Back | Next

PHILOSOPHY > THE MIND OF MAHATMA GANDHI > The Way to Peace

 

The Way To Peace

(A) Disarmament
I DO suggest that the doctrine [of non-violence] holds good also as between States and States. I know that I am treading on delicate ground if I refer to the late War. But I fear I must, in order to make the position clear. It was a war of aggrandizement, as if have understood, on either part. It was a war for dividing the spoils of the exploitation of weaker races-otherwise euphemistically called the world commence... It would be found that, before general disarmament in Europe commences, as it must some day unless Europe is to commit suicide, some nation will have to dare to disarm herself and take large risks. The level of non-violence in that nation, if that every happily comes to pass, will naturally have risen so high as to command universal respect. Her judgments will be unerring, her decision firm, her capacity for heroic self-sacrifice will be great, and she will want to live as much for other nations as for herself. (YI, 8-10-1925, p. 345)


Like opium production, the world manufacture of swords needs to be restricted. The sword is probably responsible for more misery in the world than opium. (YI, 19-11-1925, p. 397)

Duty Of Neutral State
"Since disarmament chiefly depends on Great Power why should Switzerland, which is a small State and a neutral State, be asked to disarm itself?"*

It is from the neutral ground of your country that I am speaking to all other powers and not only to Switzerland. If you won’t carry this message to other parts of Europe, I shall be absolved from all blame. And seeing that Switzerland is a neutral territory and non-aggressive nation, there is all the more reason why Switzerland should not need an army. Secondly, it is through your hospitality and by reason of your occupying the vantage ground that you have nationals coming to you. It should be possible for you to give to the world a lesson tin disarmament and show that you are brave enough to do without an army. (ibid)


"How could a disarmed neutral country allow other nations to be destroyed? But for our army which was waiting ready at our frontier during the last war we should have been ruined."*

At the risk of being considered a visionary or a fool I must answer this question in the only manner I know. It would be cowardly of a neutral country to allow an army to devastate a neighbouring country. But there are two ways in common between soldiers of war and soldier of non-violence, and if I had been a citizen of Switzerland and President of the Federal State, what I would have done would be to refuse passage to the invading army by refusing all supplies. Secondly, by reenacting a Thermopylx in Switzerland, you would have presented a living wall of men and woman and children, inviting invaders to walk over your corpses. You may say that such a thing is beyond human experience and endurance. I say that it is not so. It was quite possible. Last year in Gujarat, women stood LATHI charges unflinchingly, and in Peshawar, thousands stood hails of bullets without resorting to violence. Imagine these men and women staying in front of an army requiring a safe passage to another country. The army would be brutal enough to walk over them, you might say. I would then say you will still have done your duty by allowing yourself to be annihilated. An army that dares to pass over the corpses of innocent men and women would not be able to repeat that experiment. You may, if you wish, refuse to believe in such courage on the part of the masses o men and women, but, then, you would have to admit that non-violence is made of sterner stuff. It was never conceived as a weapon of the weak but of the stoutest hearts. (YI, 31-12-1931, p. 427)

Great Power And Disarmament
It is… open to the Great Powers to take it [non-violence] up any day and cover themselves with glory and earn the eternal gratitude of posterity. If they or any of them could shed the fear of destruction, if they disarmed themselves, they will automatically help the rest to regain their sanity. But, then, these Great Power have to give up imperialistic ambitions and exploitation of the so-called uncivilized or semi-civilized nations of the earth and revise their mode of life. It means a complete revolution. Great nations c an hardly be expected, in the ordinary course, to move spontaneously in a direction the reverse of the one they have followed, and according to their notion of values, from victory to victory. But miracles have happened before and may happen even in this very prosaic age. Who can dare limit God’s power of undoing wrong? One thing is certain. If the mad race for armaments continues, it is bound to result in a slaughter such as has never occurred in history. If there is a victor left, the very victory will be a living death for the nation that emerges victorious. There is no escape from the impending doom save through a bold and unconditional acceptance of the non-violent method with all its glorious implications.
(H, 12-11-1938, p. 328)

