Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter IV. The Growth of Commercial Agriculture

VIII. Industrial Vegetable and Fruit Growing; Suburban Farming

With the fall of serfdom, “landlord fruit growing,” which had been developed on quite a considerable scale, “suddenly and rapidly fell into decline almost all over Russia.”[1] The construction of railways changed the situation, giving a “tremendous impetus” to the development of new, commercial fruit growing, and brought about a “complete change for the better” in this branch of commercial agriculture.[2] On the one hand, the influx of cheap fruit from the South undermined the industry in the centres where it was formerly conducted[3]; and on the other hand, industrial fruit growing developed, for example, in the Kovno, Vilna, Minsk, Grodno, Mogilev and Nizhni-Novgorod gubernias, along with the expansion of the fruit market.[4] Mr. V. Pashkevich points out that an investigation into the condition of fruit farming in 1893-94 revealed a considerable development of it as an industrial branch of agriculture in the previous ten years, an increase in the demand for gardeners, undergardeners, etc.[5] Statistics confirm such views: the amount of fruit carried by the Russian railways is increasing,[6] fruit imports, which increased in the first decade after the Reform, are declining.[7]

It stands to reason that commercial vegetable growing, which provides articles of consumption for incomparably larger masses of the population than fruit growing does, has developed still more rapidly and still more extensively. Industrial vegetable growing becomes widespread, firstly, near the towns[8] ; secondly, near factory and commercial and industrial settlements[9] and also along the railways; and thirdly, in certain villages, scattered throughout Russia and famous for their vegetables.[10] It should be observed that there is a demand for this type of produce not only among the industrial, but also among the agricultural population: let us recall that the budgets of the Voronezh peasants show a per-capita expenditure on vegetables of 47 kopeks, more than half of this expenditure being on purchased produce.

To acquaint ourselves with the social and economic relations that arise in this type of commercial agriculture we must turn to the data of local investigations in the particularly developed vegetable-growing areas. Near St. Petersburg, for example, frame and hot-house vegetable growing is widely developed, having been introduced by migratory vegetable growers from Rostov. The number of frames owned by big growers runs into thousands, and by medium growers, into hundreds. “Some of the big vegetable growers supply tens of thousands of poods of pickled cabbage to the army.”[11] According to Zemstvo statistics in Petersburg Uyezd 474 households of the local population are engaged in vegetable growing (about 400 rubles income per household) and 230 in fruit growing. Capitalist relations are very extensively developed both in the form of merchant’s capital (the industry is “ruthlessly exploited by profiteers”) and in the form of hiring workers. Among the immigrant population, for example, there are 115 master vegetable growers (with an income of over 3,000 rubles each) and 711 worker vegetable growers (with an income of 116 rubles each.)[12]

The peasant vegetable growers near Moscow are the same sort of typical members of the rural bourgeoisie. “According to an approximate estimate, over 4 million poods of vegetables and greens reach Moscow’s markets every year. Some of the villages do a big trade in pickled vegetables: Nogatino Volost sells nearly a million vedros of pickled cabbage to factories and barracks, and even sends consignments to Kronstadt. . . . Commercial vegetable growing is widespread in all the Moscow uyezds, chiefly in the vicinity of towns and factories.”[13] “The cabbage is chopped by hired labourers who come from Volokolamsk Uyezd” (Historico-Statistical Survey, I, p. 19).

Exactly similar relations exist in the well-known vegetable-growing district in Rostov Uyezd, Yaroslavl Gubernia, embracing 55 vegetable-growing villages—Porechye, Ugodichi and others. All the land, except pastures and meadows, has long been turned into vegetable fields. The technical processing of vegetables—preserving—is highly developed.[14] Together with the product of the land, the land itself and labour-power are converted into commodities. Despite the “village community,” the inequality of land tenure, for example, in the village of Porechye, is very great: in one case a family of 4 has 7 “vegetable plots,” in another a family of 3 has 17; this is explained by the fact that no periodical land redistribution takes place here; only private redivisions take place, and the peasants “freely exchange” their “vegetable plots” or “patches” (Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia, 97–98).[15] “A large part of the field-work . . . is done by male and female day labourers, many of whom come to Porechye in the summer season both from neighbouring villages and from neighbouring gubernias” (ibid., 99). It is estimated that in the whole of Yaroslavl Gubernia 10,322 persons (of whom 7,689 are from Rostov) engaged in “agriculture and vegetable growing” are migratory workers—i.e., in the majority of cases are wage-workers in the given occupation.[16] The above quoted data on the migration of rural workers to the metropolitan gubernias,[25] Yaroslavl Gubernia, etc., should be brought into connection with the development not only of dairy farming but also of commercial vegetable growing.

