After elucidating the basic features of the development of capitalism in agriculture, Kautsky proceeds to denuonstrate the historically transitory character of this system of social economy. The more capitalism develops, the greater the difficulties that commercial (commodity) farming encounters. The monopoly in land ownership (ground rent), the right of inheritance, and entailed estates hamper the rationalisation of farming. The towns exploit the countryside to an ever greater extent, taking the best labour forces away from the farmers and absorbing an ever greater portion of the wealth produced by the rural population, whereby the rural population is no longer able to return to the soil that which is taken from it. Kautsky deals in particularly great detail with the depopulating of the countryside and acknowledges to the full that it is the middle stratum of farmers which suffers least of all from a shortage of labour-power, and he adds that "good citlzens" (we may also add: and the Russian Narodniks) are mistaken in rejoicing at this fact, in thinking that they can see in it the beginnings of a rebirth of the peasantry which refutes the applicability of Marx's theory to agriculture. The peasantry may suffer less than other agricultural classes from a shortage of hired labour, but it suffers much more from usury, tax oppression, the irrationality of its economy, soil exhaustion, excessive toil, and underconsumption. The fact that not only agricultural labourers, but even the children of the peasants, flee to the towns is a clear refutation of the views of optimistically-minded petty bourgeois economists! But the biggest changes in the condition of European agriculture have been brought about by the competition of cheap grain imported from America, the Argentine, India, Russia, and other countries. Kautsky made
a detailed study of the significance of this fact that arose out of the development of industry in quest for markets. He describes the decline in European grain production under the impact of this competition, as well as the lowering of rent, and makes a particularly detailed study of the "industrialisation of agriculture" which is manifested, on the one hand, in the industrial wage-labour of the small peasants and, on the other, in the development of agricultural technical production (distilling, sugar refining, etc.), and even in the elimination of some branches of agriculture by manufacturing industries. Optimistic economists, says Kautsky, are mistaken in believing that such changes in European agriculture can save it from crisis; the crisis is spreading and can only end in a general crisis of capitalism as a whole. This, of course, does not give one the least right to speak of the ruin of agriculture, but its conservative character is gone for ever; it has entered a state of uninterrupted transformation, a state that is typical of the capitalist mode of production in general. "A large area of land under large-scale agricultural production, the capitalist nature of which is becoming more and more pronounced; the growth of leasing and mortgaging, the in dustrialisation of agriculture -- these are the elements that are preparing the ground for the socialisation of agricultural production. . . ." It would be absurd to think, says Kautsky in conclusion, that one part of society develops in one direction and another in the opposite direction. In actual fact "social development in agriculture is taking the same direction as in industry."
Applying the results of his theoretical analysis to questions of agrarian policy, Kautsky naturally opposes all attempts to support or "save" peasant economy. There is no reason even to think that the village commune, says Kautsky, could go over to large-scale communal farming (p. 338, section, "Der Dorfkommunismus"*; cf. p. 339). "The protection of the peasantry (der Bauernschutz) does not mean protection of the person of the peasant (no one, of course, would object to such protection), but protection of the peasant's property. Incidentally, it is precisely the peasant's property that is the main cause of his impoverishment and
* Village communism. -- Ed.
his degradation. Hired agricultural labourers are now quite frequently in a better position than the small peasants. The protection of the peasantry is not protection from poverty but the protection of the fetters that chain the peasant to his poverty" (p. 320). The radical transformation of agriculture by capitalism is a process that is only just beginning, but it is one that is advancing rapidly, bringing about the transformation of the peasant into a hired labourer and increasing the flight of the population from the countryside. Attempts to check this process would be reactionary and harmful: no matter how burdensome the consequences of this process may be in present-day society, the consequences of checking the process would be still worse and would place the working population in a still more helpless and hopeless position. Progressive action in present-day society can only strive to lessen the harmful effects which capitalist advance exerts on the population, to increase the consciousness of the people and their capacity for collective self-defence. Kautsky, therefore, insists on the guarantee of freedom of movement, etc., on the abolition of all the remnants of feudalism in agriculture (e.g., die Gesindeordnungen,* which place farm workers in a personally dependent, semi-serf position), on the prohibition of child labour under the age of fourteen, the establishment of an eight-hour working day, strict sanitary police to exercise supervision over workers' dwellings, etc., etc.
It is to be hoped that Kautsky's book will appear in a Russian translation.
* Legislation defining relations between landowners and serfs. -- Ed.
[¥] [Transcriber's Note: For a more detailed discussion of Kautsky's book see
Capitalism in Agriculture (Kaustsy's Book and Mr. Bulgakov's Article). --
 Entailed estates -- a system of inheritance that has been preserved in some capitalist countries from feudal times. Under this system estates are inherited undivided by the eldest in the family or by the eldest son of the holder.
 A translation of one of the chapters of Karl Kautsky's
The Agrarian Question was published in Nauchnoye Obozreniye, No. 8, for 1899, under the title "Modern Agricuiture."