Tuesday, December 31, 2013

José Carlos Mariátegui, "The Problem of Land" from Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality

The Agrarian Problem and the Indian Problem
Those of us who approach and define the Indian problem from a Socialist point of view must start out by declaring the complete obsolescence of the humanitarian and philanthropic points of view which, like a prolongation of the apostolic battle of Las Casas, continued to motivate the old pro-Indian campaign. We shall try to establish the basically economic character of the problem. First, we protest against the instinctive attempt of the criollo or mestizo to reduce it to an exclusively administrative, pedagogical, ethnic, or moral problem in order to avoid at all cost recognizing its economic aspect. Therefore, it would be absurd to accuse us of being romantic or literary. By identifying it as primarily a socio-economic problem, we are taking the least romantic and literary position possible. We are not satisfied to assert the Indian’s right to education, culture, progress, love, and heaven. We begin by categorically asserting his right to land. This thoroughly materialistic claim should suffice to distinguish us from the heirs or imitators of the evangelical fervor of the great Spanish friar, whom, on the other hand, our materialism does not prevent us from admiring and esteeming.
The problem of land is obviously too bound up with the Indian problem to be conveniently mitigated or diminished. Quite the contrary. As for myself, I shall try to present it in unmistakable and clearcut terms.
The agrarian problem is first and foremost the problem of eliminating feudalism in Peru, which should have been done by the democratic-bourgeois regime that followed the War of Independence. But in its one hundred years as a republic, Peru has not had a genuine bourgeois class, a true capitalist class. The old feudal class—camouflaged or disguised as a republican bourgeoisie—has kept its position. The policy of disentailment, initiated by the War of Independence as a logical consequence of its ideology, did not lead to the development of small property. The old landholding class had not lost its supremacy. The survival of the latifundistas, in practice, preserved the latifundium. Disentailment struck at the Indian community. During a century of Republican rule, great agricultural property actually has grown stronger and expanded, despite the theoretical liberalism of our constitution and the practical necessities of the development of our capitalist economy.
There are two expressions of feudalism that survive: the latifundium and servitude. Inseparable and of the same substance, their analysis leads us to the conclusion that the servitude oppressing the indigenous race cannot be abolished unless the latifundium is abolished.
When the agrarian problem is presented in these terms, it cannot be easily distorted. It appears in all its magnitude as a socio-economic, and therefore a political, problem, to be dealt with by men who move in this sphere of acts and ideas. And it is useless to try to convert it, for example, into a technical-agricultural problem for agronomists.
Everyone must know that according to individualist ideology, the liberal solution to this problem would be the breaking up of the latifundium to create small property. But there is so much ignorance of the elementary principles of socialism that it is worthwhile repeating that this formula—the breaking up of the latifundium in favor of small property—is neither Utopian, nor heretical, nor revolutionary, nor Bolshevik, nor avant-garde, but orthodox, constitutional, democratic, capitalist, and bourgeois. It is based on the same liberal body of ideas that produced the constitutional laws of all democratic-bourgeois states. In the countries of Central and Eastern Europe—Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Poland, Bulgaria, et cetera—agrarian laws have been passed limiting land ownership, in principle, to a maximum of five hundred hectares. Here, the Great War razed the last ramparts of feudalism with the sanction of the capitalist West, which since then has used precisely this bloc of anti-Bolshevik countries as a bulwark against Russia.
In keeping with my ideological position, I believe that the moment for attempting the liberal, individualist method in Peru has already passed. Aside from reasons of doctrine, I consider-that our agrarian problem has a special character due to an indisputable and concrete factor: the survival of the Indian “community” and of elements of practical socialism in indigenous agriculture and life.
If those who hold a democratic-liberal doctrine are truly seeking a solution to the problem of the Indian that, above all, will free him from servitude, they can turn to the Czechoslovakian or Rumanian experience rather than the Mexican example, which they may find dangerous given its inspiration and process. For them it is still time to advocate a liberal formula. They would at least ensure that discussion of the agrarian problem by the new generation would not altogether lack the liberal philosophy that, according to written history, has governed the life of Peru since the foundation of the republic.
The problem of land sheds light on the Socialist or vanguardist attitude toward the remains of the viceroyalty. Literary perricholismo does not interest us except as an indication or reflection of economic colonialism. The colonial heritage that we want to do away with is not really the one of romantic damsels screened from sight behind shawls or shutters, but the one of a feudal system with its gamonalismo, latifundium, and servitude. Colonial literature—nostalgic evocation of the viceroyalty and its pomp—is for me only the mediocre product of a spirit engendered and nourished by that regime. The viceroyalty does not survive in the perricholismo of troubadors and storytellers. It survives in a feudalism that contains the germs of an undeclared capitalism. We decry not our Spanish but our feudal legacy.
Spain brought us the Middle Ages: the Inquisition, feudalism, et cetera. Later it brought us the Counter Reformation: a reactionary spirit, a Jesuit method, a scholastic casuistry. We have painfully rid ourselves of most of these afflictions by assimilating Western culture, sometimes obtained through Spain itself. But we are still burdened with their economic foundations embedded in the interests of a class whose hegemony was not destroyed by the War of Independence. The roots of feudalism are intact and they are responsible for the lag in our capitalist development.
The land tenure system determines the political and administrative system of the nation. The agrarian problem, which the republic has not yet been able to solve, dominates all other problems. Democratic and liberal institutions cannot flourish or operate in a semi-feudal economy.
The subordination of the Indian problem to the problem of land is even more absolute, for special reasons. The indigenous race is a race of farmers. The Inca people were peasants, normally engaged in agriculture and shepherding. Their industries and arts were typically domestic and rural. The principle that life springs from the soil was truer in the Peru of the Incas than in any other country. The most notable public works and collective enterprises of Tawantinsuyo were for military, religious or agricultural purposes. The irrigation canals of the sierra and the coast and the agricultural terraces of the Andes remain the best evidence of the degree of economic organization reached by Inca Peru. Its civilization was agrarian in all its important I aspects. Valcarcel, in his study of the economic life of Tawantinsuyo, writes that “the land, in native tradition, is the common mother; from her womb come not only food but man himself. Land provides all wealth. The cult of Mama Pacha is on a par with the worship of the sun and, like the sun, Mother Earth represents no one in particular. Joined in the aboriginal ideology, these two concepts gave birth to agrarianism, which combines communal ownership of land and the universal religion of the sun.”[1]
Inca communism, which cannot be negated or disparaged for having developed under the autocratic regime of the Incas, is therefore designated as agrarian communism. The essential traits of the Inca economy, according to the careful definition of our historical process by Cesar Ugarte, were the following:
Collective ownership of farmland by the ayllu or group of related families, although the property was divided into individual and non-transferable lots; collective ownership of waters, pasture, and woodlands by the marca or tribe, or the federation of ayllus settled around a village; cooperative labor; individual allotment of harvests and produce.[2]
Colonization unquestionably must bear the responsibility for the disappearance of this economy, together with the culture it nourished, not because it destroyed autochthonous forms but because it brought no superior substitutes. The colonial regime disrupted and demolished the Inca agrarian economy without replacing it with an economy of higher yields. Under the indigenous aristocracy, the natives made up a nation of ten million men, with an integrated government that efficiently ruled all its territory; under a foreign aristocracy, the natives became a scattered and anarchic mass of a million men reduced to servitude and peonage.
In this respect, demographic data are the most convincing and decisive. Although the Inca regime may be censured in the name of modern liberal concepts of liberty and justice, the positive and material historical fact is that it assured the subsistence and growth of a population that came to ten million when the conquistadors arrived in Peru, and that this population after three centuries of Spanish domination had fallen to one million. Colonization stands condemned not from any abstract, theoretical, or moral standpoint of justice, but from the practical, concrete, and material standpoint of utility.
Colonization, failing to organize even a feudal economy in Peru, introduced elements of a slave economy.
The Policy of Colonization: Depopulation and Slavery
It is easy to explain why the Spanish colonial regime was incapable of organizing a purely feudal economy in Peru. It is impossible to organize an economy without a clear understanding and sure appreciation, if not of its principles, at least of its needs. An indigenous, integrated economy develops alone. It spontaneously determines its own institutions. But a colonial economy is established on bases that are in part artificial and foreign, subordinate to the interests of the colonizer. Its normal development depends on the colonizer’s ability either to adapt himself to local conditions or to change them.
The Spanish colonizer conspicuously lacked this ability. He had an exaggerated idea of the economic value of natural wealth and absolutely no idea of the economic value of man.
With the practice of exterminating the indigenous population and destroying its institutions, the conquistadors impoverished and bled, more than they could realize, the fabulous country they had won for the king of Spain. Later, a nineteenth-century South American statesman, impressed by the spectacle of a semi-deserted continent, was to prescribe an economic principle for his epoch: “To govern is to populate.” The Spanish colonizer, completely alien to this criterion, systematically depopulated Peru.
