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Posted on April 17th, 2014, by

During the twentieth century, both India and China faced significant changes in their national structure: the liberation of India from the colonial rule and the formation of an independent state, rejection of the millennial tradition of imperial rule in China and the choice of the path of industrial development. In this perspective, both Mohandas Gandhi and Mao Zedong considered that at the frontier of these changes, their countries experience the need for the political institutions differing from the Western form of government, but aspired to implement those changes in differing ways.

Thus, after the Republic was proclaimed, China faced a dilemma: either to rely on its own long tradition of Confucian culture, or choose the way of decisive westernization. This dilemma was ultimately resolved by the Communist Party of China headed by Mao Zedong: as their tool of modernization, communists chose the Western theory of Marxism-Leninism, which, being anti-capitalist, was also anti-Western, and factually was corresponding to their main slogan: “The past should serve the present, and all foreign should serve China”¯ (McDougall, 1980). In addition, in 1966, Mao Zedong proclaimed the great proletarian “’cultural revolution”¯ (McDougall, 1980), the purpose of which was factually the complete eradication of the whole Confucian tradition, as well as the carriers of the traditional Chinese culture (professors, scholars, writers, and even party leaders of the older generation) by the forces of the Red Guards troops, who started the campaign on identifying and punishing “enemies”¯, i.e. intellectuals, which was similar to what happened at Stalin.

In his turn, Gandhi (1910) also did not deny the proximity of many of his ideals to the ideals of socialism. At the same time, he saw the major difference between his teaching and socialism not in the purpose, but in the means. Recognizing the dedication of many Indian communists in the struggle for independence, he simultaneously accused them for seeking ways to “transplant”¯ to India the failed Russian experience, i.e. Stalinist socialism. Bolshevism was also not acceptable for Gandhi, because it sought to impose socialist ideals through violence and class struggle, while Gandhi (1910) was deeply convinced that such socialism could not put an end to injustice and hatred of men and nations. Social justice and freedom, according to Gandhi (1910), should rather be based on moral growth, traditional values and national consciousness; therefore he used to rely on Indian religious texts and traditional Indian concepts.

As for capitalism, if in the early 1920’s, Gandhi idealized the natural forms of production of medieval India, in the 1930’s he began to pay more attention to the need for combining the protection of small entrepreneurship by the development of large national capitalist enterprises in the public sector, which would be able to limit national capitalism and directed it. Gandhi (1910) emphasized that his policy was not anti-capitalist; however, abandoning the idealization of natural economy, Gandhi still criticized the exploitative nature of the capitalist system. Recognizing the need for the machine industry development, he still was against the subordination of a human to machines. Without denying the existence of conflict between the interests of labor and capital, at the same time, Gandhi (1910) believed that “this conflict can be resolved if everyone will do his duty”¯. In particular, the liquidation of the rich-and-poor gap was to be performed through the moral improvement of capitalists and their voluntary self-restraint (brahmacharya) (Gandhi, 1910).

Thus, to a certain extent, Gandhi shared collectivist views which is reflected in his support of the cooperative form of ownership, but in the essence, his doctrine of the common well-being and revival (sarvodaya) was coming out of the need for the harmonious combination of private (ideally, labor only), public and cooperative property. In their turn, the Chinese communists first opted for isolation from the external world and tried to implement the modernization of China by their own forces (McDougall, 1980). However, this attempt, that Mao Zedong called “Great Leap Forward”¯ (McDougall, 1980), led only to the situation when the impoverished agriculture could not provide the country with food supplies, and about 20 million people perished from starvation. Finally, already at the last stage of modernization program, a new policy was declared, now supposing the openness of the country, construction of “socialism with the Chinese face”¯, but by the methods of the capitalist economy. As a result, over 35 years since Mao Zedong’s death, China has made an impressive economic breakthrough and turned into one of the fastest growing world economies, successfully carrying out the scientific and technological modernization.

Today, in political terms, China is still a country which does not belong to democracies, as the monopoly of power is kept by the Communist Party. However, the Chinese themselves now define their mission not as building a communist society, but uniting all the best found in Western civilization with their own eternal values, such as realizing the moral dimensions of a personality, the idea of humanity, reform of thinking, attitude to the people as the foundation of the state, and appreciation of acting individuals. Similarly, Gandhi’s ideas have had a great influence on the formation of the socio-economic concept of “national socialism”¯, being to a large extent indulged into the search for alternatives to capitalism and socialism and therefore considered by many thinkers of modern India as one of the increasingly popular choices of alternative development in the countries of the East.

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