March 18, 1931. Albert Hall, London
At this moment of crisis for Baldwin, a by-election was taking place in St. George’s, Westminster. At one point Baldwin considered resigning his seat and standing as a candidate, but in the event the pro-Baldwin banner was carried by Duff Cooper against an anti-Baldwin candidate vigorously supported by Beaverbrook and Rothermere. The impact of this meeting at the Albert Hall just outside the constituency was overshadowed by Baldwin’s attack the same evening on the “Press Lords,” whom he condemned as seeking “power without responsibility the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages”. The phrase came from Baldwin’s cousin, Rudyard Kipling. It was devastating. Duff Cooper won easily and Baldwin’s leadership was preserved.
I think it hard that the burden of holding and organising this immense meeting should be thrown upon the Indian Empire Society. One would have thought that if there was one cause in the world which the Conservative party would have hastened to defend, it would be the cause of the British Empire in India. One would have expected that the whole force of the Conservative party machine would have been employed for months past in building up a robust, educated opinion throughout the country, and in rallying all its strongest forces to guard our vital interests. Unhappily all that influence, and it is an enormous influence, has been cast the other way. The Conservative leaders have decided that we are to work with the Socialists, and that we must make our action conform with theirs. We therefore have against us at the present time the official machinery of all the three great parties in the State. We meet under a ban. Every Member of Parliament or Peer who comes here must face the displeasure of the party Whips. Mr. Baldwin has declared that the three-party collusion must continue. And in support of that decision he has appealed to all those sentiments of personal loyalty and partisan feeling which a leader can command. Is it not wonderful in these circumstances, with all this against us, that a few of us should manage to get together here in this hall to-night? [Editor’s Note: An allusion to the great numbers who filled the building.]
Our fight is hard. It will also be long. We must not expect early success. The forces marshalled against us are too strong. But win or lose, we must do our duty. If the British people are to lose their Indian Empire, they shall do so with their eyes open, and not be led blindfold into a trap. Already in our campaign we have had a measure of success. The movement and awakening of opinion in the Conservative party have already caused concern to our leaders. They feel they have to reckon with resolute forces in the party, and far beyond it, who will not be easily quelled. Already they have rejected the plan of sending a three-party delegation out to India for which Lord Irwin pleaded so earnestly. For the moment, therefore, we have a breathing space. The Socialist and subversive enemy have been thrown into disarray by the breakdown of their scheme to entice the Conservatives out to India. They are arranging their forces for a renewed attack. Mr. Gandhi, their supreme hope, is to come to London, as soon as they can persuade him to come, and here in the centre of the Empire he will discuss with British ministers and politicians the best means for breaking it up. But by that time we shall be ready too. We shall not be taken by surprise, as the country was during the Round Table Conference. We are not entirely defenceless or without means of expression.
We have behind us the growing strength of Conservative opinion. We have the prospect at no great distance of a Conservative victory. Nothing will turn us from our path, or discourage us from our efforts; and by the time Mr. Gandhi has arrived here to receive the surrender of our Indian Empire, the Conservative party will not be so ready to have its name taken in vain.
What spectacle could be more sorrowful than that of this powerful country casting away with both hands, and up till now almost by general acquiescence, the great inheritance which centuries have gathered? What spectacle could be more strange, more monstrous in its perversity, than to see the Viceroy and the high officials and agents of the Crown in India labouring with all their influence and authority to unite and weave together into a confederacy all the forces adverse and hostile to our rule in India? One after another our friends and the elements on which we ought to rely in India are chilled, baffled and dismissed, and finally even encouraged to band themselves together with those who wish to drive us out of the country. It is a hideous act of self-mutilation, astounding to every nation in the world. The princes, the Europeans, the Moslems, the Depressed classes, the Anglo-Indians – none of them know what to do nor where to turn in the face of their apparent desertion by Great Britain. Can you wonder that they try in desperation to make what terms are possible with the triumphant Brahmin oligarchy?
I am against this surrender to Gandhi. I am against these conversations and agreements between Lord Irwin and Mr. Gandhi. Gandhi stands for the expulsion of Britain from India. Gandhi stands for the permanent exclusion of British trade from India. Gandhi stands for the substitution of Brahmin domination for British rule in India. You will never be able to come to terms with Gandhi. You have only to read his latest declarations, and compare them with the safeguards for which we are assured the official Conservatives will fight to the end, to see how utterly impossible agreement is. But let me tell you this. If at the sacrifice of every British interest and of all the necessary safeguards and means of preserving peace and progress in India, you come to terms with Gandhi, Gandhi would at that self-same moment cease to count any more in the Indian situation.
