In 1931, on his way to the London Round Table Conference, Mahatma Gandhi was asked by a Reuters correspondent what his program was. He responded by writing out a brief, vivid sketch of "the India of my dreams". Such an India, he said, would be free, would belong to all its people, would have no high and low classes, no discrimination against women, no intoxicants and, "the smallest army imaginable." (2)
The last phrase presents a puzzle: What is the smallest military imaginable? But the fact that it presents a puzzle is also puzzling. For what is so unimaginable about no military at all? The question is not rhetorical, for most people do find the no-military option unimaginable. It is easy enough to pray for peace, to petition and demonstrate for peace, or to imagine oneself as a perfectly pacifist non-killer. It is harder to imagine a state with no military.
One of the few places where this option is clearly and forcefully stated is in Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. People who first hear about this article often respond by insisting that the words can’t mean what they say. It is, after all, an axiom of politics that states have militaries. This axiom is presumed to hold despite the fact that there exist today 13 countries with no military forces and no military alliances. (3)
"Zero" is easy enough to imagine; what is it that makes it so hard for us to imagine "zero military"? Perhaps one reason is that the things the military is trained to do, and does, are so awful that it is essential to us to believe that they are ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY, and that to allow any hint of a doubt about that to enter our consciousness is unsettling. Moreover, if you start talking about the possibility of zero military you are treated as one who has stepped out of the realm of reality. You risk being called a crank, a dreamer, a peacenik, a wimp or (God help us!) a "Gandhian."
One might counter that it is natural not to imagine zero military, because what constrains our imagination is the force of reality itself. The idea is simply irrational and unrealistic, and not worth thinking about. But I am convinced that just the opposite is true: this failure of our imagination prevents us from seeing reality; it conceals from us the truth of our situation. It is only when we accept Gandhi’s implicit challenge and carry his "smallest military imaginable" to its extreme conclusion that we can begin truly to think about what the military means in our lives.
The Peace Constitution of Japan
Japan’s post-war Constitution does carry the challenge to its extreme conclusion; its Article 9 imagines the military altogether out of existence.
"Article 9. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
"In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as any other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized."
Taken by itself, Article 9 is a fascinating, bold, lucidly written statement of a new principle of international politics, and a new concept of "the state" itself. Note that this is not an "appeal" for peace, such appeals being a dime a dozen. It does not say that the Government should avoid war insofar as possible, or that it should try as hard as it can to seek peaceful solutions. Rather, the Japanese Constitution is written on the principle of sovereignty of the people. In the Preamble to the previous Meiji Constitution, the grammatical subject is "I", that is, the Meiji Emperor; the Constitution which follows is often described as his "gift"; in fact it is his command. In the present Constitution this "I" is replaced by "we", that is, the Japanese people, which means that it takes the form of a command by the people to the government. It sets out the powers that the government has, and the powers it does not have. Article 9 says the government does not have the power to make war, threaten war, or make preparations for war. Therefore, the government does not have those powers. As a legal instrument, it is clear and absolute. The problem is that, as a practical matter, it is enveloped in layer upon layer of hypocrisy. Its formulators, or some of them — members of the post-war U.S. Occupation and of the then Japanese government — may have believed in Article 9 sincerely enough to get it written down, but never enough to have it carried out.
But how is it possible that they could have been sincere at all? Article 9 utterly violates the common sense of politics and political science. How could a group of practical politicians and military people have offered this as a serious proposal?
There are several possible answers to that question.
First, one might, at least tentatively, try taking the authors at their word. It is important to recall the historical moment, and the geographical place, where this Constitution was written. This was immediately after the end of World War II, in Tokyo, a city that had been flattened and burned by the U.S terror bombings. It is said that you could stand in the center of Tokyo and see the horizon in every direction.
It is probably only partly metaphorical to say that the smell of burning flesh was still not gone from the city. It seems possible that the most hardnosed realist (as the two persons alleged as the forces behind the peace clause, Baron Shidehara Kijuro and General Douglas McArthur, surely were) could read directly off the face of the land that the international system was not operating properly, and that given the technology of modern warfare, the state was no longer able to protect its citizens from violent death. And of course this is also the historical moment when, and the country where, the world entered the age of nuclear warfare. Confronted with these things, unprecedented in history, one would not need to be a pacifist dreamer to see that something was deeply wrong, and that a new principle was needed.
