Capital Vol. III Part VI
Transformation of Surplus-Profit into Ground-Rent
We must clarify in our minds wherein lies the real difficulty in analysing ground-rent from the viewpoint of modern economics, as the theoretical expression of the capitalist mode of production. Even many of the more modern writers have not as yet grasped this, as evidenced by each renewed attempt to "newly" explain ground-rent. The novelty almost invariably consists in a relapse into long out-of-date views. The difficulty is not to explain the surplus-product produced by agricultural capital and its corresponding surplus-value in general. This question is solved in the analysis of the surplus-value produced by all productive capital, in whatever sphere it may be invested. The difficulty consists rather in showing the source of the excess of surplus-value paid the landlord by capital invested in land in the form of rent, after equalisation of the surplus-value to the average profit among the various capitals, after the various capitals have shared in the total surplus-value produced by the social capital in all spheres of production in proportion to their relative size; in other words, the source subsequent to this equalisation and the apparently already completed distribution of all surplus-value which, in general, is to be distributed. Quite apart from the practical motives, which prodded modern economists as spokesmen of industrial capital against landed property to investigate this question — motives which we shall point out more clearly in the chapter on history of ground-rent — the question was of paramount interest to them as theorists. To admit that the appearance of rent for capital invested in agriculture is due to some particular effect produced by the sphere of investment itself, due to singular qualities of the earth’s crust itself, is tantamount to giving up the conception of value as such, thus tantamount to abandoning all attempts at a scientific understanding of this field. Even the simple observation that rent is paid out of the price of agricultural produce — which takes place even where rent is paid in kind if the farmer is to recover his price of production — showed the absurdity of attempting to explain the excess of this price over the ordinary price of production; in other words, to explain the relative dearness of agricultural products on the basis of the excess of natural productivity of agricultural production over the productivity of other lines of production. For the reverse is true: the more productive labour is, the cheaper is every aliquot part of its product, because so much greater is the mass of use-values incorporating the same quantity of labour, i.e., the same value.
The whole difficulty in analysing rent, therefore, consists in explaining the excess of agricultural profit over the average profit, not the surplus-value, but the excess of surplus-value characteristic of this sphere of production; in other words, not the "net product", but the excess of this net product over the net product of other branches of industry. The average profit itself is a product formed under very definite historical production relations by the movement of social processes, a product which, as we have seen, requires very complex adjustment. To be able to speak at all of a surplus over the average profit, this average profit itself must already be established as a standard and as a regulator of production in general as is the case under capitalist production. For this reason there can be no talk of rent in the modern sense, a rent consisting of a surplus over the average profit, i.e., over and above the proportional share of each individual capital in the surplus-value produced by the total social capital, in social formations where it is not capital which performs the function of enforcing all surplus-labour and appropriating directly all surplus-value. And where therefore capital has not yet completely, or only sporadically, brought social labour under its control. It reflects naïveté, e.g., of a person like Passy (see below), when he speaks of rent in primitive society as a surplus over profit [Passy, Rente du sol. In: Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, Tome II. Paris, 1854, p. 511. — Ed.] — a historically defined social form of surplus-value, but which, according to Passy, might almost as well exist without any society.
For the older economists, who in general merely begin analysing the capitalist mode of production, still undeveloped in their day, the analysis of rent offers either no difficulty at all, or only a difficulty of a completely different kind. Petty, Cantillon, and in general those writers who are closer to feudal times, assume ground-rent to be the normal form of surplus-value in general, [ [Petty] A Treatise on Taxes and Contributions, London, 1667, pp. 23-24; [Richard Cantillon] Essai sur la nature du commerce en géneral, Amsterdam, 1756. — Ed.] whereas profit to them is still amorphously combined with wages, or at best appears to be a portion of surplus-value extorted by the capitalist from the landlord. These writers thus take as their point of departure a situation where, in the first place, the agricultural population still constitutes the overwhelming majority of the nation, and, secondly, the landlord still appears as the person appropriating at first hand the surplus-labour of the direct producers by virtue of his monopoly of landed property, where landed property, therefore, still appears as the main condition of production. For these writers the question could not yet be posed, which, inversely, seeks to investigate from the viewpoint of capitalist production how landed property manages to wrest back again from capital a portion of the surplus-value produced by it (that is, filched by it from the direct producers) and already appropriated directly.
The physiocrats are troubled by difficulties of another nature. As the actually first systematic spokesmen of capital, they attempt to analyse the nature of surplus-value in general. For them, this analysis coincides with the analysis of rent, the only form of surplus-value which they recognise. Therefore, they consider rent-yielding, or agricultural, capital to be the only capital producing surplus-value, and the agricultural labour set in motion by it, the only labour producing surplus-value, which from a capitalist viewpoint is quite properly considered the only productive labour. They are quite right in considering the creation of surplus-value as decisive. Apart from other merits to be set forth in Book IV, they deserve credit primarily for going back from merchant’s capital, which functions solely in the sphere of circulation, to productive capital, in opposition to the mercantile system, which, with its crude realism, constitutes the actual vulgar economy of that period, pushing into the background in favour of its own practical interests the beginnings of scientific analysis made by Petty and his successors. In this critique of the mercantile system, incidentally, only its conceptions of capital and surplus-value are dealt with. It has already been indicated previously that the monetary system correctly proclaims production for the world-market and the transformation of the output into commodities, and thus into money, as the prerequisite and condition of capitalist production. In this system’s further development into the mercantile system, it is no longer the transformation of commodity-value into money, but the creation of surplus-value which is decisive — but from the meaningless viewpoint of the circulation sphere and, at the same time, in such manner that this surplus value is represented as surplus money, as the balance of trade surplus. At the same time, however, the characteristic feature of the interested merchants and manufacturers of that period, which is in keeping with the stage of capitalist development represented by them, is that the transformation of feudal agricultural societies into industrial ones and the corresponding industrial struggle of nations on the world-market depends on an accelerated development of capital, which is not to be arrived at along the so-called natural path, but rather by means of coercive measures. It makes a tremendous difference whether national capital is gradually and slowly transformed into industrial capital, or whether this development is accelerated by means of a tax which they impose through protective duties mainly upon landowners, middle and small peasants, and handicraftsmen, by way of accelerated expropriation of the independent direct producers, and through the violently accelerated accumulation and concentration of capital, in short by means of the accelerated establishment of conditions of capitalist production. It simultaneously makes an enormous difference in the capitalist and industrial exploitation of the natural national productive power. Hence the national character of the mercantile system is not merely a phrase on the lips of its spokesmen. Under the pretext of concern solely for the wealth of the nation and the resources of the state, they, in fact, pronounce the interests of the capitalist class and the amassing of riches in general to be the ultimate aim of the state, and thus proclaim bourgeois society in place of the old divine state. But at the same time they are consciously aware that the development of the interests of capital and of the capitalist class, of capitalist production, forms the foundation of national power and national ascendancy in modern society.
The physiocrats, furthermore, are correct in stating that in fact all production of surplus-value, and thus all development of capital, has for its natural basis the productiveness of agricultural labour. If man were not capable of producing in one working-day more means of subsistence, which signifies in the strictest sense more agricultural products than every labourer needs for his own reproduction, if the daily expenditure of his entire labour power sufficed merely to produce the means of subsistence indispensable for his own individual requirements, then one could not speak at all either of surplus-product or surplus-value. An agricultural labour productivity exceeding the individual requirements of the labourer is the basis of all societies, and is above all the basis of capitalist production, which disengages a constantly increasing portion of society from the production of basic foodstuffs and transforms them into "free heads," as Steuart [Steuart, An Inquiry Into the Principles of Political Economy, Vol. I, Dublin, 1770, p. 396. — Ed.] has it, making them available for exploitation in other spheres.
