V. I.   Lenin

The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of it in Mr. Struve’s Book

(The Reflection of Marxism in Bourgeois Literature)


( How Mr. Struve Explains Some Features of Russia’s Post-Reform Economy )

( Chapter IV )


The author also lets himself get carried away in the following argument, when he says that it is not large-scale capitalism which causes the ruin of the peasantry. He enters here into a controversy with Mr. N. —on.

The cheap production of manufactured goods, says Mr. N. —on, speaking of factory-made clothing, has caused a reduction in their domestic production (p. 227 of Mr. Struve’s book).

Here the cart is put before the horse,” exclaims Mr. Struve, “as can be proved without difficulty. The reduction in the peasant output of spinning materials led to an increase in the production and consumption of the goods of the capitalist cotton industry, and not the other way round” (227).

The author hardly puts the issue properly, hiding the essence of the matter under details of secondary importance. If we start from the fact of the development of factory industry (and Mr. N. —on makes precisely the observation of that fact his starting-point), we cannot deny that the cheapness of factory goods also speeds up the growth of commodity economy, speeds up the ousting of home-made goods. By objecting to this statement of Mr. N. —on’s, Mr. Struve merely weakens his argument against that author, whose main error is that he tries to present the “factory” as something isolated from the “peasantry,” as something that has come down upon them accidentally, from outside, whereas, in fact, the “factory” (both according to the theory that Mr. N. —on desires loyally to support, and according to   the data of Russian history) is merely the final stage of the development of the commodity organisation of the entire social and, consequently, peasant economy. Large-scale bourgeois production in the “factory” is the direct and immediate continuation of petty-bourgeois production in the village, in the notorious “village community” or in handicraft industry. “In order that the ‘factory form’ should become ‘cheaper,’” Mr. Struve quite rightly says, “the peasant has to adopt the viewpoint of economic rationality, on condition that money economy exists.” “If the peasantry had adhered to ... natural economy ... no textile fabrics ... would have tempted them.”

In other words, the “factory form” is nothing more than developed commodity production, and it developed from the undeveloped commodity production of peasant and handicraft economy. The author wishes to prove to Mr. N. —on that the “factory” and the “peasantry” are interconnected, that the economic “principles” of their organisation are not contradictory,[1] but identical. To do that he should have reduced the problem to that of peasant economic organisation, and opposed Mr. N. —on by the thesis that our small producer (the peasant-agriculturist and the handicraftsman) is a petty bourgeois. By posing the problem that way he would have transferred it from the sphere of arguments on what “should” be, what “may” be, etc., into the sphere of explaining what is, and why it is that way, and not otherwise. To refute this thesis the Narodniks would have either to deny generally-known and undoubted facts about the growth of commodity economy and the splitting-up of the peasantry [and these facts prove the petty-bourgeois character of the peasantry], or else to deny the elementary truths of political economy. To accept this thesis would mean to admit the absurdity of contrasting “capitalism” to the “people’s system,” to admit the reactionary character of schemes to “seek different paths for the fatherland” and address requests for “socialisation” to bourgeois “society” or to a “state” that is still half “old-nobility” in character.

Instead, however, of beginning at the beginning,[2] Mr. Struve begins at the end: “We reject,” says he, “one of the most fundamental postulates of the Narodnik theory of Russia’s economic development, the postulate that the development of large-scale manufacturing industry ruins the peasant agriculturist” (246). Now that means, as the Germans say, to throw out the baby with the bath water! “The development of large-scale manufacturing industry” means and expresses the development of capitalism. And that it is capitalism which ruins the peasant is by no means a corner-stone of Narodism, but of Marxism. The Narodniks saw and continue to see the causes of the separation of the producer from the means of production in the policy of the government, which, according to them, was a failure (“we” went the wrong way, etc.), in the stagnancy of society which rallied insufficiently against the vultures and tricksters, etc., and not in that specific organisation of the Russian social economy which bears the name of capitalism. That is why their “measures” amounted to action to be taken by “society” and the “state.” On the contrary, when it is shown that the existence of the capitalist organisation of social economy is the cause of expropriation this leads inevitably to the theory of the class struggle (cf. Struve’s book, pp. 101, 288 and many other pages). The author expresses himself inexactly in speaking of the “agriculturist” in general, and not of the opposing classes in bourgeois agriculture. The Narodniks say that capitalism ruins agriculture and for that reason is incapable of embracing the country’s entire production and leads this production the wrong way; the Marxists say that capitalism, both in manufacturing industry and in agriculture, oppresses the producer, but by raising production to a higher level creates the conditions and the forces for “socialisation.”[3]

Mr. Struve’s conclusion on this point is as follows: “One of Mr. N. —on’s cardinal errors is that he has completely transferred notions and categories from the established capitalist system to the contemporary economy of the peasant, which to this day is more natural than money economy” (237).

We have seen above that only Mr. N. —on’s complete ignoring of the concrete data of Russian agricultural capitalism led to the ridiculous mistake of talking about a “contraction” of the home market. He did not, however, make that mistake because he applied all the categories of capitalism to the peasantry, but because he did not apply any categories of capitalism to the data on agriculture. The classes of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are, of course, a most important “category” of capitalism. Mr. N. —on not only did not “transfer” them to the “peasantry” (i.e., did not give an analysis of exactly to what groups or sections of the peasantry these categories apply and how far they are developed), but, on the contrary, he argued in purely Narodnik fashion, ignoring the opposite elements within the “village community,” and arguing about the “peasantry” in general. It was this that led to his thesis on the capitalist character of over-population, on capitalism as the cause of the expropriation of the agriculturist, remaining unproven and merely serving to build a reactionary utopia.


[1] The Narodniks said this openly and directly, but the “undoubted Marxist,” Mr. N. —on, presents this same nonsense in vague phrases about a “people’s system” and “people’s production” garnished with quotations from Marx. —Lenin

[2] That is to say, beginning with the petty-bourgeois character of the “peasant agriculturist” as proof of the “inevitability and legitimacy” of large-scale capitalism. —Lenin

[3] 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” (Das Kapital, III. 13., 2. lb. p. 157).[4]Lenin

[4] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 604. p. 488

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