The Ancient Orient
The Inca empire (as well as the other states of pre-Columbian America, the Aztecs and the Mayans) developed in complete isolation from the Old World and exerted no appreciable influence on our civilization. Therefore, it is much more important for us to study the manifestation of socialist tendencies in those ancient civilizations which are directly linked to our cultural tradition. In this chapter, we present certain facts that bear on ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.
The state structure in Mesopotamia developed out of the holdings of individual temples that were able to gather together great numbers of farmers and artisans thanks to the widespread use of irrigation. This social pattern took shape in ancient Sumer toward the end of the fourth and the beginning of the third millennia B.C. Extant inscriptions (most of them were pictographs predating cuneiform writing) provide little information about this society. It was headed by a priest--sangu--while the main work force consisted of peasants who were tenants on the land around the temple, which provided them with draft animals and seed grain.
Toward the middle of the third millennium B.C., a new type of social organization emerged--small regions coalesced into separate "kingdoms" headed by a king called ensi or patesi. The economic system of this period is usually called royal or ensial. Inside each kingdom, the temples remained the basic economic units. A classic example
of an economic center of this kind is the estate of the temple of the goddess Bau in Lagash (twenty-fifth and twenty-fourth centuries B.C.). Detailed accounts and records have been preserved in the form of a huge number of cuneiform tablets. The data permits a reconstruction 'of many features of life in Sumer during this epoch. There were two means of providing for the people employed in the domain of the goddess Bau: allowances in kind and the granting of land plots for "sustenance." The lesser part of the temple's land was given over to the latter function; the bulk of the land was tilled by parties of workers under the supervision of the temple. These workers were looked upon as part of the estate and were called "people of the estate of the Bau goddess." (65: p. 142) They received a monthly allowance in kind from the temple stores. In the temple's records numerous lists of these workers have been preserved; some lists were reproduced year after year. Here we meet such groups as "porters" and "men-who-do-not-raise-their-eyes" (interpreted as unskilled laborers), "slave women and their children," "men who receive their allowances according to separate tablets." All received approximately the same allowance. In the lists, workers figure in parties headed by a foreman--"the chief farmer ." Men did not receive subsistence for their families, but appeared only as individuals. Women and children are mentioned separately; orphans formed a special category. (65: p. 166) The workers seem to have had no private holdings; they could not store provisions for themselves, but neither were they obliged to buy what they needed elsewhere. The temple storehouses provided them with all the necessities. Tablets record the names of the party chief, the recipient and the dispensing official. Evidently, workers (usually every month) came to the storehouses in parties to get their rations, which consisted primarily of grain. (65: p. 151)
Another group consisted of "men getting sustenance." They received allowances less frequently (three or four times a year), but as a rule the amount was proportionally larger. In addition, they received plots of land, which in most cases were tiny. These plots were redistributed frequently. (65: p. 174) The most numerous category in this group consisted of "shub-Iugal," who also worked on the temple estate under "chief farmers." They carried out irrigation work and performed military duties. They received plows and grain for working the allotted plots from the temple storehouses. Their position changed from time to time. Thus, for example, the "reformer-king" Urukagina granted
them the right to have their own houses and cattle. The group of "men getting sustenance" also included clerks and officials who supervised the agricultural work in the fields. Their plots were frequently many times larger (65: pp. 154-155) A certain amount of land was rented. However most of it was tilled by the work force of the temple estate. (65: p. 175) The management of agricultural work was in the hands of the ensial administration. Workers did not till separate plots individually, but worked in parties under the supervision of a chief farmer. The plots allotted to individuals were also worked in this manner. (65: pp. 170-171) We note that the same system was employed in the Inca state. Workers delivered all produce to the administration. All implements of production, including draft animals, were issued to the foremen of the working parties from the storehouses on a daily basis. Plows, hoes, flails, packs, collars and yokes for oxen were all kept in the stores. Skins of animals that had died were delivered by the "chief farmers" to the storehouse. The central store provided fodder for the oxen and donkeys. All these transactions were recorded in great detail. (65: pp. 176-177)
The harvested grain was delivered by the individual chief to the administration of the estate, and after milling, it was brought to the storehouse for distribution. Accounts were kept of everything, including the size of the fields from which the grain had been received.
Date plantations and vineyards were cultivated in the same manner. It seems that fixed norms existed. One document lists an amount of dates received in excess of the norm as "arrears" from the previous year. (65: p. 179) The foresters, who got sustenance in kind, worked in detachments in wood lots, from which timber (highly valued in a lightly forested country) was brought to the storehouses. Livestock was raised in the same way, herdsmen of temple cattle receiving food rations for themselves and fodder for the animals according to fixed norms. (Fishermen also worked in parties and had norms to fill and the obligation of delivering their entire catch to the storehouses.) (65: p. 184)
Artisans worked in the same fashion. Animal skins, metal (copper and bronze), and wool were received from the stores; manufactured articles were in turn delivered there. They, too, received food supplies from the estate. (65: p. 187)
All workers employed by the temple of the goddess Bau were guaranteed clothing or material for clothing. (65: p. 192)
In the documentation on the temple estates, prisoner-of-war slaves are rarely mentioned. Inscriptions speaking of victories in battle tell of enemies killed but not of prisoners taken. And the names of the farm workers are of purely Sumerian origin. Slaves are seldom treated as a separate group, and when they are, women are generally meant.
Apart from workers permanently employed on the temple estate, there was another group of inhabitants who were recruited for irrigation and farm work or military service only occasionally. It is possible that these were semi-independent farm workers. Since the character of their work outside the temple estate is not recorded, we know nothing about it. The number of these workers is estimated differently by various historians. A. Deimel, who has translated and commented upon a great number of cuneiform inscriptions from this period, believes that the temple economy was typical of the "entire economic life of that time. ...Almost all property was in the possession of the temple. ...Almost the entire little kingdom of Urukagina* was, in all likelihood, divided among temples." (67: p. 78) Many historians today do not share this view. (66, 68, 69) I. M. Diakonov cites a number of calculations estimating the amount of temple land in the entire state. (66: Chapter 1) He believes that "in the time of Urukagina, the temple economy comprised perhaps half the total territory of the state." (66: p. 251) The size of the populations of this epoch can also not be determined exactly. The work force of the Bau estate is estimated at 1,200 persons. (67: p. 78) But this was only a single small temple estate in the kingdom of Lagash. The king of Lagash, Urukagina, was himself the head of a far larger temple estate belonging to the god Mingirsu. Using deliveries as a measurement, it may be assumed that this temple alone had dozens of times more workers than the temple of the goddess Bau.
The epoch of small states and royal households in Mesopotamia (the twenty-fifth and twenty-fourth centuries B.C.) was followed by a period of fierce warfare which ended in the conquest of Mesopotamia by the Akkadian king Sargon, who subjugated the ensi of the other cities. It was about this time, apparently, that the idea of a "world empire" first arose, something which later inspired Cyrus, Alexander and Caesar. Sargon's state was truly huge in comparison with the small city-states of the preceding epoch. It extended from the Persian Gulf
* The temple of the goddess Bau was part of this kingdom.
to the Mediterranean. A high price had to be paid for the creation of this empire; famine spread in the land and there were numerous rebellions which did not cease even under Sargon's successors. The state ultimately disintegrated under the impact of the mountain tribe of Gutiyas, who seized part of Mesopotamia. In the twenty-second century, Mesopotamia was again united under Utuchegal, the ruler of the city of Uruk, who took the title "King of the Four Lands of the World." After his death, a new dynasty was established by King Ur-Nammu; this is referred to as the third dynasty of Ur. Mesopotamia, Elam and Assyria came under its rule in the twenty-second and twenty-first centuries. It was a centralized state with a single economy managed by an imperial bureaucracy.
The king headed the state as an absolute sovereign. He was surrounded by a bureaucracy of "king's men" or "slaves to the king," among whom the highest post belonged to the "great emissary." (66: pp. 256, 259, 262) In this epoch, we no longer encounter a nobility aware of its genealogy and tracing its roots to a deity. The top element in the state consisted of bureaucrats, administrators, royal war chiefs, priests, all living on government allowances. The governing body itself did not reflect the former city-states. The ensi, although retaining their title, were merged with the royal officials; they were appointed by the king, sometimes only for a limited period, and were shunted about from one town to another. Their primary duty was to manage the royal estates and perform administrative, judicial and religious functions. Temples began to lose their economic independence and came under the protection of the king. (65: pp. 247, 250)
Production was centralized to the same degree as the administration of the country. Former ensial estates entered into the state economy as subordinate units. Parties of workers, in cases of necessity, were shifted from one town to another. Numerous records have been preserved concerning the distribution of allowances to such newly arrived parties (from Lagash to Ur, from Ur to Uruk, etc.) (65: pp. 248, 264) All lines of authority came together in the capital, Ur. Control was accomplished by means of envoys, inspectors and messengers of various ranks. These obtained supplies in the towns through which they passed. A small tablet, for instance, records a routine transaction in which a messenger was supplied with provisions. Local records were kept by scribes, who affixed their signature to almost all archival documents: "Scribe at the Storehouse," "Scribe at the Granary," etc. (65: p. 251)
The system of accounting developed to the point of virtuosity. The chiefs of large (former ensial) estates submitted annual reports to the capital, while certain artisan workshops had to present reports several times per month. Descriptions of all fields and households were kept, together with maps characterizing individual plots: stony, fertile, clayey, etc. Date plantations were registered, with indications of the yield of each tree. There were inventories of the goods in the storehouses--grain, raw materials, finished articles. (65: p. 249, pp. 253-254, 255) An equally detailed record of manpower was kept: there were separate lists of workers of full strength, of two-thirds strength, of one-sixth strength. Norms for their allowances were adjusted accordingly. Lists of the sick, the deceased and those absent from work (including the cause of absence) were submitted regularly. (65: pp. 256-257)
State agriculture was based almost exclusively on cultivation of land by parties of workers receiving permanent allowances from the state. Rental of plots is met with only as an exception. (65: pp. 339, 312-313) The fact that certain fields are identified with a particular person or group indicates only that crops harvested from the fields in question supported these persons--not that they were the owners of them. Thus there were fields for supplying high priests, scribes, foremen of workers, diviners (a lower order of priests), craftsmen, herdsmen, etc. All these lands, as well as land intended for sustaining farm workers, were under the direction of supervisors. (65: pp. 301, 316-317, 398, 411)
Groups of ten to twenty men worked in the fields all year round. The workers were sometimes transferred from one supervisor to another or even from one city to another or sent to the workshops. With the work quotas, the notion of a "man day" of work was introduced (it was determined by dividing the work done by the norms). These figures were reported in accounts. The ration allowance depended on the amount of work performed. Foremen received seed, draft animals, plows, hoes and other tools from the central stores. (65: pp. 271, 273, 274, 275, 299-300, 302)
The same system existed in cattle breeding. Dairy products, cattle and hides delivered by herdsmen to the storehouses were recorded. A basket of tablets has been preserved that contains the records on a certain estate's animals that had died or had been slaughtered over a period of thirteen years. Feed for livestock also was dispensed at the storehouses.