But what can be said of more recent writers on economics, such as Daire, Passy, etc., who parrot the most primitive conceptions concerning the natural conditions of surplus-labour and thereby surplus-value in general, in the twilight of classical economy, indeed on its very death-bed, and who imagine that they are thus propounding something new and striking on ground-rent [Daire, Introduction. In: Physiocrats, 1. Teil, Paris, 1846; Passy, Rente du sol. In: Dictionnaire de l’économie politique, Tome II, Paris, 1854, p. 511. — Ed.] long after this ground-rent has been investigated as a special form and become a specific portion of surplus-value? It is particularly characteristic of vulgar economy that it echoes what was new, original, profound and justified during a specific outgrown stage of development, in a period when it has turned platitudinous, stale, and false. It thus confesses its complete ignorance of the problems which concerned classical economy. It confounds them with questions that could only have been posed on a lower level of development of bourgeois society. The same holds true of its incessant and self-complacent rumination of the physiocratic phrases concerning free trade. These phrases have long since lost all theoretical interest, no matter how much they may engage the practical attention of this or that state.
In natural economy proper, when no part of the agricultural product, or but a very insignificant portion, enters into the process of circulation, and then only a relatively small portion of that part of the product which represents the landlord’s revenue, as, e.g., in many Roman latifundia, or upon the villas of Charlemagne, or more or less during the entire Middle Ages (see Vinçard, Histoire du travail), the product and surplus-product of the large estates consists by no means purely of products of agricultural labour. It encompasses equally well the products of industrial labour. Domestic handicrafts and manufacturing labour as secondary occupations of agriculture, which forms the basis, are the prerequisite of that mode of production upon which natural economy rests — in European antiquity and the Middle Ages as well as in the present-day Indian community, in which the traditional organisation has not yet been destroyed. The capitalist mode of production completely abolishes this relationship; a process which may be studied on a large scale particularly in England during the last third of the 18th century. Thinkers like Herrenschwand, who had grown up in more or less semi-feudal societies, still consider, e.g., as late as the close of the 18th century, this separation of manufacture from agriculture as a foolhardy social adventure, as an unthinkably risky mode of existence. And even in the agricultural economies of antiquity showing the greatest analogy to capitalist agriculture, namely Carthage and Rome, the similarity to a plantation economy is greater than to a form corresponding to the really capitalist mode of exploitation.[42a] A formal analogy, which, simultaneously, however, turns out to be completely illusory in all essential points to a person familiar with the capitalist mode of production, who does not, like Herr Mommsen, discover a capitalist mode of production in every monetary economy, is not to be found at all in continental Italy during antiquity, but at best only in Sicily, since this island served Rome as an agricultural tributary so that its agriculture was aimed chiefly at export. Farmers in the modern sense existed there.
An erroneous conception of the nature of rent is based upon the fact that rent in kind, partly as tithes to the church and partly as a curiosity perpetuated by long-established contracts, has been dragged over into modern times from the natural economy of the Middle Ages, completely in contradiction to the conditions of the capitalist mode of production. It thereby creates the impression that rent does not arise from the price of the agricultural product, but from its mass, thus not from social conditions, but from the earth. We have previously shown that although surplus-value is manifested in a surplus-product the converse does not hold that a surplus-product, representing a mere increase in the mass of product, constitutes surplus-value. It may represent a minus quantity in value. Otherwise the cotton industry of 1860, compared with that of 1840, would show an enormous surplus-value, whereas on the contrary the price of the yarn has fallen. Rent may increase enormously as a result of a succession of crop failures, because the price of grain rises, although this surplus-value appears as an absolutely decreasing mass of dearer wheat. Conversely, the rent may fall in consequence of a succession of bountiful years, because the price falls, although the reduced rent appears as a greater mass of cheaper wheat. As regards rent in kind, it should be noted now that, in the first place, it is a mere tradition carried over from an obsolete mode of production and managing to prolong its existence as a survival. Its contradiction to the capitalist mode of production is shown by its disappearance of itself from private contracts, and its being forcibly shaken off as an anachronism, wherever legislation was able to intervene as in the case of church tithes in England. Secondly, however, where rent in kind persisted on the basis of capitalist production, it was no more, and could be no more, than an expression of money-rent in medieval garb. Wheat, for instance, is quoted at 40 shillings per quarter. One portion of this wheat must replace the wages contained therein, and must be sold to become available for renewed expenditure. Another portion must be sold to pay its proportionate share of taxes. Seed and even a portion of fertiliser enter as commodities into the process of reproduction, wherever the capitalist mode of production and with it division of social labour are developed, i.e., they must be purchased for replacement purposes; and therefore another portion of this quarter must be sold to obtain money for this. In so far as they need not be bought as actual commodities, but are taken out of the product itself in kind, in order to enter into its reproduction anew as conditions of production — as occurs not only in agriculture, but in many other lines of production producing constant capital — they figure in the books as money of account and are deducted as elements of the cost-price. The wear and tear of machinery, and of fixed capital in general, must be made good in money. And finally comes profit, which is calculated on this sum, expressed as costs either in actual money or in money of account. This profit is represented by a definite portion of the gross product, which is determined by its price. And the excess portion which then remains forms rent. If the rent in kind stipulated by contract is greater than this remainder determined by the price, then it does not constitute rent, but a deduction from profit. Owing to this possibility alone, rent in kind is an obsolete form, in so far as it does not reflect the price of the product, but may be greater or smaller than the real rent, and thus may comprise not only a deduction from profit, but also from those elements required for capital replacement. In fact, this rent in kind, so far as it is rent not merely in name but also in essence, is exclusively determined by the excess of the price of the product over its price of production. Only it presupposes that this variable is a constant magnitude. But it is such a comforting reflection that the product in kind should suffice, first, to maintain the labourer, secondly, to leave the capitalist tenant farmer more food than he needs, and finally, that the remainder should constitute the natural rent. Quite like a manufacturer producing 200,000 yards of cotton goods. These yards of goods not only suffice to clothe his labourers; to clothe his wife, all his offspring and himself abundantly; but also leave over enough cotton for sale, in addition to paying an enormous rent in terms of cotton goods. It is all so simple! Deduct the price of production from 200,000 yards of cotton goods, and a surplus of cotton goods must remain for rent. But it is indeed a naive conception to deduct the price of production of, say, £10,000 from 200,000 yards of cotton goods, without knowing the selling price, to deduct money from cotton goods, to deduct an exchange-value from a use-value as such, and thus to determine the surplus of yards of cotton goods over pounds sterling. It is worse than squaring the circle, which is at least based upon the conception that there is a limit at which straight lines and curves imperceptibly flow together. But such is the prescription of M. Passy. Deduct money from cotton goods, before the cotton goods have been converted into money, either in one’s mind or in reality! What remains is the rent, which, however, is to be grasped naturaliter (see, for instance, Karl Arnd [K. Arnd, Die naturgemässe Volkswirtschaft, gegenüber dem Monopoliengeiste und dem Communismus, Hanau, 1845, S. 461-62. — Ed.]) and not by deviltries of sophistry. The entire restoration of rent in kind is finally reduced to this foolishness, the deduction of the price of production from so many and so many bushels of wheat, and the subtraction of a sum of money from a cubic measure.
