Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter VII. The Development of Large-Scale Machine Industry

IV. The Development of the Mining Industry[1]

In the initial period of Russia’s post-Reform development the principal centre of ore-mining was the Urals. Constituting a single area, until quite recently separated sharply from Central Russia, it has at the same time an original industrial structure. For ages the basis of the “organisation of labour” in the Urals was serfdom, which to this day, the very end of the 19th century, leaves its impress on quite important aspects of life in this mining area. In the old days serfdom was the basis of the greatest prosperity of the Urals and of its dominant position, not only in Russia, but partly also in Europe. In the 18th century iron was one of Russia’s principal items of export; in 1782 nearly 3.8 million poods of iron were exported; in 1800-1815 from 2 to 1 1/2 million poods; in 1815-1838 about 1 1/3 million poods. Already “in the 20s of the 19th century Russia was producing 1 1/2 times as much pig-iron as France, 4 1/2 times as much as Prussia and 3 times as much as Belgium.” But the very serfdom that helped the Urals to rise to such heights when European capitalism was in its initial period was the very cause of the Urals’ decline when capitalism was in its heyday. The iron industry in the Urals developed very slowly. In 1718 Russia’s output of pig-iron was about 6 1/2 million poods, in 1767 about 9 1/2 million poods, in 1806 12 million poods, in the 30s—9 to 11 million poods, in the 40s—11 to 13 million poods, in the 50s—12 to 16 million poods, in the 60s—13 to 18 million poods, in 1867—17 1/2 million poods. In one hundred years the output was not even doubled, and Russia dropped far behind other European countries, where large-scale machine industry had given rise to a tremendous development of metallurgy.

The main cause of stagnation in the Urals was serfdom; the ironmasters were at once feudal landlords and industrialists, and their power was based not on capital and competition, but on monopoly[2] and their possessional right. The Ural ironmasters are big landowners even today. In 1890, the 262 ironworks in the Empire had 11.4 million dessiatines of land (including 8.7 million dessiatines of forestland), of which 10.2 million belonged to 111 Urals ironworks (forestland covering 7.7 million dessiatines). On the average, consequently, each Urals works possesses vast latifundia covering some hundred thousand dessiatines. The allotment of land to the peasants from these estates has to this day not been completed. Labour is obtained in the Urals, not only by hire, but also on the labour-service basis. The Zemstvo statistics for Krasnoufimsk Uyezd, Perm Gubernia, for example, estimate that there are thousands of peasant farms that have the use of factory-owned land, pastures, woodland, etc., either gratis, or at a low rent. It stands to reason that this free use of the land actually has a very high cost, for it serves to reduce wages to a very low level; the ironworks get their “own” workers, tied down to the works and cheaply paid.[3] Here is the way Mr. V. D. Belov describes these relationships:

The Urals enjoy the advantage, says Mr. Belov, of having workers who have been moulded by their “original” history. “Workers in other factories, abroad, or even in St. Petersburg, have not the interests of their factory at heart: they are here today and gone tomorrow. While the factory is running they work; when losses take the place of profits, they take up their knapsacks and go off as fast and as readily as they came. They and their employers are permanent enemies. . . . The position is entirely different in the case of the Ural workers. They are natives of the place and in the vicinity of the works they have their land, their farms and their families. Their own welfare is closely, inseparably, bound up with the welfare of the works. If it does well, they do well; if it does badly, it is bad for them; but they cannot leave it (sic !): they have more here than a knapsack (sic !); to leave means to wreck their whole world, to abandon the land, farm and family. . . . And so they are ready to hang on for years to work at half pay, or, what amounts to the same thing, to remain unemployed half their working time so that other local workers like themselves may earn a crust of bread. In short, they are ready to accept any terms the employers offer, so long as they are allowed to remain. . . . Thus, there is an inseparable bond between the Ural workers and the works; the relationships are the same today as they were in the past, before their emancipation from serf dependence; only the form of these relationships has changed, nothing more. The former principle of serfdom has been superseded by the lofty principle of mutual benefit.”[4]

This lofty principle of mutual benefit manifests itself primarily in reduction of wages to a particularly low level. “In the South . . . a worker costs twice and even three times as much as in the Urals”—for example, according to data covering several thousand workers, 450 rubles (annually per worker) as against 177 rubles. In the South “at the first opportunity of earning a decent wage in the fields of their native villages or anywhere else, the workers leave the iron works, and coal- or ore-mines” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 17, p. 265). In the Urals, however, a decent wage is not to be dreamt of.

