The Growth of Commercial Agriculture

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Written: 1896-1899.
Source: Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th Edition, Moscow, 1964, Volume 3, pp. 252-330
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:K. 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.


I. General Data on Agricultural Production in Post-Reform Russia and on The Types of Commercial Agriculture 
II. The Commercial Grain-Farming Area 
III. The Commercial Stock-Farming Area. General Data on the Development of Dairy Farming 
IV. Continuation. The Economy of Landlord Farming in the Area Described 
V. Continuation. The Differentiation of the Peasantry in the Dairy-Farming Area 
VI. The Flax-Growing Area 
VII. The Technical Processing of Agricultural Produce 
VIII. Industrial Vegetable and Fruit Growing; Suburban Farming 
IX. Conclusions on the Significance of Capitalism in Russian Agriculture 
X. Narodnik Theories on Capitalism in Agriculture. “The Freeing of Winter Time” 
XI. Continuation.—The Village Community.—Marx’s Views on Small-Scale Agriculture.—Engels’s Opinion of the Contemporary Agricultural Crisis 323

Having examined the internal economic structure of peasant and landlord economy, we must now take up the question of the changes in agricultural production and ask: do these changes express a growth of capitalism and of the home market?

I. General Data on Agricultural Production in Post-Reform Russia and on The Types of Commercial Agriculture

Let us glance first of all at the general statistics on grain production in European Russia. The considerable harvest fluctuations render the data for individual periods or for individual years quite useless.[1] It is necessary to take different periods and the data for a whole number of years. We have at our disposal the following data: for the period of the 60s, the data for 1864-1866 (Military Statistical Abstract, IV, St. Petersburg, 1871, data of gubernatorial reports). For the 70s, the returns of the Department of Agriculture for the entire decade (Historico-Statistical Survey of Russian Industry, Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1883). And lastly, for the 1880s, we have data for the five years of 1883-1887 (Statistics of the Russian Empire, IV); this five-year period can represent the whole of the eighties, since the average harvest for the ten years, 1880-1889, is even somewhat higher than for the five years 1883-1887 (see Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, published for the Chicago Exhibition, pp. 132 and 142). Further, in order to judge of the trend of evolution in the 90s we take the data for the decade 1885-1894 (Productive Forces, I, 4). Lastly, the data for 1905 (Yearbook of Russia, 1906) are quite adequate for a judgement of the present time. The 1905 harvest was only a little lower than the average for the five years 1900-1904.

Let us compare all these data.[2]Harvest for fifty gubernias of European Russia.


We see from this that until the 1890s the post-Reform era is characterised by an undoubted increase in the production both of cereals and potatoes. The productivity of agricultural labour rises: firstly, the size of the net yield grows faster than that of the sown area (with occasional exceptions); secondly, we must bear in mind that the proportion of the population engaged in agricultural production steadily diminished during this period owing to the diversion of the population from agriculture to commerce and industry, and also owing to the migration of peasants beyond the bounds of European Russia.[3] What is particularly noteworthy is the fact that it is commercial agriculture that is growing: there is an increase in the amount of grain gathered (after subtracting seed) per head of the population, while among this population there is an ever-growing division of social labour; there is an increase in the commercial and industrial population; the agricultural population splits up into rural entrepreneurs and a rural proletariat; there is an extension of specialisation in agriculture itself, so that the amount of grain produced for sale grows far more rapidly than the total amount of grain produced in the country. The capitalist character of the process is strikingly illustrated by the increased share of potatoes in the total agricultural production.[4] The increase in the area under potatoes signifies, on the one hand, an improvement in agricultural technique (the introduction of root-crops) and increased technical processing of agricultural produce (distilling and the manufacture of potato starch). On the other hand, it is, from the viewpoint of the rural entrepreneur class, the production of relative surplus-value (cheapening of the cost of maintaining labour-power, deterioration of the people’s nourishment). The data for the decade 1885-1894 show further that the crisis of 1891-1892, which tremendously intensified the expropriation of the peasantry, led to a considerable reduction in the output of cereals and to a reduction in the yield of all crops; but the process of the displacement of cereals by potatoes continued with such force that the per-capita output of potatoes increased, not withstanding the reduced yield. Finally, the last five years (1900-1904) also show an increase in agricultural production, an increase in the productivity of agricultural labour and a worsening of the conditions of the working-class (increase in the part played by potatoes).

As we have noted above, the growth of commercial agriculture manifests itself in the specialisation of agriculture. Mass-scale and gross data on the production of all crops can give (and then not always) only the most general indications of this process, since the specific features of the different areas thereby disappear. Yet it is precisely the segregation of the different agricultural areas that is one of the most characteristic features of post-Reform agriculture in Russia. Thus, the Historico-Statistical Survey of Russian Industry (Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1883), quoted by us, enumerates the following agricultural areas: the flax area, “the region where stock farming predominates,” and where, in particular, “dairy farming is considerably developed”; the region where grain crops predominate, particularly the three-field area and the area with the improved fallow or multi-field grass system (part of the steppe belt, which “is characterised by the production of the most valuable, so-called elite grains, mainly intended for the foreign market”); the beet area, and the area in which potatoes are cultivated for distilling purposes. “The economic areas indicated have arisen in European Russia comparatively recently, and with every passing year continue increasingly to develop and become more segregated” (loccit., p. 15).[5] Our task should now be, consequently, to study this process of the specialisation of agriculture, and we should ascertain whether a growth of commercial agriculture is to be observed in its various forms, whether capitalist agriculture comes into existence in the process, and whether agricultural capitalism bears the features we indicated above in analysing the general data on peasant and landlord farming. It goes without saying that for our purposes it will be sufficient if we confine ourselves to describing the principal areas of commercial agriculture.

But before examining the data for the separate areas, let us note the following: the Narodnik economists, as we have seen, do all they can to evade the fact that the characteristic feature of the post-Reform period is the growth of commercial agriculture. Naturally, in doing so they also ignore the circumstance that the drop in grain prices is bound to stimulate the specialisation of agriculture and the drawing of agricultural produce into the sphere of exchange. Here is an instance. The authors of the well-known book The Influence of Harvests and Grain Prices all proceed from the postulate that the price of grain is of no importance to natural economy, and they repeat this “truism” endlessly. One of them, Mr. Kablukov, has observed, however, that under the general conditions of commodity production this postulate is substantially wrong. “It is possible, of course,” he writes, “that the grain placed on the market has cost less to produce than that grown on the consumer’s farm, in which case it would appear to be in the interest also of the consuming farm to change from cultivating cereals to other crops” (or to other occupations, we would add), “and, consequently, for it too the market price of grain assumes importance as soon as it fails to coincide with its cost of production” (I, 98, note, author’s italics). “But we cannot take that into account,” he says peremptorily. Why is that? Because, it seems: 1) a change-over to other crops is possible “only where certain conditions exist.” By means of this empty truism (everything on earth is possible only under certain conditions!) Mr. Kablukov calmly evades the fact that the post-Reform period in Russia has created, and continues to create, the very conditions that call for the specialisation of agriculture and the diversion of the population from agriculture. . . . 2) Because “in our climate it is impossible to find a crop equal to cereals in food value”. The argument is highly original, expressing a mere evasion of the issue. What has the food value of other crops to do with the matter, if we are dealing with the sale of these other crops and the purchase of cheap grain? . . . 3) Because “grain farms of the consuming type always have a rational basis for their existence.” In other words, because Mr. Kablukov “and colleagues” regard natural economy as “rational.” The argument, as you see, is irrefutable. . . .


[1] If only for this reason, Mr. N.–on is absolutely wrong in drawing the boldest conclusions from the returns for 8 years of one decade (1871-1878)!—Lenin

[2] For the period 1883-1887 we have taken the population of 1885; the increase is taken at 1.2%. The difference between the data of the gubernatorial reports and those of the Department of Agriculture is, as we know, inconsiderable. The figures for 1905 have been arrived at by converting poods into chetverts (about six bushels each.—Ed.)—Lenin

[3] Mr. N.–on is quite wrong when he asserts that “there are no grounds whatever for assuming a decline in their number” (the number of persons engaged in agricultural production), “quite the contrary” (Sketches, 33, note). See Chapter VIII, § II.—Lenin

[4] The net per-capita potato crop increased between 1864-1866 and 1870-1879 in all areas of European Russia without exception. Between 1870-1879 and 1883-1887 the increase took place in 7 areas out of 11 (the Baltic, Western, Industrial, North-Western, Northern, Southern, Steppe, Lower- and Transvolga areas).

Cf. Agricultural Statistical Information Based on Material Obtained from Farmers, Vol. VII, St. Petersburg, 1897 (published by Ministry of Agriculture).[7] In 1871, in the 50 gubernias of European Russia, the area under potatoes was 790,000 dess. in 1881—1,375,000 dess. and in 1895—2,154,000 dess, i.e., an increase during the 15 years of 55% . Taking the potato crop in 1841 as 100, we get the following figures for the later years: 1861—120; 1871—162; 1881—297; 1895—530.—Lenin

[5] Cf. also Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, pp. 84-88; here a tobacco area is added. The maps drawn by Messrs. D. Semyonov and A. Fortunatov show the areas according to the particular crops predominating in them; for example the rye, oat and flax area, Pskov and Yaroslavl gubernias; the rye, oat and potato area, Grodno and Moscow gubernias, and so on.—Lenin

[6] In the first edition (1899) of The Development of Capitalism in Russia the table was given as follows:Table from first edition (1899).Continuation of table on page 650.

[7] Lenin’s notes on this publication and his preliminary calculations are published in Lenin Miscellany XXXIII, pp. 165-175.

II. The Commercial Grain-Farming Area

This area covers the outer region in the south and the east of European Russia, the steppe gubernias of Novorossia and the Transvolga. Agriculture is distinguished here for its extensive character and the enormous scale of the production of grain for sale. If we take the eight gubernias of Kherson, Bessarabia, Taurida, Don, Ekaterinoslav, Saratov, Samara and Orenburg, we shall find that in 1883-1887 the net crop of cereals (not including oats) for a population of 13,877,000 amounted to 41.3 million chetverts, i.e., more than one-fourth of the total net yield of the 50 gubernias of European Russia. The crop most commonly sown here is wheat—the principal export grain.[1] Agriculture develops here fastest of all (by comparison with the other areas of Russia), and these gubernias relegate the central black-earth gubernias, formerly in the lead, to the background:Net per-capita cereal crop.


Thus there is a shifting of the principal centre of grain production: in the 1860s and 1870s the central black-earth gubernias were ahead of all the rest, but in the 1880s they yielded priority to the steppe and Lower Volga gubernias: their production of grain began to diminish.

This interesting fact of the enormous growth of agricultural production in the area described is to be explained by the circumstance that in the post-Reform period the outer steppe regions have been colonies of the central, long-settled part of European Russia. The abundance of free land has attracted an enormous stream of settlers, who have quickly increased the area under crops.[3] The extensive development of commercial crops was possible only because of the close economic ties of these colonies with central Russia, on the one hand, and the European grain importing countries, on the other. The development of industry in central Russia and the development of commercial farming in the outer regions are inseparably connected and create a market for each other. The industrial gubernias received grain from the South, selling there the products of their factories and supplying the colonies with labour, artisans (see Chapter V, § III on the migration of small industrialists to the outer regions), and means of production (timber, building materials, tools, etc.). Only because of this social division of labour could the settlers in the steppe localities engage exclusively in agriculture and sell huge quantities of grain in the home and particularly in the foreign market. Only because of their close connection with the home and foreign markets could the economic development of these localities proceed so rapidly; and it was precisely capitalist development, for along with the growth of commercial farming there was an equally rapid process of the diversion of the population into industry, the process of the growth of towns and of the formation of new centres of large-scale industry (see below, Chapters VII and VIII).[4]

As to the question of whether the growth of commercial farming in this area is bound up with technical progress in agriculture and with the creation of capitalist relations, that has been dealt with above. In Chapter II we saw how large the areas cultivated by peasants in these localities are and how sharply capitalist relations manifest themselves there even within the village community. In the preceding chapter we saw that in this area there has been a particularly rapid development in the use of machinery, that the capitalist farms in the outer regions attract hundreds of thousands and millions of wage-workers, with huge farms created on a scale unprecedented in agriculture, on which there is extensive co-operation of wage-workers, etc. We have little left now to add in completion of this picture.

In the outer steppe regions the privately-owned estates are not only distinguished occasionally for their enormous size, but are also the scene of farming on a very big scale. Above we made reference to crop areas of 8, 10 and 15 thousand dessiatines in Samara Gubernia. In Taurida Gubernia, Falz-Fein owns 200,000 dess., Mordvinov 80,000 dess.; two individuals own 60,000 dess. each, “and many proprietors have from 10,000 to 25,000 dessiatines” (Shakhovskoi, 42). An idea of the scale of farming can be obtained, for example, from the fact that in 1893 there were 1,100 machines (of which 1,000 belonged to the peasantry) haymaking for Falz-Fein. In Kherson Gubernia there were 3.3 million dessiatines under cultivation in 1893, of which 1.3 million dess. belonged to private owners; in five uyezds of the gubernia (without Odessa Uyezd) there were 1,237 medium-sized farms (250 to 1,000 dess. of land), 405 big farms(1,000 to 2,500 dess.) and 226 farms each of over 2,500 dess. According to data gathered in 1890 on 526 farms, they employed 35,514 workers, i.e., an average of 67 workers per farm, of whom from 16 to 30 were annual labourers. In 1893, 100 more or less big farms in Elisavetgrad Uyezd employed 11,197 workers (an average of 112 per farm!), of whom 17.4% were annual, 39.5% seasonal, and 43.1% day labourers.[5] Here are data on the distribution of crop area among all the agricultural undertakings in the uyezd, both of private landowners and of peasants.[6]Approximate area under crop.

Thus, a little over 3 per cent of the peasants (and if we count only those who cultivated, 4 per cent) concentrate in their hands more than a third of the total area under crops, for the tilling and harvesting of which masses of seasonal and day labourers are required.

Lastly, here are the data for Novouzensk Uyezd, Samara Gubernia. In Chapter II we took only Russian peasants farming community allotments; now we add Germans and farmstead peasants (those farming non-community holdings). Unfortunately no data are available for the farms of private landowners.[7]Farm data.

There is no need, apparently, to comment on these data. We have had occasion to observe that the area described is the most typical of agricultural capitalism in Russia—typical not in the agricultural sense, of course, but in the social-economic sense. These colonies, having developed with the greatest freedom, show us what relations could and should have developed in the rest of Russia, had not the numerous survivals of pre-Reform life retarded the development of capitalism. The forms, however, of agricultural capitalism, as will be seen from what follows, are extremely varied.


[1] Except for Saratov Gubernia, with 14.3% under wheat, in the rest of the gubernias mentioned we find 37.6% to 57.8% under wheat.—Lenin

[2] Sources given above. Areas of gubernias according to Historico-Statistical Survey. The “Lower Volga and Transvolga” area is badly constituted, for to the steppe gubernias, with their enormous production of grain, have been added that of Astrakhan (lacking grain for its food requirements) and of Kazan and of Simbirsk, which should more appropriately be included in the central black-earth belt.—Lenin

[3] See Mr. V. Mikhailovsky’s material (Novoye Slovo, [New Word ], June 1897) on the enormous increase in the population of the outer regions and on the migration to these parts, from 1885 to 1897, of hundreds of thousands of peasants from the interior gubernias. On the increase in the area under crops, see the above-mentioned work by V. Postnikov, the Zemstvo statistical returns for Samara Gubernia; Grigoryev’s Peasant Migration from Ryazan Gubernia. On Ufa Gubernia, see Remezov’s Sketches of the Life of Wild Bashkiria—a vivid description of how the “colonisers” felled timber for shipbuilding and transformed the fields “cleared” of “wild” Bashkirs into “wheat factories.” This is a sample of colonial policy that bears comparison with any of the Germans’ exploits in a place like Africa.—Lenin

[4] Cf. Marx, Das Kapital, III, 2, 289,—one of the basic features of the capitalist colony is abundance of free land easily accessible to settlers (the Russian translation of this passage, p.623, is quite wrong).[8] Also see III, 2, 210. Russ. trans., p. 553,—the enormous grain surplus in the agricultural colonies is to be explained by the fact that their entire population is at first “almost exclusively engaged in farming, and particularly in producing agricultural mass products,” which are exchanged for industrial products “They [the colonial states] receive through the world market finished products . . . which they would have to produce themselves under other circumstances.”[9]Lenin

[5] Tezyakov, loccit.—Lenin

[6] Material for Evaluating the Lands of Kherson Gubernia, Vol. II, Kherson 1886. The number of dessiatines cultivated by each group was determined by multiplying the average area under crops by the number of farms. The number of groups has been reduced.—Lenin

[7] Returns for Novouzensk Uyezd.—All rented land, state, privately-owned and allotment, has been taken. Here is a list of the improved implements owned by the Russian farmstead peasants: 609 iron ploughs, 16 steam threshers, 89 horse-threshers, 110 mowers 64 horse-drawn rakes, 61 winnowers and 64 reaping machines. The number of employed workers did not include day labourers.—Lenin

[8] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 738-39.

[9] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 655.

III. The Commercial Stock-Farming Area. General Data on the Development of Dairy Farming

We now pass to another very important area of agricultural capitalism in Russia, namely, the region in which not cereal, but livestock produce is of predominant significance. This region embraces, apart from the Baltic and the western gubernias, the northern, the industrial and parts of some of the central gubernias (Ryazan, Orel, Tula, and Nizhni Novgorod). Here animals are kept for dairy produce, and the whole character of agriculture is adapted to obtaining as large a quantity as possible of the more valuable market produce of this sort.[1] “Before our very eyes a marked transition is taking place from stock farming for manure to stock farming for dairy produce; it has been particularly notice able during the past ten years” (work quoted in previous footnote, ibid.). It is very difficult by the use of statistics to describe the various regions of Russia in this respect, because it is not the total number of horned cattle that is here important, but the number of dairy cattle and their quality. If we take the total number of animals per hundred inhabitants, we shall find that it is biggest in the outer steppe regions of Russia and smallest in the non-black-earth belt (Agriculture and Forestry, 274); we shall find that as time goes on the number diminishes (Productive Forces, III, 6. Cf. Historico-Statistical Survey, I). Hence, we observe here what Roscher noted in his day, namely, that the number of animals per unit of the population is largest in districts of “extensive livestock farming” (W. Roscher, Nationaloekonomik des Ackerbaues. 7-te Aufl., Stuttg., 1873, S. 563–564[2]). We, however, are interested in intensive livestock farming, and in dairy farming in particular. We are compelled, therefore, to confine ourselves to the approximate computation made by the authors of the above-mentioned, Sketch, without claiming to make an exact estimate of the phenomenon; such a computation clearly illustrates the relative positions of the various regions of Russia as to degree of dairy-farm development. We quote this computation in extenso, supplementing it with some averages arrived at and data on the cheese-making industry in 1890 according to “factory” statistics.Dairy-farming development.

