Back | Next
ARTICLES > GANDHI'S VIEWS > Gandhi on Nuclear Arms
Gandhi On Nuclear Arms
There have been cataclysmic changes m the world. Do I still adhere to my faith in truth and nonviolence? Has not the atom exploded that faith? Not only has it not done so but it has clearly demonstrated to me that the twins constitute the mightiest force in the world. Before it the atom bomb is of no effect. The two opposing forces are wholly different in kind the one moral and spiritual, the other physical and material. The one is infinitely superior to the other which by its very nature has an end. The force of the spirit is very progressive and endless. Its full expression makes it unconquerable in the world. In saying this I know that I have said nothing new. I merely bear witness to the fact. What is more, that force resides in everybody, man woman, and child, irrespective of the colour of the skin. Only in many it lies dormant, but it is capable of being awakened by judicious training.
It is further observed that without the recognition of this truth and due effort to realise it, there is no escape from self-destruction. The remedy lies in every individual training himself for self-expression in every walk of life, irrespective of response by the neighbours.
... You cannot successfully fight them with their own weapons. After all you cannot go beyond the atom bomb. Unless we can have a new way of fighting imperialism of all brands in place of the outworn one of a violent rising, there is no hope for the oppressed races of the earth.
Gandhi & Non-Violence
Nonviolence in the sense of more non-killing does not appear to me, therefore, to be any improvement on the technique of violence. It means slow torture, and when slowness becomes ineffective we shall immediately revert to killing and to the atom bomb, which is the last word in violence today. Therefore, I suggested in 1920 the use of nonviolence and its inevitable twin companion, truth, for canalizing hatred into the proper channel. The hater hates not for the sake of hatred but because he wants to drive away from his country hated being or beings. He will, therefore, as readily achieve his end by non-violent as violent means.
And has not the atom bomb proved the futility of all violence? And yet we are crazy enough to think we can win Swaraj by breaking a few skulls and destroying property which, after all is said and done, is our own.
If we cease to be inferiors [the foreigner] cannot be our superior. His arsenals and his weapons, typified in their extreme in the atom bomb, should have no terror for us. It follows that we must first have things before we cease to covert them. This tempting argument leads to the prolongation of the agony. Must I do all the evil I can before I learn to shun it? Is it not enough to know the evil to shun it? If not, we should be sincere enough to admit that we love evil too well to give it up.
Some time back a military officer in Poona, who is about to return to England, (remarked) that violence was on the increase in India and would further increase as people were gradually turning away from the path of nonviolence. "We in the West not only believe in violence but our society is based on it. Several subject races have won their independence through violence and are today living in peace. We have discovered the atom bomb for stopping violence. The last great war is a case in point." Continuing, the military officer said, "Gandhi has shown your people the way of nonviolence. Has he discovered any such power as the atom bomb which will at once convert people to nonviolence and bring about a rule of peace? Cannot Gandhi's "atom bomb" stop people from following the path of violence? Ask Gandhi to exercise his power over the people and tell them to give up all thoughts of violence and adopt his creed. If he cannot wean his people today from the terrible violence that is spreading all over the country, I tell you that he will live a disappointed man and his life's work will be ruined."
While it would be absurd to say that violence has ever brought peace to mankind it cannot either be said that violence never achieves anything.
That I shall have to repent if I cannot stop violence does not enter into the picture of nonviolence. No man can stop violence. God alone can do so. Men are but instruments in His hands. Man does not and can never know God's law fully. Therefore we have to try as far as lies in our power. Ahimsa is one of the world's great principles which no power on earth can wipe out. Thousands like myself may die in trying to vindicate the ideal but ahimsa will never die. And the gospel of ahimsa can be spread only through believers dying for the cause.
It has been suggested by American friends that the atom bombs will bring in ahimsa as nothing else can. It will, if it is meant that its destructive power will so disgust the world that it will turn it away from violence for the time being. This is very like a man glutting himself with dainties to the point of nausea and turning away from them only to return with redoubled zeal after the effect of nausea is well over. Precisely in the same manner will the word return to violence with renewed zeal after the effect of disgust is worn out.
Often does good come out of evil. But that is God's, not man's plan. Man knows that only evil can come out of evil, as good out of good.
That atomic energy though harnessed by American scientists and army men for destructive purposes, may be utilized by other scientists for humanitarian purposes is undoubtedly within the realm of possibility. But that is not what was meant by the American friends. They were not so simple as to put a question which connoted an obvious truth. An incendiary uses fire for his destructive and nefarious purpose, a housewife makes daily use of it in preparing nourishing food for mankind.
Atom Bomb Vs. Gandhi
So far as I can see the atomic bomb has deadened the finest feeling that has sustained mankind for ages. There used to be the so-called laws of war which made it tolerable. Now we know the naked truth. War knows no law except that of might. The atom bomb brought an empty victory to the allied arms but it resulted for the time being in destroying the soul of Japan. What has happened to the soul of the destroying nation is yet too early to see. Forces of nature act in a mysterious manner. We can but solve the mystery by deducing the unknown result from the known results of similar events. A slave-holder cannot hold a slave without putting himself or his deputy in the cage holding the slave. Let no one run away with the idea that I wish to put in a defence of Japanese misdeeds in pursuance of Japan's unworthy ambition. The difference was only of one degree. I assume that Japan's greed was more unworthy. But the greater unworthiness conferred no right on the less unworthy of destroying without mercy men, women and children of Japan in a particular area.
