Selected Writings of Gandhi

Journalist Gandhi

(Selected Writings of Gandhi)

Table of Contents

About This Book

Compiled by : T. K. Somaiya
Gandhi Book Center,
Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal,
299, Tardeo Road,
Nana Chowk, Mumbai 400 007
First Edition : August 1994
Published by : Jitendra T. Desai,
Navajivan Publishing House,
Ahemadabad - 380 014,
Printed by : Yash Printers
140/L, Kalbadevi Road,
Mumbai 400 002



Chapter 10: Politics V/s Morals

In response to my suggestion in my article on the Congressman Shri M. N. Roy has sent a long letter not to Dr. Rajendra Prasad but to me. He asks for a public discussion of the points raised by him. Omitting the prefatory paragraphs, which have no interest for the reader, the letter is reproduced elsewhere.
To take the ministerial resignations first, I feel sure that they have added to the prestige of the Congress. The Working Committee would no doubt have done better to have accepted my proposal, only if it could have assimilated nonviolence with all the implications suggested by me. But the members of the Working Committee were too conscious of their duty to accept my proposal mechanically and without heart belief. The Working Committee's resolution was, therefore, the only true course for the Working Committee to adopt. Having done so resignations were the logical result.
It would have been unbecoming to have retained office for the doubtful advantage of guarding civil liberty. If they were ministers of autonomous States, they could never have been ignored as they were about the war. Having been ignored, they would have been given satisfaction, when the attention of the British Government was drawn by the Working Committee to the grievous omission and when they were told how they could repair the mischief and retain India's co-operation in the prosecution of the war. The least that the ministers could do, therefore, was to resign if only to show the hollowness of autonomy. To remain in office after the discovery of their importance would have been to court ignominy. To retain office for the protection of civil liberty would have been to mistake the wood for the tree. And Shri Roy may feel quite sure that the weakened ministers would have been poor guardians of civil liberty. The Governors would have set aside their decisions and caught hold of those whom they would have chosen to imprison. The ministers had taken office principally to advance independence. When they failed, they were bound to forego every other advantage however great in itself. And they can never go back to their offices so long as the demand of the Congress remains unsatisfied.
Civil disobedience is by no means the next inevitable forward step. It depends upon a variety of circumstances some of which I have already mentioned. Inaction is often the most effective action in the strategy of war-more so when the war is nonviolent.
Now for the crucial point. Nonviolence is the central fact of the civil disobedience technique. It was in 1920 that the Congress hooked its politics deliberately to fundamental morals and vital social reform. It came to the conclusion that Swaraj could not be won without nonviolence and certain definite social reform, viz. prohibition and removal of untouchability. It also put the charkha at the centre of its economic, programme indeed it eschewed the then known political programme i.e. the parliamentary. Hence, the introduction of morals into Congress politics was not and is not irrelevant to the Congress fight for freedom. It is its core. There were a few grumblers then. But the vast majority welcomed the programme as the Congress had never done in the whole of its brilliant history. The programme justified itself by giving rise to a mass awakening on a phenomenal scale. By it the Congress gained an importance it had never before enjoyed. Shri Roy would not expect me at this stage to repeat here the argument that led to the enthusiastic acceptance of the Programme. He should turn to the pages of Young India if he would know the pros and cons of the subject. The Congress became a mass democratic organisation from the time of acceptance of the programme, and it framed a democratic organisation, which stands to this day without much material and fundamental alteration.
The Congress has a double function. It Is a democratic organisation in peace time. It becomes a nonviolent army in war time. In its second capacity it has no voting power. Its will is expressed by its general whoever he may be. Every unit has to tender him willing obedience in thought, word and deed. Yes, even in thought, since the fight is nonviolent.
Shri Roy and other Congressmen do not need to be told that I am not in the habit of losing co-workers. I go a long way with them in winning their affection and retaining it. But there does come a limit beyond which my compromise does not and cannot and should not go. No compromise is worth the name which endangers chances of success.

Harijan 14-11-1939