The selected works of Mahatma Gandhi


When Lord Lothian was at Segaon he asked me if I could give him a copy of Hind Swaraj, for, as he said, all that Gandhiji was teaching now lay in the germ in that little book which deserved to be read and re-read in order to understand Gandhiji properly.
Curiously enough, about the same time, Shrimati Sophia Wadia was writing an article on the book exhorting all our Ministers and M. L. A.s, all the British and Indian Civil Servants, indeed everyone who wanted the present non-violent experiment in democracy to succeed, to read and re-read the book. "How can a non-violent man be a dictator in his own home?" she asks. "How can he be a wine-bibber? How can a lawyer advise his client to go to court and fight? The answers to all these questions raise highly important practical issues. The people's education in Hind Swaraj, in which these problems are dealt with from the point of view of principles, should be extensively carried on."
Her appeal is timely. The book was written in 1908, during Gandhiji's return voyage from London, in answer to the Indian school of violence and published serially in the columns of the Indian Opinion, edited by Gandhiji. Then it was published in book form, to be proscribed by the Bombay Government. Gandhiji had translated the book for Mr. Kallenbach. In answer to the Bombay Government's action, he published the English translation. When Gokhale saw the translation, on his visit to South Africa in 1912, he thought it so crude and hastily conceived that he prophesied that Gandhiji himself would destroy the book after spending a year in India. With deference to the memory of the great teacher, I may say that his prediction has failed to come true. In 1921, Gandhiji, writing about it, said: "It teaches the gospel of love in place of that of hate. It replaces violence with self-sacrifice. It pits soul force against brute force. I withdraw nothing except one word of it, and that in deference to a lady friend. The booklet is a severe condemnation of 'modern civilization'. It was written in 1908. My conviction is deeper today than ever.... But I would warn the reader against thinking that I am today aiming at the Swaraj described therein. I know that India is not ripe for it. It may seem an impertinence to say so. But such is my conviction. I am individually working for the self-rule pictured therein. But today my corporate activity isundoubtedly devoted to the attainment of Parliamentary Swaraj, in accordance with the wishes of the people of India." Even in 1938 he would alter nothing in the book, except perhaps the language in some parts. It is being presented to the reader unabridged.
But whether India may be ripe for it or not, it is best for Indians to study the seminal book which contains the ultimate logical conclusion of the acceptance of the twin principles of Truth and Non-violence, and then decide whether these principles should be accepted or rejected. On being told that the book had been out of print for some time and that a few copies of its Madras edition were available at eight annas a copy, Gandhiji said that it should be published immediately at a nominal price, so that it may be within easy reach of those who may wish to read it. The Navajivan Publishing House is therefore publishing it at practically the cost price.

Wardha, 11-12-38
Mahadev Desai