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Universal Benefit: Gandhi's doctrine of Trusteeship: A review article

  • BIDYUT CHAKRABARTY (a1)

Abstract

Trusteeship is Gandhi's conceptualization of the contribution of business houses towards social well-being. Trusteeship is a theoretical construct seeking to redefine the relationship between indigenous business houses and the nationalist movement. That Gandhi succeeded in persuading the business men to participate in the freedom struggle, despite adverse consequences, suggests the extent to which Trusteeship was an effective mechanism in political mobilization. Besides elaborating the concept, this paper also argues that Gandhi was indebted to Andrew Carnegie and John D. Ruskin, amongst others, in his effort to articulate Trusteeship as a bridge between business houses and the freedom struggle; and that this Gandhian idea is a forerunner of the contemporary conceptualization of Corporate Social Responsibility.

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1 This argument is pursued in detail by Bain, William in his ‘the idea of trusteeship in international society’, The Round Table, Vol. 368, 2003, pp. 6776.

2 This was also an assumption which informed the Mandate system under the League of Nations which justified the doctrine of ‘tutelage’ or ‘trusteeship’ of the victorious nations over the vanquished. In Britain, the man most intimately associated with the idea was General Jan C. Smuts, a member of the War Cabinet, though not an Englishman. Winkler, Henry R. elaborates the doctrine of colonial trusteeship in his ‘British labour and the origins of the idea of colonial trusteeship, 1914–1919’, The Historian: a journal of history, vol. 13 (2), 1951, pp. 154172.

3 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Riches not necessarily impure’, Harijan, 22 February 1942, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (hereafter CWMG),vol. 82, p. 217.

4 The quantity of Literature available on Gandhi's contribution to the nationalist movement in India is enormous. Because this paper focuses on a Gandhian conceptual category that had clear implications on the movement that Gandhi led, these texts may not exactly be relevant for my purpose. Hence I have drawn on those theoretical texts which provide useful insights in order to comprehend and conceptualize ‘trusteeship’ as a meaningful (though controversial) category to understand Gandhi's argument for equality or what he plainly articulated as ‘universal benefits’.

5 Carnegie, Andrew, The gospel of wealth (1889), in Kammen, M. (ed.), Contested Values, St Martin's Press, New York, 1995, p. 48.

6 For a detailed discussion of the philanthropic role of the business guilds, see Sundar, P., Beyond Business: from merchant charity to corporate citizenship—Indian business philanthropy through the ages, Tata McGraw Hill Publishing Company, 2000.

7 A Maoist theoretical construct redefining the roles of various sections of society in the political campaign against colonial or imperial power. The basic point is that despite serious contradiction amongst the classes, the context of colonialism brings them together against a bigger enemy. In the case of the Indian struggle for independence, Gandhi and his colleagues in the Congress seemed to have underplayed the contradiction between the Indian industrialists and the workers to avoid a chasm in the multi-class model that they so assiduously maintained during the anti-British campaign in India.

8 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Constructive Programme: its meaning and place’, in The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. IV, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1968, p. 358.

9 Ibid., p. 359.

10 Parel, Anthony J., Gandhi's Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006, p. 70.

11 St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 2a, 2aee, Question 66, Article 1, 2—quoted in Parel, Anthony J., Gandhi's Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006, p. 71.

12 Ruskin, John, A Joy for Ever: and its place in the market, George Allen and Unwin, London, 1900, pp. 714, quoted in Parel, Anthony J., Gandhi's Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2006, p. 161.

13 Gandhi, M. K., ‘The veins of wealth’ in The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. IV, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1968, p. 57.

14 Ibid., p. 58

15 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Even-handed justice’ in The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. IV, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1968, p. 73.

16 Ibid., p. 72.

17 Ibid., p. 73.

18 Anthony J Parel, Gandhi's Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony, p. 75.

19 Bhattacharya, Sabyasachi, Talking Back: the idea of civilization in the Indian nationalist discourse’, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 54.

20 Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1999.

