V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Question and the “Critics of Marx”



Machinery in Agriculture

Let us now pass to what Mr. Bulgakov regards as the “remarkable” work of Hertz (Die agrarischen Fragen im Verhältniss zum Sozialismus, Wien, 1899. [Friedrich Otto Hertz, The Agrarian Questions in Relation to Socialism. Vienna. 1899.—Ed.] Russian translation by A. Ilyinsky, St. Petersburg, 1900). We shall need, however, to spend a little time in simultaneously examining similar arguments by both authors.

The question of machinery in agriculture and the closely connected question of large- and small-scale production in agriculture most frequently provide the “Critics” with the occasion to “refute” Marxism. We shall later analyse some of the detailed data they present; for the present let us examine their general arguments. The Critics devote entire pages to arguing in detail that the use of machinery encounters greater difficulties in agriculture than in industry and for that reason machines are used to a smaller extent and have less significance. This is indisputable, and it was definitely shown, for example, by the same Kautsky whose name is enough to arouse Messrs. Bulgakov, Hertz, and Chernov to a state bordering on frenzy. But this indisputable fact does not in the least controvert the other fact that the use of machinery is developing rapidly in agriculture also, and that it has a powerful transforming effect upon it. All that the Critics can do is to “evade” this inevitable conclusion by such profound arguments as, “Agriculture is characterised by the domination of Nature in the process of production and by the lack of human free will” (Bulgakov, I, 43). ". ..instead of the uncertain and imprecise work of man, it [machinery in industry] performs micrometric as well as colossal, work with mathematical precision. The machine cannot do the like [?] in the production of agricultural products because, to this day, this working instrument is not in the hands of man, but in the hands of Mother Nature. This is no metaphor” (ibid.). Indeed it is no metaphor; it is merely an empty phrase; for everyone knows that the steam plough, the seed-drill, the threshing-machine, etc., make work more “certain   and precise”; consequently, to say, “cannot do the like”, is simply to talk nonsense! Similarly, how can it be said that machinery in agriculture “cannot to any extent [sic!] revolutionise production” (Bulgakov, I, 43-44, where he quotes the opinion of agricultural machinery experts, who, however, merely refer to the relative difference between agricultural and industrial machinery), or that “not only cannot machinery convert the worker into its adjunct[?], but that the worker still retains his previous control of the process” (44) —as feeder of the threshing-machine, perhaps?

Mr. Bulgakov tries to belittle the superiority of the steam plough by references to Stumpfe and Kutzleb (who wrote of the ability of small-scale farming to compete with large-scale farming), as against the opinions of experts in agricultural machinery and agricultural economics (Fühling, Perels). He advances arguments to the effect that steam ploughing requires a special soil[1] and “extremely extensive estates” (in Mr. Bulgakov’s opinion this is not an argument against small-scale farming, but against the steam plough!), and that with 12-inch furrows the work of animals is cheaper than steam power, and so forth. One could fill tomes with such arguments, without, however, in the least refuting the fact that the steam plough has made extremely deep ploughing possible (furrows deeper than 12 inches), or the fact that its use has rapidly developed: in England, in 1867, only 135 estates were using steam ploughs, whereas in 1871 over 2,000 steam ploughs had come in to use (Kautsky); in Germany the number of farms using steam ploughs increased from 836 in 1882 to 1,696 in 1895.

On the question of agricultural machinery Mr. Bulgakov frequently cites Franz Bensing, whom he recommends as “the author of a special monograph on agricultural machinery” (I, 44). It would be most unfair if we did not in the present case show how Mr. Bulgakov quotes his authors, and how the very witnesses he calls testify against him.

