Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter VII. The Development of Large-Scale Machine Industry

IX. The Development of the Lumber and Building

One of the necessary conditions for the growth of large-scale machine industry (and a highly characteristic concomitant of its advance) is the development of the industry for the supply of fuel and building materials, as well as of the building industry. Let us begin with the lumber industry.

The felling and preliminary dressing of trees for their own needs has been an occupation of the peasantry from time immemorial, one that nearly everywhere forms part of the tiller’s round of work. By the lumber industry, however, we mean exclusively the preparation of lumber for sale. Characteristic of the post-Reform period is a particularly rapid growth of this industry, the demand for timber having grown rapidly both for personal consumption (the growth of towns, the increase of the non-agricultural population in the villages, and the loss of woodland by the peasants upon their emancipation) and, particularly, for productive consumption. The development of commerce, industry, urban life, military requirements, railroads, etc., etc., has led to an enormous increase in the demand for timber to be used, not by human beings, but by capital. In the industrial gubernias, for instance, the price of wood fuel has risen “by leaps and bounds”: “in the last five years (up to 1881) the price of wood fuel has more than doubled”.[1] “The price of timber has begun to rise enormously.”[2] In Kostroma Gubernia “with the huge consumption of wood fuel by the factories the price has doubled in the past seven years,”[3] etc. Timber exports rose from 5,947,000 rubles in 1856 to 30,153,000 rubles in 1881 and 39,200,000 rubles in 1894, i.e., in the ratio 100 : 507 : 659.[4] The amount of building timber and wood fuel transported along 1he inland waterways of European Russia in 1866-1868 averaged 156 million poods per year[5] and in 1888-1890, 701 million poods per year,[6] i.e., there was a more than fourfold increase. The amount transported by railway in 1888-1890 averaged 290 million poods,[7] whereas in 1866-1868 it was probably no more than 70 million poods.[8] That is to say, total timber freights in the 60s amounted to about 226 million poods, and in 1888-1890 to 991 million poods—a more than fourfold increase. The vast growth of the lumber industry in precisely the post Reform period is thus beyond doubt.

How is this industry organised? On purely capitalist lines. Forestland is bought from landowners by entrepreneurs—“lumber industrialists,” who hire workers to fell and saw the timber, to float it, etc. In Moscow Gubernia, for example, the Zemstvo statisticians listed only 337 lumber industrialists out of 24,000 peasants engaged in lumber industries.[9] In Slobodskoi Uyezd, Vyatka Gubernia, 123 lumber industrialists were listed (“the small ones are mostly subcontractors of the big ones,” of whom there were only 10), while the number of workers engaged in lumbering was 18,865, with average earnings of 19 1/2 rubles per worker.[10] Mr. S. Korolenko calculated that in the whole of European Russia as many as 2 million peasants were engaged in lumbering,[11] and this figure is hardly an exaggeration if, for instance, in 9 uyezds of Vyatka Gubernia (out of 11) about 56,430 lumber workers were listed, and in the whole of Kostroma Gubernia, about 47,000.[12] Lumbering is one of the worst paid occupations; the sanitary conditions are atrocious, and the workers’ health is severely affected. Left to toil in the remote forest depths, these workers are in a totally defenceless position, and in this branch of industry bondage, the truck system, and such-like concomitants of the “patriarchal” peasant industries prevail. In confirmation of this description, let us quote some opinions of local investigators. Moscow statisticians mention the “compulsory purchase of provisions,” which usually reduces to a marked degree the lumber workers’ earnings. The Kostroma lumbermen “live in teams in the forests, in hastily and badly erected shanties, where there are no stoves, and which are heated by open hearths. Bad food, consisting of bad soup and of bread which is like stone by the end of the week, fetid air . . . constantly damp clothes . . . all this is bound to have a disastrous effect upon the health of the lumber industrialists.” The people live in “much dirtier” conditions in the “lumber” volosts than in the industrial volosts (i.e., the volosts in which outside employment predominates).[13] Regarding Tikhvin Uyezd, Novgorod Gubernia, we read: “Agriculture . . . constitutes an auxiliary source of income, although in all official statistics you will find that the people engage in farming. . . . All that the peasant gets to meet his essential needs is earned in felling and floating lumber for the lumber industrialists. But a crisis will set in soon: in some five or ten years, no forests will be left. . . .” “The men who work in the lumber camps are more like boatmen[28]; they spend the winter in the forest-encircled lumber camps . . . and in the spring, having lost the habit of working at home, are drawn to the work of lumber floating; harvesting and haymaking alone make them return to their homes. . . .” The peasants are in “perpetual bondage” to the lumber industrialists.[14] Vyatka investigators note that the hiring season for lumbering is usually arranged to coincide with tax-paying time, and that the purchase of provisions from the employer greatly reduces earnings. . . . “Both the tree fellers and the wood-choppers receive about 17 kopeks per summer day, and about 33 kopeks per day when they work with their own horses. . . . This paltry pay is an inadequate remuneration for labour, if we bear in mind the extremely insanitary conditions under which it is done,”[15] etc., etc.