(B) Gangsterism V. Nonviolence
"What to do with ‘gangster’ nations, if I may the expression frequently used? There was individual gangsterism in America. It has been put down by strong police measures both local and national. Could not we do something similar for gangsterism between nations, as instanced in Manchuria-the nefarious use of the opium poison, in Abyssinia, in Spain, in the sudden seizure of Austria, and then, the case of Czechoslovakia?"
if the best minds of the world have not imbibed the spirit of non-violence, they would have to meet gansterism in the orthodox way. But that would only show that we have not got far beyond the law of the jungle, that we have not yet learnt to appreciate the heritage that God has given us, that, in spite of the teaching of Christianity which is 1900 years old and of Hinduism and Buddhism which are older, and even of Islam (if I have read it aright), we have not made much headway as human beings. But, whilst I would understand the use of force by those who have not the spirit of non-violence to throw their whole weight in demonstrating that even gangsterism has to be met by non-violence. For, ultimately, force, however justifiably used, will lead us into the same morass as the force of Hitler and Mussolini. There will be just a difference of degree. You and I who believe in non-violence must use it at the critical moment. We may not despair of touching the hearts even of gangsters, even if, for the moment, we may seem to be striking our heads against a blind wall. (H, 10-12-1938, p. 372)

Nonviolent Alternative
When the position is examined in terms of non-violence, I must say it is unbecoming of a great nation of 400 millions, a nation as cultured as China, to repel Japanese aggression by resorting to Japan’s own methods. If the Chinese had non-violence of my conception, there would be no use left for the latest machinery for destruction which Japan possesses. The Chinese would say to Japan, ‘Bring all your machinery, we present half of our population to you. But, the remaining 200 millions won’t bend their knee to you’. If the Chinese did that, Japan would become China’s slave. (H, 24-12-1938, p. 394)


…. For the Poles to stand valiantly against the German hordes, vastly superior in numbers, military equipment and strength, was almost non-violence. I should not mind repeating that statement over and over again. You must give its full value to the word ‘almost’. But we are 400 millions here. If we were to organize a big army and prepare ourselves to fight foreign aggression, how could we by any stretch of imagination call ourselves almost non-violent, let alone non-violent? The Poles were unprepared for the way in which the enemy swooped down upon them. When we talk of armed preparation, we contemplate preparation to meet any violent combination with our superior violence. If India ever prepared herself that way, she would constitute the greatest menace to world peace. For, if we take that path, we will also have to choose the path of exploitation like the European nations. (H, 25-8-1940, p. 261)

(C) Peace Through Love
It may be long before the law of love will be recognized in international affairs. The machineries of Governments stand between and hide the hearts of one people from those of another. Yet… we can see how the world is moving steadily to realize that between nation and nation, as between man and man, force has failed to solve problems, but that the economic sanction of non-co-operation is far more mighty and conclusive than armies and navies. (YI, 23-6-1919, p. 50)


Till a new energy is harnessed and put on wheels, the captains of older energies will treat the innovation as theoretical, impractical, idealistic and so on. It may take long to lay the wires for international love, but the sanction of international non-co-operation in preference to continued physical compulsion….is a distinct progress towards the ultimate and real solution. (ibid, p. 51)

