The meadow, which is reserved for the production of hay, is divided into the same number of shares as the arable land. There, however, the division and distribution take place, not at irregular intervals, but annually. Every year, on a day fixed by the Assembly, the villagers proceed in a body to this part of their property, and divide it into the requisite number of portions. Lots are then cast, and each family at once mows the portion allotted to it. In some Communes the meadow is mown by all the peasants in common, and the hay afterwards distributed by lot among the families; but this system is by no means so frequently used.
As the whole of the Communal land thus resembles to some extent a big farm, it is necessary to make certain rules concerning cultivation. A family may sow what it likes in the land allotted to it, but all families must at least conform to the accepted system of rotation. In like manner, a family cannot begin the autumn ploughing before the appointed time, because it would thereby interfere with the rights of the other families, who use the fallow field as pasturage.
It is not a little strange that this primitive system of land tenure should have succeeded in living into the twentieth century, and still more remarkable that the institution of which it forms an essential part should be regarded by many intelligent people as one of the great institutions of the future, and almost as a panacea for social and political evils. The explanation of these facts will form the subject of the next chapter.
HOW THE COMMUNE HAS BEEN PRESERVED, AND WHAT IT IS TO EFFECT IN THE FUTURE
Sweeping Reforms after the Crimean War—Protest Against the Laissez Faire Principle—Fear of the Proletariat—English and Russian Methods of Legislation Contrasted—Sanguine Expectations—Evil Consequences of the Communal System—The Commune of the Future—Proletariat of the Towns—The Present State of Things Merely Temporary.
The reader is probably aware that immediately after the Crimean War Russia was subjected to a series of sweeping reforms, including the emancipation of the serfs and the creation of a new system of local self-government, and he may naturally wonder how it came to pass that a curious, primitive institution like the rural Commune succeeded in weathering the bureaucratic hurricane. This strange phenomena I now proceed to explain, partly because the subject is in itself interesting, and partly because I hope thereby to throw some light on the peculiar intellectual condition of the Russian educated classes.