No. 65: Behind the Hype of E-commerce
Brands like Flipkart, Amazon, Ola, and Uber, have overnight
become household names. Massive investments and valuations are
talked of. This sector is being promoted as an engine of economic
growth and a source of ‘good’ jobs equal to the aspirations of the
young and educated. We are told that start-ups and e-commerce are
making the nation innovative and entrepreneurial, and that, for the first
time in history, the young are becoming providers instead of seekers
of jobs. According to political leaders and opinion-makers, these are
symbols of a new, rising India, and represent the hopes and aspirations
of the new geneation.
This publication critically examines the hype and hope that are being
invested in e-commerce. It argues that the talk of entrepreneurship,
jobs and consumer sovereignty is a myth. It shows how technology
is being deployed to render invisible the real relations of capital with
employees, customers, and the State. It shows how international
finance capital places the sector beyond the regulation and control of
the Indian State. It brings out the real employment practices of the
Finally, it argues that, despite the powerful backing of international
finance capital and the Indian State, the e-commerce sector is mired in
the structural constraints of the Indian economy.
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No. 64: Why the Poor Do Not Count
“One third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people live in India, according to the latest Millennium Development Goals report by the UN. The rulers have been trying to do away with this embarrassment by redefining the ‘poor’. But such exercises do not do away with the reality of abysmal conditions of existence for the majority of people.”
Also: The Great Regression; Cars, Capitalism and India
No. 63: Globalisation without Global Demand
“Different interests are coming to the fore on how to tackle the crisis. These differences reflect different shades of interest within the ruling classes, as well as between the native ruling classes and international capital. While there is no fundamental contradiction between these interests, there are secondary differences, and these are worth noting, for they shed light on the underlying situation. There is, however, a real chasm between all these interests and the interests of the masses of people.”
Also: Private Investment: The God that Failed
No. 62: Railways on Track for Privatization
“The extreme miserliness of the Indian State toward the Indian Railways is a striking example of economic irrationality; but it is an irrationality imposed by the reigning class interests. A thorough-going programme of public investment in the Railways would increase the productivity of the economy as a whole, render Indian industry more competitive, and do so without placing any net burden on Government finances. Nevertheless, the State refuses to undertake such a programme.”
Also: Constructing Theoretical Justifications to Suppress People’s Social Claims
No. 61: Rising Corporate Military Complex in India: A Critical Appraisal
“India’s rulers treat the country’s military might as synonymous with its health and international stature. Acquisition of the latest weaponry has become such a fixation for the military establishment that a commentator recently called the new defence minister the ‘minister for defence procurement.”
Also: Making Room in India – for Whom?; Bank Board Bureau: Another Step toward Privatisation and Foreign Takeover; Public sector banks: Reform by Death
No.s 59 & 60: Remembering Socialist China, 1949-1976
“On October 1, 1949, at Tienanmen Square, Mao Zedong proclaimed the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). ... It is to mark the 65th anniversary of that proclamation in Tienanmen Square, and the 27 years of socialist China that followed it, that we are bringing out this special issue. Innumerable books have been written on that period by scholars from around the world. Many of these writings are outstanding, and worth returning to in order to better understand that experience. Our intention is not to duplicate those efforts. The aim of this special issue is to bring out the voices of China’s ordinary people that, once again, cannot be heard.” Containing articles by Mobo Gao, Dongping Han, and Hao Qi.
No. 58: A Middle Class India?
In the 1990s, the mirage of a giant Indian middle class had served to attract foreigninvestors. But today, talk of the middle class has more serious domestic political implications. It is being used to promote two linked ideas: One, that the economic policies of the last two decades have created widespread prosperity, and not merely a prosperous elite. Two, that we therefore need no longer worry about poverty, but can instead focus on aggressive neoliberal ‘development’.
The Real Agenda of the Gates Foundation
The Gates operation resembles nothing so much as a massive, vertically MNC, controlling every step in a supply chain that reaches from its Seattle-based boardroom, through various stages of procurement, production, and distribution, to millions of nameless, impoverished “end-users” in the villages of Africa and South Asia. Emulating his own strategies for cornering the software market, Gates has created a virtual monopoly in the field of public health. In the words of one NGO official, “[y]ou can’t cough, scratch your head or sneeze in health without coming to the Gates Foundation.”
