Gandhi faced much of the same questions in his time that many nonviolence practitioners face today. Property destruction was on the top of that list, and within that wide topic in nonviolence, he addressed the question in particular, whether it would be permissible in nonviolence for one to refrain from killing others yet harm their property? While he is speaking within the context of the Indian Freedom Movement, we could easily apply the perspective to corporate exploitation (India was after all, colonized through a corporation, the East India Company, which had become a wing of British imperialism). Here’s what he had to say on the topic in 1946 (after 60 years of experience):
“Some philosophers of action in this country improve upon the model (of killing) and say: ‘We shall never kill our enemy, but we shall destroy ‘his property’. Perhaps I do them an injustice when I call it ‘his property’, for the remarkable thing is that the so-called enemy has brought no property of his own, and what little he has brought he makes us pay for. Therefore, what we destroy is really our own. The bulk of it, whether in men or things, he produces here. So what he really has is the custody of it. For the destruction, too, we have to pay through the nose and it is the innocent who are made to pay. That is the implication of punitive tax and all it carries with it.”
This is not to say that property destruction never has a place in nonviolence, but we need to study our nonviolent escalation curve (see page 108 of The Search for a Nonviolent Future) to know how to use it most effectively after other means have been exhausted and constructive program is in full force. Not destruction, but nonviolence, and “yet more nonviolence.”
Consider this: we provide the materials, human and non, that help some, if not many, corporations exploit us. What can we do differently to address this?
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com