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Reform or Revolution 




(Late of the 'Burma Commission) 







An Englishman is apt to shy at the word 
revolution. It cmlte up in his mind visions of 
the guillotine, of barricades, of burnings, and 
of sudden death. Even now England suffers 
from shell-shock due to that vast explosion in 
France 130 years ago. As a matter of fact, a 
revolution may be entirely peaceful ; it need 
not entail the shedding of a single drop of 
blood. Though the English revolution of 1649, 
when a republic of Puritans replaced a feudal 
monarchy, came at the end of a long civil war, 
the counter revolution of 1660 masked in 
histories as the " Restoration " was, save for 
some few executed in revenge, quite free from 
bloodshed. Passing over the so-called revol- 
ution of 1688, which was merely a change of 
kings, that of the Reform Act, 1832, when 


government by wealth supplanted government 
by feudal lords, if carried through by fear, was 
also unattended by violence. Nor did the 
horrors of the French Revolution begin until 
the crowned heads of Prussia, Austria and 
Piedmont had declared war on France in order 
to restore the Monarchy, and Louis and the 
nobles had openly sided with these foreigners. 
A great deal has been made of the crimes of 
the Bolsheviks. But now that we can see 
through the barrage of lies maintained round 
Russia by our capitalist Press, it is clear that 
much the same happened there as in France. 
After the Soviets gained control in October 
1917, they executed none save murderers and 
brigands until May 1918, when French 
and British diplomatic agents were actively 
fomenting a counter revolution. 

What in reality is a revolution ? The word 
has many meanings. Thus people speak of 
revolutions in thought, in society, in education 
and so forth, but here we are concerned only 
with those in the sphere of Government. A 
political revolution may be defined as a change 
in Government involving a radical change in 


social ideals. If, for instance, a people govern- 
ed by organised wealth were to dethrone a king 
and set up a republic, the real power remain- 
ing the same, that would be a revolution only 
in name. England to-day is a limited mon- 
archy and France and the United States 
republics, but all alike are governed by " Big 
Business." On the other hand, self-govern- 
ment in place of rule by foreigners would 
emphatically be a revolution, because the ideals 
of the people under the first policy are quite 
different from those under the second. The 
object of foreigners is to retain the mastery ; 
therefore, they teach the people to be docile 
and obedient. Self-government or Democracy, 
on the contrary, makes for self-respect and 
independence in thought and action. It 
involves a complete change in outlook. 

Again the word would not apply to a labour 
government in England, with Messrs. Thomas, 
Bevin and Clynes at the head, for it would 
mean a continuance of the present capitalist 
system, shorn only of its worst features. But 
if a Labour government, pledged to the guild 
system, came into power, that would be a 


revolution, because with industries based on 
guilds, social ideals would entirely alter. So 
in India, if a bureaucracy of Indians replaced 
the English bureaucracy, it would modify but 
little the face of Indian society. It would still 
suffer from the incurable vices of that system, 
whether in India or elsewhere, its aloofness 
from and distrust of the people, its love of rule 
and precedent, its lack of vision and its 
rigidity. In what essentials does government 
by Lord Sinha or Dr. Sapru differ from 
government by Sir Harcourt Butler or Mr. 
Vincent ? 

Revolution in the proper sense, does not con- 
note violence. You may have violent changes 
of Government like a South American pro- 
nuuciainento- -without the slightest change in 
society. The essential point is the change in 
social ideals, and the change of government 
which brings this about, may or may not be 
caused by violence. That in the past it has 
often been so caused is due to the fact that the 
governing classes have usually taken up the 
sword in order to resist the people's will, and 
in particular, that they have called in foreign 


aid. It has never occurred to them, that when 
the majority of the people intend a radical 
change, they should quietly yield up their 

Of all revolutions, the conquest of a civilised 
people by foreigners is perhaps the worst. 
For, from its nature, it debases, and always 
must debase their character. Gone is their 
pride of country and with it their self-respect. 
They must learn to bow the head to their 
masters, to imitate their culture and follow 
their ideas. If I am ever in the will of others, 
is it likety that I can keep the virtues of a free- 
man ? Is it not more probable that I shall 
learn to be humble and submissive ? If in 
such a system, the more energetic tend to 
decline on riches, or to become upper servants 
to ;heir masters, how should they be blamed ? 
All the noblest paths of human thought are 
under a bar. We have all heard of the 
results of environment in nature, how it des- 
troys one form of life and multiplies another. 
In a conquered country the environment tend* 
to eliminate the lion and to breed the sheep. 
In the truest sense, foreign rule is immoral. 