Thus, the lumber workers constitute one of the big sections of the rural proletariat; they have tiny plots of land and are compelled to sell their labour-power on the most disadvantageous terms. The occupation is extremely irregular and casual. The lumbermen, therefore, represent that form of the reserve army (or relative surplus-population in capitalist society) which theory describes as latent[16]; a certain (and, as we have seen, quite large) section of the rural population must always be ready to undertake such work, must always be in need of it. That is a condition for the existence and development of capitalism. To the extent that the forests are destroyed by the rapacious methods of the lumber industrialists (which proceeds with tremendous rapidity), an ever-growing need is felt for replacing wood by coal, and the coal industry, which alone is capable of serving as a firm basis for large-scale machine industry, develops at an ever faster rate. Cheap fuel, obtainable at any time and in any quantity, at a definite and little fluctuating price—such is the demand of the modern factory. The lumber industry is not in a position to meet this demand.[17] That is why its predominance over the coal industry as a source of fuel supply corresponds to a low level of capitalist development. As for the social relations of production, in this respect the lumber industry is to the coal industry approximately what capitalist manufacture is to large-scale machine industry. The lumber industry means a technique of the most elementary kind, the exploitation of natural resources by primitive methods; the coal industry leads to a complete technical revolution and to the extensive use of machinery. The lumber industry leaves the producer a peasant; the coal industry transforms him into a factory hand. The lumber industry leaves all the old, patriarchal way of life practically intact, enmeshing in the worst forms of bondage the workers left to toil in the remote forest depths and taking advantage of their ignorance, defencelessness and isolation. The coal industry creates mobility of the population, establishes large industrial centres and inevitably leads to the introduction of public control over production. In a word, the change-over described is of the same progressive significance as the replacement of the manufactory by the factory.[18]

Building was originally also part of the peasant’s round of domestic occupations, and it continues to be so to this day wherever semi-natural peasant economy is preserved. Subsequent development leads to the building workers’ turning into specialist artisans, who work to customers’ orders. In the villages and small towns the building industry is largely organised on these lines even today; the artisan usually maintains his connection with the land and works for a very narrow circle of small clients. With the development of capitalism, the retention of this system of industry becomes impossible. The growth of trade, factories, towns and railways creates a demand for types of buildings that are architecturally and dimensionally different from the old buildings of the patriarchal epoch. The new buildings require very diverse and costly materials, the co-operation of masses of workers of the most varied specialities and a considerable length of time for their completion; the distribution of these new buildings does not correspond at all to the traditional distribution of the population; they are erected in large towns or suburbs, in uninhabited places, along railways in process of construction, etc. The local artisan turns into a migratory worker and is hired by an entrepreneur contractor, who gradually thrusts himself in between the consumer and the producer and becomes a real capitalist. The spasmodic development of capitalist economy, the alternation of prolonged periods of bad business with periods of “building booms” (like the one we are experiencing now, in 1898) tremendously accelerate the expansion and deepening of capitalist relationships in the building industry.

