Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

I asked Mon. Rolland if he would be good enough to put in a nutshell the main principles for which he had stood and fought all his life. "Those fundamental principles," he said, "are (1) Internationalism (including equal rights for all races without distinction), (2) Justice for the exploited workers - implying thereby that we should fight for a society in which there will be no exploiters and no exploited - but all will be workers for the entire community, (3) Freedom for all suppressed nationalities and (4) Equal rights for women as for men." And he proceeded to amplify some of these points.

As our conversation was drawing to a close, I remarked that the views he had expressed that afternoon, would cause surprise in many quarters, since they appeared to be a recent development in his thought-life. This remark worked like an electric button and set in motion a whole train of thought. Mon. Rolland spoke of the acute mental agony he had passed through since the end of the War in trying to revise his social ideas and his entire ideology. "This combat within myself," he said, "extended over a very wide field and the problem of non-violence was only a part of it. I have not decided against non-violence, but I have decided that non-violence cannot be the central pivot of our entire social activity. It can be one of its means - one of its proposed forms, still subject to experiment." Continuing he said, "The primary objective of all our endeavours should be the establishment of another social order, more just and more human. *** If we do not do so, it will mean the end of society." Then referring to the methods of activity, he said, "*** My own task has been for several years to try and unite the forces *** against the old order that is enslaving and exploiting humanity. This has been my role in the World's Congress of all political parties against War and Fascism, which was held in Amsterdam in 1932 and in the permanent Committees appointed by that Congress. I still believe that there is in non-violence a strong though latent revolutionary power which can and ought to be used, ***"

I interrupted him at this stage to ask him how the world at large could know of his present ideas. To this he replied, "My social creed of these fifteen years has been expounded in two volumes of articles which have been just published. In the first one "Quinze ans de Combat" (Fifteen Years of Combat), Editions Rieder, Boulevard St. Germain 108, Paris VI-I have spoken of my inner fight and the evolution of my social ideas. In the second book "Par la Revolution La Paix (By Wars of Revolution to Peace) Editions Sociales Internationales, 24, Rue Racini, Paris VI, I have dealt with questions concerning war, peace, non-violence, *** and the coordination of their efforts in fighting the old social order." Continuing he said that some of his friends had refused to recognize all that he had written, preferring to accept only those portions with which they agreed. These two volumes  would, however, be a faithful record of the evolution of his thought.

Our conversation did not end without a discussion of the much-apprehended and much-talked-of war in Europe. "For suppressed peoples and nationalities", I remarked, "war is not an unmixed evil." "But for Europe war will be the greatest disaster," said he; "It may even mean the end of civilisation. And for Russia, peace is absolutely necessary if she is to complete her programme of social reconstruction."

Before I took leave of my host, I expressed my deep gratitude for his kindness and my great satisfaction at what he had conveyed to me. I valued so greatly his sympathy for India, and her cause, that it had filled me with anxiety and fear whenever I tried to imagine what his reaction would be towards the latest developments in the Indian situation.

The sun was still shining on the blue water of the lake of Geneva as I emerged out of Villa Olga. Around me there stood the snow-covered mountains. The air was pregnant with joy and it infected me. A heavy load had been lifted off my mind. I felt convinced that this great thinker and artist would stand for India and her freedom whatever might be her immediate future or her future line of action. And with that conviction I returned to Geneva a happy man.

July 2, 1935

Editor's Note: In order to comply with the requirements of the press laws in force in India, so far as it is possible for us to understand them, we have omitted certain portions of this article, indicated by asterisks.