Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. August 14, 1907
To Organise Boycott1
That Boycott is the central question of Indian politics is now a generally recognised fact, recognised openly or tacitly by its supporters and its opponents alike. The Anglo-Indian papers are busy trying to make out that it is a chimera, and a failure; the executive are straining every nerve to crush it by magisterial interference, by police Zulum, by prosecution of newspapers and all the familiar machinery of repressive despotism; the friends of the alien among ourselves are reiterating that the movement is a foolish affair and that no nation ever was made by Boycott. If Boycott had really been an impossibility or a failure, it is obvious that all this elaborate machinery would not have been brought into play to crush it. On the contrary it has become a very substantial reality, a very palpable success, and now stands out, as we have said, the2 central and all-important question of Indian politics. Those who say that no nation was ever made by boycott, do not know what they are talking about, do not understand what boycott is, do not know the teachings of history. Boycott is much more than a mere economical device, it is a rediscovery of national self-respect, a declaration of national separateness; it is the first practical assertion of independence and has therefore in most of the national uprisings of modern times been the forerunner of the struggle for independence. The American struggle with England began in an enthusiastic and determined boycott of British goods enforced by much the same methods as the Indian boycott but with a much more stringent and effective organisation. The Italian uprising of 1848 was heralded by the boycott of Austrian cigarettes and the tobacco riots of3 Milan. The boycott was the indispensable weapon of the Parnell movement in Ireland, and boycott and Swadeshi are the leading cries of Sinn Fein. The first practical effect of the resurgence of China was the Boycott of American goods as an assertion of China's long down-trodden self-respect against the brutal and insolent dealings of the Americans towards Chinese immigrants. In India also Boycott began as an assertion of national self-respect, and continued as a declared and practical enforcement of national separateness, liberty, independence and self-dependence. “We will no longer tamely bear injury and insult, we will no longer traffic and huckster with others for broken fragments of rights and privileges; we are free, we are separate, we are sufficient to ourselves for our own salvation,” that was what boycott meant and what its enemies have understood it to mean: its economical aspect is only an aspect.
The economical boycott has been on the whole an immense success,– not indeed in every respect, for the crusade against foreign sugar has not diminished the import, though it may have checked to some extent the natural increase of the import, and the Tarpur sugar factory is, we understand in danger of failing because people will not buy the dearer Swadeshi sugar,– an example of the futility of “honest” Swadeshi unsupported by a self-sacrificing boycott: but enormous reductions have been made in the import not only of cotton goods but of all kinds of wearing apparel, and salt has been appreciably affected. But now the whole weight of bureaucratic power is being brought to bear in order to shatter the boycott, and if we intend to save it we must oppose the organised force of the bureaucracy by the organised will of the people. What the unorganised will of the people could do, it has done; it has indeed effected miracles. But no statesman will rely on the perpetual continuation of a miracle, he will seek to counteract weaknesses, to take full advantage of every element of strength and to bring into action new elements of strength; he will in short utilise4 every available means towards the one great national end. Srijut Surendranath has said well that we must answer the campaign of repression by organising the country. And the readiest way to organise the country is to organise boycott.
The chief weakness of the movement has been the want of co-ordinated action. We have left everything to personal and local enthusiasm. The consequence is that while in East Bengal the Boycott is a fact, in West Bengal it is an idea. There is some Swadeshi in West Bengal, there is no Boycott. Moreover Bengal has not brought its united influence to bear upon the other provinces in order to make the Boycott universal. The whole force of this vast country is a force which no Government could permanently resist. But this force has not been brought to bear on the struggle, Bengal and Punjab have been left to fight out their battles unaided, without the active sympathy of the rest of India. This must be altered, the rest of India must be converted and we must not rest till we have secured a mandate from the Congress for an universal boycott of British goods. Meanwhile we must bring West Bengal into a line with East Bengal, and for that purpose we must have a stringent and effective organisation. We need not go far for the system which will be most effective. We have only to apply or adapt to the circumstances of the country the methods used by the American boycotters against England. How this can be done we propose to discuss in another article.
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 The exact date is uncertain. The article appeared in the daily edition on 14, 15 or 17 August. All these issues have been lost. The article was reprinted in the weekly edition on 18 August.
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: said, as the
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: in
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: utilize