But the US motives were mixed from the beginning. Destroying Japan’s military power was of course a war aim from the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and writing that into the Constitution can be seen simply as a way of nailing down the victory. This was backed by a deep mistrust of Japan on the part not only of the US but the other allied powers (especially those which, like Korea, China, and the Philippines, had been invaded and colonized); from this standpoint the Peace Constitution did not necessarily mean that military force in itself was bad, but that Japan could not be trusted with it. Moreover, McArthur, it turns out, never really believed that a demilitarized Japan would be safe from attack, but rather saw the string of U.S. military bases then under construction, some in Japan but most in tiny Okinawa (which had been seized from Japan and was then under U.S. military governance) as the sine qua non that would make the Japanese Peace Constitution possible. (4) McArthur was able to imagine zero military in a particular space, so long as that space was protected by an impenetrable chain of fortresses controlled by the United States.
The Japanese Government, for its part, also did not see the Constitution as leaving the state without military protection; rather it assumed that this protection would now be the responsibility of the United States. Then in 1950, with the beginning of the Korean War, The Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP) ordered the Japanese Government to form a paramilitary "Police Reserve", which was the seed out of which the present Self-Defense Forces eventually grew. In 1952, when the Peace Treaty was signed and Japan again became an independent country, the Japan–U.S. Security Treaty was stipulated as a condition (you want independence, you accept the U.S. bases and a subordinate position within the alliance), and has remained in effect to this day. So the experiment proposed in the Constitution, that Japan abandon the method of protecting national security with military force and instead seek to protect itself with peace diplomacy, has never been attempted.
But there is a third major actor in the story: the Japanese public. At the time the Constitution was proposed, opinion polls showed that it was supported by 85% of the people. Huge rallies were held to celebrate it, and the newspapers were filled with favorable letters. No one could have predicted this in, say, 1944. Everything written about Japan up to the end of the war saw Japanese society as militaristic to the core. Some observers could find hardly anything in it besides Bushido, the alleged samurai spirit. Partly this was a failure of these observers to look closely enough, and showed their inability to distinguish culture from government-imposed ideology. Still I think this counts as one of the great acts of collective will in history, in which a people fully mobilized for war makes a decision to turn about 180 degrees and strike out in a new direction.
The Japanese Government never liked the Peace Constitution, and the U.S. Government very soon changed its mind about it. As the Cold War began and the U.S. decided it would prefer to have Japan not as a weakened ex-enemy but as a rearmed anti-Soviet ally, U.S. Occupation policy flip-flopped and there began what is known in Japan as the Reverse Course, one element of which was to put pressure on Japan to ignore its Constitution and rearm. With all this opposition, why is Article 9 still there? The answer is, public support. The Government has long wanted to amend it, but so far (as of spring, 2010) has not been able to muster the public opinion to do so. Failing this, it has resorted to the technique called "amendment by interpretation." Thus the government interprets Article 9 as not ruling out self-defense, and so the Self-Defense Forces have grown up to become the third largest military force in the world (measured not by number of troops but by military expenditures and equipment).
So looked at objectively, the Peace Constitution seems perfectly hypocritical. Article 9 rules out war, threat of war, and preparation for war, but the Self-Defense Forces are fully equipped with artillery, tanks, warships, attack aircraft, missiles, what have you. And under the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty the U.S. has made Japan, and especially Okinawa, into a fortress from which it has carried out wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, and "special operations" in many other countries.
Furthermore, in the case of many of the supporters of Article 9, their support can also be said to be hypocritical. That is, public opinion polls that ask, Do you support A) Article 9, B) the Self Defense Forces, C) The Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, D) U.S. bases in Japan and Okinawa? find many people who answer "yes" to all four. This is by no means a position supporting Article 9. The best to be said for it is that it may be clever pragmatism, if you believe military protection is necessary, to get it done by someone else (the U.S.) or, if you believe a domestic military force is necessary, to keep it in a limbo of unconstitutionality so that it won’t become arrogant and domineering as the Imperial Army did before 1945.