In arguing that Marx’s “construction” on the more rapid growth of constant capital as compared with variable capital is inapplicable to agriculture, Mr. Bulgakov points to the need of a larger expenditure of labour-power in proportion to the increase in the productivity of agriculture, and, among others, quotes the calculations made by Bensing: "The general amount of human labour required by the various systems of economy is expressed as follows: the three-field system—712 man-days; the Norfolk crop rotation system—1,615 man-days; crop rotation with a considerable production of sugar-beet—3,179 man-days per 60 hectares” (Franz Bensing, Der Einfluss der landwirtschaftlichen Maschinen auf Volks- and Privatwirtschaft, [The Influence of Agricultural Machinery on National and Private Economy.—Ed.] Breslau, 1897, S. 42. Quoted by Bulgakov, I, 32). The unfortunate thing, how ever, is that by this calculation Bensing desired to prove that the role of machinery is growing. Applying these figures to German agriculture as a whole, Bensing calculates that the available agricultural workers would be sufficient to cultivate the land only on the three-field system, and that, consequently, the introduction of a crop rotation system would have been altogether impossible without machines. It is well known that when the old three-field system prevailed machinery was hardly utilised at all; consequently, Bensing’s calculation proves the opposite of what Mr: Bulgakov tries to prove; this calculation shows that the growth of productivity of agriculture was necessarily accompanied by a more rapid growth of constant capital as compared with variable capital.

Elsewhere Mr. Bulgakov, after asserting that “a radical [sic!] difference exists between the role of machinery in the manufacturing industry and in agriculture”, quotes the words of Bensing: “Agricultural machinery cannot effect an unlimited increase in production in the way machines in industry do...” (I, 44). Mr. Bulgakov is unlucky again. Bensing points to this by no means “radical” difference between agricultural and industrial machinery in the beginning of Chapter VI of his book, which is entitled: “The Influence of Agricultural Machinery on Gross Income”. After making a detailed   analysis of the data relating to each special type of machine as published in agricultural literature and of his own findings obtained in a special inquiry, Bensing arrives at the following general conclusion: the increase in gross income obtained by the use of a steam plough is ten per cent, of a seed-drill ten per cent, and of a threshing-machine fifteen per cent; moreover, the seed-drill causes a saving of twenty per cent in seed; only the use of potato-digging machines shows a decline of five per cent in gross income. Mr. Bulgakov’s assertion that “at all events, the steam plough is the only agricultural machine about which anything favour able can be said from the technical point of view” (I, 47-48) is at all events refuted by the very Bensing to whom incautious Mr. Bulgakov here refers.

In order to present the significance of machinery in agriculture as precisely and completely as possible, Bensing makes a number of detailed calculations of the results of farming carried on without machinery, with one machine, with two machines, and so forth, and, finally, with the use of all the important machines, including the steam plough and light railways (Feldbahnen). He found that in farming without the aid of machinery gross income amounted to 69,040 marks—expenditure, 68,615 marks, net income, 425 marks, or 1.37 marks per hectare. In farming that made use of all the important machines gross income amounted to 81,078 marks—expenditure, 62,551.5 marks, net income, 18,526.5 marks, or 59.76 marks per hectare, i.e., more than forty times as much as in the first case. That is the effect of machinery alone, for the system of cultivation is assumed to have remained unchanged. It goes without saying that the use of machinery is accompanied, as Bensing’s calculations show, by an enormous increase in constant capital and a diminution in variable capital (i.e., in the capital expended on labour-power and in the number of workers employed). In short, Bensing’s work entirely refutes Mr. Bulgakov and proves the superiority of large-scale production in agriculture, as well as the fact that the law of the growth of constant capital at the expense of variable capital is applicable to agriculture.

Only one thing makes Mr. Bulgakov akin to Bensing, and that is that the latter adopts the purely bourgeois point of   view, completely fails to understand the contradictions inherent in capitalism, and smugly pretends not to see that machines oust the worker, etc. This moderate and methodical pupil of the German professors speaks of Marx with a hatred to match Mr. Bulgakov’s, except that Bensing is more consistent—he calls Marx “an opponent of machinery” in general, in both agriculture and industry, because, says he, Marx “distorts the facts” when he talks of the harmful effect machines have on the workers and attributes all sorts of misfortunes to machines (Bensing, loc. cit., S. 4, 5, and 11). Mr. Bulgakov’s attitude toward Bensing reveals to us again and again what the “Critics” take from the bourgeois scientists and what they pretend not to see.

