The DEVELOPMENT of CAPITALISM in RUSSIA – Chapter III

The DEVELOPMENT of CAPITALISM in RUSSIA – Chapter II
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The DEVELOPMENT of CAPITALISM in RUSSIA – Chapter IV
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The DEVELOPMENT of CAPITALISM in RUSSIA – Chapter III

The Landowners’ Transition from Corvée to Capitalist Economy

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Written: 1896-1899.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th Edition, Moscow, 1964, Volume 3, pp. 189-251
Publisher: Progress Publishers
First Published: First printed in book form at the end of March 1899. Published according to the text of the second edition, 1908.
Original Transcription & Markup:R. Cymbala (2000)
Re-Marked up by:Kevin Goins (2008)
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2000). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Contents

I. The Main Features of Corvée Economy 
II. The Combination of the Corvée and the Capitalist Systems of Economy 
III. Description of the Labour-Service System 
IV. The Decline of the Labour-Service System 
V. The Narodnik Attitude to the Problem 
VI. The Story of Engelhardt’s Farm 
VII. The Employment of Machinery in Agriculture 
VIII. The Significance of Machinery in Agriculture 
IX. Wage-Labour in Agriculture 
X. The Significance of Hired Labour in Agriculture 

Page 96 from the magazine Nachalo.

From peasant economy we must now pass to landlord economy. Our task is to examine, in its main features, the present social-economic system of landlord economy and to describe the nature of the evolution of this system in the post-Reform epoch.

I. The Main Features of Corvée Economy

As our starting-point in examining the present system of landlord economy we must take the system of that economy which prevailed in the epoch of serfdom. The essence of the economic system of those days was that the entire land of a given unit of agrarian economy, i.e., of a given estate, was divided into the lord’s and the peasants’ land; the latter was distributed in allotments among the peasants, who (receiving other means of production in addition, as for example, timber, sometimes cattle, etc.) cultivated it with their own labour and their own implements, and obtained their livelihood from it. The product of this peasants’ labour constituted the necessary product, to employ the terminology of theoretical political economy; necessary – for the peasants in providing them with means of subsistence, and for the landlord in providing him with hands; in exactly the same way as the product which replaces the variable part of the value of capital is a necessary product in capitalist society. The peasants’ surplus labour, on the other hand, consisted in their cultivation, with the same implements, of the landlord’s land; the product of that labour went to the landlord. Hence, the surplus labour was separated then in space from the necessary labour: for the landlord they cultivated his land, for themselves their allotments; for the landlord they worked some days of the week and for themselves others. The peasant’s allotment in this economy served, as it were, as wages in kind (to express oneself in modern terms), or as a means of providing the landlord with hands. The peasants’ “own” farming of their allotments was a condition of the landlord economy, and its purpose was to “provide” not the peasant with means of livelihood but the landlord with hands.[1]

It is this system of economy which we call Corvée [Russ.: barshchina] economy. Its prevalence obviously presumes the following necessary conditions: firstly, the predominance of natural economy. The feudal estate had to constitute a self-sufficing, self-contained entity, in very slight contact with the outside world. The production of grain by the landlords for sale, which developed particularly in the latter period of the existence of serfdom, was already a harbinger of the collapse of the old regime. Secondly, such an economy required that the direct producer be allotted the means of production in general, and land in particular; moreover, that he be tied to the land, since otherwise the landlord was not assured of hands. Hence, the methods of obtaining the surplus product under Corvée and under capitalist economy are diametrically opposite: the former is based on the producer being provided with land, the latter on the producer being dispossessed of the land.[2] Thirdly, a condition for such a system of economy was the personal dependence of the peasant on the landlord. If the landlord had not possessed direct power over the person of the peasant, he could not have compelled a man who had a plot of land and ran his own farm to work for him. Hence, “other than economic pressure,” as Marx says in describing this economic regime, was necessary (and, as has already been indicated above, Marx assigned it to the category of labour-rent Das Kapital, III, 2, 324).[3] The form and degree of this coercion may be the most varied, ranging from the peasant’s serf status to his lack of rights in the social estates. Fourthly, and finally, a condition and a consequence of the system of economy described was the extremely low and stagnant condition of technique, for farming was in the hands of small peasants, crushed by poverty and degraded by personal dependence and by ignorance.


Notes

[1] An extremely vivid description of this system of economy is given by A. Engelhardt in his Letters from the Countryside (St. Petersburg 1885, pp. 556-557). The author quite rightly points out that feudal economy was a definite, regular and complete system, the director of which was the landlord, who allotted land to the peasants and assigned them to various jobs.—Lenin

[2] In opposing the view of Henry George, who said that the expropriation of the mass of the population is the great and universal cause of poverty and oppression, Engels wrote in 1887: “This is not quite correct historically. . . . In the Middle Ages, it was not the expropriation of the people from, but on the contrary, their appropriation to the land which became the source of feudal oppression. The peasant retained his land, but was attached to it as a serf or villein, and made liable to tribute to the lord in labour and in produce” (The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844, New York, 1887, Preface, p. III).[4]Lenin

[4] See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Britain, Moscow, 1953, p. 10.

[3] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 771.

II. The Combination of the Corvée and
the Capitalist Systems of Economy

The Corvée system of economy was undermined by the abolition of serfdom. All the main foundations of this system were undermined: natural economy, the self-contained and the self-sufficient character of the landed estate, the close connection between its various constituents, and the landlord’s power over the peasants. The peasant’s farm was separated from that of the landlord; the peasant was to buy back his land and become the full owner of it; the landlord, to adopt the capitalist system of farming, which, as has just been observed, has a diametrically opposite basis. But such a transition to a totally different system could not, of course, take place at once, and for two different reasons. First, the conditions required for capitalist production did not yet exist. A class of people was required who were accustomed to work for hire; the peasants’ implements had to be replaced by those of the landlord; agriculture had to be organised on the same lines as any other commercial and industrial enterprise and not as the business of the lord. All these conditions could only take shape gradually, and the attempts of some landlords, immediately after the Reform, to import machinery and even workers from abroad could not but end in a fiasco. The other reason why the transition to the capitalist conduct of affairs was not possible at once was that the old Corvée system of economy had been undermined, but not yet completely destroyed. The peasants’ farms were not entirely separated from those of the landlords, for the latter retained possession of very essential parts of the peasants’ allotments: the “cut-off lands,”[5] the woods, meadows, watering places, pastures, etc. Without these lands (or easement rights) the peasants were absolutely unable to carry on independent farming, so that the landlords were able to continue the old system of economy in the form of labour-service. The possibility of exercising “other than economic pressure” also remained in the shape of the peasants’ temporarily-bound status,[6] collective responsibility, corporal punishment, forced labour on public works, etc.

Thus, capitalist economy could not emerge at once, and Corvée economy could not disappear at once. The only possible system of economy was, accordingly, a transitional one, a system combining the features of both the Corvée and the capitalist systems. And indeed, the post-Reform system of farming practised by the landlords bears precisely these features. With all the endless variety of forms characteristic of a transitional epoch, the economic organisation of contemporary landlord farming amounts to two main systems, in the most varied combinations – the labour-service[1] system and the capitalist system. The first consists in the landlord’s land being cultivated with the implements of the neighbouring peasants, the form of payment not altering the essential nature of this system (whether payment is in money, as in the case of job-hire, or in produce, as in the case of half-cropping, or in land or grounds, as in the case of labour-service in the narrow sense of the term). This is a direct survival of Corvée economy,[2] and the economic characterisation of the latter, given above, is applicable almost entirely to the labour-service system (the only exception being that in one of the forms of the labour-service system one of the conditions of Corvée economy disappears, namely, under job-hire, where labour instead of being paid in kind is paid in money). The capitalist farming system consists of the hire of workers (annual, seasonal, day, etc.) who till the land with the owner’s implements. The systems mentioned are actually interwoven in the most varied and fantastic fashion: on a mass of landlord estates there is a combination of the two systems, which are applied to different farming operations.[3] It is quite natural that the combination of such dissimilar and even opposite systems of economy leads in practice to a whole number of most profound and complicated conflicts and contradictions, and that the pressure of these contradictions results in a number of the farmers going bankrupt, etc. All these are phenomena characteristic of every transitional period.

If we raise the question as to the relative incidence of the two systems, we shall have to say, first of all, that no precise statistics are available on the matter, and it is not likely that they could be collected: that would require a registration not only of all estates, but of all economic operations performed on all the estates. Only approximate data are available, in the shape of general descriptions of individual localities as to the predominance of one or another system. Data of this kind are given in a summarised form for the whole of Russia in the above-mentioned publication of the Department of Agriculture, Hired Labouretc. On the basis of these data, Mr. Annensky has drawn up a very striking chart showing the incidence of these systems (The Influence of Harvestsetc.,[7] I, 170). Let us summarise these data in a table, and supplement them with figures on the cultivated area on private owners’ lands in 1883-1887 (according to Statistics of the Russian Empire, IV. The average harvest in European Russia in the five years 1883 1887. St. Petersburg, 1888).[4]Average harvest in European Russia in five years 1883-1887.

Thus, although the labour-service system predominates in the purely Russian gubernias, the capitalist system of landlord farming must be considered the predominant one at present in European Russia as a whole. Moreover, our table gives a far from complete picture of this predominance, for Group I of the gubernias includes some in which the labour-service system is not applied at all (the Baltic gubernias, for example), whereas Group III includes not a single gubernia, and in all probability not a single farmed estate in which the capitalist system is not applied at least in part. Here is an illustration of this based on Zemstvo statistics (Raspopin; “Private-Landowner Farming in Russia According to Zemstvo Statistics,” in Yuridichesky Vestnik [Legal Messenger ], 1887, Nos. 11-12. No. 12, p. 634):Estates hiring labourers and farm labourers.

Lastly, it must be observed that sometimes the labour-service system passes into the capitalist system and merges with it to such an extent that it becomes almost impossible to distinguish one from the other. For example, a peasant rents a plot of land, undertaking in return to perform a definite number of days’ work (a practice which, as we know, is most widespread; see examples in the next section). How are we to draw a line of demarcation between such a “peasant” and the West-European or Ostsee “farm labourer” who receives a plot of land on undertaking to work a definite number of days? Life creates forms that unite in themselves with remarkable gradualness systems of economy whose basic features constitute opposites. It becomes impossible to say where “labour-service” ends and where “capitalism” begins.

Having established the fundamental fact that the whole variety of forms of contemporary landlord farming amounts to two systems – the labour-service and the capitalist systems, in various combinations, we shall now proceed to give an economic description of the two systems and determine which of them is eliminating the other under the influence of the whole course of economic evolution.


Notes

[1] We are now replacing the term “Corvée” by the term “labour-service” since the latter expression corresponds in greater measure to post-Reform relations and is by now generally accepted in our literature.—Lenin

[2] Here is a particularly striking example: “In the south of Yelets Uyezd (Orel Gubernia),” writes a correspondent of the Department of Agriculture, “on the big landlords’ farms, side by side with cultivation with the aid of annual labourers, a considerable part of the land is tilled by peasants in return for land leased to them. The ex-serfs continue to rent land from their former landlords, and in return till their land Such villages continue to bear the name of ‘Corvée’ of such-and-such a landlord” (S. A. Korolenko, Hired Labouretc, p. 118) Here is one more example: “On my farm,” writes another landlord, “all the work is done by my former peasants (8 villages with approximately 600 persons); in return for this they get the use of pastures for their cattle (from 2,000 to 2,500 dess.); except that seasonal workers do the first ploughing and sow with seed drills” (ibid., p. 325. From Kaluga Uyezd)—Lenin

[3] “Most of the estates are managed in the following way: part, although a very small part, of the land is cultivated by the owners with their own implements, with the aid of labourers hired by the year” and other “workers, but all the rest of the land is leased to peasants for cultivation either on a half-crop basis” or in return for land, or for money (Hired Labouribid., 96). . . . “On the majority of estates simultaneous resort is made to nearly all, or at any rate many, forms of hire” (i.e., methods of “providing the farm with man power”). Agriculture and Forestry in Russia published by the Department of Agriculture for the Chicago Exhibition, St. Petersburg, 1893, p. 79.—Lenin

[4] Of the 50 gubernias of European Russia the following are excluded: Archangel, Vologda, Olonets, Vyatka, Perm, Orenburg and Astrakhan. In these gubernias the area cultivated in 1883-1887 amounted to 562,000 dess. on private owners’ estates out of a total of 16,472,000 dess. cultivated on such land in the whole of European Russia. – Group I includes the following: the 3 Baltic gubernias, the 4 Western (Kovno, Vilna, Grodno and Minsk), the 3 South-Western (Kiev, Volhynia, Podolsk), the 5 Southern (Kherson, Taurida, Bessarabia, Ekaterinoslav, Don), and 1 South-Eastern (Saratov); then follow the St. Petersburg, Moscow and Yaroslavl gubernias. Group II includes: Vitebsk, Mogilev, Smolensk, Kaluga, Voronezh, Poltava and Kharkov. Group III includes the rest of the gubernias. – To be more exact one should deduct from the total area cultivated on private owners’ land the gown area belonging to tenants, but no such statistics are available. We would add that such a correction would hardly alter our conclusion as to the predominance of the capitalist system, since a large part of the landowners’ fields in the black-earth belt is rented, and the labour-service system predominates in the gubernias of this belt.—Lenin

[5] “Cut-off-lands ” (otrezki ) – the pasture lands woods, etc., which the landlords “cut off,” i.e., of which they deprived the peasants when serfdom was abolished in Russia.

[6] Temporarily-bound peasants – serfs who, after the abolition of serfdom in 1861, were obliged to perform certain services for the landlords, i.e., do Corvée service or pay quit-rent. The “temporarily-bound status” continued until the peasants, by agreement with the landlords, had acquired their allotments by the payment of redemption money. The landlords were obliged to accept redemption payments only after the edict of 1881, by which the “obligatory relation” between the peasants and the landlords had to cease as from January 1, 1883.

[7] The two volumes of The Influence of Harvests and Grain Prices on Certain Aspects of the Russian National Economy reached Lenin in the village of Shushenskoye in 1897. He made a careful study of them while working on The Development of Capitalism in Russia, as is proved by his numerous marginal comments in the volumes. While he exposed the method which the Narodniks were so fond of employing, the distortion of the actual situation by quoting “average” statistics which in fact obscured the differentiation of the peasantry, Lenin carefully checked and made use of the concrete material in the volumes. Thus, on page 153 of Vol. 1 Lenin drew up a table showing the distribution, in the different gubernias of Russia, of the various forms of economy (capitalist, labour-service, and mixed). This material, along with some additions from other sources, went to make up the table given in the text.

III. Description of the Labour-Service System

Labour-service, as has already been observed above, is of exceedingly varied types. Sometimes peasants undertake for a money payment to cultivate with their own implements the fields of the landowner – so-called “job-hire,” “dessiatine employments,”[1] cultivation of “cycles”[2] [10] (i.e., one dessiatine of spring crop and one of winter crop), etc. Sometimes the peasant borrows grain or money, under taking to work off either the entire loan or the interest on it.[3] Under this form a feature peculiar to the labour-service system in general stands out with great clarity – the bondage, the usurious character of this sort of hire of labour. In some cases the peasants work “for trespass” (i.e., undertake to work off the legally established fine for cattle trespass), or work simply “out of respect” (cf. Engelhardt, loccit., 56), i.e., gratis, or just for a drink, so as not to lose other “employments” by the landowner. Lastly, labour-service in return for land is very widespread in the shape either of half-cropping or directly of work for land rented, for grounds used, etc.

