ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIMITIVE-COMMUNAL SOCIETY.
1. Development of productive forces of the society.
Origin and development of agriculture and cattle breeding.
In the course of the development of ancient society after the hunting-technical revolution there appeared, along with hunting, fishing, gathering and craft, the new branches of social economy - agriculture and, later, cattle-breeding. During the long time - for several thousand years - agriculture was based on simple labour tools such as digging stick that was used earlier in gathering, pointed two-meter stake, flat stick that later turned to spade, mattock, sickle with detachable flint blade, grain-grating tool, flail for threshing, etc.
The agriculture of that time was relatively unproductive, ineffective work that could not always cover the means and labour put into it. That is why the agriculture at the beginning of its development played quite insignificant role in social economy. Labour productivity in agriculture was then high enough for the latter to begin gradually oust gathering, but it was insufficient to displace hunting and fishing. So hunting and fishing remained to be the main branches of social economy, while the agriculture everywhere was an auxiliary branch with rear exceptions stipulated by extremely favourable natural and climatic conditions.
Unlike hunting, fishing, gathering, craft and housekeeping (for example, cooking), in agriculture one has to cultivate huge amount of object of labour - land. For example, in handicraft of those days, a worker had to process and, thus, move, lift, turn over, etc. from some kilograms to some dozen kilograms of stone, wood, bone or horn, and, later, metal. In agriculture, to have an effective result of his labour the labourer during the same working day must process a hundred times bigger amount of land, the more so as this work is being done under the open sky, in the heat and in the cold, under scorching sunlight and under penetrating wind and rain, that demanded to spend a great amount of physical energy. “The work of ancient farmers, that had only crude stone and wooden tools at their disposal, was exhausting. They spent a lot of energy during cultivation of land, grubbing up roots, looking after crops and harvesting”(4-37). That is why, in agriculture, unlike other branches of the economy of ancient society, the hand tools were ineffective because with the help of them the man could not, with rare exceptions, get desirable results owing to his feebleness.
For this reason, hand agriculture could not, with rare exceptions, become the main branch of social economy. Almost everywhere it played a secondary role serving as a supplement to hunting and fishing. Nevertheless, the significance of the origin and development of this primitive agriculture, based on simple means of labour, was great. The development of this agriculture in the course of many centuries paved the way to the second revolution in the development of the productive forces of society, being its prerequisite.
2. Ownership of land and land tenure.
The agriculture that became one of the regular occupations of community members, as its significance grew, began to leave its mark on their activity, regulations of life, habits. And the more significant role was played by the agriculture in the life of communal-clan society, the more changes it undergone.
The land, that was cultivated by community members, like all land, that was not cultivated but used for hunting, gathering, etc., was in common, collective ownership of all tribe. For this reason, owing to historical tradition, agriculture, during some period of time, was based on joint, collective labour.
But, in the course of time, the experience of farmers proved that individual, family agricultural production is more effective than collective one. It can be explained by two reasons.
The first reason is stipulated by the action of the law of correspondence of the degree of production centralization to the level of operational division of labour. Considering this economic law we have seen that the more is correspondence of the scale of production, the size of production enterprises to the level of operational division of labour achieved by given time, the more effective is this production. So, the size of agricultural farm with primitive hand agricultural tools have to depend upon the level of operational division of agricultural labour. The agricultural production, like any other, is the most effective, when there is the best correspondence between the size of agricultural farm, i.e. the level of its centralization, and the level of operational division of labour in agriculture. If this correspondence is violated, then the efficiency of agricultural farm is lower, then in the case when this correspondence exists.
And what was the level of operational division of labour in agriculture in the times of communal-clan society? It’s easy to see, that the operational division of labour did not exist at all. So, the non-differentiated agricultural labour corresponds to the agricultural farm of minimum size, i.e. this farm must be individual, decentralized to the most possible extent. In this and only in this case the agricultural production is the most effective and agricultural labour is the most productive.
Thus, the reason of transition from collective agricultural farm to individual, family farm or decentralization of agricultural production is not the appearance of surplus product, as many researchers think, but the action of economic law of correspondence of the degree of production (farm) centralization to the level of operational division of labour.
As we have seen, the surplus product appeared already in the course of the first revolution in the development of productive forces of society, when the dominant position in technics was occupied by hand mechanisms, and in economy - by hunting and fishing. Nevertheless, in many or, at least, in some sectors of hunting and fishing, in spite of systematic production of surplus product or possibility of such production, the collective not the individual labour continued to exist, consequently, the appearance of surplus product was not the cause of transition from collective to individual labour and farm.
The labour with operational division corresponds to collective economy, and the higher is the level of the operational division of labour, the larger, i.e. more centralized, should be the production. And vice versa, the labour without operational division corresponds to individual farm, and the smaller is agricultural production based on primitive pre-machine technics, the more effective is this production.
The second cause of decentralization of communal-clan agricultural production, that accelerated the transition from joint to family farm, was the very nature of labour of ancient farmers. This labour with the use of crude means of labour, unlike the labour of hunter, fisherman or gatherer, was hard, exhausting and cheerless job that was not man’s need, but only severe economic necessity.
