You are here:
PHILOSOPHY > SELECTIONS FROM GANDHI > The distribution of wealth
The Distribution Of Wealth
Nature’s Plan
269. I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use, and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else. I venture to suggest that it is the fundamental law of Nature, without exception, that Nature produces enough for our wants from day to day, and if only everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in this world, there would be no man dying of starvation in this world. But so long as we have got this inequality, so long we are thieving. I am no socialist and I do not want to dispossess those who have got possessions: but I do say that, personally, those of us who want to see light out of darkness have to follow this rule. I do not want to dispossess anybody. I should then be departing from the rule of ahimsa. If somebody else possesses more than I do, let him. But so far as my own life has to be regulated, I do say that I dare not possess anything which I do not want. In India we have got three millions of people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of a chapati containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything that we really have until these three millions are clothed and fed better. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntary starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed. - Nat, 384.

270. If all men realized the obligation of service (as an eternal moral law), they would regard it as a sin to amass wealth; and then, there would be no inequalities of wealth and consequently no famine or starvation. - ER, 58.

271. Non-possession is allied to non-stealing. A thing not originally stolen must nevertheless be classified stolen property, if one possesses it without needing it. Possession implies provision for the future. A seeker after Truth, a follower of a Law of Love cannot hold anything against tomorrow. God never stores for the morrow; He never creates more than what is strictly needed for the moment. If therefore, we repose faith in His providence, we should rest assured, that He will give us everything that we require. Saints and devotees, who have lived in such faith, have always derived a justification for it from their experience. Our ignorance or negligence of the Divine Law, which gives to man from day to day his daily bread and no more, has given rise to inequalities with al the miseries attendant upon them. The rich have a superfluous store of things which they do not need, and which are therefore neglected and wasted, while millions are starved to death for want of sustenance. If each retained possession only of what he needed, no one would be in want, and all would live in contentment. As it is, the rich are discontented no less than the poor. The poor man would fain become a millionaire, and the millionaire a multimillionaire. The rich should take the initiative in dispossession with a view to a universal diffusion of the spirit of contentment. If only they keep their own property within moderate limits, the starving will be easily fed, and will learn the lesson of contentment along with the rich. - YM, 34.

272. What was best was that nobody should possess more than he could himself use. That was the ideal society should strive to reach. - H, 2-3-47, 47.
Voluntary, not Involuntary Poverty
273. No one has ever suggested that grinding pauperism can lead to anything else than moral degradation. Every human being has a right to live and therefore to find the wherewithal to feed himself and where necessary, to clothe and house himself. But for this very simple performance we need no assistance from economists or their laws.
‘Take no thought for the morrow’ is an injunction which finds an echo in almost all the religious scriptures of the world. In well-ordered society the securing of one’s livelihood should be and is found to be the easiest thing in the world. Indeed, the test of orderliness in a country is not the number of millionaires it owns, but the absence of starvation among its masses. The only statement that has to be examined is, whether it can be laid down as a law of universal application that material advancement means moral progress.
Now let us take a few illustrations. Rome suffered a moral fall when it attained high material affluence. So did Egypt and so perhaps most countries of which we have any historical record. The descendants and kinsmen of the royal and divine Krishna too fell when they were rolling in riches. We do not deny to the Rockefellers and the Carnegies possession of an ordinary measure of morality but we gladly judge them indulgently. I mean that we do not even expect them to satisfy the highest standard of morality. With them material gain has not necessarily meant moral gain. In South Africa, where I had the privilege of associating with thousands of our countryman on most intimate terms, I observed almost invariably that the greater the possession of riches, the greater was their moral turpitude. Our rich men, to say the least, did not advance the moral struggle of passive resistance as did the poor. The rich men’s sense of self-respect was not so much injured as that of the poorest. If I were not afraid of t4reading on dangerous ground, I would even come nearer home and show how that possession of riches has been a hindrance to real growth. I venture to think that the scriptures of the world are far safer and sounder treatises on laws of economics than many of the modern text-books. - Nat, 350.
Economic Equality: The Goal
274. My ideal is equal distribution, but so far as I can see, it is not to be realized. I therefore work for equitable distribution. - YI, I7-3-27, 86.

