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English Enclosures and Soviet Collectivization:

Two Instances of an Anti-Peasant Mode of Development

by Joseph Stromberg

[The Agorist Quarterly 1, no. 1 (Fall 1995), pp. 31-44;
posted with permission of Joseph Stromberg.]


I. Introduction: Land Monopoly as an Historical Perennial
AQ-3.1 The control of major material and human factors of production by small articulated minorities has been characteristic of civilized (state) societies. Of the four factors of production – land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurial ability, it is probably the control of land that has been of the greatest consequence historically for pre-industrial societies. In the West, land monopoly has been intimately associated with the feudal system as far back, some would say, as the successive waves of Indo-European invasions.1 Critics as far apart ideologically as Karl Marx and the liberal Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises have stressed the role of force, politics and extra-economic coercion in the creation of large landed estates. In Marx’s words, “In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part.”2 And Mises:

Nowhere and at no time has the large scale ownership of land come into being through the workings of economic forces in the market. It is the result of military and political effort. Founded by violence, it has been upheld by violence and that alone. As soon as the latifundia are drawn into the sphere of market transactions they begin to crumble, until at last they disappear completely. 3
AQ-3.2 With the growth of urban economies in western Europe, the revival of Mediterranean trade during the Renaissance, and the development of modern banking and credit mechanisms (despite the inherited religious doctrine condemning “usury”), market relations penetrated the countryside, gradually undermining and transforming the senescent order of feudalism. This process, whose eloquent heralds include Marx, Max Weber, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Immanuel Wallerstein, made for a hybrid transitional society in which precapitalist and capitalist attitudes and institutions uneasily coexisted.4
AQ-3.3 In these circumstances, the land question loomed large; its resolution – one way or another – threatened some sectios of society as much as it boded well for others. Some writers – not as sanguine as Mises concerning the tendency of market relations to dissolve large holdings of land – emphasize the persistence of political forces and economic positions stemming from the feudal past into modern times. For Franz Oppenheimer, Alexander Rustow, Wilhelm Röpke, J. S. Mill, Joseph Schumpeter, Arno Mayer and others, remnants of the past [p. 32] significantly conditioned early capitalism – if we must use this somewhat loaded word – bringing about political economies in the West that fell rather short of the ideal market economy of classical liberal theory and aspirations.5 A few quotations must suffice. The anarchisant liberal poet Shelley wrote that feudal property has its foundation in usurpation, or imposture, or violence, without which, by the nature of things, immense possessions of gold or land could never have been accumulated. Of this nature is the principle [sic] part of the property enjoyed by the aristocracy and the great fundholders, the great majority of whose ancestors never deserved it by their skill and talents or acquired or created it by their personal labor.6
AQ-3.4 Despite the relatively early rise of commercial relations in England, John Stuart Mill could write that “[t]he principle of private property has never yet had a fair trial in any country; and less so, perhaps, in this country than in some others”; and “notwithstanding what industry has been doing for many centuries to modify the work of force, the system still retains many and large traces of its origin.”7 More recently, writing of the “primal distribution” of property, Franz Oppenheimer said

Rising capitalism inherited it from its predecessor, feudal absolutism. Capitalism took over all of feudalism’s basic institutions, especially two, the privileges of State-administration, and the monopoly of land.8
AQ-3.5 In a world increasingly unified by merchant capital, Western imperialism, and a bit more tardily, industry, the land question had persisted – right up to the present.9 Whether or not they have followed the liberal-democratic road, the Prussian road of revolution from above, or the road of mass-based peasant revolutions led (and typically betrayed) by Marxist revolutionaries, countries the world over have had to address the problem of modernizing agrarian relations.10 In case after case, the access of ordinary people to land and markets has been controlled ultimately by the constellation of political forces. It seems safe to say that the issue has seldom been settled in the interest of peasantries. The level of popular discontent and land-hunger is perhaps summarized best in the vast emigrations from the British Isles and Western Europe to various parts of what Walter Prescott Webb called the “great frontier.” Just as the moving land frontier functioned in some sense as a “safety valve” for discontent in the eastern states of the United States, so North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa functioned on a grander scale as a safety valve for European society generally.11
AQ-3.6 The English enclosures, standing as they do as a centerpiece in the ongoing Optimist/Pessimist debate over the industrial revolution, will be the first instance of agrarian “collectivization” or consolidation discussed in these pages. A brief aside on Latin American latifundismo will precede the treatment of another significant model of agrarian change: Soviet collectivization as a bureaucratic enclosure movement. The comparison of the English enclosures with Soviet collectivization should yield interesting insights into how – or how not – to reform an agrarian sector. To anticipate a bit, it may be that neither [p. 33] collectivization for a commercially active minority (the English example) nor enclosures directed by bureaucracy (the Soviet example), with its disturbing resemblances to the Asiatic mode of production,12 provide an ideal path to modernization, at least if peasant interests and aspirations are given any weight as against competing goals such as rate-of-growth or the retention of power by political elites.