The persecution and enslavement of the Indian rapidly consumed resources that had been unbelievably underestimated by the colonizers: human capital. As the Spaniards found that they daily needed more labor for the exploitation of the wealth they had conquered, they resorted to the most antisocial and primitive system of colonization: the importation of slaves. The colonizer thereby renounced, on the other hand, an undertaking that the conquistador had thought feasible: the assimilation of the Indian. The Negro race he imported had to serve, among other things, to reduce the demographic imbalance between white and Indian.
The greed for precious metals—entirely logical in a century when distant lands could not send Europe any other product drove the Spaniards to engage principally in mining. Therefore, they sought to convert to mining a people who had been essentially agricultural under the Inca and even before, and they ended by having to subject the Indian to the harsh law of slavery. Agricultural labor, under a naturally feudal system, would have made the Indian a serf bound to the land. Labor in mines and cities was to turn him into a slave. With the mita, the Spaniards established a system of forced labor and uprooted the Indian from his soil and his customs.
The importation of Negro slaves, which supplied laborers and domestic servants to the Spanish population on the coast, where the viceroyal court was located, helped mask its economic and political error from Spain. Slavery was injected into the regime, corrupting and weakening it.
In his study of the social situation in colonial Peru, Professor Javier Prado, whose premises I naturally do not share, reached conclusions that deal with an aspect of precisely this failure of colonization:
The Negro, considered as commercial merchandise and imported to America as a human labor machine, was to water the earth with the sweat of his brow, but without making it fruitful. It is the pattern of elimination followed by civilization in the history of all peoples. The slave is unproductive in his labor, as he was in the Roman Empire and as he has been in Peru. In the social organism he is a cancer that erodes national sentiments and ideals. In this way, the slave has disappeared from Peru, leaving behind barren < fields and having taken revenge on the white race by mixing his blood with the latter’s. By this vicious alliance, he debased the moral and intellectual judgment of those who were first his cruel masters and later his godfathers, companions, and brothers.[3]
The colonizer was not guilty of having brought an inferior race—this was the customary reproach of sociologists of fifty years ago—but of having brought slaves. Slavery was doomed to fail, both as a means of economic exploitation and organization of the colony and as a reinforcement of a regime based only on conquest and force.
Coastal agriculture still has not rid itself of its colonial defects, which derive largely from the slave system. The coastal lati-fundista never has asked for men, but for labor, to till his fields. Therefore, when he ran out of Negro slaves he found their successors in Chinese coolies. This other encomendero type of importation, like that of the Negroes, conflicted with the normal formation of a liberal economy consistent with the political order established by the War of Independence. Cesar Ugarte recognizes this in his study of the Peruvian economy when he states flatly that Peru needed “men,” not “labor.”[4]
The Spanish Colonizer
Colonization’s inability to organize the Peruvian economy on its natural agricultural bases is explained by the kind of colonizer that came to Peru. Whereas in North America colonization planted the seeds of the spirit and economy then growing in Europe and representing the future, the Spaniard brought to America the effects and methods of an already declining spirit and economy that belonged to the past. This thesis may seem overly simplified to those who look only at its economic aspect and who are, unknowingly, the survivors of old-fashioned scholarly rhetoric. They share the common weakness of our historians: an incomprehension of economic reality. For this reason, I was glad to find in Jose Vasconcelos’ recent book, Indologia, an opinion that has the virtue of coming from a philosopher who cannot be accused of too much Marxism or too little Hispanism.
If there were not so many other causes of both a moral and physical order that amply explain the apparently reckless spectacle of the enormous progress of the Saxons in the North and the slow, aimless pace of the Latins in the South, a mere comparison of the two property systems would suffice to explain this contrast. In the North, there were no kings to dispose of another’s land as though it were their own. Without any special favors from their monarchs and in a sort of moral rebellion against the king of England, the colonizers of the north proceeded to develop a system of private property under which each one paid the price of his land and occupied only as much as he could cultivate. In place of encomiendas, there were farms. In place of a military and landed aristocracy descended from a servile and murderous nobility, there developed a democracy that at first followed only the French precepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The men of the north conquered virgin forest, but the general who led them to victory against the Indians was not allowed to take possession, in our tradition, “as far as the eye can see.” The newly won lands were not turned over to the king for him to give away at his discretion and thereby create a nobility with double morals: a lackey of the sovereign and an insolent oppressor of the weak masses. In the north, the republic, which coincided with a great expansionist movement, set aside a large part of the land and created vast reserves barred to private business. It did not use them to create duchies or to reward patriotic services, but to promote popular education. In that way, as the population increased, the rising value of the land paid the rising costs of education. When new cities arose in the middle of the desert, their lots were not distributed among favorites; they were put up for public sale, after first being subdivided according to an overall plan for the new city, with the condition that no one person could purchase many lots at once. This wise and just social system is the source of North America’s strength. Because we did not act similarly, we have fallen far behind.[5]
Feudalism is, as Vasconcelos implies, a blight inflicted upon us by colonialism. Countries that were able to cure themselves of it after independence have progressed; those that are still afflicted are backward. We already have seen how feudalism and slavery are related evils.
The Spaniard did not have the Anglo-Saxon’s conditions of colonization. The United States is considered to be the creation of the pioneer. Spain, after the epic of the conquest, sent us practically nothing but nobles, priests, and adventurers. The conquistadors were of heroic stock; the colonizers were not. Those who thought the wealth of Peru lay in its precious metals converted mining into a factor in the liquidation of human resources and the decline of agriculture by using forced labor. Accusations are even found in civilismo literature. Javier Prado writes that “the state of agriculture in the viceroyal period was absolutely deplorable, due to the absurd economic system maintained by the Spaniards,” and that the system of exploitation was responsible for depopulating the country.[6]
The colonizer who worked mines instead of fields had the mentality of a gold prospector. He was not, consequently, a creator of wealth. An economy, a society, are the work of those who colonize and bring to life the land, not of those who extract treasures from its subsoil. The history of the flowering and decay of many colonial populations in the sierra, determined by the discovery and abandonment of mines quickly exhausted or discarded, fully demonstrates this historical law in Peru.
Perhaps the only true colonizers sent to us by Spain were the Jesuit and Dominican missionaries. Both orders, but especially the Jesuits, created several interesting production centers in Peru. The Jesuits introduced religious, political, and economic elements into their enterprise, not to the same extent, but using the same principles, as in Paraguay, where they carried out their most famous and extensive experiment.
These religious activities were consistent not only with Jesuit policy all over Spanish America but with the tradition of monasteries in the Middle Ages. One of the roles of the monastery in medieval society was economic. In a warlike and mystic era, they undertook to preserve the techniques of the arts and crafts, refining and elaborating materials; this later served as a basis for bourgeois industry. Georges Sorel is one of the modern economists who best define the role of the monastery in the European economy. In his study of the Benedictine order as the prototype of the monastery-industrial enterprise he writes: “At that time, it was very difficult to find capital; for the monks it was a simple matter. Donations from wealthy families rapidly furnished them with great quantities of precious metals, thereby facilitating primitive accumulation of capital. On the other hand, monasteries spent very little and their rules required them to practice a strict economy that recalls the frugal habits of the first capitalists. For a long time, monks were in a position to engage in operations that would increase their fortune.” Sorel tells us how after having rendered distinguished services to Europe that are universally recognized, these institutions swiftly declined, and how the Benedictines “stopped being workers gathered together in an almost capitalist workshop and became bourgeois retired businessmen who thought only of a life of pleasant leisure in the countryside.”[7]
This aspect of colonization, like many others of our economy, has not yet been studied. It has fallen to me, a convinced and declared Marxist, to point it out. I believe this study is essential to the economic justification of any measures adopted by future agrarian policy concerning the properties of monasteries and religious orders, because it will conclusively establish that then-right of ownership, along with the real titles on which it rested, has actually expired.
The “Community” Under the Colonial Regime
The Laws of the Indies protected indigenous property and recognized its communist organization. Legislation relative to Indian “communities” did not attack institutions or customs that were not opposed to the religious spirit and political character of colonization. The agrarian communism of the ayllu, once the Inca state was destroyed, was not incompatible with either one. To the contrary. The Jesuits took advantage of indigenous communism in Peru, in Mexico, and, on a still larger scale, in Paraguay, for purposes of religious instruction. The medieval regime, in theory and practice, reconciled feudal property with community property.
Recognition of the “communities” and of their economic customs by the Laws of the Indies not only shows the realistic wisdom of colonial policy but is absolutely adjusted to feudal theory and practice. The provisions of the colonial laws on “communities,” which maintained the latters’ economic mechanism with no trouble, reformed customs contrary to Catholic doctrine (trial marriage, et cetera) and tended to convert the “community” into a cog in the administrative and fiscal machinery. The “community” could and did exist for the greater glory and profit of king and church.
