Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter V. The First Stages of Capitalism in Industry

IV. The Differentiation Of The Small Commodity-Producers. Data On House-To-House Censuses Of Handicraftsmen In Moscow Gubernia

Let us now examine the social and economic relations that develop among the small commodity-producers in industry. The task of defining the character of these relations is similar to the one outlined above, in Chapter II, in relation to the small farmers. Instead of the scale of farming, we must now take as our basis the size of the industrial establishments; we must classify the small industrialists according to the size of their output, ascertain the part wage-labour plays in each group, the conditions of technique, etc.[1] The handicraft house-to-house censuses that we need for such an analysis are available for Moscow Gubernia.[2] For a number of industries the investigators quote precise statistics on output, and sometimes also on the farms of each separate craftsman (date of origin of establishment, number of workers, family and hired, total annual output, number of horses owned by craftsmen, method of cultivating the soil, etc.). The investigators provide no classified tables, however, and we have therefore been obliged to compile them ourselves, dividing the craftsmen in each industry into grades (I, bottom; II, middle and III, top) according to the number of workers (family and hired) per establishment, and sometimes according to the volume of output, technical organisation, etc. In general, the criteria according to which the craftsmen have been divided into grades are based on all the data given in the description of the industry; but in different industries we have found it necessary to take different criteria for dividing the craftsmen into grades. For example, in very small industries we have placed in the bottom grade establishments with 1 worker, in the middle grade those with 2, and in the top grade those with 3 and more; whereas in the bigger industries we have placed in the bottom grade establishments with 1 to 5 workers, in the middle grade those with 6 to 10, etc. Had we not employed different methods of classification we could not have presented for each industry data concerning establishments of different size. The table drawn up on these lines is given in the Appendix (see Appendix I); it shows the criteria according to which the craftsmen in each industry are divided up into grades, gives for each grade in each industry absolute figures of the number of establishments, workers (family and hired combined), aggregate output, establishments employing wage-workers, number of wage-workers. To describe the farms of the handicraftsmen we have calculated the average number of horses per peasant household in each grade and the percentage of craftsmen who cultivate their land with the aid of “a labourer” (i.e., resort to the hire of rural workers). The table covers a total of 37 industries, with 2,278 establishments and 11,833 employed and an aggregate output valued at over 5 million rubles; but if we subtract the 4 industries not included in the general list because of incompleteness of data, or because of their exceptional character,[3] there is a total of 33 industries, 2,085 establishments, 9,427 workers and an aggregate output of 3,466,000 rubles, or, with corrections (in the case of 2 industries), about 3 3/4 million rubles.

Since there is no need to examine the data for all the 33 industries, and as it would be too arduous a task, we have divided these industries into four categories: 1) 9 industries with an average of 1.6 to 2.5 workers (family and hired combined) per establishment; 2) 9 industries with an average of 2.7 to 4.4 workers; 3) 10 industries with an average of 5.1 to 8.4 workers; and 4) 5 industries with an average of 11.5 to 17.8 workers. Thus, in each category we have combined industries that are fairly similar as regards the number of workers per establishment, and in our further exposition we shall limit ourselves to the data for these four categories of industries. We give these data in extenso. (See Table on p. 347.)

This table combines those principal data on the relations between the top and bottom grades of handicrafts men that will serve us for our subsequent conclusions. We can illustrate the summarised data for all four categories with a chart drawn up in exactly the same way as the one with which, in Chapter II, we illustrated the differentiation of the agricultural peasantry. We ascertain what percentage each grade constitutes of the total number of establishments, of the total number of family workers, of the total number of establishments with wage-workers, of the total number of workers (family and wage combined), of the aggregate output and of the total number of wage-workers, and we indicate these percentages (in the manner described in Chapter II) on the chart (see chart on p. 349).

Categories of industries.

Let us now examine the conclusions to be drawn from these data.

