Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter IV. The Growth of Commercial Agriculture

III. The Commercial Stock-Farming Area. General Data on the Development of Dairy Farming

We now pass to another very important area of agricultural capitalism in Russia, namely, the region in which not cereal, but livestock produce is of predominant significance. This region embraces, apart from the Baltic and the western gubernias, the northern, the industrial and parts of some of the central gubernias (Ryazan, Orel, Tula, and Nizhni Novgorod). Here animals are kept for dairy produce, and the whole character of agriculture is adapted to obtaining as large a quantity as possible of the more valuable market produce of this sort.[1] “Before our very eyes a marked transition is taking place from stock farming for manure to stock farming for dairy produce; it has been particularly notice able during the past ten years” (work quoted in previous footnote, ibid.). It is very difficult by the use of statistics to describe the various regions of Russia in this respect, because it is not the total number of horned cattle that is here important, but the number of dairy cattle and their quality. If we take the total number of animals per hundred inhabitants, we shall find that it is biggest in the outer steppe regions of Russia and smallest in the non-black-earth belt (Agriculture and Forestry, 274); we shall find that as time goes on the number diminishes (Productive Forces, III, 6. Cf. Historico-Statistical Survey, I). Hence, we observe here what Roscher noted in his day, namely, that the number of animals per unit of the population is largest in districts of “extensive livestock farming” (W. Roscher, Nationaloekonomik des Ackerbaues. 7-te Aufl., Stuttg., 1873, S. 563–564[2]). We, however, are interested in intensive livestock farming, and in dairy farming in particular. We are compelled, therefore, to confine ourselves to the approximate computation made by the authors of the above-mentioned, Sketch, without claiming to make an exact estimate of the phenomenon; such a computation clearly illustrates the relative positions of the various regions of Russia as to degree of dairy-farm development. We quote this computation in extenso, supplementing it with some averages arrived at and data on the cheese-making industry in 1890 according to “factory” statistics.

Dairy-farming development.

This table clearly illustrates (though the data are very obsolete) the emergence of special dairy-farming areas, the development there of commercial farming (the sale of milk and milk-processing) and the increase in the productivity of dairy cattle.

To judge the development of dairy farming, we can only make use of data on butter production and cheese making. This industry arose in Russia at the very end of the 18th century (1795); cheese making on landlords’ estates began to develop in the 19th century, but suffered a severe crisis in the 1860s, which opened the period of cheese making by peasants and merchants.

The number of cheese-making establishments in the 50 gubernias of European Russia was as follows:[3]

Cheese-making establishments.

Thus, in 25 years production increased more than ten-fold; only the dynamics of the phenomenon may be judged from these data, which are extremely incomplete. Let us quote some more detailed material. In Vologda Gubernia an improvement in dairy farming began, properly speaking, in 1872, when the Yaroslavl-Vologda railway was opened; since then “farmers have begun to see to the improvement of their herds, to introduce grass cultivation, to acquire improved implements . . . and have tried to place dairy farming on a purely commercial basis” (Statistical Sketch, 20). In Yaroslavl Gubernia “the ground was prepared” by the so-called “cheese-making artels” of the 70s, and “cheese making continues to develop on the basis of private enterprise, merely retaining the title of ‘artel’” (25); cheese making “artels” figure—may we add—in the Directory of Factories and Works as establishments employing wage-workers. Instead of 295,000 rubles, the authors of the Sketch estimate the output of cheese and butter, according to official returns, at 412,000 rubles (computed from figures scattered throughout the book); correction of the figure brings the value of the output of fresh butter and cheese to 1,600,000 rubles, and if we add clarified butter and soft cheese, to 4,701,400 rubles, not counting either the Baltic or the western gubernias.

For the later period let us quote the following opinions from the above-cited publication of the Department of Agriculture Hired Labour, etc. Concerning the industrial gubernias in general we read: “A complete revolution in the position of the farms in this area has been brought about by the development of dairy farming”; it “indirectly has also helped to bring about an improvement in agriculture”; “dairy farming in the area is developing with every year” (258). In Tver Gubernia “there is to be observed the tendency both among private landowners and peasants to improve the methods of maintaining cattle”; the income from stock farming is estimated at 10 million rubles (274). In Yaroslavl Gubernia “dairy farming . . . is developing with every year. . . . Cheese and butter making have even begun to assume something of an industrial character . . . milk . . . is bought up from neighbours and even from peasants. One comes across cheese factories run by a whole company of owners” (285). “The general trend of private-landowner farming here,” writes a correspondent from Danilov Uyezd, Yaroslavl Gubernia, “is marked at the present time by the following: 1) the transition from three-field to five- and seven-field crop rotation, with the sowing of herbage in the fields; 2) the ploughing up of disused lands; 3) the introduction of dairy farming, and as a consequence, the stricter selection of cattle and an improvement in their maintenance” (292). The same thing is said of Smolensk Gubernia, where the value of the output of cheese and butter amounted to 240,000 rubles in 1889—according to a report of the Governor (according to statistical returns, 136,000 rubles in 1890). The development of dairy farming is noted in the Kaluga, Kovno, Nizhni-Novgorod, Pskov, Esthland and Vologda gubernias. The value of the output of butter and cheese in the last-mentioned gubernia was estimated at 35,000 rubles according to statistics for 1890, to 108,000 rubles according to the Governor’s report, and to 500,000 rubles according to local returns for 1894, which gave a total of 389 factories. “That is what the statistics say. Actually, however, there are far more factories, since, according to investigations by the Vologda Zemstvo Board, there are 224 factories in Vologda Uyezd alone.” Production is developed in three uyezds, and has partly penetrated a fourth.[4] One can judge from this how many times the above quoted figures need to be multiplied in order to approach the real situation. The plain view of an expert that at the present time the number of butter and cheese-making establishments “amounts to several thousand” (Agriculture and Forestry in Russia, 299), gives a truer picture of the facts than the allegedly exact figure of 265.

