and survival of the corvée system. The farming methods based on impossible terms of bondage, such as winter hiring,work for the cut-off land,"composite labour service",and so on and so forth, are also part of the corvée system. Under this system of farming, the peasant "allotment" is a means of supplying the landlord with farm hands, and not only with farm hands but also with implements and livestock, which, wretched though they are, serve to cultivate the landlords' land.
Dire poverty of the mass of the peasantry, who are tied to their allotments but cannot subsist on them, extremely primitive agricultural techniques, and the extreme inadequacy of the home market for industry -- such are the results of this state of affairs. And the present famine affecting 30 million peasants is the most striking proof that at bottom, in substance, this state of affairs has remained unchanged to this day. Only the serf-like downtroddenness, distress and helplessness of the mass of small proprietors in bondage can lead to such frightful mass starvation in an epoch of rapidly developing agricultural techniques, which have already achieved a relatively high standard (on the best capitalist farms).
The fundamental contradiction leading to such terrible calamities, which have been unknown to the peasants of Western Europe since the Middle Ages, is the contradiction between capitalism, which is highly developed in our industry and considerably developed in our agriculture, and the system of landownership, which remains medieval, feudal. There is no way out of this situation unless the old system of landownership is radically broken up.
Not only the landed property of the landlords, but that of the peasants as well is based on feudal relations. In the case of the former, this is so obvious as to arouse no doubts. We need only note that the abolition of the feudal latifundia, say, of those exceeding 500 dessiatines, will not undermine large-scale production in agriculture but will,
indeed, increase and develop it. For the feudal latifundia are bulwarks of small-scale farming based on bondage, and not of large-scale production. In most regions of Russia it is practically impossible or, at all events, exceedingly difficult to run large farms taking up as much as 500 or more dessiatines of land with the implements and livestock of the owner and with wage-labour. A reduction in the size of such estates is one of the conditions for small-scale farming on terms of bondage going out of existence and for agriculture passing to large-scale capitalist production.
On the other hand, the allotment form of peasant land tenure in Russia also retains medieval, feudal features. And it is not only a question of the juridical form, which is now being changed, in sergeant-major fashion, through the destruction of the village commune and the introduction of private land ownership; it is also a question of the actual nature of this ownership, which is unaffected by any break up of the commune.
The actual condition of the vast mass of peasants holding small and dwarf "parcels" (= tiny plots of land), consisting mostly of several narrow strips far removed from each other and distinguished by soil of the poorest quality (due to the delimitation of the peasant land in 1861 under the supervision of the feudal landlords, and due to the exhaustion of the land), inevitably places them in a relation of bondage to the hereditary owner of the latifundium, the old "master".
Just keep clearly in mind the following picture: as against 30,000 owners of latifundia of 2,000 dessiatines each, there are 10,000,000 peasant households with 7 dessiatines of land per "average" household. It is obvious that no matter what destruction of the village commune and creation of private landownership takes place, this will still not be able to change the bondage, labour rent, corvée, feudal poverty, and feudal forms of dependence, stemming from this state of affairs.
The "agrarian problem" resulting from such a situation is the problem of doing away with the survivals of serfdom, which have become an intolerable obstacle to Russia's capitalist development. The agrarian problem in Russia is one of radically breaking up the old, medieval forms of land
ownership, both that of the landlords and that of the allotment peasants -- a break-up which has become absolutely indispensable in view of the extreme backwardness of this landownership, in view of the extreme disharmony between it and the whole system of the national economy, which has become capitalist.
It must be a radical break-up, because the disharmony is too great, the old is too old, and "the disease too neglected". In any event and in all its forms, this break-up is bound to be bourgeois in content, since Russia's entire economic life is already bourgeois, and the system of landownership is certain to become subordinate to it, to adapt itself to the dictates of the market, to the pressure of capital, which is omnipotent in our society today.
But while the break-up cannot fail to be radical and bourgeois, there is still this question to be answered: which of the two classes directly concerned, the landlords or the peasants, will carry out this change or direct it, determine its forms? Our next article, "A Comparison of the Stolypin and the Narodnik Agrarian Programmes",* will deal with this "unsolved problem".
* See pp. 143-49 of this volume. --Ed.