In the crafts, a new form of large state workshop appeared. In
Ur, eight big workshops were united under the supervision of a single person. This manager inscribed all accounts (submitted several times a month). The products of the workshop's went to the state stores, from which the manager received, in turn, raw materials and half-finished goods, as well as the craftsmen's provisions. (65: p. 286, 343) For instance, wool and linen fabrics from the weavers went to sewers for borders and hems, then to fullers and finally to the storehouses. Plain clothing was made for the workers and a better sort of dress for administrators. Reports from the workshops contain data on the output, expenditure on linen, expenditure on grain for the sustenance of the craftsmen and figures on numbers absent and deceased. (65: pp. 349, 350) For dispensing metals and receipt of metal articles there were special officials who weighed the goods and inscribed the records.
Craftsmen were divided into parties headed by foremen. Workers could be transferred from one foreman to another. The allowance a craftsman received depended on his production (relative to the norm) and his skill. Chiefs of workshops could obtain manpower from outside in case of necessity. By the same token, craftsmen from the state workshops could be sent to work on the land, in river transportation, etc. The same term (gurushi) was often used to denote craftsmen and farm workers. (65: pp. 267, 299-300, 346)
The construction of ships was organized on the same principles as the crafts.
Like the crafts, trade was a monopoly of the state. (66: p. 262) In both state and temple records, slaves are mentioned--but slave women appear much more frequently. At first these were mostly weavers, but later they came to be employed in other work as well. Male slaves are mentioned almost exclusively in reference to the capital. Evidently, the children of slave women were absorbed into the general mass of unskilled labor. (65: pp. 279-280)
As earlier (for example, in the estate of the Bau temple), there existed workers who were not fully tied to the state but were recruited only for the height of the working season and paid in grain. Their proportion in the overall population is unclear.
A. I. Tiumenev cites data according to which hired workers constituted from 5 to 20 percent of the work force. (65: p. 362) I. M. Diakonov believes that the "percentage of the land seized for the king's household (including the temple household) was enormous." For the third
dynasty of Ur, he argues, we must take 60 percent as a minimum figure. (66: p. 151) Diakonov does not, however, substantiate this calculation. A series of extant documents testifies to the fact that private property played a certain role in economic life: for example, certain bills of sale for children sold into slavery. But in the main sphere of economic life, agriculture, the significance of private property could not have been great. Among the huge number of surviving records of business transactions of that epoch, there is not a single one extant that deals with land sales. (66: p. 250) Specialized handicraft existed only within the king's household; I. M. Diakonov asserts that there existed no trade workshops other than those of the state. (66: p. 262)
During the third dynasty of Ur, material inequality reached extraordinary proportions. The allowances for administrators exceeded those of the workers by a factor of ten or twenty. (65: p. 405) The difficult existence led by the lower segments of the population is reflected in the great number of records dealing with escapes. We have reports (with an indication of the names of the relatives of the escapee) on the flight of a gardener, a fisherman's son, a herdsman's son, a barber, a priest's son, a priest, etc. (65: pp. 367-368)
Another index of the conditions is the striking mortality figures preserved in the archives. In connection with the apportioning of grain, it is recorded that, in one party, 10 percent of all workers died in one year's time; in another party, 14 percent; in a third, 28 percent. One tablet states that two women out of seventeen died during a certain month, and in a year's time, eighteen of 134. In one list the death of more than 100 women out of 150 is reported. Still higher was the mortality rate for children, who (together with women) were employed in heavy work, such as barge hauling. In general, the notation "deceased" is encountered with extraordinary frequency. The general mortality rate is estimated at 20 to 25 percent, and in field work it is thought to have been even higher--up to 35 percent. (65: pp. 365-367)
This system of exploitation undermined the foundations of the state, which abruptly began to disintegrate under the onslaught of the Amorite tribes. The fall of Ur is dated 2007 B.C. A hymn describing this event was later incorporated into a liturgy; it tells of corpses rotting in the streets, of gutted storehouses, of towns turned to ruins, and of women abducted to foreign cities. The destruction of temples in Nippur,
Kish, Uruk, Isin, Eridu, Lagash and Umma is also mentioned. The catastrophe was all-inclusive. The state crumbled into small principalities, and there followed a period of internecine conflict which came to an end only in 1760 B.C. with the accession to the throne of Hammurabi in Babylon. (65: pp. 269-271) The question of the social structure in ancient Sumer and of the social position of its rural population has long interested historians. The view of Soviet scholars that Sumer belonged to a slave-owning type of system is not generally accepted elsewhere, nor is the usual Soviet designation of Sumer as a kind of patriarchal slave state with two economic sectors (a state sector, where slaves belonged to the state, and an independent sector based on family membership). (See, for example, 69.) The most widely accepted point of view assigns the main part of the work force to the status of the half-free gurushi. According to I. J. Gelb, these were native inhabitants who were "undoubtedly free at first but gradually lost their means of sustenance for some reason or other and as a result of direct or indirect force were compelled to work continually or periodically in other households." (69: p. 84) They were not slaves and could not be sold; they had families of their own. But they had no right to move freely from place to place and were obliged to work on state lands, for temples or for the aristocracy (in the latter's capacity as state officials). Along with these, there was another category of workers (mentioned in the "gemé-duma" texts), who apparently had no families and were permanently employed in temple households. The great majority of war prisoners could not have been effectively utilized in the economy. The gap between the large figures reported for prisoners taken and the small number of such persons in the household records leads Gelb to the conclusion that most captured enemy soldiers were killed. On the basis of a certain text, I. J. Gelb even argues that war prisoners were driven to special "death camps" and killed later. (70: p. 74) Those who managed to survive were turned into state slaves, but their status gradually changed from that of slaves to that of the semi-free workers. (70: pp. 95-96) McAdams also believes that the economy of ancient Sumer was a kind of amalgam of several kinds of dependence--from an obligation to work on state fields permanently to a dependence based on allowances of water, grain and tools--with only a small contingent of actual slaves.
There were few slaves in the service of the elite, and their condition did not differ substantially from the numerous other forms of dependence. (68: p. 117) The bulk of the work force, at least in the larger estates, consisted of the semi-free gurushi. Even the small plots of land not belonging to the temple or to the state were nevertheless subject to controls. Purchases had to be sanctioned by the administration; cultivation depended on obtaining grain and plows from the central storehouses. (68: pp. 105-106) The majority of records dealing with land transactions consists of notations of transfer of small plots of land to the large estates belonging to representatives of ruling families. (68: p. 106)
2. Ancient Egypt
The period of history to which the preceding section is devoted was not an anomaly or a paradox discontinuous with the basic development of history. On the contrary, we have seen an example, perhaps the most striking one, of a style of life typical of the third and second millennia B.C. in the region that takes in Crete, Greece, Egypt and Asia Minor. These were the most developed countries of the ancient world. To a great extent, the same tendencies were apparent in the states of the Indus basin.
This epoch marks the rise of a new social structure which was destined to play a decisive role in the future history of mankind: the state. The basic social unit of the earlier period was a settlement around a temple or a village closely tied to territory familiar to the fathers and grandfathers of the inhabitants. All this was now replaced by the state, which frequently united heterogeneous ethnic groups and controlled vast territories, which it constantly strove to increase still further. "World empires" appeared, pretending to hegemony over the "whole" world and actually succeeding in gaining control over a considerable part of the civilized world of the time.
The first such empire was that of Sargon. Instead of comparatively small groups in which most members knew each other personally, a society appeared for the first time in history that united hundreds of thousands or millions of individuals who were ruled from a single center.
This upheaval in the course of history cannot be explained by technological or cultural progress, despite such achievements as the invention
of writing, the widespread use of irrigation, the construction of cities, the use of the plow and the potter's wheel, and the systematic use of metals. In spite of these advances, the new epoch was based chiefly on the mass application of the achievements of the neolithic and bronze ages. The force that provoked the changes must be sought elsewhere: it resulted from the uniting of human masses on an unprecedented scale and the subjugation of these masses to the will of a central power. The "technology of power" and not the "technology of production" was the foundation upon which the new type of society was based. (68: p. 12) The state, by means of its bureaucracy of scribes and clerks, took control of the fundamental aspects of economic and spiritual life, justifying this by the idea of the king's absolute power over his subjects and over all sources of income. To illustrate the general tendencies of this epoch, we shall cite some data on two periods in the history of ancient Egypt.
The Ancient Kingdom (First-Sixth Dynasties).* All land was considered to be the pharaoh's. Part was transferred to temporary individual use, but most of it made up the king's domain--i.e., it was used directly by the state. The peasants were looked upon for the most part as fruit of the earth and were transferred together with land. Acts of transfer typically contain formulations like "the land with men is given," or "land with men and cattle." Peasants worked under the supervision of officials. The officials determined the norms for delivery (calculated anew each year, depending on the harvest and the annual flood). Moreover, the peasants were subjected to obligatory labor ("the hours") for building and other state work, most notably for construction of the pyramids. According to Herodotus (later confirmed by F. Petri's research), the scale of building was such that to construct the Cheops pyramid, 100,000 men worked for twenty years. The peasants did mandatory work for the king's relatives as well, and for the nobility. All these "hours" and norms were regulated and recorded in each region by four departments, which were in turn subordinated to the central storehouses and central offices.