The nature of Hertz’ “criticism” is sufficiently revealed by the following example. On page 149 of his book (Russian translation) he charges Kautsky with employing “feuilleton methods”, and on page 150 he “refutes” the assertion that large-scale production is superior to small-scale production in regard to the use of machinery, by the following arguments: (1) Machinery is accessible also to small farmers through the medium of co-operative societies. That, if you please, is supposed to refute the fact that machinery is used on a larger scale on big farms! On the question as to who has greater access to the benefits of co-operative organisation, we shall have a separate talk with Hertz in our second essay. (2) David has shown in Sozialistische Monatshefte[8] (Vol. V, No. 2) that the use of machinery on small farms “is extensive and is rapidly increasing ... that seed-drills are frequently [sic] to be found even on very small farms. The same applies to mowers and other machines” (S. 63, Russian translation, p. 151). But if the reader turns to David’s article,[2] he will see that the author takes the absolute figures of the number of farms using machinery, and not the percentage of those farms in relation to the total number of farms in the given category (as Kautsky does, of course).

Let us compare those figures, which are for the whole of Germany for 1895:[3]

Groups of farms Total number of farms Farms using machinery
Seedling machines Per cent Seed drills Per cent Mowers and reapers Per cent
Under 2 hectares 3,236,367 214 0.01 14,735 0.46 245 0.01
2 to 5 1,016,318 551 0.05 13,088 1.29 600 0.06
5 to 20 998,804 3,252 0.33 48,751 4.88 6,746 0.68
2O to 100 281,767 12,091 4.29 49,852 17.69 19,535 6.93
100 and over 25,061 12,565 50.14 14,366 57.32 7,958 31.75
Totals 5,558,317 28,673 0.52 140,792 2.54 35,084 0.63

Confirmation indeed of the statement of David and Hertz that seeding-machines and mowers are “frequently” found “even on very small farms”! And if Hertz draws the “conclusion” that, “judged by statistics, Kautsky’s assertion will not stand criticism”, who is it that really employs feuilleton methods?

It should be pointed out as a curiosity that whereas the “Critics” deny the superiority of large-scale farming in regard to the use of machinery and deny the overwork and under consumption caused by this fact in small farming, they outrageously contradict themselves when compelled to deal with the actual facts of the situation (and when they forget their “principal task”—to refute “orthodox” Marxism). Thus, in Volume II of his book (p. 115) Mr. Bulgakov says: "Large-scale farming always works with greater capital intensity than small-scale farming, and therefore, naturally, gives preference to the mechanical factors of production over live labour-power.” That Mr. Bulgakov as a “Critic” should follow Messrs. Struve and Tugan-Baranovsky in their inclination towards vulgar political economy by contrasting mechanical “factors of production” to live factors is indeed quite “natural”. But is it natural that he should so incautiously deny the superiority of large-scale farming?

On concentration in agricultural production Mr. Bulgakov can find no other words with which to express himself than “the mystical law of concentration”, and so forth. But he comes up against the figures for England, and they show that a tendency towards the concentration of farms was   observed from the fifties to the end of the seventies. “Small subsistence farms combined into larger farms,” writes Mr. Bulgakov. “This consolidation of land was by no means the result of the conflict between large-scale and small-scale production [?] but of a conscious [?!] striving on the part of the landlords to increase their rents by combining several small farms which provided them with very low rents into large farms capable of paying them larger rents” (I, 239). We are to understand from this: Not conflict between large- scale and small-scale farming, but the elimination of the latter, because it is less remunerative. “Since farming is established on a capitalist basis, it is indisputable that within certain limits large-scale capitalist farming possesses undoubted advantages over small-scale capitalist farming” (I, 239-40). If this is indisputable, why the clamour? Why did Mr. Bulgakov cry murder (in Nachalo) against Kautsky, who begins his chapter on large-scale and small-scale production (in his Agrarian Question) with the statement: “The more capitalistic agriculture becomes, the more qualitative be comes the difference in technique between large-scale and small-scale production”?

