Gandhian Thought On Indian Socialism

Topics: Ahimsa, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Satyagraha Pages: 14 (4024 words) Published: September 24, 2013
Gandhian Thought On Indian Socialism


“Friend, I do thee no wrong.

Didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

Take that thine is, and go thy way.

I will give unto this last even as unto thee.”

“If ye think good, give me my price;

And if not, forbear.

So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.”

These lines from the ‘Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard’ appear on the first few pages of the book ‘Unto the Last’ by John Ruskin. In March 1904, Gandhi discovered this book through Henry Polak, whom he had met in a vegetarian restaurant in South Africa. Some of Gandhi’s deepest convictions on social and economic ideas were inspired from this book, and, he translated it into Gujarati in 1908 under the title of ‘Sarvodaya’. Gandhi decided immediately not only to change his own life according to Ruskin's teaching, but also to publish his own newspaper, ‘Indian Opinion’, from a farm where everybody would get the same salary, without distinction of function, race or nationality. Thus, Gandhi created the Phoenix Settlement, situated about 20 kilometres north of Durban, South Africa.

In his autobiography ‘My Experiments With Truth’, Gandhi states that his thoughts might change later in life but the purpose of his story is just to narrate his experiments with truth in life. Similarly, Gandhi’s thoughts on socialism have evolved. Gandhi was also influenced by the ideas of Henry David Thoreau. He adopted some of the ideas and recommended the study of Thoreau to his friends helping him in the cause of Indian Independence. He even took the name of his movement from Thoreau's essay ‘On the Duty of Civil Disobedience’, written about 80 years ago.

Some interpreters are prepared to feel that Gandhian socialism is Marxism minus violence. It means that Gandhi agreed with Marx so far as the ends are concerned, he differed only in the methods. But, Gandhian socialism is different in approach, philosophy and outlook, from the Marxian philosophy. E. F. Schumacher, an internationally influential economic thinker, statistician and economist in Britain, identified Gandhi as the people’s economist whose economic thinking was compatible with spirituality as opposed to materialism.

The term ‘Gandhian economics’ was coined by J. C. Kumarappa, a close supporter of Gandhi. It is a school of economic thought based some of the principles expounded by Gandhi, such as non-violent humanistic socialism, and promotion of socio-economic harmony. In order to achieve this means he advocated trusteeship, decentralization of economic activities, labour intensive technology and priority to weaker sections.


In answering the question “Who is a socialist?” Gandhi said, “Socialism is a beautiful word and so far as I am aware in socialism all the members of society are equal-none low, none high. In the individual body the head is not high because it is the top of the body, nor are the soles of the feet low because they touch the earth. Even as members of the individual body are equal, so are the members of society. This is socialism. In it the prince and the peasant, the wealthy and the poor, the employer and employee are all on the same level. It is all unity.” [1]

Gandhi himself was born in the Baniya community and became conscious, at an early stage of his life, of the acquisitive nature of this community. He held the Baniya community mostly responsible for the poverty of the Indian masses. He opposed capitalism in general and accepted socialism to end social and economic inequality in India. But, Gandhi moulded it in the Indian context and did not accept the western socialism.

Gandhi wanted to build a new social system which would be in tune with India’s ancient cultural traditions. So unlike Marx instead of a materialistic approach Gandhi made a spiritualistic approach to socialism. In his view spirit counts more than material forces. This interpretation of socialism in terms...

References: [1] Gandhi, M. K. (1947), India of My Dreams, India and Socialism (pp. 23 - 28). Navjivan Publishing House.
[2] Stephen M. (1991), Why Gandhi is Relevant in Modern India: A Western Gandhian 's Personal Discovery. Gandhi Peace Foundation.
[3] Gandhi, M. K. (1945), The Mind of Mahatma Gandhi. Navjivan Publishing House.
[4] Gandhi, M. K. (1932), From Yervada Mandir. Navjivan Publishing House.
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