Thursday, 15 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 14

Alongside this process, the property relations between landlord and their subjects, and the social relations arising from those property relations, are transformed. In much of Europe, it becomes transformed into a purely monetary and legal relation, between landlord and tenant. In Russia, it is manifest in the Emancipation of the Serfs, in 1861, who had to buy their freedom, and thereby found themselves without the land they previously relied on for their subsistence. In France, after the revolution, the great estates were broken up, but as Marx describes, in “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, the peasants then found themselves burdened with mortgages, so that what they had to pay to the financial oligarchy, in interest, surpassed the rent previously extorted from them by the landlord.

“The possessor engaged in cultivation thus becomes virtually a mere tenant. This transformation serves on the one hand, provided other general production relations permit, to expropriate more and more the old peasant possessors and to substitute capitalist tenants in their stead. On the other hand, it leads to the former possessor buying himself free from his rent obligation and to his transformation into an independent peasant with complete ownership of the land he tills. The transformation of rent in kind into money-rent is furthermore not only inevitably accompanied, but even anticipated, by the formation of a class of propertyless day-labourers, who hire themselves out for money. During their genesis, when this new class appears but sporadically, the custom necessarily develops among the more prosperous peasants subject to rent payments of exploiting agricultural wage-labourers for their own account, much as in feudal times, when the more well-to-do peasant serfs themselves also held serfs. In this way, they gradually acquire the possibility of accumulating a certain amount of wealth and themselves becoming transformed into future capitalists. The old self-employed possessors of land themselves thus give rise to a nursery school for capitalist tenants, whose development is conditioned by the general development of capitalist production beyond the bounds of the country-side. This class shoots up very rapidly when particularly favourable circumstances come to its aid, as in England in the 16th century, where the then progressive depreciation of money enriched them under the customary long leases at the expense of the landlords.” (p 798-9)

During this period, when money rent is acting to dissolve the existing feudal relations, in agriculture, and when a section of the direct producers are becoming capitalist farmers, it also introduces the possibility of capitalists themselves becoming farmers. As early as 1724, Daniel Defoe had noted that, on estates near London, families of local gentry were being displaced by families enriched in business; and Cobbett, the writer who admired Squire Coke of Holkham, felt very differently about the people from London whom he termed “the Squires of Change Alley”.

“The latter hitherto stood beyond the rural limits and now carry over to the countryside and agriculture the capital acquired in the cities and with it the capitalist mode of operation developed — i.e., creating a product as a mere commodity and solely as a means of appropriating surplus-value. This form can become the general rule only in those countries which dominate the world-market in the period of transition from the feudal to the capitalist mode of production. When the capitalist tenant farmer steps in between landlord and actual tiller of the soil, all relations which arose out of the old rural mode of production are torn asunder. The farmer becomes the actual commander of these agricultural labourers and the actual exploiter of their surplus-labour, whereas the landlord maintains a direct relationship, and indeed simply a money and contractual relationship, solely with this capitalist tenant.” (p 799)

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