Very often the payment for rented land assumes the most diverse forms, which sometimes are even combined, so that side by side with money rent we find rent in kind and “labour-service.” Here are a couple of examples: for every dessiatine, 1 1/2 dess. to be cultivated + 10 eggs + 1 chicken + 1 day’s female labour; for 43 dess. of spring crop land 12 rubles per dess., and 51 dess. of winter-crop land 16 rubles per dess. in cash + threshing of so many stacks of oats, 7 stacks of buckwheat and 20 stacks of rye + manuring of not less than 5 dessiatines of rented land with manure from own animals, at the rate of 300 cart-loads per dessiatine (Karyshev, Rentings, p. 348). In this case even the peasant’s manure is converted into a constituent part of the private landowner’s farm! The widespread and varied character of labour-service is indicated by the abundance of terms used for it: otrabotki, otbuchi, otbutki, barshchina, basarinka, posobka, panshchina, postupok, viyemka, etc. (ibid., 342). Sometimes the peasant pledges himself to perform “whatever work the owner orders” (ibid., 346), or in general to “pay heed,” “give ear” to him, to “help out.” Labour-service embraces the “whole cycle of jobs in rural life. It is as labour-service that all operations relating to field-cultivation and grain and hay harvesting get done, firewood is stocked and loads are carted” (346-347), roofs and chimneys are repaired (354, 348), and the delivery-of poultry and eggs is undertaken (ibid.). An investigator of Gdov Uyezd, St. Petersburg Gubernia, quite justly remarks that the types of labour-service to be met with are of the “former, pre-Reform, Corvée character” (349).[4]

Particularly interesting is the form of labour-service for land, so-called labour-service renting and rent payment in kind.[5] In the preceding chapter we have seen how capitalist relations are manifested in peasant renting of land; here we see “renting” which is simply a survival of Corvée economy,[6] and which sometimes passes imperceptibly into the capitalist system of providing the estate with agricultural workers by alloting patches of land to them. Zemstvo statistics establish beyond doubt this connection between such “renting” and the lessors’ own farming. “With the development of their own farming on the private landowners’ estates, the owners had to guarantee themselves a supply of workers at the required time. Hence, there develops in many places the tendency among them to distribute land to the peasants on the labour-service basis, or for a part of the crop together with labour-service. . . .” This system of farming “. . . is fairly widespread. The more frequently the lessors do their own farming, the smaller the amount of land available for leasing and the greater the demand for such land, the more widely does this form of land renting develop” (ibid., p. 266, cf. also 367). Thus, we have here renting of a very special kind, under which the landowner does not abandon his own farm, but which expresses the development of private-landowner cultivation, expresses not the consolidation of the peasant farm by the enlargement of area held, but the conversion of the peasant into an agricultural labourer. In the preceding chapter we have seen that on the peasant’s farm the renting of land is of contradictory significance: for some it is a profitable expansion of their farms; for others it is a deal made out of dire need. Now we see that on the landlord’s farm, too, the leasing of land is of contradictory significance: in some cases it is the transfer of the farm to another person for a payment of rent; in others it is a method of conducting one’s own farm, a method of providing one’s estate with manpower.

Let us pass to the question of the payment of labour under labour-service. The data from various sources are at one in testifying to the fact that the payment of labour where it is hired on a labour-service and bonded basis is always lower than under capitalist “free” hire. Firstly, this is proved by the fact that rent in kind, i.e., on the basis of labour-service and half-cropping (which, as we have just seen, is merely labour-service and bonded hire), is every where, as a general rule, more costly than money rent, very much more costly (ibid., p. 350), sometimes twice as much (ibid., 356, Rzhev Uyezd, Tver Gubernia). Secondly, rent in kind is developed to the greatest degree among the poorest groups of peasants (ibid., 261 and foll.). This is renting from dire need, “renting” by the peasant who is no longer able to resist his conversion, in this way, into an agricultural wage-worker. The well-to-do peasants do what they can to rent land for money. “The tenant takes advantage of every opportunity to pay his rent in money, and thus to reduce the cost of using other people’s land” (ibid., 265) – and we would add, not only to reduce the cost of renting the land, but also to escape bonded hire. In Rostovon-Don Uyezd the remarkable fact was even observed of money rent being abandoned in favour of skopshchina,[11] as rents went up, despite a drop in the peasants’ share of the harvest (ibid., p. 266). The significance of rent in kind, which utterly ruins the peasant and turns him into a farm labourer, is quite clearly illustrated by this fact.[7] Thirdly, a direct comparison between the price of labour in the case of labour-service hire and of capitalist “free” hire shows the latter to be greater. In the above-quoted publication of the Department of Agriculture, Hired Labouretc., it is calculated that the average pay for the complete cultivation, with the peasant’s own implements, of a dessiatine of land under winter grain is 6 rubles (data for the central black-earth belt for the 8 years, 1883-1891). If, however, we calculate the cost of the same amount of work on a hired labour basis, we get 6 rubles 19 kopeks for the work of the labourer alone, not counting the work of the horse (the pay for the horse’s work cannot be put at less than 4 rubles 50 kopeks, loccit., 45). The compiler rightly considers this to be “absolutely abnormal” (ibid.). We would merely observe that the fact that payment for labour under purely capitalist hire is greater than under all forms of bondage and under other pre-capitalist relations has been established not only in agriculture, but also in industry, and not only in Russia, but also in other countries. Here are more precise and more detailed Zemstvo statistics on this question (Statistical Returns for Saratov Uyezd, Vol. I, Pt. III, pp. 18-19. Quoted from Mr. Karyshev’s Rentings, p. 353). (See Table on p. 203.)

Thus, under labour-service (just as under bonded hire combined with usury) the prices paid for labour are usually less than half those under capitalist hire.[8] Since labour Average price paid for cultivating one dessiatine.
service can only be undertaken by a local peasant, and one who must be “provided with an allotment,” the fact of the tremendous drop in pay clearly indicates the importance of the allotment as wages in kind. The allotment, in such cases, continues to this day to serve as a means of “guaranteeing” the landowner a supply of cheap labour. But the difference between free and “semi-free”[9] labour is far from exhausted by the difference in pay. Of enormous importance also is the circumstance that the latter form of labour always presupposes the personal dependence of the one hired upon the one who hires him, it always presupposes the greater or lesser retention of “other than economic pressure.” Engelhardt very aptly says that the lending of money for repayment by labour-service is explained by the greater security of such debts: to extract payment from the peasant on a distraint order is a difficult matter, “but the authorities will compel the peasant to perform the work he has undertaken to do, even if his own grain remains ungathered” (loccit., 216). “Only long years of slavery, of serf labour for the lord, have been able to produce the indifference” (only apparent) with which the cultivator leaves his own grain in the rain to go carting somebody else’s sheaves (ibid., 429). Without one or other form of binding the population to their domiciles, to the “community,” without a certain lack of civic rights, labour-service as a system would be impossible. It stands to reason that an inevitable consequence of the above-described features of the labour-service system is low productivity of labour: methods of farming based on labour-service can only be the most stereotyped; the labour of the bonded peasant cannot but approximate, in quality, to the labour of the serf.

The combination of the labour-service and the capitalist systems makes the present system of landlord farming extremely similar in its economic organisation to the system that prevailed in our textile industry before the development of large-scale machine industry. There, part of the operations was done by the merchant with his own implements and with wage-workers (fixing the yarn, dyeing and finishing the fabric, etc.), and part with the implements of peasant handicraftsmen who worked for him, using his material. Here, part of the operations is performed by wage-workers, using the employer’s implements, and another part by the labour and the implements of peasants working on the land of others. There, combined with industrial capital was merchant’s capital, and the handicrafts man, besides being weighed down by capital, was burdened with bondage, the operations of the subcontractor, the truck system, etc. Here, likewise, combined with industrial capital is merchant’s and usurer’s capital accompanied by all forms of pay reduction and intensification of the producer’s personal dependence. There, the transitional system lasted for centuries, being based on a primitive hand-labour technique, and was smashed in some three decades by large-scale machine industry; here, labour-service has continued almost since the rise of Rus (the landowners forced the villeins into bondage as far back as the time of Russkaya Pravda[12]), perpetuating routine technique, and has begun rapidly to give way to capitalism only in the post-Reform epoch. In both cases, the old system merely implies stagnation in the forms of production (and, consequently, in all social relations), and the domination of the Asiatic way of life. In both cases, the new, capitalist forms of economy constitute enormous progress, despite all the contradictions inherent in them.


Notes

[1] Statistical Returns for Ryazan Gubernia.—Lenin

[2] Engelhardt, loccit.—Lenin

[3] Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol. V, Pt 1, Moscow, l879, pp, 186-189. We give these references only as an illustration. A mass of similar information is to be found in all the literature on peasant and private-landowner farming.—Lenin

[4] It is noteworthy that the enormous variety of forms of labour-service in Russia, and of forms of land renting with all sorts of supplementary payments, etc., are covered in their entirety by the main forms of pre-capitalist relations in agriculture indicated by Marx in Chapter 47, Vol. III of Capital. In the preceding chapter, we have indicated that there are three main forms: 1) labour-rent, 2) rent in kind, and 3) money rent. It is, therefore quite natural that Marx should want specifically Russian data as illustrations for the section dealing with ground-rent.—Lenin

[5] According to Results of Zemstvo Statistical Investigations (Vol. II), of all the land rented by peasants, 76% is paid for in money; 3 to 7% by labour-service, 13 to 17% with part of the product and, finally, 2 to 3% by a combination of methods.—Lenin

[6] Cf. examples given in footnote to pp. 194-195. When Corvée economy existed, the landlord gave the peasant land so that the peasant might work for him. When land is leased on the labour-service basis, the economic aspect of the matter is obviously the same.—Lenin

[7] The summary of the latest data on land renting (Mr. Karyshev in the book: The Influence of Harvestsetc., Vol 1) has fully confirmed the fact that it is only want that compels peasants to rent land on a half-crop or a labour-service basis, and that the well-to-do peasants prefer to rent land for money (pp. 317-320), as rent in kind is everywhere incomparably more costly for the peasant than in cash (pp. 342-346). All these facts, however, have not prevented Mr. Karyshev from presenting the situation as though “the poor peasant . . . is better able to satisfy his need for food by slightly extending his crop area to other people’s land on a half-crop basis” (321). Such are the fantastic ideas to which a bias in favour of “natural economy” can lead one! It has been proved that the payment of rent in kind is more costly than payment in cash, that it constitutes a sort of truck-system in agriculture, that the peasant is completely ruined and turned into a farm labourer – and yet our economist talks of improving “food”! Half-crop payment for rent, if you please, “helps . . . the needy section of the rural population to obtain” land by renting it (320). Our economist here calls it “help” to obtain land on the worst conditions, on the condition that the peasant is turned into a farm labourer. The question arises: what is the difference between the Russian Narodniks and the Russian agrarians, who always have been and always are ready to render the “needy section of the rural population” this kind of “help”? By the way, here is an interesting example. In Khotin Uyezd, Bessarabia Gubernia, the average daily earnings of a half cropper are estimated at 60 kopeks, and a day labourer in the summer at 35 to 50 kopeks. “It seems that the earnings of a half-cropper areafter allhigher than the wages of a farm labourer ” (344; Mr. Karyshev’s italics). This “after all” is very characteristic. But, unlike the farm labourer, the half-cropper has his farm expenses, has he not? He has to have a horse and harness, has he not? Why was no account taken of these expenses? Whereas the average daily wage in the summer in Bessarabia Gubernia is 40 to 77 kopeks (1883-1887 and 1888-1892) the average wage of a labourer with horse and harness is 124 to 180 kopeks (1883-1887 and 1888-1892). Does it not rather “seem” that the farm labourer “after all” earns more than the half-cropper? The average daily wage of a labourer working without a horse of his own (average for a whole year) is estimated at 67 kopeks for Bessarabia Gubernia in the period 1882-1891 (ibid., 178)—Lenin

[8] After this, what can one do but describe as reactionary the criticism of capitalism made, for instance, by a Narodnik like Prince Vasilchikov? The very word “hired,” he exclaims pathetically, is contradictory, for hire presupposes non-independence, and non-independence rules out “freedom.” This Narodnik-minded landlord forgets, of course, that capitalism substitutes free non-independence for bonded non-independence.—Lenin

[9] An expression employed by Mr. Karyshev, loccit. It is a pity Mr. Karvshev did not draw the conclusion that half-crop renting “helps” the survival of “semi-free” labour!—Lenin

[10] Cultivation of cycles – an enslaving form of labour-service rendered to the landlord by the peasant as rental for land obtained from him in post-Reform Russia. The landlord lent the peasant land or made him a loan in cash or kind for which the peasant undertook to cultivate a “cycle,” using his own implements and draught animals; this meant cultivating one dessiatine of spring crops and one of winter crops, occasionally supplemented by reaping a dessiatine of crops.

[11] Skopshchina – the name given in the southern parts of Russia to the payment of land rent in kind, on terms of bondage, the tenant paying the landowner “s kopny” (from the corn-shock) a portion of the harvest (a half, and sometimes more), and usually fulfilling miscellaneous labour services in addition.

[12] Villeins – feudally dependent peasants in ancient Rus (9th-13th centuries) who performed Corvée service for the princes and other temporal and clerical lords and also paid rent in kind. The feudal lords seized the land of the villeins and compelled them to work on the feudal estates.

Russkaya Pravda (Russian Law ) – the first written codification of laws and princes’ decrees (11th-12th centuries). The statutes of the Russkaya Pravda protected the lives and property of the feudal lord and are indicative of the bitter class struggle between peasants in feudal bondage and their exploiters.

IV. The Decline of the Labour-Service System

The question now arises: in what relation does the labour-service system stand to the post-Reform economy of Russia?

First of all, the growth of commodity economy conflicts with the labour-service system, since the latter is based on natural economy, on unchanging technique, on inseparable ties between the landlord and the peasant. That is why this system is totally impracticable in its complete form, and every advance in the development of commodity economy and commercial agriculture undermines the conditions of its practicability.

Next we must take account of the following circumstance. From the foregoing it follows that labour-service, as practised in present-day landlord farming, should be divided into two types: 1) labour-service that can only be performed by a peasant farmer who owns draught animals and implements (e. g., cultivation of “cycle dessiatine,” ploughing, etc.), and 2) labour-service that can be performed by a rural proletarian who has no implements (for example, reaping, mowing, threshing, etc.). It is obvious that for both peasant and landlord farming, the first and the second type of labour-service are of opposite significance, and that the latter type constitutes a direct transition to capitalism, merging with it by a number of quite imperceptible transitions. In our literature labour-service is usually referred to in general, without this distinction being made. Yet in the process of the elimination of labour-service by capitalism the shifting of the centre of gravity from the first type of labour-service to the second is of enormous importance. Here is an example from Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia : “On the majority of the estates . . . the cultivation of the fields and the crops, i.e., the jobs on the careful fulfilment of which the harvest depends, are done by regular workers, whereas the harvesting, i.e., the job in the performance of which promptness and speed are the prime consideration, is given to neighbouring peasants to be done in return for money lent, or for the use of pasture and other grounds” (Vol. V, Pt. 2, p. 140). On such farms most of the hands are hired on the labour-service basis, but the capitalist system undoubtedly predominates, and the “neighbouring peasants” are at bottom turned into rural workers, similar to the “contract day labourers” in Germany, who also have land and also hire themselves out for a definite part of the year (see above, p. 179, footnote). The enormous drop in the number of horses owned by peasants and the increase in the number of horseless households as a result of the crop failures of the 90s[1] could not but exert great influence in accelerating this process of the elimination of labour-service by the capitalist system.[2]

Finally, one of the most important reasons for the decline of the labour-service system should be sought in the differentiation of the peasantry. The connection between labour-service (of the first type) and the middle group of the peasantry is clear and a priori – as we have already observed above – and can be proved by Zemstvo statistics. For example, the abstract for Zadonsk Uyezd, Voronezh Gubernia, gives returns of the number of farms doing job-work, in the various groups of peasantry. Here are the data in percentages:Number of farms doing job work.

From the above it is clear that participation in job-work is less prevalent in the two extreme groups. The largest percentage of households taking job-work is to be found in the middle group of the peasantry. Since job-work is also frequently assigned in Zemstvo statistical abstracts to the category of “employments” in general, we see here, consequently, an example of the typical “employments” of the middle peasantry – exactly as in the preceding chapter we acquainted ourselves with the typical “employments” of the bottom and top groups of the peasantry. The types of “employments” examined there express the development of capitalism (commercial and industrial establishments and the sale of labour-power), whereas the type of “employments” mentioned here, on the contrary, expresses the backwardness of capitalism and the predominance of labour-service (if we assume that in the sum-total of “job-work” the predominant jobs are such as we have assigned to labour-service of the first type).

The greater the decline of natural economy and of the middle peasantry, the more vigorously is labour-service bound to be eliminated by capitalism. The well-to-do peasants cannot, naturally, serve as a basis for the labour-service system, for it is only dire need that compels the peasant to undertake the worst-paid jobs, jobs that are ruinous for his own farm. But the rural proletariat are equally unsuitable for the labour-service system, though for another reason: having no farm of his own, or possessing a miserable patch of land, the rural proletarian is not tied down to it to the extent that the “middle” peasant is, and, as a consequence, it is far easier for him to go elsewhere and hire himself out on “free” terms, i.e., for higher pay and without bondage at all. Hence the universal dissatisfaction of our agrarians at the peasants leaving for the towns or for “outside employments” generally, hence their complaints that the peasants have “little attachment” (see below, p. ). The development of purely capitalist wage-labour saps the very roots of the labour-service system.[3]

It is supremely important to note that this inseparable connection between the differentiation of the peasantry and the elimination of labour-service by capitalism – a connection so obvious in theory – has long been noted by agricultural writers who have observed the various methods of farming on the landlord estates. In the preface to his collection of articles on Russian agriculture written between 1857 and 1882, Prof. Stebut points out that . . . “In community peasant agriculture the farmer-industrialists are becoming differentiated from the farm labourers. The former, who are becoming cultivators on a big scale, are beginning to employ farm labourers and usually cease to take job-work, unless they find it absolutely necessary to enlarge their crop area somewhat, or to obtain the use of pasture land, which in most cases cannot be done except by taking job-work; the latter, on the other hand, cannot take any job-work for lack of horses. Hence the obvious necessity for a transitionand a speedy transition, to farming based on wage-labour, since the peasants who still take job-work by the dessiatine are, due to the feeble state of their horses and to the multitude of jobs they undertake, beginning to turn out work that is bad from the viewpoint both of quality and of promptness of fulfilment” (p. 20).

