Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter V. The First Stages of Capitalism in Industry

Let us now pass from agriculture to industry. Here, too, our task is formulated as in the case of agriculture: we have to analyse the forms of industry in post-Reform Russia, that is, to study the present system of social and economic relations in manufacturing industry and the character of the evolution of that system. Let us start with the most simple and primitive forms of industry and trace their development.

I. Domestic Industry And Handicrafts

By domestic industry we mean the processing of raw materials in the household (peasant family) that produces them. Domestic industries are a necessary adjunct of natural economy, remnants of which are nearly always retained where there is a small peasantry. It is natural, therefore, that in Russian economic literature one should meet repeated references to this type of industry (the domestic production of articles from flax, hemp, wood, etc., for consumption in the home). However, the existence of domestic industry on any extensive scale is rarely found nowadays and only in the most remote localities; until very recently, Siberia, for example, was one of them. Industry as a profession does not yet exist in this form: industry here is linked inseparably with agriculture, together they constitute a single whole.

The first form of industry to be separated from patriarchal agriculture is artisan production, i.e., the production of articles to the order of a consumer.[1] The raw materials may belong either to the customer-consumer or to the artisan, and payment for the latter’s work is made either in cash or in kind (artisan’s premises and keep, remuneration with part of the product, for example, flour, etc.). While constituting an essential part of urban life, artisan production is to be met on a considerable scale in the rural districts too, where it serves as a supplement to peasant farming. A certain percentage of the rural population consists of specialist-artisans engaged (sometimes exclusively, sometimes in conjunction with agriculture) in tanning, boot-making, tailoring, blacksmithery, dyeing of homespun fabrics, finishing of peasant-made woollens, flour-milling, etc. Owing to the extremely unsatisfactory state of our economic statistics we have no precise data on the degree to which artisan production is spread throughout Russia; but isolated references to this form of industry are scattered through nearly all descriptions of peasant farming and investigations of what is called “handicraft” industry,[2] and are even to be found in official factory statistics.[3] The Zemstvo statistical returns, in registering peasant industries, sometimes single out a special group, “artisans” (cf. Rudnev, loc. cit.), but this category (according to current terminology) includes all building workers. From the viewpoint of political economy this is utterly wrong, for the bulk of the building workers belong to the category, not of independent industrialists working on orders from customers, but of wage-workers employed by contractors. Of course, it is not always easy to distinguish the village-artisan from the small commodity-producer or from the wage-worker; this requires an economic analysis of the data concerning every small industrialist. A noteworthy attempt to draw a strict line of demarcation between artisan production and the other forms of small industry is the analysis of the returns of the Perm handicraft census of 1894–95.[4] The number of local village artisans was estimated at approximately one per cent of the peasant population, and (as might have been expected) the largest percentage of artisans was found in the uyezds where industry was least developed. As compared with the small commodity-producers, the artisans are more closely connected with the land: 80.6 per 100 artisans engage in agriculture (among the other “handicraftsmen” the percentage is lower). The employment of wage-labour is met with among artisans too, but is less developed among industrialists of this type than among the others. The size of establishments (taking the number of workers) is also smaller among the artisans. The average earnings of the artisan-cultivator are estimated at 43.9 rubles per year, and of the non-cultivator at 102.9 rubles.

We confine ourselves to these brief remarks, since a detailed examination of artisan production does not enter into our task. In this form of industry commodity production does not yet exist; here only commodity circulation makes its appearance, in the case where the artisan receives payment in money, or sells the share of the product he has received for work done and buys himself raw materials and instruments of production. The product of the artisan’s labour does not appear in the market, hardly ever leaving the sphere of peasant natural economy.[5] It is natural, therefore, that artisan production is characterised by the same routine, fragmentation and narrowness as small patriarchal agriculture. The only element of development native to this form of industry is the migration of artisans to other areas in search of employment. Such migration was fairly widely developed, particularly in the old days, in our rural districts; usually it led to the organisation of independent artisan establishments in the areas of attraction.


[1] Kundenproduktion. Cf. Karl Blucher, Die Entstehung der Volkswirtschaft, Tubingen, 1893. (Work done to order. Cf. Karl Blucher, The Rise of the National Economy.—Ed.)[6]Lenin

[2] It would be impossible to cite quotations in support of this; innumerable references to artisan production are scattered throughout all investigations of handicraft industry, although according to the most accepted view, artisans do not come within the category known as handicraftsmen. We shall have more than one occasion to see how hopelessly indefinite is the term “handicraft.”—Lenin

[3] The chaotic condition of these statistics is illustrated particularly vividly by the fact that no criteria have yet been decided on for distinguishing handicraft from factory establishments. In the 60s, for example, village dyeing sheds of a purely handicraft type were classified with the latter (The Ministry of Finance Yearbook, Vol. I, pp. 172-176), and in 1890, peasant fulling mills were mixed up with woollen factories (Orlov’s Directory of Factories and Works, 3rd ed., p. 21), etc. Nor is the latest List of Factories (St. Petersburg, 1897) free from this confusion. For examples, see our Studies, pp. 270-271. [See also present edition, Vol, 4, “On the Question of Our Factory Statistics.”Ed.]—Lenin

[4] We have devoted a special article to this census in our Studies, pp. 113-199. (See present edition, Vol. 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia and General Problems of “Handicraft” Industry.—Ed.) All the facts cited in the text concerning the Perm “handicraftsmen” are taken from that article.—Lenin

[5] The closeness of artisan production to the natural economy of the peasants sometimes leads to attempts on their part to organise such production for the whole village, the peasants providing the artisan with his keep, he undertaking to work for all the inhabitants of the village concerned. Nowadays this system of industry is to be met with only by way of exception, or in the most remote border regions (for example, the blacksmith’s trade is organised on these lines in some of the villages in Transcaucasia. See Reports and Investigations of Handicraft Industry in Russia, Vol. II, p. 321).—Lenin

[6] Lenin gives an appreciation of the research done by B\"ucher, and of the latter’s classification of the stages and forms of industrial development, in Chapter VII of The Development of Capitalism in Russia, in his footnote on page 550. The most important part of Blucher’s work, that devoted to the origin of the national economy, was translated into Russian by Lenin apparently when he was in exile, in the village of Shushenskoye. Lenin’s translation has not been published. [p.332]

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