Beyond the agrarian revolution - Peter Jonas

Agricultural workers

The text translated below discusses the role of the agrarian revolution in marxist political movements and the underlying historical/theoretical assumptions about capitalist development. It also goes into the current state of affairs resulting from the global demise of the independent peasantry and revolutionary peasant movements, and asks what remains of a communist agrarian programme.

Originally published in German at, August 22, 2012.

In his overview of the viewpoints of Amadeo Bordiga, the co-founder of the Italian Communist Party who was later expelled from it as a dissident, Loren Goldner points out that in his thinking the agrarian question is of central significance for the history of the left as such: "Bordiga’s idea that capitalism equals the agrarian revolution is the key to the 20th century; it’s certainly the key to almost everything the left has called “revolutionary” in the 20th century, and it is the key to rethinking the history of Marxism and its entanglement with ideologies of industrializing backward regions of the world economy."1 In short: the degree to which the relations in the countryside have been 'revolutionized', do not just form a measure for the degree to which capitalism has penetrated, but has also in fact formed the terrain on which the revolutionary left has operated since the nineteenth century. This was expressed politically in the continuous discussions about "the agrarian question", which have been conducted intensively in all marxist formations since the middle of the nineteenth century. At the basis of these debates was the fact that socialists were dealing with a problem whose solution they had in fact expected from capitalism itself: the transformation of agrarian societies to modern industrial-capitalist class societies consisting of a bourgeoisie and proletariat.

As a result of this situation, the movements of the 19th and 20th century were characterized by a split between revolutionary strategy and communist critique, since it meant that the bourgeois revolution became an integral component of the historical workers' movement and of marxism and - when the revolution had to be practically put on the agenda - also had to be.2 The revolutionary seizure of state power came to the centre of all considerations in order to ensure the prosecution of the agrarian revolution. If communism, as the "real movement" (Marx) which aims at abolishing the state and class society, wants to rid itself of this statist heritage, it must logically begin with the realization that "many of the conceptual tools in use until quite recently were tools for the completion of the bourgeois revolution"3.

For that reason, when and on what social basis it is possible to speak of a real assertion of the capitalist mode of production and of its actual political coming into being, is more than a merely abstract question for a movement which envisions the self-abolition of the proletariat. It is only against this background that the actual development of the marxist currents of the 19th and 20th century can be properly analysed, allowing for the simultaneous 'suspension' (Aufhebung) of their programmatical content at the ending of their historical era. That the historical working class movement has always given much attention to the agrarian question and that this question has been much debated up until the early 1980s, but that these debates have since fallen silent, also casts meaningful light on the current historical and - if one takes the above approach seriously - perspectivic emptiness of contemporary radical left currents. The theses that we present here are aimed at taking up this debate anew.

In the quarry of the works of Marx and Engels, there are two hypotheses to be found about the historical coming into being of capitalism. At its core, what the question comes down to is whether the history of the victory and ever-accelerating expansion of capitalist relations goes back to the merchant capital of the medieval period and its early formation of manufacturies, or that it was only truly set in motion - temporally at a much later point - by the commodity form of the soil, the rationalisation of the agrarian economy and the setting free of labour-power which they entailed.

For a long time, the generalisation of commodity exchange was considered by most marxists as the historic foundation of capitalism. For this understanding of capitalism, as a "market economy" founded by merchant capital, there is ample proof to be found also in the works of Marx.4 In Capital, he writes: "The circulation of commodities is the starting-point of capital. The production of commodities and their circulation in its developed form, namely trade, form the historic presuppositions under which capital arises. World trade and the world market date from the sixteenth century, and from then on the modern history of capital starts to unfold."5 Similar formulations can be read in the Grundrisse about the "forms preceding the capitalist mode of production".6 According to this view the history of capital is equivalent to the genesis of the capitalist from the merchant.

