Village Development & Economy of Country
The Present State in India
Little do town-dwellers know how the semi-starved masses of India are slowly sinking to lifelessness. Little do they know that their miserable comfort represents the brokerage, they get for the work they do for the foreign exploiter, that the profits and the brokerage are sucked from the masses. Little do they realize that the Government established by law in British India is carried on for this exploitation of the masses. No sophistry, on jugglery in figures can explain away the evidence that the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye. I have no doubt whatsoever that both England and the town-dwellers of India will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity which is perhaps unequalled in history.
The Root Cause
The present distress is undoubtedly insufferable. Pauperism must go But industrialism is no remedy. The evil does not lie in the use of bullock-carts. It lies in our selfishness and want of consideration for our neighbours. If we have no love for our neighbours, no change, however revolutionary, can do us any good.
I would destroy that system today, if had the power. I would use the most deadly weapons, if I believed that they would destroy it. I refrain only because the use of such weapons would only perpetuate the system though it may destroy its present administrators. Those who seek to destroy men rather than manners, adopt the latter and become worse then those whom they destroy under the mistaken belief that the manners will die with the men. They do not know the root of the evil.
The question about railways and telegraphs is really too insignificant in relation to the great doctrine I have just discussed. I am not myself banishing the personal use of these conveniences myself. I certainly do not expect the nation to discard their use nor do I expect their disuse under Swaraj. But I do expect the nation under Swaraj not to believe, that these agencies necessarily advance our moral growth or are indispensable for our material progress.
Machinery in the Ideal Condition
‘Ideally would you not rule out all machinery?’ Ideally, however, I would rule out all machinery, even as I would reject this very body, which is not helpful to salvation, and seek the absolute liberation of the soul. From that point of view, I would reject all machinery, but machines will remain, because like the body, they are inevitable. The body itself, itself, as I told you, is the purest piece of mechanism; but if it is a hindrance to the highest flights of the soul, it has to be rejected.
Machinery, The Practical Side
Machinery has its place; it has come to stay. But it must not be allowed to displace necessary human labour. An improved plough is a good thing. But if by some chances, one man could plough up by some mechanical invention of his the whole of the land of India, and control all the agricultural produce and if the millions had no other occupation, they would starve, and being idle, they would become dunces, as many have already becomes. There is hourly danger of many more being reduced to that unenviable state.
I would welcome every improvement in the cottage machine, but I know that it is criminal to displace hand-labour by the introduction of power-driven spindles unless one is at the same time ready to give millions of farmers some other occupation in their homes.
That use of machinery is lawful which subserves the interest of all.
I would favour the use of the most elaborate machinery if thereby India’s pauperism and resulting idleness be avoided. I have suggested hand-spinning as the only ready means of driving away penury and making famine of work and wealth impossible. The spinning wheel itself is a piece of valuable machinery, and in my own humble way I have tried to secure improvements in it in keeping with the special conditions of India.
‘Are you against all machinery?’
My answer is emphatically, ‘No’. But, I am against its indiscriminate multiplication. I refuse to be dazzled by the seeming triumph of machinery. I am uncompromisingly against all destructive machinery. But simple tools and instruments and such machinery as saves individual labour and lightens the burden of machinery as saves individual labour and lightens the burden of the millions of cottages, I should welcome.
What I object to, is the craze for machinery as such. The craze is for what they call labour-saving machinery. Men go on ‘saving labour’, till thousands are without work and thrown on the open streets to die of starvation. I want to save time and labour, not for a fraction of mankind, but for all; I want the concentration of wealth, not in the hands of few, but in the hands of all. Today machinery merely helps a few to ride on the back of millions. The impetus behind it ail is not the philanthropy to save labour, but greed. It is against this constitution of things that I am fighting with all my might.
‘Then you are fighting not against machinery as such, but against its abuses which are so much in evidence today.’
I would unhesitatingly say ‘yes’; but I would add that scientific truths and discoveries should first of all cease to be mere instruments of greed. Then labourers will not be over-worked and machinery, instead of becoming a hindrance, will be a help. I am aiming, not at eradication of all machinery, but limitation.
‘When logically argued out, that would seem to imply the all complicated power-driven machinery should go.’
It might have to go but I must make one thing clear. The supreme consideration is man. The machine should not tend to make atrophied the limbs of man. For instance, I would make intelligent exceptions. Take the case of the Singer Sewing Machine. It is one of the few useful things ever invented, and there is a romance about the device itself. Wife labouring over the tedious process of sewing and seaming with her own hands, and simply out of his love for her he devised the Sewing hands, and simply out of his love for her he devised the Sewing Machine in order to save her from unnecessary labour. He, however, saved not only her labour but also the labour of everyone who could purchase a sewing machine.
‘But in that case there would have to be a factory for making these Singer Sewing Machines, and it would have to contain power-driven machinery of ordinary type.’
