The Mahatma Gandhi / Bart de Ligt Public Correspondence On Peace and War

In the years immediately following World War I, Western pacifists were seeing with alarming clarity the possibility of another war, and speaking out with increasing urgency against militarism. Having suffered through the trauma of appalling destruction, pacifist writing in the 1920s and 1930s has the aura of a survival myth. The advent of Gandhian satyagraha presented pacifists with a possible strategy for averting tragedy, as an antidote to war, and moved Bart de Ligt to write publicly and openly to Gandhi, to enlist him in the pacifist cause. Gandhi’s nonviolence was never a fixed principle; was ever evolving. The Salt March of March 1930, which some see as pivotal to the development of Gandhian nonviolent resistance, had not yet taken place when these letters were published. On the one hand, there are pacifists determined to staunch the advent of another daimonic war, and on the other hand there is Gandhi in a death struggle with the British for Indian independence, his nonviolence, by his own admission, imperfect. De Ligt’s call for Gandhi to reject war, to commit satyagraha to the ending of war was a prophetic call. [JG]

Letter One: Bart de Ligt to Gandhi; May, 1928.

Most venerated Gandhi:

Without doubt, there is no man who attracts the attention of the modern world as you do. And you are certainly worthy of this admiration because you have been able in a wise, heroic way to awaken everywhere confidence in that moral force which slumbers in each individual. To oppose the severe oppression of so-called Christian civilization, and the violence of proud and pretentious Westerners, you have awakened in the East immense spiritual forces, making it seem that Christ reigns over your “pagan” world rather than in our official Christian churches. You have not only proclaimed the gospel of non-resistance — or spiritual warfare — but you have yourself practiced it and have paid with your own person.

I am one of those Europeans who are profoundly grateful to you for your actions. Formerly pastor in a Dutch Protestant Church, I defended, in the name of Christ, moral combat as the only form of combat which suits man’s true character; and I continued to do so when the Great War threatened our country on all sides.

I am all the more grateful to you because, having separated myself from the church whose spirit in my opinion had become too narrow, I have collaborated for several years in the international anti-military movement. This movement, as you know, works against war and for the emancipation of all colored people and all oppressed races and classes.

Everywhere, most venerated Gandhi, you arouse admiration. In many circles you are considered the legitimate successor of Tolstoy because you have affirmed that true patriotism cannot have hatred and massacre at its basis, but only love, which is the source of life and not of death.

Nevertheless, when I recently examined the introduction to your book Speeches and Writings, published in Madras, and edited by Mr. C.F. Andrews, allow me to say that I was greatly disillusioned. The information given by Mr. Andrews in regard to your attitude during the World War obliges me to state that it is not right to consider you the moral successor of Tolstoy. While he was above all a supranationalist, you, Gandhi, have consciously remained a nationalist. Tolstoy subordinated the interests of his country to the essential needs of humanity. On the other hand, you, at a most critical moment in the history of the world, subordinated the essential needs of humanity to what you considered the supreme interests of India.

You have, to be sure, several times condemned violence in this same admirable book. You declared that, according to the Oriental conception, politics cannot be separated from religion and true religion is nothing but the practice of love in daily life. You set forth the idea that the English conquerors of India should be themselves conquered by strength of soul, by the spiritual strength of Indians, and that the true and best way to serve one’s country is to serve humanity. You urged your compatriots to take into their hearts the sublime life, which shines out of the soul of Buddha, as well as from the spirit of Tolstoy. You explained that ahimsa signified not only not to kill anyone but also not even to offend anyone. And you praised more than once the strength of those who refuse to use any form of violence.

But during the Great War, when in every country conscientious objectors to this bloody and fratricidal struggle were being shut up in gloomy prisons or killed, when in Europe, America, and Asia small groups and even isolated individuals were striving in spite of the greatest difficulties to remain faithful to the cause of humanity, where were you, Gandhi, Prophet of Nonviolence? What were you doing in the Orient while these men and women of the West were struggling in their countries against a mad public opinion, against tyrannical governments and inhuman authorities?

Mr. Andrews tells us that in 1914 in London you began to organize a voluntary Indian Ambulance Corps. Didn’t you recall that Tolstoy himself condemned the Red Cross because it formed part of the war system? Moreover, during the cruel war of the English against the Boers, you also organized an Indian Ambulance Corps in Africa. Doesn’t the fact that you received the English war medal have any significance for you? And the praise meted out to you in 1911 in the Johannesburg Illustrated Star, saying that during the Boer War you “simply did your duty” — was that not sufficient to make you understand that you had failed to accomplish a higher duty?

It is true that the present Red Cross owes its origin to humanitarian motives and that it has done very worthwhile work. But during the war the work of medical officers, nurses, and stretcher-bearers, indeed all ambulance service, is entirely subordinated to strategic interests. Last year the Dutch Government decided to have all the nurses of the Netherlands registered in advance for ambulance service in case of another war. But there was strong opposition to the registration and a number of nurses declared that they would in no way participate in the military system, not even as Red Cross sisters. One section of the public couldn’t understand this at all: Why refuse to soften the horrible sufferings of those wounded in war? Thereupon one nurse, who from love of humanity had done ambulance service during the war in the Balkans and later on in the Great War, published in De Wapens Neder (The Hague) the conclusions she had reached through bitter experience: “Alas, my friends, what can the Red Cross do when hell breaks out? What can we do for the numerous wounded abandoned on the field of battle? Only a small percentage ever reaches our hospitals. During the Balkan war there was a cessation of firing between battles so as to search for the wounded. But during the Great War there was nothing of the sort. The stretcher-bearers themselves, concerned for their own fate, preferred to go out under cover of darkness to look for the wounded.”

It is true that in 1914, in London, you were in poor health and had to go back to India almost immediately. But, once back in India, you never ceased preaching loyalty to the endangered British Empire. It is not surprising that once again England rewarded you with a gold medal! This medal was also intended to sugar the bitter pill, which the Indian people were to swallow.  English Imperialism, which was combating without mercy German Imperialism, had great need of your compatriots’ money and their blood. And you, who stood for non-resistance, were ready for them to give it! Apparently you had so little aversion to being an accomplice in a great collective crime that you declared at the Conference of War at Delhi in April, 1918: “I recognize that in the hour of danger we must give ungrudging and unequivocal support to the Empire of which we aspire in the near future to be partners in the same sense as the Dominions overseas . . . I would make India offer all her able-bodied sons as a sacrifice to the Empire at its critical moment, and I know that India, by this very act, would become the most favored partner in the Empire and racial distinctions would become a thing of the past.”

At this time you left for the district of Kaira as a recruiting agent for the British Government. You even said once that the Indians should try to hasten the moment when they would be capable of defending themselves: “We wish for the time when we may aspire to the Vice-regal office. It, therefore, behooves us to learn the use of arms and to acquire the ability to defend ourselves. If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible dispatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the Army.”

