Selected Writings of Gandhi

Journalist Gandhi

(Selected Writings of Gandhi)

Table of Contents

About This Book

Compiled by : T. K. Somaiya
Gandhi Book Center,
Bombay Sarvodaya Mandal,
299, Tardeo Road,
Nana Chowk, Mumbai 400 007
First Edition : August 1994
Published by : Jitendra T. Desai,
Navajivan Publishing House,
Ahemadabad - 380 014,
Printed by : Yash Printers
140/L, Kalbadevi Road,
Mumbai 400 002



Chapter 21: Capitalism and Strikes

How should capital behave when labour strikes? This question is in the air and has great importance at the present moment. One way is that suppression named or nicknamed 'American'. It consists in suppression of labour through organized goondaism (hooliganism). Everybody would consider this as wrong and destructive. The other way, right and incurable, consists in considering every strike on its merits and giving labour its due- not what capital considers as due but what labour itself would so consider and enlightened public opinion acclaim as just.
One preliminary question will justly arise: why should there be a strike at all in any well-regulated concern? Strikes ought to be impossible when there is perfect understanding between capital and labour, mutual respect and recognition of equality. And since differences there would be sometimes between employers and employed even in the best-regulated concerns, why should there not be a system of arbitration between the parties so that they will always readily carry out in perfect good faith awards of arbitrators?
But we have to consider things not as they should be but as they are. As time progresses, the labour world is getting more insistent in its demands which are daily increasing, and it does not hesitate to resort to violence in its impatient enforcement of those demands. New methods of forcing them are being employed. Workers do not hesitate to injure the property of the employers, dislocate machinery, harass old men and women who would not join the strike and forcibly keep out blacklegs. In these circumstances, how are the employers to behave?
In my opinion, employers and employed are equal partners even if employees are not considered superior. But what we see today is the reverse. The reason is that the employers harness intelligence on their side. They have the superior advantage which concentration of capital brings with it and they know how to make use of it. One individual rupee has very little potency but when money combines as capital, the combine derives a power different from and far in excess of the mere sum total of the individual rupees.  A million drops individually are negligible. But in combination they make the ocean carrying on its bosom a fleet of ocean hounds. Whilst capital in India is fairly organized, labour is still in a more or less disorganized condition in spite of unions and their federations. Therefore, it lacks the power that true combination gives.
Moreover, it lacks intelligence, so much so that individuals fight against individuals, unions against unions. Lack of intelligence leads to its exploitation by selfish and unscrupulous men even to the point of creating and promoting mischief. They know no better, being ignorant of the secret non-violence. The net result is that the workers suffer. If labour were to understand the working of non-violence, the power generated by combination would any day exceed the power of dead metal in the hands of a few capitalists.
Hence my advice to the employers would be that they should willingly regard workers as the real owners of the concern which they fancy they have created. They should further regard it as their duty to equip the employees with sound education that would draw out the intelligence dormant in them and gladly promote and welcome the power that this combination of the workers gives them.
This noble work cannot be done in a day by the employers. Meanwhile, what should those do who have to face the destruction wrought by strikers in their concerns? It would unhesitatingly advice such employers that they should once offer the strikers full control of the concern which is as much the strikers as theirs. They will vacate their premises not in a huff but because it is right, and to show their goodwill they would offer the employers will find in the end that they will lose nothing. Indeed their right action will disarm opposition and they will earn the blessings of their men. They will have made proper use of their capital. I would not consider such action as benevolent. It would be an intelligent use by the capitalists of their resources and honest dealing in regard to the employees whom they would have convert into honourable partners.

Harijan 23-3-1936