PHILOSOPHY > SELECTIONS FROM GANDHI > India's Freedom : Ways and Means

India's Freedom : Ways And Means

355. There is no such thing as slow freedom. Freedom is like a birth. Till we are fully free, we are slaves. All birth takes place in a moment.

YI, 9-3-22, I48.

The Chief Obstacle

356. It is my certain conviction that no man loses his freedom except through his own weakness. –IC, 209.

357. It is not so much British guns that are responsible for our subjection as our voluntary co-operation. –YI, 9-2-2I, 46.

358. Even the most despotic government cannot stand except for the consent of the governed which consent is often forcibly procured by the despot. Immediately the subject ceases to fear the despotic force, his power is gone. –YI, 30-6-20, Tagore, 225.

359. I do not believe in armed risings. They are a remedy worse than the disease sought to be cured. They are a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. They are a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. The method of violence cannot do good in the long run. Witness the effect of the armed rising of the allied powers against Germany. Have they not become even like the Germans, as the latter have been depicted to us by them?

We have a better method. Unlike that of violence it certainly involves the exercise of restraint and patience; but it requires also resoluteness of will. This method is to refuse to be party to the wrong. No tyrant has ever yet succeeded in his purpose without carrying the victim with him, it may be, as it often is by force. Most people choose rather to yield to the will of the tyrant than to suffer for the consequence of resistance. Hence does terrorism form part of the stock-in-trade of the tyrant. But we have instances in history where terrorism has failed to impose the terrorist’s will upon his victim. India has choice before her now. If then the acts of the Punjab Government be an insufferable wrong, if the repot of Lord hunter’s Committee and the two dispatches be a greater wrong by reason of their grievous condonation of these acts, it is clear that we must refuse to submit to this official violence. Appeal the Parliament by all means if necessary, but if the Parliament fails us and if we are worthy to call ourselves a nation, we must refuse to uphold the government by withdrawing co-operation from it. –YI, 9-6-20, Tagore, 80.

Constitutional Right of Non-co-operation

360. I venture to claim that I have succeeded by patient reasoning in weaning the party of violence from its ways. I confess that I did not-I did not attempt to succeed in weaning them from violence on moral grounds, but purely on utilitarian grounds. The result, for the time being at any rate, has, however, been to stop violence. I hold that no repression could have prevented a violent eruption, if the people had not had presented to them a form of direct action involving considerable sacrifice and ensuring success if such direct action was largely taken up by the public. Non-co-operation was the only dignified and constitutional form of such direct action. For it is the right recognized from time immemorial of the subject to refuse to assist a ruler who misrules –YI, 30-6-20, Tagore, 168.

361. I reiterate the statement that the principle of civil disobedience is implicitly conceded in the settlement of the 5th March 1931, arrived at between the then Viceroy on behalf of the Government of India and myself on behalf of the Congress. I hope you know that the principal Congressmen were discharged before that settlement was even thought of. Certain reparations were made to Congressmen under that settlement. Civil disobedience was discontinued only on conditions being fulfilled by the Government. That by itself was, in my opinion, an acknowledgement of its legitimacy, of course under given conditions. –GC, 40.

Swaraj and Self-purification

362. Our Non-co-operation refers not so much to the paralysis of a wicked government as to our being proof against wickedness. It aims therefore not at destruction but at construction. It deals with causes rather than with symptoms. –YI, 19-1-21, 19. cf. 142.

363. The primary motive of Non-co-operation is self-purification by withdrawing co-operation from an unrighteous and unrepentant government. The secondary object is to rid ourselves of the feeling of helplessness by being independent of all government control or supervision, i.e. to govern ourselves in all possible affairs, and, in fulfilling both the objects, to refrain from doing or promoting injury, or violence, to any individual or property. –YI, 6-4-21, 106.

364. It is because the rulers, if they are bad, are so, not necessarily or wholly by reason of birth, but largely because of their a environment, that I have hopes of their altering their course. It is perfectly true that the rulers cannot alter their course themselves. If they are dominated by their environment, they do not surely deserve to be killed, but should be changed by a change of environment. But the environment are we the people who make the rulers what they are. They are thus an exaggerated edition of what we are in the aggregate. If my argument is sound, any violence done to the rulers would be violence done to ourselves. It would be suicide. And since I do not want to commit suicide, nor encourage my neighbours to do so, I become nonviolent myself and invite my neighbours to do likewise.

Moreover, violence may destroy one or more bad rulers, but like Ravana’s heads, others will pop up in their places, for, the root lies elsewhere. It lies in us. If we reform ourselves, the rulers will automatically do so.

–H, 2-I-9-34, 250.

365. I am not interested in freeing India merely from the English yoke. I am bent upon freeing India from any yoke whatsoever. I have no desire to exchange ‘king log for king stork’. Hence for me the movement of Swaraj is a movement of self-purification. –YI, 12-6-24, 195.

366. The reforms required are more from within than from without. A perfect constitution super-imposed upon a rotten internal condition will be like a whited sepulcher. –YI, 24-6-26, 226.

A Middle-Class Revolution to Pave the Way for Revolution of the Masses

367. We cannot get Swaraj if not one class in the country is prepared to work and sacrifice for it. The Government will yield not to the logic of words. It knows no logic but that of brave and true deeds.

Bravery of the sword they know. And they have made themselves proof against its use by us. Many of them will welcome violence on our part. They are unconquerable in the art of meeting and suppressing violence. We Propose, therefore, to sterilize their power of inflicting violence by our non-violence. Violence is the corner-stone of the edifice of non-violence is the corner-stone of the edifice of non-co-operation. You will, therefore, not be hasty or overzealous in your dealings with those who may not see eye to eye with you. Intolerance is a species of violence and therefore, against our creed. Non-violent non-co-operation is an object lesson in democracy. The moment we are able to ensure non-violence, even under circumstances the most provoking, that moment we have achieved our end, because that is the moment when we can offer complete non-co-operation.