This viewpoint has established itself as the generally valid one chiefly by means the canonisations of Marxism-Leninism. It could always be confirmed by Lenin's pamphlet on imperialism, in which he already in the title identified the conquering and subjugation of the world by European powers as the"highest stage of capitalism", and not, for example, as merely a condition of its existence.7 For the same reason, Lenin perceived in the capitalisation of agriculture no more than a consequence of the development of capitalism, as he, almost simultaneously with his imperialism-pamphlet, thought to have discovered in studies about North-American agriculture.8

But in quite similar fashion, western marxists like Paul Sweezy or the world-system theorists around Immanuel Wallerstein assumed that the global expansion of merchant capital had formed the historic foundation of capitalism. In the period after the Second World War, the debate erupted twice among western marxist historians, first after the appearance of Maurice Dobbs' book Studies in the development of capitalism and again in the 1970s in the discussions around a number of theses formulated by Robert Brenner, in which he explicitly opposed the views of world system theory.9 Specifically this last debate was of a very high calibre in dealing with the effective rise of capitalism, which Marx already had posed in contradictory terms.

In the manuscripts later published under the title Theories of Surplus Value, Marx formulated a second hypothesis. Here, he treats the "separation of the labourer from the soil and from the ownership of land [as] a fundamental condition for capitalist production".10 In this vein, Robert Brenner has pointed out that for centuries, merchant capital didn't succeed in bringing about a relevant change to the class structure of society. On top of that, he demonstrated that the bond of merchant capital to the "consumption needs of feudal lords" was explicitly "not subject to a capitalist dynamic"11 and should rather be thought of as a blockage in the transition to capitalism. The "appearance of labour-power, capital and land as commodities"12 and therewith as the foundation of modern capitalism has to be conceived of as a process, in which the agrarian revolution taking place first of all in England and then successively in other countries, is of central importance.13 Using the English development as his example, Brenner showed that "the emergence of a class of farmers mainly producing on land held in tenancy, (...) the destruction of the independent peasants, (...) and the coming into being of a stratum of landless agricultural labourers" increasingly putting their labour-power to use in industry, was the effective "foundation of capitalist development".14

Even if it did occasionally happen that merchants became capitalists, rent in kind had to be transformed into rent in money form and millions of peasant producers had to be expelled from the land, who could then be exploited as doubly-free wage labourers, before the capitalist mode of production could effectively establish itself. According to the afore-mentioned Amadeo Bordiga, the development of capitalism in this sense was tied to the solution of the agrarian question: "Only after money rent had gained a steady foothold - a process which presupposes a degree of technical development and transformed conditions and relations of labour - does the capitalist landowner enter the stage, who either expropriates the old peasant-proprietors, or directly expels them, so that the peasant is turned into a wage labourer set free from the soil and from his tools."15

What is involved here is no less than a conception of capitalism which has the real subsumption of labour under capital for its content. This is really where the pre-history of capital is effectively brought to a close. In spite of all possible exegetic opinions, for which there is always enough room in the collected works of the old men, it is here - on the plane of social production and not on that of exchange - that we encounter the central aspect of historical-materialist analyses. As long as the subsumption of labour under capital still retains a merely formal character, and "capital has not yet acquired a direct control over the labour process", Marx still speaks of hybrid or transitional forms, which under no condition are to be equated with the capitalist mode of production.16

Though the capitalist agrarian revolution in England had largely been completed halfway during the 18th century - Eric Hobsbawm has pointed out, that around that time in England there no longer existed "a class of peasants in the continental-European sense"17 -, in the developed countries the same process took at least until the end of the Second World War to complete: for example, in France in 1945, still almost half of all workers were involved in agricultural production. Worldwide it is only today that we see the same situation emerge which in Europe and the United States has been a fact for quite some time: the completion of the real subsumption of agrarian production to capital, to a world market which since the Second World Was has become ever more unified.18

