Landed Property

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Landed Property


a historically determined social form of the appropriation (by an individual or a group) of land as an object of nature. It expresses the production relations between people with regard to land as a natural condition of any production and as the main means of production in agriculture and forestry.

The relations of landed property exist in every society. The historical forms of these relations correspond to definite modes of production and change under the influence of the development of the productive forces of society and the social system. Every socioeconomic formation is characterized by a predominant form of landed property distinctive to it. New forms of landed property arise within the old society. At the same time, in every new mode of production, as new forms of landed property corresponding to the new mode of production establish themselves, many of the forms and types of landed property of the preceding socioeconomic formations remain intact. In antagonistic-class formations, private landed property usually predominates.

The first historical form of landed property was communal landed property, characteristic of primitive communal society. Tribal, clan, and patriarchal family (household) forms of communal landed property existed. Private landed property arose for the first time with the development of the division of labor and the beginning of exchange. Its appearance led to the disintegration of communal landed property. This is a long process which, as a rule, culminates under capitalism. However, in many countries of Asia and Africa, communal landed property remains intact. The peasant commune is the fundamental socioeconomic unit in the agriculture of the countries of tropical Africa. Clan patriarchal relations form the basis of the organization of the commune among various nationalities. In these countries, where the traditions of private landed property are lacking, the possibility exists of making the transition from communal to public landed property, bypassing the stage of capitalist development.

In slave-owning society, the next stage of social development after the communal stage, several forms of landed property existed, including communal, temple (church), state, and private (individual) property. Private landed property gradually increased; this concentration led to the elimination of the small peasants’ landed property and to the growth of the slave-owning latifundia system. Under feudalism, landed property was inseparably linked to the binding of the direct producers to the land, which was the private property of the feudal lord. The feudal lord became the possessor of the means of production, and he concentrated political power in his hands. This power enabled him, by means of extra-economic coercion, to exploit the bound serfs and the peasants who were personally dependent on him. In this era, landed property was the basis of the economic and political power of the ruling class of feudal lords. The structure of landed property and its legal statutes varied in the different stages of the development of feudalism in different countries. The typical form of landed property in medieval Europe was based on the hierarchical structure of the vassal form of feudal property. The strictly caste character of feudal landed property was also manifested among the Slavic peoples, although in the Slavic countries, such as the Russian state, Bulgaria, Poland, and the Czech lands, the hierarchical structure of feudal landed property did not have such a clearly defined character. Feudal landed property in the countries of Latin America spread mainly during the Spanish conquests in the 16th and early 17th century.

The private capitalistic form of landed property, the form characteristic of capitalism, was created by means of the subordination of agriculture to capital. It signified the concentration of landed wealth in the hands of landlords and capitalists and the expropriation of the land from the direct producers. A monopoly of landed property arose. Feudal and semifeudal forms of landed property are still preserved along with capitalistic landed property in many capitalist countries, including Spain, Italy, India, Iran, Turkey, the southern USA, and the countries of Latin America. In addition, under capitalism, the process of the separation of land as a factor in farming from landed property and from the landowner has proceeded simultaneously; this is the condition known as absenteeism. Landed property is transformed into only a title giving the right to appropriate rent. The separation of landed property from functioning capital takes place in two legal forms: the rental of land and the mortgaging of land.

The merging of landed property with finance capital intensifies in the era of imperialism. Large agricultural corporations owning great expanses of land arise, and the capital invested in them belongs to financial, industrial, and commercial monopolies. A concentration of land in the hands of financial monopolies takes place. Through personal union, big financial monopolies become landowners, and large land-owners become stockholders in banks and industrial companies. These forms are tightly interwoven and represent a unified process. The following data testify to the enormous concentration of land in the hands of monopolies in the mid-1960’s: Texas Pacific Land owned 1.7 million acres of land (1 acre = 0.4047 hectares), and a US canning company, California Packing, owned approximately 100,000 acres of fruit orchards. Under state-monopoly capitalism, the bourgeois state increasingly intervenes in landed property relations in the interests of monopolies and big agrarian capital.

Socialism completely abolishes landlord and capitalist landed property, thus undermining the relations of exploitation of man by man connected with these forms of property. A completely new type of landed property is formed: public socialist property, along with the socialist agrarian system corresponding to it. The special nature of the socialist forms of landed property in comparison with those preceding them lies in the fact that the new forms are created in the course of the socialist revolution. The nationalization of all the land (including its mineral wealth), forests, and waters in the USSR was implemented by the Decree on Land of Oct. 26 (Nov. 8), 1917, according to which over 150 million desiatinas (more than 160 million hectares) of land, which had been the private property of landlords, capitalists, monasteries, the church, and the tsar’s family, were given over to the free use of the laboring peasants. By the end of 1918, 50 million hectares of land had been taken from the kulaks and handed over to the poor and middle peasants. Land ceased to serve as an instrument of exploitation. In October 1917 the Soviet state became the sole owner of all the land, which constituted a unified state land resource. State socialist property in land also exists in other socialist countries. However, unlike the USSR and the Mongolian People’s Republic, where all the land is public property, the other socialist countries have eliminated big landlord and capitalist landed property in the process of agrarian changes and have nationalized a large part of the land, but private landed property worked by the owner has been preserved. In some socialist countries, including the Hungarian People’s Republic, the Korean Democratic People’s Republic, and the Socialist Republic of Rumania, along with state landed property, the landed property of agricultural producers’ cooperatives has developed and become widespread. The public land use of cooperatives has had a great influence on private property worked by the owner, subordinating it to the tasks of socialist construction.


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Marx, K. “Natsionalizatsiia zemli.” Ibid., vol. 18.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. I. Ibid., vol. 23, ch. 24.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3. Ibid., vol. 25, chs. 37, 47.
Engels, F. “Proiskhozhdenie sem’i, chastnoi sobstvennosti i gosudarstva.” Ibid., vol. 21.
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Lenin, V. I. “Agrarnaia programma sotsial-demokratii v pervoi russkoi revoliutsii 1905–1907 godov.” Ibid., vol. 16.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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