If we consider ground-rent in its simplest form, that of labour rent, where the direct producer, using instruments of labour (plough, cattle, etc.) which actually or legally belong to him, cultivates soil actually owned by him during part of the week, and works during the remaining days upon the estate of the feudal lord without any compensation from the feudal lord, the situation here is still quite clear, for in this case rent and surplus-value are identical. Rent, not profit, is the form here through which unpaid surplus-labour expresses itself. To what extent the labourer (a self-sustaining serf) can secure in this case a surplus above his indispensable necessities of life, i.e., a surplus above that which we would call wages under the capitalist mode of production, depends, other circumstances remaining unchanged, upon the proportion in which his labour-time is divided into labour-time for himself and enforced labour-time for his feudal lord. This surplus above the indispensable requirements of life, the germ of what appears as profit under the capitalist mode of production, is therefore wholly determined by the amount of ground-rent, which in this case is not only directly unpaid surplus-labour, but also appears as such. It is unpaid surplus-labour for the "owner" of the means of production, which here coincide with the land, and so far as they differ from it, are mere accessories to it. That the product of the serf must here suffice to reproduce his conditions of labour, in addition to his subsistence, is a circumstance which remains the same under all modes of production. For it is not the result of their specific form, but a natural requisite of all continuous and reproductive labour in general, of any continuing production, which is always simultaneously reproduction, i.e., including reproduction of its own operating conditions. It is furthermore evident that in all forms in which the direct labourer remains the "possessor" of the means of production and labour conditions necessary for the production of his own means of subsistence, the property relationship must simultaneously appear as a direct relation of lordship and servitude, so that the direct producer is not free; a lack of freedom which may be reduced from serfdom with enforced labour to a mere tributary relationship. The direct producer, according to our assumption, is to be found here in possession of his own means of production, the necessary material labour conditions required for the realisation of his labour and the production of his means of subsistence. He conducts his agricultural activity and the rural home industries connected with it independently. This independence is not undermined by the circumstance that the small peasants may form among themselves a more or less natural production community, as they do in India, since it is here merely a question of independence from the nominal lord of the manor. Under such conditions the surplus-labour for the nominal owner of the land can only be extorted from them by other than economic pressure, whatever the form assumed may be. This differs from slave or plantation economy in that the slave works under alien conditions of production and not independently. Thus, conditions of personal dependence are requisite, a lack of personal freedom, no matter to what extent, and being tied to the soil as its accessory, bondage in the true sense of the word. Should the direct producers not be confronted by a private landowner, but rather, as in Asia, under direct subordination to a state which stands over them as their landlord and simultaneously as sovereign, then rent and taxes coincide, or rather, there exists no tax which differs from this form of ground-rent. Under such circumstances, there need exist no stronger political or economic pressure than that common to all subjection to that state. The state is then the supreme lord. Sovereignty here consists in the ownership of land concentrated on a national scale. But, on the other hand, no private ownership of land exists, although there is both private and common possession and use of land.
The specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of direct producers, determines the relationship of rulers and ruled, as it grows directly out of production itself and, in turn, reacts upon it as a determining element. Upon this, however, is founded the entire formation of the economic community which grows up out of the production relations themselves, thereby simultaneously its specific political form. It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers — a relation always naturally corresponding to a definite stage in the development of the methods of labour and thereby its social productivity — which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure and with it the political form of the relation of sovereignty and dependence, in short, the corresponding specific form of the state. This does not prevent the same economic basis — the same from the standpoint of its main conditions — due to innumerable different empirical circumstances, natural environment, racial relations, external historical influences, etc. from showing infinite variations and gradations in appearance, which can be ascertained only by analysis of the empirically given circumstances.
So much is evident with respect to labour rent, the simplest and most primitive form of rent: Rent is here the primeval form of surplus-labour and coincides with it. But this identity of surplus-value with unpaid labour of others need not be analysed here because it still exists in its visible, palpable form, since the labour of the direct producer for himself is still separated in space and time from his labour for the landlord and the latter appears directly in the brutal form of enforced labour for a third person. In the same way the "attribute" possessed by the soil to produce rent is here reduced to a tangibly open secret, for the disposition to furnish rent here also includes human labour-power bound to the soil, and the property relation which compels the owner of labour-power to drive it on and activate it beyond such measure as is required to satisfy his own indispensable needs. Rent consists directly in the appropriation of this surplus expenditure of labour-power by the landlord; for the direct producer pays him no additional rent. Here, where surplus-value and rent are not only identical but where surplus-value has the tangible form of surplus-labour, the natural conditions or limits of rent, being those of surplus-value in general, are plainly clear. The direct producer must 1) possess enough labour-power, and 2) the natural conditions of his labour, above all the soil cultivated by him, must be productive enough, in a word, the natural productivity of his labour must be big enough to give him the possibility of retaining some surplus-labour over and above that required for the satisfaction of his own indispensable needs. It is not this possibility which creates the rent, but rather compulsion which turns this possibility into reality. But the possibility itself is conditioned by subjective and objective natural circumstances. And here too lies nothing at all mysterious. Should labour-power be minute, and the natural conditions of labour scanty, then the surplus-labour is small, but in such a case so are the wants of the producers on the one hand and the relative number of exploiters of surplus-labour on the other, and finally so is the surplus-product, whereby this barely productive surplus-labour is realised for those few exploiting landowners.
Finally, labour rent in itself implies that, all other circumstances remaining equal, it will depend wholly upon the relative amount of surplus-labour, or enforced labour, to what extent the direct producer shall be enabled to improve his own condition, to acquire wealth, to produce an excess over and above his indispensable means of subsistence, or, if we wish to anticipate the capitalist mode of expression, whether he shall be able to produce a profit for himself, and how much of a profit, i.e., an excess over his wages which have been produced by himself. Rent here is the normal, all-absorbing, so to say legitimate form of surplus-labour, and far from being excess over profit, which means in this case being above any other excess over wages, it is rather that the amount of such profit, and even its very existence, depends, other circumstances being equal, upon the amount of rent, i.e., the enforced surplus-labour to be surrendered to the landowners.
Since the direct producer is not the owner, but only a possessor, and since all his surplus-labour de jure actually belongs to the landlord, some historians have expressed astonishment that it should be at all possible for those subject to enforced labour, or serfs, to acquire any independent property, or relatively speaking, wealth, under such circumstances. However, it is evident that tradition must play a dominant role in the primitive and undeveloped circumstances on which these social production relations and the corresponding mode of production are based. It is furthermore clear that here as always it is in the interest of the ruling section of society to sanction the existing order as law and to legally establish its limits given through usage and tradition. Apart from all else, this, by the way, comes about of itself as soon as the constant reproduction of the basis of the existing order and its fundamental relations assumes a regulated and orderly form in the course of time. And such regulation and order are themselves indispensable elements of any mode of production, if it is to assume social stability and independence from mere chance and arbitrariness. These are precisely the form of its social stability and therefore its relative freedom from mere arbitrariness and mere chance. Under backward conditions of the production process as well as the corresponding social relations, it achieves this form by mere repetition of their very reproduction. If this has continued on for some time, it entrenches itself as custom and tradition and is finally sanctioned as an explicit law. However, since the form of this surplus-labour, enforced labour, is based upon the imperfect development of all social productive powers and the crudeness of the methods of labour itself, it will naturally absorb a relatively much smaller portion of the direct producer’s total labour than under developed modes of production, particularly the capitalist mode of production. Take it, for instance, that the enforced labour for the landlord originally amounted to two days per week. These two days of enforced labour per week are thereby fixed, are a constant magnitude, legally regulated by prescriptive or written law. But the productivity of the remaining days of the week, which are at the disposal of the direct producer himself, is a variable magnitude, which must develop in the course of his experience, just as the new wants he acquires, and just as the expansion of the market for his product and the increasing assurance with which he disposes of this portion of his labour-power will spur him on to a greater exertion of his labour-power, whereby it should not be forgotten that the employment of his labour-power is by no means confined to agriculture, but includes rural home industry. The possibility is here presented for definite economic development taking place, depending, of course, upon favourable circumstances, inborn racial characteristics, etc.
