ARTICLES : Gandhian view on Various Subjects

Read articles written by very well-known personalities and eminent authors about Gandhian view on Various Subjects and it's relevance today.

The History of Bread Labour

Balamurali Balaji
Founder & Primary Consultant,
The Centre for Information Technology and Gandhian Philosophy of Nonviolence and Peace


Man is a social being who lives on this planet by consuming food and water. Most of the food what he today eats is his invention. Most of the food what he prepares was once considered a synthetic process that could harm his health. The substance that is readily available to him for survival is water. All other foodstuffs that are naturally obtainable to him have to be sought after putting quite a lot of effort and search. From the very beginning, man had been seeking and searching for such materials that would quench his hunger and soon after he learned to make his searching effort a regular and earnest way of routine work. And, it continued for many years when he soon found out that it were not the food alone he was searching for. On his way, he discovered many species including animals, birds, reptiles, insects, marine creatures etc. which had the same kind of living means. He saw an animal killing the other and having the day's food by eating the flesh and blood. He saw a bird that cracked a fruit and feed on the nuts and grains. He saw tiny creatures being swallowed and becoming prey to the larger ones. He saw the mighty and forceful animals depending on the less powered animals. Man, as a humble being by birth, had learned enough from the nature and gradually started following them. He stopped his search and miles-long walks and hunts for food; both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. He cultivated the plants nearby his home itself. He could also tame few animals and foster them at his home. He could go for hunting for other animals as needed. Some kinds of food, he cooked by roasting it on the fire. Some others, he ate in raw. He understood that he would gain energy and health by taking food. And, the journey of life continued with the man's first of the theories “Food for living and living for food”.

Since the Biblical Era

Earn thy bread by the sweat of the brow- says Bible. You must work until the sweat from your forehead falls down through your eyebrows. And, the earnings you are paid for this labour would then be utilized for buying food and bringing joy to your life. The labour referenced here is a physical one. Thousands of years ago, the times when man had learned enough from the nature and started living comfortably by organizing himself and others, the labour was very hard and manual. Those were the times when man found himself that he was the most cultured creature amongst the others in the world. He had known that he was more sensible and brilliant than other animals around him. He could live as a group or family sharing thoughts, expressions and messages among the members. He could put his thoughts and works in a well planned way. Yet, he had to employ his physical power to meet certain needs that aroused out of social compulsions.
The social pressure came in to play partly due to man himself and the rest due to the natural phenomenon. While living as a group, he soon realized that not all in the group had to search for food or work for food. While one of them took care of plantations or hunting, the others in the group could work on something else that was a need not related to food. That need aroused due to some rare conditions or natural changes happening within him or group or around him in the environment. By the time, man also found that not all of them were equally powerful and were in the same capacity to handle situations in the same manner. Within a group of people or between the groups of people, there exist differences in food, shelter, dressing, health, muscle and mind power and more importantly, luck. While one of them returned from hunting with a kill that could cater 5 people, the other had returned with a kill that would cater 15 people. While one of the groups lived in a grotto or cave the other groups were not that luck to find a comfortable stay. When these explicit differences started arising amongst themselves, their ideas and thoughts, ways and beliefs too begin to differ. Thus, the human population then can be seen as a collection of small groups with different beliefs and faiths, known or unknown to each other. Most of the times, it was natural disasters like heavy rains, thunder and quakes etc. that kept them thinking in a solitary way and united them to work for a common problem.
By the time the human species recognized that man had to work not only for food, but also for the group of people, or for more than one groups, the politics of labour emerged. The groups are further classified into weaker and stronger, and those of haves and have-nots, the powerful and powerless. The structural ways and methods of doing work also emerged during the same times as the search for food had become entirely dependent on the outcome of the work they did. Some people got bread to eat as they completed the work assigned by his boss. Even to get a slice of bread, they had to toil for many days some times and were battered by their greedy and ruthless superiors. Some others were paid in the form of money they could exchange with a merchant for food grains or bread. Hardly they could save them and had to work again for the next day's food. Thus, people who learned to search and work for earning food were divided into two major categories; the superiors that included royals, merchants, imperialistic classes and the inferiors that included servants, maids and the weak. The inferiors were further divided into those who worked for food and those who worked for money.
As in Gita, the four varnas (Brahimins, Vysyas, Kshatriyas and Sudras,) that were formulated by the God himself truly depicted the nature of labour assigned to different sections of people. This kind of classification was strictly followed in ancient India and was accepted as an un-written contract among the people to perform their duties. People exchanged their produces after storing a few for their own purposes and the remaining were expensed with those who had no ways of producing anything. Surprisingly, the recipients did not fall in either of the categories (varnas). The whole reason behind the people who had decided to be inferior and dependable was never questioned in the world. Due to their disability and sluggish attitude towards the common routines, the social structure became shaken to some extent. The divide between the power and power-less slowly erupted among the communities. However, for God's sake, the misuse of supremacy and autocratic powers were only questioned on the grounds of justice and morality. Ironically, these fights were based on the laws devised by the very autocratic powers itself. Without these laws in place, the weaker section of the people would have become the weakest of all and the slavery would have become persistent in the society. After all, it was strongly felt that food for work was much better than food for being a slave.