This table clearly illustrates (though the data are very obsolete) the emergence of special dairy-farming areas, the development there of commercial farming (the sale of milk and milk-processing) and the increase in the productivity of dairy cattle.

To judge the development of dairy farming, we can only make use of data on butter production and cheese making. This industry arose in Russia at the very end of the 18th century (1795); cheese making on landlords’ estates began to develop in the 19th century, but suffered a severe crisis in the 1860s, which opened the period of cheese making by peasants and merchants.

The number of cheese-making establishments in the 50 gubernias of European Russia was as follows:[3]Cheese-making establishments.

Thus, in 25 years production increased more than ten-fold; only the dynamics of the phenomenon may be judged from these data, which are extremely incomplete. Let us quote some more detailed material. In Vologda Gubernia an improvement in dairy farming began, properly speaking, in 1872, when the Yaroslavl-Vologda railway was opened; since then “farmers have begun to see to the improvement of their herds, to introduce grass cultivation, to acquire improved implements . . . and have tried to place dairy farming on a purely commercial basis” (Statistical Sketch, 20). In Yaroslavl Gubernia “the ground was prepared” by the so-called “cheese-making artels” of the 70s, and “cheese making continues to develop on the basis of private enterprise, merely retaining the title of ‘artel’” (25); cheese making “artels” figure—may we add—in the Directory of Factories and Works as establishments employing wage-workers. Instead of 295,000 rubles, the authors of the Sketch estimate the output of cheese and butter, according to official returns, at 412,000 rubles (computed from figures scattered throughout the book); correction of the figure brings the value of the output of fresh butter and cheese to 1,600,000 rubles, and if we add clarified butter and soft cheese, to 4,701,400 rubles, not counting either the Baltic or the western gubernias.

For the later period let us quote the following opinions from the above-cited publication of the Department of Agriculture Hired Labouretc. Concerning the industrial gubernias in general we read: “A complete revolution in the position of the farms in this area has been brought about by the development of dairy farming”; it “indirectly has also helped to bring about an improvement in agriculture”; “dairy farming in the area is developing with every year” (258). In Tver Gubernia “there is to be observed the tendency both among private landowners and peasants to improve the methods of maintaining cattle”; the income from stock farming is estimated at 10 million rubles (274). In Yaroslavl Gubernia “dairy farming . . . is developing with every year. . . . Cheese and butter making have even begun to assume something of an industrial character . . . milk . . . is bought up from neighbours and even from peasants. One comes across cheese factories run by a whole company of owners” (285). “The general trend of private-landowner farming here,” writes a correspondent from Danilov Uyezd, Yaroslavl Gubernia, “is marked at the present time by the following: 1) the transition from three-field to five- and seven-field crop rotation, with the sowing of herbage in the fields; 2) the ploughing up of disused lands; 3) the introduction of dairy farming, and as a consequence, the stricter selection of cattle and an improvement in their maintenance” (292). The same thing is said of Smolensk Gubernia, where the value of the output of cheese and butter amounted to 240,000 rubles in 1889—according to a report of the Governor (according to statistical returns, 136,000 rubles in 1890). The development of dairy farming is noted in the Kaluga, Kovno, Nizhni-Novgorod, Pskov, Esthland and Vologda gubernias. The value of the output of butter and cheese in the last-mentioned gubernia was estimated at 35,000 rubles according to statistics for 1890, to 108,000 rubles according to the Governor’s report, and to 500,000 rubles according to local returns for 1894, which gave a total of 389 factories. “That is what the statistics say. Actually, however, there are far more factories, since, according to investigations by the Vologda Zemstvo Board, there are 224 factories in Vologda Uyezd alone.” Production is developed in three uyezds, and has partly penetrated a fourth.[4] One can judge from this how many times the above quoted figures need to be multiplied in order to approach the real situation. The plain view of an expert that at the present time the number of butter and cheese-making establishments “amounts to several thousand” (Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, 299), gives a truer picture of the facts than the allegedly exact figure of 265.

Thus the data leave not the slightest doubt about the enormous development of this special type of commercial farming. The growth of capitalism was accompanied here too by the transformation of routine technique. “In the sphere of cheese making,” we read, for example, in Agriculture and Forestry, “more has been done in Russia during the last 25 years than perhaps in any other country” (301). Mr. Blazhin says the same thing in his article “Technical Progress in Dairy Farming” (Productive Forces, III, 38-45). The principal change is that the “age-old” method of leaving cream to settle has been replaced by the system of separating cream in centrifugal machines (separators).[5] The machine has enabled the work to be carried on irrespective of atmospheric temperature, increased the butter yield from milk by 10%, improved the quality of the product, reduced the cost of butter production (the machine requires less labour, space, and ice, as well as fewer utensils), and has led to the concentration of production. Large peasant butteries have grown up, handling “as much as 500 poods of milk a day, which was physically impossible . . . when the milk was left to settle” (ibid.). Improvements are being made in the instruments of production (permanent boilers, screw presses, improved cellars), and production is being assisted by bacteriology, which is providing pure cultures of the type of lactic-acid bacilli needed for fermenting cream.

Thus, in the two areas of commercial farming we have described, the technical improvements called into being by the requirements of the market were effected primarily in those operations that were easiest to change and are particularly important for the market: reaping, threshing and winnowing in commercial grain farming, and the technical processing of animal produce in the area of commercial stock farming. As to the keeping of cattle, capital finds it more profitable for the time being to leave that to the small producer: let him “diligently” and “industriously” tend “his” cattle (and charm Mr. V. V. with his diligence—see Progressive Trends, p. 73), let him bear the brunt of the hardest and roughest work of tending the milk-yielding machine. Capital possesses the latest improvements and methods not only of separating the cream from the milk, but also of separating the “cream” from this “diligence”, of separating the milk from the children of the peasant poor.


[1] In other parts of Russia stock farming is of a different kind. For example, in the extreme South and South-East, the most extensive form of stock farming has become established, namely, cattle-fattening for beef. Further north, horned cattle are used as draught animals. Lastly, in the central black-earth belt cattle are used as “manure-making machines.” V. Kovalevsky and I. Levitsky, Statistical Sketch of Dairy Farming in the Northern and Central Belts of European Russia (St. Petersburg, 1879). The authors of this work, like the majority of agricultural experts, display very little interest in the social-economic aspect of the matter or understanding of this aspect It is quite wrong, for example, to draw from the fact of farms becoming more profitable the direct conclusion that they ensure “the people’s well-being and nutriment” (p. 2).—Lenin

[2] W. Roscher, Economics of Agriculture, 7th edition, Stuttgart 1873, pp. 563-564.—Lenin

[3] Data from Military Statistical Abstract and Mr. Orlov’s Directory (1st and 3rd eds.). Concerning these sources, see Chapter VII. Let us merely observe that the figures quoted minimise the actual rapidity of development, since the term “factory” or “works” was employed in a narrower sense in 1879 than in 1866; and in 1890 in a still narrower sense than in 1879. The 3rd ed of the Directory contains information on the date of establishment of 230 factories; it appears that only 26 were established before 1870, 68 in the 70s, 122 in the 80s and 14 in 1890. This speaks of a rapid increase in production. As for the latest List of Factories and Works (St. Petersburg, 1897), utter chaos reigns there: cheese making is registered for two or three gubernias and for the rest omitted altogether.—Lenin

[4] Nedelya [Week ], 1896, No. 13. Dairy farming is so profitable that urban traders have rushed into the business and, incidentally, have introduced such methods as the settlement of accounts in goods. One local landowner, who has a large factory, organised an artel “with prompt cash payment for milk” in order to release the peasants from bondage to buyers-up and to “capture new markets.” A characteristic example, showing the real significance of artels and of the celebrated “organisation of sales,” namely, “emancipation” from merchant’s capital through the development of industrial capital.—Lenin

[5] Until 1882 there were hardly any separators in Russia. From 1886 onward they spread so rapidly as to displace the old method utterly. In the 1890s even butter-extractor separators appeared.—Lenin

IV. Continuation. The Economy of Landlord Farming in the Area Described

We have cited the evidence of agronomists and farmers to the effect that dairy farming on the landlord estates leads to the rationalisation of agriculture. Let us add here that the analysis of the Zemstvo statistics on this question made by Mr. Raspopin[1] fully confirms this conclusion. We refer the reader to Mr. Raspopin’s article for detailed data and give here only his main conclusion. “The interdependence of the condition of stock raising and dairy farming, on the one hand, and the number of dilapidated estates and the intensity of farming, on the other, is beyond question. The uyezds (of Moscow Gubernia) where dairy cattle raising, dairy farming, is most developed show the smallest percentage of dilapidated farms and the highest percentage of estates with highly developed field cultivation. Throughout Moscow Gubernia ploughland is being reduced and turned into meadow and pastureland, while grain rotations are yielding place to multi-field herbage rotations. Fodder grasses and dairy cattle, and not grain, are now predominant . . . not only on the farming estates in Moscow Gubernia but throughout the Moscow industrial district” (loccit.).

The scale of butter production and cheese making is particularly important precisely because it testifies to a complete revolution in agriculture, which becomes entrepreneur farming and breaks with routine. Capitalism subordinates to itself one of the products of agriculture, and all other aspects of farming are fitted in with this principal product. The keeping of dairy cattle calls forth the cultivation of grasses, the change-over from the three-field system to multi-field systems, etc. The waste products of cheese making go to fatten cattle for the market. Not only milk processing, but the whole of agriculture becomes a commercial enterprise.[2] The influence of cheese production and butter making is not confined to the farms on which they are carried on, since milk is often bought up from the surrounding peasants and landlords. By buying up the milk, capital subordinates to itself the small agriculturists too, particularly with the organisation of the so-called “amalgamated dairies,” the spread of which was noted in the 70s (see Sketch by Messrs. Kovalevsky and Levitsky). These are establishments organised in big towns, or in their vicinity, which process very large quantities of milk brought in by rail. As soon as the milk arrives the cream is skimmed and sold fresh, while the skimmed milk is sold at a low price to poorer purchasers. To ensure that they get produce of a certain quality, these establishments sometimes conclude contracts with the suppliers, obliging them to adhere to certain rules in feeding their cows. One can easily see how great is the significance of large establishments of this kind: on the one hand they capture the public market (the sale of skimmed milk to the poorer town-dwellers), and on the other hand they enormously expand the market for the rural entrepreneurs. The latter are given a tremendous impetus to expand and improve commercial farming. Large-scale industry brings them into line, as it were, by demanding produce of a definite quality and forcing out of the market (or placing at the mercy of the usurers) the small producer who falls below the “normal” standard. There should also operate in the same direction the grading of milk as to quality (fat content, for example), on which technicians are so busily engaged, inventing all sorts of lacto-densimeters, etc., and of which the experts are so heartily in favour (cf. Productive Forces, III, 9 and 38). In this respect the role of the amalgamated dairies in the development of capitalism is quite analogous to that of elevators in commercial grain farming. By sorting grain as to quality the elevators turn it into a product that is not individual but generic (res fungibilis,[7] as the lawyers say), i.e., for the first time they adapt it fully to exchange (cf. M. Sering’s article on the grain trade in the United States of America in the symposium Landownership and Agriculture, p. 281 and foll.). Thus, the elevators give a powerful impetus to commodity-grain production and spur on its technical development by also introducing grading for quality. Such a system strikes a double blow at the small producer. Firstly, it sets up as a standard, legalises, the higher-quality grain of the big crop sowers and thereby greatly depreciates the inferior grain of the peasant poor. Secondly, by organising the grading and storing of grain on the lines of large-scale capitalist industry, it reduces the big sowers’ expenses on this item and facilitates and simplifies the sale of grain for them, thereby placing the small producer, with his patriarchal and primitive methods of selling from the cart in the market, totally at the mercy of the kulaks and the usurers. Hence, the rapid development of elevator construction in recent years means as big a victory for capital and degradation of the small commodity-producer in the grain business as does the appearance and development of capitalist “amalgamated dairies.”

From the foregoing material it is clear that the development of commercial stock farming creates a home market,[3] firstly, for means of production—milk-processing equipment, premises, cattle sheds, improved agricultural implements required for the change-over from the routine three-field system to multi-field crop rotations, etc.; and secondly, for labour-power. Stock farming placed on an industrial footing requires a far larger number of workers than the old stock farming “for manure.” The dairy farming area—the industrial and north-western gubernias—does really attract masses of agricultural labourers. Very many people go to seek agricultural work in the Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl and Vladimir gubernias; fewer, but nevertheless a considerable number, go to the Novgorod, Nizhni Novgorod and other non-black-earth gubernias. According to correspondents of the Department of Agriculture in the Moscow and other gubernias private-landowner farming is actually conducted in the main by labourers from other areas. This paradox— the migration of agricultural workers from the agricultural gubernias (they come mostly from the central black-earth gubernias and partly from the northern) to the industrial gubernias to do agricultural jobs in place of industrial workers who abandon the area en masse—is an extremely characteristic phenomenon (see S. A. Korolenko on this point, loc. cit). It proves more convincingly than do any calculations or arguments that the standard of living and the conditions of the working people in the central black-earth gubernias, the least capitalist ones, are incomparably lower and worse than in the industrial gubernias, the most capitalist ones; it proves that in Russia, too, the following has become a universal fact, namely, the phenomenon characteristic of all capitalist countries, that the conditions of the workers in industry are better than those of the workers in agriculture (because in agriculture oppression by capitalism is supplemented by the oppression of pre-capitalist forms of exploitation). That explains the flight from agriculture to industry, whereas not only is there no flow from the industrial gubernias towards agriculture (for example, there is no migration from these gubernias at all), but there is even a tendency to look down upon the “raw” rural workers, who are called “cowherds” (Yaroslavl Gubernia), “cossacks” (Vladimir Gubernia) and “land labourers” (Moscow Gubernia).

It is important also to note that cattle herding requires a larger number of workers in winter than in summer. For that reason, and also because of the development of agricultural processing trades, the demand for labour in the area described not only grows, but is more evenly distributed over the whole year and over a period of years. The most reliable material for judging this interesting fact is the data on wages, if taken for a number of years. We give these data, confining ourselves to the groups of Great-Russian and Little-Russian gubernias.[8] We omit the western gubernias, owing to their specific social conditions and artificial congestion of population (the Jewish pale of settlement), and quote the Baltic gubernias only to illustrate the relations that arise where capitalism is most highly developed.[4]Pay.

Let us examine this table, in which the three principal columns are printed in italics. The first column shows the proportion of summer to yearly pay. The lower this proportion is, and the nearer the summer pay approximates to half the yearly pay, the more evenly is the demand for labour spread over the entire year and the less the winter unemployment. The least favourably placed in this respect are the central black-earth gubernias—the area where labour-service prevails and where capitalism is poorly developed.[5] In the industrial gubernias, in the dairy-farming area the demand for labour is higher and winter unemployment is less. Over a period of years, too, the pay is most stable here, as may be seen from the second column, which shows the difference between the lowest and the highest pay in the harvest season. Lastly, the difference between the pay in the sowing season and the pay in the harvest season is also least in the non black-earth belt, i.e., the demand for workers is more evenly distributed over the spring and summer. In all respects mentioned the Baltic gubernias stand even higher than the non-black-earth gubernias, while the steppe gubernias, with their immigrant workers and with harvest fluctuations of the greatest intensity, are marked by the greatest instability of wages. Thus, the data on wages testify that agricultural capitalism in the area described not only creates a demand for wage-labour, but also distributes this demand more evenly over the whole year.

Lastly, reference must be made to one more type of dependence of the small agriculturist in the area described upon the big farmer. This is the replenishment of landlords’ herds by the purchase of cattle from peasants. The landlords find it more profitable to buy cattle from peasants driven by need to sell “at a loss” than to breed cattle themselves—just as our buyers-up in so-called handicraft industry often prefer to buy finished articles from the handicraftsmen at a ruinously cheap price rather than manufacture them in their own workshops. This fact, which testifies to the extreme degradation of the small producer, and to his being able to keep going in modern society only by endlessly reducing his requirements, is turned by Mr. V. V. into an argument in favour of small “people’s” production! . . . “We are entitled to draw the conclusion that our big farmers . . . do not display a sufficient degree of independence. . . . The peasant, however . . . reveals greater ability to effect real farming improvements” (Progressive Trends, 77). This lack of independence is expressed in the fact that “our dairy farmers . . . buy up the peasants’ (cows) at a price rarely amounting to half the cost of raising them—usually at not more than a third, and often even a quarter of this cost” (ibid., 71). The merchant’s capital of the stock farmers has made the small peasants completely dependent, it has turned them into its cowherds, who breed cattle for a mere song, and has turned their wives into its milkmaids.[6] One would think that the conclusion to be drawn from this is that there is no sense in retarding the transformation of merchant’s capital into industrial capital, no sense in supporting small production, which leads to forcing down the producer’s standard of living below that of the farm labourer. But Mr. V. V. thinks otherwise. He is delighted with the “zeal” (p. 73, loccit.) of the peasant in tending his cattle; he is delighted with the “good results from livestock farming” obtained by the peasant woman who “spends all her life with her cow and sheep” (80). What a blessing, to be sure! To “spend all her life with her cow” (the milk of which goes to the improved cream separator), and as a reward for this life, to receive “one-fourth of the cost” of tending this cow! Now really, how after that can one fail to declare in favour of “small people’s production”!


