Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Swadeshi Movement And Gandhism

The Swadeshi Movement (1905 – 1910)
and Later Developments

When I read the speeches you delivered before 1910, it seems
to me as if Gandhi had almost copied everything from that—
Swaraj, Samiti, Non-cooperation, and so on. If not outwardly
he must have received these things from you in an occult way.

The whole of Gandhi’s affair is simply our passive resistance
movement given an ethical instead of a political form, applied
with a rigid thoroughness which human nature except in a minority
cannot bear for long and given too a twist which seems
to me to make it harmful to the sane balance and many-sided
plasticity necessary for national life. What with Gandhi, Hitler
and the rest (very different people but all furiously one-sided
and one-ideaed) a large part of humanity seems to have gone off
its balance in these times. 21 September 1934
Did you enjoy the article “Fifty Years of Growth” by K. R.
Kripalani in the Visva-Bharati?2 Fifty years of growth refers
by the way to the Congress. About the Swadeshi period he
writes: “Along time was to elapse before we were to appreciate
the infinite possibilities of the muddy waters at hand. In the
meantime something startlingly romantic happened. . . .
“The fountain [of undefiled water] was cut by the fiery
shafts of Tilak, Vivekananda, and Aurobindo, among others.
They gave to Indian Nationalism its fiery basis in India’s ancient
cultural glory and its modern mission. . . . It is always
more beautiful and more inspiring to contemplate the Idea

and be drunk with it than to face the actual facts and touch
the running sores. . . .
“But this spirit, fiery and beautiful as it was, was fraught
with grave dangers. The glory that it invoked and the passion
that it aroused were so intensely Hindu that Muslims
were automatically left out. Not that they were deliberately
excluded. . . . However that may be, it seems now not unlikely
that had the influence of Tilak and Aurobindo lasted
in its original intensity, we might have had two Indias today—
a Hindu-istan and a Pak-istan, both overlaying and
undermining each other. . . .
“However that be, the fact remains that the conditions
of our country being what they were, the beneficial effects of
Tilak’s and of Aurobindo’s political personalities were soon
exhausted, and might, if prolonged, have proved dangerous,
if Gandhiji had not come on the scene. . . .”

Subject, politics,—taboo. Writer Kripalani a “romantic” and
“idealistic” visionary without hold on realities, living only in
academic ideas—so not worth commenting. All the present
Congress lot seem to be men who live in ideas only, mostly secondhand,
borrowed from Europe (Socialism, Communism etc.),
borrowed from Gandhi, borrowed from tradition or borrowed
from anywhere; Kripalani looks down on the oldModerates for
being in a different way exactly what he himself is—only they
were classics and not romantics. So what is the use of reading
their “histories”? However quite privately and within brackets3
I will enlighten you on one or two points.
(1) The Swadeshi movement was idealist on one side (no
great movement can go without an ideal), but it was perfectly
practical in its aims and methods. We were quite aware of the
poverty of India and its fallen condition, but we did not try to
cure the poverty by Khaddar and Hindi prachar. We advocated
the creation of an industrial India and made the movement a
Swadeshi movement in order to give that new birth a field and
favourable conditions—cottage industries were not omitted in
our view, but there were no fads. The Swadeshi movement
created the following very practical effects:
(a) It destroyed the Moderate reformist politics and
spread the revolutionary mentality (as Jawaharlal now calls it)
and the ideal of independence.
(b) It laid the foundations of an industrial India (not
of course wholly industrial, that was not our intention) which is
however slowly growing today.
(c) It brought in the commercial classes and the whole
educated middle class into the political field—and not the
middle class only, while Moderatism had touched only a small
(d) It had not time to bring in the peasantry, but it had
begun the work and Gandhi only carried it farther on by his
flashy and unsound but exciting methods.
(e) It laid down a method of agitation which Gandhi
took up and continued with three or four startling additions,
Khaddar, Hindiism, Satyagraha = getting beaten with joy, Khilafat,
Harijan etc. All these had an advertisement value, a power
of poking up things which was certainly livelier than anything
we put into it. Whether the effects of these things have been
good is a more doubtful question.
(2) As a matter of fact the final effects ofGandhi’s movement
have been
(a) A tremendous fissure between the Hindus and Mahomedans
which is going to be kept permanent by communal
(b) A widening fissure between caste Hindus and Harijans,
to be made permanent in the same way.
(c) A great confusion in Indian politics which leaves it
a huge mass of division, warring tendencies, no clear guide or
compass anywhere.
(d) Anew constitution which puts the conservative class
in power to serve as a means of maintaining British domination
or at least as an intolerable brake on progress—also divides
India into five or six Indias, Hindu, Moslem, Pariah, Christian,
Sikh etc.
(e) A big fiasco4 of the Non-Cooperation movement
which is throwing politics back on one side to reformism, on
the other to a blatant and insincere Socialism.
That, I think, is the sum and substance of the matter.
As for the Hindu-Moslem affair, I saw no reason why the
greatness of India’s past or her spirituality should be thrown
into the waste-paper basket in order to conciliate the Moslems
who would not at all be conciliated by such a stupidity. What
has created the Hindu-Moslem split was not Swadeshi, but the
acceptance of the communal principle by the Congress, (here
Tilak made his great blunder), and the farther attempt by the
Khilafat movement to conciliate them and bring them in on
wrong lines. The recognition of that communal principle at
Lucknow made them permanently a separate political entity in
India which ought never to have happened; the Khilafat affair
made that separate political entity an organised separate political
power. It was not Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education,
Swaraj (our platform) which made this tremendous division,
how could it? Tilak whom the Kripalani man blames along with
me for it, is responsible not by that, but by his support of the
Lucknow affair—for the rest, Gandhi did it with the help of his
Ali brothers.
There you are. On a tabooed subject—it is, I think, enough.
Not at all for circulation you understand and quite confidential.
14 April 1936

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