Slavery or Labour?

In some parts of the world, slavery was common until some self-governing methods were established to reorganize the labour and work. People divided on the basis of race and religion never seemed to come together to terms and was always trying to dominate on the other. An amicable settlement of disputes or arrangements was scarce. The possession and property of one group or community was always under threat of being stolen by the other. Even food was not an exception. While man was yet to learn the civilized ways of acquisitions, the fights and the battles continued to rage the world for the quest of power. And, that too was not organized then. All he knew was to succeed over the opponent and make him work for him. Thus, more number of people or groups of people was becoming slaves and was forced to work leading to a clearly divided society of arrogant superiors and humble inferiors. As they were defeated or outmoded due to minor tussles with their bosses, the inferiors were praised with ill-treatment and harshness and were fed poorly.
Many territories and sections of people were becoming submissive and meek to brutal forces but were fighting back with vigor and valor whenever possible. The history of world has notable records of wars and battles that caused radical changes in the life of the societies who were seeking all sorts of wants. The wants included primarily the right to live in a place they chose and the right to use the natural vegetation. When this was disturbed very often by the high-handed, muscle-powered egotism, the modest groups wanted to restore them by constant scuffles. Occupying the land, capturing the powerful men and captivating the women by masculine acts took precedence were part of the deal in overpowering the already weaker sections of the people.
It was difficult to differentiate the labour and slavery in those days. The Vedic or Biblical references and theories of labour were never taken as a complete guide for performing duties and related labour. Everyone was finding their own ways of earning their bread and until there was a conflict or clash of allocation or place of work, it was the individualism that had won the race for food. Man's proximity to nature and self-styled ways of utilizing its resources has made him truly able to live comfortably. But, more he applied and invested his knowledge and skills on his work, more were the returns in the form of food, weapons, utensils, laborers, sheltering homes, precious stones and jewels etc. At one point of time, he felt that he no longer needed to work and wanted others to take up his work and return a share from the yields. And, for the other who worked on this arrangement, it was purely a labour in literature until everything was fine with the sharing terms with his boss. Also, it was partly due to the degradation of physical fitness and the inability to work further. Combined together, it was the violation of terms and ill-health altered the conditions of labour into slavery.
For many centuries, people had never felt the shamefulness of slavery or its implications that surrounded them. The ignorance and the weakness had made the labour force to literally follow the commands of their master and implemented them mechanically. Their only goal then was to obtain day's bread and were most of the times would not speak a word about their boss. But, the cruelty and dishonesty in the masters have led them to a state of hunger and inhuman. Only the time had tested their state of slavery, as the luck and brave ones played the part to some useful stint to restore the labour force back in order. This was done by forming a group of work force who wanted to define and function within a scope of the field in which they were specialized. The need for training and practicing in arts and skills was also felt during the same period and it helped in a respectable way of performing their duties. Even the rulers and kings respected such organized groups and maintained their level of commandments and were paying good amount of food and money for getting work done by the labour. When the aristocrats and authorities behaved legitimately and honestly, there felt the clear difference between labour and workforce. When the high-handedness went wrong and began empowering the natural rights of workmen, the gap narrowed down and it triggered the fight against all kinds of evil that followed. Besides being a slave, one had to struggle for justice and human rights which lasted many decades with no ending and fruitful results. It was worse than slavery. Putting a skilled man into a state of rivalry and combatant was worse than anything else as it was wasteful of time, energy and money. The superiors have never learned to accept the cost of time and value of skills the workmen possessed and was usually sluggish and nonchalant in their attitude towards work management and law enforcement. They showed higher degree of anguish and gallantry at times when they were questioned and when felt disgraced. Punishments, penalties and even death would be the immediate result of their reactions in such situations. Thus, while the labour was forced to follow the norms strictly, the slightest deviation or disregard for the rules set forth would lead them to seclusion or death which was considered a lesson for others to keep in their minds.
Besides the labour force being helpless and vulnerable to the cruelties and torments of their masters, slavery had led the world into some serious impact in various communities at socio-political levels. Society then created consists of a head and other significant members who listened to the social issues and problems and discussed the solutions that would possibly settle them amicably. The village or the colony obeyed these orders and carried out the work as adjudged by the elder representatives. This kind of village level administration was considered to be democratic and the leader had the boundless powers to lead the entire village keeping its destiny in his hands. But, there were people who could strongly oppose the prominent leader and his plans for social causes, formed another faction to resist and act against the wishes of a prominent group all together. And the new group would set forth their own guidelines and rules to run the lives of the people and had their own administration. Boundaries were drawn, properties were divided, ownerships were defined so as the work and labour. Each faction would decide to perform certain duties which were never allowed by the other ones. Only through legalized ways of transactions, did they exchange the yields and returns they earned through their work. Food, coins, weapons, animals, ornaments were used as exchange materials for this trade. The concept of trade was flourished thus between the groups and was extended further from a village to another. Those who were divided on the grounds of survival and slavery were once again united by trade and exchange. Their differences gradually ceased to exist as the heads and elders of the communities and groups began to think of forming a larger group. The people from such a larger group usually travelled long distances over seas, beyond mountains and rivers, crossing various landscapes and exploring the whole earth.