It seems that the category of agricultural worker, denoted by the word mrt, was especially common. Pharaoh Pepi II decreed the removal of these workers to other regions to provide for the fulfillment
* A survey of the period can be found in 71, which is the source of most of our information.
of their state duties. According to some sources, these laborers lived in special workers' houses. The crafts were concentrated, for the most part, in state and temple workshops, where the workers were supplied with tools and raw material, while the finished products were turned over to storehouses. Shipbuilders, carpenters, joiners, masons, potters, metal workers, glass and ceramics workers, either worked in palace and temple shops or depended on them for raw materials and orders. Highly skilled artisans with the status of hired free workers were in the minority. A number of important branches of craft production were monopolized by royal and temple workshops. For example, the temples manufactured papyrus for writing material as well as for mats, ropes, footwear and shipbuilding.
While Meyer (72) considers it possible that the Ancient Kingdom had a number of independent artisans and traders, Kees (73: p. 164) thinks there was no such category.
Trade was exclusively in the form of barter. Gold, copper and grain were used sometimes as a measure of value, but the entire process of exchange was based on real value. Exchange of this sort is depicted in numerous tomb frescoes. And among the objects donated to the cult for the repose of the dead, none seems to have a monetary character. The famous "Palermo Stone" enumerates the pharaoh's donations to the temples. These include a most diverse list of valuables, including land, people, rations of beer and bread, cattle and fowl.
Officials also were paid in produce. At court "they live from the king's table"; in the provinces, on the deliveries due to them, in keeping with their rank.
Certain persons of high standing received grants of land. But such lands did not form single holdings (with the exception of instances near the end of the period); they were scattered in various parts of the country. The persons to whom lands were assigned had no political rights within these territories.
The social structure was built around the bureaucracy. Beginning with the Second Dynasty, an inventory of all property in the state took place every two years. (It was called the "inventory of gold and fields" or the "inventory of large and small livestock.") To accomplish this task, the king's scribes were sent from house to house, accompanied by a detachment of soldiers. Norms for deliveries and taxes were established on the basis of the inventory. The representatives of central
authority in the villages were the "village judge" and the "village scribe." The multitude of titles for the officials is an indication of the degree of bureaucratic control over life: village scribe, village judge, chief of canals, lake scribe, chief of sea construction (the fleet), builder of palaces, overseer of grains and granaries, etc. Beginning with the Fourth Dynasty, the economic life of the country was regulated by two departments: one for fields, the other for personnel.
The officials who governed separate regions were not its rulers in the feudal sense. Although they usually came from the "aristocracy" by birth, and their official title was not infrequently passed from father to son, nevertheless the position of an official was determined not by his birthright but by the king's grace--in other words, by the given official's position in the bureaucratic hierarchy. No one possessed the automatic right to rule by birth. Service began usually in the lower ranks, and a successful official moved from one province to another frequently, without acquiring stable connections anywhere. On official seals, the name of an official was never indicated--only his position and the pharaoh's name. Inscriptions found in tombs make no reference to the social origin of the deceased or even to his father's name (except in the case of princes of the blood). An official's career and material welfare depended entirely on the state as personified by the pharaoh, who could even grant immortality (by allowing construction of a tomb near his own burial place). As Meyer says: "Egypt by the time of Mena [creator of a united state comprising Upper and Lower Egypt] was not an aristocratic state but a bureaucratic state." (72: p. 156) Furthermore: "The Ancient Kingdom is an extreme example of a centralized absolute monarchy ruled by a bureaucracy that depended only on the royal court and was educated in state schools for the training of officials." (72: p. 193)
The Eighteenth Dynasty (Sixteenth-Fourteenth Centuries B.C.)* More than a millennium later, we observe a system of economic relations based on almost identical principles. The state, in the person of the pharaoh, owned all sources of income, and anyone making use of them was under his permanent control. Periodic censuses were used to keep track of land, property, occupations, positions. All activity was to be sanctioned by the state; any change of occupation could take place
* Based on the survey presented in 74.
only with official authorization. With the exception of the priests and the military nobility, the population--both urban and rural--was united into communities or guilds controlled by state officials. Land relations during this epoch were shaped by the recent war for the liberation of the country from the Hyksos invaders. The military nobility, which arose during this struggle, possessed a small portion of the land. Their holdings were passed down, as a rule, by right of primogeniture from father to son, but ultimate control of even these lands belonged to the pharaoh. Thus heirs assumed possession of land only after this was confirmed by the central authorities.
With the exception of these lands and the temple lands, other land belonged to the state in the person of the pharaoh and was tilled by peasants under state control. In the tomb of Vizier Rekhmara, for example, the agricultural workers are shown along with their wives and children getting sacks of grain and returning empty ones in exchange, under the supervision of an official.
The norms for delivery of agricultural goods were determined in advance on the basis of the Nile floods.
Cattle breeding was also subordinated to a broad governmental administration headed by the "overseer of horned cattle, hoofed and feathered livestock."
With the rare exception of individuals in some crafts that required special skill, all artisans were united in guilds and controlled by officials. The heads of agricultural communities and craft workshops were responsible for the timely fulfillment of the plan for state deliveries. If the plan was not carried out, those responsible were punished by being sent to agricultural and construction work.
Merchants sent abroad acted as the state's agents. All imports were also controlled by the administration; often foreign merchants were obliged to deal only with state officials. The administration controlled internal trade as well; all markets were under its supervision.
Despite the fact that almost the entire population was to a great extent directly dependent on the state, the society of the time cannot be called either a slave system, as in classical antiquity, or a feudal system. Written records contain numerous terms indicating dependence on the state--i.e., people sent to compulsory work or war prisoners used in building and other state works. However, not one of these terms can be interpreted as slave under the personal control of another individual and employed in economic activity.
Religion in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia
While there is some documentation that throws light on the economic structure of the ancient states of Egypt and Mesopotamia, it is much more difficult to form an idea of the intellectual life and general outlook of these societies. The only sources of information at our disposal bear on religion.
Characteristic of the religions of the ancient East is the special role that the king played both in a given cult itself and in all religious notions of the time. Not only was he an earthly incarnation of a god, but godhood was the king's second, heavenly nature, his soul. Hence, religion was to a large extent transformed into worship of a deified king.*
Hocart (75) has amassed a great amount of material on the cult of king worship. However, his observations refer to more primitive societies when the deified king played an almost exclusively cult role. It was characteristic of Mesopotamia and Egypt to merge this function with the role of an absolute ruler of the country.
A great number of facts supporting this point of view are available in J. Engnell's study (76), from which we shall quote several examples.
Egypt. The king is held to be divine from birth and even before birth; he is conceived by god who became incarnated in his earthly father. The gods form the child in the mother's womb. He has no earthly parents. As one hymn reads: "Among the people thou hast no father that conceived thee, among the people thou hast no mother that conceived thee." (76: p. 4)
The main function of the king is to be the high priest; all other priests are only his surrogates. The main goal of the cult is the identification of the king with god. The king is identified with Ra--the Sun. This identification is reflected in the so-called royal name--Horus. That which is characteristic of the supreme god is relevant to the king--by the might of his words he creates the world, he is the support of worldly order, he is all-seeing and all-hearing. "Thou art like father Ra arising in the firmament. Thy rays of light penetrate to caves, and there is no place on earth not lit by thy beauty." (76: p. 6) To the pharaoh is attributed the dual nature of the supreme god, both good and wrathful.
The king is also identified with Horus, the son of Osiris, hence with Osiris as well. Horus is the living king; Osiris is the dead king. Osiris is the personification of the function of fecundity in the supreme god and in that capacity was incarnate in the pharaoh. The death of Osiris was depicted in ritual festivities--his passage through the underworld and his resurrection, his incarnation in Horus, the earthly king. This was simultaneously the festivity of the pharaoh's coronation.
* At least this is true of the official religion. Touching inscriptions uncovered in barracks occupied by the builders of the pyramids show that there also existed a popular religion based on deep feelings of personal merging with the deity.
The identification of the pharaoh and Osiris has even given rise to speculation (Sothe, Blackman) that Osiris is the deified image of a real king whose archetypal activities and death serve as the basis of the cult of Osiris. (76: p. 8)
The pharaoh's function as defender of the state against its enemies is identified with a mythical struggle between Ra and a dragon. The pharaoh's victories are described in vivid metaphors: he attacks like a storm, like a devouring flame, dismembering his enemies' bodies; their blood flows like water during the flood, their bodies are heaped higher than the pyramids, etc. The pharaoh's enemies are called children of destruction, the condemned, wolves, dogs. They are identified with the dragon Apopi.
In his state activities the pharaoh is likened to a good shepherd, shelter, a rock, a fortress. The very same epithets are applied to the supreme god.
Hymns addressed to the pharaoh include such sentiments as:
"He hath come to us, he hath made the people of Egypt to live, he hath opened the throats of the people."
"Rejoice, thou entire land: the goodly time hath come, the Lord hath appeared in the Two Lands." (76: p. 13)
"The water standeth, and faileth not, the Nile is running high.
"The days are long, the nights have hours, the months come aright.
"The gods are content and happy of heart, and life is spent in laughter and wonder." (76: pp. 13-14)
Mesopotamia. The king was considered to be born of a goddess; his father was Anu, Enlil or some other god who was called the "father conceiver." In his mother's womb, the king's body and soul are endowed with divine qualities. (76: p. 16)
During the ritual celebration of the coronation, the king dies symbolically and is reborn as a god.
It is interesting that the more ancient texts are the more definite about the divinity of the king. In visual representations, the king often cannot be distinguished from a god; he might have the same hair style, for instance. The king's name has a divine character and is used as an oath. (76: p. 18) In the god-king identity there are two aspects. The king is the supreme sun god and, at the same time, the god of fertility.
Thus the king Pursin of Ur is called the "true god," the sun over his land. Hammurabi says: "I am the sun god of Babylon, who causes light to rise over the land of Sumer and Akkad." (76: p. 23) During ritual ceremonies the king acted as the god of the sun--Marduk. This identification was proclaimed as dogma in relation to the role of the king in the cult, but in an earlier period it evidently was seen in literal terms.
