Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

The Development of Capitalism in Russia

The Process of the Formation of a Home Market for Large-Scale Industry

Cover of the first edition, 1899
Cover of the first edition of Lenin’s The Development of Capitalism in Russia, 1899


In the work here presented, the author has set himself the aim of examining the question of how a home market is being formed for Russian capitalism. As we know, he principal exponents of Narodnik views (chief among them being Messrs. V. V. and N.–on[4]), and it will be our task to criticise these views. We have not considered it possible to limit ourselves in this criticism to examining the mistakes and misconceptions in our opponents’ views; in answering the question raised it seemed to us that it was not enough to adduce facts showing the formation and growth of a home market, for the objection might be raised that such facts had been selected arbitrarily and that facts showing the contrary had been omitted. It seemed to us that it was necessary to examine the whole process of the development of capitalism in Russia, to endeavour to depict it in its entirety. It goes without saying that such an extensive task would be beyond the powers of a single person, were a number of limitations not introduced. Firstly, as the title itself shows, we treat the problem of the development of capitalism in Russia exclusively from the standpoint of the home market, leaving aside the problem of the foreign market and data on foreign trade. Secondly, we limit ourselves purely to the post-Reform period. Thirdly, we deal mainly and almost exclusively with data concerning the interior, purely Russian, gubernias. Fourthly, we limit ourselves exclusively to the economic aspect of the process. But even with all the limitations indicated the topic that remains is an extremely broad one. The author does not close his eyes at all to the difficulty, and even the danger, of dealing with so broad a topic, but it seemed to him that to elucidate the problem of the home market for Russian capitalism it was absolutely necessary to show the connection between, and interdependence of, the various aspects of the process taking place in all spheres of the social economy. We therefore limit ourselves to an examination of the main features of the process, leaving a more specific study of it to further investigations.

The plan of our work is as follows: in Chapter I we shall examine, as briefly as possible, the basic theoretical propositions of abstract political economy on the subject of the home market for capitalism. This will serve as a sort of introduction to the rest of the work, the factual part of it, and will relieve us of the need to make repeated references to theory in our further exposition. In the three following chapters we shall endeavour to describe the capitalist evolution of agriculture in post-Reform Russia, namely, in Chapter II we shall examine Zemstvo statistical data on the differentiation of the peasantry; in Chapter III data on the transitional state of landlord economy, and on the replacement of the corvée system of this economy by the capitalist; and in Chapter IV data on the forms in which the formation of commercial and capitalist agriculture is proceeding. The next three chapters will be devoted to the forms and stages of the development of capitalism in our industry: in Chapter V we shall examine the first stages of capitalism in industry, namely, in small peasant (known as handicraft) industry ; in Chapter VI data on capitalist manufacture and on capitalist domestic industry, and in Chapter VII data on the development of large-scale machine industry. In the last chapter (VIII), we shall make an attempt to indicate the connection between the various aspects of the process that have been described and to present a general picture of that process.

P.S.[5] To our extreme regret we have not been able to use for this work the excellent analysis of “the development of agriculture in capitalist society” made by K. Kautsky in his book Die Agrarfrage (Stuttgart, Dietz, 1899; I. Abschn. “Die Entwicklung der Landwirtschaft in der kapitalistischen Gesellschaft”[1]). [2]

