Two paths are open before India today, either to introduced the Western principle of “Might is Right” or to uphold the Eastern principle that truth alone conquers, that truth knows no mishap, that the strong and the weak have alike a right to secure justice. The choice is to begin with the labouring class. Should the labourers obtain an increment in their wages by violence, even if that be possible? They cannot resort to anything like violence howsoever legitimate may be their claims. To use violence for securing rights may seem an easy path, but it proves to be thorny in the long run. Those who live by the sword die also by sword. The swimmer often dies by drowning. Look at Europe. No one seems to be happy there, for, not one is contended. The labourer does not trust the capitalist and the capitalist has no faith in labourer. Both have a sort of vigour and strength but even the bulls have it. They fight to the very bitter end. All motion is not progress. We have got no reason to believe that the people of Europe are progressing. Their possession of wealth does not argue the possession of any moral or spiritual qualities. King Duryodhana was a master of untold wealth, but with all that he was a pauper in comparison with Vidura and Sudama. Today the world adores Vidura and Sudama, whereas, Duryodhana’s name is remembered only as a byword for the evil qualities one should shun.<
…In the struggle between capital and labour, it
may be generally said that more often than not the capitalists are in the wrong
box. But when labour comes fully to realize its strength, I know it can become
more tyrannical than capital. The mill-owners will have to work on the terms
dedicated by labour if the latter could command intelligence of the former. It
is clear, however, that labour will never attain to that intelligence. If it
does, labour will cease to be labour and become itself the master. The
capitalists do not fight on the strength of money alone. They possess
intelligence and tact.
The question before us is this: When the labourers,
remaining what they are, develop a certain consciousness, what should be there
course? It would be suicidal if the labourers rely upon their numbers or
brute-force, i.e. violence. By so doing they will do harm to industries in the
country. If on the other hand they take their stand on pure justice and suffer
in their person to secure it, not only will they always succeed but they will
reform their masters, develop industries and both master and men will be as
members of one and the same family. A satisfactory solution of the condition of
labour must include the following:
(1) The hours of labour must leave the workmen some hours of leisure;
(2) They must get facilities for their own education;
(3) Provision should be made for an adequate supply of milk, clothing and necessary education for their children;
(4) There should be sanitary dwelling for the workmen;
(5) They should be in a position to save enough to maintain themselves during their old age.
None of these conditions is satisfied today. For
this both the parties are responsible. The masters care only for the service
they get. What becomes of the labourer does not concern them. All their
endeavours are generally confined to obtaining maximum service with minimum
payment. The labourer on the other hand tries to hit upon all tricks whereby he
can get maximum pay with minimum work. The result is that although the labourers
get an increment there is no improvement in the work turned out. The relations
between the two parties are not purified and the labourers do not make proper
use of the increment they get.
A third party has sprung up between these two
parties. It has become the labourers’ friend. There is need for such a party.
Only to the extent to which this party has disinterested friendship for the
labourers can it befriend them.
A time has come now when attempts will be made to
use labour as a pawn in more ways than one. The occasion demands consideration
at the hands of those that would take part in politics. What will they choose?
Their own interest or the service of labour and the nation? Labour stands in
sore need of friends. It cannot proceed without a lead. What sort of men give
this lead will decide the condition of labour.
Strikes, cessation of work and hartal are
wonderful things no doubt, but it is not difficult to abuse them. Workmen ought
to organize themselves into strong labour unions, and on no account shall they
strike work without the consent of these unions. Strike should not be risked
without negotiation with the mill-owners. If the mill-owners resort to
arbitration, the principle of Panchayat should be accepted. And once the Pancha
are appointed, their decision must be accepted by both the parties alike,
whether they like it or not.