II. The English Enclosures and a Rural Reserve Army
AQ-3.7 The debate among historians over the enclosures resolves itself into approximately the same optimist and pessimist camps that continue to argue the costs and benefits of industrialization in late 18th and early 19th century England. In rough summary, the optimists tend to see enclosure (as it actually took place) as essential to the introduction of technical improvements, new crop rotations, and more effective economic organization of the English countryside. This made it possible more effectively to feed England’s growing population, a part of which would subsequently be available as wage labourers in incipient industries. The optimists tend to accept the “fairness” of the commissions on enclosure and would minimize the dislocations occurring as marginal peasants were moved off the land over the course of several centuries.13 The very slowness and complexity of the enclosure movement suggest that the optimists are bound to be right some of the time.
AQ-3.8 For T. S. Ashton, the essential point about enclosure “is that it brought about an increase in the productivity of the soil.” For Johnathan Chambers and Gordon Mingay, enclosure shows how “large gains in economic efficiency and output could be achieved by reorganization of existing resources.” David Landes merely remarks that “the improving landlords were a powerful leaven.” Sir John Clapham remains content to describe the details of enclosure, making no judgement at all.14 At present, the optimist viewpoint is strongly advanced by the writings of Robert Hartwell.15 The South German free-market economist Wilhelm Röpke (whose economic views are affected by a strain of conservative Protestantism) has remarked that the debate over industrialization has been between “anticapitalist intellectuals” and “anti-intellectual capitalists.” For Röpke, the collection of essays edited by F. A. von Hayek, Capitalism and the Historians, has done little to improve the discussion.16 The pessimist view originated with Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and other contemporary critics of early industrialization, and continues in the work of J. L. and Barbara Hammond, Maurice Dobb, Eric Hobsbawm and E. P. Thompson. For the pessimists – whose overlap with Marxist economic historians is evident from this partial list – enclosure represents outright expropriation of the main body of English peasants by those who possessed the political power to engross the land. While they concede the long range increase in food supply and strictly economic efficiency, the pessimists stress that enclosure was an unmitigated social and economic disaster for the immediate generations of peasants dispossessed. The difference between economic improvement qua system, and social disaster for the small and middling [p. 34] peasants, is particularly well put by Pauline Gregg.17 The nature and course of the enclosures are complex matters, indeed; some of the best accounts of the process are found in the writings of those whom we might call “semipessimists,” such as Paul Mantoux, Barrington Moore, Jr., Theda Skocpol, and Pauline Gregg (tracing their origin, perhaps, from Thorold Rogers).18 To begin with, one must distinguish between the areas under cultivation as open fields, or narrow strips of land randomly interspersed (such that strips 1, 5, and 9 might belong to one peasant, 2, 6, and 13 to another, and so on), and the wastes, areas on the margin of cultivation where customary rights to pasture, collection of firewood, and other benefits had developed over time. In addition to the open fields and the wastes, large areas of land were given over to commercial agriculture and stock raising by landlords or their large-scale tenant farmers, especially in south and central England. (The situation in the north and in Scotland was somewhat different, but far too complex to deal with here.)
AQ-3.9 Besides the complexities of every day cultivation, the system was criss-crossed by several different degrees of ownership and tenancy, ranging from fee simple ownership and long-term leases through copyhold down to merely customary tenancies at the will of the landlord. In the course of enclosure, it was precisely those cultivators with modest claims and the weakest legal rights to land who fell by the wayside, becoming part of a rural proletariat. Since the term enclosure applies to any consolidation of open fields or waste into larger, more “rational” units of production (another point we will return to), and since such consolidations date from Tudor times to the late 18th and early 19th centuries (an especially brisk period), the notion is stretched almost to the breaking point. A great may authorities have had to spend a great deal of time and effort to bring order and coherence to the history of the enclosures.19
AQ-3.10 Whatever the merits of the argument that bigger units of production are ipso facto more efficient and productive, the political dominance of large landowners determined the course of enclosure. While “improving landlords” may have believed the arguments put forward by agricultural reformers and enthusiasts like Jethro Tull and Arthur Young, it was their power in Parliament and as local Justices of the Peace that enabled them to redistribute the land in their own favor.
AQ-3.11 A typical round of enclosure began when several, or even a single, prominent landholder initiated it. In the great spurt of enclosures in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, this was done by petition to Parliament. A Parliamentary commission would be set up to work out the details and engineer the appearance of local consensus. Since, as Mantoux points out, the commissioners were invariably of the same class and outlook as the major landholders who had petitioned in the first place, it was not surprising that the great landholders awarded themselves the best land and the most of it, thereby making England a classic land of great, well-kept estates with a small marginal peasantry and a large class of rural wage labourers. Those with only customary claim to use the land fell by the wayside, as did those marginal cottagers and squatters who had depended on use of the wastes for their bare survival as partly independent [p. 35] peasants. In addition, better situated men often succumbed to the legal costs built into the enclosure process. The result was – in the words of J. L. and Barbara Hammond – that

The enclosures created a new organization of classes. The peasant with rights and a status, with a share in the fortunes and government of his village, standing in rags, but standing on his feet, makes way for the labourer with no corporate rights to defend, no corporate power to invoke, no property to cherish, no ambition to pursue, bent beneath the fear of his masters, and the weight of a future without hope. No class in the world has so beaten and crouching a history.20
AQ-3.12 So a Parliament of large landowners set up commissions of large landowners to reform the agrarian sector of English society. Mantoux comments that “[t]he abuse was so plain that the most determined supporters of the enclosures denounced it emphatically”21 – Arthur Young among them. District by district, squatters, cottagers and small farmers were driven out as self-supporting husbandmen, becoming a free-floating pool of rural labor or emigrating to America.
AQ-3.13 Karl Marx and his successors have stressed the direct connection between the enclosures and the development of an industrial proletariat.22 Some writers, anxious to rebut the Marxist reading of the matter, have stressed the incremental nature of enclosure and the “fairness under the circumstances” of the commissioners who oversaw the process.23 To an American outsider, this necessarily seems like another exercise in convenient Whig history (without conceding the precise point the Marxists wish to make). When one of these writers, W. E. Tate, denies that the enclosures were unjust “except insofar as injustice must necessarily occur” when one class legislates concerning the property and opportunities of another class, Barrington Moore, Jr., comments that “the reader may conclude that he has destroyed his own case.”24 While enclosures did not instantly call into being an industrial reserve army, most authorities would agree that they did create a rural reserve army, many of whose descendants did ultimately become industrial workers or emigrants to the New World.
AQ-3.14 Given the role of political power in the process of enclosure, it does not seem unfair to view enclosure as collectivization of agriculture for the benefit of a narrow class. Whether or not it was the only way to increase agricultural efficiency or whether it did increase it to the degree often supposed are probably open questions. Folke Dovring writes that the enclosures “depended primarily on the de facto power of the landlord class.”25 This naturally raises the question of whether or not England did not – at least in the agrarian sphere – follow a path closer to the “Prussian road” to capitalism than is usually believed.