This book (which we received when the greater part of the present work had already been set up in type) is, after Vol. III of Capital, the most noteworthy contribution to recent economic literature. Kautsky investigates the “main tendencies” in the capitalist evolution of agriculture; his purpose is to examine the diverse phenomena in modern agriculture as “particular manifestations of one general process” (Vorrede,[3] VI). It is interesting to note how far the main features of this general process in Western Europe and in Russia are identical, notwithstanding the tremendous peculiarities of the latter, in both the economic and non-economic spheres. For example, typical of modern capitalist agriculture in general is the progressive division of labour and the employment of machinery (Kautsky, IV, b, c), a phenomenon also noticeable in post-Reform Russia (see later, Chapter III, §§ VII and VIII; Chapter IV, particularly § IX). The process of the “proletarisation of the peasantry” (the heading of Chapter VIII of Kautsky’s book) is manifested everywhere in the spread of wage-labour in every form among the small peasants (Kautsky, VIII, b); we see the parallel of this in Russia in the formation of a huge class of allotment-holding wage-workers (see later, Chapter II). The existence of a small peasantry in every capitalist society is due not to the technical superiority of small production in agriculture, but to the fact that the small peasants reduce the level of their requirements below that of the wage-workers and tax their energies far more than the latter do (Kautsky, VI, b; “the agricultural wage-worker is better off than the small peasant,” says Kautsky repeatedly: S. 110, 317, 320); the same thing is also to be observed in Russia (see later, Chapter II, § XI, C[6]). It is natural, therefore, that West-European and Russian Marxists should agree in their appraisal of such phenomena as “agricultural outside employments,” to use the Russian term, or the “agricultural wage-labour of migratory peasants,” as the Germans say (Kautsky, S. 192; cf. later, Chapter III, § X); or of such a phenomenon as the migration of workers and peasants from the villages to the towns and factories (Kautsky, IX, especially S. 343; and many other places. Cf. later, Chapter VIII, § II); the transplantation of large-scale capitalist industry to the rural districts (Kautsky, S. 187. Cf. later, VII, § VIII). This is quite apart from the same appraisal of the historical significance of agricultural capitalism (Kautsky, passim, especially S. 289, 292, 298. Cf. later, Chapter IV, § IX), from the same recognition of the progressive nature of capitalist relations in agriculture as compared with pre-capitalist relations [Kautsky, S. 382: “The ousting des Gesindes (of personally dependent farm labourers, servants) and der Instleute (“midway between the farm labourer and the tenant cultivator”: the peasant who rents land, making payment by labour-service) by day labourers who outside of working hours are free men, would mark great social progress.” Cf. later, Chapter IV, § IX, 4]. Kautsky categorically declares that the adoption by the village community of large-scale modern agriculture conducted communally “is out of the question” (S. 338); that the agronomists in Western Europe who demand the consolidation and development of the village community are not socialists at all, but people representing the interests of the big landowners, who want to tie down the workers by granting them patches of land (S. 334); that in all European countries those who represent the landowners’ interests want to tie down the agricultural workers by allotting them land and are already trying to give legislative effect to the appropriate measures (S. 162); that all attempts to help the small peasantry by introducing handicraft industry (Hausindustrie)—that worst form of capitalist exploitation—“should be most resolutely combated” (S. 181). We consider it necessary to emphasise the complete unanimity of opinion between the West European and the Russian Marxists, in view of the latest attempts of the spokesmen of Narodism to draw a sharp distinction between the two (see the statement made by Mr. V. Vorontov on February 17, 1899, at the Society for the Promotion of Russian Industry and Trade, Novoye Vremya [New Times ], No. 8255, February 19, 1899).[7]


[1] The Agrarian Question, Part I. “The Development of Agriculture in Capitalist Society.”—Ed.

[2] There is a Russian tranlsation.—Lenin

[3] Preface.—Lenin

[4] V.V - pseudonym of V.P. Voronstov.

N.–on - pseudonym of Nikolai Danielson. Both were prominent ideologists of liberal Narodism in the 1880s and 90s.—Ed.

[5] In February or at the beginning of March 1899, when in exile, Lenin received a copy of Die Agrarfrage (The Agrarian Question) by Kautsky, then still a Marxist. By then, the greater part of The Development of Capitalism in Russia had been set up in type, and so Lenin decided to make reference to Kautsky’s work in hte preface. On March 17 (29), 1899, Lenin sent a postscript to the preface. “If only it is not late,” he wrote, “I would very much like to have it printed... Maybe, even if the preface is already set, it will still be possible to add the postscript?” The addition to the preface got into the hands of the censor and was changed. In a letter dated April 27 (May 9), 1899, Lenin wrote of this: “Have heard that my P.S. to the preface was late, fell into the hands of the preliminary censor and ‘suffered,’ I think.”

[6] In the second edition of The Development of Capitalism in Russia the numbering of the sections was changed through Lenin’s introduction of several additions. The item to which Lenin refers the reader is in Chapter II, § XII, C, p. 162 and p. 168.

[7] On February 17, 1899, in the Society for the Promotion of Russian Industry and Trade, a discussion took place on a paper entitled “Is It Possible to Reconcile Narodism with Marxism?” Representatives of liberal Narodism as well as “Legal Marxists” took part in the discussion. V. P. Voronstov (V. V.) said that those who represented the “modern trend of Marxism in the West” stood closer to Russian Narodism than to the Russian Marxists. A brief report of this meeting appeared on February 19 (March 3), 1899, in the reactionary St. Petersburg paper, Novoye Vremya (New Times).


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