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Communists and the peasant movement
after the imperialist solution of the Agrarian question in Iran*


We have so far considered the fundamentals of Lenin's approach to the agrarian question, his method of evaluating the specific conditions of the early 20th century Russia upon which the concrete aspects of his approach are based, the essence of the agrarian question and what makes its resolution a necessity, what forces in reality seek to resolve the agrarian question, and how and by what accompanying characteristics each would be capable of resolving it. We have further noted the analysis in the context of which the agrarian question is formulated and assumes importance in Lenin's approach and that of the Russian proletariat, the part the agrarian question plays in bringing forth the necessary subjective and objective conditions for the socialist revolution, the characteristics of the peasant movement when regarded as a lever in preparing the ground for the socialist revolution, the important aspects of the peasant movement for the Russian proletariat, the tasks of the proletariat in respect of the peasant movement, the principles whereupon the proletariat supports this movement, and the criteria and the standpoints which determine the content of this support. Finally, we have seen the tasks of Social-Democracy as the party of the Russian working class in respect of the peasantry (as the ally of the proletariat in the democratic revolution) and the rural proletariat.

Now, let us see what specific theoretical and analytical means Lenin's method of approach provides for assessing the tasks of the Iranian communists under the present circumstances, and, further, by referring to an article from Zahmat, the Organ of the "Revolutionary Union for the Emancipation of Labour", let us see the extent to which such means have been employed by the communist movement of Iran.

First, we shall recall a point mentioned earlier. We stated that Lenin by employing the Marxist theory of capitalist development and its laws of motion, shows that the unfolding of the necessary objective and subjective conditions for the free development of the Russian proletariat's class struggle against the bourgeoisie in the early 20th Century is dependent on the victory of the Russian bourgeois-democratic revolution whose principal economic content consists of the capitalist solution of the agrarian question. The expansion of bourgeois relations in the countryside, a wide-scale transformation of the labour-power into a commodity, along with a quantitative growth of the proletariat on the one hand, and the establishment of bourgeois ownership of land on the other, as well as the elimination of Tsarist despotism which lies on big landed property, prepare the necessary objective and subjective grounds for an independent mobilization of the proletariat towards socialism. But, does the same statement apply to all revolutions and democratic struggles in the world? Is the lack of democracy always and everywhere expressive of the survival of feudal relations and of an inadequate capitalist development? And does the achievement of democracy, the achievement of "a new republican country in which our proletarian struggle for socialism will be able freely to expand", always and everywhere call for the solution of the agrarian question? In other words, does the "solution of the agrarian question form the economic content of every democratic revolution in the world and particularly in Iran? Certainly not. This could only come forth from a petrified mind insensible to all Lenin's theoretical achievements on the political tendencies of capitalism in the imperialist era, the era of monopolies, the export of capital and the division of the world. This is the view of one who only by memorizing a number of general dictums about the era of free capitalist competition, always regards despotism as a synonym of feudalism, and democracy as a synonym of capitalism, and upon encountering any form of dictatorship, looks for a "feudal", and sees the "solution of the agrarian question" as the axis of every democratic revolution. And naturally, in its longing for "democracy", such a mentality sooner or later turns into a sycophant of capitalists, and by granting the title of "national and progressive" to these most developed social parasites of the "pre-history of mankind", rids its conscience of this betrayal of the working class.

In the late 19th and the early 20th century Russia, the expansion of bourgeois relations is not only possible but a historical necessity. Tsarist despotism has its principal institutions based on big feudal landed property. Lenin recognizes this reality, and hence struggles against the Tsarist despotism which is hindering the political organization and consciousness of the Russian proletariat. Against the old and decayed relations that prevent the objective growth of the Russian proletariat, he assesses every "blow" dealt to this feudal private property as a change in favour of the interests of the proletariat. On this basis, Lenin insists upon the proletarian support for the peasant movement which is capable of delivering the most decisive blow on the landed property and Tsarism; for this first blow would be followed by later blows on the private ownership of the means of production in general. But precisely because the peasant movement and the peasant solution to the agrarian question are, nonetheless, of a bourgeois nature, Lenin warns the rural proletariat against merging with it and considers aiding the rural proletariat to develop its consciousness and independent organisation as one crucial task of the urban proletariat and of Social-Democracy.

Leaving aside the fact that even if the historical conditions in Iran were similar to those of Russia in 1905 and even if the dictatorship and despotism impeding the Iranian working-class movement were of a feudal character, the support for the "national bourgeoisie" would have no place in a Leninist approach to the democratic revolution. The fact is that Iran is a capitalist country in which social production is carried out under the capitalist system, and at its highest stage at that; here the roots of the barriers to the independent movement of the proletariat towards socialism must be sought not in the "old feudal system" but in the "most modern" system of production - i.e., in imperialism. It will be a turning point in the Iranian communist movement if it widely accepts the Leninist truth that contrary to the capitalism of the era of free competition which secures the growth of bourgeois democracy, the capitalism of the imperialist era has a tendency towards political reaction, towards an "all-out negation of democracy", and that by means of no sorcery, innovation, vigils, persuasion, or "dual" approach can it be turned back to the capitalism of the era of free competition. The monopolization of capital, on the contrary, has more than ever prepared the ground for the proletariat to strike its final blow. Hence dictatorship operating in many imperialist-dominated capitalist countries (yes, dictatorship in a capitalist country!) which function as the spheres for the export of monopoly capital and the production of imperialist super-profits, is not a result of feudal obstacles to the growth of capitalism in the rural areas of these countries; rather it stems precisely from the domination of imperialist capital over the economy and the politics of these countries. In the same way, the achievement of democracy in these countries (which is from the proletariat's viewpoint an essential precondition for advancing towards socialism) depends neither on the "capitalist solution of the agrarian question", nor on returning to "classical capitalism under the leadership of the national bourgeoisie", but depends on the victory of the anti-imperialist struggle of the workers and toiling masses in these countries. If we regard the existence of dictatorship, always and everywhere, the reflection of the survival of feudal relations merely for not having the "patience" to read Lenin and, mechanistically and independent of the specific conditions of each society in different phases of production, consider the expansion of democracy - needed by the working class - dependent on the solution of the agrarian question, then we will have to draw the absurd conclusion that, the British, American and Dutch capitals in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Northern Ireland, for example, are the biggest and most stubborn feudals; or, for instance, that the revolutionary movement of black people in South Africa or the militants fighting the British army in Northern Ireland (a struggle which no doubt cannot be an immediately socialist one) should seek to unite with the "revolutionary peasant movements" of these countries for the "removal of the barriers to capitalist development" and a "complete abolition of feudalism", and place the "capitalist solution of the agrarian question", rather than the seizure of monopoly capitals, on the forefront of their economic programmes!

Let us, however, try to find out what the approach of those who consider the solution of the agrarian question as the pivotal task of the democratic revolution in Iran, is to this question, and to what extent do they follow the Leninist approach to the democratic tasks of the proletariat, particularly as regards the peasant movement. As an example it suffices to consider the article "The Government and the Agrarian Question" published in Zahmat the Organ of the "Revolutionary Union for the Emancipation of Labour", No.6. After "exposing" the "Law on Landholding and the Revival of Land" passed by the "Islamic Revolution Council", Zahmat sums up the article as follows:

"'The Shah's mandatory Land Reform was an anti-peasant measure in the interests of imperialism. This reform maintained some of the privileges of the big landlords. It neither could solve any of the country's agrarian problems nor bring about any improvement in the living conditions of the poor and landless peasants. To depend on this anti-peasant land reform is to go against the interests of the majority of the Iranian villagers. The Iranian countryside needs an agrarian revolution, radical and from below, by the peasants themselves. This revolution must break up the foundations of inequality in landed property, eradicate the remnants of the old, die-hard relations, and pave the way for the expansion of industrialized agriculture on the basis of peasant cooperation and accompanied by financial and technical aid by a progressive and democratic government. The form and manner of allocating the land to the peasantry must be resolved by the peasants themselves and by their revolutionary unions. Large landlord and imperialist farms must be confiscated and transferred to the peasants. The measures taken by the present ruling body clearly show that on the question of land ownership it is protective of big landlords as well as the old and medieval forms of exploitation, and is incapable of taking even a single step in the interests of the vast majority of the peasants." (p.3)

The first question to pose to Zahmat would be whether it adheres to Lenin in that "the most radical and of the grass roots peasant agrarian revolution" is in essence a capitalist solution of the agrarian question. If Zahmat does not agree, it must explain how a non-capitalist (and thereby inevitably a "socialist") solution to the agrarian question is to be accomplished by "peasants" and with the aid of a "democratic and progressive" government. In other words, Zahmat should be able to explain how a socialist transformation/in the relations of production in the countryside has become a problem of our democratic revolution. Otherwise, it should admit that they believe, in the back of their mind, in the possibility of a "non-capitalist way of development' for the Iranian agriculture.

But Zahmat's answer to the above question would undoubtedly be positive. Zahmat is surely aware of the fact that the peasant agrarian revolution, however "radical and of the grass roots" that it may be, can only pave the way for the development of capitalist production in the countryside; but as if the support for capitalist development is undesirable only in words and not in content, Zahmat prefers to substitute the phrase "paving the way to the expansion of capitalist relations in the countryside" with "paving the way to the development of industrialized agriculture (under what relations?!) on the basis of peasant cooperation, accompanied by financial and technical aid by a progressive and democratic government". No less than thirteen circumlocutory and bombastic words are used to evade the term "capitalist"- i.e., the nature of the system which, according to Zahmat, is to dominate agricultural production as a result of the revolution needed by "the Iranian countryside." So far, the whole thing could be glossed over. Supposing that the situation in Iran were the same as that in the Russia of 1905, and that the development of capitalism were possible and necessary from the viewpoint of the historical development of society as well as from that of the interests of the entire working class, then one could blame Zahmat for no more than ambiguity and for obscuring the independent proletarian stance. (Of course, that Zahmat evades using the term "capitalist" is itself an evidence against these assumptions). The problem lies where the peasants' "radical and grassroots" revolution for the establishment of the capitalist mode of production is, according to Zahmat, expected to eradicate "the foundation of inequality in landed property". Firstly, to break up "the foundation of inequality in landed property" is nothing but to establish equality in landed property, i.e, equal distribution of land among the peasantry. Very well! But is this not reminiscent of Kriege who in 1846 was so unreservedly ridiculed by Marx? (Kriege, at least, had taken the trouble of calculating the area which had to be allotted to every peasant!) This is nothing but a plan to make all people petty-bourgeois, and all Marx's criticism of Kriege directly applies to the Zahmat comrades. Equal pieces of lands do not necessarily produce "equal" products (in terms of quality, quantity and value); for rivers do not feed farms "equally" and every acre of land gets neither "equal" amount of rain nor "equal" sun shine; peasant families do not have "equal" labour-power at their disposal; all farms do not have soil of "equal" quality; villages are not situated within an "equal" distance from the markets where selling and purchasing of the products and the means of production take place; villagers themselves are not "equal" in skill, experience and physical ability, etc. Like Kriege's "equal" system, Zahmat's "equality" in land would soon and inevitably turn into an inequality, for they are both based on private ownership of the means of production and on commodity production. Monopolies are the legitimate heirs of petty commodity production.

