Tuesday, 6 April 2021

The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 4 - Part 9

Danielson also carries over his description of the creation of relative surplus population in industry to agriculture, but without making any analysis of the particular socio-economic conditions. Struve notes that overpopulation, for Marx, is correlated with technical progress. Both he and Danielson argue that there has been little technical progress in Russian agriculture, and so the reason for overpopulation, there, must lie in some other cause. 

Lenin quotes Marx again from Capital I, Chapter 30, where he says that, when capital takes hold of agriculture, the demand for agricultural labour falls absolutely. This is different to the situation in industry, where it falls relatively, but rises absolutely. Part of the agricultural population is constantly being released, and becoming part of the urban industrial proletariat. Lenin notes that Marx uses “manufacture” in the text to mean all non-agricultural industry. That is significant today, given that manufacture itself now accounts for less than 20% of employment, with 80% employed in service industry. 

Danielson didn't prove the capitalist nature of overpopulation, in Russia, because he failed to analyse the capitalist nature of Russian agriculture. He only summarily discusses capitalism in agriculture, in reference to the larger private, landowner farming. He fails to analyse the capitalist nature of all the agriculture, in Russia, in conditions where all production was geared to and dominated by the market. It was this failure that leads Danielson and the Narodniks to their erroneous theories about the inability for Russia to develop a home market. But, Struve fails to take up this error, and instead makes the error of denying the existence of capitalist overpopulation entirely, instead putting forward the Malthusian theory of overpopulation. 

“The invasion of agriculture by capital is characteristic of the entire history of the post-Reform period. The landlords went over (whether slowly or quickly is another matter) to hired labour, which became very widespread and even determined the character of the major part of peasant earnings; they introduced technical improvements and brought machines into use. Even the dying feudal system of economy—the provision of land to the peasants in return for labour service—underwent a bourgeois transformation due to competition among the peasants; this led to a worsening of the position of tenants, to severer conditions, and, consequently, to a decline in the number of workers. In peasant economy the splitting up of the peasantry into a village bourgeoisie and proletariat was quite clearly revealed. The “rich” extended their tillage, improved their farms [cf. V. V., Progressive Trends in Peasant Farming] and were compelled to resort to wage-labour. All these are long established, generally recognised facts which (as we shall see in a moment) are referred to by Mr. Struve himself.” (p 465)

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