Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Capital III, Chapter 47 - Part 19

V) Métayage And Peasant Proprietorship Of Land Parcels

In all these pre-capitalist forms of rent, the rent payer is the possessor of the land, and its cultivator. The rent is the form of surplus value in these societies, as the unpaid surplus labour of the producer, either in the pure form of value as labour, or value in the form of the product of labour, or finally in the money form of the value of that product.

Money rent is the ultimate form of this kind of pre-capitalist rent, because it requires that products have assumed, at least for a part of production, the form of commodities, and their value is taking the form of exchange value. The surplus likewise is then not simply a surplus value, a surplus amount of labour, or surplus product that has value, because it is the product of labour, but is a surplus exchange value.

But, even this money rent is a pre-capitalist form of rent, because it reflects the property and social relation between landowner and peasant.

“As a transitory form from the original form of rent to capitalist rent, we may consider the metayer system, or share-cropping, under which the manager (farmer) furnishes labour (his own or another’s), and also a portion of working capital, and the landlord furnishes, aside from land, another portion of working capital (e.g., cattle), and the product is divided between tenant and landlord in definite proportions which vary from country to country.” (p 803)

Under such systems, the landlord provides the land and other elements of the means of production, including machines, buildings and livestock, whilst the farmer provides the working-capital, including variable capital for the employment of labour.

The landlord here is paid rent not on the basis of the pre-capitalist relation between landlord and peasant, but nor is the rent paid a purely capitalist form of rent, paid out of surplus profit. In reality, a portion of this rent is interest on the capital provided.

But, like pre-capitalist forms of rent, the share of the landlord here may consume all, or nearly all, of the surplus labour.

“But, essentially, rent no longer appears here as the normal form of surplus-value in general. On the one hand, the sharecropper, whether he employs his own or another’s labour, is to lay claim to a portion of the product not in his capacity as labourer, but as possessor of part of the instruments of labour, as his own capitalist. On the other hand, the landlord claims his share not exclusively on the basis of his land-ownership, but also as lender of capital.” (p 803)

Marx also refers to the situation in Poland and Romania, where, after the communal land ownership, of the primitive commune, there was a combination of individual peasant ownership alongside collective cultivation of common land. The individual peasant effectively produced for direct consumption, but their collective production on the common land, created the surplus product, which was used to cover community expenses, and to provide a reserve in case of crop failures.

However, over time, state officials began to usurp this surplus product, and then the common land itself.

“... and thus the originally free peasant proprietors, whose obligation to till this land in common is maintained, are transformed into vassals subject either to corvée-labour or rent in kind; while the usurpers of common land are transformed into owners, not only of the usurped common lands, but even the very lands of the peasants themselves.” (p 803)

There are other ephemeral and transitional forms. Slave economies begin as patriarchal relations, where the slave produces to meet the immediate needs of the slave owner. But, it becomes the plantation system, in which slaves produce commodities sold in the global market.

There is also the situation where the landlord, from the beginning also owns all of the means of production, used on the land, and who employs labourers on it, 

“... exploiting the labour of free or unfree bondsmen, who are paid either in kind or money. Landlord and owner of the instruments of production, and thus the direct exploiter of labourers included among these elements of production, are in this case one and the same person. Rent and profit likewise coincide then, there occurring no separation of the different forms of surplus-value. The entire surplus-labour of the labourers, which is manifested here in the surplus-product, is extracted from them directly by the owner of all instruments of production, to which belong the land and, under the original form of slavery, the immediate producers themselves.” (p 804)

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