I ask you not to be frightened at the proposition just stated. People do not move in arithmetical progression, not even in geometrical progression. They have been known to perish in a day: they have been known to rise in a day. Is it such a difficult thing for India to realize that thirty crores of human beings have but to fell their strength and they can be free without having to use it? As we had not regained national consciousness, the rulers have hitherto played us against one another. We have to refuse to do so, and we are masters, not they.

Non-co-operation deals first with those sensitive classes upon whom the Government has acted so successfully and who have been lured into the trap consciously or unconsciously as the school going youths have been.

When we come to think about it, the sacrifice required is infinitesimal for an individual, because the whole is distributed among so many of us. For what is your sacrifice? To suspend your literary studies for one year or till Swaraj is established. If I could ‘infect’ the whole of the student world with my faith, I know that the suspension of studies need not extend even to a year. –YI. 19—1-21, 17.

368. The secret of non-violence and non-co-operation lies in our realizing, that it is through suffering that we are to attain our goal. What is the renunciation of titles, councils, law courts and schools but a measure (very slight indeed) of suffering? That preliminary renunciation is a prelude to the larger suffering-the hardships of a goal life and even the final consummation on the gallows if need be. The more we suffer and the more of us suffer, the nearer we are to our cherished goal. –29-9-2I, 310.

369. I do not merely rely upon the lawyer class or highly educated men to enable the committee to carry out all the stages of non-co-operation. My hope lies more with the masses so far as the latter stages of non-co-operation are concerned. YI, 18-8-20 Tagore. 370.

370. Surely it was necessary to remove the hallucination about titles, law courts, schools and councils. I venture to think that on the whole the nationalists have responded nobly in regard to these items. There are no titled men among them, no nationalist lawyer who has not suspended practice has any public status among non-co-operators, schools and colleges have furnished boys and girls who are now giving a good account of themselves and who, I make bold to say, will stagger humanity by their sacrifice when the time of their trial has arrived. Those who have refrained from entering the councils, are rendering, as all who care may see, a service which they could not have rendered in the council halls. The few who have given up their titles have shown the way to the others. All these are acting as leaven in the community. Now, there is little need for verbal propaganda among these special classes. The action and character of those who have renounced titles, schools, courts or councils, constitute propaganda more telling and effective than speeches.

To recall Lord Canning’s words, under the blue and serene Indian sky a cloud no bigger than a man’s thumb may appear on the horizon, but it may any moment assume dimensions unexpected by any, and no man can tell when it may burst. When India as a whole will respond by action, I cannot say. But this I do say that the educated classes to whom the Congress has appealed will one day-and probably during this year, respond in the manner worthy of the nation.

But whether they do or not, the progress of the nation cannot be arrested by any person or class. The uneducated artisans, the women, the men in the street, are taking their share in the movement… The appeal to the educated classes paved the way for them. The goats had to be shifted from the sheen. The educated classes had to be put upon their trial. The beginning had to be made by and through them. –YI, 20-4-2I, I22.

371. Clouds no bigger than a man’s hand have a knack of appearing in the Indian horizon and all of a sudden assuming dangerous dimensions.

YI, I5-I2-2I, 408.

372. We have not failed in our effort regarding the educated classes. I admit that the response in practice might have been greater from them. But I make bold to say that the vast majority of them are with us in spirit though the flesh being weak, they are not able to make what from their point of view is a sacrifice. We have been trying to act on the masses from the commencement. We regard them as our mainstay, for it is they who have to attain Swaraj. It is neither the sole concern of the monied men nor that of the educated class. Both must sub-serve their interest in any scheme of Swaraj, and as soon as the masses have attained sufficient self-control and learnt mass discipline we shall not hesitate if necessary to advise them to suspend payment of taxes to a Government that has never truly looked after their welfare and that has exploited and terrorized them every time they have shown the least symptom of rising against their exploitation. –YI, 20-4-2I, I24.

The Price of Freedom

373. Swaraj can never be a free gift by one nation to another. It is a treasure to be purchased with a nation’s best blood. Swaraj will be the fruit of incessant labour, suffering beyond measure. –YI, 5-1-22, 4.

374. I hold it to be our duty to tell the present generation and generations yet unborn that in our march towards true freedom we must be prepared for repetitions of the wrongs such as the Jalianwala Bagh massacre. We must provide against them, we must not seek them, but we must be ready to face them if they came again. I would not have us flinch from the battle of national life. –YI, 18-2-20, Tagore, I00.

375. Before we become a nation possessing an effective voice in the councils of nations, we must be prepared to contemplate with equanimity, not a thousand murders of innocent men and women but many thousands before we attain a status in the world that shall not be surpassed by any nation. –YI, 7-4-20, Tagore, 84.

Death, the Portal to Life Eternal

376. No country has ever risen without being purified through the force of suffering. The mother suffers so that her child may live. The condition of wheat growing is that the seed grain should perish. Life comes out of Death. Will India rise out of slavery without fulfilling this eternal law of purification through suffering? –YI, 16-6-20.

377.Swaraj is the abandonment of the fear of death. If Swaraj is delayed, it is delayed because we are not prepared calmly to meet death and inconveniences less than death. –YI, 13-10-21, 326-7.

378. That nation is great which rests its head upon death as its pillow. Those who defy death are free from all fear. –IHR, 48.

379. A nation that is capable of limitless sacrifice is capable of rising to limitless heights. The purer the sacrifice, the quicker the progress.

–YI, 25-8-20, Tagore, 501.

Type of Work needed for India

380. In his fearsomeness, he does not see that to exchange British brute force for any other brute force is no real remedy for the ills of India. And if it is the steel that is to decide the issue. It must be not Sikh or Gurkha steel, it must be all-India steel. That is the one supreme lesson that Europe teaches. If it is brute force that is to rule, then the millions of India must learn the art of war, or must for ever remain prostrate at the feet of him who wields the sword, whether he is paradeshi or swadeshi. The millions must remains ‘dumb driven cattle’. Non-co-operation is an attempt to awaken the masses to a sense of their dignity and power. This can only be by enabling them to realize that they need not fear brute force, if they would but know the soul within. –YI, I-I2-20, Tagore, 330.

