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PHILOSOPHY > SELECTIONS FROM GANDHI > Political Self-Government
 

Political Self-Government

The Right to Govern Oneself

331. We must be content to die, if we cannot live as free men and women. –YI, 5-I-22, 5.


332. As every country is fit to eat, to drink and to breathe, even so is every nation fit to manage its own affairs, no matter how badly.

YI, I5-I0-3I, 305.

The Ideal of Anarchism

333. Self-government means continuous effort to be independent of government control whether it is foreign government or whether it is national. Swaraj government will be a sorry affair if people look up to it for regulation of every detail of life. –YI, 6-8-25, 276.

What is Swaraj for India?

334.By Swaraj I mean the government of India by the consent of the people as ascertained by the largest number of the adult population, male or female, native born or domiciled, who have contributed by manual labour to the service of the State and who have taken the trouble of having their names registered as voters. I hope to demonstrate that real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of the capacity by all to resist authority when abuses. In other words, Swaraj is to be attained by educating the masses to a sense of their capacity to regulate and control authority. –YI, 29-I-25, 40, 4I.


335. Mere withdrawal of the English is not independence. It means the consciousness in the average villager that he is the maker of his own destiny, he is his own legislator through his chosen representatives.

–YI, I3-2-30, 52.


336. We have long been accustomed to think that power comes only through Legislative Assemblies. I have regarded this belief as a grave error brought about by inertia or hypnotism. A superficial study of British History has made us think that all power percolates to the people from parliaments. The truth is that power resides in the people and it is entrusted for the time being to those whom they may choose as their representatives. Parliaments have no power or even existence independently of the people. It has been effort for the last twenty-one years to convince the people of this simple truth. Civil disobedience is the store-house of power. Imagine a whole people unwilling to conform to the laws of the legislature, and prepared to suffer the consequences of non-compliance. They will bring the whole legislative and executive machinery to a standstill. The police and the military are of use to coerce minorities however powerful they may be. But no police or military coercion can bend the resolute will of a people, out for suffering to the uttermost. –CP, 5.


337. By political independence I do not mean an imitation of the British House of Commons, or the soviet rule of Russia or the Fascist rule of Italy or the Nazi rule of Germany. They have systems suited to their genius. We must have ours suited to ours. What that can be is more than I can tell. I have described it as Rama Raj i.e. sovereignty of the people based on pure moral authority. –H, 2-I-37, 374. cf. 322, 720.

Franchise: Upper and Lower Age-limits

338. As to the franchise, he swore by the franchise of all adults, male and female, above the age of twenty-one or even eighteen. He would bar old men like himself. They were of no use as voters. India and the rest of the world did not belong to those who were on the point of dying. To them belonged death, life to the young. Thus he would have a bar against persons beyond a certain age, say fifty, as he would against persons below eighteen.

Side by side with adult franchise, or even before that, he pleaded for universal education, not necessarily literary except as perhaps an aid. English education, he was convinced, had starved our minds, enervated them and never prepared them for brave citizenship. He would give them all sufficient knowledge in the rich languages of which any country would be proud. Education in the understanding of the rights of citizenship was a short-term affair if they were honest and earnest. –H, 2-3-47, 45.

The Right of Minorities

339. The rule of majority has a narrow application, i.e. one should yield to the majority in matters of detail. But it is slavery to be amenable to the majority, no matter what its decisions are. Democracy is not a state in which people act like sheep. Under democracy individual liberty of opinion and action is jealously guarded. I therefore believe that the minority has a perfect right to act differently from the majority as long as it does not act in the name of the congress. –YI, 2-3-22, I29.


340. In matters of conscience the law of majority has no place.

YI, 4-8-20. Tagore, 3I8.


341. The vision that Joseph (Mr. George Joseph) puts before us of an armed government bending a minority to its will by a clatter of arms, is a negation of the democratic to its will by a clatter of arms, is a negation of the democratic spirit and progress. If that is the promise of the new programme, we have the armed coercion even now, not indeed of a mere minority but of an overwhelming majority. What we want, I hope, is a government not based on coercion even of a minority but on its conversion. If it is a change from white military rule to a brown, we hardly need make any fuss. At any rate the masses then do not count. They will be subject to the same spoliation as now if not even worse.

YI, I9-I2-29, 4I2.

Condition of the Masses under Swaraj

342.The Swaraj of my dream is the poor man’s Swaraj. The necessaries of life should be enjoyed by you in common with those enjoyed by the princes and the monied men. But that does not mean that you should have palaces like theirs. They are not necessary for happiness. You or I would be lost in them. But, you ought to get all the ordinary amenities of life that a rich man enjoys. I have not the slightest doubt that Swaraj is not Purna Swaraj until these amenities are guaranteed to you under it. –YI, 26-3-3I, 46.