References to the fact that the ruin of the peasantry is leading to the elimination of labour-service by capitalism are also made in current Zemstvo statistical material. In Orel Gubernia, for example, it has been observed that the drop in grain prices ruined many tenants and that the land owners were compelled to increase the area cultivated on capitalist lines. “Simultaneously with the expansion of the area cultivated by the landlords, we observe everywhere a tendency to replace job-work by the labour of regular farm hands and to do away with the use of peasants’ implements . . . a tendency to improve the cultivation of the soil by the introduction of up-to-date implements . . . to change the system of farming, to introduce grass crops, to expand and improve livestock farming and to make it profitable” (Agricultural Survey of Orel Gubernia for 1887-88, pp. 124-126. Quoted from P. Struve’s Critical Remarks, pp. 242-244). In Poltava Gubernia, in 1890, when grain prices were low, there was observed “a diminution in peasant renting of land . . . throughout the gubernia. . . . Correspondingly, in many places, despite the severe drop in grain prices, there was an increase in the area cultivated by landowners employing regular labour” (The Influence of Harvestsetc., I, 304). In Tambov Gubernia, a considerable increase has been observed in the prices paid for work done by horses: for the three years 1892-1894, these prices were 25 to 30% higher than for the three years 1889-1891 (Novoye Slovo, 1895, No. 3, p. 187). This rise in the cost of work done by horses, a natural result of the decline in the number of peasant horses, cannot but entail the ousting of labour-service by the capitalist system.

It is by no means our intention, of course, to use these separate references in order to prove that labour-service is being eliminated by capitalism: no complete statistics on this subject are available. We are merely using them to illustrate the point that there is a connection between the differentiation of the peasantry and the elimination of labour-service by capitalism. General and mass-scale data, which prove irrefutably that this elimination is going on, relate to the employment of machinery in agriculture and to the employment of labour freely hired. But before passing to these data, we must first deal with the views of the Narodnik economists on contemporary farming by private landowners in Russia.


Notes

[1] The horse census of 1893-1894 in 48 gubernias revealed a drop of 9.6% in the number of horses possessed by all horse owners, and a drop of 28,321 in the number of horse owners. In Tambov, Voronezh, Kursk, Ryazan, Orel, Tula and Nizhni-Novgorod gubernias, the decline in the number of horses between 1888 and 1893 was 21.2%. In seven other gubernias of the black-earth belt the decline between 1891 and 1893 was 17%. In 38 gubernias of European Russia in 1888-1891 there were 7,922 260 peasant households, of which 5,736,436 owned horses; in 1893-1894, there were in these gubernias 8,288,987 households, of which 5,647,233 owned horses. Consequently, the number of horse-owning households dropped by 89,000, while the number of horseless increased by 456,000 The percentage of horseless households rose from 27.6% to 31.9% (Statistics of the Russian Empire, XXXVII. St. Petersburg, 1896.) Above we have shown that in 48 gubernias of European Russia the number of horseless households rose from 2.8 million in 1888-1891 to 3.2 million in 1896-1900 – i.e., from 27.3% to 29.2%. In four southern gubernias (Bessarabia, Ekaterinoslav, Taurida, Kherson), the number of horseless households rose from 305,800 in 1896 to 341,600 in 1904, i.e., from 34.7% to 36.4% (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[2] Cf. also S. A. Korolenko, Hired Labouretc., pp. 46-47, where, on the basis of the horse censuses of 1882 and 1888, examples are cited of how the drop in the number of horses possessed by peasants is accompanied by an increase in the number of horses possessed by private landowners.—Lenin

[3] Here is a particularly striking example. Zemstvo statisticians explain the comparative incidence of money renting and renting in kind in various parts of Bakhmut Uyezd, Ekaterinoslav Gubernia, in the following way:

“Money renting is most widespread . . . in the coal and salt-mining districts, and least widespread in the steppe and purely agricultural area The peasants, in general, are not eager to go out to work for others, and are particularly reluctant to accept irksome and badly paid work on private estates. Work in the coal mines, in ore-mining and in metallurgy generally, is arduous and injurious to the worker’s health, but, generally speaking, it is better paid, and attracts the worker with the prospect of monthly or weekly wages in cash, as he does not usually get money when he works on the landlord’s estate for the reason that there he is either working in payment of the ‘bit’ of land he has rented, or of straw or grain he has borrowed, or has managed to get his pay in advance to cover his ordinary needs, etc.

“All this induces the worker to avoid working on estates, and he does avoid doing so when there is an opportunity of earning money in some place other than the landlord’s ‘estate.’ And this opportunity occurs mostly where there are many mines, at which the workers are paid ‘good’ money. With the ‘pence’ the peasant earns in the mines, he can rent land, without having to pledge himself to work on an estate, and in this way renting for money establishes its sway” (quoted from Results of Zemstw Statistical Investigations, Vol. II, p. 265). In the steppe, non-industrial divisions of the uyezd, on the other hand, land renting on a skopshchina and a labour-service basis establishes its sway.

Thus, to escape labour-service the peasant is ready to flee even to the mines! Prompt payment in cash, the impersonal form of hire and regular working hours “attract” the worker to such an extent that he even prefers the mines underground to agriculture, the agriculture about which our Narodniks wax so idyllic. The whole point is that the peasant knows from bitter experience the real value of the labour-service idealised by the agrarians and the Narodniks, and he knows how much better are purely capitalist relations.—Lenin

V. The Narodnik Attitude to the Problem

The point that the labour-service system is simply a survival of Corvée economy is not denied even by the Narodniks. On the contrary, it is admitted – although in an insufficiently general form – by Mr. N.–on (Sketches, § IX) and by Mr. V. V. (particularly explicitly in his article “Our Peasant Farming and Agronomy,” in Otechestvenniye Zapiski, 1882, No. 8-9). The more astonishing is it that the Narodniks do their utmost to avoid admitting the clear and simple fact that the present system of private-landowner farming is a combination of the labour-service and the capitalist systems, and that, consequently, the more developed the former, the weaker the latter, and vice versa. They avoid analysing the relation of each of these systems to the productivity of labour, to the payment of the worker’s labour, to the basic features of the post-Reform economy of Russia, etc. To put the question on this basis, on the basis of recognising the “change” actually taking place, meant to admit the inevitability of the progressive elimination of labour-service by capitalism. To avoid drawing that conclusion, the Narodniks did not stop even at idealising the labour-service system. This monstrous idealisation is the basic feature of the Narodnik views on the evolution of landlord economy. Mr. V. V. even went so far as to write that “the people . . . are the victors in the struggle for the form of agricultural technique, although their victory has resulted in their greater ruin” (The Destiny of Capitalism, p. 288). To admit such a “victory” is more eloquent than to admit defeat! Mr. N.–on discerned in the allotment of land to the peasants under Corvée and under labour-service economy the “principle” “of linking the producer and the means of production,” but he forgot the tiny circumstance that this allotting of land served as a means of guaranteeing a supply of labour for the landlords. As we have indicated, Marx, in describing pre-capitalist systems of agriculture, analysed all the forms of economic relations that, in general, exist in Russia, and clearly emphasised the necessity of small-scale production and of a tie between the peasant and the land in the case of both labour-rent, rent in kind and money rent. But could it ever have entered his head to elevate this allotting of land to the dependent peasant into a “principle” of an eternal tie between the producer and the means of production? Did he forget even for a moment that this tie between the producer and the means of production was the source of, and condition for, medieval exploitation, constituted the basis for technical and social stagnation and necessarily required all sorts of “other than economic, pressure”?

An exactly similar idealisation of labour-service and of bondage is displayed by Messrs. Orlov and Kablukov in Moscow Zemstvo Returns when they quote as a model the farm of a certain Mme. Kostinskaya in Podolsk Uyezd (see Vol. V, Pt. I, pp. 175-176, and Vol. II, pp. 59-62, Sect. II). In Mr. Kablukov’s opinion, this farm proves “that it is possible to arrange matters in such a way as to preclude (sic !!) such an antagonism” (i.e., antagonism of interests between landlord and peasant farming) “and assist in achieving a flourishing (sic !) condition of both peasant and private farming” (Vol. V, Pt. I, pp. 175-176). It seems, then, that the flourishing condition of the peasants consists in labour-service and bondage. They have no pastures or cattle runs (Vol. II, pp. 60-61), – which does not prevent Messrs. the Narodniks from regarding them as “sound” peasants – and rent these grounds, for which they pay the proprietress in work, performing “all the jobs on her estate … thoroughly, punctually and promptly.”[1]

That is the limit in idealising an economic system which is a direct survival of Corvée service!

The methods employed in all such Narodnik reasoning are very simple; we have only to forget that the allotment of land to the peasant is one of the conditions of Corvée or labour-service economy, we have only to omit the circumstance that this allegedly “independent” cultivator must render labour-rent, rent in kind or money rent, – and we get the “pure” idea of “the tie between the producer and the means of production.” But the actual relation between capitalism and pre-capitalist forms of exploitation does not change in the least from the fact of simply omitting these forms.[2]

Let us deal somewhat with another, very curious, argument of Mr. Kablukov. We have seen that he idealises labour-service; but it is remarkable that when he, as a statistician, describes real types of purely capitalist farms in Moscow Gubernia, his description, in spite of himself, and in a distorted way, is a reflection of the very facts that prove the progressive nature of capitalism in Russian agriculture. We beg the reader’s attention, and apologise in advance for our rather lengthy quotations.

Besides the old types of farms employing hired labour, there is to be found in Moscow Gubernia

“a new, recent, emergent type of farm that has totally broken with all tradition and regards things simply, in the way people regard every industry that is to serve as a source of income. Agriculture in this case is not regarded as . . . a lord’s hobby, as an occupation anybody may engage in. . . . No, here the necessity is recognised of having . . . special knowledge. . . . The basis of calculation” (as to the organisation of production) “is the same as in all other forms of production” (Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol. V, Pt. I, pp. 185-186).

Mr. Kablukov does not notice that this description of the new type of farm which has only “recently emerged,” in the 70s, proves precisely the progressive nature of capitalism in agriculture. It was capitalism that first turned agriculture from a “lord’s hobby” into ordinary industry, it was capitalism that first compelled people “to regard things simply,” “to break with tradition” and to equip themselves with “special knowledge.” Before capitalism this was both unnecessary and impossible, because the farms of the different manors, village communities and peasant families were “self-sufficing,” were not dependent on other farms, and no power on earth could drag them out of their age-long stagnation. Capitalism was the force which created (through the medium of the market) the social accounting of the output of the individual producers, and compelled them to reckon with the demands of social development. It is this that constitutes the progressive role of capitalism in agriculture in all European countries.

Listen now to the way Mr. Kablukov describes our purely capitalist farms:

“Only then is account taken of labour-power as a necessary factor in acting upon nature; without this factor all organisation of the landlord’s estate will be fruitless. Thus, with all appreciation of its significance, this element, at the same time, is not regarded as an independent source of income, as was the case under serfdom, or as is the case now in those instances when what is made the basis of the estate’s profitability is not the product of labour, the obtaining of which is the direct purpose of its application, not the striving to apply this labour to the production of its more valuable products and thereby to enjoy its results, but the striving to reduce the share of the product which the worker gets for himself, the desire to reduce the cost of labour to the master as near as possible to zero” (p. 186). Reference is made to farming based on labour in return for the use of cut-off lands. “Under these circumstances, for a farm to be profitable the owner requires neither knowledge nor special qualities. All that is obtained from this labour represents clear income for the owner or at all events such income as is obtained almost without any expenditure of circulating capital. But such farming cannot, of course, be well conducted and cannot be called farming in the strict sense of the term, any more than the leasing of all pasture and other grounds can be called such; there is no economic organisation here” (186). And quoting examples of the leasing of cut-off lands in return for labour-service, the author concludes: “The main emphasis in the farm economy, the manner of extracting an income from the soil, is rooted in the exertion of influence upon the worker rather than upon matter and its forces” (189).

This argument is an extremely interesting example of how distorted is the picture of actual facts when viewed from the angle of a wrong theory. Mr. Kablukov confuses production with the social system of production. Under every social system production consists in “the exertion of influence” upon matter and its forces. Under every social system only the surplus product can be the landowner’s source of “income.” In both respects the labour-service system of economy is fully identical with the capitalist system, Mr. Kablukov’s opinion notwithstanding. The real difference between them is that labour-service necessarily presupposes the lowest productivity of labour; hence, no possibility exists for increasing income by increasing the surplus product; that can only be done by one means, namely, by employing all sorts of bonded forms of hire. Under purely capitalist economy, on the contrary, bonded forms of hire must go by the board, for the proletarian, not being tied to the land, is useless as an object of bondage; – to raise the productivity of labour becomes not only possible, but also necessary as the sole means of increasing income and with standing severe competition. Thus, the description of our purely capitalist farms, given by the very Mr. Kablukov who so zealously tried to idealise labour-service, fully confirms the fact that Russian capitalism is creating the social conditions which necessarily demand the rationalisation of agriculture and the abolition of bondage, whereas labour-service, on the contrary, precludes the possibility of rationalising agriculture and perpetuates technical stagnation and the producer’s condition of bondage. Nothing could be more frivolous than the customary Narodnik exultation over the fact that capitalism in our agriculture is weak. So much the worse if it is weak, for it only indicates the strength of pre-capitalist forms of exploitation, which are incomparably more burdensome to the producer.


Notes

[1] Cf. Volgin, opcit., pp 280-281.—Lenin

[2] “It is said that the spread of labour-service renting in place of money renting . . . is a retrogressive fact. But do we say that it is desirable or beneficial? We . . . have never asserted that it is progressive,” stated Mr. Chuprov on behalf of all the authors of The Influence of Harvestsetc. (see Verbatim Report of the Debates in the F E. S. of March 1 and 2, 1897,[3] p. 38) This statement is untrue even formally, for Mr. Karyshev (see above) described labour-service as “help” to the rural population. And in substance this statement absolutely contradicts the actual content of all the Narodnik theories with their idealisation of labour-service. It is to the great credit of Messrs. T.-Baranovsky and Struve that they have correctly presented the question (1897) of the significance of low grain prices: the criterion for appraising them must be whether such prices promote the elimination of labour-service by capitalism or not. Such a question is obviously one of fact, and in answering it we differ somewhat from the writers mentioned. On the basis of the data given in the text (see particularly § VII of this chapter and also Chapter IV ), we consider it possible and even probable that the period of low grain prices will be marked by a no less, if not more, rapid elimination of labour-service by capitalism than was the preceding historical period of high grain prices.—Lenin

[3] The Verbatim Report of the Debates of March 1 and 2 appeared in the Transactions of the Free Economic Society, 1897, No. 4.

VI. The Story of Engelhardt’s Farm

Quite a special place among the Narodniks is held by Engelhardt. To criticise his appraisal of labour-service and capitalism would mean to repeat what has already been said in the preceding section. We think it far more expedient to set against Engelhardt’s Narodnik views the story of Engelhardt’s own farm. Such a critique will also be of positive value, because the evolution of this farm reflects in miniature, as it were, the main features of the evolution of all private-landowner farming in post-Reform Russia.

When Engelhardt settled down on the farm it was based on the traditional labour-service and bondage, which preclude “proper farming” (Letters from the Countryside, 559). Labour-service was the cause of the poor condition of cattle raising, of the poor cultivation of the soil and of the monotonous persistence of obsolete systems of field cultivation (118). “I saw that it was impossible . . . to go on farming in the old way” (118). The competition of grain from the steppe regions was bringing down prices and making farming unprofitable (p. 83).[1] We would observe that from the very outset, along with the labour-service system a certain part was played on the farm by the capitalist system: wage-workers, although very few in number, were also employed on the farm when it was run in the old way (the cowman and others), and Engelhardt asserts that the wages of his farm labourer (drawn from among allotment-holding peasants) were “fabulously low” (11), low because “it was impossible to give more ” considering that cattle-raising was in a bad way. The low productivity of labour made it impossible to raise wages. Thus, the starting-point on Engelhardt’s farm was the features, familiar to us, of all Russian farms: labour-service, bondage, the very lowest productivity of labour, “incredibly low” payment of labour, routine farming.