Inter-Continental Labour

When people sailed across the seas to find new lands for trading purposes, it was just the beginning of a new culture and civilization that emerged in the world with the new sets of rules and laws which conflicted with the already devised conventions and practices. The newly found civilization too had the similar problems what the discoverers faced before. The communication, food, climatic conditions had kept both the groups aside and it took many years for them to come together to exchange their ideas and goods they had stored on their own. Both the visitors and the natives were afraid of each other and resorted into quarrel for no reason except that they were strangers to each other. While one of the teams captivated the other, the clash was over and a sense of peace prevailed in the new land. It was predominantly the purpose of the visitors, trade or inhabiting a new land or for a temporary stay over the journey, that decided the result of the early aggressive clashes. If the visitors made it happen in the new habitat, it was truly the start of the fresh breed of labour that drove the whole world in their path of quest of food and wealth across the continents. Men from different parts of the world had slowly begun to extend their hunting for wealth and treasure beyond the boundaries of their regions. The natives and the landlords very fondly conducted their trade operations with their guests who were positively motivated in doing business. Some other visitors were meted out for destroying the natives and their properties and tried to occupy the lands by force. Work was not limited to trading only. The exchange of labour force between the continents was one of the flourishing trades by itself. The head of the group of labour made a tremendous amount of wealth in exchange of people whom he captivated in his control. He took them across the seas; millions of miles part away from their homelands to sell them for wealth and the labour had to do whatever work he was given by his new boss in the other land. Cutting trees and stones, building ships, fishing etc. were some of the jobs considered harder by the native people in general. This kind of exploit was never been paid for and only food was given.
Since both the lands were disconnected by seas and were not connected by any land routes, the slaves who were sold was made to slog and toil all the time in the same land until there was another deal that could transport them to a new place. Those who were stronger and hard-working were held in reserves for striking a new deal with the upcoming visitors. Once the labour was sold, they were rarely picked up by their original boss and never returned to their homelands. It was very uncommon from the part of bonded labour to escape from their prison-like alien lands and death was the price when they were caught while doing so. Back home, his family and the close mates did never shown their meticulous acts of rescue in saving his life from the torturous land of slavery. In fact, they were afraid of when they would be chosen to be sold to foreign traders. As the civilization grew up on the various parts of the world, nations too began to improve the ways and methods of doing trade with other countries. The laws were improved and the rules were relaxed to suit the changing conditions. The issue of bonded labour or slavery was brought to courts of kings and royals who could have some control over the traders to change their fashion of employment of workforce. They were advised not to exploit the innocent and indulge in human trafficking for their monetary benefits and accumulation of wealth. Many laborers were set to free due to such intervention from the rulers and many were made to bonded labors freshly to meet the requirements as dictated by them. The turnover of labors across the continents was drastically affected whenever there were changes in the political situations and social disturbances.