The aim of reform is to advance without 
disturbance of law and order, and to build on 
existing foundations. Its ideal is a gradual 
increase of wealth, of happiness, 

* Of freedom slowly broadening down 
from precedent to precedent/ 

That is the theory. How does it work 
in practice ? Take English history from the 
year 1800 to date. The chief landmarks of 
reform in this century and a quarter are 
the Repeal of the Test and Corporation 
Acts in 1827, Catholic Emancipation in 1829, 
the Reform Act of 1832, the Factory Act 
of 1833, the Repeal of the Corn Lavs in 
1846, the Reform Act of 1867, the? Dis- 
establishment of the Irish Church in' 1869, 
the Education Act in 1870, the Local govern- 


mcnt Act in 1888, and the Reform Act of 

If freedom has broadened, it has broadened 
at the speed of a snail. The Corn Laws of 
1819 were a price of class legislation which 
starved the poor for the benefit of the land- 
lord and the parson. Yet it took a quarter of a 
century and a bitter and long agitation to win 
such a small measure of justice as their repeal. 
It was only after another quarter of a 
century that education became free and com- 
pulsory. And so with other reforms. See 
also the House of Lords. That such a 
grotesque survival from the Middle Ages 
should still linger on, in spite of a history 
which is one long chronicle of class selfish- 
ness and open or veiled war against all 
reform, shows how little is achieved by piece- 
meal legislation. Englishmen are notoriously 
intolerant of ideas, and in the House of Lords 
they have their reward. 

During all this period of progress on consti- 
tutional lines, generations of poor have been 
born, have toiled long hours for a pittance and 
have sunk to the tomb with hope dead and 


grievances unredressed. Always some bogey 
such as " Socialism," " Anarchy " or " Bol- 
shevism " has been flourished to daunt the 
eager and frighten the timid. Always under 
some pretext or symbol, such as " national 
welfare," or " national interests," the possessing 
classes have clung to power. In place of 
" national " read " class," and you have the 
reality behind these masks. 

To those willing to accept England's rate of 
progress, we put this question : " What about 
the children ? Are you willing that the 
children should grow up in the same or nearly 
the same world as that which so outrages your 
liner feelings ? " People talk of sacrificing, 
themselves, for their children. Is it not the 
highest, the best sacrifice to exert oneself to 
secure for them a world with nobler hopes and 
wider opportunities then, for instance, the 
England of a Lloyd George and the India of a 
Chelmsford ? In the broad view, to heap up 
riches so that one's children may be function- 
less parasites on Society is to do both them 
and the State a disservice. We ought rather 
to bend our energies to securing for all honest 


workers a fuller life than our own. How is it 
that in England democracy has made such 
little headway against privilege and wealth ? 
The answer seems to lie in the essential conser- 
vatism of man. Give him food and housing 
and clothes such as were his father's wont, and 
he is hard to move. To rouse him, you must 
kindle his emotions. You must hold up before 
his eyes some goal, to win which no sacrifice 
seems too great, no pain but trivial, which 
thrills his soul with the magic of a great ideal. 
Then only will he show the stuff within him, 
and reveal the vast abilities hidden in even the 
humblest citizen. "The war has proved for 
ever/' remarked the "Times," " That idealism 
in action is the master force in modern 

Now, reforms do not do this. They fail to 
bring into play any great motive force. They 
cannot stir the average man out of the rut of 
convention and custom, because they do not 
make him feel it worth while. They do not 
quicken ; they do not inspire. Hence the long 
-drawn agitations needed to wipe out some 
gross abuse, or to win a tiny instalment of 


liberty. The mass of the people remain inert 
and so the momentum behind the reformers is 
small. A spear-head alone is not enough ; to 
strike home you must also have a haft. 

Taking it at face value, diarchy has this 
same weakness. Diarchy is merely bureaucracy 
painted white. But, even were it otherwise, 
who would dare or suffer for reforms through 
Diarchy ? Be it never so seductively painted, 
it can never touch the hearts of the people. 
They see too well that the essence of freedom 
is power and that power still rests in the hands 
of the officials. 

After all, what is the system to which the 
reformists pin their faith ? A scheme whereby 
the bureaucracy, which retains control, is to 
" train " Indians for self-government, by means 
of coalition, cabinets composed partly of 
officials and partly of Indian Ministers. Will 
the officials train for self-government ? Will 
men whose whole training has been autocratic, 
whose class and race interests are bound up 
with ascendency, whose traditions are all of 
despotic rule, will such as these cast aside 
everything, training, interests, and traditions, 


and become apostles of liberty ? As well 
expeet Lord Curzon to preach Socialism or 
Sir G. Younger to co-operate with Pussyfoot 
Johnson ! " I believe because it is impossible/' 
cried once a devout Christian. That is the 
only way in which one can have faith in 
Diarchy as a School for Freedom. 