We know that this legislation was mostly on paper. Indian property could not be adequately protected because of colonial practices. All evidence agrees on this. Ugarte makes the following statements:
Neither the farsighted measures of Toledo nor other measures that were tried out on different occasions prevented a large part of indigenous property from falling legally or illegally into the hands of Spaniards or criollos. One of the institutions that facilitated this plunder was the encomienda. By law, the encomendero was in charge of collecting taxes and of the organization and conversion to Christianity of his tributaries. But in actual fact, he was a feudal lord, owner of lives and haciendas, for he disposed of Indians as if they were trees in a forest and, if they died or disappeared, he took possession by one means or another of their land. In brief, under the colonial agrarian regime, many indigenous agrarian communities | were replaced by individually owned latifundia farmed by Indians within a feudal organization. These great feudal properties, far from being split up over the years, became concentrated and consolidated into few holdings, because real estate was subject to innumerable encumbrances and perpetual assessments that immobilized it, like primogeniture, religious bequests and payments, and other entailments on the property.[8]
Feudalism similarly let rural communes continue in Russia, a country that offers an interesting parallel because in its historical process it is much closer to these agricultural and semi-feudal countries than are the capitalist countries of the West. Eugene Schkaff, in his study of the evolution of the mir in Russia, writes:
Since landlords were liable for the taxes, they wanted every peasant to have approximately the same area of land so that each one would ’ contribute with his labor to pay the taxes; to make sure that these taxes would be paid, they established joint responsibility, which was extended by the government to the rest of the peasants. Land was redistributed as the number of serfs varied. Feudalism and absolutism gradually transformed the communal organization of the peasants into an instrument of exploitation. In this respect, the emancipation of the serfs brought no change.[9]
Under the system of landlords, the Russian mir, like the Peruvian community, was completely denaturalized. The area of land available for community families became more and more inadequate and its distribution increasingly faulty. The mir did not guarantee the peasant enough land to support himself; on the other hand, it guaranteed the landlord a labor supply for his latifundium. When serfdom was abolished in 1861, the landlords found a way to replace it by making their peasants’ lots so small that they could not raise enough food to live on. Russian agriculture thus kept its feudal character. The latifundium owner turned the reform to his advantage. He had already realized that it was in his interest to assign lots to his peasants, provided that they were less than subsistence size. There was no surer means of shackling the peasant to the land and, at the same time, of keeping his emigration down to a minimum. The peasant was forced to work on the landlord’s latifundium not only because of the miserable existence he wrested from his miniscule plot of land but also because the landlord owned pastures, woods, mills, water, et cetera.
The coexistence of “community” and latifundium in Peru is, therefore, fully explained both by the characteristics of the colonial regime and by the experience of feudal Europe. But the “community,” under this system, was tolerated rather than protected. It was subject to the despotic law of the latifundium, and the state could not possibly intervene. The “community” survived, but in a condition of servitude. Previously, it had been the very nucleus of the state, which assured it the energy necessary to the welfare of its members. Colonialism petrified it within the great property that supported a new state, alien to its destiny.
The liberalism of the laws of the republic^ powerless to destroy feudalism and create capitalism, later denied the “community” the formal protection that it had been granted by the absolutism of colonial laws.
The War of Independence and Agrarian Property
We shall now examine the problem of land under the republic. In order to define my points of view about this period as regards the agrarian question, I must emphasize an opinion that I already have expressed about the character of the War of Independence in Peru. Independence found Peru to be backward in the formation of its bourgeoisie. The elements of a capitalist economy were less developed in our country than in other countries of America, where the struggle for independence could count on an emerging bourgeoisie.
If the War of Independence had been a movement of the indigenous masses or had championed their cause, it would necessarily have had an agrarian cast. It is already clearly demonstrated that the French Revolution especially benefited the rural class and depended on it to prevent the return of the old regime. This phenomenon, furthermore, seems in general to be true of bourgeois as well as Socialist revolution judging by the more precise and enduring results of the overthrow of feudalism in Central Europe and czarist Russia. Although mainly the urban bourgeoisie and proletariat have directed and carried out both kinds of revolution, the peasant has been the immediate beneficiary. Particularly in Russia, the rural class has gathered the first fruits of the Bolshevik revolution, because there was no bourgeois revolution to destroy feudalism and absolutism and to initiate a liberal democratic regime.
But achievement of these objectives by a liberal democratic revolution presupposes two conditions: the existence of a bourgeoisie that knows where it is going and why; and the existence of a revolutionary spirit in the peasant class and, above all, of a declaration of the peasants’ right to land, in defiance of the power of the landowning aristocracy. In Peru these conditions existed even less than in other countries at the time of the War of Independence. The revolution had triumphed because the peoples of the continent had been obliged to join together against Spanish rule and because world political and economic circumstances were in its favor. The continental nationalism of the Spanish American revolutionaries and the enforced association of their destinies combined to bring the most backward abreast of the most advanced peoples in their march toward capitalism.
In his study of the Argentine and, therefore, of the American revolution, Echevarria classifies society in the following manner:
American society was divided into three classes with conflicting interests and without any moral or political bond. The first class was comprised of the lawyers, clergy, and authorities; the second class was made up of those who became rich through monopolies or good luck; the third class contained the workers, known as gauchos and compadritos in the Rio de la Plata, cholos in Peru, rotos in Chile, and leperos in Mexico. The Indian and African castes were slaves who lived outside of society. The first class, with the power and privileges of the hidalgo, produced nothing and enjoyed a life of ease; it was an aristocracy largely composed of Peninsular Spaniards and included very few criollos. The second class also lived in comfort, peacefully engaged in industry or commerce; it was the middle class that sat on the municipal council. The third class was the only one that contributed manual labor to production and it was made up of artisans and every kind of proletariat. American descendants of the first two classes who had received some education in America or in Spain were the ones to raise the banner of the revolution.[10]
The struggle for independence in many cases united the land-holding nobility and the bourgeois merchants, either because the former had been indoctrinated with liberal ideas or because it regarded the revolution as only a liberation movement from the Spanish crown. The peasant population, which in Peru was In-’ dian, did not participate directly or actively in the war, and the revolutionary program did not represent its claims.
But this program was inspired by liberal ideology. The revolution could not exclude principles that supported agrarian reform founded on the practical necessity and theoretical justice of freeing the land from its feudal shackles. The republic introduced these principles into its statutes. Peru did not have a bourgeoisie to apply them in accordance with its economic interests and its political and legal doctrine. Although the republic—following the course and dictates of history—was established on liberal and bourgeois principles, the practical effects of independence on agricultural property could not help but be limited by the interests of the large landowners.
Therefore, the disentailment of agricultural property required by the basic policies of the republic did not attack the latifundium. And if, on the one hand, the new laws in compensation ordered the distribution of land to the Indian, on the other hand, they attacked the “community” in the name of liberal precepts.
Thus was inaugurated a regime that, whatever its principles, made the condition of the Indian to some extent worse instead of better. And this was not the fault of the ideology that inspired the new policy, which, rightly applied, would have ended feudal control of land and converted the Indian into a small landowner.
The new policy formally abolished the mita, the encomienda, et cetera. It included a series of measures that signified the end of the Indian’s serfdom. But since it nevertheless left the power and force of feudal property intact, it invalidated its own measures for protecting the small landowner and farmer.
Although the landholding aristocracy in principle forfeited its privileges, in fact it maintained its position. It continued to be the dominant class in Peru. The revolution had not really raised a new class to power. The professional and business bourgeoisie was too weak to govern. The abolition of forced labor, therefore, never became more than a theoretical declaration because it did not touch the latifundium, and servitude is only one of the aspects of feudalism, not feudalism itself.
The Agrarian Policy of the Republic
During the period of military caudillos that followed the War of Independence, a liberal policy on agricultural property obviously could not be developed or even be formulated. The military caudillo was the natural product of a revolutionary period that had not been able to create a new governing class. In this situation, power was taken over by the military leaders of the revolution, who, on the one hand, enjoyed the prestige of their 1 wartime achievements and, on the other, were in a position to keep themselves in the government by means of armed force. Of course, the caudillo could not remain aloof from the influence of class interests or of opposing historical currents. He was supported by the spineless liberalism and rhetoric of the urban demos and by the colonial conservatism of the landowning class. He was sanctioned by the city’s lawmakers and jurists and by the writers and orators of the latifundium aristocracy. In the contest between liberal and conservative interests, there was no direct and active campaign to vindicate the peasant, which would have compelled the liberals to include the redistribution of agricultural property in their program.
A true statesman, not one of our military bosses of this pe- J riod, would have heeded and dealt with this basic problem.
