Socialism and Collective Management (XXXV)
The regrouping and concentration of the productive means and thus of the men used for production are the basis of the socialist perspective. In the complexity of the specific situations varying from country to country and from epoch to epoch, of the repercussions of the ebb and flow of social struggles, this technical and economic fact is the platform on which the whole construction rests. The more the forces of production pile up and rapidly concentrate, the faster we move towards the conditions that will make it possible to realise the demands of proletarians and socialists; if the process is compromised, no remedy can be found in the intelligence, in the conscience or in the will of men, in the commitment to struggle of individuals or vanguard groups.
Dividing and dispersing the productive forces means, therefore, going in the opposite direction of the revolution; and this is why, although it is certain that in the vast arena of the final social struggle, the historical enemy of the socialist proletariat is big capitalism, master of these concentrated forces, the worst theoretical and practical opponent of the Marxists must be recognised in those tendencies which maintain that the organisation of production must be smashed to pieces; these tendencies have as their ideal the figure of the artisan, the small peasant, the shopkeeper, and are represented by the republicans and the mazzinists, by the petty-bourgeois radicals, in the field of propaganda by the fascists, especially by the social Christians who, after each of the great wars, have flourished as a general tendency in all the great countries, and finally by the joyful swarm of the opportunists and revisionists of Marxist communism.
The aversion to stifling economic unity is confirmed at every step in Marxist texts; let us take one on Russia, for example. In an 1894 writing "On Social Relations In Russia", Engels quotes these words of Marx taken from a letter of 1877: "if Russia is tending to become a capitalist nation, on the model of the countries of Western Europe,— and in recent years it has gone to great pains to move in this direction — it will not succeed without having first transformed a large proportion of its peasants into proletarians; and after that, once it has been placed in the bosom of the capitalist system, it will be subjected to its pitiless laws, like other profane peoples".
The full evidence has now made it common knowledge that modern industrial products, to satisfy an infinite range of increasingly intertwined needs, could not be obtained without large-scale production, mechanical means, the fragmented intervention of a whole series of workers and machine operators. It may still be tempting to apologise for the originality, finesse, and artistic value of some artefacts that have come out of the patient diligence of the individual, but the subject has no quantitative or social significance.
A less desperate defence is attempted of petite agriculture with well-established motivations and on the basis of the considerable difficulty of applying mechanical resources to all types of agricultural management.
Nobody disputes, under favourable conditions, the better yield of the big agricultural company compared to the small one, and the position of the shredders refers more to the dimensions of the business than the legal ownership of the property, the latter may combine the small size of the farm and its assets with a more highly developed production technique, and it is often, in actual management, rather than a conglomerate of small or even very small data in tenant farming or sharecropping, where the agricultural worker is heavily exploited.
The technical impossibility of sorting large possessions into small "stable" holdings exists, however, in most cases, since the farmer can manage a given piece of land in the sense that he works there for a whole cycle and collects the products, but he cannot stay there permanently and must live in a distant centre, without, on the other hand, being autonomous in all the operations of cultivation.
It is then that the truly regressive proposal of parcelling out is replaced by the collective management of farmers instead of that of the primitive proletariat, by the division of the latifundia into medium-sized farms that will be handed over to cooperatives and farming communities, for which there are very ancient or more modern types.
