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PHILOSOPHY > SELECTIONS FROM GANDHI > A chapter on class war
A Chapter On Class War
Nonviolence and Exploitation
296. The principle of non-possession necessitates complete abstention from exploitation in any form.-
297.Nonviolence in the very nature of things is of no assistance in the defense of ill-gotten gains and immoral acts.—H, 5-9-36, 236.

298. In nonviolent Swaraj, there can be no encroachment upon just rights; contrariwise no one can possess unjust rights. –H, 25-3-39, 65.

299. You have said that nonviolence automatically solves unemployment. You are right, for it rules out exploitation. –H, 21-5-38, 121.
Nonviolence and Capital
300. Q. Is it possible to defend by nonviolence anything which was gained through violence?
A. It followed from what Gandhiji had said above that what was gained by violence could not only not be defended by nonviolence but the latter required the abandonment of the ill-gotten gains.
Q. Is the accumulation of capital possible except through violence whether open or tacit?
A. Such accumulation by private persons was impossible except through violent means, but accumulation by the State in a nonviolent society was not only possible, it was desirable and inevitable.
Q. Whether a man accumulates material or moral wealth, he does so only through the help or co-operation of other members of the society. Has he then the moral right to use any of it mainly for personal advantage?
A. The answer was as emphatic no.--H, I6-2-47, 25.
A Talk to Zamindars
301. Q. The Karachi Congress passed a resolution laying down the fundamental rights of the people, and since it recognized private property, nationalist zamindars have supported the Congress. But the new Socialist Party in the Congress threatens extinction of private property. How would it affect the Congress policy? Don’t you think, this will precipitate class war? Will you prevent it?
A. The Karachi Resolution can be altered only by the open session of the next Congress, but let me assure you that I shall be no party to dispossession propertied classes of their private property without just cause. My objective is to reach your heart and convert you so that you may hold all your private property in trust for your tenants and use it primarily for their welfare. I am aware of the fact that within the ranks of the Congress a new party, called the Socialist party is coming into being, and I cannot say what would happen if that party succeeds in carrying the Congress with it. But I am quite clear that if strictly honest and unchallengeable referendum of our millions were to be taken, they would not vote for the wholesale expropriation of the propertied classes. I am working for the co-operation and co-ordination of capital and labour, of landlord and tenant. It is open to you to join the Congress as much as it is open to the poorest by paying the fee of annas four and subscribing to the Congress creed.
But I must utter a not of warning. I have always told mill owners that they are not exclusive owners of mills and workmen are equal sharers in ownership. In the same way, I would tell you that ownership of your land belongs as much to the ryots as to you, and you may not squander your gains in luxurious or extravagant living, but must use them for the well-being of ryots. Once you make your ryots experience a sense of kinship with you and a sense of security that their interests as members of a family will never suffer at your hands, you may be sure that there cannot be a clash between you and them and no class war.
Class war is foreign to the essential genius of India, which is capable of evolving communism on the fundamental rights of all on equal justice. Ramarajya of my dream ensures rights alike of prince and pauper.
You may be sure that I shall throw the whole weight of my influence in preventing class war. Supposing that there is an attempt unjustly to deprive you of your property, you will find me fighting on your side.
Q. We propose to support Congress candidates in the next Assembly elections. But we have our misgivings about the policy they will adopt in the Assembly. Could you persuade the Parliamentary Board to dispel our fears?
A. I invite you to discuss the thing with the members of the Parliamentary Board. I know, however that no member will talk of expropriation or extinction of private property. They will certainly insist on radical reform in your relations with the ryots, but that should be no new thing to you. Even Sir Malcolm Haily and Lord Irwin appealed to you to realize and live up to the spirit of the time. If you will only do this, you may be sure we shall be able to evolve indigenous socialism of the purest type.
Socialism and communism of the West are based on certain conception which are fundamentally different from ours. One such conception is their belief in essential selfishness of human nature. I do not subscribe to it for I know that the former can respond to the call of the spirit in him, can rise superior to the passions that he owns in common with the brute and, therefore, superior to selfishness and violence, which belong to the brute nature and not to the immortal spirit of man. That is the fundamental conception of Hinduism, which has years of penance and austerity at the back of discovery of this truth. That is why, whilst we have had saints who have worn out their bodies and laid down their lives in order to explore the secrets of the lives in exploring the remotest or the highest regions of the earth. Our socialism or communism should, therefore, be based on nonviolence and on harmonious co-operation of labour and capital, landlord and tenant.
There is nothing in the Congress creed or policy that need frighten you. All your fears and misgivings, permit me to tell you, are those of guilty conscience. Wipe out injustices you may have been consciously or unconsciously guilty of, and shed all fear of congress and Congressmen. Once you turn a new life in relations between Zamindars and ryots, you will find us on your side guarding your private rights and property.
