Social Scientist. v 8, no. 92 (March 1980) p. 64.


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Wage-Labour and Wage-Goods:

Some Police Issues

ASHOK MITRA, while delivering the second A K Gopalan Memorial ^Lecture, organized by the Indian School of Social Sciences in Trivandrum on 9 April 1980, called on the Left-leaning administrations to resist pressures for conceding continuous increases in farm prices, since the impact of such increases would be all-pervading and affect adversly the majority of the working class who had yet to acquire the weaponry to defend against attacks on their standard of living. The interests of the middle peasantry, who might be affected by such a policy, could be taken care of by means of selective subsidies. Mitra said:

At the populist level at which most economic discussions are still carried out in our country, a presumption often exists that an increase in the price level of farm commodities would pari passu lead to an improvement in the level of farm wages. This is a rather gross example of what Marx had castigated as "commodity fetishism", an identification between commodities and persons who produce these commodities, with the assumption that raising the price of the former automatically ensures an increased price for the latter. It is this assumption which lends lustre to the call for continuously raising the prices of agricultural products, a call frequently supported by parties of the Left and leaders of the peasantry, including the agrarian workers. The proffering of this support is based on the noblest of intentions; it is reflective of the desire to ensure remunerative earnings to farmers and farm workers: the higher the level of farm prices, the better—it is implicitly as well as explicitly put across—will be the economic condition of all categories of the peasantry, including small farmers, sharecroppers and landless workers.

In the realm of actuality, this is hardly the case, especially in the Indian context. A higher level of prices for farm commodities initially means a higher level of profit-taking for the merchants



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