Peasantry


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Peasantry

 

(krest’ianstvo; from Russian krest’ianin, originally meaning Christian or person; used in the contemporary sense since the late 14th century), the oldest and largest socioeconomic class, which even today makes up more than half of the world’s population. In presocialist systems the peasantry includes all small-scale agricultural producers who engage in individual farming with their own means of production and with a labor force made up of their own families. Under socialism, the term “peasantry” refers to all members of agricultural cooperatives (primarily producers’ cooperatives) who jointly own the means of production and engage in collective farming.

General information. The peasantry takes shape as a distinct social class as the primitive communal system disintegrates and the class society emerges. The gradual development of productive forces, above all the use of metal tools in agriculture, resulted in the individualization of production. The tribal commune, with its characteristic collectivism, was replaced by the territorial (neighborhood) commune, which consisted of individual farms worked by large and small families. Typical of the neighborhood commune is a dualism manifested in the combination of the collective with family and individual labor, owner-ship, and use of the means of production. In the early stages of the neighborhood commune’s development the collective principle prevails, but in the later stages the private, individual principle is predominant. The alodium (the small-scale private property of the direct producer) emerges within the neighbor-hood commune. Its development accelerates the social differentiation of the members of the commune, some of whom enter the ruling class. However, the majority of the commune’s members remain in the dependent, exploited social stratum. From precisely this point in history it is possible to speak of the peasantry as a distinct social class. Until the rise of capitalism the peasantry was the main producing class.

As it separated out from the commune and developed, the individual-familial peasant farm became the elementary economic unit of society. In the precapitalist stages this type of farm, which was oriented toward a subsistence economy and characterized by all-around economic activity, combined agriculture with cottage industry. Marx observed that “each individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient; it itself directly produces the major part of its consumption and thus acquires its means of life more through exchange with nature than in inter-course with society” (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8, p. 207). As the social division of labor develops, the peasant farm is drawn into commodity and money relations. But not even capitalism immediately destroys the autarky of the small peasant farm. As it becomes outdated, the peasant farm either disappears or becomes a capitalist farm. The fact that peasant farms are operated by families or individuals on a subsistence basis engenders a number of features that are common for the peasantry in all stages of its development, up to the transition to socialism, and that determine the unity of its socio-economic character. However, the socioeconomic, political, and legal status of the peasantry is also a function of the prevailing production relations of the social system as a whole. They deter-mine the relationship between the peasantry and the ruling class, as well as the internal stratification of the peasantry, which is the source for the emergence and growth of other social classes and strata.

Historical survey. In ancient Oriental societies most of the peasants were organized in communes and were considered personally free, although they were subject to harsh exploitation by the state. The peasant commune members paid quitrent in cash and kind, performed a great deal of labor on public works projects (the construction of irrigation works, temples, palaces, and military fortifications and the building and maintenance of roads), and performed various duties on behalf of the king and the aristocrats. In addition, a significant stratum of peasants had lost their ties with the commune and had become dependents of private individuals, churches, and other corporate bodies of the ruling class. Debt bondage and indenture relations played an important role in the rise of peasant dependence.

In Greece during the archaic period and in early Rome the members of the peasant communes lost both their plots of land and their personal freedom. However, even during classical antiquity, free, small-scale farmers were the social and military foundation of the city-states. To a certain degree, the form of landed property and the social organization of the city-states guaranteed that the peasants would retain their plots of land and personal freedom. But competition from the system of large-scale landownership, which depended on slave labor, as well as the cheapness of grain brought in from the provinces, ultimately undermined the economic base of the small-scale direct producers. In later periods the peasantry of classical societies became markedly differentiated. The number of dependent and enslaved individuals from the peasantry grew larger, and the colonate, the immediate predecessor of medieval forms of peasant dependence, became more widespread.

Under feudalism the peasantry was dependent on the ruling class of feudal lords—that is, individual lords or the feudal state. Because they possessed military, judicial, and administrative powers, the feudal lords were able to take control of vast areas of land. The dependent peasants acted as the “holders” of the plots they cultivated. The peasant remained the actual owner of not only the implements of production, the livestock, and the farm buildings but also the primary means of production—the land. Therefore, the surplus product was being extracted from him by means of extraeconomic constraint. Under these conditions, personal and landed dependence, which complemented each other, merged.

Peasant commune members who did not come under the power of individual feudal lords were exploited by the feudal state. The dependent status of the peasantry was legally formalized in legislative acts. The main exploited class and the social estate with the fewest rights, the peasantry occupied the lowest rung on the hierarchical ladder of feudal social estates.

The degree and forms of the peasants’ feudal dependence varied according to the three forms of precapitalist land rent owed by them: the corvee, rent in kind, and cash rent. The gradual development of commodity and money relations led to the transition from the corvée and rent in kind to cash rent, and consequently to some reduction in feudal dependence. However, in certain cases (for example, in a number of Eastern European countries during the later Middle Ages) the rise of commodity and money relations reinforced the corvee and serfdom.

As feudalism developed, the social contradictions and the class struggle between the peasantry and the feudal lords became sharper. The most striking manifestations of the class struggle were the peasant rebellions, which often developed into protracted peasant wars (for example, the Jacquerie in France and Wat Tyler’s Rebellion in England in the 14th century, the Hus-site wars in 15th-century Bohemia, the peasant war in Germany at the beginning of the 16th century, and the peasant wars of the 17th and 18th centuries in Russia). In all of these uprisings the peasantry was defeated and subjected to harsh repressive measures by the ruling class. Disunited and scattered, the peasantry was unable to make the transition to a new social order. Even in the isolated instances when peasant uprisings were victorious, the feudal order recovered very quickly. (For example, the peasant war in China during the 1350’s and 1360’s culminated in the overthrow of the Mongol regime but led to an only temporary weakening of feudal exploitation.) Without a bourgeoisie or a proletariat capable of carrying the peasantry along after it and in the absence of conditions for a transition to new production relations, the peasant rebellions inevitably failed. Nonetheless, they were extremely progressive, for they limited the exploitative aspirations of the ruling classes and, during the epoch of the disintegration of feudalism, shook the foundations of feudalism, paving the way for its downfall. The antifeudal struggle of the peasantry played a major role as an important motive force in the bourgeois revolutions. In its struggle against feudalism, the bourgeoisie used the peasantry (the English revolution of the 17th century and the French Revolution of the late 18th century, for example).

The ideology of the peasants reflected their dual socioeconomic character as both toilers and small-scale private property owners. Its main feature was its failure to grasp the peasantry’s status as a social class. Progressive, revolutionary ideas were reflected in demands for equality, equal rights to the land, and freedom from unjust obligations—demands made by the peasantry throughout its history. When religion was the prevailing world view and the official church defended the interests of the class of feudal lords, the ideology of the peasantry was often expressed in various heresies and ideas of reformation (for example, the doctrine of the Anabaptists and of T. Mónzer). With the transition to capitalism, the idea of preserving and perpetuating small-scale individual production became reactionary and Utopian.

The penetration of agriculture by capitalism is accompanied by the disintegration of the peasantry, which ceases to be a single class. Under capitalism the toiling, exploited peasantry includes the proletarian and semiproletarian strata of the countryside (agricultural wage laborers), the middle peasantry is made up of petit bourgeois proprietors (small and middle-scale farmers), and the big peasantry consists of capitalist entrepreneurs. The exploitation of the toiling strata of the peasantry by big capital and the bourgeois state leads to the impoverishment of the toiling peasantry, the erosion of the stratum of middle peasants, and the enrichment and strengthening of the exploiting segment of the peasantry.