[1] This problem also has been raised by Mr. Raspopin (perhaps for the first time in our literature) from the correct, theoretically sound point of view. At the very outset he observes that “the enhancement of the productivity of stock farming”—in particular, the development of dairy farming—is proceeding in this country along capitalist lines and serves as one of the most important indices of the penetration of capital into agriculture.—Lenin

[2] Dr. Zhbankov says in his Sanitary Investigation of Factories and Works of Smolensk Gubernia (Smolensk, 1894, Vol. I, p. 7) that “the number of workers engaged in cheese making proper . . . is very inconsiderable. . . . There are far more auxiliary workers, needed both for cheese making and for agriculture; these are herdsmen, milkmaids, etc.; in all the [cheese] factories these workers outnumber the cheese makers proper, two, three and even four times over.” Let us note in passing that according to Dr. Zhbankov’s description, the conditions of labour here are very insanitary, and the working day is excessively long (16 to 17 hours), etc. Thus, in the case of this area of commercial agriculture, too, the traditional notion of the idyllic occupation of the agriculturist is a false one.—Lenin

[3] The market for commercial stock farming is created chiefly by the growth of the industrial population, with which we shall deal in detail later on (Chapter VIII, § II). As regards foreign trade, let us confine ourselves to the following remarks: cheese exports in the early part of the post-Reform period were much below imports; but in the 90s they almost equalled them (for the 4 years 1891-1894, the annual average imports amounted to 41,800 poods, and exports to 40,600 poods; in the five years 1886-1890, exports even exceeded imports). The exports of cow and ewe butter have always greatly exceeded imports; these exports are rapidly increasing: in 1866-1870 the average annual exports amounted to 190,000 poods and in 1891-1894 to 370,000 poods (Productive Forces, III, 37).—Lenin

[4] Group I (the area of capitalist grain farming) consists of 8 gubernias: Bessarabia, Kherson, Taurida, Ekaterinoslav, Don, Samara, Saratov and Orenburg. Group II (the area where capitalism is least developed) consists of 12 gubernias: Kazan, Simbirsk, Penza, Tambov Ryazan, Tula, Orel, Kursk, Voronezh, Kharkov, Poltava and Chernigov. Group III (the area of capitalist dairy farming and industrial capitalism) consists of 10 gubernias: Moscow, Tver, Kaluga, Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Nizhni-Novgorod, St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Pskov. The figures showing wages are average gubernia figures. Source: Department of Agriculture publication Hired Labouretc.—Lenin

[5] A similar conclusion is drawn by Mr. Rudnev: “In those localities where the work of labourers hired by the year is given a relatively high valuation the wages of the summer worker approximate more closely to half the yearly pay. Hence, on the contrary, in the western gubernias, and in nearly all the densely-populated central black-earth gubernias, the worker’s labour in the summer is given a very low valuation” (loccit., 455).—Lenin

[6] Here are two descriptions of the living standard and living conditions of the Russian peasant in general. M. Y. Saltykov, in Petty Things of Life, writes about the “enterprising muzhik” as follows: “The muzhik needs everything, but what he needs most of all . . . is the ability to exhaust himself, not to stint his own labour. . . . The enterprising muzhik simply expires at it” (work). “His wife and grown up children, too, all toil worse than galley-slaves.”

V. Veresayev, in a story entitled “Lizar” Severny Kurier [Northern Courier ], 1899, No. 1), tells the story of a muzhik in the Pskov Gubernia named Lizar, who advocates the use of drops, etc., “to prevent an increase.” “Subsequently,” observes the author, “I heard from many Zemstvo doctors, and particularly from midwives, that they frequently have similar requests from village husbands and wives.” “Moving in a certain direction, life has tried all roads and at last has reached a blind alley. There is no escape from it. And so a new solution of the problem is naturally arising and increasingly maturing.”

The position of the peasant in capitalist society is indeed hopeless, and in Russia with its village communities, as in France with its smallholders, leads “naturally” not to an unnatural . . . “solution of the problem,” of course, but to an unnatural means of postponing the doom of small economy. (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[7] Res fungibilis—replaceable thing—an old juridical term. “Replaceable things” are those which in contracts are indicated by simple numerical quantity or measure (“so many bushels of rye,” “so many bricks”). They are distinguished from “irreplaceable things”—things that are specifically indicated (“such and such a thing,” “article number so and so”).

[8] Little Russia, i.e., Malorossia—as the territory of the Ukraine was officially called in tsarist Russia.

V. Continuation. The Differentiation of the Peasantry in the Dairy-Farming Area

In the literature dealing with the effect of dairy farming on the conditions of the peasantry, we constantly come up against contradictions: on the one hand reference is made to progress in farming, the enlargement of incomes, the improvement of agricultural technique and the acquisition of improved implements; on the other hand, we have statements about the deterioration of food, the creation of new types of bondage and the ruin of the peasants. After what was stated in Chapter II, we should not be surprised at these contradictions: we know that these opposite opinions relate to opposite groups of the peasantry. For a more precise judgement of the subject, let us take the data showing the classification of peasant households according to the number of cows per household.[1]Classification of peasant households according to number of cows.

Thus, the distribution of cows among the peasants in the non-black-earth belt is found to be very similar to the distribution of draught animals among the peasants in the black-earth gubernias (see Chapter II). Moreover, the concentration of dairy cattle in the area described proves to be greater than the concentration of draught animals. This clearly points to the fact that it is with the local form of commercial farming that the differentiation of the peasantry is closely connected. The same connection is evidently indicated by the following data (unfortunately, not sufficiently complete). If we take the aggregate Zemstvo statistics (given by Mr. Blagoveshchensky; for 122 uyezds of 21 gubernias), we get an average of 1.2 cows per household. Hence, in the non-black-earth belt the peasantry evidently own more cows than in the black-earth belt, and in Petersburg Gubernia they are better off than in the non-black earth belt in general. On the other hand, in 123 uyezds of 22 gubernias the cattleless households constitute 13 %, while in the 18 uyezds we have taken, they amount to 17%, and in the 6 uyezds of Petersburg Gubernia 18.8%. Hence, the differentiation of the peasantry (in the respect we are now examining) is most marked in Petersburg Gubernia, followed by the non-black-earth belt in general. By this indication, commercial farming is the principal factor in the differentiation of the peasantry.

The data show that about half the peasant households (those having no cows, or one cow) can take only a negative part in the benefits of dairy farming. The peasant with one cow will sell milk only out of need, to the detriment of his children’s nourishment. On the other hand, about one-fifth of the households (those with 3 cows and more) concentrate in their hands probably more than half the total dairy farming since the quality of their cattle and the profitableness of their farms should be higher than in the case of the “average” peasant.[2] An interesting illustration of this conclusion is provided by the data on a locality where dairy farming and capitalism in general are highly developed. We refer to Petersburg Uyezd.[3] Dairy farming is particularly widely developed in the summer residential part of the uyezd, inhabited mainly by Russians; here the most widely cultivated crops are: grasses (23.5% of the allotment arable, as against 13.7% for the uyezd), oats (52.3% of the arable) and potatoes (10.1%). Agriculture is directly influenced by the St. Petersburg market, which needs oats, potatoes, hay, milk and horse traction (loccit., 168). The families of the registered population are 46.3% engaged “in the milk industry.” Of the total number of cows 91% provide milk for the market. The income from this industry amounts to 713,470 rubles (203 rubles per family, 77 rubles per cow). The nearer the locality is to St. Petersburg, the higher is the quality of the cattle and the better the attention they receive. The milk is sold in two ways: 1) to buyers-up on the spot and 2) in St. Petersburg to “dairy farms,” etc. The latter type of marketing is much more profitable, but “the majority of the farms having one or two cows, and sometimes more, are not . . . able to deliver their milk to St. Petersburg direct”—they have no horses, it does not pay to cart small quantities, etc. The buyers-up of the milk include not only specialist merchants, but individuals with dairies of their own. The following data are for two volosts in the uyezd:Distribution of benefits of dairy farming.

One can judge from this how the benefits of dairy farming are distributed among all the peasants in the non-black earth belt, among whom, as we have seen, the concentration of dairy cattle is even greater than among these 560 families. It remains for us to add that 23.1% of the peasant families in St. Petersburg Uyezd hire workers (most of whom, here, as everywhere in agriculture, are day labourers). “Bearing in mind that agricultural workers are hired almost exclusively by families having fully-operating farms” (constituting only 40.4% of the total number of families in the uyezd) “the conclusion must be that more than half of such farms do not manage without hired labour” (158).

Thus, at opposite ends of Russia, in the most varying localities, in St. Petersburg and, say, Taurida gubernias, the social and economic relations within the “village community,” prove to be absolutely identical. The “muzhik-cultivators” (Mr. N.–on’s term) in both places differentiate into a minority of rural entrepreneurs and a mass of rural proletarians. The specific feature of agriculture is that capitalism subjugates one aspect of rural economy in one district, and another aspect in another, which is why identical economic relations are manifested in the most varied forms of agronomy and everyday life.

Having established the fact that in the area described, too, the peasantry splits up into opposite classes, we shall easily achieve clarity about the contradictory opinions usually expressed as to the role of dairy farming. Quite naturally, the well-to-do peasantry receive an incentive to develop and improve their farming methods and as a result grass cultivation is widespread and becomes an essential part of commercial stock-farming. The development of grass cultivation is observed, for example, in Tver Gubernia; in Kashin Uyezd, the most progressive in that gubernia, as many as one-sixth of all peasant households plant clover (Returns, XIII, 2, p. 171). It is interesting, moreover, to note that on the purchased lands a larger proportion of arable is occupied by herbage than on the allotments: the peasant bourgeoisie naturally prefer private ownership of land to communal tenure.[4] In the Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia (Vol. II, 1896) we also find numerous references to the increase in grass cultivation, and again mainly on purchased and rented lands.[5] In the same publication we find references to the spread of improved implements: iron ploughs, threshing machines, rollers, etc. Butter and cheese making, etc., are developing very considerably. In Novgorod Gubernia it was noted as far back as the beginning of the 80s that along with a general deterioration and diminution of peasant stock breeding, there was an improvement in certain individual localities where there was a profitable market for milk and where the milk-feeding of calves was an old-established industry (Bychkov: An Essay in the House-to-House Investigation of the Economic Position and Farming of the Peasants in Three Volosts of Novgorod Uyezd, Novgorod, 1882). The milk-feeding of calves, which is also a type of commercial livestock farming, is, generally speaking, a fairly widespread industry in the Novgorod and Tver gubernias and in other places not far from the big cities (see Hired Labouretc., published by the Department of Agriculture). “This industry,” says Mr. Bychkov, “by its very nature, brings an income to the already well-provided peasants possessing considerable numbers of cows, since with one cow, and sometimes even with two of poor yield, the milk-feeding of calves is unthinkable” (loccit., 101).[6]

But the most outstanding index of the economic successes of the peasant bourgeoisie in the area described is the hiring of labourers by peasants. The local landowners feel that they are being confronted by competitors, and in their communications to the Department of Agriculture they sometimes even attribute the shortage of workers to the fact that these are snatched up by the well-to-do peasants (Hired Labour, 490). The hiring of labourers by peasants is noted in the Yaroslavl, Vladimir, St. Petersburg and Novgorod gubernias (loccit., passim ). A mass of such references is also scattered throughout the Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia.

This progress of the well-to-do minority, however, is a heavy burden upon the mass of the poor peasants. In Koprin Volost, Rybinsk Uyezd, Yaroslavl Gubernia, for example, one finds the spread of cheese making—on the initiative of “V. I. Blandov, the well-known founder of cheese-making artels.”[7] “When the poorer peasants, with only one cow each, deliver . . . their milk (to the cheese factory) they do so, of course, to the detriment of their own nourishment”; whereas the well-to-do peasants improve their cattle (pp. 32-33). Among the types of wage-labour undertaken, one finds employment away from home, at cheese-making establishments; from among the young peasants a body of skilled cheese makers is arising. In the Poshekhonye Uyezd “the number . . . of cheese and butter establishments is increasing from year to year,” but “the benefits accruing to peasant farming from cheese and butter making hardly compensate for the disadvantages to peasant life resulting from our cheese and butter establishments.” On the peasants’ own admission they are often compelled to starve, for with the opening of a cheese or butter factory in some locality, the milk is sent there and the peasants usually drink diluted milk. The system of payment in kind is coming into vogue (pp.43, 54, 59 and others), so that it is to be regretted that our “people’s” petty production is not covered by the law prohibiting payment in kind in “capitalist” factories.[8]

Thus, the opinions of people directly acquainted with the matter confirm our conclusion that the majority of the peasants play a purely negative part in the progress of local agriculture. The progress of commercial farming worsens the position of the bottom groups of peasants and forces them out of the ranks of the cultivators altogether. Be it noted that reference has been made in Narodnik literature to this contradiction between the progress of dairy farming and the deterioration of the peasants’ nourishment (for the first time, I think, by Engelhardt). But it is precisely this example that enables one to see the narrowness of the Narodnik appraisal of the phenomena occurring among the peasantry and in agriculture. They note a contradiction in one form, in one locality, and do not realise that it is typical of the entire social and economic system, manifesting itself everywhere in different forms. They note the contradictory significance of one “profitable industry,” and strongly urge the “implanting” among the peasantry of all sorts of other “local industries.” They note the contradictory significance of one form of agricultural progress and do not understand that machines, for example, have exactly the same political and economic significance in agriculture as in industry.


[1] Zemstvo statistics taken from Mr. Blagoveshchensky’s Combined Returns.[9] About 14,000 households in these 18 uyezds are not classified according to the number of cows owned: the total is not 289,079 households, but 303,262. Mr. Blagoveshchensky cites similar data for two other uyezds in the black-earth gubernias, but these uyezds are evidently not typical. In 11 uyezds of Tver Gubernia (Statistical Returns, XIII, 2) the percentage of allotment households owning no cows is not high (9.8), but 21.9% of the households, having 3 and more cows, concentrate in their hands 48.4% of the total number of cows. Horseless households constitute 12.2%; households with 3 and more horses constitute only 5.1% and they own only 13.9% of the total number of horses. Let us note, in passing, that a smaller concentration of horses (as compared with that of cows) is also to be observed in other non-black-earth gubernias.—Lenin

[2] These data regarding the opposite groups of peasants should be borne in mind when one meets sweeping statements like the following: “An annual income from dairy stock farming ranging from 20 to 200 rubles per household is, over the enormous area of the northern gubernias, not only a most considerable means of extending and improving stock farming, but has also had the effect of improving field cultivation and even of reducing migration in search of employment, by providing the population with work at home—both in tending cattle and in bringing hitherto neglected land into a properly cultivated condition” (Productive Forces, III, 18). On the whole, migration is not decreasing, but increasing. In some localities, however, the decrease may be due either to the increase in the percentage of well to-do peasants, or to the development of “work at home,” i.e., work for local rural entrepreneurs.—Lenin

[3] Material for Statistics on the Economy in St. Petersburg Gubernia, Vol. V, Pt. II, St. Petersburg, 1887.—Lenin

[4] A substantial improvement in the maintenance of cattle is observed only where there has been a development in the production of milk for sale (pp. 219, 224).—Lenin

[5] Pp. 39, 65, 136, 150, 154, 167, 170, 177 and others. Our pre-Reform system of taxation retards the progress of agriculture here too. “Owing to the congestion of the farmsteads,” writes a correspondent, “grass cultivation has been introduced all over the volost; the clover, however, is sold to cover tax arrears” (91). The taxes in this gubernia are sometimes to high that the peasant who leases his land has himself to pay a sum to the new holder of the allotment.—Lenin

[6] Let us note, by the way, that the variety of “industries” of the local peasantry prompted Mr. Bychkov to distinguish two types of industrialists, according to the amount of earnings. It appeared that less than 100 rubles was earned by 3,251 persons (27.4% of the population); their earnings totalled 102,000 rubles, or an average of 31 rubles per person. Over 100 rubles was obtained by 454 (3.8% of the population): their earnings totalled 107,000 rubles, or an average of 236 rubles per person The first group consisted mainly of wage-workers of every kind, the second of traders, hay merchants, timber dealers, etc.—Lenin

[7] The “cheese-making artels” of Koprin Volost are mentioned in the Directory of Factories and Works, and the Blandovs are the largest firm in the cheese-making industry: in 1890 they owned 25 factories in six gubernias.—Lenin

[8] Here is the characteristic view of Mr. Stary Maslodel [Old Butter Maker]. “Whoever has seen and knows the countryside today and remembers what it was 40 or 50 years ago will be amazed at the difference. In the old villages all the houses were the same both outside and inside; today, however side by side with hovels stand fine houses, side by side with the indigent live the rich, side by side with the downtrodden and despised live those who feast and make merry. In former times one often came across villages in which there was not a single landless peasant; now in every village there are no less than five and sometimes a full dozen. And to tell the truth, butter making is much to blame for this transformation of the villages. In 30 years butter making has enriched many, has beautified their homes; many peasants who supplied milk during the period of development of the butter industry have become prosperous, acquired more cattle, and purchased land on a community or individual basis; but many more have fallen into poverty; landless peasants and beggars have appeared in the villages” (Zhizn [Life ] 1899, No. 8 quoted from Severny Krai [Northern Region ], 1899, No 223). (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[9] N. A. Blagoveshchensky’s Peasant FarmingCombined Zemstvo House-to-House Census Economic Returns, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1893.

VI. The Flax-Growing Area

We have described the first two areas of capitalist agriculture in fairly great detail because of their widespread character and of the typical nature of the relations observed there. In our further exposition we shall confine ourselves to briefer remarks on some highly important areas.

