Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter IV. The Growth of Commercial Agriculture

IV. Continuation. The Economy of Landlord Farming in the Area Described

We have cited the evidence of agronomists and farmers to the effect that dairy farming on the landlord estates leads to the rationalisation of agriculture. Let us add here that the analysis of the Zemstvo statistics on this question made by Mr. Raspopin[1] fully confirms this conclusion. We refer the reader to Mr. Raspopin’s article for detailed data and give here only his main conclusion. “The interdependence of the condition of stock raising and dairy farming, on the one hand, and the number of dilapidated estates and the intensity of farming, on the other, is beyond question. The uyezds (of Moscow Gubernia) where dairy cattle raising, dairy farming, is most developed show the smallest percentage of dilapidated farms and the highest percentage of estates with highly developed field cultivation. Throughout Moscow Gubernia ploughland is being reduced and turned into meadow and pastureland, while grain rotations are yielding place to multi-field herbage rotations. Fodder grasses and dairy cattle, and not grain, are now predominant . . . not only on the farming estates in Moscow Gubernia but throughout the Moscow industrial district” (loc. cit.).

The scale of butter production and cheese making is particularly important precisely because it testifies to a complete revolution in agriculture, which becomes entrepreneur farming and breaks with routine. Capitalism subordinates to itself one of the products of agriculture, and all other aspects of farming are fitted in with this principal product. The keeping of dairy cattle calls forth the cultivation of grasses, the change-over from the three-field system to multi-field systems, etc. The waste products of cheese making go to fatten cattle for the market. Not only milk processing, but the whole of agriculture becomes a commercial enterprise.[2] The influence of cheese production and butter making is not confined to the farms on which they are carried on, since milk is often bought up from the surrounding peasants and landlords. By buying up the milk, capital subordinates to itself the small agriculturists too, particularly with the organisation of the so-called “amalgamated dairies,” the spread of which was noted in the 70s (see Sketch by Messrs. Kovalevsky and Levitsky). These are establishments organised in big towns, or in their vicinity, which process very large quantities of milk brought in by rail. As soon as the milk arrives the cream is skimmed and sold fresh, while the skimmed milk is sold at a low price to poorer purchasers. To ensure that they get produce of a certain quality, these establishments sometimes conclude contracts with the suppliers, obliging them to adhere to certain rules in feeding their cows. One can easily see how great is the significance of large establishments of this kind: on the one hand they capture the public market (the sale of skimmed milk to the poorer town-dwellers), and on the other hand they enormously expand the market for the rural entrepreneurs. The latter are given a tremendous impetus to expand and improve commercial farming. Large-scale industry brings them into line, as it were, by demanding produce of a definite quality and forcing out of the market (or placing at the mercy of the usurers) the small producer who falls below the “normal” standard. There should also operate in the same direction the grading of milk as to quality (fat content, for example), on which technicians are so busily engaged, inventing all sorts of lacto-densimeters, etc., and of which the experts are so heartily in favour (cf. Productive Forces, III, 9 and 38). In this respect the role of the amalgamated dairies in the development of capitalism is quite analogous to that of elevators in commercial grain farming. By sorting grain as to quality the elevators turn it into a product that is not individual but generic (res fungibilis,[7] as the lawyers say), i.e., for the first time they adapt it fully to exchange (cf. M. Sering’s article on the grain trade in the United States of America in the symposium Landownership and Agriculture, p. 281 and foll.). Thus, the elevators give a powerful impetus to commodity-grain production and spur on its technical development by also introducing grading for quality. Such a system strikes a double blow at the small producer. Firstly, it sets up as a standard, legalises, the higher-quality grain of the big crop sowers and thereby greatly depreciates the inferior grain of the peasant poor. Secondly, by organising the grading and storing of grain on the lines of large-scale capitalist industry, it reduces the big sowers’ expenses on this item and facilitates and simplifies the sale of grain for them, thereby placing the small producer, with his patriarchal and primitive methods of selling from the cart in the market, totally at the mercy of the kulaks and the usurers. Hence, the rapid development of elevator construction in recent years means as big a victory for capital and degradation of the small commodity-producer in the grain business as does the appearance and development of capitalist “amalgamated dairies.”

