V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Question and the “Critics of Marx”



The “Ideal Country” from the Standpoint of the Opponents of Marxism on the Agrarian Question[1]

Agrarian relations and the agrarian system in Denmark are especially interesting for the economist. We have already seen[2] that Ed. David, the principal representative of revisionism in contemporary literature on the agrarian question, strongly stresses the example of the Danish agricultural unions and Danish (supposedly) “small peasant” farming. Heinrich Pudor, whose work Ed. David uses, calls Denmark “the ideal country of agricultural co-operation”.[3] In Russia, too, the exponents of liberal and Narodnik   views no less frequently resort to Denmark as their “trump card” against Marxism in support of the theory of the vitality of small-scale production in agriculture—take, for example, the speech of the liberal Hertzenstein in the First Duma and that of the Narodnik Karavayev in the Second Duma.

Compared with other European countries, “small-peasant” farming is indeed most widespread in Denmark; and agriculture, which has managed to adapt itself to the new requirements and conditions of the market, is most prosperous there. If “prosperity” is possible for small-scale farming in countries with commodity production, then, of course, of all European countries, Denmark is most favourably situated in that respect. A close study of the agrarian system in Denmark is, therefore, doubly interesting. We shall see from the example of a whole country what methods are employed by the revisionists in the agrarian question, and what the main features of the capitalist agrarian system really are in the “ideal” capitalist country.

Denmark’s agricultural statistics are compiled on the model of those of other European countries. In some respects, however, they give more detailed information and more elaborate figures, which enable one to study aspects of the question that usually remain in the shade. Let us start with the general data on the distribution of farms by groups according to area. We shall calculate the “hartkorn”, the customary measure of land in Denmark, in terms of hectares, counting 10 hectares to one hartkorn, as indicated in the Danish agricultural statistics.[4]

Danish agricultural statistics give information on the distribution of farms for the years 1873, 1885, and 1895. All the farms are divided into 11 groups, as follows: owning no land; up to 0.3 hectares (to be more precise: up to 1/32 of a hartkorn); 0.3 to 2.5 ha; 2.5 to 10 ha; 10 to 20 ha; 20 to 40 ha; 40 to 80 ha; 80 to 120 ha; 120 to 200 ha; 200 to 300 ha; 300 ha and over. To avoid the attention of the reader   being excessively dispersed, we shall combine these groups into six larger groups.

  1873 1885 1895
Owning no land 31,253 13.3 35,329 13.6 32,946 12.4
Up to 2.5 ha 65,490 27.9 54,340 1.5 82,487 31.8 62,260 1.7 92,656 34.8 63,490 1.8
2.5 to 10 " 65,672 27.9 333,760 9.1 67,773 26.2 345,060 9.5 66,491 25.0 341,020 9.4
10 to 40 " 41,671 17.7 928,310 25.5 43,740 16.9 966,850 26.5 44,557 16.8 981,070 26.8
40 to 120 " 29,288 12.5 1,809,590 49.6 27,938 10.8 1,722,820 47.1 27,301 10.3 1,691,950 46.4
120 ha and over 1,856 0.7 522,410 14.3 1,953 0.7 551,530 15.2 2,031 0.7 568,220 15.6
Total 235,230 100.0 3,648,410 100.0 259,220 100.0 3,648,520 100.0 265,982 100.0 3,645,750 100.0

The main conclusion to be drawn first of all from these data—one which bourgeois political economists and the revisionists who follow in their footsteps usually lose sight of—is that the bulk of the land in Denmark is owned by farmers engaged in capitalist agriculture. There can be no doubt that not only farmers owning 120 hectares and over run their farms with the aid of hired labour, but also those owning 40 hectares or more. These two higher groups accounted for only 11 per cent of the total number of farms in 1895, but they owned 62 per cent, or more than three-fifths of the total land. The basis of Danish agriculture is large-scale and medium capitalist agriculture. All the talk about a “peasant country” and “small-scale farming” is Sheer bourgeois apologetics, a distortion of the facts by various titled and untitled ideologists of capital.

