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On this point there is little room for
difference of opinion. But small farmers are not a sharply defined
class. They are constantly recruited from agricultural laborers and
tenants on the one hand, and are constantly becoming employing farmers
on the other--or the process may take the opposite course, large farms
may break up and small farmers may become laborers--for all or a part of
their time. All agricultural reforms may be viewed not only in their
relation to existing small farmers, but as to their effect on the
increase or decrease of the relative proportions of small self-employing
farmers, of employing farmers, and of agricultural laborers.

And here appears the fundamental distinction between the Socialist
program and that of collectivist capitalism as far as the small farmers
are concerned. Socialists agree in wanting to aid those small farmers
who are neither capitalists nor employers on a sufficient scale to
classify them with those elements, but they neither wish to perpetuate
the system of small farms nor to obstruct the development of the more
productive large-scale farming and the normal increase of an
agricultural working class ready for co÷perative or governmental
employment. They point to the universal law that large-scale production
is more economical, and show that this applies to agriculture. Small
farming strictly limits the point to which the income of the
agricultural population can rise, prevents the cheapening of the
production of food, and furnishes a constant stream of cheap labor
composed of discontented agricultural laborers who prefer the more
steady income, limited hours, and better conditions of wage earners.

"Even the most energetic champions of small farming," says Kautsky,
"do not make the least attempt to show its superiority, as this
would be a hopeless task. What they maintain is only the
superiority of labor on one's own property to wage labor for a
strange exploiter.... But if the large farm offers the greater
possibility of lessening the work of the agricultural laborers,
then it would be a betrayal of the latter to set before them as a
goal, not the capture and technical development of large forms, but
their break up into numerous small farms. That would mean nothing
less than a willingness to perpetuate the drudgery under which the
agricultural laborers and small farmers now suffer."[229]

But how shall Socialists aid small farmers without increasing the number
of small farms? It might be thought that the nationalization of the land
would solve the problem. The government, once become the general
landlord, could use the rent fund to improve the condition of all
classes of agriculturists, without unduly favoring any, agricultural
evolution could take its natural course, and the most economical method
of production, _i.e._ large farms or large co÷perative associations,
would gradually come to predominate. But the capitalist collectivists
who now control or will soon control governments, far from feeling any
anxiety about the persistence of small-scale farming, believe that the
small farmers can be made into the most reliable props of capitalism.
Accordingly collectivist reformers either promote schemes of division of
large estates and favor the creation of large masses of small owners by
this and every other available means, such as irrigation or reclamation
projects, or if they indorse nationalization of the land in order to get
the unearned increment for their governments, they still make the leases
on as small a scale and revaluations at as long intervals as possible,
and so do almost as much artificially to perpetuate the small farm under
this system as they could by furthering private ownership.

Although there is no necessary and immediate conflict of interest
between wage earners and small farmers, it is evident that it is
impossible for Socialists to offer the small farmers as much as the
capitalist collectivists do,--for the latter are willing in this
instance to promote, for political purposes, an uneconomic mode of
production which is a burden on all society.

Here, however, appears an economic tendency that relieves the situation
for the Socialist. Under private ownership or land nationalization with
long leases and small-scale farms, it is only once in a generation or
even less frequently that farms are subdivided. But the amount of
capital and labor that can be profitably applied to a given area of
land, the intensity of farming, increases very rapidly. The former
self-employing farmer, everywhere encouraged by governments, soon comes
to employ steadily one or more laborers. And it is notable that in every
country of the world these middle-sized or moderate-sized farms are
growing more rapidly than either the large-scale or the one-family
farms. This has an economic and a political explanation. Though large
farms have more economic advantages than small, the latter have nothing
to expend for superintendence and get much more work from each person
occupied. The middle-sized farms preserve these advantages and gradually
come also to employ much of the most profitable machinery, that is out
of reach of the small farmer. Politically their position is still
stronger. They are neither rich nor few like the large landholders.
Their employees are one, two, or three on each farm, and isolated.