Yes, but I am socialist enough to say that such factories should be nationalized, or State-controlled. They ought only to be working under the most attractive and ideal conditions, not for profit, but for the benefit of humanity, love taking the place of greed as the motive. It is an alteration in the condition of labour that I want. This mad rush for wealth must cease and the labourer must be assured, not only of a living wage, but a daily task that is not a mere drudgery. The machine will, under these conditions, be as much a help to the man working it as to the State or the man who owns it. The present mad rush will cease, and the labourer will work (as I have said) under attractive and ideal conditions. This is but one of the exceptions I have in mind. The Sewing Machine had love at its back. The individual is the one supreme consideration. The saving of labour of the individual should be the object, and honest humanitarian consideration, and not greed, the motive. Replace greed by love and everything will come right.
‘You are against this machine age, I see.’
To say that is to caricature my views. I am not against machinery as such, but I am totally opposed to it when it masters us.
‘You would not industrialize India?
I would indeed, in my sense of the term. The village communities should be revived. Indian villages produced and supplied to the Indian town and cities all their wants. India became impoverished when our cities become foreign markets and began to drain the villages dry by dumping cheap and shoddy goods from foreign lands.
‘You would then go back to the natural economy?’
Yes. Otherwise I should go back to the city. I am quite capable of running a big enterprise, but I deliberately sacrificed the ambition, not as a sacrifice, but because my heart rebelled against it. For I should have no share in the spoliation of the nation which is going on from day to day. But I am industrializing the village in a different way.
Large-scale Production and Our Economic Problem
Our mill cannot today spin enough for our wants, and if they did, they will not keep down prices unless they were compelled. They are frankly money-makers and will not therefore regulate prices according to the needs of the nation. Hand-spinning is therefore designed to the put millions of rupees in the hands of poor villagers. Every agricultural country requires a supplementary industry to enable the peasants to utilize the spare hours. Such industry for India has always been spinning. Is it such a visionary ideal- an attempt to revive an ancient occupation whose destruction has brought on slavery, pauperism and disappearance of the inimitable artistic talents which was once all expressed in the wonderful fabric of India and which was the envy of the world?
We want to organize our national power not by adopting the best methods of production only, but by the best method of both the production and distribution. What India needs is not the concentration of capital in a few hands, but its distribution so as to be within easy reach of the 71/2 lakhs of villages that make this continent 1900 miles long and 1500 miles broad.
Multiplication of mills cannot solve the problem. They can only cause concentration of money and labour and thus make confusion worse confounded.
India should wear no machine-made clothing whether it comes out of European mills or Indian mills (written in 1909).
Do I seek to destroy the mill industry, I have often been asked. If I did, I should not have pressed for the abolition of the excise duty. I want the mill industry to prosper-only I do not want it to prosper at the expense of the country. On the contrary, if the interests of the country demand that the industry should go, I should let it go without the slightest compunction.
The great mill industry may be claimed to be Indian industry. But, in spite of its ability to compete with Japan and Lancashire, it is an industry that exploits the masses and deepens their poverty in exact proportion to its success over Khadi. In the modern craze for wholesale industrialization, my presentation has been questioned, if not brushed aside. It has been contended that the growing poverty of the masses, due to the progress of industrialization, is inevitable, and should therefore be suffered. I do not consider the evil to be inevitable, let alone to be suffered. The A.I.S.A. has successfully demonstrated the possibility of the villages manufacturing the whole of the cloth requirement of India, simply by employing the leisure hours of the nation in spinning and the anterior processes. The difficulty lies in weaning the nation from the use of mill cloth. This is not the place to discuss how it can be done. My purpose in this note was to give my definition of Indian industry in terms of the millions of villagers, and my reason for that definition.
The Economics of Khadi
The science of Khadi requires decentralization of production and consumption, Consumption should take place as nearly as possible where Khadi is produced.
The central fact of Khaddar is to make every village self-supporting for its food and clothing.
Self-sufficient Khadi will never succeed without cotton being grown by spinners themselves or practically in every village. It means decentralization of cotton cultivation so far at least as self-sufficient Khadi is concerned.
Khaddar does not seek to destroy all machinery but it dies regulate its use and check its weedy growth. It uses machinery for the service of the poorest in their own cottages. The wheel is itself an ezqu8isite piece of machinery.
I am personally opposed to great trusts and concentration of industries by means of elaborate machinery. If India takes to Khaddar and all it means, I do not lose the hope of India taking only as much of the modern machinery as may be considered necessary for the amenities of life and for labour-saving purposes.
Mass Production Vs. Production by the Masses
I would categorically state my conviction that the mania for mass-production is responsible for the world-crisis. Granting for the moment that machinery may supply all the needs of humanity, still, it would concentrate production in particular areas, so that you would have to go about in a round about way to regulate distribution, whereas, if there is production and distribution both in the respective areas where things are required, it is automatically regulated, and there is less chance for fraud, none for speculation.
You see that these nations (Europe and America) are able to exploit the so-called weaker or unorganised races of the world. Once these races gain an elementary knowledge and decide that they are no more going to be exploited. They will simply be satisfied with that they can provide themselves. Mass-production, then, at least where the vital necessities are concerned, will disappear.
When production and consumption both become localized, the temptation to speed up production, indefinitely and at any price, disappears. All the endless difficulties and problems that jour present-day economic system presents, too, world then come to an end.
