The Restoration of the Peasantries

With especial reference to that of India

by G.T. Wrench


The Village System


The next subject to discuss, but one to which Mr. Matthai does not allude, is the actual nature of the peasants' money.

The use a peasant makes of actual money is small. His income, according to the Central Banking Enquiry Committee, averages Rs 42 a year. The traditional nature of this money of India may be indicated by a passage from the letter to Colbert written by the French traveller, Bernier, nearly three centuries ago: "Although this Empire of the Mogol is such an abyss for gold and silver, as I said before, these precious metals are not in greater plenty here than elsewhere; on the contrary, the inhabitants have less the appearance of a moneyed people than those of many other parts of the globe. In the first place, a large quantity is melted, re-melted, and wasted, in fabricating women's bracelets, both for the hands and feet, chains, earrings, nose and finger rings, and a still larger quantity is consumed in manufacturing embroideries; alaches, or striped silken stuffs; touras, or fringes of gold lace, worn on turbans; gold and silver cloths; scarfs, turbans, or brocades. The quantities of these articles made in India is incredible."

Bernier, it must be noted, wrote as a Westerner when he used the word "wasted." But, apart from the ornamental effect, this use of metal had traditionally something very important to the Indian peoples. It was a storage of wealth in a form which could, if need be, be turned into cash, in short the word "stored" would have been a better word than "wasted."

The peasant stored up such precious metal as he could accumulate as bracelets and anklets for his women folk, who wore it continuously and were therefore its obligatory guardians. When he was in distress he took one or more bangles and had them coined into silver rupees. Silver was essentially his money, though there were also smaller coins of baser metal. A richer man adorned his family with gold ornaments and gold and silver brocades and cloths, all of which could be turned into gold coins. Lastly, the princes and kings, in addition to gold and silver, had precious stones. Royal jewels could not, however, be turned into cash with the facility of gold and silver, because they were considered as the sacred property of the Crown and not as the private property of the king.

The chief means, therefore, of this private hoarding was the precious metals. Of these there were plenty, for India exported more than she imported. The Roman writer, Pliny (A.D. 23-79), had termed her "a veritable sink of the precious metals" for this reason; and a writer in Blackwood's Magazine in November, 1928, states: "India's total absorption throughout the 430 years (from the discovery of the sea route to India) to date has been 553 million sterling in gold and 4,556 million sterling worth of silver." The amount absorbed before the discovery of the sea route, he adds, must be immense, but cannot be calculated. Together they show that a great amount of gold and a still greater amount of silver are held in India and very largely as a safeguard against what in England is called "a rainy day," but in India would be called "a dry day," that is to say a failure of the monsoon leading to poor harvests or actual famine.

The peasant was, then, able to supply his own coin. He took a bangle to the sowcar, who weighed it. The sowcar it was who knew how to send it to a mint and get it turned into equivalent rupees, which were themselves weighed by the recipient. As a decentralized method of the creation of money, it was both simple and close to individual needs. With this control of such little actual cash as he required, and with the panchyat's control of the village moneylender, the peasant's financial system was in the past a thing much of his own self.

All this the British Government has changed. There were, in the past, a number of mints in India. In 1835 the Government standardized the rupee at two mints, that of Calcutta and of Bombay. Coins of different kinds continued, however, to be minted at various centres and in Native States, and, though not legal, in the British sense, were readily used by the agrarians. In 1862 the Government, as a further step in money centralization, took over the printing of banknotes from the private banks. This, however, did not affect the peasant, who did not use banks, and, moreover, with his average income of forty rupees odd a year, had and still has little use for perishable paper with rupees five or ten printed on it.

The time-honoured custom of the people to turn women's ornaments into rupees, however, was abolished by the Government in 1893. By Act VIII of that year the Indian mints were closed to the unrestricted coinage of silver.

With the technical reasons for this uprooting of custom I am not concerned, but only with its subjective character. That is clearly shown in the Report of the Indian Currency Committee upon which the Act was based. It is stated in the very first paragraph: "1. The question referred to the Committee by your Lordship is whether, having regard to the grave difficulties with which the Government of India are confronted through the heavy fall in the gold value of silver, it is expedient that Her Majesty's Government should allow them to carry into effect the proposals which they have made for stopping the free coinage of silver in India with the view to the introduction of a gold standard."

