Web republication January 2002.

                        "ORIENTAL DESPOTISM"
Being one section of:  "The Development of Society - Part One: To Feudalism"; Journal of the Communist League; June 1977.

It is now necessary to retrace our steps backward to the Asiatic and Germanic modes of production to consider how these may develop in modified ways as a result of geographical and climatic factors. Such modified Asiatic and Germanic modes of production are associated with a phenomenon called by Marxist-Leninists "oriental despotism" in which case they include important features of the ancient mode of production-- for example, the full division of society into an exploiting and an exploited class, a general form of slavery and a fully developed state-apparatus of force.

As a result of incorporating these basic features of the ancient mode of production, a society under the Germanic mode of production associated with oriental despotism may pass directly to the feudal mode of production.

The Development of the Ruling Bureaucracv Geographical and climatic factors play a certain role in the development of society: "Once men finally settled down, the way in which to a smaller degree this original community is modified will depend on various external, climatic,
geographical, physical, etc., conditions".
(K. Marx: "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations"; London; 1964; p. 68).

"Geographical environment is unquestionably one of the constant and indispensable conditions of development of society and, of course, influences the development of society".
(J. V. Stalin: "Dialectical and Historical Materialism", in: "History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)'", Moscow 1941, p.118).

A large part of the earth’s surface is and or semi-arid in its climate and/ or is subject to periodic destructive flooding. In these areas agriculture can be adequately developed only with the aid of extensive public works relating to irrigation, drainage and flood control: "Great stretches of desert . . extend from the Sahara straight across Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary up to the highest Asiatic-plateau. Artificial irrigation is here the first condition of agriculture".
(F. Engels: Letter to K. Marx, June 6th., 1853, in: K. Marx & F.Engels: "Correspondence: 1846-1895"; London; 1936, p. 67).

"Climate and territorial conditions, especially the vast tracts of desert extending from the Sahara, through Arabia, Persia, India and Tartary to the most elevated Asiatic highlands, constituted artificial irrigation by canals and waterworks the basis of Oriental agriculture".
(K. Marx: "The British Rule in India", in: "Selected Works"; Volume 2; London; 1943; p. 652).

"It is the necessity of bringing a natural force under the control of society, of economising, of appropriating or subduing it on a large scale by the work of man's hand, that first plays the decisive part in the history of industry. Examples are the irrigation works in Egypt, Lombardy, Holland, or India and Persia, where irrigation by means of artificial canals not only supplies the soil with the water indispensable to it, but also carries down to it, in the shape of sediment from the hills, mineral fertilisers".
(K. Marx.: "Capital", Volume 1; Moscow, 1954; p. 514).

"In Persia and India it was irrigation throughout the river valleys
without which no agriculture was possible there".
(F. Engels:'"Herr Eugene Duhring's Revolution in Science"; Moscow; 1959; p. 248).

"Because of India's peculiar climate and territorial conditions, artificial irrigation by canals and waterworks had to be the basis of a flourishing agrarian economy".
(R.Mukerjee: "the Rise & Fall of the East India Company"; Berlin; 1958; p.153).

"The determining factor in Chinese history as a whole appears to have been the trend towards intensive agriculture nourished by irrigation. The technical practices of irrigation were stimulated in their development by the character of the environment; and they, in turn, in proportion as they became, more efficient, transformed both landscape and people".
(O.Lattimore: "Inner Asian Frontiers of China", New York; 1951; p. 326).
At the primitive level of the productive forces pertaining at the period of the dissolution of the primitive communal mode of production, such public works required the organisation of a mass labour force: "Property require(s) communal labour for its valorisation in the
irrigation systems of the Orient".
(K. Marx: "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations"; London; 1964; p. 72).
The efficient organisation of such a mass labour force requires a division of labour between manual workers and directing personnel on a much more extreme scale than is required under the Asiatic mode of production where such public works are not essential: "All combined labour on a large scale requires, more or less, a directing authority, in order to secure the harmonious working of the individual activities, and to perform the general functions that have their origin in the action of the combined organism",
(K. Marx: "Capital", Volume 1; Chicago; 1932; p. 363).

"The work of large integrated teams requires on-the-spot leaders and disciplinarians as well as over-all organisers and planners. The great enterprises of hydraulic agriculture involve both types of direction".
(K. A. Wittfogel: "Oriental Despotism"; New Haven; 1956; p. 26).

These directing personnel have to be given considerably greater powers and authority-than the directing personnel under the Asiatic mode of production where such public works are not essential - e.g., powers of census-taking, of conscription of labour, of coordination and direction of this labour.

As a result of being given these powers, the directing personnel become, relatively rapidly, a ruling class in the full sense of the word, and the organs of authority under their control a coercive state in the full sense of the word:

"The state, which the primitive groups of communities of the same tribe had at first arrived at only in order to safeguard their common interests (e.g. irrigation in the East) . . from this stage onwards acquires just as much the function of maintaining by force the conditions of existence and domination of the ruling class against the subject class".
(F. Engels: "Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science"; Moscow; 1959; p.205).

"The communal conditions for real appropriation through labour such as the irrigation systems (very important among the Asian peoples) . . will then appear as the work of the higher unity - the despotic government - which is poised above the lesser communities".
(K. Marx: "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations"; London; 1964; p.70-1).

"This prime necessity of an economical and common use of water . . necessitated in the Orient the interference of the centralising power of government. Hence an economic function devolved upon all Asiatic governments, the function of providing public works".
(K Marx: "The British Rule in India" in: "Selected Works" Volume 2; London; 1943; p. 652).

"The formation of a centralised empire (in China - Ed.) was inevitable. In no other way was it possible to maintain a state apparatus capable of initiating, operating and supervising immense public works which transcended regions and made profitable a uniform level of intensive cultivation".
(0. Lattimore: ibid; p. 373).