But as a peace proposal, wouldn’t it be best to dismiss Article 9 altogether? There remain strong reasons not to. For the remarkable thing is that, even enveloped in these layers of hypocrisy, Article 9 has had powerful effects. Consider:
1) Despite all the contradictions surrounding Article 9, it remains a fact that in the more than six decades since it was adopted, no human being has been killed under the authority of the right of belligerency of the Japanese state. This is an extraordinary record, which no one could have predicted before 1945 following half a century during which Japan was almost continuously at war. And this is of course the principal intention of Article 9: no more killing. As long as this record continues, Article 9 is still in effect.
2) Within Japanese society there has been formed a body of Article 9 believers, people who, insofar as they oppose both the Self Defense Forces (as unconstitutional) and the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty (as providing for the continuation of the U.S. occupation), can be said to be sincere in their belief in Article 9. This may be the largest collection of people in the world today who, when they think of "the smallest military imaginable", immediately imagine no military at all. And in Japan generally, six decadeswithout war has produced a kind of "peace common sense", so that even among people who wouldn’t dream of becoming political activists, not going to war is seen as most ordinary. This in contrast to countries (like my own) where every generation has its war, and everyone has friends, neighbors and relatives who have gone off to foreign countries, killed people, and returned home (or not). Whether or not one considers the ideas of this Japanese peace culture to be correct, its existence is a fact, and it does act as a peace force in the world.
3) Article 9, because of its clear and decisive language, moves the state’s "right of belligerency" from the position of axiomatic certainty into the realm of the questionable.
As a political theorist I find this extremely interesting. And this is what I would like to talk of next.
The Right of Belligerency
The last phrase of Article 9 states, "the right of belligerency of the state shall not be recognized." What is "the right of belligerency"?
Many people seem to believe that it means the right to carry out aggressive war. That is the position long taken by Japan’s Liberal Democratic Government, which ruled from 1955 to 2009, by which it justified its "amendment by interpretation" position that even without the right of belligerency, Japan still has the right of self-defense (and therefore may establish a Self-Defense Force).
But that is not what the right of belligerency means. Under contemporary international law, there is no such thing as a "right to carry out aggressive war". Strictly speaking a country enjoys the right of belligerency only in cases of self-defense (cf United Nations Charter, Article 2 (4), Article 51). The right of belligerency is the "right" that makes war itself legal. Black’s Law Dictionary defines "Belligerent" as "engaged in lawful war.. Put bluntly, it is the right of soldiers to kill people without this being considered murder. This killing is considered not to be murder in two senses; one, the legal sense: unless the soldier has been caught violating the laws of war (i.e by killing more civilians than necessary, looting, raping women, etc.), the soldier will not be arrested; and two, the moral sense: the soldier after doing all this killing need not feel guilty..
The right of belligerency is one part (along with police powers and judicial powers) of what Max Weber called "the right of legitimate violence", the monopoly of which he took to be the defining characteristic of the modern state. (5) It is interesting and even remarkable that generation after generation of political scientists, many calling themselves "value free", have accepted this definition of Weber’s, with its extraordinary value claim ("legitimate violence"), without question. Perhaps that is the power of presenting the idea as a definition. When something is defined as such-and-so, then whether it is indeed such-and-so is no longer a matter for examination but is, or at any rate seems to be, "true by definition." In any case, doubting the right of legitimate violence is no small matter. It endangers the foundations of political science, of international law, of just war theory, of the entire international system, indeed, of the very premise of the state.
This right has resulted in what I call the Magic of the State. With this magic, the state is able to transform an act that would ordinarily horrify us — say the use of explosives to blow a human body apart — into an act that may hardly catch our attention. This has penetrated deeply into our consciousness — I confess, my own as well. If we read in the newspaper of some young man somewhere entering, say, a schoolyard and shooting down six or seven people who are strangers to him, we are horrified, depressed, and wonder what on earth had gone wrong with this person to make him commit such an act. But if we meet, say, an air force officer who is an F-16 pilot (never mind the country) for whom killing six or seven strangers is daily routine, we can easily say, "Oh, a pilot, how interesting! What’s it like up there?"
I do not understand how this Magic of the State works, psychologically. But if you ask, Why do we give this power to the state? we all know the answer. That is, the answer is written up in detail in the classics of political theory, and it is also part of the common sense of almost everybody. Actually there are two answers, which are interrelated. First, we believe that, if we give this power of legitimate violence to the state, the state will use it to protect us. If the state has this power, it will use it in such a way that the number of people who suffer violent death in the society will be reduced — not reduced to nothing, but reduced. This argument was perhaps stated most powerfully in Hobbes’ Leviathan, but if you ask almost anyone the same question you will get a version of the same answer.