275. Economic equality is the master key to nonviolent independence. Working for economic equality means abolishing the eternal conflict between capital and labour. It means the leveling down of the few rich in whose hands is concentrated the bulk of the nation’s wealth on the one hand, and a leveling up of the semi-starved naked millions on the other. A non-violent system of government is clearly an impossibility so long as the wide gulf between the rich and the hungry millions persists. The contrast between the palaces of New Delhi and the miserable hovels of the poor, labouring class cannot last one day in a free India in which the poor will enjoy the same power as the richest in the land. A violent and bloody revolution is a certainty one-day unless there is a voluntary abdication of riches and power that riches give and sharing them for the common good. I adhere to my doctrine of trusteeship in spite of the ridicule that has been poured upon it. It is true that it is difficult to reach. So is non-violence difficult to attain. But we made up our minds in 1920 to negotiate that steep ascent. - CP, 18.

276. The real implication of equal distribution is that each man shall have the wherewithal to supply all his natural wants and no more. For example, if one man has a weak digestion and requires only a pound, both should be in a position to satisfy their wants. To bring this ideal into being the entire social order has got to be reconstructed. A society based on non-violence cannot nature any other ideal. We may not perhaps be able to realize the goal, but we must bear it in mind and work unceasingly to near it. To the same extent as we progress towards our goal we near it. To the same extent as we progress towards our goal we shall find contentment and happiness, and to that extent too, shall we have contributed and happiness, and to that extent too, shall we have contributed towards the bringing into being of a nonviolent society.
Now let us consider how equal distribution can be brought about through non-violence. The first step towards it is for him who has made this ideal part of his being to bring about the necessary changes in his personal life. He would reduce his wants to a minimum, bearing in mind the poverty of India. His earnings would be free of dishonesty. The desire for speculation would be renounced. His habitation would be in keeping with his new mode of life. There would be self-restraint exercised in every sphere of life. When he has done all that is possible to preach this ideal among his associates and neighbours.
Indeed at the root of this doctrine of equal distribution must lie that of the trusteeship of the wealthy for superfluous wealth possessed by them. For according to the doctrine they may not possess a rupee more than their neighbours. How is this to be brought about? Non-violently? Or should the wealthy be dispossessed of their possessions? To do this we would naturally have to resort to violence. This violent action cannot benefit society. Society will be the poorer, for it will lose the gifts of a man who knows how to accumulate wealth. Therefore nonviolent way is evidently superior. The rich man will be left in possession of his personal needs and will act as a trustee for the remainder to be uses for the society. In this argument, honesty on the part of the trustee is assumed.
If however, in spite of the utmost effort, the rich do not become guardians of the poor in the true sense of the term and the latter are more and more crushed and die of hunger, what is to be done? In trying to find out the solution of this riddle I have lighted on nonviolent non co-operation and civil disobedience as the right and infallible means. The rich cannot accumulate wealth without the co-operation of the poor in society. If this knowledge were to penetrate to and spread amongst the poor, they would become strong and would learn how to free themselves which have brought them to the verge of starvation. - H, 25-8-40, 260.

277. "What exactly do you mean by economic equality," Gandhiji was asked at the Constructive Worker’s Conference during his recent tour of Madras, "and what is statutory trusteeship as conceived by you?"
Gandhiji reply was that economic equality of his conception did not mean that everyone would literally have the same amount. It simply meant that everybody should have enough for his or her needs. For instance, he required two shawls in winter whereas his grand nephew Kanu Gandhi who stayed with him and was like his own son did not require any warm clothing what-so ever. Gandhiji required goat’s milk, oranges and other fruit. He envied Kanu but there was no point in it. Kanu was a young man whereas he was an old man of 76. The monthly expense of his food was far more than that of Kanu but it did not mean that there was economic inequality between them. The elephant needs a thousand times more food than the ant, but that is no indication of inequality. So the real meaning of economic equality was: "To each according to his need." That was the definition of Marx. If a single man demanded as much as a man with wife and four children that would be a violation of economic equality.
"Let no one try to justify the blaring difference between the classes and the masses, the prince and the pauper, by saying that the former need more. That will be idle sophistry and a travesty of my argument," he continued." he contrast between the rich and the poor today is a painful sight. The poor villagers are exploited by the foreign government and also by their own countrymen-the city-dwellers. They produce the food and go hungry. They produce milk and their children have to go without it. It is disgraceful. Everyone must have a balanced diet, a decent house to live in, facilities for the education of one’s children and adequate medical relief." That constituted his picture of economic equality. He did not want to taboo everything above and beyond the bare necessaries but they must come after the essential needs of the poor are satisfied. First things must come first.
Statutory Trusteeship
As for the present owners of wealth they would have to make a choice between class war and voluntarily converting themselves into trustees of their wealth. They would be allowed to retain the stewardship of their possessions and use their talent to increase the wealth, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the nation and therefore without exploitation. The state would regulate the rate of commission which they would get commensurate with the service rendered and its value to society. Their children would inherit the stewardship only if they proved their fitness for it.
"Supposing India becomes a free country tomorrow," he concluded, "all the capitalists will have an opportunity of becoming statutory trustees." But such a statute will not be imposed from above. It will have to come from below. When the people understand the implications of trusteeship and the atmosphere is ripe for it, the people themselves, beginning with gram Panchayat, will begin to introduce such statutes. Such a thing coming from below is easy to swallow. Coming from above, it is liable to prove a dead weight. - H, 3I-3-46, 63.
In Favour of Equality of Income
278. Put your talents in the service of the country instead of converting them into £. S. d. If you Are a medical man, there is disease enough in India to need all your medical skill. If you are a lawyer, there are difference and quarrels enough in India. Instead of fomenting more trouble, patch up those quarrels and stop litigation. If you are an engineer, build model houses suited to the means and needs of our people and yet full of health and fresh air. There is nothing that you have learnt which cannot be turned to account. (The friend who asked the question was a Chartered Accountant and Gandhiji then said to him:) There is a dire need everywhere for accountants to audit the accounts of Congress and its adjunct associations. Come to India-I will give you enough work and also your hire-4 annas per day which is surely much more than millions in India get. - YI, 5-II-3I, 334.