How could you say that, Gandhi, you who stand for fraternity and moral resistance? How could you take sides with your adversaries and leave in the lurch all those people in the world who were fighting for your ideas? How could you repeat so often throughout the universal carnage that soon the British Empire, which the war would have freed from militarism, would give your country independence and liberty? This seems like a blood spot on the immaculate whiteness of your robe. Therefore we are disquieted. And we understand why Mr. Andrews, who respects and loves you profoundly, has declared that he could not explain this flagrant contradiction in your conduct, which you have never really justified. However, let us leave the past. The question now is the future. I come to you, Gandhi, in the name of the thousands of men and women of the West, who, captivated by the loftiness of your words and the grandeur of your exemplary actions, are combating violence throughout the so-called civilized world; who are laboring for the emancipation of all human races. In this fight to prevent war and destruction, we need you and the collaboration of millions of Indians and Asians. In the future, at the decisive moment, can we count on you? Are you, and the powerful masses which follow you, sufficiently disillusioned by the false promises of imperialistic governments to be ready to march at our sides when the supreme hour comes, to march against every armed imperialism including that of your own government, in order to prevent new massacres and terrible bloodshed?

More and more the world is threatened with a war of continent against continent, of race against race, a war, which would destroy humanity. Therefore, Gandhi, examine this question seriously, meditate upon it, and reply. If we can count on you, if we know and if the world knows, that you stand on the side of the war resisters, you will then become one of the most powerful factors capable of guiding humanity toward that peace which you evoke so magnificently.

Like that European, who called on the Apostle Paul in a dream to come from Asia to Europe and preach the principles of that spiritual combat which would alter the face of the world, we call on you, Gandhi; we who are deeply affected by the misery of the present age, earnestly invite you to join in a moral alliance which nothing could sever, not even a new world war, and which would everywhere prepare the reign of peace and liberty that all the peoples of the world long for.

Convinced that you will give importance to the spirit rather than to the letter in these pages, I dare hope that you will take my request to heart and that after having meditated upon it, you will make reply publicly, setting forth clearly to everyone your position with regard to the fight against all war.

I beg you to believe, dear and venerated Gandhi, that I am, yours most sincerely and respectfully,

(Signed) B. De Ligt
Onex, Geneva, May 1928

[Published in: The World Tomorrow, November, 1928]

Reply One: Mahatma Gandhi, “My Attitude Towards War”; 13 September, 1928.

Rev. B. de Ligt has written a long open letter to me, which strongly criticises my participation in the Boer War and then the Great War of 1914 and invites me to explain my conduct in the light of ahimsa. Other friends too have put the same question, and I am glad to give the explanation in these columns.

There is no defence for my conduct weighed only in the scales of ahimsa. I draw no distinction between those who wield the weapons of destruction and those who do Red Cross work. Both participate in war and advance its cause. Both are guilty of the crime of war. But even after introspection during all these years, I feel that in the circumstances in which I found myself I was bound to adopt the course I did both during the Boer War and the Great European War and for that matter the so-called Zulu “Rebellion” of Natal in 1906. Life is governed by a multitude of forces. It would be smooth sailing, if one could determine the course of one’s actions only by one general principle whose application at a given moment was too obvious to need even a moment’s reflection. But I cannot recall a single act, which could be so easily determined.

Being a confirmed war resister I have never given myself training in the use of destructive weapons in spite of opportunities to take such training. It was perhaps thus that I escaped direct destruction of human life. But so long as I lived under a system of Government based on force and voluntarily partook of the many facilities and privileges it created for me, I was bound to help that Government to the extent of my ability when it was engaged in a war unless I non-cooperated with that Government and renounced to the utmost of my capacity the privileges it offered me.

Let me take an illustration. I am a member of an institution, which holds a few acres of land whose crops are in imminent peril from monkeys. I believe in the sacredness of all life and hence I regard it as a breach of ahimsa to inflict any injury on the monkeys. But I do not hesitate to instigate and direct an attack on the monkeys in order to save the crops. I would like to avoid this evil. I can avoid it by leaving or breaking up the institution. I do not do so because I do not expect to be able to find a society where there will be no agriculture and therefore no destruction of some life. In fear and trembling, in humility and penance, I therefore participate in the injury inflicted on the monkeys, hoping some day to find a way out.

Even so I did participate in three acts of war. I could not, and it would be madness, for me to sever my connection with the society to which I belong. And on those three occasions I had no thought of non-cooperating with the British Government. My position regarding that Government is totally different today and hence I should not voluntarily participate in its wars and I should risk imprisonment and even the gallows if I were forced to take up arms or otherwise take part in its military operations.

But that still does not solve the riddle. If there were a national Government, while I should not take any direct part in any war, I can conceive occasions when it would be my duty to vote for the military training of those who wish to take it. For I know that all its members do not believe in non-violence to the extent I do. It is not possible to make a person or a society non-violent by compulsion.

Non-violence works in a most mysterious manner. Often a man’s actions defy analysis in terms of non-violence; equally often his actions may wear the appearance of violence when he is absolutely non-violent in the highest sense of the term and is subsequently found so to be. All I can then claim for my conduct is that it was, in the instances cited, actuated in the interests of non-violence. There was no thought of sordid national or other interest. I do not believe in the promotion of national or any other interest at the sacrifice of some other interest.

I may not carry my argument any further. Language at best is but a poor vehicle for expressing one’s thoughts in full. For me non-violence is not a mere philosophical principle. It is the rule and the breath of my life. I know I fail often, sometimes consciously, more often unconsciously. It is a matter not of the intellect but of the heart. True guidance comes by constant waiting upon God, by utmost humility, self-abnegation, by being ever ready to sacrifice one’s self. Its practice requires fearlessness and courage of the highest order. I am painfully aware of my failings.

But the Light within me is steady and clear. There is no escape for any of us save through truth and non-violence. I know that war is wrong, is an unmitigated evil. I know too that it has got to go. I firmly believe that freedom won through bloodshed or fraud is no freedom. Would that all the acts alleged against me were found to be wholly indefensible rather than that by any act of mine non-violence was held to be compromised or that I was ever thought to be in favor of violence or untruth in any shape or form. Not violence, not untruth but non-violence. Truth is the law of our being.

(Signed) M. K. Gandhi

[Published in: Young India, 13 September, 1928]

Letter Two: Bart de Ligt to Gandhi; March, 1929.

[M. K. Gandhi] ”Rev. B. de Ligt of Onex, Geneva, it will be remembered, wrote an open letter to me last year on my attitude towards war especially in view of my participation in the Boer War, the Zulu Rebellion in Natal and the late War. The open letter was published in the European Press, and I satisfied myself with merely publishing my reply in these pages without publishing the former. The reverend gentleman has now sent me a rejoinder which he calls second open letter, and would have me to publish his letter. Although it is too long for these pages I may not resist the writer’s request. He has taken great pains over his composition, and I appreciate the interest peace lovers in the West are taking in my views and conduct. I am publishing the letter in two parts. And after the conclusion of the second part I hope to write a brief reply.”