The military caudillo, furthermore, seems organically incapable of so sweeping a reform, which first and foremost requires an informed legal and economic mind. His tyranny creates an atmosphere that is hostile to new legal and economic principles. Vasconcelos makes this observation:
On an economic level, the caudillo is always the main support of the latifundium. Although he sometimes declares himself to be an enemy of property, there is almost no caudillo who does not end up as an hacendado. The fact is that ^military power inevitably leads to -land appropriation, whether by soldier, caudillo, king, or emperor; despotism and the latifundium go together. This is natural. Economic, like political, rights can only be preserved and defended within a regime of liberty. Absolutism always means poverty for the many and opulence and abusive power for the few. Only democracy, with all its defects, has been able to take us closer to the best achievements of social justice—at least, democracy as it is before it degenerates into the imperialism of republics that are too wealthy and that are surrounded by decadent peoples. In any event, among us the caudillo and military government have cooperated in the development of the latifundium. Just a glance at the property titles of our great landowners would reveal that almost all owe their wealth first to the Spanish crown and later to concessions and illegal favors granted to the influential generals of our false republics. Benefits and concessions have been granted over and over again without any regard for the rights of entire Indian or mestizo populations, who were helpless to assert their ownership.[11]
A new legal and economic order must be, in any case, the work of a class and not of a caudillo. When the class exists, the caudillo acts as its interpreter and trustee. His policy is no longer determined by his personal judgment but by a group of collective interests and requirements. Peru lacked a middle class capable of organizing a strong and efficient state. Militarism represented an elementary and provisional order that, as soon as it could be dispensed with, needed to be replaced by a more advanced and integrated order. It could not understand or even consider the agrarian problem. Elementary and immediate problems absorbed its limited action. Castilla was the military caudillo at his best. His shrewd opportunism, slyness, crudeness, and absolute empiricism prevented him from adopting a liberal policy until the very end. Castilla realized that the liberals of his time were a literary group, a coterie, not a class. Therefore, he cautiously avoided any act that would seriously oppose the interests and principles of the conservative class. But the merits of his policy lie in his reformist and progressive leanings. His acts of greatest historic significance—the abolition of Negro slavery and of forced tribute from the Indians—expressed his liberal attitude. Since the enactment of the Civil Code, Peru has entered a period of gradual organization. It is hardly necessary to point out that the Code signified, among other things, the decline of militarism. Inspired by the same principles as the republic’s early decrees on land, it reinforced and continued the policy of disen-tailment and redistribution of agricultural property. Ugarte, taking note of the progress made by national legislation on land, remarks that the Code “confirmed the legal abolition of the Indian communities and of the entailments; it introduced new legislation establishing occupation as one of the means of acquiring ownerless land; in its rules on inheritance, it tried to favor small property.”[12]
Francisco Garcia Calderon attributed to the Civil Code effects that it actually did not have or, at least, that were not as drastic and absolute as he believed. “The constitution had destroyed privileges and the civil law dividing up properties ended the unequal division of inheritances. This provision resulted, politically, in the death of the oligarchy, the aristocracy, the latifundium; socially, in the rise of the bourgeoisie and the mestizo; economically—by dividing inheritances equally—in the formation of small properties, previously blocked by the great estates of the nobility.”[13]
This was undoubtedly the intention of the codifiers of rights in Peru. However, the Civil Code is merely one of the instruments of liberal policy and capitalist practice. As Ugarte recognizes, the Peruvian legislation “proposes to encourage the democratization of rural property, but by the purely negatived means of removing obstacles rather than by giving the farmers positive protection.”[14] Nowhere has the division, that is, redistribution, of agricultural property been possible without special expropriation laws that have transferred ownership of the land to the class that works on it.
Notwithstanding the Code, small property has not flourished in Peru. To the contrary, the latifundium has been consolidated and extended. And only the property of the Indian “community” has suffered the consequences of this twisted liberalism.
Large Property and Political Power
The two factors that kept the independence movement from taking up the agrarian problem in Peru—the extremely rudimentary state of the urban bourgeoisie and the extra-social situation, as Echevarria defines it, of the Indian—later prevented the governments of the republic from developing a policy aimed in some way at a more equitable distribution of land.
During the period of the military caudillo, it was the latifundia and not the urban demos that grew stronger. With business and finance in the hands of foreigners, the emergence of a vigorous urban bourgeoisie was not economically possible. Spanish education was absolutely incompatible with the ends and needs of industrialism and capitalism; instead of technicians, it trained lawyers, writers, priests, et cetera. Unless the latter felt a special vocation for Jacobinism or demagoguery, they joined the clientele of the landowning class. In turn, business capital, almost exclusively foreign, had no choice but to deal and associate with this aristocracy, which, moreover, tacitly or explicitly continued to dominate political life. In this way, the landholding aristocracy and its adherents became the beneficiaries of the fiscal policy and the exploitation of guano and nitrate. In this way, this group was compelled by its economic role to assume the function of the bourgeoisie in Peru, although it did not lose its colonial and aristocratic vices and prejudices. And in this way, the urban bourgeoisie—professionals and businessmen—were finally absorbed by civilismo.
The power of this class—civilistas or neogodos—was to a large measure derived from ownership of land. In the early years of independence, it was not exactly a class of capitalists, but a class of landowners. As a landowning rather than an educated class, it was able to merge its interests with those of foreign businessmen and creditors and by this token to negotiate with the state and to traffic in the country’s natural resources. Thanks to the properties it had received under the viceroyalty, it possessed business capital under the republic. The privileges of the colony engendered the privileges of the republic.
Therefore, this class naturally and instinctively held the most conservative views on land ownership. The continued extra-social condition of the Indians, on the other hand, meant that there were no peasant masses ready to fight for their rights.
These have been the principal factors in the preservation and development of the latifundium. The liberalism of republican legislation was passive in its attitude toward feudal property and only took action against communal property. Although it could do nothing to the latifundium, it could do a great deal of damage to the “community.” When a people are traditionally communist, dissolving the “community” does not help to create small properties. A society cannot be transformed artificially, still less a peasant society deeply attached to its traditions and its legal institutions. Individualism has not originated in any country’s constitution or civil code. It must be formed through a more complicated and spontaneous process. Destroying the “communities” did not convert the Indians into small landowners or even into free salaried workers; it delivered their lands to the gamonales and their clientele and made it easier for the latifundista to chain the Indian to the latifundium.
It is claimed that the key to the accumulation of agricultural property on the coast has been the need for an adequate water supply. According to this argument, irrigated agriculture in valleys formed by shallow rivers has caused large property to flourish and medium and small property to wither away. But this is a specious argument, with only a grain of truth. The overrated technical or material reasons on which it is based have affected the accumulation of property only since the establishment and development of large-scale commercial agriculture on the coast. Before coastal agriculture acquired a capitalist organization, the factor of irrigation was not important enough to determine the accumulation of property. It is true that the scarcity of irrigation water, because of the difficulties of its widespread distribution, favors the large landowner. But this is not what has kept property from being subdivided. The origins of the coastal latifundium go back to the colonial regime. The depopulation of the coast owing to colonial practices was at the same time one of the consequences of and one of the reasons for large property. The labor problem, which has been the only problem of the coastal landowner, is rooted in the latifundium. Landowners sought to solve it with the Negro slave in the colonial period and with the Chinese coolie in the time of the republic. A vain effort. The earth cannot be populated and, above all, made fruitful with slaves. Thanks to their policy, the great landholders own all the land possible, but they do not have enough men to till it and bring it to life. This is the defense of the large property; but it is also its misfortune and its weakness.
The agrarian situation in the sierra, on the other hand, shows the fallacy of the above argument. The sierra has no water problem. Abundant rainfall allows the latifundium owner and the communal farmer to grow the same crops. Nevertheless, property is also accumulated in the sierra. This circumstance proves that the question is essentially a socio-political one.
The development of commercial crops for an export agriculture in the coastal plantations appears to be wholly dependent on the economic colonization of the Latin American countries by Western capitalism. British businessmen and bankers became interested in these lands when they saw the possibility of using them profitably for the production of sugar, first, and cotton, later. From a very early date, a large part of agricultural property was mortgaged to foreign firms. Hacendados in debt to foreign businessmen and lenders served as intermediaries, almost as sharecroppers, for Anglo-Saxon capitalism in order to guarantee that their fields would be cultivated at minimum cost by wretched laborers bent double under the whip of colonial slave drivers.
But on the coast, the latifundium has reached a fairly advanced level of capitalist technique, although its exploitation still rests on feudal practices and principles. The yields of cotton and sugar cane are those of the capitalist system. Enterprises are heavily financed and land is worked with modern machines and methods. Powerful industrial plants operate to process these products. Meanwhile, in the sierra, yields are usually not higher for latifundium lands than for communal lands. And if we use an objective economic standard and judge a production system by its results, this fact alone hopelessly condemns the land tenure system in the sierra.
The “Community” under the Republic
We have already seen how the formal liberalism of republican legislation only acted against the Indian “community.” The concept of individual property has had almost an antisocial function in the republic, because of its conflict with the existence of the “community.” If the latter had been dissolved and expropriated by a capitalism in vigorous and independent growth, it would have been considered a casualty of economic progress. The Indian would have passed from a mixed system of communism and servitude to a system of free wages. Although this change would have denaturalized him somewhat, it would have placed him in a position to organize and emancipate himself as a class, like the other proletariats of the world. However, the gradual expropriation and absorption of the “community” by the latifundium not only plunged him deeper into servitude, but also destroyed the economic and legal institution that helped safeguard the spirit and substance of his ancient civilization.[15]
During the republican period, national writers and legislators have shown a fairly uniform tendency to condemn the “community” as the residue of a primitive society or the survival of colonial organization. This attitude sometimes has been due to the pressures of gamonalismo and sometimes to the individualist and liberal thought that automatically dominated an overly literary and emotional culture.
Dr. M. V. Villaran, an able and effective representative of this school of thought, has written a study that indicates the need to carefully revise its conclusions concerning the Indian “community.” Dr. Villaran theoretically maintains his liberal position by advocating the principle of individual property, but he accepts in practice the defense of the “communities” against the latifundium by recognizing that they have a function that the state should protect.