When I say ‘us’, I have Pandit Jawaharlal also in mind, for I am sure that on this essential principle of nonviolence there is no difference between us. He does indeed talk of nationalization of property, but it need not frighten you. The nation cannot own property except by vesting it in individuals. It simply ensures its just and equitable use, and prevents all possible misuse; and I do not think you can have any possible objection to holding your property for the benefit of the ryots. Ryots themselves have no greater ambition than to live in peace and freedom and they will never grudge your possession of property provided you use it for them.—ABP, 2-8-34.
On Class War
302.Q. Do you think co-operation between the exploited and the exploiters is at all possible to attain the ideals you stand for? Do you not think that the time has come when the Congress should take a definite stand for the rights of the landlords? Do you not think that it is not possible to organize the masses effectively on the nationalistic programme, and workers have no need of no other alternative but to array themselves against the capitalists and landlords and for the exploited tenants and labour? Do you not think that a class war is inevitable and interested classes must perish for the sake of a greater humanity?
A. I never said that there should be co-operation between the exploiter and the exploited so long as exploitation and the will to exploit persists. Only I do not believe that the capitalists and the landlords are all exploiters by an inherent necessity or that there is a basic or irreconcilable antagonism between their interests and those of the masses. All exploitation is based on co-operation, willing or forced, of the exploited. However mush we may detest admitting it, the fact remains that there would be no exploitation if people refuse to obey the exploiter. But self comes in and we hug the chains that bind us. This must cease. What is needed is not the extinction of landlords and capitalists, but a transformation of the existing relationship between them and the masses into something healthier and purer.
You ask ‘whether the time has not come when the Congress should stand for the rights of the masses as opposed to the interests of the capitalists and the landlords’. My reply is that ever since the Congress has come on the scene, it has done nothing else, whether it was dominated by the Moderates or the Extremists. From its very inception under A.O. Hume, it has sought to represent the masses. That indeed was its origin; and a study of the history of nearly half a century would prove to the hilt that congress has been all through progressively representative of the masses.
Do I not think that the time has come when congress should take a definite stand for the rights of the masses irrespective of the interests of the capitalists and the landlords? No. We, the so-called friends of the masses will only dig our and their graves if we took that stand. I would like to use the landlords and the capitalists for the service of the masses, as the late Sir Surendra Nath used to do. We must not sacrifice the interests of the masses to the capitalists. We must not play their game. We must trust them to the measure of their ability to surrender their gains for the service of the masses.
Do you think that the so-called privileged classes are altogether devoid of nationalistic sentiments? If you think so, you will be doing grave injustice to them and disservice to the cause of the masses. Are not they too exploited by the rulers? They are not insusceptible to the higher appeal. It has been my invariable experience that a kind word uttered, goes home to them. If we win their confidence and put them at their ease, we will find that they are not averse to progressively sharing their riches whit the masses.
Moreover, let us ask ourselves how mush we have done to identify ourselves with the masses. Have we bridged the gulf between the surging millions and us? Let us, who live in glass houses, not throw stones. To what extent do you share the life of the masses? I confess that with me, it is still an aspiration. We ourselves have not completely shed the habits of living that we say that the capitalists are notorious for.
The idea of class war does not appeal to me. India a class war is not inevitable, but it is avoidable if we have understood the message of nonviolence. Those who talk about class war as being inevitable, have not understood the implications of nonviolence or have understood them only skin-deep.
Q. How can the rich help the poor without the rich being poor themselves? Richness or capitalism is a system which tries to perpetuate the colossal difference between capital and labour in order to maintain its position and status. Is it therefore possible, to effect any compromise between them without greatly injuring the interests of either?
A. The rich can help the poor by using their riches not for selfish pleasure, but so as to sub serve the interests of the poor. If they do so, there will not be that unbridgeable gulf that today exists between the haves and the have-nots.
Class division there will be, but they will then be horizontal, not vertical.
Let us not be obsessed with catch-words and seductive slogans imported from the West. Have we not our distinct Eastern tradition? Are we not capable of finding our own solution to the question of capital and labour? What is the system of Varnashrama but a means of harmonizing the difference between high and low, as well as between capital and labour? All that comes from the West on this subject is tarred with the brush of violence. I object to it because I have seen the wreckage that lies at the end of this road. The more thinking set even in the West today stand aghast at the abyss for which their system is heading. And I owe whatever influence I have in the West to my ceaseless endeavour to find a solution which promises an escape from the vicious circle of violence and exploitation. I have been a sympathetic student of the Western social order and I have discovered that underlying the fever that fills the soul of the West there is a restless search for truth. I value that spirit. Let us study our Eastern institutions in that spirit of scientific enquiry and we shall evolve a truer socialism and a truer communism than the world has yet dreamed of. It is surely wrong to presume that Western socialism or communism is last word on the question of mass poverty.—ABP, 3-8-34.

