The Curse Of Industrialization

It is good to have faith in human nature. I live because I have that faith. But that faith does not blind me to the fact of history that, whilst in the ultimate all is well, individuals and groups called nations have before now perished. Rome, Greece, Babylon, Egypt and many others are a standing testimony in proof of the fact that nations have perished before now because of their misdeeds.

What may be hoped for is that Europe, on account of her fine and scientific intellect, will realize the obvious and retrace her steps and, from the demoralizing industrialism, she will find a way out. It will not necessarily be a return to the old absolute simplicity. But it will have to be a reorganization in which village life will predominate, and in which brute and material force will be subordinated to the spiritual force. (YI, 6-8-1925, p. 273)

The future of industrialism is dark. England has got successful competitors in America, Japan, France and Germany. It has competitors in the handful of mills in India, and as there has been an awakening in India, even so there will be an awakening in South Africa with its vastly richer resources—natural, mineral and human.

The mighty English look quite pigmies before the mighty race of Africa. They are noble savages after all, you will say. They are certainly noble, but no savages; and in the course of a few years, the Western nations may cease to find in Africa a dumping ground for their wares. And if the future of industrialism is dark for the West, would it not be darker still for India? (YI, 12-11-1931, p. 355)

Industrialism is, I am afraid, going to be a curse for mankind. Exploitation of one nation by another cannot go on for all time. Industrialism depends entirely on your capacity to exploit, on foreign markets being open to you, and on the absence of competitors…. (YI, 12-11-1931, p. 355)

As I look to Russia, where the apotheosis of industrialization has been reached, the life there does not appeal to me. To use the language of the Bible, ‘What shall it avail a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul?’ In modern terms, it is beneath human dignity to lose one’s individuality and become a mere cog in the machine. I want every individual to become a full-blooded, full-developed member of the society. (H, 28-1-1939, p. 438)

God forbid that India should ever take to industrialism after the manner of the West. If an entire nation of 300 millions took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip of the world bare like locusts. Unless the capitalists of India help to avert that tragedy by becoming trustees of the welfare of the masses, and by devoting their talents not to amassing wealth for themselves but to the service of the masses in an altruistic spirit, they will end either by destroying the masses or being destroyed by them. (YI, 20-12-1928, p. 422)

India, when it begins to exploit other nations—as it must if it become industrialized—will be a curse for other nations, a menace to the world. And why should I think of industrializing India to exploit other nations? Don’t you see the tragedy of the situation, viz., that we can find work for our 300 million unemployed, but England and find none for its three million and is faced with a problem that baffles the greatest intellects of England. (YI, 21-11-1931, p. 355)

Alternative to Industrialization

I do not believe that industrialization is necessary in any case for any country. It is much less so for India. Indeed, I believe that Independent India can only discharge her duty towards a groaning world by adopting a simple but ennobled life by developing her thousands of cottages and living at peace with the world. High thinking is inconsistent with complicated material life based on high speed imposed on us by Mammon worship. All the graces of life are possible only when we learn the art of living nobly….

Whether such plain living is possible for an isolated nation, however large geographically and numerically, in the face of a world armed to the teeth and in the midst of pomp and circumstance is a question open to the doubt of a sceptic. The answer is straight and simple. If plain life is worth living, then the attempt is worth making, even though only an individual or group makes the effort.

State Control

At the same time, I believe that some key industries are necessary. I do not believe in arm-chair or armed socialism. I believe inaction according to my belief, without waiting for wholesale conversion. Hence, without having to enumerate key industries, I would have State ownership, where a large number of people have to work together. The ownership of the products of their labour, whether skilled or unskilled, will vest in them through the State. But as I can conceive such a State only based on non-violence, I would not dispossess moneyed men by force, but would invite their co-operation in the process of conversion to State ownership. There are no pariahs of society, whether they are millionaires or paupers. The two are sores of the same disease. And all are men "for a’ that". (H, 1-9-1946, p. 285)

Revival of Rural Industries

In seeking to revive such village industries as are capable of being revived… I am trying to do what every lover of village life, everyone who realizes the tragic meaning of the disintegration of villages is doing or trying to do. Why am I turning back the course of modern civilization, when I ask the villager to grind his own meal, eat it whole, including the nourishment bran, or when I ask him to turn his sugarcane into gur for his own requirements, if not for sale? Am I turning back the course of modern civilization when I ask the villagers not merely to grow raw produce, but to turn it into marketable products and thereby add a few more pies to their daily income? (H, 4-1-1935, p. 372)

The revival of the village is possible only when it is no more exploited. Industrialization on a mass scale will necessarily lead to passive or active exploitation of the villagers as the problems of competition and marketing come in. Therefore we have to concentrate on the village being self-contained, manufacturing mainly for use. Provided this character of the village industry is maintained, there would be no objection to villagers using even the modern machines and tools that they can make and can afford to use. Only, they should not be used as a means of exploitations of others. (H, 28-1-1946, p. 226)

Real Planning

I heartily endorse the proposition that any plan which exploits the raw materials of a country and neglects the potentially more powerful man-power is lopsided and can never tend to establish human equality….

Real planning consists 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 re-buying finished articles at fabulous prices. (H, 23-3-1947, p. 79)