In hunting and fishing, not only labour products but also the labour itself owing to its very nature is the need of labourers bringing them satisfaction, joy, cheerfulness, pleasure. In agriculture, worker needs only the labour products, but not the labour itself because of its crude and exhaustive nature.
Every kind of labour is creative to some extent. But some kinds of it are more creative than the others. The more creative is human labour, the more pleasant it is, the more satisfaction it brings. And vice versa, the less creative is the labour, the less satisfaction it gives to the worker.
If some kind of labour is creative enough, then this labour itself becomes a human need. This kind of labour brings the worker a double satisfaction: first, from the labour product got, and, second, from the very labour process.
But if some kind of labour is not creative, then this activity does not become human need. It becomes a merely severe necessity and does not bring any satisfaction and joy. The labourer gets satisfaction only from results, products of his labour.
If we now compare the labour of hunter and the labour of farmer, then we can see that while the labour of the hunter is creative one on every stage of labour process and thus is a need of hunter bringing him moral satisfaction, the farmer’s labour, based on primitive technics, technology, agrotechnics of communal-clan society, is not creative enough and thus is not a need of the farmer, does not bring him satisfaction and joy. The farmer is occupied with his labour only because he needs agricultural products, the lack of which he feels more and more as the population rises under conditions of appropriative economy. The nature brings less fruits than the man can consume. That is why the agriculture arrears.
The fact that the agricultural labour in ancient society did not bring people any satisfaction, but only fatigue and exhaustion, lead to the situation when some community members, under various pretexts, tried to free themselves from this kind of activity preferring to do another kinds of work: hunting, fishing, gathering, that brought them more satisfaction. But if some people evaded agricultural labour, then the others had to do more of this work then before when all community members were occupied with agriculture. And this inevitably led to discontent of the latter, quarrels and conflicts appeared. The only way out was the division of land to separate plots and transfer of these plots to the use of separate families of community members.
The land itself remained in the ownership of the whole tribe. In some communities land plots were redistributed annually by means of drawing lots, in the others such redistribution took place more rarely, once in several years, still the others, perhaps, gave land plots in the life use. Under such conditions, no one of community members could evade agricultural labour. But this was only in the first period after the transition to individual farms. Then the situation changed substantially.
Together with individual agriculture, individual housekeeping appeared as well. “In agricultural nations, the joint housekeeping is as impossible as joint agriculture” (K.Marx, F.Engels. Selected works, vol.1, p. 57).
3. Social division of labour.
The origin and expansion of agricultural production lead to the increase of the social division of labour. Unlike gathering, the agriculture gives more vegetable products, a part of which could regularly be exchanged on the commodity market. The origin of agriculture caused the intensification of natural-commodity exchange that, in turn, led to the development of commodity production, specialization of agricultural economy.
The transition from collective to individual agricultural farm and origin of cattle breeding still more increased the social division of labour, specialization of agricultural production, that was divided into several independent branches: grain farm, market-gardening, horticulture, vine-growing; into commodity production and trade.
A new stimulus to the development of social division labour in its highest form - the form of branch division of labour – was given by the second revolution in the development of productive forces, the agrarian-technical revolution, in the course of which tillage agriculture became the main, leading branch of social production. During the agrarian-technical revolution, some new branches and sections isolated themselves: tillage grain field-crop cultivation, market gardening, horticulture, vine-growing, cattle breeding, metallurgy, metal-working craft industry. At the same time, the “old” branches - hunting, fishing, gathering, extractive industry - continued to develop. Together with production branches, the non-production ones - transport, trade, management, military science - were developed.
Certainly, one and the same man (family) cannot perform all these kinds of activity. So the social (branch) division of labour became widespread. At that, one labourer is permanently occupied by one (or several) kind of labour, the other workers - by other kinds. Some of them were occupied by grain production only (or mainly), the others - by viticulture, still the others - by cattle-breeding (or poultry farming), handicraft, trade, etc. This branch division of labour caused great consequences. One of the main of them was the sharp rise of labour productivity. If one and the same man is occupied by many kinds of labour activity, then he, first, has to spend much time for transition from one work to another. Second, he has to have various technical means as well as animals that are to be supported. Third, a man cannot master many professions good enough, so he would do all these works slowly, with low labour productivity and quality of products. The origin and widespread occurrence of the operational division of labour allowed the society to avoid these unpleasant things. The other important consequence of the operational division of labour was the development of commodity production and trade, at that money appeared, so that the natural-commodity exchange gave way to a more mature form of commodity exchange - the money-commodity exchange.
The development of commodity exchange took place not only “in depth”, within the frameworks of local commodity market that had formed before and united all clan communities of the tribe, but also “in breadth”, involving many different tribes into commodity exchange with each other. In the course of the progress of transportation means, development of branch division of labour and commodity production and exchange, the regular trade connections established gradually between different, mainly between neighbouring and related tribes. These regular economic connections, in their turn, were conductive to further specialization of social production, growth of the branch division of labour and “commodization” of production. And since it determined, via the growth of labour productivity, the well-being of community members, their living standards, the people tried to strengthen and broaden these processes. By means of trade exchange, they got many of such labour products, that people could not produce and frequently even saw them for the first time.
