The Peasantry Under
The peasantry is a class in transition, owing its origin to the pre- capitalist epoch and disintegrating under the impact of capitalism. In analysing the characteristics and role of a peasantry, therefore, it is necessary to be concrete and historically specific.
The peasants are petty commodity producers who still own or possess definite rights in the means of production, especially land. They use family labour and, on the whole, produce their own subsistence, giving their economy a markedly individualised production and consumption.
The smallholding peasants ... live in similar conditions but without entering into manifold relations with one another. Their mode of production isolates them from one another. Each individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient. 1
However, 'the development of the capitalist form of production has cut the life-strings of small production in agriculture,' destroying the peasant's self-sufficiency and impoverishing him. 2 While the development of large-scale industry destroyed the domestic industries of the peasants, the latter's increasing dependence on exchange of their own produce for manufactured commodities created an expanding sphere for merchant capital to occupy a monopoly position over producers and appropriate their surplus through unequal exchange. Moreover, occupying a precarious position in an expanding money economy, the peasant was driven by taxes, crop failures, divisions of inheritance and every natural and human calamity into the arms of 'capitalism's secondary modes of exploitation, that of the peasant against usury and mortgages'. 3