The transformation of labour rent into rent in kind changes nothing from the economic standpoint in the nature of ground-rent. The latter consists, in the forms considered here, in that rent is the sole prevailing and normal form of surplus-value, or surplus-labour. This is further expressed in the fact that it is the only surplus-labour, or the only surplus-product, which the direct producer, who is in possession of the labour conditions needed for his own reproduction, must give up to the owner of the land, which in this situation is the all-embracing condition of labour. And, furthermore, that land is the only condition of labour which confronts the direct producer as alien property, independent of him, and personified by the landlord. To whatever extent rent in kind is the prevailing and dominant form of ground-rent, it is further-more always more or less accompanied by survivals of the earlier form, i.e., of rent paid directly in labour, corvée-labour, no matter whether the landlord be a private person or the state. Rent in kind presupposes a higher stage of civilisation for the direct producer, i.e., a higher level of development of his labour and of society in general. And it is distinct from the preceding form in that surplus-labour needs no longer be performed in its natural form, thus no longer under the direct supervision and compulsion of the landlord or his representatives: the direct producer is driven rather by force of circumstances than by direct coercion, through legal enactment rather than the whip, to perform it on his own responsibility. Surplus-production, in the sense of production beyond the indispensable needs of the direct producer, and within the field of production actually belonging to him, upon the land exploited by himself instead of, as earlier, upon the nearby lord’s estate beyond his own land, has already become a self-understood rule here. In this relation the direct producer more or less disposes of his entire labour-time, although, as previously, a part of this labour-time, at first practically the entire surplus portion of it, belongs to the landlord without compensation; except that the landlord no longer directly receives this surplus-labour in its natural form, but rather in the products’ natural form in which it is realised. The burdensome, and according to the way in which enforced labour is regulated, more or less disturbing interruption by work for the landlord (see Buch I, Kap. VIII, 2) [English edition Ch X, 2 — Ed] ("Manufacturer and Boyard") stops wherever rent in kind appears in pure form, or at least it is reduced to a few short intervals during the year, when a continuation of some corvée-labour side by side with rent in kind takes place. The labour of the producer for himself and his labour for the landlord are no longer palpably separated by time and space. This rent in kind, in its pure form, while it may drag fragments along into more highly developed modes of production and production relations, still presupposes for its existence a natural economy, i.e., that the conditions of the economy are either wholly or for the overwhelming part produced by the economy itself, directly replaced and reproduced out of its gross product. It furthermore presupposes the combination of rural home industry with agriculture. The surplus-product, which forms the rent, is the product of this combined agricultural and industrial family labour, no matter whether rent in kind contains more or less of the industrial product, as is often the case in the Middle Ages, or whether it is paid only in the form of actual products of the land. In this form of rent it is by no means necessary for rent in kind, which represents the surplus-labour, to fully exhaust the entire surplus-labour of the rural family. Compared with labour rent, the producer rather has more room for action to gain time for surplus-labour whose product shall belong to himself, as well as the product of his labour which satisfies his indispensable needs. Similarly, this form will give rise to greater differences in the economic position of the individual direct producers. At least the possibility for such a differentiation exists, and the possibility for the direct producer to have in turn acquired the means to exploit other labourers directly. This, however, does not concern us here, since we are dealing with rent in kind in its pure form; just as in general we cannot enter into the endless variety of combinations wherein the various forms of rent may be united, adulterated and amalgamated. The form of rent in kind, by being bound to a definite type of product and production itself and through its indispensable combination of agriculture and domestic industry, through its almost complete self-sufficiency whereby the peasant family supports itself through its independence from the market and the movement of production and history of that section of society lying outside of its sphere, in short owing to the character of natural economy in general, this form is quite adapted to furnishing the basis for stationary social conditions as we see, e.g., in Asia. Here, as in the earlier form of labour rent, ground-rent is the normal form of surplus-value, and thus of surplus-labour, i.e., of the entire excess labour which the direct producer must perform gratis, hence actually under compulsion although this compulsion no longer confronts him in the old brutal form — for the benefit of the owner of his essential condition of labour, the land. The profit, if by erroneously anticipating we may thus call that portion of the direct producer’s labour excess over his necessary labour, which he retains for himself, has so little to do with determining rent in kind, that this profit, on the contrary, grows up behind the back of rent and finds its natural limit in the size of rent in kind. The latter may assume dimensions which seriously imperil reproduction of the conditions of labour, the means of production themselves, rendering the expansion of production more or less impossible and reducing the direct producers to the physical minimum of means of subsistence. This is particularly the case, when this form is met with and exploited by a conquering commercial nation, e.g., the English in India.
By money-rent — as distinct from industrial and commercial ground-rent based upon the capitalist mode of production, which is but an excess over average profit — we here mean the ground-rent which arises from a mere change in form of rent in kind, just as the latter in turn is but a modification of labour rent. The direct producer here turns over instead of the product, its price to the landlord (who may be either the state or a private individual). An excess of products in their natural form no longer suffices; it must be converted from its natural form into money-form. Although the direct producer still continues to produce at least the greater part of his means of subsistence himself, a certain portion of this product must now be converted into commodities, must be produced as commodities. The character of the entire mode of production is thus more or less changed. It loses its independence, its detachment from social connection. The ratio of cost of production, which now comprises greater or lesser expenditures of money, becomes decisive; at any rate, the excess of that portion of gross product to be converted into money over that portion which must serve, on the one hand, as means of reproduction again, and, on the other, as means of direct subsistence, assumes a determining role. However, the basis of this type of rent, although approaching its dissolution, remains the same as that of rent in kind, which constitutes its point of departure. The direct producer as before is still possessor of the land either through inheritance or some other traditional right, and must perform for his lord, as owner of his most essential condition of production, excess corvée-labour, that is, unpaid labour for which no equivalent is returned, in the form of a surplus-product transformed into money. Ownership of the conditions of labour as distinct from land, such as agricultural implements and other goods and chattels, is transformed into the property of the direct producer even under the earlier forms of rent, first in fact, and then also legally, and even more so is this the precondition for the form of money-rent. The transformation of rent in kind into money-rent, taking place first sporadically and then on a more or less national scale, presupposes a considerable development of commerce, of urban industry, of commodity-production in general, and thereby of money circulation. It furthermore assumes a market-price for products, and that they be sold at prices roughly approximating their values, which need not at all be the case under earlier forms. In Eastern Europe we may still partly observe this transformation taking place under our very eyes. How unfeasible it can be without a certain development of social labour productivity is proved by various unsuccessful attempts to carry it through under the Roman Empire, and by relapses into rent in kind after seeking to convert at least the state tax portion of this rent into money-rent. The same transitional difficulties are evidenced, e.g., in pre-revolutionary France, when money-rent was combined with and adulterated by, survivals of its earlier forms.
Money-rent, as a transmuted form of rent in kind, and in antithesis to it, is, nevertheless, the final form, and simultaneously the form of dissolution of the type of ground-rent which we have heretofore considered, namely ground-rent as the normal form of surplus-value and of the unpaid surplus-labour to be performed for the owner of the conditions of production. In its pure form, this rent, like labour rent and rent in kind, represents no excess over profit. It absorbs the profit, as it is understood. In so far as profit arises beside it practically as a separate portion of excess labour, money-rent like rent in its earlier forms still constitutes the normal limit of such embryonic profit, which can only develop in relation to the possibilities of exploitation, be it of one’s own excess labour or that of another, which remains after the performance of the surplus-labour represented by money-rent. Should any profit actually arise along with this rent, then this profit does not constitute the limit of rent, but rather conversely, the rent is the limit of the profit. However, as already indicated, money-rent is simultaneously the form of dissolution of the ground-rent considered thus far, coinciding prima facie with surplus-value and surplus-labour, i.e., ground-rent as the normal and dominant form of surplus-value.