On the other hand, the notion of the king as an embodiment of the god of fertility Tammuz seems so fundamental that scholars like Feigin consider Tammuz a historical king whose deification initiated the cult. (76: p.24)
In the religion of Mesopotamia, the image of a tree of life that grants
the water of life plays a great role. The king is often identified with it. Thus it is said of King Shulgi: "Shepherd Shulgi, thou who hast the water, shed water...God Shulgi is the seed of life...the aromatic plant of life." The lives of people are from the king: "The King gives life to men ...life is with the King." (76: p. 28) In a certain hymn the king speaks: "I am the king, my reign is endless. ...I am he who rules over all things, the master of the stars." (76: p. 29)3. Ancient China The history of China is an extraordinarily interesting example of how the tendencies of state socialism find expression in a multitude of forms over a tremendous span of time. Below we shall cite some data bearing on the period between the thirteenth and the third centuries B.C. This epoch is divided into two parts: the ancient (the Yin and the early Chou of classical Chinese historiography) and the late Chun-Chiu and Ch'in. The boundary between them lies in the fifth century B.C.
Identical epithets are usually applied to king and to god: master, ruler, shepherd, lawful shepherd, ruler of lands, ruler of the universe.
We quote several more fragments from the hymns:
"He that overfloweth the face of the land with the flood..." (76: p. 39)
"He whom the great gods look upon with bright regard..." (76: p. 42)
"Who brings back life to those who have been sick for many days..." (76: p. 44)
And in connection with nature:
"The corn grew five ells high in its ears."
The Yin era comprises the earliest nonmythic period in Chinese history. Songs and chronicles supply some information on it, in addition to archaeological evidence. Some of the most important knowledge about the Yin comes from inscriptions on bones and tortoise shells used for divining. These inscriptions are assigned by Maspero (77) to the twelfth to eleventh centuries B.C. and by Kuo Mo-Jo (78) to the fourteenth to thirteenth centuries. The sources point to a society based on hunting and agriculture. Cultivation was by and large confined to riverbanks; artificial irrigation was little used. The manufacture of bronze utensils and spinning and weaving achieved a high level of technical proficiency. A writing system had been developed and the calendar was in use.
Power belonged to the king or wang. In a later chronicle a legendary
king, Pan-Keng, in ordering his people to populate new areas, says: "You are all my cattle and people." (78: p. 22) He warns that in case of disobedience they will have their noses cut off and all their descendants will be destroyed "so that bad seed should not get into the city." (78: p. 22) The commentary to an ancient chronicle (sixth-fifth centuries B.C.) states that "Chou [the wang of Yin] had hundreds of thousands, millions of people." (78: p. 22) That the wang occupied a central place in Yin society is indicated by the huge number of human sacrifices that accompanied his burial. The grave of a wang was surrounded by up to one thousand corpses. On the other hand, such mass slaughter, apparently of war prisoners, made the spread of slavery rather improbable. In agriculture no trace of individual land allotment has been found. Control over work on the land was in the hands of agricultural officials. The bureaucratic nature of agriculture is suggested by inscriptions on dice used in fortune-telling. For example, the augury directs the wang "to order the common folk to go to the fields for the harvest." Or: "The common folk are to be ordered to sow millet." (79: p. 125)
The conquest of the Yin empire by the nomadic Chou tribe transformed the latter into a privileged class of society, but little changed in the general structure of life. As before, work on the land was controlled by officials subordinate to the king. Numerous songs describe agriculture based on the use of large groups of peasants directed by officials who indicate where, when and what to sow. For example, land officials were instructed as follows: "our ruler summons us all ...orders you to lead the plowmen to sow grain. ..quickly take your instruments and begin to plow. ...Let ten thousand pairs go out. ..this will be enough." (79: p. 125) Elsewhere a similar scene is pictured: "A thousand pairs of people on the plain and on the mountain slope weed and plow the field." (79: p. 129) Of the harvest it is said: "There are large granaries everywhere. ...In them, millions of tan of grain. ..A thousand granaries must be prepared. ...Ten thousand grain baskets must be prepared." Finally, the wang gives his approval--the ultimate goal of labor: "All the fields are completely sown. ...The grain is truly good. ...The wang was not angry; he said, 'You peasants have labored gloriously.' " (79: pp. 128, 134)
The historical book Han-Shu, written in the first century A.D., describes the organization of agricultural work thus: "Before the population went out to work, the village head took up his place on the right
of the exit, the agricultural officials on the left; they left their places after everyone had departed for the fields. In the evening, the same thing was repeated." (78: p. 31) A line in a song runs: "Rain falls on our common land and on our own fields." (79: p. 135) Thus, apart from the fields in which thousands toiled under the supervision of officials, there were individual plots analogous to those that existed in Peru and in the Jesuit state.
Historical sources point to the state distribution of land. "At definite times the population was counted and the land distributed." (80: p. 149) And: "The individual at the age of twenty received a field, at the age of sixty returned it, at an age over seventy lived in state dependency, up to ten years of age was brought up by elders, on reaching age eleven was forced to work by the elders." (78: p. 31)
All land and all people were considered to be the wang's property: "Under-the-heavens, there is no land that does not belong to the wang, in the whole world from one end to the other there are no people who are not the wang's underlings." (78: p. 29)
Land and folk were granted by the wang to the aristocracy for temporary use, without the right of sale or transfer even by inheritance. Many cases are recorded of land being confiscated and even of aristocrats being reduced to the rank of the common people. Officials, scholars and artisans got their sustenance from specific plots of land tilled by the peasants who lived on them.
Besides their immediate obligations, peasants had a number of other duties. In case of war, they were to "put on armor and take poleaxes in hand." (78: p. 32) They were obliged to work on construction projects. In one song, it is said: "Tillers!. ..This year the harvest is already in. ...It is time to build a palace. ...By day make ready reeds. ...In the evening weave rope. ...Hurry and finish the building." (79: p. 147)
The crafts were partly the peasants' obligation as well. In the Han-Shu it is said: "In winter, when the population returned to the village, the women gathered together in the evenings and were engaged in spinning. In one month they fulfilled the norm set for forty-five days." (78: p. 31)
There were, however, professional artisans also. They belonged to a special organization in which the artisans of similar specialties formed closed corporations directed by overseers. Artisans and overseers, as well as merchants, received allowances from the state.
All the essential aspects of life were under the control of the king's administration. There were three basic areas of supervision: agriculture, war and public works. The heads of these three departments were called the three elders and were regarded as the highest-ranking officials of the empire. All agricultural production was subordinated to the department of agriculture or "plenty."* Its officials scheduled the rotation of crops, the time of sowing and of harvesting. They assigned the duties to groups or to individual peasants and supervised the private exchange of agricultural products at the markets. The life of the peasant was also under their control: marriage, village holidays and litigation.
The primary task of the military department was the suppression of uprisings. Also among its functions were recruiting and training and all questions of the conduct of and preparation for war--the arsenal, food stores, horses. This department also organized the huge hunting expeditions that took place four times each year. The department of public works had authority over the land (while the people who worked the land were managed by the department of "plenty"). It established "boundary lines," that is, undertook the periodic redistribution of land; it directed irrigation work, the building of roads, the cultivation of virgin lands. Artisans, architects, sculptors and armorers were at its disposal. (77: pp. 73-75)
Although there were objects (shells, copper bars) that were used as convenient means of exchange, all deliveries to the state consisted of produce: grain, canvas, etc. Private transactions, in most cases, also had the character of exchange in kind.
In many respects, marriage had nontraditional forms. Among the inscriptions from the Yin period, we find listings of wives belonging to two husbands. (81: p. 12) In the Chou epoch, marriage among the peasants was to a large extent regulated by the state. For example, in one source we read: "Men are ordered to marry by age thirty, girls, by age twenty. This means that the deadline for marriage both for men and for women cannot be extended." (80: p. 147) At a specific time in spring, the emperor announced the day for weddings. A special official called a mediator informed the peasants that the time for "the joining of youths and girls" had come. The French Sinologist Maspero believes that marriage in the true sense existed only for the aristocracy, for which it had the effect of sustaining the religious cult. Common
* This translation was suggested by Maspero (77) in 1927, long before Orwell's 1984.
folk did not establish clans and the family did not have a religious character. Marriage was denoted by different terms for the aristocracy and the peasantry; Maspero translates the former term as "marriage" and the latter as "union." (77: p. 117) Legal functions were divided between the civil administration and the legal department. Civil authorities assigned penalties for minor crimes--a specific number of blows with a stick. In cases of repeated offense, the guilty party was handed over to the law department. Five kinds of punishment were provided for by law for serious offenses: capital punishment, castration (or, for women, incarceration), cutting off of the heel, cutting off of the nose, branding. A codex attributed to King Mu of the beginning of the Chou period contains a list of three thousand offenses, of which two hundred were punishable by death, three hundred by castration, five hundred by cutting off the heel, one thousand by cutting off the nose and one thousand by branding. The codex from the end of this epoch lists 2,500 offenses, five hundred in each of the five categories of punishment. (77: p. 77)
In many respects, the society of the Chou period resembles that of the Inca empire at the time of the Spanish invasion. But in China, history made possible a further elaboration of the social structure. The Chou state did not fall victim to a foreign invader, but rather developed under the influence of internal factors. And quite unexpected features appeared. By the fifth century B.C., the empire, officially under the dominion of the Chou king, broke up into what were in reality small independent states that engaged in permanent warfare. (This age is, in fact, called the "epoch of the fighting kingdoms.") But the collapse of the monolithic state mechanism was compensated for by the development of individual factors. The teachings of Confucius proclaimed man's primary goal to be the moral and ethical perfection of his personality and the integration of culture with such spiritual qualities as justice, love of mankind, loyalty, nobility. A multitude of philosophical schools came into being; vagrant scholars began to playa great role in the life of society.
This is a period of rapid cultural and economic growth. The language and writing systems of the different kingdoms was codified. The number of cities and towns increased rapidly, and they began to playa greater role in the life of the country. The chronicles tell of cities in which carriages collided in the streets and the crowds were such that clothing put on in the morning got worn out by evening. Large irrigation systems were constructed. A network of canals was
built, connecting all the kingdoms of China. Implements made of iron came into wide use. Almost all agricultural instruments, such as hoes, spades, axes, sickles, were made of iron. Throughout China large iron deposits were being worked; there were huge smelting furnaces run by crews of hundreds of slaves. Cities and whole regions specialized in producing different articles: silk, arms, salt. Under the influence of increasing trade links, almost all kingdoms began to mint identical coins. (83: pp. 24-32) Somewhat later, however, a new tendency appeared: the desire to make use of the higher technical and intellectual level in order to create a strictly centralized society in which the individual, to a far greater degree than before, would be under control of the state. It seems that this is not the only time in history that developments have taken such a turn. For example, H. Frankfort (83) believes that the first states in Mesopotamia and Egypt arose in an analogous fashion, i.e., as a result of subjecting the economic and intellectual achievements of the temple economies to the goals of a central government.