Such, according to the material of Russian economic literature, has been the post-Reform evolution of the industry under review.[19] This evolution finds particularly striking expression in the territorial division of labour, in the formation of large areas in which the working population specialises in some particular branch of building.[20] This specialisation of areas presupposes the formation of large markets for building work and, in this connection, the rise of capitalist relationships. To illustrate this point let us quote data for one such area. Pokrov Uyezd, Vladimir Gubernia, has long been celebrated for its carpenters, who already at the beginning of the century constituted more than half the total population. After the Reform carpentry continued to spread.[21] In “the carpenters’ area the contractors are an element analogous to the subcontractors and factory owners”; they are usually drawn from among the most enterprising members of carpenters’ artels. “Cases are not rare of contractors in ten years accumulating from 50,000 to 60,000 rubles and more of clear profit. Some of the contractors employ from 300 to 500 carpenters and have become real capitalists. . . . It is not surprising that the local peasants say that ‘nothing pays so well as trading in carpenters.’”[22] It would be hard to give a more striking characterisation of the quintessence of the present organisation of the industry! “Carpentry has left a deep impress upon the whole of peasant life in this locality. . . . The peasant carpenter devotes less and less time to agriculture, and eventually gives it up altogether.” Life in the cities has laid the impress of culture on the carpenter: he lives a much cleaner life than do the surrounding peasants, and is conspicuous for his “cultured appearance,” for “his relatively high mental development.”[23]

The total number of building workers in European Russia must be very considerable, judging from the fragmentary data available. In Kaluga Gubernia the number of building workers in 1896 was estimated at 39,860, both local and migratory. In Yaroslavl Gubernia there were in 1894-95—according to official data—20,170 migratory. In Kostroma Gubernia there were about 39,500 migratory. In 9 uyezds of Vyatka Gubernia (out of 11), there were about 30,500 migratory (in the 80s). In 4 uyezds in Tyer Gubernia (out of 12), there were 15,585, both local and migratory. In Gorbatov Uyezd, Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia, there were 2,221, both local and migratory. The number of carpenters alone who left Ryazan Gubernia every year to work in other districts was, according to official figures for 1875 and 1876, not less than 20,000. In Orel Uyezd, Orel Gubernia, there are 2,000 building workers. In 3 uyezds of Poltava Gubernia (out of 15), there are 1,440. In Nikolayevsk Uyezd, Samara Gubernia, there are 1,339.[24] Judging by these figures, the number of building workers in European Russia must be not less than one million.[25] This figure must rather be considered a minimum, for all the sources show that the number of building workers has grown rapidly in the post-Reform period.[26] The building workers are industrial proletarians in the making, whose connection with the land—already very slight today[27] —is becoming slighter every year. The conditions of building workers are very different from those of lumber workers and are more like those of factory workers. They work in large urban and industrial centres, which, as we have seen, considerably raise their cultural standards. While the declining lumber industry typifies weakly developed forms of a capitalism that still tolerates the patriarchal way of life, the developing building industry typifies a higher stage of capitalism, leads to the formation of a new class of industrial workers, and marks a deep-going differentiation of the old peasantry.