The ruling class is able to use its coercive power of conscription to raise a large army, and so increase the coercive power of its state apparatus: "The masters of hydraulic society applied the same organisational devices in the military sphere that they employed with such success in construction. In many cases the recruits for war could be as comprehensively mobilised as the recruits for toil. . .
The masters of the hydraulic state, who monopolised coordinated military action, could -- if they so wished -- raise large armies".
(K. A., Wittfogel: ibid. p. 6l, 63).
The ruling class is, likewise, able to use its coercive power of conscription for the construction of public works other than those concerned with irrigation, drainage and flood control -- for example, the construction of installations for the storage and distribution of drinking water, of navigation canals, of defence works, and of roads: "The masters of the hydraulic state did not confine their activities to matters immediately connected with agriculture. The methods of cooperation which were so effective in the sphere of crop-raising were easily applied to a variety of other large tasks. . . . .
Generally speaking, the irrigation canal is older than the navigation canal;
and hydraulic digging and damming occurred prior to the building of high
ways. .
A commonwealth able to transfer water for purposes of irrigation readily
applied its hydraulic know-how to the providing of drinking water.. . .
The irregular flow of rivers or streams or the relatively easy access to fresh and clear mountain water stimulated in many hydraulic landscapes the construction of comprehensive installations for the storage and distribution of drinking water. . .
Among the great agrarian conformations of history, only hydraulic society has constructed navigation canals of any major size. . . .
The need for comprehensive works of defence arises almost as soon as hydraulic agriculture is practised. Contrary to the rainfall farmer, who may shift his fields with relative ease, the irrigation farmer finds himself depending on an immovable, if highly rewarding, source of fertility. In the early days of hydraulic cultivation reliance on a fixed system of water supply must in many cases have driven the agrarian community to build strong defences around its homes and-fields. . . .
The builders of canals and dams easily become the builders of trenches, towers, palisades and extended defence walls.. . . .
Great highways were mainly executed through the cooperative effort of
state-levied corvee labourers".
(K.A. Wittfogel: ibid.; p. 30, 31, 34, 38).
The ruling class of an oriental despotism is thus a bureaucracy: for example, Lenin describes the oriental despotism of tsarist Russia as: "The oppressive regime of the bureaucratic dictatorship".
(V. I. Lenin: "Review of Home Affairs", in: "Collected Works", Volume 5; Moscow; 1961, p. 301).
The material basis of its power is its control of the essential irrigation, drainage and flood-control works: "One of the material bases of the power of the state over the small disconnected producing organisms in India was the regulation of the water supply".
(K. Marx: "Capital",, Volume 1; Chicago; 1932; p. 564).
By reason of the technical skills required for the direction of construction projects and flood-control, the ruling class of an oriental despotism is often dominated by, or closely linked with, priests or former priests, that is, it is' hieratic or quasi-hieratic in character: "The necessity for predicting the rise and fall of the Nile created Egyptian astronomy, and with it the domination of the priests, as directors of agriculture".
(K. Marx: "Capital", Volume 1; Chicago; 1932; p. 564).

"The majority of all hydraulic civilisations are characterised by large and influential priesthoods.. . . . .
In a number of cases the officialdom included many persons who were trained as priests and who, before assuming a government position, acted as priests. It is important to note such a background, because it illuminates the role of the temples in the ruling complex…….
Thus, their regimes are quasi-hierocratic".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid.; p. 88).

The form of state power which is developed under these conditions is termed by Marxist-Leninists oriental despotism: "Rosa Luxemburg evident1y judges the state system of Russia by her economic, political and sociological characteristics and everyday life - a totality of features which, taken together, produce the concept of  'Asiatic despotism"'.
(V. I. Lenin: "The Right of Nations to Self-determination", in: "Collected Works", Volume 20; Moscow; 1964, p. 403).
The state system of oriental despotism thus arises on the foundation of the Asiatic mode of production in countries where large-scale public works of irrigation, drainage and/or flood control are essential to an adequate level of agriculture: "Oriental despotism was founded on common property".
(F. Engels: "Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science"; Moscow; 1959; p. 486).

"The stationary character of this part of Asia (i.e., the Indian sub-continent -- Ed.) . . is fully explained by two mutually dependent circumstances: 1) the public works were the business of the central goverment; 2) beside these, the whole empire, not counting the few larger towns, was resolved into villages, which possessed a completely separate organisation and formed a little world in themselves.
I do not think one could imagine a more solid foundation for the stagnation of Asiatic despotism".
(K. Marx: Letter to F. Engels, June 14th., 1853, in: K. Marx & F. Engels: "Correspondence: 1846-1895"; London; 1936; p. 70).

'This prime necessity of an economical and common use of water . . necessitated in the orient the interference of the centralising power of government. . ….
These idyllic village communities had always been the solid foundation
of Oriental despotism".
(K. Marx: "The British Rule in India", in: "Selected Works", Volume 2; London; 1943; p.652, 655).

The forms of exploitation

Having armed themselves with the coercive power of the state, the ruling bureaucracy proceed to use it for their own benefit, that is, to develop their exploitation of the mass of the people: "This (ruling – Ed.) class never failed, for its own advantage, to impose a greater and greater burden of labour on the working masses".
(F. Engels: ibid.,- p. 251).
The principal form of exploitation of the working masses during the early stage of development of oriental despotism is the use of corvee labour (i.e.. forced labour on a temporary basis) for the benefit of the ruling class: "The unity (i.e., the despotism - Ed.) can involve .. a . common organisation of labour itself, which in turn can create a veritable system".
(K. Marx: "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations"; London; 1964; p. 70)
Such forced labour is used for the erection of luxurious edifices for the ruling bureaucracy and its associated priesthood: "A governmental apparatus capable of executing all these hydraulic and non-hydraulic works could easily be used in building palaces and pleasure grounds for the ruler and his court, palace-like government edifices for his aides, and monuments and tombs for the distinguished dead. . . .
Government directed work teams, which erected gigantic palaces, were equally fitted to erect gigantic temples".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid.; p. 39, 41).
These buildings, both secular and religious, are generally built in a monumental style to demonstrate the power and superior social position of the ruling bureaucracy in relation to the common people: "The palaces, government buildings, temples and tombs tend to be large.
The architectural style of hydraulic society is monumental... . .
The proverbial glamour of Oriental courts is merely an economic expression of the rule’s despotic control over his subjects".
(K. A. Wittfogel, ibid; p. 43, 305).
At a later stage of development of oriental despotism, corvee labour is generally commuted in favour of a land-tax, paid to the ruling bureaucracy from the produce of peasant agriculture - at first in kind, later, with the further development of a money economy, in money. This commutation is favoured by the ruling class because it provides them with wider forms of wealth than is available to them by the exploitation of corvee labour; it is also, in general, favoured by the peasants since it frees them of the burden of corvee labour, which takes them away from their agricultural pursuits from time to time: "In Indian society as a whole it is the surplus alone that becomes a
commodity, and a portion of even that, not until it has reached the hands of
the State, into whose hands from time immemorial a certain quantity of these products has found its way".
(K. Marx: "Capital". Volume 1; Chicago, 1932; p. 392).

"The despot here appears as the father of all the numerous lesser communities, thus realising the common unity of all. It therefore follows that the surplus product belongs to this higher unity".
(K. Marx; "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations"; London; 1964; p. 69-70).

"In Asiatic societies the monarch appears as the exclusive owner of the
surplus product of the land",
(K. Marx: "Grandrisse der Kritik der politischen Okonomie"; Berlin; 1953; p. 371).

"The Chinese people suffer from the same evils as those from which the Russian people suffer - they suffer from an Asiatic government that squeezes taxes from the starving peasantry and that suppresses every aspiration towards liberty by military force".
(V. I. Lenin: "The War in China", in "Collected Works"; Volume 4; Moscow; 1960; p. 377).

The enforced payment of land-tax by the peasants to the orientally despotic state - the head of which is usually a monarch – presents the appearance that the latter is the owner of the land and that the land-tax is "rent": "In most Asiatic fundamental forms the all-embracing unity which stands
above all these small common bodies may appear as the higher or sole proprietor, the real communities only as hereditary possessors. . The despot here appears as the father of all the numerous lesser communities, thus realising the common unity of all. It therefore follows that the surplus product belongs to this highest unity. Oriental despotism therefore appears to lead to a legal absence of property. In fact, however, its foundation is tribal or common property".
(K. Marx: "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations"; London; 1964; p. 69-70).

