We shall supplement our comparison between the theory of the romanticism on the main points of contemporary economics and the modern theory with a comparison between their treatment of a certain practical problem. Such a comparison will be all the more interesting because, on the one hand, this practical problem is one of the biggest, most fundamental problems of capitalism, and on the other hand, because the two most outstanding exponents of these hostile theories have expressed their opinion on this subject.
We are referring to the Corn Laws in England and their repeal. In the second quarter of the present century this problem deeply interested not only English but also Continental economists; they all realised that this was by no means a specific problem relating to tariff policy, but the general problem of Free Trade, of free competition, of the “destiny of capitalism.” It was a matter of crowning the edifice of capitalism by giving full effect to free competition; of clearing the road for the completion of that “break-up” which large-scale machine industry began in England at the end of the last century; of removing the obstacles that were hindering this “break-up” in agriculture. It was in this way that the two Continental economists of whom we intend to speak viewed the problem.
In the second edition of his Nouveaux Principes Sismondi added a chapter specially devoted to “laws governing trade in grain” (l. III, ch. X).
First of all, he emphasises the urgency of the problem: “Half the English people today are demanding the repeal of the Corn Laws, demanding it with extreme irritation against those who support them; but the other half are demanding that they be retained, and cry out indignantly against those who want them repealed” (I, 251).
In examining the problem, Sismondi points out that the interests of the English farmers demanded corn tariffs to ensure them a remunerating price. The interests of the manufacturers, however, demanded the repeal of the Corn Laws, because the manufactories could not exist without foreign markets, and the further development of English exports was being retarded by the laws, which restricted imports: “The manufactory owners added that the glut in the market was the result of these same Corn Laws; that wealthy people on the Continent could not buy their goods because they could not find a market for their corn” (I, 254).
“The opening of the market to foreign corn will probably ruin the English landowners and reduce all rents to an infinitely low price. This, undoubtedly, is a great calamity, but it is not an injustice” (I, 254). And Sismondi proceeds to argue in the naîvest manner that the revenues of the landowners should be commensurate with the service (sic!!) they render “society” (capitalist?), and so forth “The farmers,” continues Sismondi, “will withdraw their capital, or part at least, from agriculture.”
This argument of Sismondi’s (and he contents himself with this argument) reveals the main flaw in romanticism, which does not pay sufficient attention to the process of economic development that is actually taking place. We have seen that Sismondi himself points to the gradual development and growth of capitalist farming in England. But he hastens to denounce this process instead of studying its causes. It is only this haste, the desire to thrust his innocent wishes upon history, that can explain the fact that Sismondi overlooks the general trend of capitalist development in agriculture and the inevitable acceleration of this process with the repeal of the Corn Laws, i.e., the capitalist progress of agriculture instead of its decline, which Sismondi prophesies.
But Sismondi remains true to himself. He had no sooner approached the contradiction inherent in this capitalist process than he immediately set about naîvely “refuting” it in his endeavour to prove at all costs that the path being followed by the “English fatherland” was a wrong one.
“What will the day labourer do?... Work will stop, the fields will be converted into pastures.... What will become of the 540,000 families who will be denied work? Even assuming that they will be fit for any kind of industrial work, is there, at the present time, an industry capable of absorbing them?. . . Can a government be found that will voluntarily subject half the nation it governs to such a crisis?. . . Will those to whom the agriculturists are thus sacrificed benefit by it to any extent? After all, these agriculturists are the nearest and most reliable consumers of English manufactures. The cessation of their consumption would strike industry a blow more fatal than the closing of one of the biggest foreign markets” (255-56). The notorious “shrinking of the home market” appears upon the scene. “How much will the manufactories lose by the cessation of the consumption of the whole class of English agriculturists, who constitute nearly half the nation? How much will the manufactories lose by the cessation of the consumption of wealthy people, whose revenues from agriculture will be almost wiped out?” (267). The romanticist moves heaven and earth to prove to the manufacturers that the contradictions inherent in the development of their industry, and of their wealth, merely express their error, their short-sightedness. And to “convince” the manufacturers of the “danger” of capitalism, Sismondi dilates on the threatening competition of Polish and Russian grain (pp. 257-61). He resorts to every possible argument; he even wants to touch the pride of English men. “What will become of England’s honour if the Emperor of Russia is in a position, whenever be wishes, to obtain some concession or other from her, to starve her by closing the Baltic ports?” (268). Let the reader recall how Sismondi tried to prove that the “apologists of the money power” were wrong, by contending that it was quite easy to cheat when selling. . . . Sismondi wants to “refute” the theoretical interpreters of capitalist farming by arguing that the rich farmers cannot withstand the competition of the wretched peasants (quoted above), and in the end arrives at his favourite conclusion, evidently convinced that he has proved that the path being followed by the “English fatherland” is a “wrong one.” “The example of England shows us that this practice” (the development of money economy, to which Sismondi contrasts I’habitude de se fournir soi-même, “the habit of providing for oneself”) “is not without its dangers” (263). “The very system of economy” (namely, capitalist farming) “is bad, rests on a dangerous foundation, and this is what one should try to change” (266).