The loss to Government was shown by a number of figures. If the Government could have paid its dues in England in 1892-93, at the rate of exchange of 1873-74, it would have saved itself 872 lakhs of rupees [1 lakh = 100,000], which was less than one seven hundredth of the silver in India as given in Blackwood's Magazine. It was a trifling sum also when compared to recent agrarian losses, which are said to have amounted to 54,786 lacs between 1928 and 1933.

What was the Government's immediate gain was the peasants' immediate loss. The uncoined silver of the peasants "would certainly be depreciated in value," says the Report. A far more important loss to the peasants was also clearly recognized in the Report: "In times of scarcity and famine a considerable quantity of silver ornaments has found its way to the mints. During the period of the great famine in 1877 and the following years, for example, large quantities of such ornaments were minted" and thus turned into cash. The Committee men, in fact, realized the safety this ancient system afforded to the peasantry, yet they destroyed it because of a temporary upset of their money system.

As regards the important functionary of the Indian village, the moneylender, sowcar, or mahajan, there is no need to repeat what has been written in Chapter 7. The correction of the evils done to villagers by the moneylenders under the dominant idea of modern civilization, has become a burning question of the day. Not only in India, but in almost all countries of the world, agriculturists are now shackled by debts. As regards India, "the most outstanding feature of Indian rural economy," says the Indian Year Book (1936), "is the chronic and almost hopeless indebtedness of the cultivator. The Central Banking Enquiry Committee has estimated that the total rural indebtedness in India is about Rs 900 crores [1 crore = 10 million, 100 lakhs]. Though indebtedness of the agricultural population has been there from old times, it is acknowledged that the indebtedness has arisen considerably during the last century and more especially during the last 50 years. This colossal burden of debt is the root problem which has to be faced in any attempt towards the economic regeneration of the masses."

In order therefore primarily to loosen the hold of the modern, law-supported, sowcar upon the peasants, another method of village finance has been set up, the well-known co-operative system which was first reported upon by Sir Frederick Nicholson in the year following the taking away by Government of the peasants' customary right to turn their silver into coins. In 1927, after considerable trial in many countries, the League of Nations gave its official blessing to this system at the International Economic Conference: "The first condition for surmounting the difficulties of agriculture is the organization of suitable credit institutions. The best form of institution appears to be the co-operative credit society operating by means of resources which the very fact of association enables it to procure and to increase with or without the assistance of the public authorities."

This resolution of the League seems clearly to indicate that a separate financial system was needed for the agrarian, one which depended on the very fact of the association of agrarians together -- in short, upon such a thing as the old village system of India in which the peasants were accustomed to act together. Agrarian co-operation had been very successful in Germany, where it had its origin, in Italy and other countries, and in India in 1909 it received its governmental recognition in the Co-operative Credit Societies Act. The aim of the Act was to encourage thrift and cooperation by the establishment of small credit societies for the agrarian and village artisan by the loan of sums at much less interest than the sowcar charged. The object, indeed, was to put in the midst of the village a better sowcar, a sowcar which considered its function first and its personal profit second. The new sowcar was to be a controlled sowcar, but the final control was not to be that of the panchyat but that of the assisting and supporting Government.

The growth of these credit or moneylending societies has been very great. The Indian Year Book of 1938 says there are now about 94,000 agricultural societies with funds that have increased from about Rs 68 lakhs [1 lakh = 100,000] in 1910 to about Rs 100 crores [1 crore = 10 million, 100 lakhs] of which the members contribute 40 crores. The present number of members is about 4,500,000. Nevertheless, says the Year Book, though these figures are so satisfactory it must be admitted that they in themselves are not sufficient to base conclusions upon. The organisation may be admirable in appearance, but the spirit actuating it may be foreign and ill-adapted.

The system has now the many thousand village credit societies or banks, and co-ordinating them are central banks and the provincial banks or Apex banks, of which there are at present seven. These Apex banks have connected up "with the Imperial Bank of India and have secured cash credit accommodation on furnishing security." This string of banks leading up to the Imperial Bank shows that this agricultural money system is not independent of the dominant money system. It is still within the ambit of that system.

The security of all these institutions is ultimately the property and produce of its members, the humble agrarians. The large landowners do not take much part in the credit societies, whose small short loans are less suitable to their needs. For them there are land mortgage banks. The co-operative system, then, is a plan by which the land, in particular of the ryots and the lesser landowners, is made the basis of a great centralized credit organization, like the great centralized urban banking system, except that the agrarian credit banks are co-operatively managed.

