Because the Second World War reduced the supply of mill cloth for civilians and because wages had risen, demand for khadi (home spun) was booming.
This posed a grave threat to Gandhi's core program.
He discussed methods of combating the menace of a healthy khadi industry with a fuckwit 'Social Reformer' of the period named S. Jaju.
Gandhi- My only condition will be that they (the weavers) should sell all the khadi they produce in the villages near about the centre of production, the tehsil, the district or at the most the province. They should not, like the people of Chicacole ( the city of Srikakulam), produce everything for Bombay and use nothing at home.
J. Chicacole is an exception, and is the only production centre in the country for fine khadi.
G. Yes, even in that case I would ask the producers and sellers to wear what they produce or sell. They may send their articles outside but they mus t also wear them. In case they go on producing fine
khadi for Bombay but use only mill-cloth themselves, their centre must cease to be run by the A. I. S. A. I would even insist that it be closed altogether.
J. Deducting something from the income of the craftsmen or women towards supply of khadi to them, we do make them wear some khadi. But this seems to be a sort of imposition. They do not take to it voluntarily.
G. I may put up with such a situation for a short period. I do not expect people to take to khadi immediately and to accept non-violence. We must educate them in true economics and in
non-violence. If we succeed in developing a true economic outlook in them, they would ultimately understand non-violence as well. An economics which runs counter to morality cannot be called true economics. Our workers can develop an outlook of true economics in the villages only if they work under the inspiration of non-violence and morality.
Gandhiji worked tirelessly to destroy khadi- that is home-spun cloth. Yet, in the case of the fine muslin of Srikaulam, he failed. Why? Was it because he wasn't sleeping with a sufficient number of naked girls?
The weavers of that place were highly skilled. They sold their produce at high prices in Bombay and used the money to buy cheaper mill cloth for themselves.
Gandhi was deeply distressed by those muslin weavers of Srikakulam; 'I know that Chicacole khadi is very popular and that it fetches a good sale in far off provinces; but this pains me very much.'
The All India Spinners Association employed 3000 workers. The expenditure was about 4 crore rupees as against revenue from sales of about 1 crore rupees. Yet, because of war time constraints on Mill production of textiles, khadi was profitable and this posed a problem. How create Employment in such a way that it destroyed the Industry it concerned itself with?
J. Spinning, I hope, will become universal. Weaving of course will be a skilled craft carried on by a few as it is even today. The fact is that so long as there are mills, khadi production cannot be carried on on a large scale. We began cloth self-sufficiency work in Surgaon. Ours was a five-year programme. Vallabhswami’s experience is that people do take to khadi but not intelligently. Once we withdraw from the centre, khadi also disappears. Unless the people grasp the place of khadi in
the entire economy of the village they will not stick to it. The benefits derived from self-sufficient khadi are so little that it offers hardly any attraction.
G. That also worries me. Vallabhswami’s words resound in my ears. Party feeling developed in his village. Fasting had to be resorted to. I feel that behind it all there was a mistake in approach somewhere. We offered inducements to the people, gave them facilities, but these do not serve our purpose. We have to discover to what length khadi, by its own inherent strength, can carry India forward. So far in our quest we have found that khadi is saleable in the cities but not in the villages. We have not yet succeeded in making it acceptable to the villagers. If we have been defeated we must confess our defeat. We should learn from our past experience and adopt new methods of work if needed. That is why I say that we should stop producing khadi for the cities. Today about a crore of rupees worth of khadi is sold in the cities. We should hereafter make it clear to the cities that we cannot any more supply them ready-made khadi but will teach them how to produce it, leaving them the option of either producing it themselves or getting it from the producer. I am not enamoured of the sales of one crore of rupees worth of khadi in the cities. We should put into khadi work not money but brain and heart. In other words we shall now have ruthlessly to investigate the value of khadi in terms of its real potentialities. In case we find it does not carry us as far as we claimed, let us give it up or lower our claim or let us take up some other basic occupation such as agriculture. From the very beginning it has been my firm conviction that agriculture provides the only unfailing and perennial support to the people of this country. We should take it up and see how far we can go with it as basis. I would not at all mind if some of our young men serve the country by training themselves as experts in agriculture in place of khadi. I have come to realize that we have yet to overcome a lot of difficulties. The time has now come for us to pay attention to agriculture. Till now I believed that improvement in agriculture was impossible unless we had the administration of the State in our own hands. My views on this are now undergoing modification. I feel that we can bring about improvements even under the present conditions, so that the cultivator may be able to make some income for himself from the land even after paying his taxes. Jawaharlal says that any extra income to the peasant through the improvement of agriculture will be swallowed up under one pretext or the other by the alien Government. But I feel that even if it were so, it should not hinder us from acquiring and spreading as much knowledge about agriculture as possible. It may be that the Government will take away any additional income that may come to the villagers through improvements in agriculture. If they do, we can protest and teach the people to resist and make it clear to the Government that it cannot loot us in this manner. This is only by way of an illustration. I therefore hold that we must hereafter find workers who will interest themselves in agriculture.
Thus we see that the real reason Gandhi failed to kill off khadi was because he was prepared to give up completely and concentrate on killing off subsistence agriculture.
So, what is the moral of this story?
Non-violence can only succeed if you have sufficient moral fortitude to fully renounce it and shrilly denounce it if objective circumstances exist such that it might flourish in any case.