Different class groups of the peasantry hold different political positions. The big capitalist entrepreneurs, who are often affiliated with the urban bourgeoisie, support the bourgeois political parties, whereas the proletarian and semiproletarian strata are gradually drawn into the movement of all proletarians. Because of their dual economic character as both toilers and property owners, the small and middle peasantry have the longest and most complex history of changes in their ideological and political positions. “Owing to their economic status in bourgeois society, the peasants must follow either the workers or the bourgeoisie. There is no middle way” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 38, p. 365). As toilers and exploited people, the peasants are attracted to the proletariat, but as private property owners, they are drawn to the bourgeoisie. In the struggle against various forms of exploitation, the deep-rooted interests of the working class and the toiling peasantry coincide, constituting the economic foundation for the alliance of the working class and the peasantry, in which the working class plays the leading role.

The peasantry is a revolutionary force, but because of its dual character it is inconsistent and indecisive and vacillates during the class struggle. Fighting for its interests, attempting to “survive” the competitive struggle, and striving to defend itself against exploitation by capital, the peasantry unites in cooperatives. The transition to monopoly capitalism is accompanied by the deterioration of the condition of the peasant masses. Increasingly, the peasantry becomes the object of exploitation by the monopolies, which use the system of monopoly prices to appropriate not only surplus labor but also part of the indispensable labor of small-scale agricultural producers. Therefore, even in contemporary developed capitalist countries, the toiling peasantry remains the main ally of the working class. As capitalism develops, the growth of productive forces, the deepening of the social division of labor, and the strengthening of interbranch ties between agriculture and other sectors of the economy have a number of consequences. Capital and the means of production are increasingly concentrated in large-scale farms, monopoly capital penetrates rapidly and directly into agricultural production, and in economic terms the agricultural producers are centralized under the control of the large commercial-industrial and financial companies. These developments are accompanied by the ruin of small and medium-sized farms, the expropriation and proletarianization of enormous masses of peasants and farmers, and the strengthening of the role of monopolistic agrarian and industrial conglomerates. The modern scientific and technological revolution and the agrarian policies of bourgeois states, which are oriented toward strengthening capitalist farms and supporting the largest viable farms, have greatly accelerated the trends toward large-scale farms and monopoly capitalism and centralization in agriculture.

Developed capitalist countries. In the USA and Western Europe the vertical integration system, under which agricultural producers lose their independence and, in effect, become hired workers of the big monopolies, has been developing rapidly. In the history of capitalism, no period was marked by more wide-spread ruin of small peasant farms than the postwar years in the developed capitalist countries. The total number of farms in the USA fell by 41 percent between 1950 and 1969, and the majority of former farm owners abandoned agriculture. In Great Britain during the same period the number of farms with an area of up to 40 hectares (ha) declined by 23 percent. The total number of farms in France decreased by an estimated 32 percent between 1955 and 1970, and the number of farms smaller than 10 ha declined by 51 percent. In the Federal Republic of Germany there were 30.9 percent fewer farms in 1969 than in 1949, and 42.4 percent fewer farms of less than 10 ha.

The development of capitalist production relations in agriculture has led to a decline in the proportion of the peasantry in the gainfully employed population in the developed capitalist coun-tries, where at least half of the labor force was employed in agriculture at the beginning of the 20th century. By the early 1970’s only 5-15 percent of the gainfully employed population was engaged in agriculture. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of farms in the developed capitalist countries are small and medium-sized. The level of concentration of land, output, and capital in large farms and the degree of class polarization of the peasantry and farmers are substantially higher than before World War II. Thus, in the mid-1960’s, 5.5 percent of the farms in France included 28.4 percent of the land and accounted for 21 percent of the total capital investment and 22.2 percent of the entire agricultural output. In the same period, 14.3 percent of all French farms accounted for 37.5 percent of the overall capital investment and 40.8 percent of the gross product of agriculture. In 1970, 9 percent of the total number of farms in France produced 32 percent of the entire agricultural output, and at the other extreme, 42 percent of the farms provided only 15 percent of the total output. An even greater degree of concentration characterizes agriculture in the USA, where in the mid-1960’s, 4.5 percent of the farms accounted for 42.6 percent of the market produce sold by all commercial farms.

The high degree of concentration of agricultural production in the capitalist countries causes the increased class stratification of the peasants, some of whom evolve into large-scale agricultural entrepreneurs who become rich by exploiting hired laborers, and some of whom are impoverished, ruined, and forced to work for wages. The toiling peasantry opposes the “price scissors”—the discrepancy between rising cost and declining income—and fights for its rights. Increasingly, it comes out in favor of unity of action with the working class. The strengthening of the alliance of the working class and toiling peasantry is one of the crucial features of the strategy and tactics of the Communist and workers’ parties of the developed capitalist countries. At the present stage the peasant movement demands the resolution of problems affecting the entire orientation of agrarian policy and the implementation of democratic reforms in the interests of the majority of peasants and farmers.

Developing countries. In the developing countries the peasantry is the most numerous class, making up the majority of the population in most cases. In the late 1960’s the peasants ac-counted for 47 percent of the gainfully employed population in Latin America, for 71 percent in South and East Asia, for 66 percent in North Africa, and for 76.8 percent in South Africa. Thus, the central issue in the revolutionary process in Asia and Africa is that of the position of the peasantry. “The peasantry in this part of the world is a powerful revolutionary force. But it is, as a rule, a spontaneous force burdened with all the vacillations and all the contradictions in ideology and politics that spontaneity entails”(Mezhdunarodnoe soveshchanie kommunisticheskikh i rabochikh partii: Dokumenty i materialy, Moscow, 1969, pp. 62-63). As a producing class, the peasantry in the developing countries has specific characteristics, which are determined by the considerable pauperization of the peasants, their comparatively low social and political status, backward agricultural technology, and the persistence of precapitalist forms of exploitation. The overwhelming majority of the peasants in developing countries live in poverty and without rights in societies that have not yet overcome feudal and sometimes even prefeudal relations.

At the present stage one of the characteristics of class formation in the peasantry is the growth of small-scale property owners, despite the rising rates of pauperization and proletarianization of these elements as capitalist forms of farming develop. In certain countries in Asia and North Africa agrarian reforms have brought about the redistribution of lands in favor of the peasantry, giving rise to a class of small-scale property owners. Thus, as a result of the elimination of the zamindari system in India, about 20 million peasant families became guaranteed tenants (de facto owners) of state lands, and, comparatively speaking, their position as small-scale property owners was strengthened. In the Arab Republic of Egypt the number of independent small farms increased by 25 percent as a result of agrarian reform; in Iraq, by 50 percent; and in Iran, by 40 percent.

In the countries of tropical Africa the growth of a small property-owning stratum is associated with the disintegration of the commune, which takes place as agriculture becomes increasingly market oriented and emphasizes the export of raw materials such as cacao beans, coffee, peanuts, and cotton. Some governments promote the destruction of the commune by introducing private ownership of land. In a number of Latin American countries the small-proprietor elements of the peasantry grow essentially by means of the colonization of new lands and the unauthorized seizure by landless peasants of abandoned land, which is some-times legitimized by government enactments. Where agriculture is dominated by large-scale capitalist, semicapitalist, and plantation farming (for example, in Latin America, Turkey, Malaysia, and Ceylon), small-scale and petty proprietors of the land and tenants become the object of capitalist exploitation.