"The mass of the peasants (the same as the Zahmat comrades) do not and cannot realize that the fullest 'freedom' and the 'justest' distribution even of all the land, far from destroying capitalism, will, on the contrary, create the conditions for a particularly extensive and powerful development of capitalism. Whereas Social-Democracy singles out and supports only the revolutionary-democratic substance of these peasant aspirations, petty-bourgeois socialism elevates to a theory this political backwardness of the peasants, confusing or jumbling together the pre- requisites and the tasks of a genuine democratic revolution with those of an imaginary socialist revolution." (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.9 p.309, our emphasis)

Contrary to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, what Zahmat precisely fails to point out is "the revolutionary-democratic substance of peasant aspirations", and what it elevates to a theory is indeed the backwardness of these aspirations. Zahmat would have been excused, had it represented the mass of the peasants and formulated the petty-bourgeois aims of the future petty landowners; communists would then have been obliged to support the petty bourgeois peasant movement led by Zahmat while, at the same time, consistently safeguarding the rural proletariat from such illusions (i.e., equality for all in private ownership, or making all people petty bourgeois). But if these comrades claim a proletarian stance, then they are duty-bound, before the working class and in particular before the rural proletariat, if not to struggle persistently against petty-bourgeois illusions regarding the possibility of "wiping out exploitation while preserving private ownership of land", at least to refrain from spreading it.

The comrades of Zahmat have set the scene of the Iranian democratic revolution, so far as the agrarian question is concerned, on the pattern of the Russian bourgeois-democratic revolution of 1905, but surprisingly have themselves chosen to appear in the guise of the Narodniks:

"The workers and peasants, the Social-Democrats and the Narodniks … are all agreed that there should be a capitalist 'cleansing' of the decaying agrarian system in Russia by means of the forcible abolition of the landed property of the landlords. They differ in this, that the Social-Democrats understand the capitalist character in present society of any agrarian revolution, however ultra radical it may be -municipalisation and nationalisation, socialisation and division- while the Narodniks do not understand this, and wrap up their struggle for peasant bourgeois agrarian evolution against landlord-bourgeois evolution in philistine and utopian phrases about equalisation." (Lenin, Coll. Works, Vol.15, pp.43-44)[1]

Hence, what Zahmat formulates as the "need" of the Iranian countryside under the rubric of "breaking up the foundation of inequality in landed property" is indeed the same petty ownership (peasant-bourgeois) evolution. The problem is that they suffer from severe eclecticism even in formulating this petty-bourgeois ideal. Zahmat believes that this evolution will "pave the way for the expansion of industrialized agriculture". Certainly it will gradually do so. But unfortunately Zahmat must then make a choice between the "ideal" of capitalist industrialized agriculture and that of "equality in landed property"! The development of industrialized agriculture from the matrix of petty land ownership no doubt requires the expansion of big landed property; for this latter makes the use of heavy agricultural machinery and wage-labour "economical" for the landowner. On the other hand, the very existence of wage-labour in the countryside is itself expressive of the fact that there are people with no land for cultivation. Indeed, the practical outcome of the process of capital accumulation and competition within the framework of a system based upon petty landed property as favoured by Zahmat, amounts to the centralization of land and capital on the one hand, and expropriation on the other. Only in this way could Zahmat's "ideal" of industrial agriculture be fulfilled. Historically, also, this process would be inevitable. The "Shah's mandatory (!) Land Reform", at the outset, did not announce the intention of dividing the land into large pieces and handing them over to bourgeois-landlords. The bourgeois Arsanjani {Shah's Agriculture Minister at the time of the Land Reform-Tr.} of 1963 (who acted in accordance with the interests of mono~3oly capital) had far more foresight on the inevitable consequence of land distribution than the petty bourgeois Kriege of 1846 (who considered himself a communist) and the popular-socialist Zahmat of 1979 (who is a votary of the cause of the majority of peasants). He sold the then existing holdings (in the villages affected by the first phase of the Land Reform) to the Nassagh Holders{**} who were already working on them. But what happened in reality - what Arsanjani was aware of and Zahmat is not - and what is bound to happen to Zahmat's plan for "equality in landed property" was that the land did not remain as it had initially been distributed; some peasants went bankrupt and some made others bankrupt (as to who the latter were is not of our concern here). Those who made the others bankrupt centralized their ownership in land, and the bankrupt were forced into the wage-labour market (mainly in the cities and, to a lesser extent, in the countryside). As a matter of fact, "Joint Stock company' is the only way known to the capitalist system of production for maintaining "equality in property", while carrying on concentration and centralization of capital; hence in attempting to establish a system of petty land ownership Zahmat has either to go along with history to "the Shah's mandatory project of Joint Stock agricultural companies" (a project entirely based on employing the wage - labour of the "share-holders" in the combined holding of their own), or to call the peasants every once in a while to a "radical revolution from below"!!

But Zahmat seems to have as yet another solution for preserving "equality in landed property" and the concurrent expansion of "industrial agriculture": "Peasant cooperation along with financial and technical aid by a democratic and progressive government". Firstly, according to Zahmat "peasant cooperation and aid by a democratic and progressive government" can (and must) replace the process of accumulation, concentration and centralization of capital and put an end to competition and its consequences (centralization on the one hand and bankruptcy on the other). But the problem is that competition, bankruptcy and centralization of capital and of the means of production (of which land is the most important in the rural area) have been invented neither by Arsanjani nor by Marx. The former (Arsanjani) regarded them as a matter of fact, and through a short-run policy of land-distribution (much to the liking of petty-landowners) enforced the process of the imperialist expropriation of the broad section of the peasantry, whereas the latter (Marx) profoundly criticized the very essence of this mechanism and this order from the proletarian standpoint and educated the working class in the inevitability of socialism.

But to the Zahmat comrades, who, neither like Arsanjani are consultants to imperialist capital, nor like Marx, vanguards of the proletariat, and thus fail to grasp the necessity of understanding the material laws governing the movement of society, and prefer to wipe out, with a turn of their pen, the objective laws of competition and centralization of capital, from the Iranian countryside, Marx's views are outmoded. Zahmat wants to eliminate all the inherent contradictions of capitalist production (be it major or minor) by means of "cooperation" and "aid by a democratic and progressive government"! Indeed the supporters of the non-capitalist way of development peep out from all kinds of niches.

"These clauses (i.e., clauses 4-9 of the programme of the Polish Socialist Party-UCM) are quite in the spirit of... bourgeois reformism. There is nothing revolutionary about them. They are, of course, progressive-no one disputes that-but progressive in the interests of property- owners. For a socialist to advance them means nothing but flattering proprietary instincts. To advance them is the same as demanding state aid to trusts, cartels, syndicates, and manufacturers' associations, which are no less "progressive" than co-operatives, insurance, etc, in agriculture. All this is capitalist progress. To show concern for that is not our affair, but that of the employers, the entrepreneurs. Proletarian Socialism, as distinct from petty- bourgeois socialism, leaves it to the Counts de Rocquegny, the landowning Zemstvo members, etc, to take care of the co-operatives of the landowners, big and little - and concerns itself entirely and exclusively with wage-workers' co-operatives for the purpose of fighting the landowners." (Lenin, Coll. Works, Vol.9, pp.312-313. The last two emphases are Lenin's.)

Secondly, Zahmat which has not even mentioned the working class and the rural proletariat in its article - let alone to emphasise their leading role in the current revolution and thereby in determining the fate of the agrarian question-all of a sudden speaks of "a democratic and progressive government". Whose government is that? Zahmat, leaving this question unanswered, characterizes the state not by its class basis but by its "democratic" nature and based on its "financial and technical aid" to the peasantry. This, of course, is not accidental; for admitting the fact that the only "democratic and progressive" government which can arise from the revolution is that of the workers and toiling masses (including the peasantry), immediately poses the question as to what the present government is and, if it is not that of the workers and toiling masses, then how could it be overthrown and replaced by the desired government. This is a matter over which no "tactful person" should take any risks in a short article on the agrarian question! Therefore Zahmat does not mention a word in the entire article about the political struggle that the peasantry, in order to realize its goals, must undertake shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian proletariat against the present government, whereas this is the crux of the Leninist approach to the agrarian question and the peasant movement. Lenin always insists on the fact that the peasants are the political and not the "economic allies" of the proletariat, insofar as they struggle against the existing order in a revolutionary manner. Lenin insists that the petty-bourgeois and utopian nature of the peasants' demands must be persistently exposed for the rural proletariat. The rural proletariat should envisage socialism as the only solution whenever it thinks of economics, of abolishing poverty and exploitation and of establishing welfare for vast masses. But this petty-bourgeois nature of the peasants' demands must not prevent the proletariat from appealing to the peasants - as its political allies - in the democratic revolution (which is above all a struggle for political power, and not for "solving the agrarian problems of the country"). Therefore, the rural proletariat, which must be organised in the independent Social-Democratic committees, must, as far as possible, give direction to the peasant revolutionary committees.

But Zahmat brushes aside politics and, on behalf of the proletariat, approves, of the peasants' "property instincts", elevates them to the level of theory, and guarantees beforehand the unconditional "financial and technical aid" of a "democratic and progressive government", of which the proletariat would inevitably be a determining component, for the future" petty- owners". Zahmat does not even for a moment ponder that "to try to calculate now what the combination of forces will be within the peasantry 'on the day after' the (democratic) revolution is empty utopianism", and that, "from the democratic revolution we shall at once, and precisely in accordance with the measure of our strength, the strength of the class-conscious and organised proletariat, begin to pass to the socialist revolution. We stand for uninterrupted revolution". In its attempt to theorize the peasant--bourgeois evolution, Zahmat is so deeply absorbed in wrapping this struggle in utopian phrase-mongering about "equality in the agrarian system", and so generally and universally presents~ this evolution as the "need of the Iranian countryside" (regardless of the prevailing forms of property and production in the different villages of Iran: farming-and-industry, horticulture, tenant farming, petty landownership or even dependence on the income of the youths employed as wage-labourers in nearby cities) that it seems neither willing to influence the combination of forces in the countryside nor interested in "the day after" the democratic revolution and transition to socialism.

Nevertheless, Zahmatcannot avoid politics. And if one does not consciously stand for the proletariat in the arena of politics, one shall unconsciously serve bourgeois policies:

"This Act (the Act passed by the 'Revolutionary Council') turns all hopes for land reform by the present ruling body into stone. In this Act there is neither a trace of BaniSadr's promises about radical land reform, nor any sign of the liberalist proposals of the nationalist advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture on reviving the 'village' unit and petty land ownership." (Zahmat, the same article)

So much so for Zahmat's turn from economics to politics, introducing the "faction" and the political force which could undertake the leadership of Zahmat's "democratic and progressive government": BaniSadre and the nationalist (!) advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture! What a pity that there is no "trace" of their policies in the agrarian programme adopted by the "Revolutionary Council"; otherwise Iran would enjoy a perfect system of petty land ownership! It would indeed be a surprising exception if, from the above remarks, a peasant did not deduce the necessity of supporting (in the presidential elections for example) the BaniSadre "faction" or the "nationalist advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture". But Zahmat must be assured: when the peasants throughout Iran, like the peasants of Kurdistan, rise for revolutionary confiscation of all lands, then the plans of the "Revolutionary Council" and the Ministry of Agriculture shall be inundated with the views of "BaniSadre and the nationalist advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture", and these gentlemen themselves shall rush to visit the "dear peasant countrymen", at the head of "good will" missions, to present their plans in person.

