Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. 12 September, 1906
The Old Policy and the New
Babu Bhupendranath Bose has issued a manifesto of his views in the Bengalee, in which he explains his letter to the Secretary of the People's Association at Comilla. That document, it seems, was a private letter, although it was obviously intended to produce a public effect, viz. to prevent the nomination of Mr. Tilak and to counteract the effect of Babu Bepin1 Chandra Pal's meeting and speeches in Comilla. However, we have now an authoritative statement of Babu Bhupendranath's “policy”, and no further misunderstanding is possible. This policy is precisely what we expected; it might have been penned in the pre-Partition and pre-Swadeshi days and amounts simply to the old Congress programme. We are to solicit Government help and favours as before, to oppose its measures when they are bad and, when they are very bad, to support this opposition “with the vital energy of the entire nation”. But we are not to attempt to stand apart from the Government; we are not fit (because we have castes!) to stand among the self-governing countries of the world. We must therefore accept our subjection and wait for the golden days when we are thoroughly Europeanised, before we make any attempt to assert our national existence. At the same time, we may work out our own salvation in industrial matters, by such enterprises as the Banga Lakshmi Mill, in social matters by the abolition of caste, and even in educational matters by – but no, Babu Bhupendranath Bose has never been a friend of the National University idea. Such, when stripped of all verbiage, is the programme which Babu Bhupendranath sets before us, and since, in spite of his modest disclaimer, he has a commanding influence in determining the active policy of our leaders, his programme may be taken as the ultimate programme of his party.
We should like to know what Babu Bhupendranath precisely means by opposition to Government schemes. Except in extreme cases, so far as we understand him, he is opposed to bringing the vital energy of the nation to bear on the Government; and the only alternative policy is one of prayer and petition. It has been demonstrated repeatedly that prayer and petition have no appreciable influence on the British Government and that whatever slight influence it might have once had, has faded into nullity. It is only when the nation, finding its prayers and petitions rejected, begins to manifest its strength that the British Government inclines its ear and is graciously pleased to withdraw a circular, to dismiss a Fuller or to consider whether it can unsettle a settled fact. But Babu Bhupendranath argues that we cannot bring “the vital energies of the nation” to support opposition to any and every measure of Government. We are quite at one with him; but we cannot follow him in the strangely illogical conclusion he draws from this premise. He concludes from it that our right course is to trust to the broken weapon of remonstrance and futile petition in all but exceptional cases like the Partition. We conclude that our right course is not to waste unnecessary time over smaller matters, but to go to the root of the matter, the control over finance and legislation which is the basis of self-government and the first step towards autonomy.
The proposal of the old party is to use the great outburst of national strength which the Partition has evoked, in order to get the Partition rescinded, and then to put it back in the cupboard until again wanted. Such a policy will be absolutely suicidal. These outbursts can only come once or twice in a century, they cannot be evoked and ruled at the will of any leader, be he Surendranath Banerji or even a greater than Surendranath. Nor would such frequent outbursts benefit the country, but would rather, like frequent occasions of fever, weaken the nation and render it finally listless and strengthless. The problem for statesmanship at this moment is to organise and utilise the energy which has been awakened for an object of the first importance to our national development. The withdrawal of the Partition by itself will not improve the position of our race with regard to its rulers nor leave it one whit better than before Lord Curzon's regime. Even if the present Government were overflowing with liberal kindness, it cannot last for ever, and there is nothing to prevent another Imperialist Viceroy backed up by2 an Imperialist Government from perpetrating measures as injurious to the interests and sentiments of the nation. The only genuine guarantee against this contingency is the control by the nation of its own destinies, and to secure an effective instalment of this control should be the first aim of all our political action. No British Government will willingly concede anything in the nature of effective control. It can only be wrested from them by concentrating “the vital energies of the entire nation” into opposition to the Government and admitting of no truce until the desired end is secured. This is the kernel of the new party's policy and it differs entirely from Babu Bhupendranath's meaningless and futile programme.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: backed by