Already Nehru, his young rival in the Indian Congress, is preparing to supersede him the moment that he has squeezed his last drop from the British lemon. In running after Gandhi and trying to build on Gandhi, in imagining that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald and Mr. Gandhi and Lord Irwin are going to bestow peace and progress upon India, we should be committing ourselves to a crazy dream, with a terrible awakening.
No! Come back from these perilous paths while time and strength remain. Study the report of your own statutory commission headed by Sir John Simon and signed unanimously by the representatives of all the three parties in the State. Let us take that as our starting-point for any extensions we may make of self-government in India. It is very wrong that the vast majority of Conservative electors throughout the country, and the vast majority of all those who are acquainted with and have practical experience of India, and of that enormous mass of patriotic people not attached to any party, should have these vital questions settled over their heads by an agreement or an understanding between the two front benches in the House of Commons, and have their future settled as if they were a lot of sheep.
We are told that three-party unity must be preserved at all costs. What does that mean? Up to the present it has only meant one thing, namely, that the Conservative party has had to toe the Socialist line, and has been dragged at the Socialist tail. Here are these Socialists, maintained in office only on sufferance or by intrigue, expecting all other parties to serve them, and to dance to their tune. We are here to-night to say ‘No, that shall not be.’ We have a right to our own convictions; we are entitled to act in accordance with them. We will certainly make our faith apparent by every means in our power, and in every quarter of the land.
I repudiate the calumny which our opponents level at us that we have no policy for India but repression and force. Do not be deceived by these untruths. Do not be disquieted by exaggerations of the difficulty of maintaining order in India which are spread about for interested motives by the Socialist ministers and their allies. In the whole of the disturbances of the last year -.except on the frontier – scarcely a British soldier has been required. Very few people have been killed or severely wounded in the rioting. But how did the most of them get hurt? They got hurt not by the Indian police, but in religious fights between Moslems and Hindus.
The great body of expert opinion which is represented upon the Indian Empire Society will support me when I say that a calm, capable, determined Viceroy properly supported from home could maintain peace and tranquillity in India year after year with a tenth of the repressive measures which Lord Irwin in his misguided benevolence has been compelled to employ.
Neither is it true that we have no constructive policy. We take our stand upon views almost universally accepted until a few months ago. We believe that the next forward step is the development of Indian responsibility in the provincial governments of India. Efforts should be made to make them more truly representative of the real needs of the people. Indians should be given ample opportunities to try their hand at giving capable government in the provinces; and meanwhile the central Imperial executive, which is the sole guarantee of impartiality between races, creeds and classes, should preserve its sovereign power intact, and allow no derogation from its responsibility to Parliament. Is that Diehardism?’ That is the message of the Simon report, unanimously signed by the representatives of the three parties. That is the purport of the alternative scheme submitted a few months ago by the Viceroy himself.
After all, it opens immediately an immense and fertile field for Indian self-government. The provinces of India are great states and separate nations comparable in magnitude and in numbers with the leading powers of Europe. The responsible government of territories and populations as large as Germany, France, Poland, Italyor Spain is not a task unworthy of Indian capacity for self-government, so far as it has yet been displayed. It is a task the successful discharge of which would certainly not conflict with the ultimate creation of a federal system. On the contrary it is the indispensable preliminary without which no federation, desirable or undesirable, is possible. Why, the very word ‘federal’ signifies a foedus or treaty made between hitherto sovereign or autonomous states.
All federations have arisen thus. In the United States of America, in Canada, in Australia, in South Africa, in every case the units have first been created. Why should these unpractised, unproved, unrepresentative, self-chosen groups of Indian politicians disdain the immense possibilities offered within the limits of the Statutory Commission’s report, and demand an immediate setting up of a United States of India, with themselves in control, and the British army at their orders? Before a Federal system for India could be set up there must be first the self-governing constituent provinces; and secondly, far greater, more real, more representative contact between the Indian political classes and the vast proletariat they aspire to rule.
Even Europe cannot achieve such a united organisation. But what would be said of a scheme which handed the federal government of the United States of Europe over to political classes proportionately no larger than the inhabitants of Portugal, and no more representative of the needs and passions of a mighty continent than the inhabitants of a single city like Rome? Such are the follies we are forced to expose. We therefore resist upon the highest experience and authority the viewy hysterical megalomania of the Round Table Conference.
