Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

Origin of the capitalist farmer
Repercussion of the agrarian revolution on industry
Creation of the home market for industrial capital

PRIMARY ACCUMULATION: Origin of the capitalist farmer -- Repercussion of the agrarian revolution on industry -- Creation of the home market for industrial capital

Now that we have recorded the forcible means by which masterless proletarians were created, have studied the barbarous discipline which transformed them into wage workers, have taken note of the disgraceful activities on the part of the State which turned its policemen to account in order to increase the accumulation of capital by increasing the degree of exploitation of labor, we can return to the question, whence the capital originally came.

The expropriation of the rural population, as far as its direct effects are concerned, could only create great landowners. But the origin of the capitalist farmer is a matter upon which we can, so to say, put our fingers, for it was a slow process, continuing through many centuries. The serfs, like the free petty proprietors, held land under varying tenures, and were therefore emancipated under multiform economic conditions. . . .

As long as, during the fifteenth century, the independent peasant, and the farm laborer who worked part of his time on his own account, were able to enrich themselves by their own labor, the circumstances of the farmer remained mediocre, and his field of production was restricted. But the agricultural revolution during the last third of the fifteenth century and the greater part of the sixteenth century enriched the farmer as rapidly as it impoverished the mass of the rural population. The usurpation of the common lands, etc., enabled him to effect a notable augmentation of his stock of cattle almost without cost, and the cattle provided him with abundant manure for the enrichment of his arable land.

In the sixteenth century a decisive factor was super-added. In those days farming leases were made for long terms, often for ninety-nine years. The continued fall in the value of the precious metals, and therefore in the value of money, bore golden fruit for the farmer. The depreciation of the currency reinforced the before-mentioned causes of a fall in wages. Part of what had been wages, therefore, now came to supplement the profits of the farm. The persistent rise in the price of grain, wool, meat, and in a word, all agricultural produce, increased the money capital of the farmer without any action on his part, while the rent he had to pay, being measured in depreciated currency, steadily fell. Thus the farmer was enriched at the expense alike of his laborers and his landlord. No wonder, therefore, that at the close of the sixteenth century, England had a class of "capitalist farmers," men who were wealthy, as wealth was figured in those days.

. . . Although the number of the tillers of the soil was decreased, the land produces as much fruit as before, or even more, for the revolution in property relations was accompanied by improved methods of cultivation, by more cooperation, by more concentration of the means of production, and so on; and also because the agricultural laborers were not only spurred on to more intensive work, but were also to an ever increasing extent deprived of the field of production in which they could work on their own account.

When, therefore, part of the rural population was set free from the land, the means of subsistence with which they had been nourished as landworkers were likewise set free. Such means of subsistence were transformed into the material elements of variable capital. The peasant, expropriated and cast adrift, had to buy the value of these means, in the form of wages, from his new master, the industrial capitalist. As had happened with the means of subsistence, so did it happen with the raw materials that were agricultural means of production. These were transformed into an element of constant capital.

. . . The spindles and the looms, which formerly were distributed all over the countryside, are now assembled in a few large working barracks, and there likewise are the workers and the raw material assembled. Thenceforward, spindles and looms and raw material, which of yore were means of independent existence for spinners and weavers, are transformed into means for controlling these spinners and weavers, and for extracting unpaid labor from them.