Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter II. The Differentiation of the Peasantry

II. Zemstvo Statistics For Samara Gubernia

From the country’s southern outer area let us pass to the eastern region, to Samara Gubernia. Let us take Novouzensk Uyezd, the last one investigated; in the statistical report for this uyezd we find the most detailed classification of the peasants according to economic status.[1] Here are the general data on the groups of the peasantry (the data that follow cover 28,276 allotment-holding households, numbering 164,146 persons of both sexes, i.e., only the Russian population of the uyezd, without Germans or farmsteaders—householders who farm both on community land and on separate non-community farmsteads. The inclusion of the Germans and the farmsteaders would considerably heighten the picture of differentiation).

Table, page 86, first

The concentration of agricultural production turns out to be very considerable: the “community” capitalists (1/14 of the total households, namely, households with 10 and more draught animals) possess 36.5% of the area under crops—as much as do 75.3 %, the poor and middle peasantry put together! Here, too, as always, the “average” figure (15.9 dess. under crops per household) is absolutely fictitious and creates the illusion of universal prosperity. Let us examine other data on the economy of the various groups.

Table, page 86, second

Thus, in the bottom group there are very few independent peasant farmers; the poor peasants have no improved implements at all, while the middle peasantry have them in insignificant numbers. The concentration of animals is still greater than the concentration of area under crops; the well to-do peasants evidently combine capitalist livestock raising with their large-scale capitalist cropping. At the opposite pole we have “peasants” who ought to be classed as allotment-holding farm labourers and day labourers, for their main source of livelihood is the sale of their labour-power (as we shall see in a moment), and the landowners sometimes give one or two animals to their labourers to tie them down to their farms and to reduce wages.

It goes without saying that the peasant groups differ not only as to the size of their farms, but also in their methods of farming: firstly, in the top group a very large proportion of the peasant farmers (40 to 60%) are supplied with improved implements (mainly iron ploughs, and also horse and steam threshers, winnowing machines, reapers, etc.). In the hands of 24.7% of the households, the top group, are concentrated 82.9% of the total improved implements; 38.2% of the households, the middle group, possess 17% of the improved implements; 37.1%, the poor, possess 0.1% (7 implements out of 5,724).[2] Secondly, the peasants with few horses are compelled by necessity to carry on “a different system of farming, a system of economic activity” entirely different from that of the peasants with many horses, as the compiler of Returns for Novouzensk Uyezd says (pp. 44-46). The well-to-do peasants “let their land rest . . . plough in the autumn . . . plough it again in the spring and sow after harrowing . . . roll the ploughed land when the soil has aired . . . plough twice for rye,” whereas the badly-off peasants “do not let their land rest but sow Russian wheat year after year . . . for wheat they plough in the spring once . . . for rye they provide neither fallow nor ploughed land, but merely break the surface before sowing . . . for wheat they plough in the late spring, and as a result the corn often does not come up . . . for rye they plough once, or merely break the surface and not at the proper time . . . they plough the same plot of land unwisely year after year, without allowing it to rest.” “And so on and so forth without end,” the compiler concludes this list. “The facts enumerated concerning the radical difference between the farming systems of the better- and the badly-off peasants result in grain of poor quality and bad harvests for the latter and comparatively better harvests for the former” (ibid.).

But how could such a big bourgeoisie arise under the agricultural community system? The answer is supplied by the figures for land possessed and in use according to groups. The peasants in the section taken by us (76 households) have a total of 57,128 dess. of purchased land and 304,514 dess. of rented land, of which 177,789 dess. are non-allotment land rented by 5,602 households; 47,494 dess. of the allotment land rented from other village communities are held by 3,129 households, and 79,231 dess. of the allotment land rented in their own village communities are held by 7,092 households. The distribution of this enormous area of land, constituting more than 2/3 of the peasants’ total area under crops, is as follows (see Table on p. 89).

Distribution of land area by household grouping.