It should be mentioned in this connection that in Den mark, as in other European countries where the capitalist system of agriculture is fully established, the share of the higher capitalist groups in the whole national economy changes only slightly in the course of time. In 1873, 13.2 per cent of the capitalist farms occupied 63.9 per cent of all the land; in 1885, 11.5 per cent of the farms occupied 62.3 per cent of the land. This stability of large-scale farming must always be borne in mind when comparing the data for different years; for it is often possible to notice in the literature that the main features of the given socio economic system are glossed over by means of such comparisons concerning changes in details.

As in other European countries, the mass of small farms in Denmark account for an insignificant part of the total agricultural production. In 1895, the number of farms with areas of up to 10 hectares accounted for 72.2 per cent of the total number of farms, but they occupied only 11.2 per cent of the land. In the main, this ratio was the same in 1885 and in 1873. Often the small farms belong to semi proletarians—as we have seen, the German statistics bore this out fully in regard to farms of up to two hectares, arid partly also in regard to farms of up to five hectares. Later   on, when quoting figures of livestock owned by the farms in the various groups, we shall see that there can be no question of any really independent and more or loss stable agriculture as far as the bulk of these notorious representatives of “small-scale farming” are concerned. 47.2 per cent, i. e., nearly half of the farms are proletarian or semi-proletarian (those owning no land and those owning up to 2.5 hectares); 25 per cent, i.e., a further quarter of the farms (2.5 to 10 hectares), belong to needy small peasants— such is the basis of the “prosperity” of agricultural capitalism in Denmark. Of course, land area statistics can give us only a general idea in total figures of a country with highly developed commercial livestock farming. As the reader will see, however, the figures of livestock, which we examine in detail below, only strengthen the conclusions that have been drawn.

Now let us see what changes took place in Denmark between 1873 and 1895 in the distribution of land as between big and small farms. What strikes us immediately here is the typically capitalist increase at the extremes, and the diminution in the proportion of medium farms. Taking the number of agricultural farms (not counting farms with out land), the proportion of the smallest farms, those up to 2.5 hectares, increased 27.9 per cent in 1873, 31.8 per cent in 1885, and 34.8 per cent in 1895. The proportion diminished in all the medium groups, and only in the highest group, 120 hectares and over, did it remain unchanged (0.7 per cent). The percentage of the total land occupied by the largest farms, 120 hectares and over, increased, being 14.3 per cent, 15.2 per cent, and 15.6 per cent in the respective years; there was also an increase, but not to the same extent, among the medium peasant farms (those from 10 to 40 hectares: 25.5 per cent, 26.5 per cent, and 26.8 per cent for the respective years), while the total number of farms in this group diminished. There is an irregular in crease in the farms of 2.5 to 10 hectares (9.1 per cent, 9.5 per cent, and 9.4 per cent for the respective years) and a steady increase in the smallest farms (1.5 per cent, 1.7 per cent, and 1.8 per cent). As a result, we have a very clearly marked tendency towards growth of the biggest and smallest farms. To obtain a clearer idea of this phenomenon we   must take the average area of farms according to groups for the respective years. Here are the figures:

Groups of farms Average area of farms (hectares)
1873 1885 1895
Up to 2.5 ha 0.83 0.75 0.68
2.5 to 10 " 5.08 5.09 5.13
40 to 40 22.28 22.08 22.01
40 to 12O 61.00 61.66 61.97
120 ha and over 281.40 282.30 279.80
Average 15.50 14.07 13.70