About the period after both imperialist world wars, Hobsbawm has already identified this as the most important global developmental tendency: "The most dramatic and far-reaching social change of the second half of this century, and the one which cuts us off for ever from the world of the past, is the death of the peasantry"19, as he states it in Age of Extremes. During the last fifty years, the productivity of agriculture worldwide has increased by 350 percent. Not in the last place, driving forces of this process have been the enormous agricultural subsidies of the industrial states. As a result of this "Green revolution", which since the 1950s has been promoted in the post-colonial states by the policies of the World Bank, ever diminishing numbers of workers in agriculture were capable of feeding the armies of new city dwellers and on top of that guarantee the food provision of exploding populations, while the countries of the capitalist periphery were compelled increasingly to import food from heavily subsidized and highly productive agrobusinesses of the "first world".20 In the industrialised countries, no more than between 2 and 8 percent of the working population still works in agricultural production, generally as wage-labourers. On a world scale, according to ILO figures, the amount of urban wage-labourers has already outstripped those in agricultural production during the 1990s. The proportional part of global agricultural production provided by peasants is steadily decreasing, and hardly manages to remain within double figures.21 Practices of "land grabbing", or purchasing and industrial use of the last refuges of small subsistence agriculturalists, could very well bring about the final act of this development, receiving a further impulse from the early 1970s onwards as a result of the structural adjustment programs of the IMF and the World Bank.22 By means of the demolition of protectionist barriers in precisely those countries which had embarked on a catch-up-developmental strategy, an international division of labour has taken shape in agricultural production. The accompanying destruction of regional markets has brought into being a global market for agricultural products, which has turned the producers from peasants largely into agricultural wage labourers. To their numbers we still have to add those who only occasionally work their own land, and who for the greatest proportion of their time work as seasonal labourers in large-scale agrarian companies or in the service sector.23 Finally, one of the last theoreticians of a peasant emancipatory movement, Walden Bello, has designated the current development as "the final stage of the displacement of peasant economy by capitalist agriculture"24.

The results of this process are destructive: even more strongly than during the original history of emergence of capitalism in England - when a popular English saying had it that "sheep [were] eating men" -, and later in the industrialising states, these processes of displacement led to an increase of large-scale misery and famine for millions of people, to imperial appropriation of food reserves, which since the turn of the century are diminishing per capita for the first time, and to environmental disasters.25 Additionally, sustainable production is put into question by the depletion of soils, monoculture and over-fertilization, also as a result of biofuel production, developments which are also reflected in intensified speculation on agricultural markets. The quality of foodstuffs is also partly undergoing a decline, as can be gathered from the emergence of a metropolitan middle- and upper stratum of privileged food consumers. The prospects are therefore dire. One need only take a glance at Mike Davis' study Late Victorian Holocausts26 about British colonial politics and the first historical attempts to bring an agricultural world market into being, to gain an impression what effects the integration of agriculture into commodity production, joined with imperial power, will have under the present circumstances.

Marx did not harbour any illusions about a humanistic implementation of agricultural revolutions, as is shown from the following quote from Capital: "In agriculture, as in manufacture, the capitalist transformation of the process of production also appears as a martyrology for the producer; the instrument of labour appears as a means of enslaving, exploiting and impoverishing the worker; the social combination of labour: processes appears as an organized suppression of his individual vitality, freedom and autonomy. The dispersal of the rural workers over large areas breaks their power of resistance, while concentration increases that of the urban workers. In modern agriculture, as in urban industry, the increase in the productivity and the mobility of labour is purchased at the cost of laying waste and debilitating labour-power itself. Moreover, all progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil; all progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time is a progress towards ruining the more long-lasting sources of that fertility. The more a country proceeds from large-scale industry as the background of its development, as in the case of the United States, the more rapid is this process of destruction; Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultimeously undermining the original sources of all wealth - the soil and the worker."27

But even then, Marx describes this process as simultaneously forming a condition towards emancipation, because it is only through it that the proletariat is capable of coming forward as a socially relevant force. "In the sphere of agriculture, modern industry has a more revolutionary effect than elsewhere, for this reason, that it annihilates the peasant, that bulwark of the old society, and replaces him by the wage-labourer. Thus the desire for social changes, and the class antagonisms are brought to the same level in the country as in the towns. The irrational, old-fashioned methods of agriculture are replaced by scientific ones. Capitalist production completely tears asunder the old bond of union which held together agriculture and manufacture in their infancy. But at the same time it creates the material conditions for a higher synthesis in the future, viz., the union of agriculture and industry on the basis of the more perfected forms they have each acquired during their temporary separation. "28 The demise of these "conservative middle strata", mainly the peasants and artisans, is stressed in particular in the Manifesto of the communist party as constituting the pre-history of proletarian revolution.29 This is where historical materialism first clearly comes forward as an analysis of possibilities. It also explains the contradiction between Marx the theoretician and Marx the bourgeois-revolutionary politician.30 Bordiga alike has repeatedly pointed to this process, as the reason why for him, much closer to home, the national liberation movements and stalinism have to be understood as being part of a historically progressive camp.

