Vladimir Ilyich Lenin


Chapter VII. The Development of Large-Scale Machine Industry

V. Is the Number of Workers in Large Capitalist Enterprises Growing?

Having examined the statistics of the factory and mining industries, we can now attempt to answer this question, one which has so much engaged the attention of the Narodnik economists, and which they have answered in the negative (Messrs. V. V., N.–on, Karyshev and Kablukov have asserted that the number of factory workers in Russia is increasing—if it is increasing—more slowly than the population). Let us observe first of all that the question must be whether an increase is taking place in the commercial and industrial population at the expense of the agricultural population (of this below), or whether an increase is taking place in the number of workers employed in large-scale machine industry. It cannot be asserted that the number of workers in small industrial establishments or in manufactories must increase in a developing capitalist society, for the factory constantly eliminates the more primitive forms of industry. Our factory statistics, however, as was shown in detail above, do not always refer to the factory in the scientific sense of the term.

To examine the data on the question that interests us, we must take, firstly, the returns for all branches, and, secondly, the returns for a long period. Only if we do that is there a guarantee that the data will be more or less comparable. We take the years 1865 and 1890, a stretch of twenty-five years in the post-Reform period. Let us sum up the available statistics. The factory statistics give the fullest data for 1865; for European Russia they showed 380,638 factory workers in all trades except distilling, brewing, beet-sugar and tobacco.[1] To determine the number of workers in these trades, we have to take the only data available, those of the Military Statistical Abstract, which, as has been shown above, must be corrected. By adding the 127,935 workers in the trades mentioned,[2] we get the total number of factory workers in European Russia in 1865 (in excise-paying and non-excise-paying trades) as 508,573.[3] For 1890 the corresponding figure will be 839,730.[4] The increase is 65%, much greater than the increase in population. It must, however, be borne in mind that actually the increase was undoubtedly bigger than these figures show : above it was demonstrated in detail that the factory statistics for the 1860s are exaggerated due to their inclusion of small handicraft, artisan and agricultural establishments, as well as home workers. Unfortunately, we are unable, for lack of material, to correct all these exaggerations in full, and prefer not to correct them in part, especially as more exact data will be given below regarding the number of workers in large factories.

Let us pass to the mining and metallurgical statistics. For 1865 the number of mine workers was given only for the copper and iron trades, as well as the gold and platinum fields; for European Russia it was 133,176.[5] In 1890, there were in the same trades 274,748 workers,[6] i.e., more than twice as many. The latter figure represents 80.6% of the total number of mine workers in European Russia in 1890; if we assume that in 1865 the trades mentioned also covered 80.6% of the total mine workers,[7] we get the total number of mine workers for 1865 as 165,230 and for 1890 as 340,912. An increase of 107%.

Further, railway workers also belong to the category of workers in big capitalist enterprises. In 1890, in European Russia, together with Poland and the Caucasus, they numbered 252,415.[8] The figure for 1865 is unknown, but it can be determined with a sufficient degree of approximation, since the number of railway workers employed per verst of railway fluctuates very slightly. Counting 9 workers per verst, we get the total number of railway workers in 1865 as 32,076.[9]

Let us sum up our calculations.

Number of workers in large capitalist enterprises.

Thus, in 25 years the number of workers in large capitalist enterprises more than doubled, i.e., it increased not only much faster than the population in general, but even faster than the urban population.[10] The steadily increasing diversion of workers from agriculture and from the small industries to big industrial enterprises is consequently beyond doubt.[11] This is indicated by the very statistics that are so often resorted to and abused by our Narodniks. But the culminating point of their abuse of the statistics is the following truly phenomenal device: they work out the proportion of factory workers to the total population (!) and on the basis of the figure arrived at (about 1%) expatiate on how insignificant this “handful”[12] of workers is! Mr. Kablukov, for example, after repeating the calculation of the proportion of “factory workers in Russia”[13] to the population, goes on to say: “In the West, however (!!), the number of workers engaged in manufacturing industry . . .” (is it not obvious to every schoolboy that “factory workers” and “workers engaged in manufacturing industry” are not one and the same thing at all?) . . . “constitute quite a different proportion of the population,” namely, from 53% in Britain to 23% in France. “It is not difficult to see that the difference in the proportion of the class of factory workers (!!) there and here is so great that it is out of the question to identify the course of our development with that of Western Europe.” And this is written by a professor and specialist in statistics! With extraordinary valour he perpetrates two misrepresentations at one blow: 1) factory workers are replaced by workers engaged in manufacturing industry, and 2) the latter are replaced by the population engaged in manufacturing industry. Let us explain the meaning of these categories to our learned statisticians. In France, according to the census of 1891, the workers engaged in manufacturing industry numbered 3.3 million—less than one-tenth of the population (36.8 million classified according to occupation; and 1.3 million not classified according to occupation). These are workers employed in all industrial establishments and enterprises, and not only factory workers. The population, however, that is engaged in manufacturing industry numbered 9.5 million (about 26% of the total population). Added here to the number of workers are employers, etc. (1 million); then office employees, clerks, etc., 0.2 million; dependents in household, 4.8 million; and domestic servants, 0.2 million.[14] To illustrate the corresponding proportions in Russia, we must take particular centres as our examples, for we have no statistics showing the occupations of the whole population. Let us take one urban and one rural centre. In Petersburg the factory statistics for 1890 gave the number of factory workers as 51,760 (according to the Directory ), whereas according to the St. Petersburg census of December 15, 1890, the number of persons of both sexes engaged in manufacturing industry was 341,991, distributed as follows:[15]