From these statistics we see that in the majority of groups the area of farms is extremely stable. The fluctuations are insignificant, being one to two per cent (for example: 279.8 to 282.3 hectares, or 22.01 to 22.28 hectares, etc.). The only exception is seen in the smallest farms, which are undoubtedly splitting up: a decrease in the average area of those farms (up to 2.5 hectares) by ten per cent between 1873 and 1885 (from 0.83 hectares to 0.75 hectares) and also between 1885 and 1895. The general increase in the total number of farms in Denmark is proceeding with almost no change in the total area of land (between 1885 and 1895 there was even a slight decrease in the total area of land). The increase in the main affects the smallest farms. Thus, between 1873 and 1895 the total number of farms increased by 30,752, while the number of farms up to 2.5 hectares increased by 27,166. Clearly, this decrease in the average area of all farms in Denmark (15.5 hectares in 1873, 14.1 in 1885, and 13.7 in 1895) really signifies nothing more than the splitting-up of the smallest farms.

The phenomenon we have noted becomes still more striking when we take the smaller divisions of groups. In the preface to the Danish agricultural statistics for 1895 (Dan marks Statistik, etc. Danmarks Jordbrug, 4-de Raekke,   Nr. 9, litra C)[5] the compilers show the following changes in the number of farms according to groups:

Groups of farms Per cent increase or decrease
1885 to 1895 1873 to 1885
300 ha and Over +4.2 +5.0
200 to 300 ha 0 +6.1
120 to 200 " +5.2 +5.1
80 to 120 " —1.5 —2.1
40 to 80 " —2.4 —5.0
20 to 40 " +1.0 +3.6
10 to 20 " +2.8 +6.5
2.5 to 10 " —1.9 +3.2
0.3 to 2.5 " +2.1 +17.8
0 to 0.3 " +25.1 +37.9

Thus, the increase takes place in dwarf farms, which are either farms devoted to the cultivation of special crops or wage workers’ “farms”.

This conclusion is worth noting, because apologist professorial “science” is inclined to deduce from the decrease in the average area of all farms that small-scale production is beating large-scale production in agriculture. Actually we see progress in the largest scale agriculture, stability in the sizes of farms in all groups except the very smallest, and the splitting-up of the farms in this last group. This splitting-up must be ascribed to the decline and impoverishment of small-scale farming: another possible explanation, namely, the transition from agriculture in the narrow sense of the word to livestock farming, cannot be applied to all the smallest farms, for this transition is taking place in all groups, as we shall see in a moment. For the purpose of judging the scale on which farming is conducted in a country like Denmark, statistics on livestock farming are far more important than statistics on farm areas, be cause farming on different scales can be conducted on the same area of land when livestock and dairy farming are developing at a particularly fast rate.

It is well known that it is just this phenomenon that is observed in Denmark. The “prosperity” of Danish agriculture is due mainly to the rapid successes of commercial livestock rearing and the export of dairy produce, meaty eggs, etc., to Britain. Here we meet with the solemn statement by Pudor that Denmark “owes the colossal development of her dairy farming to the decentralisation of her cattle-breeding and livestock farming” (loc. cit., p. 48, Pudor’s italics). It is not surprising that a man like Pudor, an out-and-out huckster in his whole system of views, who totally fails to understand the contradictions of capitalism, should take the liberty of distorting facts in this way. It. is highly characteristic, however, that the petty bourgeois David, who, by some misunderstanding, passes as a socialist, uncritically trails along in his wake!

As a matter of fact, Denmark serves as a striking example of the concentration of livestock farming in a capitalist country. That Pudor arrived at the opposite conclusion is due only to his crass ignorance and to the fact that he distorted the scraps of statistics which he quotes in his pamphlet. Pudor quotes, and David slavishly repeats after him, figures showing the distribution of the total number of livestock farms in Denmark according to the number of animals per farm. According to Pudor, 39.85 per cent of the total number of farms having livestock have only from one to three animals each; 29.12 per cent have from four to nine animals each, etc. Hence, Pudor concludes, most of the farms are “small”; “decentralisation”, etc.

