Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. March 13, 1908
The Tuticorin Victory
The success of passive resistance at Tuticorin ought to be an encouragement to those who have begun to distrust the power of the new weapon which is so eminently suited to the Asiatic temperament. When the Boycott was declared in Bengal, the whole of the energy of the people was thrown into the attempt to get the Partition repealed and if that concentration of effort had been continued, the Partition would by this time have become an unsettled fact; but for two different reasons the attempt to unsettle the Partition was unstrung and the energy diverted to a different goal. In the first place, a great thought entered into the heart of the people and displaced the petty indignation against an administrative measure which was the immediate cause of the Boycott. Swaraj displaced the idea of a mere administrative unity and Swaraj is too mighty an object to be effected by a single and limited means. Secondly, the first magnificent unity of the movement was lost. The Mahomedans, lured by specious promises, broke away from the ranks and within the circle of the leaders themselves a division arose between those who believed in Swaraj pure and unadulterated and those whom policy or caution dissuaded from so mighty an aspiration. For passive resistance to succeed unity, perseverance and thoroughness are the first requisites. Because this unity, perseverance and thoroughness existed in Tuticorin, the great battle fought over the Coral Mill has ended in a great and indeed absolutely sweeping victory for the people. Every claim made by the strikers has been conceded and British capital has had to submit to the humiliation of an unconditional surrender. Nationalism may well take pride in the gallant leaders who have by their cool and unflinching courage brought about this splendid vindication of Nationalist teaching. When men like Chidambaram, Padmanabha and Shiva are ready to undergo exile or imprisonment so that a handful of mill coolies may get justice and easier conditions of livelihood, a bond has been created between the educated class and the masses, which is the first great step towards Swaraj.
There has been only one other instance of a victory as complete for passive resistance against the might of a great Government. We refer to the struggle in the Transvaal which was carried on with equal unity, perseverance and thoroughness to a success less absolutely unconditional but even more striking from the strength and stubbornness of the enemy it had to overcome. We publish in another column a letter from a brother in the Transvaal on the subject. The conditions of political struggle in the Transvaal are different, the objects less vast than those of the movement in India. The Transvaal Indians demand only the ordinary rights of human beings in modern civilised1 society, the right to live, the right to trade, to be treated like human beings and not like cattle. In India which is our own country, our aspirations have a larger sweep and our methods must be more varied and strenuous. Moreover, in the Transvaal the Asiatics form a small and distinct community in a foreign and hostile environment and can more easily rise above petty differences of creed and caste, opinion and interest; but in this vast continent with its huge population of thirty crores and its complex tangle of diversities the task is more difficult, even as the prize of success is more splendid. The unity will be longer in coming, the perseverance more difficult to maintain, the thoroughness less perfect; but the might of three hundred millions welded into a single force will be a potency so gigantic that the imagination fails to put a limit to the final results of the movement now in its infancy.
Meanwhile, the lesson of Tuticorin, the lesson of the Transvaal is one which needs to be learnt and put frequently into practice. We should lose no opportunity of letting our strength grow by practice. There have been many labour struggles in Bengal, but with the exception of the Printers' strike none has ended in a victory for Indian labour against British capital. Either the unity among the operatives was defective or the support of the public was absent or the perseverance and thoroughness of the strike was marred by hesitations, individual submissions, partial concessions. The Tuticorin strike is a perfect example of what an isolated labour revolt should be. The operatives must act with one will and speak with one voice, never letting the temptation of individual interest or individual relief get the better of the corporate aim in which lies the whole strength of a labour combination, and the educated community must give both moral and financial support with an ungrudging and untiring enthusiasm till the victory is won, realising that every victory for Indian labour is a victory for the nation and every defeat a defeat to the movement. The Tuticorin leaders must be given the whole credit for the unequalled skill and courage with which the fight was conducted and still more for the complete realisation2 of the true inwardness of the Nationalist gospel which made them identify the interests of the whole Indian nation with the wrongs and grievances of the labourers in the Coral Mill.
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: civilized
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: realization