What changes did Engelhardt introduce into this state of things? He began to sow flax – a commercial and industrial crop requiring the employment of labour on a big scale. The commercial and capitalist character of the cultivation was accordingly enhanced. But how was he to obtain labour? Engelhardt tried at first to employ in the new (commercial) cultivation the old system, that of labour-service. Nothing came of that; the work was badly done, the “dessiatine” proved to be beyond the strength of the peasants, who resisted with all their might “gang work” and bonded terms of labour. “The system had to be changed. Meanwhile I got on my feet. I acquired my own horses, harness, carts, ploughs and harrows and was already in a position to run the farm with regular workers. I began to produce flax, partly with my regular workers and partly on a job basis, hiring labourers for definite jobs” (218). Thus, the transition to the new system of farming and to commercial cultivation demanded the replacement of labour-service by the capitalist system. To increase productivity of labour, Engelhardt resorted to the well-tried method of capitalist production: piece work. Women were engaged to work by the stack, or the pood, and Engelhardt (not without some na\”ive triumph) tells of the success of this system; the cost of cultivation increased (from 25 rubles per dess. to 35 rubles), but profit also increased by 10 to 20 rubles; the women’s productivity of labour increased following the change from bonded to hired labour (from half a pood per night to a whole pood) and the earnings of the women increased to 30-50 kopeks per day (“unprecedented in our parts”). The local textile merchant was full of praise for Engelhardt: “Your flax has given a great fillip to trade” (219).

Applied at first to the cultivation of the commercial crop, hired labour gradually began to embrace other agricultural operations. One of the first operations to be withdrawn by capital from the labour-service system was threshing. It is well known that on all farms run by private landowners this work is mostly performed on capitalist lines. “Part of the land,” wrote Engelhardt, “I lease to peasants for cultivation in cycles, for otherwise I would find it hard to cope with the reaping of the rye” (211). Thus, labour-service functions as a direct transition to capitalism, by ensuring the farmer a supply of day labourers in the busiest season. At first cycle-cultivation included threshing, but here, too, the poor quality of the work done compelled the farmer to resort to hired labour. Land began to be leased for cycle-cultivation without threshing, which latter was done partly by farm labourers and partly, through the medium of a contractor, by a team of wage-workers, at piece rates. Here, too, the results of replacing labour-service by the capitalist system were: 1) an increase in the productivity of labour: formerly 16 people threshed 900 sheaves per day, now 8 did 1,100 sheaves; 2) an increase in the yield; 3) a reduction in threshing time; 4) an increase in the worker’s earnings; 5) an increase in the farmer’s profits (212).

Further, the capitalist system also embraced tillage operations. Iron ploughs were introduced in place of the old wooden ones, and the work passed from the bound peasant to the farm labourer. Engelhardt triumphantly reports the success of his innovation, the diligence of the labourers, and quite justly shows that the customary accusations flung at the labourer of being lazy and dishonest are due to the “brand of serfdom” and to bonded labour “for the lord,” and that the new organisation of farming also demands something of the farmer: a display of enterprise, a knowledge of people and ability to handle them, a knowledge of the job and its scope, acquaintance with the technical and commercial aspects of agriculture – i.e., qualities that were not and could not be possessed by the Oblomovs[2] of the feudal or bondage suffering countryside. The various changes in the technique of agriculture are inseparably connected with one another and inevitably lead to the transformation of its economy. “For example, let us suppose you introduce the cultivation of flax and clover – that will immediately necessitate numerous other changes, and if these are not made, the business will not run smoothly. The ploughing implements will have to be changed and iron ploughs substituted for wooden ones, iron harrows for wooden ones, and this in turn will require a different type of horse, a different type of labourer, a different system of farming as regards the hire of labourers, etc.” (154-155).

The change in the technique of agriculture thus proved to be inseparably bound up with the elimination of labour-service by capitalism. Particularly interesting in this regard is the gradualness with which this elimination takes place: the system of farming, as hitherto, combines labour-service and capitalism, but the main weight gradually shifts from the former to the latter. Here is a description of how Engelhardt’s reorganised farm operated:

“Nowadays I have much work to do, because I have changed the whole system of farming. A considerable part of the work is done by regular labourers and day labourers. The work is extremely varied. I clear brushwood for wheat growing, uproot birches for flax growing. I have rented meadow land by the Dnieper, and have sown clover, lots of rye and much flax. I need an enormous number of hands. To secure them, you have to make arrangements in good time, for when the busy season starts everybody will be occupied either at home or on other farms. This recruitment of labour is done by advancing money or grain for work to be done” (pp.116-117).

Labour-service and bondage remained, consequently, even on a “properly” conducted farm; but, firstly, they now occupied a subordinate position as compared with free hire, and, secondly, the very labour-service underwent a change; it was mainly the second type of labour-service which remained, that implying the labour not of peasant farmers, but of regular labourers and agricultural day labourers.

Thus, Engelhardt’s own farm is better than all arguments in refuting Engelhardt’s Narodnik theories. He set out to farm on rational lines, but was unable to do so, under the given social and economic conditions, except by organising the farm on the basis of employing farm labourers. The raising of the technical level of agriculture and the supplanting of labour-service by capitalism proceeded hand in hand on this farm, as it does on all private-landowner farms in general in Russia. This process is most clearly reflected in the employment of machinery in Russian agriculture.


Notes

[1] This fact that the competition of cheap grain serves as the motive for change in technique and, consequently, for replacing labour-service by free hire, deserves special attention. The competition of grain from the steppe regions was also felt even in the years of high grain prices; the period of low prices, however, lends this competition particular force.—Lenin

[2] Oblomov – a type of landlord who lacked will-power, did nothing and was extremely lazy. A character in Goncharov’s novel of that name.

VII. The Employment of Machinery in Agriculture

The post-Reform epoch is divided into four periods as regards the development of agricultural machinery production and the employment of machinery in agriculture.[1] The first period covers the years immediately preceding the peasant Reform and the years immediately following it. The landlords at first rushed to purchase foreign machinery so as to get along without the “unpaid” labour of the serfs and to avoid the difficulties connected with the hiring of free workers. This attempt ended, of course, in failure; the fever soon died down, and beginning with 1863-1864 the demand for foreign machinery dropped. The end of the 70s saw the beginning of the second period, which continued until 1885. It was marked by an extremely steady and extremely rapid increase in machinery imports from abroad; home production also grew steadily, but more slowly than imports. From 1881 to 1884 there was a particularly rapid increase in imports of agricultural machinery, due partly to the abolition, in 1881, of the duty-free import of pig-iron and cast-iron for the needs of factories producing agricultural machinery. The third period extended from 1885 to the beginning of the 90s. Agricultural machinery, hitherto imported duty-free, now had an import duty imposed (of 50 kopeks gold per pood) . The high duty caused an enormous drop in machinery imports, while home production developed slowly owing to the agricultural crisis which set in at that time. Finally, the beginning of the 90s evidently saw the opening of a fourth period, marked by a fresh rise in the import of agricultural machinery, and by a particularly rapid increase of its home production.

Let us cite statistics to illustrate these points. Average annual imports of agricultural machinery at various periods were as follows:Average annual imports of agricultural machinery.

There are, unfortunately, no such complete and precise data on the production of agricultural machinery and implements in Russia. The unsatisfactory state of our factory and-works statistics, the confusing of the production of machinery in general with the production of specifically agricultural machinery, and the absence of any firmly established rules for distinguishing between “factory” and “handicraft” production of agricultural machinery – all this prevents a complete picture of the development of agricultural machinery production in Russia being obtained. Combining all the data available from the above-mentioned sources, we get the following picture of the development of agricultural machinery production in Russia:Production, imports and employment of agricultural machinery and implements.

These data show the vigorousness of the process in which primitive agricultural implements are giving way to improved ones (and, consequently, primitive forms of farming to capitalism). In 18 years the employment of agricultural machinery increased more than 3.5-fold, and this was mainly because of the expansion of home production, which more than quadrupled. Noteworthy, too, was the shifting of the main centre of such production from the Vistula and Baltic gubernias to the south-Russian steppe gubernias. Whereas in the 70s the main centre of agricultural capitalism in Russia was the western outer gubernias, in the 1890s still more outstanding areas of agricultural capitalism were created in the purely Russian gubernias.[2]

It is necessary to add, regarding the data just cited, that although they are based on official (and, as far as we know, the only) information on the subject under examination, they are far from complete and are not fully comparable for the different years. For the years 1876-1879 returns are available that were specially compiled for the 1882 exhibition; they are the most comprehensive, covering not only “factory” but also “handicraft” production of agricultural implements; it was estimated that in 1876-1879 there were, on the average, 340 establishments in European Russia and the Kingdom of Poland, whereas according to “factory” statistical data there were in 1879 not more than 66 factories in European Russia producing agricultural machinery and implements (computed from Orlov’s Directory of Factories and Works for 1879). The enormous difference in these figures is explained by the fact that of the 340 establishments less than one-third (100) were counted as possessing steam power, and more than half (196) as being operated by hand labour; 236 establishments of the 340 had no foundries of their own and had their castings made outside (Historico-Statistical Surveyloccit.). The data for 1890 and 1894, on the other hand, are from Collections of Data on Factory Industry in Russia (published by Department of Commerce and Industry).[3] These data do not fully cover even the “factory” production of agricultural machinery and implements; for example, in 1890, according to the Collection, there were in European Russia 149 works engaged in this industry, whereas Orlov’s Directory mentions more than 163 works producing agricultural machinery and implements; in 1894, according to the first-mentioned returns, there were in European Russia 164 works of this kind (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 21, p. 544), but according to the List of Factories and Works there were in 1894-95 over 173 factories producing agricultural machinery and implements. As for the small scale, “handicraft” production of agricultural machinery and implements, this is not included in these data at all.[4] That is why there can be no doubt that the data for 1890 and 1894 greatly understate the actual facts; this is confirmed by the opinion of experts, who considered that in the beginning of the 1890s agricultural machinery and implements were manufactured in Russia to a sum of about 10 million rubles (Agriculture and Forestry, 359), and in 1895 to a sum of nearly 20 million rubles (Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 51).

Let us quote somewhat more detailed data on the types and quantity of agricultural machinery and implements manufactured in Russia. It is considered that in 1876 there were produced 25,835 implements; in 1877 – 29,590; in 1878 – 35,226; in 1879 – 47,892 agricultural machines and implements. How far these figures are exceeded at the present time may be seen from the following: in 1879 about 14,500 iron ploughs were manufactured, and in 1894 – 75,500 (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 21). “Whereas five years ago the problem of the measures to be taken to bring about the wider use of iron ploughs on peasant farms was one awaiting solution, today it has solved itself. It is no longer a rarity for a peasant to buy an iron plough; it has become a common thing, and the number of iron ploughs now acquired by peasants every year runs into thousands.”[5] The mass of primitive agricultural implements employed in Russia still leaves a wide field for the production and sale of iron ploughs.[6] The progress made in the use of ploughs has even raised the issue of the employment of electricity. According to a report in the Torgovo-Promyshlennaya Gazeta [Commercial and Industrial News ] (1902, No. 6), at the Second Congress of Electrical Engineers “considerable interest was aroused by a paper read by V. A. Rzhevsky on ‘Electricity in Agriculture.’” The lecturer illustrated by means of some excellent drawings the tillage of fields in Germany with the aid of electric ploughs, and, from the plan and estimates he had drawn up at a landowner’s request for his estate in one of 3 the southern gubernias, cited figures showing the economies to be effected by this method of tilling the land. According to this plan, it was proposed to plough 540 dess. annually, and a part of this twice a year. The depth of furrow was to be from 4 1/2 to 5 vershoks.[7] The soil was pure black earth. In addition to ploughs, the plan provided for machinery for other field-work, and also for a threshing machine and a mill, the latter of 25 h.p., calculated to operate 2,000 hours per annum. The cost of completely equipping the estate, including six versts of overhead cable of 50-mm. thickness, was estimated at 41,000 rubles. The cost of ploughing one dessiatine would be 7 rubles 40 kopeks if the mill were put up, and 8 rubles 70 kopeks with no mill. It was shown that at the local costs of labour, draught animals, etc., the use of electrical equipment would in the first case effect a saving of 1,013 rubles, while in the second case, less power being used without a mill, the saving would be 966 rubles.

No such sharp change is to be noted in the output of threshing and winnowing machines, because their production was relatively well established long ago.[8] In fact, a special centre for the “handicraft” production of these machines was established in the town of Sapozhok, Ryazan Gubernia, and the surrounding villages, and the local members of the peasant bourgeoisie made plenty of money at this “industry” (cf. Reports and Investigations, I, pp. 208-210). A particularly rapid expansion is observed in the production of reaping machines. In 1879, about 780 of these machines were produced; in 1893 it was estimated that 7,000 to 8,000 were sold a year, and in 1894-95 about 27,000. In 1895, for example, the works belonging to J. Greaves in the town of Berdyansk, Taurida Gubernia, “the largest works in Europe in this line of production” (Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 51) i.e., in the production of reaping machines, turned out 4,464 reapers. Among the peasants in Taurida Gubernia reaping machines have become so widespread that a special occupation has arisen, namely, the mechanical reaping of other people’s grain.[9]

Similar data are available for other, less widespread, agricultural implements. Broadcast seeders, for example, are now being turned out at dozens of works, and the more perfect row drills, which were produced at only two works in 1893 (Agriculture and Forestry, 360), are now turned out at seven works (Productive Forces, I, 51), whose output has again a particularly wide sale in the south of Russia. Machinery is employed in all branches of agriculture and in all operations connected with the production of some kinds of produce: in special reviews reference is made to the extended use of winnowing machines, seed-sorters, seed-cleaners (trieurs), seed-driers, hay presses, flax-scutchers, etc. In the Addendum to the Report on Agriculture for 1898, published by the Pskov Gubernia Zemstvo Administration (Severny Kurier [Northern Courier ], 1899, No. 32), the in creasing use of machinery is noted, particularly of flax scutchers, in connection with the transition from flax production for home use to that for commercial purposes. There is an increase in the number of iron ploughs. Reference is made to the influence of migration in augmenting the number of agricultural machines and in raising wages. In Stavropol Gubernia (ibid., No. 33), agricultural machinery is being employed on an increasing scale in connection with the growing immigration into this gubernia. In 1882, there were 908 machines: in 1891-1893, an average of 29,275; in 1894-1896, an average of 54,874; and in 1895, as many as 64,000 agricultural implements and machines.

The growing employment of machines naturally gives rise to a demand for engines: along with steam-engines, “oil engines have latterly begun to spread rapidly on our farms” (Productive Forces, I, 56), and although the first engine of this type appeared abroad only seven years ago, there are already 7 factories in Russia manufacturing them. In Kherson Gubernia in the 70s only 134 steam-engines were registered in agriculture (Material for the Statistics of Steam-Engines in the Russian Empire, St. Petersburg, 1882), and in 1881 about 500 (Historico-Statistical Survey, Vol. II, section on agricultural implements). In 1884-1886, in three uyezds of the gubernia (out of six), 435 steam threshing machines were registered. “At the present time (1895) there must be at least twice as many” (Tezyakov, Agricultural Workers and the Organisation of Sanitary Supervision over Themin Kherson Gubernia, Kherson, 1896, p. 71). The Vestnik Finansov (1897, No. 21) states that in Kherson Gubernia, “there are about 1,150 steam-threshers, and in the Kuban Region the number is about the same, etc. . . . Latterly the acquisition of steam-threshers has assumed an industrial character. . . . There have been cases of a five thousand-ruble threshing machine with steam-engine fully covering its cost in two or three good harvest years, and of the owner immediately getting another on the same terms. Thus, 5 and even 10 such machines are often to be met with on small farms in the Kuban Region. There they have become an essential accessory of every farm that is at all well organised.” “Generally speaking, in the south of Russia today, more than ten thousand steam-engines are in use for agricultural purposes” (Productive Forces, IX, 151).[10]

If we remember that the number of steam-engines in use in agriculture throughout European Russia in 1875 1878 was only 1,351 and that in 1901, according to incomplete returns (Collection of Factory Inspectors’ Reports for 1903 ), the number was 12,091, in 1902 – 14,609, in 1903 – 16,021 and in 1904 – 17,287, the gigantic revolution brought about by capitalism in agriculture in this country during the last two or three decades will be clear to us. Great service in accelerating this process has been rendered by the Zemstvos. By the beginning of 1897, Zemstvo agricultural machinery and implement depots “existed under the auspices of 11 gubernia and 203 uyezd Zemstvo boards, with a total working capital of about a million rubles” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 21). In Poltava Gubernia, the turnover of the Zemstvo depots increased from 22,600 rubles in 1890 to 94,900 rubles in 1892 and 210,100 rubles in 1895. In the six years, 12,600 iron ploughs, 500 winnowing machines and seed-sorters, 300 reaping machines, and 200 horse-threshers were sold. “The principal buyers of implements at the Zemstvo depots are Cossacks and peasants; they account for 70% of the total number of iron ploughs and horse-threshers sold. The purchasers of seeding and reaping machines were mainly landowners, and large ones at that, possessing over 100 dessiatines” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 4).