In the first place Pudor quotes the wrong figures. This has to be noted, because Pudor boastfully declares that in his book one may find all the “latest” figures; and the revisionists “refute Marxism” by referring to ignorant bourgeois scribblers. Secondly, and this is most important, the method of argument employed by the Pudors and Davids is too often repeated by our Cadets and Narodniks for us to refrain from dealing with it. Following such a method of argument we should inevitably come to the conclusion that industry in the most advanced capitalist countries is becoming “decentralised”; for everywhere and always the percentage of very small and small establishments is highest, and the percentage of large establishments is insignificant.   The Pudors and the Davids forget a “trifle”: the concentration of by far the greater part of total production in large enterprises which constitute only a small percentage of the total number of enterprises. The actual distribution of the total cattle in Denmark according to the last census, taken on July 15, 1898, is shown in the following table.[6]

Farms having Number
of farms
1 head of cattle 18,376 10.2 18,376 1.0
2 " " " 27,394 15.2 54,788 3.1
3 " " " 22,522 12.5 67,566 3.9
4 to 5 " " " 27,561 15.2 121,721 7.0
6 to " " " 26,022 14.4 188,533 10.8
10 to 14 " " " 20,375 11.3 242,690 13.9
15 to 29 " " " 30,460 16.9 615,507 35.3
30 to 49 " " " 5,650 3.1 202,683 11.6
50 to 99 " " " 1,498 0.8 99,131 5.7
100 to 199 " " " 588 0.3 81,417 4.7
200 head of cattle and over 195 0.1 52,385 3.0
Total 180,641 100.0 1,744,797 100.0

We see from this what role in the total livestock farming in Denmark is played by the numerous small farms and the few big farms, and what the famous “decentralisation” of production in the “ideal country” really amounts to. Small farms having one to three head of cattle number 68,292, or 37.9 per cent of the total; they have 140,730 head, i. e., only 8 per cent of the total. An almost equal number, 133,802, or 7.7 per cent, is owned by 783 big farmers comprising 0.4 per cent of the total number of farmers. Those in the first group have on an average a little over two head of cattle each, i.e., an obviously inadequate number with which to carry on commercial livestock farming; dairy and meat   products can only be sold by cutting down household consumption (let us recall well-known facts: butter is sold and cheaper margarine is purchased for home use, etc.). Those in the second group have on an average 171 head of cattle each. They are the biggest capitalist farmers, “manufacturers” of milk and. meat; “leaders” of technical progress and of all sorts of agricultural associations, about which petty-bourgeois admirers of “social peace” wax so enthusiastic.

If we add together the small and medium farmers we shall get a total of 121,875 farmers, or two-thirds of the total (67.5 per cent), who own up to nine head of cattle each. They own 450,984 head of cattle, or one-fourth of the total (25.8 per cent). An almost equal number, i.e., 435,616 (25 per cent) is owned by farmers having 30 and more head of cattle each. Those farmers number 7,931, or 4.3 per cent of the total. “Decentralisation” indeed!

By combining the small divisions of Danish statistics given above into three large groups we get the following:

Farms having Number
of farms
of cattle
1 to 3 head of cattle 68,292 37.9 140,730 8.0 2.1
4 to 9 " " " 53,583 29.6 310,254 17.8 5.8
10 head and over 58,766 32.5 1,293,813 74.2 22.0
Total 180,641 100.0 1,744,797 100.0 9.7