But frequently, mainly because of conflicts that took place from time to time between different tribes and groups of tribes, these economic connections were disturbed, sometimes for long periods of time, that led to the reduction of trade, difficulties in sale of commodities by manufacturers, especially by craftsmen who manufactured products mainly for the market and depended significantly upon trade-economic relations with neighbouring tribes and peoples.
All these factors forced community members to strive for more stable and reliable cooperation between neighbours. And, in the end, they chose the most effective means for this - they began to unite tribes into a larger formations - unions of tribes, that gradually, with the development and specialization of agriculture, cattle breeding, craft, transport, commerce, with the migration of population, began to transform to small but constantly growing nationalities.
These nationalities gradually rose at the expense of, first, natural growth of population, second, further consolidation of neighbouring tribes, and, third, conquests of foreign lands and subordination of other tribes and nations.
4. Community evolution.
In the course of the development of agriculture, craft, trade, with the growth of cities and mixing of people, the ancient institutions of clan and tribe, that were of such great importance in the first phase of primitive-communal society, began to lose their bygone grandeur. The “death-sentence” to the clan was given, first, by the transition from collective to individual agricultural farm and, second, by the transition from hunting and fishing to agriculture as the basis of economy. Congeneric relations began to slacken, they were gradually replaced by the trade and economic relations. As a result, the clan community began to transform or, rather, to regenerate to village and town communities. The village community united farmers living in one village and keeping individual household. Ground plots were in the use of community members, but under the control of all community, that, the same way as individual community members, was not their owner. The land belonged to the state that was the supreme owner not only of all the land, but also of all main means of production and, as a rule, trade facilities. The land, on behalf of the state, was handed over to village communities into their unlimited life use, the latter, having divided the land into individual land plots of equal size, gave it to community members for their use. At that, the land plots were distributed, as a rule, by casting lots and for short periods of time, usually one year; then the land was redistributed again.
If a village community grew up as time went by and became too large, it was divided into smaller independent neighbouring communities and the land was handed over to their use.
Not all land of the state was handed into the use of communities. Considerable part of it remained under the jurisdiction of the state. The same way, not all community land was distributed between community members for their use. Considerable part of land remained at the disposal of community and was used by community members jointly as pastures, forest tracts, etc.
The same way, town community distributed a part of community land between its members - craftsmen, farmers and traders for them to build houses, workshops, shops, and go in for agriculture (on the outskirts of the city). The other part of community land was included to the city available land. City communities often controlled, regulated the activity of craftsmen and, frequently, traders. In large cities, city communities were divided into smaller shop communities, the same way as village communities were divided into neighbouring communities. However, unlike village communities, city ones were divided not on territorial but on production basis, so that each shop community had its own statute, its own elective administration (foremen). Only masters were full members of community. Those who were not members of shop community, were not allowed to go in for craft. To avoid competition inside communities, the production was regulated. Production volume, quality of products, their price, number of journeymen and apprentices, stocks of raw materials, duration of working day, etc. - all these points were regulated.
Some people think that shop system appeared in Middle Ages in so-called feudal society. But this is absolutely wrong. Shop communities appeared already in the primitive-communal society, at the highest stage of its development. The evidence of this was the history of the states of Ancient East, that, unlike European countries, were at this stage of the development of society for a long time, for some thousand years. As to European medieval society, the shop system was transferred here from the primitive-communal society and existed as a remnant of it.
Thus, the clan community, that remained the production unit of the primitive-communal society for a long period of time during its first, production phase, became obsolete during the highest stage of primitive-communal society, giving way to village (neighbouring) and city (shop) communities.
The tribe became obsolete together with the clan. Any division of society on the congeneric basis had been eliminated. Instead of it, the territorial division appeared, although clan and tribe continued to exist for a long time as a remnant, in some countries - up to the slave-holding social revolution. And these remnants were stronger in the countries, where the highest phase of the primitive-communal society was short, that is characteristic of such Mediterranean countries as Greece and Rome.
5. Origin of taxation.
At some stage of development of the primitive-communal society, there appeared the state with its army, public order protection forces (police), courts, prisons, government and bureaucracy. State authorities appeared as a result of prosecution of wars, growth of territory and population of country, urban expansion, origin of criminality and, finally (and this is the main point) - for suppression of revolts of the poor and debtors as well as enslaved tribes and foreigners captured during the wars. The state was also the organizer of the works on building, repair, maintenance and control over the irrigation system, without which the very existence of highly productive agriculture in the countries of Ancient East would be impossible.
To maintain the State machinery, persons of non-productive labour, as well as to keep churches and priests, who did not produce material welfare, but needed it, it was necessary to withdraw in some way a part of aggregate output of the society.
