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53. Moral Support
A friend writes as follows:
"On the declaration of war you had advised giving moral support to Britain. Many persons never understood the implications of such support. You have never explained them either, so far as I know. I am a regular reader of Harijan-bandhu, but I have not seen a clear explanation there. Everyone puts his own interpretation on the words. At the last sitting of the Gujarat Provincial Congress Committee the leaders said: 'Bapu was ready to give moral support to Britain. What else has the Congress done in its latest resolution? As a matter of fact, the Congress asks for more than it promises to give. Bapu was willing to give all for nothing.' If war is itself a wrong act, how can it deserve moral support or blessings? In the Mahabharata, was the help that Lord Krishna gave to Arjuna moral, or was it more destructive than the dead-liest weapons of war?"
I did explain in Harijan what I meant by moral support. It is possible that the explanation did not appear in Harijan-bandhu. In my English writings things are often left to be understood. The ellipses need, however, to be brought out in translations.
Broadly speaking Britain could have had moral support from the Congress, if only she had acted justly towards India. There was no spirit of bargaining in my proposal because the help was not offered in exchange for anything.
Suppose my friend possesses moral strength which he has acquired through tapasya. And suppose I am in need of this strength. I shall not get it from him for the asking. He may always be ready to give it to me, but if I have not the capacity within me to take it from him, how shall I ever obtain it? Moral support cannot really be given in the sense of giving. It automatically comes to him who is qualified to take it. And such a one can take it in abundance.
The Congress has this moral reservoir. The acceptance of the creed of truth and non-violence has been its tapasya. It has acquired world prestige through the acceptance of truth and non-violence for the attainment of its goal. If the Congress could have given its blessings to Britain, the world would have adjudged Britain's cause to be just. The masses over whom the Congress holds sway would also have acknowledged justice to be on Britain's side. But in all this the Congress would have had nothing material to give. The British government would, by its own action, have acquired moral prestige or strength. Though the "Congress would not give one man or one pice as material aid, its moral support and blessings would definitely have turned the scales in favour of Britain. This is my belief. That my belief may be groundless and that the Congress never had any moral prestige is quite possible. The deter-mination of this question is unnecessary for my argument.
But the opportunity for rendering moral support now seems almost to have gone. The Congress felt itself unable to adopt my course. It cannot be taken mechanically. It presupposes a living faith in truth and non-violence. The greatest quality in the Congress is this that it has never claimed to have what it really does not possess. And therefore its resolutions are dignified and carry force with them.
The help that the Congress in its latest resolution promises to give is material and for a consideration, eminently just, no doubt, but it is not and cannot be unconditional. I do not suggest that this position is either untenable or morally wrong. The resolution has dignity because it is the considered opinion of the majority. But by passing it the Congress has, in my opinion, surrendered the prestige it had or was supposed to have. Many Congressmen say that, while they firmly believed that they could attain Swaraj through non-violence, they had never meant it to be understood that they could retain it also through non-violence. The entire outside world, however, believed that the Congress was showing the golden way to the abolition of war. No one outside India ever dreamed that, if the Congress could wrest independence from a mighty power like Britain purely through non-violence, it would not be able to defend it also by the same means.
In my opinion Lord Krishna's help to Arjuna cannot be said to be moral, because he himself had an army and was an expert in the art of war. Duryodhana acted foolishly in that he asked for Krishna's army, while Arjuna got what he wanted in the person of the expert in the science of war. Therefore, if we interpret the Mahabharata literally, Lord Krishna's strength was certainly more destructive than that of his army. Because of his scientific skill Krishna was able, with an army of seven divisions, to destroy Duryodhana's army of eleven. But it is well- known that I have never looked upon the Mahabharata as a mere record of earthly warfare. In the garb of an epic the poet has described the eternal warfare within the individual as well as in society, between Truth and Untruth, Violence and Non-violence, Right and Wrong. Looking at the epic even superficially one can understand how the great Vyasa has demonstrated that in this war the victor was no better off than the vanquished. Out of that vast concourse of warriors only seven remained to tell the tale. And the poet gives a true picture of the woeful state of mind also of these seven. The author has shown clearly too that in armed warfare the contending parties are certain to stoop to meanness and trickery. When occasion arose even the great Yudhishthira had to resort to untruth to save the battle.
One more question of the writer remains to be answered. If war is itself a wrong act, how can it be worthy of moral support or blessings? I believe all war to be wholly wrong. But if we scrutinize the motives of two warring parties, we may find one to be in the right and the other in the wrong. For instance, if A wishes to seize B's country, B is obviously the wronged one. Both fight with arms. I do not believe in violent warfare, but all the same, B, whose cause is just, deserves my moral help and blessings.
Sevagram, 12-8-'40
Harijan, 18-8-1940