The Philosophy of Economic Programmes undertaken by Voluntary Agencies (1984)



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The economic position of people belonging to a class can be altered only if that class itself can alter its position and relation to the mode of production operating in society. Therefore it is not economic projects, small or large, that alter the material status of the poor, but economic events and achievements that are a result of class struggle and altered production relations in society.

For example, the serious implementation of the Land Reforms Act, the Tenancy Act and the Banded Labour Abolition Act changes production relations in the countryside, and to that extent effects the mode of production hitherto prevailing. These very fundamental structural changes in the village economy have the consequence of altering the positions of all the classes in society of the exploiting as well as of the exploited ones. These altered positions have the result of bringing about an economic change. The class of hitherto tenant peasants would have now become the independent small peasant class trying to survive on a subsistence economy. The class of hitherto bonded labourers would have now become the landless agricultural labour class struggling to get work and wages.

Seen in a narrow perspective, such economic changes can be advantageous either economically, politically, or both. In our example the release of bonded labourers and the altering of the position of their class to that of landless agricultural labourers in a drought effected region can be seen, from an economic point of view, as a not very beneficial change since it may result in less food and less assurance of day to day security in a region where work is very hard to find. Yet from a spiritual or political view point the change is a very healthy one which results in further humanisation of the poor.

But a very important aspect of this economic change should not be overlooked; that it is not the result of charity or benevolence on the part of anyone. Economic changes in society are a result of long drawn out and often heroic struggle. Therefore it is not correct to say that this change has had a negative economic result for the bonded labourers in our example. The very fact that the law was enacted and them implemented presupposes that bonded labourers struggled for the abolition of their bondage and made a conscious option for freedom even at the risk of empty stomachs. To call the economic outcome of the resultant change negative is taking a very compartmentalised and misleadingly narrow interpretation of the term.

On the other hand, changes in the economic organisation of society that are brought about by the exploiting classes in order to further intensify exploitation do not have a basis in mass struggle. They are often the result of trickery and clever manipulation and sometimes brought about with sheer brute force. These economic changes also result in a reshuffling of the positions of the various classes in society with regard to the prevailing mode of production, and inevitably result in the poor loosing some of the concessions they have struggled to obtain. Such changes are certainly negative and they are always met with severe resistance from the working classes and the peasantry.



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