first time you’ve acknowledged Lincoln’s tyranny. Even today you were lamenting that some don’t love him.

    Clearly the deaths of 700,000 Americans isn’t enough to generate less than open veneration. God help him if he’d been a libertarian; 700,000 wouldn’t have been killed but how immoral would that have been?!

    As for the Union, it wasn’t preserved. He found a union of seperate and sovereign states. He left a centralised state which butchered the union with total war against all who stood in its way.

  28. Hogwash.

    America’s destiny was greatness, and not to be a collective of yapping voices.

    Those deaths lay at the hands of those who took arms against their country.

    I don’t believe that I’ve ever met a soul who thinks of himself / herself as a ” New Yorker, Texan, Californian, Minnesotan, Pennsylvanian ” before they were an American. We’re Americans first here.

    You fight a curious fight that Americans left behind over a century ago. Have fun with that.

  29. Phantom –

    There’s Lincoln’s legacy, in your words:

    I don’t believe that I’ve ever met a soul who thinks of himself / herself as a ” New Yorker, Texan, Californian, Minnesotan, Pennsylvanian ” before they were an American.

    Clearly I said that Lincoln left a centralised state which had butchered the union. You demonstrate that is what he did.

  30. And your point is?

    In what way is this bad?

    Why do you obsess about long past history in a country that you don’t have real connections to?

  31. The long and sad history of the Civil War is fairly well known on this side of the waters, Pete.

  32. Phantom –

    I’m concerned about historical truth. Usually this means having to overcome state propaganda. Aren’t you concerned for historical truth?

    Given the worship of Lincoln Best and Greatest, the official hagiography, the endless myth-making, I’d rather suggest that the truth about this tyrant is suppressed.

  33. John Wilkes Booth may have said ” Sic Semper Tyrannis ” but most Americans never agreed with that.

    He was a good and wise man who had to deal with very bad times

  34. I met quite a few Texans who thought of themselves as TX first, actually. Or at least, that’s what they said. Admittedly, as far as I could tell, they always said it in a mild-mannered and pleasant (possibly humorous) way, rather than vociferously, if you see what I mean. But I did hear that said several times in TX.

  35. >>Those deaths lay at the hands of those who took arms against their country. <<

    In fairness, Phantom, there was (I believe) a strong legal position in favour of secession and that men had a right to defend their state. Some of the leading Confederates hated slavery and were even in favour of the Union, but stood on the idealistic legal point that their state had a right to leave if it wished.

  36. Tom, you hear people say – especially when they’ve a few drinks taken and especially when talking to foreigners – that they’re Welsh first, or Ulster first, or Quebec first, etc. When it comes to a vote or any meaningful act or decision, they generally go along with the larger entity.

  37. True enough, Noel. However, one may ‘go along with the larger entity’ out of a sense of pragmatism, while one’s heart may still be elsewhere. Example: I voted conservative last May although I support UKIP far more strongly. However, the overwhelming need (as I saw it) was to ensure that the Labour candidate was defeated at all costs. My instance of pragmatism however did not, and does not, negate or undermine my true allegiance. I simply judged that it would be a worse outcome for Labour to succeed than for my truly preferred party to fail.

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