Second, we believe that the state will use this power to protect what we call "our freedom", by which we mean the sovereign independence of the state itself.
If these arguments were in fact true, they would be very powerful indeed. But while many people see them as axiomatic, they are not, in fact, axioms. Strictly speaking, they are hypotheses: if you do X, result Y will follow. But whether result Y really does follow can only be seen in the event.
From this perspective, the 20th century can be seen as a 100-year experiment to test these hypotheses. At the beginning of the century there were 55 sovereign states in the world; at the end there were 193. This massive change was in large part driven by the belief in these hypotheses: that if we organize ourselves into states, each with a monopoly of legitimate violence within its territory, we will be relatively safe and relatively free, and the level of violence will go down.
Well, at the end of the century the results are in, and the results are disastrous. In no 100–year period in human history have so many people suffered violent deaths. And who was the big killer? Not the Mafia. Not drug traffickers. Not jealous husbands or crazy serial killers. It was, of course, the state. If we accept the statistics compiled by R.J. Rummel in his Death By Government, in the 20th century the state killed something more than 200 million people. (6) We should not be surprised at this: we gave it a license to kill, and it used it. And of course by far the greatest number of those it killed were not soldiers, but civilians. Again we should not be surprised. Civilians are much easier to kill than soldiers (they don’t know how to take cover, and they don’t shoot back). But the surprising statistic is this: by far the greatest number of those killed were not foreigners, but each state’s own citizens. (7) If the greater number were foreigners then we could at least say that the state has been struggling to keep its original promise of keeping its citizens safe and free. But it seems that this is not so. True, Rummel’s statistics may be skewed by the fact that he includes the Nazi regime’s extermination of Jews as a government killing its own people, and also includes such things as starvation of farmers resulting from government action in the USSR and China, neither of which are military actions strictly speaking. But one could reduce his figures by half or more and the point would remain the same: the state is the big killer and many of its victims are its own people. If this still seems unbelievable, it can be made more believable by a glance through the world news section of any newspaper, where it will be seen that most of the wars going on in the world are between states and some section of their own people. In fact many of the military organizations in the world have virtually no other experience, and no other purpose. This is the dark secret hidden behind the state’s claim to protect its citizens. The primal war of the state is the war the state fights against its people to found and to maintain itself. Its monopoly of legitimate violence is established by violence and preserved by violence.
Gandhi and the Violent State
I understand that for me to attempt to speak about Gandhi is foolhardy. Millions of words have been written about this man, most by people who know far more about him than I do. As a means to mitigate this foolhardiness, what I propose to do is not to offer an analysis, but to attempt to tell a story. The struggle between rival analyses is a zero-sum game; one seeks to prove one’s own analysis to be correct by showing that the other analyses are wrong. But it is the characteristic of a story that it can admit of many tellings, each of which will unfold differently depending on the perspective of the teller. My perspective is that of one who spent many years teaching western political theory in a country whose constitution denies one of the foundation stones of western political theory, that a state without the right of belligerency is no state at all. From this contradictory and therefore rather awkward standpoint, perhaps I may be able to tell this story in a manner somewhat different from the way it has been told by others, without in the least denying the validity of the other renderings. I will tentatively title the story, "Gandhian Non-Violence and the Founding of the Sovereign State of India."
I will take as my texts Machiavelli’s The Prince and his Discourses on Livy. I do this partly to protect myself from the accusation of being a dreamer who is ignorant of the rigors of realpolitik, but mostly because Machiavelli is the premier political theorist on the subject of founding. This is usually forgotten, or obscured by Machiavelli’s reputation as the theorist of "the end justifies the means." But the principal message of his work is that the founding of a new state or the restoration of an old one is almost impossible except under the leadership of one man (I use the word "man" advisedly), who he called "the prince" and who modern political scientists would call the charismatic leader. Seen from this standpoint one could think of the 20th century as Machiavelli’s century, for never have so many new states been founded in such a short time, and one would be hard pressed to think of many of these new states that do not have the name of such a leader attached to their founding. Think of Ataturk, Lenin, Nasser, Sukarno, Kenyatta, Senghor, Nkrumah, Mao, U Nu, Ho Chi Minh, Tito, Kim Il Sung, Castro, to mention only some of the more prominent figures. And in the case of India, the name of course is Gandhi.