Flax is the chief of the so-called “industrial crops.” The very term indicates that we are dealing here with commercial farming. For example, in the “flax” gubernia of Pskov, flax has long been the peasants’ “first money,” to use a local expression (Military Statistical Abstract, 260). Flax growing is simply a means of making money. The post-Reform period is marked on the whole by an undoubted increase in commercial flax growing. Thus, at the end of the 60s, the output of flax in Russia was estimated at approximately 12 million poods of fibre (ibid., 260); at the beginning of the 80s at 20 million poods of fibre (Historico-Statistical Survey of Russian Industry, Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1883, p. 74); at the present time, in the 50 gubernias of European Russia over 26 million poods of fibre are gathered.[1] In the flax-growing area proper (19 gubernias of the non-black-earth belt) the area under flax has changed in recent years as follows; 1893—756,600 dess.; 1894—816,500 dess.; 1895—901,800 dess.; 1896—952,100 dess., and 1897—967,500 dess. For the whole of European Russia (50 gubernias) the figure for 1896 was 1,617,000 dess. under flax and for 1897—1,669,000 dess. (Vestnik Finansovibid., and 1898, No. 7), as against 1,399,000 dess. at the beginning of the 1890s (Productive Forces, I, 36). Similarly, general opinions expressed in publications also testify to the growth of commercial flax growing. Thus, regarding the first two decades after the Reform, the Historico-Statistical Survey states that “the region of flax cultivation for industrial purposes has been enlarged by several gubernias” (loccit., 71), which is due particularly to the extension of the railways. Concerning the Yuryev Uyezd, Vladimir Gubernia, Mr. V. Prugavin wrote at the beginning of the eighties: “The cultivation of flax . . . has become very widespread here during the past 10 to 15 years.” “Some large family households sell flax to the extent of 300 to 500 rubles and more per annum. . . . They buy” (flax seed) “in Rostov. . . . The peasants in these parts are very careful in selecting seed” (The Village CommunityHandicraft Industries and Agriculture of Yuryev UyezdVladimir Gubernia, Moscow, 1884, pp. 86-89). The Zemstvo Statistical Returns for Tver Gubernia (Vol. XIII, Pt. 2) notes that “the most important spring grain crops, barley and oats, are yielding place to potatoes and flax” (p. 151); in some uyezds flax occupies from 1/3 to 3/4 of the area under spring crops, for example, in Zubtsov, Kashin and other uyezds, “in which flax growing has assumed the clearly expressed speculative character of an industry” (p. 145), developing particularly on rented virgin and disused land. Moreover, it is noted that in some gubernias, where free land is still available (virgin soil, wasteland, forest-cleared tracts), flax growing is particularly expanding, but in some of the old established flax-growing gubernias “the cultivation of flax is either on the old scale or is even yielding place, for example, to the newly-introduced cultivation of root-crops, vegetables, etc.” (Vestnik Finansov, 1898, No. 6, p. 376, and 1897, No. 29), i.e., to other types of commercial farming.

As for flax exports, during the first two decades after the Reform they increased with remarkable rapidity: from an average of 4.6 million poods in the years 1857-1861 to 8.5 million poods in the years 1867-1871 and to 12.4 million poods in the years 1877-1881; but then exports seemed to become stationary, amounting in the years 1894-1897 to an average of 13.3 million poods.[2] The development of commercial flax growing led, naturally, to exchange not only between agriculture and industry (sale of flax and purchase of manufactured goods), but between different types of commercial agriculture (sale of flax and purchase of grain) The following data concerning this interesting phenomenon clearly demonstrate that a home market for capitalism is created not only by the diversion of population from agriculture to industry, but also by the specialisation of commercial farming.[3]Railway traffic to and from Pskov.

How does this growth of commercial flax growing affect the peasantry, who, as we know, are the principal flax producer?[4] “Travelling through Pskov Gubernia and observing its economic life, one cannot help noticing that side by side with occasional large and rich units, hamlets and villages, there are extremely poor units; these extremes are a characteristic feature of the economic life of the flax area.” “Flax growing has taken a speculative turn,” and “the greater part” of the income from flax “is pocketed by buyers-up and by those who lease out land for flax growing” (Strokin, 22-23). The ruinous rents constitute real “money rent” (see above), and the mass of the peasants are in a state of “complete and hopeless dependence” (Strokin, ibid.) upon the buyers-up. The sway of merchant’s capital was established in this locality long ago,[5] and what distinguishes the post-Reform period is the enormous concentration of this capital, the undermining of the monopoly of the former small buyers-up and the formation of “flax agencies” which have captured the whole flax trade. The significance of flax growing, says Mr. Strokin about Pskov Gubernia, “is expressed . . . in the concentration of capital in a few hands” (p. 31). Turning flax growing into a gamble, capital ruined vast numbers of small agriculturists, who worsened the quality of the flax, exhausted the land, were reduced to leasing out their allotments and finally swelled the ranks of “migratory” workers. On the other hand, a slight minority of well-to-do peasants and traders were able—and competition made it necessary—to introduce technical improvements. Couté scutchers, both hand-worked (costing up to 25 rubles) and horse-operated (three times dearer), were introduced. In 1869 there were only 557 such machines in Pskov Gubernia, in 1881 there were 5,710 (4,521 hand-worked and 1,189 horse- operated).[6] “Today,” we read in the Historico-Statistical Survey, “every sound peasant family engaged in flax growing has a Couté hand-machine, which has actually come to be called the ‘Pskov scutcher’” (loccit., 82-83). What proportion this minority of “sound” householders who acquire machines is to the rest of the peasantry, we have already seen in Chapter II. Instead of the primitive contrivances which cleaned the seeds very badly, the Pskov Zemstvo began to introduce improved seed-cleaners (trieurs ), and “the more prosperous peasant industrialists” now find it profitable to buy these machines themselves and to hire them out to flax growers (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 29, p. 85). The bigger buyers-up of flax establish drying rooms and presses and hire workers to sort and scutch the flax (see example given by Mr. V. Prugavin, loccit., 115). Lastly, it should be added that the processing of flax-fibre requires quite a large number of workers: it is estimated that the cultivation of one dessiatine of flax requires 26 working days of agricultural work proper, and 77 days to extract the fibre from stalks (Historico-Statistical Survey, 72). Thus, the development of flax growing leads, on the one hand, to the farmer being more fully occupied during the winter and, on the other, to the creation of a demand for wage-labour on the part of those landlords and well-to-do peasants who engage in flax growing (see the example in Chapter III, § VI).

Thus, in the flax-growing area, too, the growth of commercial farming leads to the domination of capital and to the differentiation of the peasantry. A tremendous obstacle to the latter process is undoubtedly the ruinously high renting prices of land,[7] the pressure of merchant’s capital, the tying of the peasant to his allotment and the high payments for the allotted land. Hence, the wider the development of land purchase by the peasants,[8] and of migration in search of employment,[9] and the more widespread the use of improved implements and methods of cultivation, the more rapidly will merchant’s capital be supplanted by industrial capital, and the more rapidly will a rural bourgeoisie be formed from among the peasantry, and the system of labour-service for the landlord replaced by the capitalist system.


[1] The average for 1893-1897 was 26,291,000 poods, according to the figures of the Central Statistical Committee. See Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 9, and 1898, No. 6. Formerly the statistics for flax production were very inexact; that is why we have preferred to take approximate estimates based on comparisons of the most varied source made by experts. The amount of flax produced fluctuates considerably year by year. For that reason Mr. N.–on, for example, who set out to draw the boldest conclusions about the “diminution” of flax production and “the reduction of the area under flax” (Sketches, p. 236 and foll.) from figures for some six years, slipped into the most curious errors (see P. B. Struve’s examination of them in Critical Remarks, p. 233 and foll.). Let us add to what has been said in the text that according to the data cited by Mr. N.–on, the maximum area under flax in the 1880s was 1,372,000 dess. and the weight of gathered fibre 19,245,000 poods, whereas in 1896-1897 the area was 1,617,000- 1,669,000 dess., and the weight of gathered fibre 31,713,000-30,139,000 poods.—Lenin

[2] The figures are for the exports of flax, flax-combings and tow. See Historico-Statistical Survey, P. Struve, Critical Remarks and Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 26, and 1898, No. 36.—Lenin

[3] See N. Strokin, Flax Growing in Pskov Gubernia, St. Petersburg, 1882. The author borrowed these data from the Proceedings of the Commission on Taxation.—Lenin

[4] Of 1,399,000 dess. under flax, 745,400 dess. are in the non-black-earth belt, where only 13% belongs to private landowners. In the black-earth belt, of 609,600 dess. under flax 44.4% belongs to private owners (Productive Forces, 1, 36).—Lenin

[5] The Military Statistical Abstract in its day pointed to the fact that the “flax sown by the peasants very often really belongs to the bulinyas ” (local name for small buyers-up), “while the peasant is merely a labourer on his field” (595). Cf. Historico-Statistical Survey, p, 88.—Lenin

[6] Strokin, 12.—Lenin

[7] At the present time renting prices of flax land are falling due to the drop in the price of flax, but the area of land under flax, in the Pskov flax area in 1896, for example, has not diminished (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 29)—Lenin

[8] Pskov Gubernia is one of the foremost in Russia in the development of the purchase of land by peasants. According to the Combined Statistical Material on the Economic Position of the Rural Population (published by Chancellery of the Committee of Ministers), the lands purchased by peasants amount here to 23% of the total allotment arable, this is the maximum for all the 50 gubernias. It works out at an average of 0.7 dess. of purchased land per head of the male peasant population as of January 1, 1892. In this respect only Novgorod and Taurida gubernias exceed Pskov Gubernia.—Lenin

[9] The number of males leaving Pskov Gubernia in search of employment increased, statistics show from 1865-1875 to 1896 nearly fourfold (Industries of the Peasant Population of Pskov Gubernia, Pskov, 1898, p. 3).—Lenin

VII. The Technical Processing of Agricultural Produce

Above we have already had occasion to note (Chapter I, § I) that writers on agriculture, in classifying systems of farming according to the principal market product, assign the industrial or technical system of farming to a special category. The essence of this system is that the agricultural product, before going into consumption (personal or productive), undergoes technical processing. The establishments which effect this processing either constitute part of the very farms on which the raw material is produced or belong to special industrialists who buy up the raw material from the peasant farmers. From the standpoint of political economy the difference between these two types is unimportant. The growth of agricultural technical trades is extremely important as regards the development of capitalism. Firstly, this growth represents one of the forms of the development of commercial farming, and is, moreover, the form that shows most vividly the conversion of agriculture into a branch of industry of capitalist society. Secondly, the development of the technical processing of agricultural produce is usually connected intimately with technical progress in agriculture: on the one hand, the very production of the raw material for processing often necessitates agricultural improvement (the planting of root-crops, for example); on the other hand, the waste products of the processing are frequently utilised in agriculture, thus increasing its effectiveness and restoring, at least in some measure, the equilibrium, the interdependence, between agriculture and industry, the disturbance of which constitutes one of the most profound contradictions of capitalism.

We must accordingly now describe the development of technical agricultural trades in post-Reform Russia.

1) Distilling

Here we regard distilling only from the point of view of agriculture. Accordingly, there is no need for us to dwell on the rapid concentration of distilling in large plants (partly due to excise requirements), on the rapid progress of factory technique, with the consequent cheapening of production, and the increase in excise duties which has outstripped this cheapening of production and because of its excessive amount has retarded the growth of consumption and production.

Here are data for “agricultural” distilling in the whole of the Russian Empire[1]:Distilling.

Thus, over 9/10 of the distilleries (accounting for over 4/5 of the total output) are directly connected with agriculture. Being large capitalist enterprises, these establishments lend the same character to all the landlord farms on which they are set up (the distilleries belong almost without exception to landlords, mainly to members of the nobility). The type of commercial farming under review is particularly developed in the central black-earth gubernias, in which are concentrated over 1/10 of the total number of distilleries in the Russian Empire (239 in 1896-97, of which 225 were agricultural and mixed), producing over a quarter of the total output of spirits (7,785,000 vedros in 1896-97, of which 6,828,000 at agricultural and at mixed distilleries). Thus in the area where labour-service predominates, the commercial character of agriculture most frequently (as compared with other areas) manifests itself in the distilling of vodka from grain and potatoes. Distilling from potatoes has undergone a particularly rapid development since the Reform, as may be seen from the following data relating to the whole of the Russian Empire[2]:Materials used for distilling.

Thus, with a general twofold increase in the quantity of crops distilled, the quantity of potatoes used increased about 15-fold. This fact strikingly corroborates the proposition established above (§ I in this chapter) that the enormous increase in the potato area and crop signifies the growth of precisely commercial and capitalist farming, along with improvement of agricultural technique, with the replacement of the three-field system by multi-field crop rotation, etc.[3] The area of the biggest development of distilling is also distinguished for the biggest (in the Russian gubernias, i.e., not counting the Baltic and the western gubernias) net per-capita harvest of potatoes. Thus in the northern black-earth gubernias the figures for 1864-1866, 1870-1879 and 1883-1887 were 0.44, 0.62 and 0.60 chetverts respectively, whereas for the whole of European Russia (50 gubernias) the corresponding figures were 0.27, 0.43 and 0.44 chetverts. As far back as the beginning of the 80s the Historico-Statistical Survey noted that “the region marked by the greatest expansion of potato cultivation covers all the gubernias of the central and northern parts of the black-earth belt, the Volga and Transvolga gubernias and the central non-black-earth gubernias” (loccit., p. 44).[4]

The expansion of potato cultivation by landlords and well-to-do peasants means an increase in the demand for hired labour; the cultivation of a dessiatine of potatoes absorbs much more labour[5] than the cultivation of a dessiatine of cereals and the use of machinery in, for example, the central black-earth area is still very slight. Thus, while the number of workers engaged in the distilling industry proper has decreased,[6] the elimination of labour-service by the capitalist system of farming, with the cultivation of root-crops, has increased the demand for rural day labourers.

2) Beet-Sugar Production

The processing of sugar-beet is even more highly concentrated in big capitalist enterprises than distilling is, and is likewise an adjunct of the landlords’ (mainly noblemen’s) estates. The principal area of this industry is the south-western gubernias, and then the southern black-earth and central black-earth gubernias. The area under sugar-beet amounted in the 60s to about 100,000 dess.,[7] in the 70s to about 160,000 dess.[8]; in 1886-1895 to 239,000 dess.,[9] in 1896-1898 to 369,000 dess.,[10] in 1900 to 478,778 dess., in 1901 to 528,076 dess. (Torgovo-Promyshlennaya Gazeta, 1901, No. 123), in 1905-06 to 483,272 dess. (Vestnik Finansov, 1906, No. 12). Hence, in the period following the Reform the area cultivated has increased more than 5-fold. Incomparably more rapid has been the growth of the amount of sugar-beet harvested and processed: on an average the weight of sugar-beet processed in the Empire in the years 1860-1864 was 4.1 million berkovets[11]; in 1870-1874—9.3 million; in 1875-1879—12.8 million; in 1890-1894—29.3 million; and in 1895-96 and 1897-98—35 million.[12] The amount of processed sugar-beet has grown since the 60s more than 8-fold. Hence, there has been an enormous increase in the beet yield, i.e., in labour productivity, on the big estates organised on capitalist lines.[13] The introduction of a root-plant like beet into the rotation is indissolubly linked with the transition to a more advanced system of cultivation, with improved tillage and cattle feed, etc. “The tillage of the soil for beetroot,” we read in the Historico-Statistical Survey (Vol. I), “which, generally speaking, is rather complicated and difficult, has been brought to a high degree of perfection on many beet farms, especially in the south-western and Vistula gubernias. In different localities, various more or less improved implements and ploughs are used for tilling; in some cases even steam ploughing has been introduced” (p. 109).

This progress of large-scale capitalist farming gives rise to quite a considerable increase in the demand for agricultural wage-workers— regular and particularly day labourers—the employment of female and child labour being particularly extensive (cf. Historico-Statistical Survey, II, 32). Among the peasants of the neighbouring gubernias a special type of migration has arisen, known as migration “to sugar” (ibid., 42). It is estimated that the complete cultivation of a morg (= 2/3 dess.)[14] of beet land requires 40 working days (Hired Labour, 72). The Combined Material on the Position of the Rural Population (published by Committee of Ministers) estimates that the cultivation of one dessiatine of beet land, when done by machine, requires 12, and when by hand 25, working days of males, not counting women and juveniles (pp. X-XI). Thus, the cultivation of the total beet area in Russia probably engages not less than 300,000 agricultural day labourers, men and women. But the increase in the number of dessiatines under beet is not enough to give a complete idea of the demand for hired labour, since some jobs are paid for at so much per berkovets. Here, for example, is what we read in Reports and Investigations of Handicraft Industry in Russia (published by Ministry of State Properties, Vol. II, St. Petersburg, 1894, p. 82).

“The female population both of the town, and of the uyezd” (the town of Krolevets, Chernigov Gubernia, is referred to) “think highly of work on the beet fields; in the autumn the cleaning of beets is paid at 10 kopeks per berkovets, and two women clean from six to ten berkovets a day, but some contract to work during the growing season as well, weeding and hoeing; in that case, for the full job, including digging and cleaning, they get 25 kopeks per berkovets of cleaned beets.” The conditions of the workers on the beet plantations are extremely bad. For instance, the Vrachebnaya Khronika Kharkovskoi Gubernii[15] (September 1899, quoted in Russkiye Vedomosti, 1899, No. 254) cites “a number of exceedingly deplorable facts about the conditions of those working on the red-beet plantations. Thus, the Zemstvo physician, Dr. Podolsky, of the village of Kotelva, Akhtyrka Uyezd, writes: ‘In the autumn typhus usually breaks out among young people employed on the red-beet plantations of the well-to-do peasants. The sheds assigned for the workers’ leisure and sleeping quarters are kept by such planters in a very filthy condition; by the time the job ends the straw used for sleeping is literally converted into dung, for it is never changed: this becomes a breeding ground of infection. Typhus has had to be diagnosed immediately in the case of four or five patients brought in from one and the same plantation.’ In the opinion of this doctor, ‘most of the syphilis cases come from the red-beet plantations.’ Mr. Feinberg rightly asserts that ‘work on the plantations, which is no less injurious to the workers themselves and to the surrounding population than work in the factories, has particularly disastrous consequences, because large numbers of women and juveniles are engaged in it, and because the workers here are without the most elementary protection from society and the State’; in view of this, the author wholly supports the opinion expressed by Dr. Romanenko at the Seventh Congress of Doctors of Kharkov Gubernia that ‘in issuing compulsory regulations, consideration must also be given to the conditions of the workers on the beet plantations. These workers lack the most essential things; they live for months under the open sky and eat from a common bowl.’”