We begin with the role of wage-labour. In the 33 industries wage-labour predominates over family labour: 51% of the workers are hired; for the “handicraftsmen” of Moscow Gubernia this percentage is even lower than the actual one. We have computed the data for 54 industries of Moscow Gubernia for which exact figures as to wage-workers employed are available, and got the figure of 17,566 wage-workers out of a total of 29,446 workers, i.e., 59.65%. For Perm Gubernia the percentage of wage-workers among all handicraftsmen and artisans combined was established as 24.5%, and among commodity-producers alone, as from 29.4 to 31.2%. But these gross figures, as we shall see below, embrace not only small commodity-producers, but also capitalist manufacture. Far more interesting, therefore, is the conclusion that the role of wage-labour rises parallel to the increase in the size of establishments: this is observed both in comparing one category with another and in comparing the different grades in the same category. The larger the establishments, the higher the percentage of those employing wage-workers and the higher the percentage of wage-workers. The Narodnik economists usually limit themselves to declaring that among the “handicraftsmen” small establishments with exclusively family workers prevail, and in support of this often cite “average” figures. As is evident from the data given, these “averages” are unsuitable for characterising the phenomenon in this regard, and the numerical preponderance of small establishments with family workers does not in the least eliminate the basic fact that the tendency of small commodity production is towards the ever-growing employment of wage-labour, towards the formation of capitalist workshops. Moreover, the data cited also refute another, no less widespread, Narodnik assertion, namely, that wage-labour in “handicraft” production really serves to “supplement” family labour, that it is resorted to not for the purpose of profit-making, etc.[4] Actually, however, it turns out that among the small

Chart summarizing data given in preceding table.

industrialists—just as among the small agriculturists—the growing employment of wage-labour runs parallel to the increase in the number of family workers. In the majority of industries we see that the employment of wage-labour increases as we pass from the bottom grade to the top, notwithstanding the fact that the number of family workers per establishment also increases. The employment of wage-labour does not smooth out differences in the size of the “handicraftsmen’s” families, but accentuates them. The chart very clearly shows this common feature of the small industries: the top grade employs the bulk of the wage-workers, despite the fact that it is best provided with family workers. “Family co-operation is thus the basis of capitalist co-operation.[5] It goes without saying, of course, that this “law” applies only to the smallest commodity-producers, only to the rudiments of capitalism; this law proves that the tendency of the peasantry is to turn into petty bourgeois. As soon as workshops with a fairly large number of wage-workers arise, the significance of “family co-operation” must inevitably decline. And we see, indeed, from our data that this law does not apply to the biggest grades of the top categories. When the “handicraftsman” turns into a real capitalist employing from 15 to 30 wage-workers, the part played by family labour in his workshops declines and becomes quite insignificant (for example, in the top grade of the top category, family workers constitute only 7% of the total number of workers). In other words, to the extent that the “handicraft” industries are so small that “family co-operation” predominates in them, this family co-operation is the surest guarantee of the development of capitalist co-operation. Here, consequently, stand out in full relief the dialectics of commodity production, which transform “working with our own hands” into working with others’ hands, into exploitation.