A unique place in the thought and activity of the China of the "fighting kingdoms" period is occupied by Kung-sun Yang, better known as Shang Yang. He was the ruler of Shang province in the middle of the fourth century B.C. and his theoretical views are set forth in The Book of the Ruler of Shang. (84) This work is believed to have been written in part by Shang, in part by his disciples.
According to Shang's teaching, two forces determine the life of society. One of them Shang calls the ruler or the state, evidently regarding them as different terms for essentially the same thing. Shang identifies himself with this force. The aim of the whole treatise is to point out the best paths and means for achieving the goals of this force in the most perfect fashion. The goal consists essentially of increasing to the maximum degree possible the ruler's influence and power both inside the country and beyond its borders through expansion. The ideal is full dominion under-the-heavens. The other force is the people. The author describes the interrelations between the ruler and the people as analogous to those between the artisan and his raw material. The people are likened to ore in the hands of a metal worker or to clay in the hands of a potter. And even more--the aspirations of the two forces are diametrically opposed; they are enemies, the one getting stronger only at the expense of the other. "Only he who has conquered his own people first can conquer a strong enemy." (84: p. 210) "When the people are weak the state is strong; when the state is weak the
people are strong. Hence the state that follows a true course strives to weaken the people." (84: p. 219) The section in Shang's book from which the last quotation is taken is in fact entitled: "How to Weaken the People." In order to transform his people into clay in his hands, the ruler is advised to renounce love of man, of justice and of the people--qualities that the author categorizes collectively as virtue. These qualities should not be assumed among the people either; they must be ruled like a collection of potential criminals with an appeal made only to fear and selfish advantage. "If the state is governed by virtuous methods, large numbers of criminals are sure to appear." (84: p. 156) "In a state where the depraved are treated as if they were virtuous, sedition is inevitable. In a state where the virtuous are treated as if they were depraved, order shall reign and the state surely shall be powerful." (84: p. 163) "When the people derive profit from the ways in which they are used, they can be made to do anything the ruler wishes. ...However, should the ruler turn away from the law and begin to rely upon his love for the people, there will be an outbreak of crime in the land." (84: p. 220)
The law is at the basis of life; it rules over the people through fear and, to a lesser extent, through the profit motive: "The law is the basis for the people.. ..A situation is considered just when dignitaries are loyal, when sons are respectful to their parents, when juniors are observant of their seniors, when the distinction between man and woman is established. But all this is achieved not through justice but by means of immutable laws. And then, even a starving man will not strain to reach for food, just as a condemned man will not cling to life. He who is perfectly wise does not value justice, but he values laws. If the laws are absolutely clear and decrees are absolutely obeyed, nothing more is needed." (84: pp. 215-216)
Of the two key factors, punishment and reward, with the help of which the law governs the people, considerable preference is given to the first: "In a state striving for dominion under-the-heavens, there are nine punishments to one reward, and in states doomed to disintegrate, there are nine rewards to one punishment." (84: p. 165) It is only punishment that breeds morality: "Virtue originated with punishment." (84: p. 165) Speaking of how to apply punishment, the author sees only the following alternatives: mass punishment applied across the board or the less frequently used but particularly harsh punishment. He definitely recommends the second course: "People can be made
worthy without mass punishment, if the punishment is severe." (84: p. 212) In this he even discerns a mark of the ruler's love for his people: "Should punishments be severe and rewards few, the ruler loves his people and the people are ready to give up their lives for the ruler. Should rewards be considerable and punishments mild, the ruler does not love his people, and the people will not give up their lives for his sake." (84: pp. 158-159) The primary goal of punishment is to sever the ties that bind people together; therefore, a whole system of informers must supplement punishment. "If the people are ruled as virtuous, they will love those closest to them; if they are ruled as depraved, they will become fond of this system. Unity among people and their mutual support spring from the fact that they are ruled as virtuous; estrangement among the people and mutual surveillance spring from their being ruled as depraved." (84: pp. 162-163) The ruler "should issue a law on mutual surveillance; he should issue a decree that the people ought to correct each other." (84: p. 214) "Regardless of whether the informer is of the nobility or of low origin, he inherits fully the nobility, the fields and the salary of the senior official whose misconduct he reports to the ruler." (84: p. 207) Denunciation is tied to a system of extended mutual liability. "A father sending his son to war, the elder sending his younger brother, or the wife seeing off her husband, shall all say: 'Don't come back without victory!' And they will add 'Should you break the law or disobey an order, we shall perish together with you.'" (84: p. 211) "In a well-regulated country, husband, wife and their friends will not be able to conceal a crime one from the other without courting disaster for the relatives of the culprit; the rest will not be able to cover each other either." (84: p. 231)
The author pictures this entire system as a more profound and significant form of humanity, a path toward the dying away of punishment, execution and denunciation, almost a withering away of the state--through its maximum increase in strength. "If punishment be made severe and a system of mutual responsibility for crime is established, people will not dare to expose themselves to the force of law. And when people begin to fear the results, the very necessity of punishment will disappear." (84: p. 207) "Therefore, if by war, war can be abolished, then even war is permissible; if by murder, murder can be abolished, then even murder is permissible; if by punishment, punishment can be abolished, then even harsh punishment is permissible." (84: p. 210) "Such is my method of returning to virtue, by the path
of capital punishment and reconciliation of justice and violence." (84: p. 179) What is the social structure that Shang Yang proposes to achieve by these means? He singles out two concerns for the sake of which other human interests should be suppressed and to which everything should be subordinated: agriculture and war. He ascribes such exclusive importance to these entities that he introduces a special term to define them, translated as "concentration on the One Thing" or "unification." The whole future of the country depends upon this factor: "The country that achieves unification, be it for one year, will be powerful for ten years; the state that achieves unification for ten years will be powerful for a hundred years; the state that achieves unification for a hundred years will be powerful for a thousand years and will achieve dominion under-the-heavens." (84: p. 154) Only the following activities must be encouraged by the state: "He who wants the flowering of the state should inspire in the people the knowledge that official posts and ranks of nobility can be obtained only by engaging in the One Thing." (84: p. 148)
All economic activity was to have a single goal--agriculture. Two explanations are given for this: in the first place, "when all thoughts are turned to agriculture, people are simple and easily governed." (84: p. 153) Secondly, agriculture helps feed the army during prolonged wars. Colonization and cultivation of virgin lands is proposed; peasants are to be attracted from other lands to this end by promises of release from labor and military duties for three generations. It seems that the peasants who settled on virgin lands were usually under greater control and belonged to a "royal domain." Thus the proposal to be free for three generations must have sounded especially attractive. Over and over, proposing this or that official measure, Shang Yang concludes the passage with the words: "And then the virgin lands are certain to be cultivated."
For the nobility, the only way to riches and a career must be through military service: "All privileges and salaries, official posts and ranks of nobility, must be given only for service in the army; there must be no other way. For only by this path is it possible to take a clever man and a fool, nobles and common folk, brave men and cowards, worthy men and those good for nothing, and extract all that is in their heads and their backs and force them to risk their lives for the sake of the ruler." (84: p. 204)
In military activity there is no place for moral considerations. On
the contrary: "If the army commits actions that the enemy would not dare to commit, then this means that the country is strong. If in war the country commits actions the enemy would be ashamed of committing, then it will have gained an advantage." (84: p. 156) The ruler, too, is released from moral obligations toward his soldiers. He rules over them, as over all people by means of rewards and punishments. Three enemy heads cut off results in a promotion to the rank of nobility. "If after three days a commander has not conferred this title upon anyone, he is sentenced to two years hard labor. ...A warrior displaying cowardice is torn to pieces by carriages, a warrior daring to disapprove of an order is branded, his nose is cut off and he is thrown down at the city wall." (84: pp. 218-219) As with the general population, the warrior is bound by extended responsibility. Soldiers are divided into fives and for ail offense by one all are executed.