Naturally and inseparably connected with the low wages and servile status of the Ural workers is the technical backwardness of the Urals. There pig-iron is smelted mostly with the aid of wood fuel, in old-fashioned furnaces with cold or slightly heated blast. In 1893, the number of cold-blast furnaces in the Urals was 37 out of 110, while in the South, there were 3 out of 18. A mineral-fuel furnace had an average output of 1.4 million poods per year, while a wood-fuel furnace had one of 217,000 poods. In 1890 Mr. Keppen wrote: “The refining process of smelting pig-iron is still firmly established in the ironworks of the Urals, whereas in other parts of Russia it has been almost entirely displaced by the puddling process.”[19] Steam-engines are used to a far less extent in the Urals than in the South. Lastly, we cannot but note the seclusion of the Urals, its isolation from the centre of Russia owing to the vast distance and the absence of railways. Until quite recently the products of the Urals were transported to Moscow mainly by the primitive method of “floating” by river once a year.[5]

Thus the most direct survivals of the pre-Reform system, extensive practice of labour-service, bonded condition of the workers, low productivity of labour, backwardness of technique, low wages, prevalence of hand production, primitive and rapaciously antediluvian exploitation of the region’s natural wealth, monopolies, hindrances to competition, seclusion and isolation from the general commercial and industrial march of the times— such is the general picture of the Urals.

The mining area in the South[6] is in many respects the very opposite of the Urals. The South is in the period of formation and is as young as the Urals are old and the system prevailing there “time-hallowed.” The purely capitalist industry which has arisen here during recent decades recognises no traditions, no social-estate or national divisions, no seclusion of definite sections of the population. There has been a mass influx of foreign capital, engineers and workers into South Russia; and in the present period of boom (1898) entire factories are being brought there from America.[7] International capital has not hesitated to settle within the tariff wall and establish itself on “foreign” soil: ubi bene, ibi patria[8] .... The following are statistics on the displacement of the Urals by the South[20]:

Output of pig-iron.

These figures clearly show what a technical revolution is now taking place in Russia, and what an enormous capacity for the development of productive forces is possessed by large-scale capitalist industry. The predominance of the Urals meant the predominance of serf labour, technical backwardness and stagnation.[9] On the contrary, we now see that the development of metallurgical industry is proceeding faster in Russia than in Western Europe and in some respects even faster than in the United States. In 1870 Russia produced 2.9% of the world output of pig-iron (22 million poods out of 745 million), and in 1894—5.1% (81.3 million poods out of 1,584.2) (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 22). In the last 10 years (1886-1896) Russia has trebled her output of pig-iron (32 1/2 to 96 1/2 million poods), whereas it took France, for example, 28 years to do so (1852-1880), the U.S.A. 23 years (1845-1868), England 22 (1824-1846) and Germany 12 (1859-1871; see Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 50). The development of capitalism in the young countries is greatly accelerated by the example and the aid of the old countries. Of course, the last decade (1888-1898) has been a period of exceptional boom, which, like all capitalist prosperity, will inevitably lead to a crisis; but capitalist development cannot proceed at all except in spurts.

The introduction of machinery into production and the increase in the number of workers have been much more rapid in the South than in the Urals.[10]

Steam-engines, h.p. and mine-workers.

Thus we see that in the Urals the increase in the use of steam-power was only some 2 1/2 times, whereas in the South it was sixfold ; the increase in the number of workers in the Urals was 1 2/3 times, whereas in the South it was nearly fourfold.[11] Consequently, it is capitalist large-scale industry that rapidly increases the number of workers, at the same time enormously increasing the productivity of their labour.

Alongside of the South, mention should be made of the Caucasus, which is also characterised by an amazing growth of the mining industry in the post-Reform period. The out put of oil, which in the 60s did not even reach a million poods (557,000 in 1865), was in 1870—I.7 million poods, in 1875—5.2 million poods, in 1880—21.5 million poods, in 1885— 116 million poods, in 1890—242.9 million poods, in 1895—38k million poods and in 1902—637.7 million poods. Nearly all the oil is obtained in Baku Gubernia, and Baku “from an insignificant town has turned into a first-class Russian industrial centre, with 112,000 inhabitants.”[12] The enormous development of the extraction and processing of oil has given rise in Russia to a greater consumption of kerosene that has completely ousted the American product (increase of personal consumption with the cheapening of the product by factory processing), and to a still greater consumption of oil by-products as fuel in factories, in works and on the railways (increase of productive consumption).[13] The number of workers in the mining industry of the Caucasus has also grown very rapidly: from 3,431 in 1877 to 17,603 in 1890, i.e., has increased fivefold .