Distribution of persons of both sexes.

Another example: In Bogorodskoye village, Gorbatov Uyezd, Nizhni-Novgorod Gubernia (which, as we have seen, does not engage in agriculture, but constitutes “a single tannery as it were”), there are, according to the Directory for 1890, 392 factory workers, whereas the population engaging in industries, according to the Zemstvo census of 1889, numbers nearly 8,000 (the total population equals 9,241; more than 9/10 of the families engage in industries). Let these figures give food for thought to Messrs. N.—on, Kablukov and Co.!

Addendum to second edition. We now have the returns of the national census of 1897, giving statistics on the occupations of the entire population. Here are the data, summarised by us, for the whole of the Russian Empire[16] (in millions):

Occupation by sex.

Needless to say, these data fully confirm what has been said above regarding the absurdity of the Narodnik device of comparing the number of factory workers with the whole population.

It will be interesting, first of all, to group the data on the occupational distribution of the whole population of Russia, in a way that will illustrate the division of social labour as the basis of the whole of commodity production and capitalism in Russia. From this point of view, the entire population should be distributed into three large subdivisions: I. Agricultural. II. Commercial and industrial. III. Unproductive (more precisely, not participating in economic activity). Of the nine groups given (a to i ), only one cannot be directly and entirely assigned to any one of these three main subdivisions. That is group g : private service, domestic servants and day labourers. This group has to be distributed approximately between the commercial-and-industrial and the agricultural population. We have assigned to the former the section of this group which is shown as residing in towns (2.5 million), and to the latter those residing in rural areas (3.3 million). We then get the following picture of the distribution of the total population of Russia:

Distribution of total population of Russia.

This picture clearly shows, on the one hand, that commodity circulation and, hence, commodity production are firmly implanted in Russia. Russia is a capitalist country. On the other hand, it follows from this that Russia is still very backward, as compared with other capitalist countries, in her economic development.

To proceed. After the analysis we have made in the present work, the statistics of the occupations of the whole population of Russia can and should be used to determine approximately the main categories into which the entire population of Russia is divided according to class status, i.e., according to their status in the social system of production.

It is possible to determine these categories—only approximately, of course—because we know the main economic groups into which the peasantry are divided. And the entire mass of the agricultural population of Russia may safely be regarded as peasants, for the number of landlords in the sum-total is quite negligible. Quite a considerable section of landlords, moreover, are included in the category of rentiers, government officials, high dignitaries, etc. In the peasant mass of 97 millions, however, one must distinguish three main groups: the bottom group—the proletarian and semi-proletarian strata of the population; the middle group—the poor small peasant farmers; and the top group—the well-to-do small peasant farmers. We have analysed above the main economic features of these groups as distinct class elements. The bottom group is the propertyless population, which earns its livelihood mainly, or half of it, by the sale of labour-power. The middle group comprises the poor small peasant farmers, for the middle peasant in the best of years just barely manages to make ends meet, but the principal means of livelihood of this group is “independent” (supposedly independent, of course) small-scale farming. Finally, the top group consists of the well-to-do small peasant farmers, who exploit more or less considerable numbers of allotment-holding farm labourers and day labourers and all sorts of wage-labourers in general.

These groups constitute approximately 50%, 30% and 20% respectively of the total. Above we invariably took the share of each group in the total number of households or farms. Now we shall take them as a proportion of the population. This change effects an increase in the bottom group and a decrease in the top one. But this, undoubtedly, is precisely the change that has taken place in Russia in the past decade, as is proved incontrovertibly by the decline in horse-ownership and by the ruin of the peasantry, the growth of poverty and unemployment in the rural districts, etc.

That is to say, among the agricultural population we have about 48.5 million proletarians and semi-proletarians about 29.1 million poor small peasant farmers and their families, and about 19.4 million of the population on the well-to-do small farms.