381. I contend that the revolutionary method cannot succeed in India. If an open warfare were a possibility, I may concede that we may tread the path of violence that the other countries have and at least evolve the qualities that bravery on the battlefields brings forth. But the attainment of Swaraj through warfare I hold impossibility for any time that we can foresee. Warfare may give us another rule for the English rule, but not self-rule in terms of the masses. The pilgrimage to Swaraj is a painful climb. It requires attention to details. It means vast organizing ability, it means penetration into the villages solely for the service of the villagers. In other words, it means national education i.e. education of the masses. It means an awakening of national consciousness among the masses. It will not spring like the magician’s mango. It will grow almost unperceived like the banyan tree. A bloody revolution will never perform the trick. Haste here is most certainly waste. –YI, 21-5-25, 178.

382. Surely Swaraj will not drop from the clouds. It will be the fruit of patience, perseverance, ceaseless toil, courage and an intelligent appreciation of the environment. –YI, 27-8-25, 297.

383. We have to grow by strenuous effort out of our bondage, whether it is Education, Economical. Social or Political. The effort itself is three-fourths of the battle. –H, 9-7-38, 178.

Creed vs. Policy of Non-violence

384. I have not put before India the final form of non-violence. The non-violence that I have preached from Congress platforms is non-violence as a policy. But even policies require honest adherence in thought, word and deed. If I believe that honesty is the best policy. Surely whilst I so believe, I must be honest in thought, word and deed, for otherwise I become an impostor. Non-violence being a policy means that it can upon due notice be given up when it proves unsuccessful or ineffective. But simple morality demands that it can upon due notice be given up when it proves unsuccessful or ineffective. But simple morality demands that whilst a particular policy is pursued, it must be pursued with all one’s heart. It is simple policy to march along a route, but the soldier who marches with an unsteady step along that route is liable to be summarily dismissed. I become therefore incredulous when people talk to me skeptically about non-violence or are seized with fright at the very mention of the non-violence, they must denounce it but not claim to believe in the expedient when their heart resists it. How disastrous it would be, if not believing in violence even as an expedient, I joined say, a violence party and approached a gun with a perturbed heart! The reader will believe me when I say that I have the capacity for killing even flies. Now suppose I joined an expedition for fly-killing as an expedient. Will I not be expected before being permitted to join the expedition to use all the available engines of destruction whilst I remained in the army of able engines of destruction whilst I remained in the army of able engines of destruction whilst I remained in the army of fly-killers? If those who are in the Congress and the Khilafat Committees will perceive this simple truth, we shall certainly either finish the struggle this year to a successful end or be so sick of non-violence as to give up the pretension and set about devising some other programme. –YI, 2-3-22, I30.

385. If the majority do not believe in the Congress policy of non-violence and truth, let them have the first article altered. Let us understand the distinction between policy and creed. A policy may be changed, a creed cannot. But either is as good as the other whilst it is held. Those therefore who hold non-violence only as a policy may not, without exposing themselves to the charge of dishonorable conduct, use the Congress membership as a cover for violence. I cannot get rid of the conviction, that the greatest obstacle to our progress towards Swaraj is our want of faith in our policy. –YI, 30-7-3I, I95.

Violence to be matched by Non-violence

386. We have chosen a method that compels us to turn, each one of us, our face towards God. Non-co-operation presumes that our opponent with whom we non-co-operate resorts to methods which are as questionable as the purpose he seeks to fulfill by such methods. We shall therefore find favour in the sight of God only by choosing methods which are different in kind from those of our opponents. This is a big claim we have made for ourselves, and we can attain success within the short time appointed by us, only if our methods are in reality radically different from those of the Government.

Hence the foundation of our movement rests on complete non-violence, whereas violence is the final refuge of the Government. And as no energy can be created without resistance, our non-resistance to Government violence must bring the latter to a standstill. But our non-violence to be true, must be in word, thought and deed. It makes no difference that with you non-violence is an expedient. Whilst it lasts, you cannot consistently with your pledge harbour designs of violence. On the contrary we must have implicit faith in our programme of non-violence, which presupposes perfect accord between thought, word and deed.—YI, 29-9-21, 310.

The Means of Organization


387. The sooner it is recognized that many of our social evils impede our march towards Swaraj, the greater will be our progress towards our cherished goal. To postpone social reform till after the attainment of Swaraj is not to know the meaning of Swaraj.YI,28-6-28, 216.

388. Q. Is it yet time for the youths of India to force a social reordering ? Should it follow or precede any further political efforts towards Swaraj?

A. The two things- the social reordering and the fight for political Swaraj-must go hand in hand. There can be no question of precedence, of division into watertight compartments here. But a new social order cannot be ‘forced’; that would be a remedy worse than the disease. I am an impatient reformer. I am all for thorough-going, radical, social reordering; but it must be an organic growth, not a violent super-imposition.

ABP, 3-8-34.


389. What does unity consist in and how can it be best promoted? The answer is simple. It consists in our having a common purpose, a common goal and common sorrows. It is best promoted by co-operating to reach the common goal, by sharing one another’s sorrows and by mutual toleration. –YI, 25-2-20, Tagore, 596.

390. The union that we want is not a patched up thing but a union of hearts based upon of hearts based upon a definite recognition of the in-dubitable proposition that Swaraj for India must be an impossible dream without an indissoluble union between the Hindus and Muslims of India. It must not be a mere truce. It must be a partnership between each respecting the religion of the other. –YI, 6-I0-20, Tagore, 583.

391. We have forgotten the divine art of dying for our faiths without retaliation, and we have equally forgotten the art of using force in self-defense at the peril of our lives. And Hindu-Muslim unity is nothing if it not a partnership between brave men and women. We must trust each other always, but in the last resort we must trust ourselves and our God.

–YI, 29-9-2I, 307.

392. For good or for ill, the two communities are wedded it India, they are neighbours, sons of the soil. They are destined to die here as they are born here. Nature will force them to live on peace if they do not come together voluntarily. –H, 29-I0-38, 308.