As the Year Book says, mere figures are not enough to prove success. Success also depends on the system being adapted to the innate character of its members. The Year Book's own present conclusions are that in 31 years, the movement has fallen far short of its objective. One test of success is the promptness with which loans are repaid by members. "On the 30th June, 1933, the overdue loans in agricultural societies amounted to Rs 13, 00, 76, 376 as compared with Rs 11, 63, 33, 585 the year before; the working capital of the agricultural societies was Rs 34, 38, 74, 459; the loans due by individuals were Rs 27, 94, 72, 035. The overdue loans were therefore 38 per cent of the working capital and 47 per cent of the total loans due by individuals ... This continued growth of overdue loans is an ominous portent and reflects very badly on the soundness of the co-operative structure. The loans, having been based on the basis of the assets of members, the ultimate solvency of the societies is beyond dispute; but the severe pressure on members and consequent wholesale liquidation of the societies would react very seriously both politically and economically." The reason which the Year Book gives for this unsoundness is not the slump, though that has "increased the terrible load of overdue loans in rural credit societies," but it is something inherent in the borrowing ryot.

The ryot, indeed, found the new sowcar a better sowcar, so he joined a society and did his best to get away from the old sowcar. As the Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India says: "Experience has shown that the chief object of borrowing from village societies has been to substitute a loan on reasonable terms for the usurious contract with the moneylender." At first the societies encouraged this wish and advanced enough money to pay off the sowcar. But it was found this did not free the agrarian from his habit of debt. "The debtor fails to make an effort to pay the regular installments even when they are well within his capacity, and slips back into his old state of bondage. It is now generally accepted that such attempts should not be made by co-operative societies until the debtor has learned habits of punctuality and thrift."

Similarly the ryot uses his new sowcar for his old habits. He borrows for marriage and other ceremonies, which play in his life that place of festival which seems a necessary relief to life's routine. "Loans are also required for marriage and other ceremonial expenses. It is the duty of committees of cooperative societies to use all their powers to reduce extravagant expenditure on this account."

There now comes again one of those subtle differences, which can make a good an evil. The sowcar, in his function as shopkeeper to the villagers, allows them the goods they require, though often they have not the grain or cash wherewith to pay him, at such times as before harvest for instance. He waits for payment and even then prefers part to full payment, which would lose him his debtors and suppliers of produce. Consequently the ryots pay him a share of each crop according as they get returns from the land, that is to say at irregular intervals and in irregular amounts in proportion to the size of the crop. Not so the bank with a precise and regular Audit, which is the statutory function of the important government official, the Registrar. Unlike the sowcar the bank wants its loans repaid regularly and precisely. So, though both moneylenders have the British law to support them, the bank is much more inclined and even forced to make use of it than is the sowcar. "It seems advisable," write the Commissioners, "to add a final warning against a tendency, which besets all institutions of this character, to become possessed of land by foreclosure ... If the Committee rests satisfied with the covering of the loan by a sufficient security and neglects to measure the prospects of repayment in the light of the character and business reputation of the borrower, their institution will merely develop into a machine for dispossessing the ancestral owner." They give an example of this in Burma, where it was found that, owing to overborrowing and defaulting, the bank adopted a policy of foreclosure and in three years rapidly became possessed of many acres of peasants' land. "A situation of increasing seriousness had arisen. The weapon placed in the hands of the cultivator to enable him to defeat the usurious moneylender had proved itself to be two-edged. The business of the bank was operating in the direction of expropriating the smaller cultivating owner in favour of the larger landlord." Similarly the Year Book states that the cooperative banks particularly in Bombay and Madras have "lost their cooperative character in a great measure and have become business bodies," and moneylending businesses, of course, make use of foreclosure.

So the instinct, which resulted in England in the dispossession of the yeoman and small landowner in favour of the large landowner, lies hidden, with all its possible consequences, like a snake in the grass in this generous co-operative system. It might well prove better for the ryot, in the main thing that matters to him at the present day, the holding of his land, if he had remained debtor to the sowcar, in place of becoming debtor to a co-operative system, whose chief enemy and almost cause of being is this same sowcar.

Nevertheless, the old-fashioned native sowcar, has in some places almost been driven out from any business connection with co-operators. This is especially so in the Punjab, where co-operation has had its best success. "In hundreds of villages the moneylender's ascendancy has been definitely broken," writes Sir M. Darling with legitimate pride, "and in many the members of the local village bank owe him nothing at all." Yet even in such successes for "energy, straight-dealing, and self-reliance," there lurks a possible danger. If the sowcar gets entirely driven out, and there remains only the bank, and if the bank, in the words of the Year Book already quoted, loses its co-operative character and becomes a business body, who knows but that little by little the thriftless and inefficient, those with little thrift, those with thrift but not enough, pledging themselves as individuals, might, one after another, fall into the state of dispossessed and evicted peasants? History is only too crowded with the undesired and appalling effects that steal over a people unawares.