Let us pass to the data on productivity of labour. The data on total output per worker in each grade show that with the increase in the size of the establishment labour productivity improves. This is to be observed in the overwhelming majority of the industries, and in all categories of industries without exception; the chart graphically illustrates this law, showing that the share of the top grade in total output is greater than is its share in the total number of workers; in the bottom grade the reverse is the case. The total output per worker in the establishments of the top grades is from 20 to 40 per cent higher than that in the bottom grade establishments. It is true that the big establishments usually have a longer working period and sometimes handle more valuable material than do the small ones, but these two circumstances cannot eliminate the fact that labour productivity is considerably higher in the big workshops than in the small ones.[6] Nor can it be otherwise. The big establishments have from 3 to 5 times as many workers (family and hired combined) as the small ones, and co-operation on a larger scale cannot but increase the productivity of labour. The big workshops are always better equipped technically, they have better implements, tools, accessories, machines, etc. For example, in the brush industry, a “properly organised workshop” must have as many as 15 workers, and in hook-making 9 to 10 workers. In the toy industry the majority of handicraftsmen make shift with ordinary stoves for drying their goods; the bigger toy-makers have special drying ovens, and the biggest makers have special drying premises. In metal toy-making, 8 makers out of 16 have special workshops, divided as follows: I) 6 have none; II) 5 have 3; and III) 5 have 5. A total of 142 mirror and picture-frame makers have 18 special workshops, the figures by grades being: I) 99 have 3; II) 27 have 4; and III) 16 have 11. In the screen-plaiting industry screens are plaited by hand (in grade I), and woven mechanically (in grades II and III). In the tailoring industry the number of sewing-machines per owner according to grade is as follows: I) 1.3; II) 2.1; and III) 3.4, etc., etc. In investigating the furniture industry, Mr. Isayev notes that the one-man business suffers the following disadvantages: 1) lack of a complete set of tools; 2) limited assortment of articles made, because there is no room in the craftsman’s hut for bulky articles; 3) much higher cost of materials when bought retail (30 to 35% higher); 4) necessity of selling wares cheaper, partly due to lack of confidence in the small “handicraftsman” and partly to his need of money.[7] It is well known that exactly the same sort of thing is to be observed not only in the furniture industry, but also in the vast majority of small peasant industries. Lastly, it must be added that the value of the goods produced per worker not only increases from the bottom to the top grade in the majority of industries, but also from the small to the big industries. In the first category of industries the average output per worker is 202 rubles, in the second and third about 400 rubles, and in the fourth over 500 rubles (the figure 381 should, for the reason stated above, be increased by about fifty per cent). This circumstance points to the connection between the rise in the price of raw materials and the ousting of the small establishments by the big ones. Every step in the development of capitalist society is inevitably accompanied by a rise in the price of such materials as timber, etc., and thus hastens the doom of the small establishments.

From the foregoing it follows that the relatively big capitalist establishments also play a tremendous part in the small peasant industries. While constituting a small minority of the total number of establishments, they concentrate, however, quite a big share of the total number of workers, and a still bigger share of the total output. Thus, in 33 industries of Moscow Gubernia, the top-grade establishments, constituting 15% of the total, account for 45% of the aggregate output; while the bottom-grade establishments, constituting 53% of the total, account for only 21% of the aggregate output. It goes without saying that the distribution of the net income from the industries must be far more uneven. The data of the Perm handicraft census of 1894-95 clearly illustrate this. Selecting the largest establishments in 7 industries we get the following picture of the relations between the small and big establishments.[8]

Relations between small and big establishments.

An insignificant number of big establishments (less than 1/10 of the total number), which employ about 1/5 of the total number of workers, account for almost half the total output and nearly 2/5 of the total income (combining the workers’ wages and the employers’ incomes). The small proprietors obtain a net income considerably below the wages of the hired workers employed in the big establishments; elsewhere we have shown in detail that this phenomenon is no exception but is a general rule for small peasant industries.[9]

Summing up the conclusions that follow from the data we have analysed, we must say that the economic system of the small peasant industries is typically petty bourgeois, the same as that which we have seen among the small farmers. The expansion, development and improvement of the small peasant industries cannot take place in the present social and economic atmosphere except by generating a minority of small capitalists on the one hand, and a majority of wage-workers, or of “independent craftsmen” who lead a harder and worse life than the wage-workers, on the other. We observe, consequently, in the smallest peasant industries the most pronounced rudiments of capitalism—of that very capitalism which various economists of the Manilov[11] type depict as something divorced from “people’s production.” From the viewpoint of the home market theory the facts we have examined are also of no little importance. The development of small peasant industries leads to an expansion of the demand by the more prosperous industrialists for means of production and for labour-power, which is drawn from the ranks of the rural proletariat. The number of wage-workers employed by village artisans and small industrialists all over Russia should be quite impressive, if in the Perm Gubernia alone, for example, there are about 6,500.[10]


[1] Describing “handicraft” industry in Chernigov Gubernia, Mr. Varzer notes “the variety of economic units” (on the one hand families with incomes from 500 to 800 rubles, and on the other, “almost paupers”) and makes the following observation: “Under such circumstances, the only way to present a full picture of the economic life of the craftsmen is to make a house-to-house inventory and to classify their establishments in a number of average types with all their accessories. Anything else will be either a fantasy of casual impressions or arm-chair exercises in arithmetical calculations based on a diversity of average norms. . . “ (Transactions of the Handicraft Commission, Vol. V, p. 354).—Lenin

