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written by Mohandas K. Gandhi

Chapter 1. Fundamental law of nature

I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything I do not need for my own immediate use, and keep it, I thieve it from somebody else. I venture to suggest that it is the fundamental law of Nature, without exception, that Nature produces enough for our wants from day-to-day, and if only everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in this world, there would be no man dying of starvation in this world. But so long as we have got this inequality so long we are thieving. I am no Socialist and I do not want to dispossess those who have got possessions; but I do say that, personally,those of us who want to see light out of darkness have to follow this rule. I do not want to dispossess anybody. I should then be departing from the rule of Ahimsa If somebody else possesses more than I do, let him. But so far as my own life has to be regulated, I do say that I dare not possess anything which I do not want. In India we have got three millions of people having to be satisfied with one meal a day, and that meal consisting of a chapati containing no fat in it, and a pinch of salt. You and I have no right to anything that we really have until these three millions are clothed and fed better. You and I, who ought to know better, must adjust our wants, and even undergo voluntary starvation in order that they may be nursed, fed and clothed.

Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, 4th Edn., pp. 384-85

Enjoy Thy Wealth by Renouncing It

The rich should ponder well as to that what is their duty today. They who employ mercenaries to guard their wealth may find those very guardians turning on them. The moneyed classes have got to learn how to fight either with arms or with the weapon of non-violence. For those who wish to follow the latter way, the best and most effective mantram is: <...> (Enjoy thy wealth by renouncing it). Expanded it means: "Earn your crores by all means. But understand that your wealth is not yours; it belongs to the people.Take what you require for your legitimate needs, and use the remainder for soceity." This truth has hitherto not been acted upon; but, if the moneyed classes do not even act on it in these riches and passions and consequently of those who overpower them.

I see coming the day of the rule of the poor, whether that rule be through force of arms or of non-violence. Let it be remembered that physical force is transitory even as the body is transitory. But the power of the spirit is permanent, even as the spirit is everlasting.

Harijan,1-2-1942,p. 20

To take something from another without his permission is theft of course. But it is also theft to use a thing for a purpose different from the one intended by the lender or to use it for a period longer than that which has been fixed with him. The profound truth upon which this observance is based is that God never creates more than what is strictly needed for the moment. Therefore whoever appropriates more than the minimum that is really necessary for him is guilty of theft.

Ashram Observances in Action, p. 58,Edn. 1955

Chapter 2. Theory of Trusteeship

Supposing I have come by a fair amount of wealth— either by way of legacy, or by means of trade and industry— I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me; what belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood, no better than that enjoyed by millions of others. The rest of my wealth belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community. I enunciated this theory when the socialist theory was placed before the country in respect to the possessions held by zamindars and ruling chiefs. They would do away with these privileged classes. I want them to outgrow their greed and sense of possession, and to come down in spite of their wealth to the level of those who earn their bread by labour. The labourer has to realize that the wealthy man is less owner of his wealth than the labourer is owner of his own, viz., the power to work.

The question how many can be real trustees according to this definition is beside the point. If the theory is true, it is immaterial whether many live up to it or only one man lives up to it. The question is of conviction. If you accept the principle of Ahimsa, you have to strive to live up to it, no matter whether you succeed or fail. There is nothing in this theory which can be said to be beyond the grasp of intellect, though you may say it is difficult of practice.

Harijan, 3-6-1939, p. 145

I am not ashamed to own that many capitalists are friendly towards me end do not fear me. They know that I desire to end capitalism, almost, if not quite, as much as the most advanced Socialist or even Communist. But our methods differ, our languages differ. My theory of trusteeship is no makeshift, certainly no camouflage. I am confident that it will survive all other theories. It has the sanction of philosophy and religion behind it... o other theory is compatible with non-violence.

Harijan, 16-12-1339, p. 376

Statutory Trusteeship

You have asked rich men to be trustees. Is it implied that they should give up private ownership in their property and create out of it a trust valid in the eyes of the law and managed democratically? How will the successor of the present incumbent be determined on his demise?"

In answer Gandhiji said that he adhered to the position taken by him years ago that everything belonged to God and was from God. Therefore it was for His people as a whole, not for a particular individual. When an individual had more than his proportionate portion he became a trustee of that portion for God's people.