To illustrate the structure of industry in the South let us take the data for the coal industry in the Donets Basin (where the average mine is smaller than in any other part of Russia). Classifying the mines according to number of workers employed, we get the following picture:[14] (See Table on p. 493.)

Mines according to number of workers employed.

Thus, in this area (and in this one only) there are extremely small peasants’ mines, which, however, despite their great number, play an absolutely insignificant part in the total output (104 small mines account for only 2% of the total coal output) and are marked by an exceedingly low productivity of labour. On the other hand, the 37 largest mines employ nearly all of the total number of workers and produce over 70% of the total coal output. Productivity of labour increases parallel with the increase in the size of the mines, even irrespective of whether machinery is used or not (cf., for example, categories V and III of mines, as to quantity of steam-power and output per worker). Concentration of production in the Donets Basin is steadily increasing: thus, in the four years 1882-1886, of 512 coal consigners, 21 dispatched over 5,000 wagon-loads (i.e., 3 million poods) each, making 229,700 wagon-loads out of 480,800, i.e., less than half. In the four years 1891-1895, however, there were 872 consigners, of whom 55 dispatched over 5,000 wagon-loads each, making 925,400 wagon-loads out of 1,178,000, i.e., over 8/10 of the total number.[15]

The foregoing data on the development of the mining industry are particularly important in two respects: firstly, they reveal with exceptional clarity the essence of the change in social-economic relations that is taking place in Russia in all spheres of the national economy; secondly, they illustrate the theoretical proposition that in a developing capitalist society there is a particularly rapid growth of those branches of industry which produce means of production, i.e., articles not of personal, but of productive, consumption. The replacement of one form of social economy by another is particularly clear in the mining industry, because here the typical representatives of the two forms are distinct areas. In one area there is the old pre-capitalist world, with its primitive, routine technique, personal dependence of a population tied to place of residence, firmly established social-estate traditions, monopolies, etc.; while in the other area one finds a complete break with all tradition, a technical revolution, and the rapid growth of purely capitalist machine industry.[16] This example brings out in bold relief the mistake of the Narodnik economists. They deny the progressive nature of capitalism in Russia, pointing to the fact that in agriculture our entrepreneurs readily resort to labour-service and in industry to the distribution of home work and that in mining they seek to secure the tying down of the worker, legislative prohibition of competition by small establishments, etc., etc. The illogicality of such arguments and their flagrant distortion of historical perspective are glaring. Whence, indeed, does it follow that the efforts of our entrepreneurs to utilise the advantages of pre-capitalist methods of production should be charged to our capitalism, and not to those survivals of the past which retard the development of capitalism and which in many cases are preserved by force of law? Can one be surprised, for instance, at the southern mine owners being eager to tie the workers down and to secure the legislative prohibition of competition by small establishments, when in the other mining area such tying down and such prohibitions have existed for ages, and exist to this day, and when in another area the ironmasters, by using more primitive methods and employing cheaper and more docile labour, get a profit on their pig-iron, without effort, of “kopek per kopek and sometimes even one and a half kopeks per kopek”?[17] Should we not, on the contrary, be surprised at the fact that, under these circumstances, there are people who are capable of idealising the pre-capitalist economic order in Russia, and who shut their eyes to the most urgent and pressing necessity of abolishing all obsolete institutions that hinder the development of capitalism?[18]

On the other hand, the data on the growth of the mining industry are important because they clearly reveal a more rapid growth of capitalism and of the home market on account of articles of productive consumption than on account of articles of personal consumption. This circumstance is ignored by Mr. N.–on, for instance, who argues that the satisfaction of the entire home demand for the products of the mining industry “will probably take place very soon” (Sketches, 123). The fact is that the consumption of metals, coal, etc. (per inhabitant), does not and cannot remain stationary in capitalist society, but necessarily increases. Every new mile of railway, every new workshop, every iron plough acquired by a rural bourgeois increases the demand for the products of ore-mining. Although from 1851 to 1897 the consumption of pig-iron, for example, in Russia increased from 14 pounds per head to 1 1/3 poods, even this latter amount will have to increase very considerably before it approaches the size of the demand for pig-iron in the advanced countries (in Belgium and England it is over 6 poods per inhabitant).