War against War: Part I; by Bart de Ligt.

It is in the name of all those who, throughout the world, are fighting against the terrible mania for violence, which is ravaging the universe, that I thank you for having kindly replied, so frankly and precisely, to my open letter of May, 1928.

Your reply cuts both ways. It is reassuring on the one hand, but disappointing on the other. From the point of view of immediate opposition to war, it is of great importance that you should have declared openly that you no longer wish to participate in any combat whatsoever on behalf of England. If the masses who are with you are ready to oppose, at critical moments, any war movement on the part of the Government in London, no longer desiring to give either their gold or their blood, they become a real factor for peace.

As I already wrote you, movements are being born today throughout the whole world, and spreading continuously, to oppose war. You may be sure that your courageous declaration is received in those quarters with joy.

Moreover, you have recognized without circumlocution that the work of the Red Cross forms part of the gigantic machinery of war. This declaration was confirmed by the impressive statement of the American nursing sister, who sent back to the French Government her Croix de Guerre because she had finally become convinced that all her so-called humanitarian work had been, on the whole, only a refined sort of war work. By a happy coincidence, this statement was published in the same number of The World Tomorrow (November 1928) as the report of our correspondence. This statement was further confirmed by the letter of Albert de Jong, Secretary of the International Anti-militarist Bureau, to the XXIII Conference of the Red Cross in The Hague, showing how this institution is today forced to collaborate in the perfecting of war gases. In the same manner, you also are helping us to tear the veil from the face of false charities, under cover of which the militarists of all countries are trying to arouse at least a little sympathy for “national defense” in good-hearted men and women.

On the other hand, however, your reply has caused in Western countries profound disappointment. For, in the main, you have accepted rather than rejected war, if not on your own behalf, at least, in principle, for your people. At the present time you are, happily, against India’s participation in any war whatsoever undertaken by the British Empire. But, until when? If, for instance, in a short time, a Ramsay MacDonald Government is formed in England and it should make advances to you with regard to Home Rule and to give you, at least formally, the reward which you vainly hoped to obtain by participating in the war of 1914-1918, what would you do, if that friendly Government let itself be driven into a new war? That is a burning question. Do not say that such a war is impossible. Everywhere there is preparation for it, even more than before 1914. Politicians are already speaking of an eventual war between the United States and England; strategists and technicians are studying it. And like any other socialist Government, an English socialist Government would continue the tradition of “national defense”; it would in any case be ready to go to war on behalf of the League of Nations, that trust company of modern imperialism whose fatal character I exposed in my book Contre la Guerre Nouvelle , and which I sent to you. MacDonald, who was formerly among the conscientious objectors, has just declared that as a practical man it is for him impossible to renounce the force of arms.

That is why your reply, however frank and courageous it may be, can reassure us, alas, but only relatively so.

As I have already written you, I also do not hold to a dogmatic point of view of non-violence. I recognize impartially the right of any oppressed class or race to liberate itself by means of arms. I grant that from a moral point of view a people which defends itself militarily does better than if it did not defend itself at all because of cowardice or lack of character, although I can well imagine a people which, urged by worthy humanitarian sentiments, renounces war methods, even while still incapable of liberating itself by higher means. But today the international situation has changed so much that such an affirmation can only have quite an abstract sense. Modern warfare has become a technical-industrial system, so complicated and so refined that for many years to come colored races will not be able to employ it against hyper-civilized barbarians who have been unconsciously preparing themselves for it for a few centuries past, and have been consciously adapting themselves to it for the last hundred years or so. The surest armament, especially for colored races, is nonviolent resistance. Their objective right of armed resistance is becoming, from the practical point of view, something more and more academic. By the force of things, oppressed races are even obliged to make, so to speak, a virtue of necessity. For that their minds are, fortunately, very favorably constituted, as was shown by your experiences in Africa and in India and by the success of the general strikes and the boycott in China.

All that, moreover, is taking place at the same time that Western nations are beginning to recognize that they must renounce war, and that war is becoming a fatal peril for victors as well as for vanquished. The man of the West risks becoming the victim of his destructive machines: he can no longer control them. In a short book about you, Gandhi, (Das indische Apostolat ) Hans Präger writes,  “Our civilization hides behind a very virile mask our moral weakness, our fear. We are no longer warriors, but mere servants of lifeless machines. Heroic war has turned away from Europe. Soon it will no longer be the men who will take up arms, but the machines, which will take up men. That which makes the pride of man, his inventive genius, will become his shame for having created machinery which prevents his defending himself any more by his own strength.” The fact that the colored races are not masters of the means of modern warfare and the modern nations are themselves mastered by these means, must be the right starting point in order to try to win over all peoples of all races to a united and powerful direct action against war.

I am, therefore, not an absolutist, bestriding some obsolete hobbyhorse. Although detesting all vulgar opportunism, I understand perfectly your statement as to the necessity for compromise in order to be able to live and to act. I also feel for you profoundly in your moral difficulties concerning the need of defending your crops by force against the monkeys. As a vegetarian who has lived the greater part of his life in the country, I know by bitter experience that ahimsa can only be applied in quite a relative manner. The interesting publications on plants by your eminent compatriot, J. C. Bose, render this question still more complicated. In any case, as regards animals, you hope, with good reason, to reach one day a more satisfactory solution. You will understand, therefore, how I hope still more to reach, as regards men, a better solution than this false solution of international questions by means of war, especially the ‘total war’ of modern times. And I reckon upon attaining my object in this field more quickly than in others, because our political and social enemies are neither beasts nor plants, but living beings endowed with intelligence and human conscience. That, indeed, is the reason why your example concerning the monkeys has scarcely convinced me as an explanation of your conduct towards the Zulus, the Boers, and the Central Powers.

Just while preparing this letter I heard that your intimate friend, the Rev. C. F. Andrews, had arrived at Geneva. In the course of a conversation I had with him, you and your work, you may be sure, were the principal topic of discussion, the more so as he was engaged in the composition of a book on your conception of the world and your ideas concerning life and morality, from the point of view of swaraj. During those unforgettable hours, he described to me your life, spoke to me of your devotion to India, a work, which seemed to be extending more and more until finally its influence should embrace the universe. You, who desired only to be a simple servant of India, have become, little by little, one of the moral leaders of the world.

You feel it yourself. Only a short time ago you sent to the West. through an American press bureau, a statement, published even here in the Journal de Geneva, saying that you reject official Christianity but not the message of Jesus as you understand it in his Sermon on the Mount. Since the memorable letter, which Tolstoy sent to you in 1909, we Westerners recognize more and more our need for you, for your traditions, for your nation. As I wrote you previously, we owe to you some experiences decisive for the world’s future.

