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But
the unfavorable comparison with city wage earners and the repetition
to-day of Marx's term "barbarism" is no longer justified. Where these
conditions still exist, they are due largely to special legal obstacles
placed in the way of European peasants, and to legal privileges given to
the great landlords,--in other words, to remnants of feudalism.
Kautsky's error in making this as a statement of general application
would seem to be based on a confusion of the survivals of feudalism, as
seen in some parts of Europe, with the necessary conditions of
agricultural production, as seen in this country.

Kautsky himself has lately given full recognition to another factor in
the agricultural situation--the horrors of wage slavery, which acts in
the very opposite manner to these feudal conditions and _prevents_ both
small agriculturists and agricultural laborers from immigrating to the
towns in greater numbers than they do, and persuades them in spite of
its drudgery to prefer the life of the owner of a small farm.

"Since labor in large-scale industry takes to-day the repulsive form of
wage labor," he says, "many owners of small properties keep holding on
to them with the greatest sacrifices, for the sole purpose of avoiding
falling into the serfdom and insecurity of wage labor. Only Socialism
can put an end to small production, not of course by the forceful
ejection of small owners, but by giving them an opportunity to work for
the perfected large establishments with a shortened working day and a
larger income."[227] Surely there is little ground to lay special stress
on the "barbarism" of small farms, if such a large proportion of farmers
and agricultural laborers prefer it on good grounds to "the serfdom and
insecurity" of labor on large farms or in manufacturing establishments.

It is doubtless chiefly because European conditions are such as to make
the conversion of the majority of agriculturists difficult, that so many
European Socialists claim that an existing or prospective preponderance
of manufacturers makes it unnecessary. But, while in many countries of
Europe the remnants of feudalism, or rather of eighteenth-century
absolutism and landlord rule, to which this backward political condition
is largely due, have not only survived, but have been modernized,
through the protection extended to large estates, so as to become a part
and parcel of modern capitalism, this condition does not promise to be
at all lasting. There are already signs of change in the agricultural
sections of Bohemia, Hungary, and Italy, while in France, where the
political influence of the large landlord class is rapidly on the
decline, the Socialists have appealed successfully, under certain
conditions, not only to agricultural laborers, but also to small
independent farmers.

As Socialists come to take a world view, giving due prominence to
countries like France and the United States, where agriculture has had
its freest development, they grow away from the older standpoint and
give more attention to the rural population. The rapid technical
evolution of agriculture and the equally rapid changes in the ownership
of land in a country like the United States have encouraged our
Socialists to reŽxamine the whole question. I cannot enter into a
discussion, even the most cursory, of agricultural evolution in this
country, but a few indications from the census of 1910 will show the
general tendencies.

Farm owners and tenants probably now have $45,000,000,000 in property
(1910), fully a third of the national wealth, and with 6,340,000 farms
they are just about a third of our population. This calculation does not
allow for interest (where farmers have borrowed) or rent (where they are
tenants); on the other hand, it does not allow for the fact that many
farmers have bank accounts and outside investments. But it indicates the
prosperity of a large part of the farming class.

The value of the land of the average farm has doubled since 1900 ($2271
in 1900--$4477 in 1910) in spite of a decrease in the size of farms,
while the amount spent for labor increased 80 per cent, which the
statistics show was due in part to higher wages, but in larger part _to
the greater amount of labor and the greater number of laborers used_.
Other expenditures increased almost proportionately, and the capital
employed in land, buildings, machinery, fertilizers, and labor has
almost doubled in this short period. As prices advanced less than 25 per
cent during the decade, all these increases were largely _real_. The
gross income of the average farm owner, measured in what it could buy,
evidently rose by more than 50 per cent, and his _real_ net income
nearly as fast. The average farm owner then was receiving a fair share
of the increase of the national wealth.

But farmers cannot profitably be considered as a single class. Tenants
are rarely at the same time landlords. Farmers paying interest are
usually not the same as those holding mortgages. A few of the debtors
may be very successful men who borrow only to buy more land and hire
more labor. But very few tenants are in this class. We may safely assume
that those who own without a mortgage or employ labor steadily with one
are getting _more_ than an average share of the national wealth, while
tenants or those who have mortgaged their land heavily and do not
regularly hire labor (except at harvest) are, in the average case,
getting less. Investments of borrowed money in the best machinery or
farm animals by a single family working alone and on a very small scale,
may give a good return above interest, but this return is strictly
limited unless with most exceptional or most fortunate persons.