Swaraj for the Good of All

343. The Swaraj of my dream recognizes no race or religious distinction. Nor is it to be the monopoly of the latter persons nor yet of monied men. Swaraj is to be for all, including the former, but emphatically including the maimed, the blind, the starving, toiling millions.-

What of the West?

344. I feel that fundamentally the disease is the same in Europe as it is in India, in spite of the fact that in the former country the people enjoy political self-government. No mere transference of political power in India will satisfy my ambition, even though I hold such transference to be a vital necessity of Indian national life. The people of Europe have no doubt political power but no Swaraj. Asian and African races are exploited for their partial benefit, and they on their part, are being exploited by the ruling class or caste under the sacred name of democracy. At the root, therefore, the disease appears to be the same as in India. The same remedy is, therefore, likely to be applicable. Shorn of all camouflage, the exploitation of the masses of Europe is sustained by violence.

Violence on the part of the masses will never remove the disease. Anyway up to now experience shows that success of violence has been tried hitherto has been a variety of violence and artificial checks dependent mainly upon the will of the violent. At the crucial moment these checks have naturally broken down. It seems to me, therefore, that sooner or later, the European masses will have to take to non-violence if they are to find their deliverance. That there is no hope of their taking to it in a body and at once does not baffle me. A few thousand years are but a speck in the vast time circle. Someone has to make a beginning with a faith that will not flinch. I doubt not that the masses, even of Europe, will respond, but what is more emergent in point of time is not so much a large experiment in non-violence as a precise grasp of the meaning of deliverance. From what will the masses be delivered? It will not do to have a vague generalization and to answer ‘from exploitation and degradation’. Is not the answer this that they want to occupy the status that Capital does to day? If so, it can be attained only by violence. But if they want to shun the evils of Capital, in other words, if they would revise the view-point of Capital, they would strive to attain a juster distribution of the products of labour. This immediately takes us to contentment and simplicity, voluntarily adopted. Under the new outlook multiplicity of material wants will not be the aim of life the aim will be rather their restriction consistently with comfort. We shall cease to think of getting what we can but we shall decline to receive what all cannot get. It occurs to me that it ought not to be difficult to make a successful appeal to the masses of Europe in terms of economics and a fairly successful working of such an experiment must lead to immense and unconscious spiritual results. I do not believe that the spiritual law works in a field of its own. On the contrary, it expresses itself only through the ordinary activities of life. It thus affects the economic, the social and the political fields. It the masses of Europe can be persuaded to adopt the view I have suggested, it will be found that can easily come to their own by following the obvious corollaries of non-violence. It may even be that what seems to me to be so natural and feasible in India, may take longer to permeate the inert Indian masses than the active European masses. But I must reiterate my confession that all my argument is based on suppositions and assumption and must, therefore, be taken for what it is worth. –YI, 3-9-25, 305.

Why National Independence before International Co-operation

345. You want co-operation between nations for the salvaging of civilization. I want it too, but co-operation presupposes free nations worthy of co-operation. If I am to help in creating or restoring peace and goodwill and resist disturbances thereof, I must have the ability to do so and I cannot do so unless my country has come to its own. At the present moment, the very movement for freedom in India is India’s contribution to peace. For so long as India is a subject nation, not only is she a danger to peace, but also England which exploits India. Other nations may tolerate today England’s imperialist policy and her exploitation of other nations, but they certainly do not appreciate it; and they would gladly help in the prevention of England becoming a greater and greater menace every day. Of course you will say that India free can become a menace herself. But let us assume that she will behave herself with her doctrine of nonviolence, if she achieves her freedom through it and for all her bitter experiences of being a victim of exploitation. –YI, I2-II-3I, 353.

India in the Council of Nations

346. My notion of Purna Swaraj is not isolated independence but healthy and dignified interdependence. My nationalism, fierce though it is, is not exclusive, not designed to harm any nation or individual. Legal maxims are not so legal as they are moral. I believe in the eternal truth of ‘sic utere tuo ut alienum non loedas’ (Use thy own property so as not to injure thy neighbour’s).—YI, 26-3-3I, 5I.


347. Our nationalism can be no peril to other nations in as much as we will exploit none just as we will allow none to exploit us. Through Swaraj we would serve the whole world. –YI, I6-4-3I, 79.


348. Our non-co-operation is neither with the English nor with the West. Our non-co-operation is with the system the English have established, with the material civilization and its attendant greed and exploitation of the weak. Our non-co-operation is a retirement within ourselves. Our non-co-co-operation is a refusal to co-operate with the English administrators on their own terms. We say to them, ‘Come and co-operate with us on our terms and it will be well for us, for you and the world.’ We must refuse to be lifted off our feet. A drowning man cannot save others. In order to be fit to save others, we must try to save ourselves. Indian nationalism is not exclusive, nor aggressive, nor destructive. It is health-giving, religious and therefore humanitarian. India must learn to live before she can aspire to die for humanity. –YI, I3-I0-2I, 326.