What happier news than to learn from the mouth of your own friend that it is possible, not to say certain, that you may come to Europe soon? You will understand how much I am hoping to see you, in order that we may be able to discuss thoroughly our respective points of view. In the meantime, I shall continue to study your ideas as well as study the important book of Mr. Andrews (Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas), who is trying, for the first time, to make Western nations understand how your religious point of view dominates your ideas and your acts.”

[Published in: Young India, 2 March, 1929]

War against War: Part II; by Bart de Ligt.

Let me venture, for the moment, to explain to you how the majority of Western war-resisters formulate their attitude towards their Government, what impression your reply has made, and how we fear, as its consequence, an eventual militarization of India.

In the first place we all know that modern governments are only functionaries of capitalism and imperialism. All of us, including libertarians and anarchists, recognize that the present governments from time to time, perhaps even as a rule, do good more or less. But that can never be for us a sufficient motive for collaborating unreservedly with them in all their enterprises. I am supposing, for instance, that someone, or some government, does me a great service. Am I then obliged, from the moral point of view, to come to his assistance even when he acts badly, offends and kills, and forms schemes which are in flagrant opposition to any religious or humanitarian conceptions? No, quite the contrary!

The more grateful I feel towards him, the less can I collaborate with him in evil work. Quite apart from my own conduct, is it not my duty to hold him back as far as possible from wrongdoing? In the anti-militarist movement of the Netherlands, we have always said to ourselves: Our first duty is to prevent the Dutch Government – that Government which is, besides, rather our enemy than our friend – from committing the great crime of taking part in collective murder. Moreover, if we do not oppose military measures on the part of our Government, we ourselves shall be obliged to take part in acts unworthy of man. The Government would compel us to attack and kill other men who are not our enemies, but rather comrades in misfortune on the other side of a frontier. Not unlike us, they are ill treated by their authorities, who serve capitalist and imperialist interests whose defense by violence is in conflict with the essential needs of all peoples. Even if we suppose for an instant that foreign armies are really our enemies, even then in this extreme case we would prefer to defend ourselves in a different manner, in a manner at any rate that would gain for us a moral victory. Doubtless this mode of action might fail from a practical point of view, but the other might fail also; and the different manner assures the existence in the world of that which is truly humane. In short, we wish to strengthen in all countries the power of direct action against war, in such a way that no Government would have the courage to resort to war, that it would even be impossible for it to do so for lack of men, arms, and munitions.

During the Great War, the greater number of radical conscientious objectors, English, American, Australian, Canadian, German, Austrian, etc. were convinced that it was their duty, as good citizens, not to participate in the great crime. Indeed, what better could they do from their point of view, than remain during that senseless time, beings truly conscious of their humane ideal, representing the conscience of nations waging war without scruple? What better could they do than put humanity before their inhuman fatherland, so as to gain over to this cause not only their compatriots but, in the long run, their official enemies also?

Romain Rolland has expressed this point of view when he says that no one has the right to betray his conscience for love of his country, his race or his nation. In doing so, does one not betray in oneself that which is best in one’s nation, in one’s race, in one’s country? We have always been told that if Christ had acted in this sense, he would have become the ally of Judas, he would not have been crucified and would have become the Messiah of those of his compatriots who did not wish to renounce “national defense”. Tolstoy has told us several times that one should have the courage to risk the sacrifice of one’s country in favor of humanity and universal conscience.

You will understand therefore why your participation in three wars of the British Empire against peoples, who were not even your enemies, is for us something very painful. For in doing that you forsook humanity in favor of merciless and unscrupulous imperialism. You accept, in principle, all the consequences of those enterprises of violence: the death of 26,370 women and children in the concentration camps in South Africa, the death and sufferings of hundreds of thousands of little children of the Central Powers by the monstrous blockade, the unemployment without end to which the British working classes are condemned, etc., etc., all the horror and shame, physical and moral, consequent upon the Great War. We are convinced that you did not foresee such an ocean of misery and decadence. We willingly believe you when you declare that you never wished to act otherwise than in the sense of ahimsa. But we ask you whether the world war has not shown sufficiently that if one desires above all ahimsa for men, one must at once break with any system of national defense based on violence.

Do not imagine that we refuse to defend our rights and liberties. We wish, indeed, to defend them in the most sublime manner, by remaining faithful to the noblest traditions of secular Christianity and modern socialism. Even if we considered just the cause for which our nation would be fighting in some supposed war, we would only come to its aid in our own fashion, because over and above our country, as well as for the sake of that country, we would have to uphold universal humanity.

These arguments hold good still more today when, as everyone knows, the chief question is this: In what manner will humanity free itself as quickly as possible from the unworthy expedient of war, an expedient which is an unparalleled menace for all, vanquished and victors alike? We must inevitably raise international relations to a higher level, else humanity will be lacerated to such an extent, physically, morally and intellectually, that it will perhaps never recover.

Now, just when the courageous women of the American section of the International Women’s League for Peace and Liberty are reasonably asserting that all war is today civil war, because of the economic and intellectual interdependence of all nations, and just when Western nations, after a frightful experience, are beginning to recognize the meaning of your mission and the practical character of your methods of passive resistance, the efficacy of which is proved by your Asiatic peoples, you write that it is possible that, once India is liberated, you might vote for the military training of the Indian people. This declaration coincides with the publication of the Nehru plan, according to which India not only demands Home Rule, but also asks to be allowed to assure her own national defense. The articles published in Foreign Affairs in April 1928 by Sir Sivaswami Aiyar, conversations I have had with Swami Satya Deva, Dr. Datta, and other compatriots of yours, have led me to fear that India may one day let herself be carried away by the fatal current of armaments. It is for that reason that a few months ago, at the International Conference against War, at Sonntagsberg, I warned those present of the possibility of a militarization of the Asiatic nations, favored in a very imprudent manner by Moscow and the III International, accompanied by the menace of a similar militarization of Africa. Making almost desperate efforts to rid the world of the monstrosity of modern war, and just when our action is beginning to be taken seriously, we all at once perceive on the Eastern horizon a new military danger which serves as the pretext for our militarists to say: “But we must arm in order to be able to defend ourselves against the awakening East!” Thus, the vicious circle, on the point of being broken, seems to be closing mercilessly.

You know Afghanistan is becoming militarized. Chiang Kai-shek has already declared that China will have, in about 15 years, a war fleet and a powerful army. A Chinese friend, formerly an enemy of all war, whom I saw again in Europe a few months ago, assured me that not only is militarism in China growing steadily, but that the world is threatened by something unheard of in history, Chinese imperialism! He, who had formerly awakened in me a love for the great anti-war traditions of his country and its profound sympathy for the pacifism of its immortal sages, acknowledged that he too had broken with his anti-militarist past. He spoke almost like you, Gandhi, who now say essentially what has always been preached by the clergy of the West: “We are for love and against all violence, in which personally we shall never participate. But if it is necessary, we shall support military training and national defense, since nations ought to be able to defend their rights, to gain their liberty, to be themselves, whilst the masses have not the spiritual strength of a Jesus, a St. Paul or a Francis of Assisi.”