279. (Several Mysore lawyers who had taken part in the Mysore Satyagraha struggle had been disbarred by the Mysore Chief Court. Gandhiji wrote about them:) Let these lawyers be proud of their poverty which will be probably their lot now. Let them remember Thoreau’s saying that possession of riches is a crime and poverty a virtue under an unjust administration. This is an eternal maxim for Satyagrahis. The disbarred lawyers have a rare opportunity of so remodeling their lives that they can always be above want. Let them remember that practice of law ought not to mean taking more daily than, say, a village carpenter’s wage. - H , I3-7-40, 205.

280. Q. To those who had lost all their trade, your advice is that they should voluntarily turn themselves into labourers. Who will then look after education, commerce and the like? If you thus dissolve the division of labour, will not the cause of civilization suffer?
A. The question betrayed ignorance of his meaning. If a man could not carry on his original business, it was not open to him but obligatory on him to take to physical labour say scavenging or breaking stones. He believed in the division of labour of work. But he did insist on the equality of wages. The lawyer, the doctor, or the teacher was entitled to no more than the bhang. Then only would division of work uplift the nation or the earth. There was no other royal road to true civilization of happiness. - H, 23-3-47, 78.

281. Q. You wrote about economic equality in 1941. Do you hold that all persons who perform useful and necessary service in society, whether farmer of bhangi (sweeper), engineer of accountant, doctor or teacher, have a more right only to equal wages with the rest? Of course, it is understood, educational or other expenses shall be a charge of the State Our question is, should not all persons get the same wages for this equality, it will cut sooner under the root of untouchability than any other process?
A. As to this Gandhiji had no doubt that if India was to live an exemplary life of independence which would be the envy of the world, all the bhangis, doctors, lawyers, teachers, merchants and others would get the same wages for an honest day’s work. Indian society may never reach the goal but it was the duty of every Indian to set his sail towards that goal and no other if India was to be a happy land. - H, I6-3-47, 67.
The Hypnotic Influence of Capital
282. We have unfortunately come under the hypnotic suggestion and the hypnotic influence of Capital is all in all on earth. But a moment’s thought would show that Labour has at its disposal Capital which the Capitalist will never possess. Ruskin taught in his age that Labour has unrivalled opportunities. But he spoke above our heads. At the present moment there is an Englishman, Sir Daniel Hamilton, who is really making the experiment. He is an economist. He is a Capitalist also; but through his economic research and experiments he has come to the same conclusions as Ruskin had arrived at intuitively, and he has brought to Labour a vital message. He says it is wrong to think that a piece of metal constitutes Capital. He says it is wrong to think that so much produce is Capital; but he adds that if we go the very source, it is Labour that is Capital, and that living Capital is inexhaustible.—IC, 393.
Earlier Writings on Capital and Labour
283. The avowed policy of Non-co-operation has been not to make political use of disputes between Labour and Capital. They have endeavored to hold the balance evenly between the two-we would be fools id we wantonly set Labour against Capital. It would be just the way to play into the hands of a Government which would greatly strengthen its hold on the country by setting capitalist against labourers and vice versa. In Jharia, for instance, it was a non-co-operator. The latter will not hesitate to advance the cause of strikers where they have a just grievance. They have ever refused to lend their assistance to unjust strikes. - YI, 20-4-2I I24.

