Leasing of Land

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Leasing of Land


a form of land tenure under which the owner of the land gives over his plot of land for a specific period of time to another person (the tenant) to conduct farming for a specific remuneration (rent). The leasing of land arose with the appearance of private landed property, existed in the slave-owning system and under feudalism, and developed substantially under capitalism. Capitalist forms of land leasing are essentially different from earlier forms. Transitional forms of land leasing in the shift from feudalism to capitalism are the metayage system and the half-and-half system. Precapitalist forms also include subleasing, by which peasants lease land from the middleman tenant; this form of land leasing is characteristic of Asian countries. Among the tenants, as among the peasants, a process of differentiation takes place, leading to the displacement of smaller tenants by more powerful tenants. Most of the tenants are the poor (peasants and agricultural workers), who have resorted to land leasing from necessity but whose importance in the production of commodities for the market is negligible, so that the greater part of the leased land is concentrated in the hands of powerful capitalist tenants.

Under the conditions of mature capitalism, there are two basic forms of land leasing: capitalist and peasant. Under capitalist land leasing, the tenant invests his own capital in farming that he conducts with the aid of hired labor for the purpose of extracting profits. Aside from land rent, the rent includes interest on capital invested in the land and frequently part of the salary of the agricultural workers. Capitalist land leasing is widespread mainly in the developed capitalist countries, especially in Great Britain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. InGreat Britain it is organically linked with large-scale capitalist landed property—landlordism. Gradually it also developed in the countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa as capitalism penetrated into the agriculture of those countries. Peasant land leasing also exists in developed capitalist countries, in the form of the metayage and half-and-half systems. In this type of land leasing, the land is leased to satisfy the consumption needs of the poor and middle peasants and their families, and their situation is considerably worse than under conditions of capitalist land leasing. The metayage system was most extensive in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and southwest France. Another phenomenon also occurs: a peasant landowner will lease his land to a capitalist tenant and either partially or completely give up farming to become a hired laborer. Even under capitalism, peasant land leasing is stamped by its economic content with a predominantly precapitalist, shackling character. In the southern USA share-cropping is very extensive, condemning poor Negro tenant farmers to a life of semistarvation.

The development of land leasing relations in each capitalist country invariably involves structural changes in the sphere of material production and agrarian relations—the growing concentration of production; the massive ruination of working peasants and farmers; and the renewed competitive struggle for markets for the sale of agricultural produce. The scientific-technical revolution in agriculture and the state regulation of agriculture exert a decisive influence on land leasing.

In Great Britain, for example, from 1950 to 1961 the number of poor tenant farms with leased land of up to five acres declined by 46.2 percent. Capitalist enterprises in farming expand their production mainly by means of land leasing. The growth of land leasing in capitalist countries parallels the continued strengthening of large-scale landed property.

In the countries of the Middle East, entrepreneurial capitalist land leasing is rare, and the basic form of landhold-ing is peasant land leasing. In the 1960’s in Iran, 60 percent of the peasant families were tenants or half-tenants. The proportion of farmers leasing land in Latin American countries is 76.6 percent in Panama, 40.6 percent in Argentina, and 39.4 percent in Guatemala. In the majority of Asian countries the rent, depending on the specialization and type of farming, is paid in kind and amounts to 25–30 percent of the harvest; it can reach as much as 70–80 percent. In countries such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Philippines metayage plays a leading role in the system of lease relations. In India, for example, metayage leasing at the end of the 1940’s extended over no less than one-third and in some regions two-fifths of the total farm area of the country. The growing concentration of landed property, agrarian reforms (in places where they have already been carried out or are being carried out), and the peasantry’s struggle for land all exert an influence on the evolution of forms of land leasing in developing countries. The appearance of various transitional forms between feudal and capitalist land leasing is a natural feature in the development of land leasing in these countries. The exploitation of tenants is one of the factors leading to the sharpening of social contradictions and to peasant movements in these countries.

An acute class struggle occurs in the area of lease relations between tenants and landowners. Tenants fight for the lowering of their rent and for the lengthening of the term of the lease. In the case of short-term leasing, the tenant has no incentive to make additional capital investments to improve the soil, a situation that impedes rational agriculture.

In capitalist countries the state increased its intervention in the sphere of land leasing after World War II. A host of legislative measures were undertaken to further the development of capitalist farming (in France, for example, the regulations of 1946 established a nine-year minimum period for leasing; in Italy the law of 1964 prohibited métayage).

Land leasing was widespread in prerevolutionary Russia. Precapitalist, peasant, rent-in-kind land leasing predominated, as a result of the survival of deep-rooted remnants of serfdom in agriculture. The peasantry annually paid the landlords approximately 500 million rubles in gold for rent. The leased land was inequitably divided among the peasants. From 63.3 to 98 percent of the leased allotment land was in the hands of the poorest peasants. In Russia rent-in-kind tenant farming was a component part of the corvée (labor-service) system—that is, a direct survival of serfdom.

In the USSR, under the conditions of the nationalization of all land according to the law on labor and land use of May 22, 1922, active farms that had been temporarily weakened as a result of natural disasters and a shortage of work force could lease land on the condition that tenant farmers cultivate with their own labor all the land they used, including the leased land. The leasing for labor of peasant lands in regions of complete collectivization was changed by the law of Feb. 1, 1930, entitled “On Measures to Strengthen Socialist Reconstruction of Agriculture in Regions of Complete Collectivization, and Measures for the Struggle Against Kulakism.” On June 4,1937, the resolution of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR entitled’ ‘On the Prohibition of Leasing Lands of Agricultural Value” was published, completely prohibiting land leasing.

In foreign socialist countries, where small-scale privately owned farmland has been preserved, land leasing exists in various forms, except for Albania and the People’s Republic of Mongolia, where it has been prohibited by special legislative acts. In Yugoslavia and Poland land leasing is still practiced on some private farms. The national estates in Poland lease and buy peasants’ lands in order to extend their farming. The zadrugas in Yugoslavia (cooperatives of the common type) also buy and lease land from peasants in order to extend existing agricultural enterprises and to create new enterprises. The national estates and the zadrugas are granted special state credits for the purchase and leasing of land. Some peasants lease their land; others rent land if there are extra hands in the family and their own plot of land is insufficient for the satisfaction of their needs for agricultural products. Land leasing to extend the output of a farm also exists. In some countries—Poland, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria—private individual farmers lease land from a state fund or individual plots of land from state enterprises and departments. In Yugoslavia there exists the leasing of individual plots of land under private ownership by state and by collective farms.


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Lenin, V. I. “Razvitie kapitalizma v Rossii.” Ibid., vol. 3.
Lenin, V. I. “Kapitalizm v sel’skom khoziaistve.” Ibid., vol. 4, pp. 108–10.
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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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