2 the more 'Eastern' development became inevitable.

In document The question of the Asiatic mode of production : towards a new Marxist historiography (Page 178-189)

Hence, in Russia, as in the East generally, the military land-grant system gave rise to the service-state system rather than to feudalism as found in Western Europe, where the central state structure maintained little weight in the political equation. In the service state, social classes or strata were essentially defined by the kind of service they rendered to the state, rather than by the original pattern of tribal subordination and superordination. Whether or not the functional elite in the service-state system succeeded in converting their conditional

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estates into unconditional holdings, they remained a class dependent on

P. Miliukov, Ocherki po istorii russkoi kul'tury, op.cit., Vol. I, p. 42.

^ Ibid., pp. 132-140. 3

Miliukov cites the two cases also cited by Marx - the British conquest of India and the French conquest of Algeria, in both of which service lands survived very late on a conditional basis, but were then converted by

conquerors 'partly through misunderstanding' (Miliukov) into aristocratic forms of tenure. (See Miliukov, ibid., p. 142, and Marx's conspectus of Kovalevsky cited in Chapter Two.)

t h e f a v o u r o f t h e s t a t e a n d m o u ld e d b y t h i s d e p e n d e n c e . One v e r s i o n o f t h e s e r v i c e - s t a t e t h e o r y , w h i c h a n t i c i p a t e d some o f t h e m o d i f i c a t i o n s made b y P l e k h a n o v when a b s o r b i n g i t i n t o a s p e c i f i c a l l y M a r x i s t a n a l y s i s , was p r o v i d e d by t h e f o r e i g n o b s e r v e r o f n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y R u s s i a , M a c k e n z ie W a l l a c e . He w r o t e a s f o l l o w s : . . . T h u s , we s e e , t h e o f t - r e p e a t e d a s s e r t i o n t h a t t h e R u s s i a n s o c i a l c l a s s e s a r e s i m p l y a r t i f i c i a l c a t e g o r i e s c r e a t e d b y t h e l e g i s l a t u r e i s t o a c e r t a i n e x t e n t t r u e , b u t i s b y n o m eans a c c u r a t e . W hat i s p e c u l i a r i n t h e h i s t o r i c a l d e v e l o p m e n t o f R u s s i a i s t h i s : u n t i l l a t e l y s h e r e m a i n e d an a l m o s t e x c l u s i v e l y a g r i c u l t u r a l E m p ir e w i t h a n a b u n d a n c e o f u n o c c u p i e d l a n d . H e r h i s t o r y p r e s e n t s , t h e r e f o r e , few o f t h o s e c o n f l i c t s w h i c h r e s u l t f r o m t h e v a r i e t y o f s o c i a l c o n d i t i o n s a n d t h e i n t e n s i f i e d s t r u g g l e f o r e x i s t e n c e . C e r t a i n s o c i a l g r o u p s w e r e , i n d e e d , f o r m e d i n t h e c o u r s e o f t i m e , b u t t h e y w e r e n e v e r a l l o w e d t o f i g h t o u t t h e i r own b a t t l e s . The i r r e s i s t i b l e a u t o ­ c r a t i c p o w e r k e p t them a l w a y s i n c h e c k a n d f a s h i o n e d them i n t o w h a t e v e r fo rm i t t h o u g h t p r o p e r , d e f i n i n g m i n u t e l y a n d c a r e f u l l y t h e i r o b l i g a t i o n s , t h e i r r i g h t s , t h e i r m u t u a l r e l a t i o n s , a n d t h e i r r e s p e c t i v e p o s i t i o n s i n ihe peiih'c^l >o t h e h i s t o r y o f R u s s i a a l m o s t no t r a c e o f t h o s e c l a s s h a t r e d s w h i c h a p p e a r s o c o n s p i c u o u s l y i n t h e h i s t o r y o f W e s t e r n E u r o p e . ! The p a r a l l e l s b e t w e e n t h e s e r v i c e - s t a t e c o n c e p t e v o l v e d b y t h e n i n e t e e n t h - c e n t u r y R u s s i a n h i s t o r i a n s a n d M a r x 's c o n c e p t o f O r i e n t a l s o c i e t y a r e m a n i f e s t , a n d r e v e a l t h e s i m i l a r a n c e s t r y o f t h e c o n c e p t s i n t h e g r e a t t r a d i t i o n o f E u r o p e a n t h e o r i s i n g a b o u t n o n - E u r o p e a n p o l i t i e s . H o w e v er, R u s s i a n M a r x i s t s w e r e i n g e n e r a l t o i g n o r e b o t h M a r x ' s m o d e l o f an A s i a t i c mode o f p r o d u c t i o n a n d h i s q u a l i f i e d a p p l i c a t i o n o f t h i s m o d e l t o R u s s i a , a n d t h e s e r v i c e - s t a t e t h e o r y o f t h e g r e a t R u s s i a n h i s t o r i a n s . I n s t e a d t h e R u s s i a n M a r x i s t s w e r e t o do w h a t M arx h a d s p e c i f i c a l l y w a r n e d a g a i n s t i n 1 8 7 7 : t h a t i s , t o 'm e t a m o r p h o s e [ h i s ] h i s t o r i c a l s k e t c h o f t h e g e n e s i s o f c a p i t a l i s m i n W e s t e r n E u r o p e i n t o an h i s t o r i c o - p h i l o s o p h i c t h e o r y o f t h e 2 g e n e r a l p a t h e v e r y p e o p l e i s f a t e d t o t r e a d . . . ' S i r D o n a l d M a c k e n z ie W a l l a c e , R u s s i a , o p . c i t . , V o l . I , p p . 4 5 5 - 5 6 . M arx t o t h e E d i t o r s o f O t e c h e s t v e n n y e Z a p i s k i , MESC, p . 3 1 3 .