The concrete problem evoked by the conflict of definite interests in a definite system of economy is thus submerged in a flood of innocent wishes! But the interested parties themselves raised the issue so sharply that to confine oneself to such a “solution” (as romanticism does on all other problems) became utterly impossible.
“But what is to be done?” Sismondi asks in despair. “Open England’s ports, or close them? Doom the manufacturing or the rural workers of England to starvation and death? It is, indeed, a dreadful question; the position in which the English Cabinet finds itself is one of the most delicate that statesmen can possibly face” (260). And Sismondi again and again reverts to the “general conclusion” that the system of capitalist farming is “dangerous,” that it is “dangerous to subordinate the whole of agriculture to a system of speculation.” But “how it is possible, in England, to take measures, effective but at the same time gradual, such as would raise the significance (remettraient en honneur ) of the small farms, when one half of the nation, employed in the manufactories, is suffering hunger and the measures they demand doom the other half of the nation, engaged in agriculture, to starvation—I do not know. I think the Corn Laws should be considerably amended; but I advise those who are demanding their complete repeal to study the following problems carefully” (267)—then follow the old complaints and apprehensions about the decline of agriculture, the shrinking of the home market, and so forth.
Thus, at the very first impact with reality, romanticism suffered utter fiasco. It was obliged to issue to itself a testimonium paupertatis and itself acknowledge receipt of it. Recall how easily and simply romanticism “solved” all problems in “theory”! Protection is unwise, capitalism is a fatal blunder, the road England has taken is wrong and dangerous, production must keep in step with consumption, while industry and commerce must keep in step with agriculture, machines are advantageous only when they lead to a rise in wages or to a reduction of the working day, means of production should not be alienated from the producer, exchange must not run ahead of production, must not lead to speculation, and so on, and so forth. Romanticism countered every contradiction with an appropriate sentimental phrase, answered every question with an appropriate innocent wish, and called the sticking of these labels upon all the facts of current life a “solution” to the problems. It is not surprising that these solutions were so charmingly simple and easy: they ignored only one little circumstance—the real interests, the conflict of which constituted the contradiction. And when the development of this contradiction brought the romanticist face to face with one of these particularly violent conflicts, such as was the struggle between the parties in England that preceded the repeal of the Corn Laws, our romanticist lost his head altogether. He felt perfectly at ease in the haze of dreams and good wishes, he so skilfully composed maxims applicable to “society” in general (but inapplicable to any historically determined system of society); but when he dropped from his world of fantasy into the maelstrom of real life and conflict of interests, he did not even have a criterion of how concrete problems are to be solved. The habit of advancing abstract propositions and of reaching abstract solutions reduced the problem to the bare formula: which part of the population should be ruined—the agricultural or the manufacturing? And, of course, the romanticist could not but conclude that neither part should be ruined, that it was necessary to “turn from the path” . . . but the real contradictions encompassed him so tightly that he was unable to ascend again into the haze of good wishes, and the romanticist was obliged to give an answer. Sismondi even gave two answers: first—“I do not know”; second—“on the one hand, it cannot but be recognised; on the other hand, it must be admitted.”
