Die Agrarfrage: eine Uebersicht über die Tendenzen der modernen Landwirthschaft und die Agrarpolitik der Sozialdemokratie.

KAUTSKY Karl (1899.)

£3500.00  [First Edition]

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First edition. 8vo. viii, 451, [1, blank], [4, publisher's advertisements] pp. Some rather crude, old paper repairs to the gutter of title page and following two leaves, not effecting text or presentation inscription. Contemporary blue cloth, spine lettered in gilt, bevelled boards, green endpapers (extremities lightly rubbed, corners bumped, rear hinge cracked, but holding firmly, withal a very good copy). Stuggart, J.K.W. Dietz.

A presentation copy of Karl Kautsky's (1854-1938) most "original contribution to Marxian theory" (New Palgrave), inscribed by the author "Meinen lieben Hugo in alter Freundschaft Berlin 3/1 99 K. Kautsky" in black ink to the title page. A pioneering study of agrarian relations of production under capitalism, it was celebrated by Lenin in an enthusiastic review published in the Russian Marxist periodical Nachalo as "the most important event in present-day economic literature since the third volume of Capital. Until now Marxism has lacked a systematic study of capitalism in agriculture. Kautsky has filled this gap".

Unfortunately, the identity of the recipient remains obscure, but the most likely candidate is the Viennese socialist and publisher Hugo Heller (1870-1923), a long-term friend and correspondent of Kautsky's. Heller worked alongside Kautsky in Berlin as an editor for the influential socialist periodical Die Neue Zeit, the official organ of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). In 1905, Heller returned to Vienna to start his own publishing house and would go on to publish some of Sigmund Freud’s most important early works, becoming a prominent member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. The Karl Kautsky Papers at the International Institute of Social History contains 229 items pertaining to their correspondence from 1894 onwards.  

Die Agrarfrage represented an important contribution to the then-hotly contested question of the persistence of small private farm holdings under capitalism, which was often cited as evidence against Marx's theories regarding the concentration and centralisation of capital. The central premise of the book was that capitalism can only succeed in colonising the agrarian sector after the full establishment of urban capital and the credit system. Upon reading Die Agrarfrage, Lenin immediately abandoned his 'capitalist farmers vs. wage labourers' thesis outlined earlier in the same year in The Development of Capitalism in Russia in favour of Kautsky's position, proclaiming in his review: "As we see, the development of agriculture is quite special, quite different from the development of industrial and trading capital."

Kautsky was a leading figure of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Second International, and of the most influential exponents of orthodox Marxism following the death of Engels. Kaustky founded the socialist periodical Die Neue Zeit, contributors to which included Marx and Engels, as well as Eduard Bernstein, Rudolf Hilferding, Rosa Luxemburg, and Leon Trotsky, amongst others. Kautsky had met with Marx and England during a visit to England in 1881, and maintained a close relationship with Engels, who appointed Kautsky as editor of Marx's Theories of Surplus Value in 1888, as well an executor of the Marx-Engels literary archive along with Eduard Bernstein.


Stock Code: 239501

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