Mexico: Maoism and the Land Question

Revolutionary Worker #1092, February 25, 2001, posted at

The following excerpt is taken from an article which appeared in A World to Win (1995/20) by Isidro Serrano.

Why is it that 70 years after the Agrarian Reform the peasants are worse off than ever? Why is it that many of the political bosses of later years in the beginning were "leaders" of that reform who emerged from the Agrarian Reform struggle of the 1930s? Why did that reform establish the basis for the complete subjugation of the peasantry to the bureaucrat bourgeoisie? It was not because the limit of the "small" holdings was 100 hectares instead of 20. It was because the law and the Constitution guaranteed--and continue to guarantee--that the turning over of the land would depend upon the decision of the bourgeois state, in a completely conscious effort by the bourgeoisie to subdue and control the revolutionary struggle of the peasants which the authors of the 1917 Constitution drowned in blood at the same time as they were writing their precious document. That type of agrarian reform that depends upon the "good will" of the bourgeois state, even if it had a formal limit of 20 acres (or 10 or 5), will always be gotten around in part; but even more important, even if it were applied to the letter of the law, the turning over of the land will always come at the price of the subordination and domination of the peasants by the reactionary state. And therefore the domination of big capital and imperialism will remain intact.

The only road to liberation is revolution, and a revolution, as Engels had occasion to remind the reformist socialist of his day, is an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. The road to liberation is People's War which smashes the bourgeois state instead of trying to reform it. That is the first requirement. That revolution must be a New Democratic revolution led by the proletariat and its Marxist-Leninist-Maoist party to overthrow imperialism, big capitalism and semi-feudalism, establish the people's democratic dictatorship of the revolutionary classes and launch the socialist revolution. This is the second requirement. (Is it necessary to add that the new revolutionary state will not base itself on the bourgeois Constitution of 1917?) Outside the general framework of these two requirements, the true liberation of the oppressed, whether in the countryside or the cities, is an impossible illusion.

In this context, the agrarian revolution must be carried out in two phases. The peasants themselves, arms in hand, will seize without compensation the lands of the big capitalists and the big landlords (in accordance with the concrete conditions it could be correct to offer some form of compensation to intermediate forces) and redistribute all of the land. Of course this process must be guided by general criteria formulated by the party and the new revolutionary state, but it must be the work of the revolutionary peasants themselves, since simply handing over the land as a "gift" from the state, even if that state is thoroughly revolutionary, cannot unleash the conscious revolutionary initiative of the masses, which is the only thing that can guarantee the victory of the socialist cause. In this redistribution, the historic rights of Indian groups to the land must be respected as part of the overall struggle to eliminate the oppression of these national minorities.

Imperialist capital and its enterprises as well as those of the comprador bourgeoisie must be confiscated. Their enterprises that provide inputs to the agribultural sector or that market and process its products must become the property of the nation. a struggle will have to be waged to transform the character of former private and state-owned enterprises so that they may serve the agrarian revolution and the peasants, the socialist transformation of the country, and the world proletarian revolution. In terms of enterprises that are specifically agricultural, in general the machinery and some other means of production should not simply be turned over to the peasants who happen to receive the land where these are located, since this would reproduce the current irrational and unequal concentration. Mechanisms must be established for their equal distribution and their collective use.

The first phase of the agrarian revolution will do away completely with semi-feudalism and will smash imperialism and bureaucrat-comprador capital. It will create an opening for a nascent socialist economic sector and a new free peasant economy and will represent a great step forward. However, in the end, the "free" (spontaneous) development of the peasant economy according to the laws of the market is a form of capitalist development which leads to polarization of the peasantry into a minority of capitalists and a great majority of exploited. Only socialism can liberate the peasants. Collectivization, a useless reform under capitalism, in the context of the political power of the proletariat and the other revolutionary classes and the initiation of the socialist revolution throughout society, becomes the road to socialism in the countryside.

Why--if bureaucrat capitalism in many cases has already socialised to a significant degree the process of agricultural production--do we call for dividing up the land only to later call for socializing production through collectivization? Why not convert the large agricultural holdings directly into state or collective property? There are some means of production like high-tech cow milk production that should be made use of, and in which some form of social property will be necessary from the beginning; and as already stated, agricultural machinery in general will have to be employed in some form that allows for a more equitable distribution and collective use. However, the division of the land among the peasants is in a general sense a necessary step for three reasons:

First, it corresponds to the most thorough elimination of semi-feudal relations and the subordination of the peasant economy, and will lead (along with more equal distribution of machinery, credit and other inputs) to minimizing today's large disequilibriums, distortions and inequalities in agriculture. In contrast, the direct conversion of the large agricultural enterprises into state property or collective enterprises, which would inevitably involve only a minority of peasants, would leave intact the concentrations of the means of production in a limited sector and maintain the backwardness of the overall peasant economy.

Second, true revolutionary transformation requires the most profound rupture with imperialism: self-sufficiency, abolition of technological dependency on the supply of machinery and other inputs, the reorientation of production for the imperialist markets toward production for the needs of the masses, etc. All of this (and the revolutionary war itself) implies certain disruptions in highly technological forms of production. The peasants in contrast, have a great wealth of experience in production with limited technology. On the other hand, the peasant economy adapts naturally to the production of basic foodstuffs, and agriculture will have to be reoriented urgently toward that sort of production. In contrast, the policy of directly converting the large holdings into state property in situations in which agriculture is still not capitalist has been part of the programme which leaves intact essential elements of the dependency on imperialism (of both blocs) for technology, machinery, credits, and markets. This has been the experience of the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions which did not overcome the structure of agricultural/ export dependency.

Finally, the most important reason is political: the main struggle of the oppressed in the countryside today is the struggle for land, and that struggle must be respected. The redivision of the land by the revolutionary peasants will strength the worker-peasant alliance under proletarian leadership as the core of the new state power and will create the firmest possible basis for collectivization to be truly voluntary and a conscious act of the peasants themselves.

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