Now the question is how to distribute the commercial and industrial and the unproductive population. The latter group contains sections of the population who obviously belong to the big bourgeoisie: all the rentiers (“living on income from capital and real estate”—first subdivision of group 14 in our statistics: 900,000), then part of the bourgeois intelligentsia, the high military and civil officials, etc. Altogether, these will number about 1 1/2 million. At the opposite pole of this group of unproductive population are the lower ranks of the army, navy, gendarmerie and police (about 1.3 million), domestics and numerous servants (about 1/2 million altogether), nearly 1/2 million beggars, tramps, etc., etc. Here we can only roughly distribute the groups that most closely approximate to the main economic types: about 2 million will go to the proletarian and semi-proletarian population (partly lumpen-proletarians), about 1.9 million to the poor small proprietors, and about 1.5 million to the well-to-do small proprietors, including the bulk of the clerks, managerial personnel, bourgeois intellectuals, etc.

Lastly, among the commercial and industrial population the largest section is undoubtedly the proletariat, and the gulf is widest between the proletariat and the big bourgeoisie. But the census returns supply no data as to the distribution of this section of the population into employers, one-man producers, workers, etc. We have no alternative but to take as a model the above-quoted data on the industrial population of St. Petersburg, classified according to position in production. On the basis of these data we may roughly assign about 7% to the big bourgeoisie, 10% to the well-to-do petty bourgeoisie, 22% to the poor small proprietors and 61% to the proletariat. In Russia as a whole, small production in industry is, of course, much more tenacious than it is in St. Petersburg, but then we do not assign to the semi-proletarian population the mass of one-man producers and handicraftsmen who work in their homes for masters. Hence, on the whole, the proportions taken will in all probability not differ very much from what they actually are. For the commercial and industrial population we shall then get about 1.5 million big bourgeoisie, about 2.2 million well-to-do, about 4.8 million needy small producers, and about 13.2 million belonging to the proletarian and semi-proletarian strata of the population.

By combining the agricultural, commercial and industrial, and unproductive sections of the population, we shall get the following approximate distribution of the entire population of Russia according to class status:

Distribution of population by class status.


We have no doubt that our Cadet and quasi-Cadet economists and politicians will raise their voices in indignation against this “over-simplified” concept of the economy of Russia. After all, it is so convenient, so advantageous to gloss over the profundity of economic contradictions in a detailed analysis and at the same time to complain of the “crudity” of socialist views on these contradictions as a whole. Such criticism of the conclusion we have reached is, of course, without scientific value.

Differences of opinion are, of course, possible about the degree of approximation of various figures. It is of interest to note, from this point of view, the work of Mr. Lositsky, Studies of the Population of Russia Based on the Census of 1897 (Mir Bozhy,[18] 1905, No. 8). The author took the bare census figures of the number of workers and servants, and from these estimated the proletarian population in Russia at 22 million; the peasant and land-owning population at 80 million, employers and clerks in commerce and industry at about 12 million, and the population not engaged in industry at about 12 million.

The number of proletarians according to these figures comes quite close to the figure we have arrived at.[19] To deny the existence of a vast mass of semi-proletarians among the poor peasants who are dependent upon “employments,” among the handicraftsmen, etc., would be to scoff at all the data on the Russian economy. One need but recall the 3 1/4 million horseless households in European Russia alone, the 3.4 million one-horse households, the sum-total of Zemstvo statistics on rented land, “employments,” budgets, etc., to abandon all doubt about the huge size of the semi-proletarian population. To agree that the proletarian and semi-proletarian population taken together comprises one-half of the peasantry is probably no understatement and no exaggeration of its numbers. And outside of the agricultural population, the proletarians and semi-proletarians undoubtedly constitute a still higher percentage.

Further, if we are not to replace the complete economic picture by petty details, we should include among the well-to-do small proprietors a considerable section of the commercial and industrial managerial personnel, clerks, bourgeois intellectuals, government officials, and so on. Here we have perhaps been too cautious and fixed the number of this group of the population too high: it is quite possible that we-should have put the poor small proprietors at a higher figure and the well-to-do at a lower. But, of course, in making such divisions one does not lay claim to absolute statistical accuracy.

Statistics should illustrate the socio-economic relations established by an all-round analysis, and not be made an end in themselves, as too often happens in our country. To gloss over the large numbers of the petty-bourgeois strata in the population of Russia would be simply to falsify the picture of our real economic situation.