On the positive notion, the concept of sharing and procuring of labor developed in certain parts of the world where people had a definite set of laws to send and receive the workforce which could bring prosperity to their nation. Another important use of such envoys was that they might act as transformers of their land's culture, art, customs and civilization. A group of people headed by a leader would set off from his land taking the orders from the king and sailed thousands of miles across the oceans to spread the message of their king. As the labour laws followed were directly under the supervision of the kings and royals, the workforce was usually sent off in a ceremonial fête. And, the voyage in search of new culture and facts would make merry and added to their knowledge when ended successfully after many months. It had become a routine to send such emissaries to foreign lands by the kings and royals who often sought to sustain their regal status.

Labour-Civil disobedience

It was centuries ago, man has learnt novel methods of doing trade and commerce besides being the innovator of modern technologies and discoveries. He used his skills and knowledge to develop tools and equipments in the large scale. Hitherto all sorts of work done by manual labour were slowly turning to look into the new inventions. He began to realize that machines and tools were enormously assisting in his manual work and wanted to produce more such tools. It generated a lot of work and required more of natural resources. Many people learned to work and trained in the skills required for joining these revolutionary changes.
Labour was fully utilized to explore the potential of the natural resources that man kind would ever want to get benefited. Landmines were quarried to produce minerals, metals and elements. Some hundreds of people were employed to plow the earth round the clock with the existing tools like axes, spear and bars and this excavation work has given the world a few significant benefits to the world. Some valuable metals like Gold, Iron, and Silver, Copper etc. and other rich elements and minerals were found this way in different parts of the world. It was during this excavation, man has truly discovered that the earth has a lot more to offer to us. Until then he was thinking of the resources available only on the surface of the earth. The wondrous richness of the earth, soil and rocks amused him to think laterally as he interpreted certain thoughts only as unresolved puzzles. And when those puzzles transformed into challenges, he had to work upon which the labour system was began to function. Thus a single man became a driving force behind a large workforce doing things as per the instructions and guidelines suggested by him. Such a man with unique and specialized talent was considered as God-gifted and enjoyed a reputable status among the group. While a section of people considered such a man as the messengers or incarnations of God, some others believed the factual information they conveyed to the public. The first of the kind believed that such peculiar men possessed healing powers and godly influences. And these people never wanted to work and earn but to find their ways of bring heaven into earth and acquiring extraordinary powers. They hailed the names of Gods and Goddesses by sacraments, sacrifices and many other tough ways of worshipping that led to a formation of separate cult of people who remained to be dissected from the labour revolution. But, there were people who wanted to explore and know the truth and reasoned the conduct and characteristics of the natural resources and the inventions that were ought to be possible. They worked hard and put their effort in developing incredible instruments and appliances in large scale. It required labour in tremendous numbers and systemic methods to design and manufacture such products.
During the industrialization and revolution of human work force deployments, the structural methods and organized ways of performing labour had undergone a remarkable change. Man could identify the capacity and capability of individuals and developed measures to account and report the labor efficiencies. Also made possible was to rate and price the valuables and invaluable merchandise produced naturally or artificially. It was Amid growing population of industries and factories, the basic necessities like food, water and shelter are no longer the only needs of the people. Better clothing, enriched food, comfortable shelter that withstand all weather conditions, better ways of performing their arts, skills and talents and improved ways of using tools and equipments the mankind has invented. But, it is all not for free of cost. The living conditions and style of functioning of the world has a lot to tell on how to acquire the needs and what to do for obtaining them.