But Hildebrando Castro Pozo’s book Nuestra comunidad indigena demonstrates that the first integrated and documented defense of the Indian “community” had to be inspired in socialist thought and be based on a concrete study of its nature carried out according to the research methods of modern sociology and economics. In this interesting study, Castro Pozo approaches the problem of the “community” with a mind free of liberal I prejudices and prepared to evaluate and understand it. He reveals that, despite the attacks of a liberal formalism serving the interests of a feudal regime, the Indian “community” is still a living organism and that, within the hostile environment that\ suffocates and deforms it, it spontaneously shows unmistakable potentialities for evolution and development.
Castro Pozo maintains that “the ayllu or community has conserved its natural peculiarity, its character as an almost family institution that continued to harbor, after the conquest, its main constituents.”[16]
In this he agrees with Valcarcel, whose statements about the ayllu appear to some to be too colored by his ideal of an Indian renaissance.
What are the “communities” and how do they operate at present? Castro Pozo classifies them in the following way:
First—agricultural communities. Second—agricultural and livestock communities. Third—communities of pasture lands and watering places. Fourth—communities that have the use of the land. It should be borne in mind that in a country like ours, where a single institution acquires different characteristics according to the environment in which it has developed, no one type is actually so distinct and different from the others that it can be held up as a model. On the contrary, all the types have some characteristics in common. But since circumstances combine to impose a given kind of life in customs, work systems, properties, and industries, each group has predominant characteristics that make it agricultural, livestock, livestock with communal pastures and water, or usufructuary of the land which unquestionably belonged to the ayllu.[17]
These differences have developed, not through the natural evolution or degeneration of the ancient “community,” but as a result of legislation aimed at the individualization of property and, especially, as a result of the expropriation of communal lands for the latifundium. They demonstrate, therefore, the vitality of the Indian “community,” which invariably reacts by modifying its forms of cooperation and association. The Indian, in spite of one hundred years of republican legislation, has not become an individualist. And this is not because he resists progress, as is claimed by his detractors. Rather, it is because individualism under a feudal system does not find the necessary conditions to gain strength and develop. On the other hand, communism has continued to be the Indian’s only defense. Individualism cannot flourish or even exist effectively outside a system of free competition. And the Indian has never felt less free than when he has felt alone.
Therefore, in Indian villages where families are grouped together that have lost the bonds of their ancestral heritage and community work, hardy and stubborn habits of cooperation and solidarity still survive that are the empirical expression of a Communist spirit. The “community” is the instrument of this spirit. When expropriation and redistribution seem about to liquidate the “community,” indigenous socialism always finds a way to reject, resist, or evade this incursion. Communal work and property are replaced by the cooperation of individuals. As Castro Pozo writes: “Customs have been reduced to mingas or gatherings of all the ayllu to help some member of the community with his walls, irrigation ditches, or house. Work proceeds to the music of harps and violins and the consumption of several quarts of sugar-cane aguardiente, packages of cigarettes, and wads of coca.” These customs have led the Indians to the practice—incipient and rudimentary, to be sure—of the collective contract. Instead of individuals separately offering their services to landowners or contractors, all the able-bodied men of the cooperative jointly contract to do the work.
The “Community” and the Latifundium
The defense of the “community” does not rest on abstract principles of justice or sentimental traditionalist considerations, but on concrete and practical reasons of a social and economic order. In Peru, communal property does not represent a primitive economy that has gradually been replaced by a progressive economy founded on individual property. No; the “communities” have been despoiled of their land for the benefit of the feudal or semi-feudal latifundium, which is constitutionally incapable of technical progress.[18]
On the coast, the latifundium has evolved in its crop cultivation from feudal routine to capitalist technique, while the communist fanning of the Indian “community” has disappeared. But in the sierra the latifundium has preserved its feudal character intact and has put up a much stronger resistance than the “community” to the development of a capitalist economy. In fact, when a “community” is connected by railway to commerce and central transportation, it spontaneously changes into a cooperative. Castro Pozo, who, as head of the Section of Indian Affairs of the Ministry of Development, collected a great deal of information on the life of “communities,” points to the interesting case of the Muquiyauyo “community,” which, he says, combines the characteristics of producer, consumer, and credit cooperative. “As the owner of a magnificent electric plant on the banks of the Mantaro River, which furnishes light and power to the small industries of the districts of Jauja, Concepcion, Mito, Muqui, Sincos, Huaripampa, and Muquiyauyo, it has become a communal institution par excellence. Instead of neglecting its indigenous customs, it has utilized them to carry out the work of the enterprise. It has purchased heavy machinery with the money saved on labor done by the cooperative, which even used women and children to help cart building materials, just as in the mingas that worked on communal construction.”[19]
The latifundium compares unfavorably with the “community” as an enterprise for agricultural production. Within the capitalist system, large property replaces and banishes small agricultural property by its ability to intensify production through the employment of modern farm methods. Industrialization of agriculture is accompanied by accumulation of agrarian property. Large property seems to be justified by the interests of production, which are identified, at least in theory, with the interests of society. But this is not the case of the latifundium and, therefore, it does not meet an economic need. Except for sugar-cane plantations—which produce aguardiente to intoxicate and stupefy the Indian peasant—the latifundium of the sierra generally grows the same crops as the “community,” and it produces no more. Lack of agricultural statistics does not permit an exact estimate of partial differences; but all available data indicate that crop yields of “communities” are not on the average less than those of latifundia. The only production statistics for the sierra are in wheat and they support this conclusion. Castro Pozo, summarizing the data for 1917-1918, writes:
Communal and individual properties harvested an average of 450 and 580 kilos per hectare, respectively. If it is taken into account that most fertile lands are in the hands of the large landowners, since the struggle for land in the south has reached the point where the Indian owner is gotten rid of by force or by murder, and that the ignorance of the communal farmer induces him to lie about the amount of his harvest in fear of new taxes or assessments by minor political authorities or their agents, it can readily be inferred that the higher production figure for individual property is not accurate and that the difference is negligible. Therefore, the two types of properties are identical in means of production and cultivation.[20]
In feudal Russia of the last century, the latifundium showed higher yields than small property. The figures in hectoliters per hectare were as follows: for rye, 11.5 against 9.4; for wheat, 11 against 9.1; for oats, 15.4 against 12.7; for barley, 11.5 against 10.5; and for potatoes, 92.3 against 72.[21]
As a factor of production, the latifundium of the Peruvian sierra turns out to be inferior to the execrated latifundium of czarist Russia.
The “community,” on the one hand, is a system of production that keeps alive in the Indian the moral incentives that stimulate him to do his best work. Castro Pozo very correctly observes that “the Indian community preserves two great economic and social principles that up to now neither the science of sociology nor the empiricism of great industrialists has been able to solve satisfactorily: to contract workers collectively and to have the work performed in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere of friendly competition.”[22]
By dissolving or abandoning the “community,” the system of the feudal latifundium has attacked not only an economic institution but also, and more important, a social institution, one that defends the indigenous tradition, maintains the function of the rural family, and reflects the popular legal philosophy so prized by Proudhon and Sorel.[23]
The Work System—Serf and Wage Earner
In agriculture, the work system is chiefly determined by the property system. It is not surprising, therefore, that to the same extent that the feudal latifundium survives in Peru, servitude survives in various forms and under various names. Agriculture on the coast appears to differ from agriculture in the sierra less in its work system than in its technique. Coastal agriculture has evolved rather rapidly toward a capitalist procedure in farming and in the processing and sale of crops. But it has made little progress in its attitude and conduct as regards labor. Unless forced to by circumstances, the colonial latifundium has not renounced its feudal treatment of the worker.
This phenomenon is not altogether explained by the fact that the old feudal lords have kept their properties and, acting as intermediaries for foreign capital, have adopted the practice but not the spirit of modern capitalism. It is also due to the colonial mentality of a landholding class accustomed to regard labor with the criteria of slave owners and slave traders. In Europe, the feudal lord to some extent represented the primitive patriarchal tradition, so that he naturally felt superior to his serfs but not ethnically or nationally different from them. The aristocratic landowner of Europe has found it possible to accept a new concept and a new practice in his relations with the agricultural worker. In colonial America, however, the white man’s arrogant and deeply rooted belief in the colored man’s inferiority has stood in the way of this transition.
When not Indian, the agricultural worker of the Peruvian coast has been the Negro slave and the Chinese coolie, who are, if possible, held in even greater contempt. The racial prejudices of the medieval aristocrat and the white colonizer have combined in the coastal latifundista.
Yanaconazgo and indenture are not the only expressions of feudal methods that still persist in coastal agriculture. The hacienda is run like a baronial fief. The laws of the state are not applied in the latifundium without the tacit or formal consent of the large landowners. The authority of political or administrative officials is in fact subject to the authority of the landowner in his domain. The latter considers his latifundium to be outside the jurisdiction of the state and he disregards completely the civil rights of the people who live within his property. He collects excise taxes, grants monopolies, and imposes sanctions restricting the liberty of the laborers and their families. Within the hacienda, transportation, business, and even customs are controlled by the landlord. And frequently the huts that he rents to the laborers do not differ greatly from the sheds that formerly served as slave quarters.