Perhaps in bygone days this conception had some meaning. But today? The Japanese professor, Inazo Nitobe who understands and loves so intensely the heroic tradition of the bushido (way of the warrior) of his warlike country, acknowledges in his book, Bushido: The Japanese Soul, the relative right of the fighting instinct which slumbers in each individual: “If one is to believe history, the State built up on warlike virtues – whether it be a city like Sparta or an empire like Rome – will never be able to build upon earth a durable city. Missions nobler and greater than that of armies are today soliciting our attention. Men have become more than subjects, being now raised to the status of citizens. So what then am I saying? They are more than citizens. They are men. The history of the world confirms the prophecy that the meek shall inherit the earth.” And Nitobe invokes sublime forces for a nobler fight in the most profound traditions of Christianity, of Buddhism, of Chinese philosophy, and in the religious and moral traditions of his own country. Thus expresses himself a man, in no wise a revolutionary, who, in our opinion, has too much confidence in present-day political methods. But he is right in principle.

It is necessary, in fact, to break once and for all with this system of scientific ferocity, which characterizes modern war, as much from the practical as from the moral point of view. We are, therefore, puzzled and uneasy on hearing you declare yourself ready eventually to vote for the military training of Indians, you who seemed to us the appointed missionary to awaken such moral forces in your compatriots that they would have less and less need of means of defense that are barbarous but taken as hyper-civilized.

We wonder whether you, Gandhi, always so distrustful with regard to the industrialism of the West, are not, in fact, now inclined to accept, along with military training for your people, the most pernicious consequences of this industrialism, modern warfare. The Nehru Committee, has it not already proposed an army, a naval fleet and an air force for India? That is to say, by your last declaration you encourage the introduction into your country of industrialized war, of war industries, of chemical, electro-technical and even bacteriological war. Once launched upon this path, there is no stopping. It is a question of all or nothing.

Why not keep to those means most efficacious for Orientals, that is passive resistance, boycott and general strikes? Even if these means fail, the consequences will never be as serious as those of modern war. If a modern war were successful, it would smite fatally the masses of the people in the conquering States as in the conquered. The militarist system is no longer a means of defense worthy of confidence. But confidence in the deepest forces of man himself is an inexhaustible source of energy, which is proving itself more and more efficacious in enabling one to stand one’s ground, as a man, a nation or a race. And if this energy is not yet sufficiently developed, what better can one do than arouse and strengthen it everywhere?

It is of the greatest importance that, for the time being, we should be able to count upon you for our war against war. But that, however, is not enough. The day you would vote for the military training of your compatriots, you would be setting yourself against those Indians who are in agreement with us who, in the spirit of Garrison, of Ballou, of Keir Hardie and of Tolstoy, according to the ethics of true Christianity and the methods of truly modern socialism, disapprove of all national defense and condemn all military preparation, against those who are endeavoring to relieve humanity of a burden under which it is in danger of succumbing.

In Die Empörung Asiens Colin Rosz tells us how you fear, from the humanitarian point of view, the threatening militarization of China. I share your anxiety, as is shown by my statement on China in Gewalt und Gewaltlosigkeit, the German manual of War Resisters International. Can you not also share our anxiety regarding an eventual militarization of China, India, Asia, and Africa? The consequences of such militarization would be worldwide war madness, a universal return to barbarism. Help us to shatter the vicious circle that holds the world in thrall to the detriment of your own people and all the other peoples of the globe.

It is particularly in the name of Tolstoy, the centenary of whose birth we have commemorated this year, that I appeal to you to meditate on this question, in the name of Tolstoy who wrote in 1906 to Kou Hou Ming: “Whilst European nations have long ago chosen the deceptive path in which liberation from human violence is extraordinarily difficult, the Oriental nations have only arrived at the crossroads.”

Your Asiatic nations can still choose the right road. Seeing the misery of the Western peoples, the Oriental peoples should, according to Tolstoy, renounce any attempt to free themselves by political means and endeavor to remain faithful to the only true law, which renders impossible the submission of man to violence.

You have not published my former letter in Young India. I should be very grateful to you, if you would kindly publish this one, as I, on my side, publish what you write to me in the European and American press. For, in appealing to you, I appeal to those who are with you and who will be with us, I hope, in hatred of war and love of humanity.

I would like those who are interested in the question of the liberation of classes and races to realize that war, as a means of resistance, is morally wrong and practically harmful, and that our conscience and our reasoning condemn it as well as any form of preparation, including military training.

Always ready to collaborate with you against war and for the liberation of oppressed races and classes, and assuring you of my profound sympathy,

(Signed) B. De Ligt

[Published in: Young India, 9 March, 1929]

Reply Two: Mahatma Gandhi to Bart de Ligt, “A Complex Problem”; March, 1929.

It is not without diffidence that I approach the question raised by Rev. B. de Ligt in his open letter to me with regard to my attitude towards war. To remain silent at the risk of being misunderstood is an easy way out of the difficult situation I find myself in. To say that I made a mistake in participating in war on the occasions in question would be easier still. But it would be unfriendly not to answer questions put in the friendliest manner; and I must not pretend repentance when I do not feel it. My anxiety to avoid a discussion of the question does not proceed from want of conviction, but it proceeds from the fear that I may not be able to make my meaning clear, and may thus create an impression about my attitude towards war, which I do not desire. Often do I find language to be a poor vehicle for expressing some of my fundamental sentiments. I would, therefore, urge Mr. B. de Ligt and other fellow war-resisters not to mind my faulty or incomplete argument and still less to mind my participation in war, which they may be unable to reconcile with my professions about war. Let them understand me to be uncompromisingly against all war. If they cannot appreciate my argument, let them impute my participation to unconscious weakness. For I would feel extremely sorry to discover that my action was used by anyone to justify war under certain conditions.

But having said this much I must adhere to the position taken up in the article, which is the subject matter of Mr. B. de Ligt’s letter. Let the European war-resisters appreciate one vital difference between them and me. They do not represent exploited nations; I represent the most exploited nation on earth. To use an unflattering comparison, they represent the cat and I represent the mouse. Has a mouse even the sense of non-violence? Is it not a fundamental want with him to strive to offer successful violence before he can be taught to appreciate the virtue, the grandeur, the supremacy, of the law of non-violence – ahimsa – in the field of war? May it not be necessary for me, as a representative  of the mouse tribe, to participate in my principal’s desire for wreaking destruction even for the purpose of teaching him the superiority of non-destruction?

Here the analogy of the cat and the mouse ends. The mouse has no capacity in him to alter his nature. A human being, however debased or fallen he may be, has in him the capacity of rising to the greatest height ever attained by any human being irrespective of race or colour. Therefore, even whilst I may go with my countrymen a long way in satisfying their need for preparation for war, I should do so in the fullest hope of weaning them from war and of their seeing one day its utter futility. Let it be remembered that the largest experiment known to history in mass non-violence is being tried by me even as I seem to be lending myself for the purpose of war. For want of skill the experiment may fail. But the war-resister in Europe should strain every nerve to understand and appreciate the phenomenon going on before him in India of the same man trying the bold experiment in non-violence whilst hobnobbing with those who would prepare for war.

