Lenin on Prussian vs. American agrarian capitalism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Jul 31 20:01:50 MDT 2003

Found this excerpt from a1918 article in the collection "Lenin on the
United States". You'll note that he essentially agrees with the analysis
found in Jonathan Wiener's "Social Origins of the New South", who described
post-Civil War Alabama as Junkers Capitalism. (I should add that this is
the dissertation of Jon Wiener, who is a well-known journalist, contributor
to the Nation Magazine and author of a great book on John Lennon's FBI
files.) Key to Lenin's take on the agrarian question in places like the
American South and Czarist Russia is its tendency to *combine* modern and
premodern social and economic forms. He says that the Prussian path
"preserves medieval relations" which are "gradually adapted to capitalism".
This might be a conundrum to those who are addicted to formal logic, but it
is abc's to those trained in Marxist dialectics.



The two ways I have indicated of "solving" the agrarian question in
developing bourgeois Russia correspond to the two paths of development of
capitalism in agriculture. I call these two paths the Prussian and the
American paths. The characteristic feature of the first is that medieval
relations in landowning are not liquidated at one stroke, but are gradually
adapted to capitalism, which because of this for a long time retains
semi-feudal features. Prussian landlordism was not crushed by the bourgeois
revolution; it survived and became the basis of "Junker" economy, which is
essentially capitalistic, but involves a certain degree of dependence of
the rural population, such as the Gesinde-ordnung* etc. As a consequence,
the social and political domination of the Junkers was consolidated for
many decades after 1848, and the productive forces of German agriculture
developed far more slowly than in America. There, on the contrary, it was
not the old slave-holding economy of the big landowners that became the
basis of capitalist agriculture (the Civil War smashed the slave-owners'
estates) , but the free economy of the free farmer working on free landfree
from all medieval fetters, from serfdom and feudalism on the one hand, and
from the fetters of private property in land, on the other. Land was given
away in America, out of its vast resources, at a nominal price; and it is
only on a new, fully capitalist basis that private property in land has now
developed there.

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org

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