Confiscation of Land

Confiscation of Land

 

the compulsory and uncompensated seizure of land from its owners by the state. Land has been confiscated on a large scale at times when the class struggle has intensified and sometimes during struggles between various strata of the same class. However, in most cases this policy has been invoked at the time of social revolutions in order to transfer land from one class (social group) to another. The secularization of church lands, which was carried out in Europe in the early Middle Ages (beginning of the eighth century) and was widely practiced from the emergence of capitalism in the 16th century, was a type of land confiscation. During the bourgeois revolutions in Western Europe (18th-19th centuries) a number of decrees ordered feudal lands confiscated and transferred, primarily to the bourgeoisie. (Among the best known of these decrees were those of June 18 and Aug. 25–28, 1792, which were proclaimed during the Great French Revolution.)

Under capitalism a monopoly of private landed property is the basis for agrarian relations. The development of capitalism in agriculture led to the concentration of land in the hands of the urban and rural bourgeoisie and monopolies. The confiscation of the large landed estates in the developed capitalist countries is the most important demand made by the Communist and workers’ parties and all progressive democratic forces. Inasmuch as the land and other means of agricultural production fall increasingly into the hands of the monopolies in developed capitalist countries, the demand for the confiscation of land acquires an antimonopolistic character. Experience shows that under certain socioeconomic and historical conditions, the confiscation of land may be implemented under a bourgeois regime. This was the case in Japan. Because of high inflation, the redemption of land under the agrarian reform of 1946 had symbolic meaning.

The confiscation of land in Russia during the socialist revolution in 1917 and in countries that embarked on the path of socialism during and after World War II had a different character. Under the Land Decree (Oct. 26 [Nov. 8], 1917) and the Fundamental Law on the Socialization of Land (Jan. 27 [Feb. 9], 1918) the ownership of land by the pomeshchiki (fief holders) was immediately abolished in Russia without any compensation, the right of private landownership was forever abolished, and all land was proclaimed national property and given free to the toiling peasantry. In essence, this signified the socialist nationalization of the land. The confiscation of the landed property of the pomeshchiki was the first agrarian reform under Soviet power between 1917 and 1918. In foreign socialist countries confiscation of land was based on the principle that the land belongs to those who cultivate it. Land reform in these countries varied, depending on socioeconomic and political conditions. Large landed estates and land that had belonged to persons who collaborated with the fascists were, as a rule, confiscated without compensation or with nominal redemption. In addition to the confiscation of large landed estates, a number of limitations on landownership were introduced in the socialist countries, so that the monopoly on private landownership was virtually eliminated. This was a very important precondition for subsequent social reform in agriculture in these countries.

The issue of land confiscation is particularly important for the developing countries that became independent after World War II, as well as for countries that are still dependent. The variety of agrarian relations, the character of economic and political development, and the degree of intensification of the class struggle and the organizational ability of the working class and peasantry all determine the distinctive features of land confiscation from large landowners and foreign monopolies. Confiscation is usually carried out on the basis of redemption, with the subsequent transfer of part of the land to the state and part to the peasants as private property.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3.
Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 25, chapter 1.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad o zemle 26 oktiabria (8 noiabria) “[Vtoroi Vserossiiskii s”ezd Sovetov Rabochikh i Soldatskikh deputatov 25–26 oktiabria (7–8 noiabria) 1917 g.]. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 35.
Lutskii, E. A. “K istorii konfiskatsii pomeshchich’ikh imenii v 1917–1918 gg.” Izvestia AN SSSR, seria istorii ifilosofii, 1948, vol. 6, no. 6.
Pershin, P. N. Agrarnaia revolutsiia v Rossii, book 2. Moscow, 1966.

B. P. KUZNETSOV

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