[1] Industries of Vladimir Gubernia, I, 61.—Lenin

[2] Ibid., IV, 80.—Lenin

[3] Zhbankov, The Influence of Industries Employing Migratory Workers on the Movement of the Population, Kostroma, 1887, p. 25.—Lenin

[4] Productive Forces. Russia’s Foreign Trade, p. 39. Timber exports in 1902—55.7 million rubles; in 1903—66.3 million rubles. (Note to 2nd edition.—Ed)—Lenin

[5] Military Statistical Abstract, pp. 486-487.—Lenin

[6] Statistical Survey of Railways and Inland Waterways, St. Petersburg, 1893 (published by Ministry of Communications), p. 40.—Lenin

[7] Ibid., p. 26.—Lenin

[8] Assuming that it amounted approximately to 1/5, of total railway freights (Military Statistical Abstract, p. 511; cf. 518-519).—Lenin

[9] Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol. VII, Pt. I, Sec. 2. Frequently in this country no distinction is made in lumbering between masters and workers, the latter also being described as lumber industrialists.—Lenin

[10] Transactions of the Handicraft Commission, XI, 397.—Lenin

[11] Hired Labour.Lenin

[12] Calculated from Transactions of the Handicraft Commission.—Lenin

[13] Loc. cit., pp. 19-20 and 39. Cf. a quite analogous opinion in Transactions of the Handicraft Commission, XII, 265.—Lenin

[14] Transactions of the Handicraft Commission, VIII, pp. 1372-1373, 1474. “Thanks to the requirements of the lumber industry there have developed in Tikhvin Uyezd the blacksmith, tanning, fur and partly the boot trades; the first makes boat-hooks, and the others boots, sheepskin coats and mittens.” Incidentally, we see here an example of how the making of means of production (i.e., the growth of Department I in capitalist economy) gives an impetus to the making of articles of consumption (i.e., Department II). It is not production that follows consumption, but consumption that follows production.—Lenin

[15] Transactions of the Handicraft Commission, XI, pp. 399-400, 405, 147. Cf. the numerous references in the Zemstvo Returns for Trubchevsk Uyezd, Orel Gubernia, to the fact that “agriculture is of secondary importance,” and that the principal part is played by industries, particularly lumbering (Statistical Returns for Trubchevsk Uyezd, Orel, 1887, particularly remarks on villages).—Lenin

[16] Das Kapital, I2, S. 668.[29]Lenin

[17] Here is an illustration of this taken from the Report of the Members of the Commission of Inquiry into Factory Industry in the Kingdom of Poland (St. Petersburg, 1888, Pt. I). Coal in Poland costs half the Moscow price. The average expense of fuel per pood of yarn in Poland is 16 to 37 kopeks, and in the Moscow area—50 to 73 kopeks. In the Moscow area fuel is stocked for 12 to 20 months, in Poland for not more than 3 months, and in most cases for 1 to 4 weeks.—Lenin

[18] Mr. N.–on, in dealing with the replacement of the lumber by the coal industry (Sketches, 211, 243), confined himself, as usual, to mere lamentations. Our romanticist tries not to notice the trifling fact that behind the capitalist coal industry stands the equally capitalist lumber industry, which is marked by incomparably worse forms of exploitation. But he dwells at length on the “number of workers”! What are some 600,000 British miners compared to the millions of unemployed peasants? —he asks (211). To this we reply: that capitalism creates a relative surplus-population is beyond doubt, but Mr. N.–on has absolutely failed to see the connection between this and the requirements of large-scale machine industry. To compare the number of peasants engaged in various occupations even casually and irregularly with the number of specialist miners engaged exclusively in coal extraction, is absolutely senseless. Mr. N.–on resorts to such devices only in order to hide the fact of the rapid growth in Russia of both the number of factory and mine workers, and of the commercial and industrial population in general, since that mars his theory.—Lenin

[19] As we have had occasion to state above, it is difficult to establish this evolution because in our literature building workers in general are often called “artisans,” wage-workers being quite incorrectly classified in this category.—Regarding the analogous development of the organisation of the building industry in the West see, for instance Webb, Die Geschichte des britischen Trade Unionismus, Stuttgart, 1895, S. 7.[30]Lenin