[2] Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vols. VI and VII. Industries of Moscow Gubernia, and A. Isayev’s Industries of Moscow Gubernia, Moscow, 1876-1877, 2 vols. For a small number of industries similar information is given in Industries of Vladimir Gubernia. It goes without saying that in the present chapter we confine ourselves to an examination of only those industries in which the small commodity-producers work for the market and not for buyers-up,—at all events, in the overwhelming majority of cases. Work for buyers-up is a more complicated phenomenon, one that we shall examine separately later on. The house-to-house censuses of handicraftsmen who work for buyers-up are unsuitable for judging the relations existing among small commodity-producers.—Lenin

[3] On these grounds the pottery “industry,” in which 20 establishments employ 1,817 wage-workers, has been excluded. It is characteristic of the confusion of terms prevailing among us that the Moscow statisticians included this industry, too, among the “handicraft” industries (see combined tables in Part III of Vol. VII, loc. cit.).—Lenin

[4] See, for example, Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol. VI, Pt. 1, p. 21.—Lenin

[5] The same conclusion follows from the data regarding the Perm “handicraftsmen”, see our Studies, pp. 126-128. (See present edition, Vol. 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia.—Ed.)—Lenin

[6] For the starch-making industry, which is included in our tables, data are available on the duration of the working period in establishments of various sizes. It appears (as we have seen above) that even in an equal period the output per worker in a big establishment is higher than that in a small one.—Lenin

[7] The small producer tries to make up for these unfavourable conditions by working longer hours and with greater intensity (loc cit., p 38). Under commodity production, the small producer both in agriculture and in industry carries on only by cutting down his requirements.—Lenin

[8] See our Studies, p. l53 and foll. (see present edition, Vol. 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia.—Ed.) where data are given for each industry separately. Let us note that all these data refer to handicraftsmen cultivators who work for the market.—Lenin

[9] From the data given in the text it can be seen that in the small peasant industries a tremendous, and even predominant, part is played by establishments with an output exceeding 1,000 rubles. Let us recall that in our official statistics establishments of this kind have always been, and still are, classed among “factories and works” [cf. Studies, pp. 267 and 270 (see present edition, Vol, 4, “On the Question of Our Factory Statistics.”Ed.) and Chapter VII, § II]. Thus, if we thought it permissible for an economist to use the current, traditional terminology beyond which our Narodniks have never gone, we would be entitled to establish the following “law”: among peasant “handicraft” establishments a predominant part is played by “factories and works,” not included in official statistics because of their unsatisfactory nature.—Lenin

[10] Let us add that in other gubernias, besides Moscow and Perm, the sources note quite analogous relations among the small commodity producers. See, for instance, Industries of Vladimir Gubernia, Vol. II, house-to-house censuses of shoemakers and fullers; Transactions of the Handicraft Commission, Vol II—on the wheelwrights of Medyn Uyezd; Vol. II—on the sheepskin dressers of the same uyezd; Vol. III—on the furriers of Arzamas Uyezd, Vol. IV—on the fullers of Semyonov Uyezd and on the tanners of Vasil Uyezd, etc. Cf. Nizhni-Novgorod Handbook, Vol. IV, p. 137,—A. S. Gatsisky’s general remarks about the small industries speak of the rise of big workshops. Cf, Annensky’s report on the Pavlovo handicraftsmen (mentioned above), on the classification of families according to weekly earnings, etc. etc. All these sources differ from the house-to-house census data we have examined only in their incompleteness and poverty. The essence of the matter, however, is identical everywhere.—Lenin

[11] Manilov—a character in Gogol’s Dead Souls, typifying the weak willed, hollow dreamer and inert windbag. [p. 355]

  III. The Growth of Small Industries After the Reform. Two Forces of This Process and its Significance | V. Capitalist Simple Co-Operation  

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