In its further development money-rent must lead — aside from all intermediate forms, e.g., the small peasant tenant farmer — either to the transformation of land into peasants’ freehold, or to the form corresponding to the capitalist mode of production, that is, to rent paid by the capitalist tenant farmer.
With money-rent prevailing, the traditional and customary legal relationship between landlord and subjects who possess and cultivate a part of the land, is necessarily turned into a pure money relationship fixed contractually in accordance with the rules of positive law. The possessor engaged in cultivation thus becomes virtually a mere tenant. This transformation serves on the one hand, provided other general production relations permit, to expropriate more and more the old peasant possessors and to substitute capitalist tenants in their stead. On the other hand, it leads to the former possessor buying himself free from his rent obligation and to his transformation into an independent peasant with complete ownership of the land he tills. The transformation of rent in kind into money-rent is furthermore not only inevitably accompanied, but even anticipated, by the formation of a class of propertyless day-labourers, who hire themselves out for money. During their genesis, when this new class appears but sporadically, the custom necessarily develops among the more prosperous peasants subject to rent payments of exploiting agricultural wage-labourers for their own account, much as in feudal times, when the more well-to-do peasant serfs themselves also held serfs. In this way, they gradually acquire the possibility of accumulating a certain amount of wealth and themselves becoming transformed into future capitalists. The old self-employed possessors of land themselves thus give rise to a nursery school for capitalist tenants, whose development is conditioned by the general development of capitalist production beyond the bounds of the country-side. This class shoots up very rapidly when particularly favourable circumstances come to its aid, as in England in the 16th century, where the then progressive depreciation of money enriched them under the customary long leases at the expense of the landlords.
Furthermore: as soon as rent assumes the form of money-rent, and thereby the relationship between rent-paying peasant and landlord becomes a relationship fixed by contract — a development which is only possible generally when the world-market, commerce and manufacture have reached a certain relatively high level — the leasing of land to capitalists inevitably also makes its appearance. The latter hitherto stood beyond the rural limits and now carry over to the countryside and agriculture the capital acquired in the cities and with it the capitalist mode of operation developed — i.e., creating a product as a mere commodity and solely as a means of appropriating surplus-value. This form can become the general rule only in those countries which dominate the world-market in the period of transition from the feudal to the capitalist mode of production. When the capitalist tenant farmer steps in between landlord and actual tiller of the soil, all relations which arose out of the old rural mode of production are torn asunder. The farmer becomes the actual commander of these agricultural labourers and the actual exploiter of their surplus-labour, whereas the landlord maintains a direct relationship, and indeed simply a money and contractual relationship, solely with this capitalist tenant. Thus, the nature of rent is also transformed, not merely in fact and by chance, as occurred in part even under earlier forms, but normally, in its recognised and prevailing form. From the normal form of surplus-value and surplus-labour, it descends to a mere excess of this surplus-labour over that portion of it appropriated by the exploiting capitalist in the form of profit; just as the total surplus-labour, profit and excess over profit, is extracted directly by him, collected in the form of the total surplus-product, and turned into cash. It is only the excess portion of this surplus-value which is extracted by him from the agricultural labourer by direct exploitation, by means of his capital, which he turns over to the landlord as rent. How much or how little he turns over to the latter depends, on the average, upon the limits set by the average profit which is realised by capital in the non-agricultural spheres of production, and by the prices of non-agricultural production regulated by this average profit. From a normal form of surplus-value and surplus-labour, rent has now become transformed into an excess over that portion of the surplus-labour claimed in advance by capital as its legitimate and normal share, and characteristic of this particular sphere of production, the agricultural sphere of production. Profit, instead of rent, has now become the normal form of surplus-value and rent still exists solely as a form, not of surplus-value in general, but of one of its offshoots, surplus-profit, which assumes an independent form under particular circumstances. It is not necessary to elaborate the manner in which a gradual transformation in the mode of production itself corresponds to this transformation. This already follows from the fact that it is normal for the capitalist tenant farmer to produce agricultural products as commodities, and that, while formerly only the excess over his means of subsistence was converted into commodities, now but a relatively insignificant part of these commodities is directly used by him as means of subsistence. It is no longer the land, but rather capital, which has now brought even agricultural labour under its direct sway and productiveness.
The average profit and the price of production regulated thereby are formed outside of relations in the country-side and within the sphere of urban trade and manufacture. The profit of the rent-paying peasant does not enter into it as an equalising factor, for his relation to the landlord is not a capitalist one. In so far as he makes profit, i.e., realises an excess above his necessary means of subsistence, either by his own labour or through exploiting other people’s labour, it is done behind the back of the normal relationship, and other circumstances being equal, the size of this profit does not determine rent, but on the contrary, it is determined by the rent as its limit. The high rate of profit in the Middle Ages is not entirely due to the low composition of capital, in which the variable component invested in wages predominates. It is due to swindling on the land, the appropriation of a portion of the landlord’s rent and of the income of his vassals. If the country-side exploits the town politically in the Middle Ages, wherever feudalism has not been broken down by exceptional urban development — as in Italy, the town, on the other hand, exploits the land economically everywhere and without exception, through its monopoly prices, its system of taxation, its guild organisation, its direct commercial fraudulence and its usury.
One might imagine that the mere appearance of the capitalist farmer in agricultural production would prove that the price of agricultural products, which from time immemorial have paid rent in one form or another, must be higher, at least at the time of this appearance, than the prices of production of manufacture whether it be because the price of such agricultural products has reached a monopoly price level, or has risen as high as the value of the agricultural products, and their value actually is above the price of production regulated by the average profit. For were this not so, the capitalist farmer could not at all realise, at the existing prices of agricultural produce, first the average profit out of the price of these products, and then pay out of the same price an excess above this profit in the form of rent. One might conclude from this that the general rate of profit, which guides the capitalist farmer in his contract with the landlord, has been formed without including rent, and, therefore, as soon as it assumes a regulating role in agricultural production, it finds this excess at hand and pays it to the landlord. It is in this traditional manner that, for instance, Herr Rodbertus explains the matter. [J. Rodbertus, Sociale Briefe an von Kirchmann, Dritter Brief: Widerlegung der Ricardo’schen Lehre von der Grundrente und Begründung einer neuen Rententheorie. See also K. Marx, Theorien über den Mehrwert. 2. Teil, 1957, pp. 3-106, 142-54. — Ed.] But:
First. This appearance of capital as an independent and leading force in agriculture does not take place all at once and generally, but gradually and in particular lines of production. It encompasses at first, not agriculture proper, but such branches of production as cattle-breeding, especially sheep-raising, whose principal product, wool, offers at the early stages a constant excess of market-price over price of production during the rise of industry, and this does not level out until later. Thus in England during the 16th century.
Secondly. Since this capitalist production appears at first but sporadically, the assumption cannot be disputed that it first extends only to such land categories as are able, through their particular fertility, or their exceptionally favourable location, to generally pay a differential rent.
Thirdly. Let us even assume that at the time this mode of production appeared — and this indeed presupposes an increasing preponderance of urban demand — the prices of agricultural products were higher than the price of production, as was doubtless the case in England during the last third of the 17th century. Nevertheless, as soon as this mode of production has somewhat extricated itself from the mere subordination of agriculture to capital, and as soon as agricultural improvement and the reduction of production costs, which necessarily accompany its development, have taken place, the balance will be restored by a reaction, a fall in the price of agricultural produce, as happened in England in the first half of the 18th century.
Rent, thus, as an excess over the average profit cannot be explained in this traditional way. Whatever may be the existing historical circumstances at the time rent first appears, once it has struck root it cannot exist except under the modern conditions earlier described.