"In the monarchies, the king, though autocratic and actively governing, had a right to the title on raw produce, collected as yearly tax; and only to this extent could be considered the ultimate owner of the-soil". "
(C. A. F. Rhys-Davids: "Economic Conditions according to Early Buddhist Literature", in: "The Cambridge History of India", Volume.1; Cambridge; 1922; p. 198).

The Orientally Despotic State

The most common form of the orientally despotic state is the absolute monarchy. "The absolutist regimes of hydraulic society are usually headed by a single individual in whose person is concentrated all the power over major decisions.. . .
The great monarchs of the Oriental world were almost without exception 'self-rulers' - autocrats".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 1069 107).
The theoretical justification for this autocracy is generally provided by the priesthood, who present the monarch as "divine": "It was upon this centre (i.e., the monarch – Ed.) that the magic powers of
the commonwealth tended to converge. The bulk of all religious ceremonies may be performed by a specialised priesthood. . . .
But in many hydraulic societies the supreme representative of secular authority is also the embodiment of supreme religious authority.
Appearing as either a god or a descendant of a god, or as high priest, such a person is indeed a theocratic (divine) or quasi-theocratic (pontifical) ruler.. . . .
In his person the ruler combines supreme operational authority and the many magic and mythical symbols that express the terrifying (and allegedly beneficial) qualities of the power apparatus he heads",
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 90, 305).
On this basis the monarch is able to consolidate the secular basis of his autocratic rule: "Under such conditions there develops what may be called a cumulative tendency of unchecked power. . . . Under absolutist conditions the holder of the strongest position, benefiting from the cumulative tendency of unchecked power, tends to expand his authority through alliances, manoeuvres and ruthless schemes until, having conquered all other centres of supreme decision, he alone prevails".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 106-7).
The character of the orientally despotic state precludes any peaceful change of ruler. Such a change can, in general, be brought about only by violent means usually through a coup engineered by a person or group in an influential position: "The ruler, being most illustrious, is also most to be envied. Among those near him, there are always some who long to replace him. And since constitutional and peaceful change is out of the question, replacement usually means one thing and one thing only: physical annihilation. The wise ruler .. Therefore trusts no one. . .
All members of his entourage must be watched and controlled. The king must spy on his prime minister. He must beware of his close friends, of his wives, of his brothers, and most particularly of his heir apparent".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 155).
The orientally despotic state thus characteristically rules by ruthless methods of terror and torture: "Terror is the inevitable consequence of the rulers' resolve to uphold their own and not the people's rationality optimum.
Many spokesmen of hydraulic despotism have emphasised the need for rule by punishment. . .
The agro-managerial despot exercises unchecked control over the army, the police, the intelligence service, and he has at his disposal jailers, torturers, executioners, and all the tools that are necessary to catch, incapacitate and destroy a suspect.. . . .
He can employ these devices with maximum psychological effect.. . .
Judicial torture is widespread in the hydraulic world".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 137, 138, 141, 145).
The state demands complete obedience and submission from the common people - a submissiveness expressed in the characteristic custom of prostration before members of the ruling bureaucracy: "Total submission is ceremonially demonstrated whenever a subject of a hydraulic state approaches his ruler or some other representative of authority.. . .
Under the shadow of Oriental despotism, prostration is an outstanding form of saluting the sovereign or other person of recognised authority. . .
Generally speaking, prostration is characteristic for hydraulic society".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid, p. 152).
The higher officials of an orientally despotic state are usually drawn from the primitive aristocracy or the priesthood, and are given titles to denote their rank in the bureaucratic state. They are generally allotted a certain amount of land as a perquisite of office; such land is called office land: "The civil or military official of an agrarian despotism is part of a bureaucratic hierarchy which, taken in its entirety, enjoys more power.. revenue and prestige than any other group in the society. . . .
Land that is temporarily, or indefinitely, assigned to officials (is termed) office land. . . .
The ranking officials include civil and military functionaries of recognised
status. . . . The civil officials resemble their military colleagues in that
both are in positions of command and able to make limited and intermediate decisions. . . . .
that both unconditionally (and usually full-time) serve their
ruler, and that both are government-supported either by salary or by revenue derived from state-assigned office lands".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 177, 271, 306).
Officials concerned with the collection of land-tax are generally tax-farmers, entitled to retain a percentage of the tax collected as their commission: "Fiscal agents (tax farmers) . . are recognised as servants of the government. In this capacity they are supported and given authority, sometimes even coercive authority, and to compensate them for their services they are granted a fee or commission".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 317).
The minor - and sometimes the major - officials of an orientally, despotic state are generally drawn from social strata which have a minimum of social roots and consequently a maximum of dependence on the despotism: eunuchs, slaves and freed slaves: "Enunuchs …. . . . did not come from prominent families. Socially rootless, they owed everything they had and everything they were to their ruler; and their dog-like devotion to him therefore resulted as consistently from their position as did their detachment from, or their open hostility to, the regular members of the officialdom. . . .
Oriental despots were pleased to use eunuchs in many semi-personal and semi-political spheres of court life and in government proper. Often the eunuchs were entrusted with confidential tasks of intelligence. Not infrequently they were responsible for their sovereign's personal safety (as heads of his bodyguard); and at times they were placed in command of important armies or navies, or in charge of the royal treasury. . . .
Slaves (and ex-slaves) may serve similarly, since they too are socially rootless. And they may fulfil their purpose even more effectively, since their more normal physique makes them seem more suitable to represent the despot's authority everywhere. . . . .
Slave officials were among the most effective tools that the ruler of a hydraulic state could muster".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 355, 360, 362).
The position of the father of a family is frequently "elevated" to that of an unofficial policeman responsible for the obedience to the despotic state of his family: "The father's power-varied notably in different hydraulic civilisations. But almost everywhere the government was inclined to raise it above the level suggested by his leadership functions in the family".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid, p. 117).
Under the Asiatic mode of production associated with oriental despotism, the chief of a village community is generally made into a semi-official of the state, responsible to it for the collection of the Land-tax from his village and its transmission to the state. In the towns, the head of a guild is treated similarly: "Almost everywhere the hydraulic government holds the headman responsible for the obligations of his co-villagers. It thus places him in a position of state dependency. Where land is communally held and where taxes are communally paid, the village headman is likely to wield considerable power. Assisted by a scribe and one or several policemen, he may become something of a local despot.. . .
The professional corporations of the artisans and traders in hydraulic civilisations were similarly conditioned. Again the appointment of the leading officials is significant; . . it is . . one of several ways in which the.. . . . despotic state assures its unchecked superiority and the weakness of the tolerated organisation".
(K. A..Wittfogel: ibid.; p. 118, 120).