Thus, three-fourths of the total livestock farming in Denmark is concentrated in the hands of 58,766 farmers, that is, less than one-third of the total number of farmers. This one-third enjoys the lion’s share of all the “prosperity” of capitalism in Danish agriculture. It should be borne in mind that this high percentage of well-to-do peasants and rich capitalists (32.5 per cent, or nearly one-third) is obtained by an artificial method of calculation which eliminates all farmers who own no livestock. Actually, the percentage   is much lower. According to the census of 1895, as we have seen, the total number of farmers in Denmark is 265,982; and the livestock census of July 15, 1898, puts the total number of farmers at 278,673. In relation to this actual total number of farmers, the 58,766 well-to-do and rich farmers represent only 21.1 per cent, i.e., only one-fifth. The number of “farmers” who own no land is 12.4 per cent of the total number of farmers in Denmark (1895: 32,946 out of 265,982), while the farmers who own no livestock[7]   represent 35.1 per cent of the total number of farmers in Denmark, i.e., more than one-third (1898: 98,032 out of 278,673). One can judge from this the “socialism” of gentlemen of the David type who fail to see that the capitalist prosperity of Danish agriculture is based on the mass   proletarianisation of the rural population, on the fact that the mass of the “farmers” are deprived of the means of production.

Agriculture and Livestock Farming in Denmark According to the Census of July 15, 1898
Groups of farms Number of farms Per
Hectares Per
Horses Per
Cows Per
Total cattle Per
Sheep Per
Pigs Per
Poultry Per
Owning no land 13,435 4.8 1,970 0.5 3,707 0.3 4,633 0.3 8,943 0.8 8,865 0.8 220,147 2.5
Amount of land unknown 45,898 16.5 ? ? 28,909 6.4 28,072 2.6 42,150 2.4 42,987 4.0 42,699 3.7 780,585 8.9
Up to 2.5 ha 80,582 28.9 55,272 1.5 24,540 5.5 66,171 6.2 88,720 5.1 99,705 9.3 94,656 8.1 1,649,452 18.8
2.5 to 10 63,420 22.8 323,430 8.9 54,900 12.2 175,182 16.4 247,618 14.2 187,460 17.5 191,291 16.4 1,871,242 21.4
10 to 40 45,519 16.3 984,983 27.0 133,793 29.8 303,244 28.5 515,832 29.6 383,950 35.7 308,863 26.4 1,957,726 22.3
40 to 120 27,620 9.9 1,692,285 46.4 168,410 37.5 361,669 33.9 639,563 36.6 310,686 28.9 409,294 35.0 1,998,595 22.8
120 ha and over 2,201 0.8 588,318 16.2 36,807 8.1 129,220 12.1 206,281 11.8 40,682 3.8 112,825 9.6 289,155 3.3
Total 278,673 100.0 3,644,288 100.0 449,329 100.0 1,067,265 100.0 1,744,797 100.0 1,074,413 100.0 1,168,493 100.0 8,766,902 100.0

Note: The figures for 1898 differ from those for 1895 in regard to the distribution of farms according to the amount of land. This may be due both to changes in time and to somewhat different methods of collecting information. But the general relation between the groups remains the same. The census of 1895 takes into account   45,860 hectares of undistributed land in addition to 3,645,750 hectares of distributed land. The group of farms with “amount of land unknown” (1898) consists largely of the lower groups, which is proved by tile number of livestock.

We shall now pass to the figures characterising agriculture and livestock farming in Denmark as a whole. The census of July 15, 1898 gives detailed information on the number of livestock of the various groups of farmers owning certain amounts of land. The number of these groups in the Danish statistics is particularly large (14 groups: with no land; with up to 1/32 of a hartkorn; 1/32 to 1/16; 1/16 to 1/8; 1/8 to 1/4; 1/4 to 1/2; 1/2 to 1; 1 to 2; 2 to 4; 4 to 8; 8 to 12; 12 to 20; 20 to 30; 30 and over); but we have reduced them to 6 large groups, as we did with the preceding figures.

From these figures we see first of all how great is the concentration of livestock farming as a whole in Denmark. Big capitalist farmers owning over 40 hectares of land constitute only one-tenth of the total number of farmers (10.7 per cent); but they concentrate in their hands more than three-fifths of all the land (62.6 per cent) and nearly half of all the livestock: 45.6 per cent of all the horses, 48.4 per cent of all the cattle, 32,7 per cent of all the sheep, and 44.6 per cent of all the pigs.

