Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter VI. Capitalist Manufacture and Capitalist Domestic Industry

III. Technique in Manufacture. Division of Labour and its Significance

Let us now draw conclusions from the foregoing data and see whether they are really indicative of a special stage in the development of capitalism in our industry.

The feature common to all the industries we have examined is the retention of hand production and systematic, widely practised division of labour. The process of production is split up into several single operations performed by different specialist craftsmen. The training of such specialists takes a fairly long time, and therefore a natural concomitant of manufacture is apprenticeship. It is well known that under the general conditions of commodity economy and capitalism this gives rise to the worst forms of personal dependence and exploitation.[1] The disappearance of apprenticeship is connected with a higher development of manufacture and with the advent of large-scale machine industry, when machines reduce the period of training to a minimum or when such simple single operations arise as can be done even by children (see above example of Zagarye).

The retention of hand production as the basis of manufacture explains its comparative immobility, which is particularly striking when compared with the factory. The development and extension of division of labour proceeds very slowly, so that for whole decades (and even centuries) manufacture retains its form once it has been adopted; as we have seen, quite a number of the industries examined are of quite ancient origin, yet no great changes in methods of production have been observed in the majority of them until recently.

As for division of labour, we shall not repeat here the commonly known tenets of theoretical economics concerning the part it plays in the process of development of the productive powers of labour. On the basis of hand production no other progress in technique was possible except by division of labour.[2] Let us merely note the two major circumstances that make clear the need for division of labour as a preparatory stage for large-scale machine industry. Firstly, the introduction of machines is possible only when the production process has been split into a number of the simplest, purely mechanical operations; machines are first used for the simplest operations and their spread to the more complicated processes is very gradual. For example, in weaving, the power-loom has long predominated in the production of plain fabrics, whereas silk weaving continues to be carried on mainly by hand; in the engineering trade the machine is applied first of all to one of the simplest operations – grinding, etc. But this splitting of production into the simplest operations, while being a necessary preparatory step to the introduction of large-scale machine production, leads at the same time to a growth of small industries. The surrounding population is enabled to perform such detailed operations in its homes, either to order of the manufactory owners, using their materials (bristle setting in brush manufacture, sewing sheepskins, sheepskin coats, mittens, boots, etc., in the leather trade, horn trimming in comb manufacture, samovar “tubing,” etc.), or even “independently” buying the materials, making certain parts of the product and selling them to the manufacturers (in the hat, carriage, accordion and other industries, etc.). It seems paradoxical that the growth of small (sometimes even “independent”) industries should be an expression of the growth of capitalist manufacture: nevertheless it is a fact. The “independence” of such “handicraftsmen” is quite fictitious. Their work could not be done, and their product would on occasion even have no use-value, if there were no connection with other detailed operations, with other parts of the product. And only big capital, ruling (in one form or another) over a mass of workers performing separate operations was able[3] to and did create this connection. One of the main errors of Narodnik economics is that it ignores or obscures the fact that the “handicraftsman” performing a single operation is a constituent part of the capitalist manufactory.

The second circumstance that must particularly be stressed is that manufacture trains skilled workers. Large-scale machine industry could not have developed so quickly in the post-Reform period had it not been preceded by a long period in which manufacture trained workers. For instance, the investigators of the “handicraft” weaving industry of the Pokrov Uyezd, Vladimir Gubernia, note the remarkable “technical skill and experience” of the weavers of Kudykino Volost (where the village of Orekhovo and the famous Morozov mills are situated): “nowhere. . . do we find such intensity . . . of labour . . . ; a strict division of labour between the weaver and the bobbin-hand is invariably practised here. . . .” “The past . . . has imparted to the Kudykinians . . . expert skill in the technique of production . . . an ability to cope with all sorts of difficulties.”[4] “Factories cannot be erected in any village and in any number,” we read in reference to silk weaving: “the factory must follow the weaver into the villages where, due to migratory labour” (or, let us add, due to domestic industry), “a contingent of proficient workers has been formed.”[5] Establishments like the St. Petersburg boot factory[10][6] could not have developed so quickly if in the district around Kimry village, say, skilled workers who have now taken to migration had not been developing for centuries, etc. That, incidentally, is why very great importance attaches to the formation by manufacture of a whole number of large districts which specialised in certain trades and trained large numbers of skilled workers.[7]