Thus the data leave not the slightest doubt about the enormous development of this special type of commercial farming. The growth of capitalism was accompanied here too by the transformation of routine technique. “In the sphere of cheese making,” we read, for example, in Agriculture and Forestry, “more has been done in Russia during the last 25 years than perhaps in any other country” (301). Mr. Blazhin says the same thing in his article “Technical Progress in Dairy Farming” (Productive Forces, III, 38-45). The principal change is that the “age-old” method of leaving cream to settle has been replaced by the system of separating cream in centrifugal machines (separators).[5] The machine has enabled the work to be carried on irrespective of atmospheric temperature, increased the butter yield from milk by 10%, improved the quality of the product, reduced the cost of butter production (the machine requires less labour, space, and ice, as well as fewer utensils), and has led to the concentration of production. Large peasant butteries have grown up, handling “as much as 500 poods of milk a day, which was physically impossible . . . when the milk was left to settle” (ibid.). Improvements are being made in the instruments of production (permanent boilers, screw presses, improved cellars), and production is being assisted by bacteriology, which is providing pure cultures of the type of lactic-acid bacilli needed for fermenting cream.

Thus, in the two areas of commercial farming we have described, the technical improvements called into being by the requirements of the market were effected primarily in those operations that were easiest to change and are particularly important for the market: reaping, threshing and winnowing in commercial grain farming, and the technical processing of animal produce in the area of commercial stock farming. As to the keeping of cattle, capital finds it more profitable for the time being to leave that to the small producer: let him “diligently” and “industriously” tend “his” cattle (and charm Mr. V. V. with his diligence—see Progressive Trends, p. 73), let him bear the brunt of the hardest and roughest work of tending the milk-yielding machine. Capital possesses the latest improvements and methods not only of separating the cream from the milk, but also of separating the “cream” from this “diligence”, of separating the milk from the children of the peasant poor.


[1] In other parts of Russia stock farming is of a different kind. For example, in the extreme South and South-East, the most extensive form of stock farming has become established, namely, cattle-fattening for beef. Further north, horned cattle are used as draught animals. Lastly, in the central black-earth belt cattle are used as “manure-making machines.” V. Kovalevsky and I. Levitsky, Statistical Sketch of Dairy Farming in the Northern and Central Belts of European Russia (St. Petersburg, 1879). The authors of this work, like the majority of agricultural experts, display very little interest in the social-economic aspect of the matter or understanding of this aspect It is quite wrong, for example, to draw from the fact of farms becoming more profitable the direct conclusion that they ensure “the people’s well-being and nutriment” (p. 2).—Lenin

[2] W. Roscher, Economics of Agriculture, 7th edition, Stuttgart 1873, pp. 563-564.—Lenin

[3] Data from Military Statistical Abstract and Mr. Orlov’s Directory (1st and 3rd eds.). Concerning these sources, see Chapter VII. Let us merely observe that the figures quoted minimise the actual rapidity of development, since the term “factory” or “works” was employed in a narrower sense in 1879 than in 1866; and in 1890 in a still narrower sense than in 1879. The 3rd ed of the Directory contains information on the date of establishment of 230 factories; it appears that only 26 were established before 1870, 68 in the 70s, 122 in the 80s and 14 in 1890. This speaks of a rapid increase in production. As for the latest List of Factories and Works (St. Petersburg, 1897), utter chaos reigns there: cheese making is registered for two or three gubernias and for the rest omitted altogether.—Lenin

[4] Nedelya [Week ], 1896, No. 13. Dairy farming is so profitable that urban traders have rushed into the business and, incidentally, have introduced such methods as the settlement of accounts in goods. One local landowner, who has a large factory, organised an artel “with prompt cash payment for milk” in order to release the peasants from bondage to buyers-up and to “capture new markets.” A characteristic example, showing the real significance of artels and of the celebrated “organisation of sales,” namely, “emancipation” from merchant’s capital through the development of industrial capital.—Lenin

[5] Until 1882 there were hardly any separators in Russia. From 1886 onward they spread so rapidly as to displace the old method utterly. In the 1890s even butter-extractor separators appeared.—Lenin

  II. The Commercial Grain-Farming Area | IV. Continuation. The Economy of Landlord Farming in the Area Described  

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