Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter VII. The Development of Large-Scale Machine Industry

I. The Scientific Conception of the Factory and the Significance of “Factory” Statistics[5]

Before dealing with large-scale machine (factory) industry, we must first establish the fact that the scientific conception of the term does not correspond at all to its common, everyday meaning. In our official statistics, and in literature generally, a factory is taken to mean any more or less big industrial establishment with a more or less considerable number of wage-workers. According to Marx’s theory, however, the term large-scale machine (factory) industry applies only to a definite stage of capitalism in industry, namely, the highest stage. The principal and most important feature of this stage is the employment of a system of machines for production.[1] The transition from the manufactory to the factory signifies a complete technical revolution, which does away with the craftsman’s manual skill that has taken centuries to acquire, and this technical revolution is inevitably followed by the most thoroughgoing destruction of social production relations, by a final split among the various groups of participants in production, by a complete break with tradition, by an intensification and extension of all the dark aspects of capitalism, and at the same time by a mass socialisation of labour by capitalism. Large-scale machine industry is thus the last word of capitalism, the last word of its “elements of social progress”[2] and regress.

From this it is clear that the transition from the manufactory to the factory is particularly important when we deal with the development of capitalism. Whoever confuses these two stages deprives himself of the possibility of understanding the transforming, progressive role of capitalism. That is the mistake made by our Narodnik economists, who, as we have seen, na\"ively identify capitalism generally with “factory” industry and propose to solve the problem of the “mission of capitalism” and even of its “unifying significance”[3] by simply referring to factory statistics. Apart from the fact that on matters of factory statistics these writers (as we shall show in detail below) have betrayed astonishing ignorance, they commit a still graver error in their amazingly stereotyped and narrow understanding of Marx’s theory. In the first place, it is ridiculous to reduce the problem of the development of large-scale machine industry to mere factory statistics. It is a question not only of statistics, but of the forms assumed and the stages traversed by the development of capitalism in the industry of the country under consideration. Only after the substance of these forms and their distinguishing features have been made clear is there any sense in illustrating the development of this or that form by means of properly compiled statistics. If, however, they restrict themselves to Russian statistics, this inevitably leads to lumping together the most diverse forms of capitalism, to not seeing the wood for the trees. Secondly, to reduce the whole mission of capitalism to that of increasing the number of “factory” workers means to betray as profound an understanding of theory as did Mr. Mikhailovsky when he expressed surprise as to why people talk about the socialisation of labour by capitalism, when all that this socialisation amounts to, he averred, is that several hundred or thousand workers saw, chop, cut, plane, etc., under one roof.[4]

The task of our further exposition is twofold: on the one hand, we shall examine in detail the condition of our factory statistics and the question of their suitability. This, largely negative, work is necessary because the data involved are positively abused in our literature. On the other hand, we shall examine the data attesting to the growth of large-scale machine industry in the post-Reform period.


[1] Das Kapital, I, Chapter 13 [Chap. 15, Eng. ed. –Ed.].—Lenin

[2] Ibid., I2, S. 499.[6]Lenin

[3] Mr. N.–on in Russkoye Bogatstvo, 1894, No. 6, pp. 103 and 119.—See also his Sketches, and Mr. V. V.’s Destiny of Capitalism, passim.—Lenin

[4] Otechestvenniye Zapiski, 1883, No. 7, Letter to the editor from Mr. Postoronny [Outsider].—Lenin

[5] To characterise the development of large-scale industry in tsarist Russia in the post-Reform period Lenin examined the material contained in numerous factory statistical sources of that period (statistical returns, monographs and works of research, official reference books, magazine and newspaper reports, papers, etc.). Lenin’s work of checking, processing, combining and scientifically grouping statistical data is shown in the notes he made in various books and from other material published in section 2 of Lenin Miscellany XXXIII. For Lenin’s estimation of the main sources of factory statistics see also his article “On the Question of Our Factory Statistics.” (See present edition, Vol. 4.) [p. 454]

[6] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 474. [p. 454]

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