Aung San of Burma

An Address to the Anglo-Burmans

I have come here at your bidding and I am to do so. The welfare of all people of this country irrespective of race or religion has always been the one purpose that I have set out to fulfil. In fact it is my life's mission. Unfortunately, the country to which you and I belong is not yet free. Unless our nation has the freedom to plan our destiny and life in accordance with our head's vision and heart's desire, it will not be possible to promote the welfare of our people to the extent that we wish to do. At this moment my colleagues and I belonging to the AFPFL, of which I have the honour to be President, are endeavouring to carry out the main national objective, namely the question of obtaining the independence of our country as soon as possible. You might observe that my colleagues and I are Independence Wallahs and not in favour of "Dominion Status," or any other status. I do not believe that because Burma is unable to do this or that immediately that should offer any argument against her right to independence. The fitness of any nation for an independent form of government is to be judged not by the conditions and standards arbitrarily imposed upon her in her period of subjugation; it can only be judged when a nation is fully allowed to plan her destiny and to order her life freely.

Arguments are advanced against the independence of this country in many forms. One argument is that Burma will not be able to provide adequate defence as an independent entity. This argument has proved to be quite hollow when judged in the light of recent events. In the recent World War II it had been proved that no nation, not even Great Britain herself, was able to defend herself alone against external aggression on a big scale. If the criterion of a nation's ability to defend herself is to be taken as a reason for the independence of that nation, then I am afraid no nation in the world deserves to be independent. As a matter of fact only in an independent Burma can we plan our defence to the utmost limits we may be capable, and only in an independent Burma shall we be able to arouse the greatest enthusiasm on the part of the people to defend their country and only then can we hope to have the best defence structure for this country.

Another argument against the independence of our country is that we have not sufficient finance to rehabilitate and reconstruct our country. Finance is only secondary and not the main thing which we must have in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of a nation. Our country has ample natural resources which indeed form the national wealth. So long as we have such ample national wealth at our disposal and we are in a position to utilise it to the best interests of our people, the question of shortage of finance should not worry us much. After all, even Britain herself has to borrow from the United States. We may similarly have to do the same, and if a Bolshevik Russia, outlawed and ostracised for years after her revolution of their country, could get loans for her rehabilitation and reconstruction there should be no difficulty in the way of Burma getting loans from other countries.

It is also pointed out that Burma lying as it does between the two biggest countries on earth is liable to be made a pawn frequently in the game of international politics. We have no cause to become enemies either with India or China now or in the foreseeable future. As such any bogey raised on account of the juxtaposition of our country with the two biggest countries in the World is only an academic one. It may be that situated as we are adjoining one another, there may be some minor differences on local issues from time to time, but this should not affect our fundamental interrelations to any great extent.

There is also another argument advanced against the independence of Burma and that is that we have not got a sufficient number of technicians. Japan, Turkey and Russia have proved that a nation is quite capable of running on her own even without having an adequate number of technicians at the start. What these countries each in its own way have done in this matter can likewise be followed in our country, and there should be no difficulty in our case too on account of lack of sufficient technical personnel.

While there may be many more arguments advanced against the independence of Burma, they will, one and all, fall through when we examine them closely. After all most of the things advanced as arguments against our independence are, in fact, inevitable results of our own subjugation. The best way to remove these is to have our country independent as soon as possible, for this is the only way we can fashion our destiny and order our lives in accordance with our vision and to our heart's content and, in that way remove those factors that may be used as arguments against our independence.

But by saying all these do we mean to remain isolated from the rest of the world? Certainly not. The one fact from which us nation, big or small can escape is the increasing universal interdependence of nations. A free and independent Burma is quite ready to enter into any arrangement with other nations for common welfare and security, etc. In such arrangements, the question of Burma's joining the British Commonwealth of Nations will, I hope, come up as one of the first things to be considered. When I mention the British Commonwealth of Nations, I am not referring to it as it has been conceived up to now and as it stands; I am envisaging a much broader construction which can reorientate itself to changing circumstances. Speaking for myself, as an ally of Free Burma, I would rather prefer the devil we know to the other devils we don't yet know. Yet inspite of such inclination on my part, if I finally choose other devils, it will be only because I have no other alternative and am driven to that conclusion by the logical events. Our nation, as indeed all other nations, cannot live without allies. We must have our allies and friends, and if we cannot win the friendship of one, we must try the others. We cannot live alone.

