3 state into being, but rather the need for defence against nomadic raiders.

In document The question of the Asiatic mode of production : towards a new Marxist historiography (Page 196-200)

The nomadic peoples, because of their particular mode of production, (i.e. herding) were militarily stronger than the settled agricultural peoples of the Russian plain. The development of agriculture meant a

1 2 3 Ibid., p. 64. Ibid., p. 96. Ibid., pp. 53-54.

division of labour between direct producer and warrior; the vast majority of the population became tied to the soil, while the military function devolved on a comparatively small group (i.e. the prince and his druzhina) who retained their mobility. Hence the weakness of the sedentary agricul­

tural peoples of the East European plain vis a vis the nomadic raiders, and their need to compensate for this weakness by 'uniting in one great political union',^ thus combining all their military resources. This in turn brought about the expansion of the power of the prince as the

2

'military watchman of the Russian soil'.

According to Plekhanov the Russian situation was paralleled in Asia where it also happened that agricultural peoples were only able to prove themselves stronger than the nomads after they had succeeded in forming

3

great despotic states. This parallel had earlier been noted by Parvus, who had written:

...Russia ... was on the way to becoming an Asiatic despotism. She even surrounded herself with a Chinese wall. To convince oneself of this, it is sufficient to cast a glance at the line of fortresses of the Moscow state, built by the way, like the Chinese wall, as a defence against the attacks of the nomadic Mongols. 4-

The Chinese wall and its equivalents were symbolic of the type of central­ ised political organisation and state-directed corvee labour required to protect these agricultural states from the constant threat of invasion.

Although Plekhanov acknowledged parallels between the kind of defence function fulfilled by the Russian state and that fulfilled by Eastern states, he still awarded primacy in the emergence of the classical Asiatic despot­

ism to the irrigation function. The defence burden was less onerous in the

Ibid., p. 47. 2

Ibid., pp. 53-54, 57. The appellation 'voennyi storozh' derives from Kliuchevsky.

^ Ibid., p. 100. 4

Parvus, Rossiia i revoliutsiia, St Petersburg, izd. N. Glagoleva, 1906, p. 96.

l a t t e r t h a n i n R u s s i a , b e c a u s e R u s s i a was c o n f r o n t e d n o t o n l y by b a r b a r i a n n o m a d s , b u t a l s o b y n e i g h b o u r s t o t h e W e st who h a d a c h i e v e d a much h i g h e r l e v e l o f d e v e l o p m e n t . ^ I n d i s c u s s i n g t h e m i l i t a r y s u p e r i o r i t y o f t h e nomads a n d t h e d e f e a t o f K i e v a n R u s , P l e k h a n o v was a t p a i n s t o a r g u e t h a t t h e s e f a c t s b y no m eans d i s p r o v e d t h e t h e o r y o f h i s t o r i c a l m a t e r i a l i s m . The r e a s o n t h e y m i g h t b e t h o u g h t t o do s o was t h a t a c c o r d i n g t o t h e m a t e r i a l i s t c o n c e p t i o n o f h i s t o r y , m i l i t a r y v i c t o r y was u l t i m a t e l y d e t e r m i n e d by t h e c o m p a r a t i v e l e v e l o f . e c o n o m i c d e v e l o p m e n t o f t h e c o m b a t a n t s ; and p a s t o r a l a c t i v i t y r e p r e s e n t e d 2 a l o w e r s t a g e o f e c o n o m i c d e v e l o p m e n t t h a n a g r i c u l t u r e . P l e k h a n o v * s m e th o d o f s a v i n g t h e t h e o r y was t o a d v a n c e a n o t h e r t h e o r e t ­ i c a l p o i n t , w h i c h c o u l d a l s o b e f o u n d i n M arx. T h a t i s , t h a t p r o g r e s s d o e s n o t o c c u r s i m u l t a n e o u s l y i n a l l s p h e r e s o f s o c i e t y . The i l l u s t r a t i o n u s e d b y P l e k h a n o v was t h e s u p e r i o r i t y o f h u n t i n g t r i b e s o v e r p e o p l e o f more 'a d v a n c e d * s t a g e s o f s o c i a l d e v e l o p m e n t i n t h e s p h e r e o f t h e p l a s t i c 3

a r t s . The same k i n d o f a s y m m e t r i c a l d e v e l o p m e n t was t h e c a u s e o f t h e