Thus, the growth of beet cultivation has enormously increased the demand for rural workers, converting the neighbouring peasantry into a rural proletariat. The increase in the number of rural workers has been but slightly checked by the inconsiderable drop in the number of workers engaged in the beet-sugar industry proper.[16]

3) Potato-Starch Production

From branches of technical production conducted exclusively on landlord farms let us pass to such as are more or less within the reach of the peasantry. These include, primarily, the processing of potatoes (partly also wheat and other cereals) into starch and treacle. Starch production has developed with particular rapidity in the post-Reform period owing to the enormous growth of the textile industry, which raises a demand for starch. The area covered by this branch of production is mainly the non-black-earth, the industrial, and, partly, the northern black-earth gubernias. The Historico-Statistical Survey (Vol. II) estimates that in the middle of the 60s, there were about 60 establishments with an output valued at about 270,000 rubles, while in 1880 there were 224 establishments with an output valued at 1,317,000 rubles. In 1890, according to the Directory of Factories and Works there were 192 establishments employing 3,418 workers, with an output valued at 1,760,000 rubles.[17] “In the past 25 years,” we read in the Historico-Statistical Survey, “the number of establishments engaged in starch production has increased 4 1/2 times and the total output 10 3/4 times; nevertheless, this productivity is far from covering the demand for starch” (p. 116), as evidenced by the increased starch imports from abroad. Analysing the data for each gubernia, the Historico-Statistical Survey reaches the conclusion that our production of potato starch (unlike that of wheat-starch) is of an agricultural character, being concentrated in the hands of peasants and landlords. “Showing promise of extensive development” in the future, “it is even now furnishing our rural population with considerable advantages” (126).

We shall see in a moment who enjoys these advantages. But first let us note that two processes must be distinguished in the development of starch production: on the one hand, the appearance of new small factories and the growth of peasant production, and on the other, the concentration of production in large steam-powered factories. For instance, in 1890 there were 77 steam-powered factories, with 52% of the total number of workers and 60% of the total output concentrated in them. Of these works only 11 were established before 1870, 17 in the 70s, 45 in the 80s, and 2 in 1890 (Mr. Orlov’s Directory ).

To acquaint ourselves with the economy of peasant starch production, let us turn to local investigations. In Moscow Gubernia, in 1880-81, 43 villages in 4 uyezds engaged in starch making.[18] The number of establishments was estimated at 130, employing 780 workers and having an output valued at not less than 137,000 rubles. The industry spread mainly after the Reform; its technique gradually improved and larger establishments were formed requiring more fixed capital and showing a higher productivity of labour. Hand graters were replaced by improved ones, then horse power appeared, and finally the drum was introduced, considerably improving and cheapening production. Here are data we have compiled from a house-to-house census of “handicraftsmen,” according to size of establishment:Potato-starch production.


Thus we have here small capitalist establishments in which, as production expands, the employment of hired labour increases and the productivity of labour rises. These establishments bring the peasant bourgeoisie considerable profit, and also improve agricultural technique. But the situation of the workers in these workshops is very unsatisfactory, owing to the extremely insanitary working conditions and the long working day.[20]

The peasants who own “grating” establishments farm under very favourable conditions. The planting of potatoes (on allotment, and chiefly on rented land) yields a considerably larger income than the planting of rye or oats. To enlarge their business the workshop owners rent a considerable amount of allotment land from the poor peasants. For example, in the village of Tsybino (Bronnitsy Uyezd), 18 owners of starch workshops (out of 105 peasant families in the village) rent allotments from peasants who have left in search of employment, and also from horseless peasants, thus adding to their own 61 allotments 133 more, which they have rented; concentrated in their hands are a total of 194 allotments, i.e., 44.5% of the total number of allotments in the village. “Exactly similar things,” we read in the Returns, “are met with in other villages where the starch industry is more or less developed” (loccit., 42).[21] The owners of the starch workshops have twice as much livestock as the other peasants: they average 3.5 horses and 3.4 cows per household, as against 1.5 horses and 1.7 cows among the local peasants in general. Of the 68 workshop owners (covered by the house-to-house census) 10 own purchased land, 22 rent non-allotment land and 23 rent allotment land. In short, these are typical representatives of the peasant bourgeoisie.

Exactly analogous relations are to be found in the starch making industry in the Yuryev Uyezd, Vladimir Gubernia (V. Prugavin, loccit., p. 104 and foll.). Here, too, the workshop owners carry on production mainly with the aid of wage-labour (out of 128 workers in 30 workshops, 86 are hired); and here, too, the workshop owners are far above the mass of the peasantry as far as stock-breeding and agriculture are concerned; they use potato pulp as feed for their cattle. Even real capitalist farmers emerge from among the peasants. Mr. Prugavin describes the farm of a peasant who owns a starch works (valued at about 1,500 rubles) employing 12 wage-workers. This peasant grows potatoes on his own farm, which he has enlarged by renting land. The crop rotation is seven-field and includes clover. For the farm work he employs from 7 to 8 workers, hired from spring to autumn (“from end to end”). The pulp is used as cattle feed, and the owner intends to use the waste water for his fields.

Mr. V. Prugavin assures us that this works enjoys “quite exceptional conditions.” Of course, in any capitalist society the rural bourgeoisie will always constitute a very small minority of the rural population, and in this sense will, if you like, be an “exception.” But this term will not eliminate the fact that in the starch-making area, as in all the other commercial farming areas in Russia, a class of rural entrepreneurs is being formed, who are organising capitalist agriculture.[22]

4) Vegetable-Oil Production

The extraction of oil from linseed, hemp, sunflower and other seeds is also frequently an agricultural industry. One can gauge the development of vegetable-oil production in the post-Reform period from the fact that in 1864 the vegetable-oil output had an estimated value of 1,619,000 rubles, in 1879 of 6,486,000 rubles, and in 1890 of 12,232,000 rubles.[23] In this branch of production, too, a double process of development is to be observed: on the one hand, small peasant (and sometimes also landlord) oil presses producing oil for sale are established in the villages. On the other hand, large steam-driven works develop, which concentrate production and oust the small establishments.[24] Here we are interested solely in the agricultural processing of oil-bearing plants. “The owners of the hempseed oil presses,” we read in the Historico-Statistical Survey (Vol. II), “belong to the well-to-do members of the peasantry”; they attach particular value to vegetable-oil production because it enables them to obtain excellent feed for their cattle (oil cake). Mr. Prugavin (loccit.), noting the “extensive development of the production of linseed oil” in the Yuryev Uyezd, Vladimir Gubernia, states that the peasants derive “no little advantage” from it (pp. 65-66), that crop and stock raising is conducted on a far higher level by peasants who own oil presses than by the bulk of the peasantry and that some of the oil millers also resort to the hire of rural workers (loccit., tables, pp. 26-27 and 146-147). The Perm handicraft census for 1894-95 also showed that crop raising is conducted on a much higher level by handicraft oil millers than by the bulk of the peasants (larger areas under crops, far more animals, better harvests, etc.), and that this improvement in cultivation is accompanied by the hiring of rural workers.[25] In the post-Reform period in Voronezh Gubernia, there has been a particular development of the commercial cultivation of sunflower seed, which is crushed for oil in local presses. The area under sunflowers in Russia in the 70s was estimated at about 80,000 dess. (Historico-Statistical Survey, I), and in the 80s at about 136,000 dess., of which 2/3 belonged to peasants. “Since then, however, judging by certain data, the area under this plant has considerably increased, in some places by 100 per cent and even more” (Productive Forces, I, 37). “In the village of Alexeyevka alone” (Biryuch Uyezd, Voronezh Gubernia), we read in the Historico-Statistical Survey, Vol. II, “there are more than 40 oil presses, and Alexeyevka itself, solely owing to sunflowers, has prospered and grown from a wretched little hamlet into a rich town ship, with houses and shops roofed with sheet iron” (p. 41). How this wealth of the peasant bourgeoisie was reflected in the condition of the mass of the peasantry may be seen from the fact that in 1890, in the village of Alexeyevka, out of 2,273 families registered (13,386 persons of both sexes), 1,761 had no draught animals, 1,699 had no implements, 1,480 cultivated no land, and only 33 families did not engage in industries.[26]

In general, it should be stated that peasant oil presses usually figure, in Zemstvo house-to-house censuses, among the “commercial and industrial establishments,” of whose distribution and role we have already spoken in Chapter II.

5) Tobacco Growing

In conclusion, let us make some brief observations on the development of tobacco growing. The average crop in Russia for the years 1863-1867 was 1,923,000 poods from 32,161 dess.; for 1872-1878 it was 2,783,000 poods from 46,425 dess.; for the 80s, it was 4 million poods from 50,000 dess.[27] The number of plantations in the same periods was estimated at 75,000, 95,000 and 650,000 respectively, which evidently indicates a very considerable increase in the number of small cultivators drawn into this type of commercial farming. Tobacco growing requires a considerable number of workers. Among the types of agricultural migration note is therefore made of migration to tobacco plantations (particularly to the outer gubernias in the South, where the cultivation of tobacco has recently expanded with exceptional rapidity). Reference has already been made in publications to the fact that the workers on the tobacco plantations lead a very hard life.[28]

In the Survey of Tobacco Growing in Russia (Parts II and III, St. Petersburg, 1894, published by order of the Department of Agriculture), there are very detailed and interesting data on tobacco growing as a branch of commercial farming. Mr. V. S. Shcherbachov, describing tobacco growing in Malorossia, gives wonderfully precise information on three uyezds of Poltava Gubernia (Priluki, Lokhvitsa and Romny). This information, gathered by the author and arranged by the Bureau of Statistics, Poltava Gubernia Zemstvo Board, covers 25,089 peasant farms in the three uyezds that grow tobacco; they have 6,844 dessiatines under tobacco and 146,774 dessiatines under cereals. The farms are distributed as follows:Distribution of tobacco-growing farms.

We see an enormous concentration of both the tobacco and the cereal area in the hands of the capitalist farms. Less than one-eighth of the farms (3,000 out of 25,000) hold more than half the area under cereals (74,000 dess. out of 147,000), with an average of nearly 25 dess. per farm. Almost half the area under tobacco (3,200 dess. out of 6,800) belongs to these farms, the average per farm being over 1 dessiatine, whereas for all the other groups the area under tobacco does not exceed one- to two-tenths of a dessiatine per household.

Mr. Shcherbachov, in addition, gives data showing the same farms grouped according to area under tobacco:Distribution of tobacco-growing farms by area.

From this it can be seen that the concentration of the tobacco area is considerably greater than that of the cereal area. The branch of specifically commercial agriculture in this locality is concentrated in the hands of capitalists to a greater extent than is agriculture in general. Out of 25,000 farms, 2,773 account for 4,145 dess. under tobacco out of 6,844 dess., or more than three-fifths. The biggest tobacco planters, numbering 324 (a little over one-tenth of all the planters), have 2,360 dess. under tobacco, or over one-third of the total area. This averages over 7 dessiatines under tobacco per farm. To judge of the sort of farm it must be, let us recall that tobacco cultivation requires at least two workers for a period of 4 to 8 summer months, depending on the grade of tobacco.

The owner of 7 dessiatines under tobacco must there fore have at least 14 workers; in other words, he must undoubtedly base his farm on wage-labour. Some grades of tobacco require not two but three seasonal workers per dessiatine, and day labourers in addition. In a word, we see quite clearly that the greater the degree to which agriculture becomes commercial, the more highly developed is its capitalist organisation.

The preponderance of small and tiny farms among the tobacco growers (11,997 farms out of 25,089 have up to one-tenth of a dessiatine planted) does not in the least refute the fact of the capitalist organisation of this branch of commercial agriculture; for this mass of tiny farms accounts for an insignificant share of the output (11,997, i.e., nearly half the farms, have in all 522 dess. out of 6,844, or less than one-tenth). Nor do “average” figures, to which people so often confine themselves, provide a picture of the real situation (the average per farm is a little over 114 dessiatine under tobacco).

In some uyezds the development of capitalist agriculture and the concentration of production are still more marked. In the Lokhvitsa Uyezd, for example, 229 farms out of 5,957 each have 20 dessiatines and more under cereals. Their owners have 22,799 dess. under cereals out of a total of 44,751, i.e., more than half. Each farmer has about 100 dess. under crops. Of the land under tobacco they have 1,126 dess. out of 2,003 dess. And if the farms are grouped according to area under tobacco, we have in this uyezd 132 farmers out of 5,957 with two and more dessiatines under tobacco. These 132 farmers have 1,441 dess. under tobacco out of 2,003, i.e., 72% and more than ten dessiatines under tobacco per farm. At the other extreme of the same Lokhvitsa Uyezd we have 4,360 farms (out of 5,957) having up to one-tenth of a dessiatine each under tobacco, and altogether 133 dessiatines out of 2,003, i.e., 6%.

It goes without saying that the capitalist organisation of production is accompanied here by a very considerable development of merchant’s capital and by all sorts of exploitation outside the sphere of production. The small tobacco growers have no drying sheds, are unable to give their tobacco time to ferment and to sell it (in 3 to 6 weeks) as a finished product. They sell the unfinished product at half the price to buyers-up, who very often plant tobacco themselves on rented land. The buyers-up “squeeze the small planters in every way” (p. 31 of cited publication). Commercial agriculture is commercial capitalist production: this relation can be clearly traced (if only one is able to select the proper methods) in this branch of agriculture too.


[1] The law of June 4, 1890, laid down the following criteria of agricultural distilling: 1) distilling season, from September 1 to June 1, when no field-work is done; 2) proportion between the quantity of spirits distilled and the number of dessiatines of arable land on the estate. Plants carrying on partly agricultural and partly industrial distilling are called mixed distilleries (cf. Vestnik Finansov, 1896, No. 25, and 1898, No. 10).—Lenin

[2] Sources: Military Statistical Abstract, 427; Productive Forces, IX, 49, and Vestnik Finansov, 1898, No. 14.—Lenin

[3] Cf. Raspopin, loccit.,— Historico-Statistical Surveyloccit., p. 14. The by-products of distilling (wash) are often used (even by commercial and not only agricultural establishments) in commercial beef-cattle raising.—Cf. Agricultural Statistical Information, Vol. VII, p. 122 and passim.—Lenin

[4] The great rapidity with which the use of potatoes for distilling has increased in the central agricultural gubernias can be seen from the following data. In six gubernias: Kursk, Orel, Tula, Ryazan, Tambov and Voronezh, during the period 1864-65 to 1873-74 an average of 407,000 poods of potatoes was distilled per annum; during 1874-75 to 1883-84—7,482,000 poods; during 1884-85 to 1893-94, 20,077,000 poods. For the whole of European Russia the corresponding figures are: 10,633,000 poods, 30,599,000 poods and 69,620,000 poods. The number of distilleries using potatoes in the above gubernias averaged 29 per annum in the period 1867-68 to 1875-76; in the period 1876-77 to 1884-85, 130; and in the period 1885-86 to 1893-94, 163. For the whole of European Russia the corresponding figures are: 739, 979, 1,195 (see Agricultural Statistical Information, Vol. VII).—Lenin

[5] For example, according to the Zemstvo statistical returns for Balakhna Uyezd, Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia, the cultivation of one dess. of potatoes requires 77.2 working days, including 59.2 working days of a woman occupied in planting, hoeing, weeding and digging. The greatest increase, therefore, is in the demand for the day labour of local peasant women.—Lenin

[6] In 1867 the number of workers in European Russia employed in distilleries was estimated at 52,660 (Military Statistical Abstract. In Chapter VII we shall show that this source tremendously overstates the number of factory workers), and in 1890 at 26,102 (according to Orlov’s Directory ). The workers engaged in distilling proper are few in number and, moreover, differ but little from rural workers. “All the workers employed in the village distilleries,” says Dr. Zhbankov, for example, “which, moreover, do not operate regularly, since the workers leave for field-work in the summer, differ very distinctly from regular factory workers they wear peasant clothes, retain their rural habits, and do not acquire the particular polish characteristic of factory workers” (loccit., II, 121).—Lenin

[7] The Ministry of Finance Yearbook, Vol.I.—Military Statistical Abstract.—Historico-Statistical Survey, Vol. II.—Lenin

[8] Historico-Statistical Survey, I.—Lenin

[9] Productive Forces, I, 41.—Lenin

[10] Vestnik Finansov [Financial Messenger ], 1897, No. 27, and 1898, No 36. In European Russia, without the Kingdom of Poland, there was in 1896-1898 an area of 327,000 dess, under sugar-beet.—Lenin

[11] Berkovets—360 lbs. –Ed.—Lenin

[12] In addition to above sources see Vestnik Finansov, 1898, No. 32.—Lenin

[13] Taking the average for the period 1890-1894, out of 285,000 dess. under beet in the Empire, 118,000 dess. belonged to refineries and 167,000 dess. to planters (Productive Forces, IX, 44).—Lenin

[14] 1.8 acres.—Lenin

[15] Medical Chronicle of Kharkov Gubernia.—Lenin

[16] In European Russia 80,919 workers were employed in 1867 at beet-sugar factories and refineries (The Ministry of Finance Yearbook, I. The Military Statistical Abstract overstated the figure here too, giving it as 92,000, evidently counting the same workers twice). The figure for 1890 is 77,875 workers (Orlov’s Directory ).—Lenin

[17] We take the data given in the Historico-Statistical Survey as being the most uniform and comparable. The Returns and Material of the Ministry of Finance (1866, No. 4, April), on the basis of official data of the Department of Commerce and Manufacture, estimated that in 1864 there were in Russia 55 starch-making establishments whose output was valued at 231,000 rubles. The Military Statistical Abstract estimates that in 1866 there were 198 establishments with an output valued at 563,000 rubles, but this undoubtedly included small establishments, not now reckoned as factories. Generally speaking, the statistics of this trade are very unsatisfactory: small factories are some times counted, and at others (much more often) are not. Thus, Orlov’s Directory gives the number of establishments in Yaroslavl Gubernia in 1890 as 25 (the List for 1894-95 gives 20), while according to the Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia (Vol. 11, 1896), in Rostov Uyezd alone there were 810 starch and treacle establishments. Hence, the figures given in the text can indicate only the dynamics of the phenomenon, but not the actual development of the industry.—Lenin

[18] Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol. VII, Pt 1, Moscow, 1882.—Lenin