It is therefore hardly surprising, that politically speaking, this separation from the past stood at the top of the agenda of the "Marx party" (Engels). That viewpoint underwent a certain limitation in the correspondence between Marx and Vera Zasulich, about the preservation of the Russian peasant community, the mir: Marx tried to counter the misunderstanding that the process of primitive accumulation which he had sketched in Capital would somehow be the unavoidable fate of every country. Because he did not think from the viewpoint of national development, but from that of world revolution, he thought it altogether possible, that "the Russian obshchina [peasant commune], a form, albeit highly eroded, of the primitive communal ownership of the land, [could] pass directly into the higher, communist form of communal ownership", but only if "the Russian revolution becomes the signal for proletarian revolution in the West, so that the two complement each other". Only then could "the current Russia's peasant communal land-ownership serve as the point departure for a communist development".31 For the same reason it is not tenable to want to find in Marx' considerations about the development of Russia points of support for a combative movement of small peasants.32

In other respects, the old thinkers were strongly impressed by the development of large-scale agriculture of the United States, whose enormous output of grain, in tandem with steadily falling transport costs, was already depressing prices in Europe, setting into motion processes of rationalisation and contributing to the numerical decline of the peasantry in England, Belgium and increasingly also Germany. Some background to this optimism of progress can be offered in the knowledge that - in contrast to many illusions entertained by the old thinkers - life in the countryside of North-west Europe up until the First World War, and in the rest of Europe until the Second World War, would stand to remain the characteristic situation for more than half of all people, and that the landed aristocracy and the ancien régimes would continue to politically dominate those societies for much longer than expected.33

Faced with these blockages of the agrarian revolution, which have held out longer than the "classics" have been willing to admit, it was the most important keeper of the marxist holy grail, Karl Kautsky, who developed the first true agrarian program of the marxist working class movement. Characterized by the same optimism of progress, he envisioned the merging of peasant holdings into large-scale farms, increasing productivity through division of labour, and production for the market as the foundations of a socialist agrarian programme. There was no longer any place reserved for peasants.34 But clearly the rise of revisionism and its nationalistic perspective inside the socialdemocratic movement was also capable of displacing such an agrarian programme. Kautsky's programme was replaced by that of the later socialdemocratic minister of the interior, Eduard David. For him, maintaining and further promoting the stratum of small farmers by dividing up bankrupt farms was both a democratic and in equal measure "a truly German-national task", which precisely had as its goal to block the inner dynamic of capitalism, which Marx had still relied on, thus preserving a particular state of the internal relations. "Securing the peace in the innermost parts (sic!) of the national community [Volksgemeinschaft] (...) can only succeed, if workers and small farmers stand side by side in the struggle against the forces of capitalist vultures and mammonistic corruption", in the words of David.35 In this way, the link between agrarian revolution and the socialist perspective was suspended in a negative way, by an SPD having arrived definitively in the camp of counterrevolution.

For the Russian marxists, who for decades have determined the canon of revolutionary politics, the same question subsequently developed under wholly different social circumstances. Not only because the overwhelming majority of the population was still strongly characterized by agricultural existence, and partly remained captive in the relations of an officially abolished serfdom, but also because Tsarism served to block the organic solution of the agrarian question under capitalist conditions. The peasantry were certainly to be mobilized for a political revolution, as became clear from their massive support for the social revolutionaries. But at the centre of their interest lay chiefly the peasants' revolution against the fetters of "Asiatic despotism". While in Europe the solution of the agrarian question and the shedding of feudal relations were part of the same process, in Russia the defeat of Tsarism was the primary condition for letting an independent stratum of farmers come into being. Consequently the relations of the Bolsheviks to the peasantry were tense: "We must support the revolt of the peasantry in all its aspects up to the confiscation of the great estates, but never where these have abstract petty-bourgeois projects as their aim. We support the peasants' movement to the extent that it is a democratic revolutionary movement. We prepare ourselves immediately for the fight against them, should it take on a reactionary, anti-proletarian character."36

The Russian revolution was shaped by this double character: that, on the one hand, it accomplished the bourgeois revolution as the starting point for the organic solution of the agrarian question,37 which in fact meant an inversion of the process that Marx described and the real relations as they existed in the west, and, on the other hand, that it anticipated the proletarian revolution on a world scale. The historic outcome of this nationalistic and state-capitalist "catch-up-developmental dictatorship" of "socialism-in-one-country" is common knowledge. When finally every hope of a revolutionary wave in Western Europe had been extinguished, the forced collectivisation of the peasantry became in effect the most important project of this modernisation under state-terrorist directorate, considering that it was the precondition for the process of industrialisation. It was Stalin's first great project, here in unusual harmony with Trotsky, to pursue the agrarian revolution from 1929 onwards, in equally bloody fashion as elsewhere, but at a much higher tempo.

