Re [Marxism] Bolivarian Revolution A Marxist Revolution or

rrubinelli rrubinelli at
Wed Aug 31 07:30:46 MDT 2005

I think Michael Friedman brings forward some very interesting points-- 
particularly about land ownership and the overall revolutionary struggle
in underdeveloped countries.

Historically, debate and actions have centered on division of large
estates, versions of "land to the tiller," establishing peasant
proprietorship sometimes and even somewhere where none existed
beforehand; vs. nationalization, expropriation, collectivization of all,
or almost all landed property.

Part of the difficulty in the debate and the programs is for both sides
to see a peasantry as an engine of social development-- as an engine of
capitalist development.  The "left" side sees the distribution of land
parcels as setting the stage for the morphing of the peasantry into
capitalist farmers, and recoils from the prospect.  The "right" side
sees the peasantry as farmers already, and sees the establishment of
individual, small, landed property as both a bulkwark against the return
of the  latifundistas and a sure path to the creation of agricultural
surpluses--- to sustain the urban areas.

The problem is that the peasantry wasn't, isn't, and is not going to do
or be either of those.   The peasantry, and peasant ownership of land
has never, and is in fact incapable of morphing into a capitalist class.
Peasant production in underdeveloped countries is essentially
non-surplus, subsistence production, with property itself being
fractionalized into smaller and smaller units as property is passed down
through the family-- rather than "marketed," i.e. organized as in
instrument as a means for the production of exchange, and an object of
exchange itself-- to be bought and sold.

Agricultural surpluses will not be sufficent under conditions of small
individual units, and the lack of "market" subordination kind of makes
those property holders incapable of becoming the capitalists so dreaded
by the left, or the building blocks of a new order so desired by the

I think if we take the time to study the efforts and results of the MNR'
s 1952-1964 regime in Bolivia, we can see this conundrum, and its
catastrophic results clearly. Estimates were that no more than 20%-30%
of the agricultural product of the redistributed individual holdings
were "surplused," so to speak, reaching urban markets.  Exhaustion of
the land and impoverishment of the peasantry followed hard upon the
heels of the overall lack of development. To be sure, the MNR programs
were incomplete, sabotaged, riddled with defects, etc. etc.-- which is
exactly what you would expect from an incomplete revolution-- one that
clearly seeks to establish "capitalism" in the countryside.

So....?   so what is to be done?  Well, hold on to your seats, but in
regard to the organization of landed property, I think it is essential
that a revolutionary government adopt and adapt programs of utmost
flexibility-- allowing individual peasant-type ownership in areas that
have a history of such ownership, in areas of great political
sensitivity to the issue of "land hunger,"  expropriating and operating
the huge landed estates as collective instruments of production, like
factories, without dividing those estates; supporting communal, kinship
rural property relations where those exist and have existed.

Is this a mixed economy?   Not really.  For the fundamental criteria is
that the bourgeois order, and its embedded archaic forms, be smashed,
politically and socially. The bourgeoisie as a class has to be
expropriated.  Its "rights" to property overthrown, and the instruments
of "right,"  police, army, landowners militias have to be destroyed.

That's the beginning-- but it's not the completion.  The completion
depends on the technical assistance, the inputs of "constant capital"
or rather "constant uncapital" that a revolution can obtain from more
developed areas to reduce the social costs of the individual ownership,
to create the surpluses, to provide the access to "markets" and to
relieve the following generations from "land lock."

Ultimately that success rests, as the experience of the Russian
Revolution shows forwards and backwards, on the success of the working
classes in the developed countries.


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