Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter VI. Capitalist Manufacture and Capitalist Domestic Industry

VIII. What Is “Handicraft” Industry?

In the two preceding chapters we dealt mainly with what in Russia is usually called “handicraft” industry; we may now try to answer the question put in the heading.

Let us begin with some statistics, so as to judge which of the forms of industry analysed above figure in publications among the general mass of “handicraft industries.”

The Moscow statisticians, in concluding their investigation of the peasant “industries,” summarised all and sundry non-agricultural occupations. They listed altogether 141,329 persons (Vol. VII, Pt. III) engaged in local industries (in the making of commodities), but among these were included artisans (a section of the shoe-makers, glaziers and many others), wood sawyers, etc., etc. Not fewer than 87,000 (according to our calculations of the different industries) were domestic workers employed by capitalists.[1] The number of wage-workers in the 54 industries for which we have been able to combine the data is 17,566, out of 29,446, i.e., 59.65%. For Vladimir Gubernia we have obtained the following results (from five issues of Industries of Vladimir Gubernia ): altogether, 18,286 engaged in 31 industries; of these 15,447 were engaged in industries in which capitalist domestic industry predominates (including 5,504 wage-workers, i.e., hirelings of the second degree, so to speak). Further, there are 150 rural artisans (of whom 45 are hired) and 2,689 small commodity producers (of whom 511 are hired). The total number of capitalistically engaged workers is (15,447 + 45 + 511 =) 16,003, i.e., 87.5%.[2] In Kostroma Gubernia (on the basis of Mr. Tillo’s tables in the Transactions of the Handicraft Commission ), there are 83,633 local industrialists, of whom 19,701 are lumber-workers (fine “handicraftsmen”!), while 29,564 work in their homes for capitalists; some 19,954 are engaged in industries in which small commodity-producers predominate, and some 14,414 are village artisans.[3] In 9 uyezds of Vyatka Gubernia there are (according to the same Transactions ) 60,019 local industrialists; of these, 9,672 are millers and oil-pressers; 2,032 are pure artisans (engaged in fabric-dyeing); 14,928 are partly artisans and partly commodity-producers, the overwhelming majority working independently; 14,424 engage in industries partly subordinated to capital; 14,875 engage in industries entirely subordinated to capital; 4,088 engage in industries in which wage-labour completely predominates. On the basis of the data in the Transactions regarding the other gubernias we have compiled a table of those industries on the organisation of which more or less detailed information is available. We get 97 industries employing 107,957 persons, with an output totalling 21,151,000 rubles. Of these, industries in which wage-labour and capitalist domestic industry predominate employ 70,204 persons (18,621,000 rubles); industries in which wage-workers and workers occupied at home for capitalists constitute only a minority employ 26,935 persons (1,706,000 rubles); and, finally, industries in which independent labour almost completely predominates employ 10,818 persons (824,000 rubles). According to Zemstvo statistical materials regarding 7 industries of Gorbatov and Semyonov uyezds of Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia, there are 16,303 handicraftsmen, of whom 4,614 work for the local market; 8,520 work “for a master,” and 3,169 as wage-workers; in other words, 11,689 are capitalistically employed workers. According to the returns of the 1894-95 Perm handicraft census, of 26,000 handicraftsmen, 6,500 (25%) are wage-workers, and 5,200 (20%) work for buyers-up, in other words, 45% are capitalistically employed workers.[4]

Fragmentary as the data are (no others were available), they nevertheless clearly show that, taken as a whole, a mass of capitalistically employed workers are classified among the “handicraftsmen.” For instance, those working at home for capitalists number (according to the above-quoted data) over 200,000. And this is for some 50 or 60 uyezds, by no means all of which have been investigated thoroughly. For the whole of Russia the number of workers of this type must be something like two million.[5] If to these are added the wage-workers employed by “handicraftsmen” – and, as may be seen from the above-quoted figures, their number is by no means as small as is sometimes thought here in Russia – we shall have to concede that the figure of 2 million industrial workers capitalistically employed outside the so-called “factories and works” is, if anything, a minimum figure.[6]

To the question – “What is handicraft industry?” – the data quoted in the last two chapters compel us to give the answer that the term used is absolutely unsuitable for purposes of scientific investigation, and is one usually employed to cover all and sundry forms of industry, from domestic industries and handicrafts to wage-labour in very large manufactories.[7] This lumping together of the most diverse types of economic organisation, which prevails in a host of descriptions of “handicraft industries,”[8] was taken over quite uncritically and quite senselessly by the Narodnik economists, who made a tremendous step backward by comparison, for example, with a writer like Korsak, and availed themselves of the prevailing confusion of terms to evolve the most curious theories. “Handicraft industry” was regarded as something economically homogeneous, something sufficient unto itself, and was “counterposed ” (sic !) to “capitalism,” which without further ado was taken to mean “factory” industry. Let us take Mr. N.-on, for instance. On p. 79 of his Sketches we find the heading “Capitalisation (?) of Industries,”[9] and then, without any reservation or explanation, “Data on Factories.”. . . The simplicity is positively touching: “capitalism” = “factory industry,” and factory industry = what is classified under this heading in official publications. And on the basis of such a profound “analysis” the masses of capitalistically employed workers included among the “handicraftsmen” are wiped off capitalism’s account. On the basis of this sort of “analysis” the question of the different forms of industry in Russia is completely evaded. On the basis of this sort of “analysis” one of the most absurd and pernicious prejudices is built up concerning the distinction between our “handicraft” industry and our “factory” industry, the divorcement of the latter from the former, the “artificial character” of “factory” industry, etc. It is a prejudice because no one has ever so much as attempted to examine the data, which in all branches of industry show a very close and inseparable connection between “handicraft” industry and “factory” industry.

