V. I.   Lenin

The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia and General Problems of “Handicraft” Industry



(I. General Data.—II.The “Handicraftsman” and Wage-Labour.—III.“Communal-Labour Continuity”)

Perm scientific societies, assisted by the Zemstvo, have undertaken the preparation of an extensive handbook for the 1896 Exhibition in Nizhni-Novgorod under the general title: A Survey of Perm Territory. Enough material has been collected to fill well over three thousand pages, and the whole edition is to consist of eight volumes. As was to be expected, the work was not completed in time for the exhibition, and so far only the first volume, a sketch of the handicraft industries of the gubernia,[1] has been published. For the novelty, wealth and fulness of the material on which it is based, the Sketch is a work of outstanding interest. The material was obtained through a special handicraft census financed by the Zemstvo and taken in 1894-95. This was a house-to-house census, each householder being questioned individually. The information was collected by the Zemsky Nachalniks.[5] The programme of this house-to-house investigation was very broad, embracing the members of the families of master handicraftsmen, the wage-labour employed by them, agriculture, information on the purchase of raw materials, the technique of production, distribution of work according to the months of the year, sale of products, dates on which the establishments were founded, and the indebtedness of handicraftsmen. As far as we are aware, this is perhaps the first time such abundant   information has been published in our literature. But to whom much is given, much is required. The very wealth of the material entitles us to demand its thorough analysis by the investigators, but the Sketch is a long way from meeting this demand. Both in the tabulated data and in the method of grouping and analysing them there are many gaps, which the present author has had in part to fill by selecting material from various parts of the book and computing the appropriate data.

Our purpose is to acquaint the reader with the material of the census, the methods by which it has been analysed, and the conclusions to be drawn from the data relative to the economic realities of our “handicraft industries.” We underscore the words “economic realities,” because we only deal with what exists in reality, and why that reality is what it is, and not something else. As to extending the conclusions drawn from the data on Perm Gubernia to “our handicraft industries” in general, the reader will see from what follows that such an extention is quite legitimate, for the forms of “handicraft industry” in Perm Gubernia are exceedingly varied and embrace every possible form ever mentioned in the literature on the subject.

But there is one request we must earnestly make, namely, that the reader draw the strictest possible distinction between two aspects of the following commentary: the study and analysis of the actual facts, on the one hand, and the discussion of the Narodnik views held by the authors of the Sketch, on the other.


General Data

The handicraft census of 1894-95 embraced 8,991 families (excluding the families of wage-workers) in all uyezds of the gubernia, or, in the opinion of the investigators, about 72 per cent of the total number of Perm handicraftsmen; other data point to the existence of 3,484 families more. The basic division according to type adopted in the Sketch is as follows: two groups of handicraftsmen are distinguished (indicated in the tables by the Roman numerals I and   II): those who have a farm (I) and those who have not (II); then three sub-groups of each group (Arabic numerals 1, 2 and 3): 1) those who produce for the market; 2) those who work to order for private customers, and 3) those who work to order for buyers-up. In the last two sub-groups the raw material is usually supplied by the customer or the buyer-up. Let us take a look at this method of classifying. The division of handicraftsmen into those who farm land and those who do not is, of course, a sound and necessary method. The large number of landless handicraftsmen in Perm Gubernia, frequently concentrated in industrial settlements, has led the authors to stick to this classification and to use it in the tables. We learn, for example, that 6,638 persons, or one-third of the total number of handicraftsmen (19,970 working members of families and wage-workers in 8,991 establishments) do not farm land.[2] This fact alone shows the fallacy of the common assumptions and assertions that the connection between handicraft industry and agriculture is universal; this connection is sometimes stressed as a specifically Russian feature. If we exclude the rural (and urban) artisans who have been wrongly classed as “handicraftsmen,” we find that 2,268 of the remaining 5,566 families, or over two-fifths of the total number of industrialists working for the market, are landless. Unfortunately, even this basic classification is not adhered to consistently in the Sketch. Firstly, it is applied only to master craftsmen, no similar data being given for wage-workers. This omission is due to the fact that, in general, the census registered only the establishments, the owners, and ignored the wage-workers and their families. In place of these terms, the Sketch employs the very inaccurate expression “families engaged in handicraft industries.” This is inaccurate because families whose members are employed by handicraftsmen as wage-workers are no less “engaged in handicraft industries” than the families which hire them. The absence of house-to-house information on the families of wage-workers (who constitute one-fourth of the total number of workers) is a grave omission in the census. This omission is   highly characteristic of the Narodniks, who at once adopt the viewpoint of the small producer and leave wage-labour in the shade. Below we shall find frequent gaps of this kind in the information on wage-workers, but for the moment let us confine ourselves to the remark that although the absence of information on wage-workers’ families is a common feature of the literature on handicrafts, there are exceptions. In the Moscow Zemstvo statistics one occasionally comes across systematic information on wage-workers’ families, and even more so in the well-known inquiry of Messrs. Kharizomenov and Prugavin, Industries of Vladimir Gubernia, which contains house-to-house censuses that register wage-workers’ families on a par with those of masters. Secondly, by including the mass of landless industrialists under the heading of handicraftsmen, the investigators naturally removed the grounds for the common, although absolutely incorrect, method of excluding the urban industrialists from this category. And, indeed, we find that the 1894-95 census includes one town—Kungur (p. 33 of the tables)—but only one. No explanation is given in the Sketch, and it remains a mystery why the census was taken for one town only, and why this particular town was chosen—whether by chance or for some sound reason. This causes no little confusion, and seriously detracts from the value of the general data. On the whole, therefore, the handicraft census repeats the usual Narodnik mistake of separating the country (“handicraftsmen”) from the town, although often enough an industrial district embraces a town and the surrounding villages. It is high time to abandon this distinction, which is due to prejudice and an exaggeration of outdated divisions into social estates.

