Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 22, 1908
The Future and the Nationalists
Whatever view we take of the present situation, the first duty of every Nationalist is to take care that the great principles of Nationalism are not infringed by any concession to the party of fear and self-interest which would imperil the future of the movement and the destiny of the nation. All the articles we have written on the Convention have been the expression of a momentary policy dictated by the great and almost universal desire in the country that a split should be avoided. But we should never forget that policy is subordinate to principle. As a democratic party, it is our duty to bow to the will of the majority in all matters which do not break the mould of Nationalism to serve the interests of a moment. Unity is at present a means and not an end in itself. As we have often pointed out, unanimity is not unity but merely an affectation of unity. There is an idea in many minds that our salvation lies in the removal of all differences, religious, social and political, but we may wait for many millenniums before such an Utopia can be reached in this world. Differences of religion, social status and political opinion there must be. Unanimity is a condition only possible to a nation whose heart is numbed and whose intellect has ceased to be active; for diversity is the very condition of activity, its cause and again its result. No one can deny that the differences of opinion which have arisen among us are largely responsible for the extraordinary political activity which has kept India astir for the last two years and set the whole world looking towards the banks of the Ganges in eager expectation of a new birth among the nations. On the other hand, the activity itself has emphasised1 and increased the differences of opinion both between the parties and in the parties themselves. The only thing we have to see to is that this diversity is not allowed to break up the nation into warring factions, and we are therefore anxious to save, if possible, the Congress from extinction, because the Congress at present is the only ground of unity in diversity, the only field where all can meet to diverge and again meet without loss of principle or violence to conscience. It is a centre into which the different streams of thought and activity in the country can flow and mix with each other, to again separate and work in their own channels till the time to meet and intercommunicate again arrives. The Congress, therefore, provides the point of unity which prevents the diversity of our political activities from dissolving our political life into so many disconnected units.
Unity, as we have said, is a means and not an end. To agree is easy if we are willing to sacrifice our principles, but such agreement is not unity; it is sacrificing the soul of the nation so that an artificial appearance of unanimity may be preserved. No unity can be desirable which is inconsistent with growth or with the march of the people towards the realisation2 of their great destiny. Growth is the object, unity only one of the means, and if the means can only be had on condition of sacrificing the object, the means and not the object must be sacrificed. If the Convention refuses to associate with the Nationalists except on condition of the latter sacrificing their principles and stultifying their intellectual convictions, the demand for unity can no longer be pressed on the Nationalist Party, which will then be free to take its own course without reference to anything but its own principles and the exigencies of its propaganda. We have done our best to carry out the demand of the people for unity; the refusal comes from the other side and there the responsibility will rest. If the country desires unity, it is for the country to enforce it by refusing to countenance a body claiming to be the Congress and yet taking its stand on the negation of unity. The Nationalists cannot sit as beggars at the doors of the Convention waiting till the doors be opened to them. They are the builders of Indian Nationality, the inheritors of the future, and their work calls them. If the Convention wants at any time in the near future to retrace its steps and become one with the Nationalists, it knows the conditions, but time will increase the difficulty of reunion and the conditions will change as the sacrifices made by the Nationalists for the sake of their cause become greater and their work advances. It is time for us to turn from the attempt to patch up matters with men who are pledged to disruption and concern ourselves with our own proper work.
That work is too heavy for us already, and it will become still more difficult under the new circumstances with an enemy in the house as well as an enemy outside. If we are to face the task with any hope of success, it must be with a much stricter organisation, a general closing up of our ranks and the creation of instruments for united work and mutual co-operation. We have hitherto been able to work in a scattered and desultory fashion, because we were able to use the Congress organisations brought into existence by the demand for practical work and to take part in and give our stamp to existing bodies. The Convention's new District Associations will consist only of men pledged to the creed. Wherever an Association refuses to be bound by the creed, it will be excluded from the Conventionalist Congress and regarded as a Nationalist body. Under these circumstances the country's demand for unity will become impossible of fulfilment and rival organisations3 will spring into existence in every province and every district, one pledged to association with the bureaucracy, the other to boycott and self-help. If these bodies admit both parties, they will stand apart from any existing organisation4. Such a state of things can only be temporary, but it is for a time inevitable if the Convention constitution is carried out. The Nationalists are bound to protect themselves from the attempt to exclude them from political life by organising5 themselves in such a way that they may become a force in the country which neither bureaucrats nor Loyalists can either ignore or think it an easy task to crush. Organisation6, therefore, will be the first difficulty to overcome. When once we have succeeded in organising7 our present8 scattered forces, the spirit of progress, once awake, will work for us and through us giving us greater and greater following and strength till the work of building up the nation becomes so evidently ours that the whole country will range itself under our standard. Then and only then will that unity become possible which can create a nation.
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: emphasized
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: realization
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organizations
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organization
5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organizing
6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Organization
7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organizing
8 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: our at present