349. I would like to see India free and strong so that she may offer herself as a willing and pure sacrifice for the betterment of the world. The individual, being pure, sacrifices himself for the family, the latter for the village, the village for the district, the district for the province, the province for the nation, the nation for all. –YI, 17-9-25, 321.

Ideal of National Interdependence

350. The better mind of the world desires today not absolutely independent States warring one against another but a federation of friendly interdependent States. The consummation of that event may be far off. I want to make no grand claim for our country. But I see nothing grand or impossible about our expressing our readiness for universal interdependence rather than independence. I desire the ability to be totally independent without asserting the independence.

YI, 26-I2-24, 425.


351. Nor have I the slightest difficulty in agreeing with you in these days of rapid intercommunication and growing consciousness of oneness of all mankind, we must recognize that our nationalism must not be isolation and unaffected by what is going on in other parts of the world. We should therefore range ourselves with the progressive forces of the world.

ABP, I7-9-33.


352. Q. A man who sacrifices self-interest for the sake of his community is at least unselfish to that extent. How can the heart of such a man be affected so that he will sacrifice communal interests for the interests of the nation?

A. A man whose spirit of sacrifice did not go beyond his own community became selfish himself and also made his community selfish. In his opinion the logical conclusion of self-sacrifice was that the individual sacrificed himself for the community, the community sacrificed itself for the district the district for the province, the province for the nation and the nation for the world. A drop torn from the ocean perished without doing any good. If it remained a part of the ocean, it shared the glory of carrying on its bosom a fleet of mighty ships.

Q. In Free India whose interest shall be supreme? If a neighboring State is in want, what should Free India do?

A. Gandhiji said that the first part of the question had been answered in the above. A truly independent India was bound to run to the help of its neighbours in distress. He instanced Afghanistan, Ceylon and Burma and said that the rule also applied to the neighbours of the last three and, thus by implication, they became India’s neighbours too. And thus, he said, that if individual sacrifice was a living sacrifice, it embraced the whole of humanity.

Q. Can a man serve his immediate neighbours and yet serve the whole of humanity? What is the true meaning of Swadeshi?

A. Gandhiji said that the question had been answered by him on the previous evening. He believed in the truth implicitly at the same time, the condition being that the service of the neighbours was in no way selfish or exclusive, i.e. did not in any way involve the exploitation of any other human being. The neighbours would then understand the spirit on which such service was given. They would also know that they would be expected to give their services to their neighbours. Thus considered, it would spread like the proverbial snowball gathering strength in geometrical progression encircling the whole earth.

It followed that Swadeshi was that spirit which dictated man to serve his next-door neighbour to the exclusion of any other. The condition that he had already mentioned was that the neighbour thus served had in his turn to serve his own neighbour. In this sense Swadeshi was never exclusive. It recognized the scientific limitation of human capacity for service.

–H, 23-3-47, 78, 79.

Offers of Co-operation with Britain

353. Q. How far would you cut India off from the Empire?

A. From the Empire entirely; from the British nation, not at all, if I want India to gain and not to grieve. The British nation, Empire is an Empire only because of India. That Emperorship must go and I should love to be an equal partner with Britain sharing her joys and sorrows. But it must be a partnership on equal terms.

Q. To what extent would India be prepared to share the sorrows of England?

A. To the fullest extent.

Q. Do you think that India would unite her fortunes inextricably with Britain?

A. Yes, so long as she remains a partner. But if she discovers that the partnership is like one between a giant and a dwarf or if it utilized for the exploitation of the other races of the earth, she would dissolve it. The aim is the common good of all nations of the earth and if it cannot be achieved I have patience enough to wait for ages rather than patch up an unnatural partnership. –YI, I2-II-3I, 356.


354. The partnership has to be on equal terms. It should not be ‘subjection’ in glorified language. That means that the present relationship must be completely transformed though the connection may be retained, and that connection should be wholly and solely for the benefit of mankind. India by herself has no capacity to exploit the nations of the earth, but with Great Britain’s assistance she can do it. Now the partnership must mean that exploitation shall cease, and if Great Britain should not desist from it, India should sever the connection. All that is wanted is a fundamental change in the British policy of exploitation. Britain cannot thereafter boast that she has a strong navy guarding the maritime highways and all her overseas commerce.

What about the South African possessions? I would not insist on a transformation of Britain’s relations with them, as, as a condition precedent to our partnership. But I should certainly strive to work for the deliverance of those South African races which, I can say from experience, are ground down under exploitation. Our deliverance must mean their deliverance. But. If that cannot come about, I should have no interest in a partnership with Britain, even if it were of benefit to India. Speaking for myself, I would say that the partnership, giving the promise of a world set free from exploitation, would be a proud privilege for my nation and I would maintain it forever. But India cannot reconcile herself in any shape or form to any policy of exploitation and, speaking for myself, I may say that if ever the congress should adopt an imperial policy I should sever my connection with the Congress.—YI, I9-II-3I, 364.