Thursday, 27 October 2011

Godfrey Blount & Gandhi

I had vaguely wondered why I occasionally get searches from India on Godfrey Blount and The New Crusade.  Then I found the Gandhi connection.  I never would have imagined that Blount was an influence on such a notable figure on the World stage.

M.K. Gandhi, in London c.1890

Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule in 1909 as he travelled from London to South Africa.  In this Gandhi explains his argument for Indian independence and vision of self-sufficient communities.  The book is described as "a political pamphlet, and a paraphrase in Gujarati of John Ruskin's Unto This Last.  This last essay can be considered his programme on economics." (Wikipedia).  One of the themes in the Hind Swaraj is that "India will never be free unless it rejects western civilization itself...he is deeply critical of western civilization, claiming "India is being ground down, not under the English heel, but under that of modern civilization."...He argues that "Western civilization is such that one has only to be patient and it will be self destroyed."  It is a profound repudiation.  Not only is Western civilization unhealthy for India, but western civilization is by its own virtue, unhealthy." (Wikipedia).

Hind Swaraj, M.K. Gandhi, c.1909
Godfrey Blount's 'The New Crusade' is listed in the Hind Swaraj under further reading.

I believe that the Chapter 19 called 'Machinery' reflects Blount's influence.  Gandhi begins by stating "It is machinery that has impoverished India.  It is difficult to measure the harm that Manchester has done to us.  It is due to Manchester that Indian handicraft has all but disappeared...Machinery has begun to desolate Europe.  Ruination is now knocking at the English gates.  Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin."   Referring to the production of cloth in Manchester's factory mills.
Gandhi with textile workers in Darwen, Lancashire, 1931,
SGI Quarterly

"As long as we cannot make pins without machinery, so long will we do without them...we will make wicks, as of old, with homegrown cotton, and use hand-made earthen saucers for lamps...Machinery is like a snake-hole that may contain between one to a hundred snakes.  Where there is machinery there are large cities, there are tram-cars and railways; and there only does one see electric light.  English villages do not boast these things."  Is it too fantastical to presume that Gandhi visited the Peasant Arts industries in Haslemere?  Gandhi first came to London in 1888 to 1891 to study and returned in 1909 after being released from prison in South Africa, where he lobbied for Indian rights against South Africa's Black Act.
Godfrey Blount, courtesy of the Dartford Warbler,
the wealthy man that Gandhi refers to?

Gandhi states that to succeed in the struggle for home rule, for an individual "strength will be available to him only who....2. if a lawyer, will give up his profession, and take up a hand-loom;...8.although a doctor, will take up the hand-loom...10. if a wealthy man, will devote his money to establishing hand-looms, and encourage others to use hand-made goods by wearing them himself."  Again perhaps it is too extreme to suppose that Gandhi is referred to Blount as the 'wealthy man' in his recommendation no.10? Joseph King was a lawyer, and Greville MacDonald a doctor, all of them wealthy men.

There are a handful of authors recommended for further reading.  Gandhi refers to them as 'Testimonies by Eminent Men', Blount appears on the first page underneath a number of Tolstoy literature, and above Ruskin.

I believe this link firmly places Blount and the Peasant Arts movement on the world stage at the turn of the century.

from Hind Swaraj, Gandhi, M.K., c.1909
recommending the reading of Godfrey Blount

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