[20] In Yaroslavl Gubernia, for instance, Danilov Uyezd is particularly famous for its stove builders, plasterers and bricklayers its different volosts mainly supplying specialists in one or other of these trades. Quite a large number of painters come from the Trans-volga part of Yaroslavl Uyezd; carpenters come from the central part of Mologa Uyezd, etc. (Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia, Vol II, Yaroslavl, 1896, p. 135 and others.)—Lenin

[21] At the end of the 50s, about 10,000 carpenters used to leave the Argunovo district (Argunovo Volost is the centre of the industry). In the 60s, out of 548 villages in the Pokrov Uyezd, 503 were engaged in carpentry (Industries of Vladimir Gubernia, IV, p. 161, and foll.).—Lenin

[22] Ibid., pp. 164-165. Our italics.—Lenin

[23] Ibid., 165-166. Similar descriptions may be found in other sources. See Zhbankov: The Influence of Industries Employing Migratory Workers on the Movement of the Population of Kostroma Gubernia in 1866-1883, Kostroma, 1887.—Urban Peasant Employments in Soligalich Uyezd, Kostroma Gubernia, in Yuridichesky Vestnik, 1890, No.9.—Women’s Country, Kostroma, 1891.—Essay in Drafting a General Programme for the Investigation of Peasant Outside Employments.— Industries Employing Migratory Workers in Smolensk Gubernia in 1892-1895, Smolensk, 1896.—The Influence of Industries Employing Migratory Workers on the Movement of the Population, in Vrach (Physician ), 1895, No. 25.—See also above-mentioned Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia, Transactions of the Handicraft Commission, Statistical Survey of Kaluga Gubernia for 1896, Kaluga, 1897; Agricultural Survey of Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia for 1896, Nizhni-Novgorod, 1897, and other Zemstvo statistical publications.—Lenin

[24] Sources, apart from those mentioned in the preceding foot note, are Zemstvo returns. Mr. V. V. (Essays on Handicraft Industry, 61) cites data for 13 uyezds in Poltava, Kursk and Tambov gubernias. The total number of building workers (Mr. V. V. classifies them all; and wrongly so, as “small industrialists”) is 28,644, ranging from 2.7% to 22.1% of the total adult male population of the uyezds. If we take the average percentage (8.8%) as the standard, the number of building workers in European Russia would be 1 1/3 million (counting 15 million adult male workers). The gubernias mentioned occupy a position midway between those where the building industries are most developed and those where they are least developed.—Lenin

[25] The census of January 28, 1897 (General Summary, 1905), gives the number of the independent population (those earning their own livelihood) engaged in the building industry throughout the Empire as 717,000, plus 469,000 cultivators occupied in this industry as a side line. (Note to 2nd edition.—Ed.)—Lenin

[26] Fire insurance figures may, to some extent, help us to gauge the dimensions of the building industry. The value of buildings covered by fire insurance amounted to 5,968 million rubles in 1884, and to 7,854 million rubles in 1893. (Productive Forces, XII, 65.) This shows an annual increase of 188 million rubles.—Lenin

[27] In Yaroslavl Gubernia, for example, 11 to 20% of the total population, or 30 to 56%, of the male workers, leave their homes in search of work- 68.7% of those who leave are away all the year round (Survey of Yaroslavl Gubernia ). Obviously, all these are “peasants only by official designation ” (p. 117).—Lenin

[28] Boatmen—workers who towed river craft by rope, or rowed them. [p. 528]

[29] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 642. [p. 529]

[30] While in exile in the village of Shushenskoye, Lenin, assisted by Krupskaya, translated volume one and edited the translation of volume two of The History of Trade Unionism, by Sidney and Beatrice Webb. Volume one of the Webbs’ book “translated from the English by Vladimir Ilyin” (i.e., Lenin) was published in St. Petersburg in 1900 by O. N. Popova. Volume two appeared in 1901. [p. 531]

  VIII. The Distribution of Large-Scale Industry | X. The Appendage to the Factory  

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