[OPE-L:5362] Research Unit for Political Economy

Gerald Levy (glevy@pratt.edu)
Thu, 7 Aug 1997 04:31:46 -0700 (PDT)

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Many of you might find the following, posted on the marxism-international
list, to be of interest./In solidarity, Jerry
From: Siddharth Chatterjee <siddhart@mailbox.syr.edu>
Subject: M-I: Research Unit for Political Economy

The Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE), located in Bombay,
India, brings out a bulletin called "Aspects of India's Economy" published
4 times a year. RUPE is a two-person outfit comprised of Ms. Rajani X.
Desai, an economist and a young compatriot. Ms. Desai, who was previously
on the editorial board of the well-known "Economic and Political Weekly"
(EPW) for many years decided to leave EPW and started RUPE with her own
retirement funds since EPW was becoming increasingly commercialized and
was accepting advertisements from corporations.

I have found "Aspects of India's Economy" to be an excellent journal of
political economy which seeks to explain the workings of the economy of
a third-world country (India) in a simple language with extensive economic
data that can be easily understood by the ordinary lay person. Journals
of this type, which use the Marxist method, are increasingly rare in
today's climate. At present "Aspects" is being published primarily in
English with some articles being translated in other Indian languages.
The intention is to publish it in the major Indian languages for which
support is required. As Ms. Desai says, the primary purpose of "Aspects"
is to provide a theoretical weapon in the hands of political activists
who are fighting the comprador capitalist class implememting IMF-World
Bank structural adjustment programs in third-world countries like India.

As an example, the January-March 1997 issue of "Aspects" contains articles
on "Union Budget 1997-98", "Welfare, agriculture slashed", "Road to
Mexico", "Why stagnation", "Black money blessed", "Plant patenting alarm",

In the spirit of international solidarity and in order to understand
the workings of a third-world economy from inside the lion's mouth, I urge
the comrades and all progressive people of these lists to subscribe to
this journal. The annual subscription price is only $11 which includes
postage. Please send your subscription orders in the name of:

Research Unit for Political Economy
18, Peter Marcel Building
Plot 941, Prabhadevi (Opposite Prabhadevi Temple)
Bombay 400025,

Phone: 91-22-4220492

Below I reproduce an editorial from "Aspects no. 1, July 1990 and then
some economic data on the effects of "Structural Adjustment" (imperialism)
on the people of India during 1991-1994 which RUPE has summarized.In the
future, I hope to present some articles and speeches of Ms Desai
(who is also a political activist), especially those that deal with the
issue of Marxism and Feminism.

S. Chatterjee

Why 'Aspects'?
[Editorial of "Aspects", no. 1, July 1990]

The economy should be the concern of ordinary people. For it is
they who work it. And the quality of their lives, their joys and
tragedies, are decided by the way the economy functions. Unemployment eats
into their very existence; retrenchment with modernisation throws them out
of production and livelihood; a retrograde agriculture keeps most of them
depressed without the wherewithal for producing surpluses; drought and
flood in such rural conditions drive some to the cities where they add
to the insecure wretched seeking odd jobs at any wage. This is twentieth
century India.

For four decades and more our country has been ruled using the
rhetoric of "planning" and even "socialism". Still people are being told
that their condition will improve with this or that change of policy. Most
people's lives, however, have gotten worse.

As rulers have ruled, economists have advised and are increasingly
giving consent. Economists cannot change the economy; they are a
profession as any other. People can and must for their own sake. For
economic history is made in political terms. And the sooner people become
conscious of this and are in their own democratic forums organised to
effect it, the sooner will such change take place. For this they must
understand how the economy functions; why it functions in ways opposite
to the stated objectives of policy; why their economic condition is what
it is; and what premises must change -- how the constitution of society
itself must change -- to bring precept and practice into alignment.

"Aspects of India's Economy" is aimed to reach ordinary people. It
can only reach them indirectly, in the present circumstances of illiteracy
and diversity of language, through individuals and associations who,
having direct contact with broad sections of people, can widely
disseminate its contents. "Aspects" will seek to inform on economic
policy, on the mechanics and links of our country's economic life, and
on the facts and statistics that are given to us officially and through