God who was all-powerful had no need to store. He created from day to day; hence men also should in theory live from day to day and not stock things. If this truth was imbibed by the people generally, it would become legalized and trusteeship would become a legalized institution. He wished it became a gift from India to the world. Then there would be no exploitation and no reserves as in Australia and other countries for white men and their posterity. In these distinctions lay the seed of a war more virulent than the last two. As to the successor, the trustee in office would have the right to nominate his successor subject to legal sanction.

Harijan, 23-2-1947, p. 39

As for the present owners of wealth, they would have to make their choice between class war and voluntarily converting themselves into trustees of their wealth. They would be allowed to retain the stewardship of their possessions and to use their talent to increase the wealth, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the nation and, therefore, without exploitation. The State would regulate the rate of commission which they would get commensurate with the service rendered and its value to society. Their children would inherit the stewardship only if they proved their fitness for it.

Supposing India becomes a free country tomorrow, all the capitalists will have an opportunity of becoming statutory trustees. But such a statute will not be imposed from above. It will have to come from below. When the people understand the implications of trusteeship and the atmosphere is ripe for it, the people themselves, beginning with

Gram Panchayats, will begin to introduce such statues. Such a thing coming from below is easy to swallow. Coming from above it is liable to prove a dead weight.

Harijan, 31-3-1946, pp. 63-64

Chapter 3. The Problem of the Rich

[Pierre Ceresole, Founder President of the International Voluntary Service, during his visit of India in 1935, expressed before Gandhiji some of his doubts about capitalism and non-violence as follows:]

"Could one lay down a rule of life for the wealthy? That is to say, could one define how much belongs to the rich and how much does not belong to them?"

"Yes," said Gandhiji, smiling. "Let the rich man take 5 per cent, or 10 per cent, or 15 per cent."

"But not 85 per cent?"

"Ah! I was thinking of going up to 25 per cent! But not even an exploiter must think of taking 85 per cent!"

Pierre Ceresole's tangible difficulty was how long one should wait in order to carry conviction to the rich man.

"That is where I disagree with the Communist," said Gandhiji. "With me the ulimate test is non-violence. We have always to remember that even we were one day in the same position as the wealthy man. It has not been an easy process with us and as we bore with ourselves, even so should


Chapter 12.


other hand, you mean that of the owning class, we may as well wait till the Greek Kalends."

Gandhiji : "I mean the conversion of both."

Nothing the look of surprise on my face, he proceeded: "You see, if the owning class does not accept the trusteeship basis voluntarily, its conversion must come under the pressure of public opinion. For that public opinion is not yet sufficiently organized."

Going back to what he had said only a little while ago, I asked: "What do you mean by power?"

Gandhiji : "By power I mean voting power for the people—so broad-based that the will of the majority can be given effect to."

Pyarelal : "Can the masses at all come into power by parliamentary activity ?"

Gandhiji : "Not by parliamentary activity alone. My reliance ultimately is on the power of non-violent non-co-operation, which I have been trying to build up for the last twenty-two years."

Pyarelal : "Is the capture of power possible through non-violence ? Our Socialist friends say that they have now been convinced of the matchless potency of non-violence— up to a point. But they say, they do not see how it can enable the people to seize power. You also have said the same thing. Therein, argue the Socialists, lies the inadequacy of non-violence."

Gandhiji : "In a way they are right. By its very nature, non-violence cannot 'seize' power, nor can that be its goal. But non-violence can do more; it can effectively control and guide power without capturing the machinery of government. That is its beauty. There is an exception of course. If non-violent non-co-operation of the people is so complete that the administration ceases to function or if the administration crumbles under the impact of a foreign invasion and a vacuum results, the people's representatives will then step in and fill it. Theoretically that is possible."

It reminded me of what Gandhiji had once told Mirabehn : "Non-violence does not seize power. It does not even seek power; power accrues to it."

Continuing his argument Gandhiji said: "Moreover, I do not agree that government cannot be carried on except by the use of violence."

Pyarelal: "Does not the very concept of the State imply the use of power?"

