secondly, that the variable capital required to work a given plot of land, on the whole, diminishes (cf. Das Kapital, III, 2, S. 177; Russian translation, p. 526, which I quote in my book, The Development of Capitalism, pp. 4 and 444[*]). We have indicated above that in certain cases and certain periods we observed an increase in the variable capital required for the cultivation of a given plot of land; hut this does not affect the correctness of the general law. Kautsky of course, would not think of denying that not in every case does the relative diminution of the agricultural population become absolute diminution; that the degree of this absolute diminution is also determined by the growth of capitalist colonies. In relevant places in his book Kautsky very clearly points to this growth of capitalist colonies which flood Europe with cheap grain. ("The flight from the land of the rural population (Landflucht ) which leads to the depopulation of the European countryside, constantly brings, not only to the towns, but also to the colonies, fresh crowds of robust country dwellers. . ." S. 242.) The phenomenon of industry depriving agriculture of its strongest, most energetic, and most intelligent workers is general, not only in industrial, but also in agricultural, countries; not only in Western Europe, but also in America and in Russia. The contradiction between the culture of the towns and the barbarism of the countryside which capitalism creates inevitably leads to this. The "argument" that "a decrease in the agricultural population side by side with a general increase in the population is inconceivable without the importation of large quantities of grain" is, in Mr. Bulgakov's opinion, "obvious." But in my opinion this argument is not only not obvious, but wrong. A decrease in the agricultural population side by side with a general increase in the population (growth of the towns) is quite conceivable without grain imports (the productivity of agricultural labour increases and this enables a smaller number of workers to produce as much as and even more than was formerly produced). A general increase in the population parallel with a
* See present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 40, 561. --Ed.
decrease in the agricultural population and a decrease (or a disproportionate increase) in the quantity of agricultural products is also conceivable -- "conceivable" because the nourishment of the people has deteriorated under capitalism.
Mr. Bulgakov asserts that the increase of the medium sized peasant farms in Germany in the period 1882-95, a fact established by Kautsky, which he connected with the other fact that these farms suffer least from a shortage of labour, "is capable of shaking the whole structure" of Kautsky's argument. Let us examine Kautsky's statements more closely.
According to agricultural statistics, the largest increase in area in the period 1882-95 occurred in the farms of from 5 to 20 hectares. In 1882 these farms occupied 28.8 per cent of the total area of all farms and in 1895, 29.9 per cent. This increase in the total area of medium-sized peasant farms was accompanied by a decrease in the area of big peasant farms (20 to 100 hectares; 1882 -- 31.1 per cent, 1895 -- 30.3 per cent). "These figures," says Kautsky, "gladden the hearts of all good citizens who regard the peasantry as the strongest bulwark of the present system. 'And so, it does not move, this agriculture,' they exclaim in triumph; 'Marx's dogma does not apply to it.'" This increase in the medium-sized peasant farms is interpreted as the beginning of a new era of prosperity for peasant farming.
"But this prosperity is rooted in a bog," Kautsky replies to these good citizens. "It arises, not out of the well-being of the peasantry, but out of the depression of agriculture as a whole" (230). Shortly before this Kautsky said that, "not withstanding all the technical progress which has been made, in some places [Kautsky's italics] there is a decline in agriculture; there can be no doubt of that" (228). This decline is leading, for example, to the revival of feudalism -- to attempts to tie the workers to the land and impose certain duties upon them. Is it surprising that backward forms of agriculture should revive on the soil of this "depression"? That the peasantry, which in general is distinguished from workers employed in large-scale production by its lower level of requirements, greater ability to starve, and greater exertion while at work, can hold out longer during a
crisis?* "The agrarian crisis affects all agricultural classes that produce commodities; it does not stop at the middle peasant" (S. 231). One would think that all these propositions of Kautsky are so clear that it is impossible not to understand them. Nevertheless, the critic has evidently failed to understand them. Mr. Bulgakov does not come forward with an opinion: he does not tell us how he explains this increase in the medium-
* Kautsky says elsewhere: "The small farmers hold out longer in a hopeless position. We have every reason to doubt that this is an advantage of small-scale production" (S. 134).