Vegetable growing also includes the hot-house cultivation of vegetables, an industry that is rapidly developing among the well-to-do peasants of Moscow and Tver gubernias.[17] In the first-named gubernia the 1880-81 census showed 88 establishments with 3,011 frames; there were 213 workers, of whom 47 (22.6%) were hired; the total output was valued at 54,400 rubles. The average hot-house vegetable grower had to put at least 300 rubles into the “business.” Of the 74 peasants for whom house-to-house returns are given, 41 possess purchased land, and as many rent land, there is an average of 2.2 horses per peasant. It is clear from this that the hot-house vegetable industry is only within the reach of members of the peasant bourgeoisie.[18]

In the south of Russia melon growing also comes within the type of commercial agriculture under review. Here are some brief observations about its development in a district described in an interesting article in the Vestnik Finansov (1897, No. 16) on “industrial melon growing.” This branch of production arose in the village of Bykovo (Tsarev Uyezd, Astrakhan Gubernia) at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s. The melons, which at first went only to the Volga region, were consigned, with the coming of the railways, to the capital cities. In the 80s the output “increased at least tenfold” owing to the enormous profits (150 to 200 rubles per dess.) made by the initiators of the business. Like true petty bourgeois, they did all they could to prevent the number of growers from increasing and were most careful in guarding from their neighbours the “secret” of this new and profitable occupation. Of course, all these heroic efforts of the “muzhik cultivator”[19] to stave off “fatal competition”[20] were in vain, and the industry spread much wider—to Saratov Gubernia and the Don region. The drop in grain prices in the 90s gave a particularly strong impetus to production, compelling “local cultivators to seek a way out of their difficulties in crop rotation systems.”[21] The expansion of production considerably increased the demand for hired labour (melon growing requires a considerable amount of labour, so that the cultivation of one dessiatine costs from 30 to 50 rubles), and still more considerably increased the profits of the employers and ground-rent. Near “Log” Station (Gryazi-Tsaritsyn Railway), the area under water-melons in 1884 was 20 dess., in 1890 between 500 and 600 dess., and in 1896 between 1,400 and 1,500 dess., while rent rose from 30 kopeks to between 1.50 and 2 rubles and to between 4 and 14 rubles per dess. for the respective years. The over-rapid expansion of melon planting led at last, in 1896, to overproduction and a crisis, which finally confirmed the capitalist character of this branch of commercial agriculture. Melon prices fell to a point where they did not cover railway charges. The melons were left ungathered in the fields. After tasting tremendous profits the entrepreneurs now learned what losses were like. But the most interesting thing is the means they have chosen for combating the crisis: the means chosen is to win new markets, to effect such a cheapening of produce and of railway tariffs as to transform it from an item of luxury into an item of consumption for the people (and at points of production, into cattle feed). “Industrial melon growing,” the entrepreneurs assure us, “is on the road to further development; apart from high railway tariffs there is no obstacle to its further growth. On the contrary, the Tsaritsyn-Tikhoretskaya Railway now under construction . . . opens a new and extensive area for industrial melon growing.” Whatever the further destiny of this “industry” may be, at any rate the history of the “melon crisis” is very instructive, constituting a miniature picture, it is true, but a very vivid one, of the capitalist evolution of agriculture.

We still have to say a few words about suburban farming. The difference between it and the above-described types of commercial agriculture is that in their case the entire farm is adapted to some one chief market product. In the case of suburban farming, however, the small cultivator trades in bits of everything: he trades in his house by letting it to summer tenants and permanent lodgers, in his yard, in his horse and in all sorts of produce from his fields and farmyard: grain, cattle feed, milk, meat, vegetables, berries, fish, timber, etc.; he trades in his wife’s milk (baby-farming near the capitals), he makes money by rendering the most diverse (not always even mentionable) services to visiting townsfolk,[22] etc., etc.[23] The complete transformation by capitalism of the ancient type of patriarchal farmer, the complete subjugation of the latter to the “power of money” is expressed here so vividly that the suburban peasant is usually put in a separate category by the Narodnik who says that he is “no longer a peasant.” But the difference between this type and all preceding types is only one of form. The political and economic essence of the all-round transformation effected in the small cultivator by capitalism is everywhere the same. The more rapid the increase in the number of towns, the number of factory, commercial and industrial townships, and the number of railway stations, the more extensive is the area of the transformation of our “village community man” into this type of peasant. We should not forget what was said in his day by Adam Smith—that improved communications tend to convert every village into a suburb.[24] Remote areas cut off from the outside world, already an exception, are with every passing day increasingly becoming as rare as antiquities, and the cultivator is turning with ever-growing rapidity into an industrialist subjected to the general laws of commodity production.