[19] See Appendix to Chapter V, Industry No. 24.—Lenin

[20] Loc. cit., p. 32. The working day in the peasant workshops is 13 to 14 hours, while in the big works in the same industry (according to Dementyev[29]) a 12-hour working day prevails.—Lenin

[21] Compare with this statement the general view of V. Orlov on Moscow Gubernia as a whole (Returns, Vol. IV, Pt. 1, p. 14): the prosperous peasants frequently rent the allotments of the peasant poor, and sometimes hold from 5 to 10 rented allotments.—Lenin

[22] As a matter of interest, let us mention that both Mr. Prugavin (loccit., 107), the author of the description of the Moscow industry (loccit., 45), and Mr. V. V. (Essays on Handicraft Industry, 127), have discerned the “artel principle” in the fact that some grating establishments belong to several owners. Our sharp-eyed Narodniks have contrived to observe a special “principle” in the association of rural entrepreneurs, and have failed to see any new social-economic “principles” in the very existence and development of a class of rural entrepreneurs.—Lenin

[23] Returns and Material of the Ministry of Finance 1866, no.4, Orlov’s Directory, 1st and 3rd editions. We do not give figures for the number of establishments because our factory statistics confuse small agricultural oil-pressing establishments with big industrial ones, at times including the former, and at others not including them for different gubernias at different times. In the 1860s, for example, a host of small oil presses were included in the category of “works.”—Lenin

[24] For example, in 1890, 11 works out of 383 had an output valued at 7,170,000 rubles out of 12,232,000 rubles. This victory of the industrial over the rural entrepreneurs is causing profound dissatisfaction among our agrarians (e.g., Mr. S. Korolenko, loccit.) and our Narodniks (e.g., Mr. N-on’s Sketches, pp. 241-242). We do not share their views. The big works will raise the productivity of labour and socialise production. That is one point. Another is that the workers the workers conditions in the big works will probably be better, and not only from the material angle, than at the small agricultural oil presses.—Lenin

[25] V. Ilyin, Economic Studies and Essays, St. Petersburg, 1899, pp. 139-140. (See present edition, Vol. 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia and General Problems of “Handicraft” Industry.—Ed)—Lenin

[26] Statistical Returns for Biryuch Uyezd, Voronesh Gubernia.—The number of industrial establishments counted in the village was 153. According to Mr. Orlov’s Directory for 1890 there were in this village 6 oil presses employing 34 workers, with output valued at 17,000 rubles, and according to the List of Factories and Works for 1894-95 there were 8 oil presses employing 60 workers, with an output valued at 151,000 rubles.—Lenin

[27] The Ministry of Finance Yearbook, I.—Historico-Statistical Survey, Vol. I.— Productive Forces, IX, 62. The area under tobacco fluctuates considerably from year to year: for example, the average for 1889-1894 was 47,813 dess. (crop—4,180,000 poods), and for 1892-1894 was 52,516 dess. with a crop of 4,878,000 poods. See Returns for Russia, 1896, pp. 208-209.—Lenin

[28] Belborodov, above-mentioned article in Severny Vestnik, 1896, No. 2. Russkiye Vedomosti, 1897, No. 127 (May 10) reported a trial in which 20 working women sued the owner of a tobacco plantation in the Crimea, and stated that “numerous facts were revealed in court, depicting the impossible hard life of the plantation workers.”—Lenin

[29] See Y. M. Dementyev’s The FactoryWhat It Gives and What It Takes from the Population, Moscow, 1893, pp. 88-97.

VIII. Industrial Vegetable and Fruit Growing; Suburban Farming

With the fall of serfdom, “landlord fruit growing,” which had been developed on quite a considerable scale, “suddenly and rapidly fell into decline almost all over Russia.”[1] The construction of railways changed the situation, giving a “tremendous impetus” to the development of new, commercial fruit growing, and brought about a “complete change for the better” in this branch of commercial agriculture.[2] On the one hand, the influx of cheap fruit from the South undermined the industry in the centres where it was formerly conducted[3]; and on the other hand, industrial fruit growing developed, for example, in the Kovno, Vilna, Minsk, Grodno, Mogilev and Nizhni-Novgorod gubernias, along with the expansion of the fruit market.[4] Mr. V. Pashkevich points out that an investigation into the condition of fruit farming in 1893-94 revealed a considerable development of it as an industrial branch of agriculture in the previous ten years, an increase in the demand for gardeners, undergardeners, etc.[5] Statistics confirm such views: the amount of fruit carried by the Russian railways is increasing,[6] fruit imports, which increased in the first decade after the Reform, are declining.[7]

It stands to reason that commercial vegetable growing, which provides articles of consumption for incomparably larger masses of the population than fruit growing does, has developed still more rapidly and still more extensively. Industrial vegetable growing becomes widespread, firstly, near the towns[8] ; secondly, near factory and commercial and industrial settlements[9] and also along the railways; and thirdly, in certain villages, scattered throughout Russia and famous for their vegetables.[10] It should be observed that there is a demand for this type of produce not only among the industrial, but also among the agricultural population: let us recall that the budgets of the Voronezh peasants show a per-capita expenditure on vegetables of 47 kopeks, more than half of this expenditure being on purchased produce.

To acquaint ourselves with the social and economic relations that arise in this type of commercial agriculture we must turn to the data of local investigations in the particularly developed vegetable-growing areas. Near St. Petersburg, for example, frame and hot-house vegetable growing is widely developed, having been introduced by migratory vegetable growers from Rostov. The number of frames owned by big growers runs into thousands, and by medium growers, into hundreds. “Some of the big vegetable growers supply tens of thousands of poods of pickled cabbage to the army.”[11] According to Zemstvo statistics in Petersburg Uyezd 474 households of the local population are engaged in vegetable growing (about 400 rubles income per household) and 230 in fruit growing. Capitalist relations are very extensively developed both in the form of merchant’s capital (the industry is “ruthlessly exploited by profiteers”) and in the form of hiring workers. Among the immigrant population, for example, there are 115 master vegetable growers (with an income of over 3,000 rubles each) and 711 worker vegetable growers (with an income of 116 rubles each.)[12]

The peasant vegetable growers near Moscow are the same sort of typical members of the rural bourgeoisie. “According to an approximate estimate, over 4 million poods of vegetables and greens reach Moscow’s markets every year. Some of the villages do a big trade in pickled vegetables: Nogatino Volost sells nearly a million vedros of pickled cabbage to factories and barracks, and even sends consignments to Kronstadt. . . . Commercial vegetable growing is widespread in all the Moscow uyezds, chiefly in the vicinity of towns and factories.”[13] “The cabbage is chopped by hired labourers who come from Volokolamsk Uyezd” (Historico-Statistical Survey, I, p. 19).

Exactly similar relations exist in the well-known vegetable-growing district in Rostov Uyezd, Yaroslavl Gubernia, embracing 55 vegetable-growing villages—Porechye, Ugodichi and others. All the land, except pastures and meadows, has long been turned into vegetable fields. The technical processing of vegetables—preserving—is highly developed.[14] Together with the product of the land, the land itself and labour-power are converted into commodities. Despite the “village community,” the inequality of land tenure, for example, in the village of Porechye, is very great: in one case a family of 4 has 7 “vegetable plots,” in another a family of 3 has 17; this is explained by the fact that no periodical land redistribution takes place here; only private redivisions take place, and the peasants “freely exchange” their “vegetable plots” or “patches” (Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia, 97–98).[15] “A large part of the field-work . . . is done by male and female day labourers, many of whom come to Porechye in the summer season both from neighbouring villages and from neighbouring gubernias” (ibid., 99). It is estimated that in the whole of Yaroslavl Gubernia 10,322 persons (of whom 7,689 are from Rostov) engaged in “agriculture and vegetable growing” are migratory workers—i.e., in the majority of cases are wage-workers in the given occupation.[16] The above quoted data on the migration of rural workers to the metropolitan gubernias,[25] Yaroslavl Gubernia, etc., should be brought into connection with the development not only of dairy farming but also of commercial vegetable growing.

Vegetable growing also includes the hot-house cultivation of vegetables, an industry that is rapidly developing among the well-to-do peasants of Moscow and Tver gubernias.[17] In the first-named gubernia the 1880-81 census showed 88 establishments with 3,011 frames; there were 213 workers, of whom 47 (22.6%) were hired; the total output was valued at 54,400 rubles. The average hot-house vegetable grower had to put at least 300 rubles into the “business.” Of the 74 peasants for whom house-to-house returns are given, 41 possess purchased land, and as many rent land, there is an average of 2.2 horses per peasant. It is clear from this that the hot-house vegetable industry is only within the reach of members of the peasant bourgeoisie.[18]

In the south of Russia melon growing also comes within the type of commercial agriculture under review. Here are some brief observations about its development in a district described in an interesting article in the Vestnik Finansov (1897, No. 16) on “industrial melon growing.” This branch of production arose in the village of Bykovo (Tsarev Uyezd, Astrakhan Gubernia) at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s. The melons, which at first went only to the Volga region, were consigned, with the coming of the railways, to the capital cities. In the 80s the output “increased at least tenfold” owing to the enormous profits (150 to 200 rubles per dess.) made by the initiators of the business. Like true petty bourgeois, they did all they could to prevent the number of growers from increasing and were most careful in guarding from their neighbours the “secret” of this new and profitable occupation. Of course, all these heroic efforts of the “muzhik cultivator”[19] to stave off “fatal competition”[20] were in vain, and the industry spread much wider—to Saratov Gubernia and the Don region. The drop in grain prices in the 90s gave a particularly strong impetus to production, compelling “local cultivators to seek a way out of their difficulties in crop rotation systems.”[21] The expansion of production considerably increased the demand for hired labour (melon growing requires a considerable amount of labour, so that the cultivation of one dessiatine costs from 30 to 50 rubles), and still more considerably increased the profits of the employers and ground-rent. Near “Log” Station (Gryazi-Tsaritsyn Railway), the area under water-melons in 1884 was 20 dess., in 1890 between 500 and 600 dess., and in 1896 between 1,400 and 1,500 dess., while rent rose from 30 kopeks to between 1.50 and 2 rubles and to between 4 and 14 rubles per dess. for the respective years. The over-rapid expansion of melon planting led at last, in 1896, to overproduction and a crisis, which finally confirmed the capitalist character of this branch of commercial agriculture. Melon prices fell to a point where they did not cover railway charges. The melons were left ungathered in the fields. After tasting tremendous profits the entrepreneurs now learned what losses were like. But the most interesting thing is the means they have chosen for combating the crisis: the means chosen is to win new markets, to effect such a cheapening of produce and of railway tariffs as to transform it from an item of luxury into an item of consumption for the people (and at points of production, into cattle feed). “Industrial melon growing,” the entrepreneurs assure us, “is on the road to further development; apart from high railway tariffs there is no obstacle to its further growth. On the contrary, the Tsaritsyn-Tikhoretskaya Railway now under construction . . . opens a new and extensive area for industrial melon growing.” Whatever the further destiny of this “industry” may be, at any rate the history of the “melon crisis” is very instructive, constituting a miniature picture, it is true, but a very vivid one, of the capitalist evolution of agriculture.

We still have to say a few words about suburban farming. The difference between it and the above-described types of commercial agriculture is that in their case the entire farm is adapted to some one chief market product. In the case of suburban farming, however, the small cultivator trades in bits of everything: he trades in his house by letting it to summer tenants and permanent lodgers, in his yard, in his horse and in all sorts of produce from his fields and farmyard: grain, cattle feed, milk, meat, vegetables, berries, fish, timber, etc.; he trades in his wife’s milk (baby-farming near the capitals), he makes money by rendering the most diverse (not always even mentionable) services to visiting townsfolk,[22] etc., etc.[23] The complete transformation by capitalism of the ancient type of patriarchal farmer, the complete subjugation of the latter to the “power of money” is expressed here so vividly that the suburban peasant is usually put in a separate category by the Narodnik who says that he is “no longer a peasant.” But the difference between this type and all preceding types is only one of form. The political and economic essence of the all-round transformation effected in the small cultivator by capitalism is everywhere the same. The more rapid the increase in the number of towns, the number of factory, commercial and industrial townships, and the number of railway stations, the more extensive is the area of the transformation of our “village community man” into this type of peasant. We should not forget what was said in his day by Adam Smith—that improved communications tend to convert every village into a suburb.[24] Remote areas cut off from the outside world, already an exception, are with every passing day increasingly becoming as rare as antiquities, and the cultivator is turning with ever-growing rapidity into an industrialist subjected to the general laws of commodity production.

In thus concluding the review of the data on the growth of commercial agriculture, we think it not superfluous to repeat here that our aim has been to examine the main (by no means all) forms of commercial agriculture.


[1] Historico-Statistical Survey, I, p. 2.—Lenin

[2] Ibid.—Lenin

[3] For example, in Moscow Gubernia. See S. Korolenko, Hired Labouretc., p. 262.—Lenin

[4] Ibid., pp. 335, 344, etc.—Lenin

[5] Productive Forces, IV, 13.—Lenin

[6] Ibid., p. 31, also Historico-Statistical Survey, p. 31 and foll.—Lenin

[7] In the 60s imports amounted to nearly 1 million poods; in 1878-1880 to 3.8 million poods; in 1886-1890 to 2.6 million poods; in 1889-1893 to 2 million poods.—Lenin

[8] Anticipating somewhat, let us note here that in 1863 there were in European Russia 13 towns with populations of 50,000 and over and in 1897 there were 44 (See Chapter VIII, § II).—Lenin

[9] See examples of settlements of this type in Chapters VI and VII.—Lenin

[10] See references to such villages of the Vyatka, Kostroma, Vladimir, Tver, Moscow, Kaluga, Penza, Nizhni-Novgorod and many other gubernias, to say nothing of Yaroslavl Gubernia, in Historico-Statistical Survey, 1, p. 13 and foll., and in Productive Forces, IV, 38 and foll. Cf. also Zemstvo statistical returns for Semyonov, Nizhni-Novgorod and Balakhna uyezds of Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia.—Lenin

[11] Productive Forces, IV, 42.—Lenin

[12] Material for Statistics on the Economy in St. Petersburg Gubernia, Vol. V. Actually there are far more vegetable growers than stated in the text, for most of them have been classed under private-landowner farming, whereas the data cited refer only to peasant farming.—Lenin

[13] Productive Forces, IV, 49 and foll. It is interesting to note that different villages specialise in producing particular kinds of vegetables.—Lenin

[14] Historico-Statistical Survey, I—Mr. Orlov’s Directory of Factories—Transactions of the Commission of Inquiry into Handicraft Industry, Vol XIV, article by Mr. Stolpyansky. —Productive Forces, IV, 46 and foll.—Survey of Yarodarvl Gubernia, Vol 2, Yaroslavl, 1896. A comparison of the data given by Mr. Stolpyansky (1885) and by the Directory (1890) shows a considerable increase in the factory production of canned goods in this area.—Lenin

[15] Thus the publication mentioned has fully confirmed Mr. Volgin’s “doubt” as to whether “the land occupied by vegetable plots is often redivided” (opcit., 172, footnote).—Lenin

[16] Here, too, a characteristic specialisation of agriculture is to be observed: “It is noteworthy that in places where vegetable growing has become the special occupation of part of the peasant population, the others grow hardly any vegetables at all, but buy them at local markets and fairs” (S. Korolenko, loccit., 285)—Lenin

[17] Productive Forces, IV, 50-51. S. Korolenko, loccit., 273.—Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol VII, Pt. 1.—Statistical Returns for Tver Gubernia, Vol. VIII, Pt. 1, Tver Uyezd: the census of 1886-1890 counted here something over 4,426 frames belonging to 174 peasants and 7 private landowners, i.e., an average of about 25 frames per owner. “In peasant farming it (the industry) is a big help, but only for the well-to-do peasants. . . . If there are more than 20 frames, workers are hired” (p. 167).—Lenin

[18] See data on this industry in appendix to Chapter V, Industry No. 9.—Lenin

[19] Mr. N.–on’s term for the Russian peasant.—Lenin

[20] Mr. V. Prugavin’s term.—Lenin

[21] Better tilth is required to raise water-melons and this renders the soil more fertile when sown later to cereals.—Lenin

[22] Cf . Uspensky, A Village Diary.—Lenin

[23] Let us refer, in illustration, to the above-quoted Material on peasant farming in Petersburg Uyezd. The most varied types of petty traffic have here assumed the form of “industries”; summer letting, boarding, milk-selling, vegetable-selling, berry-selling, “horse employments,” baby-farming, crayfish-catching, fishing, etc. Exactly similar are the industries of the suburban peasants of Tula Uyezd: see article by Mr. Borisov in Vol. IX of Transactions of the Commission of Inquiry into Handicraft Industry.—Lenin

[24] “Good roads, canals and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level with those in the neighbourhood of the town.” Opcit., Vol. I, pp. 228-229.—Lenin

[25] “Metropolitan gubernias” here refers to the gubernias of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

IX. Conclusions on the Significance of Capitalism in Russian Agriculture

In chapters II-IV the problem of capitalism in Russian agriculture has been examined from two angles. First we examined the existing system of social and economic relations in peasant and landlord economy, the system which has taken shape in the post-Reform period. It was seen that the peasantry have been splitting up at enormous speed into a numerically small but economically strong rural bourgeoisie and a rural proletariat. Inseparably connected with this “depeasantising” process is the landowners’ transition from the labour-service to the capitalist system of farming. Then we examined this same process from another angle: we took as our starting-point the manner in which agriculture is transformed into commodity production, and examined the social and economic relations characteristic of each of the principal forms of commercial agriculture. It was shown that the very same processes were conspicuous in both peasant and private-landowner farming under a great variety of agricultural conditions.

Let us now examine the conclusions that follow from all the data given above.