According to the report of the Ekaterinoslav Gubernia Zemstvo Board for 1895, “the use of improved agricultural implements in the gubernia is spreading very rapidly.” For example, in the Verkhne-Dnieper Uyezd there were:Numbers of improved agricultural implements.

According to the data of the Moscow Gubernia Zemstvo Board, peasants in Moscow Gubernia in 1895 owned 41,210 iron ploughs; 20.2% of all householders owned such ploughs (Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 31). In Tver Gubernia, according to a special record made in 1896, there were 51,266 iron ploughs, owned by 16.5% of the total number of householders. In Tver Uyezd there were only 290 iron ploughs in 1890, and 5,581 in 1896 (Statistical Returns for Tver Gubernia, Vol. XIII, Pt. 2, pp. 91, 94). One can judge, therefore, how rapid is the consolidation and improvement of the farms of the peasant bourgeoisie.


Notes

[1] See Historico-Statistical Survey of Russian Industry, Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1883 (published for 1882 exhibition), article by V. Chernyayev: “Agricultural Machinery Production.” – Ditto, Vol. II, St. Petersburg, 1886, in group IX. – Agriculture and Forestry in Russia (St. Petersburg, 1893, published for Chicago Exhibition), article by V. Chernyayev: “Agricultural Implements and Machines.” – Productive Forces of Russia (St. Petersburg, 1896, published for 1896 exhibition), article by Mr. Lenin: “Agricultural Implements and Machines” (sect. 1). – Vestnik Finansov [Financial Messenger ], 1896, No 51 and 1897 No. 21. – V. Raspopin, article cited. Only the last mentioned article puts the question on a political-economic basis; all the previous ones were written by agricultural experts.—Lenin

[2] To make possible a judgment of the way the situation has changed in recent years, we quote data from the Yearbook of Russia (published by Central Statistical Committee, St. Petersburg, 1906), for 1900-1903. The value of the output of agricultural machinery in the Empire is estimated at 12,058,000 rubles, and of imports in 1902 at 15,240,000 rubles, and in 1903 at 20,615,000 rubles. (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[3] In the Vestnik Finansov, No. 21, for 1897, comparative data are given for 1888-1894, but their source is not given specifically.—Lenin

[4] The total number of workshops engaged in the manufacture and repair of agricultural implements was given. for 1864 as 64; for 1871 as 112; for 1874 as 203; for 1879 as 340; for 1885 as 435; for 1892 as 400; and for 1895 as approximately 400 (Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, p. 358, and Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 51). The Collections, on the other hand, estimated that in 1888-1894 there were only from 157 to 217 factories of this kind (average of 183 for the 7 years). Here is an example illustrating the ratio of “factory” production of agricultural machinery to “handicraft” production: it was estimated that in Perm Gubernia in 1894 there were only 4 “factories,” with a combined output of 28,000 rubles, whereas for this branch of industry the 1894-95 census showed 94 “handicraft establishments,” with a combined output of 50,000 rubles, and what is more, the number of “handicraft” establishments included such as employed 6 wage-workers and had an output of over 8,000 rubles. (A Sketch of the Condition of Handicraft Industry in Perm Gubernia, Perm, 1896.)—Lenin

[5] Reports and Investigations of Handicraft Industry in Russia. Published by Ministry of State Properties, Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1892, p. 202. The production of ploughs by peasants is simultaneously declining, being forced out by factory production.—Lenin

[6] Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, p. 360.—Lenin

[7] 7.8 to 8.7 inches. –Ed.—Lenin

[8] In 1879 about 4,500 threshing machines were produced, and in 1894-1895 about 3,500. The latter figure, however, does not include output by handicraft industry.—Lenin

[9] In 1893, for example, “700 peasants gathered with their machines on the Uspensky estate belonging to Falz-Fein (who owned 200,000 dessiatines) and offered their services, but half of them went away empty-handed, as only 350 were engaged” (Shakhovskoi, Agricultural Outside Employments, Moscow, 1896, p. 161). In the other steppe gubernias, however, especially the Transvolga gubernias, reaping machines are not widely used as yet. Still, in recent years these gubernias too have been trying very hard to overtake Novorossia. Thus, the Syzran-Vyazma railway carried agricultural machinery, traction-engines and parts weighing 75,000 poods in 1890, 62,000 poods in 1891, 88,000 poods in 1892, 120,000 poods in 1893, and 212,000 poods in 1894; in other words, in a matter of five years the quantities carried almost trebled. Ukholovo railway station dispatched agricultural machinery of local manufacture to the extent of about 30,000 poods in 1893, and about 82,000 poods in 1894, whereas up to and including 1892 the weight of agricultural machinery dispatched from that station was even less than 10,000 poods per annum. “Ukholovo station dispatches mainly threshing machines produced in the villages of Kanino and Smykovo, and partly in the uyezd town of Sapozhok, Ryazan Gubernia. In the village of Kanino there are three foundries, belonging to Yermakov, Karev and Golikov, mainly engaged on agricultural-machinery parts. The work of finishing and assembling the machines is done in the above-mentioned two villages (Kanino and Smykovo), of which almost the entire populations are thus employed” (Brief Review of the Commercial Activity of the Syzran-Vyazma Railway in 1894, Pt. IV, Kaluga, 1896, pp. 62-63). Interesting in this example are, first, the fact of the enormous increase in production precisely in recent years, which have been years of low grain prices; and, second, the fact of the connection between “factory” and so called “handicraft” production. The latter is nothing more nor less than an “annex” to the factory,—Lenin

[10] Cf. an item from Perekop Uyezd, Taurida Gubernia, in Russkiye Vedomosti [Russian Gazette ] of August 19, 1898 (No. 167). “Owing to the widespread use of reaping machines and steam- and horse-threshing machines among our farmers . . . field-work is proceeding very rapidly. The old-fashioned method of the threshing with ‘rollers’ is a thing of the past. . . . Every year the Crimean farmer increases his crop area and therefore has willy-nilly to resort to the aid of improved agricultural implements and machines. While it is not possible with rollers to thresh more than 150 to 200 poods of grain per day, a 10-h.p. steam-thresher will do from 2,000 to 2,500 poods, and a horse-thresher from 700 to 800 poods. That is why the demand for agricultural implements, reapers and threshers is growing so rapidly from year to year that the factories and works producing agricultural implements exhaust their stocks, as has happened this year, and are unable to satisfy the farmers’ demand.” The drop in grain prices, which compels farmers to reduce production costs, must be regarded as one of the most important causes of the increased use of improved implements.—Lenin

VIII. The Significance of Machinery in Agriculture

Having established the fact of the extremely rapid development of the production of agricultural machinery and of the employment of machines in Russia’s post-Reform agriculture, we must now examine the social and economic significance of this phenomenon. From what has been said above regarding the economics of peasant and landlord farming, the following conclusions may be drawn: on the one hand, capitalism is the factor giving rise to, and extending the use of, machines in agriculture; on the other, the application of machinery to agriculture is of a capitalist character, i.e., it leads to the establishment of capitalist relations and their further development.

Let us dwell on the first of these conclusions. We have seen that the labour-service system of economy and the patriarchal peasant economy inseparably connected with it are by their very nature based on routine technique, on the preservation of antiquated methods of production. There is nothing in the internal structure of that economic regime to stimulate the transformation of technique; on the contrary, the secluded and isolated character of that system of economy, and the poverty and downtrodden condition of the dependent peasant preclude the possibility of improvements. In particular, we would point to the fact that the payment of labour under the labour-service system is much lower (as we have seen) than where hired labour is employed; and it is well known that low wages are one of the most important obstacles to the introduction of machines. And the facts do indeed show us that an extensive movement for the transformation of agricultural technique only commenced in the post-Reform period of the development of commodity economy and capitalism. The competition that is the product of capitalism, and the dependence of the cultivator on the world market made the transformation of technique a necessity, while the drop in grain prices made this necessity particularly urgent.[1]

To explain the second conclusion, we must examine landlord and peasant farming separately. When a landlord introduces a machine or an improved implement, he replaces the implements of the peasant (who has worked for him) with his own; he goes over, consequently, from labour-service to the capitalist system of farming. The spread of agricultural machines means the elimination of labour-service by capitalism. It is possible, of course, that a condition laid down, for example, for the leasing of land is the performance of labour-service in the shape of day-work at a reaping machine, thresher, etc., but this will be labour-service of the second type, labour-service which converts the peasant into a day labourer. Such “exceptions,” consequently, merely go to prove the general rule that the introduction of improved implements on the farms of private landowners means converting the bonded (“independent” according to Narodnik terminology) peasant into a wage-worker – in exactly the same way as the acquisition of his own instruments of production by the buyer-up, who gives out work to be done in the home, means converting the bonded “handicraftsman” into a wage-worker. The acquisition by the landlord farm of its own implements leads inevitably to the undermining of the middle peasantry, who get means of subsistence by engaging in labour-service: We have already seen that labour-service is the specific “industry” of the middle peasant, whose implements, consequently, are a component part not only of peasant, but also of landlord, farming.[2] Hence, the spread of agricultural machinery and improved implements and the expropriation of the peasantry are inseparably connected. That the spread of improved implements among the peasantry is of the same significance hardly requires explanation after what has been said in the preceding chapter. The systematic employment of machinery in agriculture ousts the patriarchal “middle” peasant as inexorably as the steam-power loom ousts the handicraft weaver.

The results of the employment of machinery in agriculture confirm what has been said, and reveal all the typical features of capitalist progress with all its inherent contradictions. Machines enormously increase the productivity of labour in agriculture, which, before the present epoch, was almost entirely untouched by social development. That is why the mere fact of the growing employment of machines in Russian agriculture is sufficient to enable one to see how utterly unsound is Mr. N.–on’s assertion that there is “absolute stagnation” (Sketches, p. 32) in grain production in Russia, and that there is even a “decline in the productivity” of agricultural labour. We shall return to this assertion, which contradicts generally established facts and which Mr. N.–on needed for his idealisation of the pre-capitalist order.

Further, machines lead to the concentration of production and to the practice of capitalist co-operation in agriculture. The introduction of machinery, on the one hand, calls for capital on a big scale, and consequently is only within the capacity of the big farmers; on the other hand, machines pay only when there is a huge amount of products to be dealt with; the expansion of production becomes a necessity with the introduction of machines. The wide use of reaping machines, steam-threshers, etc., is therefore indicative of the concentration of agricultural production – and we shall indeed see later that the Russian agricultural region where the employment of machines is particularly widespread (Novorossia) is also distinguished by the quite considerable size of its farms. Let us merely observe that it would be a mistake to conceive the concentration of agriculture in just the one form of extensive enlargement of the crop area (as Mr. N.–on does); as a matter of fact, the concentration of agricultural production manifests itself in the most diverse forms, depending on the forms of commercial agriculture (see next chapter on this point). The concentration of production is inseparably connected with the extensive co-operation of workers on the farm. Above we saw an example of a large estate on which the grain was harvested by setting hundreds of reaping machines into operation simultaneously. “Threshers drawn by 4 to 8 horses require from 14 to 23 and even more workers, half of whom are women and boys, i.e., semi-workers. . . . The 8 to 10 h. p. steam-threshers to be found on all large farms” (of Kherson Gubernia), “require simultaneously from 50 to 70 workers, of whom more than half are semi-workers, boys and girls of 12 to 17 years of age” (Tezyakov, loccit., 93). “Large farms, on each of which from 500 to 1,000 workers are gathered together simultaneously, may safely be likened to industrial establishments,” the same author justly observes (p. 151).[3] Thus, while our Narodniks were arguing that the “village community” “could easily” introduce co-operation in agriculture, life went on in its own way, and capitalism, splitting up the village community into economic groups with opposite interests, created large farms based on the extensive co-operation of wage-workers.

From the foregoing it is clear that machines create a home market for capitalism: first, a market for means of production (for the products of the machine-building industry, mining industry, etc., etc.), and second, a market for labour-power. The introduction of machines, as we have seen, leads to the replacement of labour-service by hired labour and to the creation of peasant farms employing labourers. The mass-scale employment of agricultural machinery presupposes the existence of a mass of agricultural wage-workers. In the localities where agricultural capitalism is most highly developed, this process of the introduction of wage-labour along with the introduction of machines is intersected by another process, namely, the ousting of wage-workers by the machine. On the one hand, the formation of a peasant bourgeoisie and the transition of the landowners from labour-service to capitalism create a demand for wage-workers; on the other hand, in places where farming has long been based on wage-labour, machines oust wage-workers. No precise and extensive statistics are available to show what is the general effect of both these processes for the whole of Russia, i.e., whether the number of agricultural wage-workers is increasing or decreasing. There can be no doubt that hitherto the number has been increasing (see >next section). We imagine that now too it is continuing to increase[4]: firstly, data on the ousting of wage-workers in agriculture by machines are available only for Novorossia, while in other areas of capitalist agriculture (the Baltic and western region, the outer regions in the East, some of the industrial gubernias) this process has not yet been noted on a large scale. There still remains an enormous area where labour-service predominates, and in that area the introduction of machinery is giving rise to a demand for wage-workers. Secondly, the growth of intensive farming (introduction of root crops, for example) enormously increases the demand for wage-labour (see Chapter IV) . A decline in the absolute number of agricultural (as against industrial) wage-workers must, of course, take place at a certain stage in the development of capitalism, namely, when agriculture through out the country is fully organised on capitalist lines and when the employment of machinery for the most diverse agricultural operations is general.

As regards Novorossia, local investigators note here the usual consequences of highly developed capitalism. Machines are ousting wage-workers and creating a capitalist reserve army in agriculture. “The days of fabulous prices for hands have passed in Kherson Gubernia too. Thanks to . . . the increased spread of agricultural implements . . .” (and other causes) “the prices of hands are steadily falling ” (author’s italics). . . . “The distribution of agricultural implements, which makes the large farms independent of workers[5] and at the same time reduces the demand for hands, places the workers in a difficult position” (Tezyakov, loccit., 66-71). The same thing is noted by another Zemstvo Medical Officer, Mr. Kudryavtsev, in his work Migrant Agricultural Workers at the Nikolayev Fair in the Township of KakhovkaTaurida Guberniaand Their Sanitary Supervision in 1895 (Kherson, 1896). “The prices of hands . . . continue to fall, and a considerable number of migrant workers find themselves without employment and are unable to earn anything; i.e., there is created what in the language of economic science is called a reserve army of labour – artificial surplus-population” (61). The drop in the prices of labour caused by this reserve army is sometimes so great that “many farmers possessing machines preferred” (in 1895) “to harvest with hand labour rather than with machines” (ibid., 66, from Sbornik Khersonskogo Zemstva [Kherson Zemstvo Symposium ], August 1895)! More strikingly and convincingly than any argument this fact reveals how profound are the contradictions inherent in the capitalist employment of machinery!

Another consequence of the use of machinery is the growing employment of female and child labour. The existing system of capitalist agriculture has, generally speaking, given rise to a certain hierarchy of workers, very much reminiscent of the hierarchy among factory workers. For example, on the estates in South Russia there are the following categories: a) full workers, adult males capable of doing all jobs b) semi-workers, women and males up to the age of 20; semi-workers are divided again into two categories: aa) 12, 13 to 15, 16 years of age – these are semi-workers in the stricter sense of the term – and bb) semi-workers of great strength ; “in the language used on the estates, ‘three-quarter’ workers,”[6] from 16 to 20 years of age, capable of doing all the jobs done by the full worker, except mowing. Lastly, c) semi-workers rendering little help, children not under 8 and not over 14 years of age; these act as swine-herds, calf-herds, weeders and plough-boys. Often they work merely for their food and clothing. The introduction of agricultural implements “lowers the price of the full worker’s labour” and renders possible its replacement by the cheaper labour of women and juveniles. Statistics on migrant labour confirm the fact of the displacement of male by female labour: in 1890, of the total number of workers registered in the township of Kakhovka and in the city of Kherson, 12.7% were women; in 1894, for the whole gubernia women constituted 18.2% (10,239 out of 56,464); in 1895, 25.6% (13,474 out of 48,753). Children in 1893 constituted 0.7% (from 10 to 14 years of age), and in 1895, 1.69% (from 7 to 14 years of age). Among local workers on estates in Elisavetgrad Uyezd, Kherson Gubernia, children constituted 10.6% (ibid.).