Most papers reflect on the economy from the angle of business
interests, or of ostensibly all classes and interests. This generally is
called a balanced view of the economy. Such a balance blurs issues as it
fails to put a consistent focus on the basic issues and to relate all
other issues as secondary to them. For instance, retrenchment is today
good for profits; it is also an aspect of the massive endemic unemployment
in the country and the underdevelopment of Indian industry and capital
which are the basic issues. We will thus be concerned with restoring a
different kind of balance. We will persistently aim to show how un-
employment is bad for the economy (not only for the people who are un-
employed), how particular interests make the economy less efficient in
their pursue of self-interest. Efficiency and inefficiency of economic
decision or policy must be judged in terms of whether the particular
deployment of materials, means and labour in fact best serves the needs
of ordinary people and their development as productive beings; whether
the particular deployment is part of such a path of cumulative deployment;
whether it conserves resources. There is a also a fundamental fact about
the international arena which defines a crucial criterion for efficiency.
The world today is divided into individual states with vast inequalities
in their wealth, development and living standards -- inequalities which
have developed as part of a historical process of colonisation and
resource "transfers". We must always judge therefore whether a particular
deployment of resources takes us further into inequality and dependence
or away from it.

So judged, the greater profits of individual enterprises may
actually reflect a misallocation of resources from the point of the whole
economy and may totally militate against overall economic efficiency.
On the other hand, a unit may be highly innovative and efficient in the
use of resources but helpless in particular market situations. Yet such
units get driven out in the name of competition as the market today is
structured in favour of an inefficient deployment and stunted development
of our resources of men, materials, and equipment.

Therefore "Aspects" will focus on and hammer away at particular
themes because they relate to certain basic issues which are ignored by
the 'mainstream' media and academia.

The more working people and people concerned with the economy
contribute to our work, the more effectively can "Aspects of India's
Economy" analyse, understand and present the working of the economy. If
ordinary people start trusting their own experience of the economy as
part of the general truth about it and find use for the connections made
in these writings, the venture will have been worthwhile.



(These statistics relate to India and are from RUPE)

Foodgrains price rise: 1990-91 (avge) to Dec. 1994: +70%

PDS Central Issue Price Increase: June 1991 to Feb 1994
common rice 86%, wheat 72%

Amt of foodgrains distributed under PDS: 1991: 20.8 mn.t (million tons)
1994: 14.1 mn.t
change: -32%

Foodgrains availability/capita per day: 1991: 510 gm/day
1994: 474 gm/day

Percentage below poverty line: 1990-91: 35.5%
1992-93: 40.7%

Increase in fertiliser prices between 6/91 and 9/94: 100%

Bank credit to agriculture as a 0f net bank lending:
as on 23/3/90: 17.4%
as on 18/3/94: 13.9%

No. of workers retrenched from PSUs (public sector units) through VRS
schemes: 1992-94: 75,000

Addition to organised sector employment: 1989-90: 4.5 lakhs
1990-91: 3.8 lakhs
1991-92: 3.2 lakhs
1992-93: 1.6 lakhs
(1 lakh = 100,000)

Annual addition to India's workforce: about 80 lakhs

Share of wages in corporate output: 1990-91: 9.2%
1993-94: 8.5%

Share of gross profit in corporate sector sales: 1990-91: 13.3%
1993-94: 15.4%

External debt: March 1991: about Rs 150,000 crore ($42.85 billion)
Sept. 1994: about Rs 284,000 crore ($81.14 billion)

External debt servicing: 1990-91: Rs 14,765 crore ($4.22 billion)
1995-96 (proj.): Rs 40,782 crore ($11.65 billion)

External debt servicing per Indian family of five:
1990-91: Rs 490/yr ($14/yr)
1995-96 (proj.): Rs 2195/yr ($62.7/yr)

(Note: to convert from Indian rupees to US dollars, I have used the
current exchange rate of $1 = Rs 35. This may lead to some errors in
making estimates in dollar terms for 1990-91 figures when the exchange
rate was around Rs 30-32 to a US dollar - SC).

Objectives of RUPE

"The Research Unit for Political Economy (R.U.P.E.) is constituted
under the People's Research Trust, which is a registered public trust

The Research Unit for Political Economy is concerned with
analysing, at the theoretical and empirical levels, various aspects of the
economic life of the country and its institutions.

It aims to compile, analyse, and present information and
statistics so as to enable people to understand the actual mechanics of
their every day life. And, in this, it aims to take assistance and
insights of people engaged in every sphere of productive work and society.

It feels that much of the research currently carried out with
heavy funding is conditioned directly and indirectly by the implicit frame
set by the funders.

The R.U.P.E. does not accept foreign institutional funding. It
runs on limited finances raised from personal contributions. Contributions
towards its work, either monetary or in the form of actual work, are