The Heart of Democracy


By PEARL S. BUCK, Author

Delivered at India-China Friendship Day Celebration given by the East and West Association,Waldorf-Astoria, New York City, March 14, 1942

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 395-397.

IN the midst of confusion unparalleled, certain clarities are now appearing. Perhaps one reason why this war has been so difficult to focus has been because the boundary lines to which we have been long accustomed have faded. Thus the lines of nation and nation have disappeared. It is not so simple a war as old wars were—wars where the fact that one was a Frenchman or an Englishman or a German told where and what one was. Today to proclaim oneself the citizen of a nation means nothing at all, because within every nation there is the enemy. This war is at the same time a score of civil wars, an international war of the widest scope yet known, and an inter-racial war.

How then can allies find each other? How shall we discern the enemy? The best friend, the brother, is he friend or enemy? A man's enemy may be within his own house.

It seems to me that the pass word is freedom for all. If a man is truly fighting for freedom for all he is ally, whatever his nation or his race. If he is fighting for the freedom of a group, be that group national or racial or political, then he is enemy.

Wherever there are those who believe then in the principle of freedom for all, there is the heart of democracy. Wherever there are those who are fighting for the domination of one group over another, there is the deadly enemy of democracy.

It is well to remember this today as great peoples begin to shift their positions for a tomorrow that none of us can foretell. We can foresee it. We know that it will not be like today. Never again will the white race be dominant in the same way that it has been in the past. Whether itwill be dominant at all depends on whether in it beats the heart of democracy. If the heart of democracy is not to be found in white men, then it will be found elsewhere.

Will it be found in China, in India? We do not know. We can only wait and watch. Is there a wisdom in the ancient religions of India which will make them wiser than the white peoples have been and will they be more able to see the practical values of justice to all than the white man has been? Who can tell?

And China—whose people have had perhaps more than any other the widest understanding of the common humanity of us all, will their age-old common-sense be enough to help them, as they rise to power among the nations, to remember this common humanity? Or will they as others have before them, become more greedy of power as they become more powerful?

We cannot tell. None of us knows whether as this old unbalance among peoples is disturbed, whether there will be greater unbalance or less, whether more confusion or more harmony, among human beings. All that we know now is that the old order passes. Whatever the outcome of this total war of mankind, the world afterwards will not be the world we know today. Freedom will be established as a principle or it will be lost, not race by race, not nation by nation, but as a human essence.

If by reason of democracy's failure the enemy prevails the future is black. Let me read what was said by a Korean a few days ago in Chungking:

"Chungking, March 4 (CNS) . . . An important difference between British colonial rule in India and Japan's ruthless subjugation of Korea was brought out by a speaker at one of the special celebrations held by the Free Koreans in Chungking this week. The speaker, a prominent government official, made the following remarks:

"When success of the freedom movement in India comes, none should forget the contributions of Gandhi's leadership and also the truth that this leadership could not even have existed under any but British colonial rule. In the present age of nationalism, Korea, Formosa and Indo-China could hardly fail to have their own Gandhis. But could the Japanese possibly tolerate the presence of such leaders in Korea and Formosa? Could the French tolerate the presence of a revolutionary leader in Indo-China? Naturally they would be either deported or killed.

"Yet Britain can and has let the Gandhi Movement in India grow for twenty years and allowed the leader open organization and every known propaganda facility. When Gandhi was put in jail, in London there were students and laborers holding demonstrations for his release. When Gandhi fasted all Britain showed concern for his life. The presence of Mr. Gandhi is not only due to his own greatness but also to the comparatively enlightened policy of the British authorities. To be just one must recognize that the presence of Gandhi in India represents not only the honor of India but also reflects the essentially democratic spirit of the British people."

Yet cowardice and greed have been the controlling forces in the old order, lightened only by individual and sporadic efforts for freedom. Our American revolution was one of the greatest of the efforts but we were not able to maintain freedom for all as a password. We lost it in our treatment of the colored American. The French revolution was another great effort, but France lost the password in greed. China is in the midst of her revolution, delayed by the war. Much has been accomplished, but even in China the password could be lost in party politics. India's great revolution has barely begun. Will she remember the password of freedom for all, or will she think only of revenge? Who can measure the spirit of a people? And Russia, whose great effort has beenmade, will she know that there is no freedom in the world unless there is freedom for all? Will she stop fighting when the rivalry is out of her? Who can tell?

Those who wage this war for freedom must have the widest possible understanding of what freedom means, or it will be lost however the armies win it. Sooner or later there will be war again and war and war again, unless this one issue of freedom for all is put into the bedrock of human life, as essential as bread and air and water. So long as it is a side issue, or only a slogan, it is nothing at all, and what we are fighting for in this war is the same old sickening inadequacy of a few dominant powerful people and all the rest unsatisfied and rebellious and brooding the next war before the ink is dry on the treaty of an unreal peace.

It is a moral issue, this principle of freedom for all and as a moral issue it is the most practical in the world. If we have learned anything it is that without capacity for moral integrity, for a principle none continues. Had this one principle of freedom for all been maintained after the last war, and all questions measured by it and all problems adjusted to it, there would have been no war today. If after this war all questions again are not measured by it and problems adjusted to it, there will be no peace. When can we learn to realize that greed and revenge and unjust power are the most costly and impractical things in the world? They have cost us billions of dollars and millions of lives in the past, and now they will cost us that again.

Freedom for all—that is a meaning of this war, or it has no meaning. Where is the front? Wherever men find themselves opposed to those who are fighting for themselves, their race, their own aggrandizement, their own power, at the expense of freedom for all. These are the enemy under whatever flag they fight. These will make us lose the war, even if our armies win it.

Somehow that must be impressed upon peoples' minds and hearts, not only upon those who are trying to hold the present to the scheme of the past, but upon the minds and hearts of those who may be rising to new power. Upon the inexorable returns of injustice and the denial of freedom, the old order is passing. It is all but too late to impress upon those who were in power the facts of today, that only a complete moral change will save them any place at all. Yet it is not quite too late. There are those who see the shape of the future clearly.

But if they should not be strong enough to win this boundless war, if the old forces win, headed by Hitler and Togo, and Mussolini, but indeed supported by many who are not German or Japanese or Italian, then in that order freedom will be lost except as a memory.

And yet it is not likely that the old forces will win. There are immense new forces coming into this war. Revolutions are pouring in their new blood. Is it really new blood? Who can tell? If the new world they make is shaped on the old lines of partisan greed and racial revenge, it will be the same order, whoever sits at its head. But there is the hope that if the peoples of the East are free that they will be great enough to make freedom the universal law. There is this hope. But who can tell?

But I believe that we are coming to understand democracy today as never before. It has taken the knowledge of what tyranny is to make us see what democracy must be. Democracy is political freedom combined with human equality. Unless the democratic nations practice both political freedom and human equality, democracy will fail. Thus India, when she is politically freed, must solve the great human inequalities among her people.

We Americans have the same task. Our people havepolitical freedom, but not human equality. Our civil war rid us of the slave system, but did not give the freed human equality.

The people of China have human equality, but not political equality.

We are all partial democracies—but what a great struggle it is—the most ennobling that the human mind has ever conceived—that people must be free, that there must be human equality in the world.

This is what we fight for, and the victory must be ours.