But even were the officials willing, how can 
they teach democratic government ? Such a 
government trusts in the people, speaks for 
them, feels with them, hopes with them. It is, 
in short, the executive organ of the people. It 
rests not on official rule or musty precedent ; 
rather it seeks inspiration from men such as a 
Pym or a Cobden, a Washington or a Mazzini. 
In thought and aims, it differs from bureauc- 
racy as a free eagle from a barn-door fowl. 
What folly to imagine that officials, men of 
rule and precedent, can be right teachers for 
democracy ! 

But, it may be urged, they come from a 
democratic country. That is not quite correct. 
In reality, England is not a democracy ; it is a 
country governed by organised wealth. And 
the class from which the officials are drawn 


is notoriously in favour of upholding this 
plutocracy. The root of popular government 
is not in it. So far then as they are constrained 
to part with power, they will naturally seek to 
give it to the wealthiest classes. That, indeed, 
is the inner meaning of the franchise rules. 

Consider, also, the record of Diarchy up-to- 
date. Mark the political persecutions; the 
open support of the liquor trade, the treatment 
of the Assam labourers, the Dharwar shootings, 
and the long list of measures vetoed. Where 
is the promised new era ? Where the begin- 
ning of popular rule ? If this be the path to 
freedom, it leads through a strange country. 

If reformers imagine themselves as taking 
one trench after another, until finally they 
plant the flag of freedom in the citadel, they 
make a sad mistake. They err, because they 
suppose that the enemy will remain on the 
defensive whilst they advance. But so far 
from serving inactive, he conducts a defence 
quite as vigorous and well-planned as the 
attack. In the first place, he plays for time. 
When indignation waxes fierce owing to some 
outrage like Amritsar, or to the persistent 


denial of self-government, he delays inquiry or 
he may give a small concession such as 
Diarchy. He makes vague promises certain 
to be ignored whilst at the same time he 
attacks the leaders of the people. By this 
means he strives to quench their spirit and to 
weaken their patriotism. He hopes, in short, 
that with time they may become disheartened. 

In the second place, after some outwork has 
been won, he takes care to throw up another 
fortification and generally to strengthen his 
position. Thus in England, Labour, routed in 
direct action, looks to the polls for redress. 
What is the reply of Capital ? It proposes to 
" reform " the House of Lords, that is, streng- 
then it and to make it a sure defence against a 
possible Labour majority in the House of 
Commons. If it succeeds, it will have foiled 
Labour on both counts. 

After her loyalty in the War, the Rowlatt 
Act came to India as a sudden slap in the face. 
Its meaning is not, however, difficult to under- 
stand. The perils of the war had extorted 
from the bureaucracy the very guarded 
declaration of August 1917. They were forced 


to yield this outwork to their opponents. But 
with the return of peace, when their alarm had 
subsided, they hastened to set up new bulwarks 
against democracy. The Rowlalt Act is one 
such bulwark ; the rules under the Reform Act 
are another. 

In short, the strategy of reformers is bad. It 
does not kindle the emotions of the people and 
so brings into action a bare tithe of the total 
forces available. In addition, it gives the enemy 
time to dissipate such enthusiasm as there is, 
to strengthen his defences, and sometimes even 
to regain lost ground. 



Revolution, in the sense defined, offers a 
bolder strategy. It strikes, not at some out- 
work, but straight at the citadel of the enemy. 
On its flag is blazoned a great ideal, something 
for which men will meet suffering with a smile, 
and look undaunted in the eyes of death. It 
sounds a trumpet which rouses the toiler from 
his toil, thrills his heart and illumines all his 
mind with the glory of a new-born land. All 
that is mean and selfish is burnt up in the fire 
of patriotism. 

Examine any of the revolutions in history, 
and you will find that men who would in the 
ordinary way have lead quite humdrum lives, 
such as selling goods, or farming, suddenly do 
terrific deeds, and tread as giants the stage of 
history. Cromwell was a farmer, Washington 


a planter, Janlon an Advocate, Garibaldi, 
(when not fighting,) a small farmer. And not 
the leaders only. The whole people are exalted 
and moved to high emprise. Thus American 
farmers and tradesman successfully withstood 
the disciplined English regiments. The French 
utterly routed the forces which the crowned 
heads of Europe hurled against them, and 
quite recently the Russians have repelled 
the well-armed attacks made on them by 
the capitalist governments of France and 

The spirit of man, once he ix roused, can 
mock the might of kings and overcome the 
wildest odds. The difficulty is to rouse him. 
Surely in each man dwells a God. Custom, fear, 
and ignorance may, and often do, smoothen all 
that in him is divine. But when some great 
emotion comes to tear away the winding sheet 
from off the soul, then, \ at last, we behold all 
that man can dare, all that he can do. 