We see here an enormous concentration of purchased and rented land. More than 9/10 of the total purchased land is in the hands of 1.8% of the households, the very richest. Of all the rented land, 69.7% is concentrated in the hands of peasant capitalists, and 86.6% is in the hands of the top group of the peasantry. A comparison of the figures on the renting and the leasing-out of allotment land clearly reveals the passage of the land into the hands of the peasant bourgeoisie. Here, too, the conversion of the land into a commodity leads to the cheapening of the wholesale purchase price of land (and, consequently, to profiteering in land). If we determine the price of one dessiatine of rented non-allotment land we get the following figures, counting from the bottom group to the top: 3.94; 3.20; 2.90; 2.75; 2.57; 2.08; 1.78 rubles. To show what mistakes the Narodniks fall into by thus ignoring the concentration of rented land, let us quote by way of example the arguments of Mr. Karyshev in the well-known symposium The Influence of Harvests and Grain Prices on Certain Aspects of the Russian National Economy (St. Petersburg, 1897). When grain prices fall, with an improvement of the harvest, and renting prices rise, the entrepreneur renters, concludes Mr. Karyshev, have to reduce demand and hence the renting prices had been raised by the representatives of consumers’ economy (I, 288). The conclusion is absolutely arbitrary: it is quite possible that the peasant bourgeoisie raise renting prices in spite of a drop in grain prices, for an improvement in the harvest may compensate for the drop in prices. It is quite possible that the well-to-do peasants raise renting prices even when there is no such compensation, reducing the cost of production of grain by introducing machinery. We know that the employment of machines in agriculture is growing and that these machines are concentrated in the hands of the peasant bourgeoisie. Instead of studying the differentiation of the peasantry, Mr. Karyshev introduces arbitrary and incorrect premises about an average peasantry. That is why all the conclusions and deductions similarly arrived at by him in the publication quoted are of no value whatever.

Having ascertained that diverse elements exist among the peasantry, we can now easily get clarity on the question of the home market. If the well-to-do peasants control about 2/3 of the total agricultural production, it is obvious that they must account for an incomparably larger share of the grain on sale. They produce grain for sale, whereas the badly-off peasants have to buy additional grain and sell their labour-power. Here are the data:[3]

Hired labourers and working males engaged in agricultural industries.

We suggest that the reader compare the arguments of our Narodniks with these data regarding the process of the formation of the home market. . . . “If the muzhik is prosperous, the factory flourishes, and vice versa” (V. V., Progressive Trends, p. 9). Mr. V. V. is evidently not in the least interested in the social form of the wealth which the “factory” needs and which is created only by the conversion of the product and the means of production, on the one hand, and of labour-power, on the other, into a commodity. Mr. N.–on, when speaking of the sale of grain, consoles himself with the thought that this grain is produced by the “muzhik farmer” (Sketches, p. 24), that by transporting this grain “the railways live at the expense of the muzhik” (p. 16). Really, are not these “community-member” capitalists “muzhiks”? “Some day we shall have occasion to point out,” wrote Mr. N.–on in 1880, and reprinted it in 1893, “that in the localities where communal land tenure prevails, agriculture based on capitalist principles is almost completely absent (sic!!) and that it is possible only where communal ties have either been entirely broken or are breaking down” (p. 59). Mr. N.–on has never had this “occasion,” nor could he have had, for the facts point precisely to the development of capitalist agriculture among “community members”[4] and to the complete adaptation of the notorious “communal ties” to the farms of big crop growers that employ labourers.

The relationship between the peasant groups proves to be absolutely analogous in Nikolayevsk Uyezd (cited statistical returns, p. 826 and foll.; we leave out those living away from home and the landless). For example, 7.4%, the rich households (having 10 and more draught animals), comprising 13.7% of the population, concentrate in their hands 27.6% of the total livestock and 42.6% of the rented land, whereas 29%, the poor households (horseless and one-horse), comprising 19.7% of the population, have only 7.2% of the livestock and 3% of the rented land. Unfortunately, the tables for Nikolayevsk Uyezd, we repeat, are too scanty. To finish with Samara Gubernia, let us quote the following highly instructive description of the position of the peasantry from the Combined Returns for Samara Gubernia.

