there is reason to think that Gandhi, who after all was born in 1869, did not understand the nature of totalitarianism and saw everything in terms of his own struggle against the British government. …It is difficult to see how Gandhi’s methods could be applied in a country where opponents of the regime disappear in the middle of the night and are never heard of again. Without a free press and the right of assembly, it is impossible not merely to appeal to outside opinion, but to bring a mass movement into being, or even to make your intentions known to your adversary.
Is there a Gandhi in Russia at this moment? And if there is, what is he accomplishing? The Russian masses could only practise civil disobedience if the same idea happened to occur to all of them simultaneously, and even then, to judge by the history of the Ukraine famine, it would make no difference.
But let it be granted that non-violent resistance can be effective against one’s own government, or against an occupying power: even so, how does one put it into practise internationally? Gandhi’s various conflicting statements on the late war seem to show that he felt the difficulty of this. Applied to foreign politics, pacifism either stops being pacifist or becomes appeasement.
That is George Orwell discussing Gandhi in 1949. I’ve been reading Orwell’s Collection of Essays. A few weeks ago, on a long flight home, I watched the 1982 Gandhi biography and shared the same thought. Would Gandhi have been as successful under true tyranny?
But tyrannical control over mass media is slipping away. From Tehran to Harare, the opposition has used twitter, texts, and the web to bring mass movements into being. Is a new age of pacifism possible?