Machines increase the intensity of the workers’ labour. For example, the most widespread type of reaping machine (with hand delivery) has acquired the characteristic name of “lobogreyka” or “chubogreyka,”[7] since working with it calls for extraordinary exertion on the part of the worker: he takes the place of the delivery apparatus (cf. Productive Forces, I, 52). Similarly, intensity of labour increases with the use of the threshing machine. The capitalist mode of employing machinery creates here (as everywhere) a powerful stimulus to the lengthening of the working day. Night work, something previously unknown, makes its appearance in agriculture too. “In good harvest years . . . work on some estates and on many peasant farms is carried on even at night” (Tezyakov, loccit., 126), by artificial illumination – torchlight (92). Finally, the systematic employment of machines results in traumatism among agricultural workers; the employment of young women and children at machines naturally results in a particularly large toll of injuries. The Zemstvo hospitals and dispensaries in Kherson Gubernia, for example, are filled, during the agricultural season, “almost exclusively with traumatic patients” and serve as “field hospitals, as it were, for the treatment of the enormous army of agricultural workers who are constantly being disabled as a result of the ruthless destructive work of agricultural machines and implements” (ibid., 126). A special medical literature is appearing that deals with injuries caused by agricultural machines. Proposals are being made to introduce compulsory regulations governing the use of agricultural machines (ibid.). The large-scale manufacture of machinery imperatively calls for public control and regulation of production in agriculture, as in industry. Of the attempts to introduce such control we shall speak below.

Let us note, in conclusion, the extremely inconsistent attitude of the Narodniks towards the employment of machinery in agriculture. To admit the benefit and progressive nature of the employment of machinery, to defend all measures that develop and facilitate it, and at the same time to ignore the fact that machinery in Russian agriculture is employed in the capitalist manner, means to sink to the view point of the small and big agrarians. Yet what our Narodniks do is precisely to ignore the capitalist character of the employment of agricultural machinery and improved implements, without even attempting to analyse what types of peasant and landlord farms introduce machinery. Mr. V. V. angrily calls Mr. V. Chernyayev “a representative of capitalist technique” (Progressive Trends, 11). Presumably it is Mr. V. Chernyayev, or some other official in the Ministry of Agriculture, who is to blame for the fact that the employment of machinery in Russia is capitalist in character! Mr. N.–on, despite his grandiloquent promise “not to depart from the facts” (Sketches, XIV), has preferred to ignore the fact that it is capitalism that has developed the employment of machinery in our agriculture, and he has even invented the amusing theory that exchange reduces the productivity of labour in agriculture (p. 74)! To criticise this theory, which is proclaimed without any analysis of the facts, is neither possible nor necessary. Let us confine ourselves to citing a small sample of Mr. N.–on’s reasoning. “If,” says he, “the productivity of labour in this country were to double, we should have to pay for a chetvert (about six bushels) of wheat not 12 rubles, but six, that is all” (234). Not all, by far, most worthy economist. “In this country” (as indeed in any society where there is commodity economy), the improvement of technique is undertaken by individual farmers, the rest only gradually following suit. “In this country,” only the rural entrepreneurs are in a position to improve their technique. “In this country,” this progress of the rural entrepreneurs, small and big, is inseparably connected with the ruin of the peasantry and the creation of a rural proletariat. Hence, if the improved technique used on the farms of rural entrepreneurs were to become socially necessary (only on that condition would the price be reduced by half), it would mean the passing of almost the whole of agriculture into the hands of capitalists, it would mean the complete proletarisation of millions of peasants, it would mean an enormous increase in the non-agricultural population and an increase in the number of factories (for the productivity of labour in our agriculture to double, there must be an enormous development of the machine-building industry, the mining industry, steam transport, the construction of a mass of new types of farm buildings, shops, warehouses, canals, etc., etc.). Mr. N.–on here repeats the little error of reasoning that is customary with him: he skips over the consecutive steps that are necessary with the development of capitalism, he skips over the intricate complex of social-economic changes which necessarily accompany the development of capitalism, and then weeps and wails over the danger of “destruction” by capitalism.


Notes

[1] “In the past two years, under the influence of low grain prices and of the need to cheapen agricultural jobs at all costs, reaping machines have also . . . begun to be so widely employed that depots are unable to meet all requirements on time” (Tezyakov, loc cit., p. 71) The present agricultural crisis is a capitalist crisis. Like all capitalist crises, it ruins capitalist farmers and peasants in one locality, in one country, in one branch of agriculture, and at the same time gives a tremendous impulse to the development of capitalism in another locality, in another country, in other branches of agriculture. It is the failure to understand this fundamental feature of the present crisis and of its economic nature that constitutes the main error in the reasoning on this theme of Messrs. N.–on, Kablukov, etc., etc.—Lenin

[2] Mr V. V. expresses this truth (that the existence of the middle peasant is largely conditioned by the existence of the labour-service system of farming among the landlords) in the following original way: “the owner shares, so to speak, the cost of maintaining his (the peasant’s) implements.” “It appears,” says Mr. Sanin, in a just comment on this, “that it is not the labourer who works for the landowner, but the landowner who works for the labourer.” A. Sanin, Some Remarks on the Theory of People’s Production, in the appendix to the Russian translation of Hourwich’s Economics of the Russian Village, Moscow, 1896, p. 47.—Lenin

[3] Cf. also next chapter, § I , where more detailed data are given on the size of capitalist farms in this part of Russia.—Lenin

[4] It hardly needs to be explained that in a country with a mass of peasantry, an absolute increase in the number of agricultural wage-workers is quite compatible not only with a relative, but also with an absolute, decrease of the rural population.—Lenin

[5] Mr. Ponomaryov expresses himself on this score thus. “Machines, by regulating the harvesting price, in all probability discipline the workers at the same time” (article in Selskoye Khozyaistvo i Lesowdstvo [Agriculture and Forestry ], quoted in Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 14). It will be remembered that the “Pindar of the capitalist factory,”[8] Dr. Andrew Ure, welcomed machines as creating “order” and “discipline” among the workers. Agricultural capitalism in Russia has already managed to create not only “agricultural factories,” but also the “Pindars” of these factories.—Lenin

[6] Tezyakov, loccit., 72.—Lenin

[7] Literally “brow-heater” or “forelock-heater.”–Ed.—Lenin

[8] Pindar – ancient Greek lyrical poet. Of his numerous works, four volumes of poems have survived in which he extols the victors at the games. Pindar’s name has become an epithet used to designate those who “eulogise” beyond measure.

In speaking of the Pindar of the capitalist factory Lenin has in mind the term applied by Marx in Capita, Volume I, to that apologist of capitalism, Dr. Ure.

VIII. The Significance of Machinery in Agriculture

Having established the fact of the extremely rapid development of the production of agricultural machinery and of the employment of machines in Russia’s post-Reform agriculture, we must now examine the social and economic significance of this phenomenon. From what has been said above regarding the economics of peasant and landlord farming, the following conclusions may be drawn: on the one hand, capitalism is the factor giving rise to, and extending the use of, machines in agriculture; on the other, the application of machinery to agriculture is of a capitalist character, i.e., it leads to the establishment of capitalist relations and their further development.

Let us dwell on the first of these conclusions. We have seen that the labour-service system of economy and the patriarchal peasant economy inseparably connected with it are by their very nature based on routine technique, on the preservation of antiquated methods of production. There is nothing in the internal structure of that economic regime to stimulate the transformation of technique; on the contrary, the secluded and isolated character of that system of economy, and the poverty and downtrodden condition of the dependent peasant preclude the possibility of improvements. In particular, we would point to the fact that the payment of labour under the labour-service system is much lower (as we have seen) than where hired labour is employed; and it is well known that low wages are one of the most important obstacles to the introduction of machines. And the facts do indeed show us that an extensive movement for the transformation of agricultural technique only commenced in the post-Reform period of the development of commodity economy and capitalism. The competition that is the product of capitalism, and the dependence of the cultivator on the world market made the transformation of technique a necessity, while the drop in grain prices made this necessity particularly urgent.[1]

To explain the second conclusion, we must examine landlord and peasant farming separately. When a landlord introduces a machine or an improved implement, he replaces the implements of the peasant (who has worked for him) with his own; he goes over, consequently, from labour-service to the capitalist system of farming. The spread of agricultural machines means the elimination of labour-service by capitalism. It is possible, of course, that a condition laid down, for example, for the leasing of land is the performance of labour-service in the shape of day-work at a reaping machine, thresher, etc., but this will be labour-service of the second type, labour-service which converts the peasant into a day labourer. Such “exceptions,” consequently, merely go to prove the general rule that the introduction of improved implements on the farms of private landowners means converting the bonded (“independent” according to Narodnik terminology) peasant into a wage-worker – in exactly the same way as the acquisition of his own instruments of production by the buyer-up, who gives out work to be done in the home, means converting the bonded “handicraftsman” into a wage-worker. The acquisition by the landlord farm of its own implements leads inevitably to the undermining of the middle peasantry, who get means of subsistence by engaging in labour-service: We have already seen that labour-service is the specific “industry” of the middle peasant, whose implements, consequently, are a component part not only of peasant, but also of landlord, farming.[2] Hence, the spread of agricultural machinery and improved implements and the expropriation of the peasantry are inseparably connected. That the spread of improved implements among the peasantry is of the same significance hardly requires explanation after what has been said in the preceding chapter. The systematic employment of machinery in agriculture ousts the patriarchal “middle” peasant as inexorably as the steam-power loom ousts the handicraft weaver.

The results of the employment of machinery in agriculture confirm what has been said, and reveal all the typical features of capitalist progress with all its inherent contradictions. Machines enormously increase the productivity of labour in agriculture, which, before the present epoch, was almost entirely untouched by social development. That is why the mere fact of the growing employment of machines in Russian agriculture is sufficient to enable one to see how utterly unsound is Mr. N.–on’s assertion that there is “absolute stagnation” (Sketches, p. 32) in grain production in Russia, and that there is even a “decline in the productivity” of agricultural labour. We shall return to this assertion, which contradicts generally established facts and which Mr. N.–on needed for his idealisation of the pre-capitalist order.

Further, machines lead to the concentration of production and to the practice of capitalist co-operation in agriculture. The introduction of machinery, on the one hand, calls for capital on a big scale, and consequently is only within the capacity of the big farmers; on the other hand, machines pay only when there is a huge amount of products to be dealt with; the expansion of production becomes a necessity with the introduction of machines. The wide use of reaping machines, steam-threshers, etc., is therefore indicative of the concentration of agricultural production – and we shall indeed see later that the Russian agricultural region where the employment of machines is particularly widespread (Novorossia) is also distinguished by the quite considerable size of its farms. Let us merely observe that it would be a mistake to conceive the concentration of agriculture in just the one form of extensive enlargement of the crop area (as Mr. N.–on does); as a matter of fact, the concentration of agricultural production manifests itself in the most diverse forms, depending on the forms of commercial agriculture (see next chapter on this point). The concentration of production is inseparably connected with the extensive co-operation of workers on the farm. Above we saw an example of a large estate on which the grain was harvested by setting hundreds of reaping machines into operation simultaneously. “Threshers drawn by 4 to 8 horses require from 14 to 23 and even more workers, half of whom are women and boys, i.e., semi-workers. . . . The 8 to 10 h. p. steam-threshers to be found on all large farms” (of Kherson Gubernia), “require simultaneously from 50 to 70 workers, of whom more than half are semi-workers, boys and girls of 12 to 17 years of age” (Tezyakov, loccit., 93). “Large farms, on each of which from 500 to 1,000 workers are gathered together simultaneously, may safely be likened to industrial establishments,” the same author justly observes (p. 151).[3] Thus, while our Narodniks were arguing that the “village community” “could easily” introduce co-operation in agriculture, life went on in its own way, and capitalism, splitting up the village community into economic groups with opposite interests, created large farms based on the extensive co-operation of wage-workers.

From the foregoing it is clear that machines create a home market for capitalism: first, a market for means of production (for the products of the machine-building industry, mining industry, etc., etc.), and second, a market for labour-power. The introduction of machines, as we have seen, leads to the replacement of labour-service by hired labour and to the creation of peasant farms employing labourers. The mass-scale employment of agricultural machinery presupposes the existence of a mass of agricultural wage-workers. In the localities where agricultural capitalism is most highly developed, this process of the introduction of wage-labour along with the introduction of machines is intersected by another process, namely, the ousting of wage-workers by the machine. On the one hand, the formation of a peasant bourgeoisie and the transition of the landowners from labour-service to capitalism create a demand for wage-workers; on the other hand, in places where farming has long been based on wage-labour, machines oust wage-workers. No precise and extensive statistics are available to show what is the general effect of both these processes for the whole of Russia, i.e., whether the number of agricultural wage-workers is increasing or decreasing. There can be no doubt that hitherto the number has been increasing (see >next section). We imagine that now too it is continuing to increase[4]: firstly, data on the ousting of wage-workers in agriculture by machines are available only for Novorossia, while in other areas of capitalist agriculture (the Baltic and western region, the outer regions in the East, some of the industrial gubernias) this process has not yet been noted on a large scale. There still remains an enormous area where labour-service predominates, and in that area the introduction of machinery is giving rise to a demand for wage-workers. Secondly, the growth of intensive farming (introduction of root crops, for example) enormously increases the demand for wage-labour (see Chapter IV) . A decline in the absolute number of agricultural (as against industrial) wage-workers must, of course, take place at a certain stage in the development of capitalism, namely, when agriculture through out the country is fully organised on capitalist lines and when the employment of machinery for the most diverse agricultural operations is general.

As regards Novorossia, local investigators note here the usual consequences of highly developed capitalism. Machines are ousting wage-workers and creating a capitalist reserve army in agriculture. “The days of fabulous prices for hands have passed in Kherson Gubernia too. Thanks to . . . the increased spread of agricultural implements . . .” (and other causes) “the prices of hands are steadily falling ” (author’s italics). . . . “The distribution of agricultural implements, which makes the large farms independent of workers[5] and at the same time reduces the demand for hands, places the workers in a difficult position” (Tezyakov, loccit., 66-71). The same thing is noted by another Zemstvo Medical Officer, Mr. Kudryavtsev, in his work Migrant Agricultural Workers at the Nikolayev Fair in the Township of KakhovkaTaurida Guberniaand Their Sanitary Supervision in 1895 (Kherson, 1896). “The prices of hands . . . continue to fall, and a considerable number of migrant workers find themselves without employment and are unable to earn anything; i.e., there is created what in the language of economic science is called a reserve army of labour – artificial surplus-population” (61). The drop in the prices of labour caused by this reserve army is sometimes so great that “many farmers possessing machines preferred” (in 1895) “to harvest with hand labour rather than with machines” (ibid., 66, from Sbornik Khersonskogo Zemstva [Kherson Zemstvo Symposium ], August 1895)! More strikingly and convincingly than any argument this fact reveals how profound are the contradictions inherent in the capitalist employment of machinery!

Another consequence of the use of machinery is the growing employment of female and child labour. The existing system of capitalist agriculture has, generally speaking, given rise to a certain hierarchy of workers, very much reminiscent of the hierarchy among factory workers. For example, on the estates in South Russia there are the following categories: a) full workers, adult males capable of doing all jobs b) semi-workers, women and males up to the age of 20; semi-workers are divided again into two categories: aa) 12, 13 to 15, 16 years of age – these are semi-workers in the stricter sense of the term – and bb) semi-workers of great strength ; “in the language used on the estates, ‘three-quarter’ workers,”[6] from 16 to 20 years of age, capable of doing all the jobs done by the full worker, except mowing. Lastly, c) semi-workers rendering little help, children not under 8 and not over 14 years of age; these act as swine-herds, calf-herds, weeders and plough-boys. Often they work merely for their food and clothing. The introduction of agricultural implements “lowers the price of the full worker’s labour” and renders possible its replacement by the cheaper labour of women and juveniles. Statistics on migrant labour confirm the fact of the displacement of male by female labour: in 1890, of the total number of workers registered in the township of Kakhovka and in the city of Kherson, 12.7% were women; in 1894, for the whole gubernia women constituted 18.2% (10,239 out of 56,464); in 1895, 25.6% (13,474 out of 48,753). Children in 1893 constituted 0.7% (from 10 to 14 years of age), and in 1895, 1.69% (from 7 to 14 years of age). Among local workers on estates in Elisavetgrad Uyezd, Kherson Gubernia, children constituted 10.6% (ibid.).

