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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section VIII : Labour Relations > The ideal of labour relations


50. The ideal of labour relations

True social economics will teach us that the workingman, the clerk and the employer are parts of the same indivisible organism. None is smaller or greater than the other. Their interests should be not conflicting but identical and interdependent…

There cannot be two opinions as to the fact that mill-owners, no less than other business and commercial firms, ought to take a parental interest in the welfare of their employees. The relations between the employer and the employee have been up to now merely those of the master and servant, they should be of father and children.

Young India, 3-5-28, p. 139


I do not think there need be any clash between capital and labour. Each is dependent on the other.

Young India, 4-8-27, p. 248


In the west there is still a watertight division between the employer and the employees... I should be untrue to myself and be failing in my duty to you, if I did not place before you what I regard as the highest ideal. The relation between mill-agents and mill-hands ought to be one of father and children or as between blood-brothers. I have often heard the mill-owners of Ahmedabad refer to themselves as ‘masters’ and their employees as their ‘servants’. Such loose talk should be out of fashion in a place like Ahemadabad which prides itself on its love of religion and love of Ahimsa. For the attitude is a negation of Ahimsa, inasmuch as our ideal demands that all our power, all our wealth and all our brains should be devoted solely to the welfare of those who, through their own ignorance and our false notions of things, are styled labourers or ‘servants’. What I expect of you therefore is that you should hold all your riches as a trust to be used solely in the interest of those whom sweat for you, and to whose industry and labour you owe all your position and prosperity. I want you to make your labourers co-partners of your wealth. I do not mean to suggest that unless you legally bind yourselves to do all that, there should be a labour insurrection. The only sanction that I can think of in this connection is of mutual love and regard as between father and son, not of law. If only you make it a rule to respect these mutual obligations of love, there would be an end to all labour disputes, the workers would no longer feel the need for organizing themselves into unions… But that cannot happen until there is a single mill-hand who does not regard the mill in which he works as his own, who complains of sweating and overwork, and who therefore nurses in his breast nothing but ill-will towards his employers.

Young India, 10-5-28, pp. 145-46


Who can deny the reasonableness of the statement that workmen should be regarded as equal owners with the shareholders? If conflict between capital and labour is to be avoided, as I believe it can and must be, labour should have the same status and dignity as capital. Why should a million rupees put together be more than a million men or women put together? Are they not infinitely more than metal, white or yellow? Or should holders of mental always assume that labour cannot be organized and put together as metal can? For the past eighteen years, consciously or unconsciously, capital and labour and labour have acted in Ahmedabad on the assumption that there is no inherent conflict between the two...

If then labourers are co-equal owners, their organization should have the same access to the transactions of mills as the shareholders. Indeed there can be no confidence on the part of labour if material information is withheld from it.

Harijan, 13-2-37, p. 5


I have always said that my ideal is that capital and labour should supplement and help each other. They should be a great family living in unity and harmony, capital not only looking to the material welfare of the labourers  but their moral welfare also-capitalists being trustees for the welfare of the laboring classes under them.

Young India, 20-8-25, p. 285


I have sought the friendship of the capitalists in order to induce them to regard themselves as trustees for the benefit to the labourers, and that they may take their own food after feeding them. Today capital is afraid of labour and labour scouls at capital. I want to replace that relationship by one of mutual trust and respect.

Young India, 20-8-25, p. 291