1.3.3. Executing a Land Reform
It may be astonishing that despite the acute necessity to
change the agrarian structure in many parts of the world with
sometimes extreme inequality, dependence, and very poor living
conditions for the rural masses - agrarian reforms are quite
seldom executed. Obviously, this potential does not suffice.
An analysis has shown that a certain amount of political instability
or considerable economic changes must also take place. The
rural population must work together with officers and the
technical intelligentsia - in other words, the urban middle
class - in order to unleash revolutionary upheavals.
In this case, there are two possibilities for an agrarian
reform. During, or following, a revolution the new leaders
must legitimize their rule and, therefore, get the rural population
on their side by means of an agrarian reform. As soon as they
have established their power, the interest in the agrarian
population tends to wane and, consequently, the interest in
agrarian reform. In regard to socialistic reforms, rural welfare
is replaced by party ideology; agrarian reform helps realize
this by collectivization and the formation of large economic
On the other hand, directly before a revolution the old leaders
try to remedy worst grievances through an agrarian reform
and alienate the intelligentsia in the eyes of the farmers.
In this case as well, the tempo of the reform slows down generally
as soon as the danger has been averted. The necessary cooperation
between the rural population and the middle class is so rare
because their interests are quite different. Farmers strive
for tangible goals: land, rent reduction, better prices, and
aimtheir demands less at the state than at landlords and officials.
Further more, they are split and have trouble expressing their
interests politically. The intelligencia has, in contrast,
abstract political goals; they strive to establish a new society,
whereby agrarian reform has a symbolic character.
There is also frequently a large difference between the wording
of the reform legislation when it is passed and what success
is really achieved. A very strong political will and ability
to enforce one's plans are necessary before an agrarian reform
can be enforced.
On the one band, the existing administrative body is politically
functionally overtaxed. High placed official come from large
landowning families and find themselves, therefore, in a conflict
situation. Low ranking officials are not independent and,
in some cases, bribable. Particularly in the instance of an
unstable government, they are afraid to enforce the laws strictly
because following a change in governments, the position of
the lando wners might establish itself again and they would
suffer disadvantages. The absence of a land register and laws
that are not written clearly and precisely result in questions
and insecurity which gives the landlords the opportunity to
turn to the courts. The pause they thus win allows them to
take countermeasures and, fairly often, to bridge the time
when the laws are strictly enforced.
Such opposing activities have to be expected with every
reform owing to the interests of those affected by the reforms.
They commence already before the law is passed with the attempt
to reduce the measures to a minimum and allow many exceptions.
It is sometimes also allowed to divide land among all of the
family members before the law comes into effect. While the
measures are being executed, the administrative personnel
is hindered, and the attempt is sometimes made to abolish
laws that have already been passed. Especially if there is
a rapid changeover in governments, this is sometimes possible.
Among the methods to head off agrarian reforms is the propositioning
of alternatives. Taxes are generally mentioned in the first
instance. It is true that it is possible to achieve certain
effects by means of taxes used to either hinder or as incentives
for specific goals, but these measures have as a rule little
effect, especially due to the low absolute level of agricultural
tax rates. The settlement of new land is likewise hardly appropriate
as an alternative. It is able where there is suitable land
available at all to reduce the pressure on the land and increase
agricultural production; however, settlement measures are
very expensive and personnel intensive and can only affect
a small number of people. They rather distract from the real
agrarian reforms. The same can be said of the normal agrarian
policy measures. If the goal is limited to small changes,
they can be successful. The greater the significance of the
political goals in the agrarian reforms, the less such mild
measures will suffice.