Social Scientist. v 2, no. 13 (Aug 1973) p. 55.


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COMMUNICATION

Development of Capitalist Production in Agriculture

N RAM (Social Scientist^ December 1972) has contested almost every proposition put forward by me on the above question. Let us start with what seem to be the more important points of difference between us.

N Ram concurs word for word with P Chattopadhyay in alleging that I am guilty of "one basic theoretical mistake : the failure to see capital as a relation.^ This is an attractive charge to make since it has the virtue of simplicity. In fact, it shows only that N Ram has failed even to understand the question I have tried to raise, leave alone evaluate the tentative answer suggested. I am well aware that capital is a social relation involving the bourgeoisie which possesses the means of production on the one hand, and the proletariat which it employs on wages for profit, on the other. The question I have raised is the following : is every social relation in agriculture between employer and wage labourer, necessarily a capitalist relation ? The logical distinction between the two propositions is surely not difficult to grasp: (1) capitalist production relations in agriculture certainly imply social relations involving employers and wage labourers; (2) but do social relations involving employers and agricultural labourers, in every historical situation, imply capitalist production relations in agriculture ? Neither history nor logic gives an unambiguously affirmative answer to this question; and nothing that N Ram (or P Chattopadhyay) have said so far, has thrown any further light on it. The question at dispute is not at all whether capital is a social relation; but whether the particular social relations, between landowners and agricultural wage labourers which developed in colonial India, are to be identified as capitalist relations.

We answer this question in the negative : the special conditions under which the class of agricultural labourers was formed and employed, suggest that we should be extremely wary of identifying its existence with capitalist production relations over a substantial sector of Indian agriculture. (We thus question the theoretical basis of the Kofovsky and Gupta estimates of the extent of capitalist farming). There is no point in recapitulating the argument in detail; in its broad outlines it may be summarised as follows : ^ imperialism certainly did break down the



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