284. Swaraj as conceived by me does not mean the end of kingship. Nor does it mean the end of capital. Accumulated capital means ruling power. I am for the establishment of right relations between capital and labour etc. I do not wish for the supremacy of the one over the other. I do not think there is any natural antagonism between them. The rich and the poor will always be with us. But their mutual relations will be subject to constant change. - YI, 8-1-25, 10.

285. I do not fight shy of capital. I fight capitalism. The West teaches us to avoid concentration of capital, to avoid a racial war in another and deadlier form. Capital and labour need not be antagonistic to each other. I cannot picture to myself a time when no man shall be richer than another. But I do picture to myself a time when the rich will spurn to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and the poor will cease to envy the rich. Even in a most perfect world, we shall fail to avoid inequalities, but we can and must avoid strife and bitterness. There are numerous examples extant of the rich and the poor living in perfect friendliness. We have but to multiply such instances. - YI, 7-I0-26, 348.

286. I have not been writing much about the agriculturists advisedly. For I know that it is impossible for us to do anything for them today. There are thousand and one things that need to be done for the amelioration of the lot of the agriculturists. But so long as the reins of Government are not in the hands of the agriculturists’ representatives, i.e. so long as we have no Swaraj-Dharmaraj-that amelioration is very difficult if not impossible. I know that the peasant is dragging a miserable existence and hardly gets even a scanty meal a day. That is why I have suggested the revival of the spinning wheel.
And the need for internal reform is as that for legislative reform. And internal reform can be only partly achieved when numerous volunteers are found to take up village-work as the mission of their lives. The evil habits of ages cannot go in a year or two.
We may not forcibly dispossess the Zamindars and Talukdars of their thousands of bighas. And among whom shall we distribute them? We need not dispossess them. They only need a change of heart. When that is done, and when they learn to melt at their tenants’ woe, they will hold their lands in trust of them, will give them a major part of the produce keeping only sufficient for themselves. ‘We had better wait for that day until the Greek Kalends’ someone will say. I do not think so. I think that the world is moving toward peace i.e. Ahimsa. The way of violence has been tried for ages and found wanting. Let no one believe that the people of Russia, Italy, and other countries are happy or are independent. The sword of Damocles is always hanging over their heads. Those who have the good of the Indian agriculturists at heart must pin their faith on nonviolence and plod on. Those who think of other methods are vainly flattering themselves with the hope of success. The agriculturist never figures in their calculation, or at any rate they do not know their condition.
What I have said above applies equally to the sowkar and other exploiters. Nothing but their own profit appeals to them. But there too the remedy is the moral education of both. The oppressed need no other education except in Satyagraha and non-co-operation. A slave is a slave because he consents to slavery. If training in physical resistance is possible, why should that in spiritual resistance be impossible? If we know the use of the body why can we not know the use and power of the soul? - YI, 4-2-26, 45.
Position of Labour: Later Views
287. Q. What is your opinion about the social economics of Bolshevism and how far do you think they are fit to be copied by our country?
A. I must confess that I have not yet been able fully to understand the meaning of Bolshevism. All that I know is that it aims at the abolition of the institution of private property. This is only an application of the ethical ideal of non-possession in the realm of economics and if the people adopted this ideal of their own accord of could be made to accept it by means of peaceful persuasion, there would be nothing like it. But from what I know of Bolshevism it not only does not preclude the use of force but freely sanctions it for the expropriation of private property and maintaining the Collective State ownership of the same. And if that is so I have no hesitation in saying that the Bolshevik regime in its present form cannot last for long. For it s my firm conviction that nothing enduring can be built on violence. But be that as it may there is no questioning the fact that the Bolshevik ideal has behind it the purest sacrifice of countless men and woman who have given up their all for its sake, and an ideal that is sanctified by the sacrifices of such master spirits as Lenin cannot go in vain: the noble example of their renunciation will be emblazoned for ever and quicken and purify the ideal as time passes. - YI, I5-II-28, 38I.