III. Land Monopoly and Latifundismo
AQ-3.15 According to numerous authorities,26 Latin American poverty, unemployment, and productivity so low that agricultural countries actually import food are all rooted in latifundismo or feudal land monopoly dating from the Spanish [p. 36] (and Portuguese) conquest and settlement. In most of these countries, the landed elites dominate the political structure; with its help, they exploit the peasants and maintain an agrarian reserve army of cheap and docile labor by quasifeudal labor dues, fraud, inflation (which devours small savings), and ultimately armed violence by landlord-sponsored vigilantes or national armies.27
AQ-3.16 According to Ernst Feder, the concentration of good land in the hands of a very small minority creates gross inefficiency, waste, mismanagement, and low productivity on Latin America’s latifundia. “[F]orcefully shut off from the market mechanism,”28 the peasants respond by displaying self-hatred and un-ambitious behavior which is then taken to prove their inherent stupidity. Built-in disincentives discourage the peasants, who gain nothing from harder work. Far from reflecting economies of scale arrived at in free markets, the politically based latifundia are so over-expanded that often as much as one third of the work force is required to boss the other demoralized two thirds. Hence, the great estates resemble nothing so much as islands of socialist “calculational chaos” unable to operate at optimum economic rationality.29 In contrast, Feder argues that poor people are actually capable of great economic rationality and capital accumulation. To the extent that a small sector of family farms exists in Latin America, it is here that one finds land-intensive and productive farming as opposed to the better capitalized estate sector. Given the economic irrationality of the quasifeudal sector and the destitution of peasants who could be productive, Feder supports land reform both on the grounds of simple justice and economic progress. Like Feder, the sociologist Stanislav Andreski takes a critical view of the chief structural realities of Latin American society.30 He believes that most of the problems in those countries stem from an inherited pattern of political parasitism. Interestingly, Andreski derives his conception of parasitism from the Traité de Legislation (1826), the major work of the French sociologist Charles Comte, whose importance as a classical liberal theorist is only now coming to be appreciated.31 Parasitism, by severing work from reward, is a necessarily strong barrier to social progress.
AQ-3.17 An important form of parasitism is land monopoly, which restricts production and impoverishes the masses. On this matter, Andreski differs little from Feder. Direct political appropriations of wealth by Latin American police, customs inspectors and the like is “enormous” according to Andreski. Although conditions vary from country to country, high tariffs, state loans, the licensing-and-bribery syndrome, government contracts, and even tax-farming (in Peru) contribute to the popular view that all governments are “merely bands of thieves.” In Mexico, where state intervention is most extensive, pay-offs are naturally highest. Everywhere, taxation falls mainly on the poorer classes. Militarism likewise wastes needed resources. Conscription exists in Latin America mainly to justify the bloated officer corps. Since Latin American armies are too large for internal policing and too small for serious foreign adventures, they are really huge bureaucracies which often intervene directly in politics. Their [p. 37] normal care, plus what they rake off while running a country, make their upkeep “the most important from of parasitism in Latin America.”32
AQ-3.18 Latin America is cursed with a “parasitic involution of capitalism,” which Andreski defines as “the tendency to seek profits and alter market conditions by political means in the widest sense.” As a result, the continent suffers from “hypertrophy of bureaucracy.” Parasitic appropriation of wealth, constricted markets (the result of land monopoly and peasant poverty), uneconomic welfare legislation to buy off the urban poor, and rapid inflation make for permanent economic stagnation. This in turn fosters a permanent political instability. Andreski’s general conclusion is that in Latin America the superimposition of liberal constitutions in seigneurial, “feudal” economies has led to “constitutional oligarchy” or outright repression.33 In Latin America, as in other parts of the world, the underlying importance of the land question and its increasing urgency make its resolution perhaps one of the more important items in the world agenda.34