Finally, it should be noted in the transformation of rent in kind into money-rent that along with it capitalised rent, or the price of land, and thus its alienability and alienation become essential factors, and that thereby not only can the former peasant subject to payment of rent be transformed into an independent peasant proprietor, but also urban and other moneyed people can buy real estate in order to lease it either to peasants or capitalists and thus enjoy rent as a form of interest on their capital so invested; that, therefore, this circumstance likewise facilitates the transformation of the former mode of exploitation, the relation between owner and actual cultivator of the land, and of rent itself.
We have now arrived at the end of our elaboration of ground-rent.
In all these forms of ground-rent, whether labour rent, rent in kind, or money-rent (as merely a changed form of rent in kind), the one paying rent is always supposed to be the actual cultivator and possessor of the land, whose unpaid surplus-labour passes directly into the hands of the landlord. Even in the last form, money-rent in so far as it is "pure," i.e., merely a changed form of rent in kind — this is not only possible, but actually takes place.
As a transitory form from the original form of rent to capitalist rent, we may consider the metayer system, or share-cropping, under which the manager (farmer) furnishes labour (his own or another’s), and also a portion of working capital, and the landlord furnishes, aside from land, another portion of working capital (e.g., cattle), and the product is divided between tenant and landlord in definite proportions which vary from country to country. On the one hand, the farmer here lacks sufficient capital required for complete capitalist management. On the other hand, the share here appropriated by the landlord does not bear the pure form of rent. It may actually include interest on the capital advanced by him and an excess rent. It may also absorb practically the entire surplus-labour of the farmer, or leave him a greater or smaller portion of this surplus-labour. But, essentially, rent no longer appears here as the normal form of surplus-value in general. On the one hand, the sharecropper, whether he employs his own or another’s labour, is to lay claim to a portion of the product not in his capacity as labourer, but as possessor of part of the instruments of labour, as his own capitalist. On the other hand, the landlord claims his share not exclusively on the basis of his land-ownership, but also as lender of capital.[44a]
A survival of the old communal ownership of land, which had endured after the transition to independent peasant farming, e.g., in Poland and Rumania, served there as a subterfuge for effecting a transition to the lower forms of ground-rent. A portion of the land belongs to the individual peasant and is tilled independently by him. Another portion is tilled in common and creates a surplus-product, which serves partly to cover community expenses, partly as a reserve in cases of crop failure, etc. These last two parts of the surplus-product, and ultimately the entire surplus-product including the land upon which it has been grown, are more and more usurped by state officials and private individuals, and thus the originally free peasant proprietors, whose obligation to till this land in common is maintained, are transformed into vassals subject either to corvée-labour or rent in kind; while the usurpers of common land are transformed into owners, not only of the usurped common lands, but even the very lands of the peasants themselves.
We need not further investigate slave economy proper (which likewise passes through a metamorphosis from the patriarchal system mainly for home use to the plantation system for the world-market) nor the management of estates under which the landlords themselves are independent cultivators, possessing all instruments of production, and exploiting the labour of free or unfree bondsmen, who are paid either in kind or money. Landlord and owner of the instruments of production, and thus the direct exploiter of labourers included among these elements of production, are in this case one and the same person. Rent and profit likewise coincide then, there occurring no separation of the different forms of surplus-value. The entire surplus-labour of the labourers, which is manifested here in the surplus-product, is extracted from them directly by the owner of all instruments of production, to which belong the land and, under the original form of slavery, the immediate producers themselves. Where the capitalist outlook prevails, as on American plantations, this entire surplus-value is regarded as profit; where neither the capitalist mode of production itself exists, nor the corresponding outlook has been transferred from capitalist countries, it appears as rent. At any rate, this form presents no difficulties. The income of the landlord, whatever it may be called, the available surplus-product appropriated by him, is here the normal and prevailing form, whereby the entire unpaid surplus-labour is directly appropriated, and landed property forms the basis of such appropriation.
Further, proprietorship of land parcels. The peasant here is simultaneously the free owner of his land, which appears as his principal instrument of production, the indispensable field of employment for his labour and his capital. No lease money is paid under this form. Rent, therefore, does not appear as a separate form of surplus-value, although in countries in which otherwise the capitalist mode of production is developed, it appears as a surplus-profit compared with other lines of production; but as surplus-profit which, like all proceeds of his labour in general, accrues to the peasant.
This form of landed property presupposes, as in the earlier older forms, that the rural population greatly predominates numerically over the town population, so that, even if the capitalist mode of production otherwise prevails, it is but relatively little developed, and thus also in the other lines of production the concentration of capital is restricted to narrow limits and a fragmentation of capital predominates. In the nature of things, the greater portion of agricultural produce must be consumed as direct means of subsistence by the producers themselves, the peasants, and only the excess above that will find its way as commodities into urban commerce. No matter how the average market-price of agricultural products may here be regulated, differential rent, an excess portion of commodity-prices from superior or more favourably located land, must evidently exist here much as under the capitalist mode of production. This differential rent exists, even where this form appears under social conditions, under which no general market-price has as yet been developed; it appears then in the excess surplus-product. Only then it flows into the pockets of the peasant whose labour is realised under more favourable natural conditions. The assumption here is generally to be made that no absolute rent exists, i.e., that the worst soil does not pay any rent — precisely under this form where the price of land enters as a factor in the peasant’s actual cost of production whether because in the course of this form’s further development either the price of land has been computed at a certain money-value, in dividing up an inheritance, or, during the constant change in ownership of an entire estate, or of its component parts, the land has been bought by the cultivator himself, largely by raising money on mortgage; and, therefore, where the price of land, representing nothing more than capitalised rent, is a factor assumed in advance, and where rent thus seems to exist independently of any differentiation in fertility and location of the land. For, absolute rent presupposes either realised excess in product value above its price of production, or a monopoly price exceeding the value of the product. But since agriculture here is carried on largely as cultivation for direct subsistence, and the land exists as an indispensable field of employment for the labour and capital of the majority of the population, the regulating market-price of the product will reach its value only under extraordinary circumstances. But this value will, generally, be higher than its price of production owing to the preponderant element of living labour, although this excess of value over price of production will in turn be limited by the low composition even of non-agricultural capital in countries with an economy composed predominantly of land parcels. For the peasant owning a parcel, the limit of exploitation is not set by the average profit of capital, in so far as he is a small capitalist; nor, on the other hand, by the necessity of rent, in so far as he is a landowner. The absolute limit for him as a small capitalist is no more than the wages he pays to himself, after deducting his actual costs. So long as the price of the product covers these wages, he will cultivate his land, and often at wages down to a physical minimum. As for his capacity as land proprietor, the barrier of ownership is eliminated for him, since it can make itself felt only vis-à-vis a capital (including labour) separated from land-ownership, by erecting an obstacle to the investment of capital. It is true, to be sure, that interest on the price of land — which generally has to be paid to still another individual, the mortgage creditor — is a barrier. But this interest can be paid precisely out of that portion of surplus-labour which would constitute profit under capitalist conditions. The rent anticipated in the price of land and in the interest paid for it can therefore be nothing but a portion of the peasant’s capitalised surplus-labour over and above the labour indispensable for his subsistence, without this surplus-labour being realised in a part of the commodity-value equal to the entire average profit, and still less in an excess above the surplus-labour realised in the average profit, i.e., in a surplus-profit. The rent may be a deduction from the average profit, or even the only portion of it which is realised. For the peasant parcel holder to cultivate his land, or to buy land for cultivation, it is therefore not necessary, as under the normal capitalist mode of production, that the market-price of the agricultural products rise high enough to afford him the average profit, and still less a fixed excess above this average profit in the form of rent. It is not necessary, therefore, that the market-price rise, either up to the value or the price of production of his product. This is one of the reasons why grain prices are lower in countries with predominant small peasant land proprietorship than in countries with a capitalist mode of production. One portion of the surplus-labour of the peasants, who work under the least favourable conditions, is bestowed gratis upon society and does not at all enter into the regulation of price of production or into the creation of value in general. This lower price is consequently a result of the producers’ poverty and by no means of their labour productivity.