Division of labour in capitalist manufacture disfigures and cripples the worker, including the “handicraftsman” who makes single parts. It produces virtuosi and cripples; the former as rare exceptions, whose skill arouses the astonishment of investigators,[8] and the latter in the shape of the mass of “handicraftsmen,” – weak-chested, with inordinately developed arms, “curvature of the spine,”[9] etc., etc.


[1] Let us confine ourselves to one example. In the village of Borisovka, Graivoron Uyezd, Kursk Gubernia, there is an icon-painting industry, employing about 500 persons. The majority of the craftsmen hire no workers, but keep apprentices, who work from 14 to 15 hours a day. When a proposal was made to set up an art school, these craftsmen strongly opposed it, for fear of losing the gratuitous labour-power of their apprentices (Reports and Investigations, I, 333). In domestic industry the conditions of children under capitalist manufacture are no better than those of apprentices, since the domestic worker is compelled to lengthen the working day and exert all the efforts of his family to the utmost.—Lenin

[2] “The domestic form of large-scale production and manufacture are an inevitable and to a certain extent even a desirable way out for small independent industry when it covers a large district” (Kharizomenov, in Yuridichesky Vestnik, 1883, No. 11, p. 435).—Lenin

[3] Why is it that only capital was able to create this connection? Because, as we have seen, commodity production gives rise to the scattered condition of the small producers and to their complete differentiation, and because the small industries bequeathed to manufacture a heritage of capitalist workshops and merchant’s capital.—Lenin

[4] Industries of Vladimir Gubernia, IV, 22.—Lenin

[5] Ibid., III, 63.—Lenin

[6] In 1890 it had 514 workers and an output of 600,000 rubles; in 1894-95, 845 workers, output 1,288,000 rubles.—Lenin

[7] This is very aptly described by the term “wholesale crafts.” “Beginning with the 17th century,” writes Korsak, “rural industry began to develop more perceptibly; whole villages, especially those near Moscow and situated along the high roads, began to engage in some particular industry; the inhabitants of some became tanners, of others weavers, and of still others dyers, cartwrights, smiths, etc. . . . Towards the close of the last century very many of these wholesale crafts, as some call them, had developed in Russia” (loc. cit., 119-121).—Lenin

[8] Let us confine ourselves to two examples: Khvorov, the celebrated Pavlovo locksmith, made 24 locks to a weight of one zolotnik (4.25 grammes. –Ed.); some of the parts of these locks were no larger than a pin’s head (Labzin, loc. cit., 44). One toy-maker in Moscow Gubernia spent nearly all his life finishing harnessed horses and achieved such dexterity that he could finish 400 a day (Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol. VI, Pt. II, pp. 38-39).—Lenin

[9] This is how Mr. Grigoryev describes the Pavlovo handicraftsmen. “I met one of these workers . . . who for six years had been working at the same vice and had with his bare left foot worn more than half way through the board on which he stood; with bitter irony he said that the employer intended to get rid of him when he had worn the board right through” (op. cit., pp. 108-109).—Lenin

[10] Lenin refers here to the factory owned by the St. Petersburg Footwear Manufacturing Company, established in 1878. In 1894-95 the factory employed 845 workers and the value of its output was 1,287,912 rubles (figures taken from the List of Factories and Works, St. Petersburg, 1897, Issue No. 13450, pp. 548-549). [p. 430]

  II. Capitalist Manufacture in Russian Industry | IV. The Territorial Division of Labour and the Separation of Agriculture From Industry  

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