The great coastal landowners are not legally entitled to their feudal or semi-feudal rights; but their position of dominance and their vast estates in a territory without industries and without transportation give them almost unrestricted power. Through indenture and yanaconazgo, the large proprietors block the appearance of free-wage contracting, a functional necessity to a liberal and capitalist economy. Indenture, which prevents the laborer from disposing of his person and his labor until he satisfies the obligations he has contracted with the landlord, is unmistakably descended from the semi-slave traffic in coolies; yanaconazgo is a kind of servitude in politically and economically backward villages that has prolonged feudalism into our capitalist age. The Peruvian system of yanaconazgo is identified, for example, with the Russian system of polovnisckestvo, under which crops sometimes were divided equally between landlord and peasant and sometimes only a third was given to the latter.[24]
The coast is so thinly populated that agricultural enterprises constantly face a labor shortage. Yanaconazgo, by giving the scanty native population a minimal guarantee of the use of the land, discourages emigration. Indenture attracts the laborers of the sierra to coastal agriculture by offering them better pay.
This indicates that, in spite of everything and although perhaps only superficially or partially,[25] the situation of the laborer on the haciendas of the coast is better than on the haciendas of the sierra, where feudalism has remained all-powerful. Coastal landowners are compelled to accept, albeit in a restricted and attenuated form, the system of free labor and wages. The laborer keeps his freedom to emigrate as well as to refuse his services to the employer who mistreats him. The proximity of ports and cities and the accessibility of modern transportation and commerce, furthermore, offer the laborer the possibility of escaping his rural destiny and of trying to support himself in another way.
If the agriculture of the coast had been more progressive and capitalist, it would have sought a logical solution to the labor problem. The more enlightened landowners would have realized that the latifundium as it now operates leads to depopulation and that, therefore, the labor problem is one of its most obvious v and inevitable consequences.[26]
As capitalist technique advances in coastal agriculture, the wage earner replaces the yanacon. Scientific farming—the use of machinery, fertilizer, et cetera—is incompatible with routine and primitive agriculture. But the demographic factor—“the labor problem”—is a serious obstacle to this process of capitalist development. In the valleys, yanaconazgo and its variations guarantee the enterprises a minimum of permanent workers. Furthermore, the family of the native resident laborer or yanacon represents a source of future workers for the hacendado.
The large landholders themselves have recognized the advisability of establishing—very gradually and cautiously—colonies of small property owners. Part of the irrigated land in the Imperial Valley has been set aside for small farms. The same principle will be applied to other irrigated zones. An intelligent and experienced landowner recently told me that it was essential for the large estate to have small farms nearby from which to draw labor, in order not to have to depend on migrant workers or indenture. The program of the Agrarian Subdivision Company is part of the official policy to gradually establish small properties.[27]
But since this policy systematically avoids expropriation or, more precisely, large-scale expropriation by the state, for reasons of public interest or distributive justice, and since its possibilities of development are for the moment restricted to a few valleys, it is not likely that small property will promptly and extensively replace yanaconazgo in its demographic function. In valleys where plantation owners cannot contract a supply of labor from the sierra on favorable terms, yanaconazgo in its various forms will coexist with the wage earner for some time.
The forms of sharecropping and tenant farming vary on the coast and in the sierra according to regions, practice, or crops. They also have different names. But within their diversity, they can generally be identified with precapitalist methods of farming observed in other countries of semi-feudal agriculture, for example, czarist Russia. The system of the Russian otrabotki presented all the ways that exist in Peru of paying rent—by work, money, or crops. This can be confirmed simply by reading what Schkaff has to say about this system in his documented book on the agrarian question in Russia:
Between servitude based largely on violence and coercion and free labor based on purely economic necessity there extends a whole transitional system of extremely varied forms that combine the features of the barchtchina and the wage earner. It is the otrabototsch-nai system. Wages are paid either in money, where services are contracted, or in produce or in land. In the last case (otrabotki in the strict sense of the word), the landlord lets the peasant use his land in return for the latter’s work on his estate. . . . Payment for work in the otrabotki system is always less than the wages of capitalist free contracting. Payment in produce makes landlords more independent of price fluctuations in the wheat and labor markets. Since \ nearby peasants supply them with cheaper labor, they enjoy a real local monopoly. . . . Rent paid by the peasant takes several forms: in addition to his labor, the peasant is obliged to give money and produce. If he receives a deciatina of land, he agrees to work a deciatina and a half of the landlord’s estate, to give ten eggs and one hen. He will also deliver his cattle’s manure; for everything, including manure, is used for payment. Frequently, the peasant is even required “to do all that the landlord demands of him,” to transport crops, cut firewood, and carry loads.[28]
In the agriculture of the sierra exactly those features of feudal property and work are found. The free labor system has not developed there. The plantation owner does not care about the productivity of his land, only about the income he receives from it. He reduces the factors of production to just two: land and the Indian. Ownership of land permits him to exploit limitlessly the labor of the Indian. The usury practiced on this labor—translated into the Indian’s misery—is added to the rent charged for the land, calculated at the usual rate. The hacendado reserves the best land for himself and distributes the least fertile among his Indian laborers, who are obliged to work the former without pay and to live off the produce of the latter. The Indian pays his rent in work or crops, very rarely in money (since the Indian’s labor is worth more to the landlord), and most often in mixed forms. I have before me a study made by Dr. Ponce de Leon of the University of Cuzco that gives first-hand documentation of all the varieties of tenant farming and sharecropping existing in that huge department. It presents a quite objective picture—in spite of the author’s conclusions about the privileges of the landlords—of feudal exploitation. Here are some of his statements:
In the province of Paucartambo, the landlord grants the use of his land to a group of Indians on the condition that during the entire year they do all the farming needed on the hacienda lands reserved to the owner. The tenants or yanacones, as they are called in this province, are obliged to transport the plantation crops to this city on their own animals and do domestic service in the hacienda itself or more usually in Cuzco, where the landlords prefer to reside. ... In Chumbivilcas, there is a similar arrangement. Tenants farm as much land as they can and in exchange must work for the owner as often as he requires. ... In the province of Anta, the landlord grants the use of his land on the following conditions: the tenant furnishes the capital (seeds and fertilizer) and all the labor needed to bring the crop to harvest, when he divides it equally with the landlord. That is, each one collects fifty percent of the produce, although the landlord has contributed nothing but the use of his land, without even fertilizing it. But this is not all. The tenant farmer is required to attend personally to the work of the landlord, receiving the customary wages of twenty-five centavos a day.[29]
A comparison of the foregoing with Schkaff’s report on Russia demonstrates that none of the dark aspects of precapitalist property and work is lacking in the feudal sierra.
The “Colonialism” of Our Coastal Agriculture
The industrialization of agriculture in the coastal valleys under a capitalist system and technique has reached its present level of development thanks mainly to British and American investment in our production of sugar and cotton. Landlords have contributed little in industrial ability and capital to the expansion of these crops. Financed by powerful export firms, they grow cotton and sugar cane on their lands.
The best lands of the coastal valleys are planted with cotton and sugar cane, not exactly because they are suited to these crops, but because only these crops are important at present to English and American businessmen. Agricultural credit—absolutely dependent on the interests of these firms until a national agricultural bank is established—does not promote any other crop. Food crops intended for the domestic market generally are grown by small landowners and tenant farmers. Only in the valleys of Lima, because of the proximity of sizable urban markets, do large estates grow food crops. Often cotton and sugarcane haciendas do not raise enough food to supply their own rural populations.
Even the small landowner or tenant farmer may be driven to plant cotton by these interests that do not take into account the
One of the most evident causes of the rise in food prices in coastal towns is the displacement of traditional food crops by cotton on the farmland of the coast.
Commercial aid is given to the farmer almost exclusively for raising cotton. Loans are reserved, at all levels, for the cotton farmer. The production of cotton is not governed by any consideration of the national economy. It is produced for the world market, with no control to safeguard this economy against possible drops in prices due to periods of industrial crisis or of overproduction of cotton.
A cattle rancher recently told me that whereas a loan extended on a cotton crop is Limited only by price fluctuations, a loan on a herd or ranch is entirely ad hoc and uncertain. A cattle rancher on the coast cannot obtain a substantial bank loan for expanding his business, and unless a farmer can put up as security either a cotton or sugar-cane crop, he is no better off.
If domestic consumption were met by the country’s agricultural output, this would not be such an artificial situation. But the country still does not produce all the food that the population needs. Our heaviest imports are in “foodstuffs”: Lp. [libras peruanas] 3,620,235 in 1924. This figure, within total imports of eighteen million pounds, reveals one of the problems of our economy. Although we cannot stop importing foodstuffs, we can eliminate its leading items, for example, wheat and flour, which reached more than twelve million soles in 1924.
For some time, the Peruvian economy has clearly and urgently called for the country to grow enough wheat for the bread of its people. If this had been accomplished, Peru would no longer have to pay twelve or more million soles a year to foreign countries for the wheat consumed in its coastal cities.