393. As a satyagrahi I believe in the absolute efficacy of full surrender. Numerically the Hindus were in a minority, as a satyagrahi and a Hindu I should say that the Hindus would lose nothing in the long run by full surrender. To this argument a retort has thoughtlessly been made, Why then do you not advise India to surrender to the English? Give them the domination that I have not advised surrender to the bayonet. In the code of a satyagrahi there is no such thing as surrender to brute force. Or the surrender then is the surrender of suffering and not to the will of the wielder of the bayonet. A satyagrahis surrender has to come out of his strength, not out of weakness. The surrender advised by me is not of honour but of earthly goods. There is no loss of honour in surrendering seats and positions of emolument. There is loss of honour in haggling about them. The law of surrender and suffering is a universal law admitting of no exceptions. –YI, 30-4-3I, 92.

394. It would be a great things, a brave thing, for the Hindus to achieve act of self-denial. –YI, I2-3-3I, 36.

395. My implicit faith in non-violence does mean yielding to minorities when they are really weak. The best way to weaken communalists is to yield to them. Resistance will only rouse their suspicion and strengthen their opposition. A satyagrahi resists when there is threat of force behind obstruction. I know that I do not carry the Congressmen in general with me in this what to me appears as very sensible and practical point of view. But if we are to come to Swaraj through non-violent means, I know that this point of view will be accepted. –YI, 2-7-31, 162. cf. 133.

396. There will never be equality so long as one feels inferior or superior to the other. There is no room for patronage among equals.

YI, 28-7-2I, 236.

397. I have put untouchability in the forefront because I observe a certain remissness about it. Hindu no-co-operators may not be indifferent about it. We may be able to right the Khilafat wrong but we can never reach Swaraj, with the poison of untouchability corroding the Hindu part of the national body. Swaraj is a meaningless term, if we desire to keep a fifth of India under perpetual subjection, and deliberately deny to them the fruits of national culture. We are seeking the aid of God in this great purification movement, but we deny to the most deserving among His creatures the rights of humanity. Inhuman ourselves, we may not plead before the Throne for deliverance from the inhumanity of others. –YI, 25-5-21, I65.

398. It seems to have been represented that I am opposed to any representation of the untouchables on the legislatures. This is a travesty of the truth. What I have said and what I must repeat is that I am opposed to their special representation. I am convinced that this can do them no good and may do much harm. But the Congress is wedded to adult franchise. Therefore, millions of them can be placed on the voters’ roll. It is impossible to conceive that with untouchability fast disappearing, nominees of these voters can be boycotted by the others. But what these people need more than election to the legislatures is protection from social and religious persecution. Custom which is often more powerful than law, has brought them to a degradation of which every thinking Hindu has need to feel ashamed and to do penance. I should, therefore. Have the most drastic legislation rendering criminal all the special persecution to which these fellow-countrymen of mine are subjected by the so-called superior classes. Thank God the conscience of the Hindu has been stirred, and untouchability will soon be a relic of our sinful past. –NV, 40.


399. Over 75 per cent of the population are agriculturists and Mr. Higginbotham told us last night in his own felicitous language that they are the men who grow two blades of grass in the place of one. But there cannot be much spirit of self-government about us if we take away or allow others to take away from them almost the whole of the results of their labour. Our salvation can only come through the farmer. Neither the lawyers, non the doctors, nor the rich landlords are going to secure it. –(Speech at Benares, 4-2-I6) –Nat, 323.

400. Our contact with them begins with their service through the spinning wheel, but it does not end there. The spinning wheel is the centre of that service. If you spend your next vacation in some far off village in the interior you will see the truth of my remark. You will find the people cheerless and fear-stricken. You will find houses in ruins. You will find the cattle in a miserable way, and yet you will see idleness stalking there. The people will tell you of the spinning wheel having been in their. The people will tell you of the spinning wheel having been in their homes long ago, but today they will entertain no talk of it or of any other cottage industry. They have no hope left in them. They live, for they cannot die at will. They will spin only if you spin. You assure them of an additional income of Rs. 1,800 a year. You can lay the foundation of solid reform on this income in every village. It is easy I know to say this, but difficult to do. Faith can make it easy. ‘I am alone, how can I reach seven hundred thousand villages?’ –This is the argument that pride whispers to us. Start with the faith that if you fix yourself up in one single village and succeed, the rest will follow. Progress is then assured. –YI, 17-6-26, 217.

401. I have suggested Khaddar as indispensable for civil disobedience for Swaraj for two reasons. The first is that swaraj I hold to be an impossibility without Khaddar becoming universal in our country. Secondly it is the most efficient aid to mass discipline without which mass civil disobedience is impossible. –YI, I2-6- 24, 199.

402. Probably very few workers have noticed that progress of hand-spinning means the greatest voluntary co-operation among millions of human beings scattered over a very wide area and working for their daily bread. No doubt agriculture has required much co-operative effort, but hand-spinning requires still greater and more honest co-operation. Wheat grows more by nature’s honesty than by man’s. Manufacture of yarn in our cottages is dependent solely on human honesty. Hand-spinning is impossible without the willing and intelligent co-operation of millions of human beings. We have to arrive at a stage marked for his yarn as well as the supply of cotton slivers if he or she does not know the process of carding. Is it any wonder if I claim that hand-spinning can drive away as if by magic the growing pauperism of the masses? –YI, 3-11-21, 350.

403. The half a dozen modern cities are an excrescence, and serve at the present moment the evil purpose of draining the life-blood of the villages. Khaddar is an attempt to revise and reverse the process, and establish a better relation between the cities and reverse the process, and establish a better relation between the cities and the villages. The cities with their insolent torts are a constant menace to the life and liberty of the villagers.

Khaddar has the greatest organizing power in it because it has itself to be organized and because it affects all India. If Khaddar rained from heaven it would be a calamity. But as it can only be manufactured by the willing co-operation of starving millions and thousands of middle class men and women, its success means the best organization conceivable along peaceful lines.—Is India Different?, 23.