Machines increase the intensity of the workers’ labour. For example, the most widespread type of reaping machine (with hand delivery) has acquired the characteristic name of “lobogreyka” or “chubogreyka,”[7] since working with it calls for extraordinary exertion on the part of the worker: he takes the place of the delivery apparatus (cf. Productive Forces, I, 52). Similarly, intensity of labour increases with the use of the threshing machine. The capitalist mode of employing machinery creates here (as everywhere) a powerful stimulus to the lengthening of the working day. Night work, something previously unknown, makes its appearance in agriculture too. “In good harvest years . . . work on some estates and on many peasant farms is carried on even at night” (Tezyakov, loccit., 126), by artificial illumination – torchlight (92). Finally, the systematic employment of machines results in traumatism among agricultural workers; the employment of young women and children at machines naturally results in a particularly large toll of injuries. The Zemstvo hospitals and dispensaries in Kherson Gubernia, for example, are filled, during the agricultural season, “almost exclusively with traumatic patients” and serve as “field hospitals, as it were, for the treatment of the enormous army of agricultural workers who are constantly being disabled as a result of the ruthless destructive work of agricultural machines and implements” (ibid., 126). A special medical literature is appearing that deals with injuries caused by agricultural machines. Proposals are being made to introduce compulsory regulations governing the use of agricultural machines (ibid.). The large-scale manufacture of machinery imperatively calls for public control and regulation of production in agriculture, as in industry. Of the attempts to introduce such control we shall speak below.

Let us note, in conclusion, the extremely inconsistent attitude of the Narodniks towards the employment of machinery in agriculture. To admit the benefit and progressive nature of the employment of machinery, to defend all measures that develop and facilitate it, and at the same time to ignore the fact that machinery in Russian agriculture is employed in the capitalist manner, means to sink to the view point of the small and big agrarians. Yet what our Narodniks do is precisely to ignore the capitalist character of the employment of agricultural machinery and improved implements, without even attempting to analyse what types of peasant and landlord farms introduce machinery. Mr. V. V. angrily calls Mr. V. Chernyayev “a representative of capitalist technique” (Progressive Trends, 11). Presumably it is Mr. V. Chernyayev, or some other official in the Ministry of Agriculture, who is to blame for the fact that the employment of machinery in Russia is capitalist in character! Mr. N.–on, despite his grandiloquent promise “not to depart from the facts” (Sketches, XIV), has preferred to ignore the fact that it is capitalism that has developed the employment of machinery in our agriculture, and he has even invented the amusing theory that exchange reduces the productivity of labour in agriculture (p. 74)! To criticise this theory, which is proclaimed without any analysis of the facts, is neither possible nor necessary. Let us confine ourselves to citing a small sample of Mr. N.–on’s reasoning. “If,” says he, “the productivity of labour in this country were to double, we should have to pay for a chetvert (about six bushels) of wheat not 12 rubles, but six, that is all” (234). Not all, by far, most worthy economist. “In this country” (as indeed in any society where there is commodity economy), the improvement of technique is undertaken by individual farmers, the rest only gradually following suit. “In this country,” only the rural entrepreneurs are in a position to improve their technique. “In this country,” this progress of the rural entrepreneurs, small and big, is inseparably connected with the ruin of the peasantry and the creation of a rural proletariat. Hence, if the improved technique used on the farms of rural entrepreneurs were to become socially necessary (only on that condition would the price be reduced by half), it would mean the passing of almost the whole of agriculture into the hands of capitalists, it would mean the complete proletarisation of millions of peasants, it would mean an enormous increase in the non-agricultural population and an increase in the number of factories (for the productivity of labour in our agriculture to double, there must be an enormous development of the machine-building industry, the mining industry, steam transport, the construction of a mass of new types of farm buildings, shops, warehouses, canals, etc., etc.). Mr. N.–on here repeats the little error of reasoning that is customary with him: he skips over the consecutive steps that are necessary with the development of capitalism, he skips over the intricate complex of social-economic changes which necessarily accompany the development of capitalism, and then weeps and wails over the danger of “destruction” by capitalism.


Notes

[1] “In the past two years, under the influence of low grain prices and of the need to cheapen agricultural jobs at all costs, reaping machines have also . . . begun to be so widely employed that depots are unable to meet all requirements on time” (Tezyakov, loc cit., p. 71) The present agricultural crisis is a capitalist crisis. Like all capitalist crises, it ruins capitalist farmers and peasants in one locality, in one country, in one branch of agriculture, and at the same time gives a tremendous impulse to the development of capitalism in another locality, in another country, in other branches of agriculture. It is the failure to understand this fundamental feature of the present crisis and of its economic nature that constitutes the main error in the reasoning on this theme of Messrs. N.–on, Kablukov, etc., etc.—Lenin

[2] Mr V. V. expresses this truth (that the existence of the middle peasant is largely conditioned by the existence of the labour-service system of farming among the landlords) in the following original way: “the owner shares, so to speak, the cost of maintaining his (the peasant’s) implements.” “It appears,” says Mr. Sanin, in a just comment on this, “that it is not the labourer who works for the landowner, but the landowner who works for the labourer.” A. Sanin, Some Remarks on the Theory of People’s Production, in the appendix to the Russian translation of Hourwich’s Economics of the Russian Village, Moscow, 1896, p. 47.—Lenin

[3] Cf. also next chapter, § I , where more detailed data are given on the size of capitalist farms in this part of Russia.—Lenin

[4] It hardly needs to be explained that in a country with a mass of peasantry, an absolute increase in the number of agricultural wage-workers is quite compatible not only with a relative, but also with an absolute, decrease of the rural population.—Lenin

[5] Mr. Ponomaryov expresses himself on this score thus. “Machines, by regulating the harvesting price, in all probability discipline the workers at the same time” (article in Selskoye Khozyaistvo i Lesowdstvo [Agriculture and Forestry ], quoted in Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 14). It will be remembered that the “Pindar of the capitalist factory,”[8] Dr. Andrew Ure, welcomed machines as creating “order” and “discipline” among the workers. Agricultural capitalism in Russia has already managed to create not only “agricultural factories,” but also the “Pindars” of these factories.—Lenin

[6] Tezyakov, loccit., 72.—Lenin

[7] Literally “brow-heater” or “forelock-heater.”–Ed.—Lenin

[8] Pindar – ancient Greek lyrical poet. Of his numerous works, four volumes of poems have survived in which he extols the victors at the games. Pindar’s name has become an epithet used to designate those who “eulogise” beyond measure.

In speaking of the Pindar of the capitalist factory Lenin has in mind the term applied by Marx in Capita, Volume I, to that apologist of capitalism, Dr. Ure.

IX. Wage-Labour in Agriculture

We now pass to the principal manifestation of agricultural capitalism – to the employment of hired labour. This feature of post-Reform economy was marked most strongly in the outer regions of south and east European Russia, in that mass shift of agricultural wage-workers known as the “agricultural migration.” For this reason we shall first cite data concerning this main region of agricultural capitalism in Russia and then examine the data relating to the whole of Russia.

The tremendous movements of our peasants in search of work for hire have long ago been noted in our literature. Reference to them was made by Flerovsky (Condition of the Working Class in Russia, St. Petersburg, 1869), who tried to determine their relative incidence in the various gubernias. In 1875, Mr. Chaslavsky gave a general review of “agricultural outside employments” (Compendium of Political Knowledge, Vol. II) and noted their real significance (“there was formed . . . something in the nature of a semi-vagrant population . . . something in the nature of future farm labourers”). In 1887, Mr. Raspopin gathered together Zemstvo statistics on this phenomenon and regarded them not as “employments” of the peasants in general, but as a process of the formation of a class of wage-workers in agriculture. In the 90s, the works of Messrs. S. Korolenko, Rudnev, Tezyakov, Kudryavtsev and Shakhovskoi appeared, thanks to which a much fuller study of this phenomenon was made.

The principal area to which agricultural wage-workers migrate embraces Bessarabia, Kherson, Taurida, Ekaterinoslav, Don, Samara, Saratov (southern part) and Orenburg gubernias. We confine ourselves to European Russia, but it must be observed that the movement spreads, ever further afield (especially in the recent period), and covers the North Caucasus and the Ural region, etc. Data concerning capitalist agriculture in this area (the area of commercial grain farming) will be given in the next chapter; there, too, we shall point to other localities to which agricultural labourers migrate. The principal area from which agricultural labourers migrate is the central black-earth gubernias: Kazan, Simbirsk, Penza, Tambov, Ryazan, Tula, Orel, Kursk, Voronezh, Kharkov, Poltava, Chernigov, Kiev, Podolia and Volhynia.[1] Thus the movement of workers proceeds from the most thickly-populated to the most thinly populated localities, the ones being colonised; from the localities where serfdom was most developed to those where it was least developed[2]; from localities where labour-service is most developed to localities where it is little developed and capitalism is highly developed. Hence, the workers flee from “semi-free” to free labour. It would be a mistake to think that this flight amounts exclusively to a movement from thickly-populated to thinly-populated areas. A study of the movement of workers (Mr. S. Korolenko, loccit.) has revealed the singular and important fact that workers migrate from many areas in such great numbers as to create a shortage of hands in these places, one that is compensated by the arrival of workers from other places. Hence, the departure of workers expresses not only the tendency of the population to spread more evenly over the given territory, but also the tendency of the workers to go to areas where conditions are better. This tendency will become quite clear to us if we recall that in the area of departure, the area of labour-service, agricultural workers’ wages are particularly low, while in the area of attraction, the area of capitalism, wages are far higher.[3]

As to the extent of “agricultural migration,” general data exist only in the above-mentioned book by Mr. S Korolenko, who calculates the surplus of workers (relative to the local demand for them) at 6,360,000 for the whole of European Russia, including 2,137,000 in the above-enumerated 15 gubernias of agricultural emigration, whereas in the 8 gubernias of immigration the shortage of workers is estimated at 2,173,000 persons. Despite the fact that Mr. S. Korolenko’s methods of calculation are by no means always satisfactory, his general conclusions (as we shall see repeatedly below) must be regarded as approximately correct, and the number of migratory workers not only not an exaggeration, but if anything an understatement of the facts. There can be no doubt that part of these two million workers who come to the South are non-agricultural workers. But Mr. Shakhovskoi (loccit.) estimates quite arbitrarily, approximately, that industrial workers account for half this number. Firstly, we know from all sources that the workers who migrate to this region are mainly agricultural, and secondly, agricultural workers come there not only from the gubernias mentioned above. Mr. Shakhovskoi himself quotes a figure which confirms Mr. S. Korolenko’s calculations. He states that in 11 black-earth gubernias (which are included in the above-described area from which agricultural workers emigrate) there were issued in 1891 a total of 2,000,703 passports and identity cards (loccit., p. 24), whereas according to Mr. S. Korolenko’s calculations the number of workers who left these gubernias was only 1,745,913. Consequently, Mr. S. Korolenko’s figures are not in the least exaggerated, and the total number of migratory rural workers in Russia must obviously be over 2 million.[4] The existence of such a mass of “peasants” who abandon their homes and allotments (where they have homes and allotments) vividly testifies to the tremendous process of the conversion of small cultivators into rural proletarians, of the enormous demand by growing agricultural capitalism for wage-labour.

The question now arises, what is the total number of rural wage-workers in European Russia, both migratory and resident? The only attempt to answer this question that we know is the one made in Mr. Rudnev’s work Peasant Industries in European Russia (Sbornik Saratovskogo Zemstva [Symposium of the Saratov Zemstvo ], 1894, Nos. 6 and 11). This work, an extremely valuable one, gives a summary of the Zemstvo statistics for 148 uyezds in 19 gubernias of European Russia. The total number of “industrialists” is put at 2,798,122, out of 5,129,863 working males (18 to 60 years of age), i.e., 55% of the total number of working peasants.[5] Under “agricultural industries” the author includes only work as hired agricultural labourers (farm labourers, day labourers, herdsmen, stockyard workers). An estimate of the percentage of agricultural workers to the total number of males of working age in various gubernias and districts of Russia, leads the author to the conclusion that in the black-earth belt about 25% of all working males are engaged in hired agricultural labour, and in the non-black-earth area about 10%. This gives us the number of agricultural workers in European Russia as 3,395,000, or, in round numbers, 3 1/2 million (Rudnev, loccit., p. 448. This number is about 20% of the total number of males of working age). It must be observed in this connection that, according to Mr. Rudnev, “day labour and agricultural job-work were placed in the category of industries by the statisticians only when they were the chief occupation of the given person or family” (loccit., 446).[6]

Mr. Rudnev’s figure should be regarded as the minimum, because, firstly, the Zemstvo census returns are more or less out-of-date, relating to the 80s and at times even to the 70s, and because, secondly, in determining the percentage of agricultural workers, no account whatever was taken of the Baltic and Western gubernias, where agricultural capitalism is highly developed. For want of other data, however, we are obliged to take this figure of 3 1/2 million.

It appears, consequently, that about one-fifth of the peasants have already reached a position where their “chief occupation” is that of wage-labour for rich peasants and landlords. We see here the first group of the entrepreneurs who present a demand for the labour-power of the rural proletariat. These are the rural entrepreneurs, who employ about half of the bottom group of the peasantry. Thus, there is to be observed a complete interdependence between the formation of a class of rural entrepreneurs and the expansion of the bottom group of the “peasantry,” i.e., the increase in the number of rural proletarians. Among these rural entrepreneurs a prominent part is played by the peasant bourgeoisie: for example, in 9 uyezds of Voronezh Gubernia, 43.4% of the farm labourers are employed by peasants (Rudnev, 434). Were we to take this percentage as the standard for all rural workers and for the whole of Russia, it would be seen that the peasant bourgeoisie present a demand for some one and a half million agricultural workers. One and the same “peasantry” throws on to the market millions of workers in search of employers – and presents an impressive demand for wage-workers.


Notes

[1] In Chapter VIII , where we examine the movement of wage-workers in Russia as an entire process, we shall describe in greater detail the character and direction of migration from the various localities.—Lenin

[2] In his day Chaslavsky pointed out that in the localities in which workers arrived, serfs constituted from 4 to 15% of the total, and in the localities which workers left, from 40 to 60%.—Lenin

[3] See table of data for 10 years in Chapter VIII, § V: the formation of a home market for labour-power.—Lenin

[4] There is another way of checking Mr. S. Korolenko’s figure. We learn from the above-quoted books of Messrs. Tezyakov and Kudryavtsev that the number of agricultural workers who in their search for “employments” use the railways at least in part, is about 1/10 of the total workers (combining the figures of both authors, we get the result that out of 72,635 workers interrogated, only 7,827 traveled at least part of the journey by rail). Yet the number of workers carried in 1891 by the three principal railways in the direction examined does not exceed 200,000 (170,000 to 189,000) – as we are told by Mr. Shakhovskoi (loccit., p. 71, according to railway returns). Consequently, the total number of workers leaving for the South must be about 2 million. Incidentally, the very small proportion of agricultural workers who travel by rail points to the incorrectness of Mr. N.–on’s view when he assumed that the passenger traffic on our railways is in the main that of agricultural workers. Mr. N.–on lost sight of the fact that non-agricultural workers receive higher wages and therefore make greater use of the railways and that the migration season of these workers (for example, builders, navvies, stevedores and many others) is also spring and summer.—Lenin

[5] By “industries,” as Mr. Rudnev also points out, are meant all sorts of occupations by peasants except cultivation on their own, purchased or rented land. Undoubtedly, the majority of these “industrialists” are wage-workers in agriculture or in industry. We therefore call the reader’s attention to the closeness of these figures to our estimate of the number of rural proletarians: in Chapter II, it was assumed that the latter constitute about 40% of the peasants. Here we see that “industrialists” constitute 55%, and of these, in all probability, over 40% are engaged in all sorts of hired labour.—Lenin

[6] This figure does not include, therefore, the mass of peasants for whom hired agricultural labor is not the chief occupation, but one of equal importance with their own farms.—Lenin

X. The Significance of Hired Labour in Agriculture

Let us now attempt to depict the principal features of the new social relations that take shape in agriculture with the employment of hired labour, and to define their significance.

The agricultural workers who come to the South in such masses belong to the poorest strata of the peasantry. Of the workers who come to Kherson Gubernia, 7/10 make the journey on foot, since they lack the money for railway fare; “they tramp for hundreds and thousands of versts along the railway track and the banks of navigable rivers, admiring the splendid pictures of rapidly-moving trains and smoothly-gliding ships” (Tezyakov, 35). On the average, the worker takes with him about 2 rubles[1]; often enough he even lacks the money to pay for a passport, and gets a monthly identity card for ten kopeks. The journey takes from 10 to 12 days, and after such a long tramp (sometimes undertaken barefoot in the cold spring mud), the traveler’s feet swell and become calloused and bruised. About 1/10 of the workers travel on dubi (large boats made out of rough boards, holding from 50 to 80 persons and usually packed to the limit). The reports of an official commission (the Zvegintsev Commission)[10] note the grave danger of this form of travel: “not a year passes but that one, two or even more of these overcrowded dubi go to the bottom with their passengers” (ibid., 34). The overwhelming majority of the workers have allotments, but of absolutely insignificant dimensions. “As a matter of fact,” Mr. Tezyakov quite justly observes, “all these thousands of agricultural workers are landless village proletarians, for whom outside employments are now the sole means of livelihood. . . . Landlessness is growing rapidly, and at the same time is swelling the ranks of the rural proletariat” (77). Striking confirmation of the rapidity of this growth is the number of worker novices, i.e., of those seeking employment for the first time. These novices constitute as many as 30%. Incidentally, this figure enables us to judge how rapid is the process that creates bodies of permanent agricultural workers.