303. Gandhiji wanted to say a few words to the workmen in the workmen’s locality. He hoped that there was no distinction between the Hindus and the Muslims in labour. They were all labourers. If the communal canker entered the labour ranks, both will weaken labour and therefore themselves and the country. Labour was a great leveller of all distinctions. If they realized that truth, he would like them to go a step further. Labour, because it chose to remain unintelligent, either became subservient or insolently believed in damaging capitalists’ goods and machinery or even in killing capitalists. He was a labourer by conviction and a bhangi. As such his interests were bound with those of labour. As such he wished to tell them that violence would eggs. What he had been saying for years was that labour was far superior to capital. Without labour, gold, silver and copper were a useless burden. It was labour which extracted precious ore from the bowels of the earth. He could quit conceive labour existing without metal. Labour was priceless, not gold. He wanted marriage between capital and labour. They could work wonders in co-operation. But that could happen only when labour was intelligent enough to co-operate with itself and then offer co-operation with capital on terms of honourable equality. Capital controlled labour because it know the art of combination. Drops in separation could only fade away; drops in co-operation made the ocean which carried on its broad bosom ocean greyhounds. Similarly, if all the labourers in any part of the world combined together they could not be tempted by higher wages or helplessly allow themselves to be attracted for, say a pittance. A true and nonviolent combination of labour would act like a magnet attracting to it all the needed capital. Capitalists would then exist only as trustees. When that happy day dawned, there would be no difference between capital and labour. Then labour will have ample food, good and sanitary dwellings, all the necessary education for their children, ample leisure for self-education and proper medical assistance. –H, 7-9-47, 3II.

