Three concrete questions were, the other day, incidentally asked by friends:
What could ill-armed Abyssinia do against well-armed Italy, if she were non-violent?
What could England, the greatest and the most powerful member of the League, do
against determined Italy, if she (England) were non-violent in your sense of the
What could India do, if she suddenly became non-violent in your sense of the term?
Before I answer the questions let me lay down five simple axioms of non-violence as I
Non-violence implies as complete self-purification as is humanly possible.
Man for man the strength of non-violence is in exact proportion to the ability, not
the will, of the non-violent person to inflict violence.
Non-violence is without exception superior to violence, i. e. the power at the
disposal of a non-violent person is always greater than he would have if he was
There is no such thing as defeat in non-violence. The end of violence is surest
The ultimate end of non-violence is surest victory - if such a term may be used of
non-violence. In reality, where there is no sense of defeat, there is no sense
The foregoing questions may be answered in the light of these axioms.
If Abyssinia were non-violent, she would have no arms, would want none. She would
make no appeal to the League or any other power for armed intervention. She
would never give any cause for complaint. And Italy would find nothing to
conquer if Abyssinians would not offer armed resistance, nor would they give
co-operation, willing or forced. Italian occupation in that case would mean that
of the land without its people. That, however, is not Italy's exact object. She
seeks submission of the people of that beautiful land.
If Englishmen were as a nation to become non-violent at heart, they would shed
imperialism, they would give up the use of arms. The moral force generated by
such an act of renunciation would stagger Italy into willing surrender of her
designs. England would then be a living embodiment of the axioms I have laid
down. The effect of such conversion would mean the greatest miracle of all ages.
And yet if non-violence is not an idle dream, some such thing has some day to
come to pass somewhere. I live in that faith.
The last question may be answered thus. As I have said India as a nation is not
non-violent in the full sense of the term. Neither has she any capacity for
offering violence, not because she has no arms. Physical possession of arms is
the least necessity of the brave. Her non-violence that of the weak; she betrays
her weakness in many of her daily acts. She appears before the world today as a
decaying nation. I mean here not in the mere political sense but essentially in
the non-violent, moral sense. She lacks the ability to offer physical
resistance. She has no consciousness of strength. She is conscious only of her
weakness. If she were otherwise, there would be no communal pro-blems, nor
political. If she were non-violent in the consciousness of her strength,
Englishmen would lose their role of distrustful conquerors.