"Two English friends, who admire you, say your appeal to every Briton cannot have any effect just now. It is impossible to expect the man in the street to do a complete vole face with any degree of understanding — indeed it is impossible for the understanding to do, as you say, without a heart-belief in non-violence. The time to mould a new world on your lines will be after the war. They realize your way is the right one, but they say it needs endless preparation and instruction and big leadership — none of which they possess. Regarding India they say the attitude of the present authority is deplorable. Long ago India should have been declared as independent as Canada, and her people should be allowed to work out their own constitution. But what they are extremely perplexed about now is that you want absolute independence straightaway, and the next step you will take is 'no further help to Britain in the prosecution of war, surrender to Germany, and opposition to her by non-violent means'. You must explain what you mean in more detail so as to remove this misunderstanding. This is an honest reaction."
The appeal was intended, to produce the effect now.
It could not come out of a mathematical calculation. If the
conviction could have come, action was an easy matter. The mass mind
responds under pressure. That the appeal has not produced the
intended result shows that either my word has no power or that God
has a purpose of which we have no knowledge. The appeal has come
from an anguished heart. I could not suppress it. It was not written
for the moment. I am quite sure that it enunciates a truth of
If the ground is not prepared from now, there may be
no time left after a dismal termination of the war for evolving a
new order. Whatever the order, it will be in response to a conscious
or unconscious effort from now. Indeed the effort began before my
appeal. I hope that it has stimulated it, perhaps given it a
definite direction. I suggest to the non-official leaders and
moulders of British opinion, if they are convinced of the truth of
my position, to work for its adoption. Compared to the big issue
raised in my appeal, the question of Indian independence pales into
insignificance. But I hold with the two Englishmen that the British
government's attitude is deplorable. The two friends are wholly
wrong in the deduction they have drawn from the assumed recognition
of India's independence. They forget that I am out of the picture.
Those who are responsible for the Working Committee's last
resolution have meant free India's co-operation with Britain. With
them, there is no question of surrender to Germany or non-violent
But I must not here tarry on Indian independence and
its implications, tempting though the subject is.
The cuttings and correspondence before me say that
the Congress rejection of my advice to abstain from preparation for
military defence of India precludes me from making the appeal to
Britain or from expecting a favourable response. The argument is
plausible, but only plausible. The critics say that, if I have
failed with my people, I have no right to expect Britain whilst she
is in the midst of a life and death struggle to listen to me. I am a
man with a mission. India's millions have never tasted the bitters
of war as the British have. Britain, if she is to fulfill her
declared purpose, needs a radical change in her policy. I feel that
I know the change that is needed. My inability to persuade the
Working Committee is irrelevant to the theme under discussion. There
is no analogy between India's case and Britain's. I am, therefore,
wholly unrepentant. I maintain that in issuing my appeal I have
acted wholly as a lifelong friend of Britain.
A writer, however, retorts: "Address your appeal to
Hitler." In the first place, I did write to Herr Hitler. My letter
was published in the press some time after I addressed it. In the
second place, there can be no meaning in my appeal to Herr Hitler
to adopt non-violence. He is marching from victory to victory. I can
only appeal to him to desist. That I have done. But to Britain,
which is just now on the defensive, I can present the really
effective weapon of non-violent non-co-operation. Let my method be
rejected on merits, not by bringing inapt analogies or untenable
argument. The issue raised by me, I venture to think, is of
universal importance. The usefulness of the non-violent method seems
to be granted by all the critics. They gratuitously assume the
impossibility of human nature, as it is constituted, responding to
the strain involved in non-violent preparation. But that is begging
the question. I say, “You have never tried the method on any scale.
In so far as it has been tried, it has shown promising results."