For this purpose, the taxation appeared, by means of which the productive labourers gave free of charge some part of material values produced by them, i.e. so-called surplus product, all or part of it, in favour of all society, state. This surplus product, being withdrawn in favour of the state, was distributed between the non-productive labourers for their maintenance.
In the majority of primitive-communal states, and maybe in all of them, the taxes existed in three different forms: in the form of money tax, in the form of natural tax and in the form of direct labour.
As the state needed agricultural products to maintain non-productive labourers and as agricultural production was mainly of natural type, the natural tax appeared. After all, many farmers - community members, keeping natural household, simply could not pay money tax.
Craftsmen, keeping commodity household and making products for commodity market, and traders, as a rule, paid money tax, as they had money funds, that were needed by the state to pay salary to military personnel, policemen, administration, etc.; for trade, especially for foreign commerce; to wage wars, to buy arms and for other purposes.
But the state needed also labour in its direct, natural form. The state managed huge irrigation facilities, without which the agricultural production in many countries would be either inefficient, or impossible at all. In fact, all irrigation facilities: canals, furrows, reservoirs, sluices, dams, levees, etc., were a single whole, in which all the irrigation system of the state was consolidated. Historical practice proved many times, that irrigation system functions efficiently, only if it is under direct control of the state. If the state gave such functions as maintenance, control, clearing, repair of irrigation facilities to communities, even more so - to single community members, the irrigation system fell to desolation, normal supply of water to the fields stopped. Lack of water caused sharp reduction of harvest, sometimes - even full crop failure, loss of crops that resulted in catastrophic consequences.
But for maintenance of the system, for annual cleaning of pumps, for repair of dams, levees, sluices as well as for broadening and building new facilities, the work of many people was necessary. There were slaves, wage-labourers, criminals in the country that could be used for these purposes, but there were too little of them - insufficient to carry out such immense work. Therefore, the state introduced universal labour service, just as the universal military service, that exists in modern countries, both in socialist and in capitalist ones.
Every free community member was bound to work for several days annually under the guidance of special supervisors appointed by the government at the building, repair and maintenance of irrigation facilities.
Besides, there were many agricultural, craft and commercial state enterprises in the country. While in craft and commercial state enterprises permanent workers worked for wages, then for work in agricultural enterprises, in view of lack of workers there, free community members were recruited, which worked there for several days annually in turn under the guidance of managers of these enterprises. Free community member were also recruited to the works in churches.
All these lead some researchers to completely wrong conclusion, that these countries (for example, countries of Ancient East) were not primitive-communal, but feudal-serfdom states. At that, the universal labour service is named gavel work or labour-rent. Some of these researchers go even farther and call natural tax natural or product rent, and money tax - money rent.
But the ground-rent of whatever form exists only if there is private ownership of the main means of production. Without private ownership, there can be neither classes nor rent, the latter being nothing but profit of the class, which is the owner of the land.
The labour that is given by community members to the state, society does not differ in principle from the labour product that they, the same way free of charge, gave this state in the form of natural tax. In the latter case, they give the surplus product, for production of which they spend surplus labour; in the former case they give their surplus labour directly, in such a way creating the surplus product in state economy.
To call the primitive-communal society the serfdom one on the ground that there is universal labour service in it, is as absurd as to call modern socialist or capitalist society the serfdom one on the ground that there is universal military service in them. After all, the labour of peasants, working in the state farms in primitive-communal society, and the labour of military personnel differ only in that the former is productive, and the latter is non-productive one. There is no fundamental difference between them. In general, one can call class society only the society, economic basis of which is private ownership of main means of production, among them and first of all - of land. But in the society, which we are considering now, the land, like all the other main means of production, was in the ownership of the primitive-communal state. That is why it is unjustified to call it serfdom (or feudal) society.
6. Remuneration of labour and kinds of it.
On the highest stage of primitive-communal society, unlike the first, production phase of it, considerable part of population was occupied by non-productive labour, i.e. did not produce any material values.
While the labourers, carrying on natural economy, produce necessary objects of utility for themselves, all or part of them, first of all - foodstuff; while the labourers, carrying on commodity production and making products for the market, sell the products of their labour and on the money received they buy necessary means of subsistence, then the non-productive labourers - military personnel, policemen, state employees, priests, etc. - do not produce any labour product and so they cannot live the same way. They live only on the salary received from the state.
The history testifies, that in the primitive-communal state, i.e. at the highest stage of the development of primitive-communal society, as, at its first stage, there was no state yet, three kinds, three forms of remuneration of labour existed. The most common form of remuneration was, apparently, payment by products, payment in kind. Many non-productive labourers, but also productive ones, for example, peasants and craftsmen, working off their universal labour service several days a year on an irrigation facility or in a state agricultural enterprise, or craftsmen, permanently working in a state artisan workshop; many non-productive and productive labourers got wages in the form of products; these products were raised by the state in the form of natural tax from community members, as well as from state enterprises.
