The similarity and dissimilarity between Gandhism and Marxism are as under:
(1) Conception of Ideal State:
There is a great similarity between Mahatma Gandhi and Kart Marx. However, while the final aim of both them it the establishments of a stateless and classless society, their means for achieving this aim are different. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to achieve this end through non-violent means but Marx wanted to achieve it through violent means.
Though both Mahatma Gandhi and Karl Marx were opposed to capitalism and exploitation, yet they propagated different means to remove capitalism not by violent means but through economic decentralization, by encouraging cottage industries, and by making the capitalist trustees. Karl Marx was also dead against capitalism. He was the father of socialism. He was not prepared to tolerate capitalism in any form.
But for achieving this aim he believed in employing violent means. During his time the condition in Europe was such that it was not possible to abolish capitalism by parliamentary or non-violent means. He had no faith in economic decentralisation. He wanted to remove the government through revolution in order to destroy capitalism root and branch.
(3) Spiritualism vs. Materialis:
‘Mahatma Gandhi was decisively a spiritualist. On every aspect of his life there was a deep impact of religion. He was saint and a staunch believer in God. He did not attach any importance to materialism and luxuries of life. He said that man should have minimum needs. He did not attach any importance to politics devoid of religion.
Karl Marx considered religion as opium for the workers, because in his view religion made man a fatalist and it did not allow discontentment to arise in the workers against capitalism. The result was that they lacked organisation and enthusiasm needed for a revolution. Marx did not believe in God. He was a materialist and he gave materialistic and economic interpretation of history, in which he stressed the importance of economic factors.
In countries, like the U.S.S.R. China and those countries of Eastern Europe on which socialism had been introduced, religion was discouraged. No one can preach religion there, and religious education was banned in schools and colleges.
(4) Ends and Means:
Mahatma Gandhi was not in favour of using violent means for achieving a good end. Therefore, he adopted non-violent means for the achievement of India’s freedom and criticised revolutionaries who wanted to adopt all types of means, including the violent ones, for the achievement of India’s freedom. Marxists do not believe in non-violence.
They believe that capitalism cannot be abolished trough parliamentary means and socialist revolution is not possible without the use of violence. Thus, Karl Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto ‘Let the capitalists tremble at the Communist revolution’
(5) Class War:
Marxists have a deep faith in class struggle. Marx said that there had been two classes in each country since the very beginning. One class was of the exploiters and the other of the exploited. Though these classes had different names in different countries, yet they were always at logger heads with each other. Today the capitalists are the exploiters and the workers are the exploited.
According to Marx, there can never be compromise between the two and there would be a continuous conflict between the two. Mahatma Gandhi said that class- struggle brought ruin to the country and it made the production of goods fall considerably. All propertied persons were not bad. There was an urgent need to change their minds.
The capitalists should become the trustees of the country’s wealth and they should use their genius for the common weal. The capitalists should fix a nominal profit in consultation with the society. All classes should co-operate with one another in order to increase production. Gandhiji was not in favour of big industries.
He said that big industries encouraged capitalism. He was in favour of cottage industries, which freed the workers from the domination of the capitalists and did not allow the concentration of the country’s wealth in the hands of a few persons. He wanted the people to limit their daily needs and lead a simple life.
(6) Investment of Capital:
With regard to the investment of capital the views of Marx and Gandhiji are different. Marxists say that there should be socialisation of the means of production. First of all they want to transfer to it the control of all the industries. Mahatma Gandhi allows the investment of private capital but not exploitation through it.
He wants to make the capitalists trustees of the national wealth. In case the capitalists do not agree to become the trustees, he is ready to give the power to the state to control the industries of the capitalists by using minimum force. He is also not in favour of snatching land from the landlords by force.
He is ready to accept their private ownership on land, while Marx is not ready to allow private ownership on land. Gandhi is also in favour of co-operative farming, while the Marxists are in favour of collective farming, in which there is a great control of the state.
(7) Democracy vs. Dictatorship:
Gandhiji had a firm faith in democracy, but he considered the Western democracy as incomplete. He said that there should be decentralisation of power. The Panchayats in the village should be given more powers and the villages should be given complete autonomy. He was the supporter of welfare state and hated dictatorship or autocracy. The Marxists believe in the Dictatorship of the proletariat. They want to give maximum powers to the workers. In the transitory period the Marxists want to give more powers to the state.
In the name of the working class, these powers have been utilised by the Communist Party in the U.S.S.R., China and Communist countries of Eastern Europe. The state has established its control over all the aspects of the individual’s life and democracy has been slain. Gandhiji was a staunch supporter of individual liberty. He wanted to win over the entire humanity with the power of love. Thus we cannot deny that there are certain similarities and dissimilarities between the two.