Let us, however, acknowledge that Zahmat has referred to the confiscation of the "big feudal and imperialist" farms and has also mentioned the point that "the forms and the manner of transferring the land to the peasants must be resolved by the peasants themselves and through their revolutionary unions". This is quite a positive point, indicating that Zahmat will probably abandon in time its utopian speculations about "equalization" and "financial and technical aids of a democratic and progressive government", and shall leave the forms and the manner of division (or merging) of the confiscated lands to the combination of forces within the peasant revolutionary unions. This is the peep hole that Zahmat opens up towards Leninism, but the rest of what it has already stated, leaves the door widely open to the conciliators and traitors of the kind of "Tudeh Party" and the "Revolutionary Organisation" {A pro-Chinese split from the Tudeh Party, part of which formed the "Three-worldist" "Ranjbaran Party", after the Feb. 1 979 uprising-Tr.} to label as "ultra- leftism and anarchism" those rural workers or

peasants who would, in the future, stand against the plans of BaniSadrei or the "nationalist advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture" on reviving the "village" unit, "returning to the countryside", and "equality in landed property", and insist on the common ownership and cultivation of land under the direct control of the peasant soviets and unions (and this is possible and probable not only in the case of "farming-and-industry" and in mechanized farms, but also in the villages whose peasants have already understood the desirability of the common cultivation of the confiscated lands).

It is, therefore, clear that even if the conditions of the Iranian countryside were similar to those of the Russian countryside in 1 905, Zahmat's positions would have no proximity with Lenin's attitude towards the agrarian question under such circumstances. Zahmat's positions are the carbon copy of those of Kriege in 1846 and those of the Narodniks in the 1905 Revolution.[2]

But the important point is that the present conditions in Iran, so far as the agrarian question is concerned, do not by any means correspond with those of Russia in 1905 and, even from this point of view, Zahmat's Narodnik position has been adopted at least 15 years too late. Failure to recognise the economic basis of the agrarian question under specific conditions, and not understanding that the radical peasant solution to the agrarian question is as much a capitalist solution as the landlord-bourgeois one, leads Zahmat to make such an abstraction from the historical limitations and class character of the peasant solution that, on the one hand, it formulates and propounds the peasant solution as an above-class ideal, and, on the other hand, fails to recognise the landlord-bourgeois solution as a "solution" at all. This fundamental misconception is manifest in Zahmat's failure to adopt a Marxist approach to the "Land Reform " (i.e., the expropriation) of the '60s. Zahmat writes:

"The Shah's mandatory Land Reform was an anti-peasant measure in the interest of imperialism. This reform preserved certain privileges of the big landlords; and it could neither resolve any of the country's agrarian problems nor bring about any improvements in the living conditions of the poor and landless peasants." (Our emphasis)

For Zahmat, the solution of the agrarian question means to resolve the agrarian problems of the "country" and improve the living conditions of the poor peasants. Zahmat ignores entirely this theoretical achievement of Marxism-Leninism that the capitalist solution of the agrarian question, in its economic content, is in no way about "solving the agrarian problems of the country" and improving the living conditions of the poor peasants; but is essentially about doing away with the obstacles to capitalist development[3] Ignoring the economic-historical bases of the solution of the agrarian question from the very beginning, Zahmat inevitably remains unconcerned about the question as to what system of production prevails in this "country" whose agrarian problems are to be resolved, and under what social relations the living conditions of the poor peasants are to be improved. The bourgeoisie assumes the capitalist relations as eternal; hence in its "science" of economics it does not mention a word about the nature of these relations, their definite historical limitations and their differences with pre-capitalist or socialist relations. Zahmat does the same, and within the framework of its assumed system engages in making remarks on the agrarian problems of the "country" and the improvement in the living conditions of the poor peasants. In this attitude, Zahmat is by no means different from the "nationalist advisers of the Ministry of Agriculture".

But when Marx poses the agrarian question and its historical solution, he is looking for answers to other questions. He is concerned with that historical process which transforms the existing feudal relations between the peasant and the landlord into bourgeois relations between wage-labour and capital. This historical process is nothing but the solution of the agrarian question. The basis of this process - the process of primitive accumulation - is the separation of the immediate producers from their means of production, i.e., the expropriation of the peasantry (and also the city craftsmen). It is only as a result of this process of expropriation that, on the one hand, labour-power is extensively transformed into a commodity (enabling the merchant and the usurer bourgeoisie to employ wage-workers and thereby give way to capital in the sphere of production), and, on the other hand, the means of production and the means of subsistence of the immediate producers turn into commodities (and thus become the material elements of constant and variable capital). Now the elements of production (labour power and the means of production) are both widely available for sale and purchase, i.e., they have turned into commodities, and the labour process has inevitably come under the domination of capital.

We see that the process of expropriation must create, from an historical viewpoint the favourable conditions for the expansion of bourgeois relations in social production (and not in the countryside alone). The necessary condition for the establishment and the development of bourgeois relations in society as a whole is the expropriation of the immediate producers, the transformation of human labour-power into a commodity and the emergence of the proletariat which has nothing to sell except its labour-power and can find no other means of subsistence. As to how far would this expropriation develop Zahmat's favourable "industrial agriculture", would depend entirely on the extent to which capital, which is in search of more profit, accumulates in the rural areas. From the viewpoint of the historical development of classical capitalism, the main objective of the process of expropriation (which is the basis of any capitalist solution to the agrarian question) is to create the urban proletariat. Moreover according to the governing laws of the movement of the capitalist system, in the process of reproduction and expansion of capital, the rate of capital accumulation and concentration in the agricultural sector is lower than in the industrial sector (in the specific sense of the term). Therefore, the impoverishment and the migration of the vast masses of the expropriated peasants, and a decrease in the agricultural population relative to the urban population, is a necessary precondition (and also a result) of the capitalist solution to the agrarian question.

Lenin views the agrarian question and its historical solution from a Marxist viewpoint. He lays stress on the capitalist essence of both the peasant and the landlord-bourgeois solutions, and therefore, resolutely struggles against any attempts to fuel the peasants' illusions on equalization within the framework of a petty landownership system and against any concealment of the bourgeois character of the solution of the agrarian question. But Zahmat from the start views the "solution of the agrarian question" as paving the way for resolving "the agrarian problems of the country and bringing about improvements in the living conditions of the majority of peasants", thus turning itself into a means for inflaming the petty-bourgeois illusions of the poor and the landless peasants. Upholding the Marxist stand, Lenin does not rule out the "feasibility" of the Stolypin-Cadet solution to the agrarian question by virtue of its being "reactionary". He emphasizes that it is a Social-Democratic task to fight "with all its strength for the shorter and faster solution of capitalist agrarian development through a peasant revolution". But at the same time he points out that if Stolypin's policy (the landlord-bourgeois solution from the above) succeeds through violent suppression of the peasants, then "any Marxist who is honest with himself...will throw all agrarian programmes into the dustbin altogether"... "for after the 'solution' of the agrarian question in the Stolypin spirit there can be no other revolution (other than the proletarian revolution) capable of bringing about a serious change in the economic conditions of life of the peasant masses". But Zahmat, unlike Lenin, too alarmed to recognize as a capitalist solution the imperialist solution of the agrarian question, ignores the historical significance of the process of imperialist expropriation in Iran, i.e., the Land Reform of the '60s, and, under the rubric of seemingly revolutionary but empty phrases such as "imperial", "mandatory" and "anti- peasant" writes it off altogether. Every Iranian worker with more than fifteen years of work experience in the cities is well acquainted with the effects of the mass migration of the millions of expropriated peasants in the '60s on the class struggle of the urban workers, on the working conditions and the level of wages, on the trade organisations of workers, etc. But Zahmat, which seems to have undertaken to represent the interests of the rural petty bourgeoisie, prefers to base its analysis of the historical process of primitive accumulation in Iran and the imperialist character of the expropriation process of the '60s, which forms its basis, not upon the requirements of the proletarian class struggle under the new circumstances, but merely upon certain observations of the effects of this expropriation on the agrarian problems of the "country" and on the living conditions of the peasants.

The reality is that the "Shah's mandatory" land distribution has led to the impoverishment, ruin and homelessness of millions of peasants and the flow of their released labour-power from the countryside to the cities; and this is but the imperialist solution of the agrarian question in Iran which indeed meets the needs of monopoly capital for labour-power as a cheap commodity. The necessity for releasing the labour-power, as required by imperialist capital to prepare the ground for the export of capital and the production of super-profit, was realized through the Land Reform of the 1960s. Now, taking this irrefutable fact into account, is not the view which, instead of attracting this enormous force (which inevitably still has its roots in land and in the countryside) to the camp of the proletariat, instead of striving for the growth and elevation of its political consciousness, and, finally, instead of organising it as a part of the powerful army of socialism, advocates its return to the fragmented lands (under the rubric of "equalization in the ownership of land") a reactionary view? In our opinion, it is.

* * *

The adoption of a proletarian position regarding the agrarian question and the peasant movement in Iran requires an understanding of the economic and the class basis of the problem. To do so, it is first of all necessary to carefully consider the imperialist nature and content of the land reform of the '60s. Leaving a thorough analysis for a later time, we will briefly consider here the significance and the main features of the land reform programme.

I. Some theoretical points should first be made:

1) The process of expropriation and its ultimate outcome (i.e. the labour power turning widely into a commodity) is the point of transition from the feudalist to the capitalist relations, both from an historical and an analytical viewpoint. In other words, the historical prerequisites for the establishment of capitalism will materialize when the expropriation process comes to an end; and the governing laws of society from that "juncture" will be the laws governing the capitalist mode of production. By the transformation of labour power and the means of production (i.e. the subjective and the objective elements and conditions of the labour process) into commodities, capital will dominate social production, and hence the growth of the productive forces of society will take place on the basis and in the domain of the laws of expansion and accumulation of capital (c.f. Capital "the So-called Primitive Accumulation" and the Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations).

BUT:
2) The domination of capital over social production as a whole does not necessarily imply the control of capital over every individual process of production; what it does imply is that firstly, as we have pointed out, the subjective and objective factors of the labour process (the labour power and the means of production respectively) by and large come together within the framework of production and reproduction of capital, and the growth of the productive forces takes place mainly within the limits of growth and expansion of capital. And secondly, the principal portion of the surplus product, resulted from various labour processes in society, is appropriated by the owners of the means of production in the form of surplus value. The question as to whether the production of products (and surplus product) in all branches of production in society proceeds through the employment of wage-labour is a question related to, and pending upon, the extent of expansion and accumulation of capital at every specific point in time rather than on the fact of domination or non-domination of capital over social production. In Capital (Vol. 1, part 5, "The Production of Absolute and Relative Surplus-value") Marx specifically refers to the possibility of the survival of non-capitalist production modes in some fields (agriculture or domestic production) at the same time as when capital exerts its dominance upon the overall social production ("the era of modern industries"). The total social capital can appropriate the surplus product produced by the petty-producers (in the form of surplus value) through the functioning of commercial and the usurious capitals, which parasitically beset on the petty-producers without turning their means of living and production into capital and the producers themselves into wage-labourers. In such a case, the labour process is practically beyond the control of capital. Nevertheless, the surplus product is appropriated by capital and the share of the producers is increasingly reduced to a minimum subsistence level. This itself is a kind of production of absolute surplus value which no doubt is not "ideal" from the standpoint of capital. It is only through the control of the labour process, i.e., by bringing forth fundamental changes in the methods and techniques of production and hence by producing relative surplus value, that capital, in the final analysis, can absolutely organize social production in accordance with the requisites of capital accumulation. But it is precisely due to the domination of capital over the major productive sector of society that it may leave temporarily intact some isolated and detached sectors and be content with the appropriation of their surplus product (On the domination of capital over labour and the labour process, and its differing forms see "The Results of the Immediate Process of production", the appendix to Capital Vol.1, Penguin Publishers, and Theories of Surplus Value Part 1, pp.388-412 especially the sections on "Two Essentially Different Phases in the Exchange between Capital and Labour" and "The Labour of handicraftsmen and peasants in capitalist Society", Progress Publishers.)

Below we shall see the decisive importance of the above-mentioned point in analyzing the capitalist relations in Iran (and, in particular, the Iranian countryside).

