Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. December 4, 1907
More about Unity
The Bengalee has again returned to the charge about unity. The line of argument adopted by our contemporary savours strongly of the peculiar style of political thinking which underlay all our movements in the last century. The old school of politics was chiefly remarkable for a blithe indifference to facts and an extraordinary predilection for vague abstractions which could not possibly apply to the conditions with which our political action had to deal. The nineteenth century Indian politician never cared to study history, but used a ready-made and high-sounding philosophy of politics based chiefly on the circumstances and conditions of modern English politics which had no validity at all for India. The result of this divorce from real life was a tendency to use words without caring to consider their real practical meaning. We find the Bengalee in its article learnedly repeating these old mistakes. It builds wordy arguments from the terms of modern Science without grasping the true facts and hard realities of life without a knowledge of which the terms cannot be correctly applied. It argues from evolution that progress is an ever-increasing unity of ever-developing parts, that therefore progress is nothing but unity, ergo1 unity is not a means but an end, not an important or necessary help to arriving at progress, freedom and greatness but itself at once progress, freedom and greatness. This is merely playing with words. The question is, what is this unity which the Bengalee makes so much of and which it asks us to prefer to our principles and in its name to join in action which we believe to be harmful to the country? If our contemporary means political unity, the formation of all the communities and races in the country into a single political organism with a common centre of life, that is certainly, as we have already admitted, a necessary condition of independence and greatness; but it is a thing of the future which is impossible so long as the centre of life in the country is alien and external, and all we can do towards it is to unite people of all communities and races in one common struggle to replace the alien and external centre of political life by an indigenous and internal centre in the national organism itself. Very good, but the question still remains, by what method can that result be attained? We believe the methods proposed by the Loyalists to be futile and injurious, we understand their aim to be not the independence of the national organism, but an impossible scheme of two centres of political life controlling the country at the same time of which the alien shall be the supreme2 and yet the indigenous shall be free! What the Bengalee asks of us is to disregard this vital difference of opinion and aim and be united – in what? In aiming at an object which we believe to be absurd, by means which we believe to be futile. It does not matter, says the Bengalee, in what we are united, so long as we are united; for unity is progress, unity is freedom and greatness. So that if we are united in petitioning we are by the very fact of that unity free and great! The error of the Bengalee's argument is that it confuses political unity, which is a necessary condition of independence, with unity of opinion and action which is an immense help, if the opinion and the action are in the right direction, but certainly not indispensable. It is not true that unity, even political unity, is identical with freedom, for a nation may be united in bondage or united in submission to a foreign and absolutist rule. Still less is it true that unity in following the wrong road is the true means to the goal, much less the goal itself. We tried to prove from history that nations had been made free not by a scrupulous pursuit of unanimity or of unity in action but by faith, energy and courage in a number of its more energetic sons carrying away the bulk of the nation into a strenuous effort to reach a great ideal. For the sake of brevity we gave one instance where we might have given a dozen. The Bengalee, however, like all Moderate politicians will have nothing to do with history or at least with the facts of history. History, it says in effect, is a record of human error, and the methods of which it tells us, involve great waste. So we in India are to invent something brand new, an ingenious and carefully calculated method of revolution which will bring us freedom and greatness without any waste, without any risk, by a minimum expenditure of trouble, disturbance and sacrifice. We fear it has left out of consideration the fact that waste also is one of Nature's methods, indeed, what3 we call waste is one of the most subtle parts of her economy. No man or nation that refused to venture hugely like a gambler for huge ends ever arrived at freedom, none who has not been prodigal of his best has ever risen to greatness, and what has been in the past will be in the future; for human nature and the laws of human action remain the same, and cannot be new-shaped in Colootola. Politics is for the Kshatriya and in the Kshatriya spirit alone can freedom and greatness be attained, not by the spirit of the Baniya trying to buy freedom in the cheapest market and beat down the demands of Fate to a miser's niggard price. That which other nations have paid for freedom we also must pay, the path they have followed we also must follow. And if you will not learn from history, you will have to be taught by a harsher teacher the same lesson – and taught perhaps at a much more tremendous price than that which you stigmatise as waste. We Nationalists have no desire to break the Congress or to part company with our less forward countrymen, but we have our path to follow and our work to do, and if you will not allow us a place in the assembly you call National, we will make one for ourselves out of it and around it, until one day you will find us knocking at your doors with the nation at our back and in the name of an authority even you will not dare to deny.
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: unity, freedom is nothing but unity, greatness is nothing but unity, ergo
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: be supreme
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: indeed that what