Why has this problem of our economy not been solved? It is not just because the state has failed to work out a policy on foodstuffs. Nor, I repeat, is it because sugar cane and cotton are the best crops for the soil and climate of the coast. A single valley, a single Andean tableland, if opened up with a few kilometers of railway or roads, can supply the entire Peruvian population with more than enough wheat, barley, et cetera. In the early colonial years, the Spaniards raised wheat on that same coast until the cataclysm that changed the climatic conditions of the littoral. Subsequently, no scientific and integrated study was made of the possibility of reestablishing its cultivation. The diseases that attack wheat grown on the coast went unchecked by the indolent criollo until recently, when experiments carried out in the north on the lands of the “Salamanca” demonstrated that there are varieties of wheat resistant to disease.[30]
The obstacle to a solution is in the very structure of the Peruvian economy, which can only move or develop in response to the interests and needs of markets in London and New York. These markets regard Peru as a storehouse of raw materials and a customer for their manufactured goods. Peruvian agriculture, therefore, obtains credit and transport solely for the products that benefit the great markets. Foreign capital is one day interested in rubber, another in cotton, another in sugar. When London can obtain a commodity more cheaply and in sufficient quantity from India or Egypt, it immediately abandons its sup-’ pliers in Peru. Our latifundistas, our landholders, may think that they are independent, but they are actually only intermediaries or agents of foreign capital.
Final Propositions
To the basic propositions already stated in this story on the agrarian question in Peru, I should add the following:
1. The nature of agricultural property in Peru is one of the greatest obstacles to the development of a national capitalism. Large or medium tenant farmers work a very high percentage of land, which is owned by landlords who have never managed their own estates. These landlords, completely ignorant of and remote from agriculture and its problems, live from their property income without contributing^ any work or intelligence to the economic activity of the country. They belong to the category of aristocrats or rentiers who are unproductive consumers. Through their inherited property rights they receive an income that may be considered a feudal privilege. The tenant farmer, on the other hand, is more like the head of a capitalist enterprise. Under a true capitalist system, this industrialist and the capital financing him would benefit from his efforts to increase the value of his business. Control of the land by a class of rentiers imposes on production the heavy burden of maintaining an income that is not subject to the vicissitudes of agriculture. The tenant farmer generally is not encouraged by this system to improve the land and its crops and installations. Fear of a higher rent when his contract expires keeps his investments to a minimum. The tenant farmer’s ambition is, of course, to become a property owner; but by his own industry he makes the property worth more to the landlord. The lack of agricultural credit in Peru prevents a more intensive capitalist expropriation of land for this class of industrialists. Capitalist exploitation and industrialization of land cannot develop fully and freely unless all feudal privileges are abolished; therefore it has made very little progress in our country. This problem is just as apparent to a capitalist as to a socialist critic. Edouard Herriot states a principle that is embodied in the agrarian program of the French liberal middle class when he says that “land requires the actual presence.”[31] In this respect, the West is certainly less advanced than the East, since Moslem law establishes, as Charles Gide observes, that “the land belongs to the one who makes it fertile and productive.”
2. The latifundium system in Peru is also the most serious barrier to white immigration. For obvious reasons, we hope for the immigration of peasants from Italy, Central Europe, and the Balkans. The urban population of the West emigrates to a lesser degree and industrial workers know, moreover, that there is little for them to do in Latin America. The European peasant does not come to America to work as a laborer except where high wages would permit him to save a great deal of money; and this is not the case in Peru. Not even the most wretched farmer in Poland or Rumania would accept the living conditions of our day laborers on the sugar-cane and cotton haciendas. His ambition is to become a small landowner. To attract such immigrants, we must offer them land complete with living quarters, animals, and tools and connected with railroads and markets. A Fascist official or propagandist who visited Peru about three years ago declared to local newspapers that our system of large properties was incompatible with a colonization and immigration program that would attract the Italian peasant.
3. The subjugation of coastal agriculture to the interests of British and American capital not only keeps it from organizing and developing according to the specific needs of the national economy—that is, first of all to feed the population—but also from trying out and adopting new crops. The largest undertaking of this kind in recent years, the tobacco plantations in Tum-bes, was made possible only by state aid. This is the best proof that the liberal laissez-faire policy which has been so sterile in Peru should be replaced by a social policy of nationalizing our great natural resources.
4. Agricultural property on the coast, despite the prosperity it has enjoyed, so far has been incapable of attending to the problems of rural health) Hacendados still have not complied with the modest requirements of the Office of Public Health concerning malaria. There has been no general improvement in farm settlements. The rural population of the coast has the highest rates of mortality and disease in the country (except, of course, for the extremely unhealthy regions of the jungle).
Demographic statistics for the rural district of Pativilca three years ago showed a higher death rate than birth rate. Sutton, the engineer in charge of the Olmos project, believes that irrigation works may offer the most radical solution to the problem of marshes and swamps. But outside of the project in Huacho to use the overflow of the Chancay River (it is directed by Antonio Grana, who is also responsible for an interesting colonization scheme), the project in “Chiclin” to use ground water, and a few other undertakings in the north, private capital has done very little to irrigate the Peruvian coast in recent years.
5. In the sierra, agrarian feudalism is unable to create wealth or progress. With the exception of livestock ranches that export wool and other products, the latifundia in the valleys and tablelands of the sierra produce almost nothing. Crop yields are negligible and farming methods are primitive. A local publication once said that in the Peruvian sierra the gamonal appears to be relatively as poor as the Indian. This argument—which is absolutely invalid in terms of relativity—far from justifying the gamonal, damns him. In modern economics, understood as an objective and concrete science, the only justification for capitalism with its captains of industry and finance is its function as a creator of wealth. On an economic plane, the feudal lord or gamonal is the first one responsible for the worthlessness of his land. We have already seen that, in spite of owning the best lands, his productivity is no higher than the Indian’s with his primitive farming tools and arid communal lands. The gamonal as an economic factor is, therefore, completely disqualified.
6. To explain this situation it is said that the agricultural economy of the sierra depends entirely on roads and transportation. Those who believe this undoubtedly do not understand the organic, fundamental difference existing between a feudal or semi-feudal economy and a capitalist economy. They do not understand that the medieval, patriarchal, feudal landowner is substantially different from the head of a modern enterprise. Furthermore, gamonalismo and latifundismo also appear to stand in the way of the execution of the state’s present road program. The abuses and interests of the gamonales are altogether opposed to a strict application of the law conscripting road workers. The Indian instinctively regards it as a weapon of gamonalismo. Under the Inca regime, duly established work on road construction was a compulsory public service, entirely compatible with the principles of modern socialism; under the colonial regime of latifundium and servitude, the same service turned into the hated mita.
1. Luis E. Valcarcel, Del ayllu al imperio, p. 166.
2. Cesar Antonio Ugarte, Bosquejo de la historia economica del Peril, p. 9.
3. Javier Prado, “Estado social del Peru durante la dominacion espanola,” in Anales universitarios del Peru, XXII, 125-126.
4. Ugarte, Historia economica del Peril, p. 64.
5. Jose Vasconcelos, Indologia (Barcelona: Agencia Mundial de Libreria, 1927).
6. Prado, “Estado social del Peni,” p. 37.
7. Georges Sorel, Introduction a I’economie moderne (Paris: Marcel Rivi-6re, 1911), pp. 120, 130.
8. Ugarte, Historia economica del Peru, p. 24.
9. Eugene Schkaff, La question agraire en Russie (Paris: Rousseau, 1922), p. 118.
10. Esteban Echevarria, Antecedentes y primeros pasos de la revolution de mayo.
11. Vasconcelos, “Nacionalismo en la America Latina,” in Amauta, No. 4. This opinion, which is true as regards relations between the military caudillo and agricultural property in America, is not as valid for all periods and historical situations. It cannot be subscribed to without making this specific qualification.
12. Ugarte, Historia economica del Peru, p. 57.
13. Francisco Garcia Calderon, Le Perou contemporain, pp. 98, 199.
14. Ugarte, Historia economica del Peru, p. 58.
15. If the historical evidence of Inca communism is not sufficiently convincing, the “community”—the specific organ of that communism—should dispel any doubt. The “despotism” of the Incas, however, has offended the scruples of some of our present-day liberals. I want to restate here the defense that I made of Inca communism and refute the most recent liberal thesis, presented by Augusto Aguirre Morales in his novel El pueblo del sol.
Modern communism is different from Inca communism. This is the first thing that must be learned and understood by the scholar who delves into Tawantinsuyo. The two communisms are products of different human experiences. They belong to different historical epochs. They were evolved by dissimilar civilizations. The Inca civilization was agrarian; the civilization of Marx and Sorel is industrial. In the former, man submitted to nature; in the latter, nature sometimes submits to man. It is therefore absurd to compare the forms and institutions of the two communisms. All that can be compared is their essential and material likeness, within the essential and material difference of time and space. And this comparison requires a certain degree of historical relativism. Otherwise, one is sure to commit the error made by Victor Andres Belaunde when he attempted a comparison of this kind.