If to these capitalist farmers we add the well-to-do peas ants, i. e., those owning from 10 to 40 hectares, we shall get a little over a quarter of the total number of farmers (27.0 per cent) who concentrate in their hands nine-tenths of all the land, three-fourths of all the horses, four-fifths of all the cattle, seven-tenths of all the. pigs, and nearly half of all the poultry. The great bulk of the “farmers”, nearly three-fourths (73 per cent), own less than 10 hectares of land each and, on the whole, represent the proletarianised and semi-proletarianised mass, which plays an insignificant part in the sum total of the country’s agricultural and livestock economy.

As far as the distribution of the various types of animals is concerned, sheep and pig breeding deserve special attention. The first is a declining branch of livestock farming, unprofitable for the majority of European countries at the present time owing to market conditions and over seas competition. The state of the international market calls for other forms of livestock farming to take the place of sheep farming. On the other hand, pig breeding is a particularly profitable and rapidly developing branch of livestock farming for meat in Europe. Statistics show that sheep farming is also declining in Denmark, whereas pig breeding is increasing very rapidly. From 1861 to 1898, the number of sheep in Denmark dropped from 1,700,000 to 1,100,000. The number of cattle increased from 1,100,000 to 1,700,000. The number of pigs increased from 300,000 to 1,200,000, i.e., almost a fourfold increase.

Comparing the distribution of sheep and pigs among the small and big farms we thus clearly see in the former the maximum of routine, the least adaptability to the requirements   of the market, and slowness in readjusting the farm to the new conditions. The big capitalist farms (40 to 120 hectares, 120 hectares and over) cut down unprofitable sheep farming most (28.9 per cent and 3.8 per cent of sheep, as against 33-37 per cent and 8-12 per cent of other types of live stock). The small farms were less adaptable: they still keep a larger number of sheep; for example, farms up to 2.5 hectares have 9.3 per cent of the total number of sheep, as against 6-5 per cent of the other types of livestock. They possess 8.1 per cent of the pigs—a smaller proportion than of sheep. The capitalists have 35 and 9.6 per cent, i.e., a larger share than of sheep. Capitalist agriculture is much better able to adapt itself to the requirements of the inter national market. In regard to the peasant, we still have to say, in the words of Marx: the peasant turns merchant and industrialist without the conditions enabling him to become a real merchant and industrialist.[10] The market demands of every farmer, as an absolute necessity, submission to the new conditions and speedy adjustment to them. But this speedy adjustment is impossible without capital. Thus, under capitalism small-scale farming is condemned to the utmost of routine and backwardness and the least adaptability to the market.

To envisage more concretely the real economic features of this needy mass and of the small wealthy minority, we shall quote figures of the average amount of land and livestock on the farms of the various groups. It is natural for bourgeois political economy (and for the revisionist gentry) to gloss over capitalist contradictions; socialist political economy must ascertain the difference in types of farms and standard of living between the prosperous capitalist farmers and the needy small farmers. See table, page 208.

Average per Farm
Groups of farms Hec-
Horses Cows Total
Sheep Pigs Poul-
Owning no land 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.7 0.7 16.4
Amount of land unknown ? 0.6 0.6 0.9 0.9 0.9 17.0
Up to 2.5 ha 0.6 0.3 0.8 1.1 1.2 1.2 20.4
2.5 to 10 " 5.1 0.9 2.7 3.9 2.9 3.0 29.5
10 to 40 " 21.6 2.9 6.6 11.3 8.4 6.8 43.0
40 to 120 " 61.3 6.1 13.8 23.1 11.2 14.9 72.4
120 ha and over " 267.3 16.7 58.7 93.7 18.5 51.2 131.3
Average 13.1 1.6 3.8 6.3 3.9 4.2 31.5

These figures clearly show that all three lower groups, comprising half the total number of farms, belong to poor peasants. “Farmers” owning no horses and no cows predominate. Only in the group with land up to 2.5 hectares is there one whole head of cattle, one sheep, and one pig per farm. Obviously, there can be no question of this half of the total number of farms making any profit out of dairy and meat livestock farming. For this half, the prosperity of Danish agriculture means dependence upon the big   farmers, the necessity of seeking “auxiliary employment”, i.e., of selling their labour power in one way or another, perpetual poverty and semi-ruined farms.