3) Dispossessing the direct producers (peasants in particular) is the necessary condition for the expansion of bourgeois relations of production. Expropriation removes the feudalist obstacles to the growth of capitalist relations and transforms the labour power and the means of production largely into commodities. But the extent to which capitalist relations expand within every specific sphere of production depends upon the extent of accumulation of capital in that sphere. For example, the transformation of pre-capitalist modes of production (strictly speaking, the modes dominating the labour process) in the countryside into a capitalist mode, i.e., the transformation of rural employment into an employment of wage-labour, depends upon the accumulation and expansion of capital in the countryside. As such, as we have pointed out, the process of expropriation is only the necessary condition for the transformation of modes of production; the sufficient condition being the accumulation of capital, i.e., the movement of capital towards the utilization of the existing potentials. Hence, it goes without saying that if, following a process of expropriation, a swift expansion of capital does not occur in the countryside, it is not that feudalist relations act as an external obstacle, rather it is exactly the logic of profitability which restrains capital from within. That is, agricultural production, as compared to other investment opportunities available at any given time, does not, from the standpoint of productivity and profitability, draw a favourable picture for capital. There is no doubt that in such circumstances, as we have pointed out, capital will not give up the surplus product of the traditional production and, in one way or another, will appropriate it through the afore-mentioned mechanisms.

4)
    a) In this respect, one intrinsic tendency of capital must specifically be kept in sight. Concentration and centralization of production and capital and the emergence of monopoly capital are primarily indicative of the fact that capital gives rise to a swifter rate of growth in the sector producing the means of production as compared to the sector producing the necessary means of consumption (mainly agricultural production) in the process of accumulation (i.e., reproduction on a large scale). This is the result of the increase in the organic composition of capital (the ratio of constant to variable capital) in the process of accumulation. In other words, the growth in production of the necessary means of consumption (means of subsistence) is proportional to the growth in variable capital (variable component of the total social capital which is paid off to the workers and used up in the purchase of the means of subsistence by them) whereas the growth in production of the means of production corresponds to the growth of constant capital (which is used up in purchasing of the means of production). Hence the sluggish rate of capital accumulation in the agricultural sector is an intrinsic tendency of the capitalist production as regards the total social capital. Imperialism, as capitalism in the era of monopolies, clearly reflects and crystallises this general tendency of capitalist production.

    b) Imperialism as a global order necessitates a global division of labour. Thus, in addition to the general parameters mentioned above, the development of agriculture in a capitalist economy in which the domestic market is a part of the global market of monopoly capital, strictly depends on the extent to which the profitability of agricultural production in a given country is deemed favourable by monopoly capital, in respect to other global alternatives available to it. In other words, the question as to the workers of which country under its dominance does the global mechanism of monopoly capital allocate the task of producing the means of subsistence of the workers it has in its employment throughout the world, is quite a concrete question; it depends on the country (or countries) in which the profitability of agricultural production is more readily realizable. Clearly, this mechanism of division of labour is not a planned and pre-determined one. It is the natural and practical consequence of movement, accumulation and expansion of various capitals within the framework of the laws of competition. In capitalist countries under the domination of imperialism, where the formation of a domestic market is, in most cases, historically dependent upon the requisites of monopoly capital, and the division of labour is in all cases based on such requisites, any analysis of agricultural growth or the absence of it in these countries necessitates a quite specific consideration of the characteristics of their domestic markets and their place in the global market of monopoly capital. Thus before one attempts to pronounce general dictums on the impossibility of agricultural growth in countries under imperialist domination, one must recall examples such as Brazil (coffee), Guatemala (fruit), and Ghana (cocoa). While it is true that in the era of imperialism capital accumulation in agricultural production (in the world market as a whole) proceeds at a slower rate, but the concrete imperialist division of labour in dominated countries may well go to show that in the domestic market of a particular dominated capitalist country agriculture is the principal sector of social production under fully-developed bourgeois relations. One point, however, is quite clear: The tendency of capital, particularly in the era of imperialism, is towards breaking the economic boundaries of self-sufficient agriculture. For self-sufficiency is above all in contradiction with the global division of labour of capital and imperialism.

II. Now with regard to the general and theoretical points discussed, we may look at the specific features of the imperialist process of expropriation in Iran, the establishment and the development of capitalism throughout Iran and the quality of the expansion of bourgeois relations in the countryside.

1. We have said that the process by which the direct producer (peasants) are despoiled of their means of production, and hence their transformation into wage-labourers, lies at the centre of the capitalist solution of the agrarian question. From this perspective, the land reform of the 1960s has no doubt, by providing the necessary prerequisites of capital accumulation, resolved the agrarian question in Iran. This specific historical juncture is marked by the final conclusion of the infrastructural transformation of Iranian economy from feudalism into capitalism. The distribution of land among the "Nassagh" holders deprived, in its initiation, almost 2 millions of rural families from any right to the land. During the past fifteen years, dating from the implementation of the first phase of the imperialist land reform programme in Iran, hundreds of thousands more peasants have joined the masses of wage labourers, the toilers who have no means of livelihood other than to sell their labour power. The migration of millions of the toiling masses from the village to the city, the intense relative (and absolute in the '70s) reduction of the rural population, and the decrease in the proportion of agriculture in the total employment of labour power confirm the determining significance of this historical event as regards the development of capitalism in Iran. No doubt, with respect to the establishment of capitalism in Iran, "the mandatory land reform of Mohammed Reza Shah" marks the most important economic event in Iran in the 20th century. This is a fact that no Marxist should evade. Recognizing it would place the communists "alongside" the Shah as much as the recognition of the success of Stolypin's land reform could put the Bolsheviks "alongside" the Tsar. Nonetheless, the transformation of the Iranian economy did not take place in a classical way, i.e., through the growth of commodity production in the domestic market, on the one hand, and the development of productive forces in the matrix of the feudalist agricultural production on the other; rather it came about through the movement of monopoly capital to turn Iran into a source of cheap labour power and to prepare the ground for the export and accumulation of monopoly capital. The brief and rapid process of expropriation arid the instant destitution of the millions of Iranian peasants should thus be regarded as the termination point of primitive accumulation in Iran - a primitive accumulation which from the outset had the mark of the specific needs of monopoly capital upon it. The laws of movement of total social capital in the domestic market which, following the peasant expropriation process, dominate the social production, are dependent upon the movements and the global requisites of monopoly capital. Capital profitability in the domestic market, and hence the positive or negative tendencies which affect this profitability become mainly conditional to the global performance of the monopoly capital. Iran, then, from this specific historical juncture, is a capitalist country under imperialist domination (i.e., a dependent capitalist country). The domestic market is subject to the laws governing the movement of the monopoly capital both with respect to the qualitative parameters (i.e., production of value and surplus value) and the quantitative parameters (i.e., the division of labour and the production of use-value.) This is of course with respect to the fact that the domestic market in Iran must operate, from the standpoint of monopoly capital, as a field of the production of imperialist super-profits. Hence the production of super-profits forms the basis of the labour-capital relations in Iran.

Leaving it to the advocates of the "national bourgeoisie" and the "national and independent capitalism" to lament the absence of a classical capitalist growth in Iran, what concerns the Marxists is the outcome and the consequences of this non-classical/imperialist character of expropriation in Iran from the point of view of the class struggle of the proletariat. For the Iranian bourgeoisie, which owed its baptism to monopoly capital, the imperialist process of peasant expropriation of the '60s came as a divine blessing. Monopoly capital, in pursuit of cheap labour power in Iran, effected those radical changes (as radical as Stolypin's solution in Russia) for which the native bourgeoisie had gone to every extent and suffered hardships for decades. Henceforth a mass of millions of proletarians were in line to be exploited in the labour market. Abundance of a sort which even the monopoly bourgeoisie was incapable of absorbing in full. (The rate of migration from the countryside to the city was so great, in fact, that by the end of the Third Plan of 1967 to 1972, the labour market of the cities were thronged with 500,000 more people than what the imperialist planners of the Plan Organization (Sazeman-e-Barnameh) had expected. There is no need to emphasize the effect of such a reserve army of labour upon the wage rates and the accumulation of capital).

Thus from the standpoint of Iranian capitalism, the agrarian question has been consummated precisely in accordance with the specific mode of capitalist growth that could and should have taken place. He who reintroduces the necessity for a capitalistic solution to the agrarian question as a task of our revolution, either regards this historical (from the standpoint of capitalist growth in Iran) and agonizing (from the viewpoint of millions of the masses of peasantry) development as having been in vain (under such rubrics as "mandatory and imperial") or believes in the possibility and necessity of a "new way" of development for Iranian capitalism. The former goes to show the case of dreaming in the past and the latter of fantasizing in the future. And which petty-bourgeois can avoid either of these?

2. Thus, theoretically speaking, the necessary condition for the development of bourgeois relations in the Iranian countryside has been satisfied for the last 1 5 years. Monopoly capital, however, needed the vast labour power of the expropriated villagers not for the capitalistic production of grains, cereals, dried fruits, and oilseeds, but rather in the first place for exploitation in the branches of extraction industries and their auxiliaries which, to start with, were dependent upon vast investments in construction industries (i.e., roads, dams, power stations, and different residential townships) and entailed the growth of some branches of production (transportation, steel, petrochemistry) as well as light industries of household consumption, automobile industry, etc. All in all, these gave rise to new fields of making profit and super-profits[4]. A large proportion of the labour power was absorbed into the fields of non-productive labour (non-productive, from the standpoint of production of surplus-value) which is the necessary condition for the exploitation of productive labour. The rapid boost in the service sector (banks, insurance companies, advertisement..., and the state offices dealing with the administration of the executive aspects of capitalist production), as well as the expansion of politico-military institutions which politically (i.e., with respect to class struggle) represent the necessary condition for the enslavement of the working class and the suppression of its rightful struggle against imperialist exploitation, were all expressions of rapid capital accumulation in the domestic market based upon the imperialist model and with respect to the specific conditions in Iran.

As to why the monopoly capital and the small and medium capitals stimulated by it do not accumulate in the production of agricultural commodities is a question to whose general and specific bases we referred earlier. This question is rooted in the fact that capital does not find the sphere of agricultural production profitable (with respect to the high rate of profit in other sectors of the Iranian economy) The underlying parameters involved are (1) the high cost of increasing productivity and profitability in Iranian agriculture (natural conditions and most important of all problems of systematic irrigation), and (2) the global possibilities of imperialism in producing the means of subsistence of the Iranian workers much cheaper than is feasible in the domestic market. The rapid growth in the import of agricultural products and a swift decline in the share of the domestic production in the total supply of these products is the by-product of the imperialist character of the expropriation process, on the one hand, and the placing of the domestic market of Iranian capitalism within the framework of the world market and its division of labour, on the other. If "Zahmat" is interested in studying the effects of "Mohammad Reza Shah's land-reforms" on the lives of the poor peasants of Iran, he must come to the cities, along with millions of young villagers, who were forced to migrate, and see for himself the rate of exploitation, the rate of accumulation of capital in the spheres we named and also the low rate of wages of the whole Iranian proletariat. For the basic goal of the imperialist expropriation of the '60s, in the first place, was neither the capitalist re-organization of the Iranian countryside, nor the destruction of our "old" self-sufficient petty commodity production which many of our petty-bourgeois socialists painfully miss, and which is rekindled every time the likes of Ostad Reza Esfahani {The agricultural minister of the present regime for a brief period-Tr.} speak of it. In the initial stage the aim of this process was to create cheap labour power in the cities. As to what will happen to the "future" of the Iranian agriculture in connection with the expansion of capitalist production in the country, the concentration of production and capital, the restriction of the spheres for profitability, and the changes in the global priorities and possibilities of monopoly capital, is a question with many theoretically possible answers. But capitalism and imperialism, long before reaching their theoretical "economic destiny", will reach a political dead-end in the arena of a practical concrete class struggle. The Iranian revolution has already clearly questioned the capitalism in Iran and its any possible "future".