The other category of state employees, for example, military personnel, got salary partly in kind and partly in money form. Perhaps, there were labourers, for example, in foreign commerce that got salary only in the form of money. The state got money for paying money wages in the form of money tax from craftsmen and, partly, peasants; from trade, especially foreign commerce, that, as a rule, was a monopoly of the state, and from selling some part of production of state enterprises.
But, among the state employees, there was some category of people that got salary for their labour not in the form of money or natural product, but in a specific form - in the form of payment by land, ground plot. This ground plot that they got for their labour, they had to cultivate and on the product got they maintained themselves and their families.
In general, in primitive-communal society all community members received ground plots of equal size. But persons we just told about got one or several additional plots, at that the size of these additional plots depended upon social position of these men. A person of higher position got a larger ground plot “according to his post”; if he deserted, then he was automatically deprived of this plot. This ground plot was always in the use of the man, who got given position. And this person used this plot as long as he took this position. Having deserted for any reason he was deprived of the right to use the plot “according to post”, but the plot, that he received as usual community member, remained at his disposal.
Ground plots that the state gave out to its functionaries, were not subject to handing over to the use of community. This was indivisible state available land. It was permanently increased at the expense of conquered or bought land.
The land plots, handed over into the use of functionaries, were not, as a rule, cultivated by them. They either bought slaves, or hired workers, or recruited free community members, that worked according to universal labour service, so that community members in turn during several days a year cultivated fields, gardens, vegetable gardens, vineyards of the state officials.
At that, the latter paid the workers for their labour either in money, or in products, that, obviously, took place most often, or, finally, maybe, they could pay permanent free workers for their labour by means of a ground plot, i.e. the officials handed some part of their land to the use of the workers.
Many researchers, not understanding the difference between private ownership of land and the use of land "according to post", identify them and, as a result, find in the primitive-communal society (its highest stage of development) the large-scale land property and, on the basis of it, they draw a conclusion, that this society was not primitive-communal, but feudal-serfdom and even slave-holding.
This point of view is, of course, erroneous, as a ground plot handed to the use of an official is not the property of the latter, just as small plots handed to the use of all community members are not their property. All the land - both the plots in the use of all community members, and the plots in the use of high officials, was, like any other means of production, mainly in state ownership.
7. Socio-productive relations.
The main means of production in primitive-communal society was predominantly in the property of the state. The same way in the hands of the state there were: warehouses, shops, markets, transportation means. Private trade was limited or forbidden at all.
But as time went by, as the territory of the state grew, mainly as a result of conquests, as the differentiation of manufacturers to richer and more poor ones continued, as the community aristocracy that held the power in the primitive-communal society, higher priests, military leaders that illegally appropriated some part of loot enriched themselves, in the course of time, the private ownership of the main means of production and circulation appeared in the depths of the primitive-communal society.
Enterprises, based on the private ownership of main means of production, were widespread mainly on the outskirts of the country, in the newly conquered regions. Their role in the economy of the country was insignificant. And the size of lands in private property was not to be compared with overall size of the state land.
Private enterprises used the labour of members of the family as well as that of slaves and wage labourers. The slaves were chosen from the foreigners taken to captivity, both warriors and civilians. The wage labourers were chosen from impoverished community members.
Sometimes, debtors and criminals were enslaved as well. But one should not overestimate the number of slaves in that period. Not all captives, debtors and criminals were enslaved. As historical documents report, as a result of successful campaigns, tens of thousand (sometimes even over one hundred thousand) foreigners were taken to the country as prisoners. If all of them were enslaved, then in several centuries slaves would constitute the absolute majority of population of the country. But hundreds and thousands years passed, and the number of slaves did not rise substantially. Their portion in overall population of the country remained to be not more than 5 to 10%. This could be explained only by the fact, that the majority of captive foreigners were not enslaved, but spread over the country territory, and then they assimilated with residential population. In such a way, two aims were achieved. First, population of the country rose, thereby increasing military and economic might of the state. Second, the number of foreigners in newly captured lands decreased that lessened the possibility of their revolts against enslavers.
The foreigners, scattered over the country and deprived, at least at first, of any political rights, received ground plots in use and, like all the community members, kept their household and paid taxes to the state that was very important to the latter.
The same way not all debtors getting into debtor’s prison of usurers were enslaved. Most often, this was prohibited by the state legislation. According to the law, the usurer could make debtor and members of his family work for him, but only as an exception could he make them his slaves or sale them as slaves. Criminals were turned to slaves very seldom as well.
The question may arise: why did not the number of slaves in the countries of Ancient East increase substantially for hundreds and thousands years? This can be explained in such a way. Unlike Antique countries, the agriculture of countries of Ancient East was based on irrigation owing to more hot and droughty climate.
In the countries of Ancient East, only irrigated land was of value. Only such land gave bumper harvests. That is why irrigation and all the irrigation system with its reservoirs, canals, furrows, dams, levees, sluices was a matter of special concern of the society and state. Poor maintenance, untimely repair, wall crumbling threatened the well-being and even the very life of hundreds of thousand people.