But not only the period of prosperity of English agriculture—also the period of crisis leads to conclusions unfavourable to small-scale farming. The reports of commissions published during recent years “with astonishing per sistence assert that the crisis has most severely affected the small farmers” (I, 311). One report dealing with small owners says: “Their homes are worse than the average labourers’ cottages.... All of them work astonishingly hard and for many more hours than the labourers, and many of them say that their material conditions are not so good as those of the latter, that they do not live as well and rarely eat fresh meat.... The yeomen, burdened with mortgages, were the first to go under...” (I, 316). “They stint themselves in all things as only few labourers do.... The small farmers keep going as long as they are able to avail themselves of the unpaid labour of the members of their families.... It is hardly necessary to add that the living conditions of the small farmers are far worse than those of the labourers” (I, 320.21). We have quoted these passages so that the reader may judge the correctness of the following conclusion drawn by Mr.   Bulgakov: “The severe ruination of the farms which had survived until the epoch of the agrarian crisis indicates merely [!!] that in such circumstances small producers succumb more quickly than large producers—and nothing more [sic!!]. It is utterly impossible to draw from this any general conclusion concerning the economic viability of small farms, for in that epoch the whole of English agriculture was insolvent” (I, 333). Isn’t this priceless? And in the chapter dealing with the general conditions of development of peasant farming, Mr. Bulgakov even generalises this remarkable method of reasoning in the following manner: “A sudden drop in prices has a serious effect on all forms of production; but peasant production, having least capital at its disposal, is naturally less stable than large-scale production (which does not in the slightest affect the question of its general viability)” (II, 247). Thus, in capitalist society, enterprises having less capital at their disposal are less stable; but that does not affect their “general” viability!

Hertz is not more consistent in his reasoning. He “refutes” Kautsky (in the manner described above); but in discussing America he admits the superiority of large-scale farming in that country, which permits “the employment of machinery on a far larger scale than our parcellised farming permits” (S. 36, Russian translation, p. 93). He admits that “the European peasant, employing antiquated, routine methods of production, frequently toils [robotend] for a crust of bread like a labourer, without striving for anything better” (ibid.). Hertz admits generally that “small-scale production employs a relatively larger amount of labour than large-scale production” (S. 74, Russian translation, p. 177); he could well communicate to Mr. Bulgakov the data on the increase in yield resulting from the introduction of the steam plough (S. 67-68, Russian translation, pp. 162-63), etc.

The natural concomitant of our Critics’ faulty theoretical reasoning on the significance of agricultural machinery is their helpless repetition of the views of downright reactionary agrarians who are opposed to machinery. Hertz, it is true, still hesitates on this delicate point; in speaking of the “difficulties” in the way of introducing machinery in agriculture, he observes: “The opinion is expressed that so much free time is left in the winter that hand threshing is   more profitable” (S. 65, Russian translation, pp. 156-57). Apparently, Hertz, with the logic peculiar to him, is inclined to draw the conclusion that this is an argument, not against small production, not against the capitalist obstacles to the introduction of machinery, but against machinery! It is not surprising that Mr. Bulgakov chides Hertz for being “too closely tied to the opinion of his party” (II, 287). The Russian professor, of course, is above such degrading “ties” and proudly declares: “I am sufficiently free from the prejudice so widespread—particularly in Marxist literature—according to which every machine must be regarded as progress” (I, 48). Infortunately, the flight of imagination revealed in this magnificent piece of reasoning finds no correspondence in concrete conclusions. “The steam threshing-machine,” writes Mr. Bulgakov, “which deprives very many workers of winter occupation, spelt for the labourers an undoubtedly serious evil uncompensated by technical advantages.[4] Goltz, incidentally, points this out and even gives expression to a utopian desire” (II, 103), i.e., the desire to restrict the use of threshing-machines, particularly steam threshers, “in order”, adds he, “to improve the conditions of the agricultural labourers, as well as to reduce emigration and migration”,(by migration Goltz, in all probability, means movement to the towns).