The moral to be legitimately drawn from the supreme tragedy of the bomb is that it will not be destroyed by counter-bombs even as violence cannot be by counter-violence. Mankind has to get out of violence only through nonviolence. Hatred can be overcome only by love. Counter-hatred only increases the surface as well as the depth of hatred. I am aware that I am repeating what I have many times stated before and practised to the best of my ability and capacity. What I first stated was itself nothing new. It was as old as the hills. Only I recited no copy-book maxim but definitely announced what I believed in every fibre of my being.
Europe seems to be heading for another war. It is not sufficiently exhausted."
"Europe is terribly exhausted. But with the atom bomb human beings don't matter so much. A few scientists are enough. The next war will be carried on by pressing a few buttons. That is why colour war is so dangerous."
An English friend enquired:
"Was the world progressing? Had the making easier of life and the struggle for existence in the modem world resulted in the dulling of man's instincts and sensibilities?"
"If that is your comment, I will subscribe to it," replied Gandhi.
"And the atom bomb?"
"Oh, on that point you can proclaim to the whole world without hesitation," exclaimed Gandhi, "that I am beyond repair. I regard the employment of the atom bomb for the wholesale destruction of men, women and children as the most diabolical use of science."
What was the antidote? Had it antiquated non-violence? "No", was Gandhi's reply. On the contrary, nonviolence was the only thing that was now left in the field. "It is the only thing that the atom bomb cannot destroy. I did not move a muscle when I first heard that the atom bomb had wiped out Hiroshima. On the contrary, I said to myself, "Unless now the world adopts nonviolence, it will spell certain suicide for mankind."
Mr. Andrew Freeman of the New York Post, who took lessons in spinning with Kanu Gandhi, had come to Gandhi with the assumption that the spinning wheel had a cultural and therapeutic value, especially for the malaise from which the West was suffering and which had culminated in the atom bomb.
Has the spinning wheel a message for America? Can it serve as a counter weapon to the atom bomb?" he asked.
"I do feel" replied Gandhi that it has a message for the USA and the whole world. But it cannot be until India has demonstrated to the world that it has made the spinning wheel its own, which it has not done today. The fault is not of the wheel. I have not the slightest doubt that the saving of India and of the word lies in the wheel. If India became the slave of the machine, then, I say, heaven save the world."
Hitlerism & Non-Violence
Asked as to how it would be possible to destroy Hitlerism by nonviolence, Gandhi said that that was what we had to find out. Otherwise, if they depended upon superior violence in order to destroy violence of the Hitlerism type, then small nations would have hardly any chance of survival. So that nonviolence alone was the only guarantee of protection against heaviest odds. Unless we could develop this courage and this type of resistance, democracy could never survive.
The West is today pinning for wisdom. It is despairing of the multiplication of atom bombs because atom bombs means utter destruction not merely of the West but of the whole world, as if the prophesy of the Bible is going to be fulfilled and there is to be a perfect deluge. It is up to you to tell the world of its wickedness and sin-that is the heritage your teachers and my teachers have taught Asia.
General is reported to have said as follows: "nonviolence is of no use under the present circumstances in India, and only a strong army can make India one of the greatest nations of the world."
I fear, like many experts, General has gone beyond his depth and has been unwittingly betrayed into a serious misconception of ahimsa of whose working, in the nature of things, he can only have a very superficial knowledge. It is his ignorance of this, the greatest duty of man in the world, which makes him say that in this age nonviolence has little scope in the face of violence, whereas I make bold to say that in this age of the atom bomb unadulterated nonviolence is the only force that can confound all the tricks put together of violence.
Generals greater than (Him) have been wise and humble enough to make the admission that they can have no right to speak of the possibilities of the force of ahimsa. We are witnessing the tragic insolvency of military science and practice in its own home. Should a bankrupt, who has been ruined by the gamble in the share market, sing the praise of that particular form of gambling.
Gandhi On War
The conversation then turned on the question of war. "How do you think the succession of wars such as we have witnessed of late can be stopped?" he asked.
"I have no doubt," replied Gandhi, "that unless big nations shed their desire of exploitation and the spirit of violence, of which war is the natural expression and the atom bomb the inevitable consequence, there is no hope for peace in the world. I tried to speak out during the war and wrote open letters to the British people, to Hitler and to the Japanese and was dubbed a fifth columnist for my pains."
Behind the death-dealing bomb there is the human hand that releases it, and behind that still is the human heart that sets the hand in motion.
In an interview with a New York Times correspondent, at a time when the democracies were faced with a crises, Gandhi suggested simultaneous disarmament on the part of the democratic powers as a solution. "I am as certain," he said, "as I am sitting here that this would open Hitler's eyes and disarm him". "Would it not be a miracle?" Gandhi's interviewer asked. Gandhi replied "Perhaps. But it would save the world from the butchery which seems impending."
On Non-Violence & Atom Bomb
The hardest metal yields to sufficient heat; even so must the hardest heart melt before the sufficiency of the heat of nonviolence. And there is no limit to the capacity of nonviolence to generate heat.....During my half-century of experience I have not yet come across a situation when I had to say that I was helpless, that I had no remedy in terms of nonviolence.
"How would you meet the atom bomb with nonviolence?" Margaret Bourke-White, the American correspondent, asked Gandhi on the 30th January, 1948, just a few hours before he was killed. He replied: "I will not go underground. I will not go into a shelter. I will come out in the open and let the pilot see I have not a trace of ill-will against him. The pilot will not see our faces from his great height, I know. But the longing in our hearts - that he will not come to harm - would reach up to him and his eyes would be opened."
Then guessing probably what was passing in his interviewer's mind, he added: "If those thousands who were done to death in Hiroshima, if they had died with that prayerful action-their sacrifice would not have gone in vain."
Source : Mine & Metal Workers, Gandhi Jayanti 1998