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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. December 2, 1907

About Unity

Our esteemed contemporary, the Bengalee, has recently been reading us eloquent sermons on the uses and advantages of unity. We confess we cannot follow our contemporary's argument. We gave utterance to the very obvious and we thought, undeniable sentiment that Unity is a means and not an end in itself. But the Bengalee asserts, and it has now got the strong authority of Mr. Myron Phelps to back it, that unity is an end in itself and not a means, but it seems to us that neither our contemporary nor his authority have1 anything but their ipse dixit to prove their assertion. We have great respect for Mr. Myron Phelps who is evidently a sincere well-wisher of our nation, but it does seem to us that he is forgetting the history of his own country when he asserts that unity is an end in itself. The end his countrymen aimed at during their quarrel with England was certainly not unity but independence, and to the attainment of that end there was a strong loyalist minority opposed and unfriendly. Even among the American Liberals the democratic Extremists were a minority while the greater number would have been glad to combine submission to the English crown with American liberty. It was the fiery vehemence and energy of the Extremists aided by the intensity of popular indignation which hurried the Moderate majority into the Boycott and the same force which plunged them half against their will into war with the suzerain and into ultimate democracy. The same thing has happened in India, for there is not the slightest doubt that the Moderates have been carried at the fiery chariot-wheels of Extremism into the perpetuation of the Boycott and the angry struggle between people and bureaucracy from which they would have gladly withdrawn and more than once made motions to withdraw, if left to themselves. We insist that the end of national action is the acquisition and maintenance of national independence and greatness, and unity is only a means to that end. Moreover, political unity which is an essential condition of independence differs from unity of ideas and methods which are not essential. Political unity can be prepared by men of all parts of the country joining in a common struggle for the creation of a single national government, but the other unity is only possible if the whole nation is inspired by one spirit and one idea. The Bengalee thinks there is substantially such a2 unity between, say, Sir Pherozshah Mehta, Srijut Surendranath Banerji and Srijut Bepin3 Chandra Pal; but we have our doubts. Surendranath4 wants Colonial Self-government, Pherozshah would be hugely pleased with something infinitely less; Bepin5 Chandra wants absolute autonomy. Where is the unity? If Colonial Self-government for India, that political monstrosity, means anything, it means a hampered and provincial autonomy; the Nationalists strive for a complete and international autonomy, and if our contemporary thinks that is a small or merely academic difference, we cannot compliment him on his knowledge either of history or politics. We will admit however for the sake of argument that our aim is identical, though in one case frankly expressed and in the other hidden under a veil, but that our methods are different. How then can there be that unity of action for which the Bengalee so sonorously but hazily pleads? Unity of action along with and unaffected by difference of methods is a kind of unity which we do not understand, and we rather suspect it is a chimera6 from the land of confused ideas very much on a par with the “Colonial Self-government for India” of our friends or Mr. Morley's wonderful reconciliation of a free Press and Platform with an autocratic government. If one party has petitioning for its method and another rejects it for passive resistance, how can there be unity of action? Or if one party insists on association with and opposition to the bureaucracy (another twynatured and self-contradictory figment from dreamland) and the other repudiates the association, how can there be united action? If united action is at all possible in Bengal, it is because the Moderate Party in Bengal has ceased to be wagged by its loyalist tail and is now following the lead of its small but advanced head which is in sympathy with many of the Nationalist ideas though it is not prepared to carry them to their complete and logical end with the thoroughness and audacity which true Nationalism requires. The Moderates have given up for the present the policy of mendicancy, they have given in their7 adherence to the programme of passive resistance though only in part. So far therefore as the methods of the two parties agree, united action is possible, though difference of fundamental ideas and difference of spirit make it impossible for that concord to be real and whole-hearted, even if personal misunderstandings and dislikes did not stand in the way. But it is only in Bengal that even so much unity is possible, though there is a tendency in that direction in Madras. In the rest of India Moderatism is in its public professions and actions frankly loyalist and is quite prepared to eject the Nationalists from the Congress so far as it can be done with safety to itself. The Nagpur affair and the action of the All-India Congress Committee prove that beyond doubt. Where then is the basis of unity? For that matter, the Bengal Moderates while they sing dulcetly to us the praises of Unity, have invariably joined heartily in Loyalist attempts to suppress the voice of Nationalism in the Congress. They were, we are convinced, consenting parties to the unconstitutional political trickery by which Sir Pherozshah transferred the meeting place of the Congress to one of his own pocket boroughs. Again we ask, on what ground can we meet for heartily united action? We have our work to do and cannot wait for ever on sweet words and professions used as a veil for secret well, shall we say, diplomacy? We are ourselves anxious to carry the support of our Moderate countrymen with us in our struggles, but their friendship must first become less of the “I love you and kick you downstairs” kind than it is at present. Sincerity has great healing properties and without it professions are a poor salve for old sores.

 

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: has

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

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3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin

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4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Surendra

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5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin

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6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: chimaera

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7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: given their

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