The Agricultural Commissioners contemplate with something like despair the dubious state of the co-operative system and quote with approval from a memorandum by Mr. W. H. Moreland upon the question of the possible "progress" and "better living" of the ryots. For better living "a vague aspiration now exists and, I suspect, always has existed, but it is rendered ineffective by an inhibition, which has to be broken up before large-scale progress is possible. In other words, the central problem is now psychological not technical."

What is this inhibition that suppresses the activity of a desire for better living in villagers whose land can no longer afford them as a whole a bare subsistence? I maintain it is the dominant idea which is foreign to them. They desire to manage their own affairs, to co-operate not in foreign ways but in ways they understand and from which they could expand to more modern methods from within. The Royal Commissioners themselves agree to this, without, however, being sufficiently objective to realize that the present form of co-operation is of European origin and, therefore, foreign. They write: "The essence of the co-operative movement is that the people should take the management of their affairs into their own hands; if co-operation fails, there will fail the best hope of rural India."

But how do they wish to bring about this management by the peasants of their own affairs? They propose to bring it about by subjecting the peasants yet more than now to authorities, to take away such initiative as they still possess. They propose to force upon them a drive suggestive of that which the Soviets forced upon their peasants, without, of course, the ruthless cruelty of the Russians. It is essential to impel the peasants to "the will to achieve a better standard of living." Hence Government must be stirred to the necessity "that the rural problem should be attacked at all points simultaneously."

Yet this very inhibition, resisting imposition from without, amounts already in the peasants to detestation. Mr. Brayne, for example, testifies: "You have no idea how the Gurgaon villager detests the itinerant, departmental worker, and it was only after years of work that the villager allowed me to see why he was so prejudiced against the people Government sent for his apparent benefit ... Every official has a great barrier to break down before he can start helping the villagers, and may never break it down at all; some never try to break it down."

The reason for this detestation is to be found in the primary difference between the agriculturists and the traders, manufacturers, and financiers, who are now dominant. No one has described this fundamental distinction with greater mastery than has Dr. Oswald Spengler in his famous book The Decline of the West.

The peasants are terrene producers, that is partners in the recreative power of the earth. They have to do with goods which they themselves cultivate and the superfluity of which they exchange for other goods. The crops in which they deal are the crops of their own growing; the cattle in which they deal are their own cattle, known each of them individually to those who bred them. In contrast to this close familiarity is the urban. "The decisive point is this -- the true urban is not a producer in the prime terrene sense. He has not the inward linkage with the soil or with the goods that pass through his hands. He does not live with these, but looks at them from outside and appraises them in relation to his own life-upkeep.

"With this goods become wares, exchange turnover, and in place of thinking in goods we have thinking in money.

"With this purely extensional something, a form of limit-defining is abstracted from the visible objects of economics, just as mathematical thought abstracts something from the mechanistically conceived environment. Abstract money corresponds exactly to abstract number. Both are entirely inorganic. The economic picture is reduced exclusively to quantities, whereas the important thing about 'goods' had been their quality. For the early-period peasant his 'cow' is, first of all, just what it is, a unit being, and only secondarily an object of exchange; but for the economic outlook of the true townsman the only thing that exists is an abstract money-value which at the moment happens to be in the shape of a cow that can always be transformed into that of, say, a banknote. Even so the genuine engineer sees in a famous waterfall not a unique natural spectacle, but just a calculable quantum of unexploited energy.

"It is an error of all modern money-theories that they start from the value-token or even the material of the payment-token. In reality money, like number and law, is a category of thought."

We can now understand how it is that the peasants detest anything that takes them away from goods into the -- to them -- variable, uncertain, and unfathomable abstraction, money, particularly money that is not of their own making and which cannot be coined from their women's bangles. They never know what relation this money is going to bear to the goods which is their wealth. They can never be sure that they possess a sufficiency of it, when they come into contact with the outer world, and no well-to-do person can imagine what this means to the poor in money. Hence the peasants detest such contacts, however well-intentioned the contact-wallahs may be; they prefer to set up an inhibition against them, and shut themselves up in their own world.