Exchange of Labour with Money

In the much nourished civilizations, money was just an article or commodity in exchange of any other commodity or service rendered by human effort. As the years went on, the concept of money had changed in to a symbol of richness and also as a denomination for storage. For instance, how much of grains in quintals a person own implied his richness and he could buy more grains and sell them for equal or more than of what he really intended to trade. More he stored the valuable articles, more was he considered as a Lord to whom others could work for and earn their bread. While the workers put their labor on a regular basis, their boss had to find ways to bring in more resources to his control and storage. Thus formed a knot between the boss and employee that acted as a initiative for further development of Money Labour. The nature of money also underwent a change in its value and shape; instead of a commodity being used as money, coins were begun to use and a new system of trade and payment of labour came into existence. With the advent of this arrangement, workers too had a freedom of buying the commodities of his choice that had elevated him in the society to speak for his own likes and dislikes. The exchange of coins for any commodity seemed to be more flexible than exchanging of goods in need or demand. The term „money' started to ramble around number of civilized societies and predominantly used by the labour community. They could keep themselves in high esteem upon earning a considerable amount of money and continued to favor the money making trades and exchanges. Now the labour community had been more knowledgeable about the concept of money and its use. They had learned not only the true potential of money that keep them in a position but also to try out new sorts of trade keeping them busy and vivacious throughout their life. Whereas the growing culture money and labour flourished, there raised the troubles too. The practice of exchange of money with labour had then branched out into loans, delayed payments, advances, perks etc. that fulfilled the changing needs of the workers. The bosses and landlords who got work done had learned the tricks of trading with money in variety of ways and the labour also had no option except to follow their bosses' orders and adapt to the situations. When his needs suddenly grow and generate a rise in his spending habit, or if he runs out of his money, he would have to make use of any of these techniques to meet them financially. And, the laborer had to accept the fate and the consequences had not he repay what he owed. When it comes to money, except the income part of it, all other forms and techniques of its usage are usually burdensome and the mankind though agrees upon this fact, often go wary and unmanaged with their bountiful of needs and wants. With no sufficient knowledge and the terms of money and trade, the community of labour quite so often got fallen in to such dug holes and would ever try to come out of it making it more complex and difficult. As indicated before, the source of money lies in their hard work and managing it is just within the limits of their needs. Once the bounds are crossed, the laborers have no ways except to muddle around it for a temporary get-away.
It was only during the last few centuries, had the world seen the most organized and structured ways and methods of labour. Money management had also seen a tremendous progress with various methodologies of saving and investing it for useful purposes. Laborers too developed a streak of understanding in the newer techniques that ensures them a reasonable, balanced ways of income and expense and savings for their future. As the work culture and industrialization took place in the seventeenth centuries, the money and its influence among the laborers and the factory owners began to get a twist in shaping the whole economic and labour conditions in the world. As the world comprehended the need for machine, the need for money was equally felt among the laborers. The money-labour model of development was never swept away by the massive mechanization and revolutionary inventions during the recent centuries. The laborers' initial apprehension of machine overcoming man had a slighter duration of its course and very sooner, man had realized the part of human in both the contribution and attrition of work. His growing desire for money-making was never stopped and no power in the world has actually ever challenged the theory of money as a basis of life. In brief, the world of labor had never looked back in terms of compensation and their livelihood and money became the only supreme equivalence for all its toil, work and efforts.
As the bread labour agreements turned to financial contracts, food was never an issue. Laborers started working on other needs and rights that would save them from conditions put-forth by their employers. During the same times, human rights movements were cropping up to fight against the enslavement, torturous employments and inhumane conditions. Many parts of the world witnessed such movements fighting for justice and freedom while the laborers were doing their part in forming unions and organizations that could seek for their rights.

