"Socialism in the past
(1)Mesopotamia in the twenty-second and twenty-first centuries B.C.
Mesopotamia was one of the cradles of civilization where the first states known to historians arose in the fourth millennium before Christ. They were formed on the basis of the economies of separate temples, which collected large massed of peasants and craftsmen around them and developed an intensive agriculture based on irrigation. Toward the middle of the third millennium, Mesopotamia broke up into small kingdoms in which the basic economic units remained the separate temples. Then, the Accadian king Sargon began the era when Mesopotamia was again united in a single state. I shall summaria some of the facts about the state which in the twenty-second and twenty-first centuries united Mesopotamia, Assyria, and Elam. Its capital was Ur, and the whole period is called the era of the Third Dynasty or Ur.
Archaeologists have found huge quantities of cuneiform tablets reflecting the life of the time. From these we know that the basis of the economy remained teh temple units, but after the unification they lost all their independence and became cells in a unified state economy. Their heads were appointed by the king, they submitted detailed accounts to the capital, and their work was reviewed by the king's inspectors. Groups of workers were often transported from one temple to another.
Agricultural workers, men, women and children, were divided into parties headed by overseers. They worked all the year round, moving from one field to another and receiving seed grain, tools and draft animals from temple and state stores. Similarly, in groups under a commander, they used to go th the stores for their food. The family was not regarded as an economic unit: provisions were issued not to the head of the family but to each worker or more often to the commander. The documents relate separately to men, women, children and orphans. Evidently there was no question of being allowed even the use, let alone the ownership, of plots of land for this category of workers.
The other groups of inhabitants fed themselves by cultivating the plots set aside for them. Thus there were fields allocated to individuals, fields for craftsmen and fields for shepards. But these lands were worked by the same workers as the state lands, and the work was supervised by state officials.
The towns contained state workshops, of which the biggest were in the capital, Ur. The workers received tools, raw materials, and half-finished products from the state. The products of the workshops went into the state warehouses. Craftsmen, like agricultural workers, were divided into parties under overseers. Provisions were issued to them by the state stores on the basis of lists.
Agricultural workers and craftsmen figure in the accounts as workers of full strength, two-thirds strength, or one-sixth strength. On this depended the norms for their provisions. Work norms also existed which determined the scale of the worker's rations. The temples submitted lists of the dead, the sick, and of absentees (with reasons). Workers could be transported from one field to another, from one workshop to another, sometimes from one town to another. Agricultural workers were sent to assist in the workshops and craftsmen were sent to work in the fields or haul barges. The bondage of large classes of the population is highlighted by the numerous documents concerning fugitives. These documents name the fugitives and their relatives, and they concern not only barbers or the sons of shepards, but also priests and their sons. This picture of the life of the workers opens with regular statements about the death rate (for removal of the dead from the food lists). One document declares a 10% mortality among its workers; another, 14%; yet another, 28%. Mortality was particularly high among women and children, who were employed on the heaviest work, such as hauling."
Taken from Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "From Under the Rubble"
1974 YMCA-press. Paris.
Translation copyright 1975 by Little, Brown and Co.
The above was written by Igor Shafarevich and is part of an article entitled "Socialism in Our Past and Future". The following section, (2), is about the empire of the Incas.
To be continued...