Speech of His Excellency, Subhas Chandra Bose, President of the Provisional Government of Free India, on the occasion of the state dinner given in his honor by His Excellency, Jose P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, Manila, November 22, 1943.
YOUR EXCELLENCIES, AND GENTLEMEN:
Words fail me as I rise in response to the toast that has just been proposed by His Excellency, the President of the Republic of the Philippines. I know, my colleagues here know, and all those who were present at the Assembly of Greater East Asiatic Nations at Tokyo also know that Your Excellency has spoken not the language of convention but the language of the heart. Ever since my colleagues and I have had the privilege of meeting Your Excellency and the members of the Philippine Delegation, and ever since we have had the privilege of listening to Your Excellency, we have all discussed among ourselves and said to ourselves that Your Excellency and the members of the Philippine Delegation have won our hearts. How they have won our hearts I cannot say. It is only the heart that can appeal to the heart. We realize what a great honor Your Excellency and the Government and the people of this country have conferred upon us. And while appreciating this honor we at the same time feel—and feel deeply—how little we deserve that great honor. My only hope is that we may one day prove to be worthy, in some small measure, of the honor that has been bestowed on us. And Your Excellency, may I also add that during this visit to Japan and China, we have met with so much of affection, sympathy and respect that we feel overwhelmed. We know that as individuals we are unworthy of this great honor which we have received, and so far as I am concerned, if I have any testimonial to offer on my behalf, it is only this: that throughout my life I have been a consistent and, I believe, a determined fighter against British imperialism. What I said the other day at Tokyo, namely, that to compromise with British imperialism is to compromise with slavery, was not a passing thought. It is the inner current of my soul and throughout my life I have lived and worked according to this belief and inspiration.
As I was listening to Your Excellency’s speech just now, I was suddenly reminded of a small incident in my own life. It was in the year 1925 when I was a prisoner in the prison of Mandalay, Burma. Just before my arrest, I was the chief executive officer of the biggest municipality in India, and my arrest and imprisonment without any form of trial had created an intense agitation all over the country. One of my political colleagues had occasion to discuss with high officials of the British Government as to why a man of my position had been imprisoned without trial. I shall never forget that day and what the British official said to my friend. He stressed the fact that I was innocent of the charge which the British had leveled against me. In response to that, this official said: “Don’t talk of Bose; he is a man who will shed his blood for freedom.” Sometime after my release this friend of mine had occasion to relate this incident. When I heard it, I said to myself that no greater honor could have been bestowed upon me and I was thankful to that British official that he had estimated me thus.
Your Excellency, we have all come back from this historic assembly in Tokyo with a new inspiration. I do not think that anyone can realize the effect of this Assembly, of this historic gathering on us unless one was present in that gathering and had witnessed and heard the discussion and the proceedings. To me it has come as the fulfillment, or at least the partial fulfillment of a life’s dream—to see that after all the nations of Asia are getting together and emancipating themselves and are trying to set up a new order at Tokyo. I claim to be a spiritual child of Kubarukeuchi, of Dr. Sun Yat Sen and, in my country, of Siardas. These were some of the great personalities of Asia who could look ahead and speak to us of a Federation of Asiatic nations. As the humble follower of these great thinkers, I, in my own humble way, have endeavored to establish contact and understanding with the different nations of Asia. Today I may even make the confession that I have gone from one people to another. I have gone to my Arab friends, gone to my Persian friends, to Afghan friends, even to the Turks, m the endeavor to find out if it possible to build up some international understanding between these nations of Asia. We tried in our day to build up a little against British imperialism but that effort was no achieved. But though we might have failed for the time being, the ideals, the sentiment, our souls, thanks to Providence, thanks to the force of history, that dream is being fulfilled from another part of Asia.
