Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter I. The Theoretical Mistakes of the Narodnik Economists

The market is a category of commodity economy, which in the course of its development is transformed into capitalist economy and only under the latter gains complete sway and universal prevalence. Therefore, in order to examine basic theoretical propositions concerning the home market we must proceed from simple commodity economy and trace its gradual transformation into capitalist economy.

I. The Social Division of Labour

The basis of commodity economy is the social division of labour. Manufacturing industry separates from the raw materials industry, and each of these subdivides into small varieties and subvarieties which produce specific products as commodities, and exchange them for the products of all the others. Thus, the development of commodity economy leads to an increase in the number of separate and independent branches of industry; the tendency of this development is to transform into a special branch of industry the making not only of each separate product, but even of each separate part of a product—and not only the making of a product, but even the separate operations of preparing the product for consumption. Under natural economy society consisted of a mass of homogeneous economic units (patriarchal peasant families, primitive village communities, feudal manors), and each such unit engaged in all forms of economic activity, from the acquisition of various kinds of raw material to their final preparation for consumption. Under commodity economy heterogeneous economic units come into being, the number of separate branches of economy increases, and the number of economic units per forming one and the same economic function diminishes. It is this progressive growth in the social division of labour that is the chief factor in the process of creating a home market for capitalism. “...Where the basis is commodity production and its absolute form, capitalist production,” says Marx, “... products are commodities, or use-values, which have an exchange-value that is to be realised, to be converted into money, only in so far as other commodities form an equivalent for them, that is, other products confront them as commodities and values; thus, in so far as they are not produced as immediate means of subsistence for the producers themselves, but as commodities, as products which become use-values only by their transformation into exchange values (money), by their alienation. The market for these commodities develops through the social division of labour ; the division of productive labours mutually transforms their respective products into commodities, into equivalents for each other, making them mutually serve as markets” (Das Kapital, III, 2, 177-178. Russ. trans., 526.[2] Our italics, as in all quotations, unless otherwise stated).

It goes without saying that the above-mentioned separation of the manufacturing from the raw materials industry, of manufacture from agriculture, transforms agriculture itself into an industry, into a commodity-producing branch of economy. The process of specialisation that separates from each other the diverse varieties of the manufacture of products, creating an ever-growing number of branches of industry, also manifests itself in agriculture, creating specialised agricultural districts (and systems of farming)[1] and giving rise to exchange not only between the products of agriculture and industry but also between the various products of agriculture. This specialisation of commercial (and capitalist) agriculture manifests itself in all capitalist countries, in the international division of labour; this is true of post-Reform Russia as well, as we shall show in detail below.

Thus, the social division of labour is the basis of the entire process of the development of commodity economy and of capitalism. It is quite natural, therefore, that our Narodnik theoreticians, who declare this process to be the result of artificial measures, the result of a “deviation from the path,” and so on and so forth, have tried to gloss over the fact of the social division of labour in Russia or to belittle its significance. Mr. V. V., in his article “Division of Agricultural and Industrial Labour in Russia” (Vestnik Yevropy [European Messenger ], 1884, No. 7), “denied” “the dominance in Russia of the principle of the social division of labour” (p. 347), and declared that in this country the social division of labour “has not sprung from the depths of the people’s life, but has attempted to thrust itself into it from outside” (p. 338). Mr. N.–on, in his Sketches, argued as follows about the increase in the quantity of grain offered for sale: “This phenomenon might imply that the grain produced is more evenly distributed over the country, that the Archangel fisherman now consumes Samara grain, and that the Samara farmer supplements his dinner with Archangel fish. Actually, however, nothing of the kind is happening” (Sketches on Our Post-Reform Social Economy, St. Petersburg, 1893, p. 37). Without any data and contrary to generally known facts, the categorical assertion is bluntly made here that there is no social division of labour in Russia! The Narodnik theory of the “artificial character” of capitalism in Russia could only have been evolved by rejecting, or proclaiming as “artificial,” the very foundation of all commodity economy, namely, the social division of labour.


[1] For example, I. A. Stebut in his Principles of Crop Farming distinguishes farming systems according to the principal product marketed. There are three main farming systems: 1) crop growing (grain farming, as Mr. A. Skvortsov calls it); 2) livestock raising (the principal product marketed being livestock produce); and 3) industrial (technical farming, as Mr. A. Skvortsov calls it); the principal product marketed being agricultural produce that undergoes technical processing. See A. Skvortsov, The Influence of Steam Transport on Agriculture, Warsaw, 1890, p, 68 and foll. —Lenin


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