From the foregoing material it is clear that the development of commercial stock farming creates a home market,[3] firstly, for means of production—milk-processing equipment, premises, cattle sheds, improved agricultural implements required for the change-over from the routine three-field system to multi-field crop rotations, etc.; and secondly, for labour-power. Stock farming placed on an industrial footing requires a far larger number of workers than the old stock farming “for manure.” The dairy farming area—the industrial and north-western gubernias—does really attract masses of agricultural labourers. Very many people go to seek agricultural work in the Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yaroslavl and Vladimir gubernias; fewer, but nevertheless a considerable number, go to the Novgorod, Nizhni Novgorod and other non-black-earth gubernias. According to correspondents of the Department of Agriculture in the Moscow and other gubernias private-landowner farming is actually conducted in the main by labourers from other areas. This paradox— the migration of agricultural workers from the agricultural gubernias (they come mostly from the central black-earth gubernias and partly from the northern) to the industrial gubernias to do agricultural jobs in place of industrial workers who abandon the area en masse—is an extremely characteristic phenomenon (see S. A. Korolenko on this point, loc. cit). It proves more convincingly than do any calculations or arguments that the standard of living and the conditions of the working people in the central black-earth gubernias, the least capitalist ones, are incomparably lower and worse than in the industrial gubernias, the most capitalist ones; it proves that in Russia, too, the following has become a universal fact, namely, the phenomenon characteristic of all capitalist countries, that the conditions of the workers in industry are better than those of the workers in agriculture (because in agriculture oppression by capitalism is supplemented by the oppression of pre-capitalist forms of exploitation). That explains the flight from agriculture to industry, whereas not only is there no flow from the industrial gubernias towards agriculture (for example, there is no migration from these gubernias at all), but there is even a tendency to look down upon the “raw” rural workers, who are called “cowherds” (Yaroslavl Gubernia), “cossacks” (Vladimir Gubernia) and “land labourers” (Moscow Gubernia).

It is important also to note that cattle herding requires a larger number of workers in winter than in summer. For that reason, and also because of the development of agricultural processing trades, the demand for labour in the area described not only grows, but is more evenly distributed over the whole year and over a period of years. The most reliable material for judging this interesting fact is the data on wages, if taken for a number of years. We give these data, confining ourselves to the groups of Great-Russian and Little-Russian gubernias.[8] We omit the western gubernias, owing to their specific social conditions and artificial congestion of population (the Jewish pale of settlement), and quote the Baltic gubernias only to illustrate the relations that arise where capitalism is most highly developed.[4]


Let us examine this table, in which the three principal columns are printed in italics. The first column shows the proportion of summer to yearly pay. The lower this proportion is, and the nearer the summer pay approximates to half the yearly pay, the more evenly is the demand for labour spread over the entire year and the less the winter unemployment. The least favourably placed in this respect are the central black-earth gubernias—the area where labour-service prevails and where capitalism is poorly developed.[5] In the industrial gubernias, in the dairy-farming area the demand for labour is higher and winter unemployment is less. Over a period of years, too, the pay is most stable here, as may be seen from the second column, which shows the difference between the lowest and the highest pay in the harvest season. Lastly, the difference between the pay in the sowing season and the pay in the harvest season is also least in the non black-earth belt, i.e., the demand for workers is more evenly distributed over the spring and summer. In all respects mentioned the Baltic gubernias stand even higher than the non-black-earth gubernias, while the steppe gubernias, with their immigrant workers and with harvest fluctuations of the greatest intensity, are marked by the greatest instability of wages. Thus, the data on wages testify that agricultural capitalism in the area described not only creates a demand for wage-labour, but also distributes this demand more evenly over the whole year.

Lastly, reference must be made to one more type of dependence of the small agriculturist in the area described upon the big farmer. This is the replenishment of landlords’ herds by the purchase of cattle from peasants. The landlords find it more profitable to buy cattle from peasants driven by need to sell “at a loss” than to breed cattle themselves—just as our buyers-up in so-called handicraft industry often prefer to buy finished articles from the handicraftsmen at a ruinously cheap price rather than manufacture them in their own workshops. This fact, which testifies to the extreme degradation of the small producer, and to his being able to keep going in modern society only by endlessly reducing his requirements, is turned by Mr. V. V. into an argument in favour of small “people’s” production! . . . “We are entitled to draw the conclusion that our big farmers . . . do not display a sufficient degree of independence. . . . The peasant, however . . . reveals greater ability to effect real farming improvements” (Progressive Trends, 77). This lack of independence is expressed in the fact that “our dairy farmers . . . buy up the peasants’ (cows) at a price rarely amounting to half the cost of raising them—usually at not more than a third, and often even a quarter of this cost” (ibid., 71). The merchant’s capital of the stock farmers has made the small peasants completely dependent, it has turned them into its cowherds, who breed cattle for a mere song, and has turned their wives into its milkmaids.[6] One would think that the conclusion to be drawn from this is that there is no sense in retarding the transformation of merchant’s capital into industrial capital, no sense in supporting small production, which leads to forcing down the producer’s standard of living below that of the farm labourer. But Mr. V. V. thinks otherwise. He is delighted with the “zeal” (p. 73, loc. cit.) of the peasant in tending his cattle; he is delighted with the “good results from livestock farming” obtained by the peasant woman who “spends all her life with her cow and sheep” (80). What a blessing, to be sure! To “spend all her life with her cow” (the milk of which goes to the improved cream separator), and as a reward for this life, to receive “one-fourth of the cost” of tending this cow! Now really, how after that can one fail to declare in favour of “small people’s production”!