If with socialism there is no relationship of any kind to the proposal to divide the company among all those who work there, absurd to leave for the industrial workshops, hard to die among the agricultural holdings, what socialist content is seen in the other formula of management by a company composed of all the workers equally? This is also a very important point. The proposal emerges both for the factory and for the land, and finds nourishment in the existence, for the same field of landlord management, of the increasingly numerous anonymous societies, in which the sole owner of the classic company has been replaced by a set of shareholders, even for small fractions of the total capital. Since, in general terms, the factory functions without the vast majority of the shareholders taking part in the technical and administrative organisation or having any real competence, it is obvious to hypothesize a factory which, with its directors, engineers and accountants, is proceeding marvellously after the shares of the capital have been distributed no longer among outsiders, but among the company's own clerical and working management staff. Thus, another old new mirage and another cacophonous expression: the "social shareholding", the participation of the workers in capital, the figure of the worker-capitalist, whether manual or intellectual work, and other unprecedented enthusiasms of demo-republicans, fascistoids, social christians, with the convergence on these positions of the various movements for the exaltation of the factory workers' councils claiming first the control of production, then intervention in the management, and finally the seizure and ownership of the factory: hence the abused formulas of "railways to railwaymen", "mines to miners", "ships to sailors" and so on.
We certainly do not want to venture here into the analysis of anonymous capitalism, which is capitalism more concentrated and more advanced than any other in the sense of bourgeois social dictatorship, in the figure of "administrators", in the modern game between capitalist groups and their managerial circles and the state economy, in which the part of the workers and suppliers of "real" technical productive work becomes increasingly inferior and dull. Nor is it the general Marxist thesis that the expropriation of the productive means of individual companies must be transferred not to the group of workers of the same companies but "to society", to the community, which only means something when the organised working class has firmly taken political power, totally. The principle of the concentration of labour continues to apply; just as the craftsman's workshop had dissolved into the vast company form of the large factory, the private and autonomous company will dissolve into the unitary social productive machine, the whole working class will be framed and scientifically organised into one company. The facts are quantitatively no less than qualitatively different: if with the division of the estate among the workers there would, in general, be a "lesser" economic yield for each individual in some cases than that of the original one, the dispersion of the efforts being more harmful than having divided the parasitic levy of the single master; while the distribution to the workers of the dividends of the shareholders would raise the salary by a small fraction, for example, ten per cent; the substitution of the socialist mechanism to the disorder of the private economy, which everything subordinates to the aim of extracting a profit and perpetuating its extraction, will at least multiply tenfold the productive yield and the general well-being.
One can be of a different opinion in economics, undoubtedly: there are in fact, and there are many, anti-Socialists. And many are among those who benefit from bourgeois profit, or are hired by the bourgeoisie.
Here we only want, in agrarian matters, to take a peek at the proposal of those who say: it is right that the further fragmentation of the land in Italy means harshening an already terrible evil, it is right that for technical reasons the latifundium is not parcellable: but the agrarian reform is in bourgeois time equally possible, on condition that we create larger companies and give them over to the management of communities, to peasant cooperatives.
Now, if in Italy there exists a great deal of minute possession, and the truly competent, in truth very few, in our agriculture describe the evils and are terrified of them, even collective agricultural management has its own examples. However, modern economists, frankly liberal bourgeois, have done well in demonstrating the superiority of the yield of the land given under individual ownership, in large and medium-sized modern farms, with respect to these types of management. The very interesting examination of these forms and their evolution from North to South, almost always is negative in the eyes of the technician: they adapt themselves not to a real collectivisation but to the common exploitation of woods, pastures and land with little cultivation, where the members of the community try "to get as much out of the common good as possible, without giving anything back". In the centre of Italy and in the former papal states these institutions were numerous, various laws have liquidated and sorted them. In the South there is no lack of them, and similarly in the islands, and they generally correspond to very poorly managed land: Since any non-private land is called ‘demanio', which in the true sense means public property, the southern farmer "finds a piece of land that is in a bad state or exhausted by too intensive and irrational cultivation, he usually exclaims that it is an ‘demanio'!". A closer examination finds few "partecipanze" in the fertile land of Emilia, based on the twenty-year-old department divided into small strips, which are permanently assigned to those who have been able to build a little house there. But here is where the apologetic balance sheet culminates that a writer, Niccolini, makes of the flourishing partecipanze of Cento, at the time of the other war: We must attribute to the partecipanze the meekness of the people's soul and the fact of having remained impervious to the flattery of socialism! Whether on one side or the other of the barricade, we agree that this is not the way of socialism and class struggle.