Mr. Brayne testifies to this detestation. Sir Frederick Lely has given similar testimony: "If villagers can be persuaded to state their troubles, it is not of over-assessment or oppression of the police that they speak, but of the itinerant departmental workers. They will say: 'O Sahib, in the travelling season the Vaccinator comes, the Sanitary-wallah comes, the Akbari-wallah comes, the Police-wallah comes, the Engineer-wallah comes, the Pani (irrigation)-wallah comes, the Survey-wallah comes, the Circle-wallah comes, the Lokil (board)-wallah, and every one demands food, bedding, and service, and where are we to get the money from?'"

This detestation is the inhibition of Mr. Moreland. It discloses the peasants' traditional passion to manage their affairs in their own way, for detestation only arises from a genuine injury to the inner being. Neither the wallahs nor the cash nexus belong to their core.

The traditional method of their payment of taxes is in kind and through their own functionaries. Their traditional money by which they deal with the outer world is silver and some other metals. The metals to them are also goods. As Spengler says, the peasants value precious metals and coin, not as constituting a general measure, but really as "goods whose rarity and indestructibility cause them to be highly prized." But the modern bank is something quite different. "It is not an office for borrowing and lending money; but it is a manufactury of credit," as the textbook, The Theory and Practice of Banking, of Mr. Macleod defines it. In other words, the bank manufactures credit for one who has private property, which property can be taken by the banker in the event of the debtor not being able to repay his loan. It is based upon the alienability of private property; that is to say upon the opposite of the older conception of the inalienability of the Hindu peasants' property, to which the Abbé Dubois testified, provided always that the property was not wasted and land allowed to go out of cultivation. How, then, can "the essence of the co-operative movement that the people should take the management of their own affairs into their own hands" come into being within the ambit of the modern banking system? It cannot. The modern banking system belongs to a dominant idea antagonistic to an agricultural system of ryots.

An agricultural co-operative system must have its own financial system. As Sir Daniel Hamilton, with his unrivalled combined knowledge of the mercantile banking system and Indian agriculture, wrote in The Rayat and the Statutory Commission, 1929: "The men for whom a banking system is urgently wanted are the eighty per cent who live by agriculture, and by whom all others subsist. The Government Co-operative Registrars know better than anyone else what the people require in the way of finance, and they should now meet and formulate definite proposals for an All-India Co-operative Banking Corporation, which will link up the Provincial Co-operative Banks into one concern which will finance India, apart from the mercantile community." Only by such separation, including the restoration of the peasants' traditional custom of turning their silver into coin and the use of National Credit in place of the present bankers' monopoly, for both of which the late Sir Montague Webb strove with such persistent courage, can the peasants be freed from what he called in India's Plight, 1934: "The subjection of India to the control of the powerful Paper Money Forces behind the Secretary of State for India."

Nevertheless, as I was able in Chapter 5 to bring forward an example of the survival of the open-field system within the ambit of the modern money system and in Java of an example of the survival of an oriental village system under an occidental government, so I am able to bring forward here an example of the restoration of the family-ownership and cultivation of land in a European country within the ambit of the modern money system. That country is Denmark.

In the middle of the nineteenth century the cheap wheat imported into Europe from America and the Argentine, and the tariff raised by their chief customer, Germany, brought the Danish agriculturists to the verge of starvation. They had at that time agriculture of large estates or latifundia privately owned by their landed aristocracy and worked upon a capitalistic basis.

In this catastrophe royalty, the aristocracy and the professional classes, the upper classes generally of the now broken system, did little to help recovery, writes Mr. F. C. Howe in Denmark, 1921. "It was the peasants who slowly found a way out the problems of the country." They set about the reformation of agriculture in Denmark in the interests of the Danes themselves. They ignored the outer world, its markets and its politics, and reduced their army to the functions of the police. To improve themselves individually and as a whole, they brought about a great expansion and improvement of education. In agriculture itself they "turned to intensive small scale cultivation ... In forty years time Denmark became in many ways the most contented state in the world."

Mr. Howe adds the following very instructive words on the methods by which the re-creation of a peasant-family-ownership agriculture, and the system based upon it, was erected in the midst of modern urban-minded civilization: "Denmark also demonstrates that agriculture can be made an alluring as well as a profitable profession. The wealth that can be taken from the ground is measured by the intelligence of the farmer and the laws that determine the distribution of the produce. The latter is by far the more important. For if the farmer gives up a great part of his produce to the landlord, or if it is taken by speculators, by middlemen and others, agriculture is bound to decay. It cannot be otherwise. For over a generation Denmark has been working out plans for converting the tenant into a home owner. This probably explains the other achievement of the country. This lies at the back of the educational programme as well as the universal spirit of co-operation that prevails."