3. The imperialist character of the process of peasant expropriation and the dominated character of Iranian capitalism has brought into existence a particular set of conditions in the countryside. On the one hand, in regard to the development of capitalism in the country as a whole (development of capitalism in the dominated country, based on the production of super- profit) the agrarian question has been resolved. Imperialism has extracted its necessary labour-power from the old order of production through expropriation. On the other hand, however, capital has been accumulating and expanding at a much lower pace than the transformation of the labour power into a commodity in the countryside. Consequently, in many Iranian villages (whether affected by the various stages of the land reform or not) a great number of individual processes of production are not carried out under the direct domination of capital. But, as we have indicated, this by no means signifies that the surplus product of the peasantry is not appropriated by capital. Quite the contrary, the Iranian countryside is a manifest example of the parasitic operation and movement of commercial and usurious capitals, while capital dominates the country as a whole. In this regard, Marx's theoretical point glaringly applies in the case of many Iranian villages. The sluggish rate of capital accumulation in the agricultural sector is well reflected in the figures for the formation of Gross Domestic Fixed Capital[5]: during 1966-75, the share of agriculture from the total investment in the country did not exceed 6%. Furthermore, investment in agricultural machinery[6] dropped from 11 % of the total capital invested in machinery in 1966, to 6% in 1975, with the value of agricultural products falling from 25.8% of the national income to 9.1%. In 1975, however, the "Rural Cooperative Companies" and the "Agricultural Cooperative Bank" paid out loans of over 60 billion Rials to the peasants, which represented a six-fold increase over 1966. The loans were paid mainly during the winter and were used up by the peasants for their immediate needs. Whereas the average peasant's borrowing in 1966 did not exceed 10,000 Rials, the majority of the loans in 1975 were between 10,000 and 50,000 Rials. In 1975, the total amount of loans received by the peasantry from the above two official usurers alone, was twice the amount of the total capital investment in the agricultural sector in the same year. And this does not take into account the loans paid out to the peasantry by other big or small state or private usurious capitals. The function of commercial capital in the countryside - which hinges on the pricing policy and the import policy of the state towards agricultural commodities - is self-evident.

So much would suffice to indicate the basic dimensions of the peasants' economic conditions. The Iranian peasant who has retained his "means of production" is being progressively crushed under the parasitic commercial and usurious capitals. What in the end remains of the produce of many peasant families who own a piece of land and a ploughing animal is nothing but the minimum level of subsistence. All or a principal portion of the surplus product ends up in the figures for the profits of the commercial and the usurious capitals. Here capital, without necessarily having direct control over the labour process, appropriates the surplus product in the form of surplus value. No doubt, from the standpoint of capital, this is a form of the production of absolute surplus value. Only through the direct control of the labour process, by welding together the labour-power and the means of production, as commodities under its ownership, can capital display its historic capacity for substantially increasing productivity and profitability on the basis of the production of relative surplus value. But, 'for the time being", so long as more profit lies in producing oil, automobiles, garments, biscuits, etc., it puts monetary capital to use in these spheres, and "contents" itself with the sacking of the countryside.

4. Class relation in most parts of the countryside inevitably adjusts to this economic reality. On the one hand, to the extent that capital accumulation takes place in the countryside, a section of the vast expropriated mass of peasantry transforms into the proletariat (wage labourers) in the countryside itself, and, on the other hand, to the same extent, the state, joint stock agricultural companies, private capitalists, and the upper strata of the peasantry replace the big landowners. But one must always emphasise that a determining majority of the expropriated peasants join the ranks of the proletariat not in the countryside but in the towns. Where the big landowners retain their power, the feudalist content of this power fades away, from an economic standpoint, as it increasingly becomes dependent upon the social power of capital. The big landowners, the glorious and almighty lords of the past, no longer exist as owners of the chief means of production (land and water) and thereof as rulers of the state apparatus. Rather, they exist as the owner of a part of the means of production, and largely as the agents of suppression of the bourgeois government against peasant struggles in the countryside. The "landlord" of today is not - and does not want to be - either politically or from an economic standpoint, in a position to hinder the movement of capital in accumulating and expanding in the countryside. Quite the contrary, the escalation of the revolutionary movement and the day by day growth of the peasant struggle makes increasingly evident the full dependency of the big landowner (and the big landed property) upon the economics and the politics of the dependent capitalism in Iran.

But the fundamental point here is to understand the economic and political situation of the Khoshneshin population, Nassagh-holders, tenant farmers, and petty landowners who have, as a consequence of the imperialist character of the expropriation process, neither been able to practically transform into a full-fledged rural bourgeoisie nor have they been practically employed as wage labourers by capital. This is the fundamental character of the agrarian question in the specific circumstances of Iran. The imperialist process of expropriation has on the one hand destroyed the external obstacles for capitalist development in the city and the countryside and, so far as the land property relations are concerned, satisfied the necessary condition for capital accumulation in all spheres. On the other hand, capital and labour confront each other, not in the countryside, but, chiefly, in the city market. Therefore, capital accumulation in the countryside and, consequently, the internal differentiation of the peasantry into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie take place sluggishly. In short, the agrarian question from a capitalist" perspective, i.e., development of capitalist relations in society and removal of feudalist obstacles for the expansion of these relations, has been resolved without practically expanding bourgeois relations widely in the countryside, without polarizing the peasantry into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie; in other words, without resolving the agrarian question from the standpoint of the peasantry[7]. As we have pointed out, in most parts of the countryside capital does not exert its direct control over the production process. If this were the case, the wage labour-capital relations would consequently find their human and class expression in splitting the peasantry into the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. But temporarily capital merely exerts its rule over ways of appropriation of the surplus product and thereby leaves intact the relations of production which give rise to this surplus product, and the human components of these relations. Capitalism in Iran develops in the only possible way in the imperialist era (in the dominated country), i.e., as dependent capitalism. As such, in most cases, it leaves alone the labour process in the countryside and contents itself with appropriating the product of the labour process.

The separation between the economic aspect of the solution of the agrarian question (i.e., its capitalist character) and its class aspect (i.e., the internal differentiation of the peasantry) is a consequence of the imperialist character of the expropriation process and the establishment and operation of the dependent capitalist system. One should emphasize that from a theoretical standpoint, the development of capitalism (even dependent capitalism) is in no contradiction with the elimination of this separation. Concentration and centralization of capital along with the diminishing spheres of profitability for different capitals both in the domestic and the world market will inevitably lead capital towards the utilization of productive elements existing in many Iranian villages - both as labour-power and as land - beyond the direct control of capital. The differentiation of the Iranian peasantry is no doubt the "logical" consequence of the growth of capital relations in Iran. (Whether this would result in a further intensification of the migration of the poor peasants to the cities or the expansion of industrial agriculture - much to the liking of Zahmat - cannot be predicted in advance). But as we have pointed out, capitalism, long before coming to the logical end of its economic growth must yield to the class logic of its productive system; it will be overthrown by the proletariat that it has itself brought into existence. The gong has already been sounded for the death of the dependent capitalism of Iran, i.e., the only possible form of capitalism in Iran, by the Iranian revolution. The point, however, is that it has become of crucial importance for the Iranian proletariat to face the peasant movement precisely under conditions that dependent capitalism has resolved the agrarian question from the standpoint of its historical growth without concluding the differentiation of the peasantry from within. On the one hand, the Iranian peasantry has split not just into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie, but into a hodgepodge of diverse classes, having diverse positions in production and diverse relations with the means of production. On the other hand, the hodgepodge of this sort, as a whole, continues to exist under the domain of capital.

The land reforms of the '60s were based upon the expropriation (or, denial of rights to the land) of a vast mass of the peasantry. As previously noted, the fundamental aim of this process, that is, the creation of a vast urban proletariat with low wages, has been fully realized. But in regard to what was to remain of the relations of production in the Iranian agriculture, the land reform during its 1 5 years, did not have a uniform practice, because:

1) The first stage of the land reform (direct distribution of the then existing plots among those nassagh-holders who held the land at the time of the passage of the law) covered, up to 1973, only a maximum of 16,000 villages from a total of 45- 55,000 Iranian villages. This was equivalent to 690,000 rural families.

2) The second stage of the reform, concerning villages unaffected by the reform, left the landlords with five alternatives for the land they retained:

a. To rent the land out to peasants on the basis of the average earning from the land, of the 3 previous years. A total of 81% of the landlords took up this option.
b. To sell the land to peasants at a mutually agreed price. This included 3.5% of the landlords.
c. To divide the land with the peasants according to the share of each side in the crop (10%).
d. To set up joint-stock companies on the basis of landlords' and peasants' share in the crop (5%).
e. To act in accordance with the ratifications of the first stage(-).
3) To these must be added the introduction of the "Joint-Stock Agricultural Companies" and the "Farming & Industry" which were directed towards the re-merger and re-centralization of land and the expansion of wage-labour employment in the countryside.

Primarily, what stands out clearly in this transformation of the landed-property system is the establishment of bourgeois property in land, on the one hand, and the setting of the scene for the development of wage labour employment, on the other.

The above-mentioned plans in their entirety concerned, at most, the nassagh-holders (who constituted 35-45% of the total rural population of Iran). The Khoshneshins, however, who never had a defined right to the land and were completely dependent upon feudalist production and property, were by and large left with no alternative hut selling their labour power. This rather static picture, however, must be viewed in the light of the dynamics of the flow, accumulation and centralization of capital. The petty land owners, tenant farmers and peasant "share holders" who thus came into being through the reform were not to remain as such forever (and in fact they did not) especially since aiding the growth of agricultural productivity was by no means on the agenda of the monopoly capital and its representative state. Even many nassagh-holders (who were transformed into petty land owners) were by and large driven out to the area of wage-labour employment rather than towards bourgeois ownership and employment of wage-labour. Thus, accumulation in the countryside did not occur at a significant rate and the migration of expropriated peasants overshadowed wage-labour employment in the countryside. But in a country like Iran where, at the beginning of the expropriation process, 70% of the population lived in the countryside and made their living off agriculture, migration - however massive and numerous - could not, in and of itself, make it possible for capital to employ in the cities all the released labour power of the countryside; for this depends, above all, on the rate of capital accumulation in the non-agricultural sectors of production, and not just the supply of labour-power. Consequently, while the share of agriculture in the national income had dropped to 8-9%, the peasantry still constituted half of the total population of the country. Capital accumulation went on sluggishly in the countryside, yet at the same time the expropriated peasants saw no future before them in the cities. Hence, in addition to the petty land holders who do own some land compatible with the productive capacity of their families, many peasants who were actually expropriated continue to live on small pieces of land which by no means suffice to sustain them and their families. To earn their living, then, they rely either on wage labour employment during the harvest and ploughing seasons, on the income of the young family members in the cities, or on the sale of home made handicrafts, etc. 8-9% of the country's total income is divided, and even that not equally, among 50% of its population. This is indicative of the extremely low standard of living of large masses of Iranian peasantry for whom every single wage-labour employment appears as an improvement in economic conditions - an employment which, precisely due to the imperialist character of the expropriation process and the laws governing the dependent capitalism of Iran, would not be forthcoming. Now only by virtue of owning a few acres, many continue to live in the countryside as "peasants" while basically and potentially they function as part of the reserve army of labour at the service of capital.

