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In this interview, which was published in Gandhi's weekly paper Harijan on 28 July 1946, Gandhi spells out his vision of the ideal community and its relationship to the individual.

On independence

Harijan: You have said in your article in the Harijan of 15 July, under the caption “The Real Danger”, that Congressmen in general certainly do not know the kind of independence they want. Would you kindly give them a broad but comprehensive picture of the Independent India of your own conception? Gandhi: I do not know that I have not, from time to time, given my idea of Indian independence. Since, however, this question is part of a series, it is better to answer it even at the risk of repetition. Independence of India should mean independence of the whole of India, including what is called India of the States and the other foreign powers, French and Portuguese, who are there, I presume, by British sufferance. Independence must mean that of the people of India, not of those who are today ruling over them. The rulers should depend on the will of those who are under their heels. Thus, they have to be servants of the people, ready to do their will.

Independence must begin at the bot-tom. Thus, every village will be a republic or panchayat having full powers. It fol-lows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world. It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without. Thus, ultimate-ly, it is the individual who is the unit.

This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbours or from the world. It will be free and voluntary play of mutual forces. Such a society is necessarily highly cultured in which every man and woman knows what he or she wants and, what is more, knows that no one should want anything that others cannot have with equal labour.

This society must naturally be based on truth and nonviolence which, in my opinion, are not possible without a living belief in God, meaning a self-existent, all-knowing living Force which inheres every other force known to the world and which depends on none and which will live when all other forces may conceivably perish or cease to act. I am unable to account for my life without belief in this all-embracing living Light. In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever-widening, never-ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the latter ready to perish for the circle of villages, till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals, never aggressive in their arrogance but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral units.

Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it. I may be taunted with the retort that this is all utopian and, therefore, not worth a single thought. If Euclid's point, though incapable of being drawn by human agency, has an imperishable value, my picture has its own for mankind to live. Let India live for this true picture, though never realisable in its completeness. We must have a proper picture of what we want, before we can have something approaching it. If there ever is to be a republic of every village in India, then I claim verity for my picture in which the last is equal to the first or, in other words, no one is to be the first and none the last.

In this picture every religion has its full and equal place. We are all leaves of a majestic tree whose trunk cannot be shaken off its roots which are deep down in the bowels of the earth. The mightiest wind cannot move it.

In this there is no room for machines that would displace human labour and that would concentrate power in a few hands. Labour has its unique place in a cultured human family. Every machine that helps every individual has a place. But I must confess that I have never sat down to think out what that machine can be. I have thought of Singer's sewing machine. But even that is perfunctory. I do not need it to fill in my picture. Harijan: Do you believe that the proposed Constituent Assembly could be used for the realisation of your picture? Gandhi: The Constituent Assembly has all the possibilities for the realisation of my picture. Yet I cannot hope for much, not because the State Paper holds no such possibilities but because the document, being wholly of a voluntary nature, requires the common consent of the many parties to it. These have no common goal. Congressmen themselves are not of one mind even on the contents of Independence.

I do not know how many swear by nonviolence or the charkha or, believing in decentralisation, regard the village as the nucleus. I know on the contrary that many would have India become a first-class military power and wish for India to have a strong centre and build the whole structure round it. In the medley of these conflicts I know that if India is to be leader in clean action based on clean thought, God will confound the wisdom of these big men and will provide the villages with the power to express themselves as they should. Harijan: If the Constituent Assembly fizzles out because of the “danger from within”, as you have remarked in the above-mentioned article, would you advise the Congress to accept the alternative of a general country-wide strike and capture of power, either nonviolently or with the use of necessary force? What is your alternative in that eventuality if the above is not approved by you? Gandhi: I must not contemplate darkness before it stares me in the face. And in no case can I be party, irrespective of nonviolence, to a universal strike and capture of power. Though, therefore, I do not know what I should do in the case of a break-down, I know that the actuality will find me ready with an alternative. My sole reliance being on the living power which we call God, He will put the alternative in my hands when the time has come, not a minute sooner. Utopias, visions and realities

This exerpt from Harijan was taken from the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi vol 85, p32-34; or CD Rom version, vol 91, p325-327.
For more information, see http://www.mkgand-hi-sarvodaya.org/multi.htm.
With thanks to Thomas Weber for his research.

Topics: Utopias