Thus: "It is necessary to drive people into such a state that they should suffer if not engaged in agriculture, that they should live in fear if they are not engaged in war." (84: p. 234) Therefore, all "external" occupations (that is, not part of the One Thing) are systematically suppressed. As a result, activities outside direct state control, those in which personal initiative and individuality were displayed, were the first to be cut off. Hence the abolition of private trade in grain is proposed. Then merchants will be compelled to turn to working the land, and "wastelands are certain to be cultivated." Taxes were to be raised sharply so as to make trade unprofitable. And in general the role of gold was to be diminished so that it should play the least possible role. "When gold appears, grain disappears--and when grain appears, gold disappears." (84: p. 161) Merchants and their people should be drawn into performing state labor duties. The crafts are also not to be encouraged: "Common people are engaged in trade and are masters of various crafts so as to avoid agriculture and war. If such things take place, the state is in danger." (84: p. 148) Hired labor should be abolished so that private persons would not be able to undertake construction work. Mining and water transportation should become state monopolies: "If the right of ownership to mountains and reservoirs is concentrated in the same hand, then lands lying fallow will certainly be cultivated." And inhabitants should be attached to the land. "If the people are deprived of the right of free migration, then lands lying fallow will certainly be cultivated." (84: pp. 144-145) All these measures can be summed up in one general principle: "Under-the-heavens there hardly was ever a case where a state did not perish
when infested with worms or when a crack appeared. That is why a wise ruler makes laws eliminating private interests, thereby delivering the state from worms and cracks." (84: p. 198) The implementation of these principles, however, is prevented by a force which the book deals with at length. To denote this force Shang Yang uses a term that is translated as "parasites" or (literally) "lice." Sometimes six parasites are enumerated, sometimes eight, in still other instances ten. These are the Shih Ching and the Shu Ching (The Book of Songs and The Book of History, the sources of artistic and historical education), music, virtue, veneration of old customs, love of mankind, selflessness, eloquence, wit, etc. Elsewhere, knowledge, talent and learning are added. What seems to be meant is culture in its broadest understanding and involving a certain level of ethical and moral demands. The existence of such "parasites" is incompatible with the One Thing that the author elaborates, as well as with his whole program. "If there are ten parasites in a state. ..the ruler will not be able to find a single man whom he might use for defense or to wage war." (84: p. 151) "Wherever there exist these eight parasites simultaneously, the authorities are weaker than their people." (84: p. 162) In this case, the state will be torn apart. "If knowledge is encouraged and not nipped in the bud, it will increase, and when it will have increased, it will become impossible to rule the land." (84: p. 182) "If the eloquent and the intelligent are valued, if vagrant scholars are brought into the service of the state, if a man becomes well known thanks to his learning and personal glory, then ways are open in the land to the unrighteous. If these three kinds of persons are not checked in their path, it will be impossible to engage the people in war." (84: p. 224) And Shang Yang warns darkly: "The people in the whole country have changed, they have taken to eloquence and find pleasure in study; they have started to engage in various crafts and trade; they have begun to neglect agriculture and war. If this trend continues, the hour of death is near for the land." (84: p. 152) In olden times, he says, things were not this way: "The gifted were of no use and the ungifted could do no harm. Therefore, the art of ruling well consists precisely in the ability of removing the clever and the gifted." (84: p. 231) Finally, this idea is expressed in its most naked form: "If the people are stupid, they can be easily governed." (84: p. 237)
Shang Yang's teaching is reminiscent of a social utopia, a description of an "ideal state," in which "private interests are eliminated," love
for kindred beings is replaced by love for state order, all aspirations are concentrated on the One Thing and the entire structure is maintained by a system of informers, guilt by association and harsh punishments. But in one respect Shang Yang occupies a special place among authors of such treatises. Many of them made attempts to implement their ideals. Plato, for instance, sought a ruler who would organize a state in the spirit of his teaching. Plato's attempts ended when the Syracuse tyrant Dionysius, upon whom he had set his hopes, sold him into slavery. Shang Yang, however, found his ruler and had the opportunity to realize his ideals. The prince of the state of Ch'in made him first minister and Shang Yang succeeded in carrying out a number of reforms. Here is what is known of Shang Yang's legislation: 1. Farmers ("those engaged in the essential thing") were freed from obligatory service.
2. Those discovered engaging in "nonessential" activities were turned into slaves.
3. Ranks of nobility were obtainable only through military service. High positions in the government could be given only to those who had already earned the rank of nobility. Those without rank were forbidden to display luxuries. (In this way, the ruling class was transformed from a hereditary aristocracy into officials dependent on the favor of their superiors and the monarch.)
4. The state was divided into provinces ruled by state officials.
5. Large families were split up, and grown sons were forbidden to live with their fathers. (This measure is seen as an attempt to destroy the village community.)
6. Fields were marked offwith boundary lines. A number of historians see in this the destruction of community and the subordination of the peasantry directly to officials; others view it as indicative of the freedom to buy and sell land. (The spirit of Shang Yang's book would seem to render the latter interpretation quite unlikely.)
7. Capital punishment was introduced for the theft of a horse or an ox.
8. Every five households were united into a unit of shared responsibility and linked to another five. If one member of the group of ten households committed a crime, the others were to report him--otherwise they were to be cut in half. The informer was to be rewarded in the same manner as one who had killed an enemy.
These laws met with great resistance, but Shang Yang managed
to cope with the opposition. Individuals expressing their discontent were removed to the frontier regions. Danger struck from quite a different quarter. His patron died and the heir to the kingdom, who hated Shang Yang, executed him along with his entire family. But Shang Yang's reforms were left in effect and led, as he had asserted , to the achievement of hegemony under-the-heavens by the Ch'in kingdom. In the third century B.C., China was united in the highly centralized Ch'in empire in which the ideas of Shang Yang were implemented even more consistently and on a greater scale. At the head of the state stood the ruler, who took the title Huang-ti, a term which existed right up until 1912. It is translated as "emperor ," although it has more elevated connotations, something like "Divine Sovereign of the Earth." The first emperor proclaimed that he should be called Shih Huang-ti; his heirs were to be called the Second shih, the Third shih, and so on up to ten thousand generations. (In fact, the dynasty was overthrown in the reign of his son.) The emperor was proclaimed the sole high priest of the state. Inscribed on a stele erected by the emperor are the words: "Within the limits of the six points [the four directions, plus up and down] everywhere is the land of the Emperor. Wherever man's foot has trodden there are no people who do not submit to the Emperor." (82: p. 162)
A historical concept current at the time held that the history of under-the-heavens consisted of a succession of five epochs, corresponding to the five elements: earth, wood, metal, fire and water. Black was designated the state color, corresponding to water, and the word "people" was replaced by the term "the black-headed." The number six, which indicated water, was declared to be sacred, and counting was to be based on this number. The "responsible unit," which had contained five people, now included six.
The historically produced division of the country was abolished. Instead, the empire was divided up into thirty-six regions, and those in their turn into districts. The country was run by a centralized bureaucracy. Inspectors, who were directly responsible to the emperor, supervised the work of all officials and reported on it to the capital. During critical periods such inspectors were also appointed to the army. District authorities were in charge of the rural elders, of the keepers of public morals, of the keepers of barns and granaries, of watchmen and postmasters. Cults and rituals were unified and local observances suppressed; temples directly subordinated to the state were built. Officials
of special departments were charged with keeping track of these activities. Other special officials were in charge of military and economic affairs, or of service to the person of the emperor. The overwhelming majority of officials received regular allowances in grain. Only high officials and the emperor's sons utilized the income of certain regions, in which, however, they did not enjoy any political rights. In accordance with Shang Yang's teaching, agriculture was proclaimed to be the "essential thing." On the emperor's stele it said: "The emperor's merit consists in his having forced the population to engage in the essential thing. He encouraged agriculture and eradicated the secondary." (82: p. 161)
The emperor was considered to be the owner of all land. It seems that when the Emperor Wang Mang proclaimed all land to belong to the crown (first century A.D.), he was only calling to mind an already established tradition. This arrangement was reflected in obligatory deliveries and a series of military and labor duties the peasants performed. Nevertheless, there exists information concerning the buying and selling of land by private persons. Still, agriculture was apparently based on the commune, which was used as a means of subordinating the peasantry to the state. Commune officials were obliged to see that the peasants went to the fields on time and were not to allow back into the village a peasant who had not fulfilled his norm. One treatise of the day relates that during an illness of one of the Ch'in kings, communes that sacrificed oxen for his recovery were punished. Evidently, the central authorities did not consider that communes had the right to dispose of livestock in any way. A historical record of later times tells about an inscription someone cut on a stone: "When Emperor Ch'in Shih Huang dies, the land will be divided." The guilty party was not found, but the stone was ground to powder and all inhabitants of the vicinity were executed. (82: p. 180) This incident suggests that in Ch'in Shih Huang's reign certain measures taken to socialize the land provoked discontent among the populace.
An important means by which subordination of agriculture to state control was implemented was the emperor's monopoly on water. A special department oversaw sluices, dikes and irrigation canals. (It should be kept in mind that in the Ch'in epoch, irrigation began to play an extremely important role in agriculture.) Another measure that served the purpose of extending the authority of the state was the resettlement of great masses of peasants to newly conquered territories,
where they were evidently under more direct control. Little information about private crafts in the Ch'in empire has survived. There are references to owners of iron-smelting workshops who became extremely rich. On the other hand, there are descriptions of large state arms-manufacturing works, whose entire production went to state storehouses. It is known that the state confiscated iron arms from the populace, and it is therefore likely that all production of arms was concentrated in the hands of the state. An imperial stele reads: "All implements and arms were made after one pattern." (82: p. 161) The state had a monopoly on the mining of salt and ore. Whole armies of workers labored in state workshops and on state construction sites. It is known that some of them were state slaves; the status of others is unclear. The state carried out construction projects on an unprecedented scale. Immensely long roads, the so-called imperial highways, were built, crisscrossing the country from one end to the other. The width of these roads reached fifty paces, and there was a raised section in the middle some seven meters wide. This latter was intended for use by the emperor and his court. The fortifications erected earlier by the various states were demolished and the celebrated Great Wall of China constructed to defend the northern frontier. The region of the Wall was connected with the capital by a road that went directly from north to south without attempting to bypass the natural obstacles. ("Mountains were dug through; valleys filled in, and a straight road was built.") (82: p. 171) Tremendous resources were expended on the building of palaces (in the vicinity of the capital, 270 were erected) and on constructing the emperor's mausoleum.
These activities of the state, as well as the wars that were being constantly waged on the southern and northern frontiers, required the employment of colossal masses of people. The state resorted to a policy of resettlement on a wide scale; unreliable segments of the population were moved to the former Ch'in kingdom and more reliable groups sent to the newly conquered regions. The resettlement of 120,000 families is recorded in one place; 50,000 in another case, 30,000 elsewhere.
The entire population, except officialdom, was subject to innumerable military and labor duties. Military service included an obligatory month of training for all men at age twenty-three, one year of service in the regular army, and border patrol apart from mobilization. The number of men employed in military service was immense: armies
of 500,000 and 300,000 are mentioned. Even more people were involved in labor duties. In the building of a single palace, 700,000 were employed. The basic labor obligations included the building of canals, palaces, the Great Wall, etc.; the transportation of goods for the state (mainly military supplies), transportation work on canals and rivers. Military and labor duties were not always distinguished one from the other. In the south, the army built canals for transport of supplies; in the north, a 300,000-man army, alongside mobilized inhabitants and state slaves, were engaged in the building of the Great Wall. One source gives the following picture: "Men who had come of age were being driven to work. ...Along the roads there lay so many corpses that they could have filled the ditches." (79: p. 395) Such measures evoked mass flight of the population to forests, mountains and marshy regions. Others joined the northern nomads, or migrated to the Korean state. A new term appears in the sources--the category of "people in hiding." It was not only the poor who fled. The emperor who came to power after the overthrow of the Ch'in Dynasty decreed that those who returned to their districts would get back their fields and ranks.