Here, then, is the outcome of the agricultural situation that chiefly
concerns the Socialist. The middle-sized farmer is a small capitalist
and employer who, like the rest of his kind, will in every profound
labor crisis be found with the large capitalist. His employees will
outnumber him as voters and will have little hope that the government
will intervene some day to make them either proprietors or possessors
of long-term leases. The capital, moreover, to run this kind of farm or
to compete with it, will be greater and greater and more and more out of
their agricultural laborer's reach. These employees will be Socialists.

We are now in a position to understand the divisions among the
Socialists on the agricultural question. The Socialist policy as to
agriculture may be divided into three periods. During the ascendency of
capitalistic collectivism it will be powerless to do more than to
support the collectivist reforms, including partial nationalization of
the land, partial appropriation of unearned increment by national or
local governments, municipal and co÷perative production, and the
numerous reforms already mentioned. In the second period, the approach
of Socialism will hasten all these changes automatically through the
rapid rise in wages, and in the third period, when the Socialists are in
power, special measures will be taken still further to hasten the
process until all land is gradually nationalized and all agricultural
production carried on by governmental bodies or co÷perative societies of
actual workers.

If the Socialists gain control of any government, or if they come near
enough to doing this to be able to force concessions at the cost of
capital, a double effect will be produced on agriculture. The general
rise in wages will destroy the profits of many farmer employers, and it
will offer to the smallest self-employing farmers the possibility of an
income as wage earners so much larger, and conditions so much better,
than anything they can hope for as independent producers that they will
cease to prefer self-employment. The high cost of labor will favor both
large scale production, either capitalistic or co÷perative, and
national, state, county, and municipal farms. Without any but an
automatic economic pressure, small-scale and middle-scale farming would
tend rapidly to give place to these other higher forms, and these in
turn would tend to become more and more highly organized as other
industries have done, until social production became a possibility. Not
only would there be no need of coercive legislative measures, but the
automatic pressure would be, not that of misery or bankruptcy pressing
the self-employing farmer from behind, but of a larger income and better
conditions drawing the majority forward to more developed and social
forms of production.

In France a considerable and increasing number of the Socialist members
of Parliament are elected by the peasantry, and the same is true of
Italy. In HervÚ the French have developed a world-famed
ultra-revolutionary who always makes his appeal to peasants as well as
workers, and in CompŔre-Morel, one of the most able of those economists
and organizers of the international movement who give the agriculturists
their chief attention. The latter has recently summed up the position of
the French Party in a few incisive paragraphs--which show its similarity
to that of the Americans. His main idea is to let economic evolution
take its course, which, in proportion as labor is effectively organized,
will inevitably lead towards collective ownership and operation and so
pave the way for Socialism:--

"As to small property, it is not our mission either to hasten or to
precipitate its disappearance. A product of labor, quite often
being merely a tool of the one who is detaining it, not only do we
respect it, we do something more yet, we relieve it from taxes,
usury, scandalous charges on the part of the middlemen, whose
victim it is. And this will be done in order to make possible its
free evolution towards superior forms of exploitation and
ownership, which become more and more inevitable.

"This means that there is no necessity at all to appeal to
violence, to use constraint and power in order to inaugurate in the
domain of rural production, the only mode of ownership fit to
utilize the new technical agricultural tools: collective ownership.

"On the other hand, a new form of ownership cannot be imposed; it
is the new form of ownership which is imposing itself.

"It is in vain that they use the most powerful, the most
artificial, means to develop, to multiply, and animate the private
ownership of the land; the social ownership of the land will impose
itself, through the force of events, on the most stubborn, on the
most obstinate, of the partisans of individual ownership of the
rural domain."

The French Socialists do not propose to interfere with titles of any but
very large properties, or even with inheritance.

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Keywords: better, conditions, earners, leases, social, large-scale, private, agriculture, control, rapidly
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