Restrictions on Property owning Classes

The ruling bureaucracy is concerned to restrict the wealth and potential power of such property-owning classes as exist in order to forestall a possible threat to its rule from these classes: "Under hydraulic conditions, the state restricted the development of private property through fiscal, judicial, legal and political measures".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 78).
Under oriental despotism, the property of peasants and artisans was economically fragmented and politically impotent: "From the standpoint of the absolutist bureaucracy, the property of both artisans and peasants was Beggars' Property, property that was economically fragmented and politically impotent".
(K.A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 296).
An orientally despotic state generally restricts the conspicuous consumption of property-owning classes by sumptuary laws: "By concentrating the national surplus in their own hands, the rulers restrict the amount of goods physically available to non-governmental consumers. By legally forbidding the general use of prestige-giving objects they reserve to themselves conspicuous consumption. . . .
In hydraulic civilisations wealthy commoners. . . . did not dare to engage in the conspicuous consumption which the mediaeval businessman practised".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid p.129, 131).
An orientally despotic state generally restricts the wealth and potential wealth of property-owning classes by taxation: "The hydraulic state, which asserts its fiscal power so effectively in the countryside, pursues a similar policy also towards artisans, merchants, and other owners of mobile property by taxing handicraft and commerce".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 72).
In cases of real or suspected evasion, or of political intrigue, it can and generally does - resort to partial or total confiscation of their property, as well as to more extreme measures: "Arbitrary confiscation as a general policy is characteristic of a genuinely absolutist regime. . . .
The confiscatory measures of the hydraulic state . . . . hit with particular
harshness the owners of mobile - and concealed - property.. . .
Businessmen are primarily prosecuted for tax evasion, but they . . . may become involved in a political intrigue. In the first instance they may be partially expropriated; in the second, they must pay with their entire fortune and with their life. . . .
In the case of political accusation, spies and agents could be depended upon to supply the required evidence. A middle-class ‘traitor’ might be framed in several ways. . . .
In hydraulic civilisations wealthy commoners were denied . . . proprietory security".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 73, 76, 131).
An orientally despotic state generally imposes laws of inheritance which fragment property - particularly landed property: "Throughout the hydraulic world the bulk of a deceased person's property is transferred not in accordance with his will but in accordance with customary or written laws. These laws prescribe an equal or approximately equal division of property among the heirs, most frequently the sons and other close male relatives . . . .
Landed wealth tends to shrink rather than to grow; and this essentially because of the laws of inheritance. . . .
The fragmentation of wealth through more or less equal inheritance is certainly a significant institution. . . .
Hydraulic laws of inheritance fragment privately owned land. The hydraulic state. . . . generally kept landed property weak".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 79, 81, 292, 303).
An orientally despotic state generally holds back the development of wealth on the part of artisans and merchants by state control of essential materials and such large industrial enterprises as may exist: "A government capable of handling all major hydraulic and non-hydraulic construction work may, if it desires, play a leading role in the nonconstructional branches of industry. There are ‘feeding’ industries, such as mining, quarrying, salt gathering, etc.; and there are finishing industries, such as the manufacture of weapons, textiles, chariots, furniture, etc. Insofar as the activities in these two spheres proceeded on a large scale, they were for the most part either directly managed or monopolistically controlled by the hydraulic governments. . . . .
In hydraulic society the majority of the not too-many larger industrial workshops was government managed. . . .
Goverment-managed construction works make the state the undisputed master of the most comprehensive sector of large-scale industry. In the two main spheres of production the state occupied an unrivalled position of operational leadership and organisational control. . . . .
Employing a large labour force, the agrarian apparatus state enjoys what amounts to a monopoly of all large-scale construction work. Often it also manages those extractive operations which provide the bulk of all raw materials for the large government constructions. Other extractive industries, such as mining and certain forms of salt production, may either be directly managed by the government or, and particularly under the conditions of a money economy, they may be controlled through monopolistic licensing.
Thus property-based and independent action cannot hope to prevail in the most important sector of hydraulic industry: large-scale constructions. Nor can it hope to operate freely in the large extractive enterprises".
(K. A.Wittfogel: ibid; p. 459 46, 47, 243-4).

General Slavery

Marxist-Leninists regard the oppression and exploitation of the masses under oriental despotism - oppression and exploitation which include, at least in the early stage of the development of oriental despotism, the "part-time slavery" of corvee labour - as general slavery.

Marx, for example, speaks of this oppression and exploitation of the masses:

"The general slavery of the orient".
(K. Marx: "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations"; London; 1964; p. 9,5).
While Engels says that: "In Asiatic. . . . antiquity slavery was the predominant form of class
oppression, i.e., not so much the expropriation of the masses from the
land as the expropriation of their persons".
(F. Engels: "The Workers' Movement in America", in: K. Marx & F. Engels: "Werke", Volume 21; Berlin; 1962; p. 338-9).
This general slavery of the masses under oriental despotism must be distinguished from the specific slavery of a slave class distinct from and socially lower than the masses as a whole. Under oriental despotism, under both the Asiatic and Germanic modes of production, such specific slavery of a slave class generally exists in addition to the general slavery of the masses as a whole, but it is a minor feature in comparison with that which exists under the ancient mode of production: "In-irrigation-based hydraulic agriculture slave labour was little employed . . . .
Slaves are found primarily at the court, in government offices, workshops and mines, and in special types of building activities. . . Privately owned slaves were essentially employed domestically and by wealthy persons, who could afford the luxury of lavish consumption".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 322).

"Acquired" Oriental Despotism ,

A society having no essential need for large-scale public works of irrigation drainage and/or flood control in order to carry on agriculture at an adequate level may have oriental despotism imposed on it by another society which conquers it.

Similarly, the primitive aristocracy of a society having no essential need for such public works may, be able to establish an orientally despotic state as a result of conquest of an orientally despotic society or as a result of conscious imitation of such a society with which they are in close contact:

"Pastoral nomads frequently supplement their herding economy-by farming. Yet . . . their migratory way of life excludes the construction of elaborate and permanent works of water control, which form the foundation of hydraulic agriculture.
But this mode of life does not prevent them from adopting Orientally despotic methods of organisation and acquisition. To be sure, such methods do not grow out of the needs of pastoral life. . . .
The chiefly leader and those close to him are eager to place themselves in a position of permanent and total power; but as a rule they attain this goal only after submission to, or conquest of, a hydraulic country. In the first case the overlords of the agrarian state may apply their own patterns of political control (registration, corvee, taxation) to the submitting herders, whose chieftain usually emerges as the absolute and permanent master of his tribe. In the second case the supreme chieftain (khan, khaghan, etc.) seizes the power devices of the agro-managerial civilisations he has conquered".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 204-5).
Having "acquired" oriental despotism, this society may establish it in other societies (for example, the Mongols acquired oriental despotism as a result of their conquest of North China in 1211-22, and in turn imposed it on Russia which they conquered in 1237-40): "Russia had no close hydraulic neighbours when, in the 13th. century, the Mongols began to introduce Orientally despotic methods of government.
The tribal masters of a compound hydraulic empire may maintain their social and cultural identity; and while doing so, they may impose their newly acquired power techniques to outlying non-hydraulic countries. This happened when the Mongols, after the conquest of North China, subdued Russia".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 191-2, 205).