Also: Suniti Kumar Ghosh, 1918-2014
RBI under Rajan: Answerable to Whom?
The RBI is the country’s central bank. As such, it uses a variety of means to manage how much money circulates in the economy and how much that money is worth; it also regulates the financial sector. Its stated aim till now has been to perform these functions in order to promote a broad set of macroeconomic objectives: economic growth and employment, controlling inflation, efficiency of the financial system, preventing volatility (including of the external account), and financial inclusion. True, it has not really been working for all these objectives; but it has at least paid lip-service to them, and so has not been able to ignore them completely. When it stops even paying lip-service to these multiple objectives, one can be sure something is afoot.
Also: Royalties: Royal Treatment of Foreign Investors?; New Bank Licences: For Financial Inclusion, or Financial Exclusion?
‘Let Them Eat Fat’
Official economists claim that increasing prosperity has diversified Indian diets. They tell us not to worry about the fact that people are consuming less cereals per head than before. After all, they say, Indians are now shifting to superior foods: “as households move up the income ladder, their expenditure on food shifts relatively towards proteins, fruits and vegetables and so on, which exacerbates demand pressures. Nobody would dispute this simple assertion. People eat better (as reflected in a more diversified and balanced diet) as they grow richer.” Indeed, it is true that if people were growing richer they would be eating better. However, facts and figures about actual nutritional intake do not show that people are eating better.
Also: Are There Just Too Many of US?; Industrial Wages: An Update; What the Fall in the Current Accounts Deficit Reveals
The External Crisis
The entire liberalisation process since 1991was meant to render India internationally competitive and overcome the balance of payments difficulties which had plagued it in one form or another since the mid-1950s. It has instead deepened India’s dependence on foreign capital, increased foreign ownership of Indian assets, and strengthened foreign dictation of Indian economic policy.
Also: Balance of Payments: The Political-Economic Background; Questioning the Official Power Policy (by Suvrat Raju); Whose Agenda? US Strategic Interests, India, and Sri Lankan War Crimes
The Two Aims of the Budget
The Budget has in the main two explicit aims, as stated in Chidambaram’s Budget speech. The first is to attract foreign capital at all costs. ... The second is to revive growth by getting private investors to invest. The key to understanding the Budget as well as the entire range of economic policies being pursued by the Government lies in these two statements. Also: FIIs: Difficult to Please; Why Do Credit Rating Agencies Press India to Reduce Government Spending?; The 'Fiscal Deficit' Bogeyman and His Uses; Large Corporate Firms on Investment Strike; Will Cutting the Fiscal Deficit Bring Down Inflation?
Behind the Present Wave of Unrest in the Auto Industry
How did this deterioration take place? It was not merely a story of growing worker productivity, the ability to produce more per hour with new technology. As we saw above, workers’ wages actually fell in real terms by almost one-fifth. Active class struggle was being waged – by the employers against the workers. Also: Union Budget 2012-13: Gifts for Private Capital, Thefts from the Working People:
The Political Economy of Corporations: Behind the Veil of ‘Corporate Efficiency’
A Modest Proposal Regarding Subsidies
Every subsidy, of course, has a broader social objective. In the case of the subsidies under discussion here, the purpose is to enrich a microscopic section of society. The test of the subsidy is how efficiently it meets that objective. As we shall see below, while these subsidies have certainly succeeded, there remain problems of transparency, efficiency, targeting, and vulnerability to political attacks. Also: The Dangers of Providing Speculators a Bigger Playground by Sunanda Sen and Mahua Paul; Foreign Investment and Land Acquisition
Their 'Growth', Their Slowdown and the Condition of the People
The entire discussion of the slowdown brings to the fore once again the gulf between the economy of the elite and that of the masses of people. This should not be taken to mean that the two operate independently of each other; rather, the former is rising on the bony and weary back of the latter. As the elite strains to reach higher and higher, it plunges the people into the depths.