It is part of the plan of non-violence that I should share the feelings of my countrymen if I would ever expect to bring them to non-violence. The striking fact is that India including the educated politician is nolens volens (unwillingly) driven to the belief that non-violence alone will free the masses from the thraldom of centuries. It is true that all have not followed out the logical consequences of non-violence. Who can? In spite of my boast that I know the truth of non-violence and try my best to practise it, I fail often to follow out the logical conclusions of the doctrine. The working of nature’s processes in the human breast is mysterious and baffles interpretation.

This I know, if India comes to her own demonstrably through non-violent means, India will never want to carry a vast army, an equally grand navy, and a grander air force. If her self-consciousness rises to the height necessary to give her a non-violent victory in her fight for freedom, the world values will have changed and most of the paraphernalia of war would be found to be useless. Such an India may be a mere day-dream, a childish folly. But such, in my opinion, is undoubtedly the implication of an India becoming free through non-violence.

When that freedom comes, if it ever does, it will have come through a gentlemanly understanding with Great Britain. But then it will not be an imperialistic haughty Britain manoeuvring for world supremacy, but a Britain humbly trying to serve the common end of humanity. India will no longer then be helplessly driven into Britain’s wars of exploitation, but hers will be the voice of a powerful nation seeking to keep under restraint all the violent forces of the world.

Whether all these fanciful ideas are ever realized or not, my own lifeline is cast. I can no longer, in any conceivable circumstance, take part in Britain’s wars. And I have already said in these pages that, if India attains (what will be to me so-called) freedom by violent means, she will cease to be a country of my pride; that time will be a time for me of civil death. There can, therefore, never be any question of my participation, direct or indirect, in any war of exploitation by India.

But I have already pointed out in these pages that fellow war-resisters in the West are participants in war even in peacetime inasmuch as they pay for the preparations that are being made for it and otherwise sustain governments whose main occupation is such preparation. Again, all activity for stopping war must prove fruitless so long as the causes of war are not understood and radically dealt with. Is not the prime cause of modern wars the inhuman race for exploitation of the so-called weaker races of the earth?

[Published in: Young India, 9 March, 1929]

Letter Three: Bart de Ligt to Gandhi, “Cat and Mouse”; December, 1929.

Most Venerated Gandhi,

I agree entirely with you in recognizing that indeed the inhuman rivalry, which goes on throughout the whole earth to exploit all the so-called inferior races, is one of the principal causes of modern war. This rivalry was even one of the essential causes of the World War. Moreover, those other two wars also, on the occasion of which we exchanged views, presented an imperialist character. But alas! The explanation of your participation in those wars convinces me less and less.

In any case, the fact that you declare yourself unable “in any conceivable circumstance” to participate in British wars, is a real step forward. As I have already noted, you and the millions who are with you could become (unless some quite unforeseen circumstances should arise) a factor for world peace of the highest importance.

But on the other hand, your assertion, almost diplomatic, that you will never take part in any “war of exploitation” entered upon by an India eventually free, does not seem to offer sufficient security for the future. Does this assertion, perhaps, proceed from the fact that you were thinking of an India which, as a dominion, would be obliged in certain circumstances to take part in armed measures of the Empire and in eventual sanctions of the League of Nations?

I repeat, my objections do not concern your relative appreciation in regard to the violent struggle for freedom. But they are aimed solely at the fact that you, who personally uphold a more sublime form of struggle and who from several points of view have carried out this struggle within the frontiers of the British Empire, are at the same time morally encouraging the militarization of your own country rather than opposing it, and that at a time when any national armament begins to be a menace for the whole of humanity. My objections, likewise, are directed against your collaboration in the preparation of a national Indian State organized on the same lines as the Western States, in which, according to the supplementary report of the enlarged Nehru Committee, published in the Indian Forward on the 21st December 1928, there would function a Committee of Defence consisting of the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, the Commander of the Air Forces, the Commander of the Naval Forces and the Chief of the General Staff. At the same time, the Head of the Government, in the event of India being attacked, or if he should consider it as the victim of an aggression, will have the right to raise what money he will esteem necessary for the security of India or of any part of it. (Committee of Defence, Minister of Defence; then in paragraph 77: “In the event of foreign aggression of India or upon his being satisfied that there is a reasonable apprehension of such aggression. As one can see, all that is borrowed from Western States, where, in order to tranquillize public opinion, one is beginning today to speak of “Ministry of Defence”, and where one declares the intention of only defending oneself against aggression or against that which is considered as aggression.)

It seems to us, that in acting in quite a different manner from Tolstoy, you put too much confidence in measures of bourgeois policy, and that you participate in the organization of a form of government which not only will oppress the great masses of your people, but at the same time might become a danger for the evolution of world history. That status of dominion, to the realization of which you are today devoting all your strength, is a political institution, and it will inevitably be used against the great masses of the population of your own country by the dominant Indian classes, which will become more and more allied with the dominant foreign classes. And the necessary military, aero-chemical and naval measures, about which your country is going to have to decide, risk promoting still further the world competition in armaments.

The statements, made in the Frankfurt Conference on Modern War Methods and the Protection of Civil Populations, have just been published. More clearly than ever they show that all technique and science are today being directed in the first place towards collective destruction and murder. This Conference has shown that war has become a method of struggle operating in such a fatal manner, from the moral as well as from the practical point of view, that it must be abolished, not only for national defense but also for the realization of the social revolution. Not to enlarge further on this point, I beg you to refer to the speech of Arthur Müller-Lehning and to my own, delivered at the World Congress against imperialism in Frankfurt. We have now reached a decisive moment in history when the question is to find in all continents powerful groups of men and women who can declare conscientiously: “As for us, we refuse, in all cases, to prepare or to employ any engines of war, and we seek to reduce more and more their preparation and their employment. Strictly speaking, we prefer even to lose our national independence – independence which, moreover, is today becoming more and more fictitious – rather than maintain it by such means.”

Could national independence become a fiction? It might indeed, as we are traversing an epoch of growing international interdependence. As I have stated elsewhere, national units are no longer in a position to dispose of themselves in a really free fashion from the political and economic point of view, neither within the boundaries of Soviet Russia, which contains so many different peoples, nor outside those boundaries. If your India attains the Dominion Status, it will be, from several points of view, allied to the British Empire. It will be subjected, as part of that Empire, and also as a member of the League of Nations, to all sorts of obligations, which it will not be able to escape, however little they may interest India directly. As soon as your country begins to arm, it becomes immediately dependent upon international capital for munitions, and upon the great foreign banks; as soon as it begins to develop its industry your ruling class immediately calls upon foreign financial powers, which inevitably will place chains around the neck of your own people.