“...The natural increase in the population, augmented by the Immigration of land-poor peasants from the western gubernias, in connection with the appearance in the sphere of agricultural production of money-grubbing speculators in land, has with every passing year complicated the forms of the renting of land, raised its worth and converted the land into a commodity which has so quickly and immensely enriched some and ruined many others. To illustrate the latter point, let us indicate the area cultivated by some of the southern merchant- and peasant-owned farms, where the tillage of 3,000 to 6,000 dessiatines is no rarity, while some practise the cultivation of 8-10-15 thousand dessiatines of land, renting several tens of thousands of state-owned land.

“The existence and the growth of the agricultural (rural) proletariat in Samara Gubernia are to a considerable extent the product of recent times, with their increasing production of grain for sale, rise in renting prices, ploughing up of virgin and pasture land, clearing of forests, and so forth. The landless households throughout the gubernia number 21,624 in all, whereas the non-farming ones number 33,772 (of those households that have allotments), while the horseless and one-horse households together number 110,60 families, with a total of 600,000 persons of both sexes, counting five and a fraction persons per family. We take the liberty of counting these, too, as proletarians, although legally they have a share of communal land; actually, these are day labourers, ploughmen, shepherds, reapers and similar workers on big farms who cultivate 1/2 to 1 dessiatine of their own allotments so as to feed their families who remain at home” (pp. 57-58).

Thus, the investigators regard as proletarians not only the horseless peasants, but also those who have one horse. We note this important conclusion, which fully coincides with that of Mr. Postnikov (and with the data in the classified tables) and points to the real social-economic significance of the bottom group of the peasantry.


[1] Statistical Returns for Samara Gubernia, Vol. VII, Nolvousensk Uyezd, Samara, 1890. An analogous classification is also given for Nikolayevsk Uyezd (Vol. VI, Samara, 1889), but the data are much less detailed. The Combined Returns for Samara Gubernia (Vol. VIII, Pt. 1, Samara, 1892) contains only a classification according to size of allotment, the unsatisfactory nature of which we shall deal with later on.—Lenin

[2] It is interesting to note that from these very data Mr. V. V. (Progressive Trends in Peasant Farming, St. Petersburg, 1892, p. 225) concluded that there was a movement by the “peasant masses” to replace obsolete implements by improved ones (p. 254). The method by which this absolutely false conclusion was reached is very simple: Mr. V. V. took the total figures from the Zemstvo returns, without troubling to look at the tables showing how the implements were distributed! The progress of the capitalist farmers (community members), who employ machines to cheapen the cost of producing commodity grain, is transformed by a stroke of the pen into the progress of the “peasant masses.” And Mr. V.V. did not hesitate to write “Although the machines are acquired by the well-to-do peasants; they are used by all (sic!!) the peasants” (221). Comment is superfluous.—Lenin

[3] We identify with the sale of labour-power what the statisticians call “agricultural industries” (local and away from the village). That by these “industries is meant employment as regular and day labourers is clear from the table of industries (Combined Returns for Samara Gubernia, Vol. VIII): of 14,063 males engaged in “agricultural industries,” 13,297 are farm labourers and day labourers (including shepherds and ploughmen).—Lenin

[4] Novouzensk Uyezd, which we have taken as an illustration, reveals a particular “tenacity of the village community” (to use the terminology of Messrs. V. V. & Co.): from the table in the Combined Returns (p. 26) we find that in this uyezd 60% of the communities have redivided the land, whereas in the other uyezds only 11 to 23% have done so (for the gubernia 13.8% of the communities).—Lenin

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