m i l i t a r y s u p e r i o r i t y o f t h e n o m a d s . N om adic h e r d i n g , w i t h i t s c o n s t a n t m o b i l i s a t i o n t o s e e k new p a s t u r e s , g a v e r i s e t o a w a r l i k e d i s p o s i t i o n a n d c a p a c i t y , a n d t h e e v e n t u a l m i l i t a r y a d v a n t a g e o f s o c i e t i e s b a s e d on If. a g r i c u l t u r a l p r o d u c t i o n e m e r g e d o n l y v e r y s l o w l y . P l e k h a n o v , H i s t o r y , p . 8 7 . 2 The q u e s t i o n o f t h e c h r o n o l o g i c a l p r i o r i t y o f h e r d i n g o v e r a g r i c u l t u r e i s o n e i n w h i c h M a r x ' s a s s u m p t i o n s a p p e a r t o h a v e b e e n s u p e r s e d e d by t h e r e c e n t g r o w t h o f a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l k n o w l e d g e . S e e my N o te on t h e P o p u l a t i o n F a c t o r a n d a l s o M. G o d e l i e r , 'L a n o t i o n de "mode de p r o d u c t i o n a s i a t i q u e " e t l e s s c h e m a s m a r x i s t e s d ' e v o l u t i o n d e s s o c i d t e s ' , S u r l e 'mode d e p r o d u c t i o n a s i a t i q u e ' , C . E . R . M . , P a r i s , E d i t i o n s s o c i a l e s , 1 9 6 9 , p . 5 3 . 3 I b i d . , p . 4 4 . C f . M arx, G r u n d r i s s e , I n t r o d u c t i o n , p . 1 0 9 . The e x a m p l e s g i v e n b y M arx o f t h e 'u n e v e n d e v e l o p m e n t o f m a t e r i a l p r o d u c t i o n ' i n c l u d e t h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f G r e e k a r t a n d o f Roman p r i v a t e la v ;. Marx w a r n e d t h a t t h e ' c o n c e p t o f p r o g r e s s ' s h o u l d n o t b e c o n c e i v e d i n t h e u s u a l a b s t r a c t n e s s ' . ( I b i d . ) 4 P l e k h a n o v , H i s t o r y , p . 4 4 .

f\ H h 6ri^<j)C- ~Ms L%ppt<-r£A-'l itt! f~l*-’'CZ^i £i^C- mcJimeJi} A conception of history and the 'facts' of Russian history consisted in

the argument that Kiev Rus was in reality at a lower level of development of productive forces than the nomadic raiders. The argument involved the claim that the basic mode of production in Kiev Rus was hunting combined with trade,^ hunting ranking below pastoral activity in any Marxist schema of history. Plekhanov completely rejected this argument, citing the

historical evidence for his own view that the mode of production of Kiev Rus was basically agricultural, although the collection of furs and other

forest products constituted an auxiliary industry which corresponded to the demands of the international (particularly the 'Greek') market.

The general functions of the centuries-long onslaught of nomadic invaders were, as Plekhanov stated them, the shifting of the centre of gravity of Russian history Northwards; the retardation of economic develop­ ment both through devastation and through the cutting of trade links with Europe; and the strengthening of the princely power to meet the constant military emergencies. The period of actual Tatar rule witnessed the further strengthening of the grip of the princes over the land and its inhabitants in order to fulfil the payments due to the Khan, the princes being answerable for these payments.

However although the Tatar invasions functioned to push Russian socio­ political relations into an ever more 'Eastern' framework, Plekhanov

denied that this indicated in any way the so-called 'Tatarisation' of Russia. The actual borrowings were superficial, and could not be otherwise consider­ ing the relatively higher mode of production and greater complexity of

2

social relations to be found among the Russians. In Plekhanov's words:

Plekhanov criticises this argument specifically as it appears in the work of V.A. Keltuiala, Kurs istorii russkoi literatury, Part I, Book 2, St. Petersburg, 1911. (Plekhanov, History, pp. 38-44.)

2

In an earlier part of his work Plekhanov had outlined the conditions of cultural borrowing as follows: 'the influence of one country on the con­ figuration of inner relations of another is possible only when in the latter

...The inner mode of life of the Russian state did not become like the mode of life of the nomads, but rather, like the mode of life of the great agricultural despot­ isms of the East. These despotisms also suffered from the steppe horsemen and even borrowed from them a

certain amount in the way of culture.-L

Plekhanov's criticisms of the concept of Tatarisation were directed against the German historian A. Bruckner, and against the latter's 'idealist'

account of the influence of Tatar political ideas and methods on Russian 2

development.

Bruckner's approach to Russian history has still been very much alive in the twentieth century. The following is from Vernadsky's A History of Russia:

...The Mongolian state was built upon the principle of unquestioning submission of the individual to the group, first to the clan and through the clan to the whole state. This principle* was in the course of

time impressed thoroughly upon the Russian people. It led to the system of universal service to the state which all without differentiation were forced to give.

Under the influence of Mongolian ideas*, the Russian state developed on the basis of universal service. All classes of society were made a definite part of the state organization. Taken altogether, these ideas* amount to a peculiar system of state social­ ism (sic). The political theory* developed into a finished plan* later, in the Moscow Kingdom and the Russian Empire; but the basis of the idea* of state service was laid down during the period of Tartar domination.^

there are already social elements at hand, for whom it is advantageous to assume the role of bearer [of this influence].' Thus, for example, proto- feudal elements in the Lithuanian borderlands of Russia assumed the role of bearer of influence from Poland, where the rights and privileges of the feudal nobility had developed a more advanced form in accordance with the comparat­ ively advanced economic and social condition of the country. (Ibid., p. 33.) ^ Ibid., fn. pp. 247-248.

2

Baron, in his biography, mistakenly writes that: 'clearly recognizable in Plekhanov's history are the ideas ... of Bruckner on the influence of the Mongols'. What is actually present in Plekhanov's work is a refutation of Bruckner's views. (See Samuel H. Baron, Plekhanov..., op.cit., p. 296.)

•k

My emphasis. 3

George Vernadsky, A History of Russia, 3rd rev. ed., New Haven, Yale U.P., 1951, p. 56.

In document The question of the Asiatic mode of production : towards a new Marxist historiography (Page 196-200)