Modern capitalism, which today embraces almost the whole earth, is tending unremittingly towards a universal dictatorship. This can only be weakened and eventually crushed, if we create against it a united international front, formed of all races and all peoples, which would fight, not for out-of-date nationalist conceptions, but for the realization of a universal and supranational community. Today all nationalism, considered purely as such, is old-fashioned, not only from the historical but likewise from the moral point of view, although from the ideological point of view it still flourishes and works everywhere. In fact national war is becoming more and more transformed into a struggle of classes and races, embracing the whole earth. It is for us now to fight in the most humane and the most universal manner for our own liberation and for that of all classes and of all oppressed races.

It seems, however, that you, venerated Gandhi, have first of all concentrated your attention in too one-sided a manner upon India instead of taking into consideration, firstly, the whole of humanity of which, nevertheless, your people also form part. With an impatience only too comprehensible, you sought, as principal object, to attain “tangible results”. It is this attitude, which risks limiting your horizon and causing your tactics to swerve from their universal tendency. Of course we sympathize with you in your impatience, from several points of view, because we ourselves are fighting against our own Governments for the liberation of the colored races. Since even we of the Occident cannot bear the injustice endured by the colored peoples, how much more must it be unbearable for you, son of an oppressed Oriental nation? But when your impatience, so noble in itself, leads you to make use of methods, which have a most dangerous tendency, we must set ourselves against it. And when, moreover, you even would have us believe that India has hitherto been “helplessly driven into Britain’s wars of exploitation in spite of herself”, we can only reply: No! Things have not happened thus, for you yourself are one of those who have consciously induced India to participate in such wars, and because of that you also must bear full responsibility.

On your side, you state that those who set themselves against Western wars pay, nevertheless, taxes, which are used by the State for war and the oppression of the colored peoples. That is quite true. In fact our anti-militarist struggle also is as yet only something very relative, and it must go on extending. But in any case, we have fixed clear and inflexible borders: we refuse absolutely all direct, personal participation in war and in its social and moral preparation. But several of us employ still other means of fighting against it. I refer, for instance, to the Dutch Manifesto movement refusing direct and indirect military service, which cost several of its signatories, both men and women, the loss of their social position and created for others all sorts of difficulties; to the Ponsonby Action, begun in England and spreading widely throughout Germany – and still others. Moreover, a few of us have already decided individually to refuse to pay any taxes, whilst the organization of which I am a member has already several times been the propagandist of collective refusal of taxation. But whereas refusal, even on a very restricted scale, to do military service has been morally and socially efficacious, the refusal to pay taxes by a restricted number of citizens only has so far had very little result, as the authorities, in confiscating property and inflicting fines, take possession of sums much larger than a direct payment of taxes would have brought them. From this point of view, your compatriots have already given some impressive examples of collective refusal, although they also were not able to avoid regular unfair demands of the Government.

However it may be, in the struggle against the oppression of the colored races, we are at one with you. I even belong to an organization, which has participated in this struggle already since the beginning of this century (1904). We are endeavoring to do away as soon as possible with the relation of “cat and mouse” existing between the different races of humanity without, however, wishing to replace them by the relations of cat and dog. That is why we not only object to violent tendencies amongst our own people and race, but we also exhort other peoples and races, who are not defenseless mice but moral beings, not to let themselves be seduced by violence, but to adopt those higher forms of combat which, for centuries past, have been recommended on moral grounds by the most sublime representatives of humanity, and the practical significance of which you yourself in particular have taught us.

As for your expectation of a Great Britain reborn from a moral point of view, it seems to me that you might encourage this regeneration more by siding with the most radical of the British war resisters, instead of hoping for salvation from a so-called socialist Government which is inevitably condemned to play a fatal political role in the international imperialistic development. You will already have noticed how, under Ramsay MacDonald, the persecution of your compatriots who are fighting for their rights and liberty continues. However amiable may be the manner in which you speak to the British rulers and however benevolent may perhaps be the tone of those who answer you, they will, nevertheless, only try to satisfy your people by an apparent and fictitious solution.

I have esteemed you too highly, venerated Gandhi, to content myself with merely taking note of your “unconscious weakness” as you so kindly propose that I should do, but what I tried up to now to do is to reply to your arguments by other arguments. It is in the desire that you may be able to revise your attitude towards the past and the present that I have written to you, and that I do so again today. The life of the world has become such a unity, that national interests cannot be really understood nor served except from the point of view of the universal interests of all humanity. This, moreover, is the summing up of everything that I have laid before you.

(Signed) B. De Ligt
Onex, 5. XII, 1929

[Published in: Young India, 30 January, 1930, and in: Die Weltbühne, 17 January 1930 (translated into German and with critical notes by Kurt Hiller]

Reply Three: Mahatma Gandhi, “Difficulty of Practice”; January, 1930.

I welcome the letter of Mr. B. De Ligt, a fellow-seeker in the field of ahimsa. It is entitled to respectful consideration. And such friendly discussion leads to a clearer conception of the possibilities and limitations of non-violence.

In spite of the greatest effort to be detached, no man can altogether undo the effect of his environment or of his upbringing. Non-violence of two persons occupying different positions will not outwardly take the same shape. Thus the non-violence of a child towards his father would take the shape of conscious and voluntary submission to his violence when he loses his temper. But if the child has lost his temper, the father’s submission to the child’s violence would be meaningless. The father would take the child to his bosom and instantaneously sterilize the child’s violence. In each case it is, of course, assumed that the outward act is an expression of the inward intention. One who having retaliation in his breast submits to violence out of policy is not truly non-violent, and may even be a hypocrite if he hides his intention. It should also be remembered that non-violence comes into play only when it comes in contact with violence. One who refrains from violence when there is no occasion for its exercise is simply un-violent and has no credit for his inaction.

Dominion Status ceasing to be a factor, the points raised from that imaginary event now need not be discussed except to say that the enjoyment by India of Dominion Status would have meant India, having become an equal partner instead of being ruled by it, dominating the foreign policy of Great Britain.

My general and hearty approval of the Nehru Report must not be taken to mean endorsement of every word of it. My approval need not carry endorsement of the constructive programme for the future governance of free India. My non-violence would not prevent me from fighting my countrymen on the many questions that must arise when India has become free. A mere academic discussion can only hamper the present progress of non-violence. I know, however, that, if I survive the struggle for freedom, I might have to give non-violent battle to my own countrymen, which may be as stubborn as that in which I am now engaged. But the military schemes now being considered by the great Indian leaders are highly likely to appear even to them to be wholly unnecessary, assuming that we have come to our own demonstrably through non-violent means deliberately chosen and used.

My collaboration with my countrymen today is confined to the breaking of our shackles. How we would feel and what we shall do after breaking them is more than they or I know. It is profitless to speculate whether Tolstoy in my place would have acted differently from me. It is enough for me to give the assurance to my friends in Europe that in no single act of mine have I been consciously guilty of endorsing violence or compromising my creed. Even the seeming endorsement of violent action by my participation on the side of Britain in the Boer War and the Zulu Revolt was a recognition, in the interest of non-violence, of an inevitable situation. That the participation may nevertheless have been due to my weakness or ignorance of the working of the universal law of non-violence is quite possible. Only I had no conviction then, nor have any now, of such weakness or ignorance.