We shall remind the reader that this Goltzian idea was also noted by Kautsky in his Agrarian Question. It will not be without interest, therefore, to compare the attitude of the narrow orthodox Marxist, steeped in Marxist prejudices, with that of the latter-day Critic who has excellently assimilated the whole spirit of “criticism” towards a concrete question of economics (the significance of machines) and politics (not to be restricted?).

Kautsky says (Agrarfrage, S. 41) that Goltz ascribes a particularly “harmful influence” to the threshing-machine: it deprives the agricultural labourers of their principal   winter occupation, drives them into the towns, and intensifies the depopulation of the countryside. Goltz proposes to restrict the use of the threshing-machine, and, Kautsky adds, proposes this “ostensibly in the interests of agricultural labourers, but in fact in the interests of the landlords, for whom,” as Goltz himself says, “the loss resulting from such restriction will be amply compensated—if not immediately, then in the future—by the larger number of workers they will be able to obtain in the summer-time”. “Fortunately,” continues Kautsky, “this conservative friendship for the labourers is nothing more nor less than reactionary utopianism. The threshing-machine is of too great an ’immediate’ advantage for the landlord to be induced to abandon its use for the sake of profits ’in the future’. And so, the thresher will continue to perform its revolutionary work; it will continue to drive the agricultural labourers into the towns, and as a result will become a powerful instrument for the raising of wages in the rural districts, on the one hand, and for. the further development of the agricultural machine industry, on the other.”

Mr. Bulgakov’s attitude towards the problem as presented by a Social-Democrat and by an agrarian is very characteristic; it is an example in miniature of the position all the contemporary “Critics” occupy midway between the party of the proletariat and the party of the bourgeoisie. The Critic, of course, is not so narrow-minded and not so banal as to adopt the point of view of the class struggle and the revolutionising of all social relationships by capitalism. On the other hand, however, although our Critic “has grown wiser”, the recollection of the time when he was “young and foolish”, and shared the prejudices of Marxism, prevents him from adopting in its entirety the programme of his new comrade, the agrarian, who quite reasonably and consistently passes from the conclusion that machinery is harmful “for the whole of agriculture” to the desire to prohibit its use. And our good Critic finds himself in the position of Buridan’s ass, between two bundles of hay. On the one hand, he has lost all understanding of the class struggle and is now capable of saying that machinery is harmful for “the whole of agriculture”, forgetting that the whole of modern agriculture is conducted mainly by entrepreneurs, who are concerned only   about their profit; he has so far forgotten “the years of his youth”, when he was a Marxist, that he now raises the extremely absurd question as to whether the technical advantages of machinery will “compensate” for its harmful effects upon the labourers (produced, not by the steam thresher alone, but by the steam plough, the mower, seed-sifter, etc.). He even fails to see that, in fact, the agrarian wants to enslave the labourer further both in winter and in summer. On the other hand, he vaguely recalls the obsolete, “dogmatic” prejudice that, prohibiting machinery is utopian. Poor Mr. Bulgakov! Will he manage to extricate himself from this unpleasant situation?