If instead of traditional communes we want to imagine a cooperative land management with modern means and full equipment, not only will we find rare examples in today's Italy, but we will have to acknowledge that to implement such an organisation on shoddy land we would need investment from full land reclamation, no less expensive than those calculable for the dreamed parcelling out of property. With the actual bureaucracy and the rampant business activity protected by the administration for social and party purposes, it is easy to foresee that if the means were to be found and the organisation to be established, the keys to the whole movement would be left to a few manipulators and promoters, skilful exploiters of the climate of "special law", i.e. as an inferior cockaigne, and the real workers of the land would be no less exploited, and perhaps worse than in the current capitalist companies, where at least they can directly pose their economic demands.
At the same time that international forces have placed in Italy the F.A.O., i. e. the organisation that presides over the circulation of agricultural products (which the most recent capitalism considers with increasing speculative tenderness), the foreign press has made an easy fabianism about the deplorable conditions of the Italian peasant and southern species, demonstrating as usual to attribute them to the insufficient diffusion among us of bourgeois civilization. Summoning the foreign journalists, the President-in-Office of the Council apologised and, as usual, they made him hand over the figures.
The aim is to show that the government "does not blame us", and it could pass because the Italian government would have to climb several steps to assume the possibility of guilt; but also to argue that by extending measures to a few years things will be put in order. Pure charlatanism.
A look at the numbers. In Italy, agricultural land does not cover 16 million hectares, but 28. There are 16 if we consider only the land that can be cultivated for sowing and special tree crops, i.e. land of good production that the farmers are unlikely to get their hands on. The other 12 million that De Gasperi leaves out, are woods, meadows, pastures, productive fallow land, that is to say, it is among these that we must look for uncultivated land to pass under reform. To speak, therefore, of a million and a half to be transformed - Don Sturzo already said a million - means to incriminate no longer ten, but only five percent of productive land, and therefore even if the reform were successful, the agricultural yield, the national food and the conditions of the farmers would not change from night to day, as we say.
The properties exceeding two hundred hectares (this is the area of a square of 1400 metres on each side) would occupy, if there are 8500 of them, about three million and eight hundred thousand hectares. But again, they are among the 28 million hectares of arable land and not only among the 16 million, and most often among the woods, pastures and poor arable land.
In the foreign press version there are eight and a half million Italian farmers, two and a half million of them are agricultural workers. As they represent only individuals suitable for work, the entire agricultural population is much larger; this point always gives place to ambiguity, since the way of noting the relationship between professional individuals, and inhabitants of all ages and sex is not uniform in the different classes, for example employers and employees.
Two and a half million is a magnificent proletarian bloc that one would like to undermine. It is powerfully represented in the South. Einaudi himself, who for a moment became a professor again when he was the head of state, Einaudi himself, who had come back for an hour as a professor, from the head of State, gave some warning on the use of statistics, remembering that the most massive property does not prevail in the South, but in central Italy and in the verdant Tuscany... However, of the one and a half million hectares that he wants to transform, De Gasperi would be happy to attract 250,000 families, and therefore more than a million inhabitants, perhaps 600,000 workers, discharged from the block of two and a half million ... But we were already comfortable in saying, following Don Sturzo, that the relative works of land transformation would involve one million per hectare or one million per farm, and De Gasperi can choose between one thousand and one thousand five hundred billion... He then vaguely talked, between ministerial budgets, lire funds and dollar funds, of a few tens of billions. Within a century he can go to the confessional and wash himself of all guilt.
So erudite, the head of government was able to say that it would be repeating ancient errors to limit itself to simple lotteries. All right. Will you help the shack with collective management? For the purposes of the ministerial electoral hierarchies, undoubtedly, yes. Applause on the opposition benches.
Battaglia Comunista, No. 47, 1949
Translation by Libri Incogniti