Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 30, 1908
By the Way
There are some who believe that passion and conviction are the sign of want of culture. If the language of poetry is used by a political writer, it shows lack of balance. The use of imagination, the presence of inspiration, the full expression of feeling are violent and indecorous. Whatever the depth of emotion felt, whatever the inspiring character of the vision seen, the emotion must be banished, the inspiration killed, otherwise wisdom takes flight. If our politics had been left to these gentlemen, it would have remained the decorous pastime of lawyers and sober educationists, a sort of half-forensic, half-academic debate with the bureaucracy on the merits of its rule. Sobriety, moderation, wisdom would have been satisfied and the nation killed by a surfeit of gentlemanly decorum. Unluckily for the Bengalee and its ilk, the days of “modest and sober and mostly unreadable prose”, of Colootola “common sense”, of the “healthy mind” which was too healthy to think and too sound to be sincere, are gone. The great passions which move mankind, the rude forces which shake the world, the majestic visions which bring life to dead nations have once more become part of our national existence, and in vain Colootola waves its conjuring rod of bad logic, inconsistent sentiment and sober imbecility to quell the phantasms. They are not to be quelled.
Common Sense and Revolutions
The Bengalee is scornful of our prophetic visions. The man of common sense who cannot see what lies before his nose, naturally considers the man who can see a prophet or a visionary. Before the French Revolution many travellers visited France, but only one or two were able to see that there existed in the quiet of that country all the conditions that have in history preceded great revolutions. The men who perceived it were not prophets but merely observers, gifted with sympathy and insight. They were, in fact, men of uncommon sense. The Bengalee and its like are unable to conceive that anything great can happen in India. Formerly it believed that we should go on for several centuries prosing about our political grievances in an ineffective debating society called the National Congress. Even now it believes that the country will remain obedient to the call of what it terms sobriety, and that fate will wait upon the prudence and fears of a few respectable and wealthy gentlemen in Calcutta and Bombay. Its idea of our future is that we should become a big outlying parish of England, and of the means, that we should peddle forever with the details of a bureaucratic administration.
Pace and Solidarity
It is impossible for such minds,– if minds they can be called – to perceive that what is happening is the first stage of a revolution or that the condition of keeping the wilder forces of revolution in harness was the solidarity of the movement. Once that solidarity has been broken, it is the wildest and most rapid forces which will set the pace; there will be no mean resultant of all the forces producing a swift and yet ordered advance. The solidarity of the movement depends on the existence of an united Congress in which the Moderates and Nationalists should form the brake and the motive energy respectively. But the united Congress has been suffocated with a creed at Allahabad and with it the solidarity of the movement and the check on the fiercer forces which have recently given evidences of their existence will disappear. That means if not “the approaching end of the world” at least the end of that state of the Indian world in which Surendranaths can perorate, Mehtas brew mischief and Colootola daily enjoy its robust digestion of its own sober and modest prose.
The Bengalee pretends that the Congress, even after Allahabad, is only collapsed and not dead. Its recipe for reviving the patient is that Dr. Ghose should resummon the adjourned Congress. Great Rash Behari has only to send forth his almighty voice, accompanied by a telling literary joke and an appropriate quotation, has only to say with his inimitable gesture and facial expression, “Let there be an united Congress”, and, behold, an united Congress! And Mr. Khare's resolution calling a new Congress does not preclude, it seems, Dr. Ghose from resummoning the adjourned Congress! This is the finished product of Colootola's common sense and the healthy mind that flourishes only at Barrackpore1.
The Voice of Colootola has been lashed into a rage by our article on the Wheat and the Chaff. Unable to wound itself, it engages a correspondent to do the work for it. The exposure of moderate policy which that article made has irritated this gentleman into an outburst of spleen too bitter to be contained, and he foams at the mouth in his fury. “Why should the Nationalists arrogate the right to instruct their elders? What have they done? Who are they? We are the leaders of the people and they are only self-styled leaders. What right have they to be an independent party? They are cowards who dare not act except behind the veil of the Moderates, and are angry because that veil is being withdrawn. Their leaders are ungrateful scoundrels to abuse the party of the barristers who saved them from jail.” So the friend of Colootola.
A good deal of this epic rage would have been saved if the irate correspondent had taken the trouble to understand the article before writing about it. What we have written about the Moderates, we have written and we do not withdraw one syllable of it. Their action at Allahabad was a betrayal of the country dictated by fear and self-interest. Among those who took part in it, there are prominent men who no more believe in Colonial self-government for India than they believe in the man in the moon. The part they played is especially reprehensible. Others are anxious to put themselves right with the bureaucratic government and hardly take the trouble to conceal their motives. The few who were sincere both in their profession of the creed and in their belief that it is necessary for the country, are too insignificant to be reckoned.
What the Bengalee's friend in need has not understood is the latter part of the article in which we pointed out that the amateur kind of Nationalism which has hitherto been the order of the day will no longer serve. The real workers are yet to come. This part of the homily in which, by the way, the reference to the barristers occurred as2 addressed to our own party and if anyone has any right to take umbrage at it, it is the Nationalists, barristers or others, and not pseudo-Nationalists like our Colootola critic. The steel for the Mother's sword of which we spoke is not the present Nationalist Party as he imagines, but the rising generation of young men. They are the wheat which will remain. Of the present Nationalist Party much will be winnowed away in the fiercer tests that are coming and rejected as chaff, only a small residue remaining. We do not know whether it was want of patience or want of English which prevented our critic from seeing the drift of the article – probably a combination of these lamentable wants – but if he will take the trouble to reread it with the help of a tutor, he may even yet understand. We did not condemn pleading in Swadeshi cases or taking shares in Swadeshi concerns any more than we condemned subscribing to National School funds. We said that these were safe and petty forms of patriotism and those who could not go beyond them were not the stuff of which the future will be built. And that is, after all, only a truism. Our whole lives are what is demanded of us and not a bit of our leisure or a mite from our purse.
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: Barrackpur
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: was