[1] Sources: Semyonov, A Study of Historical Data on Russian Trade and Industry, Vol. III, St. Petersburg, 1859, pp. 323-339. Military Statistical Abstract, section on mining industry. The Ministry of Finance Yearbook, Vol. I, St. Petersburg, 1869. Statistical Returns for Mining, for 1864-186i, St. Petersburg, 1864 1867 (published by the Scientific Committee of the Corps of Mining Engineers). I. Bogolyubsky, Essay in Mining Statistics for the Russian Empire, St. Petersburg, 1878. Historico-Statistical Survey of Russian Industry, St. Petersburg, 1883, Vol. I (article by Keppen). Statistical Returns for the Mining and Metallurgical Industries of Russia in 1890, St. Petersburg, 1892. Ditto for 1901 (St. Petersburg, 1904) and for 1902 (St. Petersburg, 1905). K. Skalkovsky, Mining and Metallurgical Productivity of Russia in 1877, St. Petersburg, 1879. The Mining and Metallurgical Industry of Russia, published by the Department of Mines for the Chicago Exhibition, St. Petersburg, 1893 (compiled by Keppen). Returns for Russia for 1890, published by the Central Statistical Committee, St. Petersburg, 1890. Ditto for 1896, St. Petersburg, 1897. Productive Forces of Russia, St. Petersburg, 1896, Section VII. Vestnik Finansov for 1896-1897. Zemstvo Statistical Returns for Ekaterinburg and Krasnoufimsk uyezds of Perm Gubernia, and others.—Lenin

[2] When the peasants were emancipated, the Ural ironmasters particularly insisted on, and secured the retention of, a law prohibiting the opening of any coal- and wood-burning establishments within the area of their undertakings. For some details, see Studies, pp. 193-194. (See present edition Vol. 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia. –Ed.)—Lenin

[3] The Ural worker “is . . . partly a cultivator, so that work in the mines is of good assistance to him on his farm, although the pay is lower than in the other mining-and-metal districts” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 8). As we know, the terms on which the Ural peasants were emancipated from serf dependence were made to correspond to their position in the mining industry. The mining and works population was divided into workmen having no land, who had to work in the industry all year round, and agricultural labourers, having allotments, who had to do auxiliary jobs. Highly characteristic is the term that has survived to this day, namely, of Ural workers being “debtbound.” When, for example, one reads in the Zemstvo statistics “information about a team of workers bound by debt to their jobs in the shops of the Arta works” one involuntarily turns to the title-page to see the date: Is it really ninety-four, and not, say, forty-four?[21]Lenin

[4] Transactions of the Commission of Inquiry into Handicraft Industry, Vol. XVI, St. Petersburg, 1887, pp. 8-9 and foll. The same author later goes on to talk about “healthy people’s” industry!—Lenin

[5] For a description of this floating see Crags by Mr. Mamin Sibiryak. In his writings this author vividly portrays the specific life of the Urals, which differs very little from that of the pre-Reform period, with the lack of rights, ignorance and degradation of a population tied down to the factories, with the “earnest, childish dissipations” of the “gentry,” and the absence of that middle stratum of society (middle class and other intellectuals) which is so characteristic of capitalist development in all countries, not excluding Russia.—Lenin

[6] In mining statistics the term “South and South-West Russian” means the Volhynia, Don, Ekaterinoslav, Kiev, Astrakhan, Bessarabia, Podolsk, Taurida, Kharkov, Kherson and Chernigov gubernias. It is to these that the quoted figures apply. All that is said further on about the South could also be said (with slight modifications) of Poland, which forms another mining area of outstanding significance in the post-Reform period.—Lenin

[7] Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 16: The Nikopol-Mariupol Co. ordered a pipe-rolling mill in America and had it brought to Russia.—Lenin

[8] Where it is well, there is my country.—Ed.

