Saturday, 10 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 11

Struve also adopts a similar subjectivist stance to the Narodniks, when he asks the question “on what basis can our national economy be reorganised? (p 202)” (p 468) This is the same kind of schema mongering as that of the Narodniks, and their plans for alternative paths of development. In a capitalist economy, it is organised and reorganised by the bourgeoisie, as ruling class, and even they can only do so within the constraints of The Law of Value, and the specific laws of capital

“Instead of the question of possible reorganisation, what should have been put is the question of the successive stages of the development of this bourgeois economy; and it should have been put from the viewpoint of precisely that theory in whose name the author so splendidly replies to Mr. V. V., who describes Mr. N. —on as an “undoubted Marxist,” that this “undoubted Marxist” has no idea of the class struggle and of the class origin of the state.” (p 468) 

Struve himself fails to understand the central role of class struggle. He rightly criticises the Narodniks and Danielson for taking the peasantry as a whole, rather than being stratified and differentiating into a bourgeoisie and proletariat. The concept of a single peasantry is a “fiction”, he says, but later falls into the use of the same fiction. The problem, in Russia, he says, following the Narodniks, is the insufficient size of allotments, so that, even with additional land renting, a large proportion of peasants farm at a deficit. But, instead of making this the central feature, he instead concludes that the determining factor in Russian agriculture is “insufficient production”. From this he concludes that a rise in productivity would benefit the peasantry in general, the same peasantry he had correctly stated previously was a “fiction”

The claim that production was insufficient was itself unfounded. 

“The author draws his conclusion without any data, without any analysis of the facts relating to “insufficient production” [which, however, does not prevent a minority from becoming affluent at the expense of the majority], or to the splitting up of the peasantry—simply due to some prejudice in favour of Malthusianism.” (p 468-9) 

Struve may have wanted to claim that he meant it would be beneficial to both sections of the peasantry, those becoming bourgeois and those becoming proletarians, but, in that case, he should have shown how this was the case for each. Danielson argued that a rise in productivity would not raise national well-being, if the goods were produced as commodities. Struve sets out to refute this view. Firstly, Struve says, the peasants with 1 or no horses (accounting for 50%) and the horseless (accounting for 25%) produce grain for their own consumption, not for sale. In fact, they buy additional grain. A rise in productivity benefits them. However, Lenin says, these peasants ae not the ones that see any rise in productivity. 

“They are not able to retain their present farms, with their primitive implements, careless cultivation of the soil, etc., let alone improve their farming technique. Technical improvement is the result of the growth of commodity economy.” (p 470) 

It will be those peasants that were able to improve their methods that will enjoy rising productivity, and it is this minority who will benefit as they take over the farms of those who find themselves dispossessed. For those peasants who find themselves totally dispossessed, and turned into proletarians, they are no longer even in the position of those peasants that were dominated by capital, but who remained tied to the land. They are now as free as a bird. 

“I have no wish to say that such a change will be of no benefit to them. On the contrary, once the producer has fallen into the clutches of capital—and this is an undoubtedly accomplished fact as regards the group of the peasantry under examination—complete freedom, which enables him to change masters, and gives him a free hand, is very much of “a benefit and a blessing” to him. But the controversy between Messrs. Struve and N.—on is not at all conducted around such considerations.” (p 470) 

In other words, Lenin makes clear, here, that he views the complete proletarianisation of the producers as a preferable and beneficial occurrence compared with the position of the petty producer, dominated by capital. It means the proletarian now has free movement, and the ability to sell their labour-power to the highest bidder; it means that all of those remaining vestiges of the former mode of production can be cleared away, the division into two great class camps now becomes apparent and the proletarians, on that basis, can begin the class struggle for Socialism.

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