Barrington Moore has distinguished three routes for the agrarian revolution, which he also considers to be the basis of capitalist development: the organic-democratic one (England, the United States), the reactionary road of the alliance between old and new elites (Japan, Germany) and a third route in the relatively underdeveloped countries (specifically Russia and China), of which communism became the clearest representative. "The great agrarian bureaucracies of these countries served to inhibit the commercial and later industrial impulses even more than in the preceding instances. The results were twofold. In the first place these urban classes were too weak to constitute even a junior partner in the form of modernization taken by Germany and Japan, though there were attempts in this direction. And in the absence of more than the most feeble steps toward modernization a huge peasantry remained. This stratum, subject to new strains and stresses as the modern world encroached upon it, provided the main destructive revolutionary force that overthrew the old order and propelled these countries into the modern era under communist leadership that made the peasants its primary victims."38

On the plane of international politics, despite this turn against the peasantry, the peasant revolution became the greatest means of leverage of Russian foreign policy. While the communist parties after the First World War had almost exclusively been recruited from the industrial centres of the world, the character of the international communist movement was gradually transformed. Already starting at the conference of Baku (1920), Komintern politics positioned its leverage beam at national liberation and the support of peasant movements. In doing so, it was greatly aided by the fact that the Soviet union could point to the impressive accomplishments it had delivered in the country's modernisation. After the Second World War it had the bulk of its supporters in the periferies of global production, apart from France and partly also Northern Italy, where their basis also largely consisted of agricultural workers.39 With the rise of anti-colonial liberation movements, this tendency gained even more weight. Though the peasant question had initially caused embarrasment to the Bolsheviks, the Stalinist modernisation dictatorship became a beacon globally for peasants and nationalist intelligentsia: national self-determination as a condition for a free class of farmers (land reform) and a matching programme of rationalisation and urbanization as the conditions for industrialisation had managed to ascend to form the content of this communism.

Maoism, which from the early 1960s onwards has much more strongly expressed the dynamic of revolutions than its Soviet example, can be considered to be the end product of this development. The "encirclement of the cities by the villages" was a strategy of the Chinese revolution which, after the crushing of the proletarian uprisings of 1927 was increasingly applied throughout the world. It was characteristic of maoist revolutionary strategy, as it was also expressed theoretically by Mao: "Firstly, the village is the centre of the revolution, and secondly, the poor peasants are its vanguard."40 The most bizarre and terrible consequences of this glorification of the pre-capitalist world came to the fore in the killing fields of the Red Khmer. That the peasants, who initially were liberated by these revolutions from the dependencies of feudal despotic relations, always paid with their lives by the millions, illustrates the dilemma of catch-up-development as well as the futility of every attempt to outsmart history.

The collapse of all of these movements is based in the fact, that since the early 1970s, and partly by the offensives of the IMF and the World Bank, each of these roads has been cut off. The large-scale agricultural farm has become the worldwide reality of food production and has driven roughly a billion people from the countryside to the gigacities.41 Either nationally self-determining or under quasi-colonial control, this third wave of the capitalisation of agriculture has shown a tremendous development, even extending into the production of narcotics. The specific character of the late-capitalist solution consists mainly in the fact, that the labourers set free are in no sense anymore required for the expansion of industrial production; urbanization and industrial value-creation no longer coincide.42 On the global labour market, the former inhabitants of the countryside are in most cases "superfluous". The way back to the land is likewise blocked, and besides that it is only a solution which the smallest possible fraction of former peasants find attractive.43 Thus, an increase of hopelessness is seen along the line, but also an increase in the dimensions of social struggle: the food riots of 2007 and 2008 are only a foretaste of more to come. What was new about these battles is that, other than the peasants movements coordinated through La Via Campesina, the Brazilian landless movement MRT or the Zapatistas, they did not demand a redistribution of land, but rather affordable foodstuffs. Whether this abandonment of the terrain of struggle of the peasant movement will last, or that the struggle will return like a sort of historical farce back to the beaten path of peasants' revolution, remains to be seen.

