MY EXPERIENCE teaches me that truth can never be propagated by doing violence. Those who believe in the justice of their cause have need to possess boundless patience and those alone are fit to offer civil disobedience who are above committing criminal disobedience or doing violence.
If I can have nothing to do with the organized violence of the Government, I can have less to do with the unorganized violence of the people. I would prefer to be crushed between the two.
For me popular violence is as much an obstruction in our path as the Government violence. Indeed, I can combat the Government violence more successfully than the popular. For one thing, in combating the latter, I should not have the same support as in the former.
I make bold to say that violence is the creed of no religion and that, whereas nonviolence in most cases is obligatory in all, violence is merely permissible in some cases. But I have not put before India the final form of nonviolence.
I object to violence because, when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
No Faith in Violence
It is an unshakable faith with me that a cause suffers exactly to the extent that it is supported by violence. I say this in spite of appearances to the contrary. If I kill a man who obstructs me, I may experience a sense of false security. But the security will be short-lived. For I shall not have dealt with the root cause. In due course, other men will surely rise to obstruct me. My business, therefore, is not to kill the man or men who obstruct me, but to discover the cause that impels them to obstruct me and deal with it.
I do not believe in armed risings. They are a remedy worse than the disease sought to be cured. They are a token of the spirit of revenge and impatience and anger. The method of violence cannot do good in the long run.
I do not deny the revolutionary’s heroism and sacrifice. But heroism and sacrifice in a bad cause are so much waste of splendid energy and hurt the good cause by drawing away attention from it by the glamour of the misused heroism and sacrifice in a bad cause.
I am not ashamed to stand erect before the heroic and self-sacrificing revolutionary because I am able to pit an equal measure of nonviolent men’s heroism and sacrifice untarnished by the blood of the innocent. Self-sacrifice of one innocent man is a million times more potent than the sacrifice of a million men who die in the act of killing others. The willing sacrifice of the innocent is the most powerful retort to insolent tyranny that has yet been conceived by God or man.
I invite the attention of the revolutionaries to the three great hindrances to Swaraj – the incomplete spread of the spinning wheel, the discord between Hindus and Mussalmans and the inhuman ban on the suppressed classes. I ask them patiently to take their due share in this work of patient construction. It may not be spectacular enough. But on that very account it requires all the heroic patience, silent and sustained effort and self-effacement of which the tallest among the revolutionaries is capable. Impatience will blur the revolutionary’s vision and lead him astray.
Slow and inglorious self-imposed starvation among the starved masses is every time more heroic than the death on the scaffold under false exaltation.
Prevention of Brutalization
I am more concerned in preventing the brutalization of human nature than in the preventing of the sufferings of my own people….I know that people who voluntarily undergo a course of suffering raise themselves and the whole of humanity, but I also know that people, who become brutalized in their desperate efforts to get victory over their opponents or to exploit weaker nations or weaker men, not only drag down themselves but mankind also.
There is no necessary charm about death on the gallows; often such death is easier than a life of drudgery and toil in malarious tracts….I suggest to my friend the revolutionary that death on the gallows serves the country only when the victim is a ‘spotless lamb’.
….I do not condemn everything European. But I condemn for all climes and for all times secret murders and unfair methods even for a fair cause… Armed conspiracies against something satanic is like matching Satans against Satan. But since one Satan is one too many for me, I would not multiply him…..
Cowardice, whether philosophical or otherwise, I abhor. And if I could be persuaded that revolutionary activity has dispelled cowardice, it will go a long way to soften my abhorrence of the method, however much I may still oppose it on principle….
I do not regard killing or assassination or terrorism as good in any circumstances whatsoever. I do believe that ideas ripen quickly when nourished by the blood of martyrs. But a man who dies slowly of jungle fever in service bleeds as certainly as the one on the gallows. And if the one who dies on the gallows is not innocent of another’s blood, he never had ideas that deserved to ripen.
Heroes of History
….To compare their (revolutionaries’) activities with those of Guru Govind Singh or Washington or Garibaldi or Lenin would be most misleading and dangerous. But, by test of the theory of nonviolence, I do not hesitate to say that it is highly likely that, had I lived as their contemporary and in the respective countries, I would have called every one of them a misguided patriot, even though a successful and brave warrior….
I disbelieve history so far as details of acts of heroes are concerned. I accept broad facts of history and draw my own lessons for my conduct. I do not want to repeat it in so far as the broad facts contradict the highest laws of life. But I positively refuse to judge men from the scanty material furnished to us by history. De mortuis nil nisi bonum.
Kemal Pasha and De Valera, too, I cannot judge. But, for me as a believer in nonviolence out and out, they cannot be my guides in life in so far as their faith in war is concerned. I believe in Krishna. But my Krishna is the Lord of the Universe, the creator, preserver and destroyer of us all. He may destroy because He creates….
I have not the qualifications for teaching my philosophy of life. I have barely qualifications for practising the philosophy I believe….The revolutionaries are at liberty to reject the whole of my philosophy….But India is not like Turkey or Ireland or Russia and that revolutionary activity is suicidal at this stage of the country’s life at any rate, if not for all time in a country so vast, so hopelessly divided and with the masses so deeply sunk in pauperism and so fearfully terror-struck.
The revolutionary destroys the body for the supposed benefit of the adversary’s soul….I do not know a single revolutionary who has even thought of the adversary’s soul. His single aim has been to benefit the country, even though the adversary may perish body and soul.
I honour the anarchist for his love of the country. I honour him for his bravery in being willing to die for his country; but I ask him: Is killing honourable death? I deny it.
I repeat my deliberate opinion that, whatever may be true of other countries, in India at least political murder can only harm the country.
The page of history is soiled red with the blood of those who have fought for freedom. I do not know an instance in which nations have attained their own without having to go through an incredible measure of travail. The dagger of he assassin, the poison bowl, the bullet of the rifle-man, the spear–and all these weapons and methods of destruction have been used up to now by what I consider blind lovers of liberty and freedom…I hold no brief for the terrorist
Let the revolutionary pray with and for me that I may soon become that [free from passions, wholly incapable of sin]. But, meanwhile, let him take with me the one step to it which I see as clearly as day-light, viz. to win India’s freedom with strictly nonviolent means.