404. The chief thing that I want the members to consider is that, so far the Sangh work was directed from the General Office, but henceforth the work is be autonomous, is to be allowed to do so. Workers must be prepared to go to organize such autonomous centers with the prestige and moral support of the Sangh. Workers will be paid for their maintenance for five years on an annually diminishing scale. They should work there according to the fundamental principles and policy laid down by the Sangh. It is not possible otherwise to decentralize the work in seven lakhs of villages.

There are two schools of thought current in the world. One wants to divide the world into cities and the other into villages. The village civilization and the city civilization are totally different things. One depends on machinery and industrialization, and the other on handicrafts. We have given preference to the latter.

After all, this industrialization and large scale production are only of comparatively recent growth. We don’t know how far it has contributed to the development of our happiness, but we know this much that it has brought in its wake the recent world wars. This second world war is not still over, and even if it comes to an end, we are hearing of a third world war. Our country was never so unhappy and miserable as it is at present. City people may be getting big profits and good wages, but all that has become possible by sucking the blood of villages. We won’t always want to depend on money for our work. If we are prepared to sacrifice our lives for the cause, money is nothing. We must have faith and we must be true to ourselves. If we have these, we shall be able by decentralizing our capital of Rs. 30 lakhs in villages to create national wealth amounting to Rs. 300 crores. To do that main thing, what is necessary is to make the villages self-sufficient and self-reliant. But mind you, my idea of self-sufficient is not a narrow one. There is no scope for selfishness and arrogance in my self-sufficiency.

I am not preaching isolation. We have to be humble as the dust for the fulfillment of our cause. We have to mix with people even as sugar mixes itself with milk. Though villagers will be self-sufficient so far as it is possible, they will devote their time also to their intellectual development for creation of consciousness for the contemplated nonviolent society of the future.

Cloth stands second to food as matter of necessity. If every village begins to produce its own cloth, its strength will greatly be enhanced. But to achieve that we don’t want to close down the textile factories by legislation. We want to achieve our purpose. By decentralizing, we want to produce cloth wherever cotton is grown.

But what of the city people who have taken to Khadi now? I would ask them to spin their own yarn and to find out for themselves weavers to weave that yarn into cloth. It is absurd that cloth should come from Manchester for those poor who produce cloth for the Bombay people. It is also not proper to compel the poor to accept part of their wages in the form of Khadi. They should be so educated that they may spin voluntarily and intelligently, and may used with love and pride the cloth produced by themselves. If the people of Bombay want to wear Khadi, they should spin for themselves or get their children and other dependents to spin. If the people, pledged to Khadi, spin for themselves, the practice will be contagious. Even if we are able to produce khadi worth ten crores instead of one crore as at present, our object of reaching the whole of India will not be achieved.

405.The only form of nonviolent work to be done by the largest number of men, women and children of the land, in order to regain the lost trade with its attendant activities, is the spinning wheel. Thus conceived it easily becomes the symbol par excellence of nonviolence. To be an instrument of Swaraj, naturally it must not flourish under the Government or any other patronage. It must flourish, if need be, even in spite if the resistance from the government or the capitalist who is interested in his spinning and weaving mills. The spinning wheel represents the millions in the villages as against the classes represented by the mill-owners and the like.-Gram Udyog Patrika,,Aug.1945.

406.The true building up of Swaraj consists in the millions of India wholeheartedly working out the constructive programme. Without it the whole nation cannot rise its age-long torpor. Whether the British remain or not, it is our duty always to wipe out unemployment, to bridge the gulf between rich and poor, to banish communal strife, to exorcize the demon of untouchability, to reform dacoits and save the people from them .If crores of people from them. If crores of people do not take a living interest in this nation- building work, freedom must remain a dream and unattainable by either non-violence or violence.-GC,354.


407. No doubt I regard illiteracy among my people as deplorable and I consider it necessary to educate them, but it is not at all impossible to imbibe the satyagraha principle in an absolutely illiterate man. This is my long-standing experience. –YI, Nov. 1919, Tagore, 37.

408. The ryots do not need to be literate to appreciate their rights and their duties. – Nat, 290.

409. Our love of the English language in preference to our own mother tongue has caused a deep chasm between the educated and the politically-minded classes and the masses. The languages of India have suffered impoverishment. We flounder when we make the vain attempt to express abstruse thought in the mother tongue. There are no equivalents for scientific terms. The result has been disastrous. The masses remain cut off from the modern mind. We are too near our own times correctly to measure the disservice caused to India by this neglect of its great languages. It is easy enough to understand that, unless we undo the mischief, the mass mind must remain imprisoned. The masses can make no solid contribution to the construction of Swaraj. It is inherent in Swaraj based on nonviolence that every individual makes his own direct contribution to the Independence movement. The masses cannot do this fully unless they understand every step with all its implications. This is impossible unless every step is explained in their own languages.—CP, I6.


410. We must not tamper with the masses. It is dangerous to make political use of factory labourers or the peasantry not that we are not entitled to do so, but we are not ready for it. We have neglected their political (as distinguished from literary) education all these long years. We have not got enough honest, intelligent, reliable, and brave workers to enable us to act upon these countrymen of ours. –YI, 9-2-2I, 43.

411. Labour in India is still extremely unorganized. The labourers have no mind of their own when it comes to national policy or even the general welfare of labour itself. Labourers in various parts of India have no social contact and no other mutual ties. It provincial and even in the same city it is highly communal. It is not everywhere wisely guided. In many places it is under selfish and highly unscrupulous guidance.

There is no absolute cohesion amongst provincial labour leaders, and there is little discipline among sub-leaders. The latter do not uniformly tender obedience to their provincial chiefs. Leaders in different provinces have no single policy to follow. In these circumstances an All India Union can only exist on paper.

If the Ahmedabad Labour Union can succeed in perfecting its own organization it is bound to serve as a model to the rest of India, and its success is bound to prove highly infectious.