For the split between communist critique and bourgeois-revolutionary politics which, apart from a number of small dissident currents, has characterized marxism during the 19th and 20th century, all ground today has vanished. Agrarian revolution and the international peasant movement are both now obsolete, because capitalism itself has finally robbed them of their foundations. Its "historical mission", for those who don't mind using this teleological expression, has only been fulfilled by it after the Second World War and finally after the 1970s - at the same time as the emergence of its permanent crisis.44 This means that either way, the days of the "peasant international"45 are historically numbered; but the development of a communist agrarian programme46 still remains an open question, considering the fact that the end of the peasant question in no way means an end to the food question. But neither the taking over of capitalist agrobusiness, which is well on its way to irreversibly ruining the planet, nor the comeback of the small peasant coveted by the metropolitan left, offer any meaningful points of reference for that purpose.
Peter Jonas

1. Loren Goldner, Communism is the material human community: Amadeo Bordiga today.
2. In relation to the October revolution, this was already observed in the 1920s by the Dutch communist Herman Gorter, in his Open letter to comrade Lenin:
3. Goldner, ibid.
4. An overview is provided by Hansgeorg Conert, Von Handelskapital zur Globalisierung, Münster 2002, p. 14 and further. Cf. also Ist der Kapitalismus eine Marktwirtschaft?, Wildcat-Zirkular 24 (1996), which attempts to demonstrate the existence of such views within the marxist currents that would otherwise reject them.
5. Karl Marx, Das Kapital. vol.1, Marx Engels Werke (MEW), Vol. 23, p. 161. Most quotes here used are from the English translation by Ben Fowkes: Marx, Capital, London 1976, p. 247.
6. Karl Marx, Grundrisse der Kritik der politischen Ökonomie, Berlin 1974, p. 375 and further. English translation: Grundrisse, Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), London 1973/1993, p. 471 and further.
7. W. I. Lenin, Der Imperialismus als höchstes Stadium des Kapitalismus, in: Werke, Vol. 22, pp. 189-309. English translation:
8. W. I. Lenin, Neue Daten über die Entwicklungsgesetze des Kapitalismus in der Landwirtschaft, in: Werke, Vol. 22, p. 98. In English here:
9. The debate about Dobb's book is well documented in a syllabus: Paul Sweezy u.a., Der Übergang vom Feudalismus zum Kapitalismus, Frankfurt/M. 1978. Nearly all contributions to the Brenner-debate are to be found in: T. H. Ashton / C. H. E. Philpin (Hg.), The Brenner Debate, Cambridge 1985. Jochen Blaschke (Hg.), Perspektiven des Weltsystems. Materialien zu Immanuel Wallerstein "Das moderne Weltsystem", Frankfurt/M. / New York 1983.
10. Karl Marx, Theorien über den Mehrwert, first volume, MEW vol. 26.1, p. 22. English translation: Theories of Surplus Value, ch.2:
11. Robert Brenner, Das Weltsystem: theoretische und historische Perspektiven, in: Blaschke (Hg.), Perspektiven des Weltsystems, p. 92 and further.
12. Ibid, p. 98.
13. Robert Brenner, The Agrarian Roots of Modern Capitalism, in: Ashton/Philpin (Hg.), Brenner Debate, p. 213 and further.
14. Brenner, Weltsystem, p. 107.
15. Amadeo Bordiga, Kapitalismus gleich Agrarrevolution (1954), in German translation:
16. Marx, Kapital, p. 533. English translation: Capital, London 1976, p. 645.
17. Eric Hobsbawm, Industrie und Empire. Britische Wirtschaftsgeschichte, Bd. 1, Frankfurt am Main 1969, p. 27. In English: Industry and Empire, 1968. Here translated from the quoted German.
18. In opposition to the classical theories of imperialism, the authors Neusüß en Massarat in particular have argued that "the world market dynamic of capital" has not taken place in the era characterized by merchant capital and determinate national conditions of accumulation between the middle of the 19th century and the First World War, but above all in the period after the Second World War: Mohssen Massarat, Hauptentwicklungsstadien der kapitalistischen Weltwirtschaft, Lollar 1976; Christel Neusüß, Imperialismus und Weltmarktbewegung des Kapitals, Erlangen 1972, p. 203.
19. Eric Hobsbawm, Das Zeitalter der Extreme. Weltgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts, München / Wenen 1995, p. 365. The quote here used is from the English original: Age of Extremes: the short Twentieth Century - 1914-1991, 1994, p. 289.