It is interesting to note that in trying in every way to belittle the significance of agricultural machinery, and even making use of the “law of diminishing returns”, our Critics have forgotten to mention (or have deliberately refrained from mentioning) the new technological revolution which electrical engineering is preparing in agriculture. But Kautsky, who, according to the extremely unfair judgement of Mr. P. Maslov, “committed a serious mistake in completely failing to indicate the course taken by the development of the productive forces in agriculture” (Zhizn, 1901, No. 3, p. 171), pointed to the significance of electricity in agriculture as far back as 1899 (in Die Agrarfrage). Today, the symptoms of the approaching technological revolution are much more distinct. Attempts are being made to elucidate theoretically the significance of electricity in agriculture (see Dr. Otto Pringsheim, Landwirtschaftliche Manulaktur und elektrische Landwirtschaft, [Agricultural Manufacture and Electrified Agriculture.—Ed.] Brauns Archiv, XV, 1900, S. 406-18; and Kautsky’s article in Neue Zeit,[9] XIX, 1, 1900-01, No. 18, “Die Elektrizität in der Landwirtschaft” [“Electricity in Agriculture.”—Ed.] ). Practical landlord’ farmers are describing their experiments in the application of electricity (Pringsheim cites a work by Adolf Seufferheld, who describes the experiments on his own farm). These landlords see in electricity a means of making agriculture once more remunerative. They call upon the government and the landlords to establish   central power stations and to organise the mass production of electricity for farmers. (Last year a work was published in Königsberg, written by P. Mack, an East-Prussian landlord, entitled Der Aufschwung unseres Landwirtschaftsbetriebes durch Verbilligung der Produktionskosten. Eine Untersuchung über den Dienst, den Maschinentechnik und Elektrizität der Landwirtschaft bieten. [The Rise in Our Agriculture Through Reduced Cost of Production. An Inquiry into the Services Offered to Agriculture by Mechanical Engineering and Electricity.—Ed.] )

Pringsheim makes what in our opinion is a very true observation: that, in its general technological, and perhaps even economic, level, modern agriculture is at a stage of development which more than anything resembles the stage of industry Marx described as “manufacture”. The predominance of hand labour and simple co-operation, the sporadic employment of machines, the relatively small extent of production (if we consider, for example, the total annual volume of products sold by a single enterprise), the relatively limited market for the most part, the connection between large- and small-scale production (the latter, like the handicrafts man in his relation to the big master-manufacturer, supplies the former with labour-power—or else the former buys up the “semi-finished articles” from the latter; thus, the big farmer buys beets, cattle, etc., from the small farmers)— all these are symptoms of the fact that agriculture has not yet reached the stage of real “large-scale machine industry” in the Marxian sense. In agriculture there is no “system of machines” as yet linked into one productive mechanism.

Of course, this comparison must not be carried too far. On the one hand, agriculture possesses certain peculiar features that cannot possibly he removed (if we leave aside the extremely remote and problematic possibility of producing protein and foods in laboratories). Owing to these peculiarities, large-scale machine production will never manifest in agriculture all the features it possesses in industry. On the other hand, even in the manufacture stage of development large-scale production in industry reached predominance and considerable technical superiority over small-scale production.   For a long time the small producer tried to counteract this superiority by the lengthened working day and curtailed consumption which are so characteristic of the handicrafts man and of the modern small peasant. The predominance of hand labour in the manufacture stage enabled the small producer to hold his own for a time by “heroic” measures such as these. But those who were deceived by this and talked about the viability of the handicraftsman (even as our contemporary Critics talk of the viability of the peasant) very soon found themselves refuted by the “temporary tendency” which paralysed the “universal law” of technological stagnation. Let us recall, for instance, the Russian investigators into the handicraft weaving industry in Moscow Gubernia in the seventies. As far as cotton weaving was concerned, they said, the hand weaver was doomed; the machine had triumphed. The handicraft silk weaver, however, may still hold his own for a time, the machinery being still far from perfect. Two decades have passed, and machinery has driven the small producer from still another of his last refuges, as if telling those who have ears to hear and eyes to see that the economist must always look forward, towards technological progress, or else be left behind at once; for he who will not look ahead turns his back on history; there is not and there cannot be any middle path.