A non-violent man will instinctively prefer direct participation to indirect, in a system, which is based on violence and to which he has to belong without any choice being left to him. I belong to a world, which is partly based on violence. If I have only a choice between paying for the army of soldiers to kill my neighbours or to be a soldier myself, I would, as I must, consistent with my creed, enlist as a soldier in the hope of controlling the forces of violence and even of converting my comrades.

National independence is not fiction. It is as necessary as individual independence. But neither, if it is based on non-violence, may ever be a menace to the equal independence of the nation or the individual as the case may be. As with individual and national independence, so with international. The legal maxim is equally moral: Sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas. It has been well said the universe is compressed in the atom. There is not one law for the atom and another for the universe.

[Published in: Young India, 30 January, 1930]

A NOTE ON THE TEXT: This correspondence between Bart de Ligt and Gandhi has an intricate publishing history, not to mention the innumerable reactions it inspired and Gandhi’s other writings on war and his participation in war. We cite below the main sources. Please note also that the letter by Tchertkov, the two articles by De Ligt, and Richard Gregg’s letter, all of which are also posted here this date, have their own citations.

Bibliographical References

1.  Letter One of Bart de Ligt.
The letter was written and dated May 1928. Although Gandhi published his reply in September 1928, De Ligt’s letter was not published until November 1928 by the pacifist magazine, published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation, The World Tomorrow, New York; pp. 445-46.

This same issue of The World Tomorrow (i.e. November 1928) also contained a number of reactions to the De Ligt/Gandhi exchange.  “Is Gandhi a Pacifist? American Comment on His Recently Stated War View”, by Rufus M. Jones, Sydney Strong, Sarah N. Cleghorn, JohnHaynes Holmes & S. Ralph Harlow; pp. 500 ff.

1a.  Reply One of Gandhi.
“My Attitude Towards War”, published in Young India, 13 September 1928; also published in The World Tomorrow, November 1928; pp. 447-48. Gandhi’s “My Attitude Towards War” is also contained in M.K. Gandhi, Non-violence in Peace and War, Ahmedabad: 1962 (reprint of first edition, 1942), vol. 1; pp. 78-80, and in Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (CWMG),  New Delhi: Publications Division, Government of India, vol. 37; pp. 269-271.

Besides the article “My Attitude Towards War” Gandhi wrote other articles and comments on war and his participation in wars, chiefly these are:

  • M.K. Gandhi, “War Against War”, Young India, 8.3.1928; also in M.K. Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War, Ahmedabad: 1962 (reprint of first edition, 1942), vol. 1, pp. 73-75; CWMG, vol. 36, pp. 85ff.
  • M.K. Gandhi, “Still At It”, Young India, 15.3.1928; Ibid, pp. 75-77, CWMG, vol. 36, pp. 108-110
  • M.K. Gandhi, reply to a letter from Vladimir Tchertkov, Young India, 7.2.1929; Ibid, pp. 83-88
  • M.K. Gandhi, An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Part 4, Chapters 38 and 39.

There are also several minor references by Gandhi to the first letter of De Ligt and to his own reply:

  • “Acknowledgement on Receipt of the Letter of Bart de Ligt” (Letter to B. de Ligt dated 24.8.1928), CWMG, vol. 37; p. 199
  • Information about his reply, dispatch of a copy of his article (Letter to B. de Ligt dated 14.9.1928), CWMG, vol. 37; p. 276
  • Dispatch of a copy of his article to the editor of The World Tomorrow (Letter to Kirby Page dated 14.9.1928), noted in CWMG, vol. 37; p. 276

2.  Letter Two of Bart de Ligt.
“War Against War”, Part I, Young India, 2.5.1929, pp. 436-440; Part II, Young India, 9.5.1929, pp. 441-448.

2a.  Reply Two of Gandhi.
“A Complex Problem”, Young India, 9.5.1929; also in M.K. Gandhi: Non-violence in Peace and War, Ahmedabad: 1962 (reprint of first edition, 1942), vol. 1, pp. 92-94; and CWMG, vol. 40, pp. 363-365.

Gandhi further elaborates “A Complex Problem” in:

  • M.K. Gandhi, “The Kellogg Pact”, Young India, 4.7.1929; also in Non-violence in Peace and War, pp. 95-98
  • M.K. Gandhi, “Our Choice”, Young India, 22.7.1929; Ibid, pp. 98-101
  • M.K. Gandhi, “Military Programme”, Young India, 19.12.1929; Ibid, pp. 102-106

3.  Letter Three of Bart de Ligt.
“Cat and Mouse”, dated 5.12.1929, Onex, Geneva, and published in Young India, 30.1.1930; also in Non-violence in Peace and War; pp. 448-454

3a.  Reply Three of Gandhi.
“Difficulty of Practice”, Young India, 30.1.1930;  also in Non-violence in Peace and War, pp. 106-108; and CWMG, vol. 42, pp. 436ff.
In addition to Gandhi’s writings directly concerning matters referred to in his exchange with Bart de Ligt, Gandhi also wrote separately about his participation in war in the following:

  • M.K. Gandhi, “Why Did I Assist in the Last War?”, Young India, 17.11.1921; M.K. Gandhi, Non-Violence in Peace and War, Ahmedabad: 1962 (reprint of first edition, 1942), vol. 1, pp. 23-27
  • M.K. Gandhi, “How the Hope was Shattered”, Young India, 23.3.1922; Ibid, pp. 27-29
  • M.K. Gandhi, “Compulsory Military Training”, Young India, 24.9.1925; Ibid, pp. 41-43
  • M.K. Gandhi, “A Question”, Young India, 5.11.1925; Ibid, pp. 53 ff.

The text of this correspondence, with some grammatical corrections,  follows the version published by Christian Bartolf (ed.) The Breath of Life: The Correspondence of Mahatma Gandhi (India) and Bart de Ligt (Holland) on War and Peace. Berlin: Gandhi-Informations-Zentrum, 2000; pp. 26-33 & 39-62; courtesy of Christian Bartolf and the board of Gandhi-Informations-Zentrum. The Bart de Ligt correspondence is courtesy of Peter van den Dungen and J. E. De Ligt (Bart de Ligt’s son), Bart de Ligt Estate. Gandhi’s writings are in the public domain, but we wish to acknowledge the Navjivan Trust, Ahmedabad, which until 2009 controlled copyright and still provides invaluable assistance.

“When planted in the garden, the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds, became a large tree, and birds came and made their home there.” Luke 13:19

“For me whatever is in the atoms and molecules is in the universe. I believe in the saying that what is in the microcosm of one’s self is reflected in the macrocosm.” M. Gandhi