21 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Conclusion’, in The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. IV, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1968, p. 80.

22 Harijan, 23 February, 1947, CWMG, Vol. 94, p. 26.

23 Gandhi, M. K., Trusteeship, Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad, 1960, p. 3.

24 Ibid., p. 4.

25 Gandhi, M. K., Constructive Programme, Navajivan Trust, Ahmedabad, 1960, pp. 2021.

26 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Theory of Trusteeship’, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1960, p. 5.

27 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 19.

28 M. K. Gandhi, ‘Theory of Trusteeship’, p. 5.

29 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Economic Equality’, Constructive Programme: its meaning and place, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1941, p. 20.

30 Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 28 July 1933, CWMG, Vol. 61, p. 395.

31 Myrdal, Gunar, Asian Drama: an inquiry into the poverty of nations, Vol. II, Pantheon, New York, 1968, p. 755.

32 Harijan, 25 August 1940, CWMG, Vol. 79, p. 260.

33 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 19.

34 M. K. Gandhi, ‘Economic Equality’, p. 20–21.

35 I owe this point to Mantena, Karuna who developed it in her ‘Another realism: the politics of Gandhian nonviolence’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 106 (2), May 2012, pp. 455470.

36 Young India, 12 November 1931.

37 Weber, Thomas, ‘Gandhi's economics: the sins of wealth without work and commerce without morality’ in Brown, Judith and Parel, Anthony (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Gandhi, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, p. 140.

38 ‘Discussion with Ramchandran, G.’, Young India, 15 April 1926, CWMG, Vol. LXXI, p. 318.

39 Young India, 7 October 1926, CWMG. Vol. 36, p. 478.

40 The Hind Swaraj elaborates this argument in greater depth.

41 These quotations are taken from Young India, 7 October 1926, CWMG, Vol. 36, p. 479.

42 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 7.

44 Ibid., p.17.

45 Ibid., p.16.

46 Ibid, p.16.

47 Harijan, 31 March 1946, CWMG, Vol. 90, p. 128.

48 For a detailed analysis of the indigenous roots of Trusteeship, see Rolnick, Phyllis J., ‘Charity, Trusteeship and social change in India: a study of a political ideology’, World Politics, Vol. 14 (3), April 1962, pp. 439460.

49 Iyer, Raghavan, ‘Gandhian trusteeship in theory and practice’ in Sethi, J. D. (ed.), Trusteeship: the Gandhian alternative, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, 1986, p. 9.

50 Kesuvulu, Y., ‘Gandhan trusteeship as an instrument of human dignity’, Gandhi Marg, Vol. 25 (4), January–March 2004.

51 Weber, Thomas, ‘Gandhi's moral economics: the sins of wealth without work and commerce without morality’ in Brown, Judith and Parel, Anthony (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Gandhi, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011, p. 143.

52 Gandhi quoted in Tendulkar, D. G., Mahatma: life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Vol. 1 (1869–1920); Gandhi National Memorial Fund, New Delhi, 1953, p. 79.

53 Gandhi, M. K., Autobiography or the story of my experiments with truth, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1995 (reprint), p. 250.

54 Ibid., p. 250.

55 Drawn on Gandhi's introduction to the Gujarati version of John Ruskins’, ‘Unto This Last and Other Essays’—quoted in Mitra, Meera, It's only business: India's corporate social responsiveness in a globalized world, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007, p. 22.

56 Carnegie, Andrew, The gospel of wealth (1989) in Kammen, M. (ed.), Contested Values, St Martin's Press, New York, 1995, pp. 4550.

57 Ibid., p. 46.

58 Ibid., p. 48.

59 Quoted in Nanda, B. R., Joshi, P. C. and Krishna, Raj, Gandhi and Nehru, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1979, p. 55.

60 ‘Gandhi’, Young India, 14 October 1908, Vol. 9, September–November, 1908, p. 481.

