Peasantry and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Part 4: Longue Durée)

Gloomy Day — Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565

Now, sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness those myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations disorganized and dissolved into their units, thrown into a sea of woes, and their individual members losing at the same time their ancient form of civilization, and their hereditary means of subsistence, we must not forget that these idyllic village-communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies. We must not forget the barbarian egotism which, concentrating on some miserable patch of land, had quietly witnessed the ruin of empires, the perpetration of unspeakable cruelties, the massacre of the population of large towns, with no other consideration bestowed upon them than on natural events, itself the helpless prey of any aggressor who deigned to notice it at all. We must not forget that this undignified, stagnatory, and vegetative life, that this passive sort of existence evoked on the other part, in contradistinction, wild, aimless, unbounded forces of destruction and rendered murder itself a religious rite in Hindostan. We must not forget that these little communities were contaminated by distinctions of caste and by slavery, that they subjugated man to external circumstances instead of elevating man the sovereign of circumstances, that they transformed a self-developing social state into never changing natural destiny, and thus brought about a brutalizing worship of nature, exhibiting its degradation in the fact that man, the sovereign of nature, fell down on his knees in adoration of Kanuman, the monkey, and Sabbala, the cow.

England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindostan, was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.

Then, whatever bitterness the spectacle of the crumbling of an ancient world may have for our personal feelings, we have the right, in point of history, to exclaim with Goethe:

“Sollte these Qual uns quälen
Da sie unsre Lust vermehrt,
Hat nicht myriaden Seelen
Timur’s Herrschaft aufgezehrt?”

[“Should this torture then torment us
Since it brings us greater pleasure?
Were not through the rule of Timur
Souls devoured without measure?”]
[From Goethe’s “An Suleika”, Westöstlicher Diwan]

Clive meeting Mir Jafar after the Battle of Plassey, (by Francis Hayman, c. 1762) The Battle of Plassey was a decisive victory by the British in establishing a foothold in India.

“The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
Who steals the common from the goose.”

If, by converting the little farmers into a body of men who must work for others, more labour is produced, it is an advantage which the nation should wish for … the produce being greater when their joint labours are employed on one farm, there will be a surplus for manufactures, and by this means manufactures, one of the mines of the nation, will increase, in proportion to the quantity of corn produced.

In colonies, labourers for hire are scarce. The scarcity of labourers for hire is the universal complaint of colonies. It is the one cause, both of the high wages which put the colonial labourer at his ease, and of the exorbitant wages which sometimes harass the capitalist. . . .

Where land is cheap and all men are free, where every one who so pleases can obtain a piece of land for himself, not only is labour very dear, as respects the labourers’ share of the product, but the difficulty is to obtain combined labour at any price…[consequently] few, even of those whose lives are unusually long, can accumulate great masses of wealth.

In his Poverty of Philosophy, in Capital, and in Theories of Surplus-Value, Marx amply proved that the bourgeois economists often demanded the nationalisation of the land, i.e., the conversion of all land into public property, and that this measure was a fully bourgeois measure. Capitalism will develop more widely, more freely and more quickly from such a measure.

Female Migrant, S. V. Ivanov, 1886 — as we saw in Part 1, following Emancipation the 1800s saw mass migration of peasants between rural and urban centres.
Regional Home and Dairy Union in Stryi

Due to the crudeness of the population and the absence of the necessary experience, our co-operatives are still a tender blossom requiring the application of expert hands and painstaking care. Therefore its emergence and successful development is entirely dependent on the presence of intelligentsia forces, impassioned by the co-operative cause and able to cultivate and direct it.

On the cotton plantations of Uzbekistan

“Should this torture then torment us
Since it brings us greater pleasure?”

“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please”

Despite a Revolution, a Civil War, two wars against the Soviets, and a war against the Nazis, the Finns did not only prosper, they overtook world centres of development



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