"The Mongol Tartars established a rule of systematic terror, devastation and wholesale massacre forming its institutions. . .
It is in the terrible and abject school of Mongolian slavery that Muscovy was nursed and grew up".
(K.Marx: "Secret Diplomatic History of the Eighteenth Century"; London; 1969; p.111, 121).

The Relative Stagnation of Societies under Oriental Despotism By reason of the features already described, societies under oriental despotism are relatively stagnant in their social development: "The stationary character of this part of Asia - despite all the movement on the political surface -- is fully explained by two mutually dependent circumstances: 1) the public works were the business of the central government; 2) beside these the whole empire, not counting the few larger towns, was resolved into villages, which possessed a completely separate organisation and formed a little world in themselves. . .
I do not think one could imagine a more solid foundation for the stagnation of Asiatic despotism".
(K. Marx; Letter to F. Engels., June 14th., 1853, in: K. Marx & F. Engels: "Correspondence: 1846-1895"; London; 1936; p. 70).

"However changing the political aspect of India's past must appear, its social condition has remained unaltered since its remotest antiquity until the first decennium of the nineteenth century".
(K. Marx: "The British Rule in India", in: "Selected Works", Volume 2; London; 1943; p. 653).

"It is generally known that this kind of state system (i.e., oriental despotism - Ed.) possesses great stability whenever completely patriarchal and pre-capitalist features predominate in the economic system and where commodity production and class differentiation are scarcely developed".
(V. I. Lenin: "The Right of Nations to Self-determination", in: "Collected Works", Volume 20; Moscow; 1964; p. 403).

"Hydraulic society is the outstanding example of societal stagnation".
(K. A. Wittfogel: ibid; p. 420).

As has been said, where oriental despotism comes into being in a society internally, it does so on the basis of the Asiatic mode of production.

Despite this relative stagnation of social development, however some societies under oriental despotism - the leading example being China - did advance to the Germanic mode of production.

Oriental Despotism and Feudalism Certain superficial similarities exist between, on the one hand, the Asiatic and Germanic modes of production under oriental despotism and on the other hand the feudal mode of production.

Despite these superficial similarities, these social formations are qualitatively distinct, the principal differences between them being as follows:

Asiatic and Germanic modes of production in association with oriental despotism  
Asiatic & Germanic Modes in Assocition with Oriental Despotism Feudal
A local "lord" is generally drawn from socially rootless strata A local lord usually to a hereditary aristocracy
A local "lord" generally does not have his own state apparatus of force. A local lord generally has his own state apparatus of force
The relation of the local "lord" to the central state is generally one of complete dependence The relation of the local "lord" to the central state is one of semi- or complete independence
The local "lord" holds landed estates only by virtue of his state office, and only for so long as he holds this office. The local lord holds landed estates in his own right.
The peasant performs corvee labour where this is in operation as (legally) a freeman, and only for the central state. This labour is generally non-agricultural in character. The peasant performs corvee labour where this is in operation as a serf, and generally for the lord. This labour is generally agricultural in character.
Where corvee labour has been commuted, the peasant pays land tax to the central state and the local "lord" functions as a tax-farmer. Where corvee labour has been commuted, the peasant pays rent to the local lord, who functions as a landlord.
Severe restrictions are placed on property-owning classes. Mild restrictions are placed on property-owning classes – none on the landowning classes.
However, as a result of these superficial similarities, a number of bourgeois historians and sociologists have defined societies in which the Asiatic or Germanic mode of production was associated with oriental despotism, (e.g., tsarist Russia, India prior to the British conquest, and imperial China) as "feudal".

But bourgeois writers who have studied feudalism in depth decisively reject the view that tearist Russia was a "feudal" society:

    This was certainly the view of Marx and Lenin: When speaking in a precise scientific manner, Lenin was careful to use the term "krepostnichestvo" (bondage) -- a term equivalent to Marx's term "general slavery" -- to describe the system of oppression and exploitation in operation in tsarist.Russia and to repudiate the term "feodalizm" (feudalism): (it is unfortunate that, despite Lenin's clear distinction between the terms, "krepostichestvoll has sometimes been mistranslated into English as "feudalism").

Although Lenin described the tsarist Russian social system sometimes as a sort of:

   He made it clear the term "feudalism" could only be used in relation to tsarist Russia "inexactly" -- speaking for example of: "The feudal (let us use this not very exact, general European expression) landowners",
(V. I. Lenin: "The Social Structure of State Power, The Prospects and Liquidationism". in: "Collected Works", Volume 17; Moscow; 1963; p. 146).
and making it clear that the tsarist regime was in fact, one of oriental despotism: "Rosa Luxemburg evidently judges the state system of Russia by her economic, political, and sociological characteristics and everyday life -- a totality of features which taken together produce the concept of "Asiatic-despotism’".
(V. I. Lenin: "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination", in: "Collected Works", Volume 20; Moscow; 1964; p. 403).

"The Chinese people suffer from the same evils as those from which the Russian people suffer -- they suffer from an Asiatic government".
(V. I. Lenin: "The War in China", in: "Collected Works", Volume 4; Moscow; 1960; p. 377).

"The Provisional Regulations of 1899 tear off the pharisaical mask and expose the real Asiatic nature even of those of our institutions which most resemble European institutions".
(V. I. Lenin: "The Drafting of the 183 Students into the Army", in: "Collected Works"; Volume 4; Moscow; 1960; p. 416).

"Tolstoi-ism . . is an ideology of an Oriental, an Asiatic order".
(V. I. Lenin: "Lev Tolstoi and his Epoch", in: "Collected Works", Volume 17; Moscow; 1963; p. 51).

"In very many and very essential aspects, Russia is undoubtedly an Asian country and, what is more, one of the most benighted, mediaeval and shamefully backward of Asian countries".
(V. I. Lenin: "Democracy and Narodism in China"; in: "Collected Works"; Volume 16; Moscow; 1963; p. 163-4).

He speaks of the forms of exploitation in tsarist Russia as: "the Asiatically barbarous forms of exploitation".
(V. I. Lenin: "Three Amendments to the Draft Programme" in; "Collected Works", Volume 6; Moscow; 1961; p. 34).
And of the state officials of tsarist Russia as: "The officials of Asiatic despotism".
(V. I. Lenin: "The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution 1905-1907", in: "Collected Works", Volume 13; Moscow; 1962; p. 278).
As a result of his analysis of the social system in India prior to the British conquest, Marx concluded that it was one in which the Asiatic mode of production was associated with oriental despotism.