But I am free to confess that there is as no assurance of success in the near future. The energy of the workers is sorely tried in combating disruptive forces that ever continue to crop up.

One word as to policy. It is not anti-capitalistic. The idea is to take from capital labour’s due share and no more and this, not by paralyzing capital, but by reform among labourers from within and by their own self-consciousness; not again through the cleverness and maneuvering of non-labour leaders, but by educating labour to evolve its own leadership and its own self-reliant, self-existing organization. Its direct aim is not in the least degree political. Its direct aim is internal reform and evolution of internal strength. The indirect result of this evolution when, and if it ever becomes complete, will naturally be tremendously political.

I have not, therefore, the remotest idea or exploiting labour or organizing it for any direct political power of first-class importance when it becomes a self-existing unit. Labour, in my opinion, must not become a pawn in the hands of the politician on the political chessboard. It must, by its sheer strength, dominate the chessboard.

This is my dream. I hug it because it because it gives me all the consolation I need, and the policy I have outlined, you will recognize, is a direct outcome of my implicit belief in an acceptance of nonviolence. It may be all a delusion but it is as much a reality with me as life itself so long as I do not see it as delusion, but see it as the only life-giving force. (Letter dated My I0th, I927)—Is India Different?, 25.

412. It is a most dangerous thing to make political use of labour until labourers the political condition of the country and are prepared for the common good. Labour, in my opinion, must not become a pawn in the hands of the politician on the political chessboard.

(Indian Annual Register, I927, Part II, p. 118-22.)

413. The Ahmedabad Labour Union has of late started a great experiment which is likely to prove of great interest and importance to all labour organizations. The essence of the experiment consists in training its members to a supplementary occupation in addition to their principal occupation in the mills so that in the event of a lock-out, strike or loss of employment otherwise, they would always have something to fall back upon instead of being faced with the prospect of starvation. A mill-hand’s life is ever full of vicissitudes. Thrift and economy no doubt provide a sort of remedy and it would be criminal to neglect them. But the savings thus made cannot carry one far, seei9ng that the vast bulk of our mill labourers are always struggling on the margin of bare subsistence. Moreover it would never do for a working man during strike or unemployment to rest idly at home. There is nothing more injurious to his morale and self-respect than enforced idleness. The working class sill never feel secure or develop a sense of self-assurance and strength unless its members are armed with and unfailing subsidiary means of subsistence to serve as second string to their bow in a crisis.

The idea of a subsidiary occupation for the mill-hands was first conceived by me during the eventful twenty-three day’s strike of the Ahmedabad mill-hands in the year 1918. It occurred to me then that if the strike was to be successful the mill-hands must have an occupation that would maintain them wholly or partly. They must not rely upon doles. During the strike many of them were employed on unskilled labour. It was then that I mooted my suggestion to teach mill-hands a subsidiary occupation. But my suggestion remained a dead letter till the next strike came. A sort of beginning was made then. But it was difficult to bring into being all of a sudden an effective organization for teaching subsidiary occupations. With the end of the second strike died also the effort to find and teach suitable occupations.

An organized and systematic effort is now being made by the labour Union that direction. Mill-hands are being taught to select occupations which they can practice in their leisure hours at home and which would give them substantial relief in times of unemployment. These are ginning cleaning, carding and spinning of cotton, weaving, tailoring, soap and paper making typesetting, etc.

I hold that a working knowledge of a variety of occupations is to the working class what metal is to the capitalist. A laborer's skill is his capital. Just as the capitalist cannot make his capital fructify without the co-operation of capital. And if both labour and capital have the gift of intelligence equally developed in them and have confidence in their capacity to secure a fair deal, each at the hands of the other, they would get to respect and appreciate each other as equal partners in a common enterprise. They need not regard each other as inherently irreconcilable antagonists. But the difficulty is that whilst today capital is organized and seems to be securely entrenched, labour is not. The intelligence of the working man is cramped by his soulless, mechanical occupation which leaves him little scope or chance to develop his mind. It has prevented him from realizing the power and full dignity of his status. He has been taught to believe that his wages have to be dictated by capitalists instead of his demanding his own terms. Let him only be organized along right lines and have his intelligence quickened, let him learn a variety of occupations, and he will be able to go about with his head erect and never be afraid of being without means of sustenance.

It is the grossest of superstitions for the working man to believe that he is helpless before the employers. The effort of the Labour Union in Ahmedabad is to dispel this superstition in a concrete manner. Its experiment, therefore, ought to be welcomed by all concerned. Success will depend on an inflexible determination on the part of the Labour Union to follow up the good beginning that has been made, with unflagging perseverance. It must have the right sort of instructors who can arouse among the workers an intelligent interest in their work. A handicraft plied merely mechanically can be as cramping to the mind and soul as any other pursuit taken up mechanically. An unintelligent effort is like a corpse from which the spirit has departed. –H, 3-7-37, 161.

Swaraj, Constructive Work & Civil Disobedience

414. Workers should definitely realize that the constructive programme is the nonviolent and truthful way of winning ‘Poorna Swaraj’. Its wholesale fulfillment is complete independence. Imagine all the forty crores of people engaged in the whole of the constructive programme which is designed to build up the nation from the very bottom upward!

Can anybody dispute the proposition that it must mean complete independence in every sense of the expression, including the ousting of foreign domination?

When the critics laugh at the proposition, what they mean is that forty crores of people will never co-operate in the effort to fulfill the programme. No doubt there is considerable truth in the scoff. My answer is, it worth the attempt. Given an indomitable will on the part of a band of earnest workers, the programme is as workable as any other and more so than most. Anyway, I have no substitute for it, if it is to be based on non-violence.

 Civil disobedience, mass or individual, is an aid to constructive effort and is a full substitute for armed revolt. Just as military training is necessary for armed revolt, training in constructive effort is equally necessary for civil resistance. And just as the use of arms becomes necessary only when occasion demands it, even so is the use of civil resistance only occasional.

Therefore workers will never be on the look-out for civil resistance. They will hold themselves in readiness, if the constructive effort is sought to be defeated. To take one or two illustrations, effort for communal friendship cannot be defeated, political pacts can.

