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Dear Joanna,

Here's an important aspect of the petty-bourgeois equation that slipped my
mind -- shows how Anglo-centric I am (smallest proportion of population in
agriculture in the world for ages and ages). And also how off-putting a
reference to artists and novelists can be ;-)




How could I let the *peasantry* slip my mind in my piece on the
petty-bourgeoisie? Must be the early destruction of the peasantry in
England and its replacement by tenant farmers who are in the same boat as
small capitalists, no difference between running a farm and running a print
shop. But in an awful lot of countries (Russia, France, Sweden, the US,
etc) the landowning peasantry has constituted a huge factor in the social
and historical equation.

Not only has the peasantry historically constituted far and away the
largest section of the petty-bourgeoisie, but it has been the most
explosive mixture fuelling the big revolutions (English, American, French,
Russian, Chinese). And particularly the small (no or one or two workers
employed) and middle (a smallish number of workers employed) peasants. The
interests of the semi-slaves (thralls), the landless rural workers, the
crofters and the indebted and dependent peasants have always been socially
or politically directed against the landowners and the usurers, and the
free small peasants have always been at risk of plunging down into debt and
dependence with their destitute comrades-on-the-land.

Here it is really a question of exploiting your own labour-power (and that
of your immediate family), however much you own your own means of

And that process of proletarianization that I mentioned has of course taken
its  most dramatic form and been on the most mind-boggling scale in this
category of the petty-bourgeoisie.

The whole postwar phenomenon known as urbanization is in fact the
proletarianization of the peasant petty-bourgeoisie on an unprecedented and
monstrous scale. The monetarization and generalization of the market
economy in country after country around the world, in Latin America, Asia
and Africa, has led to the wiping out of subsistence farming and the
destruction of small-scale peasant production everywhere. The consequences
have been indebtedness leading to dispossession leading to one the one hand
a huge population of landless rural labourers (spearheaded politically by
organizations such as the MST (the movement of the landless) in Brazil) and
on the other to a huge migration to the cities and the vast slums of

This process fuels the sex industry in Thailand, for instance, and creates
a huge pool of desperate labour-power ready, at least initially, to work
for next to nothing for the multinationals.

But at the same time as the destruction of the petty-bourgeoisie throws
billions of people into the proletariat (in the sense of those owning
nothing but their labour-power), it also removes one of the main social
bases for fascisms of the classical German, Italian and Spanish kinds. A
desperate middle and small petty-bourgeoisie on the brink of slipping into
pauperdom and ready to scapegoat anybody and do anything to prevent this.

With the virtual elimination of the petty-bourgeoisie as a mass force in
its own right (even though this force always aligned with one or other of
the two main classes of capitalist society and was never able to have an
autonomous standpoint of its own), the class stand-off between the
bourgeoisie and the working class is in fact that much clearer now both
nationally and on a world scale than it was at the beginning of the
twentieth century.



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