IV. Soviet Collectivization: A Bureaucratic Enclosure Movement
AQ-3.19 In Preindustrial Eastern Europe, the role of politics in the economic life of nations had always been apparent. There the politically powerful landed elites created enormous latifundia “in recent times,” as David Mitrany put it.35 To capitalize on new markets for cereals in the West, the lords dispossed [sic] the peasants, retaining them as cheap labor. When World War I broke the political power of the landed ruling class, the peasant masses rose up everywhere (with the exception of Hungary) and divided the great estates. Unable to do much else, the “liberal” semiparliamentary successor regimes in these countries conceded the land seized by the peasants in the postwar period. This revolutionary breakthrough continued the process begun in the French Revolution.
AQ-3.20 The situation in Russia was more complex. There the serfs had been legally emancipated in the 1860s in a reform-from-above reminiscent of the Prussian experience in the Napoleonic era. Legally free, Russian peasants found themselves with inadequate amounts of land (the bulk of the land having been retained by the lords) and stiff commutation payments against their land.36 This unsatisfactory situation somewhat paralleled emancipation in the United States where, in the absence of land reform, the ex-slaves fell into the semislavery of sharecropping and peonage in the former Confederate States.37 Thus when the strains of World War I broke the power and prestige of Russia’s Tsarist regime, discontented peasants supplied a mass base for radical revolution. In what would become a common pattern in the 20th century, land-hungry peasants provided the backbone of a revolution whose leaders, as Marxist and Leninists, had a somewhat different agenda than did the peasantry. Armed with their faulty Ricardian economics, their Hegelian historicism, and their theories of class and class-struggle (deriving from Auguste Comte and Saint Simon, though they would have denied the debt38), the Bolshevik leaders of the Russian Revolution were in no frame of mind to let the goals of the struggle be set by the [p. 38] peasants. From Marx forward, socialists had regarded peasants as retrograde individualists and natural enemies of the kinds of centralized direction that socialism demanded.39 Like the petit bourgeoisie and the lumpen-proletariat, the peasants were the likely source of renewed private accumulation of capital and therefore – in the rather oversimplified model of base/superstructure – the likely source of “reactionary,” antisocialist political activity.
AQ-3.21 The first socialist revolution had taken place in a country with an undeveloped proletariat. Having placed themselves at the head of a largely peasant-based revolution, Lenin and his vanguardists faced the very serious problem of how to hold onto power in a country where they and their supposed natural constituency, the industrial working class, were in a decided minority.40 War Communism, the attempt in the midst of civil war, to leap into socialism by abolishing money and markets, had necessarily proved disastrous. To bring the Russian economy back to life as well as to conciliate a peasantry restive under forced levies and pro-urban exchange ratios, Lenin announced his strategic retreat from socialism – the New Economic Policy (NEP). Soon Lenin himself was writing of the need for freedom of trade and small-scale enterprise and cooperatives as intermediate steps in the path to socialism. He began to worry about dragging Russians out of “Asiatic” inefficiency and preventing the revival of stifling Tsarist bureaucracies.41
AQ-3.22 Of the three major contenders to Party leadership after Lenin’s death – Trotsky, Stalin, and Bukharin, it was Bukharin who emerged as the strongest proponent of continuing and extending the NEP free market and pursuing what he called the worker-peasant alliance. Trostky clung fiercely to the rigid Marxist program of creating heavy industry overnight on the backs of the peasants. Stalin held the middle ground and waited to sieze [sic] power. In this fluid period before Stalin’s consolidation of power, significant debates took place over economic policy which had radical implications for the fate of the peasant majority.42
AQ-3.23 On the “right” (as we are apparently obliged to call it) Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, the Institute of Red Professors and the economists at Narkomfin (the state financial ministry) proposed to continue the NEP. Some at Narkomfin even toyed with bringing back some kind of gold standard. The Bukharinists found themselves advocating a program that in other contexts might have been called “peasantist” or even “Jeffersonian.”43 They saw peasant demand as the key to Soviet economic development. In the context of the NEP free market, the rebuilding of the rural economy would go hand in hand with the development of light industries and consumer goods, with heavy industry developing as needed by the first two sectors.
AQ-3.24 Like Lenin, Bukharin had come to fear the rise of a bureaucratic “new class” of former workers which would arrogate total control over society to itself; as far back as 1916, he had written of the danger of the state in general.44 Now he was calling for allowing the peasants to enrich themselves as the starting point of Soviet development. His whole program was intended to avoid the level of bureaucratism implied in the program of the “left” (especially Trostky and [p. 39] Preobrazhensky). Isaac Deutscher calls Bukharin “[a] Bolshevik Bastiat” who “extolled les harmonies économiques of Soviet society under N.E.P. and prayed that nothing should disturb those harmonies.”45
AQ-3.25 On the “left” (again, an obligatory term), Trotsky, Preobrazhensky and their ilk called for “primitive socialist accumulation” of capital to repeat the growth of early capitalism as set forth by Marx in Capital. They wanted to recreate this supposedly necessary stage of economic history under the ægis of the Bolshevik state and telescope the process into a few generations. As some wit has said, Trostky wanted two stages of history for the price of one. They faced the implication that they would have to “exploit” the peasant majority to extract an economic surplus with which to build heavy industry, which to them was the essence of development (and would, incidentally, enlarge the proletariat, their supposed political base). Since they were Marxists, such “exploitation” was morally neutral, a tool in the building of socialism, and not at all the private exploitation of the bad old days. State control of agricultural prices would favor urban areas and heavy industry and build a modern economy as rapidly as possible. If the peasants didn’t like new arrangements, they would be forced to. Trotsky had never shied away from using force.46
AQ-3.26 Unfortunately for both sides, Stalin gradually eased himself into control of the Party and state and purged them all. Once firmly in control, he adopted most of the Left’s economic program, sending cades of armed Party members into the countryside to divide the peasants and push them into collective farms as called for by ideology and interest. With all kinds of violence and dislocation necessary, the prosperous peasants, the kulaks, were eliminated as a class, many of them physically.47 With their much-feared leaders eliminated by the Stalinist Terror, the peasants had little choice but to acquiesce in this bureaucratic enclosure movement. Only after Stalin’s death could any debate on the direction of Soviet economic policy, however mild, reemerge.48 The Soviet state itself had become the new landlord. It seems clear enough that the “right” program was viable.49 Certainly, it did not entail the level of violence, death, and economic destruction required to carry through the Trotsky-Stalin model. But just as in the case of the English enclosures, political power decided the event, not necessarily in the interests of the peasants – short or long run. Perhaps the two cases, though they differ considerably, will shed light on some persistent fallacies concerning peasants, agriculture and development (it might be too much to ask for justice, too).