304. The correspondent is wrong in suggesting that I do not believe in the existence of class struggle. What I do not believe in is the necessity of fomenting and keeping it up. I entertain a growing belief that it is perfectly possible to avoid it. There is no virtue in fomenting it, as there is in preventing it. The conflict between monied classes and labourers is merely seeming. When labour is intelligent enough to organize itself and learns to act as one man, it will have the same weight as money if not much greater. The conflict is really between intelligence and unintelligence. Surely it will be folly to keep up such a conflict. Unintelligence must be removed.
Money has its use as much as labour. After all money is a token of exchange. A person having 25 rupees has say 50 labourers per day at his disposal, regarding 8 as. as the wage for a day of eight hours. A labourer who has 49 fellow labourers working in unison with the person who has Rs. 25. The advantage, if any, will be with the one who has monopoly of labour. If both are even there will be harmony. The problem therefore is not to set class against class, but to educate labour to a sense of its dignity. Monied men after all form a microscopic minority in the world. They will act on the square, immediately labour realizes its power and yet acts on the square. To inflame labour realizes its power and yet acts on the square. To inflame labour against monied men is to perpetuate class hatred and all the evil consequences flowing from it. The strife is a vicious circle to be avoided at any cost. It is an admission of weakness, a sign of inferiority complex. The moment labour recognizes its own dignity, money will find its rightful place, i.e. it will be held in trust for labour. For labour is more than money. –H, I6-I0-45, 285.
Liquidating Class Interests by Conversion
305. Exploitation of the poor can be extinguished not by effecting the destruction of a few millionaires, but by removing the ignorance of the poor and teaching them to non-co-operate with their exploiters. That will convert the exploiters also. I have even suggested that ultimately it will lead to both being equal partners. Capital as such is not evil; it is its wrong use that is evil. Capital in some form or other will always be needed. –H, 28-7-40, 2I9. cf. 326, 364.

306. The money-lender who is inevitable today will gradually eliminate himself.
Q. But what about the Zamindars? Would you eliminate him? Would you destroy him?
A. I do not want to destroy the Zamindars, but neither do I feel that the Zamindars is inevitable. I expect to convert the Zamindars and other capitalists by the non-violent method, and therefore there is for me nothing like an inevitability of class conflict. For it is an essential part of non-violence to go along the line of least resistance. The moment the cultivators of the soil realize their power, the Zamindars evil will be sterilized. What can the poor Zamindars do when they say that they will simply not work the land unless they are paid enough to feed and clothe and educate themselves and their children in a decent manner. In reality the toiler is the owner of what he produces. If the toiler is the owner of what he produces. If the toilers intelligently combine, they will become an irresistible power. That is how I do not see the necessity of class conflict. If I though it inevitable, I should not hesitate to preach it and teach it. -H, 5-I2-36, 338.

307. (Speaking to the vast crowd gathered at the public meeting at Brindaban, Bihar, Gandhiji said:)
I believe that they land you cultivate should belong to you, but it cannot be your own all at once, you cannot force it from the Zamindars. Non-violence is the only way, consciousness of your own power is the only way, consciousness of your own power is the only way.—H, 20-5-39, 133.

308. Real socialism has been handed down to us by our ancestors who taught: ‘All land belongs to Gopal, where then is the boundary line? Man is the maker of that line and he can therefore unmake it.’ Gopal literally means shepherd; it also means God. In modern language it means the state i.e. the People. That the land today does not belong to the people is too true. But the fault is not in the teaching. It is in us who have not lived up to it.
I have no doubt that we can make as good an approach to it as is possible for any nation, not excluding Russia, and that without violence. The most effective substitute for violent dispossession is the wheel with all its implications. Land and all property is his who will work it. Unfortunately the workers are or have been kept ignorant of this simple fact.
Continuous unemployment has induced in the people a kind of laziness which is most depressing. Thus whilst the alien rule is undoubtedly responsible for the growing pauperism of the people, we are more responsible for the it. If the middle-class people, who betrayed their trust and bartered away the economic independence of India for a mess of pottage, would now realize their error and take the message of the wheel to the villagers and induce them to shed their laziness and work at the wheel, we can
ameliorate the condition of the people to a great extent. –H, 2-I-37, 375.
The Farmer’s Share
309. Q. We agree that intrinsically a movement for reducing the share of the owner from half to a third of the crop is justified. But could not the present Tebhaga Movement in Bengal be postponed until such time as the affected persons can be smoothly absorbed in other occupations according to some long-term plan sponsored by the state?
We know you have said that the only way to effect such a radical transformation in society is through non-violence. But interested parties will sleep over that portion of your advice and parade your moral support to their demand and carry on the Movement in their own violent way. Hence, is it not wrong for you to lend support to the Movement under the present circumstances when there is every chance of the entire middle class of Bengal being completely ruined as a result? The common villager will also suffer no less because he will also be deprived of the services now being rendered to the village economy by them.
A. In reply, Gandhiji uttered the warning that he only dealt with principles as he know them. He had not studied the local question. Therefore, the questioner ran the risk of his ignorance causing injustice.
He felt that the question betrayed exaggeration on the part of the questioner. There was no ruin impending the landlord. His land was not being confiscated. His portion, which he could take even if he was in Timbuktu, was merely to be reduced from 50% to 33%. He could see no ruin in the proposal. He was afraid that they were too much obsessed by the communal question. They should rise above it and examine every problem strictly on merits. Then they would never go wrong. Therefore they should accept the moral principle underlying the demand for reduction of the owner’s share and work for solid amendments in which they were likely to succeed. Let them not face confiscation rather than moderate reduction. Let them remember that for years past India had been ruined and both the artisans as well as the farmers of India had been progressively reduced to poverty.
If the desired change were brought about through non-violent means. The world would not be deprived of the talents of the classes, but them the latter would not exercise them at the expense of the labourers. In the nonviolent order of the future, the land would belong to the state, for had it not been said ‘sabhi bhumi Gopalki’? Under such dispensation, there would be no waste of talents and labour. This would be impossible through violent means. It was therefore a truism to say that the utter ruin of the landowner brought about through violence would also involve the ruin of the labourers in the end. If the landowners, therefore, acted wisely, no party would lose. –H, 9-3-47, 57.