In passing, let us mention data fully confirming Kautsky's view that are given by Koenig in his book, in which he describes in detail the condition of English agriculture in a number of typical counties (Die Lage der englischen Landwirtschaft, etc. [The Condition of English Agriculture, etc. ], Jena, 1896, von Dr. F. Koenig). In this book we find any amount of evidence of overwork and under-consumption on the part of the small farmers, as compared with hired labourers, but no evidence of the opposite. We read, for instance, that the small farms pay "because of immense (ungeheuer ) diligence and frugality" (88); the farm buildings of the small farmers are inferior (107); the small landowners (yeoman farmers [these words are in English in the original. --Ed.]) are worse off than the tenant farmers (149); "their conditions are very miserable (in Lincolnshire), their cottages being worse than those of the labourers employed on the big farms, and some are in a very bad state. The small landowners work harder and for longer hours than ordinary labourers, but they earn less. They live more poorly and eat less meat . . . their sons and daughters work without pay and are badly clothed" (157). "The small farmers work like slaves; in the summer they often work from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m." (a report of the Chambor of Agriculture in Boston, S. 158). "Without a doubt," says a big farmer, "the small man (der kleine Mann ), who has little capital and on whose farm all the work is done by members of his family, finds it easier to cut down housekeeping expenses, while the big farmer must feed his labourers equally well in bad years and good" (218). The small farmers (in Ayrshire) "are extraordinarily (ungeheuer ) diligent; their wives and children do no less, and often more, work than the day labourers; it is said that two of them will do as much work in a day as three hired labourers" (231). "The life of the small tenant farmer, who must work with his whole family, is the life of a slave" (253). "Taken as a whole . . . the small farmers have evidently withstood the crisis better than the big farmers, but this does not imply that the small farm is more profitable. The reason, in our opinion, is that the small man (der kleine Mann ) utilises the unpaid assistance of his family. . . . Usually . . . the whole family of the small farmer works on the farm. . . . The children are fed and clothed, and only rarely do they get a definite daily wage" (277-78), etc., etc.
sized peasant farms, but he ascribes to Kautsky the opinion that "the development of the capitalist mode of production is ruining agriculture." And Mr. Bulgakov exclaims angrily: "Kautsky's assertion that agriculture is being destroyed is wrong, arbitrary, unproved, and contradicts all the main facts of reality," etc., etc.
To this we can only say that Mr. Bulgakov conveys Kautsky's ideas altogether incorrectly. Kautsky does not state that the development of capitalism is ruining agriculture; he says the opposite. Only by being very inattentive in reading Kautsky's book can one deduce from his words on the depression (= crisis) in agriculture and on the technical retrogression to be observed in some places (nota bene ) that he speaks of the "destruction," the "doom" of agriculture. In Chapter X, which deals especially with the question of overseas competition (i.e., the main reason for the agrarian crisis), Kautsky says: "The impending crisis, of course (natürlich ), need not necessarily (braucht nicht ) ruin the industry which it affects. It does so only in very rare cases. As a general rule, a crisis merely causes a change in the existing property relations in the capitalist sense" (273-74). This observation made in connection with the crisis in the agricultural industries clearly reveals Kautsky's general view of the significance of a crisis. In the same chapter Kautsky again expresses the view in relation to the whole of agriculture: "What has been said above does not give one the least right to speak about the doom of agriculture (Man braucht deswegen noch lange nicht von einem Untergang der Landwirtschaft zu sprechen ), but where the modern mode of production has taken a firm hold its conservative character has disappeared for ever. The continuation of the old routine (das Verharren beim Alten ) means certain ruin for the farmer; he must constantly watch the development of technique and continuously adapt his methods of production to the new conditions. . . . Even in the rural districts economic life, which hitherto has with strict uniformity moved in an eternal rut, has dropped into a state of constant revolutionisation, a state that is characteristic of the capitalist mode of production" (289).
Mr, Bulgakov "does not understand" how trends toward the development of productive forces in agriculture can be com-
bined with trends that increase the difficulties of commercial agriculture. What is there unintelligible in this? Capitalism in both agriculture and industry gives an enormous impetus to the development of productive forces; but it is precisely this development which, the more it proceeds, causes the contradictions of capitalism to become more acute and creates new "difficulties" for the system. Kautsky develops one of the fundamental ideas of Marx, who categorically emphasised the progressive historical role of agricultural capitalism (the rationalisation of agriculture, the separation of the land from the farmer, the emancipation of the rural population from the relations of master and slave, etc.), at the same time no less categorically pointing to the impoverishment and oppression of the direct producers and to the fact that capitalism is incompatible with the requirements of rational agriculture. It is very strange indeed that Mr. Bulgakov, who admits that his "general social-philosophic world outlook is. the same as Kautsky's,"[*] should fail to note that Kautsky here develops a fundamental idea of Marx. The readers of Nachalo must inevitably remain in perplexity over Mr. Bulgakov's attitude towards these fundamental ideas and wonder how, in view of the identity of their general world outlook, he can say: "De principiis non est disputandum "!!?** We permit ourselves not to believe Mr. Bulgakov's statement; we consider that an argument between him and other Marxists is possible precisely because of the community of these "principia." In saying that capitalism rationalises. agriculture and that industry provides machinery for agriculture, etc., Mr. Bulgakov merely repeats one of these "principia." Only he should not have said "quite the opposite" in this connection. Readers might think that Kautsky holds a different opinion, whereas he very emphatically and definitely develops these fundamental ideas of Marx in his book. He says: "It is precisely industry which has created the technical and scientific conditions for new, rational agriculture. It is precisely industry which has revolutionised agriculture by means of machines
* As for the philosophic world outlook, we do not know whether what Mr. Bulgakov says is true. Kautsky does not seem to be an adherent of the critical philosophy, as Mr. Bulgakov is.