Characteristic of the contemporary peasantry in the developing countries are numerous transitional social groups and categories that have not yet been differentiated into classes. Thus, in the countries of Latin America the differentiation of the peasantry typically involves the combination of a high degree of peasant proletarianization with diverse transitional forms of the labor force and its exploitation. The members of this labor force are still closely tied to patches of land or to farms on estate land, which the landowner permits them to use in exchange for their labor. Agricultural reforms conducive to the development of capitalist relations in the countryside have accelerated the property and class differentiation of the peasantry. The governments of many countries have been inconsistent in their efforts to slow down this stratification. Everywhere, the class differentiation of the peasantry results in the appearance of a narrow stratum of rich peasants drawn primarily from the privileged village elite. In the Latin American countries up to 11 percent of the total number of farms were owned by rich peasants in the late 1960’s (in Iraq, 9.3 percent; in Turkey, 11.2 percent; and in certain of the more developed regions of India, up to 15-20 percent). Thus, in a number of developing countries the penetration of the countryside by capitalist production relations has inevitably led to the displacement of small-scale peasant forms of property and the ruin of broad masses of the peasantry. Developing countries that are oriented toward socialism try to solve the peasant question by putting all kinds of state support behind the organization of the peasants into cooperatives and by gradually restricting and driving out capitalist elements. Revolutionary democratic trans-formations and the growth of the workers’ movement have created favorable conditions for enhancing the role of the peasantry in public life in these countries. Organized into peasant unions, the peasantry makes a great contribution to the development of many young national states.

Socialist countries. Under socialism fundamental changes take place in the socioeconomic status of the peasantry. The peasantry is one of the main classes in socialist society. As a result of revolutionary agrarian transformations that abolished land tenure by the landlords and big capitalism (for example, the 1917 Decree on Land in the USSR and democratic agrarian reforms in other socialist countries), the landless and land-hungry peasants received from the people’s power the land for which they had fought for centuries. In addition to land, the peasants received some of the implements and livestock expropriated from the large-scale property owners. They were freed from annual rent and from mortgage debts. There have been substantial changes in the social structure of the peasantry, owing to the transfer of land to the toiling peasantry. (In the USSR and the Mongolian People’s Republic the land was nationalized, and in other socialist countries it was handed over to the peasants as toilers’ private property.)

With the implementation of agrarian transformations in the European socialist countries, 23.8 million ha of land (34.6 per-cent of the agricultural lands) were redistributed. Most of the land (13.5 million ha, or 57 percent) was redistributed among the poorest peasantry as small-scale private property of toilers. The stratum of poor peasants has decreased considerably, and medium-sized peasant farms prevail. The number of farms that have become the property of once land-hungry peasants and agricultural laborers has increased. (See Table 1.) In all the socialist countries the state has provided economic aid to the poorest and to the middle peasants and restricted the development of kulak farming.

Table 1. Peasant land tenure in certain socialist countries after the implementation of agrarian reforms in the second half of the 1940’s (in percent)
 Farm size
CountrySmall
(up to 5 ha)
Medium
(5-20 ha)
Large
(more than 20 ha)
Hungarian People’s Republic ..........48.739.611.7
Socialist Republic of Rumania ..........41.345.013.7
People’s Republic of Bulgaria ..........35.458.26.4
Czechoslovak Socialist Republic ..........25.259.515.3
German Democratic Republic ..........11.059.329.7

As a result of the organization of peasant farms into cooperatives the kulak class has been eliminated. The small and middle peasants have been organized into cooperatives, and small-scale peasant production has given way to large-scale production based on the socialization of labor and of the means of production. In most of the socialist countries peasant farms were organized into producers’ cooperatives during the 1950’s. This trend has brought changes in the psychology of the peasantry. The cooperatively organized peasantry becomes more similar to the working class, although there are still class differences between the two groups in their relation to the means of production, in the level of socialization of the means of production, and in the form of organization of labor. In addition, differences in the technical equipment of labor, in cultural level, and in way of life still stand between the peasantry and the working class.

Increasingly, the labor of cooperatively organized peasants is becoming industrial, and its productivity is rising. The amount of energy employed in agriculture has grown considerably. Agriculture has achieved a high level of mechanization and is making the transition to comprehensive mechanization of the entire production process, including animal husbandry. The growing number of skilled specialists employed in agriculture are assuming a greater role in the development of production. The mechanization of agricultural labor and its increased productivity have released a substantial labor force needed by other branches of the national economy.

Between 1960 and 1970 the rural population declined from 62 to 47.4 percent of the total in the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, from 58.3 to 54.3 percent in the Hungarian People’s Republic, from 28 to 26.8 percent in the German Democratic Republic (GDR), from 51.7 to 47.7 percent in the Polish People’s Republic, and from 42.6 to 37 percent in the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. In the Mongolian People’s Republic the rural population fell from 60.4 percent of the total in 1965 to 53.6 percent in 1970. The peasantry (including artisans) made up 55.1 percent of the population of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria in 1956 and 41 percent in 1965; 26.7 percent of the Hungarian population in 1965 and 24.1 percent in 1971; 11.5 percent of the population of the GDR in 1964 (figure includes only peasants in cooperatives); 46.1 percent of the Polish population in 1950, 38.5 percent in 1960, and 28.6 percent in 1970; and 24.1 percent of the Czechoslovak population in 1950, 15.7 percent in 1961, and 11.8 percent in 1971. In the Mongolian People’s Republic the peasantry and artisans accounted for 73.9 percent of the population in 1956 and 43.5 percent in 1969, and in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, for 74.1 percent in 1946 and 45.7 percent in 1959. The peasant population has declined because some peasants have gone to work in industry and because some producers’ cooperatives have become state farms (upon the decisions of general assemblies of the members). In the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic the producers’ cooperatives’ share in agricultural lands de-creased throughout the 1960’s. At the same time, the state farms increased their share of agricultural land. The way of life of the cooperative peasantry is associated primarily with socialized farming. However, the peasantry retains personal plots farmed for supplementary income.

The development of agriculture leads to the formation of intercooperative and mixed state-cooperative associations, which are ways of forming agrarian and industrial conglomerates. These trends raise the level of socialization of cooperative property, making it more similar to property belonging to all the people and creating the conditions for gradually wiping out substantial differences between the working class and the peasantry that has been organized into cooperatives. The character of the work done by these two classes is becoming more similar. The steady rise in agricultural production and profound advances in the socioeconomic relations, culture, and way of life of the countryside in the socialist countries testify to the similarity of the historical paths of the peasantry during the construction of a developed socialist society and the gradual transition to communism.