The Ch'in penal code was consistent with the ideas of Shang Yang. It is based on the principle of guilt by association. Six relatives answered for each person. The criminal was executed; the others made into state slaves. Officials were bound by another form of mutual liability: the official who had appointed a guilty party and any others who knew of the crime but did not report it were subjected to the same punishment as the culprit. In other cases, execution of "relatives of the three branches" could be carried out--i.e., relatives on the father's side, the mother's and the wife's. This edict reads: "First, brand all the criminal's relatives of the three branches of relationship, cut off their left and right heels and beat them to death with sticks. Their heads are then to be cut off and their flesh and bones thrown on the city square. If the criminal was a slanderer or a conjurer, his tongue is first cut out. This is known as execution through the five punishments." (79: p. 379) A milder form of punishment was the extermination of the criminal's immediate relatives only.
There existed an extraordinary variety of execution: quartering, cutting into halves, cutting into pieces, decapitation with exhibition of the head on the square, slow strangulation, burying alive, boiling in a cauldron, breaking of ribs, smashing of the crown of the head.
Other kinds of punishment included the cutting off of the kneecap or of the nose, castration, branding and beating with sticks. Conviction to hard labor for from several months to several years was widely used, as was enslavement. One chronicle recounts: "All the roads were crowded with the condemned in scarlet shirts. And the jails were filled to overflowing like markets crowded with people." (85: p. 58) Perhaps the most notorious event in the reign of Ch'in Shih Huang is the so-called book burning. The idea was to suppress any thought independent of the state and to obliterate historical sources that differed from official ones. The emperor's chief counselor proposed the form of the decree. In his letter he wrote: "At present, Your Majesty has performed great deeds whose glory will spread through ten thousand generations. This, of course, cannot be understood by foolish scholars. ...At present, when You the Emperor have united the country, separated black from white and established unity, they honor their science and associate with people who disapprove of laws and directives. When they learn of an edict they discuss it in accordance with their scholarly principles. When they enter the palace they disapprove in their souls; when they come out again they engage in open discussion. ...And if this is not forbidden, then the condition of the ruler at the top will become worse, and at the bottom the parties will gain strength. It would be useful to forbid it." (81: pp. 150-152)
There follow suggestions for concrete measures that were, in fact, acted upon by the emperor. The edict in question reads: "All books which are not concerned with the official history of the Ch'in state, except books which are under the keeping of high officials, are to be burned. ...All who still dare under-the-heavens to conceal [books deemed seditious] are to be brought to the chiefs and the guards and burned together with their books. All who discuss these works are to be publicly executed. All who use the examples of the past to condemn the present are to be executed. ...Officials seeing or knowing anything about the hiding of books who do not take measures are to be treated like those who conceal books. ...Those who do not turn in books within thirty days after the proclamation of this edict are to be branded as criminals and exiled to the building of the Wall. ... Books on medicine, divination and plant growing are not subject to destruction." (79: p. 381)
The point of these measures was to deprive the population of the means of independent study. Private persons had no right to possess any books except those devoted to very narrow utilitarian problems.
Many books were preserved in state depositories to which only special officials had access. But historical works on kingdoms other than the Ch'in empire were completely destroyed. Books were not the only victims of persecution. At the order of the emperor, 460 Confucian scholars were buried alive, and a far greater number were exiled to frontier regions.
Subsequently, when Confucianism became the official ideology of the Chinese empire, Ch'in Shih Huang's persecutions came to be seen as an epitome of barbarism. But hostility toward Confucian teachings on the part of rulers manifested itself in the later periods as well. It is said of the founder of a dynasty that succeeded the Ch'in that he "does not like Confucian scholars. When a man in the headdress of a 'guest' or a Confucian enters, he quickly tears the headdress off and urinates into it on the spot." (79: p. 389)
In our day, the Communist Party of China has called the people to a struggle against the "followers of Confucius and Lin Piao." And back in 1958, at the second plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party (Eighth Congress), Mao Tse-tung said of Emperor Ch'in Shih Huang:
He issued an order that read: "The kin of him who for the sake of antiquity rejects the present will be eradicated to the third generation." If you adhere to antiquity and do not recognize the new, all your family will be slaughtered. Ch'in Shih Huang buried only 460 Confucians alive. However, he has a long way to go to catch up with us. During the purge, we did away with several tens of thousands of people. We acted like ten Ch'in Shih Huangs. I assert that we are better than Ch'in Shih Huang. He buried alive 460 people, and we, 46,000--one hundred times more. Indeed, to kill, then to dig a grave and bury someone--this also means to bury alive. We are abused and called Ch'in Shih Huangs and usurpers. We accept this and consider that we have still done little in this respect--much more can be done.Appendix
Was There Such a Thing as an "Asiatic Social Formation"?
Everyone who has ever passed an examination on "historical materialism" is familiar with the basic outline of human history. History is seen as a sequence of social formations: primitive-communal, slave-owning, feudal, bourgeois and communist. This fundamental historical law, however, did not crystalize with perfect clarity at once and certain comrades still have confused ideas on the question.
The problem is that the Founders of the Scientific Method of History occasionally referred to one other type of information--the "Asiatic,"
elsewhere referred to as the "Asiatic Mode of Production." (See the correspondence between Marx and Engels, Marx's essay "British Rule in India" and his preface to "Toward a Critique of Political Economy.") The distinguishing feature of this formation, the trait that constitutes the basis of the political and religious history of the East and the "key to the Eastern sky," was identified as the absence of private ownership of land. There was lively discussion of this question in Soviet historical scholarship in the twenties and thirties, especially in connection with the history of the ancient Near East. The argument was won by academician V. V. Struve and his followers, who maintained the correct Marxist point of view, according to which the ancient kingdoms of the Near East were slave-owning societies. The question might have been considered completely closed with the publication of Stalin's famous Chapter 4 of the Short Course on the History of the CPSU (1938), wherein the now universally familiar "fivefold" scheme of historical development was enunciated: it did not include any" Asiatic formation."
This atmosphere of perfect clarity was clouded by the appearance in print, in 1939, of a manuscript by Marx that the author had not originally intended for publication: "The Forms Preceding Capitalist Production." (86) Marx here places "Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production" in a single line of development as the "progressive epochs of economic social formation." Soon after this publication, an article designed to prevent any misinterpretation appeared in Vestnik drevnei istorii. (87) It was by academician Struve, who wrote: "By this, once and for all, an end is put to the attempts of certain historians to ascribe to Marx the idea of a special' Asiatic' socioeconomic formation." He warns sternly: "Asiatic society is a slave-owning society." What Marx says about .slavery in the East in the work in question is of course very good, but he unfortunately uses the rather vague concept of "universal slavery," which is difficult to fit into a historical framework that is based on the idea of class.
Representatives of various other schools of thought were quick to respond. The Communist renegade and reactionary K. Wittfogel stooped to filthy insinuations about an alleged analogy between the "Asiatic" and "socialist" formations. He even attempted to use this analogy to explain why Marx and Engels, by the end of their lives, had stopped mentioning the" Asiatic mode of production."* Needless to say, the slanderous character
* Reference to Wittfogel's argument (in 89) that Marx borrowed the notion of a specific "Asiatic" type of state from the works of Adam Smith, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, Richard Jones (the concept itself goes back to Montesquieu and Bernier), and used it in his scheme of the development of society on the basis of production. From the 1860s on, however, Marx and Engels engaged in sharp polemics with Bakunin and his adherents. Bakunin asserted that Marx and Engels' ideal of state socialism would "engender despotism at one extreme and slavery at the other." In this context, the analogy to Asiatic despotism became too obvious for comfort. Here is the reason, Wittfogel believes, why Marx and Engels refrained from mentioning the "Asiatic mode of production" in their later works.
of Wittfogel's statements was thoroughly exposed by Marxist historians, although a number of them also started to show an interest in this question, which, one would have thought, had been fully settled. In foreign Marxist journals, dozens of authors took part in the discussion. The response came in the form of a collection of articles. (88) (In this collection see the survey entitled "Discussion of the Asiatic Mode of Production in the Foreign Marxist Press," which is the source of the information given below.) One of the first contributions to this discussion was an article published in 1957 by B. WeIskopf, a historian from the German Democratic Republic. She expresses the opinion that the ancient Orient cannot be adequately categorized by either the concept of "classical" slavery or the concept of "patriarchal" slavery. Those societies, the author believes, fit the rubric of "Asiatic mode of production" in the same way as ancient China, India and America. In 1958, F. Tökei, reviewing property relationships in the Chou epoch, came to the conclusion that there was no private ownership of land at the time. And in studies published in 1963, he characterizes this epoch as a period of "Asiatic mode of production." R. Pokora comes to the same conclusion regarding ancient China.
Studies in which the "Asiatic mode of production " is discovered in ever new countries and new historical periods have been multiplying rapidly. J. Suret-Canale, a "Marxist-Africanist" (and the author of the survey under review here) sees this formation in precolonial, tropical Africa. P. Boiteau discerns it on Madagascar; R. Gallissot, in precolonial Maghreb and Algiers (in the latter, however, in an imperfect form); M. Tchechkov, in precolonial Vietnam; K. Manivanna, in Laos of the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries; M. Olmeda, in pre-Columbian Mexico; S. San tis, in Inca, Aztec and Mayan states; S. Divitcioglu, in the Ottoman empire of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It turns out that traces of the "Asiatic mode of production" can be found in present states (but of course not in the sense proposed by the renegade Wittfogel). J. Chesneaux writes of the "Asiatic mode of production ":
"It does not belong only to the past, however. No doubt it has left deep traces on subsequent history. The tradition of 'supreme unity' is an example. Has it not, in numerous Afro-Asian countries, prompted the establishment of a system controlled by an all-powerful head of state who also enjoys the confidence of the masses?" (88: p. 55)
These historians acribe the following new features to the "Asiatic mode of production":
1. A special concept of property. First of all, this is expressed in the absence of private ownership of land, as noted in WeIskopf's first study. Tökei even asserts that no private land ownership ever existed in Asia. Gallissot speaks about "public property." And L. Sedov writes: "That which distinguishes all stages in the development of the Asiatic mode of production ...is an almost complete absence of private property as a system of relations."