Of course, this conclusion holds good only for the whole mass of those poorest farms. We have already shown with the aid of German, French, and Russian agricultural statistics that even among the farms having a small amount of land there are big livestock owners, tobacco growers, and so forth. The differentiation is deeper than can be imagined from the returns of Danish statistics. But this differentiation, by singling out in each group an insignificant minority of farms growing special crops, only emphasises the poverty and want of the majority of the farmers in the poorest groups.

Further, it is also evident from the figures quoted that even the group of small peasants owning from 2.5 hectares to 10 hectares cannot be regarded as being at all secure and economically well established. Let us recall the fact that in this group there are 63,000 farms, or 22.8 per cent of the total, and that the average is 0.9 horses per farm. The horseless farmers probably use their cows for draught, thus worsening the conditions of both agricultural farming (shallower ploughing) and livestock farming (weakening the cattle). The average number of cows in this group is   2.7 per farm. Even if the household consumption of milk and meat products is reduced—and such a reduction is it self a direct sign of bitter need—this number of cows could provide only a very small quantity of products for sale. The share such farms with an average of 2.7 cows and 3 pigs per household enjoy in the “prosperity” of the “national” sale of milk and meat to Britain can only be very in significant. With farms of this size, commercial agriculture and livestock farming mean, partly, selling what is necessary for the family, poorer diet, increased poverty, and partly, selling in very small quantities, i. e., under the most disadvantageous conditions, and the impossibility of having money put by to meet inevitable extra expenses. And the natural economy of the small peasant under the conditions prevailing in modern capitalist countries is doomed to stagnation, to a slow painful death; it certainly cannot prosper. The whole “trick” of bourgeois and revisionist political economy lies in not making a separate study of the conditions of this particular type of small farm, which is below the “average” (the “average” Danish farmer has 1.6 horses and 3.8 cows), and which represents the overwhelming majority of the total number of farms. Not only is this type of farm not specially studied; it is glossed over by references exclusively to “average” figures, to the general increase in “production” and “sales”, and by saying nothing about the fact that only the well-to-do farms, which represent the small minority, can sell profitably.

It is only among the farmers having from 10 to 40 hectares that we see a sufficient number of livestock to create the possibility of “prosperity”. But these farms represent only 16 per cent of the total. And it is questionable whether they manage entirely without hired labour, since they have on an average 21.6 hectares of land per farm. In view of the high degree of intensive farming in Denmark, farms of such dimensions probably cannot be carried on without the assistance of farm-hands or day-labourers. Unfortunately, both Danish statisticians and the majority of those who write about Danish agriculture adhere entirely to the bourgeois point of view and do not explore the question of hired labour, the size of farms requiring its employment, and so forth. From the Danish census of occupations of 1901   we learn only that in the group of “day-labourers”, etc., there are 60,000 men and 56,000 women, i. e., 116,000 out of a total of 972,000 of the rural population distributed according to occupation. As to whether these tens of thou sands of wage-workers (and in addition to them small peasants do “by work” for hire) are employed exclusively by the 30,00O big capitalist farmers (27,620 owning from 40 to 120 hectares and 2,201 owning over 120 hectares each), or whether some of them are also employed by the well-to-do peasants owning from 10 to 40 hectares, we have no information.

Of the two highest groups, the upper Thirty Thousand of Danish agriculture, there is little to say: the capitalist character of their agriculture and livestock farming is graphically illustrated by the figures quoted at the beginning.

