The Danish Peace Academy

GANDHI AND NORDIC COUNTRIES

Edited by E. S. Reddy - EReddy@aol.com and Holger Terp

FROM SWEDEN

Thus writes a Swedish correspondent:

It is a great joy to me to get your paper every week and it seems to me as if I stood in constant contact with you. I see that you answer in Young India questions from people in distant countries, and wonder if you will also answer questions from me… Will you tell me in your paper if you still adhere to your fist programme in all its parts? Papers say you have changed your opinions about several points, but you are as eager as ever for non-cooperation? In our biggest paper there has been an article about you and I translate on a separate paper the principal points. I think they prove a very great want of insight in India's present situation. People don't seem to understand that since the English have tried to trample out every aspect of greatness in the character of the masses they cannot in one day, month or year regain all they have lost. There must be a rebuilding from where they stand. It is slow work but what a glorious material to work upon!

I wonder if I dare trouble you with answering in Young India what I translate from the article. I should like to enlighten the public about your real opinion… I think your spinning-wheel is a foundation on which India's liberation, economic well-being and, as a product, spiritual "renaissance", is to be built.

If I have been too presuming, I ask you to forgive me. We have in our Bible a sentence: "Love drives away fear" and I have loved India and its people for nearly forty years - that's my only excuse for writing to you as I do.

The following is the extract translation sent by the correspondent:3

Gandhi embodies in his fanatical spiritual imperialism and his hatred to Western civilisation the reactionary India…

We have shown how Gandhi, preaching the ideal of renunciation and the silent contemplation, at the same time carries on eager bread-winner politics and how his all-embracing agitation assumes just the order of things that he wants to do away with. A third contradiction shows itself in Gandhi's behaviour concerning the castes. Gandhi naturally strives for a social order suited for the economic ideal, the independence of the village community which he teaches. The old caste institution must consequently have an absolute defender in Gandhi. But this is not the case. On several points, especially concerning the untouchables, Gandhi has declared an opinion different from the orthodox standpoint. He thus works to help the modern time. It is clear that a movement so full of contradictions and strange things as the integral nationalism and its last off-spring, Gandhism cannot produce anything of importance. The boycott against the legislative councils, the schools, law-courts and goods from the mills, has completely failed…

As to the question embodied in the letter, I must repeat what I have said in these columns before that I retain my faith intact in the original programme of non-cooperation. I also feel that it has done a distinct service to the national cause. The institutions attacked do not retain the glamour they had before. But I recognise that the reaction too has been great and that many of those who were concerned with the institutions in question have gone back to them. But I am confident that at the proper time the whole programme is bound to be revived, in a modified form it may be, but retaining its essential character. Meanwhile as a practical man I help my old comrades in every humble way I can without sacrificing my own principles or practice.

As for the extract from the Swedish newspaper, it betrays the usual ignorance of my motives and actions. I am not concerned with doing away with the railways. The spread of the spinning-wheel I hold to be quite consistent with the existence of the railways. The spinning-wheel is designed to revive the national cottage industry and thus bring about a natural and equitable distribution of the wealth derivable from the largest industry next only to agriculture and thereby stop the double evil of enforced idleness and pauperism. Nor have I ever suggested or contemplated the turning out of the English from India. What I do contemplate is a radical change in the English outlook upon the Government of India. The present unnatural and degrading system of subtle slavery must be changed at any cost. There is no room for Englishmen as masters. There is room for them if they will remain as friends and helpers. The writer of the article simply does not understand the grand implications of the removal of untouchability. He cannot perceive that its removal is calculated to purge Hinduism of the greatest evil that has crept into it, without touching the great system of division of work. It is difficult, it must be admitted, for busy men looking at the great movement from a distance to observe the unfamiliar but vital core beneath the temporary but familiar crust overlaying it. It is difficult for them also not to mistake the husk for the kernel. The movement of non-violent non-cooperation has nothing in common with the historical struggles for freedom in the West. It is not based on brute force or hatred. It does not aim at destroying the tyrant. It is a movement of self-purification. It therefore seeks to convert the tyrant. It may fail because India may not be ready for mass non-violence. But it would be wrong to judge the movement by false standards. My own opinion is that the movement has in no wise failed. Non-violence has found an abiding place in India's struggle for freedom. That the programme could not be finished in a year's time merely shows that the people could not cope with a mighty upheaval during such a short time. But it is a leaven which is silently but surely working its way among the masses.

Young India, February 11, 1926; Collected Works, Volume 30, pages 3-5.

Notes:

3 Only excerpts are reproduced here.

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