There could be no unnatural accumulation of hoards in the pockets of the few, and want in the midst of plenty in regard to the rest.
‘Then, you do not envisage mass-production as an ideal future of India?
Oh yes, mass-production, certainly, but not based on force. After all, the message of the spinning wheel is that. It is mass-production, but mass-production in people’s own homes. If you multiply individual production to millions of times, would it not give you mass-production on a tremendous scale? But I quite understand that your "mass-production" is a technical term for production by the fewest possible number through the aid of highly complicated machinery. I have said to myself that that is wrong. My machinery must be of the most elementary type which I can put in the homes of the millions.
‘So, you are opposed to machinery, only because and when it concentrates production and distribution in the hands of the few?’
You are right, I hate privilege and monopoly. Whatever cannot be shared with the masses is taboo to me. That is all.
The Principle of Planning for India
Q. The Government has been introducing schemes of industrializing the country for the maximum utilization of her raw materials, not of her abundant and unused man-power which is left to (take care of itself as best as it can). Can such schemes be considered Swadeshi?
Gandhiji remarked that the question had been well put. He did not exactly know what the Government plan was. But he heartily endorsed toe proposition that any plan which exploited the raw materials of a country and neglected the potentially more powerful man-power was lopsided and could never tend to establish human equality.
America was the most industrialized country in the world and yet it had not banished poverty and degradation. That was because it neglected the universal man-power and concentrated power in the hands of the few who amassed fortunes at the expense of the many. The result was that its industrialization had become a menace to its own poor and to the rest of the world.
If India was to escape such disaster, it had to imitate what was best in America and the other Western countries and leave aside its attractive looking but destructive economic policies. Therefore, real planning consisted in the best utilization of the whole man-power of India and the distribution of the raw products of India in her numerous villages instead of sending them outside and rebuying finished articles at fabulous prices.
Decentralization and Nonviolence
I suggest that, if India is to evolve along non-violent lines, it will have to decentralize many things. Centralization cannot be sustained and defended without adequate force. Simple homes from which there is nothing to take away require no policing; the palaces of the rich must have strong guards to protect them against dacoity. So must huge factories. Rurally organized India will run less risk of foreign invasion than urbanized India, will equipped with military, naval and air forces.
Remember also that your nonviolence cannot operate effectively unless you have faith in the spinning wheel. I would ask you to read Hind Swaraj with my eyes and see therein the chapter on how to make India nonviolent. You cannot build nonviolence on a factory civilization, but it can be built on self-contained villages. Even if Hitler was so minded, he could not devastate even hundred thousand nonviolent villages. He would himself become nonviolent in the process. Rural economy as I have conceived it, eschews exploitation altogether, and exploitation is the essence of violence. You have, therefore, to be rural-minded before you can be nonviolent, and to be rural-minded you have to have faith in the spinning wheel.
The end to be sought is human happiness combined with full mental and moral growth. I use the adjective moral as synonymous with spiritual. This end can be achieved under decentralization. Centralization as a system is inconsistent with nonviolent structure of society.
Q. Some women workers who earn part of their living by weaving mats were advised by you the other day to work on co-operative principles. Bengal’s agriculture has been reduced to an uneconomic proposition through extreme fragmentation of holdings. Would you advise farmers also to adopt co-operative methods?
If so, how are they to effect this under the present system of land-ownership? Should the State make the necessary changes in the law? If the State is not ready, but the people so desire, in the law? If the State is not ready, but the people so desire, how are they to work through their own organizations to this end?
A. Replying to the first part of the question, Gandhiji said that he had no doubt that the system of co-operation was far more necessary for the agriculturists than for the mat-weavers. The land, as he maintained, belonged to the State; therefore, it yielded the largest return when it was worked co-operatively.
Le it be remembered that co-operation should be based on strict non-violence. There was no such thing as success of violent co-operation. Hitler was a forcible example of the latter. He also talked vainly of co-operation which was forced upon the people and everyone knew where Germany had been led as a result.
Gandhiji concluded by saying that it would be a sad thing if India also tried to build up the new society based upon co-operation by means of violence. Good brought about through force destroyed individuality. Only when the change was effected through the persuasive power of non-violent non-co-operation, i.e. love, could the foundation of individuality be preserved and real, abiding progress be assured for the world.
Q. At East Keroa (in Noakhali) you advised peasants to work co-operatively in their fields. Should thy pool together their land and divide the crop in proportion to the area of the fields they held? Would you give us an outline of the idea of how exactly they are to work in a cooperative manner?
A. Gandhiji said that the question was good and admitted of a simple answer. His notion of co-operation was that the land would be held in co-operation by the owners and tilled and cultivated also in co-operation. This would cause a saving of labour, capital, tools etc. The owners would work in co-operation and own capital, tools, animals, seeds etc. in co-operation. Co-operative farming of his conception would change the face of the land and banish poverty and idleness from their midst. All this was only possible if people became friends of one another and as one family. When that happy event took place there would be no ugly sore in the form of a communal problem.