Socialist with a Difference
That turned the discussion on to socialism. "You are a socialist and
so are they," interpolated Fischer.
Gandhiji : "I am, they are not. I was a socialist before many of
them were born. I carried conviction to a rabid socialist in
Johannesburg, but that is neither here nor there. My claim will live
when their socialism is dead."
"What do you mean by your socialism?"
"My socialism means 'even unto this last'. I do not want to rise on
the ashes of the blind, the deaf and the dumb. In their socialism,
probably these have no place. Their one aim is material progress.
For instance, America aims at having a car for every citizen. I do
not. I want freedom for full expression of my personality. I must be
free to build a staircase to Sirius if I want to. That does not mean
that I want to do any such thing. Under the other socialism, there
is no individual freedom. You own nothing, not even your body."
"Yes, but there are variations. My socialism in its modified form
means that the State does not own everything. It does in Russia.
There you certainly do not own your body even. You may be arrested
at any time, though you may have committed no crime. They may send
you wherever they like."
"Does not under your socialism, the State own your children and
educate them in any way it likes?"
"All States do that. America does it."
"Then America is not very different from Russia."
"You really object to dictatorship."
"But socialism is dictatorship or else arm-chair philosophy. I call
myself a communist also."
"O, don't. It is terrible for you to call yourself a communist. I
want what you want, what Jaiprakash and the socialists want: a free
world. But the communists don't. They want a system which enslaves
the body and the mind."
"Would you say that of Marx?"
"The communists have corrupted the Marxist teaching to suit their
"What about Lenin?"
"Lenin started it. Stalin has since completed it. When the
communists come to you, they want to get into the Congress and
control the Congress and use it for their own ends."
"So do the socialists. My communism is not very different from
socialism. It is a harmonious blending of the two. Communism, as I
have understood it, is a natural corollary of socialism."
"Yes, you are right. There was a time when the two could not be
distinguished. But today socialists are very different from
"You mean to say, you do not want communism of Stalin's type."
"But the Indian communists want communism of the Stalin type in
India and want to use your name for that purpose."
"They won't succeed."
Ethics of Reciprocity
"Your young men are too Indo-centric," he said.
"That is only partly true. I won't say we have become
international," replied Gandhiji, "but we have taken up forlorn
causes, e.g., the cause of the exploited nations,, because we are
ourselves the chief exploited nation."
"The growing anti-white feeling here is bad," proceeded Gandhiji's
interviewer. "In Taj Mahal Hotel they have put up a notice 'South
Africans not admitted'. I do not like it. Your non-violence should
make you more generous."
"That won't be non-violence. Today the white man rules in India. So,
if Taj Mahal has the gumption to put up that notice, it is a feather
in its cap."
Fischer's liberalism felt hurt. "That is what any nationalist will
say. You must say something better," he remarked.
"Then I will be a nationalist for once," replied Gandhiji ^with
firmness. "They have no right to be here if they do not deal with
Indians on terms of equality."
"No right — yes," rejoined Fischer. "But you must give them more
than their right. You must invite them."
"Yes, when I am the Viceroy."
"You mean the President of the Indian Republic."
"No. I will be quite content to be the Viceroy, a constitutional
Viceroy, for the time being," said Gandhiji. "The first thing I will
do, will be to vacate the Viceregal Lodge and give it to the
Harijans. I will then invite the South African White visitors to my
hut and say to them: 'You have ground my people to powder. But we
won't copy you. We will give more than you deserve. We won't lynch
you as you do in South Africa,' and thus shame them into doing the
"There is so much anti-white feeling today," put in Fischer somewhat
troubled in mind.
"Of course, I am opposed to that. It can do no good to anybody."
"The world is so divided. And there might be another war and that
may be between the coloured and the white races."
"Europe seems to be heading for another war. It is not sufficiently
"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
"Anything is better than cowardice. It is violence double
distilled." And to illustrate his remark Gandhiji narrated the story
of a Negro clergyman with a Herculean frame in South Africa saying
'pardon me brother', when insulted by a white man, and sneaking into
a coloured man's compartment. "That is not non-violence. It is a
travesty of Jesus' teaching. It would have been more manly to
"You are not afraid of what happens to you but what it may mean to
others," replied Fischer, analysing the illustration adduced by
Gandhiji. "It takes a great deal of irresponsibility to give vent to
your feelings and slap the white man under the circumstances
described by you. In India the situation is different. The white men
are not so numerous here."
"You are mistaken," replied Gandhiji. "Why, one Englishman is killed
and a whole village is razed to the ground as a reprisal. What
A Testament of Faith
"You are strongly constitutionalist now. Is it for fear of the
alternative—violence?" finally asked Fischer.
"No. If India is destined, to go through a blood bath, it will do
so. The thing I would fear is my own cowardice or dishonesty. I have
neither. So I say, we must go in and work it out. If they are
dishonest, they will be found out. The loss will not be ours but
"I think you are afraid of the spirit of violence. It is widespread.
I wonder whether it has not captured the mood of the youth and you
are aware of it, and you fear that mood."
"It has not captured the imagination of the country. I admit that it
has captured the imagination of a section of the youth."
"It is a mood that has got to be combated."
"Yes. I am doing it in my own way. It is my implicit faith that it
is a survival which will kill itself in time. It cannot live. It is
so contrary to the spirit of India. But what is the use of talking?
I believe in an inscrutable Providence which presides over our
destinies — call it God or by any other name you like. All I contend
is that it is not the fear of violence that makes me advise the
country to go to the Constituent Assembly. It is repugnant in a
non-violent attitude not to accept an honorable substitute for civil