Gandhiji: "Yes. But the use of power need not necessarily be violent. A father wields power over his children; he may even punish but not by inflicting violence. The most effective exercise of power is that which irks least. Power rightly exercised must sit light as a flower; no one should feel the weight of it. The people accepted the authority of the Congress willingly. I was on more than one occasion invested with the absolute power of dictatorship. But everybody knew that my power rested on their willing acceptance. They could set me aside at any time and I would have stepped aside without a murmur. In the Khilafat days my authority, or the authority of the Congress, did not irk anybody. The Ali Brothers used to call me Sarkar. Yet they knew they had me in their pocket. What was true about me or the Congress then can be true about the government also."

I conceded that a non-violent State or even a non-violent minority dictatorship— a dictatorship resting on the moral authority of a few — was possible in theory. But it called for a terrible self-discipline, self-denial and penance. In the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavata, there is the description of non-violent law-giver or head of a State. He is a person who has severed all domestic ties; he is unaffected by fear or favour, anger or attachment; he is the personification of humility and self-effacement. Through constant discipline he has inured his body to all conceivable rigours of the weather, fatigue and want. But suppose, the author poses the question, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. If through old age or illness his constitution is undermined so that he can no longer withstand the rigours of his penance, what then? To that hypothetical question the unrelenting answer given is: Let him in that event mount a pyre which he himself has made and immolate himself rather than indulge in weak self-pity and molly-coddle himself. "Personally I agree," I concluded, "that such a person alone is fit to be a dictator under non-violence. If anyone is frightened by such a description, let him look at the Russians fighting in temperatures below 40 degrees frost. Why should we expect a softer solution under non-violence? Rather we should be prepared for mere hardships."

Gandhiji confirmed that under non-violence people have to be prepared for heavier sacrifices if only because the good aimed at is higher. "There is no short-cut to salvation," he said.

"That would mean," interpolated my sister "that only a Jesus, a Mohammad or a Buddha can be the head of a non-violent State."

Gandhiji demurred. "That is not correct. Prophets and supermen are born only once in an age. But if even a single individual realizes the ideal of Ahimsa in its fullness, he covers and redeems the whole society. Once Jesus had blazed the trail, his twelve disciples could carry on his mission without his presence. It needed the perseverance and genius of so many generations of scientists to discover the laws of electricity but today everybody, even children, use electric power in their daily life. Similarly, it will not always need a perfect being to administer an ideal State, once it has come into being. What is needed is a thorough social awakening to begin with. The rest will follow. To take an instance nearer home, I have presented to the working class the truth that true capital is not silver or gold but the labour of their hands and feet and their intelligence. Once labour develops that awareness, it would not need my presence to enable it to make use of the power that it will release."

He ended up by saying that if only we could make people conscious of their power—the power of non-violent non-co-operation—the realization of the ideal of trusteeship would follow as surely as morning follows night.

Towards New Horizons, pp. 90-93

Chapter 13. Practical Trusteeship Formula (by Pyrelal)

On our release from prison, we took up the question where we had left it in the Aga Khan Palace Detention Camp. Kishorlalbhai and Naraharibhai joined in drawing up a simple, practical trusteeship formula. It was placed before Bapu who made a few changes in it. The final draft read as follows:

1. Trusteeship provides a means of transforming the present capitalist order of society into an egalitarian one. It gives no quarter to capitalism, but gives the present owning class a chance of reforming itself. It is based on the faith that human nature is never beyond redemption.

2. It does not recognize any right of private ownership of property except so far as it may be permitted by society for its own welfare.

3. It does not exclude legislative regulation of the ownership and use of wealth.

4.Thus under State-regulated trusteeship, an individual will not be free to hold or use his wealth for selfish satisfaction or in disregard of the interests of society.

5. Just as it is proposed to fix a decent minimum living wage, even so a limit should be fixed for the maximum income that would be allowed to any person in society. The difference between such minimum and maximum incomes should be reasonable and equitable and variable from time to time so much so that the tendency would be to towards obliteration of the difference.

6. Under the Gandhian economic order the character of production will be determined by social necessity and not by personal whim or greed.

Harijan, 25-10-1952

Public domain This work is now in the public domain because it originates from India and its term of copyright has expired. According to The Indian Copyright Act, 1957, all literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works (other than photographs) published within the lifetime of the author (s. 22) enter the public domain after sixty years counted from the beginning of the following calendar year (ie. as of 2017, prior to 1 January 1957) after the death of the author. Posthumous works (s. 24), photographs (s. 25), cinematograph films (s. 26), and sound recordings (s. 27) enter the public domain sixty years after the first publication.
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