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PEACE, NON-VIOLENCE & CONFLICT RESOLUTION > MY NON-VIOLENCE Louis Fischer's Interview

 

99. Louis Fischer's Interview

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 purpose."

"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 communists."

"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 right."

"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 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."

"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 retaliate."

"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 vindictiveness!"


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 theirs."

"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 revolt."

Panchgani, 27-7-'46

Harijan, 4-8-1946