D. Thorner, in his study of this question, points out that there are:

"Two regimes to which the term 'feudal' has occasionally been applied - the Rajput rule in western India, and the Muslim regimes of northern India".
(D. Thorner: "Feudalism in India" in R. Coulborn (Ed): "Feudalism in History"; Princeton; 1956; p. 133).
The view that the Rajput society in western India was feudal in character was put forward by J. Tod ("Sketch of a Feudal System in Rajasthan"; in "Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan"; London; 1922), but was decisively rejected by A. C. Lyall, who pointed out that Tod had ignored: "The radical distinction between the two forms of society, tribal and feudal. Although he clearly understands the connection of those whom he calls ‘vassals’ with their suzerain to be affinity of blood, still he insists that the working system of Rajasthan is feudal". (A.C. Lyall: "The Rajput States of India", in: "Asiatic Studies", Volume 1; p.243). The view that the Muslim regimes of northern India were feudal in character was put forward by the Russian sociologist M. M. Kovalevski in "Obshchinnioye zyemleviadyenia, prichini khod i posledstviya evo razlocheniya"", Moscow; 1879. This view was refuted by Marx himself: "Kovalevski forgets among other things serfdom, which is not of substantial importance in India. (moreover, as for the individual role of feudal lords as protectors not only of unfree but of free peasants . . this is unimportant in India except for the wakuf (estates devoted to religious purposes). Nor do we find that 'poetry of the soil' so characteristic of Romano-Germanic feudalism . . . in India. . . In India the land is nowhere 'noble' in such a way as to be inalienable to non-members of the noble class".
(K. Marx, cited in: L. S.-Gamayunov & R. A. Ulyanovsky: "The Work of the Russian Sociologist M. M. Kovalevski . .. and K. Marx's Criticism of his Work", in: "XXV International Congress of Orientalists", Volume 4; Moscow; 1963; p. 42).
Thorner concludes: "Neither the Rajput states nor theMuslim regimes of northern India were feudal".
(D. Thorner: ibid.; p. 150).
Marx's analysis is confirmed by the official documents of the British East India Company and the British government: "Sale of land appears to have been unusual, if not unknown, in all parts of India before its introduction by the British government into the Company’s dominions. . . .
The zamindars in general were never acknowledged by their rulers as independent or tributary chiefs, or as even having any property in the land. . .
The Potail, or head inhabitant, performs the duty of collecting the revenues within his village".
(Fifth Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the Affairs of the British East India Company, July 1812, p. 47-48, 80, 85).

"The village communities are little republics, having nearly everything they want within themselves, and almost independent of any foreign relations. Dynasty after dynasty tumbles down; revolution succeeds to revolution; Hindu, Patan, Mogul, Mahrattaq Sikh, English, are all masters in turn, but the village communities remain. the same".
(Sir Charles Metcalfe: Minute of November 7th., 1830, in: Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832; Volume 3; Appendix 84; p. 331).

"The zemindar.. . . was originally the mere hereditary Steward, Representative or Officer of the Government and his undeniable hereditary property in the Land Revenue was totally distinct from property in the Land".
(Minute of Evidence, Report of Select Committee of the House of Commons, 1832; Volume 3; P. iv).

Marx’s analysis is confirmed by other writers on India: "In India. . . . the sovereign's power was not, until a late period, regarded as absolute and unlimited over the agricultural land of the kingdom. The king ...did not, in theory, create subordinate owners of land because he himself was not in theory the supreme owner of the land. What he delegated to the intermediaries was only the specific and individual rights of zamin, the revenue-collecting power. . . . .
There was in general none of the intermingling of peasant land with demesne land in a common village, nor interdependence for labour service such as marked the manorial system. The peasant was not the lord's serf, nor was the lord directly interested in cultivation. . . . .
At the basis of the Indian agrarian system, as at the basis of all ancient agrarian systems, there was the more or less collective or cooperative village".
(K.S. Shelvankar: "The Problem of India"; London; 1940; p.99, 100, 101).

"The village communities continued unaffected by the establishment of a new (i.e. Turko-Afghan - Ed.) government in the country".
(R. C. Majumdar et al.: "An Advanced History of India"; London; 1960; p. 395).

"Periodical redistribution of the arable land of a village among its inhabitants prevailed in many parts of the country till comparatively recently".
(K. A. N. Sastri "A History of South India"; Oxford; 1955; p. 315).

"Occasionally Brahmans, temples and monasteries were assigned entire villages, but the donees acquired only the right to receive the royal revenues".
(R. C. Majumdar & A. Altekar: "The Vakataka-Gupta Age"; Banaras; 1954; p. 331-2).

"The zamindars were revenue collectors. They were not landowners or a landed aristocracy in the British sense".
(V. A. Smith: "The Oxford History of India"; Oxford, 1958; p. 534).

"The headman performs the duty of collecting the revenues within his village".
(J. Matthal; "Village Government in British India"; London; 1915; p. 15).

"The village headman hands over the collected taxes to his superior after taking away his own share".
(J. Jolly: "Hindu Law and Custom"; Calcutta; 1928; p. 203).

"These ‘zamindars’ had not previously been 'owners' of the land at all, but officials, or 'farmers', appointed by the Moguls to collect the land revenue, and paid by means of a commission on what they collected".
(W. Anstey: "The Economic Development of India"; London; 1952;.p. 98).

"The soil in India belonged to the tribe or its subdivision - the village community, the clan or the brotherhood settled in the village - and never was considered as the property of the king as has been assumed by many writers. . . . There never was any notion of the ownership of the soil vesting in anybody except the peasantry".
(R. Mukerjee: "Land Problems of India"; London; 1933; p. 16, 36).

"The Mughuls did not, as has sometimes been suggested, introduce a new revenue system into northern India; they took over the system which they found in operation. . .
Most villages, though not all,, were occupied by what appears to be a very old institution, a brotherhood or community of peasants, acknowledging, and united by, the tie of common ancestry. Each member of the brotherhood held in separate possession the land which he cultivated, and enjoyed the fruits of his labour".
(H. Moreland: "The Revenue System of the Mughul Empire", in: "The Cambridge History of India", Volume 4; Cambridge., 1937; p. 451).

The same writer declares it to be: "Quite impossible to think of such a nobility in terms of a feudal system with a king merely first among his territorial vassals; what we see is a royal household full of slaves, who could rise, by merit or favour, from servile duties to the charge of a province, or even of a kingdom - essentially a bureaucracy of the normal Asiatic type. . . .
We have officers posted to their charges by the king, and transferred, removed, or punished, at his pleasure, administering their charges under his orders, and subjected to the strict financial control of the Revenue Ministry. None of these features has any counterpart in the feudal system of Europe. . The kingdom was not a mixture of bureaucracy with feudalism, its administration was bureaucratic throughout".
(W. H, Moreland: "Agrarian System of Moslem India"; Cambridge; 1929; p. 218-9, 221).
Marx concluded that the social system in contemporary imperial China was one in which the Germanic mode of production was associated with oriental despotism: "The broad basis of the mode of production is here (i.e., in India and China - Ed.) formed by the unity of small agriculture and domestic industry, to which is added in India the form of communes resting upon common ownership of the land, which by the way, was likewise the original form for China".
(K.Marx: "Capital", Volume 31 Chicago; 1909; p. 392).
Lenin was referring to oriental despotism in China when he spoke of "Benighted, inert, Asiatic China".
(V. I. Lenin: "Democracy and Narodism in China",, in "Collected Works", Volume 18; Moscow; 1963; p. 164).

"The Chinese people suffer from the same evils as those from which the Russian people suffer - -they suffer from an Asiatic government".
(V. I. Lenin: "The War in China"; in "Collected Works", Volume 4; Moscow; 1960; p. 377).

