Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER VII: Marx' Principles and Small Properties - Socialistic Fallacies
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CHAPTER VII: Marx' Principles and Small Properties - Yves Guyot, Socialistic Fallacies 
Socialistic Fallacies (London: Cope and Fenwick, 1910).
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Marx' Principles and Small Properties
The ideal of collective production and the peasant.—Lafargue and Guesde disown the programme of the Havre Congress—Engels protests—Liebknecht and Bebel abjure the collectivist doctrine.—Accusations of Schippel and Kautsky—Inconsistency of M. Jaurès.
The supporters of the doctrines of Marx in their purest form display the nonchalance with which they put aside their “scientific doctrines” when they are inconvenient. M. Werner Sombart puts the difficulty in this way, “Ought submission to the ideal of collectivist production, which depends upon production on a large scale, to be imposed upon modifications of that principle for the benefit of the small farmer?”
The programme of the Havre Congress of 1880, drawn up by Karl Marx, proclaims the “return to collectivism of all the means of production.” But three years later, Guesde, who was responsible for the adoption of this programme, and Paul Lafargue, who was Marx' son-in-law, and had introduced it, abandoned it, considering it inconvenient on political grounds, and set out upon the conquest of the small proprietor. “The Socialist party,” they said, “far from depriving him of his land, will guarantee his possession.” Forgetting that Marx had incessantly repeated that “Society can only be reformed by the destruction of private property,” they obtained the adoption of an agrarian programme at the Marseilles Congress in 1892, based upon the ownership of small holdings, a result which was aggravated by the fact that Liebknecht was present and took part in this recantation. Engels was angry and wrote that “ownership of small holdings must necessarily be destroyed and annihilated by the development of capital. Whosoever desires to maintain it in a permanent form, sacrifices the great principle and becomes a reactionary.”1 He reproached the French Socialists with adopting an appearance of disloyalty by seeming to promise the peasants that which they were unable to perform. Bebel proclaimed that if the peasant claimed to remain an owner, it only remained for him to desert to the antisemitic camp. The German Socialist party nevertheless decided upon a grand inquiry, as the result of which they published, on July 16th, 1895, a programme which “had nothing in common with the abolition of individual property and, on the contrary, would have the effect of ameliorating the condition of the owners of agricultural land.”
The question became acute at the Breslau Congress. Bebel, like Liebknecht, was carried away by political considerations; they abandoned collective property in favour of small peasant proprietorship. They were opposed by Kautsky and Dr. Schippel, who said, “Does not the Erfurt programme declare that ownership of small properties is doomed to destruction, and yet you promise to extend it and to continue those who hold it in their possessions?” Mme. Zetkin exclaimed, “The interest of the party requires the peasants to join the proletariat, however painful to them the operation may be. Since Marx has demonstrated that, in accordance with the fatal law of capitalistic evolution, the peasant's destiny is to descend the steps of the ladder of misery, why give him doses to fortify him on his way?” Dr. Schippel denounced the supporters of the agrarian programme as rope dancers, charlatans and makers of snares for yokels. But the point was to win votes for the elections. Kautsky condemned the programme of the agrarian committee in the light of the gospel of Karl Marx. Such and such an article was contrary to such and such a paragraph of the “Communist Manifesto,” or such and such a chapter of “Capital.” He carried a declaration against the system of individual landed property by a majority of 158 votes to 63, but accepted an additional provision in these terms: “The Congress recognises that agriculture requires to be regulated by special laws differing from those which regulate industry.” It is necessary to study and dwell upon these laws, but this particular incident is not calculated to reassure small owners. The doctrine is a communistic one and the qualifications by which certain Socialists seek to attenuate it in particular circumstances or with regard to some particular class are mere political trickery. The owners of small properties are almost everywhere suspicious. They would not object to the expropriation of others for their benefit, but they have no desire to cast their own possessions into a common abyss from which they would be certain never to recover them.
As for M. Jaurès, he stated in 1893 that the “ownership of small properties is a legend.” Later, he showed a good deal of tenderness for small “peasant proprietorship,” although in 1901 he denounced it in these words: “The hour is drawing near when no one will be able to speak to the country of the maintenance of individual property without covering himself with ridicule and at the same time branding himself with the mark of an inferior intellect.”1 On June 14th, 1906, he was obliged to recognise that “property has taken hold of the democrats in every fibre,” and, he might have added, of the Socialists as well.
Bourdeau, “l'Evolution du Socialisme,” p. 297.
“Etudes socialistes,” p. 161.