“Climatic conditions and peculiarity of land surface, especially the presence of vast areas of deserts … made the system of artificial irrigation by means of canals and irrigation facilities the basis of oriental agriculture. Both in Egypt and India, and in Mesopotamia, Persia and other countries, the floods were used for fertilization of fields: high water-level was used to fill irrigation canals. This elementary necessity of economical joint water use … in the East, where civilization was on too low level and the territories were too vast to call into being free associations of people, imperatively demanded for the centralizing power of government to interfere. From this follows the economic function that all Asiatic governments had to perform, namely the function of organization of public works. Such a system of artificial improvement of land fertility, that depended upon central government and fell into decay immediately when this government was indifferent to irrigation and drainage works, explains the otherwise unaccountable fact, that today we can see barren and deserted territories, that once were perfectly cultivated … This is also explanation to the fact, that just one devastating war could be enough to ruin a country for centuries and to deprive it of all its civilization.
… However, as usual, in Asiatic countries, the agriculture fell into decay under the rule of one government and revived again under the rule of some other. Here, the harvest depends on good or bad government the same way as in Europe it depends on good or bad weather” (K.Marx, F.Engels, Selected Works. M., vol. 1, p.p. 518-519).
It was impossible to increase the number of slaves not recruiting them to building, repair and maintenance of irrigation system. In such a case the size of irrigated land would not increase. Of course, the community members, recruiting the slaves for work in their households, could free themselves from hard work, but slave cannot produce more than community member himself on the same ground plot. The more so that it was necessary to maintain and feed slave, i.e. to give him some part of labour product. That is why it is inexpediently to recruit slaves to cultivation of ground plots, not increasing their size, as it would cause lowering of living standards of community members. But to increase the size of ground plots that were in the use of community members, it was possible only by means of their widening and, consequently, building new irrigation facilities. But if irrigation system being a single whole increased several times, then the work for repair and maintenance of it would increase respectively.
It was impossible to recruit community members to maintenance of irrigation system for a long period of time, as in this case their private households would be uncultivated, neglected, without supervision. Then community members could get no harvest. The more so that their plots would increase in size and would demand more work to their cultivation.
But it is still not the main point. As with the enlargement of irrigation system, the amount of labour necessary to maintain it should increase accordingly, and as all this work could not be done by community members themselves, the only way out, it may seem, was to recruit slaves to the maintenance of irrigation system. But who can entrust the complicated irrigation system to slaves, if the perfect functioning of it affected not only well-being, but the very life of community members? No one, of course. Each slave is an enemy, class enemy. Instead of diligent maintenance of irrigation facilities of their oppressors whom he hated for violation of his freedom, devastation of his motherland, the slave would try to injure this system at the first opportunity. And this is easy. It would be quite enough, for example, to open a sluice and let the water out of reservoir for the harvest to be lost. And the failure of crops causes the starvation of thousands of community members. Bad harvest means discontent, grumble, revolts and insurrections. Could the country leaders tolerate all these? Certainly, not. That is why the development of slavery was not stimulated, but restrained in every way.
The slavery was economically feasible in agricultural production at non-irrigated agriculture without irrigation facilities, as it was the case in Ancient Greece and Rome, but it was thus much ineffective at irrigated agriculture with the use of complex hydroengineering, irrigation facilities, like in the countries of Ancient East.
That is why the primitive-communal socio-productive relations existed in the countries of Ancient East for much longer time than in Ancient Greece and Rome, though agriculture in the former appeared much earlier.
However, the slave-holding enterprises, based on the use of slave labour, existed, though their role was insignificant. Just as the portion of slaves in the total population of primitive-communal society (if the Antique countries on the eve of their transition to slave-holding system, i.e. in the I millennium BC, are not taken into consideration), the same way private ownership of the main means of production, circulation and trade was insignificant as compared to public ownership.
Thus, in the countries of Ancient East and in Antique countries in the first half of I millennium BC, there existed primitive-communal socio-productive relations, based on the public (all-state, all-tribe) ownership of the main means of production and on free labour of community members. In the depth of this society, the new, slave-holding socio-productive relations appeared, that played insignificant role before the social revolution. These new socio-productive relations were founded on private ownership of the main means of production and on slave labour, based on rude non-economic coercion.
The availability of slaves in the countries of Ancient East lead some researchers to the erroneous conclusion, that these countries was not primitive-communal but slave-holding states. But the presence of insignificant (as compared to the number of free labourers) number of slaves is so much inconsistent with this point of view (the more so, that in the countries of Ancient East there was no private ownership of the main means of production on any significant scale), that adherents of this point of view had to think of special forms or, rather, names for as though slave-holding society of the countries of Ancient East. Some of them call it patriarchal - slave-holding society, the other - Asiatic - slave-holding, still the other - state - slave-holding.
However, the ancient Oriental society, like ancient Greek and Roman (before the slave-holding social revolution in the middle of the 1st millennium BC), was not slave-holding but primitive communal society, based not on private but on state ownership of the main means of production and not on slave but on free labour of community members, the latter being overwhelming majority of the population.