This form of free self-managing peasant proprietorship of land parcels as the prevailing, normal form constitutes, on the one hand, the economic foundation of society during the best periods of classical antiquity, and on the other hand, it is found among modern nations as one of the forms arising from the dissolution of feudal land ownership. Thus, the yeomanry in England, the peasantry in Sweden, the French and West German peasants. We do not include colonies here, since the independent peasant there develops under different conditions.
The free ownership of the self-managing peasant is evidently the most normal form of landed property for small-scale operation, i.e., for a mode of production, in which possession of the land is a prerequisite for the labourer’s ownership of the product of his own labour, and in which the cultivator, be he free owner or vassal, always must produce his own means of subsistence independently, as an isolated labourer with his family. Ownership of the land is as necessary for full development of this mode of production as ownership of tools is for free development of handicraft production. Here is the basis for the development of personal independence. It is a necessary transitional stage for the development of agriculture itself. The causes which bring about its downfall show its limitations. These are: Destruction of rural domestic industry, which forms its normal supplement as a result of the development of large-scale industry; a gradual impoverishment and exhaustion of the soil subjected to this cultivation; usurpation by big landowners of the common lands, which constitute the second supplement of the management of land parcels everywhere and which alone enable it to raise cattle; competition, either of the plantation system or large-scale capitalist agriculture. Improvements in agriculture, which on the one hand cause a fall in agricultural prices and, on the other, require greater outlays and more extensive material conditions of production, also contribute towards this, as in England during the first half of the 18th century.
Proprietorship of land parcels by its very nature excludes the development of social productive forces of labour, social forms of labour, social concentration of capital, large-scale cattle-raising, and the progressive application of science.
Usury and a taxation system must impoverish it everywhere. The expenditure of capital in the price of the land withdraws this capital from cultivation. An infinite fragmentation of means of production, and isolation of the producers themselves. Monstrous waste of human energy. Progressive deterioration of conditions of production and increased prices of means of production — an inevitable law of proprietorship of parcels. Calamity of seasonal abundance for this mode of production.
One of the specific evils of small-scale agriculture where it is combined with free land-ownership arises from the cultivator’s investing capital in the purchase of land. (The same applies also to the transitory form, in which the big landowner invests capital, first, to buy land, and second, to manage it as his own tenant farmer.) Owing to the changeable nature which the land here assumes as a mere commodity, the changes of ownership increase, so that the land, from the peasant’s viewpoint, enters anew as an investment of capital with each successive generation and division of estates, i.e., it becomes land purchased by him. The price of land here forms a weighty element of the individual unproductive costs of production or cost-price of the product for the individual producer.
The price of land is nothing but capitalised and therefore anticipated rent. If capitalist methods are employed by agriculture, so that the landlord receives only rent, and the farmer pays nothing for land except this annual rent, then it is evident that the capital invested by the landowner himself in purchasing the land constitutes indeed an interest-bearing investment of capital for him, but has absolutely nothing to do with capital invested in agriculture itself. It forms neither a part of the fixed, nor of the circulating, capital employed here; it merely secures for the buyer a claim to receive annual rent, but has absolutely nothing to do with the production of the rent itself. The buyer of land just pays his capital out to the one who sells the land, and the seller in return relinquishes his ownership of the land. Thus this capital no longer exists as the capital of the purchaser; he no longer has it; therefore it does not belong to the capital which he can invest in any way in the land itself. Whether he bought the land dear or cheap, or whether he received it for nothing, alters nothing in the capital invested by the farmer in his establishment, and changes nothing in the rent, but merely alters the question whether it appears to him as interest or not, or as higher or lower interest respectively.
Take, for instance, the slave economy. The price paid for a slave is nothing but the anticipated and capitalised surplus-value or profit to be wrung out of the slave. But the capital paid for the purchase of a slave does not belong to the capital by means of which profit, surplus-labour, is extracted from him. On the contrary. It is capital which the slave-holder has parted with, it is a deduction from the capital which be has available for actual production. It has ceased to exist for him, just as capital invested in purchasing land has ceased to exist for agriculture. The best proof of this is that it does not reappear for the slave-holder or the landowner except when he, in turn, sells his slaves or land. But then the same situation prevails for the buyer. The fact that he has bought the slave does not enable him to exploit the slave without further ado. He is only able to do so when he invests some additional capital in the slave economy itself.
The same capital does not exist twice, once in the hands of the seller, and a second time in the hands of the buyer of the land. It passes from the hands of the buyer to those of the seller, and there the matter ends. The buyer now no longer has capital, but in its stead a piece of land. The circumstance that the rent produced by a real investment of capital in this land is calculated by the new landowner as interest on capital which he has not invested in the land, but given away to acquire the land, does not in the least alter the economic nature of the land factor, any more than the circumstance that someone has paid £1,000 for 3% consols has anything to do with the capital out of whose revenue the interest on the national debt is paid.
In fact, the money expended in purchasing land, like that in purchasing government bonds, is merely capital in itself, just as any value sum is capital in itself, potential capital, on the basis of the capitalist mode of production. What is paid for land, like that for government bonds or any other purchased commodity, is a sum of money. This is capital in itself, because it can be converted into capital. It depends upon the use put to it by the seller whether the money obtained by him is really transformed into capital or not. For the buyer, it can never again function as such, no more than any other money which he has definitely paid out. It figures in his accounts as interest-bearing capital, because he considers the income, received as rent from the land or as interest on state indebtedness, as interest on the money which the purchase of the claim to this revenue has cost him. He can only realise it as capital through resale. But then another, the new buyer, enters the same relationship maintained by the former, and the money thus expended cannot be transformed into actual capital for the expender through any change of hands.
In the case of small landed property the illusion is fostered still more that land itself possesses value and thus enters as capital into the price of production of the product, much as machines or raw materials. But we have seen that rent, and therefore capitalised rent, the price of land, can enter as a determining factor into the price of agricultural products in only two cases. First, when as a consequence of the composition of agricultural capital — a capital which has nothing to do with the capital invested in purchasing land — the value of the products of the soil is higher than their price of production, and market conditions enable the landlord to realise this difference. Second, when there is a monopoly price. And both are least of all the case under the management of land parcels and small land-ownership because precisely here production to a large extent satisfies the producers’ own wants and is carried on independently of regulation by the average rate of profit. Even where cultivation of land parcels is conducted upon leased land, the lease money comprises, far more so than under any other conditions, a portion of the profit and even a deduction from wages; this money is then only a nominal rent, not rent as an independent category as opposed to wages and profit.
The expenditure of money-capital for the purchase of land, then, is not an investment of agricultural capital. It is a decrease pro tanto in the capital which small peasants can employ in their own sphere of production. It reduces pro tanto the size of their means of production and thereby narrows the economic basis of reproduction. It subjects the small peasant to the money-lender, since credit proper occurs but rarely in this sphere in general. It is a hindrance to agriculture, even where such purchase takes place in the case of large estates. It contradicts in fact the capitalist mode of production, which is on the whole indifferent to whether the landowner is in debt, no matter whether he has inherited or purchased his estate. The nature of management of the leased estate itself is not altered whether the landowner pockets the rent himself or whether he must pay it out to the holder of his mortgage.