V. Conclusion: Mercantilism and Applied German Idealism versus Peasantries, Markets, and Balanced Development
AQ-3.27 The political success of the large estate system in England led many observers wrongly to conclude that large-scale agricultural enterprise was inherently efficient and progressive. Conversely, small-scale family-operated peasant farms came to be viewed as uneconomic, backward, reactionary obstacles to progress. Despite the obvious spectacular success of small farms in the non-slaveholding [p. 40] portions of the 19th-century United States – the model Bukharin came to embrace and extoll, a curious alliance of Tories and technocrats (including the Marxists) asked nothing so much from progress as that peasants be swept away by large-scale enterprise, whether private or collectivist. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, for example, urged that the distribution of landing Britain’s colonies be handled in such a way as to reproduce the class structure and concentration of capital characteristic of the mother country50. Marx, while critical of Wakefield as a “bourgeois thinker”51 offered no quarter to small-scale farming, since as a form of “simple commodity production” it was doomed to succumb, first to bourgeois concentration of property, then to socialist organization of agricultural battalions.
AQ-3.28 It is perhaps unfortunate that the English experience became the basis of so much theorizing on economic growth. As Folke Dovring writes,

A principle [sic] origin of the myth of the large farm is clearly in the victory of the estate system in England through the enclosure movement from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. How mythical the beneficence of the English large estate was, has gradually become clear from research showing how little agricultural progress really was achieved in the eighteenth century.52
AQ-3.29 Since the early socialists accepted the economic rationale of large-scale agricultural enterprise put forward by the defenders of Britain’s landed elite, it is not surprising that they were hostile from the beginning to peasant aspirations. To quote Dovring again: “The parallel strands of ideology from English aristocracy and Marxist socialism have done much, over the years, to discredit small-scale peasant farming despite its successes in Europe and Asia.”53 This mesalliance still has much influence on the economic policies of the postcolonial Third World, where many governments prefer tax-intensive superprojects of capital investment in heavy industry (e.g. steel mills, nuclear power plants) in countries that barely feed themselves. Some economists are beginning to question this preferred model of development and are suggesting that the Jeffersonian/peasantist/Bukharinist program of letting small-scale farmers take the lead is the soundest path in agrarian societies with an abundance of labor and a shortage of everything else. Thus John Kenneth Galbraith writes that socialism “does not easily preempt the self-motivated farm proprietor” and urges the undeveloped countries to allow agricultural prices to rise to their natural level to stimulate production, rather than subsidizing city-dwellers at the expense of farmers.54 Economist Sudha Shenoy argues that to achieve a working, integrated capital structure, Third World Governments should not pour investment into “higher order” goods for heavy industry, but should start where their economies are: “In these areas, the kinds of investment that would raise final output are more in the agricultural sector.”55 P. T. Bauer, longtime critic of Third World policies, says, “It is a crude error to equate capital formation with specific types of heavy industry.”56 Dovring observes that on the basis of family farming “a future, more broadly based cadre of business entrepreneurs” tends to emerge.”57 The belief in the superior efficiency of large-scale units as such and in all markets at all times extends far beyond the [p. 41] discussion on agriculture. Here too we can spy the same underlying ideological alliance of Marxists and the conservative and postclassical “liberal” thinkers who may best be understood as corporatists.58 Noting the identity between the economic views of conservative corporatists like Theodore Roosevelt and the Marxists as regards economic concentration, Walter Karp writes that

The political distortions engendered by class analysis [is] [sic] well illustrated in a common ideological treatment of America’s small farmers. Since they, like small businessmen, were antimonopoly, they have often been categorized as “capitalists.” One result of this is that the great Populist revolt against the party machines is often described as “essentially conservative.” This is because “small capitalists,” by ideological definition, are in the backwash of history trying to “hold back social change,” a mealy-mouthed way of saying that the oligarchs were trying to get rid of them.59
AQ-3.30 Mutatis mutandis, the same things could be said of the English yeoman or the Russian kulaks. According to Tories, neo-mercantilists and Marxists, peasants and petty bourgeois are doomed to be overrun by the Locomotive of History, whether in the name of efficiency, progress, or socialism. To quote Karp once more: “Ideologcial categories always describe as natural, inevitable or inherent what the wielders of corrupt power are actively trying to accomplish.”60 The obvious question is: Were other outcomes conceivable for England or Russia?