“Writers who, like Hertz, in treating of competition between small- and large-scale production in agriculture ignored electrical engineering, must start their investigation all over again,” aptly remarked Pringsheim, which remark applies with still greater force to Mr. Bulgakov’s two-volume work.

Electricity is cheaper than steam power. It is more easily divisible into small units, it can be more easily transmitted over very long distances; machinery powered by electricity runs more smoothly and precisely, and for that reason it is more convenient to use it in threshing, ploughing, milking, cutting fodder,[5] etc. Kautsky describes one of the Hungarian   latifundia[6] in which electricity is transmitted from a central station in all directions to the remote parts of the estate and is used for running agricultural machinery, for chopping mangels, for raising water, for lighting, etc., etc. “In order to pump 300 hectolitres a day from a well 29 metres deep into a reservoir 10 metres high, and in order to prepare fodder for 240 cows, 200 calves, and 60 oxen and horses, i.e., for chopping mangels, etc., two pairs of horses were required in the winter and one pair in the summer, at a cost of 1,500 gulden. Now, the horses have been replaced by a three and a five h.p. motor costing altogether 700 gulden to maintain, which represents a saving of 800 gulden” (Kautsky, loc. cit.). Mack calculates the cost of a horse-workday at 3 marks; but if the horse is replaced by electricity the cost is 40 to 75 pfennigs, i.e., four to seven times cheaper. If in 50 years or more from now, he says, 1,750,000 of the horses used in German agriculture were supplanted by electricity (in 1895, 2,600,000 horses, 1,000,000 oxen, and 2,300,000 cows were used for field work in German agriculture, of which 1,400,000 horses and 400,000 oxen were used on farms exceeding 20 hectares in area), expenses would be reduced from 1,003,000,000 marks to 261,000,000 marks, i.e., by 742,000,000 marks. An enormous area of land now utilised for raising cattle feed could then be turned to the production of food—for the improvement of the food of the workers, whom Mr. Bulgakov tries so much to scare with the prospect of the “diminution of the gifts of Nature”, “the grain problem”, and so forth. Mack strongly recommends the uniting of agriculture with industry for the permanent exploitation of electricity; he recommends the cutting of a Mazurian canal to provide power for five power stations which would distribute electricity to farmers within a radius of 20-25 kilometres. He recommends the use of peat for the same purpose, and demands the association of farmers: “Only in co-operative association with industry and big capital is it possible to make our branch of industry profitable once again” (Mack, S. 48). Of course, the employment of new methods of production will encounter many difficulties; it will   not proceed in a straight line, but in zigzag fashion; however, that the employment of new methods will take place, that the revolution in agriculture is inevitable, can hardly be doubted. “The substitution of electric motors for the majority of draught animals,” rightly says Pringsheim, “means opening up the possibility of the machine system in agriculture.... What could not be achieved by steam power will certainly be achieved by electrical engineering, namely, the advancement of agriculture from the old manufacture stage to modern large—scale production” (loc. cit., p. 414.)

We shall not dilate upon the enormous victory the introduction of electrical engineering in agriculture will represent (and partly already represents) for large-scale production; it is too obvious to require emphasis. It will be better to see which modern farms contain the rudiments of this “machine system” that will be set in motion by a central power station. Before the machine system can be introduced, it is first of all necessary to test various kinds of machines, to conduct experiments with many combinations of machines. The information we require can be found in the returns of the German agricultural census of June 14, 1895. We have figures showing the number of farms in each category that used their own or hired machines. (Mr. Bulgakov, when citing some of these figures on page 114, Vol. II, erroneously takes them to apply to the number of machines used. In passing, it may be said that the statistics on the number of farms using machines, their own or hired, naturally bring out the superiority of large-scale farming to a smaller extent than is really the case. Big farmers have their own machines more often than small farmers, who are obliged to pay exorbitant prices for the hire of machines.) The data relate to the use either of machines in general, or of a certain kind of machine, so that we are not able to determine how many machines the farms in each group use. But if for each group we compute the number of farms using each separate kind of machine, we shall obtain the number of cases in which agricultural machines of all kinds are used. The following table presents the data drawn up in this manner and shows ho v the ground is being prepared for the “machine system” in agriculture.