But political pacts are required because of the previous lack of friendship. Again Khadi manufacture and its use cannot be defeated if both become fairly universal. The manufacture and use are not to be brought about by being imposed upon the people, but they have to be intelligently accepted by them as one of the necessary items of the freedom movement, when it is worked from the villages as units. Pioneers even in such programmes can be obstructed. They have had to go through the fire of suffering throughout the world.

There is no Swaraj without suffering. In violence truth is the greatest sufferer: in nonviolence truth is ever triumphant. He will find the constructive programme to be full of deep interest. It should prove as absorbing as politics so-called and platform oratory.

The detailed constructive programme is to be found in my pamphlet on it, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s which is a running commentary on it. It should be remembered that it is illustrative, not exhaustive. Local circumstances may suggest many more items not touched in the printed programme. These are beyond the scope of a treatise on an All India programme. They are necessarily for local workers to find out and do the needful.

In these hints I have singled out some items for fuller emphasis in the light of experience gained since the publication of the programme.

The Kisan or the peasant, whether as a landless labourer or a labouring proprietor, comes first. He is the salt of the earth which rightly belongs or should belong to him, not to the absentee landlord or zamindari. But in the non-violent way the labourer cannot forcible eject the absentee landlord. He has so to work as to make it impossible for the landlord to exploit him. Closest co-operation amongst the peasants is absolutely necessary. To this end special organizing bodies or committees should be formed where there are none and those already in existence should be reformed where necessary. The kisans are for the most part illiterate. Both adults and young persons of school-going age should be educated. This applies to men and women. When they are landless labourers their wages should be brought to a level that would ensure a decent living which should mean balanced food, dwelling houses and clothing, which should satisfy health requirements.

Land laws should be investigated. The peasant indebtedness offers a limitless field for research. The problem of cattle too is an integral part of agriculture in India and therefore requires the attention of workers skilled in this very intricate and somewhat baffling problem.

Closely allied to the kisan work is ‘labour’. Here labour means industrial labour and therefore concentrated and centralized and much more limited in scope. Moreover, it lends itself readily to political handling.

Being necessarily confined to cities it attracts workers more easily than kisan work. As part of constructive programme its primary aim is elevation of labour to its deserved status. Therefore a labour worker’s aim should be to raise the moral and intellectual height of labour and thus by sheer merit to make him or her capable not merely of bettering his or her material condition but making labour master of the means of production instead of being the slave that it is. Capital should be labour’s servant not its master. Labour should be made conscious of its duty from whose performance rights follow as a matter of course. In a concrete form:

(a) Labour should have its own unions.

(b) Education both general and scientific, of both men and women, should be regularly undertaken through night schools.

(C) Children of labourers should be educated after the basic education style.

(D) There should be a hospital, a crèche and a maternity home attached to every centre.

(e) Labour should be able to support itself during strikes. (Labour should be taught the science of conducting a successful non -violent strike.)

All the work I have mentioned could be done only through unions mentioned in (a). To my knowledge Union is the best managed union. This does not mean that it has reached my ideal. It is truing to. If all the unions worked in the same direction, the lot of labour would be infinitely better than it is today. Labour united and morally and intellectually trained would any day be superior to capital.

Next in importance is the ‘student’ class above the age of 12. Indeed if we had enough workers of the right type, I would go so far as to say that we should work among them as soon as they begin learning as infants. For they have to be taken in hand from the school-going age. I need not say that I have not in mind their political use. For the present the schools are largely under Government control or are influenced by them. Hence the students’ education is defective in a vital matter. They are untouched by the political condition of the country save what they learn from the newspapers of platform orators. They should have, in a systematic manner, their present education supplemented by the Congress workers. How this can be fitted into the present system of education is a serious question. But it has to be tackled. Up to the Matriculation standard co-operation of parents is necessary. I adhere to the view often expressed by me that the student world should be aloof from the political turmoil. It would be different if there was mass civil disobedience. But that is out of the question for the time being at any rate. But they should have education in national consciousness. It is the duty of an independent State to teach its citizens to be patriotic.

The education imparted is by a foreign agency. It runs contrary to the national aspirations.

There should, therefore, be a body of workers whose duty it would be to undertake the big task of taking in hand the work mentioned above. In this sense it is a new field and it is of vital are not to he weaned from schools and colleges. The rapidly increasing number of entrants is proof positive of it. The best course, therefore, is to supplement their studies in an orderly manner. Deliverance lies through national effort in this direction showing marked superiority over the foreign method. –HS, 28-I0-44.

415. I know that many have refused to see any connection between the constructive programme and civil disobedience. But for one who believes in nonviolence it does not need hard thinking to realize the essential connection between the constructive programme and civil disobedience for Swaraj. I want the reader to mark the qualification. Constructive programme is not essential for local civil disobedience for specific relief as in the case of Bardoli. Tangible common grievance restricted to a particular locality is enough. But for such an indefinable thing as Swaraj people must have previous training in doing things of all-India interest. Such work must throw together the people and their leaders whom they would trust implicitly. Trust begotten in the pursuit of continuous constructive work becomes a tremendous asset at the critical moment. Constructive work therefore is for a non-violent army what drilling etc. is for an army designed for bloody warfare. Individual civil disobedience among an unprepared people and by leaders not known to or trusted by them is of no avail, and mass civil disobedience is impossibility. The more therefore the progress of the constructive programme. The more therefore the progress of the constructive programme, the greater is there the chance for civil disobedience. –YI, 9-3-30, 13.

416. I have said and I repeat that there is no Swaraj for the masses except through khadi and village crafts. For there is no nonviolent disobedience without sustained constructive effort. A living, continuous mass contact is impossible without some constructive programme requiring almost daily contact of the workers with the masses. –H, 23-3-40, 56.

417. Our countrymen in America too are actively helping the country’s cause. Two cablegrams have been received of late from New York. I reproduce the latest.

‘Greetings from one thousand Americans open air meeting. We wish civil disobedience programme a success.’