61 Young India, 15 September 1927.

62 Edmund Burke, ‘The speech on Mr. Fox's East India Bill, 1 December, 1799’, quoted in Bain, William, ‘The idea of trusteeship in international society’, The Round Table, Vol. 368, 2003, p. 68.

63 Ibid, p. 70.

64 Ibid., p. 72.

65 Maitland, F.W., State, Trust and Corporation, edited by Runciman, David and Ryan, Magnus, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003, p. 127, quoted in Birla, Ritu, Stages of Capital: law, culture and market governance in late colonial India, Orient Blackswan, New Delhi, 2011, p. 104.

66 Birla, Ritu, Stages of Capital: law, culture and market governance in late colonial India, Orient Blackswan, New Delhi, 2011, p. 100.

67 Perhaps the most elaborate discussion of this point is available in Ibid., pp. 94–102.

68 M. K. Gandhi An Autobiography, p. 211.

69 CWMG, vol. 9, p. 481.

70 Ritu Birla, Stages of Capital, p. 104.

71 Gandhi's speech at the Textile Labour Union, Bangalore, 28 February 1927, CWMG, Vol. 38, pp. 412–413.

72 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 5.

73 Harijan, 25 October 1952. This draft, prepared by Professor Dantwala after discussion with Mashuruwala, Kishorilal, Parikh, Narhari and Lal, Pyare, was placed before Gandhi who then approved the guidelines. Sethi, J. D., Gandhi Today, Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi, 1958, 153154.

74 Sethi, J. D., ‘Trusteeship and the crisis in economic theory’ in Sethi, J. D. (ed.), Trusteeship: the Gandhian alternative, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, 1986, p. 93.

75 B. P. Mathur, ‘Gandhian alternative to economic development: relevant for India today’, Mainstream, 1 October 2011, p. 8.

76 Raghavan Iyer, ‘Gandhian trusteeship in theory and practice’, p. 8.

77 Rao, V. K. R. V., ‘Trusteeship as Gandhian instrument for socialist change’ in Sethi, J. D. (ed.), Trusteeship: the Gandhian alternative, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi, 1986, pp. 2728.

78 Gandhi, M. K.on labour’, The Hindu, 17 September 1921, CWMG, Vol. 18, pp. 133134.

79 Young India, 6 October 1921.

80 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Seth Jamnalal Bajaj’, Harijan, 1 February., 1942, CWMG, Vol. 81, p. 312.

81 Weber, Thomas, Gandhi as disciple and mentor, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004, p. 119.

82 Birla, G.D., In Shadow of the Mahatma: a personal memoir, Vakils, Fefferand Simon Private Ltd, Bombay, 1968, p. 35.

83 Ibid., p. 36.

84 Ibid., p. 2.

85 Ibid., p. 2.

86 Ibid., p. 75.

87 For an interesting and well-researched discussion on the role of G. D. Birla in the Indian nationalist movement and his relationship with Gandhi, see Kudaisya, Medha Malik, The Life and Times of G. D. Birla, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2003.

88 Foreword by Rajendra Prasad in Birla, G. D., In the shadow of the Mahatma: a personal memoir, Vakils, Feffer and Simons, Bombay, 1968, p. vi.

89 G. D. Birla to Gandhi, 18 October 1929, quoted from Birla, G. D., Bapu: a unique association, Vol. 2, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, 1977, pp. 128129.

90 Ambedkar, B. R., Gandhi and Gandhism, Bheem Patrika Publications, Jullundar, 1970, p. 10.

91 Harijan, 3 June 1939, CWMG, Vol. 76, p. 312.

92 Harijan, 31 March 1946, CWMG, Vol. 90, p. 112.

93 Talk with Manu Gandhi, 15 April 1947, CWMG, Vol. 87, p. 284.

94 Gandhi, M. K., Constructive Programme, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1960, p. 21.

95 Harijan, 31 March 1946, Vol. 90, p. 113.

96 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 23.