On January 9, 1848, Karl Marx delivered a “speech on Free Trade” at a public meeting in Brussels. Unlike the romanticists, who declared that “political economy is not a science of calculation, but a science of morality,” he took as the point of departure of his exposition precisely the plain and sober calculation of interests. Instead of regarding the problem of the Corn Laws as one concerning a “system” chosen by a nation or as one of legislation (as Sismondi looked upon it), the speaker began by presenting it as a conflict of interests between manufacturers and landowners, and showed how the English manufacturers tried to raise the issue as the affair of the entire nation, tried to assure the workers that they were acting in the interests of the national welfare. Unlike the romanticists, who had presented the problem in the shape of the considerations which a legislator must have in mind when carrying out the reform, the speaker reduced the problem to the conflict between the real interests of the different classes of English society. He showed that the entire problem sprang from the necessity of cheapening raw materials for the manufacturers. He described the distrust of the English workers who regarded “these self-sacrificing gentlemen, Bowring, Bright and their colleagues, as their worst enemies. . . .”
“The manufacturers build great palaces at immense expense, in which the Anti-Corn-Law League takes up, in some respects, its official residence; they send an army of missionaries to all corners of England to preach the gospel of Free Trade; they have printed and distributed gratis thousands of pamphlets to enlighten the worker upon his own interests, they spend enormous sums to make the press favourable to their cause; they organise a vast administrative system for the conduct of the Free Trade movement, and they display all their wealth of eloquence at public meetings. It was at one of these meetings that a worker cried out: ‘If the landlords were to sell our bones, you manufacturers would be the first to buy them in order to put them through a steam-mill and make flour of them.’ The English workers have very well understood the significance of the struggle between the landlords and the industrial capitalists. They know very well that the price of bread was to be reduced in order to reduce wages, and that industrial profit would rise by as much as rent fell.”
Thus the very presentation of the problem is quite different from that of Sismondi. The aims the speaker set himself were, firstly, to explain the attitude of the different classes of English society towards the problem from the angle of their interests; and secondly, to throw light on the significance of the reform in the general evolution of the English social economy.
The speaker’s views on this last point coincide with those of Sismondi in that he, too, does not see in this a particular problem, but the general one of the development of capitalism in general, of “Free Trade” as a system. “The repeal of the Corn Laws in England is the greatest triumph of Free Trade in the nineteenth century.” “. . . By the repeal of the Corn Laws, free competition, the present social economy is carried to its extreme point.” Hence, the issue presents itself to these authors as a question of whether the further development of capitalism is desirable or should be retarded, whether “different paths” should be sought, and so forth. And we know that their affirmative answer to this question was indeed the solution of the general fundamental problem of the “destiny of capitalism” and not of the specific problem of the Corn Laws in England, for the point of view established here was also applied much later in relation to other countries The authors held such views in the 1840s in relation to Germany, and in relation to America, and declared that free competition was progressive for that country; with respect to Germany one of them wrote, as late as the sixties, that she suffered not only from capitalism, but also from the insufficient development of capitalism.
Let us return to the speech we have been dealing with. We pointed to the fundamentally different point of view of the speaker, who reduced the problem to one of the interests of the different classes in English society. We see the same profound difference in his presentation of the purely theoretical problem of the significance of the repeal of the Corn Laws to the social economy. For him it is not the abstract question of which system England should adopt, what path she should choose (as the question is put by Sismondi, who forgets that England has a past and a present, which already determine that path). No, he forthwith presents the question on the basis of the present-day social and economic system; he asks himself: what must be the next step in the development of this system following the repeal of the Corn Laws?
The difficulty involved in this question was that of determining how the repeal of the Corn Laws would affect agriculture, for as regards industry its effect was clear to everybody.
To prove that this repeal would benefit agriculture as well, the Anti-Corn-Law League offered a prize for the three best essays on the beneficial effect the repeal of the Corn Laws would have upon English agriculture. The speaker briefly outlined the views of the three prize-winners, Hope, Morse, and Greg, and at once singled out the last-named, whose essay most scientifically and most strictly followed the principles laid down by classical political economy.
Writing mainly for big farmers, Greg, himself a big manufacturer, showed that the repeal of the Corn Laws would thrust the small farmers out of agriculture and they would turn to industry, but it would benefit the big farmers who would be able to rent land on longer leases, invest more capital in the land, employ more machines and get along with less labour, which was bound to become cheaper with the fall in the price of corn. The landlords, however, would have to be content with a lower rent because land of poorer quality would drop out of cultivation, as it would be unable to withstand the competition of cheap imported grain.