Why is it that the principles of Government and lessons of history which we have learnt in our experience with the great self-governing dominions, which we have learnt in Canada, in South Africa and in Ireland, apply only in a limited degree to India? It is because the problem of Indian government is primarily a technical one. In India far more than in any other community in the world moral, political and economic considerations are outweighed by the importance of technical and administrative apparatus. Here you have nearly three hundred and fifty millions of people, lifted to a civilisation and to a level of peace, order, sanitation and progress far above anything they could possibly have achieved themselves or could maintain. This wonderful fact is due to the guidance and authority of a few thousands of British officials responsible to Parliament who have for generations presided over the development of India.
If that authority is injured or destroyed, the whole efficiency of the services, defensive, administrative, medical, hygienic, judicial; railway, irrigation, public works and famine prevention, upon which the Indian masses depend for their culture and progress, will perish with it. India will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into the barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages. The question at stake is not therefore the gratification of the political aspirations towards self-government of a small number of intellectuals. It is, on the contrary, the practical, technical task of maintaining the peace and life of India by artificial means upon a much higher standard than would otherwise be possible. To let the Indian people fall, as they would, to the level of China, would be a desertion of duty on the part of Great Britain.
But that is not all. To abandon India to the rule of the Brahmins would be an act of cruel and wicked negligence. It would shame for ever those who bore its guilt. These Brahmins who mouth and patter the principles of Western Liberalism, and pose as philosophic and democratic politicians, are the same Brahmins who deny the primary rights of existence to nearly sixty millions of their own fellow countrymen whom they call ‘untouchable’, and whom they have by thousands of years of oppression actually taught to accept this sad position. They will not eat with these sixty millions, nor drink with them, nor treat them as human beings. They consider themselves contaminated even by their approach. And then in a moment they turn round and begin chopping logic with John Stuart Mill, or pleading the rights of man with Jean Jacques Rousseau.
While any community, social or religious, endorses such practices and asserts itself resolved to keep sixty millions of fellow countrymen perpetually and eternally in a state of sub-human bondage, we cannot recognise their claim to the title-deeds of democracy. Still less can we hand over to their unfettered sway those helpless millions they despise. Side by side with this Brahmin theocracy and the immense Hindu population – angelic and untouchable castes alike – there dwell in India seventy millions of Moslems, a race of far greater physical vigour and fierceness, armed with a religion which lends itself only too readily to war and conquest. While the Hindu elaborates his argument, the Moslem sharpens his sword. Between these two races and creeds, containing as they do so many gifted arid charming beings in all the glory of youth, there is no intermarriage.
The gulf is impassable. If you took the antagonisms of France and Germany, and the antagonisms of Catholics and Protestants, and compounded them and multiplied them ten-fold, you would not equal the division which separates these two races intermingled by scores of millions in the cities and plains of India. But over both of them the impartial rule of Britain has hitherto lifted its appeasing sceptre. Until the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms began to raise the question of local sovereignty and domination, they had got used to dwelling side by side in comparative toleration. But step by step, as it is believed we are going to clear out or be thrust out of India, so this tremendous rivalry and hatred of races springs into life again. It is becoming more acute every day. Were we to wash our hands of all responsibility and divest ourselves of all our powers, as our sentimentalists desire, ferocious civil wars would speedily break out between the Moslems and the Hindus. No one who knows India will dispute this.
But that is not the end. The Brahmins know well that they cannot defend themselves against the Moslems. The Hindus do not possess among their many virtues that of being a fighting race. The whole south of India is peopled with races deserving all earnest solicitude and regard, but incapable of self-defence. It is in the north alone that the fighting races dwell. Bengal, for instance, does not send from her forty-five million inhabitants any soldiers to the native army. The Punjab is a place where fighting races dwell|, on the other hand, and the Pathans, together with the Ghurkas and the Sikhs, who are entirely exceptional sects of Hindus, all dwelling in the north, furnish three-quarters of the entire army in the time of peace, and furnished more than three-quarters of it in time of war. There can be no doubt therefore that the departure of the British from India, which Mr. Gandhi advocates, and which Mr. Nehru demands, would be followed first by a struggle in the North and thereafter by a reconquest of the South by the North, and of the Hindus by the Moslems.