Marx's analysis is confirmed by bourgeois writers who have examined the social system of imperial China in depth: "The political aspects of feudalism, if we examine China, are found to be largely or totally absent under most of the major dynasties. The common characteristic of these dynasties is that they governed a centralised empire through a salaried civilian bureaucracy, which was appointive, non-aristocratic, theoretically non-hereditary, and in many cases recruited by the famous Chinese examination system".
(D. Bodde: "Feudalism in China", in: R. Coulborn (Ed.). "Feudalism in History", Princeton; 1956; p. 49-50).
Marx concluded, on the other hand, that the social system in contemporary Japan was one of the feudal mode of production: "Japan, with its purely feudal organisation of landed property and its developed petite culture, gives a much truer picture of the European middle ages than all our history books".
(K. Marx: "Capital", Volume 1; Chicago, 1932; p. 789).

The Decay of the Ancient Mode of Production

With the development of the forces of production within the framework of the ancient mode of production, slavery increasingly becomes a fetter on the full use and further development of the forces of production:

"The system of latifundia run by slave labour no longer paid .. . . The slavery of classical times had outlived itself. Whether employed on the land in large-scale agriculture or in manufacture in the towns, it no longer yielded any satisfactory return. . . . .
Slavery no longer paid; it was for that reason it died out".
(F. Engels: "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State"; London; 1972; p.209, 210).
This leads to a decline in the economy and a decrease in both the rural and urban population: "General impoverishment; decline of commerce, handicrafts and art; fall in the population; decay of the towns; relapse of agriculture to a lower level -- such was the final result of Roman world rule. . . .
The country estates and their gardens had been ruined through the impoverishment of their owners and the decay of the towns".
(F Engels; .ibid.; p. 209).

"Agriculture had declined, industry had decayed for want of a market, trade had died out or been violently suspended, the rural and urban population had decreased".
(K. Marx & F. Engels: "The German Ideology"; London; 1942; p. 11).

As a result of this decline, the town loses its supremacy over the countryside: "In the last centuries of the Roman Empire the town had lost its former supremacy over the country".
(F. Engels: ibid.; p. 214).
The efforts of the ruling class to solve their problems by increasing exploitation accentuate the social contradiction within the decaying ancient mode of production: "The Roman state had become a huge, complicated machine, exclusively for bleeding its subjects. Taxes, state imposts and tributes, of every kind pressed the mass of the people always deeper into poverty; the pressure was intensified until the exactions of governors, tax-collectors and armies made it unbearable. . . .
Social conditions were desperate. Already in the last years of the Republic the policy of Roman rule had been ruthlessly to exploit the provinces; the empire, far from abolishing this exploitation, had organised it. The more the empire declined, the higher rose the taxes and levies, the more shamelessly the officials robbed and extorted".
(F. Engels: ibid; p. 208).
The full use and further development of the new forces of production can now be achieved only through a return to small-scale agriculture and handicraft, performed by workers who have a greater interest in production and a greater opportunity for economic self-advancement than are possessed by_slaves: "Small production had again become the only profitable form."
(F. Engels: ibid.; p. 209).

"The new productive forces demand that the labourer shall display some kind of initiative in production and an inclination for work, an interest in work. The feudal lord therefore discards the slave, as a labourer who has no interest in work and is entirely without initiative, and prefers to deal with the serf, who has his own husbandry, implements of production, and a certain interest in work essential for the cultivation of the land and for the payment in kind of a part of his harvest to the feudal lord."
(J.V. Stalin: "Dialectical and Historical Materialism", in "History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks)"; Moscow; 1941; P. 1275).

The essence of this process is formed by the liberation of increasing numbers of slaves, the division of the large estates previously operated -by slave labour into small plots, and their allotment to semi-servile peasant farmers known as coloni: "Slavery is abolished by compulsion or voluntarily, whereupon the former mode of production perishes and large-scale-cultivation is displaced by small-peasant squatters,"
(F. Engels: "Herr Eugen Duhring’s Revolution in Science"; Moscow; 1959; p.480).

"One country estate after another was cut up into small lots. . . . .
For the most part... these small lots of land were given out to coloni, who .... were tied to the soil and could be sold together with their plot. True, they were not slaves, but neither were they free. . . . They were the forerunners of the mediaeval serfs' . . ..
Hence, on the one side, increasing manumissions of the superfluous slaves who were now a burden, on the other hand, a growth in some parts of the numbers of the coloni."
(F. Engels: "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State"; London; 1972; p. 209, 210).

The transition from the ancient mode of production to a higher mode of production is, however held back by the social stigma attaching to productive labour under the former mode of production: "Although it was dying out, slavery was still common enough to make all productive labour appear to be work for slaves, unworthy of free Romans. . . . .
Slavery no longer paid; it was for that reason it died out. But in dying it left behind its poisoned sting - the stigma attached to the productive labour of freemen. This was the blind alley from which the Roman world had no way out; slavery was economically impossible, the labour of freemen was morally ostracised."
(F. Engels: ibid; p. 209-220).

"Wherever - slavery is the main form of production it turns labour into servile activity, consequently makes it dishonourable for freemen. Thus the way out of such a mode of production is barred, while on the other 'hand slavery is an impediment to more developed production, which urgently requires its removal. This contradiction spells the doom of all production based on slavery and of all communities based on it."
(F. Engels: "Herr Eugen Duhring's Revolution in Science"; Moscow; 1959; p. 480).

For this reason the transition from the ancient mode of production to a higher mode of production within a particular society tends to be overtaken and modified by the conquest of this society by a more virile society at the developing stage of the Germanic mode of production: "A solution comes about in most cases through the forcible subjection of the deteriorating communities by other, stronger ones (Greece by Macedonia and later Rome). As long as these themselves have slavery as their foundation there is merely a shifting of the centre and a repetition of the process on a higher plane until (Rome) finally a people conquers that replaces slavery by another form of production".
(F. Engels: ibid; p. 280).
Despite the social modifications resulting from such a foreign conquest, the new developing mode of production has its basis in the level of the productive forces of the conquered society itself: "The feudal system was by no means brought complete from Germany. . . . .....
This only evolved after the conquest into the feudal system proper through the action of the productive forces found in the conquered countries. To what an extent this form was determined by the productive forces is shown by the abortive attempts to realise other forms derived from reminiscences of ancient Rome (Charlemagne, etc,)".
(Marx & Engels: "The German Ideology"; London; 1942; p. 62-63).
The Decay of the Germanic Mode of Production associated with
Oriental Despotism

With the development of the forces of production within the framework of the Germanic mode of production associated with oriental despotism, the general slavery of this social formation likewise becomes a fetter on the full use and further development of the forces of production.

This leads to a decline in the economy and a decrease in both the rural and urban population.
The efforts of the ruling class to solve their problems by increasing exploitation accentuate the social contradictions within the decaying Germanic mode of production associated with oriental despotism.
Here, however, small-scale agriculture and handicraft is already in operation., and the war-bands associated with the Germanic mode of production (which, in the case of the decaying ancient mode of production are an external conquering force) are here an internal feature.