1) The main feature of the post-Reform evolution of agriculture is its growing commercial, entrepreneur character. As regards private-landowner farming, this fact is so obvious as to require no special explanation. As regards peasant farming, however, it is not so easily established, firstly, because the employment of hired labour is not an absolutely essential feature of the small rural bourgeoisie. As we have observed above, this category includes every small commodity-producer who covers his expenditure by independent farming, provided the general system of economy is based on the capitalist contradictions examined in Chapter II. Secondly, the small rural bourgeois (in Russia, as in other capitalist countries) is connected by a number of transitional stages with the small-holding “peasant,” and with the rural proletarian who has been allotted a patch of land. This circumstance is one of the reasons for the viability of the theories which do not distinguish the existence of a rural bourgeoisie and a rural proletariat among “the peasantry.”[1]

2) From the very nature of agriculture its transformation into commodity production proceeds in a special way, unlike the corresponding process in industry. Manufacturing industry splits up into separate, quite independent branches, each devoted exclusively to the manufacture of one product or one part of a product. The agricultural industry, however, does not split up into quite separate branches, but merely specialises in one market product in one case, and in another market product in another, all the other aspects of agriculture being adapted to this principal (i.e., market) product. That is why the forms of commercial agriculture show immense diversity, varying not only in different areas, but also on different farms. That is why, when examining the question of the growth of commercial agriculture, we must on no account confine ourselves to gross data for agricultural production as a whole.[2]

3) The growth of commercial agriculture creates a home market for capitalism. Firstly, the specialisation of agriculture gives rise to exchange between the various agricultural areas, between the various agricultural undertakings, and between the various agricultural products. Secondly, the further agriculture is drawn into the sphere of commodity circulation the more rapid is the growth of the demand made by the rural population for those products of manufacturing industry that serve for personal consumption; and thirdly, the more rapid is the growth of the demand for means of production, since neither the small nor the big rural entrepreneur is able, with the old-fashioned “peasant” implements, buildings, etc., etc., to engage in the new, commercial agriculture. Fourthly and lastly, a demand is created for labour-power, since the formation of a small rural bourgeoisie and the change-over by the landowners to capitalist farming presuppose the formation of a body of regular agricultural labourers and day labourers. Only the fact of the growth of commercial agriculture can explain the circumstance that the post-Reform period is characterised by an expansion of the home market for capitalism (development of capitalist agriculture, development of factory industry in general, development of the agricultural engineering industry in particular, development of the so-called peasant “agricultural industries,” i.e., work for hire, etc.).

4) Capitalism enormously extends and intensifies among the agricultural population the contradictions without which this mode of production cannot exist. Notwithstanding this, however, agricultural capitalism in Russia, in its historical significance, is a big progressive force. Firstly, capitalism has transformed the cultivator from a “lord of the manor,” on the one hand, and a patriarchal, dependent peasant, on the other, into the same sort of industrialist that every other proprietor is in present-day society. Before capitalism appeared, agriculture in Russia was the business of the gentry, a lord’s hobby for some, and a duty, an obligation for others; consequently, it could not be conducted except according to age-old routine, necessarily involving the complete isolation of the cultivator from all that went on in the world beyond the confines of his village. The labour-service system—that living survival of old times in present-day economy—strikingly confirms this characterisation. Capitalism for the first time broke with the system of social estates in land tenure by converting the land into a commodity. The farmer’s product was put on sale and began to be subject to social reckoning—first in the local, then in the national, and finally in the international market, and in this way the former isolation of the uncouth farmer from the rest of the world was completely broken down. The farmer was compelled willy nilly, on pain of ruin, to take account of the sum-total of social relations both in his own country and in other countries, now linked together by the world market. Even the labour-service system, which formerly guaranteed Oblomov an assured income without any risk on his part, without any expenditure of capital, without any changes in the age-old routine of production, now proved incapable of saving him from the competition of the American farmer. That is why one can fully apply to post-Reform Russia what was said half a century ago about Western Europe—that agricultural capitalism hag been “the motive force which has drawn the idyll into the movement of history.”[3]

Secondly, agricultural capitalism has for the first time undermined the age-old stagnation of our agriculture; it has given a tremendous impetus to the transformation of its technique, and to the development of the productive forces of social labour. A few decades of “destructive work” by capitalism have done more in this respect than entire centuries of preceding history. The monotony of routine natural economy has been replaced by a diversity of forms of commercial agriculture; primitive agricultural implements have begun to yield place to improved implements and machines; the immobility of the old-fashioned farming systems has been undermined by new methods of agriculture. The course of all these changes is linked inseparably with the above-mentioned phenomenon of the specialisation of agriculture. By its very nature, capitalism in agriculture (as in industry) cannot develop evenly: in one place (in one country, in one area, on one farm) it pushes forward one aspect of agriculture, in another place another aspect, etc. In one case it transforms the technique of some, and in other cases of other agricultural operations, divorcing them from patriarchal peasant economy or from the patriarchal labour-service. Since the whole of this process is guided by market requirements that are capricious and not always known to the producer, capitalist agriculture, in each separate instance (often in each separate area, sometimes even in each separate country), becomes more one sided and lopsided than that which preceded it, but, taken as a whole, becomes immeasurably more many-sided and rational than patriarchal agriculture. The emergence of separate types of commercial agriculture renders possible and inevitable capitalist crises in agriculture and cases of capitalist overproduction, but these crises (like all capitalist crises) give a still more powerful impetus to the development of world production and of the socialisation of labour.[4]

Thirdly, capitalism has for the first time created in Russia large-scale agricultural production based on the employment of machines and the extensive co-operation of workers. Before capitalism appeared, the production of agricultural produce was always carried on in an unchanging, wretchedly small way—both when the peasant worked for himself and when he worked for the landlord—and no “community character” of land tenure was capable of destroying this tremendously scattered production. Inseparably linked with this scattered production was the scattered nature of the farmers themselves.[5] Tied to their allotment, to their tiny “village community,” they were completely fenced off even from the peasants of the neighbouring village community by the difference in the categories to which they belonged (former landowners’ peasants, former state peasants, etc.), by differences in the size of their holdings—by differences in the terms on which their emancipation took place (which terms were sometimes determined simply by the individual attributes of the landlords and by their whims). Capitalism for the first time broke down these purely medieval barriers—and it was a very good thing that it did. Now the differences between the various grades of peasants, between the various categories based on the size of allotment holdings, are far less important than the economic differences within each grade, each category and each village community. Capitalism destroys local seclusion and insularity, and replaces the minute medieval divisions among cultivators by a major division, embracing the whole nation, that divides them into classes occupying different positions in the general system of capitalist economy.[6] The mass of cultivators were formerly tied to their place of residence by the very conditions of production, whereas the creation of diverse forms and diverse areas of commercial and capitalist agriculture could not but cause the movement of enormous masses of the population throughout the country; and unless the population is mobile (as we have said above) there can be no question of developing its understanding and initiative.

Fourthly, and lastly, agricultural capitalism in Russia for the first time cut at the root of labour-service and the personal dependency of the farmer. This system of labour-service has held undivided sway in our agriculture from the days of Russkaya Pravda[7] down to the present day cultivation of the fields of private landowners with the peasants’ implements; the wretchedness and uncouthness of the farmer, degraded by his labour being “semi-free” if not feudal, in character, are inevitable concomitants of this system; if the civil rights of the cultivator had not been impaired (by, for example, his belonging to the lowest social estate; corporal punishment; assignment to public works; attachment to allotment, etc.) the labour-service system would have been impossible. That is why agricultural capitalism in Russia has performed a great historical service in replacing labour-service by hired labour.[8] Summing up what has been said above on the progressive historical role of Russian agricultural capitalism, it may be said that it is socialising agricultural production. Indeed, the fact that agriculture has been transformed from the privileged occupation of the top estate or the duty of the bottom estate into an ordinary commercial and industrial occupation; that the product of the cultivator’s labour has become subject to social reckoning on the market; that routine, uniform agriculture is being converted into technically transformed and diverse forms of commercial farming; that the local seclusion and scattered nature of the small farmers is breaking down; that the diverse forms of bondage and personal dependence are being replaced by impersonal transactions in the purchase and sale of labour-power, these are all links in a single process, which is socialising agricultural labour and is increasingly intensifying the contradiction between the anarchy of market fluctuations, between the individual character of the separate agricultural enterprises and the collective character of large-scale capitalist agriculture.

Thus (we repeat once more), in emphasising the progressive historical role of capitalism in Russian agriculture we do not in the least forget either the historically transient character of this economic regime or the profound social contradictions inherent in it. On the contrary, we have shown above that it is precisely the Narodniks who, capable only of bewailing the “destructive work” of capitalism, give an extremely superficial appraisal of these contradictions, glossing over the differentiation of the peasantry, ignoring the capitalist character of the employment of machinery in our agriculture, and covering up with such expressions as “agricultural industries” and “employments” the emergence of a class of agricultural wage-workers.


[1] The favourite proposition of the Narodnik economists that “Russian peasant farming is in the majority of cases purely natural economy” is, incidentally, built up by ignoring this fact. (The Influence of Harvests and Grain Prices, I, 52.) One has but to take “average” figures, which lump together both the rural bourgeoisie and the rural proletariat—and this proposition will pass as proved!—Lenin

[2] It is to data of this kind that the authors of the book mentioned in the preceding note confine themselves when they speak of “the peasantry.” They assume that every peasant sows just those cereals that he consumes, that he sows all those types of cereals that he consumes, and that he sows them in just that proportion in which they are consumed. It does not require much effort to “deduce” from such “assumptions” (which contradict the facts and ignore the main feature of the post-Reform period) that natural economy predominates.

In Narodnik literature one may also encounter the following ingenious method of argument: each separate type of commercial agriculture is an “exception”—by comparison with agriculture as a whole. Hence, all commercial agriculture in general, it is averred, must be regarded as an exception, and natural economy must be considered the general rule! In college textbooks on logic, in the section on sophisms, numerous parallels of such lines of reasoning are to be found.—Lenin

[3] Misère de la philosophie (Paris, 1896), p. 223; the author contemptuously describes as reactionary jeremiads, the longings of those who thirst for a return to the good old patriarchal life, simple manners, etc, and who condemn the “subjection of the soil to the laws which dominate all other industries.”[9]

We are fully aware that to the Narodniks the whole of the argument given in the text may appear not only unconvincing but positively unintelligible, But it would be too thankless a task to analyse in detail such opinions as, for example, that the purchase-and-sale of the land is an “abnormal” phenomenon (Mr. Chuprov, in the debate on grain prices, p. 39 of the verbatim report), that the inalienability of the peasants’ allotments is an institution that can be defended, that the labour-service system of farming is better, or at all events no worse, than the capitalist system, etc. All that has been said above goes to refute the political and economic arguments advanced by the Narodniks in support of such views.—Lenin

[4] The West-European romanticists and Russian Narodniks strongly emphasise in this process the one-sidedness of capitalist agriculture, the instability created by capitalism, and crises—and on this basis deny the progressive character of capitalist advance as compared with pre-capitalist stagnation.—Lenin

[5] Accordingly, notwithstanding the difference in the forms of land tenure, one can fully apply to the Russian peasant what Marx said of the small French peasant: “The small-holding peasants form a vast mass, the members of which live in similar conditions but without entering into manifold relations with one another. Their mode of production isolates them from one another instead of bringing them into mutual intercourse. The isolation is increased by France’s bad means of communication and by the poverty of the peasants. Their field of production (Produktionsfeld ), the small holding, admits of no division of labour in its cultivation, no application of science and, therefore, no diversity of development, no variety of talent, no wealth of social relationships. Each individual peasant family is almost self-sufficient, it itself directly produces the major part of its consumption and thus acquires its means of life more through exchange with nature than in intercourse with society. A small holding, a peasant and his family; alongside them another small holding, another peasant and another family. A few score of these make up a village, and a few score of villages make up a Department. In this way, the great mass of the French nation is formed by simple addition of homologous magnitudes, much as potatoes in a sack form a sack of potatoes.” (Der achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Bonaparte, Hmb., 1885, S. 98–99.)[10]Lenin

[6] “The need for association, for organisation in capitalist society, has not diminished but, on the contrary, has grown immeasurably. But it is utterly absurd to measure this need of the new society with the old yardstick. This new society is already demanding firstly, that the association shall not be according to locality, social-estate or category; secondly, that its starting-point shall be the difference in status and interests that has been created by capitalism and by the differentiation of the peasantry.” [V. Ilyin, loccit., pp. 91-92 footnote. (See present edition, Vol. 2, “A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism.”—Ed.)—Lenin

[7] Russian Law.—Lenin

[8] One of Mr. N.–on’s innumerable plaints and lamentations over the destructive work of capitalism in Russia deserves special attention: “. . . Neither the strife among the appanage princes nor the Tartar invasion affected the forms of our economic life” (Sketches, p. 284); only capitalism has displayed “contempt for its own historical past” (p. 283). The sacred truth! Capitalism in Russian agriculture is progressive precisely because it has displayed “contempt” for the “age-old”, “time-hallowed” forms of labour-service and bondage, which, indeed, no political storms, the “strife among the appanage princes” and the “Tartar invasion” inclusive, were able to destroy.—Lenin

[9] See Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Moscow, p. 180.

[10] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 334 (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte).

X. Narodnik Theories on Capitalism in Agriculture. “The Freeing of Winter Time”

The foregoing positive conclusions regarding the significance of capitalism must be supplemented by an examination of certain special “theories” on this question current in our literature. Our Narodniks in most cases have been totally unable to digest Marx’s fundamental views on agricultural capitalism. The more candid among them have bluntly declared that Marx’s theory does not cover agriculture (Mr. V. V. in Our Trends ), while others (like Mr. N.–on) have preferred diplomatically to evade the question of the relation between their “postulates” and Marx’s theory. One of the postulates most widespread among the Narodnik economists is the theory of “the freeing of winter time.” The essence of it is as follows.[1]

Under the capitalist system agriculture becomes a separate industry, unconnected with the others. However, it is not carried on the whole year but only for five or six months. Therefore, the capitalisation of agriculture leads to “the freeing of winter time,” to the “limitation of the working time of the agricultural class to part of the working year,” which is the “fundamental cause of the deterioration of the economic conditions of the agricultural classes” (N.–on, 229), of the “diminishing of the home market” and of “the wastage of the productive forces” of society (Mr. V. V.).

Here you have the whole of this celebrated theory, which bases the most sweeping historical and philosophical conclusions solely on the great truth that in agriculture jobs are distributed over the year very unevenly! To take this one feature, to reduce it to absurdity by means of abstract assumptions, to discard all the other specific features of the complex process which transforms patriarchal agriculture into capitalist agriculture—such are the simple methods used in this latest attempt to restore the romantic theories about pre-capitalist “people’s production.”

To show how inordinately narrow this abstract postulate is, let us indicate briefly those aspects of the actual process that are either entirely lost sight of, or are underrated by our Narodniks. Firstly, the further the specialisation of agriculture proceeds, the more the agricultural population decreases, becoming an ever-diminishing part of the total population. The Narodniks forget this, although in their abstractions they raise the specialisation of agriculture to a level it hardly ever reaches in actual fact. They assume that only the operations of sowing and reaping grain have become a separate industry; the cultivation and the manuring of the soil, the processing and the carting of produce, stock raising, forestry, the repair of buildings and implements, etc., etc.—all these operations have been turned into separate capitalist industries. The application of such abstractions to present-day realities will not contribute much towards explaining them. Secondly, the assumption that agriculture undergoes such complete specialisation presupposes a purely capitalist organisation of agriculture, a complete division into capitalist farmers and wage-workers. To talk under such circumstances about “the peasant” (as Mr. N.–on does, p. 215) is the height of illogicality. The purely capitalist organisation of agriculture presupposes, in its turn, a more even distribution of jobs throughout the year (due to crop rotation, rational stock raising, etc.), the combination with agriculture, in many cases, of the technical processing of produce, the application of a greater quantity of labour to the preparation of the soil, etc.[2] Thirdly, capitalism presupposes the complete separation of agricultural from industrial enterprises. But whence does it follow that this separation does not permit the combination of agricultural and industrial wage-labour ? We find such a combination in developed capitalist society everywhere. Capitalism separates the skilled workers from the plain labourers, the unskilled, who pass from one occupation to another, now drawn into jobs at some large enterprise, and now thrown into the ranks of the workless.[3] The greater the development of capitalism and large-scale industry, the greater, in general, are the fluctuations in the demand for workers not only in agriculture, but also in industry.[4] Therefore, if we presuppose the maximum development of capitalism, we must also presuppose the maximum facility for the transfer of workers from agricultural to non-agricultural occupations, we must presuppose the formation of a general reserve army from which labour-power is drawn by all sorts of employers. Fourthly, if we take the present-day rural employers, it cannot, of course, be denied that sometimes they experience difficulty in providing their farms with. workers. But it must not be for gotten, either, that they have a means of tying the workers to their farms, namely, by allotting them patches of land, etc. The allotment-holding farm labourer or day labourer is a type common to all capitalist countries. One of the chief errors of the Narodniks is that they ignore the formation of a similar type in Russia. Fifthly, it is quite wrong to discuss the freeing of the farmer’s winter time independently of the general question of capitalist surplus-population. The formation of a reserve army of unemployed is characteristic of capitalism in general, and the specific features of agriculture merely give rise to special forms of this phenomenon. That is why the author of Capital, for instance, deals with the distribution of employment in agriculture in connection with the question of “relative surplus-population,”[5] as well as in a special chapter where he discusses the difference between the “working period” and the “time of production” (Das Kapital, II. B., Chapter 13). The working period is the period in which labour is applied to the product; the time of production is the time during which the product is in production, including the period in which labour is not applied to it. The working period does not coincide with the time of production in very many industries, among which agriculture is merely the most typical, but by no means the only one.[6] In Russia, as compared with other European countries, the difference between the working period in agriculture and the time of production is a particularly big one. “When capitalist production later accomplishes the separation of manufacture and agriculture, the rural labourer becomes ever more dependent on merely casual accessory employment and his condition deteriorates thereby. For capital . . . all differences in the turnover are evened out. Not so for the labourer” (ibid., 223–224).[8] So then, the only conclusion that follows from the specific features of agriculture in the instance under review is that the position of the agricultural worker must be even worse than that of the industrial worker. This is still a very long way from Mr. N.–on’s “theory” that the freeing of winter time is the “fundamental reason” for the deterioration of the conditions of the “agricultural classes” (?!). If the working period in our agriculture equalled 12 months, the process of the development of capitalism would go on exactly as it does now; the entire difference would be that the conditions of the agricultural worker would come somewhat closer to those of the industrial worker.[7]

Thus the “theory” of Messrs. V. V. and N.–on makes absolutely no contribution whatever even to the general problem of the development of agricultural capitalism. As for the specific features of Russia, it not only does not explain them, but on the contrary obscures them. Winter unemployment among our peasantry depends not so much on capitalism as on the inadequate development of capitalism. We have shown above (§IV of this chapter), from the data on wages, that of the Great-Russian gubernias, winter unemployment is most prevalent in those where capitalism is least developed and where labour-service prevails. That is quite understandable. Labour-service retards the. development of labour productivity, retards the development of industry and agriculture, and, consequently, the demand for labour-power, and at the same time, while tying the peasant to his allotment, provides him neither with employment in winter time nor with the possibility of existing by his wretched farming.