There was a time when the Turks advanced into Europe with a new religion, with a new-culture, with a new message, and even conquered a large portion of Europe. Many peoples had hoped that the Turks would succeed at least in that part of Asia which was oppressed by Western imperialism, but that hope did not materialize and it was destined that the move for setting up an international order in Asia on the basis of the principles of justice and morality and national sovereignty should begin from the land of the Rising Sun. Consequently, this historic assembly from which we have now returned is, to me, at least, the fulfillment of a long-cherished dream of my life. So far as Your Excellencies are concerned, I may say that though I have never had the opportunity and the privilege of meeting the freedom-fighters from the Philippines, many people in India and I have studied with great interest the struggle of the Filipino nation for their own freedom. In fact, there was a time when we believed that perhaps America would set a new example in the domain of international relations. We, who were sick of British oppression and British imperialism, who were determined to overthrow imperialism had one thought that perhaps America, in her policy towards the Philippines, would set an example to Britain and France. At that time there was a talk of granting full independence to the Philippines at the end of ten years. If that experiment had succeeded and if really America had come forward to grant full and unconditional independence to the Philippines then perhaps that country would have had the opportunity of assuming the moral leadership of this world. By that it would have been the first example in history of a moral discipline of a great power coming forward to grant unconditionally the independence of another nation. America had a chance. It had not risen to the occasion and, in place of that, we see today under the leadership of President Roosevelt a new imperialism which in its essence, whatever its exterior may be, in its essence is exactly the same as British or French imperialism. I was just talking to Your Excellency that perhaps in the case or French imperialism we see, socially, a better treatment towards oppressed nations. Perhaps in the case of America we see, politically, somewhat better treatment towards oppressed people. Of course, the typical example of imperialism is British imperialism which has oppressed politically, economically and socially, subject nations. But whether the French imperialism is socially a little better, or whether America treats her oppressed nations politically a little better, in essence, imperialism is the same all over the world. Speaking for myself, I may say that for the immediate future the danger and the menace to human liberty lies not in British imperialism but in the new imperialism of America. British imperialism is a decadent force. I think it is already dead. Britain can no longer in the future menace the world. The conflict that is still going on all over the world, in Greater-East Asia and in Europe will not determine the fate of the British Empire. The fate of that Empire has already been sealed. The conflict that is going on is to determine whether the future will belong to America or whether the future will give us a new order based on the principles of justice and morality. Already Americans are talking and writing seriously— and I have read many articles on that subject—about the problem of the American future. Serious writers are devoting their time on the pages of many journals discussing the problems of the coming century. America is not building world domination according to them, but in the course of the present war, America is pressing slowly but steadily with her attempt to build up her empire. And speaking of the British Empire, the German Foreign Minister very aptly remarked: “The British Empire is losing one part of its territory to its enemies and the other part to its friends.” What the German Foreign Minister said about the British Empire being divided is absolutely correct. When we see with our own eyes how the new imperialism of America is slowly but steadily spreading its tentacles all over the world and is trying to grab the British Empire, we must realize that in the future the danger and menace to human liberty will come not from British imperialism—which is already dead— but from the rising new imperialism of America.
Your Excellency will pardon me if I have digressed to other points, but I speak thus because it is really a problem of which the Peoples of Asia must be aware. We in India were enamored of America for a long time. One of our great men had one day said that America is the motherland of liberty. We used to read the story of Washington with rapture. In recent times, we have received from at least a section of the American people a great deal of sympathy in our struggle against Britain, but more than India, China is still under American imperialism. There is still unfortunately a section of the Chinese people who look up to America as a saviour. These Chinese friends, who regard the British as a thoroughly bad lot, who are sick of and disgusted by British imperialism, still think and hope that America will be a friend of China. Your Excellency, I can see in America, in the menace of American imperialism, a common problem for the Philippines, for China, for l India, and for all Asia. As soon as we Asiatics realize this menace the better will be for our own nations and for all India.
Your Excellency has very correctly and aptly remarked: our problem in India is different from that of the rest of East Asia. You have to hold and retain what you have got. You have only to repel the aggression of the enemy, but we have to fight the enemy and expel him from our soil. Nevertheless, we are conscious that in fighting the enemy in India, we are serving not merely the cause of India but, if I may say so, the cause of Asia and ultimately the cause of humanity because the British Empire constitutes Enemy No. 1 of human liberty. In this consciousness of fulfilling a great and noble task that will inspire us to great deeds in the future, as I said in Tokyo and as Your Excellency has just repeated, it does not matter whether individually we live or die in the effort to attain our national salvation. The individual often must die if the nation has to live. And speaking for ourselves, we feel everyday and every moment of lives that who lives if India dies, who dies if India lives. That is the feeling that inspires us today and will inspire us tomorrow. We are prepared for a long and hard struggle. The British Empire will fight its last battle on Indian soil, and that battle will naturally be hard and bitter. Such a big Empire cannot go down easily without fighting its last battle. We have to fight the last fight in India. We have had a repercussion in the famine, hunger, and starvation which are swiftly and steadily l sweeping over our country. We are prepared for the worse but we do not care. We have f no anxiety for the future. We are conscious at last of our historic part which India and the Indian people have to fulfill for themselves and for Asia and for India. We are conscious that Fate is behind us, and as I have said in Tokyo we were conscious of the united will and the grim determination of all emancipated nations of East Asia. We shall therefore go to battle fully confident of victory.
We are exceedingly grateful to Your Excellency, to your Government and to your people for the exceedingly warm and generous and magnanimous welcome that you have given us. This memory will remain in our hearts for all time and will inspire us to great deeds and greater deeds in the future and, Your Excellencies, gentlemen, I raise my glass to the everlasting freedom, prosperity and progress of the Filipino nation.
Source: Office of the Solicitor General Library