310. I am not ashamed to own that many capitalists are friendly towards me and do not fear me. They know that I desire to end capitalism almost, if not quite, as much as the most advanced socialist or even communist. But our methods differ, our languages differ. My theory of ‘trusteeship’ is no make-shift, certainly no camouflage. I am confident that it will survive all other theories. It has the sanction of philosophy and religion behind it. That possessors of wealth have not acted up to the theory does not prove its falsity; it proves the weakness of the wealthy. No other theory is compatible with non-violence. In the non-violent method the wrong-doer compasses his own end, If he does not undo the wrong. For either through non-violent non-co-operation he is made to see his error, or he finds himself completely isolated. –H, I6-I2-39, 376.
For the Princes
311. A kind of nervousness creeps over me as I think of the princes of India, although I have the privilege of knowing many and some even intimately. My nervousness arises from the painful knowledge that they are a creation of the British rulers. Though some of them pre-existed before the British advent, their existence thereafter depended solely on British goodwill, which in its turn depended upon the price the then incumbents paid for that commodity. The present incumbents are sole creation of the Imperial power. Its simple frown can undo them.
The Empire is going either by the will of the British people or by the force of circumstances beyond their control. India shall not always be a slave country. Will the Princes march with the times or must they remain tied to the Imperial chariot-wheel?
This I admit is a heroic step. They can adopt the middle course. They may earn the goodwill of their people by sharing their powers with them. But they may certainly hope to retain much if they can secure the contentment and active co-operation of the people within their jurisdiction, in the administration of their own affairs. I think it is wrong of the Princes to let their critics say of their people that they are too backward to deserve freedom. It is a reflection on them. The people in the States belong to the same stock as those outside their borders. The Princes can lose nothing by being liberal. And they can lose everything by holding on to their autocracy.
For my part I desire not abolition, but conversion of their autocracy into trusteeship, not in name but in reality. The arbitrary powers they enjoy should go. The liberty of the people should not depend upon the will of an individual however noble and ancient may be his decent. Nor can any person, whether prince or a princely Zamindars or merchant, be the sole owner and disposer of possessions hereditary of self-acquired. Every individual must have the fullest liberty to use his talents consistently with equal use by his neighbours but no one is entitled to the arbitrary use of the gains from the talents. He is part of the nation or say the social structure surrounding him. Therefore he can only use his talents not for self only but for the social structure of which he is but a part and on whose sufferance he lives. The present inequalities are surely due to people’s ignorance. With a growing knowledge of their natural strength, the inequalities must disappear. If the revolution is revolution is about by violence the position will be reversed, but not altered for the better. With nonviolence, i.e. conversion, the new era which people hope for must be born. My approach and appeal are in terms of nonviolence pure and undefiled. The French have a noble motto in Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. It is a heritage not for the French only but for all mankind.
What the French never realized is open to us to do. Will the Princes and the princely land-holders and merchants take the lead? It is for them to take the lead not for the have-nots, who have nothing to share with anybody except their pauperism and abjectness. I am addressing weekly appeals to the British Power. They are made exactly in the same friendly spirit as this is. The British may not respond. If the haves, who are in fact the pillars on which the mighty British Power rests, can realize their obvious duty, the British Power must yield. It was because I had despaired of response from the pillars, that I have thought of moving the masses on whom the pillars rest. I may not leave a single stone unturned to avoid, if I can, what is undoubtedly a great risk. Hence this appeal. –H, 2-8-42, 249.
The Theory of Trusteeship
312. Q. You have asked rich men to be trustees. Is it implied that they should give up private ownership in their property and create out of it a trust valid in the eyes of law and managed democratically? How will the successor of the present incumbent be determined on his demise?
A. In answer Gandhiji said that he adhered to the position taken by him years ago that everything belonged to God and was from god. Therefore it was for His people as a whole, not for a particular individual. When an individual had more than his proportionate portion he became a trustee of that portion for God’s people.
God who was all-powerful had no need to store. He created from day to day, hence men also should in theory live from day to day and not stock things. If this truth was imbibed by the people generally, it would become legalized and trusteeship would become a legalized institution. He wished it became a gift from India to the world. Then there would be no exploitation and no reserves as in Australia and other countries for White men and their posterity. In these distinctions lay the seeds of a war more virulent than the last two. As to the successor, the trustee in office would have the right to nominate his successor subject to legal sanction. - H, 23-2-47, 39.