Labour Movements

Europe had medieval guilds of labour that protected their member's livelihoods through controlling the capital of craftsmanship and improving their levels of mastery in the crafts they engaged. In 1827, first trade union originated in the Europe in protest against mistreatment and underpayment of workers during the Industrial revolution. It was in the mid 16th century, during the colonial regime (1619 -1776) in the New World (today's America), some self-employed farmers and craftsmen formed as worker groups to speak for the worker rights and reforms. As they organized themselves, demand for them increased and the cultivation of food crops was receding. They started farming cash crops, saw handsome money in their pockets and moved to urban places where they could setup retail shops and outlets. Potential employers among them hired slaves and servants from Africa and while the population too was growing, they could setup large factories and industries to procure and convert raw materials in to useful furniture, craftworks and food products. Port cities became busy and a large number of workers were utilized to import and export goods produced. Wages were calculated in numbers that is, based on how much quantity of products a worker move or sell. Usage of machines in the industries and ports gained momentum and manufacturing units multiplied many folds in the United States. Such a huge revolution of industries, though initiated in Europe, the world could see a massive, structural industrialization throughout America. Besides bringing slaves and low-waged workers from African countries, America became a true destination for other Asian and European countries for its structural employment and sensible worker-freedom. As the production of food surged to greater heights and industrialization was diffused across the world, the need for labour unions were hardly felt.
It was only during the late 19th century, labour movement was active for the first time in the history of world, when in Philadelphia, Knights of Labour, a Mechanic's union of trade association went on protest for some social reforms as the wage cuts and unemployment swept the whole of the U.S due to depression caused by traditional ways of economic methods. The need for food saturated but the amenities and delight thus far enjoyed by the community of workers were in peril. The first Monday of September is observed as Labour Day in the United States of America even today to mark the protests initiated by the Knights of Labour.
In India and other countries, 1st of May is celebrated as International Workers Day to commemorate the day on which workers won the battle for fixing eight hours a day as duty time. It is a day of political demonstrations and celebrations organized by unions, parties and other worker groups. This day has the roots to Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois where all the craftsmen, merchants, laborers and workers from different factories went on a 3 day strike and the subsequent police action killed 4 strikers from McCornick Harvesting Machine Co. Later there was a bomb blast in the rally organized wherein 12 people and 8 Policemen were killed. This incident caused an outrageous response from the world of labour around the globe. Both in the U.S, and USSR, food for labour was enforced with the prisoners of wars. Very often, food shortage arose during the war times and post-war conditions. From 16th to early 20th century Russia was ruled by Czars and the varied landscape and climatic conditions put the people get on their feet all the time to look for food and production.
Only due to the theory of communism by formulated by Lenin, it was brought to control when his successor Stalin took power in 1922. In his period, food production was collectivized under a totalitarian government. Though Western style of food penetrates through Russia including the food-giant McDonalds, people always wanted to buy their own vegetables and fruits, wine, milk curds, prepared their food on their own. Georgians and Armenians and people from other parts of the USSR never wanted to give up their food habits and their style of labour. They used to wake up early in the morning, take bath in the cold water and prepare their own food. The cultural and traditional ways of a labor's livelihood had taken a dramatic turn after these remonstrations happening all over the world. The community of labour had become the voice of the poor, the downtrodden and exploited people. Trade unions and labour organizations and unions were extended in similar manner for other groups as well. Farmers, students, employers, merchants, engineers and doctors etc. all had come to learn the power of united voice against the suppression and exploitation. Rights and reforms were considered essential attribute in the workplace besides being given salary and safety precautions. Workers belonging to almost every occupation in the world have begun to form the unions and groups to uphold their rights and spoke for the importance of job and justice.