The chroniclers of the conquest and of the colonial period viewed the indigenous panorama with medieval eyes. Their testimony cannot be accepted at face value.
Their judgments were strictly in keeping with their Spanish and Catholic points of view. But Aguirre Morales is also the victim of fallacious reasoning. His position in the study of the Inca empire is not a relativist one. Aguirre considers and examines the empire with liberal and individualist prejudices. And he believes that under the Incas, the people were enslaved and miserable because they lacked liberty.
Individual liberty is an aspect of the complex liberal philosophy. A realistic critic would define it as the legal basis of capitalist civilization. (Without free will, there would be no free trade, free competition, or free enterprise.) An idealistic critic would define it as a gain made by the human spirit in modern times. In no case did this liberty fit into Inca life. The man of Tawantinsuyo felt absolutely no need of individual liberty—any more than he felt the need of a free press. A free press may be important to Aguirre Morales and to me, but the Indian could be happy without it. The Indian’s life and spirit were not tormented by intellectual anxieties or creative pursuits. Nor were they concerned with the need to do business, make contracts, or engage in trade. Therefore what use would this liberty invented by our civilization be to the Indian? If the spirit of liberty was revealed to the Quechua, it was undoubtedly in a formula or rather in an emotion unlike the liberal, Jacobin, and individualist formula of liberty. The revelation of liberty, like the revelation of God, varies with age, country, and climate. To believe that the abstract idea of liberty is of the same substance as the concrete image of a liberty with a Phrygian cap—daughter of Protestantism and the French Revolution—is to be trapped by an illusion that may be due to a mere, but not disinterested, philosophical astigmatism of the bourgeoisie and of democracy.
Aguirre’s denial of the communist nature of the Inca society rests altogether on a mistaken belief. Aguirre assumes that autocracy and communism are irreconcilable. The Inca system, he says, was despotic and theocratic and, therefore, not communist. Although autocracy and communism are now incompatible, they were not so in primitive societies. Today, a new order cannot abjure any of the moral gains of modern society. Contemporary socialism —other historical periods have had other kinds of socialism under different names—is the antithesis of liberalism; but it is born from its womb and is nourished on its experiences. It does not disdain the intellectual achievements of liberalism, only its limitations. It appreciates and understands everything that is positive in the liberal ideal; it condemns and attacks what is negative and selfish in it.
The Inca regime was unquestionably theocratic and despotic. But these are traits common to all regimes of antiquity. Every monarchy in history has been supported by the religious faith of its people. Temporal and spiritual power have been but recently divorced; and it is more a separation of bodies than a divorce. Up to William of Hohenzollern, monarchs have invoked their divine right.
It is not possible to speak abstractly of tyranny. Tyranny is a concrete fact. It is real to the extent that it represses the will of the people and oppresses and stifles their life force. Often in ancient times an absolutist and theocratic regime has embodied and represented that will and force. This appears to have been the case in the Inca empire. I do not believe in the supernatural powers of the Incas. But their political ability is as self-evident as is their construction of an empire with human materials and moral elements amassed over the centuries. The ayllu—the community—was the nucleus of the empire. The Incas unified and created the empire, but they did not create its nucleus. The legal state organized by the Incas undoubtedly reproduced the natural pre-existing state. The Incas did not disrupt anything. Their work should be praised, not scorned and disparaged, as the expression and consequence of thousands of years and myriad elements.
The work of the people must not be depreciated, much less denied. Agui-rre, an individualistic writer, does not care about the history of the masses. His romantic gaze looks only for a hero. The remains of Inca civilization unanimously refute the charges of Aguirre Morales. The author of El pueblo del sol cites as evidence the thousands of huacos he has seen. Those huacos testify that Inca art was a popular art; and the best document left by the Inca civilization is surely its art. The stylized, synthesized ceramics of the Indians cannot have been produced by a crude or savage people.
James George Frazer—very remote spiritually and physically from the chroniclers of the colony—writes: “Nor, to remount the stream of history to its sources, is it an accident that all the first great strides towards civilisation have been made under despotic and theocratic governments, like those of Egypt, Babylon, and Peru, where the supreme ruler claimed and received the servile allegiance of his subjects in the double character of King and a god. It is hardly too much to say that at this early epoch despotism is the best friend of humanity and, paradoxical as it may sound, of liberty. For after all there is more liberty in the best sense—liberty to think our own thoughts and to fashion our own destinies—under the most absolute despotism, the most grinding tyranny, than under the apparent freedom of savage life, where the individual’s lot is cast from the cradle to the grave in the iron mould of hereditary custom.” The Golden Bough, abridged edition (London: Macmillan & Co., 1954), p. 48.
Aguirre Morales says that there was no theft in Inca society simply because of lack of imagination for wrongdoing. But this clever literary comment does not destroy a social reality that proves precisely what Aguirre insists on denying: Inca communism. The French economist Charles Gidj states that Proudhon’s famous phrase is less exact than the following one: “Theft is property.” In Inca society there was no theft because there was no property or, if you like, because there was a socialist organization of property.
We dispute and, if necessary, reject the testimony of colonial chroniclers. But Aguirre seeks support for his theory precisely in their medieval interpretation of the form and distribution of the land and its products.
The fruits of the earth cannot be hoarded. It is not credible, therefore, that two-thirds of the crops were taken over for the consumption of the officials and priests of the empire. It is much more likely that the crops supposedly reserved for the nobility were actually put into a state storehouse for social welfare, a typically and singularly socialist provision.
16. Hildebrando Castro Pozo, Nuestra comunidad indigena.
17. Ibid., pp. 16-17.
18. After writing this essay, I find ideas in Haya de la Torre’s book Por la emancipation de la America Latina that fully coincide with mine on the agrarian question in general and the Indian community in particular. Since we share the same points of view, we necessarily reach the same conclusions. 19 Castro Pozo, Nuestra comunidad indigena, pp. 66-67.
19. [Note unavailable]
20. Ibid., p. 434.
21. Schkaff, La question agraire en Russie, p. 188.
22. Castro Pozo, Nuestra comunidad indigena, p. 47. The author has some very interesting comments to make about the spiritual elements of the community economy. “The vigor, industry and enthusiasm with which the communal farmer reaps and sheaves wheat or rye, quipicha (quipichar: to carry on one’s shoulders. A widespread indigenous custom. The porters and stevedores of the coast shoulder their loads), and rapidly proceeds to the threshing floor, joking with his companion or with the man tugging on his shirt from behind, present a profound and decisive contrast to the indolence, indifference, apathy, and apparent fatigue with which the yanacones do the same or similar work. The former mental and physical state is so evidently more desirable than the latter that it raises the question of how the work process is affected by its results and concrete purpose.”
23. Sorel, who has examined carefully the ideas of Proudhon and Le Play on the role of the family in the structure and spirit of society, has made a penetrating study of “the spiritual part of the economic environment.” If anything has been missing in Marx it has been an adequate legal spirit, although this aspect of production did not escape the dialectician of Treves. “It is known,” he writes in his Introduction a Veconomie moderns, “that the family customs of the Saxon plain made a deep impression on Le Play when he started his travels and that they decisively influenced his thought. I have wondered if Marx was not thinking of these ancient customs when he accused capitalism of turning the proletarian into a man without a family.” Returning to the comments of Castro Pozo, I want to recall another of Sorel’s ideas. “Work depends to a very large measure on the feelings that the workers have about their task.”
24. Schkaff, La question agraire en Russie, p. 135.
25. It must not be forgotten that the laborers of the sierra suffer in the hot and unhealthy coastal climate; they soon contract malaria, which weakens them and predisposes them to tuberculosis. Nor should it be forgotten that the Indian is deeply attached to his home and his mountains. On the coast he feels an exile, a mitimae.
26. This topic makes clear how closely our agrarian problem is related to our demographic problem. The concentration of land in the hands of the gamonales is a cancer in national demography. Only when it has been extirpated can Peru progress and really adopt the South American principle: “To govern is to populate.”
27. The government’s project to create small agricultural property is based on liberal economic and capitalist theory. Its application on the coast, subject to the expropriation of estates and the irrigation of uncultivated land, can offer fairly broad possibilities of settlement. In the sierra, its effects would be much more limited and doubtful. Like all attempts to distribute land in the history of our republic, it disregards the social value of the “community” and is overly solicitous of the latifundista, who jealously protects his own interests. In regions where there is still no monetary economy, lots should not have to be paid for in cash or in twenty annual installments. In these cases, payment should be specified in kind instead of money. The state’s system of acquiring estates to be distributed among the Indians shows its extreme concern for the latifundista, who is given the opportunity to sell unproductive or rundown estates for a profit.
28. Schkaff, La question agrcdre en Russie, pp. 133, 134, 133.
29. Francisco Ponce de Leon, Sistema de wrendamiento de terrenos de cul-tivo en el departamento del Cuzco y el problema de la tierra.
30. The Commission for the Promotion of Wheat Farming has announced the success of its experiments in different parts of the coast. It has obtained substantial yields from the rust-immune “Kappli Emmer” variety, even in semi-arid areas.
31. Edouard Herriot, Creer (Paris: Payot, 1919).