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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section VIII : Labour Relations > Is Class War inevitable ?

54. Is Class War inevitable ?

In a free and independent India, antagonism between the classes will be removed. I do not envisage a dead and artificial level among the people. There will be a variety among them as there is among the leaves of a tree. There will certainly be no have-nots, no unemployment, and no disparity between classes and masses such as we see today. I have no doubt whatsoever that, if non-violence in its full measure becomes the policy of the State, we shall reach essential equality without strife.

Harijan, 27-4-40, p. 108

If the desired change is brought about through non-violent means, the world would not be deprived of the talents of the classes, but then the latter would not exercise them at the expense of the labourers. In the non-violent order of the future, the land would belong to the State, for has it not been said Sabhi bhumi Gopal ki1? Under such dispensation, there would be no waste of talents and labour. This would be impossible through violent means. It is, therefore, a truism to say that the utter ruin of the landowners, brought about through violence, would also involve the ruin of the labourers in the end. If the land-owners, therefore, acted wisely no party would lose.

Harijan, 9-3-47, p. 59

By the non-violent 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 of the capitalist instead of remaining his slave. If he aims at becoming the sole owner, he will most likely be killing the goose that lays the 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 for 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 any attack upon it, it is merely a matter of finding out the corresponding duties and remedies to vindicate the fundamental 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 place when I have non-co-operated. For I expect to influence my co-workers so as not to help the wrong doing of my 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 beyond redemption, no human being is so perfect as to warrant his destroying to be wholly evil.

Young India, 26-3-31, p. 49

I do not fight shy of capital. I fight capitalism. The West teaches on 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.

Young India, 7-10-26, p. 348

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.

Harijan, 28-7-40, p. 219

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. France is a republic, but there are all classes of men in France.

Let us not be deluded by catch-words. Every single corruption which we notice in India is equally present in the so-called highly civilized nations of the West, if under a variety of names. It is distance that lends enchantment to the view; hence things Western become invested with a sort of glamour in our eyes. In fact there are perpetual differences even in the West between the rulers and the ruled. There, too, people seek for happiness and suffer misery in return.

Young India, 8-1-25, p. 10

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.

Harijan, 2-1-37, p. 375

It can be asked whether the present Rajas2 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 Zamindari or 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.

Harijan, 1-6-47, p. 172

I do not want to destroy the Zamindar, but neither do I feel that the Zamindar 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 Zamindari evil will be sterilized. What can the poor Zamindar 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 toilers intelligently combine, they will become an irresistible power. That is how I do not see the necessity of class conflicts. If I thought it inevitable, I should not hesitate to preach it and teach it.

Harijan, 5-12-36, pp. 338-39

A model Zamindar would at once reduce much of the burden the Ryot is now bearing. He would come in intimate touch with the Ryots 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 Ryots. He will use as hospital, school, or the like most of 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.

Young India, 5-12-29, p. 396

I would like to use the landlords and the capitalists for the service of the masses. 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. 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 with the masses.

Moreover, let us ask ourselves how much we have done to identify ourselves with the masses. Have we bridged the gulf between the surging millions and us? Let us, we 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. In India a class war is not only not inevitable, but it is avoidable if we have understood the message of non-violence. Those who talk about class war as being inevitable, have not understood the implications of non-violence or have understood them only skin-deep.

Amrita Bazaar Patrika, 3-8-34

The class struggle has always been there. It can be ended if the capitalists voluntarily renounce their role and become all labourers. The other way is to realize that labour is real capital, in fact, the maker of capital. What the two hands of the labourer would achieve, the capitalist would never get with all his gold and silver. Can anyone live on gold? But labour has to be made conscious of its strength. It has to have in one hand Truth, and in the other Non-violence, and it would be invincible.

Labour and capital, classes and masses, are as old as the hills. The whole trouble arises from the fact that neither labour, nor those who are guiding the labour movement, realize the dignity and strength of labour. It is like the lame leading the blind.

I got the opportunity and privilege of reading Karl Marx’s Capital whilst I was in detention. I entertain high regard for his great industry and acumen. But I cannot believe in his conclusion. I have no faith in violence being able to usher in non-violence. World thought is moving and is outdistancing Karl Marx. That, however, does not detract from the merit of that great man’s labours.

Hindustan Times, 5-1-46

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. Ram Raj of my dream ensures rights alike of prince and pauper.

Amrita Bazar Patrika, 2-8-34

1. All land belongs to the Lord

2. Rulers, Princes