This danger has not escaped the crafty foresight of the Brahmins. It is for that reason that they wish to have the control of a British army, or failing that, a white army of janissaries officered, as Mr. Gandhi has suggested, by Germans or other Europeans. They wish to have an effective foreign army, or foreign-organised army, in order to preserve their dominance over the Moslems and their tyranny over their own untouchables. There, is the open plot of which we are in danger of becoming the dupes, and the luckless millions of Indians the victims.
It is our duty to guard those millions from that fate.
Let me just direct your attention once more upon these untouchables, fifty or sixty millions of them, that is to say more than the whole population of the British Isles; all living their lives in acceptance of the validity of the awful curse pronounced upon them by the Brahmins. A multitude as big as a nation, men, women and children deprived of hope and of the status of humanity. Their plight is worse than that of slaves, because they have been taught to consent not only to a physical but to a psychic servitude and prostration.
I have asked myself whether if Christ came again into this world, it would not be to the untouchables of India that he would first go, to give them the tidings that not only are all men equal in the sight of God, but that for the weak and poor and downtrodden a double blessing is reserved. Certainly the success of Christianity and missionary enterprise has been greater among the untouchables than among any other class of the Indian population. The very act of accepting Christianity by one of these poor creatures involves a spiritual liberation from this obsession of being unclean; and the curse falls from their minds as by a miracle. They stand erect, captains of their fate in the broad sunlight of the world. There are also nearly five million Indian Christians in India, a large proportion of whom can read and write, and some of whom have shown themselves exceptionally gifted. It will be a sorry day when the arm of Britain can no longer offer them the protection of an equal law.
There is a more squalid aspect. Hitherto for generations it has been the British policy that no white official should have any interest or profit other than his salary and pension out of Indian administration. All concession-hunters and European adventurers, company-promoters and profit-seekers have been rigorously barred and banned. But now that there is spread through India the belief that we are a broken, bankrupt, played-out power, and that our rule is going to pass away and be transferred in the name of the majority to the Brahmin sect, all sorts of greedy appetites have been excited, and many itching fingers are stretching and scratching at the vast pillage of a derelict Empire. I read in the Times newspaper, in the Times mind you, only last week of the crowd of rich Bombay merchants and millionaire millowners, millionaires on sweated labour, who surround Mr. Gandhi, the saint, the lawyer, Lord Irwin’s dear colleague and companion. What are they doing there, these men, and what is he doing in their houses?
They are making arrangements that the greatest bluff, the greatest humbug and the greatest betrayal shall be followed by the greatest ramp. Nepotism, back-scratching, graft and corruption in every form will be the handmaidens of a Brahmin domination. Far rather would I see every Englishman quit the country, every soldier, every civil servant embark at Bombay, than that we should remain clutching on to the control of foreign relations and begging for trading facilities, while all the time we were the mere cloak of dishonour and oppression.
If you were to put these facts, hard, solid indigestible facts, before Mr. Ramsay MacDonald or Mr. Wedgwood Benn, or Sir Herbert Samuel, they would probably reply by pointing to the follies of Lord North in the American revolution, to the achievements of Lord Durham in Canada, or to what has happened in South Africa or in Ireland. All the Socialists and some of the Liberals, together with, I am sorry to say, the official Conservatives, have got these arguments on the tip of their tongue. They represent all of us and the millions who think with us, and the instructed Anglo-Indian administrators on whose advice we rely, as being mere dullards and reactionaries who have never been able to move with the age, or understand modern ideas. We are a sort of inferior race mentally deficient, composed principally of colonels and other undesirables who have fought for Britain. They are the sole possessors and monopolists of the spirit and of the message of our generation. But we do not depend on colonels – though why Conservatives should sneer at an honoured rank in the British army I cannot tell – we depend on facts. We depend on the private soldiers of the British democracy. We place our trust in the loyal heart of Britain. Our faith is founded upon the rock of the wage-earning population of this island which has never yet been appealed to, by duty and chivalry, in vain.
These great issues which arise from time to time in our history are never decided by the party caucuses. They are decided by the conscience and the spirit of the mass of the British people. It is upon the simple faith and profound unerring instinct of the British people, never yet found wanting in a crisis, that we must put our trust. We are deliberately trying to tell our story to the British masses, to the plain and simple folk to whom the fame of the British Empire is ever dear. In assailing the moral duty of Great Britain in India, the Socialist Government and all who aid and abet Mr. Ramsay Macdonald and his Socialist Government, or make their path smooth, will find they have stumbled upon a sleeping giant who, when he arises, will tread with dauntless steps the path of justice and of honour.