The speaker proved to be quite right in regarding this forecast and this open defence of capitalism in agriculture as the most scientific. History has confirmed his forecast. “The repeal of the Corn Laws gave a marvellous impulse to English agriculture. . . . A positive decrease of the agricultural population went hand in hand with increase of the area under cultivation, with more intensive cultivation, unheard-of accumulation of the capital incorporated with the soil, and devoted to its working, an augmentation in the products of the soil without parallel in the history of English agriculture, plethoric rent-rolls of landlords, and growing wealth of the capitalist farmers. . . . Greater outlay of capital per acre, and, as a consequence, more rapid concentration of farms, were essential conditions of the new method.”
But the speaker, of course, did not confine himself to recognising Greg’s arguments as being the most correct. Coming from the mouth of Greg, they were the reasoning of a Free Trader who was discussing English agriculture in general, and was trying to prove that the repeal of the Corn Laws would benefit the nation as a whole. After what we have said above it is evident that these were not the views of the speaker.
He explained that a reduction in the price of corn, so glorified by the Free Traders, meant an inevitable reduction in wages, the cheapening of the commodity “labour” (more exactly: labour-power); that the drop in the price of corn would never be able to compensate the workers for the drop in wages, firstly, because with the drop in the price of corn it would be more difficult for the worker to save on the consumption of bread with a view to buying other articles; secondly, because the progress of industry cheapens articles of consumption, substituting spirits for beer, potatoes for bread, cotton for wool and linen, and, by all this, lowering the worker’s standard of requirements and living.
Thus we see that apparently the speaker establishes the elements of the problem just as Sismondi does: he too admits that the ruination of the small farmers and the impoverishment of the workers in industry and agriculture will be the inevitable consequences of Free Trade. It is here that our Narodniks, who are also distinguished for their inimitable skill in “citing,” usually stop quoting “excerpts,” and with complete satisfaction declare that they fully “agree.” But these methods merely show that they do not understand, firstly, the tremendous difference in the presentation of the problem, which we indicated above; secondly, they overlooked the fact that it is only here that the radical difference between the new theory and romanticism begins: the romanticist turns from the concrete problems of actual development to dreams, whereas the realist takes the established facts as his criterion in definitely solving the concrete problem.
Pointing to the forthcoming improvement in the conditions of the workers the speaker went on to say:
“Thereupon the economists will tell you:
“’Well, we admit that competition among the workers, which will certainly not have diminished under Free Trade, will very soon bring wages into harmony with the low price of commodities. But, on the other hand, the low price of commodities will increase consumption, the larger consumption will require increased production, which will be followed by a larger demand for hands, and this larger demand for hands will be followed by a rise in wages.’
“The whole line of argument amounts to this: Free Trade increases productive forces. If industry keeps growing, if wealth, if the productive power, if, in a word, productive capital increases the demand for labour, the price of labour, and consequently the rate of wages, rise also. The most favourable condition for the worker is the growth of capital. This must be admitted. If capital remains stationary, industry will not merely remain stationary but will decline and in this case the worker will be the first victim. He goes to the wall before the capitalist. And in the case where capital keeps growing, in the circumstances which we have said are the best for the worker, what will be his lot? He will go to the wall just the same. . . .” And quoting data given by English economists the speaker went on to explain in detail how the concentration of capital increases the division of labour, which cheapens labour-power by substituting unskilled for skilled labour, how the machines oust the workers, how big capital ruins the small industrialists and small rentiers and leads to the intensification of crises, which still further increase the number of unemployed. The conclusion he drew from his analysis was that Free Trade signifies nothing but freedom for the development of capital.