With the decline in the power of the orientally despotic central state apparatus that reflects the decay of the mode of production, these war-bands are able to seize control of one locality after another and to establish them as independent or semi-independent states which repudiate their former obligations to the central state:

"Japanese feudalism took shape from two separate institutions. One was the sho (or manor). .... The other, which was the warrior clique, seems at least in part to have been, a survival from the ancient social organisation of the Japanese. As might be expected in a period of declining central authority, both institutions served to give the individual participant the protections which the central government no longer could furnish but the one was primarily economic, affording protection from ruinous taxation and the other military, providing simple police protection .
The sho began to appear as early as the eighth century when newly cultivated lands because of oversight or special permission, remained off the tax registers. They grew through further land reclamation, through slow but steady depredations on the public domain by those with sufficient political power to be able to escape the tax-collectors. . .. . . . By the tenth century the great bulk of the agricultural land of Japan was divided among sho which enjoyed complete or partial tax exemption on the various pieces of land of which they consisted.
. . . . . .
In the twelfth century we find a complex pattern of relationships of men to land within a sho. These relationships were similar to the ‘tenures’ of Western feudalism....
In the twelfth century they (i.e., the leaders of the war-bands -- Ed.) were largely identical with the local .... holders of the sho . .. .
This local aristocracy.... were in actual control of the sho, which they defended by their military prowess and from which they derived their support through shiki (i.e. feudal rights and privileges - Ed)".
(E.O. Reischauer: "Japanese Feudalism"; in R.Coulborn (Ed.): "Feudalism in History"; Princeton; 1956; p. 28-29, 31).
____________________________END EXTRACT_________________________________
PLUS APPENDIX: REVISIONISM & THE MATERIALIST CONCEPTION OF HISTORY     Bourgeois nationalism in Asia -- that, is the outlook, of the national bourgeoisies of Asia -- has, in general" found a number of features of the Marxi:st-Leninist analysis of the development of society objectionable and unacceptable. The Marxist-Leninist view that social development proceeded, generally speaking, more slowly in Asia than in Europe, so that in consequence European societies reached a certain stage of social development, such as the capitalist mode of production, at an earlier date than most Asian societies, tended to be repugnant to the "national pride" of Asian national bourgeoisies, despite the fact that the Marxist-Leninist analysis makes it clear that these differences in the rate of social development were--due to environmental factors, - and not in any way to biological differences between European and Asian peoples.
    Particularly objectionable, in general, to Asian bourgeois nationalism has been the conclusion logically following from the above -- that, as a result of the fact that European societies reached a higher stage of social development at an earlier date than most Asian societies, the conquest of Asian societies by European societies had, in its initial stages, an objectively socially progressive aspect as well as a negative effect.     The "national pride" of Asian national-bourgeoisies led them not only to reject the Marxist view that European conquest of Asian societies had a socially progressive aspect; it led them into the practice, of describing Asian societies - characterised by the Asiatic or Germanic mode of production associated with oriental despotism as "feudal;" or "semi-feudal", so speeding up in concept, if not in reality  -- social development in Asia.     The Programme of the Communist International, adopted at its Sixth Congress in 1928, upheld the validity of the Asiatic mode of production as the prevailing mode of production in certain colonial-type countries:     During this period the organ of the Communist International continued to publish articles putting forward the Marxist view that, for example, Chinese society was one in which the Germanic mode of production was associated with oriental despotism:     Revisionism is the perversion of Marxist-Leninist principles to suit the interests of a capitalist class.
    In 1931 the revisionists opened their attack upon the materialist conception of history by attacking, within the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the concept of the Asiatic mode of production. At a special discussion on this mode of production held in Leningrad in this year, the revisionists, headed by Godes and Yolk, dissociated themselves from the references to this mode of production in the Programme of the Communist International. ("Diskussia. ob Asiatskom sposobe proizodstvo"; Moscow/Leningrad; 1931; p. 20, 24).
    They declared that it was immaterial whether the Asiatic mode of production existed in reality; it was necessary to repudiate it for "political reasons":     The "political reasons" given for the rejection of the concept were that it was objectionable to Asian bourgeois nationalistsand so tended to alienate the latter from the Asian communist parties.
(Ibid; p. 34).
    The conference reached no decisions, but the revisionists continued their attacks, within the Soviet Union upon the Asiatic model of production.
    By 1950, when concealed revisionists were already in a majority on the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the CPSU, Soviet revisionist writers were speaking gleefully of the "rout" of Marx's "notorious" theory of the Asiatic mode of production:     In November 1951 a conference was held at the Soviet Institute of Oriental Studies on "People's Democracy in Countries of the East". The main report, by E. M. Zhukov,  made no mention either of the Asiatic mode of production or of Asiatic despotism, referring only to     Meanwhile, with the domination from 1935 on of the leadership of the Communist Party of China by the revisionist faction headed by Mao Tse-tung, the repudiation of the Marxist-Leninist analysis of imperial Chinese society was consolidated:     As open manifestations of revisionism spread through the international communist movement, the attack on the concepts of the Asiatic mode of production and oriental despotism came out into the open in the Communist Party of Great Britain. In his book "India Today", published in 1940,
R.P. Dutt had endorsed Marx's conclusion that the society in India prior to the British conquest was based on the Asiatic mode of production associated with oriental despotism:     In this work Dutt describes the social system in pre-British India as:     and endorses Marx's view of the partly:     In 1942, however, Dutt issued a new version of his book, to which the publishers appended the following note:     This condensation and rewriting significantly included the removal of all the material which had formed Chapter V of the earlier book, that is all the material relating to Marx's analysis of Indian society.
    By 1946-7 Dutt was speaking of the Indian sub-continent as having a "feudal" society     In recent years, however, the revisionist attack has gone far beyond such questions as the Asiatic mode of production, oriental despotism and the partly regenerating role of the British conquest of India.
    In his introduction to Marx's "Pre-capitalist Economic Formations", published in 1964, the British revisionist E. J. Hobshawm denies that each social formation has its own objective laws of development:     According to Hobshawm, therefore, a social formation may pass to one of several alternative social formations - by chance it would appear. For example, the primitive communal mode of production may,  in Hobshawm's view, pass directly to the Asiatic, the Germanic, the ancient or the feudal mode of production:     According to Hobshawm, the materialist conception of history means only that one social formation should be eventually succeeded by some other social formation, but in no particular order of succession:     The gross, blatant and deliberate falsification of Marx's thought on the part of Hobshawm is demonstrated by the fact that, in the very text which the latter introduces, appears the following passage:     The struggle to defend the materialist conception of history against its distortion, falsification and outright repudiation by the modern revisionists forms a not insignificant aspect of the struggle to defend Marxism-Leninism -- that is, of the struggle to defend the world outlook which serves both truth and the working class against the false and unscientific "world outlook" which serves the interests of the class enemies of the working class. 

The whole of this original article by the "Communist League", will be placed on this web-site, as soon as we can do so.
January 1, 2002.



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