India’s Rulers and India’s National Interest
The depiction of India as a rising independent power, a power that embraces the Realist view and hard-headedly promotes its self-interest, appeals to India’s elite and a section of its middle class. ... In the actual correlation of forces worldwide, the global power aspiration of India’s ruling classes, far from promoting India's true national interest (the interest of the Indian people), undermines it.
India's Atomic Energy Programme: Claims and Reality
The Indian government claims that nuclear power would wipe out a projected energy deficit by 2050 of 412,000 MW. Is this figure realistic? How does the economic cost of nuclear power compare with other sources of energy? What is the link between the civilian and military programmes and how does the nuclear deal bear upon weaponization? Will the planned massive nuclear expansion make India dependent on imperialist powers? Why was the Government willing to risk its very survival to ensure passage of the nuclear deal?
The New Great Depression and India
"In the space of a few months everything has changed. GDP growth is falling, and the manufacturing sector has gone into a tailspin; the best-known Indian firms are making losses and cancelling planned investments; the sharemarket has crashed; foreign acquisitions are proving to be albatrosses round the necks of many corporate firms; and the smugness of the ruling elite has evaporated."
India’s Runaway Growth: Distortion, Disarticulation, and Exclusion
"India's economy has seen rapid growth since 2003-04.
At the same time, the proponents of the current policies have been unable to explain why, amid this extraordinary boom, we witness mass malnutrition; abysmal growth and quality of employment; stagnant or declining real wages; stagnation or retrogression in agriculture, with a profound crisis of the small peasantry.
What Keeps Disputes on River Waters Alive?
"The ruling class parties, and assorted appendages of ruling class politics (regional chauvinist outfits, ambitious clerics, film stars and their fan clubs, opportunist trade unions/peasant fronts), choose to present the issue of the inter-state distribution of river waters as the most important problem of the peasantry." Plus: Suniti Kumar Ghosh on 1947; Dipankar Dey on FDI in India's retail trade.
'Counter-Revolution in Military Affairs?
"Wired" or "postmodern" warfare, it was widely claimed, would transform the 21st-century battlefield and assure American supremacy for generations to come. ... US strategists are now re-learning the fundamental lessons of Vietnam: that guerilla war is a political, not merely a military, struggle; that technology cannot defeat a determined popular resistance; that resistance fighters draw their power from the sympathies and co-operation of the people. Plus: Wheat Imports: A Tool for Reshaping Indian Agriculture.
'Global Power', Client State
In recent years, successive governments at the Centre have actively promoted the notion that India is emerging as a 'global' or 'great' power, and that this is a matter of national pride. Now the United States has declared that it plans to "make India a world power". What sort of 'global power' is India in the process of becoming?
No.s 39 & 40:
The Story of Otis Elevators
Plus: Examining the Current Boom; Budget 2005-06: Seeing through the Propaganda; more.
The UPA Government's Economic Policies
Plus: Squeezing state finances; the US and conscription; foundations and imperialism; debate on the WSF; more.
No.s 36 & 37:
The Real State of India's Economy
From the issue: “[T] the entire ‘India Shining’ campaign
is a cheap statistical fraud. There is no significant turnaround
in the economy as a whole. The actual condition of the people and
their productive future — the only real measure of economic
performance — is appalling.”
The Economics and
Politics of the World Social Forum
From the issue: “‘Globalisation’, a misleading
word for the current onslaught by imperialism, can be resisted, and
even defeated, by a combination
of struggles at various levels, in various countries, in various forms. ... However,
a careful analysis reveals that the World Social Forum is not an instrument of
such struggle. It is a diversion from it.”
Nos. 33 & 34:
the Invasion of Iraq
“[S]ynthesizes the seemingly disparate threads of the
US war drive in a blistering indictment of American foreign policy
. . . The effect
is of puzzle pieces clicking into place.” —Counterpunch
See also Back Issues.
Note: Behind the Invasion of
has been issued in book form and may be ordered
online from Monthly Review Press.