Book reviews –

Book reviews — Bangladesh: Peasant Migration and the World Capitalist Economy by Aminul Haque Faraizi

Baxter, Craig

BANGLADESH: Peasant Migration and the World Capitalist Economy. By Aminul Haque Faraizi. New Delhi (India): Sterling Publishers (Asian Studies Association of Australia South Asian Publications Series No. 8). 1993 ix, 187 pp. (Figures, maps, tables.) A$30.00, cloth. ISBN 81-207-1498-9.

As the title of the book indicates, this work places the blame for the sufferings of the people of Madaripur squarely at the feet of colonial exploiters and their successors, the advisers from the center states whose sole role (it seems to Faraizi) is to exploit the people of the periphery to the advantage of the imperialists at home. Indeed, postcolonialism is hardly better than colonialism. And, indeed the days before colonialism appear to have been the best of all times.

Madaripur is now a separate district in Bangladesh, but before the local government reorganization it was a subdivision within the district of Faridpur. If the author’s reporting is correct it thrived as a rice growing area before the colonialists “forced” the peasants to grow indigo. This production of a cash crop fizzled out when synthetic dyes were developed and the need for natural dyes ended. The next step was to impose jute production on the people and, as we all know, the demand for jute has weakened with the development of synthetic fibers and plastic packaging materials. These events in Madaripur must be coupled with the decline of the textile industry in Dhaka as the fine muslins produced in that city were superseded by the machine-made cloth of Manchester.

It would appear to Faraizi that some evil genius sat in Manchester and said that if we can start the industrial revolution we can wipe out Dhaka and that later imperialist chemists plotted against Madaripur by making the scientific advances that stopped the need for indigo and lessened the need for jute.

At any rate, peasants in Madaripur found that what they could produce did not bring sufficient income for their needs. They began to migrate elsewhere, usually seasonally, to supplement their incomes. In doing so, of course, they were often bilked by local exploiters, the labor contractors, who presumably were not in league with the imperialists but out to make a buck for themselves. Some migrants went to urban Dhaka; some to rural areas in Sylhet district and in the Sundarbans. It is interesting that the requirement to migrate is blamed on low incomes and that in turn on the “world capitalist economy.” Surely there are other problems: low standard of and utilization of education leading to lack of qualifications for other jobs, and the increase in population that caused too many people to chase too few jobs (even if the number of jobs had not declined in recent years).

It appears to this reviewer that the thesis came first and the research data were made to ht a preconceived concept that the ills of the peasants are the result of the historical interference of that evil “the world capitalist system.” Faraizi perhaps preaches successfully to those already converted, but he is unlikely to persuade any of those who are leery of such a cut-and-dried approach.

Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA, U.S.A. CRAIG BAXTER

Copyright University of British Columbia Summer 1995

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