Gandhi, Gandhians and Labour: The Bengal Scenario, 1920–47

Nirban Basu


Gandhi’s advent in Indian political arena (1919) created a new chapter in mass politics and mobilization in India and affected almost all the social classes not excepting the industrial workers. The relationship between national movement and working class movement came to be seriously questioned. As Gandhi had novel ideas about political goals and methods, he had also his own ideas about the capital-labour relationship.
But within the Indian National Congress, Gandhi’s views did not pass unchallenged. His ideas came to be contested by the radical nationalists and the leftists. Particularly as in the complexities of Bengal politics, the latter were more powerful, Gandhi’s ideas found only a few adherents who remained as a small unstable coterie. Even the professed Gandhians in Bengal did hardly follow his ideas of labour organization. Gandhi strongly warned against the labour becoming a pawn in the hands of the politicians, but this was exactly what the labour became in Bengal as in most other parts of India and the Gandhians, along with others, had no small share in making them so.

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