To all the young students and others living in the far West I would like to say one word. They would best serve the country by interpreting the movement as it is and in terms of the East instead of seeking to find Western parallels and giving it a Western colour. It is my conviction that in its present form it has no parallel. It is too early to say how the West with its modern rush will receive it when it has taken deep root enough to spread its branches to the West. As yet it is still in its infancy and often appears in a Western setting. It has unfortunately to be confessed that it still appears and commends itself to many only in its destructive form. Whilst the latter is absolutely essential, it is the constructive which is permanent and the best part of it. I am painfully conscious of the fact that to many it appears only to be a preparation for violence, whereas nonviolence is not only an integral but the only sustaining part of non-co-operation. It is by itself the largest part of construction. Non-violence at once makes it a religious movement and throws man on God as his only Rock and Refuge. By non-violence the non-co-operator burns his boats and makes steady headway in all weathers. By non-violence the non-co-operator appears before his Maker in his nakedness and commands divine help. He may not appear before Him with his Bible or Koran or the Gita in the one hand and his gun in the other. He appears on the contrary with his hands folded, a humble suppliant before the great white Throne. Let the young men abroad understand the essential part of the Movement and then attempt to interpret it to the west. Help thus intelligently given will, they will find, bear the richer results than what they have already achieved. YI, 17-11-21, 370.

418. Civil Disobedience is but a minor part of Satyagraha. –H, 25-3-39, 6I

419. Civil Disobedience is not absolutely necessary to win freedom through purely non-violent efforts, if co-operation of the whole nation is secured in the constructive programme. But such good luck favors nations or individuals. Therefore it is necessary to know the place of Civil Disobedience in a nation-wide non-violent effort.

It has three definite functions:

1. It can be effectively offered for the redress of a local wrong.

2. It can be offered without regard to effect, though aimed at a particular wrong or evil, by way of self-immolation in order Champaran when I offered Civil Disobedience without any regard to the effect and well knowing than even the people might remain apathetic. That it proved otherwise may be taken, according to taste, as God’s grace or a stroke of good luck.

3. In the place of a full response to constructive effort, it can be offered as it was in 1941. (Here the reference is to the Individual Civil Disobedience Movement.-N.K.B) Though it was a contribution to and part of the battle for freedom. It was purposely centered round a particular issue, i.e. free speech. Civil disobedience can never be directed for a general cause such as for Independence. The issue must be definite and capable of being clearly understood and within the power of the opponent to yield. This method properly applied must lead to the final goal.

I have not examined the full scope and possibilities of Civil Disobedience. I have touched enough of it to enable the reader to understand the connection between the constructive programme and Civil Disobedience. In the first two cases, no elaborate constructive programme was or could be necessary. But when Civil Disobedience is itself devised for the attainment of Independence, previous preparation is necessary, and it has to be backed by the visible and conscious effort of those who are engaged in battle. Civil Disobedience is thus a stimulation for the fighters and a challenge to the opponent. It should be clear to the reader that Civil Disobedience in terms of Independence without the co-operation of the millions by way of constructive effort is mere bravado and worse than useless.—CP, 28.

The true building up of Swaraj consists in the millions of India wholeheartedly working the constructive programme without it the whole nation cannot rise from its age-long torpor. Whether the British remain or not it is our duty always to wipe out unemployment, to bridge the gulf between rich and poor, to banish communal strife, to exorcise the demon of untouchability, to reform dacoits and save the people from them. If crores of people do not take a living interest in this nation-building work, freedom must remain a dream and unattainable by either nonviolence or violence. –GC, 354.

Regarding Workers

420. Real politics are not a game. The late Mr. Gokhale used to deplore that we had not gone beyond treating politics as a pastime. We have no notion as to how much the country has lost by reason of amateurs having managed its battles with the serious-minded, trained and whole-time working bureaucracy. A movement lacks sincerity when it is supported by unwilling workers under pressure. –YI, 11-8-20, Tagore, 409.

421. Unless the Congress can produce proud, defiant, self-respecting, sensitive, selfless and self-sacrificing patriots who count no cost too great, there is, for this poor country of ours, for a long time to come, no swaraj in which the poorest can participate. You and I may get a larger share in the spoils of exploitation, but I am sure you will refuse to call that swaraj. –YI, 26-6-24, 210.

422. ‘what are the civil resisters thus freed to do if they are to be ready for the call whenever it comes?’ They must learn the art and the beauty of self-denial and voluntary poverty. They must engage themselves in nation-building activities, the spread of Khaddar through personal hand-spinning and hand-weaving, the spread of communal unity of hearts by irreproachable personal conduct towards one another in every walk of life, the banishing of untouchability in every shape or form in one’s own person, the spread of total abstinence from intoxicating drinks and drugs by personal contact with individual addicts, and generally by cultivating personal purity. These are services which provide maintenance on the poor man’s scale. Those for whom the poor man’s scale is not feasible should find a place in small unorganized industries of national importance which give a better wage.
Let it be understood that civil resistance is for those who know and perform the duty of voluntary obedience to law and authority.

ABC, 8-4-34.

423. Q. Don’t you think that only those who work without any remuneration or allowance can inspire confidence in them, (i.e. the common villager. –N.K.B.) i.e. those who accept nothing from any association of from the village?

A. No. They do not even know who is and who is not working for remuneration. What does impress them is the way in which we live, our habits, our talks, even our gestures. There may be a few who suspect us of a desire to earn; we have to dispel their suspicion no doubt. And then do not run away with the feeling that he who accepts nothing from an association of from the village is by any means an ideal servant. He is often prey to self-righteousness which debases one. –H, 25-7-36, I87.

424. Any occupation, clean, honorable and calculated to serve as an example to the people would be good enough. I may give as examples, scavenging, spinning and weaving. The occupation should, if possible, be such as touches the interest of the masses and may spur them o to use their hands and feet. One may win one’s livelihood by teaching and similar other pursuits, but it all depends on one’s needs, of which the maximum must always be fixed. –H, 3-6-39, 145.