Hence, concerning the class composition of the Iranian peasantry, the picture thus obtained from the "Iranian village" fully emphasizes the imperialist (capitalist) character of the expropriation process, the aim of which was, we repeat[8], neither the accumulation of capital in the countryside, nor the "solution of the problems of the Iranian agriculture", nor "improvement in the condition of the poor peasantry"; it was designed, however, to cause a rapid and profitable accumulation of capital in the fore-mentioned sectors. And this, of course, is nothing but the "capitalist solution of the agrarian question" in the era of imperialism and under the specific circumstances of Iran. From the standpoint of the total social capital and its historical development in Iran, the expansion of bourgeois relations in the countryside no longer requires a "revolution" (either from above or from below), but depends entirely on the priorities of capital itself. Nevertheless, this itself points to the fact that the peasant question has remained unresolved. The sluggish accumulation of capital in the countryside has meant that there exist, beside the rural proletariat (fulltime or seasonal), large masses of peasants with little or no land, tenant farmers, Khoshneshins, etc. We shall point out the significance of this below. Here however one must stress that the survival of "old feudalist" or petty land ownership relations by no means implies the absence of capital control over the agricultural sector. Capital does not hold absolute sway over the labour process in the countryside, while it irrefutably does hold control over the appropriation of surplus product. We have already referred to the theoretical basis of this fact. One should add here that the absence of absolute control of capital over the labour process in the countryside does not at all mean the absence of capital control over the social production in the whole country (i.e., the fact that capitalism is the mode of production in Iran). Quite the contrary, the small and ever diminishing share of agriculture in the total social production of Iran suggests that social production takes place and expands mainly where the labour process is under the sway of capital. And this itself is but indicative of the dominance of capital and the laws of its movement over the Iranian economy as a whole.

4) Now does the recognition of the specific economic features of the agrarian question in Iran help in appraising the place of the agrarian question in our revolution and in understanding the economic bases of the peasant movement in Iran?

Firstly, with regard to what we have pointed out, it is obvious that 'the capitalist solution of the agrarian question" in Iran, be it radical or not, from above or from below, does not form the central task of the democratic revolution; for there are no more than two possibilities: either the resolution of the agrarian question anew and within a capitalist framework is supposed to help expand bourgeois relations in the countryside, as a link in the further growth of the dependent capitalism of Iran, thus helping the growth of Iranian capitalism as the sphere of production of imperialist super profit. For a communist, this would mean being more Catholic than the Pope about imperialism. Iranian capitalism, insofar as the agrarian question is concerned, has already removed all the obstacles to its growth through the expropriation of the '60s and as such finds no necessity whatever for resolving the agrarian question afresh, specially from a standpoint which it itself discarded some 15 years ago. Or, it is assumed that resolving the agrarian question within a capitalist framework - this time of course radically and from the below - prepares the ground for the growth of the domestic market. This is but the now well-known utopia of "national and independent capitalism"- i.e., the utopia of substituting the capitalism of the era of free-competition for monopoly capitalism, the utopia of "resurrecting" the industrial revolution in the era of moribund capitalism, and the utopia of the disintegrating petty bourgeoisie. As to why from an economic standpoint it is impossible for capitalism in the era of imperialism to give place to an "independent capitalism led by the national bourgeoisie", this must be "proven" at another occasion {See Hekmat, M. The Myth of the National and Progressive Bourgeoisie (Vols.1&2)-Tr}. But one thing is clear: the Iranian working class which has already risen up against capitalism and already - in the context of capital's deep crisis - finds itself only a few steps away from overthrowing the entire bourgeois order, has no interest whatever in such petty-bourgeois fogyism which "promises" the agony, the sweat and the blood of the European workers of the 17-18th century.

Secondly, the economic basis of every peasant movement consists of the demand for land. On the one hand peasants, as petty producers, enjoy certain rights to the means of production and to land as its determining component (These "rights" may vary from private ownership of land to holding definite rights to the land - as in the case of Iranian nassagh-holders). On the other hand, they are dependent upon their own and their families' labour power for production. Under these circumstances, the improvement of the peasants' economic living standards is above all contingent upon the quality and the quantity of land they cultivate, and the conditions under which they happen to hold it. It is hence clear that the peasants' economic struggle pivots around the demand for better and larger pieces of land under more favourable conditions, and that this struggle must at every stage be carried on against the social classes representing big landed ownership (feudalistic or capitalistic) and their supporting political institutions.

Consequently, resolving the agrarian question from the viewpoint of capitalist development in society will also resolve the "peasant question" only when the accumulation of capital in the countryside finalizes the class differentiation of the peasantry into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie on a large scale. Under such circumstances, the class struggle in the countryside will be established upon a new economic basis. The domination of capital over the labour process and the internal differentiation of the peasantry into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie point to the fact that the economic struggle of the exploited (proletarian) and the exploiting (bourgeois) classes will transform into a struggle for determining the conditions of selling and using labour power. The general framework of this struggle, consists of a struggle for raising the level of wages, reducing the labour time, and improving the working conditions, by the proletariat, and attempts to reduce wages and increase the rate of exploitation through various means, by the bourgeoisie. Hence the class differentiation of the peasantry into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie on a large scale will, in principle, radically transform the economic basis of class struggle in the countryside and eliminate the raison d'être of the "peasant movement" along with the "peasant forms of ownership and production".

Nevertheless, as we have pointed out, the peculiarity of the imperialist solution of the agrarian question in Iran has, at the present time, precisely brought into being conditions which despite resolving the agrarian question from the standpoint of capitalist development in society (i.e., elimination of feudalist obstacles) has not concluded the process of large scale internal differentiation of the peasants. Vast masses of rural toilers, despite the fact that in the final analysis they turn in their surplus product to capital, despite the fact that there are no feudalistic bonds to attach them to the land, despite the fact that they form part of the reserve army of labour and function as such for capital, and despite the fact that to many of them wage labour employment represents an improvement in their living conditions, in spite of all these, they maintain their status as peasants in the productive field in the countryside; peasants who, due to their specific relations with the means of production, seek to improve their living conditions through acquisition of more land with better quality and under more favourable circumstances. In other words, despite the fact that the capitalist solution of the agrarian question in Iran has been realized, due to the imperialist character of the very same solution, the agrarian question has not been completely resolved from a class standpoint, i.e., from the viewpoint of the peasantry. Hence, where capital and the laws of its movement hold control over the social production, and where class struggle throughout society hinges upon the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, a peasant movement bearing on bourgeois ideals finds a possibility for existence in the countryside. But the capitalist and imperialist solution of the agrarian question implies that the bourgeois ideals of the peasant movement have lost their historical role and, more than ever, turned into an unrealisable utopia. Utopia not in the sense that the peasant movement is unable to confiscate and redistribute land through the use of political power and force, and not in the sense that it is incapable of upholding the peasant- bourgeois mode of production against the interests of monopoly capital for a while in the Iranian countryside, but in the sense that this mode of production has no longer a place in the historical development of Iranian capitalism; in the sense that the laws of movement of a dependent capitalist society under the particular conditions of Iran are incompatible with this particular form of ownership and production in the countryside and do not~ provide favourable ground for its growth (and the concentration and centralization of capital thereof). In contrast to the Russian peasantry of the early 20th century, the Iranian peasantry must establish its desirable mode of ownership and production (essentially a capitalist mode) not against a feudalistic agrarian order, but against the agrarian policy of the monopoly capital (which is also a capitalist order). But this will above all endanger the bases for profitability of the total social capital, which produces and reproduces itself according to the movement and the world requirements of monopoly capital. It would be bourgeois short-sightedness if the historical desirability or the material possibility of the realization of the ideal of peasant-bourgeois ownership and production in the Iranian countryside be merely assessed within the frame of changes in production relations in the countryside itself. The peasant movement no doubt starts from this "bourgeois short-sightedness". There is no doubt that if one abstracts from the functioning of the entire system of production, that is, if one disregards the general laws governing the movement of total social capital of Iran in the domestic market (i.e., the laws which do not only limit themselves to the labour-capital relations in the countryside) then, with regard to the remnants of the old forms of labour in some parts of the Iranian countryside, one may consider the establishment of the peasant-bourgeois mode of ownership and production not only a practical possibility but also a historical necessity and achievement. But from the standpoint of Marxism and from the viewpoint of the proletariat such an abstraction is not permissible. The peasant-bourgeois ownership, the extent of the probability of its realization (i.e., its systematic production and reproduction), and its part in the historical development of society, can only be studied and assessed as part of the capitalist system in Iran. From this perspective, the subject of inquiry, study, and comparison is not the substitution of the peasant-bourgeois mode of production for the remnants of feudalist ownership - sharecropping, tenant farming, etc.- in the backward regions of the country; it is, rather, the substitution of either of the two general models of capitalist development in the country as a whole. The first model to which we have already referred, is the dependent capitalist model along with the specific agrarian policy it requires. The second is a model of capitalist development in which the peasant-bourgeois ownership and production is to form the basis of production and reproduction of the means of subsistence of the whole working class, and thus the profitability of the agricultural production in the domestic market is to become an essential element for determining the rate of exploitation of the entire working class, and for determining the profitability of the total social capital and its constituent strata. The first model is the existing reality, which, as we have repeatedly pointed out, has discarded all thought about the growth of the peasant-bourgeois production in the countryside, and has resolved the agrarian question in its own way and according to the specific needs of its development. The second model however, turns out to be none other than the utopia of "national and independent capitalism" of which the agrarian component in the limited arena of the countryside forms the impetus for the peasant movement, and which drives the peasants into a revolutionary struggle against the existing order; while the other components and the general framework of this utopia turns into the crux of bourgeois-liberal demagoguery and compromises the revolution in the "city". This is but reflective of the dualist functioning of the dependent capitalism of Iran in the city and in the countryside: In the "city", where capital has actually been accumulating, and where dependent capitalism has been able to solidify the grounds for the profitability of capital, the "ideal" of "national and independent capitalism" has been drained of all material content - even for the bourgeoisie itself - and, in the arena of politics and for the ideological stupefaction of the masses, has been utilized by the bourgeoisie as a means for reviving the dependent capitalist system - thanks to the deviations of the communist movement - under the rubric of "national economy" or the "non-capitalist way of development". Where dependent capitalism has made a full display of itself, the utopia of "independent and national capitalism" is by no means capable of any mobilization for a revolutionary struggle against the imperialist domination. In the countryside, however, which matters for capitalism as a repository of cheap labour-power ready to be dispatched to the non-agricultural productive sectors, and where local capital accumulation is naturally not of considerable significance the utopia of peasant-bourgeois formation (as an inseparable part of the utopia of "national and independent capitalism") drives the peasants with little or no land holdings, as far as armed struggle against the monopoly capital and its representative state for the seizure of land.

5) Finally, with regard to the foregoing discussion, what should the stance of the revolutionary proletariat of Iran and its communist vanguards be concerning the agrarian question and the peasant movement under the present circumstances?

a) The utopian character of the ideals of the peasant movement cannot and should not, by any means, restrict the Iranian proletariat in recognizing, supporting and strengthening the democratic and revolutionary aspects of this movement. Particularly because:
Firstly, the roots of poverty and destitution of the vast masses of rural toilers must be sought not in the survival of feudalist productive order, but in the material functioning of dependent capitalism (i.e., capitalism of the imperialist era in the dominated country). As we have pointed out, what in fact maintains the existing low living standard of the rural toilers of Iran at present is not feudalist exploitation or the direct appropriation of the peasants' surplus product by the feudal landlords, but its indirect appropriation by private and state capitals. In a dependent capitalist system, the poor peasant exists only as a member of the reserve army of labour for capital; for the logic of capital accumulation does not allow the army of the unemployed ever to enjoy a living standard higher than, or even equal to, that of the employed sector of workers. Where capital exploits the labour power of the employed workers at a very low price (i.e., the imperialist conditions of production in Iran) the prospect for the reserve army of labour and its "latent" component - the poor peasantry - would be self-evident. The poor peasants' struggle for improving their conditions, i.e., their struggle for land, is above all a struggle against the agrarian policy of imperialism in Iran and a struggle against the concrete operation of dependent capitalism in the Iranian countryside.

