Thursday, 8 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 10

Lenin gives a scenario which, he says, the Narodniks cannot deny is a common feature of Russian agriculture. In it, a Kulak takes over the best part of allotment land from a village community, whose members have been ruined by debts, and other obligations. The former owners of these allotments confined by natural ties, and other constraints to the village, now find themselves having to sell their labour-power to the Kulak, and he employs them to cultivate all this land, now in his possession. Essentially, deprived of free movement, to be able to go to sell their labour-power to the highest bidder, the Kulak can even pay them lower wages than the value of their labour-power. The Narodniks policies, as seen earlier, which sought to tie peasants to their village, would make this condition worse. The same is true today, in respect of those who again seek to limit free movement, and to impose immigration controls. But, because the Kulak is able to farm all of this land more efficiently than the former peasants could do separately, he requires less labour. Even without the introduction of machines, the simple division of labour and economies of scale, creates a relative surplus population

The Narodniks “forget that the initial form of capital has always and everywhere been merchant’s, money capital, that capital always takes the technical process of production as it finds it, and only subsequently subjects it to technical transformation. They therefore do not see that by “upholding” (in words, of course—no more than that) the contemporary agricultural order against “oncoming” (?!) capitalism, they are merely upholding medieval forms of capital against the onslaught of its latest, purely bourgeois forms.” (p 466) 

So, its impossible to deny that the rural overpopulation was a capitalist overpopulation. It arises precisely because this large-scale production requires less wage labour to be employed for any level of output. But, Danielson also claimed that this process of the invasion of agriculture by capital was nearly complete, whereas it was at a very early stage. Capitalism and capitalist production for the market dominated, but that capital and capitalist production, was at a very immature stage. Because Danielson claimed that the process was nearly complete, he concludes that the home market could not be expanded further, so that capitalist production would hit a brick wall unless it could sell its output in foreign markets. It is he same kind of catastrophism encountered today, except today the perpetually impending crisis, or next recession, is forecast on the basis of The Law of the Tendency for the Rate of Profit to Fall. 

But, of course, the process of the invasion of Russian agriculture was far from complete. Large numbers of peasants were dominated by capital, and produced for the market, but they were dominated by merchant capital, via The Putting Out System, or via the prices that the merchants paid for their produce; they were dominated by usurer's capital, in the interest it charged ion their debts; and, although an increasing number were employed as day labourers, on larger-scale capitalist farms, these farms had a long way to go in introducing machines and other fixed capital, to raise their productivity to the levels of Western Europe, and North America. Far from the process nearing completion, it had only just begun, and the more it unfolded, the larger the domestic market would become. 

“... there are still many intermediate phases before it reaches full development, before the producer is completely divorced from the means of production, and every step forward by agricultural capitalism means a growth of the home market, which, according to Marx’s theory, is created precisely by agricultural capitalism—and which in Russia is not contracting, but, on the contrary, is taking shape and developing.” (p 466) 

Indeed, alongside this capitalist development, there were still significant vestiges of feudal economy, such as the leasing of cut-off lands, in return for labour services, and payments in kind. 

“... here you have all the features of feudal economy: the natural “exchange of services” between the producer and the owner of the means of production, and the exploitation of the producer by tying him to the land, and not separating him from the means of production), and still more in the social and the juridical-political sphere (compulsory “provision of allotment,” tying to the land, i.e., absence of freedom of movement, payment of redemption money, i.e., the same quitrent paid to the landlord, subordination to the privileged landowners in the courts and administration, etc.)” (p 467) 

They also undoubtedly result in a ruination of the peasants and overpopulation, thereby, complicating the picture, in relation to capitalist overpopulation. This simply illustrates the fact that capitalism had not completed its work in destroying all these old feudal relations. 

“The undeveloped condition of capitalism, “Russia’s backwardness,” considered by the Narodniks to be “good fortune,” is only “good fortune” for the titled exploiters. Contemporary “over-population,” consequently, contains feudal in addition to its basic capitalist features.” (p 467) 

That shows Marx and Lenin's point that these countries that develop capitalism later, suffer both from capitalism and from the previous mode of production, from capitalism and not enough capitalism. It illustrates that what is required is a more rapid development of capitalist relations, so as to create the conditions required for Socialism. 

“If we compare this latter thesis with Mr. Struve’s thesis that “over-population” contains natural-economic features and commodity-economic features, we shall see that the former do not rule out the latter, but, on the contrary, are included in them: serfdom relates to “natural-economic,” and capitalism to “commodity-economic” phenomena. Mr. Struve’s thesis, on the one hand, does not exactly indicate precisely which relations are natural-economic and which commodity-economic, and, on the other hand, leads us back to the unfounded and meaningless “laws” of Malthus.” (p 467)

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