With the exception of Gandhi, all of these figures match pretty well with Machiavelli’s model, set out in The Prince, of political brilliance and political ruthlessness. Gandhi alone seems out of place. The difference can be brought into focus by recalling Machiavelli’s words on the dilemma posed by the radical restoration of a state, which can also be taken as the dilemma of founding.
"And as the reformation of the political condition of a state presupposes a good man, whilst the making of himself prince of a republic by violence naturally presupposes a bad one, it will consequently be exceedingly rare that a good man should be found willing to employ wicked means to become prince, even though his final object be good; or that a bad man, after having become prince, should be willing to labor for good ends, and that it should enter his mind to use for good purposes that authority which he has acquired by evil means." (8)
Much could be, and has been, written about the varying degrees of success or lack thereof with which the above mentioned founders were able to overcome the dilemma between what they (believed they) had to do in order to make themselves the "princes" of their new and/or revolutionary states, and what kind of government was needed after the convulsion of founding/revolution was over. But for Gandhi, the dilemma was reversed. That is, while his denial of Machiavelli was complete, it was so complete that the dilemma of founding came back to haunt him, standing, as it were, on its head. For Gandhi discovered that it was possible — or rather, with the immense power of his will, he made it possible — to lead India from colonial subjection to independence without committing the crimes of violence that Machiavelli believed inescapable. But the founding of independent India eventually led, with its success, to the founding of yet another violent state.
Gandhi was seen as the Father of his Country, or of his Nation, but it was entirely against his nature to become the Father of the State, or to serve as its Prince. As the transfer of power from British to Indian hands approached, Gandhi backed off, taking no post in the government, or in the Constituent Assembly. He often expressed his deep disappointment at the turn things were taking, and even made an alternative constitutional proposal (of which, more below), but he was realistic enough to know that it was not going to be adopted. Thus for him the Machiavellian dilemma must be stated the other way around: how is it possible for a person who has led a nation to independence using only good means, to adopt, after independence has been achieved, the wicked means used by the violent state? Gandhi was constitutionally incapable of making this transformation, and while he remained the advisor and father figure for many government leaders, the state itself had no place for him.
Satyagraha and the Right of Belligerency
Max Weber defined the state as the social organization claiming a monopoly of legitimate violence, but that monopoly has not been fully accepted. Members of national liberation and revolutionary movements have also granted themselves the right of belligerency in many cases. In a sense this is simply an extension of the logic of the right of belligerency of the state: since these movements aim to become the state where there is none or to seize control of the state where it exists, and are usually infused with the faith that they will surely succeed. From that assumed legitimacy they simply apply the state’s right of belligerency to themselves retroactively. And this right is to some extent recognized in international law. For example the 1948 Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war stipulates that members of "organized resistance movements" must, when captured, be given prisoner of war status if they meet certain conditions. Being granted prisoner of war status means that the killing they have been engaging in is not murder but war, justified by the right of belligerency.
Satyagraha specifically refuses to make this claim. If I understand the notion correctly, the satyagratis do not arrogate to themselves the right to kill, but rather consider all killing to be murder. The effect of this on the soldiers on the other side is usually described in ethical and religious terms, but it also can be described in terms of just war theory. One of the arguments used to explain why just war is indeed just, that is, not criminal behavior, is that the people on the other side who you are trying to kill are also trying to kill you. Both sides are in the same game, and the fact that I am trying to kill you means I have no complaint if instead you kill me. The logic is similar to that of rough contact sports: the boxer can treat his opponent in a way that would get him arrested outside the ring, because his opponent is also a boxer and has accepted the rigors and dangers of boxing which, as we all know, include the danger of death. Thus the knocked-out boxer, like the shot-down soldier, is only suffering the same fate that he had been trying to bring to the other. Whatever one thinks about this logic, it is in fact at the heart of just war theory, both in its international law form and in the form it takes in the consciences of individual soldiers.