[1] Returns and Material of the Ministry of Finance, 1867, No 6. It has been shown above that for comparison with contemporary data one can only take data from the same source, i.e., those of the Ministry of Finance.—Lenin

[2] The number of workers in brewing is 6,825, this figure is also exaggerated, but it cannot be corrected for lack of data; in beet sugar making—68,334 (according to The Ministry of Finance Yearbook ); tobacco-making—6,116 (corrected) and distilling— 46,660 (corrected).—Lenin

[3] Mr. Tugan-Baranovsky quotes for 1866 the figure given by Mr. Veshnyakov—493,371 (The Factory, p. 339). We do not know how this figure was arrived at; it differs very slightly from the one we give.—Lenin

[4] According to the Directory for 1890. From the total of 875,764 we have to subtract the number of workers duplicated in mining statistics, viz., 291 in asphalt, 3,468 in salt, and 32,275 in rails production.—Lenin

[5] For the number of mine workers in the 60s, see Statistical Chronicle, I, 1866; The Ministry of Finance Yearbook, I; Statistical Returns for Mining, for 1864-1867, St. Petersburg, 1864-1867, published by the Mining Scientific Committee.—Lenin

[6] Statistical Returns for the Mining and Metallurgical Industries in 1890, St. Petersburg, 1892. According to this source the total for European Russia is 342,166, and if we subtract the number of workers at the kerosene refineries (included in the Directory ) and correct certain minor errors, the total will be 340,912.—Lenin

[7] Among the other branches of mining industries there are some in which the number of workers has probably increased slightly (salt mining), there are some in which the number must have increased very considerably (coal-mining, stone-quarrying), and some which did not exist at all in the 1860s (such as quicksilver-mining).—Lenin

[8] Statistical Survey of Railways and Inland Waterways, St. Petersburg, 1893, p. 22. Published by Ministry of Communications. Unfortunately, we lack the data to separate European Russia. Under railway workers we include, not only permanent, but temporary (10,447) and day labourers (74,504). The average annual pay of a temporary worker is 192 rubles, and of a day labourer 235 rubles. The average daily pay is 78 kopeks. Consequently, both the temporary and the day workers are engaged for the greater part of the year, so that to disregard them, as Mr. N.–on does (Sketches, p. 124), is wrong.—Lenin

[9] The number of workers per verst employed on the railways in 1886 was 9.0, in 1890 —9.5; in 1893—10.2 in 1894—10.6; in 1895—10.9; thus the number obviously tends to grow. See Returns for Russia for 1890 and 1896, and Vestnik Finansov, 1897, No. 39.—Let us make the reservation that in this section we are concerned exclusively with comparing the data for 1865 and 1890, it is therefore absolutely immaterial whether we take the number of railway workers for the whole of the Empire or only for European Russia; whether we take 9 workers per verst or fewer, or whether we take all branches of mining or only those for which data exist for 1865.—Lenin

[10] In European Russia the urban population in 1863 was 6.1 million, and in 1897, 12.0 million.—Lenin

[11] The latest data on the number of workers in large capitalist enterprises are as follows for 1900 data exist regarding the number of factory workers in non-excise-paying enterprises; for 1903, data are available for excise-paying enterprises. On workers in the mining and metallurgical industries data exist for 1902. The number of railway workers may be determined by reckoning 11 men per verst (information as of January 1, 1904). See Yearbook of Russia, 1906, and Returns for the Mining and Metallurgical Industries, for 1902. Summing up these data, we get the following: in the 50 gubernias of European Russia in 1900-1903 there were 1,261,571 factory workers 477,025 mining workers; 468,941 railway workers. Total, 2,207,537. In the entire Russian Empire there were 1,509,516 factory workers 626,929 mining workers, 655,929 railway workers. Total, 2,792,374. These figures, too, fully bear out what is said in the text. (Note to 2nd edition.)—Lenin

[12] N.–on, loc. cit., 326 and others.—Lenin

[13] Lectures on Agricultural Economics, Moscow, 1897, p. 14.—Lenin

[14] The Statesman’s Yearbook, 1897, p. 472.—Lenin

[15] St. Petersburg According to the Census of 1890. St. Petersburg, 1893. We have taken the total of groups II to XV. The total number of persons engaged in industrial occupations is 551,700, of whom 200,748 are engaged in commerce, carting and innkeeping.—“One man producers” refers to small producers who employ no workers.—Lenin

[16] General Summary for the Empire of the Results of the Examination of the First General Population Census, January 28, 1897. Published by the Central Statistical Committee, Vol. II, Table XXI, p. 296. I have arranged the groups of occupations as follows: a) 1, 2 and 4; b) 3 and 5-12; c) 14 and 15; d) 16 and 63-65; e) 46-62; f) 41-45; g) 13; h) 17-21; i) 22-40.—Lenin

[17] These number not less than 22 million. See further on.—Lenin

[18] Wide World.—Ed.

[19] This is not the place to go into details concerning the statistics on workers and servants used by Mr. Lositsky. These statistics evidently err in very considerably understating the number of workers.—Lenin

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