For Global Peace with Social Justice in a Sustainable Environment
Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav
Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India
Contact No. – 09415777229, 094055338
BOYCOTT OF BRITISH GOODS
It is not at all surprising that the nation should wish to show resentment of the studiously insulting and defiant acts of the British Government. Every new discovery in the direction adds fuel to the fire. The latest is the abhorrence the late King Edward VII and his son, the present King, is reported to have betrayed of ‘natives’ and that in connection with Lord Sinha. The representatives of the nation have for years past endeavoured to demonstrate their resentment by bringing about a partial or complete boycott of British goods. It is the nation’s right to bring it about if it so wishes. There is no doubt that it will produce a great effect if it could succeed to the necessary extent. But it has been my misfortune or good fortune consistently to oppose the cry for the boycott of British goods. Though I adhere to the fundamental ground that the proposed boycott is contrary to nonviolence, I wish to confine myself at present to an examination of its possibility. The fact that we have hitherto made no headway whatsoever with it, in spite of the agitation for so long a time, is proof presumptive of its very great difficulty. If we were to take even such a simple instance as soap, we shall discover that we have made no progress even in the boycott of British made soap. The Committee appointed by the Congress recommended certain articles for boycott. So far as I am aware, no such effort has yet been made in the direction of excluding even one such article from the nation’s use.
The use of a punitive boycott lies in the effectiveness. Anyone studying the articles of import will soon discover the utter futility of spending labour on achieving the boycott of most of these articles from the standpoint of creating an impression on the British Government. It should not be forgotten that for all these long long years, we have not been able to have a body of specialists devoted to this single task. It is the fashion in some quarters nowadays to blame me for the failure of any and every resolution that the Congress passes. I am told that a particular resolution does not succeed because I oppose it or do not work at it. There can be nothing more humiliating for a nation than to be in such an impotent state. Surely boycott of British goods was conceived and vehemently advocated before I returned from South Africa. The real and the more natural reason for the failure of the British goods boycott resolution lies in the obvious fact that no committee of experts has yet been able to arrive at a satisfactory plan of working it out. It has been suggested that we can succeed if China has succeeded. Yes, we can if we have the will, the courage and the opportunity to regulate the boycott by armed force, by creating an army of open revolutionaries, by forcing for that specific purpose a strike of dock labourers and others connected with the handling of British goods. It seems to me that even if we have the will, we have neither the means nor yet the capacity for managing such an open armed revolution. And neither those who have advocated boycott of British goods nor the special Committee appointed by the Civil Disobedience Inquiry Committee have ever contemplated armed force. I hold, therefore, that it will be more consistent with national dignity, prestige and welfare to give up the cry, proved to be useless, and almost impossible, of boycott of British goods. The permanent necessity of advocating true swadeshi in all things capable of being produced at home is untouched by the argument against the punitive boycott. But there is no cause whatsoever for despair. We have a means readymade and most effective of signifying our resentment over the series of wrongs being continuously heaped upon our devoted heads. If we have the will, I claim that we have the present capacity of achieving a complete boycott not merely of British cloth but of all foreign cloth. And if we do this, we not only successfully demonstrate our resentment, but we serve the masses in a manner we have never done before and we secure their co-operation in a national effort.
We have got an army of workers for doing this work. We have experts who have first-hand knowledge of the thing. There is no division of opinion on the propriety of the thing. The only thing that retards our progress towards the completion of boycott of foreign cloth is our own disbelief. It is strange but tragic that through our ignorance we believe more in the possibility of achieving a boycott of certain British goods than of foreign cloth. But even this boycott of foreign cloth cannot be achieved without a well-thought-out and prepared plan. If it is the mere boycott we want rather than the higher and the more permanent result in the shape of the economic well-being of the masses, we can do so quickly enough if we receive the co-operation of mills on our terms. Without honest and hearty co-operation of our weaving and spinning mills, to attempt to achieve the boycott with mill-cloth would be to court suicide and to run into the arms of profiteering mill-owners. If indigenous mill-cloth is to play a part in this national effort, the mills must come to terms with the Congress as to the kind of production and the prices to be charged. The mill agents should with the consent and co-operation of their shareholders cease to be merely trustees for themselves and shareholders, but both should become trustees for the whole nation.
Then, with khadi, foreign cloth can be successfully and permanently banished from the land. But it is possible, even without the co-operation of mills, though less easy in point of time, to achieve the boycott of foreign cloth through khadi alone. Mills will still play a part, but that will be in spite of the owners. Khadi will put an effective check on their head, it will prevent a famine of cloth and it will give life and hope and work to starving millions, reinstate weavers of plain cloth in their ancient calling and will eventually, but within a short time, lead to a replacing of foreign cloth and regularizing of mill profits. Time limit can be determined by the strength of the nation’s will and its capacity for sacrificing a little of its taste for fine cloth and a little money never beyond the capacity of individual users of cloth.