Gandhiji’s Views on Work and Labour

Gandhiji owed all his success and greatness to the incessant toil and hard work of silent, devoted, able and pure workers, men as well as women. He believed that “Work without faith” is a sin. India is by birth, a poor country. Around 30% of the population is driven into the ranks of beggars every year since the days of pre-independence. This proportion has never changed except that our overall population has risen to 1 billion. Gandhiji judged that it is this grinding poverty and starvation has put the people on a desperate struggle for bread and it renders them insensible to all feelings of decency and self-respect. He squabbled with the philanthropists and institutions to provide meals under healthy, clean surroundings upon getting work from men and women. He invented the victorious mantra, the spinning wheel, for such regressive condition of the nation since he strongly felt that spinning and cotton related processes alone could be the ideal occupation for the bread labour. He also had a strong notion while allowing the other options of work, "No labour, no meal…” He pointed out the divine law from the Bible and Gita saying “Those who ate without work were thieves”. Gita in particular elicits that he who eats without offering a sacrifice eats not the earned food but a stolen food. Sacrifice in this context means the bread labour imparted to avail the required food. Man with out doing the enough labour has no right to eat; adding that the productive labour is the preferred way of earning. Even the rich shall have to work; not just doing the exercise to live on food. Without farmers putting their hands and legs in the soil toiling day along for cultivating crops, food will not come to other's palette. The world today stands happier and healthier if it is not for this organized work culture followed by various sects of people. It is the laziest and wicked-minded people who do good-for-nothing.
While both the poor and the rich work for their bread, the differences between them would cease to exist. The conflict between the capital and labour will fade away and the rich would only have to act as trustees of their properties but still using it in the interest of public. One shall not misunderstand this as a total surrendering of the riches' wealth and belongings to the public service or government. What it actually means is that the right to live is a right for both the poor and the rich. If the rich prefer not to work but roll on the bed all the time eating whatever he likes, he would catch all types of ailments. It is only when a man or woman has done bodily labour for the sake of service that he or she has the right to life. Then there would be no cry of overpopulation, no disease, and no such misery as we see around. Such labour will be the highest form of sacrifice.
Lord Krishna says in Gita: 'If I did not remain ever at work sleeplessly, I should set a wrong example to mankind.' Either through our bodies or minds, people shall have to strive to work that unifies all of us with no distinction between the poor and rich, high and low or touchable or untouchable.
“I have indeed wept to see the stark poverty and unemployment in our country, but I must confess our own negligence and ignorance are largely responsible for it. We do not know the dignity of labour as such. Thus, a shoemaker will not do anything beyond making his shoes; he will think that all other labour is below his dignity. That wring notion must go. There is enough employment in India for all who will work with their hands and feet honestly. God has given everyone the capacity to work and earn more than his daily bread and whoever is ready to use that capacity is sure to find work. No labour is too mean for one who wants to earn an honest penny. The only thing is the readiness to use the hands and feet that God has given us.” (H, 19-12-1936, p.356)
Gandhiji implied the attributes of truthfulness and non-violence within the scope of the bread labour. He compared a laborer with an ordinary soldier who is courageous to call upon his duties devotedly. A fully armed soldier carries his life in his own pocket seeking death or destruction while facing the opponents. So as the laborer, that except for no weapons in his hands for self-defense has to work dutifully which shows a higher degree of courage.
Gandhiji too had certain reservations on intellectual labour as no amount of it is any compensation for bodily labour. The significance of physical labour is in its omni-presence and it is a feature which every one of us is born to give for the common good of all. It is the feature that could unite us all in the need of the hours. Mere mental or intellectual labour satisfies the soul and will not demand any compensation. The mental and intellectual ability of man must serve the society, but not self. Hence, it is not accounted for the bread labour. And, He concluded that the needs of the body must be supplied by the body and even the quality of his intellectual output can be improved by physical work.