[1] V. V., Essay on Theoretical Economics, p. 108 and foll. N.–on Sketches, p. 214 and foll. The same ideas are to be found in Mr. Kablukov’s Lectures on Agricultural Economics, Moscow, 1897, p. 55 and foll.—Lenin

[2] To make no bald assertion, let us give examples of our private landowner farms whose organisation approximates in the greatest measure to the purely capitalist type. Let us take Orel Gubernia (Zemstvo Statistical Returns for Kromy Uyezd, Vol. IV, Pt. 2, Orel 1892). The estate of Khlyustin, a member of the nobility, covers 1,129 dess., of which 562 are under crops, there are 8 buildings, and various improved implements. Artificial grass cultivation. Stud farm. Stock raising. Marsh drainage by ditch-cutting and other measures (“drainage is mainly done in spare time,” p. 146). The number of workers in summer, 50 to 80 per day, in winter, up to 30. In 1888 there were 81 workers employed, of whom 25 were for the summer. In 1889 there were 19 carpenters employed.—Estate of Count Ribopier: 3,000 dess., 1,293 under crops, 898 leased to peasants. Twelve-crop rotation system. Peat-cutting for manure, extraction of phosphorites. Since 1889 operation of experimental field of 30 dess. Manure carted in winter and spring. Grass cultivation. Proper exploitation of forests (200 to 300 lumbermen employed from October to March) Cattle raising. Dairy farming. In 1888 had 90 employees, of whom 34 were for the summer.—Menshchikov estate in Moscow Gubernia (Returns, Vol. V, Pt. 2), 23,000 dess. Manpower in return for “cut-off” lands, and also hired. Forestry. “In the summer the horses and the permanent workers are busy round the fields; in late autumn and partly in winter they cart potatoes and starch to the drying sheds and starch factory, and also cart timber from the woods to the . . . station; thanks to all this, the work is spread fairly evenly now over the whole year” (p. 145), as is evident, incidentally, from the register showing the number of days worked monthly: average number of horse days, 293 per month; fluctuations: from 223 (April) to 362 (June). Average male days, 216; fluctuations: from 126 (February) to 279 (November). Average female days 23; fluctuations: from 13 (January) to 27 (March). Is this reality anything like the abstraction the Narodniks are busying themselves with?—Lenin

[3] Large-scale capitalist industry creates a nomad working class. It is formed from the rural population, but is chiefly engaged in industrial occupations. “They are the light infantry of capital, thrown by it, according to its needs, now to this point, now to that. . . . Nomad labour is used for various operations of building and draining, brick making, lime-burning, railway-making, etc.” (Das Kapital, I2, S. 692[9].) “In general such large-scale undertakings as railways with draw a definite quantity of labour-power from the labour-market, which can come only from certain branches of economy, for example, agriculture . . .” (ibid., II. B., S. 303).[10]Lenin

[4] For example the Moscow Medical Statistics placed the number of factory workers in this gubernia at 114,381; this was the number at work; the highest figure was 146,338 and the lowest, 94,214 (General Summary, etc., Vol. IV, Pt. I, p. 98); in percentages: 128%—100%— 82%. By increasing, in general, the fluctuations in the number of workers, capitalism evens out, in this respect too, the differences between industry and agriculture.—Lenin

[5] For example, in regard to the agricultural relations of England, Marx says: “There are always too many agricultural labourers for the ordinary, and always too few for the exceptional or temporary needs of the cultivation of the soil” (I2, 725),[11] so that, notwithstanding the permanent “relative surplus-population,” the countryside seems to be inadequately populated. As capitalist production takes possession of agriculture, says Marx in another place, a surplus rural population is formed. “Part of the agricultural population is therefore constantly on the point of passing over into an urban or manufacturing proletariat” (ibid., 668)[12]; this part of the population suffers chronically from unemployment; the work it gets is extremely irregular and is the worst paid (e.g., working at home for shops, etc.)—Lenin

[6] Particularly noteworthy in this connection is Marx’s observation that in agriculture too there are ways of distributing the demand for labour “more evenly over the entire year,” namely, by raising a greater variety of products, by substituting crop rotation for the three-field system, cultivating root-crops, grasses, etc. but all these methods “require an increase of the circulating capital advanced in production, invested in wages, fertilisers, seed, etc.” (ibid., S. 225-226).[13]Lenin

[7] We say “somewhat,” because the deterioration of the conditions of the agricultural worker is far from being due to irregularity of employment alone.—Lenin

[9] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 663.

[10] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II, Moscow, 1957, p. 316.

[11] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 693.

[12] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 642.

[13] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II, Moscow, 1957, pp. 242-243.

[8] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II, Moscow, 1957, p. 241.

XI. Continuation.—The Village Community.—Marx’s Views on Small-Scale Agriculture.—Engels’ Opinion of the Contemporary Agricultural Crisis

“The community principle prevents capital from seizing agricultural production,”—that is how Mr. N.—on (p. 72) expresses another current Narodnik theory, formulated in just as abstract a fashion as the previous one. In Chapter II we quoted a series of facts showing the fallacy of this stock premise. Now let us add the following. It is a great mistake to think that the inception of agricultural capitalism itself requires some special- form of land tenure. “But the form of landed property with which the incipient capitalist mode of production is confronted does not suit it. It first creates for itself the form required by subordinating agriculture to capital. It thus transforms feudal landed property, clan property, small-peasant property in mark communes[1] (Markgemeinschaft)—no matter how divergent their juristic forms may be—into the economic form corresponding to the requirements of this mode of production” (Das Kapital, III, 2, 156). Thus, by the very nature of the case, no peculiarities in the system of land tenure can serve as an insurmountable obstacle to capitalism, which assumes different forms in accordance with the different conditions in agriculture, legal relationships and manner of life. One can see from this how wrong is the very presentation of the question by our Narodniks, who have created a whole literature on the subject of “village community or capitalism?” Should some Anglomaniac aristocrat happen to offer a prize for the best work on the introduction of capitalist farming in Russia, should some learned society come forward with a scheme to settle peasants on farmsteads, should some idle government official concoct a project for 60-dessiatine holdings, the Narodnik hastens to throw down the gauntlet and fling himself into the fray against these “bourgeois projects” to “introduce capitalism” and destroy that Palladium of “people’s industry,” the village community. It has never entered the head of our good Narodnik that capitalism has been proceeding on its way while all sorts of projects have been drafted and refuted, and the community village has been turning, and has actually turned,[2] into the village of small agrarians.

That is why we are very indifferent to the question of the form of peasant land tenure. Whatever the form of land tenure may be, the relation between the peasant bourgeoisie and the rural proletariat will not undergo any essential change. The really important question concerns not the form of land tenure at all, but the remnants of the purely medieval past, which continue to weigh down upon the peasantry—the social-estate seclusion of the peasant communities, collective responsibility, excessively high taxation of peasant land out of all proportion to the taxation of privately-held land, the absence of full freedom in the purchase and sale of peasant lands, and in the movement and settlement of the peasantry.[3] All these obsolete institutions, while not in the least safeguarding the peasantry against break-up, only lead to the multiplication of diverse forms of labour-service and bondage, to tremendous delay in social development as a whole.

In conclusion we must deal with an original Narodnik attempt to give an interpretation to some statements made by Marx and Engels in Volume III of Capital, in favour of their views that small-scale agriculture is superior to large-scale, and that agricultural capitalism does not play a progressive historical role. Quite often, with this end in view, they quote the following passage from Volume III of Capital :

“The moral of history, also to be deduced from other observations concerning agriculture, is that the capitalist system works against a rational agriculture, or that a rational agriculture is incompatible with the capitalist system (although the latter promotes technical improvements in agriculture), and needs either the hand of the small farmer living by his own labour (selbst arbeitenden ) or the control of associated producers” (III, 1, 98. Russ. trans., 83).[8]

What follows from this assertion (which, let us note in passing, is an absolutely isolated fragment that has found its way into a chapter dealing with the way changes in the prices of raw materials affect profits, and not into Part VI, which deals specifically with agriculture)? That capitalism is incompatible with the rational organisation of agriculture (as also of industry) has long been known; nor is that the point at issue with the Narodniks. And the progressive historical role of capitalism in agriculture is especially emphasised by Marx here. There remains Marx’s reference to the “small peasant living by his own labour.” None of the Narodniks who have referred to this point has taken the trouble to explain how he understands this, has taken the trouble to connect this point with the context, on the one hand, and with Marx’s general theory of small-scale agriculture, on the other. —In the passage quoted from Capital the point dealt with is how considerably the prices of raw materials fluctuate, how these fluctuations disturb the proportionality and systematic working of production, how they disturb the conformity of agriculture and industry. It is only in this respect—in respect of the proportionality, systematic working and planned operation of production—that Marx places small peasant economy on a par with the economy of “associated producers.” In this respect, even small medieval industry (handicraft) is similar to the economy of “associated producers” (cf. Misère de la philosophie, edition cited, p. 90), whereas capitalism differs from both these systems of social economy in its anarchy of production. By what logic can one draw the conclusion from this that Marx admitted the viability of small-scale agriculture,[4] that he did not acknowledge the progressive historical role of capitalism in agriculture? Here is what Marx said about this in the special part dealing with agriculture, in the special section on small peasant economy (Chapter 47, § V):

“Proprietorship of land parcels by its very nature excludes the development of social productive forces of labour, social forms of labour, social concentration of capital, large-scale cattle raising, and the progressive application of science.

“Usury and a taxation system must impoverish it every where. The expenditure of capital in the price of the land withdraws this capital from cultivation. An infinite fragmentation of means of production, and isolation of the producers themselves. Monstrous waste of human energy. Progressive deterioration of conditions of production and increased prices of means of production—an inevitable law of proprietorship of parcels. Calamity of seasonal abundance for this mode of production” (III, 2, 341-342. Russ. trans., 667).[9]

“Small landed property presupposes that the overwhelming majority of the population is rural, and that not social, but isolated labour predominates; and that, therefore, under such conditions wealth and development of reproduction, both of its material and spiritual prerequisites, are out of the question,and thereby also the prerequisites for rational cultivation” (III, 2, 347. Russ. trans., p. 672).[10]

The writer of these lines, far from closing his eyes to the contradictions inherent in large-scale capitalist agriculture, ruthlessly exposed them. But this did not prevent him from appreciating the historical role of capitalism:

“…One of the major results of the capitalist mode of production is that, on the one hand, it transforms agriculture from a mere empirical and mechanical self-perpetuating process employed by the least developed part of society into the conscious scientific application of agronomy, in so far as this is at all feasible under conditions of private property; that it divorces landed property from the relations of dominion and servitude, on the one hand, and, on the other, totally separates land as an instrument of production from landed property and landowner. . . . The rationalising of agriculture, on the one hand, which makes it for the first time capable of operating on a social scale, and the reduction ad absurdum of property in land, on the other, are the great achievements of the capitalist mode of production. Like all of its other historical advances,it also attained these by first completely impoverishing the direct producers” (III, 2, 156-157. Russ. trans., 509–510).[11]

One would think that after such categorical statements by Marx there could be no two opinions as to how he viewed the question of the progressive historical role of agricultural capitalism. Mr. N.–on, however, found one more subterfuge: he quoted Engels’s opinion on the present agricultural crisis, which should, in his view, refute the proposition of the progressive role of capitalism in agriculture.[5]

Let us see what Engels actually says. After summarising the main propositions of Marx’s theory of differential rent, Engels establishes the law that “the more capital is invested in the land, and the higher the development of agriculture and civilisation in general in a given country, the more rents rise per acre as well as in total amount, and the more immense becomes the tribute paid by society to the big landowners in the form of surplus-profits” (Das Kapital, III, 2, 258. Russ. trans., 597).[12] This law, says Engels, explains “the wonderful vitality of the class of big landowners,” who accumulate a mass of debts and nevertheless “land on their feet” in all crises; for example, the abolition of the Corn Laws in England, which caused a drop in grain prices, far from ruining the landlords, exceedingly enriched them.

It might thus seem that capitalism is unable to weaken the power of the monopoly represented by landed property.

“But everything is transitory,” continues Engels. “Trans-oceanic steamships and the railways of North and South America and India” called forth new competitors. The North American prairies and the Argentine pampas, etc., flooded the world market with cheap grain. “And in face of this competition—coming from virgin plains as well as from Russian and Indian peasants ground down by taxation—the European tenant farmer and peasant could not prevail at the old rents. A portion of the land in Europe fell decisively out of competition as regards grain cultivation, and rents fell everywhere; our second case, variant 2—falling prices and falling productivity of the additional investment of capital—became the rule for Europe; and therefore the lament of landlords from Scotland to Italy and from the south of France to the east of Prussia. Fortunately, the plains are far from being entirely brought under cultivation; there are enough left to ruin all the big landlords of Europe and the small ones into the bargain” (ibid., 260. Russ. trans., 598, where the word “fortunately” is omitted.).[13]

If the reader has read this passage carefully it should be clear to him that Engels says the very opposite of what Mr. N.–on wants to foist on him. In Engels’s opinion the present agricultural crisis is reducing rent and is even tending to abolish it altogether; in other words, agricultural capitalism is pursuing its natural tendency to abolish the monopoly of landed property. No, Mr. N.–on is positively out of luck with his “quotations.” Agricultural capitalism is taking another, enormous step forward; it is boundlessly expanding the commercial production of agricultural produce and drawing a number of new countries into the world arena; it is driving patriarchal agriculture out of its last refuges, such as India or Russia; it is creating something hitherto unknown to agriculture, namely, the purely industrial production of grain, based on the co-operation of masses of workers equipped with the most up-to-date machinery; it is tremendously aggravating the position of the old European countries, reducing rents, thus undermining what seemed to be the most firmly established monopolies and reducing landed property “to absurdity” not only in theory, but also in practice; it is raising so vividly the need to socialise agricultural production that this need is beginning to be realised in the West even by representatives of the propertied classes.[6] And Engels, with his characteristic cheerful irony, welcomes the latest steps of world capitalism: fortunately, he says, there is still enough uncultivated prairie land left to enable things to continue as they have been doing. But our good Mr. N.–on, à propos des bottes,[7] sighs for the “muzhik cultivator” of yore, for the “time-hallowed” . . . stagnation of our agriculture and of all the various forms of agricultural bondage which “neither the strife among the appanage princes nor the Tartar invasion” could shake, and which now—oh, horror!—are beginning to be most thoroughly shaken by this monstrous capitalism! Osancta simplicitas!


[1] In another place Marx points out that “common lands (Gemeineigentum ) constitute the second supplement of the management of land parcels.” (Das Kapital, III, 2, 341).[14]Lenin

[2] If we are told that we are running ahead in making such an assertion, our reply will be the following. Whoever wants to depict some living phenomenon in its development is inevitably and necessarily confronted with the dilemma of either running ahead or lagging behind. There is no middle course. And if all the facts show that the character of the social evolution is precisely such that this evolution has already gone very far (see Chapter II), and if, furthermore, precise reference is made to the circumstances and institutions that retard this evolution (excessively high taxes, social-estate exclusiveness of the peasantry, lack of full freedom in the purchase and sale of land, and in movement and settlement), then there is nothing wrong in such running ahead.—Lenin

[3] The defence of some of these institutions by the Narodniks very glaringly reveals the reactionary character of their views, which is gradually bringing them closer and closer to the agrarians.—Lenin

[4] Let us recall that Engels, shortly before his death, and at a time when the agricultural crisis connected with the drop in prices was fully manifest, considered it necessary to protest emphatically against the French “disciples,” who had made some concessions to the doctrine of the viability of small-scale agriculture.[15]Lenin

[5] See Novoye Slovo, 1896, No. 5, February, letter to editors by Mr. N.–on, pp. 256-261. Here also is the “quotation” on the “moral of history.” It is remarkable that neither Mr. N.–on nor any other of the numerous Narodnik economists who have tried to use the present agricultural crisis to refute the theory of the progressive historical role of capitalism in agriculture, has ever once raised the question in a straightforward manner, on the basis of a definite economic theory; has ever once stated the grounds which induced Marx to admit the progressiveness of the historical role of agricultural capitalism, or has definitely indicated just which of these grounds he repudiates, and why. In this, as in other cases, the Narodnik economists prefer not to oppose Marx’s theory outright, but confine themselves to casting vague hints at the “Russian disciples.” Confining ourselves in this work to the economy of Russia, we have given above the grounds for our opinions on this question.—Lenin

[6] Are not, indeed, such manifestations as the celebrated Antrag Kanitz (Kanitz plan –Ed.) proposed in the German Reichstag,[16] or the proposal of the American farmers that all elevators be made state property typical “signs of the times”?—Lenin

[7] Without rhyme or reason. –Ed.

[14] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 603, 787.

[8] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 119.

[15] This refers to the article by Engels entitled “The Peasant Question in France and Germany,” published in Die Neue Zeit, Issue No. 10 of the year 1894-95. (See Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, pp. 420-440.) The French “disciples”—the name given, with an eye to censorship, to Marxists (in the article mentioned Engels calls them “French Socialists of the Marxist trend”).

[9] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 787.

[10] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 792-793.

[11] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 603-604.

[12] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 709.

[13] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 709-710.

[16] In the years 1894-1895 Count Kanitz, representative of the agrarians, introduced into the German Reichstag the proposal known as the “Antrag Kanitz” calling on the government to assume control of the purchase of grain abroad, and undertake the sale of all such imported grain at average prices. The proposal was rejected by the Reichstag.