Russian History in European Dress: The Orthodox Marxist Approach

Much of Marx's analysis of the Russian state was both distasteful and inconvenient to the Russian Bolsheviks. Moreover, for reasons to be discussed, Bolshevik historiography came to enshrine the unilinear schema of history, and to abandon the suggestion by Marx that there existed alternative paths of historical development. Hence, 'orthodox' Russian Marxist historiography ignored Marx and endowed Russian history with a feudal stage, completely analogous to that of Western Europe, which was supposed to lead through the operation of its own internal laws to capitalism and hence to socialism."*'

The most important single influence on the formation of the orthodox Marxist approach to Russian history was the work of N.P. Pavlov-Sil'vansky,

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published in the early years of the twentieth century. Pavlov-Sil'vansky was the first important Russian historian completely to deny the prevail­ ing nineteenth-century historical tradition of viewing Russia's develop­ ment as idiosyncratic in comparison with the development of the Western European nations.

An impressive amount of evidence was marshalled by Pavlov-Sil'vansky in support of his contention that Russian feudalism was essentially of the

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same nature as the classic model extrapolated from French history. On

There has been another tendency, represented in recent years by A.P. Pogrebinsky and la. I. Livshin, that has stressed Russia's serai-colonial status in the pre-Revolutionary years, and the 'anti-colonial' rather than purely anti-capitalist nature of Russia's socialist revolution. See John L.H. Keep, 'The Rehabilitation of M.N. Pokrovsky', in Alexander and Janet Rabinowitch, etc. ed. Revolution and Politics in Russia, Bloomington, Indiana U.P., 1972, p. 312.

2

During the popularisation of his work after the Revolution Pavlov- Sil'vansky was even labelled a 'spontaneous Marxist'. See K.F. Shteppa, Russian Historians and the Soviet State, New Brunswick, Rutgers U.P., 1962, p. 256.

3

Pavlov-Sil'vansky's major work was entitled Feodalizm v drevnei Rusi, St. Petersburg, Brockhaus-Efron', 1907, published the year before his death.

the basis of his evidence he was able to argue quite persuasively that feudalism had developed at approximately the same time and for the same reasons in Western Europe and in Russia - i.e. it arose out of the conflict between landowners and peasants, not out of the activity of the state.

By inference Russia shared in the laws of social development found in We s te rn E urope.

Pavlov-Sil'vansky's detailed rejection of the notion of the 'special nature' of Russian history was popularised by Soviet historians in the post-Revolutionary period. Most important among these Soviet historians was M.N. Pokrovsky, whose influence was pre-eminent in the period up to

1934. Pokrovsky was eager to be rigorous in the application of Marxist categories, as he understood them, to Russian history and to play down any

'special factors' such as territorial exigencies, international relations, the role of great men, or the possibility of the relatively autonomous role of the state vis a vis social classes.

Having eliminated such factors from his purview, Pokrovsky was

confronted with the problem that Russian 'feudalism' looked rather odd in comparison with its European equivalent. Pokrovsky's solution to this problem was to juggle his periodisation. In order to explain away the Russian autocracy, which did not fit easily into the Marxist model of feudalism, Pokrovsky pushed back the rise of the Russian bourgeoisie to the sixteenth century. Thus the consolidation of the Russian autocracy was associated in his schema with the political requirements of merchant capital.

Because Pokrovsky was not aware of, or rejected, Marx's model of a non-Westem political economy, the appearance of the centralised state and bureaucratic structures were associated in his mind only with the period of

the primitive accumulation of capital. He believed that 'bureaucracy can

was to continue to popularise them as a member of the Society of Marxist Historians after the revolution.

only grow on a bourgeois soil', and hence the principal support of the Russian bureaucratic monarchy must ipso facto have been merchant capital - the first important stage in the development of industrial capitalism, and a stage that was exceptionally prolonged in Russia, lasting about four centuries.^

Although Pokrovsky's approach to Russian history was to attract almost universal condemnation with the deliberate initiation of a more 'patriotic'

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historiography in 1934, his formulations were symptomatic of the attempt to view Russian history in terms of Western Europe. An alternative

formulation of the genesis of the Russian autocracy, equally designed to minimise the significance of any particularities, was that the centralised state was brought into existence to defend the interests of the feudal landowners. Local unrest had arisen in the train of creeping enserfment, and the strong hand of the state was needed by the feudal lords to

enforce the extension of their control over the state.

One way of avoiding the rather unconvincing characterisation of the Russian autocracy as merely the instrument of class rule by feudal lords was to fasten onto Marx and Engels' explanation of the relative autonomy of the absolutist state in Western Europe - i.e. that there was an equilibrium between economic classes which was exploited by the state. However, in

M. N . Pokrovsky, Preface to the 10th ed. of A Brief History of Russia, op.cit., Vol. I, p. 13.

2

This aspect of Pokrovsky's work never really gained wide acceptance and the official Soviet periodisation extended the feudal stage up to the middle of the nineteenth century, and pushed back its origins as far as possible.

3

In the period from 1934 the 'class' nature of the tsars was often played down completely, in favour of their heroic role in protecting all classes from foreign aggressors. The rise of the centralised state was also

associated with defence factors rather than with economic class interests. Pokrovsky's characterisation of the Tsarist Empire as a 'prison of peoples' also fell right out of favour in this period.

the Western context this equilibrium was portrayed as arising betv/een the feudal landowners and the rising bourgeoisie, and in the Russian context this would mean a return to Pokrovsky in so far as it pushed back the rise of the political significance of the bourgeoisie. One solution was

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