Enduring Peace
Not to believe in the possibility of permanent peace is to disbelieve in the Godliness of human nature. Methods hereto adopted have failed because rock-bottom sincerity on the part of those who have striven has been lacking. Not that they have realized this lack. Peace is unattained by part performance of conditions, even as a chemical combination is impossible without complete fulfillment of the conditions of attainment thereof. If the recognized leaders of mankind who have control over the engines of destruction were wholly to renounce their use, with full knowledge of its implications, permanent peace can be obtained. This is clearly impossible without the Great Powers of the earth renouncing their imperialistic design. This, again, seems impossible without great nations ceasing to believe in soul-destroying competition and to desire to multiply wants and, therefore, increase their material possessions. It is my conviction that the root of the evil is want of a living faith in a living God. It is a first-class human tragedy that peoples of the earth who claim to believe tin the message of Jesus, whom they describe as the Prince of Peace, show little of that belief in actual practice. It is painful to see sincere Christian divines limiting the scope of Jesus’ message to select individuals. I have been taught from my childhood and tested the truth by experience that the primary virtues of mankind are possible of cultivation by the meanest of the human species. It is this undoubted universal possibility that distinguishes the humans from the rest of God’s creation. If even one nation were unconditionally to perform the supreme act of renunciation, many of us would see in our life-time visible peace established on earth. (Message to Cosmopolitan, New York, quoted in H, 16-5-1936, p. 109; also, H, 18-6-1938, pp. 153-4)


Peace will never come until the Great Power courageously decide to disarm themselves. It seems to me that recent events must force that belief on the Great Powers. I have an implicit faith, a faith that today burns brighter than ever, after half a century’s experience of unbroken practice of non-violence, that mankind can only be saved through non-violence which is the central teaching of the Bible as I have understood the Bible. (H, 24-12-1938, p. 395)

No ‘Appeasement’
I have never admitted any partiality for ‘appeasement’ which has become a term of reproach in the English language. Peace I want among all mankind, but I do not want peace at any cost, and certainly not by placating the aggressor or at the cost of honour. Anyone, therefore, who thinks that I am guilty of either vice will do great harm to the immediate purpose. (BC, 9-8-1942)


My experience, daily growing stronger and richer, tells me that there is no peace for individuals or for nations without practicing Truth and Non-violence to the utter most extent possible for man. The policy of retaliation has never succeeded. (YI, 15-12-1927, p. 421)

Nonviolent Society
It has become the fashion these days to say that society cannot be organized or run on non-violent lines. I join issue on that point. In a family, when a father slaps his delinquent child, the latter does not think of retaliating. He obeys his father not because of the deterrent effect of the slap, but because of the offended love which he senses behind it. That, in my opinion, is an epitome of the way in which society is or should be governed. What is true of the family must be true of society which is but a larger family.
(H, 3-12-1938, p. 358)

End To War

I reiterate my conviction that there will be no peace for the Allies or the world unless they shed their belief in the efficacy of war and its accompanying terrible deception and fraud and are determined to hammer out real peace based on freedom and equality of all races and nations. Exploitation and domination of one nation over another can have no place in a world striving to put an end to all wars. In such a world only, the militarily weaker nations will be free from the fear of intimidation or exploitation. (BC, 18-4-1945)


Not to return violence by violence but neutralize it by withholding one’s hand and, at the same time, refusing to submit to the [aggressor’s] demand [backed by force] is the only civilized way of going on in the world. Any other course can only lead to a race for armaments, interspersed by periods of peace which is by necessity and brought about by exhaustion, when preparations will be going on for violence of a superior order. Peace through superior violence inevitably leads to the atom bomb and all that it stands for. It is the completes negation of non-violence and of democracy which is not possible without the former. (H, 30-3-1947, p. 86)


I can say with confidence that if the world is to have peace, non-violence is the means to that end and no other. (H, 20-7-1947, p. 243)

Pacifism And Pacifists
A true pacifist is a true satyagrahi. The latter acts by faith and, therefore, is not concerned about the result, for he knows that it is assured when the action is true.
…Pacifists have to prove their faith by resolutely refusing to do anything with war, whether of defense or offence. (H, 15-4-1939, p. 90)


...Pacifists have to live their lives tin strict accord with the Sermon on the Mount, and they will find immediately that there is much to give up and much to remodel. The greatest thing that they have to deny themselves is the fruit of imperialism… (H, 15-3-1942, p. 73)