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21. The Greatest Force
Three concrete questions were, the other day, incidentally asked by friends:
  What could ill-armed Abyssinia do against well-armed Italy, if she were non-violent?
  What could England, the greatest and the most powerful member of the League, do against determined Italy, if she (England) were non-violent in your sense of the term?
  What could India do, if she suddenly became non-violent in your sense of the term?
Before I answer the questions let me lay down five simple axioms of non-violence as I know it:
  Non-violence implies as complete self-purification as is humanly possible.
  Man for man the strength of non-violence is in exact proportion to the ability, not the will, of the non-violent person to inflict violence.
  Non-violence is without exception superior to violence, i. e. the power at the disposal of a non-violent person is always greater than he would have if he was violent.
  There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence. The end of violence is surest defeat.
  The ultimate end of non-violence is surest victory - if such a term may be used of non-violence. In reality, where there is no sense of defeat, there is no sense of victory.
The foregoing questions may be answered in the light of these axioms.
If Abyssinia were non-violent, she would have no arms, would want none. She would make no appeal to the League or any other power for armed intervention. She would never give any cause for complaint. And Italy would find nothing to conquer if Abyssinians would not offer armed resistance, nor would they give co-operation, willing or forced. Italian occupation in that case would mean that of the land without its people. That, however, is not Italy's exact object. She seeks submission of the people of that beautiful land.
If Englishmen were as a nation to become non­violent at heart, they would shed imperialism, they would give up the use of arms. The moral force generated by such an act of renunciation would stagger Italy into willing surrender of her designs. England would then be a living embodiment of the axioms I have laid down. The effect of such conversion would mean the greatest miracle of all ages. And yet if non-violence is not an idle dream, some such thing has some day to come to pass somewhere. I live in that faith.
The last question may be answered thus. As I have said India as a nation is not non-violent in the full sense of the term. Neither has she any capacity for offering violence, not because she has no arms. Physical possession of arms is the least necessity of the brave. Her non-violence that of the weak; she betrays her weakness in many of her daily acts. She appears before the world today as a decaying nation. I mean here not in the mere political sense but essentially in the non-violent, moral sense. She lacks the ability to offer physical resistance. She has no consciousness of strength. She is conscious only of her weakness. If she were otherwise, there would be no communal pro­blems, nor political. If she were non-violent in the consciousness of her strength, Englishmen would lose their role of distrustful conquerors.
Harijan, 12-10-1935