Secondly, from the standpoint of class struggle and as regards the present revolution, the bourgeois ideals of the peasantry as compared to the promises and illusions of the bourgeoisie and the well-to-do urban petty bourgeoisie concerning the establishment of a "national and independent capitalism' are poles apart. The peasants' fight for land seizure (even though under the aegis of peasant-bourgeois ideals) in its practice in the political arena runs counter to the interests and goals of the urban bourgeoisie; interests which the Iranian bourgeoisie tries desperately to revive and uphold under the same rubric of "national and independent capitalism". In the countryside, the bourgeois utopia of the peasants leads them to a revolutionary and direct struggle against the political and economic domination of imperialism, whereas in the "city", the same bourgeois illusions and ideals of the masses are used by the bourgeoisie as a pretext for collusion with imperialism, maintaining the bourgeois ownership of the means of production, and suppressing the revolution. As economic ideals, the utopia of peasant-bourgeois formation and the general utopia of "national and independent capitalism" are no doubt formally compatible. But as soon as one shifts attention to the arena of class struggle one can see that this compatibility remains at the same formal level. (Not of course for Zahmat who, in attempting to theorize the peasant-bourgeois formation, pins its hopes precisely on the promises of BaniSadr and the "nationalist advisers of the ministry of agriculture - these effective weapons of the bourgeoisie for suppressing the revolution.) Having taken up the task of defending the foundations of dependent capitalism and saving it from the "abyss" of the revolution, the present regime cannot, in practice, help supporting the agrarian policy of imperialism and suppressing the peasant revolutionary struggle. On the other hand, the peasant revolutionary movement for improving the conditions of the rural masses - no matter to what extent it is pursued on a bourgeois-utopian basis - cannot avoid joining the camp of the anti-imperialist revolution of the workers and toilers of the country, thus becoming the potential ally of the Iranian proletariat in the present democratic revolution.


b) Now, in view of the fact that:
1) From an economic standpoint, i.e., with regard to the place of the agrarian question in establishing the domination of capital over social production throughout Iran and eliminating the feudalist obstacles to the expansion of capitalist relations in the countryside, the agrarian question has been resolved through the expropriation of 1960s.

2) Despite the fact that the agrarian question has been resolved from the standpoint of capitalism, the class differentiation of the peasantry into a proletariat and a bourgeoisie has not been concluded on a wide scale, due to the slow pace of capital accumulation in the countryside (indicative of the peculiarity of Iranian capitalism rather than its "malfunctioning"). In other words, the class aspect of the agrarian question has remained unresolved.

3) The demand for land has kept its importance as the fundamental demand of the peasant movement and beckons to the peasants to take revolutionary action against big landowner- ship.

4) Today, all peasant movement in Iran, however "radical" it might be, has in the final analysis a bourgeois content and cannot offer more than a capitalist solution. Hence the peasant "solution" has lost its importance and its historical place in the development of capitalist relations in Iran, and has more than ever turned into a utopian ideal, following the imperialist, i.e., "from the above" resolution of the land question in Iran. (This is particularly so because the "elimination of obstacles to capitalist development" is by no means on the agenda of Iran's democratic revolution.)

5) Nevertheless, in order to "realize" its utopian and bourgeois ideals, the peasant movement has to resort to a revolutionary struggle against big landownership (a product of the "agrarian" policy of imperialism in Iran) and against the regime supporting it. This necessity has already been extensively translated into action in many parts of the Iranian countryside (Kurdistan, Turkaman Sahra, etc.)

6) And finally, with respect to the summary of Lenin's approach to the agrarian question and its generally applicable aspects, briefly discussed in this article, it should be concluded that:


Firstly, regardless of the extent to which the ideals of the peasant movement are, on the strength of the struggles of the revolutionary peasants, put into practice within a specific boundary and vis-à-vis the agrarian policy of imperialism and the laws of development of bourgeois relations, a "new" capitalist solution to the agrarian question - this time radical and from the below - can by no means be considered as the focal point of the democratic revolution. What is of significance for the Iranian proletariat in this revolution is the political-class aspect of the agrarian question, i.e., the peasant question and the revolutionary movement of the peasants.

Secondly, the revolutionary proletariat of Iran and its communist vanguards must:


1- On the one hand support with all their power the revolutionary and democratic aspects of the peasant movement and strengthen it against the imperialist reaction. To this end they must, while defending the current struggle of the peasantry (in its various political-organizational forms), disseminate and establish the slogan of the revolutionary seizure of all land by the revolutionary organs of the peasantry (councils, unions, or whatever name they happen to take on in every area)

2- And on the other hand, along with the continuous dissemination of socialism as the ultimate solution to the abolition of poverty and exploitation in the countryside, organize the rural proletariat (which is considerably large under the current conditions in Iran) in an independent proletarian (communist) organization, and thereby actively participate, as far as possible, in determining the direction of the peasant movement.

3- By no means add fuel to the "property instincts" and bourgeois utopian ideals of the peasant movement by disputing the "preference" of this or that capitalist method of "agricultural production" under the present circumstances. On the contrary, the communists must, with respect to the independent interests of the rural proletariat, consistently expose the bourgeois and utopian character of the ideals of the peasant movement.

4- Relatedly, the communists should by no means attempt to furnish "general" and "extensive" plans for ways of land redistribution, cultivation, and taking possession of the harvest. Instead, and as a general slogan, they should stress upon the Leninist approach that in every specific case and depending upon the subjective and objective capacity of the rural proletariat, they will determine the future of the confiscated lands through struggle. (With regard to the existence of multifarious forms of landownership and production in the various regions and villages of Iran, e.g., "Agriculture-and-Industries", horticulture, mechanized farming, tenant farming, petty land holding, nassagh holding, etc., understanding of the above point is of great significance. For the peasant - bourgeois formation in itself has a progressive content, even theoretically, only when it is practically posed as an alternative to more backward forms of ownership and production. Propaganda in support of the peasant-bourgeois formation or for that matter any other bourgeois formation, in lands already organized on a fully capitalist basis and run through extensive employment of wage-labour is a backward and reactionary move. This can be expected from the "peasant movement" and as such will not in the least reduce the support of the proletariat for this movement. For a communist, however, it cannot be forgiven. Where capitalist farming exists, the rural proletariat has the objective capacity of abolishing the basis of bourgeois ownership of land, by taking communal control of the confiscated lands and by collectively cultivating them.)



The slogan of "revolutionary seizure of all lands by the revolutionary peasant movement" is, under the current conditions, the most accurate slogan from the viewpoint of the Iranian proletariat in general and the rural proletariat in particular. It paves the way for a new escalation of revolutionary struggle in the countryside and is an effective means at the service of the proletariat for winning political hegemony in the camp of the revolution. It is a slogan which on the one hand expresses the revolutionary proletariat's unambiguous support for, and solidarity with, the revolutionary movement of the peasants, and, on the other hand, enables the proletariat and in particular the rural proletariat, by expanding its subjective and objective capabilities in the arena of struggle, by strengthening its independent front, and by growing politically and organizationally, to influence the "combination of forces" which will determine the fate of the seized lands. It thus enables the proletariat to participate ever more actively in materializing the prerequisites for the final move towards socialism - a move with regard to the maximum ability and strength of the proletariat rather than an a priori conception of the "stage of the revolution" and verdicts on the "rights" and the "wrongs" in the 'democratic revolution." To prepare all kinds of plans for the distribution and cultivation of lands, i.e., plans which above all endorse bourgeois ownership of land, and that at a time when the independent front of the rural proletariat has not yet crystallised within the revolutionary movement of the peasantry, is to embrace the bourgeois elements and aspects of the revolution[9]. The communists' "welfare" plan for the toilers (including the rural toilers) is nothing but the socialist plan for the entire economy of society. And where the communists rise to defend, and stand in the forefront of the workers' and toilers' struggle for welfare within the framework of the existing society, they have no objective other than "to safeguard the working class from physical and moral deterioration and develop its ability to carry on the struggle for emancipation" (Lenin, 'Revision of the Party Programme" Collected Works, Vol.24, p.474. The emphasis is ours). Let us sum up all we have said, in this immortal teaching of Lenin:

"(Marxism) made clear the real task of a revolutionary socialist party: not to draw up plans for refashioning society, not to preach to the capitalists and their hangers-on about improving the lot of the workers, not to hatch conspiracies, but to organize the class struggle of the proletariat and to lead this struggle, the ultimate aim of which is the conquest of political power by the proletariat and the organization of a socialist society. ("Our Programme", Collected Works, Vol.4, pp.210-21 1)


Unity of Communist Militants
January 1980



Notes

{*} The present book was first published in Iran in Farsi in January 1980 by the Unity of Communist Militants, one of the two main organisations which founded the Communist Party of Iran in September 1 983. The first part of the book is jointly written by comrades Mansoor Hekmat (now member of the Political Bureau of the CPI) and Mehdi Mirshahzadeh, member of the Central Committee of the UCM. The text is by comrade Hekmat. Comrade Mirshahzadeh was arrested by the Islamic regime's police in autumn 1982 and after one and a half years of severe tortures was executed on May 13, 1984.

The German translation of this book was published in 1982.

COMMUNIST PARTY OF IRAN
THE COMMITTEE ABROAD
MARCH 86



SOME NOTES ABOUT THE BOOK

This article was initially intended to be written as an introduction to Lenin's Seven Articles on the Agrarian Question (Lenin Translation Series No.3 {i.e., the translation series of the works of Lenin (into Farsi) published by the organisation of Unity of Communist Militants in Iran - Tr.}). However, due to the length and elaborateness of the article, and because it contained details which went beyond the scope of an introduction, and examined aspects of the theses contained in the pamphlet The Iranian Revolution and the Role of the Proletariat (The Main Lines) more carefully, the Seven Articles was published with a shorter introduction and it was thought more appropriate to publish the present article separately. The first part of this article which contains a synopsis of Lenin's approach to the agrarian question and the peasant movement, has kept the look of an introduction. While our principal aim in this text has been to introduce an analysis, and present certain conclusions on the agrarian question in Iran and its economic content, and on the objective bases of the peasant movement under the specific conditions of Iran, and the way in which communists should tackle the problem, we have also briefly dealt with some deviations of the communist movement of Iran in this area with reference to the literature published by the "Revolutionary Union for the Emancipation of Labour" (Zahmat), the Union of Iranian Communists" (Haghighat) and the "Organisation of Peykar on the Path to Emancipate the Working Class". This may in turn prove useful in elucidating the theoretical discussions put forward in this article. All quotations in the text, without reference to the source or denoted by "ibid", are from the above-mentioned book by Lenin.

{**} Nassagh-holders: Literally, "Nassagh" refers to a strip of land. Nassagh-holders were those peasants who had the right to cultivate the land (nassagh) for a share of the harvest. As distinct from the nassagh-holders, the Khoshneshins had no rights to the land. The Khoshneshin population consisted of extremely poor casual labourers-Tr.

[1] In the English translation, the term "democrats" has been used, but in view of the subject under discussion we believe "social democrats" is intended.