8. Origin of exploitation of man by man.
Historical forms of exploitation.
As we have already seen, in the depth of the primitive-communal society, two phenomena appeared: first, private ownership of the main means of production, and, second, slavery. Appearance of the both means nothing but the origin of exploitation of man by man in the society. Exploitation of slaves in the household was one of the forms of exploitation, but not the only one. Together with the exploitation in the field of production, the exploitation in the fields of exchange and trade appeared. Though the trade in the primitive-communal society was, as a rule, monopoly of the state, nevertheless, in the field of trade, private ownership of the main means of trade appeared, while during the transportation of commodities by merchants and commercial agents of the state slave labour was used (sometimes, merchants used hired labour as well).
But along with these two forms of exploitation of man by man in the primitive-communal society there appeared one more, the third form of exploitation. This was usurious exploitation.
Neither exploitation in the field of production, nor exploitation in the field of trade could put down any deep roots in the primitive-communal society. The development of exploitation in the field of production, i.e. exploitation of slaves by slave-holders, was seriously restrained by the state ownership of the main means of production. And the development of exploitation in the field of trade, i.e. exploitation of small commodity producers by traders, was as much hampered by the state ownership of the main means of trade and the state monopoly of foreign trade.
But as for the usurious exploitation, it had not any barriers before it. After all, the usurer needs neither means of production nor means of trade to exploit labourers. It is enough for him just to have means of subsistence at his disposal. If he has some amount of grain, then he only has to wait till low-yield summer and to lend the grain on interest.
The grain of farmers grows in the land, while the grain of usurer “grows” (and this growth is much quicker) without any land and without any labour. In lean and even in low-yield years many farmers don’t have enough means of subsistence till the next harvest. Earlier, in “good old times”, such a problem would be solved very simply. In fact, there was no such a problem. If one hunter or a group of hunters returned home without prey, then they did not remain hungry. Together with the other members of clan community, they ate the food that procured another community members. If no one procured anything, all of them lived at the expense of reserves. If there were no reserves and all of them procured nothing, that was, probably, very seldom, then everyone was hungry. But when people lived in clan communities and tribes, there were no and there could never be situations, when one community member had nothing and the other, vice versa, had much – not so much, that he could feed himself and his family, but many times more.
Like in old times, the rich man readily lent a hand to the poor man. He gave him some amount of means of subsistence, but on one small condition (that was not the case in old times). The poor man, having got the grain, had to return it next year, but a bit more than he got. For example, a rich man lent one hundred measures of grain to a poor man on the condition that the latter returns him, say, one hundred and twenty or one hundred and forty measures.
And the poor man had nothing to do but to agree to these terms. Otherwise, he had nothing to feed his family till the next harvest. But having returned the usurer the loan together with the shave, he, as a rule, in some time had to go to him for another loan. And this continued from year to year.
Little by little, the usurers, growing richer and richer owing to the usurious exploitation, refused from productive labour, and in most cases – from any labour at all. Their only occupation was to force out debts from their victims, lending new loans and calculation of profits, usurious benefits.
In the course of time, usurers grew richer, and exploited poor men became more and more poor. The usurers, whose greediness, lust for profit had no limits, entangled the community members in debts to the extent, that the latter became the debtors for many years ahead, and frequently – for life. It was impossible to free themselves from these debts. Very often, debtor, having not paid off his debt till the end of his life, “handed down” his debt to his children, so that the latter, from the very birth, became debtors of the rich usurers.
Gradually, the usury penetrated into all interstices of the primitive-communal society, of all its business life. The usurious exploitation widened and strengthened itself more and more. More and more labourers fell into the nets of usurers. With every lean year, the number of debtors increased.
A high-yield year was blessing, it was happy year for poor labourers, and a lean year was damnation, great misfortune. For usurers, vice versa, a lean year was good, because it allowed them to enslave the poor, to exploit them more, to lend them loans on any terms. But high-yield year was for usurers, rather, unpleasant year, as in such years the number of their debtors decreased. Thus, the interests of usurers and labourers were directly opposite.
Together with widening the field of exploitation owing to the increase of number of exploited labourers-debtors, the strengthening the exploitation of debtors took place as well. The profit rate increased and so did the rate of exploitation.
In the course of technical, technological and economic progress, as the labour productivity rose as a result of it, the size of the part of labour product, that was appropriated by the usurer during the usurious exploitation, became more and more, while the remaining part of labour product stayed the same or even decreased owing to unlimited greediness (almost cruelty) of usurer. This led to the increase of both rate of profit and rate of exploitation. For example, a usurer lends a peasant grain loan on the basis of 30% interest, i.e. giving the peasant 100 measures of grain this year, he gets from him 130 measures next year. Then the rate of profit on usurer’s capital is 30 * 100% / 100 = 30%, where 30 is profit and 100 is capital. Suppose, that the peasant has gathered grain crop of 150 measures, while the needs of all his family is 120 measures. Of these 150 measures, the debtor returns the usurer 100 measures, that he had borrowed, and, besides, 30 measures as usurious interest. Thus, the rate of exploitation is 30 * 100% / (150 – 30) = 25%, where 30 is surplus product, 150 is aggregate product, and 120 = (150 – 30) is necessary product.
