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Khaddar

Wilson’s fourteen points were unlucky for him and disastrous to the Germans who built on them (the reference is to US President Woodrow Wilson’s speech in 1918; the so-called 14 points he defined became the basis for the German surrender in World War I – editors). Let us hope that Anil Baran Ray will have better luck with the fourteen articles of his indictment against Khaddar. But as it happens, Anil Baran Babu, has, to use an expressive vulgarism, got hold of the right end of the stick. Somebody had to speak the unvarnished and unfearing against the great superstition of Khaddar and Anil Baran Ray (Congressman from Bengal – editors) as proved to be that somebody. And where he has led, it is possible for other people to respond to the voice of truth with answering shouts.

gandhi charkha khadiHistorically Khaddar is the mature and organized expression of Gandhiji’s objection to machinery, an objection which he inherited from Ruskin and which he pursued to the utmost logical end with his patient, fatal, unrested lucidity. While Ruskin denounced machinery and persuaded young University men to dig with the spade, it did not prevent his living the life of his class – that of the rich English middle class. It did not do him any harm; the young men he influenced survived Ruskinism as they survived measles, calf-love and other foibles of extreme juvenility. Unfortunately, for India, Gandhiji’s antipathy to machinery and modernism has resulted in the suspension of political life by some of the finest spirits in the country and in their dedication to, what I am bound to call, and the superstition of Khaddar.

Mr. Ray has made out that there is no kind of future for Khaddar. As I ventured to point out a weeks ago in these columns, economically, Khaddar is an impossible proposition. For seven annas you can buy machine milled cloth which handspun and handwoven, costs over a rupee and the stuff wears betters and longer than Khaddar. Patriotism or no patriotism, you are not justified in asking the poor consumer to tax himself to the extent of nearly two hundred percent for justifying his objection to modern machinery.

Consider also the element of sweating involved in it. Mr. Ray would have it that the spinners in Pudupalayam get ten annas a month by way of wages. This, I think, is wrong. But in any event, neither woman nor man gets more than three annas a day for working eight hours as a spinner. Three annas is a terrible figure to offer by way of wages for any human being’s daily work. We know the answer that is usually made; for a woman who earns nothing, three annas is something. This is just the sweater’s argument. The writer has himself seen in England, women who were making six pence a day sewing on buttons or stitching button holes. The women were doing it because they could not help it and they had nothing else to do. But nobody seriously suggested that sweating was justified because sweating was better than starvation. It was condemned for the wicked thing it was, the exploitation of the poor.At a time when the minimum wage for an Indian woman working as an unskilled labourer is six annas, it is wicked for any patriot to suggest that she had better work for three annas as a spinner. It is all very well to speak in praise of cottage industries; but if any cottage industry is going to offer less than the current wage, we can very well dispense with cottage industries.

But my most serious complaint against Khaddar is that it has paralysed some of the finest political intellects in the country. There is Gandhiji himself. They are fools who say that he is an idealist and no politician; he is a saint but that does not prevent his being the finest statesman and man of action alive. In my judgment, there are only two politicians in modern history that can be mentioned in the same breath with him. Lenin and Mussolini. But Khaddar and the spinning wheel have killed him and the service that was meant for India and humanity has been lost in the whirl of the wheel. In our own Province there is C. Rajagopalachari. What is it that the man could not have done in the field of politics if he had remained faithful to its demands and responsibilities? On the other hand he has emasculated himself and immured himself in a historical futility. There a hundred other names that flash across the mind, names and memories of loyal co-operation which make one shed bitter tears. Why do you think Shaukat Ali has gone to bits? He is a brave fighter of big battles and is like an engine that has raced itself to obstruction because there was nothing in it to be attached to. Of him and others and of several others, it may be truly said that the spinning wheel was the undoing of them without the slightest advantage to the nation.

- Revolt, 12 December 1928

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Racy

This week ‘G.R.’ (2) is giving our readers a treat. ‘G.R’. Is a blue blooded Gandhiite. But he is in a fighting mood, and active khadi service is keeping him in good form. His attempt to give us “a hard hit” has fallen wide of the mark. But he has deigned to praise us and has made us blush. G.R. has fallen in love with ‘Sak’. He is right. For ‘Sak’ is a fine swordsman. But his sally on communal representation has not done him or his keen sword full justice.

Our contention is that separate electorates have an equal claim to be considered along with joint electorates in any scheme of organising constituencies in our county. We did not maintain, as G.R. wrongly supposes we did, that communal electorates are the best method of electing representatives. Joint electorates are synonymous with territorial electorates. But separate electorates are not indentical with communal electorates.A communal electorate is a separate electorate. But a separate electorate need not be a communal one. We welcome communal electorates as temporary expedients for securing peace at the elections and for ensuring adequate representation to the suppressed communities so long as they remain suppressed communities so long as they remain suppressed. It is too late in the day for G.R. to paint ‘red’ the evils of communalism. Of course communalism ought to go, but how shall it? A comprehensive political gesture granting joint electorates and adult franchise to all and sundry will be a fatuous futility. Patient and laborious toil among the masses is hard to contemplate. But there is no escaping it.

G.R. has mystified us by propounding an arithmetical problem involving ‘enough goondas’ and ‘peace loving people’. We confess our inability to see how the rule of three works out in this ease. G.R. would draw a lurid picture of the goonda innate in us as the dose of original sin. We refuse to be drawn into this crystal-gazing mediumistic trance.

But G.R. is racy. G.R. is welcome. There is work for him to do. ‘Jeejay’ has taken his silk hat seriously and has girded up his loins to fight Khadi. There is no cause for alarm, for ‘Jeejay’s armoury consists of familiar weapons: supremacy of machinery, higher cost to the consumer, lower wages, waste of man power. The implements are probably rusty, but ‘Jeejay’ is out for mischief, It looks as though the Khadiwalla must come out of his cloistered seclusion and fight in self defence if he would not be taken as an old time curiosity. Will ‘G.R.’ pick up the gauntlet?

- Revolt, 12 December 1928


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