288. Q. How exactly do you think the Indian princes, landlords, mill-owners and money-lenders and other profiteers are enriched?
A. At the present moment by exploiting the masses.
Q. Can these classes be enriched without the exploitation of the Indian workers and peasants?
A. To a certain extent, yes.
Q . Have these classes any social justification to live more comfortable than the ordinary worker and peasant who does the work which provides their wealth?
A. No justification. My idea of society is that while we are born equal, meaning that we have a right to equal opportunity, all have not the same capacity. It is, in the nature of things, impossible. For instance, all cannot have the same height, or colour or degree of intelligence, etc; therefore in the nature of things, some will have ability to earn more and others less. People with talents will have more, and they will utilize their talents for this purpose. If they utilize their talents kindly, they will be performing the work of the State. Such people exist as trustees, on no other terms. I would allow a man of intellect to earn more, I would not cramp his talent. *But the bulk of his greater earnings must be used for the good of the State. Just as the income of all earning sons of the father go to the common family fund. They would have their earnings only as trustees. It may be that I would fail miserable in this. But that is what I am sailing for.
The masses do not today see in landlords and other profiteers their enemy; but the consciousness of the wrong done to them by these classes has to be created in them. I do not teach the masses to regard the capitalists as their enemies, but I teach them that they are their own enemies. Non-co-operators never told the people that the British or General Dyer were bad, but that they were the victims of a system. So that, the system must be destroyed and not the individual.
The zamindar is merely a tool of a system. It is not necessary to take up a movement against them at the same time as against the British system. It is possible to distinguish between the two. But, we had to tell the people not to pay to the Zamindars, because, out of this money the Zamindars paid to the Government. But, we have no quarrel with the zamindars as such, so long as they act well by the tenants. - YI, 26-II-3I, 363. cf. 306, 14.

289. He was no lover of the zamindari system. He had often spoken against it; but he frankly confessed that he was not the enemy of the zamindars. He owned no enemies. The best way to bring About reform in the economic and social systems, whose evils were admittedly many, was through the royal road of self-suffering. Any departure from it only resulted in merely changing the form of the evil that was sought to be liquidated violently. Violence was incapable of destroying the evil root and branch. - H, 30-3-47, 87.
An Appeal to the Upper Classes
290. The village work frightens us. We who are town bred find it trying to take to the village life. But it is a difficulty which we have to face boldly, even heroically, if our desire is to establish Swaraj for the people, not substitute one class rule by another, which may be even worse. Hitherto the villagers have died in their thousands so that we might live. Now we might have to die so that they may live. The difference will be fundamental. The former have died unknowingly and involuntarily. Their enforced sacrifice had degraded us. If now we die knowingly and willingly, our sacrifice will ennoble us and the whole nation. Let us not flinch from the necessary sacrifice, if we will live as an independent self-respecting nation. - YI, I7-4-24, I30.

291. A model zamindar would therefore at once reduce mush of the burden the ryot and know their wants and inject hope into them in the place of despair which is killing the very life out of them. He will not be satisfied with the ryots’ ignorance of the laws of sanitation and hygiene. He will reduce himself to poverty in order that the ryot may have the necessaries of life. He will study the economic condition of the ryots under his care, establish schools in which he will educate his own children side by side with those of the ryots. He will purify the village well and the village tank. He will teach the ryot to sweep his roads and clean his latrines by himself doing this necessary labour. He will throw open without reserve his own gardens for the unrestricted use of the ryot. He will use as hospital, school, or the like most of the unnecessary buildings which he keeps for his pleasure. If only the capitalist class will read the signs of the times, revise their notions of God-given right to all they possess, in an incredibly short space of time the seven hundred thousand dung-heaps which today pass muster as villages can be turned into abodes of peace, health and comfort. I am convinced that the capitalist, if he follows the Samurai of Japan, has nothing really to lose and everything to gain. There is no other choice than between voluntary surrender on the part of the capitalist of superfluities and consequent acquisition of the real happiness of all on the one hand, and on the other, the impending chaos into which, if the capitalist does not wake up betimes, awakened but ignorant, famishing millions will plunge the country and which not even the armed force that a powerful Government can bring into play can avert. - YI, 5-I2-29, 396.
The Method of Securing Economic Justice
292. Q. How then will you bring about the trusteeship? Is it by persuasion?
A. Not merely by verbal persuasion. I will concentrate on my means. Some have called me the greatest revolutionary of my time. It may be false, but I believe myself to be a revolutionary-a nonviolent revolutionary. My means are non-co-operation. No person can amass wealth without the co-operation, willing or forced, of the people concerned. YI, 26-II-3I, 369.