The mass migration of workers has given rise to special forms of hire peculiar to highly-developed capitalism. In the South and South-East, numerous labour markets have arisen where thousands of workers gather and employers assemble. These markets are usually held in towns, industrial centres, trading villages and at fairs. The industrial character of the centres is of particular attraction to the workers, who readily accept employment on non-agricultural jobs, too. Thus, in Kiev Gubernia, labour markets are held in Shpola and Smela (large centres of the beet-sugar industry), and in the town of Belaya Tserkov. In Kherson Gubernia, they are held in the commercial villages (Novoukrainka, Birzula and Mostovoye, where on Sundays over 9,000 workers gather, and many other villages), at railway stations (Znamenka, Dolinskaya, etc.), and in towns (Elisavetgrad, Bobrinets, Voznesensk, Odessa, and others). In the summer, townspeople, labourers and “cadets” (the local name for tramps) from Odessa also come to hire themselves out for agricultural work. In Odessa rural workers hire themselves out in what is called Seredinskaya Square (or the “Mowers’ Market”). “The workers make for Odessa, avoiding other markets, in the hope of getting better earnings here” (Tezyakov, 58). The township of Krivoi Rog is an important centre where workers are hired for agriculture and mining. In Taurida Gubernia, the township of Kakhovka is particularly noted for its labour market, where formerly as many as 40,000 workers gathered; in the nineties from 20,000 to 30,000 gathered there, and now, judging from certain data, the number is still smaller. In Bessarabia Gubernia, mention should be made of the town of Akkerman; in Ekaterinoslav Gubernia, of the town of Ekaterinoslav, and Lozovaya Station; in Don Gubernia, of Rostov-on-Don, frequented every year by as many as 150,000 workers. In North Caucasus, of the towns of Ekaterinodar and Novorossiisk, Tikhoretskaya Station, and other places. In Samara Gubernia, of the village of Pokrovskaya (opposite Saratov), the village of Balakovo and other places. In Saratov Gubernia, of the towns of Khvalynsk and Volsk. In Simbirsk Gubernia, of the town of Syzran. Thus, capitalism has created in the outer regions a new form of the “combination of agriculture with industries,” namely, the combination of agricultural and non-agricultural hired labour. Such a combination is possible on a wide scale only in the period of the final and highest stage of capitalism, that of large-scale machine industry, which attenuates the importance of skill of “hand labour,” facilitates the transition from one occupation to another, and levels the forms of hire.[2]

Indeed, the forms of hire in this locality are very peculiar and very characteristic of capitalist agriculture. All the semi-patriarchal, semi-bonded forms of hired labour which one so frequently meets in the central black-earth belt disappear here. The only relationships left are those between hirers and hired, a commercial transaction for the purchase and sale of labour-power. As always under developed capitalist relations, the workers prefer hire by the day, or by the week, which enables them to make the pay correspond more exactly to the demand for labour. “Prices are fixed for the area of each market (within a radius of about 40 versts) with mathematical precision, and it is very hard for the employers to beat down the price, because the muzhik who has come to the market prefers to lie around or go on to another place rather than work for lower pay” (Shakhovskoi, 104). It goes without saying that violent fluctuations in prices paid for labour cause innumerable breaches of contract – only not on one side, as the employers usually claim, but on both sides: “concerted action is taken by both sides”: the labourers agree among themselves to demand more, and the employers – to offer less (ibid., 107).[3] How openly “callous cash payment” reigns here in the relations between the classes may be seen, for example, from the following fact: “experienced employers know very well” that the workers will “give in” only when they have eaten up their food stock. “A farmer related that when he came to the market to hire workers . . . he walked among them, poking with his stick at their knapsacks (sic !): if they had bread left, he would not talk to them; he would leave the market” and wait “until the knapsacks in the market were empty” (from the Selsky Vestnik [Rural Herald ], 1890, No. 15, ibid., 107-108).

As under developed capitalism anywhere, so here, we see that the worker is particularly oppressed by small capital. The big employer is forced by sheer commercial considerations[4] to abstain from petty oppression, which is of little advantage and is fraught with considerable loss should disputes arise. That is why the big employers, for example (those employing from 300 to 800 workers), try to keep their workers from leaving at the end of the week, and themselves fix prices according to the demand for labour; some even adopt a system of wage increases if the price of labour in the area goes up – and all evidence goes to show that these increases are more than compensated by better work and the absence of disputes (ibid., 130-132; 104). A small employer, on the contrary, sticks at nothing. “The farmsteaders and German colonists carefully ‘choose’ their workers and pay them 15 or 20% more; but the amount of work they ‘squeeze’ out of them is 50 per cent more” (ibid., 116). The “wenches” who work for such an employer “don’t know day from night,” as they themselves say. The colonists who hire mowers get their sons to follow on their heels (i.e., to speed up the workers!) in shifts, so that the speeders-up, replacing one another three times a day, come with renewed energy to drive the workers on: “that is why it is so easy to recognise those who have worked for the German colonists by their haggard appearance. Generally speaking, the farmsteaders and the Germans avoid hiring those who have formerly worked on landowners’ estates. ‘You’ll not stand the pace with us,’ they say quite frankly” (ibid.).[5]

Large-scale machine industry, by concentrating large masses of workers, transforming the methods of production, and destroying all the traditional, patriarchal cloaks and screens that have obscured the relations between classes, always leads to the directing of public attention towards these relations, to attempts at public control and regulation. This phenomenon, which has found particularly striking expression in factory inspection, is also beginning to be observed in Russian capitalist agriculture, precisely in the region where it is most developed. The question of the workers’ sanitary conditions was raised in Kherson Gubernia as early as 1875 at the Second Gubernia Congress of Doctors of the Kherson Zemstvo, and was dealt with again in 1888; in 1889 there was drawn up a programme for the study of the workers’ conditions. The investigation of sanitary conditions that was carried out (on a far from adequate scale) in 1889-1890 slightly lifted the veil concealing the conditions of labour in the remote villages. It was seen, for instance, that in the majority of cases the workers have no living quarters; where barracks are provided, they are usually very badly built from a hygienic point of view, and “not infrequently” dug-outs are met with – they are inhabited, for example, by shepherds, who suffer severely from dampness, overcrowding, cold, darkness and the stifling atmosphere. The food provided is very often unsatisfactory. The working day, as a rule, is from 12 1/2 to 15 hours, which is much longer than the usual working day in large-scale industry (11 to 12 hours). An interval during the hottest part of the day is met with only “as an exception” – and cases of brain diseases are no rarity. Work at machines gives rise to occupational division of labour and occupational diseases. For example, working at threshing machines are “drummers” (they put the sheaves into the drum; the work is very dangerous and most laborious: thick corn-dust beats into their faces), and “pitchers” (they pitch up the sheaves; the work is so heavy that the shifts have to be changed every hour or two). Women sweep up the straw, which boys carry aside, while from 3 to 5 labourers stack it in ricks. The number employed on threshing in the whole gubernia must exceed 200,000 (Tezyakov, 94).[6] Mr. Tezyakov’s conclusions regarding the sanitary conditions of agricultural work, are as follows: “Generally speaking, the opinion of the ancients that the labour of the husbandman is ‘the pleasantest and healthiest of occupations’ is hardly sound at the present time, when the capitalist spirit reigns in agriculture. With the introduction of machinery into agriculture, the sanitary conditions of agricultural labour have not improved, but have changed for the worse. Machinery has brought into the field of agriculture a specialisation of labour so little known here before that it has had the effect of developing among the rural population occupational diseases and a host of serious injuries” (94).

A result of the investigations into sanitary conditions (after the famine year and the cholera) was the attempt to organise medical and food depots, at which the labourers were to be registered, placed under sanitary supervision and provided with cheap dinners. However modest the scale and the results of this organisation may be, and however precarious its existence,[7] it remains an important historical fact, revealing the trends of capitalism in agriculture. At the Congress of Doctors of Kherson Gubernia it was proposed, on the basis of data gathered by practitioners: to recognise the importance of medical and food depots and the need for improving their sanitary condition and extending their activities to give them the character of labour exchanges providing information on the prices of labour and their fluctuations; to extend sanitary inspection to all more or less big farms employing considerable numbers of labourers, “as is done in industrial establishments” (p. 155); to issue strict regulations governing the employment of agricultural machines and the registration of accidents; to raise the question of the workers’ right to compensation and of providing better and cheaper steam transport. The Fifth Congress of Russian Doctors passed a resolution calling the attention of the Zemstvos concerned to the activities of the Kherson Zemstvo in the organisation of medical and sanitary inspection.



In conclusion, let us return to the Narodnik economists. Above we have seen that they idealise labour-service and close their eyes to the progressive nature of capitalism as compared with that system. Now we must add that they are unfavourably disposed to the “migration” of workers, and favour local “employments.” Here, for example, is how this usual Narodnik view is expressed by Mr. N.–on: “The peasants . . . set off in quest of work. . . . How far, one may ask, is it advantageous from the economic point of view? Not personally for each individual peasant, but how far is it advantageous for the peasantry as a whole, from the national economic point of view?. . . What we want is to point to the purely economic disadvantage of the annual peregrination, God knows where to, for the entire summer, when it would seem that one could find plenty of occupations at hand. . .” (23-24).

We assert, the Narodnik theory notwithstanding, that the “peregrination” of the workers not only yields “purely economic” advantages to the workers themselves, but in general should be regarded as progressive; that public attention should not be directed towards replacing outside employments by local “occupations close at hand,” but, on the contrary, towards removing all the obstacles in the way of migration, towards facilitating it in every way, towards improving and reducing the costs of all conditions of the workers’ travel, etc. The grounds for our assertion are as follows:

1) “Purely economic” advantage accrues to the workers from “peregrination” in that they go to places where wages are higher, where their position as seekers of employment is a more advantageous one. Simple as this argument is, it is too often forgotten by those who love to rise to a higher, allegedly “national-economic” point of view.

2) “Peregrination” destroys bonded forms of hire and labour-service.

Let us recall, for example, that formerly, when migration was little developed, the southern landowners (and other employers) readily resorted to the following system of hiring labourers: they sent their agents to the northern gubernias and (through the medium of rural officials) hired tax-defaulters on terms extremely disadvantageous to the latter.[8] Those offering employment consequently enjoyed the advantage of free competition, but those seeking it did not. We have quoted instances of the peasant’s readiness to flee from labour-service and bondage even to the mines.

It is not surprising, therefore, that on the question of “peregrination” our agrarians go hand in hand with the Narodniks. Take Mr. S. Korolenko, for example. In his book he quotes numerous opinions of landlords in opposition to the “migration” of workers, and adduces a host of “arguments” against “outside employments”: “dissipation,” “rowdy habits,” “drunkenness,” “dishonesty,” “the striving to leave the family in order to get rid of it and escape parental supervision,” “the craving for amusement and a brighter life,” etc. But here is a particularly interesting argument: “Finally, as the proverb says, ‘if it stay at one spot, a stone will gather moss,’ and a man who stays at one spot will certainly amass property and cherish it” (loccit., p. 84). The proverb does indeed very strikingly indicate what happens to a man who is tied to one spot. Mr. S. Korolenko is particularly displeased with the phenomenon we referred to above, namely, that “too” many workers leave certain gubernias and that the shortage thus created is made good by the arrival of workers from other gubernias. In noting this fact as regards, for example, Voronezh Gubernia, Mr. S. Korolenko points to one of the reasons for this, namely, the large number of peasants possessing gift-land allotments. “Evidently such peasants, who are relatively worse off materially and are not worried about their all too meagre property, more frequently fail to carry out the obligations they undertake and in general more readily leave for other gubernias, even when they could find plenty of employment at home.” “Such peasants, having little attachment (sic !) to their own inadequate allotments, and sometimes not even possessing implements, more readily abandon their homes and go to seek their fortunes far from their native villages, without troubling about employment locally, and sometimes even about obligations undertaken, since they have nothing on which distraint can be made” (ibid.).

“Little attachment!” That’s just the term.

It should give food for thought to those who talk about the disadvantages of “peregrination” and the preferableness of local “occupations close at hand”![9]

3) “Peregrinations” mean creating mobility of the population. Peregrinations are one of the most important factors preventing the peasants from “gathering moss,” of which more than enough has been fastened on them by history. Unless the population becomes mobile, it cannot develop, and it would be na\”ive to imagine that a village school can teach people what they can learn from an independent acquaintance with the different relations and orders of things in the South and in the North, in agriculture and in industry, in the capital and in the backwoods.


Notes

[1] Money for the journey is obtained by the sale of property, even household goods, by mortgaging the allotment, by pawning things, clothes, etc., and even by borrowing money, to be repaid in labour, “from priests, landlords and local kulaks” (Shakhovskoi, 55).—Lenin

[2] Mr. Shakhovskoi refers to another form of the combination of agricultural and non-agricultural labour. Thousands of rafts are floated down the Dnieper to the towns in the lower reaches of the river. On every raft there are from 15 to 20 workers (raftsmen), mostly Byelorussians and Great-Russians from Orel Gubernia. “For the whole voyage they get practically nothing”; they count chiefly on getting employment at reaping and threshing. These hopes are rewarded only in “good” years.—Lenin

[3] “At harvest time in a good year the worker triumphs, and it is a hard job to get him to give way. He is offered a price, but he won’t consider it; he keeps repeating: give me what I ask and it’s a go. And that is not because labour is scarce, but because, as the workers say, ‘it’s our turn now.’”- (Reported by a volost clerk; Shakhovskoi, 125.)

“If the crop is a bad one and the price of labour has dropped, the kulak employer takes advantage of this condition to discharge the worker before the contract has expired, and the worker loses the season either in seeking work in the same district or in tramping the country,” a landlord correspondent confesses (ibid., 132).—Lenin

[4] Cf. Fr. Engels, Zur Wohnungsfrage. Vorwort. (F. Engels, The Housing Question. Preface. –Ed.)[11]Lenin

[5] The same characteristics are displayed by the “Cossacks” of the Kuban Region: “The Cossack resorts to every possible method to force down the price of labour, acting either individually or through the community” (sic ! What a pity we lack more detailed information about this latest function of the “community”!): “cutting down the food, increasing the work quota, docking the pay, retaining the workers’ passports, adopting public resolutions prohibiting specific farmers from employing workers, on Dain of a fine, at above a definite rate, etc.” (“Migrant Workers in the Kuban Region” by A. Beloborodov, in Severny Vestnik, February 1896, p. 5.)—Lenin

[6] Let us observe, in passing, that this operation, threshing, is most frequently done by hired labourers. One can judge, therefore how large must be the number employed on threshing all over Russia!—Lenin

[7] Of the six uyezd Zemstvo assemblies in Kherson Gubernia whose views on the question of organising supervision over workers are reported by Mr. Tezyakov, four declared against this system. The local landowners accused the gubernia Zemstvo board of “turning the workers into absolute idlers,” etc.—Lenin

[8] Shakhovskoi, loccit., 98 and foll. The author cites even the list of “fees” paid to clerks and village elders for the hire of peasants on advantageous terms. – Tezyakov loccit., 65 – Trirogov The Village Community and the Poll Tax; article entitled “Bondage in the National Economy.”—Lenin

[9] Here is another example of the pernicious influence of Narodnik prejudices. Mr. Tezyakov, whose splendid work we have frequently quoted, notes the fact that from Kherson Gubernia many local workers go to that of Taurida, although there is a great shortage of labour in the former gubernia. He calls this “an extremely queer phenomenon”: “it means a loss to the employers and a loss to the workers, who abandon jobs at home and risk finding none in Taurida” (33). We, on the contrary, think that Mr. Tezyakov’s statement is extremely queer. Do the workers really not understand what is to their advantage, and have they not the right to seek the most advantageous conditions of employment they can get? (In Taurida Gubernia the wages of agricultural workers are higher than in Kherson Gubernia.) Are we really to think that it is obligatory for the muzhik to live and work where he is registered and “provided with an allotment”?—Lenin

[10] Zvegintsev Commission – was established in 1894 under the auspices of the Zemstvo Department of the Ministry of Home Affairs to draw up measures for “introducing order into employments outside the village and regulating the movement of agricultural labourers.”

[11] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 546.