** In matters of principle there is no disputing. --Ed.
and artificial fertilisers, by means of the microscope and the chemical laboratory, giving rise in this way to the technical superiority of large-scale capitalist production over small scale, peasant production" (S. 292). Thus, Kautsky does not fall into the contradiction in which we find Mr. Bulgakov bogged: on the one hand, Mr. Bulgakov admits that "capitalism [i.e., production carried on with the aid of wage labour, i.e., not peasant, but large-scale production?] rationalises agriculture," while on the other, he argues that "it is not large-scale production which is the vehicle of this technical progress"!
Chapter X of Kautsky's book deals with the question of overseas competition and the industrialisation of agriculture. Mr. Bulgakov treats this chapter in a very offhand manner: "Nothing particularly new or original, more or less well-known main facts," etc., he says, leaving in the background the fundamental question of the conception of the agrarian crisis, its essence and significance. And yet this question is of enormous theoretical importance.
The conception of the agrarian crisis inevitably follows from the general conception of agrarian evolution which Marx presented and on which Kautsky enlarges in detail. Kautsky sees the essence of the agrarian crisis in the fact that, owing to the competition of countries which produce very cheap grain, agriculture in Europe has lost the opportunity of shifting to the masses of consumers the burdens imposed on it by the private ownership of land and capitalist commodity production. From now on agriculture in Europe "must itself bear them [these burdens], and this is what the present agrarian crisis amounts to " (S. 239, Kautsky's italics). Ground rent is the main burden. In Europe, ground rent has been raised by preceding historical development to an extremely high level (both differential and absolute rent) and is fixed in the price of land.* On the other hand, in
* For the process of inflating and fixing rent see the apt remarks of Parvus in The World Market and the Agricultural Crisis. Parvus shares Kautsky's main view on the crisis and on the agrarian question generally.
the colonies (America, Argentina, and others), insofar as they remain colonies, we see free land occupied by new settlers, either entirely gratis or for an insignificant price; more over, the virginal fertility of this land reduces production costs to a minimum. Up to now, capitalist agriculture in Europe has quite naturally transferred the burden of excessively high rents to the consumer (in the form of high grain prices); now, however, the burden of these rents falls upon the farmers and the landowners themselves and ruins them.[*] Thus, the agrarian crisis has upset, and continues to upset, the prosperity which capitalist landed property and capitalist agriculture formerly enjoyed. Hitherto capitalist landed property has exacted an ever-increasing tribute from social development; and it fixed the level of this tribute in the price of land. Now it has to forego this tribute.** Capitalist agriculture has now been reduced to the state of instability that is characteristic of capitalist industry and is compelled to adapt itself to new market conditions. Like every crisis, the agrarian crisis is ruining a large number of farmers, is bringing about important changes in the established property relations, and in some places is leading to technical retrogression, to the revival of medieval relations and forms of economy. Taken as a whole, however, it is accelerating social evolution, ejecting patriarchal stagnation from its last refuge, and making necessary the further specialisation of agriculture (a principal factor of agricultural progress in capitalist society), the further application of machinery, etc. On the whole, as Kautsky shows by data
* Parvus, op. cit. p. 141, quoted in a review of Parvus' book in Nachalo, No. 3, p. 117. (See present volume, p. 66. --Ed.) We should add that the other "difficulties" of commercial agriculture confronting Europe affect the colonies to an incomparably smaller degree.
** Absolute rent is the result of monopoly. "Fortunately, there is a limit to the raising of absolute rent. . . . Until recent times it rose steadily in Europe in the same way as differential rent. But overseas competition has undermined this monopoly to a very considerable extent. We have no grounds for thinking that differential rent in Europe has suffered as a result of overseas competition, except for a few counties in England. . . . But absolute rent has dropped, and this has benefited (zu gute gekommen ) primarily the working classes" (S. 80; cf. also S. 328).
for several countries, in Chapter IV of his book, even in Western Europe, instead of the stagnation in agriculture in the period 1880-90, we see technical progress. We say even in Western Europe, because in America, for example, this progress is still more marked.
In short, there are no grounds for regarding the agrarian crisis as an obstacle to capitalism and capitalist development.