293. The greatest obstacle in the path of nonviolence is the presence in our midst of the indigenous interests that have sprung up from British rule, the interests of monied men, speculators, scrip-holders, landholders, factory-owners and the like. All these do not always realize that they are living on the blood of the masses, and when they do, they become as callous as the British principals whose tools and agents they are. If like the Japanese Samurai they could but realize that they must give up their blood-stained gains, the battle is won for nonviolence. It must not be difficult for them to see that the holding of millions is a crime when millions of their own kith and kin are starving and that, therefore, they must give up their agency. No principal has yet been found able to work without faithful agents.
But non-violence has to be patient with these as with the British principals. The aim of the non-violent worker must ever be to convert. He may not however wait endlessly. When therefore the limit is reached, he takes risks and conceives plans of active Satyagraha which may mean civil disobedience and the like. His patience is never exhausted to the point of giving up his creed. YI, 6-2-30, 44.

294. Q. If you benefit the workers, the peasant and the factory-hand, can you avoid class war?
A. I can most decidedly, if only the people will follow the nonviolent method. By the nonviolent method, we seek not to destroy the capitalist, we seek to destroy capitalism. We invite the capitalist to regard himself as a trustee for those on whom he depends for the making, the retention and the increase of his capital. Nor need the worker wait for his conversion. If capital is power, so is work. Either power can be used destructively or creatively. Either is dependent on the other. Immediately the worker realizes his strength, he is in a position to become a co-sharer with the capitalist instead of remaining his slave. If he aims at becoming the sole owner, he will most likely be killing the hen that lays golden eggs. Inequalities in intelligence and even opportunity will last till the end of time. A man living on the banks of a river has any day more opportunity of growing crops than one living in an arid desert. But if inequalities stare us in the face the essential equality too is not to be missed. Every man has an equal right to the necessaries of life even as birds and beasts have. And since every right carries with it a corresponding duty and the corresponding remedy for resisting an attack upon it, it is merely a matter of finding out the corresponding duties and remedies to vindicate the elementary equality. The corresponding duty is to labour with my limbs and the corresponding remedy is to non-co-operate with him who deprives me of the fruit of my labour. And if I would recognize the fundamental equality, as I must, of the capitalist and the labourer, I must not aim at his destruction. I must strive for his conversion. My non-co-operation with him will open his eyes to the wrong he may be doing. Nor need I be afraid of someone else taking my coworkers so as not to help the wrong-doing of the employer. This kind of education of the mass of workers is no doubt a slow process, but as it is also the surest, it is necessarily the quickest. It can be easily demonstrated that destruction of the capitalist must mean destruction in the end of the worker; and as no human being is so bad as to be beyond redemption, no human being is so perfect as to warrant his destroying him whom he wrongly considers to be wholly evil. - YI, 26-3-3I, 49.

295. There is in English a very potent world, and you have it in French also; all the languages of the world have it-it is ‘No’: and the secret that we have hit upon is that when Capital wants Labour to say ‘Yes, Labour roars out ‘No’, if it means ‘No’. And immediately Labour comes to recognize that it has got its choice of saying ‘Yes’ when it wants to say ‘Yes’, and ‘No’ when it wants to say ‘No’. Labour is free of Capital and Capital has to woo Labour. And it would not matter in the slightest degree that Capital has guns and even poison gas at its disposal. Capital would still be perfectly helpless if Labour would assert its dignity by making good its ‘No’. Labour does not need to retaliate, but Labour stands defiant receiving the bullets and poison gas and still insists upon its ‘No.
The whole reason why Labour so often fails is that instead of sterilizing Capital, as I have suggested, Labour (I am speaking as a labourer myself) want to seize that capital and become capitalist itself in the worse sense of the term. And the capitalist, therefore, who is properly entrenched and organized, finding among labourers also candidates for the same office, makes use of a portion of these to suppress Labour. If we really were not under the hypnotic spell, everyone of us, men and women, would recognize this rock-bottom truth without the slightest difficulty. Having proved it for myself through a series of experiments carried on in different departments of life, I am speaking to you with authority (you will pardon me for saying so) that when I put this scheme before you, it was not as something superhuman but as something within the grasp of every labourer, man or woman.
Again, you will see what Labour is called upon to do under this scheme of non-violence is nothing more than what the Swiss soldier does under gun-fire, or the ordinary soldier who is armed from top to toe is called upon to do. While he undoubtedly seeks to inflict death and destruction upon his adversary, he also carries his own life in his pocket. I want Labour, then to copy the courage of the soldier without copying the brute in the soldier namely the ability to inflict death; and I suggest to you that a labourer who courts death and has the courage to die without even carrying arms, with no weapon of self-defense, show a courage of a much higher degree than a man who is armed from top to toe. - IC, 394.