A. Counterfactual England
AQ-3.31 The English Civil War of the 1640’s provided perhaps the best opportunity for a measure of agrarian reform. For better or worse, the Revolution remained under the control of the men around Cromwell who were little disposed to unleash the forces that might destroy them. Even the Levellers, who were radical libertarians and not primative [sic] socialists, shied away from raising any agrarian questions.61 At the height of the enclosures, one or two critics suggested alternative paths. We have already seen that Arthur Young, once an impatient advocate of enclosure, came to criticize the process. Perhaps the most interesting proposals were those of the Reverend David Davies, who wrote The Case of Labourers in Husbandry (1795). Davies sought to get something for the small man out of the process of agrarian change:

Allow to the cottager a little land about his dwelling for keeping a cow, for planting potatoes, for raising flax or hemp. 2ndly, Convert the waste lands of the kingdom into small arable farms, a certain quantity every year, to be let on favourable terms to industrious families. 3rdly, restrain the engrossment and over-enlargement of farms.62
AQ-3.32 Such proposals, had they been implemented, might have slightly lessened the pace of industrialization while making the transition easier for cottagers and other poor farmers. Plans for agrarian reform became part of the English radical tradition from Paine and Shelley through Cobbett down to G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc (among others). As things actually happened, land-hungry Britons had to emigrate to North America and undertake their political and agrarian revolutions there (especially of we take the Homestead Acts as a sort of land-reform-in-advance). But even the efficiency argument for the enclosures may not be conclusive. Writing of the continental experience, Dovring says, “the [p. 42] allegation often made that land consolidation is a pre-requisite of the use of modern crop rotations has not been borne out by experience, whatever damage fragmentation has done to the technical and economic efficiency of labour and capital.”63 Hence, a course of modernization more like that of France – though one could hope with less bureaucracy! – would not have been impossible for England.


B. A Counterfactual Russia
AQ-3.33 Only a few die-hards would defend the course of Soviet collectivization under Stalin. Even so, a great many economists and historians remain enamored of the notion that something like it was necessary to industrialize and modernize a backward peasant society. In the face of the growing critique of the centralized model of development this position no longer seems tenable. Recent reforms in Eastern Europe and even the present course in China may be viewed as vindications of Bukharin’s vision. The emergence of so-called “market socialism” would appear to be deciding the purely economic issues in favor of the “right deviationists” of the 1920’s (although they did not go far enough).64 Unfortunately for reality, Russian lack of experience with non-centralized economic management and Stalin’s ability to seize the already dangerous political machinery created by Lenin combined to prevent a reasonable reform of Russia’s agrarian economy. As in the case of the enclosures, political power was decisive, though nothing in principle would have prevented a more liberal economic and political outcome (that is, nothing at least that economists can specify).




