Gandhi and Beyond

David Cortright. Gandhi avui: noviolència per a una nova era política. Barcelona: Institut Català Internacional per la Pau; Pagès, 2010. Col·lecció Noviolència i lluita per la pau, 1.

Everyone likes Gandhi. Social and political figures from various areas and with various ideologies often quote him, when justifying civil disobedience, among other reasons. They attribute a great victory to him, in his use of peaceful means against the structural violence used by the British Empire. However, they doubt whether his actions could be applied in other situations. As a result, he is considered an exceptional case (together with Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela), in a very specific context which therefore cannot be repeated, because it is linked to a unique person in history.

That is why in today's conflicts, the sometimes cynically rhetorical question "What would Gandhi do?" is used to legitimise the use of force as a valid and effective means. David Cortright's approach goes further. He seriously considers what Gandhi would do, or to put it another way, what someone inspired by Gandhi, such as Barack Obama, would do. How should a citizen committed to nonviolence behave today in a Palestinian refugee camp, in the midst of the Iraq War, when faced with a suicidal terrorist, a sex attacker, in strategic debates within the social movement for international justice, or in the new forms of communication?

This book shows us that apart from Gandhi, Luther King and Mandela, there have been other luminaries of nonviolence, such as Dorothy Day and Barbara Deming, although the majority of its heroes are nameless. That is what both history and modern reality tells us. And perhaps this is the key contribution made by this text: it invites us to participate and therefore to be anonymous heroes of contemporary nonviolence. Few books contain such a successful combination of theoretical lessons and the practical advice necessary for carrying undertake successful nonviolent actions. In other words, actions that change situations of social injustice. In short, this is a well written book with interesting content, but above all it is a useful book.

J. A.