Thus, the speaker was able to find a criterion for the solution of the problem which at first sight seemed to lead to the hopeless dilemma that brought Sismondi to a halt: both Free Trade and its restraint equally lead to the ruin of the workers. The criterion is the development of the productive forces. It was immediately evident that the problem was treated from the historical angle: instead of comparing capitalism with some abstract society as it should be (i.e., fundamentally with a utopia), the author compared it with the preceding stages of social economy, compared the different stages of capitalism as they successively replaced one another, and established the fact that the productive forces of society develop thanks to the development of capitalism. By applying scientific criticism to the arguments of the Free Traders he was able to avoid the mistake usually made by the romanticists who, denying that the arguments have any importance, “throw out the baby with the bath water”; he was able to pick out their sound kernel, i.e., the undoubted fact of enormous technical progress. Our Narodniks, with their characteristic wit, would, of course, have concluded that this author, who had so openly taken the side of big capital against the small producer, was an “apologist of money power,” the more so that he was addressing continental Europe and applying the conclusions he drew from English life to his own country, where at that time large scale machine industry was only taking its first timid steps. And yet, precisely this example (like a host of similar examples from West-European history) could help them study the thing they are not at all able to understand (perhaps they do not wish to do so?), namely, that to admit that big capital is progressive as compared with small production, is very, very far from being “apologetics.”
It is sufficient to recall the above-quoted chapter from Sismondi and this speech to be convinced that the latter is superior both from the standpoint of theory and of hostility towards every kind of “apologetics.” The speaker described the contradictions that accompany the development of big capital much more exactly, fully, straightforwardly and frankly than the romanticists ever did. But he never descended to uttering a single sentimental phrase bewailing this development. He never uttered a word anywhere about a possibility of “diversion from the path.” He understood that by means of such phrases people merely cover up the fact that they themselves are “diverting” from the problem reality confronts them with, i.e., a certain economic reality, a certain economic development and certain interests that spring from this development.
The above-mentioned fully scientific criterion enabled him to solve this problem while remaining a consistent realist.
“Do not imagine, gentlemen,” said the speaker, “that in criticising freedom of trade we have the least intention of defending the system of protection.” And he went on to point out that under the contemporary system of social economy both Free Trade and protection rested on the same basis, briefly referred to the “breaking-up” process of the old economic life and of the old semi-patriarchal relationships in West-European countries carried through by capitalism in England and on the Continent, and indicated the social fact that under certain conditions Free Trade hastens this “break-up.” And he concluded with the words: “It is in this sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favour of Free Trade.”
 These words are in English in the original. –Ed. —Lenin
 One-sided as may be this explanation given by the English manufacturers, who ignore the deeper causes of crises and their inevitability when the expansion of the market is slight, it, nevertheless, undoubtedly contains the absolutely correct idea that the realisation of the product by its sale abroad demands, on the whole, corresponding imports from abroad.
We bring this explanation of the English manufacturers to the notice of those economists who brush aside the problem of the realisation of the product in capitalist society with the profound remark: “They will sell abroad.” —Lenin
 To “prove” the unsoundness of capitalism, Sismondi forthwith makes an approximate calculation (such as our Russian romanticist, Mr. V. V., for example, is so fond of doing). Six hundred thousand families, he says, are engaged in agriculture. When the fields are converted into pastures, no more than a tenth of this number will be “wanted.” . . . The less the understanding of the process in all its complexity shown by this author, the more eagerly he resorts to childish “rule of thumb” calculations. —Lenin
 “Discours sur la libre-êchange.” We are using the German translation: “Rede über die Frage des Freihandels.” —Lenin
 Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England (1845). This work was written from exactly the same point of view before the repeal of the Corn Laws (1846), whereas the speech dealt with in the text was delivered after they were repealed. But the difference in time is of no importance to us: it is sufficient to compare the above-quoted arguments of Sismondi, advanced in 1827, with this speech of 1848 to see the complete identity of the elements of the problem in the cases of both authors. The idea of comparing Sismondi with a later German economist was borrowed by us from Handwörterbuch der Staatswissenschaften, B. V., Art. “Sismondi” von Lippert, Seite 679. The parallel he drew was of such thrilling interest that Mr. Lippert’s exposition at once lost all its woodenness . .. that is to say, “objectivity,” and became interesting, vivacious, and even fervid. —Lenin