Now the statistics of the increase of agricultural _wages_ show that
they rose in no such proportion as the increase of agricultural
capital--and the possibility of a farm hand saving his wages and
becoming the owner of one of these more and more costly farms is more
remote than ever. But there is a third solution--the agricultural
laborer may neither remain a laborer nor become an owner. If he can
accumulate enough capital for machinery, horses, farm animals, and seed,
he can pay for the use of the land from his annual product, he can
become a tenant. On the other side, if the value of the usual 160-acre
homestead rises to $20,000 or $30,000, the owner is easily able to make
a few thousand dollars in addition by selling his farm animals and
machinery and to retire to the country town and live on his rent.

It is evident that the position of most of these farm tenants is very
close to that of laborers. Though working on their own account, it is so
difficult for them to make a living that they are forced to the longest
hours and to the exploitation of their wives and children under all
possible and impossible circumstances. Already farm tenants are almost
as numerous in this country as farm owners. The census figures indicated
that the proportion of tenants had risen from 23 per cent in 1880 to 37
per cent in 1910. Not only this, but a closer inspection of the figures
by States will show that, whereas in new States like Minnesota, where
tenancy has not had time to develop, it embraced in 1900 less than 20
per cent of the total number of farms, in many older States the
percentage had already risen high above 40. This increase of tenants
proves an approach of the United States to the fundamental economic
condition of older countries--the divorce of land cultivation from land
ownership, and the census of 1910 shows that three eighths of the farms
of the United States are already in that condition.

Land and hired labor are the chief sources of agricultural wealth, and
capital is most productive only when it is invested in these as well as
other means of production. That is, if the small farmer is really a
small capitalist, if he is to receive a return from his capital as well
as his own individual and that of his family labor, he must, as a rule,
either have enough capital to provide work for others and his family, or
he must get a share of the unearned increment through the ownership of
his farm, or long leases without revaluation. Farm tenants who do not
habitually employ labor, or those whose mortgages are so heavy as
practically to place them in the position of such tenants, are, for
these reasons, undoubtedly accessible to Socialist ideas--_as long as
they remain farm tenants_.

But now after discarding all the European prejudices above referred to,
let us look at the other side. Tenants everywhere belong to those
classes which, as Kautsky truly says, in the passage quoted in a
previous chapter, are also a recruiting ground for the capitalists. They
are more likely to be the owners of the capital, now a considerable sum,
needed to _operate_ a small farm (cattle, machinery, etc.) than are farm
laborers, and it is for their benefit chiefly that the various
governmental plans for creating new small farms through irrigation,
reclamation, and the division of large estates are contrived. And it is
even possible that practically all the present tenants may some day be
provided for.

By maintaining or creating small farms then, or providing for a system
of long leases and small-sized allotments of governmentally owned land,
guaranteed against any raise in rents during the term of the lease,
capitalist governments may gradually succeed in firmly attaching the
larger part of the struggling small farmers and farm tenants to
capitalism. While still in the individualistic form capitalism will
establish, wherever it can, privately owned small farms; when it will
have adopted the collectivist policy, it will inaugurate a system of
national ownership and long leases.

Even the small farmer who hires no labor, and does not even own his
farm, will probably be held, as a class, by capitalism, but only by the
collectivist capitalism of the future, which will probably protect him
from landlordism by keeping the title to the land, but dividing the
unearned increment with him by a system of long leases, and using its
share of this increment for the promotion of agriculture and for other
purposes he approves.

Socialists, then, do not expect to include in their ranks in
considerable numbers, either agricultural employers or such tenants,
laborers, or farm owners as are becoming, or believe they will become,
employers (either under present governments or under collectivist
capitalism).

Only when the day finally comes when Socialism begins to exert a
pressure on the government adversely to the interest of the capitalist
class will higher wages and new governmental expenditures on wage
earners begin to reverse conditions automatically, making labor dearer,
small farms which employ labor less profitable, and a lease of
government land less desirable, for example, than the position of a
skilled employee on a model government farm.



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Keywords: through, system, position, income, larger, census, proportion, probably, working, family
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