Let’s suppose then, that, owing to labour productivity growth, the peasant gets 180 measures of grain. Then the usurer immediately raises the usurious interest, aiming at appropriation of all additional harvest. He will raise the usurious interest from 30 to 60%. With the profit rate of 60 * 100% / 100 = 60%, the rate of exploitation will also rise and will be equal to 60 * 100% / (180 – 60) = 50%.
In the above example, we didn’t take into account that not all the grain remaining at the peasant’s disposal turns to foodstuff. Some part of grain is to be given to the state as the natural tax, the other part constitutes the seed-stock, by the third part the plough cattle is fed, the fourth part is to be sold by peasant to buy technical means, etc. If all that is taken into consideration, then the rate of exploitation of debtors by usurers would, undoubtedly, increase – maybe one and a half or even two times. But we also didn’t consider, that the peasant produces not only grain, but some amount of agricultural as well as handicraft labour products. Not the exact mathematic value of the rate of exploitation is important for us now, but the fact that the rate of exploitation simultaneously with the rate of profit grows in the course of time in strict correspondence with the growth of labour productivity, and the latter rises owing to technical, technological and economic progress, as a result of the development of productive forces of society.
The rise of the rate of usurious profit and the rate of usurious exploitation in the twilight of primitive-communal society on its last, highest phase is a law of economic development of this society, its last phase.
The usurious exploitation can be different according to means of implementation; in the last, usurious phase of the primitive-communal society, not only grain and other agricultural products, but also money, land, craft workshops, dwelling houses, plough cattle, technical means (for example, plough), transportation facilities, and, finally, slaves were used as means of usurious exploitation.
But most often, the products of agricultural labour, especially grain, were used. Money used more seldom as in the primitive-communal society, including its highest phase, the production (first of all and most of all agriculture) was of mainly natural character. Commodity production, trade and money circulation were underdeveloped. Land also could not be used as a means of usurious exploitation, because usurers could not buy it as the land was in state ownership and community members only used it but could not buy it. The number of slaves was relatively small then. Another means of production were used as a means of usurious exploitation very seldom.
Grain was the main product of agriculture, while the agriculture was the main, leading branch of production. That is why it was used as the main means of usurious exploitation, the more so as grain was frequently used as money.
As the labour productivity owing to various factors – efficiency of technical means, availability of mechanical tools and draft animals, land fertility, provision of water, fertilizers, specialization of economy, etc. – vary from one labourer to another, while the rate of usurious profit in given place and time owing to competition between usurers was approximately on a level, then there appeared a social, material differentiation between the labourers. Some of them returned all their surplus product to the usurers, and their debt was on a level from year to year. The other, having higher labour productivity, did not have debts at all or had them only in lean years and then returned the debts quickly in more favourable years.
But there were labourers that had lower productivity of labour as compared to the others and, under existing rate of usurious profit, they did not manage to pay off their debts to usurers, moreover – their debts grew from year to year. And the usurers – these monsters of the human race, this purulent tumour on healthy body of the primitive-communal society – ruined them, took away for debts everything that still could be taken: grain reserve for sowing, labour tools, cattle, if it was available, etc. But their greediness and cruelty to their neighbours were so high, that they, by means of laws and courts, forced debtors and members of their families (adult children, wives and even infants) to work for them in their households, at that frequently inflicting them physical injuries for “bad” work. And the debtors had to work in the households of usurers for repayment of debts many years long, sometimes all their lives if the period of forced labour was not limited by law.
But even that was not enough for usurers. Wishing to recover the debt at any price immediately, they (if there existed appropriate laws, and such laws did existed in many ancient countries) sold debtors or members of their families as slaves, appropriating realized money for repayment of debts.
Impoverishment of labourers, exploitation of broad masses of people by usurers, debt servitude, selling debtors and members of their families as slaves, tax burden, political lawlessness, failures of crop – all that caused the discontent of broad masses of labourers, their struggle against communal, bureaucratic, priestly aristocracy, against the domination of usurers. This struggle often developed into armed insurrections, that were supported by the slaves and foreigners that were not only under economic and political, but also under national oppression. This struggle led to the weakening of primitive-communal states, as a result they disappeared being conquered by other states or tribes as quickly as appeared. However, the economic struggle, this “pre-class” struggle of the exploited and oppressed, led not only to the crash of one or another state. This economic struggle had led, in the end, to the collapse of the very primitive-communal system, giving way for a new socio-productive relations, new social and economic structure, new slave-holding society, that came to its rule owing to the slave-holding social revolution, that was the second social revolution in the development of society.
The slave-holding social revolution was preceded, both historically and logically, by the agrarian-technical revolution, so, before considering the slave-holding social revolution let’s dwell upon the agrarian-technical revolution.
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