Article — From the February 1955 issue

Marx Was a City Boy

Or, why communism may fail

( 2 of 11 )

In short, Marx’s notion was that history would make of the farmer simply an industrial worker of one sort or another; and he could embrace the farmer ultimately in the same formula he mechanically applied to the industrial working class. The farmer, with his passionate. desire to own his own piece of land and to till it in his own interest, annoyed Marx. As a theorist of history, Marx found the farmer out of place; and there is a note of human irritation and annoyance in Marx’s treatment of him. Marx allowed no special place for him and for agriculture in his major writing.

One can dispose of such matters with ease—in theory. But the practical politics of Marxism, from the very beginning, ran into trouble with the peasant of Central and Eastern Europe. Before the revolutions in Russia of 1917, Marxist politicians had the greatest difficulty in gaining any significant base of support among the peasants. The real discontents of European peasants, focussed on land reform and redistribution, were expressed through peasant parties which grew up in the fifty years or so before the first world war. These parties were generally non-Marxist and, often, anti-Marxist. Except for a brief flirtation with the notion that the Russian village organization—the mir—could be built into a Socialist state, Marxist ideas did not harmonize naturally with the impulses of the European peasant. Brushing the peasant aside as a kind of miscast rural industrial worker, Marxism abandoned him to other leaders.

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