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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. 30 August, 1906

By the Way

Diogenes in the Statesman indulges himself in a paragraph of grave advice to the ‘self-constituted’ leaders of the Indian labour movement. For a philosopher, our friend takes singularly little trouble to understand the opponents' case. Neither Mr. A. K. Ghose nor Mr. Aswini Banerji nor any of their assistants proposes, so far as we know, to benefit labour by getting rid of English capital. What they do propose is to get rid of the exceedingly unjust conditions under which Indian labour has to sweat in order to enrich alien capitalists. And by the way, as it were, they also propose to get rid of the habit of coarse insult and brutal speech which Englishmen have accustomed themselves to indulge in when dealing with ‘low-class’ Indians.

Are the leaders of Indian labour self-constituted? One would imagine that men whom Indian workers naturally turn to in difficulty and who can organise in a few weeks so large an affair as the Railway Union have vindicated their claims1 to be the national leaders of Labour. At any rate, their constitutents have very enthusiastically ratified their ‘self-constituted’ authority. But perhaps Diogenes has been converted from cynicism to Vedanta, and sees no difference between the self of the railway employees and the self of Mr. A. K. Ghose. Still, the tub from which he holds forth is a small one, and he should not cumber one-sixth of his space with such cumber.

The rift between the Labourites and the Liberals grows daily wider. The alliance was never natural and cannot in its nature be permanent. But official Liberaldom will be foolish indeed if it declares war on Labour at the present juncture. The Socialistic element in England is quite strong enough to turn the Liberal triumph of 1905 into a serious disaster at the next elections. Nor are the Labourites likely to be frightened by Ministerial menaces. Mr. Winston Churchill and the Master of Elibank may thunder from their high official Olympus, but Mr. Keir Hardie will go on his way unscathed and unmoved. He knows that the future is with Socialism and he can afford to despise the temporary and imperfect fruits which a Liberal alliance promises.

For us English politics have small personal interest. From the Conservatives we can expect nothing but open oppression, from the Liberals, nothing but insincere professions and fraudulent concessions, shadows calling themselves substance. Can we hope better things from Labour? Many whose judgment we respect think that there is a real ally that the friendship of Labour for India is sincere and disinterested. For the present, yes. But when Labour becomes a power and sits on front benches we fear that it will be as intolerant and oppressive as Conservatism itself. Australia is a Labour Commonwealth, and we know the attitude of the Australian working-man to Indians and Asiatics generally. India's hope lies not in English Liberalism or Labour, but in her own strong heart and giant limbs. Titaness, who by thy mere attempt to rise can burst these Lilliputian bonds, why shouldst thou clamour feebly for help to these pigmies over the seas2?


Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: claim


2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: sea