Historical experience completely confirms the vitality of the Marxist-Leninist idea of the alliance of the working class and the peasantry as the crucial force in the revolutionary transformation of society—that is, as the social basis for socialism. The alliance of the toiling classes will develop successfully and the revolutionary tasks confronting these classes will be completed only if a leading role is played by the working class and its vanguard, the Communist and workers’ parties. They are armed with the scientific theory that makes it possible to define correctly the goals of the transformations, the sequence in which they should be completed, and the necessary ways and means for their completion. History has decisively refuted the nihilistic rejection of the revolutionary potentialities of the peasantry and of its capacity to participate actively in socialist construction. This attitude is most characteristic of Trotskyism, which saw the peasantry as a homogeneous, reactionary mass. Today, enormous harm is done to the world revolutionary process by the Maoist concept that the “revolutionary mandate” passes from the working class to the peasantry, transforming it into the main revolutionary force. The world revolutionary process has also been damaged by the emergence of an allegedly new perspective on world revolution. According to this new outlook, “the world countryside surrounds the world city”—that is, peasant uprisings in Asia, Africa, and Latin America are surrounding Europe and North America and will destroy imperialism. The exposure of the bankruptcy of the Trotskyist and Maoist concepts concerning the peasantry is an important aspect of the ideological and political struggle of the Communist parties.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. “Vosemnadtsatoe briumera Lui Bonaparta.” In K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 8.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 1. Ibid., vol. 23, ch. 24.
Marx, K. Kapital, vol. 3. Ibid., vol. 25, part 2, chs. 36-47.
Engels, F. “Krest’ianskii vopros vo Frantsii i Germanii.”Ibid., vol. 22. Engels, F. “Frankskii period.”Ibid., vol. 19.
Lenin, V. I. “Po povodu tak nazyvaemogo voprosa o rynkakh.”Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 1.
Lenin, V. I. “Ekonomicheskoe soderzhanie narodnichestva i kritika ego v knige g. Struve.”Ibid., vol. 1.
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Prerevolutionary Russia and the USSR. RUSSIA. The peasantry emerged in Rus’ around the ninth century during the disintegration of the primitive communal system, when the patriarchal commune of blood relatives began to give way to the territorial, neighborhood, or village commune (the mir and the verv’). Although the peasantry was still legally free, the feudal mode of production was already taking shape, and the peasants were beginning to fall into bondage. A class of feudal lords—the owners of the land—and a class of feudally dependent peasants developed. With the formation of the ancient Russian state, tribute (dan’) was imposed on the peasantry. From the ninth through the 11th century princely, boyar, and monasterial land-ownership developed, and the personally free peasantry was enserfed in a number of ways, including the forcible seizure of communal lands by the feudal lords. As feudalization proceeded, the free peasants or commune members (liudi, or siabry) lost their lands and became declasse (the izgoi). Subsequently, they became peasants dependent on the state and on private landowners. Smerdy became a collective term for peasants.
In Kievan Rus’ the main forms of exploiting the peasants were the exaction of tribute (rent in kind) and the corvée (barshchind). The zakupy (indentured peasants) were in the most onerous position. The peasantry’s lack of rights was reflected in legislative acts of the Kievan period, such as the Russkaia Pravda. Defying feudalization, the enserfed peasantry took to antifeudal rebellions (1024, 1068, 1071, and 1113), arson, seizing land, and running away.
With the onset of feudal fragmentation in the 11th and 12th centuries, the privileged votchina (patrimonial estate), which enjoyed extensive immunities, became the chief form of landholding. However, the chernososhnye krest’iane (state peasants who paid the tax known as the sokha) survived this period. During the Mongol-Tatar invasion of Rus’ in the 13th century the peasantry suffered heavy casualties. Some peasants were killed or taken prisoner, and many fled to the northern regions. In the 14th and 15th centuries an enormous area of the chernye zemli (”black lands”—that is, state-owned lands) in the center of northeastern Rus’ was seized by major feudal lords. The chernoe krest’ianstvo (”black,” or state peasantry) survived primarily in the north. The chief method of exploiting the peasants was the extraction of the obrok (quitrent) in kind, but the corvee was also exacted. Associated with a rise in the economic independence of the peasantry was an increase in property differentiation. In legal acts dating from the 15th century there is frequent mention of peasant tenants who have occupied the same land for several generations (starozhil’tsy) and of newcomers (novoprishlye). Peasants who fell into debt became known as serebreniki.
The peasants’ freedom to move from one landlord to another was restricted in the mid-15th century. A single day for the otkaz (the peasant’s formal notice to the landlord of his intention to leave) was introduced (St. George’s Day), and the principle of compulsory payment of the pozhiloe (fee for the house and farm buildings used by the peasant tenant) was established. The restriction of peasant movement, which was consolidated in the Ulozhenie (Code) of 1497 and confirmed in the Ulozhenie of 1550, was a turning point in the enserfment of the peasantry. The exploitation of the peasantry became more intense in the late 15th century: rent was exacted in cash as well as in kind. A new form of feudal landed property, the pomest’e (fief), was established in the 16th century. The corvee developed, and the land plowed for the lord was taken away from the peasants. The corvee was arbitrarily increased by the feudal lords.
With the development of commodity and money relations, the property differentiation of the peasantry increased. Sources refer to dobrye (”better”), sredinnye (”middle”), and khudye (”worse”) peasants, as well as to “plowing” and “nonplowing” peasants. In the 15th century, a new category of peasants emerged—the bobyli (landless peasants). Impoverished peasants who worked on monasterial farms were called detenyshi. The term starozhil’tsy, which had once been applied to the peasants, was replaced by starinnye, which appears in cadastral registers (pistsovye knigi) and other government documents. The term novoprishlye evolved into novoprikhodtsy. Peasant indebtedness to the feudal lords assumed vast proportions. In the 16th century slavery (polnoe kholopstvo) gave way to debt servitude (kabal’noe kholopstvo). Thus, new strata of the population who borrowed money and were obligated to perform service to pay the interest on the debt fell under feudal exploitation.
The zapovednye leta (years when peasants were forbidden to leave their estates) were introduced at a time of economic ruin engendered by the sharp increase in feudal oppression during the Livonian Wars of 1558-83 and during the oprichnina (1565-72), when an ebb of the peasant population from the country’s central regions to the south became evident. The main features of serfdom (krepostnoe pravo) were formalized by the state in the late 16th century and the early 17th.
The exacerbation of class contradictions was manifested in the Peasant War of the early 17th century, the culmination of which was the Peasant Uprising of 1606-07 under the leadership of I. I. Bolotnikov. The Sobornoe Ulozhenie (Assembly Code) of 1649 formalized the ownership of all categories of peasants by their lords on the basis of the cadastral registers, “without the urochnye leta” (the years when peasants had the right to leave their estates). The intensification of feudal oppression in the center of Russia and the spread of serfdom to the southern and southeastern regions resulted in the Peasant War of 1670-71, which was led by S. T. Razin.
During the late feudal period the position of the peasantry was affected by the reinforcement of feudal oppression and by the merger of various categories of peasants and kholopy (enslaved serfs) into a single enserfed mass. New phenomena emerged among the peasantry: social stratification, an increase in leasing arrangements, and an increase in seasonal work outside of the villages. In the 17th century peasants were classified in terms of the landowner to whom they were bound. Thus, there were peasants who lived on private estates, monasterial peasants, court peasants, and chernososhnye (state) peasants. The peasants and bobyli were made equal with respect to taxes by the introduction of the padvornoe oblozhenie (household tax).
Under Peter I the legal distinctions between the peasants and kholopy were finally eliminated with the institution of the poll tax (podushnaia podat’). A special category of peasants—the state peasants—was established during his reign. The Ukase of 1721 permitted the purchase of peasants for factories and mills (the possessional peasants). Peter I’s conscription and poll tax laws sharply increased the power of the pomeshchiki (landlords) over the peasants. In the decades after these laws went into effect, the enserfed peasants were deprived of all their legal rights and were exempted from taking the subject’s oath to the government. The Ukase of 1760 granted the pomeshchiki the right to exile their peasants to Siberia. The deterioration in the condition of the peasantry led to the Peasant War of 1773-75, which was led by E. I. Pugachev.
During the 18th century and the first half of the 19th the proportion of peasants in the population of the Russian Empire decreased somewhat, but the absolute number of peasants in-creased. (See Table 2.)
The most oppressed peasants were those bound to the pomeshchiki. Although they were given smaller plots than the appanage and state peasants, their obligations were greater. They per-formed corvee, paid quitrent, and had to meet other, mixed obligations. According to the Ukase of 1797, the peasants owed the pomeshchik three days’corvee, but in fact, they worked more than this for the lord, particularly during the planting and har-vest seasons. In the late 18th century some of the pomeshchiki shifted their peasants to the mesiachina system, under which they were deprived of all land and forced to work fulltime for the pomeshchik in exchange for food and other necessities. The mesiachina disappeared in the center of Great Russia by the mid-19th century. Because the amount of the quitrent, as well as of the mixed dues, was not regulated by law, it increased steadily. Toward the end of the 18th century the poll tax reached an average of three rubles in the central nonchernozem provinces of Great Russia and 4.4 rubles in the chernozem provinces. By the mid-19th century it had risen by 3.5 times in the former and by 50-60 percent in the latter. Quitrent amounted to one-fifth of the peasant’s income in the late 18th century. By the mid-19th century it had risen to more than one-third of the peasant’s income.
Mixed obligations, which became widespread in the first half of the 19th century, were a transition from the corvee to quitrent. There were a number of varieties. Often, each household paid quitrent and performed corvee. A household that paid quitrent might be compelled to do corvee during the harvest season, or a household that performed corvee might be made to pay a low quitrent or supply the pomeshchik’s household with goods. Because the mixed obligations deprived the peasants of the comparative freedom of paying quitrent and forced corvee households to obtain money to pay the pomeshchik, they were the most onerous forms of exploitation. There were estates on which some of the peasants paid quitrent while the rest per-formed the corvée.
By the mid-18th century the quitrent prevailed in the central nonchernozem zone. (In Nizhny Novgorod Province 79.7 per-cent of the peasants paid quitrent, and in Tver’ Province, 45.2 percent.) The corvee prevailed in the central chernozem zone (ranging from 88.2 percent on corvee in Orel Province to 44.1 percent in Voronezh). The regions in which the various forms of peasant obligations prevailed remained the same in the mid-19th century, but the correlation of provinces within the regions had changed between the mid-18th century and the mid-19th. In Kostroma and Yaroslavl the percentage of peasants on quitrent rose to 88, whereas in Nizhny Novgorod the figure declined to 68. Of the 75 districts in the central chernozem zone, seven were almost entirely on corvee and in 49 others the corvee prevailed.
Where quitrent prevailed, peasant trade and commerce was extensive. In these regions both market farming and animal husbandry developed more rapidly than in areas dominated by the corvee, giving rise to a more perceptible striving among the rich peasants to acquire landed property. By the mid-19th century the peasantry of Yaroslavl Province alone owned 15,300 desiatinas (16,677 ha) of land, and the peasants of the central chernozem zone, about 14,000desiatinas (15,260 ha). “Capitalist” peasants—the founders of bourgeois dynasties such as the Morozov and Konovalov families—came from the central nonchernozem zone, where commodity and money relations had reached a higher level of development by the mid-19th century.
In terms of their economic and legal status, the peasantry of the national borderlands differed from the peasantry of the rest of the empire. Thus, although the peasantry of the Left-bank Ukraine and the Slobodskaia Ukraina were not distinguished in socioeconomic terms from the Great Russian peasantry, in the 18th century the peasantry of the Right-bank Ukraine was op-pressed by the Polish gentry. In the first half of the 19th century, particularly in the Right-bank Ukraine, the area of plowlands held by the peasantry declined, but the corvee became heavier. The Moldavian peasantry fell into two groups in the first half of the 19th century: the rezeshi —free owners of small pieces of communal land; and the tsarane —free tillers who did not own land and who had become dependent on secular and clerical feudal lords.
In the 1850’s the peasantry of Byelorussia and Lithuania included state peasants (more than 34 percent), peasants bound to landlords (more than 61 percent), peasants belonging to the clergy and various administrative departments (0.4 percent), and free peasants (about 4 percent). The peasants bound to landlords were further subdivided in terms of land allotments and obligations. The taxed peasants held full allotments and performed corvee; the semitaxed peasants were granted only half of the full land allotment and performed peshaia (”on-foot”)corvee. As a rule, the market gardeners (ogorodniki) were given a piece of land by their farmhouses, and most of them paid quitrent. The bobyli owned neither land nor farmhouses.
In the Baltic region the peasantry performed both the ordi-nary and the extraordinary corvee. The latter was exacted during reaping and haymaking, as well as when the fields were manured. Because the extraordinary corvee was not limited to a definite number of days, it was particularly onerous for the peasantry. In effect, it had become a permanent obligation by the end of the 18th century. The Baltic peasants were granted personal freedom by the acts of 1816-19, but they lost their land and fell into rent bondage to the landlords.
For the most part, the peasants of Georgia—the glekhi —were serfs, including landless household serfs. The khizany —landless peasants who had settled on the lands of feudal lords—constituted a distinct group. The Georgian peasantry bore more than 100 forms of obligations. In Azerbaijan the peasantry included farmers who paid quitrent in kind to the owner of the land or to the state treasury and nomads who paid quitrent in
Table 2. Number of peasants in the Russian Empire, 1719-1857
 Year of revision (census)Number of male peasantsPercentage of peasants in total populationPeasants of various groups (in percent)
    Court (appanage)StateChurchLandlord
I17196,552,37790.07.725.912.454.0
II17447,793,77690.65.527.111.555.9
III17629,978,11394.25.327.910.656.2
IV178212,592,47892.05.031.210.453.4
v179516,321,98489.83.227.89.060.0
VI181118,217,74490.03.330.78.557.5
VII181517,849,54385.45.238.756.1
VIII183321,591,88184.74.342.653.1
IX185023,350,49483.43.747.548.8
X185724,015,65183.03.948.847.3
livestock and owed military service to the khan. The peasants who inhabited the lands of the “higher Muslim estate” were made state peasants in 1847. After eastern Armenia became part of Russia, levies in kind and cash were reduced to half those paid by the peasants to the shah of Iran and the sardar of Yerevan. However, the church’s right to its lands and the peasants inhabiting them was reinforced.
Middle Asia became part of Russia in the postreform era. In Kirghizia the nomads’ land was declared state property and distributed at special assemblies, which made it possible for the bais to oppress the poor. The dehqans (peasants) of Tadzhikistan were either sharecroppers (chor’yakkory) or hired laborers called miskiny (people without property). In Turkmenia peasant live-stock raisers (charva) bred horned cattle. Wells, pools of water, and aryks (irrigation ditches) were owned by the tribal elite. The status of the Kazakh nomads was similar.
Despite the extreme diversity in the socioeconomic status of the peasantry in various parts of the Russian Empire, conditions throughout the country were, in general, determined by the development of European Russia. In this region the objective conditions emerged for the country’s capitalist development, which made the abolition of serfdom inevitable. The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War (1853-56) and the peasant movement, which had grown with every decade, forced tsarism to carry out the Peasant Reform of 1861.
The abolition of serfdom in 1861 was the first step toward fundamental changes in the status of the peasantry. During the development of capitalism the peasantry was transformed from a class-estate of feudal society into a class of capitalist society. Economically, the peasantry changed. Drawn into the setting of commodity farming and market relations, the peasant farm gradually lost its subsistence character and became market oriented, and its petit bourgeois qualities became more and more pronounced. According to the data of the All-Russian Population Census of 1897, 88,294,000 people, or 70.25 percent of the entire population, depended on income from farming, the main occupation in the Russian Empire, and 4,516,600, or 3.59 per-cent of the population, made a living from raising livestock. Thus, agriculture was the main occupation for three-fourths of the empire’s population. Peasant farming was important in the country’s economy. In 1913 the total national income of the country (that is, of the area included in the USSR before 1939) was 14,538,000 rubles, of which 7,625,000 rubles were produced by agriculture, primarily by peasant farming. The peasants held 88 percent of the sown area (including rented land) and 94 percent of the productive livestock; the landlords owned 12 per-cent of the sown area and 6 percent of the livestock. On the eve of World War I (1914-18) the landlords produced 600 million poods (9,828,000,000 kg) of the gross grain harvest of 5 billion poods (81.9 billion kg), whereas the peasants produced 4.4 billion poods (72,072,000,000 kg).
The Reform of 1861 abolished the personal dependence of the peasants. But the task of emancipating the peasantry from serfdom and its legal and, particularly, its economic vestiges occupied the entire postreform era and was completed only as a result of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
The economic and legal conditions created by the Peasant Reform of 1861 continued to ensure the domination of the peas-ants by the landlords. The labor payment system emerged, under which the peasants cultivated the lord’s land with their own livestock and implements in return for rented land, pastures, and grain and cash received on credit. The foundation for the maintenance of the semifeudal exploitation of the peasants was the large landed estates. The remains of the old serf order greatly retarded the development of peasant farming. Between 1863 and 1913 the rural population of European Russia nearly doubled, but the sown area of grains and potatoes increased from 57.1 million desiatinas (62,239,000 ha) in 1861-70 to 71.4 million desiatinas (77,826,000 ha) in 1913 (that is, an increase of only 12.5 percent). The harvest of grains increased somewhat from 29poods per desiatina (475.02 kg per 1.09 ha) in 1861-70 to 39poods (638.82 kg) in 1891-1900. Although the total number of cattle increased, the number per capita declined.
The vestiges of serfdom could not, however, halt capitalist development in the countryside after the Reform of 1861. As capitalism grew stronger, the peasantry broke down into a small kulak-bourgeois elite and great masses of ruined poor peasants and agricultural proletarians. By 1917 approximately 2 million farms were held by kulaks, 3 million by middle peasants, and about 10 million by poor peasants. The number of agricultural laborers rose from 700,000 in 1860 to 4.5 million in 1913. The kulaks increased their investments in agriculture, exploited the poor peasants extensively by means of bondage and usury, and engaged in trade. According to the war-horse censuses of 1896-1900, 6.6 million peasant farms in European Russia had no horse or only one horse.
The peasants tried to escape their impoverished condition by seeking wage-paying jobs in the cities or work in agriculture or lumbering. Some peasants migrated to the border areas (Siberia, the southern Ukraine, and the Northern Caucasus). Between 1860 and 1915, 5,615,800 people migrated from European Russia to other parts of the empire. However, seasonal work and migration failed to decrease the enormous agrarian overpopulation of the interior provinces and diminish the urgency of the agrarian question.
The peasantry was the estate most deprived of rights in Russia. Under the Reform of 1861 the peasants acquired “the legal status, either personal or in terms of property, of free rural residents.” However, they were enlisted in the “tax-paying estates.” In contrast to the “privileged” estates, they had to pay the poll tax and were liable to conscription and numerous other obligations. Even after 1861 government policy included police persecution of the peasantry and regulation of the pettiest details of peasant life. For control and for fiscal purposes, the obshchina (peasant commune) and the system of mutual responsibility for the fulfillment of obligations were preserved and supported by the state. The volost special court was formed, and until 1903 (and in fact, even later), corporal punishment was extensively prescribed. The difficult economic conditions endured by the peasants made the overwhelming majority of them helpless against natural disasters (epidemics, drought, and fires, for ex-ample). Crop failures and famine recurred every three to four years, striking ever larger areas. The famines of 1891 and 1911 were particularly severe.
Throughout the capitalist epoch the peasants’ primary aspiration was to rid themselves of the oppression practiced by the landlords. The peasantry’s ideology was, therefore, revolutionary democratic. However, within the peasantry an intensive process of class stratification led to the formation of a rural bourgeoisie, which provided the soil for another ideological tendency—liberalism. Among the peasants hatred of the land-lord oppressors and vain dreams of establishing social equality and justice in the context of small-scale commodity production were combined with naive faith in the tsar.
V. I. Lenin characterized the social condition of the peasantry at the turn of the century as one of “dormancy” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 24, p. 333). But life itself pressed the peasantry toward a more active struggle (for example, the Peasant Uprising of 1902).
A crucial role in the awakening and political enlightenment of the peasantry was played by the entry of the revolutionary working class into the arena of political struggle, the emergence of the proletarian party, and the spread of the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. In 1905 the working class “led the millions of peasants into revolution” (ibid., vol. 20, p. 141). The peasants “were able to lay down immediately the beginnings of the formation of political parties” (ibid., vol. 15, p. 195) that more or less accurately reflected their interests (the Popular Socialists, the Trudoviks [members of the Toilers group of deputies in the Duma], and the Socialist Revolutionaries [SR’s]). Peasant committees emerged, and a revolutionary democratic organization—the All-Russian Peasant Union—was established. The Bolsheviks sup-ported the peasantry’s main demand—the confiscation of lands owned by the lords, or the idea that all land is public property and should, therefore, be nationalized. The Revolution of 1905-07 was the beginning of the alliance between the working class and the peasantry in Russia.
The peasantry gained little from the Revolution of 1905-07. The advantages of the termination of redemption payments were soon canceled by tax increases. Rent reductions were later wiped out by rent increases. However, the peasants were granted representation in the State Duma. In the wake of the Revolution of 1905-07 there was an abrupt reversal in the agrarian policy of the ruling classes, which ceased to support and protect the obshchinaand called for a decisive breakup of communal land tenure in the interests of the kulaks (the Stolypin Agrarian Re-form). The reform brought some progress in the methods of farming practiced by the rural bourgeoisie, but it also resulted in the further ruin and impoverishment of most of the peasant masses. Besides, it further intensified the breakdown in the countryside, exacerbating the “second social war”—the struggle of the agricultural workers and poor peasants against the kulaks.
In the February Revolution of 1917 the peasantry supported the working class. But the task of struggle against the landlords was not completed by this revolution, and the poor and middle strata of the Russian peasantry, after vacillating several times during the period of dual power and coming to understand that they could get land and peace only with the workers’ support, turned decisively toward an alliance with the working class.
THE USSR. The October Revolution of 1917, in which the poor peasantry, as well as the working class, participated actively under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party, fundamentally altered the socioeconomic status of the Russian peasantry. Land-lord and large-scale capitalist landownership was abolished by the Decree on Land. Almost all agricultural land (that is, about 98 percent) was transferred to the toiling peasants for their use. The peasants were freed from rents and released from their debts to the banks. The agrarian peasant revolution, which was an integral part of the Great October Socialist Revolution, passed through two stages. During the bourgeois democratic stage (up to the summer of 1918) landownership by the lords was eliminated, and the peasantry on the whole acted as a class-estate. During the socialist stage, a class struggle emerged within the peasantry, the komitety bednoty (committees of poor peasants) and the prodotriady (food requisition detachments of urban workers) made a very powerful attack on the kulaks, and the number of collective farms began to increase noticeably. The peasantry demanded the abolition of private landed property in Russia. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, this amounted to a call for the nationalization of the land.
However, because the peasantry as a whole was not yet ready for the socialization of production, state ownership of the land was combined with the use of land by individuals. The lands transferred to the peasantry were subject to equalizing partition, usually within the land societies (obshchinas) and volosts. A sizable portion of the implements and livestock from confiscated estates was turned over to the peasantry.