Capital Vs Labour

Having earned the bread off labour, the world is still witnessing the effects of the disparity between the capital and labour. As many laborers feel, the capital and capitalism cannot be destroyed as a whole as the world still need it in some form or the other. Similarly, the labour cannot be crushed to be enslaved or neglected as they would soon understand that capital cannot exist without labour. Hence the harmonious and united ways to make them supplementary to each other must have to be guaranteed. Capital and labour need not be antagonistic to each other if both the parties come together to learn the basic understanding of themselves. As a rule, labour discharges its obligations more effectively and more conscientiously than the master who has similar obligations towards the laborers. And this rule must be imposed at will by both the parties. Gadhiji's principle of non-cooperation is the best and practical way to fight against the wrong done by capitalistic masters. Going for a strike, being idle and lock-outs are certain methods in the path of righteousness that labour could demonstrate the protest for their rights. The complete destruction of few millionaires and capital would end in the destruction of the labour itself. Only through non-cooperation, the capitalistic exploiters could be converted to the caretakers that may lead to both being equal partners. To practice a non-cooperative method, it requires proper education and training to the extent of taking things up in the hands to solve it amicably.
But, it is not that simple. While the capital is well organized and securely entrenched, labour community and organizations are not. The intelligence of the working man is restricted by his soulless, mechanical occupation which leaves him little scope or chance to develop his mind. It has prevented him from realizing the power and the full dignity of his status. He has been taught to believe that his wages have to be dictated by capitalists instead of his demanding his own terms. The capitalists and landlords are exploiters by their inherent richness and the comforts of living conditions. In India, it is mainly due to class and sect based war. The whole reason why labour so often fails is that, instead of sterilizing capital, they resort into violent resistance.
The moment labour recognizes its own dignity, money will find its rightful place, i.e., it will be held in trust for labour. For labour is more than money. The laborer has to realize that labour is also a capital. As soon as laborers are properly educated and organized and they realize their strength, no amount of capital can subdue them. Organized and enlightened labour can dictate its own terms. It is no use vowing vengeance against a party because we are weak. We have to get strong. Strong hearts, enlightened minds and willing hands can brave all odds and remove all obstacles.


As we ponder upon the story of man and his bread labour, it is more and more becoming fascinating and sometimes, frustrating to see how the mankind has to survive in this world with the changing conditions socially, economically and environmentally. Man has been hunted by time and space whilst he is hunting for food! In the recent centuries, the ways and methods of bread labour has completely changed compared to those in the early centuries. With lots of machines, technology and science, domestic and trained animals, education and training, man has been using his intellectual power to seek for his living. Bread labour is given a negligible deliberation and a routine perspective in this fast paced, industrious world. In the mean time, the world is showering its howls and cries for billions of people who are malnourished and under-nourished through natural conditions. There are much more millions who have been stormed out by human-created dreadful acts like wars, oppression, bio-chemical outbreak and economic regression. These unfortunates and subjugated ones must be taken care of not only by bringing them to the mainstream of livelihood what others deserve and enjoy, but must be engaged with the basic and physical labour of work for every day's bread and it shall become the choice for them to make their lives proud of. While the governments and organizations work on the education, training, rights and reforms of the under-privileged, every individual shall have to shed a part of time and money on encouraging bread labour to those neglected and for the selves as well.

  1. Sayings of Mahatma Gandhi – by Michael Scott, an audio speech, published by
  2. Epigrams of Mahatma Gandhi –