The object of this chapter has been to show in what precisely this connection consists and precisely which specific technical, economic and cultural features are represented by the form of industry that in Russia stands between small-scale industry and large-scale machine industry.


[1] Let us recall that Mr. Kharizomenov (article quoted above) calculated that of 102,245 persons engaged in 42 industries of Moscow Gubernia, 66% were engaged in industries where there was an absolute predominance of the domestic system of large-scale production.—Lenin

[2] Unfortunately, we are unable to acquaint ourselves with the latest work on handicraft industry in Yaroslavl Gubernia (Handicraft Industries. Published by Statistical Bureau of Yaroslavl Gubernia Zemstvo. Yaroslavl, 1904). Judging from the detailed review in Russkiye Vedomosti (1904, No. 248), it is an extremely valuable piece of research. The number of handicraftsmen in the gubernia is estimated as 18,000 (the number of factory workers in 1903 was placed at 33,898). Industries are on the decline. One-fifth of the enterprises employ wage-workers. One quarter of the total number of handicraftsmen are wage-workers. Of the total number of handicraftsmen 15% are engaged in establishments with 5 and more workers. Exactly one half of all the handicraftsmen work for masters, with materials supplied by the latter. Agriculture is on the decline; one-sixth of the handicraftsmen have neither horses nor cows, one-third cultivate by hiring a neighbour; one-fifth have no land under crops. The earnings of a handicraftsman are 1 1/2, rubles a week! (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[3] All these figures are approximate, for the source does not give precise figures. Among the village artisans are included millers, blacksmiths, etc., etc.—Lenin

[4] See Studies, pp. 181-182. The figures for “handicraftsmen” here include artisans (25%). If we exclude the artisans, we get 29.3% wage-workers and 29.5% working for buyers-up (p. 122), i.e., 58.8% are capitalistically employed workers. (See present edition, Vol. 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia. –Ed.)—Lenin

[5] For example, capitalist work in the home is particularly developed in the ready-made clothing industry, which is growing rapidly. “The demand for such an article of prime necessity as ready made clothing is increasing from year to year” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897 No. 52, Survey of Nizhni-Novgorod Fair). The enormous development of this industry has taken place only since the 80s. At the present time, in Moscow alone ready-made clothing is produced to a total value of not less than 16 million rubles, with some 20,000 workers employed. It is estimated that for the whole of Russia the output reaches the sum of 100 million rubles (Successes of Russian Industry According to Surveys of Expert Commissions, St. Petersburg 1897, pp. l36-137). In St. Petersburg, the 1890 census gave the number employed in ready-made clothing (Group XI, Classes 116-118) as 39,912, counting members of industrialists families, including 19,000 workers, and 13,000 one-man producers with their families (St. Petersburg According to the Census of December 15, 1890 ). The 1897 census shows that the total number of persons employed in the clothing industry in Russia was 1,158,865, the members of their families numbering 1,621,511; total 2,780,376. (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[6] Let us recall that the number of “handicraftsmen” in Russia is estimated at no less than 4 million (Mr. Kharizomenov’s figure Mr. Andreyev gave the figure of 7 1/2 million, but his methods are too sweeping)[10]; consequently, the total figures given in the text cover about one-tenth of the total number of “handicraftsmen.”—Lenin

[7] Cf. Studies, p. 179 and foll. (See present edition, Vol, 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia. –Ed.)—Lenin

[8] The desire to retain the term “handicraftsmanship” for the purpose of scientifically defining forms of industry has led in our publications to purely scholastic arguments about, and definitions of, this “handicraftsmanship.” One economist “understood” handicraftsmen to mean only commodity-producers, while another included artisans in this term; one considered connection with the land as an essential feature, while another allowed for exceptions; one excluded wage-labour, while another allowed for it where, for example, there were up to 16 workers, etc., etc. It goes without saying that arguments of this sort (instead of investigation of the different forms of industry) could lead nowhere. Let us observe that the tenacity of the special term “handicraftsmanship” is to be explained most of all by the social-estate divisions in Russian society; a “handicraftsman” is an industrialist belonging to the lower estates, a person who may be patronised and in relation to whom schemes may be concocted without compunction; the form of industry is left out of account. The merchant, however and the member of the nobility (even though they be small industrialists) are rarely classified as “handicraftsmen.” By “handicraft” industries are usually meant all sorts of peasant, and only peasant, industries.—Lenin

[9] This term “capitalisation,” of which Messrs. V. V. and N.-on are so fond, is permissible in a newspaper article, for the sake of brevity, but it is totally out of place in an economic investigation of which the whole purpose is to analyse the various forms and stages of capitalism, their significance, their connection, and their consecutive development. “Capitalisation” may be taken to mean anything in the world: the hiring of a single “labourer,” buying-up, and a steam-driven factory. How can one make head or tail of it, with all these things jumbled together!—Lenin

[10] Lenin refers to Y. N. Andreyev’s Handicraft Industry in Russia According to the Investigations of the “Commission of Inquiry into Handicraft Industry in Russia” and Other Sources, St. Petersburg, 1885 (the estimate of the number of persons engaged in “subsidiary trades” as 7 1/2 millions is given on p. 69 of the book). Lenin also refers to the pamphlet by the same author entitled Handicraft Industry in Russia, St. Petersburg, 1882, p. 12. [p.451]

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