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 units.

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.