[9] It goes without saying that the Ural ironmasters depict the situation somewhat differently. Here is a sample of their eloquent complaints at last year’s congresses: “The historical services rendered by the Urals are common knowledge. For two hundred years all Russia ploughed and reaped, hammered, dug and hewed with the products of Ural factories. The Russian people wore on their breasts crosses made of Ural copper, rode on Ural axles, used fire-arms made of Ural steel, cooked pancakes on Ural frying-pans, and rattled Ural pennies in their pockets The Urals satisfied the requirements of the entire Russian people. . .” (who used scarcely any iron. In 1851 the consumption of pig-iron in Russia was estimated at about 14 pounds per inhabitant, in 1895—1.13 poods, and in 1897—1.33 poods) “. . . producing articles to suit their needs and tastes. The Urals generously (?) squandered their natural wealth, without chasing after fashion, or being carried away by the making of rails, fire grates and monuments. And in return for their centuries of service—they found themselves one fine day forgotten and neglected” (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 32; Results of Mining Congresses in the Urals ). Indeed, what neglect of “time-hallowed” institutions. And it is all the fault of insidious capitalism, which has introduced such “instability” into our national economy. How much nicer it would be to live in the old way, without “being carried away by the making of rails,” and to cook oneself pancakes on Ural frying-pans!—Lenin

[10] Mr. Bogolyubsky estimates the number of steam-engines used in mining in 1868 at 526 with a total of 13,575 h.p.—Lenin

[11] The number of workers in iron production in the Urals in 1886 was 145,910, and in 1893—164,126, in the South 5,956 and 16,467. The increases are 1/3, (approx.) and 2 3/4-fold. For 1902 there are no data on the number of steam-engines and horse-power. The number however, of mine workers employed (not including saltminers) in 1902 in the whole of Russia was 604,972, including 249,805 in the Urals and 145,280 in the South.—Lenin

[12] Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 21. In 1863 the population of Baku was 14,000 and in 1885—45,700.—Lenin

[13] In 1882, over 62% of the locomotives were fueled with wood; in 1895-96, however, wood fueled 28.3%, oil 30% and coal 40.9% of the locomotives (Productive Forces, XVII, 62). After capturing the home market, the oil industry went in quest of foreign markets, and the export of oil to Asia is growing very rapidly (Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 32) in spite of the a priori predictions of certain Russian economists who love to talk about the absence of foreign markets for Russian capitalism.—Lenin

[14] Data taken from list of mines in Returns for the Mining and Metallurgical Industries in 1890.—Lenin

[15] From data of N. S. Avdakov: Brief Statistical Survey of the Donets Coal Industry, Kharkov, 1896.—Lenin

[16] Latterly the Urals, too, have begun to change under the influence of the new conditions of life; and this change will be still more rapid when the Urals are tied closer to “Russia” by railway lines. Of particular importance in this respect will be the proposed connection by rail of the Urals and the South with a view to the exchange of Ural iron-ore for Donets coal. Till now the Urals and the South have scarcely competed with each other, having worked for different markets and existed mainly on government contracts. But the abundant rain of government contracts will not go on for ever.—Lenin

[17] Article by Yegunov in Reports and Investigations of Handicraft Industry, Vol. III, p. 130.—Lenin

[18] For example, Mr. N.–on levelled all his complaints solely against capitalism (cf., in particular, his observations on the southern mine owners, Sketches, pp. 211 and 296) and thus utterly distorted the relation between Russian capitalism and the pre-capitalist structure of our mining industry.—Lenin

[21] Lenin refers to Material for the Statistics of Krasnoufimsk Uyezd, Perm Gubernia, Vol. V, Pt. 1 (Zavodsky district), Kazan, 1894, on p. 65 of which there is a table headed “Information on a team of workers bound by debt to their jobs in the shops of the Arta works in 1892.” [p. 486]

[19] Lenin quotes here The Mining and Metallurgical Industry of Russia. Published by the Department of Mines. International Columbia Exhibition, 1893, in Chicago, St. Petersburg, 1893, p. 52. [p. 488]

[20] In the first edition of The Development of Capitalism in Russia the table contained the figures for the years 1890 and 1896. In the second edition these figures were omitted. Furthermore, the figures for 1897 differed somewhat from those for the same year cited in the second edition. The corresponding part of the table as it appeared in the first edition was as follows:

Table as it appeared in the first edition.

The figures for 1897 given in the first edition had a footnote, also omitted in the second edition, stating:—“In 1898 the pig iron output in the Empire is estimated at 133 million poods, of which 60 million poods were produced in the South and 43 million poods in the Urals (Russkiye Vedomosti [Russian Gazette ], 1899, No. 1).” [p. 489]

  III. An Examination of Historico-Statistical Data On the Development of Large-Scale Industry | V. Is the Number of Workers in Large Capitalist Enterprises Growing?  

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