[1] This problem also has been raised by Mr. Raspopin (perhaps for the first time in our literature) from the correct, theoretically sound point of view. At the very outset he observes that “the enhancement of the productivity of stock farming”—in particular, the development of dairy farming—is proceeding in this country along capitalist lines and serves as one of the most important indices of the penetration of capital into agriculture.—Lenin

[2] Dr. Zhbankov says in his Sanitary Investigation of Factories and Works of Smolensk Gubernia (Smolensk, 1894, Vol. I, p. 7) that “the number of workers engaged in cheese making proper . . . is very inconsiderable. . . . There are far more auxiliary workers, needed both for cheese making and for agriculture; these are herdsmen, milkmaids, etc.; in all the [cheese] factories these workers outnumber the cheese makers proper, two, three and even four times over.” Let us note in passing that according to Dr. Zhbankov’s description, the conditions of labour here are very insanitary, and the working day is excessively long (16 to 17 hours), etc. Thus, in the case of this area of commercial agriculture, too, the traditional notion of the idyllic occupation of the agriculturist is a false one.—Lenin

[3] The market for commercial stock farming is created chiefly by the growth of the industrial population, with which we shall deal in detail later on (Chapter VIII, § II). As regards foreign trade, let us confine ourselves to the following remarks: cheese exports in the early part of the post-Reform period were much below imports; but in the 90s they almost equalled them (for the 4 years 1891-1894, the annual average imports amounted to 41,800 poods, and exports to 40,600 poods; in the five years 1886-1890, exports even exceeded imports). The exports of cow and ewe butter have always greatly exceeded imports; these exports are rapidly increasing: in 1866-1870 the average annual exports amounted to 190,000 poods and in 1891-1894 to 370,000 poods (Productive Forces, III, 37).—Lenin

[4] Group I (the area of capitalist grain farming) consists of 8 gubernias: Bessarabia, Kherson, Taurida, Ekaterinoslav, Don, Samara, Saratov and Orenburg. Group II (the area where capitalism is least developed) consists of 12 gubernias: Kazan, Simbirsk, Penza, Tambov Ryazan, Tula, Orel, Kursk, Voronezh, Kharkov, Poltava and Chernigov. Group III (the area of capitalist dairy farming and industrial capitalism) consists of 10 gubernias: Moscow, Tver, Kaluga, Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, Nizhni-Novgorod, St. Petersburg, Novgorod and Pskov. The figures showing wages are average gubernia figures. Source: Department of Agriculture publication Hired Labour, etc.—Lenin

[5] A similar conclusion is drawn by Mr. Rudnev: “In those localities where the work of labourers hired by the year is given a relatively high valuation the wages of the summer worker approximate more closely to half the yearly pay. Hence, on the contrary, in the western gubernias, and in nearly all the densely-populated central black-earth gubernias, the worker’s labour in the summer is given a very low valuation” (loc. cit., 455).—Lenin

[6] Here are two descriptions of the living standard and living conditions of the Russian peasant in general. M. Y. Saltykov, in Petty Things of Life, writes about the “enterprising muzhik” as follows: “The muzhik needs everything, but what he needs most of all . . . is the ability to exhaust himself, not to stint his own labour. . . . The enterprising muzhik simply expires at it” (work). “His wife and grown up children, too, all toil worse than galley-slaves.”

V. Veresayev, in a story entitled “Lizar” Severny Kurier [Northern Courier ], 1899, No. 1), tells the story of a muzhik in the Pskov Gubernia named Lizar, who advocates the use of drops, etc., “to prevent an increase.” “Subsequently,” observes the author, “I heard from many Zemstvo doctors, and particularly from midwives, that they frequently have similar requests from village husbands and wives.” “Moving in a certain direction, life has tried all roads and at last has reached a blind alley. There is no escape from it. And so a new solution of the problem is naturally arising and increasingly maturing.”

The position of the peasant in capitalist society is indeed hopeless, and in Russia with its village communities, as in France with its smallholders, leads “naturally” not to an unnatural . . . “solution of the problem,” of course, but to an unnatural means of postponing the doom of small economy. (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[7] Res fungibilis—replaceable thing—an old juridical term. “Replaceable things” are those which in contracts are indicated by simple numerical quantity or measure (“so many bushels of rye,” “so many bricks”). They are distinguished from “irreplaceable things”—things that are specifically indicated (“such and such a thing,” “article number so and so”).

[8] Little Russia, i.e., Malorossia—as the territory of the Ukraine was officially called in tsarist Russia.

  III. The Commercial Stock-Farming Area. General Data on the Development of Dairy Farming | V. Continuation. The Differentiation of the Peasantry in the Dairy-Farming Area  

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