the Spirit of Mahatma Gandhi lives through every nonviolent action

Mahatma Gandhi’s Interview to Francis G. Hickman

Prof. Dr. Yogendra Yadav

Senior Gandhian Scholar

Gandhi Research Foundation, Jalgaon, Maharashtra, India

Contact No. – 09404955338, 09415777229


Mailing Address- C- 29, Swaraj Nagar, Panki, Kanpur- 208020, Uttar Pradesh, India



Mahatma Gandhi’s Interview to Francis G. Hickman



Mahatma Gandhi gave interview to Francis G. Hickman on dated September 17, 1940.

HICKMAN: What is India’s contribution towards making the world safe from Hitlerism?

GANDHIJI:  If the Congress succeeds in its non-violent effort, Hitlerism and all such ‘isms’ will go as a matter of course. Don’t you think India should do something to make facts better known in America and thus promote the interchange of goods and ideas? What do you think should be done in this connection?

First let us take up goods. America has had her bit, irrespective of Indian conditions and India’s wishes. So far as ideas are concerned, my unhappy experience is that anti-Indian propaganda carried on in America has held undisputed sway, so much so that even the visit of an outstanding personality like Tagore produced little impression on the American mind. But why does not India endeavour to make her better known in America?

If America really wanted to know what Indian opinion is at a given time, there is ample literature which is growing from day to day to which they have access. If you have in mind an Indian agency which should do propagandist work on behalf of India, again our bitter experience has been that imperialist propaganda that is carried on with much ability and perseverance and at a lavish expenditure is such that we can never overtake it, and the work of any such agency has up to now proved fruitless.

Why not have Indian people use Indian hand-spun cloth and keep her mills busy for the export of manufactured cloth and yarn? Don’t you think that this would help the cotton-grower?

I would not mind such a thing but it must be in order to supply the felt needs of the country which received our cloth. I have no idea of exploiting other countries for the benefit of India. We are suffering from the poisonous disease of exploitation ourselves, and I would not like my country to be guilty of any such thing. If Japan, say, as a free country wanted India’s help, and said we could produce certain goods cheaper, and we might export them to Japan, we would gladly do so.

But under my scheme of things all dumping of goods by one country on another, supported by her army and her navy, has to cease. Apart from export of merchandise what has India to give America, and turn what does India expect from America?

I must correct your question for you. India sends no merchandise to America; she sends only raw material, and that is a matter or serious consideration for every nationalist. For we cannot suffer our country remaining an exporter of raw produce, for it means (as it has meant) extinction of handicrafts and art itself. I would expect America to treat India not as though India was a country for American exploitation but as if India was a free country, although unarmed, and deserving, therefore, the same treatment that America would wish at the hands of India.

You are repeating, Sir, the message of Jesus. I agree. We are poor in technical skill, but as soon as you accept and consent to follow Jesus’ teaching, I would not have to complain of all the skill being monopolized by America. You will then say, ‘Here is a sister country poor in technical skill, let us offer our skilled assistance not for exploitation, not for a terrific price, but for its benefit, and so for nothing.’ And here let me say a word about your missionaries. You send them here for nothing, but that also is part of imperialist exploitation for they would like to make us like you, better buyers of your goods, and unable to do without your cars and luxuries. So the Christianity that you send us is adulterated. If you established your schools, colleges and hospitals without the object of adding to the number of the so-called Christian population, your philanthropy would be untainted.

As regards technical skill, I cannot afford to do what the Tatas are doing. They can afford to bring an American expert manager at Rs. 20,000 a month. But whilst they represent the spirit of adventure, they do not represent poor India. India has seven lakhs of villages which take in 90 per cent of her population. America has to think of these. America ought, if she will be of real help, to exercise her resourcefulness in this direction. And for that purpose America will have to cease to be the premier exporting country that she is. My views on national planning differ from the prevailing ones. I do not want it along industrial lines. I want to prevent our villages from catching the infection of industrialization. American exploitation has added neither to the moral height of the exploited countries nor of the exploiting country. On the contrary it has impeded their march towards spiritual progress, and deadened America’s real spirit of philanthropy. A phenomenon like the one that America witnessed cannot happen in India. I mean the destruction of tons of sugar and other agricultural products. You might have supplied other countries the sugar and the wheat or fed America’s own unemployed.

But you could not have taken our pigs!

I know. But all do not think like me. Pandit Nehru wants industrialization because he thinks that, if it is socialized, it would be free from the evils of capitalism. My own view is that evils are inherent in industrialism, and no amount of socialization can eradicate them. We have seen what Germany has done to Belgium and to the other countries.

You would still say ‘non-violence’? And yet you ask the Congress to fight because it is in danger of extinction. England also is in such danger and therefore fights.

Don’t you see the obvious difference? England would have to out-Hitler Hitler in defeating him. We do not want to use any of the weapons used by those who would crush us. I would say to an aggressor: ‘you may destroy my churches, my hearths and my homes, everything but my soul. I won’t come to your country to destroy your churches, hearths and homes. I will not defend my country with your weapons. I will simply refuse to co-operate with you, refuse to owe any allegiance to you, in a word I will say “No” to you.’ He may take possession of India, but if I have my way, he will not impress a single Indian in his service.

Then you must see another distinction. If we were fighting Government with Government’s weapons, it would be the best chance for us to surprise the enemy and make their difficulty our opportunity. But we have been for over a year laying the utmost stress on non-embarrassment. It ought not to be turned against us. But we shall not use Britain’s weapons, and that is how we shall help Britain against her will. I can understand the Viceroy’s reluctance to surrender the reins of Government to us while he has to fight Germany; but I cannot understand the Government’s desire to suppress the non-violent spirit of the nation. But you again speak like Christ on earth, and they cannot understand that language. I must persist at the peril of my life. In my opinion nonviolence is not an individual virtue, but a course of spiritual and political conduct both for the individual and the community.



Harijan, 29-9-1940

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