The massive response to Gandhi’s call for indentured Indians to go on strike surprised him. The movement quickly spread and threatened to get out of hand, certainly beyond Gandhi’s immediate control. Gandhi, fearful that such an uncontrolled, uncoordinated movement might prove self-defeating, thereby squandering the energy and enthusiasm of his supporters, called on the strikers to leave the mines and to join him for a march from the territory of Natal into the territory of the Transvaal by way of the town of Volksrust. Movement of indentured servants and other unregistered and undocumented Indians into the Transvaal was prohibited. All told, some 2,000 men, women, and children joined Gandhi for the march into the Transvaal with the destination being the movement’s Tolstoy Farm near Johannesburg.
Some of the significant characters you will meet in these chapters include:Hermann Kallenbach
Hermann Kallenbach was a German-Jewish architect who left Germany for Johannesburg in the 1896. His success as an architect made Kallenbach quite rich and he was able to acquire ample lands in the Transvaal. In 1904, Kallenbach met and befriended Gandhi. He was deeply influenced by Gandhi’s spiritual and moral philosophy and became out of the principle patrons of Gandhi personally and the Satyagraha movement. Kallenbach provided over 1,000 acres of land for the Satyagrahis’ Tolstoy Farm.Gopal Krishna Gokhale
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was the founder of the non-violent resistance campaign in India. He was a mentor to Gandhi and supported Gandhi’s campaign in South Africa. Like Gandhi, Gokhale received an English education, including an education in English political philosophy. Gokhale pushed mainly for social reforms, educational opportunities and maintained a relatively positive view of British imperial institutions. One of the most interesting elements of these chapters is Gandhi’s realization that the movement requires him to go against the wishes of his mentor at one point and to become more radical than Gokhale would have desired.Henry Polak
A newspaperman and vegetarian, Henry Polak became close friends with Gandhi beginning in 1904. His wife Millie Downs (Polak) also shared an intimate bond with Gandhi. Polak shared and in many respects deepened Gandhi’s explorations of justice and morality and became one of the leading figures in the Satyagraha movement, actively participating in the precursor to the Tolstoy Farm, the Phoenix Settlement, and working as an editor for the main organ of Gandhi’s movement, the Indian Opinion.
General Jan Smuts
Jan Smuts came from an Afrikaner family. Though he was at first an ardent anglophile and supporter of elite like Cecil Rhodes, his politics shifted in the mid-1880s Afrikaner independence and nationalism. During the Anglo-Boer War he served as a Boer general, proving to be a talented military tactician. After the war, he came to favor South African unification. After unification in 1909 and the formation of the Union of South Africa, Smuts became Minister of Interior, Mines and Defense, ruling in partnership with another Boer, Louis Botha. The Indian resistance and the concurrent strikes by South African labor unions in 1913 presented a stark challenge to Botha and Smuts’ increasingly authoritarian rule. During WWI, Smuts would lead successful military campaigns against German Southwest Africa, earning him recognition and ultimately a place in the British command. He would act as a negotiator in the Paris peace conference. Smuts would lead South Africa to break its neutrality and join with the allies to flight against Nazi Germany in WWII.
As you read, consider the following prompts: