Economic Results of the Russian Mir
The advantages and inconveniences of collective communal property have been for twenty years the subject of deep discussions between the partisans and adversaries of the system. M. Von Reussler, in his book already often quoted, has collected, from Russian sources, all the arguments adduced on either side, as well as the discussions which took place on the subject at the Agricultural Congress at St Petersburg in 1865. The great agricultural enquiry in 1873, the results of which have been collected by the Government in five volumes, also contains much material for the study of this question.(1)
The Panslavists believe that the community of the mir will ensure the future greatness of Russia. Western nations, they say, have possessed similar institutions; but, under the influence of feudalism and the civil law, they have allowed them to perish. They will he punished for it by social struggles, and by the implacable contest between the rich and the poor.
It is contrary to justice, they add, that the soil, which is the common patrimony of all mankind, should be appropriated by a few families. Labour may be a lawful title of ownership in the product created by it; but not in the soil, which it does not create. In Russia, the commune recognizes in every individual able to labour the right to claim a share in the soil, which allows him to live on the fruits of his energy.
Pauperism, the bane of Western societies, is unknown in the mir; it cannot come into existence there, for every one has the means of subsistence, and each family takes care of its old and infirm members. In the West, a numerous offspring is an evil that is avoided by methods which certain economists advocate, but which morality condemns. In Russia, the birth of a child is always matter of rejoicing; for it brings the family new strength for the future, and entitles them to claim additional land for cultivation. The population can increase. There are vast territories in Europe to be colonised; and, when these are stocked, the immense plateaus of Asia will open for the indefinite expansion of the great Slavonic race. So long as the race preserves the venerable institution of the mir, it will escape class struggles and social war, the most terrible of all contests, for it caused the fall and subjection of ancient societies, and at the present day is threatening modern societies with the same dangers. The Russian nation will remain united and therefore strong: it will continue to increase on the basis of the "primordial institution," which alone can guarantee order, because it alone allows of the organisation of justice among mankind.
Such is the language of the advocates of the mir; -- it assumes various shades. First, there are the conservatives, such as the Baron von Haxthausen, who would protect the patriarchal system and the ancient institutions. Then come the numerous group of Slavophiles, such as Aksakof, Byeliyayef, Koschelyef, Samarine, and Prince Tscherkasski, followed by many persons in high society , and distinguished women who take very exalted views of the great destiny reserved for the Slavonic race. Finally, there are the socialist-democrats of the school of Herzen and Bakunin, such as Tschernischewski and Panaeff, who maintain that the agrarian organisation of the mir contains the solution of the social problem, sought in vain by Saint-Simon, Owen and Proudhon.
The institutions of the Russian commune are so completely at variance with all our economic principles and with the sentiments of individual property developed in us by habit, that we can with difficulty form a conception of their existence. The mir seems to us a kind of social monstrosity, -- a legacy of barbarian ages, to which modern progress will not stay to do justice. Yet a glance round us is sufficient to shew how the principle of collectivity is invading us on different sides, and threatening the independence of isolated individualism.
On the one hand joint-stock companies, a collective power from which responsibility is entirely banished, not only monopolise all the large industries, but crush, under their irresistible competition, even the artisans and small traders on a ground where they seemed unassailable, -- the making of garments, of boots, furniture, and retail business. Joint-stock companies are formed for every purpose, and multiply continually. Every one soon will be a shareholder or in receipt of a salary; there will be no room for the small independent tradesman, or the independent workman belonging to no society.
On the other hand, we see increasing in number, with alarming rapidity, societies in which the principle of community is applied even more rigorously than in the Russian mir, and where all distinction of meum and tuum is strictly proscribed. I refer to religious houses. Once grant these houses a civil personality and a right to take landed property on the same title as individuals, and the struggle between individualism and collectivity will not remain long undecided. Within a hundred years religious houses will be temporal lords of the land in every catholic country; and the whole soil will be in their hands.
Under the old system, every sovereign, -- even the most devoted to the church, such as Philip II and Maria Theresa, -- was constantly issuing law upon law to stop the encroachments of mortmain. Modern laws forbid religious bodies to exist as civil persons or to hold property as such: yet we see them multiplying under our eyes in France, in Belgium, in Holland, Prussia and England; -- in every country where violent revolutions have not expelled them, as in Spain, Italy or Portugal. Their wealth and power increase in proportion as the most firmly established governments have recourse to exceptional measures for their limitation. In Belgium they will soon be strong enough to brave all opposition and to dictate their wishes to the legislature and the sovereign. With a legislation such as that of the United States on the subject of foundations and civil persons, religious communities would eventually usurp the whole soil.
The example of religious houses may help us to understand the existence of village communities. Undoubtedly man always pursues his own individual interest. He seeks happiness and shuns pain; and the more perfect the organisation of responsibility, the more will he be compelled to do well and to labour. But as faith discloses to him the perspective of eternal felicity in another life, it may be, that to become worthy of this, he will work here below obediently and devotedly, as in certain monasteries.
Custom and tradition also exercised, in primitive times, an influence of which moderns can scarcely conceive. It is under the influence of these motives that agricultural labour is carried on in village communities. Besides, notwithstanding the periodic partition of lands, it is always to the advantage of the cultivator to till it well, as he alone takes the harvest, be it good or bad. This practice, therefore, strange as it appears, does not prevent the usufructuaries giving the soil good manure and proper dressings. The Irish tenant at will, or even the tenant who has only a short lease of three or six years, a term unfortunately too common, has still less security for the future than the Russian peasant, from whom the mir, every nine or twelve years, takes the field which he cultivates, only to give him others of at least equal value.
If the soil of Russia is badly cultivated by the peasants, it is because, until lately bowed beneath the yoke of serfage, they want instruction, motive, and energy. A visit to the arable land of the allmends in Switzerland and the district of Baden is sufficient to prove that the system of temporary enjoyment is not the cause of the backward state of rural economy. The allmends are also divided from time to time among the usufructuaries, and yet they are in a perfect state of cultivation, while, on the other hand, in Russia, the lands, which are the private property of the nobles, are no better cultivated than the lands of the communes.
What periodic partition does prevent, in great measure, is permanent and costly improvement, which a temporary possessor will not execute, as another would reap the profits. It is in this respect that the village community is evidently inferior to individual property. None but the hereditary proprietor will make the sacrifice necessary for the permanent improvement of sterile soil, and for sinking the capital necessity for perfect, intensive cultivation. In all western Europe we have to admire the marvels accomplished by private ownership; while, in Russia, agriculture abides by the processes of two thousand years ago.
Yet there would be nothing to prevent the commune itself executing large permanent works, for irrigation, drainage or roads, such as are cared out by the communal administration of the towns and the Allmends in Switzerland. By the use of collective resources and combined labour, much more complete results are obtained than by the isolated, intermittent, and insufficient efforts of individuals. If nothing of the kind is done in Russia it is for want of information, and not in consequence of any incurable defect in the agrarian system.
The results of community and periodic partition are not at all alike in the two great agricultural divisions of Russia.
In the circle of the "black" soil the land gives abundant harvests without manure and almost without labour. So long as the peasants are content with growing corn, there is no necessity to sink a large capital in the land; they need only till it and gather in the harvest. The system of partition is, therefore, no obstacle to works of improvement, which the cultivator would not execute in any case. The alluvial lands of the Banat in Hungary, and those of Moldavia, although subject to private ownership, are no better cultivated than the "black" soil of Russia under the system of community.
In the light soil of the centre and the north, which would require copious manuring and works of permanent improvement, too frequent periodic partition undoubtedly hinders the progress of agriculture. Central Russia is the country where agricultural produce is the poorest in all Europe. It is estimated that the cultivator only reaps three or four times what he has sown. It is true that the laws of Von Thunen might be called in to explain this fact. In a thinly peopled country, where there are no great centres of consumption, there is no advantage in carrying on intensive agriculture. It is better to call into action the natural forces, offered by the vast space still undisposed of, than to accumulate a large capital on a small area, as one is compelled to do when the population becomes denser. Thus it is that the English in Australia, while practising a most perfect system of market-gardening in the neighbourhood of Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, devote themselves, in the interior of the country, to the pastoral system in all its primitive simplicity.
The point in the organization of the mir, which is really calculated to alarm economists, is that, contrary to the maxims of Malthus, it removes every obstacle to the increase of population, and even offers a premium for the multiplying of offspring. In fact, every additional head gives a right to a new share on the partition. It seems, therefore, that the population ought to increase more rapidly than anywhere else. This is the chief objection raised by Mill to every plan of reform in a communistic sense. Yet, strange as it seems, Russia like France is one of the countries where the population increases most slowly. The period required for the doubling of the population, which is about a hundred and twenty years for France, is ninety years for Russia; while in England and Prussia it is only fifty years. What is the cause of this unexpected phenomenon, which seems to contradict all the previsions of political economy?
There are various circumstances contributing to produce the result. The first is the large mortality among young children. The fertility of marriages is a little greater in Russia than in other European states. The eminent Russian statistician, Von Buschen, makes the number of children for each married couple 4.96 in Russia; while in Prussia it is only reckoned at 4.23; in Belgium at 4.72; and in England at 3.77.(2) According to M. Quételet,(3) the number of births is relatively nearly twice as large in Russia as in France. The number of children, however, is not highest among the peasants. Thus, in the province of Novgorod, which may serve as an example for the rest, the number of children to each marriage was 5.8 for the higher classes; 5.5 for the peasants; 5 for the bourgeois; 4.8 for the smaller class of traders; and 3.75 for the floating population.
The mortality in Russia, compared with the number of inhabitants, is in the proportion of 1 to 26; while in Prussia it is 1 to 36; in France 1 to 39; in Belgium 1 to 43; and in England 1 to 49. The average length of life in Russia is, therefore, very much less than that given for other countries. Instead of being about thirty-five years, as in the countries of Western Europe, it is only from twenty-two to twenty-seven years. In the agricultural region of the Volga it sinks to twenty years, and in the provinces of Viatka, Perm and Orenbourg, even to fifteen. This unsatisfactory average is due especially to the great mortality among young children. M. Buniakovski, a member of the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg, states, in his work on the Laws of Mortality in Russia, that out of a thousand male children only five hundred and ninety-three attain the age of five years. Nearly half die before that time, and about one-third die within a year of their birth. There is yet another fact, which is well known, to taken into account, namely, that children dying before the are baptized are not registered at all.
Thus the great mortality among infants is the principal cause which prevents the increase of the population. It is want of proper care that carries off so many people. According to M. Giliarovski who has made special researches as to infant mortality in Russia, the mothers, overburdened with work, are in many cases incapable of nursing their new-born children. They give them with the bottle a kind of gruel of bitter rye-meal, which produces diarrhoea. Custom requires the mother, three days after her confinement, to take a vapour bath; and this bath, for want of proper precaution, has often evil results. The baptism, which consists of a complete immersion, is also in winter the cause of many diseases, and of deaths. In summer the labours of the harvest are even more fatal: 75 per cent of the children who die succumb during the months of July and August, because the mothers, being detained all day in the fields, are obliged to entirely abandon their nurslings.
The difference of age frequently existing between husband and wife is also a check to the increase of the population. This disparity is the result of the patriarchal system of the family. The working hand is rare in Russia, and valuable in proportion. It is, therefore, to the interest of each family to find among its members the number of hands necessary for the cultivation of the portion of land belonging to it. The head of the family, accordingly, is anxious to marry his sons as early as possible, that the young woman may discharge the duties of the servant, to whom high wages would have to be paid. In this way young boys of eight or ten are married to women of five-and-twenty or thirty years of age.
Two very mischievous consequences result from these ill-assorted marriages. In the first place, the woman is approaching the decline of life, when the husband arrives at the flower of his age. In the second place, the head of the family neglects his own superannuated wife, and abuses the influence which he exercises over the wife of his son, who is too young either to enjoy his rights or to protect them. an incestuous promiscuousness is thus introduced as a consequence of serfage, just as other kinds of immorality resulted from slavery in antiquity and in America. Since the emancipation, this evil, they tell us, is becoming less frequent, because the young couples refuse to submit any longer to the ultra-patriarchial preprogative exercised by the head of the family.
Although the village festivals usually terminate in games and debauches, in which drunkenness and gross lasciviousness have full career, the number of illegitimate births is smaller in Russia than elsewhere; for it does not rise above 3.5 per cent. From this we may conclude that the immorality is not such as depicted by certain authors; but they assert that the consequences of misconduct are prevented by practices even more reprehensible.(4)
It is evident that the increase of the population, to which the partition of land seems calculated to be favourable, is only checked by causes which will cease to operate with the progress of liberty, morality and comfort. To make room for the new families which a more advanced civilization would call into being, there would then remain but one resource-emigration and colonization.
The system of the mir was, in fact, formerly a powerful agent of colonization. This is a fact recognized at the present day, and brought prominently forward by M. Julius Faucher.(5) When the mother village became overcrowded, a group was detached, which advanced towards the east, into the profound forest and vast steppes, where they found themselves face to face with nomadic hunting-tribes. The individual was too weak to clear the woods, or to resist the barbarians: united efforts and the strictest combination were required. It is, therefore, due to the principle of collectivity that all central and Eastern Russia was peopled. The mir executed exactly the same work of agricultural conquest that the monasteries accomplished in certain parts of Germany and the Low Countries. There was the same principle of community producing the same result of colonization.
While the Germans and even the Western Slavs gradually passed away from primitive community, the Russians preserved it, because they could continually occupy new territories as they advanced into the immense plains of the East. So that, as is well said by M. Faucher, the law of progress has been for them not change, but expansion, as it is among the Chinese, with whom they came in contact in Asia.
To sum up briefly the disadvantages charged against the agrarian organization of the mir:
The system is opposed to the progress of intensive agriculture, because it prevents capital being sunk in the land.
The intermingling of the various parcels assigned to each family in the partition leads to compulsory agriculture, or the Flurzwang; and so favours routine, and maintains the old methods of cropping.
The joint responsibility of all the members of the commune for recruits and for the payment of the taxes, tends to make the industrious pay the share of the idle, and so weakens the motive of individual interest. The moment this motive is weakened, it must be replaced by constraint, that the social life may not stop. It is thus that the commune exercises so large a discretionary authority over its members, that the peasant, as it has been said, if no longer the serf of the lord, is still the serf of the commune. Individual interest not being sufficiently brought into play, men become idle; and the whole social body is in a state of stagnation. Hence the extreme slowness of progress in Russia. To estimate the relative value of the collective principle and of the principle of individualism, we need only compare Russia and the United States.
The partizans of the system of the Russian commune reply: --
Granted that the joint responsibility of the villagers to the government is a bad thing; but it is not inherent in the agrarian organization of the mir. Suppress this, and it will no longer be necessary to grant the commune despotic authority over its members. If great works of improvement are necessary, there is nothing to prevent the assembly of heads of families from voting them, or the communal authority from executing them, as is the custom in towns.
Instead of assigning to each family several scattered parcels, they might form compact shares, sufficiently equal in value. Moreover, the majority of cultivators are able to adopt for the whole territory a systematic rotation of crops; and then the absence of enclosures and visible divisions would allow of the whole surface being cultivated by means of powerful machines, as if it only formed a single farm.
According to M. Schedo-Ferroti, the advantages which the partizans of the mir claim for their system are five in number.
First, every able labourer having the right to claim a share in the land of the commune, a proletariat with all its miseries and dangers cannot arise.
Secondly, the children do not suffer for the idleness, the misfortune, or the extravagance of their parents.
Thirdly, each family being proprietor, or, more strictly speaking, an usufructuary of a portion of the soil, there exists an element of order, of conservatism and tradition, which preserves the society from social disorders.
Fourthly, the soil remaining the inalienable patrimony of all the inhabitants, there is no ground to fear the struggle between what is elsewhere known as capital and labour.
Finally, the system of the mir is very favourable to colonization, an enormous advantage for Russia, which still possesses in Europe and in Asia, vast uninhabited territories.
It is stated that Cavour once said to a Russian diplomatist, "What will some day make your country master of Europe is not its armies, but its communal system!" King Frederic William IV of Prussia exclaimed, in 1848, "To-day begins the era of Slavonic history!"
Schedo-Ferroti and Kawelin wish to reform this system without abolishing its principle. They would give each family the hereditary enjoyment of its parcel, which it might sell, devise, or lease. The commune would retain only the eminent domain; and, to avoid the accumulation of property in the hands of a few people, a maximum would be fixed. At Rome and in Greece we meet with laws of this kind; but similar restrictions are scarcely in accordance with the spirit of modern legislation.
The institution of the mir forms a perfect, traditional system, which ought either to be respected or replaced entirely by independent property. We may say of it, as of a celebrated order, Sit ut est aut non sit. I think the government should not rudely and authoritatively destroy an organization centuries odd, which penetrates with such deep roots into the whole life and history of the Russian nation. Give free course to social influences, and institutions which are obstacles to progress will gradually disappear, or be more or less modified according to new requirements. We should see with regret the suppression of a system which, if improved, may be the safeguard of modern democracy.
With regard to the Russian system of attributing the collective ownership of the soil to the commune, and a temporary enjoyment of an equal share to each family, there is no doubt that, as practised in Russia, the custom presents insurmountable obstacles to agricultural progress. The intermingling of the parcels forming the several lots and the consequent Flurzwang, the compulsory rotation and cultivation of the same crop on the whole of a particular zone, imposed on all the cultivators, prevents individual initiative introducing improvements in agricultural processes on its own account. These improvements might be decided on by the assembly of cultivators; but, for this, it requires the majority to possess an amount of enlightenment, which is evidently wanting in them. Hence routine must of necessity prevail.
These undeniable drawbacks are not absolutely inherent in the system, which they have almost universally accompanied. In the first place, an independent family lot might be given to each family for it to cultivate as it liked for a period of twenty years, or during the lifetime of the father. The position would then be similar to that of a commune belonging to an individual proprietor, who granted leases to tenants for terms of twenty or thirty years, as is commonly done in England. The advantage of thorough cultivation would be the same in the two cases; there would be no obstacle to the employment of the best agricultural processes. The only difference would be, that the cultivators, instead of being tenants of a lord, would be tenants of the commune; and that, instead of paying a rent continually increasing with each economic advance, they would enjoy their portion of the soil gratuitously and in virtue of their natural right of possession, which certainly would make their position no worse.
The opponents of the Russian system always attack it with regard to property, as if in the West the soil was always cultivated by its owners; whereas the converse of this is the case; the larger part of the soil is cultivated by tenants who have only the temporary use, and that for a term generally shorter than that which is secured to the Russian usufructuary. I admit that the condition of the proprietor is preferable to that of the usufructuary; but I maintain that that of the usufructuary is better than that of the tenant. And the Russian peasant has the usufruct of the land which he tills, or, at any rate, occupies it by virtue of a lease for a long term.
In England we often see small proprietors selling their property, to apply the proceeds of the sale to the cultivation of a large farm, which they take on lease and from which they derive large profits, by employing a relatively large capital. The term is for twelve or eighteen years, at the outside; and yet this limited enjoyment seems to them sufficiently long for them to engage all that they possess in agricultural enterprise. In this case leases lead to more intensive cultivation than actual ownership, because they allow of the application of a larger capital to the land. These facts shew that enjoyment of land secured to an enterprising man for twenty years is sufficient to make it to his advantage to cultivate on the best methods possible. It is not, therefore, the shortness of the term of enjoyment in Russia which checks the progress of agriculture.
This system, moreover, offers a peculiar advantage. As he has not to buy the land, but receives it gratuitously, the peasant can invest all the capital belonging to him in the undertaking. Elsewhere he must first expend the purchase-money of the farm he intends to cultivate, or else pay the rent for it every year, which is so much reduction in the profits. Under the Russian system the cultivator has neither purchase-money nor rent to pay. He may, therefore, employ his whole capital to increase th e fertility of the soil. In Russia, it is true, the cultivators have neither capital at their disposal, initiative spirit, nor the knowledge of rural economy necessary for the introduction of intensive scientific cultivation. But if all this is wanting, it is the fault of serfage, not of the system of collective property combined with individual enjoyment. This is shewn by an examination of the condition of the allmends, which are subject to the system of Russian community, in Switzerland and the country of Baden, and are nevertheless as well cultivated as the lands of private proprietors. Under the Russian system a man obtains the use of the instrument of labour, not by title of succession as heir to the fruits of his parents' toil, but by a personal title in virtue of his natural right to the property. There is succession in the commune, instead of succession in the family. It is true that one effect of the system may be to weaken the motive for labour in the father of a family, because he knows that his children are always entitled to a share in the common property, and that they will therefore never be reduced to absolute want. But, in the first place, he can leave them the house, the instrumentum fundi, capital to carry on cultivation, and all the moveable property gathered together by him. The motive for economy and saving is not therefore destroyed. Besides, right of succession in the commune and by personal title seems, on principle, more conformable to justice and nature. A man can claim the enjoyment of a share in the productive soil the moment he is capable of tilling it for himself and has need of it to found a new family, instead of attaining to it by the accident of a death, perhaps too late, perhaps in the time when he is yet too young to cultivate his inheritance by his own labour.
Under the system of the civil law in force in the West, children only succeed on the death of their parents. At the moment they lose those who should be dearest to them, they attain to their property. This tends to produce, and does actually produce, unnatural sentiments. Literature and painting have often depicted in strong colours the immorality of this state of things, shewing the heir consoled in his grief by the thought of the money which it brings him. Often a horrible crime, at which humanity revolts, occurs to shew the danger of making the right of succession come to life with the death of the parents. Institutions, which attach the acquisition of property to the death of the father or mother, beget in the mind unnatural greed, which, when grown to excess in vicious natures, leads to parricide. If, on the contrary, a man is invested with his share in the inheritance, on attaining full age or on founding a new family, impatience to obtain his property will not arise to stifle or weaken his natural affections; and he will not have to balance the profit accruing from the loss of his relations.
Among the Slavs, where the ancient succession in the commune and in the family is maintained, the family has remained much more united than in the West. A bond of brotherly affection and patriarchal intimacy unites all its members. With us family feeling has lost almost all its force. Weakened by unwholesome cupidity, it constitutes but a very subordinate force in the social order.
In the Russian system personal responsibility is respected much more than with us. At one time it was thought right to extend to descendants, even "to the tenth generation," the penalty of faults committed by their ancestors; as also to let the children enjoy the honours and titles earned by the father. In the present day we think it more equitable not to admit this hereditary responsibility, and to treat every one, considered alone, according to his merits or demerits. We no longer allow of hereditary offices or places in the political system. But, under the empire of the civil law, if the father has been extravagant or unfortunate, the children have nothing; and, on the other hand, if he has accumulated wealth, they may live in opulence and idleness, contrary to nature and morality, which demand that man should only live by the fruits of his labour, and not by the fruits of another man's labour. In the Russian commune the children are less liable to suffer for the faults of the father, and also have less right to enjoy the fruits of his merits and his energy. They obtain a share in the collective inheritance, and so work out their own destiny. The prosperity they may attain to they owe to themselves, not to their ancestors. The system is therefore more in accordance with the principle of individual responsibility.
Where this system of collective property exists, not, as in Russia, side by side with an aristocracy, which in its growth has usurped half the soil and imposed serfage on the peasants, but, in all its purity, as formerly among the Germans and Slavs, and in Servia and Java even to the present day, it attains to such democratic equality, that it is likely to produce in the society a kind of uniformity and rigidity little favourable to new enterprise and rapid progress. The primitive cantons of Switzerland afford us a picture of this social condition. On the other hand, the fact maintained by von Haxthausen is incontestable, that this system prevents the inequality of conditions becoming extreme, and that it also offers great securities for social peace. By refining the soil in the possession of the commune, it gives no opportunity for a few powerful families to monopolize it. Moreover, the periodical allotment prevents the formation of a proletariat, as it assures to every one an inalienable portion of the common property. We may see around us, in some families, generation after generation transmitting the right of consuming much without producing anything; and in other families, generations continually toiling without ever attaining property. When the natural right to a patrimony is respected and established in an institution, similar contrasts cannot present themselves: for there can be no class without inheritance. Generation succeeds to generation in the enjoyment of the collective domain, and in the obligation to labour to make it productive. The system is accordingly a preservative against social struggles and wars of class with class.
To this it has been replied, that if it prevents a real proletariat from being developed, it is by keeping every one in poverty, and so creating a nation of proletarians. Look, it is said, at the Russian peasant: his condition is hardly better than that of the agricultural labourer of the West. He is neither better clothed, better lodged, nor better fed. Equality is maintained, it is true, but it is the equality of destitution. To this we can answer: the wants of the Russian peasant are simple and few in number, but they are satisfied; his mode of life is not refined, but he knows no other and is content. There is this great difference between the Russian usufructuary and the proletarian of the West, that the latter depends for his living on his employer, while the former, enjoying a patrimony in his own management, is his own master and labours for himself. He has no fear for the future and lives in tranquillity; while with us the labourer is always fearing the reduction of his wages, the tenant the increase of his rent.
Moreover, we should not forget that the Russian system has never yet been tried under favourable conditions. The peasant, it is true, had his patrimony; but at the same time he was subject to serfage: he was, that is to say, at the mercy of the lord, to whom he owed half his time. At once proprietor and slave, the burden of this service was likely to discourage his zeal for labour and to stifle in the bud initiative spirit and the taste for improvements. Agriculture has never been fully developed where serfage existed. The abolition of serfage has put other impediments in the way of progress, by compelling the peasant to purchase the land which he occupied at an excessive price, and by depriving him of the use of the forest and pasturage which he had before. To form a correct estimate of the mir we should regard it under its normal conditions.
Suppose that the Russian peasants, now that they are enfranchised, were to receive such instruction as is given in the American school, and that they were put on a level with the recent progress of agriculture: by an understanding such as we have indicated, they could apply the most advanced processes of large cultivation as carried on in England. As it is, in consequence of the Flurzwang, or compulsory rotation, all the territory of the commune is treated as if it only formed a single farm. One-third part of the arable land of a particular tenant is sown with winter-grain, one-third with summer-grain, and the remaining third is fallow. Each has his share in the vast fields; but there are no boundaries, hedges, or ditches to separate them, and the division of the property is not shewn by any break in the cultivation. Nothing therefore would be easier than to execute the work of cultivation by means of a steam-plough bought at the common expense and used for the common profit. As every one has his share, or, as one may say, his stock, in the collective patrimony, the basis of co-operative cultivation is ready to hand. The Flurzwang and the absence of inclosures, which were impediments to small individual cultivation, would, on the contrary, become an element of success for associated agriculture on a large scale. Already the Russian peasants execute the different agricultural operations at the same time, after deliberation and decision come to in full assembly. This is exactly how they would proceed in a cooperative cultivation formed on the lines of the commune. There would then be a kind of joint-stock company, in which all the usufructuaries would be shareholders, and which would take measures for making the land productive according to scientific principles.
In France the complaint is that the subdivision of property prevents the application of machinery to agriculture. In England, on the other hand, the excessive concentration of property in a few hands is the cause of alarm. The Russian system, judiciously applied, would combine the advantages of small property and large cultivation. There would be more proprietors than in France, because all the cultivators would be, and are already, proprietors; and agriculture would be carried on on even a larger scale than in England, as the whole of every commune would be cultivated as a single farm. To arrive at this result, the only thing necessary is to maintain collective property and allotment, while improving the legal organization, and, at the same time, to give the cultivators the instruction necessary for them to profit by it, by the adoption of an improved system of agriculture.
1. This commission, presided over by a person of great eminence, the "minister of Domains" P. Waluzef, received more than a thousand reports and more than two hundred verbal depositions. Unfortunately, as M.A. Leroy Beaulieu remarks, only persons of the higher classes were heard, who are generally hostile to the system of communities. M. Von Reussler sums up the opinions of the writers. -- A. Butowski, J. Ssolozew, Th. Von Thörner, Von Busehen, Hertzen, Tschitscherine, Kawelin, Jurin, Ssawitsch, Koschelew, Seamarin, Belazew, Tschernuschewski, Besobrasow, Panazew, etc.
2. Aperçue statistique des forces productives de la Russie, Paris, 1867.
3. Physique sociale, Brussels, 1869.
4. See Mr Michell's Report in the Blue Book before quoted.
5. In the volume of the Cobden Club: Essays on Land Tenure.