Courtesy Reuters

Agrarian Reform in Asia

It is no longer news that land reform is a critical issue throughout Asia, the Near East and Latin America. We are not surprised to see the Shah of Iran going about the country sponsoring a drastic redistribution of private holdings. Only yesterday, the Kingdom of Nepal was a Shangri-La; yet today King Mahendra finds time to listen, question and respond to the proposition that his country, too, must begin to find its place in the second half of this century by dealing with the causes underlying both the poverty of its agriculturists and the low productivity of its agriculture. President Macapagal in the Philippines, President Betancourt in Venezuela and Prime Minister Nehru in India have similarly been using "agrarian reform" in their search for answers to some of their countries' instabilities.

Communism is not the precursor of the agrarian reformism we are talking about here. Communism has made immense political use of the borrowed slogan of "Land and Liberty," and has ridden to power in part on this promissory note. Admittedly, too, it has exerted great pressure on the non-Communist world to look more closely at its land problems-in Eastern Europe after the First World War and in Asia after the Second World War. Yet the wrenching readjustments involved when the landless contend for the landlord's land are as old as recorded history. Tiberius Gracchus (163-133 B.C.), that model of a Roman aristocrat, saw the deliverance of the pauperized farmers of Italy in a program of land ownership for the landless. And many are the examples between then and the solution offered by the French Revolution which show that there has been a continuous chain in the struggle between peasant and landlord. With due allowance for the passage of time and changes in conditions, the problems now as then are fundamentally the same: How relieve the plight of cultivators working mostly for a pittance? How revive stagnating agricultural economies? How root the peasant securely and beneficially on the land

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