97 Ibid., p. 35.

98 Ibid., p. 22.

99 Harijan, 25 August 1940, CWMG, Vol. 81, p. 401.

100 Dasgupta, Ajit K., Gandhi's Economic Thought, Routledge, London, 1996, p. 122.

101 Gandhi's statement, quoted in The Hindu, 7 September 1945, CWMG, Vol. 81, p. 210, drawn from Dasgupta, Ajit K., Gandhi's Economic Thought, Routledge, London, 1996, p. 122.

102 M. K. Gandhi, ‘Can you avoid class war?’, Young India, 26 March 1931.

103 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 23.

104 Dasgupta, Ajit K. pursues this argument at length in his Gandhi's Economic Thought, Routledge, London, 1996, p. 122.

105 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 35.

106 Skaria, Ajay, ‘Gandhi's politics: liberalism and the question of ashram’, South Atlantic Quarterly, 101 (4), 2002, p. 957959.

107 Gandhi, M. K., ‘Talk to Khudai Khitmatgars’, CWMG, Vol. 74, pp. 145148.

108 Mantena, Karuna, ‘Another realism: the politics of Gandhian nonviolence’, American Political Science Review, Vol. 106 (2), May 2012, p. 465.

109 Ibid.

110 I followed this story in detail in my Subhas Chandra Bose and Middle Class Radicalism: a study of Indian nationalism, 1928–1940, IB Tauris, London, 1990, pp. 67–100.

111 Karuna Mantena, ‘Another realism’ p. 456.

112 Gandhi, M.K., ‘The law of suffering’, CWMG, Vol. 20, p. 397.

113 Dustin Ells Howes dwells on this point whilst assessing Gandhian abhorrence for political violence in his, Toward a credible pacifism: violence and the possibilities of politics, State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, 2009.

114 The most persuasive and detailed exposition of this position is available in Iyer, Raghavan, The moral and political thought of Mahatma Gandhi, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1973.

115 Seeking to understand Gandhi in a new theoretical mould, a new breed of Gandhi scholars has shifted attention away from moral and ethical consideration to the reality in which he perfected his technique of non-violence. Prominent amongst these authors are: Mehta, Uday S, ‘Gandhi on democracy, politics and ethics of everyday life’, Modern Intellectual History, Vol. 7 (2), 2010; Skaria, Ajay, ‘Gandhi's politics:liberalism and the question of Ashram’, South Atlantic Quarterly, Vol. 101 (4), 2002; Bilgrami, Akeel, ‘Gandhi : the philosopher’, Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 38 (39), 2003; Devji, Faisal, ‘a practice of prejudice: Gandhi's politics of friendship’ in Mayaram, Shail, Pandian, M. S. S. and Skaria, Ajay (eds), Muslims, Dalits and the Fabrications of History, Permanent Black, New Delhi, 2005.

116 West Bengal State Archives, Calcutta, Amrita Bazar Patrika, editorial, 3 May 1928.

117 Breman, Jan, ‘Communal upheaval as the resurgence of social Darwinism’ in Kaur, Ravinder (ed.), Religion, Violence and Political Mobilization in South Asia, Sage, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 6978.

118 M. K. Gandhi, Trusteeship, p. 27.

119 Nehru, Jawaharlal, An Autobiography: with musings on recent events in India, John Lane The Bodley Head, London, 1941, p. 52.

120 Gunnar Myrdal, Asian Drama, p. 755.

121 Ibid.

122 Ibid., p. 756.

123 Letter to Jawaharlal Nehru, 17 January 1943, CWMG, Vol. 87, p. 338. There are reasons to believe that Gandhi wrote this after having read Nehru's assessment of his idea of Trusteeship.

124 Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, PTP PT 42(2), G. D. Birla to Purushattamdas Thakurdas, 16 July 1929. In his letter to Purushattamdas Thakurdas, G. D. Birla quoted this statement of Gandhi.

125 Bose, Subhas Chandra, Selected Speeches, Ministry of Information, Government of India, 1973, p. 33.

126 I have elaborated this argument in my ‘Jawaharlal and planning, 1938–1941: India at the crossroads’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 26 (2), May, 1992.

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