Size of farms Per hundred farms
Number of farms that used agricultural machines generally (1895) Number of instances in which some kind of agricurtural machine was used (1895)
Under 2 hectares 2.03 2.30
2 to 5 13.81 15.46
5 to 20 45.80 56.04
20 to 100 78.79 128.46
100 and over 94.16 352.34
Average 16.36 22.36

Thus, in small farms under five hectares (these comprise more than three-fourths of the total in this group, viz., 4,100,000 out of 5,500,000, or 75.5 per cent; but they account for only 5,000,000 hectares out of a total of 32,500,000 hectares, or 15.6 per cent), the number of cases in which agricultural machines of any type are used (we have included dairy machinery) is quite insignificant. Of the medium farms (from 5 to 20 hectares) fewer than half use machines generally, while the number of instances showing use of agricultural machines represents only 56 per hundred farms. Only under large-scale capitalist production[7] do we see the majority of farms (from three-quarters to nine-tenths) using machinery and the beginning of the establishment of a machine system: on every farm there is more than one case of use of machinery. This means that several machines are used on a single farm: for example, farms of over 100 hectares use about four machines each (352 per cent as compared with 94 per cent using machines generally). Of 572 latifundia (farms of 1,000 hectares and over), 555 use machines; and the number of cases in which machines were used is 2,800, i.e., each farm used five machines. It is clear from this which farms are preparing the ground for the “electrical” revolution and which will mostly take advantage of it.



[1] Hertz, with a particularly “triumphant” air, insists upon this, contending that the “absolute” judgement (S. 65, Russian translation, p. 156) that the steam plough is superior to the horse plough “under all circumstances” is false. This is precisely what is called forcing an open door! —Lenin

[2] This faulty method is repeated in David’s work Socialism and Agriculture, St. Petersburg, 1906, p. 179. (Author’s note to the 1908 edition.–Ed.) —Lenin

[3] Statistik des deulachen Reichs, 112. Bd., S. 36*. —Lenin

[4] Cf. Vol. I, p. 51: "... the steam thresher ... performs the bulk of the work in winter when there is a scarcity of work as it is (consequently, the usefulness of the machine for agriculture as a whole [sic!!] is more than doubtful; we shall come across this fact again later on).” —Lenin

[5] This is for the information of our bold Mr. Bulgakov, who boldly and groundlessly speaks of “branches of agricultural production in which machinery cannot be used at all, as, for example, live stock farming” (I, 49). —Lenin

[6] Again for the information of Mr. Bulgakov, who talks of “the latifundian degeneration of large-scale farming”! —Lenin

[7] Over 20 hectares; only 300,000 farms out of 5,500,000, i.e., only 5.5 per cent of the total, but they occupy 17,700,000 hectares of land out of 32,500,000, or 54.4 per cent of the total farmland. —Lenin

[8] Sozialistische Monatshefte (Socialist Monthly)—the principal organ of the opportunists in German Social-Democracy and one of the organs of international opportunism. During the imperialist world war (1914-18) the magazine adopted a social-chauvinist position. It was published in Berlin from 1897 to 1933.

[9] Die Neue Zeit (New Times)—a German Social-Democratic magazine published in Stuttgart from 1883 to 1923. Between 1885 and 1895 the magazine published some of Engels’ articles. Engels often gave pointers to the editors of Die Neue Zeit and sharply criticised their deviations from Marxism. Beginning with the middle nineties, after Engels’ death, the magazine propagated Karl Kautsky’s views and regularly published articles by revisionists. During the imperialist world war (1914-18) the magazine occupied a Centrist position and in actuality supported the social-chauvinists.

  The Theory of Rent | The Abolition of the Antithesis Between Town and Country. Particular Questions Raised by the “Critics”  

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