 Cf. Neue Zeit, the recently discovered articles of Marx in Westphäilisches Dampfboot. —Lenin
 These words are in English in the original. –Ed. —Lenin
 This was written in 1867. To explain the rise in rents, one must bear in mind the law established by the modern analysis of differential rent, namely, that a rise in rent is possible simultaneously with a reduction in the price of corn. “When the English corn duties were abolished in 1846 the English manufacturers believed that they had thereby turned the landowning aristocracy into paupers. Instead, they became richer than ever. How did this occur? Very simply. In the first place, the farmers were now compelled by contract to invest &britpound;12 per acre annually instead of &britpound;8. And, secondly, the landlords, being strongly represented in the Lower House too, granted themselves a large government subsidy for drainage projects and other permanent improvements of their land. Since no total displacement of the poorest soil took place, but rather, at worst, it became employed for other purposes—and mostly only temporarily—rents rose in proportion to the increased investment of capital, and the landed aristocracy consequently was better off than ever before” (Das Kapital, III, 2, 259). —Lenin
 Our italics. —Lenin
 This progressive significance of the repeal of the Corn Laws was also clearly indicated by the author of “Die Lage” even before the repeal took place (loc. cit., p. 179) and he specially stressed the influence it would have upon the consciousness of the producers. —Lenin
 The Corn Laws, which were introduced in England in 1815, established high tariffs on imported corn, and at times prohibited corn imports. They enabled the big landowners to increase grain prices on the home market and to secure enormous rents. They also strengthened the political position of the landed aristocracy. There was a fierce and protracted struggle between the big landowners and the bourgeoisie over the Corn Laws which ended in their repeal in 1846.
 ”On the one hand, it cannot hut be recognised, on the other hand, it must be admitted”—an ironical expression used by M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin in his stories “The Diary of a Provincial in St. Petersburg” and “Funeral.”
 Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Moscow, pp. 234-53.
 The Anti-Corn-Law League (this term is in English in the original) was founded in 1838 by the textile manufacturers Cobden and Bright. Its headquarters were in Manchester, the centre of the Free-Trade movement.
The Anti-Corn-Law League, as its name indicates, fought to secure the repeal of the Corn Laws, and stood for Free Trade, demagogically asserting that it would improve the workers’ standard of living, although reduced corn prices could only result in reduced wages for the workers and increased profits for the capitalists. The conflict over this issue between the industrial bourgeoisie and the landed aristocracy ended in the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Marx’s views on the anti-Corn-Law movement are given in his speech “On Free Trade” (see Appendix to The Poverty of Philosophy by Karl Marx, Moscow, pp. 234-53).
 Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Moscow, p. 234.
 Marx and Engels, On Britain, Moscow, 1953, p. 303.
 Die Neue Zeit (New Times )—theoretical journal of German Social-Democracy. Appeared in Stuttgart from 1883 to 1923. Prior to October 1917 was edited by K. Kautsky, then by H. Cunow. In 1885-95, articles by K. Marx and F. Engels appeared in its columns. Engels frequently made suggestions to the editors of Die Neue Zeit, and severely criticised them for departing from Marxism. The journal also published articles by F. Mehring, P. Lafargue, G. V. Plekhanov, and other leading figures of the international working-class movement. In the late 1890s the journal made a practice of publishing articles by revisionists. During the First World War (1914-18) the journal adopted a centrist, Kautskian position in support of the social-chauvinists.
 The articles mentioned by V. I. Lenin are: “The Anti-Kriege Circular” by K. Marx and F. Engels, and chapter IV, Vol. II of German Ideology, both of which appeared in Das Westphälische Dampfboot for July 1846 and August-September 1847, while extracts from them were reprinted in Nos. 27 and 28 of Die Neue Zeit, 1895-96 (MEGA, Erste Abteilung, Band 6, S. 10, 11, 12, 13; Band 5, S. 500, 501, 502).
Das Westphälische Dampfboot (Westphalian Steamer)—a monthly magazine, organ of one of the trends of petty-bourgeois German, or “true,” socialism; was edited by O. Lüning in Bielefeld and Paderborn (Germany) from January 1845 to March 1848.
 Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 677-78.
 Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 709.
 Marx and Engels, On Britain, Moscow. 1953. pp. 302-03.
 Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Moscow, p. 253.
For censorship reasons Lenin changed (or excluded) words from the section of Marx’s “On Free Trade” cited here. Thus, he translated the words “hastens the social revolution” as “hastens this ‘break-up’\thinspace” and the phrase “in this revolutionary sense alone” as “in this sense alone.”