Farm-ownership is the economic foundation of Denmark. The majority of the farms are small. Very large farms constitute the few survivals of the old large estates, and they and their owners are now disappearing through legislation, for the legal power has fallen into the hands of the gaardmaend, who own about 6/10ths of the land in farms of 12 to 150 acres, and who work them by their families with or without hired labour.

These farmers are quite different to farmers under the dominance of urban civilization; they show in themselves the change of values, which alone establishes agriculture. "They control the politics of their districts and have been now ascendant in Parliament for 30 years. They know about the most technical agriculture, are rather skilled mechanics and frequently good chemists. They are saturated with a knowledge of agriculture, are not consumed with the ambition to be rich or to acquire more land. Their ambition is to be good farmers. They take an active interest in the co-operative societies, in the various saving and credit institutions, and are familiar with the laws that bear upon their business. They enjoy a social and political status superior to any other farmers in the world ...

"Denmark was changed by the people themselves, by the peasants or farmers, who a few years ago were scarcely more intelligent than the peasants of Europe. It was the peasants who took control of politics, who have taken over the marketing, the buying and the credit agencies of the country and by their own efforts have developed a culture of their own. It is they who have abolished farm tenancy and substituted farm ownership as the basis of successful farming. As the result they have made agriculture a fine art and converted the raising of horses, cattle, hogs and poultry into a science. This has been achieved in forty years. It is one of the most remarkable revolutions in history."

For the extra wealth which they get from their surplus produce, the Danish peasants are mainly dependent upon the English market. Yet during the Great War when this market was cut off, they did not starve, as eventually the Germans and the Austrians starved and as the British came within a fortnight of doing. On the contrary they enjoyed an exceptional spell of health. They did not starve because they were able to dispense with their gains from their exports and to feed themselves and their urban brethren. Their ability to do this was due to their well-distributed subsistence farming, which is the safety-basis of family ownership and cultivation.

Yet all is not well with the Danish farmers. They have not been able to create a money system which saves them from encumbering debt. Owing to their large export trade they remain within the ambit of the western money system. They, too, have suffered from the world-wide agricultural depression and owe their credit societies large sums. So Agricultural Economics and Society No. 2 of the International Institute of Agriculture reports: "In 1933, the total mortgage debt on rural property was calculated as being 3,750,000,000 crowns, whereas the aggregate value of the farms was 5,400,000,000."

Fortunately the Government is, as has been said, one largely directed by the farmers themselves, and many measures have been taken to lighten the load of debt, which oppressed the majority of the small owners. Nevertheless, the fact of this great involvement in debt shows that the problem of an agricultural money system has not been solved.

Moreover the Danes are secluded in a small country, very different to the huge variety of India. The Indian peasant question cannot be solved by an imitation of the Danes. But it can be claimed that the recovery of the Indian peasants must in the main come through the re-creation of their self-governing powers. If agricultural reform falls only "into the hands of reforming theorists," wrote Lord Ernle at the end of his story of English farming, "intent on repeating the time-honoured mistake of applying to agricultural problems remedies which are only applicable, if at all, to industrial or urban difficulties, (then) to all classes the consequences threaten to be disastrous, and most of all, to agricultural labourers." Similarly they would be disastrous to the Indian peasants. In other words it is urban subjectivity that threatens. What is needed is a realization of the primary nature of agriculture and the terrene producers, the peasants.

"Agriculture," said Napoleon at St. Helena, "is the soul, the foundation of the kingdom: industry ministers to the comfort and happiness of the population: foreign trade is the superabundance; it allows the exchange of the surplus of agriculture and industry ... Foreign trade, which in its results is infinitely inferior to agriculture, was an object of secondary importance to my mind. Foreign trade ought to be the servant of agriculture and home industry: these last ought never to be subordinated to foreign trade."

Next chapter

Table of Contents
1. British and Native Systems of Government in India
2. Conflicting Dominant Ideas
3. The First Agricultural Path
4. The Second Agricultural Path
5. The Degradation of the Peasants
6. The Ascendancy of the Town
7. The Degradation of the Soil
8. The Village System
9. The Restoration of the Peasants

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