2. A minor role for trade. Chesneaux believes that commercial turnover
and commercial exchange played only secondary roles and were limited to "additional foodstuffs" in the consumption of the communities. 3. A special means of exploitation that was, as Chesneaux puts it, "fundamentally different from classical slavery or from serfdom--universal slavery." C. Perrin singles out the basic features of this means of exploitation:
a. Use of a large mass of essentially unpaid peasants temporarily cut off from their farms and families.4. A special role for the state when it acts as "supreme unity" to exploit rural communities (WeIskopf, Perrin) and "controls directly the basic means of production" (Gallissot).
b. Extravagant use of the labor force not only on the building of canals, dikes, and so on, but on construction of the despot's palaces, pyramids, etc.
c. The masses forced into hard, unskilled physical labor.
d. Peasant communities compelled by the despot to provide labor for public works on a grand scale.
e. Such exploitation is implemented by means of collectives formed from the rural communities; this requires a despotic, centralized rule.
The "Asiatic formation" presents extraordinary difficulties for scientific Marxist study. In particular, it has proved almost impossible to subject it to class analysis. Chesneaux, for instance, is compelled to come to the conclusion that class contradictions are present here "in an original way," viz., they exist without any clear appropriation by the ruling class of the ownership of the means of production. The ruling class turns out to be not a group of people (!) but "the state itself, in its essence."
Tökei writes: "Of all the related problems, the most frequently discussed is the question of how societies of the Asiatic mode of production were divided into classes." (88: p. 62) Tökei and Chesneaux come to a "functional class theory," according to which the division into antagonistic classes is based not on the exploiters' ownership of the means of production but rather on "socially useful functions" defined by the ruling class. Sedov shares this view and advocates a theory of a "state as a class." Finally, Tchechkov asserts that the term "class" is not applicable at all to the ruling social group in precolonial Vietnam. There was instead a hierarchy of "functionaries," with the emperor as "first among functionaries." This elite was constantly replenished through a system of examinations and tests. For this group of elite "scholar functionaries," ownership of the means of production did not determine their place in the hierarchy, but on the contrary, their rank in the hierarchy determined their economic position. The ruling "state as a class" exploited the peasant members of the community not by owning the means of production but by virtue of its functional role in governing society and the economy.
The tried and tested tool of scientific research--quotation from the Marxist classics--proved to be of no help in solving this extremely difficult problem:
"What was Marx's opinion on social stratification and the class structure under the 'Asiatic mode of production'? We search the works of Marx in vain for a formula or a simple and clear analysis bearing on this question. Due to the press of time, Marx did not even give a complete analysis of the class structure under capitalism. In Chapter 52, Volume III, of his Capital, Marx began to expound his ideas on the subject* but was able to write only the first lines of a preface." (88: p. 63) One cannot help sharing Tökei's sad thoughts on this score.Summary
Why is the matter so complicated that it does not yield even to the refined tool of the Marxist scientific method?
Apparently this is to be explained by the fact that we are speaking about phenomena that are so remote in time and so alien to our way of thinking that the modern Marxist historian finds it exceptionally difficult to visualize all these unknown and strange social relations.
We have brought forward a series of examples which allow us to draw some conclusions on the character of socialist tendencies in the economics (and to an extent, in the ideologies) of certain states of South America and the ancient East. All these states were of a very primitive type, more so than the ancient classical civilizations or the medieval and capitalist societies. (We did not touch on the socialist states of the twentieth century, assuming them to be familiar to the reader.) In the literature on the subject we find indications of analogous states elsewhere (for example, the ancient states of the Indus valley or of pre-Columbian Mexico). We now wish to summarize the basic features of this type of society, relying mainly on Heichelheim (90).
All economic relationships were based on the assumption that the state, in the person of the king, was the proprietor of all sources of income. Any use of these sources was to be redeemed by deliveries to the state or by performance of obligatory work. Labor conscription by the state was considered just as natural as universal military conscription is today. Laborers were organized into detachments and armies (often under the command of officers) and were set to work on tremendous construction projects. They worked state fields, repaired, dug and cleaned irrigation and navigation systems, built roads, bridges, city walls, palaces and temples, pyramids and other tombs. They were used in transporting the goods of the state. Sometimes such duties were imposed on conquered peoples, and, as Heichelheim believes,
* I.e., the class structure of capitalist society.
it was precisely this that gave rise to the whole system of duties--i.e., the state began to take the exploitation of conquered peoples as a model in the treatment of its own subjects. (90: p. 176) Most land either belonged to the state or was controlled by it. Temple lands were usually under the control of the state officials who directed work on them. The peasants got tools, seeds and cattle from the state and were often told exactly what to sow. They were obliged to work the state and temple fields on a set schedule. The bulk of the agricultural population depended to a large degree on the state, but in most cases the peasants were neither slaves nor private chattel. I. J. Gelb (69) applies the term "serfs" to them--i.e., "attached" and "protected peasants." He writes: "The productive labor population of Mesopotamia and the ancient East in general, in Mycenaean and Homeric Greece, later in Sparta and on Crete, in Thessalia and in other parts of Greece (with the exception of Athens), as well as in India, China, etc., is the basic work force employed either all the time or part of the time on the public lands of the state, of the temple or of the large landowners, who as a rule acted simultaneously as state officials. This work force was half independent." (69: p. 83)
Slaves in the majority of cases were house servants. In connection with the classical East, Meyer says: "It is hardly possible that slavery ...played a basic role in the economy." (91: p. 190, quoted in 89)
Trade and handicrafts were controlled by the state in an analogous way. To a great extent, the state supplied artisans with their tools and raw materials, and merchants with money. Both artisans and merchants were organized into guilds headed by state officials. In Egypt, for instance, all foreign trade was monopolized by the state, right up to the time of the Middle Kingdom. Internal trade was strictly controlled by the state, including the pettiest dealings. Most goods were distributed directly by the state.
Money did not play any significant role in trade. Even quite valuable objects were frequently exchanged without money payment, although a price was mentioned in the records. M. Weber calls this "exchange with money valuation." From twelve to twenty forms of primitive money were usually employed, their value strictly regulated by the state. This was one more important lever in controlling the economy.
The king's household was the basic economic force in the country. Weber describes this structure as the king's oikos, underlining the fact that the entire state was ruled from one center as the estate of
a single master. In Egypt, the name Pharaoh ("big house") corresponds literally to the word oikos. Heichelheim asserts that the state controlled about 90 percent of the whole economy. He writes: "The kings of the ancient Orient were economically the center points from which the greater part of the capital investment and the economic life of the empires radiated. From here only capital surplus which had been amassed by the people could be reinvested or distributed, for productive purposes, among individuals or to whole groups of people. Scholars have attempted, and not without some justification, to describe the system of government of the ancient Orient as a patriarchal socialism." (90: pp. 169-170)
Just as economic life was directed by the state, as embodied in the king, so too the dominant pattern in ideology was the concept of a deified king, seen as the benefactor and savior of mankind. In another passage Heichelheim characterizes this concept:
"He saved the human race by becoming a human being, an eschatological breakthrough for each generation which made the king completely different from even the most powerful high priest or noble. The king saved mankind by his overpowering mystical strength in peace and war, by his justice in upholding a fair and benevolent law, and by sharing and investing the enormous capital at his disposal to the benefit of his poorer subjects." (90: p. 166)
Naturally, such an ideological and economic centralization made the most drastic measures of suppression of the population both morally permissible and technically necessary. Thus in India, in the laws of Manu, it is said: "Order in the world is maintained through punishment. ...Punishment is the king." (Quoted in 89: p. 138) In Egypt every official had the right to impose physical punishment on his subordinates. The awe inspired by the pharaoh is symbolized by the snake in his crown; he is sometimes depicted as killing, dismembering and boiling people in the nether world. (Cited in 89: p. 142) The ritual name of one of the first pharaohs was "The Scorpion."
Socialist tendencies in the ancient states were studied in detail by Wittfogel (89), from whom we have already borrowed a number of specific facts. The author's general approach involves uniting a series of states (in the ancient Orient, pre-Columbian America, East Africa and some regions of the Pacific, particularly the Hawaiian Islands) into a special historical formation that he calls "hydraulic society" or "hydraulic civilization." According to Wittfogel, artificial irrigation played
a fundamental role in all these societies.* The author defines the concept of a "hydraulic society" very broadly, including in this category almost all noncapitalist countries, with the exception of Greece, Rome and the states of medieval Europe. But he singles out the Inca state, Sumer, ancient Egypt and the Hawaiian Islands as "primitive hydraulic societies"--in other words, almost the same group of states that interests us. Wittfogel points out numerous features these societies have in common with the socialist states of the twentieth century. Thus he notes the similar roles played by irrigation and heavy industry. Both are activities that do not directly produce any goods but constitute a necessary basis for production. (89: pp. 27-28) This key sector of the economy is the property of the state, which in this way achieves complete control over the economic and political life of the country. Heichelheim points to similar parallels:
For scholars who have studied this development in detail, it is no secret that the planned economy and the collectivism of our modern Age of Machines has returned subconsciously to ancient Oriental conditions wherever we try to abolish or to modify the individualistic and libertarian forms of society which have been characteristic for the Iron Age of the last three glorious millennia. Instead our turbulent twentieth century shows a tendency to link together our own traditional state organization, society, economic and spiritual life with the rudiments of ancient Oriental collectivist forms of organization as they have survived subconsciously in the life and customs of many modern nations.. ..The modern great powers are closer in analogy to the great empires of the cuprolithic and bronze ages than is generally realized, or to similar later forms of rule which developed from ancient Oriental foundations either directly or indirectly. Whenever our century shows some attempt to achieve not personal liberty but widespread control it has strong affinities to the planned city life of the kings of Mesopotamia and Asia Minor, the rule of the pharaohs in Egypt, the early Chinese emperors. ...The spiritual ties which the nineteenth century had with. ..Israel, Greece and Rome are more often replaced, to a greater degree than we know, by a return to ancient Oriental foundations. (90: pp. 99-100)
* McAdams (68) cites the examples of ancient Mesopotamia and pre-Columbian Mexico to assert that irrigation, contrary to Wittfogel's opinion, did not playa determining role in the formation of such societies (pp. 67-68). It should be noted, however, that Wittfogel does allow that an "agrodespotic state" could come into existence without an economy based on irrigation. (89: p. 3)