During the Civil War (1918-20) a military and political alliance took shape between the working class and toiling peasantry in the struggle against the landlord counterrevolution and foreign intervention. However, in the outlying areas of Russia— Siberia, the Southern Urals, the Don region, and the Northern Caucasus—where landownership by the lords was either absent or insignificant, where the peasantry was most prosperous and bourgeoisified, and where the proletariat was very small, the peasantry supported the counterrevolution in the summer of 1918, putting forth the slogan of free trade. The antipeasant agrarian policies and bloody terror of the White Guard regime prompted “another turn toward Bolshevism” by the peasant masses, beginning with disconnected rebellions in the fall of 1918 and culminating in the virtually universal struggle of the countryside against domestic and foreign counterrevolution in 1919-20.
The conduct of the peasantry and its vacillations between revolution and counterrevolution predetermined the course and outcome of the Civil War. “In the long run, this vacillation of the peasantry . . . decided the fate of Soviet rule and of the rule of Kolchak and Denikin” (ibid., vol. 40, p. 17). The peasantry participated actively in the armed struggle against the White Guards and interventionists. In addition, through the system of requisitioning grain, the peasantry handed over to the Soviet state at almost no cost all the surplus foodstuffs and raw materials necessary to supply the cities and army. The peasantry reconciled itself to the requisitioning system only under wartime conditions. As soon as the war was over, it began to demand the abolition of the system. In 1920 the devastation of the peasant economy caused by the war was made worse by crop failure and the loss of cattle. Lenin wrote of “the extraordinarily acute crisis of peasant farming ... “(ibid., vol. 43, p. 147). The discontent of the peasantry was exploited by the kulaks, who stirred up anti-Soviet revolts (the Antonov Revolt, which broke out in August 1920, and the Kronstadt Anti-Soviet Mutiny of 1921).
In March 1921 the Communist Party shifted to the New Economic Policy (NEP). The system of grain requisitions was abolished, and the peasants were given the opportunity to dis-pose freely of their surplus produce. Commodity circulation between the city and the countryside was reestablished. Thus, conditions were created for the development of small-scale commodity peasant farming. But the recovery of the peasant economy was hampered by the unprecedented crop failure and famine of 1921, which struck the country’s main agricultural regions where as many as 30 million peasants lived. The Communist Party and Soviet government organized a nationwide struggle against the famine and its consequences and offered a great deal of aid to the peasantry. Between 1922 and 1927, Russian agriculture regained, and to some degree exceeded, the 1913-16 level of production (meat and dairy animal husbandry and industrial crops). The limited possibilities of small-scale production became particularly evident with the transition to socialist industrialization. There were 25 million peasant farms in the USSR in 1927, with sown areas averaging 4-6 ha each. Only 15.2 percent of them had farm machinery, 28.3 percent had no draft animals, and 31.6 percent had no plowing implements. With the accelerated growth of industry and cities, peasant farming could no longer meet the country’s needs for agricultural products and raw materials. Large-scale mechanized and socialized production, which would make it possible to raise the productivity of labor and increase the ratio of commodity output to total output, became an objective necessity in agriculture.
As a result of the agrarian transformations brought about by the October Revolution, profound changes took place in the social structure of the peasantry. Most of the peasants advanced into the middle peasantry. However, peasant farming remained at the small-scale commodity stage, continuing to engender “capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale”(ibid, vol. 41, p. 6). With the restoration of commodity production and circulation, the class stratification of the peasantry resumed. According to data from a study of 614,000 peasant farms in 1927, 3.2 percent were kulak farms, with 7.5 percent of the draft animals and 21.7 percent of the machinery and implements, and 26.1 percent were farms held by poor peasants, with only 6.5 percent of the draft animals and 1.6 percent of the machinery and implements. Poor and middle peasants were forced to rent draft animals and implements from the kulaks. At the same time, the kulaks rented a considerable amount of land from poor peasants and from middle peasants of limited capacities with small holdings. Peasants who owned farms with a sown area of 16-25desiatinas (17.44-27.25 ha) rented half of their land, and those whose farms included a sown area of more than 25desiatinas (27.25 ha) might rent as much as three-fourths of the land. About 1.4 million well-to-do and kulak farms employed hired laborers.
The Soviet state aided the poor and middle peasants and restricted the development of the kulaks by means of its tax policy, the system of land tenure, the supply of implements, and credit. In the period between 1924-25 and 1926-27 the proportion of middle peasant farms rose from 61.1 percent to 62.7 percent, that of kulak farms, from 3.3 to 3.9 percent, and that of rural proletarians’ farms, from 9.7 percent to 11.3 percent. The pro-portion of poor peasant farms declined from 25.9 percent to 22.1 percent during the same period.
The class struggle in the countryside continued. In 1927-28, the kulaks organized a “grain strike,” refusing to sell grain to the state at fixed prices. The Soviet state was forced to institute extraordinary measures. The intensification of class conflicts demanded the elimination of the capitalist structure in agriculture and the implementation of socialist transformations.
The incipient industrialization of the country, the implementation of Lenin’s Cooperative Plan, and the entire policy of the Soviet state created the prerequisites for the peasantry’s switch to socialism. The agricultural cooperative system was extensively developed. By the autumn of 1929, 50-55 percent of all peasant farms belonged to trade and credit cooperatives, about 25 percent of all peasant farms had joined simple producers’ associations, and 3.9 percent belonged to kolkhozes.
The complex social structure of the prekolkhoz countryside combined and interwove petit bourgeois, capitalist, and socialist relations, as well as relations characteristic of the transition to socialism. However, patriarchal and feudal-partriarchal relations persisted even after the October Revolution in Middle Asia and Kazakhstan and among the peoples of the Northern Caucasus, Siberia, the Far East, and the North. The Kazakhs, Kirghiz, and certain peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East continued to lead a nomadic or seminomadic way of life. It was impossible to reorganize immediately the internal relations in the Uzbek kishlak (permanent village), the Kazakh and Turkmen aul (village), and the Kirghiz ail (village administrative unit). The Communist Party and the Soviet state had to do a great deal of organizational, political, economic, and cultural-educational work to create the objective conditions for the elimination of the feudal system of exploitation in the national regions. By the mid-1920’s land and water reforms had been implemented, plow-lands and hayfields had been partitioned, and farms held by the bais (semifeudal landlords) had been eliminated—that is, the foundations of the feudal-patriarchal system of exploitation had been destroyed. These reforms were of paramount importance in the advance of once backward peoples to socialism without going through the capitalist stage of development, and they were indispensable prerequisites for the socialist transformation of agriculture in the republics of the Soviet East.
The socialist reorganization of agriculture was a most pro-found revolution in the economic relations and the whole way of life of the peasantry. Its main element was the organization of peasant farms into producers’ cooperatives. In the USSR this was accomplished through the complete collectivization of agriculture—the direct transition of the peasantry from small-scale individual farming to large-scale collective farming. In the autumn of 1929 the kolkhoz movement became a mass movement, and by the middle of 1932, 61.5 percent of the peasant farms had been consolidated in kolkhozes. In 1937, 18.1 million peasant households were incorporated in 242,500 kolkhozes. The proportion of individual farms declined to 7 percent, their sown areas to 1 percent, and their livestock to 3 percent of the total. In effect, the socialist system had become the sole form of organization in agriculture.
Successes in industrial development and in raising the productivity of agricultural labor caused a rapid decrease in the size of the rural population (particularly the peasantry) in the USSR. In 1926, 82.1 percent of the population was rural and 75 percent was made up of peasants. In 1939 the figures were 67 percent and 49.8 percent, respectively; in 1959, 52 percent and 31.7 percent; in 1970,44 percent and 21.6 percent; and in 1972,42 percent and 19.3 percent (From 1939 the figures included artisans who were members of cooperatives.)
