3 movement, without effecting any real social change.

In document The question of the Asiatic mode of production : towards a new Marxist historiography (Page 194-196)

Thus Plekhanov followed Solov'ev in viewing the extensiveness and lack of diversity of the East European plain as the factors primarily responsible for the retardation of Russia's historical growth and the weak development of Russian feudalism. We have seen how on Plekhanov's account these factors inhibited the emergence of feudal relations between land- owners arid peasants. Because the druzhinniki tended to receive their income directly from the prince, or from trading operations carried out under his aegis, rather than from independent manorial land-holding, their position was much weaker than that of the equivalent military servitor class in feudal Europe. 7\lthough the druzhinniki retained the right during the Kievan period to transfer their allegiance to another prince, Plekhanov interpreted such transfers as a sign of the weakness rather than of the strength of their position; they had no personal base from which to conduct

5 a struggle with the prince for the satisfaction of their demands.

In spite of these peculiarities, Russia was closer to the West

Ibid., Cf. Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, op.cit., Vol. I, p. 23. Trotsky sums up the historical consequences of the extensive­ ness of the Russian plain as follows: 'The process of social differentiation, intensive in the west, was delayed in the east and diluted by the process of expansion.’ (Ibid.)

2

Plekhanov, History, p. 105. 3

See Trotsky's analysis of the role of peasant rebellions within Asiatic society, discussed in the next section.

4

Plekhanov, History, pp. 51, 58. 5 Ibid., p. 51.

( a c c o r d i n g t o P l e k h a n o v ' s p e n d u lu m v ie w o f R u s s i a n h i s t o r y ) d u r i n g t h e K i e v a n p e r i o d t h a n d u r i n g t h e s u b s e q u e n t M u s c o v i t e p e rio d .'* " D u r i n g t h e K i e v a n p e r i o d R u s s i a h a d p a r t i c i p a t e d more f u l l y i n i n t e r n a t i o n a l e x c h a n g e w i t h t h e W e s t a n d t h e p r i n c e h a d b e e n a b l e t o p a y t h e e x p e n s e s o f t h e 2 s t a t e f ro m t h e p r o c e e d s o f f o r e i g n t r a d e . T h e r e was a s y e t no n e e d f o r t h e s t a t e t o e x e r c i s e c o n t r o l o v e r t h e d o m i n a n t mode o f p r o d u c t i o n ( a g r i c u l t u r e ) o r o v e r t h e d i r e c t p r o d u c e r s i n o r d e r t o f u l f i l t h e p u b l i c f u n c t i o n o f d e f e n c e . A n o t h e r g e o g r a p h i c a l f a c t o r a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h e E a s t E u r o p e a n p l a i n was l a r g e l y r e s p o n s i b l e f o r t h e t u r n away fro m t h e W e st a t t h e e n d o f t h e K i e v a n p e r i o d . T h i s f a c t o r was t h e o p e n n e s s o f t h e p l a i n t o t h e S o u t h - E a s t a n d i t s c o n t i g u i t y w i t h t h e s t e p p e s o f c e n t r a l A s i a , t h e home o f t h e n o m a d i c h o r d e s w h o se i n c u r s i o n s w e r e b e c o m i n g m ore a n d m ore s e r i o u s t o - 3 w a r d s t h e c l o s e o f t h e K i e v a n p e r i o d . S u c h i n c u r s i o n s r e s u l t e d i n a m a j o r s h i f t o f t h e R u s s i a n p o p u l a t i o n away fro m t h e S o u t h - W e s t t o w a r d s t h e N o r t h - E a s t i n t h e s e c o n d h a l f o f t h e t w e l f t h c e n t u r y .

The g e o g r a p h i c a l e n v i r o n m e n t i n t h e N o r t h was i n g e n e r a l e v e n more u n f a v o u r a b l e t o W e s t e r n - s t y l e e c o n o m i c d e v e l o p m e n t t h a n t h a t o f t h e S o u t h . T h e r e was no r e a d y a c c e s s f ro m t h e N o r t h t o m a r k e t s f o r t h e l u x u r y i t e m s ( f u r s , w a x , h o n e y e t c . ) w h i c h h a d b e e n t h e c h i e f t r a d e - c o m m o d i t i e s o f 4 K i e v a n R u s . F u r t h e r m o r e , e x i s t i n g t r a d e r o u t e s w e r e c u t o f f b y t h e T a t a r i n v a d e r s . D e p r i v e d o f f o r e i g n t r a d e , t h e s t a t e h a d t o m e e t i t s e x p e n s e s I b i d . , p p . 1 2 , 5 2 . 2 I b i d . r p p . 5 8 - 5 9 . 3 I b i d . , p . 36 . P l e k h a n o v i s h e r e c o m m e n tin g on S o l o v ' e v , who i n c l u d e d t h e o p e n n e s s t o n o m a d ic i n v a d e r s a s o ne o f t h e g e o g r a p h i c a l f a c t o r s i n f l u e n c ­ i n g R u s s i a n h i s t o r y , b u t i n P l e k h a n o v ' s v ie w u n d e r e s t i m a t e d t h e i m p o r t a n c e o f t h e s t r u g g l e w i t h t h e n o m a d s . 4 I b i d . , p . 75.

from the agricultural labour of the people (rather than from their auxiliary industries, such as hunting). Agricultural labour, in turn, was less

productive in the North and the state demands were correspondingly more oppressive. 'In order to ensure the fulfilment of these demands it was necessary [for the state] to increase the extent of its direct power over the rural population. The history of the population of the Volga basin consists in the process of their gradual enserfment [zakreposhchenie] to the state.'^

The extension of state power over primary production meant that a despotic system similar to that of the Asiatic empires came into being; and as in Asiatic societies, centralisation flourished in the absence of a complex social division of labour or social stratification. Plekhanov completely rejected the view that Muscovite absolutism was merely the political instrument of a feudal ruling class of the Western type. He pointed out that if the feudal class in Russia had enjoyed sufficient power to translate their aspirations into political terms, they would have brought into being the kind of aristocratic constitution found in Lithuania

2

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