In thus concluding the review of the data on the growth of commercial agriculture, we think it not superfluous to repeat here that our aim has been to examine the main (by no means all) forms of commercial agriculture.


[1] Historico-Statistical Survey, I, p. 2.—Lenin

[2] Ibid.—Lenin

[3] For example, in Moscow Gubernia. See S. Korolenko, Hired Labour, etc., p. 262.—Lenin

[4] Ibid., pp. 335, 344, etc.—Lenin

[5] Productive Forces, IV, 13.—Lenin

[6] Ibid., p. 31, also Historico-Statistical Survey, p. 31 and foll.—Lenin

[7] In the 60s imports amounted to nearly 1 million poods; in 1878-1880 to 3.8 million poods; in 1886-1890 to 2.6 million poods; in 1889-1893 to 2 million poods.—Lenin

[8] Anticipating somewhat, let us note here that in 1863 there were in European Russia 13 towns with populations of 50,000 and over and in 1897 there were 44 (See Chapter VIII, § II).—Lenin

[9] See examples of settlements of this type in Chapters VI and VII.—Lenin

[10] See references to such villages of the Vyatka, Kostroma, Vladimir, Tver, Moscow, Kaluga, Penza, Nizhni-Novgorod and many other gubernias, to say nothing of Yaroslavl Gubernia, in Historico-Statistical Survey, 1, p. 13 and foll., and in Productive Forces, IV, 38 and foll. Cf. also Zemstvo statistical returns for Semyonov, Nizhni-Novgorod and Balakhna uyezds of Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia.—Lenin

[11] Productive Forces, IV, 42.—Lenin

[12] Material for Statistics on the Economy in St. Petersburg Gubernia, Vol. V. Actually there are far more vegetable growers than stated in the text, for most of them have been classed under private-landowner farming, whereas the data cited refer only to peasant farming.—Lenin

[13] Productive Forces, IV, 49 and foll. It is interesting to note that different villages specialise in producing particular kinds of vegetables.—Lenin

[14] Historico-Statistical Survey, I—Mr. Orlov’s Directory of Factories—Transactions of the Commission of Inquiry into Handicraft Industry, Vol XIV, article by Mr. Stolpyansky. —Productive Forces, IV, 46 and foll.—Survey of Yarodarvl Gubernia, Vol 2, Yaroslavl, 1896. A comparison of the data given by Mr. Stolpyansky (1885) and by the Directory (1890) shows a considerable increase in the factory production of canned goods in this area.—Lenin

[15] Thus the publication mentioned has fully confirmed Mr. Volgin’s “doubt” as to whether “the land occupied by vegetable plots is often redivided” (op. cit., 172, footnote).—Lenin

[16] Here, too, a characteristic specialisation of agriculture is to be observed: “It is noteworthy that in places where vegetable growing has become the special occupation of part of the peasant population, the others grow hardly any vegetables at all, but buy them at local markets and fairs” (S. Korolenko, loc. cit., 285)—Lenin

[17] Productive Forces, IV, 50-51. S. Korolenko, loc. cit., 273.—Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol VII, Pt. 1.—Statistical Returns for Tver Gubernia, Vol. VIII, Pt. 1, Tver Uyezd: the census of 1886-1890 counted here something over 4,426 frames belonging to 174 peasants and 7 private landowners, i.e., an average of about 25 frames per owner. “In peasant farming it (the industry) is a big help, but only for the well-to-do peasants. . . . If there are more than 20 frames, workers are hired” (p. 167).—Lenin

[18] See data on this industry in appendix to Chapter V, Industry No. 9.—Lenin

[19] Mr. N.–on’s term for the Russian peasant.—Lenin

[20] Mr. V. Prugavin’s term.—Lenin

[21] Better tilth is required to raise water-melons and this renders the soil more fertile when sown later to cereals.—Lenin

[22] Cf . Uspensky, A Village Diary.—Lenin

[23] Let us refer, in illustration, to the above-quoted Material on peasant farming in Petersburg Uyezd. The most varied types of petty traffic have here assumed the form of “industries”; summer letting, boarding, milk-selling, vegetable-selling, berry-selling, “horse employments,” baby-farming, crayfish-catching, fishing, etc. Exactly similar are the industries of the suburban peasants of Tula Uyezd: see article by Mr. Borisov in Vol. IX of Transactions of the Commission of Inquiry into Handicraft Industry.—Lenin

[24] “Good roads, canals and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of the country more nearly upon a level with those in the neighbourhood of the town.” Op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 228-229.—Lenin

[25] “Metropolitan gubernias” here refers to the gubernias of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

  VII. The Technical Processing of Agricultural Produce | IX. Conclusions on the Significance of Capitalism in Russian Agriculture  

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