20. A good and pointed introduction to the postwar development is offered by Landflucht und food riots: Keine Agrarrevolution in Sicht, Wildcat 89 (2010), pp. 32-40.
21. The countless available statistics offer rather different values, because it is unclear what precisely can be counted under the header of "peasant or rural economy". A good indication, however, is that while 23 "emerging countries" count for 72 percent of all agriculturally active people worldwide, they produce no more than 22 percent of global agricultural output.
22. Axel Berger, Der Kapitalismus wird bodenständig, Jungle World nr. 16, 2010.
23. Cf. Was nach der Bauern-Internationale kommt, Wildcat nr. 82, 2008. An English translation can be found here:
24. Walden Bello, Politik des Hungers, Berlin/Hamburg 2010, p. 21. The English edition is entitled The Food Wars, 2009.
25. Wolfgang Hirn, Der Kampf ums Brot. Warum die Lebensmittel immer knapper und teurer werden, Frankfurt am Main 2009.
26. See also: Mike Davis, Die Geburt der Dritten Welt. Hungerkatastrophen und Massenvernichtung im imperialistischen Zeitalter, Berlin/Hamburg 2004. Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts, 2002.
27. Marx, Kapital, p. 527 and further. English translation: Capital, 1976, p. 638 and further.
28. Ibid. p. 527. The English quote used here is from the Moore/Aveling translation edited by Engels, see:
29. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, MEW vol. 4, p. 469 and further.
30. A largely complete overview of the work of Marx as a politician - whose thinking always revolved around, if one sets aside briefer considerations regarding the Paris Commune, the bourgeois-democratic conditions for a communist movement - is offered by Wolfgang Schieder, Karl Marx als Politiker, München/Zürich 1991, p. 151 and further.
31. Marx/Engels, Preface to the second Russian edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, in English here:
32. Such an approach is attempted e.g. by Max Henninger, Marxismus und ländliche Armut, 4 (2010), p. 85 and further.
33. About the lack of bourgeois-capitalist penetration of European societies ahead of the First World War, see: Arno Mayer, Adelsmacht und Bürgertum, Die Krise der europäischen Gesellschaft 1848-1914, München 1981, from p. 9 onwards.
34. Cf. Karl Kautsky, Die Agrarfrage, Eine Übersicht über die Tendenzen der modernen Landwirtschaft und die Agrarpolitik der Sozialdemokratie, Leipzig 1902.
35. Eduard David, Sozialismus und Landwirtschaft, Leipzig 1922, p. 695.
36. W. I. Lenin, Die Lehren der Revolution, Werke, Vol. 16, p. 305.
37. Gorter has repeatedly pointed this out in his articles, in particular in the abovementioned reply to Lenin (see note #2).
38. Barrington Moore, Social origins of dictatorship and democracy. Lord and peasant in the making of the modern world. Penguin, 1966, p. xiii. An impression of the practical pushes towards modernisation in Soviet society in the Stalinist period is provided by Karl Schlögel, Terror und Traum. Moskow 1937, München 2008.
39. This was well depicted in the Don Camillo films.
40. Quoted in Peter J. Opitz, Vom Konfuzianismus zum Kommunismus, München 1969, p. 249.
41. Mike Davis, Planet of Slums: Urban Involution and the Informal Working Class, 2006.
42. Davis, ibid.
43. Landflucht und food riots, p. 37 and further.
44. An in-depth debate about Rosa Luxemburg's analysis of imperialism would be useful, chiefly with regard to the question to what extent the destruction of the last remaining non-capitalist refuges of the world imposes limitations on the process of capitalist accumulation.
45. The Peasant International was founded early during the 1920s by the Komintern. For that reason, Dutch council communists polemically identified the Komintern with the peasants' international: Group International Communists Holland, Theses on Bolshevism, in: Anton Pannekoek, Paul Mattick, and others, Marxistischer Antileninismus, Freiburg 1991, p. 37 and further. English translation:
46. An attempt in this direction was undertaken by the Sozialische Studienvereinigung:

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Aug 1 2017 13:01


  • "(...) on what social basis one can speak of a real assertion of the capitalist mode of production and of its political coming-into-being, is more than an abstract question for a movement which envisions the self-abolition of the proletariat."

    Peter Jonas

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