THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. II - SATYAGRAHA IN SOUTH AFRICA > Tolstoy Farm - I
33. Tolstoy Farm - I
The deputation which now returned from England did not bring good news. But I did not mind what conclusions the community world draw from our conversations with Lord Ampthill. I knew who would stand by us till the end. My ideas about Satyagraha had now matured and I had realized its universality as well as its excellence. I was therefore perfectly at ease. Hind Swaraj was written in order to demonstrate the sublimity of Satyagraha and that book is a true measure of my faith in its efficacy. I was perfectly indifferent to the numerical strength of the fighters on our side.
But I was not free from anxiety on the score of finance. It was indeed hard to prosecute a long protracted struggle without funds. I did not realize them as clearly as I do now that a struggle can be carried on without funds, that money very often spoils a righteous fight and that God never gives a Satyagrahi or mumukshu1 anything beyond his strict needs. But I had faith in God who did not even then desert me but raised me from me from the slough of despondency. If on the one hand I had to tell the Indians on our landing in South Africa that our mission had failed, on the other hand God relieved me from the financial difficulty. As I set my foot in Cape Town I received a cable from England that Mr. (afterwards Sir) Ratanji Jamshedji Tata had given Rs. 25,000 to the Satyagraha funds. This sum amply sufficed for our immediate needs and we forged ahead.
But this or even the largest possible gift of money could not by itself help forward Satyagraha struggle, a fight on behalf of Truth consisting chiefly in self-purification and self-reliance. A Satyagraha struggle is impossible without capital in the shape of character. As a splendid palace deserted by its inmates looks like a ruin, so does a man without character, all his material belongings notwithstanding. The Satyagrahis now saw that no one could tell how long the struggle would last. On the one hand there were the Boer generals determined not to yield even an inch of ground and on the other there was a handful of Satyagrahis pledged to fight unto death or victory. It was like a war between ants and the elephant who could crush thousands of them under each of his feet. The Satyagrahis could not impose a time limit upon their Satyagraha. Whether it lasted one year or many, it was all the same to them. For them the struggle itself was victory. Fighting meant imprisonment or deportation for them. But what about their families in the meanwhile? No one would engage as an employee a man who was constantly going to jail and when he was released, how was he to maintain himself as well as those dependent on him? Where was he to lodge and where was his house rent to come from? Even a Satyagrahi may be excused if he feels troubled at heart from want of his daily bread. There cannot be many in the world who would fight the good fight in spite of being compelled to condemn their nearest and dearest to the same starvation which they suffered in their own person.
Till now the families of jail-going Satyagrahis were maintained by a system of monthly allowances in cash according to their need. It would not have done to grant an equal sum to all. A Satyagrahi who had a family of five persons dependent upon him could not be placed on a par with another who was a brahmachari without any family responsibilities. Nor was it possible to recruit only brahamachari is for our ‘army’. The principle generally observed was, that only each family was asked to name the minimum amount adequate to their needs and was paid accordingly on trust. There was considerable room here for fraud, of which some rogues might not fail to take advantage. Others who were honest but who were accustomed to live in a particular style naturally expected such help as would enable them to keep it up. I saw that at this rate the movement could not be conducted for any length of time. There was always the risk of injustice being done to the unscrupulous. There was only one solution for this difficulty, namely, that all the families should be kept at one place and should become members of a sort of co-operative commonwealth. Thus there would be no scope for fraud, nor would there be injustice to any. Public funds would be largely saved and the families of Satyagrahis would be trained to live a new and simple life in harmony with one another. Indians belonging to various provinces and professing diverse faiths would have an opportunity of living together.
But where was the place suitable for a settlement of this nature? To live in a city would have been like straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. The house rent alone would perhaps amount to the same sum as the food bill, and it would not be easy to live simple life amidst the varied distractions of a city. Again in a city it would be impossible to find a place where many families could prosecute useful industry in their own homes. It was therefore clear that the place selected should be neither too far from nor too near a city. There was of course Phoenix, where Indian Opinion was being printed and where there was some cultivation being carried on. Phoenix was convenient in many other way, but it was three hundred miles away from Johannesburg and to be reached by a journey of thirty hours. It was therefore difficult and expensive to take the families such a distance and bring them back again. Besides, the families would not be ready to leave their homes for such a far off place, and even if they were ready it seemed impossible to send them as well as the Satyagrahi prisoners on their release.
The place required then must be in the Transvaal and near Johannesburg. Mr. Kallenbach, whose acquaintance the reader has already made, bought a farm of about 1,100 acres and gave the use of it to Satyagrahis free of any rent or charge(May 30, 1910). Upon the farm there were nearly one thousand fruit bearing trees and a small house at the foot of a hill with accommodation for half-a-dozen persons. Water was supplied from two wells as wells as from a spring. The nearest railway station, Lawley, was about a mile from the farm and Johannesburg was twenty-one miles distant. We decided to build houses upon this Farm and to invite the families of Satyagrahis to settle there.

1. Pilgrim bound for the eternal city.-V.G.D