Social Scientist. v 9, no. 103 (Dec 1981) p. 26.

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Neo-Populism and Marxism: The Chayanovian View of the Agrarian Question and its Fundamental Fallacy


THE neo-populist viewpoint on the agrarian question, developed in Russia from the late nineteenth century against Marxist theory, enjoys a modified revival in India today. The theoretical care of the neo-Populist framework consists in the idea of an economically undifferentiated, virtually homogeneous peasantry, which shows extreme stability and viability vis-a-vis the competition of capitalist production; and is of superior efficiency with respect to yield. There is a basic logical fallacy underlying this view, consisting in the positing of identical conditions of production for units with differing objectives of production—"subsistence" for pesant holdings and "profit" for capitalist holdings—in a situation where they coexist and are linked through markets. In fact capitalist production cannot emerge at all unless it is accompanied by a rise in output and surplus per unit area compared to petty production,which presupposes technical change. The logical necessity of differing conditions of production implies that all the neo-Populist propositions are invalid.

When V I Lenin wrote that voluminous classic, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, from Siberian exile in the late 1890s, he intended not only to present a definitive Marxist analysis of the new capitalist production relations which were growing out of and

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