We have already referred on several occasions to rural and urban artisans, sometimes excluding them from the number of handicraftsmen, and sometimes not. The fact is that these fluctuations are characteristic of all literature on “handicraft” industries, and demonstrate the unsuitability of a term like “handicraftsman” for the purposes of scientific investigation. The generally accepted opinion is that only those who work for the market, the commodity producers, should be regarded as handicraftsmen; but in practice it would be hard to find all investigation of the handicraft   industries in which artisans, that is, producers who work for private customers (2nd sub-group in the Sketch) are not counted as handicraftsmen. Both in the Transactions of the Commission of Inquiry into the Handicraft Industry and the Industries of Moscow Gubernia you will find artisans classed as “handicraftsmen.” We consider it useless to argue about the meaning of the word “handicraft,” for, as we shall see later, there is no form of industry (except perhaps machine industry) which has not been included under this traditional term, a term that is absolutely useless for scientific investigation. It is certain that a strict distinction must be made between commodity producers who work for the market (1st sub-group) and artisans who fulfil the orders of private customers (2nd sub-group), because of the complete difference in the social and economic significance of these forms of industry. The attempts made in the Sketch to obliterate this distinction (cf. pp. 13 and 177) are very unsuccessful; far more correct is the remark made in another Zemstvo statistical publication on the Perm handicraftsmen to the effect that “the artisans have very few points of contact with the sphere of handicraft industry—fewer than the latter has with factory industry.”[3] Both factory industry and the 1st sub-group of “handicraftsmen” relate to commodity production, which is non-existent in the 2nd sub-group. A no less strict distinction must be made in the case of the 3rd sub-group, the handicraftsmen who work for buyers-up (and manufacturers) and who differ essentially from those of the first two sub-groups. It would be desirable for all investigators of so-called “handicraft” industry to adhere strictly to this division and use precise political-economic terminology, instead of assigning an arbitrary meaning to colloquial terms.

The following table shows the division of the “handicraftsmen” into groups and sub-groups:


Before proceeding to draw conclusions from these figures,   let us recall that the town of Kungur was included in Group II, which thus consists of a mixture of urban and rural industrialists. We see from the table that although there is a preponderance of agriculturists (Group I) among the rural industrialists and artisans, they are more backward in the development of forms of industry than those who do not cultivate the land (Group II). Among the former primitive artisanship is far more prevalent than production for the market. The greater development of capitalism among the non-agriculturists is shown by the larger proportion of establishments employing wage-workers, of the wage-workers themselves, and of handicraftsmen who work for buyers up. It may therefore be concluded that the tie with agriculture tends to preserve the more backward forms of industry, and vice versa, that the development of capitalism in industry leads to a break with agriculture. Unfortunately, exact information on this subject is not available, and we have perforce to content ourselves with indirect indications. For example, the Sketch tells us nothing about the division of the rural population of Perm Gubernia into agriculturists and landless people, and so we cannot determine in which of these categories the industries are most developed. There is a similar neglect of the highly interesting question of the territorial distribution of industry (the investigators were in possession of the most exact information on this point, for each village separately), of the concentration   of industrialists in the non-agricultural, factory, or trade and industrial settlements generally, of the centres of each branch of industry, and of the spread of the industries from these centres to the surrounding villages. If we add to this that the household statistics showing when the establishments were founded (see § III below) provided an opportunity to determine how the industries developed, that is, whether they spread from the centres to the surrounding villages or vice versa, whether they spread mostly among agriculturists or non-agriculturists, etc., then one cannot help regretting the inadequate analysis of the data. The only information we are able to obtain concerns the distribution of industries by uyezds. To acquaint the reader with these figures we shall group the uyezds as suggested in the Sketch (p. 31): 1) the five “uyezds where the proportion of handicraftsmen working for the market is largest and where, simultaneously, the development of handicraft industry is relatively high”; 2) the five “uyezds where the development of the handicraft industry is relatively weak, and where the handicraftsmen working for the market predominate”; 3) the two “uyezds where it is also at a low level, but where the majority often consists of handicraftsmen who fulfil orders for private customers.” Summarising the principal data for these groups of uyezds we get the following table (see p. 364).


This table enables us to draw the following interesting conclusions. The more highly rural industry is developed in a group of uyezds, 1) the smaller the proportion of rural artisans, i.e., artisan production is to a greater extent replaced by commodity production; 2) the larger the proportion of handicraftsmen who belong to the non-agricultural population, and 3) the more marked the development of capitalist relations and the larger the proportion of dependent handicraftsmen. In the third group of uyezds the rural artisans predominate (77.7 % of all the handicraftsmen); in this case agriculturists predominate (only 5.7% are non-agriculturists) and capitalism is poorly developed: only 7.2% are wage-workers and only 2.7% of the handicraftsmen’s families work for buyers-up, i.e., a total of only 9.9% are dependent handicraftsmen. In the second group of uyezds, on, the contrary, commodity production     predominates and is already eliminating handicraft: only 32.5% are artisans. The percentage of handicraftsmen engaged in agriculture drops from 94.3% to 66.2%, the proportion of wage-workers increases more than fourfold—from 7.2% to 32.1%; there is an increase, although not so large, in the proportion of family workers who work for buyers-up, so that the aggregate proportion of dependent handicrafts men is 38.4%, or nearly two-fifths of the total. Lastly, in the first group of uyezds, natural artisan production is still further eliminated by commodity production and employs only one-fifth of the total number of “handicraftsmen” (21.8%), and at the same time the number of non-agricultural industrialists increases to 42.1%; the proportion of wage-workers drops somewhat (from 32.1% to 26%), but on the other hand there is an enormous increase in the proportion of family workers dependent on buyers-up, namely, from 6.3% to 27.4%, so that the aggregate number of dependent handicraftsmen is more than half the total—53.4%. The district with the largest (absolute and relative) number of “handicraftsmen” is the one where capitalism is most developed: the growth of commodity production forces artisan production into the background, leads to the development of capitalism and to the transfer of industries to non-agriculturists, in other words, to the separation of industry from agriculture (or, perhaps, to the concentration of industries among the non-agricultural population). The reader may doubt whether it is right to regard capitalism as being more developed in the first group of uyezds, where there are fewer wage-workers than in the second, but where more handicraftsmen work for buyers-up. Domestic industry, it may be objected, is a lower form of capitalism. But we shall see below that many of these buyers-up are manufacturers who own large capitalist establishments. Here domestic industry is an adjunct of the factory, and signifies a higher degree of concentration of production and capital (some of the buyers-up have 200, 500, even 1,000 persons and more, working for them), a higher degree of division of labour, and, consequently, a more highly developed form of capitalism. This form is to the small workshop of the owner who employs wage-workers as capitalist manufacture is to capitalist simple co-operation.