Satyagraha spoils this game. By renouncing the right to attempt to kill the enemy, satyagraha denies to the other side its primary justification to use violence. By the very rules of just war theory, what the soldiers are doing cannot be just war, and therefore begins to look like criminal behavior. This puts terrific pressure on both the individual soldiers and their commanders. One imagines them longing for just one act of violence from the satyagrahis, so the situation can be fitted back into their preconceived notion of how war is carried out. This may help to explain Gandhi’s controversial decision to call off the anti-Rowlett Bill satyagraha campaign after some violence broke out on the anti-government side. For the issue is not one of degree: reducing the amount of violence as much as possible. If any violence at all is used by the satyagraha side this restores the logic of the just war game, and thus restores the legitimacy of the violence used by the other side. "Murder" again becomes "war".
(Though it is not a central purpose of this essay to make the argument that "satyagraha works", perhaps I should give a brief response here to the objection that always crops up at this point, that satyagraha was successful in India only because it was used against the conscientious British. Gandhi’s own response to this argument was to remind the doubter that it had also been effective against the apartheid regime in South Africa, which was about as racist a system as the world has ever known. An argument he did not make, but which could be made by someone not in his position, is that the image of the "conscientious British" fades if you look at such details of British rule in India as the Amritsar Massacre, the Crawling Order, or the way that satyagratis were sometimes beaten mercilessly long after they had fallen to the ground. Also the argument that "it never would have worked against Hitler" is counterfactual: as Hannah Arendt and others have pointed out, there were cases of successful non-violent resistance against Hitler’s regime. (9) But finally, it must be pointed out that to say that for satyagraha to be taken seriously it must be shown to be successful 100% of the time is to ask the impossible. In the world of real politics, no method, including the method of military action, is successful 100% of the time. After all, in war for every winner there is a loser, which gives war the very poor success rate of 50%.
Gandhi and the Violent State
But while Gandhi was adamant about demanding thorough non-violence from the independence movement, was he equally adamant about demanding it from the state? Many argue that he was not. Partly this argument grows out of a kind of denial by deduction: just as many people say of Japan’s Article 9, "It would be absurd for a country’s constitution to renounce war, therefore Article 9 does not say that", so people say of Gandhi, "It would be absurd for Gandhi to deny military power to the state, therefore Gandhi never said that." But it is also true that Gandhi, over the period of his long life, occasionally made statements that people can use to support the idea that he approved of state military. Most famously,
"I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honor than that she should in a cowardly manner become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour." (10)
"The simple fact is that Pakistan has invaded Kashmir. Units of the Indian army have gone to Kashmir but not to invade Kashmir. They have been sent on the express invitation of the Maharaja and Sheikh Abdullah." (11)
On the other hand,
"If I am given the charge of the Government I would follow a different path, because I have no military and police force under me." (12)
It would be useless to try to resolve the question of which is Gandhi’s real opinion by the method of lining up quotations, because any number of quotations could be found to support either side. Should we conclude that Gandhi, despite his reputed will of iron, couldn’t make up his mind? I would suggest that one way of solving the apparent contradiction would be to compare Gandhi with another man who moved between the ideal politics of the "country of his dreams" and the "slum politics" of the actual state where he lived, Thomas More. You will remember that More wrote his Utopia as fiction, in which the character Raphael Hythloday, having traveled to the island of Utopia, relates what he has seen there to More and his friends. In the story, More asks Hythloday (the name means "dispenser of nonsense") why, given the wisdom he has attained from visiting a perfectly ordered polity, he does not offer his services as advisor to the King. Hythloday answers that in the king’s chambers no one would listen to him: kings do not want to hear the kind of advice he could give. More responds by saying, yes, of course kings do not want to hear about the politics of Utopia itself, but even so Hythloday could still be of service if he became a royal counselor and that which you cannot turn to good, so order that it be not very bad. (13)
Hythloday answers that if he were to attempt this, the only result would be that he would eventually be killed. (14)
When More wrote these lines, he was debating in his mind whether to accept the offer of Henry VIII to make him Chancellor of England. He eventually accepted the offer, and we can assume that he did so knowing full well that he was not going to persuade the King to adopt any utopian policies. Presumably he hoped he would be able to influence the King’s policies so as to be "not very bad." But in the end Hythloday’s prophecy (that is, More’s own prophecy) came true: when More as a man of conscience could no longer support Henry’s policies, he was tried, convicted of high treason, and beheaded.
Like More, Gandhi was a visionary who had "seen Utopia", or as he called it, Ramarajya. Like More, he was also highly skilled in actual, day-to-day politics, though he was far more successful than More in reshaping actual politics on the model of the ideal — More accepted the Chancellorship of a violent state,