[2] If we take the slogan "the Equal Redistribution of Land" as the most backward one we are indeed mistaken. Advocates of the slogan "The Land Belongs to the Tiller" truly surpass Zahmat and Kriege in quasi - revolutionary and empty verbiage. For if the former carries traces of utopian socialism based upon equal distribution of land, the latter - seemingly inspired by the first phase of the imperialist land reform programme - seeks to establish a "form" of bourgeois private ownership of land based upon the existing patterns of land distribution. "The land belongs to the tiller". Very well. But who tills the "land"? How, by what means, and to what extent does he cultivate "it"? What is the quality and the quantity of the "land"? .. .The whole art of this slogan lies in its ambiguity. Most convenient for one who has to chant an agrarian slogan but does not want to openly support any of the classes. It conveys An "economic planning" which neither offers a plan nor contains a word of economics. It is a slogan with one clear and explicit consequence only: adding fuel to the vague tendencies of the peasants concerning land ownership and restricting them to their "instinctive and ambiguous demand". It is precisely the slogan which gravely tampers with the objectives of the proletariat in the democratic revolution and minimizes the possibility of enhancing the political understanding of its allies in this revolution. According to Marx: the American peasant movement is revolutionary because it is the struggle of an oppressed class against the oppressors; i.e., it is revolutionary not in that it seeks merely to bring about temporary prosperity and welfare, but because "a blow struck at landed property will facilitate the inevitable further blows at property in general."

The question is to strike at landed property in general and not to formulate property in the name of the proletariat. This remark of course does not rule out the possibility that under specific conditions the slogan 'the Land Belongs to the Tiller" may be posed by the peasantry and, by turning into a basis for the revolutionary struggle of the peasantry, bring forth political gains for the masses. But only under such conditions the communists will give support to it. Could it be supported as a general, all-embracing and universal slogan? Or as a slogan propagating the illusory demand f or the transformation of the rural proletariat into a petty land owner? Or as a slogan that the proletariat has the historical task of posing? The answer to these is absolutely negative. "It is not the schemes of a 'general redistribution' or nationalization that is the kernel of the question; the essential thing is that the peasantry see the need for, and accomplish, the revolutionary demolition of the old order."(Lenin, Coil. Works, Vol.9 P.235)

[3] The lack of a historical perspective on the agrarian question has gone so far as to bring the Union of Iranian Communists{A Maoist organisation in Iran - Tr.} to postulate - without even mentioning the socialist revolution and the historical role of the proletariat - a necessity for "resolving" the agrarian question even in the most advanced capitalist countries. To demonstrate the "difference" between the agrarian question in Iran and the "agrarian question" in the advanced capitalist countries, Haghighat, the organ of the Union of Iranian Communists (No. 18, March 1978) writes: "Of course the agrarian question, in the common usage of the term(!!), is not only related to the backward and oppressed countries like Iran. ((Then the agrarian question is not a question related to a definite historical era either; it has always existed since the birth of private property - of course, in the "common usage of the term"!)) In capitalist countries too, even in the most advanced ones, one is faced with a question under the 'same name' ((We had guessed right!)) which also suggests something other than the contradiction between labour and capital (?!) Hence in capitalist countries such as those in the EEC, the small farm owners make occasional protests against big capital and the state over issues such as taxation(!), price of agricultural products(!), credit(!) and the like. ((An "agrarian question" which suggests something other than the contradiction between labour and capital!))" (Our Emphases)

The "dispute" between the small farm owners on the one hand, and the big capital and the state on the other hand, over taxation, price of products, credit, and the like in the advanced capitalist countries, or, in other words, the dispute over the distribution of profit created by the proletariat, i.e., the dispute which has absolutely nothing to do with the elimination of feudalist obstacle to the growth and expansion of capitalism, makes the UIC comrades compare the agrarian question in Iran with the "agrarian question" in the most advanced capitalist countries.

It must first of all be noted that specification of subjects under this or that "name" or by the "common usage of the term" rather than by, and according to, their economic, political, and historical content goes to show that the UIC comrades have simply overlooked the Leninist principle that "Marxist theory unquestionably requires that for analysing every social question, one must first pose it in a definite historical context." (On the Right of Nations to Self-Determination.) For, having this principle in mind, the comparison of these two "agrarian questions" (if one could refer to both as agrarian questions) one of which relates to paving the way to capitalist development while the other points to the internal contradictions of the already developed and moribund capitalism, is, in any form or by any excuse, an out of place, illogical and non-Marxist comparison. One should then see what these comrades mean by "pointing out" that questions "under this name" suggest something other than the contradiction between labour and capital? Do they not mean that in the most advanced countries there exist contradictions other than that between labour and capital which take priority and must be resolved first? (Of course the credit for the discovery of such contradictions must go to the UIC comrades) Thus "Forward to the Resolution of the Agrarian Question All Over the World". For, after all, "ashes to ashes dust to dust!" Of course the comrades are aware of some "fundamental" differences: "It should be stressed that the agrarian question in Iran is fundamentally different from the agrarian question in the capitalist countries (!?)... Nevertheless, there is not - and there cannot be - any sign of a peasant movement in North America or any of the European countries for land and against the existing agrarian order (How unfortunate!)" (Original Emphases). Nevertheless, an agrarian question which suggests a contradiction other than that between labour and capital is still in effect! No comrades! What you call, according to the "common usage of the term", the "agrarian question" is the question of the contradictions of a system of production which has reached the stage of decay and must be wholly replaced by a new order, i.e., socialism. This is the question of one sector of social production which produces and reproduces itself under exactly the same productive order that the remaining parts do. And only through an explicit Marxian approach to the problems of all parts, i.e., the system as a whole, can one explain, criticize, and strive for resolving it. It is not surprising that neither in North America nor in any of the European countries is there any sign of peasant movements for land and against the existing agrarian order; for, the next onslaught against the agrarian order and private property in general rests with the rural proletariat and the proletariat in general, and not with the small or big farm owners. The dispute between the small and big capital is a "friendly" one; arbitration in which is neither the business of the proletariat nor of its communist vanguards.

[4] Here we emphasize again that the production of specific use values (e.g., the mineral resources, etc.) and capital investment in specific branches of production are not, from the view-point of capitalism, objectives in themselves. Capital always moves in search of more profit. Hence one can by no means infer from the priorities of production of the monopoly capital in Iran at a specific point in time that capital is interested in such and such a branch or that it is incapable of growth and accumulation in other branches of production.

[5] Fixed capital is not a precise concept in bourgeois economics. It generally refers to the value of the "fixed" portion of capital (machinery, buildings, etc.). It should not be confused with "constant capital" which is used in the Marxist critique of capitalist economy.

[6] We mean that portion of capital investment in the agricultural sector which is used up in the purchase of machinery.

[7] The "resolution of the agrarian question from the peasant standpoint" and the "resolution of the agrarian question from a class point of view" no doubt have two close but different meanings. The former implies the triumph of the peasant solution followed by an internal polarization of the peasantry, while the latter points to the results of the former process (and not only this process), i.e., the internal differentiation and polarization of the peasantry and the elimination of the peasant- petty bourgeois formations. Since both, by eliminating the peasant formation, also eliminate the land question as a basis for the peasant movement, we did not find it necessary to delve in detail into the differences between them.

[8] Despite the frequent repetition of the above points, we are not hopeful yet that the Union of Iranian Communists will not send to the publishers once again, under another pretext, the article "The Agrarian Question in Iran and the Attitude of the Communists" (published in Haghighat, No.1 8,March 78, and re-printed in the pamphlet "A Discussion on the Agrarian Question", as a reply to the critique of the organisation of "Combatants for the Workers' Cause" in December 79). In any case, a quotation from this article will help explain the non-Marxist understanding of these comrades of the solution of the agrarian question and of the 1960 s land reform programme: "After 14 years, one can now clearly observe the bankruptcy of the agrarian policy of the royalist landlords and their imperialist experts.' First, one should see who the observer is! Then, even if one agrees that the agrarian policy of the "royalist landlords and their imperialist experts" has been a failure (!), can one refuse to acknowledge that the surplus value and the super-profits which benefited the same royalist landlords and the imperialist capital through an influx of cheap labour-power from the countryside to the cities kept them away from the threat of bankruptcy? No doubt the UIC comrades will not evade accepting such an obvious fact, and they can have our "assurance" that this "policy" has not ended in bankruptcy. But we think their worries stem from something else:

"All the bureaucratic efforts which brought hundreds of thousands of peasants desolation and destitution, homelessness and hunger, seeking refuge in the neighbouring countries, expansion of shantytowns and growth of the Khoshneshin population ((despite all of which the land reform has been a "failure"!)) did not solve even one of the fundamental problems of agricultural utilization in Iran(!?)". (Our Emphases)

One would have thought the comrades were worried about homeless peasants and villagers, but what has really evoked their outrage towards the agrarian policy of imperialism in Iran is the fact that this policy "did not solve even one of the fundamental problems of agricultural utilization in Iran". Agricultural utilization under what system and in the interests of which class?! No doubt in the interests of the same "incompetent experts" whose "bureaucratic efforts" in utilizing the Iranian agriculture have been in vain. Indeed, the "incompetence" of capital sometimes infuriates its kinder-than-mother nurses!

[9] Throughout this book our critique has been directed towards those communists who attempt to plan in advance the distribution of the land seized by the peasantry. We did not realize, however, that Peykar the organ of the "Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class" while emphasizing "the present conditions"(i.e., perhaps the present "stage" of the revolution) makes the very question of land seizure a limited and conditional act. In its issue No. 39, this paper carries a report from the village of Ghorogh near the city of Amol. Briefly, the report states that some 1 20 landless peasants of this village, after conferring in several meetings, decided to seize 5 Hectars of the land owned by a usurer most hated by the peasants. They then prepared the land for cultivation. Later, they took control of a 4-Hectar plot of idle land owned by the urban capitalists. Peykar, then goes on:

"This success added to the peasants' sense of unity and they attempted to confiscate the lands of some well- to-do and middle peasants. But following explanations by some conscious elements, they changed their mind. Revolutionary intellectuals should inform the peasantry, through explanation and persuasion, of such deviationist actions (seizure of the land of the rich peasants) which sometimes occur in the peasant movement. Under the present conditions, the peasants should not attempt to confiscate the lands of the middle peasantry; rather they should seize the lands belonging to the landlords, urban capitalists, and usurers, etc., even if the latter possess small pieces of land." (Our Emphases. The explanation in the brackets is Peykar's.)

In short: Peasants, whose success in land seizure increases their unity, fall into a "left-wing" deviation; and the "conscious elements" are forced to play their "historical" role! Indeed, the peasants' unawareness of the "stage of the revolution" causes much trouble and headache for the "conscious exponents"!

One must ask Peykar, is it the revolutionary intellectual who must, by relying upon the revolutionary movement of the masses, and on the basis of the material struggle among classes and the alignment of their political forces, find out the "stage of the revolution" and the essence of the "existing conditions", or the masses who must, before taking every revolutionary action, gaze upon the "revolutionary intellectual" to find out how far to proceed? For, they might "unawaringly" (of course, not in relation to their own interests but with regard to the "existing conditions") thwart the a priorie schemes of the "conscious intellectuals"! Peykar, by relying on the "existing conditions" which only exist in its own mind (it is enough to refer once again to its own report about "Ghorogh") sets a limit for, and in fact questions the essence of, land seizure. If advanced planning about the mode of ownership and production in the confiscated lands is "to embrace the bourgeois elements of the revolution", questioning revolutionary confiscation is to turn into a bourgeois element proper. If the former is to tie the hands of the proletariat in its subsequent struggle, the latter amounts to disarming it and allowing the bourgeoisie to dominate it.

Throughout this book, we have discussed in detail the approach of the communists towards the peasant revolutionary movement and the ways of its transformation into a force for materializing the prerequisites of the final move of the proletariat towards socialism. Here, we can only hope that the "revolutionary intellectuals" of the Ghorogh village did not tell the poor peasants that they were communists!



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