We have seen that, in the case of a given ground-rent, the price of land is regulated by the interest rate. If the rate is low, then the price of land is high, and vice versa. Normally, then, a high price of land and a low interest rate should go hand in hand, so that if the peasant paid a high price for the land in consequence of a low interest rate, the same low rate of interest should also secure his working capital for him on easy credit terms. But in reality, things turn out differently when peasant proprietorship of land parcels is the prevailing form. In the first place, the general laws of credit are not adapted to the farmer, since these laws presuppose a capitalist as the producer. Secondly, where proprietorship of land parcels predominates — we are not referring to colonies here — and the small peasant constitutes the backbone of the nation, the formation of capital, i.e., social reproduction, is relatively weak, and still weaker is the formation of loanable money-capital, in the sense previously elaborated. This presupposes the concentration and existence of a class of idle rich capitalists (Massie). [ [Massie] An Essay on the Governing Causes of the Natural Rate of Interest, London, 1750, pp 23-24. — Ed] Thirdly, here where the ownership of the land is a necessary condition for the existence of most producers, and an indispensable field of investment for their capital, the price of land is raised independently of the interest rate, and often in inverse ratio to it, through the preponderance of the demand for landed property over its supply. Land sold in parcels brings a far higher price in such a case than when sold in large tracts, because here the number of small buyers is large and that of large buyers is small (Bandes Noires, [Associations of profiteers. — Ed.] Rubichon; Newman [Newman, Lectures on Political Economy, London, 1851, pp. 180-81. — Ed.]). For all these reasons, the price of land rises here with a relatively high rate of interest. The relatively low interest, which the peasant derives here from the outlay of capital for the purchase of land (Mounier), corresponds here, on the other side, to the high usurious interest rate which he himself has to pay to his mortgage creditors. The Irish system bears out the same thing, only in another form.
The price of land, this element foreign to production in itself, may therefore rise here to such a point that it makes production impossible (Dombasle).
The fact that the price of land plays such a role, that purchase and sale, the circulation of land as a commodity, develops to this degree, is practically a result of the development of the capitalist mode of production in so far as a commodity is here the general form of all products and all instruments of production. On the other hand, this development takes place only where the capitalist mode of production has a limited development and does not unfold all of its peculiarities, because this rests precisely upon the fact that agriculture is no longer, or not yet, subject to the capitalist mode of production, but rather to one handed down from extinct forms of society. The disadvantages of the capitalist mode of production, with its dependence of the producer upon the money-price of his product, coincide here therefore with the disadvantages occasioned by the imperfect development of the capitalist mode of production. The peasant turns merchant and industrialist without the conditions enabling him to produce his products as commodities.
The conflict between the price of land as an element in the producers’ cost-price and no element in the price of production (even though the rent enters as a determining factor into the price of the agricultural product, the capitalised rent, which is advanced for 20 years or more, by no means enters as a determinant) is but one of the forms manifesting the general contradiction between private land-ownership and a rational agriculture, the normal social utilisation of the soil. But on the other hand, private land ownership, and thereby expropriation of the direct producers from the land — private land-ownership by the one, which implies lack of ownership by others — is the basis of the capitalist mode of production.
Here, in small-scale agriculture, the price of land, a form and result of private land-ownership, appears as a barrier to production itself. In large-scale agriculture, and large estates operating on a capitalist basis, ownership likewise acts as a barrier, because it limits the tenant farmer in his productive investment of capital, which in the final analysis benefits not him, but the landlord. In both forms, exploitation and squandering of the vitality of the soil (apart from making exploitation dependent upon the accidental and unequal circumstances of individual producers rather than the attained level of social development) takes the place of conscious rational cultivation of the soil as eternal communal property, an inalienable condition for the existence and reproduction of a chain of successive generations of the human race. In the case of small property, this results from the lack of means and knowledge of applying the social labour productivity. In the case of large property, it results from the exploitation of such means for the most rapid enrichment of farmer and proprietor. In the case of both through dependence on the market-price.
All critique of small landed property resolves itself in the final analysis into a criticism of private ownership as a barrier and hindrance to agriculture. And similarly all counter-criticism of large landed property. In either case, of course, we leave aside all secondary political considerations. This barrier and hindrance, which are erected by all private landed property vis-à-vis agricultural production and the rational cultivation, maintenance and improvement of the soil itself, develop on both sides merely in different forms, and in wrangling over the specific forms of this evil its ultimate cause is forgotten.
Small landed property presupposes that the overwhelming majority of the population is rural, and that not social, but isolated labour predominates; and that, therefore, under such conditions wealth and development of reproduction, both of its material and spiritual prerequisites, are out of the question, and thereby also the prerequisites for rational cultivation. On the other hand, large landed property reduces the agricultural population to a constantly falling minimum, and confronts it with a constantly growing industrial population crowded together in large cities. It thereby creates conditions which cause an irreparable break in the coherence of social interchange prescribed by the natural laws of life. As a result, the vitality of the soil is squandered, and this prodigality is carried by commerce far beyond the borders of a particular state (Liebig). [ Liebig, Die Chemie in ihrer Anwendung auf Agricultur und Physiologie, Braunschweig, 1862. — Ed.]
While small landed property creates a class of barbarians standing halfway outside of society, a class combining all the crudeness of primitive forms of society with the anguish and misery of civilised countries, large landed property undermines labour-power in the last region, where its prime energy seeks refuge and stores up its strength as a reserve fund for the regeneration of the vital force of nations — on the land itself. Large-scale industry and large-scale mechanised agriculture work together. If originally distinguished by the fact that the former lays waste and destroys principally labour-power, hence the natural force of human beings, whereas the latter more directly exhausts the natural vitality of the soil, they join hands in the further course of development in that the industrial system in the countryside also enervates the labourers, and industry and commerce on their part supply agriculture with the means for exhausting the soil.
42a. Adam Smith emphasises how, in his time (and this applies also to the plantations in tropical and subtropical countries in our own day), rent and profit were not yet divorced from one another [Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Aberdeen, London, 1848, p. 44. — Ed.], for the landlord was simultaneously a capitalist, just as Cato, for instance, was on his estates. But this separation is precisely the prerequisite for the capitalist mode of production, to whose conception the basis of slavery moreover stands in direct contradiction.
43. Herr Mommsen, in his "Roman History," by no means uses the term capitalist in the sense employed by modern economics and modern society, but rather in the manner of popular conception, such as still continues to thrive, though not in England or America, but nevertheless on the European continent, as an ancient tradition reflecting bygone conditions.
44. Following the conquest of a country, the immediate aim of a conqueror was also to convert its people to his own use. Cf. Linguet [Théorie des loi civiles, ou Principes fondamentaux de la société, Tomes I-II, Londres, 1767. — Ed.]. See also Möser [Osnabrükische Geschichte, 1. Theil, Berlin und Stettin, S. 178. — Ed.].
44a. Cf Buvet [Cours d’économie politique, Bruxelles, 1842. — Ed.] Tocqueville [L’ancien régime et la révolution, Paris, 1856. — Ed.], Sismondi [Nouveaux principes d’économie politique. — Seconde édition, Tome I, Paris, 1827. — Ed.]
45. See the speech from the throne of the King of France in Tooke. [New-march, A History of Prices, and of the State of the Circulation, during the nine years 1848-56, Vol. VI, London. 1857, pp. 29-30. — Ed.]
46. See Mounier [De l’agriculture en France, Paris, 1846. — Ed.] and Rubichon [Du méchanisme de la société en France et en Angleterre, Paris. 1837. — Ed.].
47. Dr. H. Maron (Extensiv oder Intensiv?) [no further information given about this pamphlet] starts from the false assumption of the adversaries he opposes. He assumes that capital invested in the purchase of land is "investment capital," and then engages in a controversy about the respective definitions of investment capital and working capital, that is, fixed and circulating capital. His wholly amateurish conceptions of capital in general, which may be excused incidentally in one who is not an economist in view of the state of German political economy, conceal from him that this capital is neither investment nor working capital, any more than the capital which someone invests at the Stock Exchange in purchasing stocks or government securities, and which, for him, represents a personal investment of capital, is "invested" in any branch of production.