The peasantry began to liberate itself rapidly from the ignorance and the backward culture that had burdened it for centuries. As early as the 1930’s, illiteracy had been overcome among the peasantry, and compulsory education of children in elementary schools had been instituted. (The transition to universal secondary education began in the 1960’s and 1970’s.) In 1939, 5.2 percent of the rural population (6.3 percent of the gainfully employed) had a higher and secondary education, whereas in 1970, 33.2 percent of the rural population (49.9 percent of the gainfully employed) had reached this level of education. (These figures include those who have only an incomplete higher or secondary education.) The number of highly skilled specialists, such as agronomists, veterinarians, crop and livestock management experts, and engineers, increased among the peasantry. In 1940 the kolkhozes were served by 29,000 specialists with a higher and specialized secondary education and in 1970, by 390,-000. The country developed a large army of machine operators who successfully applied modern technology. The kolkhoz members of the USSR included 1,298,000 machine operators in 1940 and 2,042,000 in 1970 (tractor and combine operators and motor vehicle drivers).
Fundamental changes took place in the psychology of the Soviet peasantry. The centuries-old attachment of the peasantry to the small private farm became a thing of the past. Gradually, the new psychology of the peasant toiler of socialist society took shape. By the late 1930’s the formation of the kolkhoz peasantry as a new class of socialist society was completed not only in the developed regions but also in the once backward borderlands.
Socialist agriculture and the kolkhoz system of the USSR withstood the extremely difficult experience of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). The kolkhozes and sovkhozes supplied the country with the necessary minimum of foodstuffs and raw materials. Displaying mass heroism at the front and in the rear, the peasantry conscientiously defended the socialist system. During the war the peasant population declined. In 1945 peas-ants made up 47 percent of the working population of the USSR, as compared to 60 percent in 1936. By early 1946 there were only two-thirds as many able-bodied kolkhoz members as in 1940, and there were only 40 percent as many men. The heroic labor of the peasantry ensured the rehabilitation of the war-devastated kolkhozes. By the early 1950’s the volume of agricultural production had regained the prewar level.
As the material-technical base for socialist agriculture developed, the kolkhozes were consolidated to form larger units. Between 1950 and 1952 the number of kolkhozes decreased from 250,000 to 93,000. As a result of the further amalgamation of the kolkhozes and the transformation of some of them (primarily, the economically weak ones) into sovkhozes, which was done in accordance with the decisions of general meetings of kolkhoz members, by the beginning of 1970 there were 34,200 kolkhozes incorporating 14.7 million peasant households. The average number of kolkhoz members declined from 21.7 million in 1960 to 16.7 million in 1970. Of the 5 million peasants who were no longer kolkhoz members at the end of this decade, 1.8 million came from within the comparable set of kolkhozes and 3.2 mil-lion from kolkhozes which had been turned into sovkhozes or had fallen within the boundaries of cities. The replacement of private property by one of the forms of public socialist property fundamentally altered the class position and frame of mind of the Soviet peasantry, bringing it closer to the working class. But there are still substantial differences between the two classes, reflecting the characteristics of their historical paths to socialism as well as differences in the level of their development and in the level of socialization of industrial and agricultural production.
The system of socioeconomic relations of the kolkhoz peasantry passed through a number of developmental stages. From the 1930*s to the 1950’s its development was characterized by the interaction of the kolkhozes and the state machine and tractor stations (MTS’s). In order to accelerate the technical reequipment of agriculture, the state initially retained ownership of the main implements of production, concentrating them in the MTS’s, which served the kolkhozes for payment in kind, as stipulated in contracts. Skilled specialists were assembled in the MTS’s and in raion agricultural administrations. Through the MTS’s direct state leadership was exercised over the kolkhozes. At first, the insufficient development of agricultural production caused the prevalence of barter within the kolkhozes, as well as between the kolkhozes and the state. In 1933 a system of compulsory deliveries of agricultural products to the state at fixed prices was introduced. Kolkhoz members were paid chiefly in kind, with pay calculated in terms of workday units. Pay was deter-mined after accounts had been settled with the state and deductions had been made for indivisible funds and production assets.
The growth of agricultural production and the strengthening of the kolkhozes as a socialist form of farming created the conditions for the further improvement and development of the system of socioeconomic relations in the kolkhoz countryside. Beginning in the mid-1950’s compulsory deliveries were gradu-ally replaced by the centralized, planned purchase of agricultural products at prices that had been substantially raised and that differed from zone to zone. The MTS system was reorganized in 1958. The kolkhozes began to buy agricultural equipment. At the same time, the system of state direction of kolkhozes and the planning of kolkhoz production and state procurement changed. Machine operators and specialists who had worked in the MTS’s prior to their elimination joined the kolkhoz peasantry, raising its productivity and technical level and helping to bring it closer to the working class. During the period when most of the peas-ants toiled on an individual basis, they had had no special vocational training. Thus, there was a “universal” peasant type. According to data, in 1970, 5.2 million kolkhoz members were trained in a special skill. Of these, 7.5 percent had a higher or specialized secondary education, 10.9 percent were intermediate managerial and accounting personnel, 38.3 percent were machine operators, and 43.3 percent were cattle breeders.
Especially important measures designed to strengthen and develop socialist production relations in the kolkhozes were carried out according to the resolutions of the March 1965 Plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU. The system of remunerating kolkhoz members was changed in 1966. Guaranteed payment according to a basic wage rate was instituted. The kolkhoz members were to be paid in cash at least once a month and in kind at the time the produce was obtained. In addition, they were to receive supplementary payments based on the year’s totals. As a result, the wages of kolkhoz members rose. (In 1960 the rate was 1 ruble 40 kopeks per person-day, as compared to 3 rubles 90 kopeks in 1970.) The material stake of the peasantry in the development of the collective farm increased, as did the level of peasant labor. The peasants’ real income, computed per worker, was 12 times greater in 1970 than in 1913. From 1964 kolkhoz members were provided with old-age and disability pensions, and in 1970-71, a unified social security system was introduced for them. The system of calculating pensions for industrial and office workers was extended to kolkhoz members. In 1970, 12 million kolkhoz members received pensions (including 10.5 million old-age pensions).
With the victory of socialism, the moral and political unity of Soviet society has been established on the basis of the further strengthening of the alliance of the working class and the peasantry, in which the working class continues to play the leading role. The tie between the peasantry and the Communist Party became stronger. In 1937, 296,900 Communists, including 186,-900 kolkhoz members, were employed in agriculture in the USSR. There were 2,336,400 Communists employed in agriculture in 1967, including 1,330,300 kolkhoz members. Through the soviets the kolkhoz peasantry participates in the administration of public and state affairs. The forms of kolkhoz self-government have continued to expand and improve. Adopted by the Third All-Union Congress of Kolkhoz Members (1969), the Model Kolkhoz Regulations, which have become the law governing the way of life and the labor of the peasantry during the period of the building of communism, constituted a new level in the development of kolkhoz democracy.
The development of productive forces leads to the gradual transformation of agricultural labor into a kind of industrial labor and to the obliteration of essential differences between the city and the countryside, including their respective ways of life and cultural levels. The growing socialization of production brings kolkhoz property closer to state property, creating the conditions for their merger into a single form of communist property belonging to the people as a whole. The successes of socialist agriculture and the heroic labor of the peasantry are among the important conditions for raising the standard of living of the people and for the gradual transition of Soviet society to communism.

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V. I. KORETSKII (up to the 18th century),

B. G. LITVAK (18th century-1861),

A. M. ANFIMOV (1861-1917), and V. P. DANILOV (1917-72)

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