The figures quoted are sufficient to refute the attempt of the compilers of the Sketch to draw a fundamental contrast between “the handicraft form of production” and “capitalist production”—an assertion which repeats the traditional prejudice of all the Russian Narodniks, headed by Messrs. V. V. and N.-on. The Perm Narodniks assume that the “basic difference” between these two forms is that under handicraft production “labour owns both the instruments and materials of production and all the fruits of labour in the shape of the produce of production” (p. 3). We are now in a position to declare quite emphatically that this is false. Even if we include artisans among the handicraftsmen the majority of them do not fit this definition : this applies, firstly, to the wage-workers, and they represent 25.3%; secondly, to family workers who work for buyers-up, for they own neither the materials of production nor the fruits of their labour, but are merely paid wages—and they constitute 20.8%; and, thirdly, to the family workers of the first and second sub-groups who employ wage-workers, for they own the “fruits” of other labour in addition to their own. They probably constitute about 10% (1,691 of the 6,645 establishments in the first and second sub-groups, or 25.4%, employ wage-workers; in the 1,691 establishments there are probably not less than 2,000 family workers). And so we already have 25.3% + 20.8% + 10% = 56.1% of the “handicraftsmen,” or more than half, who do not fit this definition. In other words, even in a remote and economically backward gubernia like Perm, the “handicraftsmen” who either hire themselves out or hire others, who exploit or are exploited, are already preponderant today. But it would be far more correct for such a computation to exclude artisan production and to take commodity production alone. Artisan production is such an archaic form of industry that even among our native Narodniks, who have repeatedly proclaimed that backwardness is Russia’s good fortune (ä la Messrs. V. V., Yuzhakov and Co.), there has not been a single one who has frankly and openly risked defending it and proclaiming it a “pledge” of his ideals. Artisan production in Perm Gubernia is still very widespread as compared with Central Russia: we need only mention the dyeing industry, for instance. This is a purely artisan industry   for the dyeing of peasant homespuns, which in less out-of-the-way parts of Russia have long been superseded by factory-made prints. But even in Perm Gubernia artisan production has been pushed far into the background: even in rural industry, only 29.5%, or less than one-third, of the producers are artisans. If we exclude the artisans, then, we get 14,401 persons who work for the market; of these, 29.3% are wage-workers and 29.5% family workers who work for buyers-up, in other words, 58.8% are dependent “handicraftsmen,”’while another 7% or 8% are small masters employing wage-workers. Thus, about 66%, or nearly two-thirds, of the “handicraftsmen” have two fundamental points of similarity, and not of difference, with capitalism: firstly, they are all commodity producers, and capitalism is nothing but commodity production developed to the full; secondly, the specifically capitalist relations of the purchase and sale of labour-power apply to a large number of them. The compilers of the Sketch try hard to assure the reader that for “weighty” reasons, wage-labour in “handicraft” production has a significance all of its own. We shall examine these assurances and the examples they quote in their proper place (§ VII). Here it will be enough to mention that wherever commodity production prevails and wage-labour is not casually but systematically employed, we have all the features of capitalism. One may say that it is undeveloped, embryonic, that it possesses specific forms, but it is a distortion of the truth to assume a “basic difference” when in reality there is a basic similarity.