313. Q. How would the successor of a trustee be determined? Will he only have the right of proposing a name, the right of finalization being vested in the State?
A. As he had said yesterday, choice should be given to the original owner who became the first trustee, but the choice must be finalized by the state. Such arrangement puts a check on the state as well as the individual.
Q. When the replacement of private by public property thus takes place through the operation of the theory of trusteeship, will the ownership vest in the state, which is an instrument of violence, or in associations of a voluntary character like village communes and municipalities, which may, of course, derive their final authority from state-made laws?
A. That question involved some confusion of thought. Legal ownership in the transformed condition was vested in the trustee, not in the state. It was in order to avoid confiscation that the doctrine of trusteeship came into play, retaining for society the ability of the original owner in his own right. Nor did he, the speaker, hold that the state must always be based on violence. It might be so in theory, but the practice of the theory demanded a state which would for the most part be based on non-violence. –H, 16-2-47, 25.

314. To the landlords he said that if what was said against them was true, he would warn them that their days were numbered. They could no longer continue as lords and masters. They had a bright future if they became the trustees of the poor kisans. He had in mind not trustees in name but in reality. Such trustees would take nothing for themselves that their labour and care did not entitle them to. Then they would find that no law would be able to touch them. The kisans would be their friends. –H, 4-5-47, 134.

315. Q. You say that a Raja, a Zamindars or a capitalist should be a trustee for the poor. Do you think that any such exist today? Or do you expect them to be so transformed?
A. I think that some very few exist even today, though not in the full sense of the term. They are certainly moving in that direction. It can, however, be asked whether the present Rajas and others can be expected to become trustees of the poor. If they do not become trustees of their own accord, force of circumstances will compel the reform unless they court utter destruction. When Panchayat Raj is established, public opinion will do what violence can never do. The present power of the Zamindars, the capitalists and the Rajas can hold sway only so long as the common people do not realize their own strength. If the people non-co-operate with the evil of Zamindars of capitalism, it must die of inanition. In Panchayat Raj only the Panchayat will be obeyed and the Panchayat can only work through the laws of their making. –H, I-6-47, I72.