Psychology, which has pried so deeply into 
the human mind, explains how this comes 
about. The emotions live in the conscious 
part of our mind. Civilisation, that is, the 


stunted civilisation which is all that man has 
yet reached, represses these emotions and 
censors severely their working. In fact, the 
conscious, or reasoning part of our mind, and 
the unconscious are seldom at one. Hence 
mental conflicts, half-hearted efforts and finally 
lethargy. But when it happens that the two 
parts work in harmony, then are great things 
done. That is the secret of genius, and that is 
why in great popular movements, such a^ 
revolutions, the common man performs 
miracles. He does his possible, and his possi- 
ble is very high indeed. 

In war it is sound strategy always to strike 
at the heart of your enemy. To fritter away 
ones strength on the capture of minor towns, 
or the seizure of distant territory, may very 
often spell defeat. All plans should have for 
object the enemy's capital and nothing else. 
In the war between Japan and China, the 
Japanese having command of the sea, might 
have had their will of the whole rich sea-board 
of China. Yet they refused this tempting bait, 
because it would ^ not have brought the end of 
the war any nearer. They concentrated on 


Pekin, and quickly had all China at their feet. 
Contrary wise, the despatch at a critical 
moment of a portion of the German army in 
France to expel the Russians from East Prussia 
lost perhaps the best chance the Germans had 
of victory. 

So also in the bloodless war for liberty, it is 
vital to concentrate our efforts on the enemy's 
citadel, in other words to wrest political power 
from his hands. Once bereft of that power, 
officials will take their proper place and become 
useful members of the future Commonwealth 
of India. Now, a peaceful revolution does aim 
at a complete transfer of power. It intends, 
not a sham like diarchy, but a vital change of 
government. It stakes everything upon this, 
and will not be put off by promises or small 
concessions. If the bureaucracy sets up a 
barrier on the road to freedom, it does not chip 
off a few splinters here and there, leaving its 
strength much as before. Boldly it smites to 
earth the whole obstruction and marches 
through, free and unafraid. 

Moreover, the great wave of feeling begotten 
by a revolution is not limited merely to the 


field of government. Through all the regions 
of human thought art, science, industry, edu- 
cation, morals it bursts, vivifying, inspiring, 
animating. We can see this already in the 
Nationalist movement against drink and pros- 
titution. Revolution tears the souls of many 
from their old moorings, and sets them voy- 
aging, each a new Columbus, in search of new 
worlds. The real cause, both of Greek thought 
and of the Italian Renaissance, was that in 
those lands, for a limited time, men dared to 
see and think and reason for themselves. India 
is capable of just such a Renaissance, just such 
a rebirth, and when victory has crowned with 
her laurels the heroes of to-day, and the smoke 
and turmoil of the strife are past, such a rebirth 
she will surely see. This is the crown and 
glory of the great peaceful revolution to which 
Mahatma Gandhi now leads the people of India. 
This it is what will be the guerdon for all toil 
the exceeding great reward for every sacrifice, 
the salve of pains and sorrows. Then shall it 
be said that, 

' Millions whose lives in ice lay fast, 
Have thoughts and smiles and tears/ 


Aye, and minds to reason also. India once 
free may electrify the world and sway the 
civilisation of mankind. Three hundred mil- 
lion human beings, hitherto bound, repressed, 
down-trodden, will then swing bravely into the 
van of advancing humanity. Is not that worth 
while ? Is not that worth a hundred fold all 
the suffering and the strife ? In truth we labour 
at a world event and we shape a Titan's form. 
Officials and Moderates may prate of training 
and co-operation. We answer with a world 




In this book Mr. C. F. Andrews makes an inspiring 
appeal to the younger generation to do their duties 
by the motherland showing why and how they 
should discharge them in this critical period of 
her struggle. 

CONTENTS : r. Shantiniketan, 2. Duty to Mother- 
land, 3. National Education, 4. Independence, 5. 
The Seriousness of the New Movement, 6. The 
Meaning of Non-violence, 7. The Progress of the 
New Movement, 8. The Practical Work Done. 

Re. 1 


The concluding 

chapter is very ennobling and is full of high moral 
fervour and intense idealism. The book is more 
than a mere treatise on health, and presents some 
of the highest home truths in the most impressive 
manner pointing to us the path to an ideal of life 
which our ancient rishis and fore-fathers enjoyed, 
with a sound body enshrining a sound mind. The 
"Hindu". Rs. 1-8 







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