Let us, incidentally, mention one other distortion. On p. 5 of the Sketch it is said that “the products of the handicraftsman . . . are made from materials that are chiefly procured locally.” But the Sketch itself provides us with the data to check this point, it shows how the distribution of handicraftsmen engaged in processing livestock produce compares with the distribution of livestock and agricultural produce in the uyezds of the gubernia, how the distribution of those who process plant products compares with the distribution of forests; and how the distribution of those engaged in metal-working compares with the distribution of the pig-iron and malleable iron produced in the gubernia. This comparison shows that 68.9% of the   handicraftsmen engaged in processing livestock products are concentrated in three uyezds, which account for only 25.1% of the livestock population, and only 29.5% of the cultivated area. In other words, we find that the very contrary of the above assertion is true, and the Sketch itself at this point declares that “the high degree of development of the industries engaged in processing livestock produce is chiefly dependent on raw materials brought from outside—for instance, in the Kungur and Ekaterinburg uyezds on the raw hides dressed by the local leather factories and handicraft tanneries, from which the material for the boot industry, the principal handicraft in these uyezds, is obtained” (24-25). Hence, handicraft industry in these parts is based not only on the large turnover of the local capitalist leather merchants, but also on semi-manufactures obtained from factory owners, i.e., handicraft industry is a sequel or adjunct to developed commodity circulation and to capitalist leather establishments. “In Shadrinsk Uyezd, the raw material brought from outside is wool, which furnishes the material for the chief industry of the uyezd—the making of felt boots.” Further, 61.3% of the handicraftsmen engaged in processing plant produce are concentrated in four uyezds. Yet these four uyezds contain only 20.7% of the total forest area of the gubernia. On the other hand, in the two uyezds where 51.7% of the forest area is concentrated, there are only 2.6% of the handicraftsmen engaged in processing plant produce (p. 25). In other words, here too we find the contrary to be the case, and here too the Sketch states that the raw material is brought from outside (p. 26).[4] Hence, we observe the very interesting fact that a deep-rooted commodity circulation precedes the development of the handicraft industries (and is a condition for their development). This fact is very important, for it shows, firstly, that commodity economy is long established, handicraft industry being only one of its elements; it shows also how absurd it is to depict our handicraft industry as a sort of tabula rasa still “able” to take a different path. The investigators report, for example, that “handicraft industry”   in Perm Gubernia “continues to reflect the influence of those means of communication which determined the commercial and industrial physiognomy of the area not only in the pre-railway days, but even in pre-Reform days” (p. 39). Actually, the town of Kungur was the road junction in the Cis-Urals area: through it passes the Siberian highway which connects Kungur with Ekaterinburg, with branches to Shadrinsk; another commercial highway from Kungur, that of Blagodatnaya Gora, connects the town with Osa. Lastly, the Birsk highway connects Kungur with Krasnoufimsk. “We thus find that the handicraft industry of the gubernia became concentrated in districts around the highway junctions: in the Cis-Urals area—in the uyezds of Kungur, Krasnoufimsk and Osa and in the Trans-Urals area—in the uyezds of Ekaterinburg and Shadrinsk” (p. 39). Let us remind the reader that it is these five uyezds that constitute the group that is first in its development of handicraft industry, and that 70% of the total number of handicraftsmen are concentrated in them. Secondly, this fact shows us that the “organisation of exchange” in handicraft industry, about which the handicraft friends of the muzhik chatter so frivolously, has already been created and by none other than the Russian merchant class itself. Later on we shall find much to confirm this. Only in the third category of handicraftsmen (those who process metal) do we find that the distribution of raw material production and its processing by handicraftsmen correspond: 70% of this category of handicraftsmen are concentrated in the four uyezds producing 70.6% of the total pig-iron and malleable iron. But here the raw material is itself a product of the large-scale metallurgical industry, which, as we shall see, has its “own views” on the “handicraftsman.”


[1] A Survey of Perm Territory. A Sketch of the State of Handicraft Industry in Perm Gubernia. Published out of funds provided by the Perm Gubernia Zemstvo. Perm, 1896, pp. II + 365 + 232 pp. of tables, 16 diagrams and a map of Perm Gubernia. Price: 1 ruble 50 kopeks.—LeninLenin

[2] Actually, more than one-third are landless, for the census covered only one town. But of that more anon. —Lenin

[3] The Handicraft Industries of Perm Gubernia at the Siberian-Urals Science and Industry Exhibition in Ekaterinburg, 1887, by Y. Krasnoperov, in three parts, Perm, 1888-89, Part I, p. 8. We shall quote from this valuable publication, briefly referring to it as Handicraft Industries and indicating the part and the page. —Lenin

[4] These two types of handicraftsmen—those processing livestock and plant produce—make up 33% + 28% = 61% of the total number. Metal working engages 25% of the handicraftsmen (p. 20). —Lenin

[5] In 1889 the tsarist government introduced the administrative post of Zemsky Nachalnik in order to increase the power of the landlords over the peasants. The Zemsky Nachalniks were appointed from among the local landed nobility, and were given enormous power, not only administrative but also juridical, over the peasants, including the right to have peasants arrested and flogged.

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