Notes
AQ-3.n1.1 1. On the Indo-European contribution to the origins of European feudalism, see Maija Gimbutas, “The Indo-Europeans: Archaeological Problems,” American Anthropologist, 65 (1963), 815-36, Kurt Stegman von Pritzwald, “Indo-European: Language of an Upper Social Stratum?” Mankind Quarterly 4, 3 (Jan.-Mar. 1964), 147-60, C. D. Darlington, The Evolution of Man and Society (New York, 1969), 139-149, and William Hardy McNeill, The Rise of the West (New York, 1963), 115-24. For the contribution of steppe nomads – not all of them Indo-Europeans – to feudalism and oriental despotism, see Hugh Nibley, “The Arrow, the Hunter, and the State,” Western Political Quarterly 2, 3 (September 1949), 328-44, and “The Hierocentric State,” Ibid., 4, 2 (June 1951), 226-53.
AQ-3.n2.1 2. Karl Marx, Capital, 1 (New York, 1967), 714.
AQ-3.n3.1 3. Ludwig von Mises, Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis (London, 1951), 375.
AQ-3.n4.1 4. See Marx, Capital, Max Weber, “Capitalism and Rural Society in Germany,” in Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills (eds.), From Max Weber: Essays in Sociololgy [sic] (New York, 1958), 363-85, Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy (Boston, 1966), and Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System (New York, 1974).
AQ-3.n5.1 5. See Franz Oppenheimer, The State (New York, 1975), Alexander Rustow, Ortsbestimmung der Gegenwart, 1 (Zurich, 1950), Wilhelm Röpke, The Social Crisis of Our Time (Chicago, [p. 43] 1950), Joseph Schumpeter, Imperialism and Social Classes (New York, 1955), and Arno Mayer, The Persistence of the Old Regime (New York, 1981).
AQ-3.n6.1 6. Percy Bysshe Shelley, Political Writings, ed. Roland Duerksen (New York, 1970), 140.
AQ-3.n7.1 7. John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (London, 1891), 154.
AQ-3.n8.1 8. Franz Oppenheimer, “A Critique of Political Economy II: A Post-Mortem on Cambridge Economics,” American Journal of Economics and Sociology, 2, 4 (July, 1943), 535.
AQ-3.n9.1 9. Land is at the center of the problems in the Middle East. See Stephen P. Holbrook, “The Alienation of a Homeland: How Palestine Became Israel,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 5, 4 (Fall, 1981), 357-74.
AQ-3.n10.1 10. The “three roads to modernization” come from Moore, Social Origins.
AQ-3.n11.1 11. Walter Prescott Webb, The Great Frontier (New York, 1964.)
AQ-3.n12.1 12. The analysis of Communist states as atavistic phenomena is presented in Karl A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism (London, 1957).
AQ-3.n13.1 13. Johnathan D. Chambers and Gordon E. Mingay, “Enclosures not guilty” in Phillip A. M. Taylor, ed., The Industrial Revolution in Britain: Triumph or Disaster? (Lexington, Mass., 1970). 53.
AQ-3.n14.1 14. T. S. Ashton, The Industrial Revolution 1760-1830 (London, 1964), 20, Chambers and Mingay, “Enclosures,” 63, David S. Landes, The Unbound Prometheus: Technological Change and Industrial Development in Western Europe from 1750 to the Present (New York, 1969), 69, and Sir John Clapham, A Concise Economic History of Britain (New York, 1949), 194-207 and 222-24.
AQ-3.n15.1 15. See R. M. Hartwell, “History and Ideology,” Studies in History and Philosophy, no. 3 (Menlo Park, Ca., n.d.).
AQ-3.n16.1 16. Wilhelm Röpke, A Humane Economy: The Social Framework of the Free Market (Indianapolis, Ind., 1971), 227-78, note 12. See also, F. A. von Hayek, ed., Capitalism and the Historians (Chicago, 1954).
AQ-3.n17.1 17. Pauline Gregg, Modern Britain: A Social and Economic History Since 1760 (New York, 1965), ch. 1, 19-35.
AQ-3.n18.1 18. See Paul Mantoux, The Industrial Revolution in the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1961), ch. 3, “The Redistribution of Land,” 136-85, Moore, Social Origins, ch. 1, “England and the Contribution of Violence to Gradualism,” 3-39, Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions, (New York, 1979), 140-44, and Gregg, Modern Britain, pages cited.
AQ-3.n19.1 19. Two of the clearest short accounts are by Clapham and Gregg (pages cited).
AQ-3.n20.1 20. J. L. and Barbara Hammond, The Village Labourer 1760-1832 (New York, 1970), 81.
AQ-3.n21.1 21. Mantoux, The Industrial Revolution, 169.
AQ-3.n22.1 22. Marx, Capital, 1, 717-749.
AQ-3.n23.1 23. See J. D. Chambers, “Enclosure and Labour Supply in the Industrial Revolution,” Economic History Review, 2. ser., V, 3 (1953), 319-343, H. J. Habakkuk, “English Landownership, 1680-1740,” ibid., X, 1 (February, 1940), 2-17, and W. E. Tate, “Members of Parliament and Proceedings upon Enclosure Bills,” ibid., XII (1942), 68-75.
AQ-3.n24.1 24. Moore, Social Origins, 22, n. 42.
AQ-3.n25.1 25. Folke Dovring, “The Transformation of European Agriculture,” Ch. VI of The Cambridge Economic History, M. Posten and H. J. Habakkuk, eds., Vol. VI: II (London, 1966), 628.
AQ-3.n26.1 26. See Charles Gibson, Spain in America (New York, 1966), Ernst Feder, The Rape of the Peasantry: Latin America’s Landholding System (Garden City, N.Y., 1971), Stanislav Andreski, Parasitism and Subversion: The Case of Latin America (New York, 1 969), and Irving Louis Horowitz, Josue de Castro, and John Gerassi, eds., Latin American Radicalism (New York, 1969).
AQ-3.n27.1 27. Feder, Rape of the Peasantry, 3-45.
AQ-3.n28.1 28. Feder, 148.
AQ-3.n29.1 29. On the problem of rational calculation, see Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State, II (Los Angeles, 1970), 585-6. On Rothbard’s analysis, any forcibly maintained monopoly represents a step in the direction of socialism, with the calculational difficulties pointed out in the 1920s by Ludwig von Mises and Max Weber. [p. 44]
AQ-3.n30.1 30. Andreski, Parasitism and Subversion, 1-22.
AQ-3.n31.1 31. On Charles Comte and his colleague Charles Dunoyer, see Leonard P. Liggio, “Charles Dunoyer and French Classical Liberalism,” Journal of Libertarian Studies 1, 3 (Summer, 1977), 153-78.
AQ-3.n32.1 32. Andreski, Parasitism and Subversion, 1-22.
AQ-3.n33.1 33. Andreski, 77, 90, 138. For human cost of keeping entrenched elites in power in Latin America, see Penny Lernoux, Cry od the People (Garden City, N.Y., 1980).
AQ-3.n34.1 34. Folke Dovring, “Land Reform: A Key to Change in Agriculture” in Nurul Islam, ed., Agricultural Policy in Developing Countries (New York, 1974), 509-21.
AQ-3.n35.1 35. David Mitrany, Marx Against the Peasant: A Study in Social Dogmatism (New York, 1961), 77.