I am an internationalist, but an internationalist who does not all own himself to be swept off the firm Earth. I recognise both the virtues and limitations of pure nationalism, I love its virtues, I don't allow myself to be blinded by its limitations, though I knew that it is not easy for the great majority of any nation to get over these limitations. In so far as nationalism encourages us to love our people and love others, or at least encourages us not to hate others, there I am completely with nationalism. In so far as nationalism inculcates in us a sense of national and social justice which calls upon us to fight any system that is oppressive or tyrannical both in our country and the world, there I am completely with nationalism. I hate Imperialism whether British or Japanese or Burmese.

I believe in the inherent right of a people to revolt against any tyranny that people may have over them. No doubt their own convenience should not be a cause or causes for taking that path of revolt with all the good and bad consequences what it may imply towards the life of the community. But on the other hand, history has amply demonstrated the right of a people to its own freedom, and that once it is denied to them, even in the case of the peoples who belong to the same stock such as happened in the case of the founding of the American nation after the war of American Independence. There is therefore nothing wrong in the aspirations of a nation if it wants to regain the freedom that is its birthright and attempts to have it. There also I am completely for Nationalism. I believe with Abraham Lincoln in this respect that no nation has the right to rule another nation.

If such principles that I have just mentioned are principles of nationalism, well and good and I certainly think that we should foster them and adopt them. The implications of such principles also mean in my view that every nation in the world must be free not only externally (i.e., free from any foreign rule) but also internally. That is to say that every nation in the world being a conglomeration of races and religions should develop such a nationalism as is compatible with the welfare of one and all, irrespective of race or religion or class or sex. This is my nationalism and I believe that such a nationalism is but a complement of true scientific internationalism.

Nowadays, all the world over, we cannot confine the definition of a nationality to the narrow bounds of race, religion, etc. Nations are extending the rights of their respective communities even to others who may not belong to them except by their mere residence amongst them and their determination to live and be with them. Today the AFPFL of which I am President and the Government which AFPFL is leading have declared their policies quite clearly in this respect and you know them already. I am glad to know that you regard yourselves as nationals of this country. But if you regard yourselves as nationals of this country, it should not be sufficient by mere verbal declaration; you must identify yourselves in all national activities for national welfare. Let me be perfectly frank with you-your community in the past did not happen to identify yourselves with national activities; on the other hand, you were even frequently on the other side. Now you have to prove that you want to live and to be with the people of this country, not by words but by deeds. So far as I am concerned, I am perfectly prepared to embrace you as my own brothers and sisters.

During the dark days of the recent war when members of your community, whoever were left behind in Burma, had to undergo the worst of the ordeals they ever went through, I was pained and saddened to know their plight and in my quiet way I tried what I could to alleviate their sufferings. I was indeed sorry that I could not do more. And now when you ask me to be here to address you I put some of these home truths before you in all my honesty so that you may see the writing on the wall just as much as I do. Our country will be free and the world is changing tremendously. Those facts can no longer be hidden from you and me. In these changing circumstances, it is only right that you should awaken to a new sense of values with a new consciousness. A free independent Burma has great potentialities and quite full of promises for our people. We shall have to develop our ample natural resources to the full, we shall have to build many more communications, many more Industries, etc. There will be employments far more than the people in our country may be able to absorb. We must even invite technicians and experts from abroad. I understand that there are a lot of undue apprehensions amongst you in this and other respects. I want to tell you here that you should have no apprehensions on any score provided that you choose to identify yourselves with the people of the country not merely in words but in deeds.