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

Share Farming and Small Peasants' Property

TRANSFORMATION OF SURPLUS VALUE INTO GROUND-RENT: share farming and small peasants' property

. . . As a form of transition from the original form of rent to capitalist rent, we may consider the meairie system, or share farming, under which the manager (tenant) furnishes not only labor (his own or that of others) but also a portion of the capital, and the landlord furnishes, aside from the land, another portion of the capital (for instance, cattle), and the product is divided between the tenant and the landlord according to definite shares, which differ in various countries.

In this case the tenant lacks the capital required for a thorough capitalist operation of agriculture. On the other hand, the share thus appropriated by the landlord has not the pure form of rent. It may actually include interest on the capital advanced by him and a surplus rent. It may also absorb practically all the surplus labor of the tenant, or leave to him a greater or smaller portion of this surplus labor.

But the essential point is that rent no longer appears here as the normal form of surplus value in general.

On the one hand, the tenant, whether he employ his own labor or another's, is supposed to have a claim upon a portion of the product, not in his capacity as a laborer, but as a possessor of a part of the instruments of labor, as his own capitalist. On the other hand, the landlord claims his share not exclusively in his capacity as the owner of the land, but also as a lender of capital. . . .

There is, furthermore, the small peasant's property. Here the farmer is the free owner of his land, which appears as his principal instrument of production, the indispensable field of employment for his labor and his capital. No lease money is paid under this form.

Rent, therefore, does not appear as a separate form of surplus value here, although in countries in which capitalist industry in other lines is developed, it appears as a surplus profit by comparison with other lines of production. But it is a surplus profit which, like all the rest of the product of his labor, falls into the hands of the farmer himself.

. . . Under these conditions, the greater part of the rural product will have to be consumed, as a direct means of subsistence, by the producers, the farmers themselves, and only the surplus above that will pass as commodities into the commerce with the cities. . . .

The free ownership of the self-employing farmer is evidently the most normal form of landed property for small scale production, that is, for a mode of production in which the possession of the land is a prerequisite for the ownership of the product of his own labor by the laborer, and in which the agriculturist, whether he be a free owner or a vassal, always has to produce his own means of subsistence independently, as a single laborer with his family.

The ownership of the soil is as necessary for the complete development of this mode of production as the ownership of the instrument is for the free development of handicraft production. This ownership forms here the basis for the development of personal independence. It is a necessary stage of transition for the development of agriculture itself. The causes which bring about its downfall show its limitations.

These causes are: destruction of rural home industries, which form its normal supplement, as a result of the development of great industries; a gradual deterioration and exhaustion of the soil subjected to this cultivation; usurpation, on the part of the great landlords, of the community lands, which form everywhere the second supplement of small peasants' property and alone enable them to keep cattle; competition, either of plantation systems or of great agricultural enterprises carried out on a capitalist scale.

Improvements of agriculture, which on the one hand bring about a fall in the prices of the products of the soil, and on the other require greater investments and more diversified material conditions of production, also contribute towards this end, as they did in England during the first half of the eighteenth century.