AQ-3.n36.1 36. See A. Gerschonkron, “Agrarian Policies and Industrialization: Russia 1861-1917,” Ch. VIII of The Cambridge Economic History, M. Postan and H. J. Habakkuk, eds., Vol. VI: II (London, 1966), 706-800. Gerschonkron notes that the smallness of plots plus the commutation fees imposed on the peasants kept them from becoming a significant internal market for Russian manufactures (743).
AQ-3.n37.1 37. See Eric Foner, Nothing But Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (Baton Rouge, La., 1983), and on the persistance [sic] of the problem, Leo McGee and Robert Boone, eds., The Black Rural Landowner – Endangered Species (Westport, Conn., 1979).
AQ-3.n38.1 38. On the genealogy of Marxism and its relation with Positivism and early French socialism, see F. A. Hayek, The Counter-Revolution of Science (New York, 1955). For the insight that the ideas of the Saint-Simonians were a garbled version of the classical liberal system of Charles Comte and Charles Dunoyer, see Liggio, “Charles Dunoyer.”
AQ-3.n39.1 39. This is the theme of Mitrany, Marx Against the Peasant, 19-104.
AQ-3.n40.1 40. cf. V. I. Lenin, “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power?” in Selected Works (New York, 1971), 362-400, where Lenin characteristically masks his genuine unease with his usual rhetorical overkill.
AQ-3.n41.1 41. E.g., V. I. Lenin, “On co-operation,” Selected Works, 690-99. For differing views of Lenin and Lenin’s NEP, see Stephen P. Halbrook, “Lenin’s Bakuninism,” International Review of History and Political Science 8, 1 (February, 1971), 89-111, Alec Nove, “Lenin and the New Economic Policy” in Bernard W. Eissenstadt, ed., Lenin and Leninism: State, Law and Society (London, 1971), 155-71, and V. N. Bandera, “The New Economic Policy (NEP) as an Economic System,” Journal of Political Economy 71, 3 (1963), 265-79.
AQ-3.n42.1 42. See Alexander Erlich, The Soviet Industrialization Debate, 1924-1928 (Cambridge, Mass., 1960) for a summary of the discussion.
AQ-3.n43.1 43. On “peasantist” programs versus pro-industrial neo-mercantilist programs in Eastern Europe between the World Wars, see Mitrany, Marx Against the Peasant, 115-31.
AQ-3.n44.1 44. N. Bukharin, “The Imperialist Pirate State,” in O. H. Gankin and H. H. Fisher, eds., The Bolsheviks and the World War (Stanford, 1940), 236-39.
AQ-3.n45.1 45. Isaac Deutscher, The Propher [sic] Unarmed, Trotsky: 1921-1929 (New York, 1959), 223-34. For more on Bukharin’s views, see Alec Nove, Political Economy and Soviet Socialism (London, 1979), 81-99; Nikolai Bukharin, “Notes of an Economist (the Problem of Planning)” in Bertram D. Wolfe, Kruschev and Stalin’s Ghost (New York, 1957), 295-315, and “Organized Mismanagement in Modern Society,” in Irving Howe, ed., Essential Works of Socialism (New York, 1970), 190-94.
AQ-3.n46.1 46. On such “socialist exploitation” see Deutcher, The Prophet Unarmed, 43-46, 234-38, and 415-416.
AQ-3.n47.1 47. Apparently no one misses the kulaks. One searches in vain in standard histories of Russia for a casualty figure. The only exception I have seen is Donald W. Treadgold, Twentieth Centry [sic] Russia (Chicago, 1959), who writes that [a]t least five million peasants died in the process of collectivization and the resultant famine of 1932-1933” (272).
AQ-3.n48.1 48. For a rather tepid debate, see the account in Sidney Ploss, Conflict and Decision-Making in Soviet Russia: A Case Study of Agricultural Policy, 1953-1963 (Princeton, N.J., 1965).
AQ-3.n49.1 49. For an interesting defense of Bukharinism, see Micha Gisser and Paul Jonas, “Soviet [p. 45] Growth in Absence of Centralized Planning: A Hypothetical Alternative,” Journal of Political Economy, 82, 2, part 1 (March-April, 1974), 333-47, in which the authors allow that industrialization could have taken place “at the same rate or even a more impressive rate” without the Preobrazhensky-Stalin policies which “led to unnecessary sufferings on the part of the Soviet population and misallocation of resources” (348.) Their argument, unfortunately, is subject to the general methodological stricture that econometric models don’t actually mean anything. For an endorsement of agriculture plus light industry, see John Kenneth Galbraith, “Ideology and Agriculture,” Harper’s, 270, 1617 (February, 1985), 15-16.
AQ-3.n50.1 50. Bernard Semmel, “The Philosophic Radicals and Colonialism,” Journal of Economic History, 21, 4 (December, 1961), 513-25.
AQ-3.n51.1 51. Marx, Capital, I, Ch. XXXIII, “The Modern Theory of Colonisation,” 765-74, where Marx typically misses the implications of his own argument.
AQ-3.n52.1 52. Dovring, “Land Reform,” 520.
AQ-3.n53.1 53. Dovring, 520.
AQ-3.n54.1 54. Galbraith, “Ideology and Agriculture,” 16.
AQ-3.n55.1 55. Sudha Shenoy, “Two Applications of Hayekian Capital Theory,” (unpublished paper, n.d.), 3.
AQ-3.n56.1 56. P. T. Bauer, “Planning and Development: Ideology and Realities,” (unpublished paper, n.d.), 7.
AQ-3.n57.1 57. Dovring, “Land Reform,” 519.
AQ-3.n58.1 58. On corporatism, see R. Jeffrey Lustig, Corporate Liberalism: The Origins of Modern American Political Eocnomy, 1890-1920 (Los Angeles, 1982) and the present writer’s review of the book, Inquiry, A Libertarian Review, 6, 7 (June, 1983), 38-39.
AQ-3.n59.1 59. Walter Karp, Indispensable Enemies: The Politics of Misrule in America (Baltimore, 1974), 179.
AQ-3.n60.1 60. Ibid., 179.
AQ-3.n61.1 61. On the individualism of the Levellers, see C. B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (London, 1962), 107-59.
AQ-3.n62.1 62. Quoted in J. L. and Barbara Hammond, The Village Labourer, 58.
AQ-3.n63.1 63. Dovring, “Transformation of European Agriculture,” 631.
AQ-3.n64.1 64. See Wlodzimierz Brus, The Market in a Socialist Economy (Boston, 1972), Gary North, “The Crisis in Soviet Economic Planning,” Modern Age (Winter, 1969-1970), 49-56, Gregory Grossman, ed., Value and Plan: Economic Calculation and Organization in Eastern Europe (Berkely, [sic] 1960), V. V. Kusin, ed., The Czechoslovak Reform Movement (Oxford, 1973), Radoslav elucky, Economic Reforms in Eastern Europe (Detroit, 1968). Strangely, Bukharin’s most recent biographer underestimates the value of Bukharin’s economic program. See Stephen Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution (New York, 1974).



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