Finally, the last data of general interest touched upon and partly analysed in Danish agricultural statistics are those relating to the question whether the development of livestock farming, that main foundation of the “prosperity” of the “ideal country”, is accompanied by a process of decentralisation or concentration. The statistics for 1898, already quoted by us, provide extremely interesting data compared with those for 1893; and for one type of livestock, the most important, it is true, namely, total cattle, we can also make a comparison between the figures for 1876 and 1898.

Between 1893 and 1898 the branch of livestock farming which made most progress in Denmark was pig breeding. Iii this period the number of pigs increased from 829,000 to 1,168,000, or by 40 per cent; while the number of horses increased only from 410,000 to 449,000, of cattle from 1,696,000 to 1,744,000, and the number of sheep even diminished. Who reaped the main benefits of this tremendous progress of the Danish farmers, united in innumerable co-operative societies? The compilers of the 1898 statistics answer this by comparing the returns for 1893 arid 1898. All the pig-owners are divided into four groups: big owners having 50 and more pigs; medium-big owners with from 15 to 49; medium-small owners with from 4 to 14; and small owners with from 1 to 3 pigs. The compilers give the following figures for these four groups:

Groups of farms 1893 1898 Per cent
or decrease
Per cent
tion of to-
tal pigs
Number of Number of
Farms Pigs Farms Pigs Farms Pigs 1893 1898
50 head and over 844 79,230 1,487 135,999 76.2 71.7 9.6 11.6
15 to 49 20,602 350,277 30,852 554,979 48.2 58.4 42.3 47.5
4 to 14 38,357 211,868 50,668 282,642 32.1 33.4 25.5 24.2
1 to 3 108,820 187,756 108,544 194,873 0.3 3.8 22.6 16.7
Total 168,623 829,131 191,551 1,168,493 13.6 40.9 100.0 100.0

These figures clearly show that a rapid concentration of livestock farming is taking place. The larger the farm, the more it gained from the “progress” of livestock farming. The big farms increased their number of livestock by 71.7 per cent; the medium-big farms increased theirs by 58.4 per cent; the medium-small farms by 33.4 per cent; and the small farms only by 3.8 per cent. The increase in wealth occurred mainly among the small “upper” minority. The total increase of pigs during the five years was 339,000; of these 261,000, or, more than three-fourths, were accounted for by the big and medium-big farms, numbering 32,000 (out of a total of 266,000-277,000 farms!). Small-scale production in livestock farming of this type is being ousted by large-scale production: during the five years there was an increase in the share of the big farms (from 9.6 per cent to 11.6 per cent) and that of the medium-big farms (from 42.3 per cent to 47.5 per cent); whereas that of the medium-small farms diminished (from 25.5 per cent to 24.2 per cent), and that of the small farms diminished still more (from 22.6 per cent to 16.7 per cent).

If instead of the hare figures of area we could get statistics of agricultural farming expressing the scale of production as precisely as the figures of the number of livestock   express[8] the scale of livestock farming, there is no doubt that here as well we would see the process of concentration which the bourgeois professors and opportunists deny.

Still more interesting are the corresponding figures of total cattle. We can supplement the comparison of the figures of 1893 and 1898 made by the compilers of the 1898 statistics with the returns of the census of July 17, 1876. (Danmarks Statistik. Statistik Tabelvaerk, 4-de Raekke, litra C, Nr. 1. Kreaturholdet d. 17 juli, 1876, København, 1878.) Here are the figures for the three years.

Groups of farms 1876 1893 1898 Per cent increase or
Per cent distri
bution of total
Number of Number of Number of 1876 to 1893 1893 to 1898
Number of Number of 1876 1893 1891
Farms Cattle Farms Cattle Farms Cattle Farms Cattle Farms Cattle
50 head and over 1,634 156,728 2,209 221,667 2,281 232,933 35.2 41.4 3.3 5.1 11.8 13.0 13.4
15 to 49 24,096 514,678 35,200 793,474 36,110 818,190 46.1 54.1 2.6 3.1 39.0 46.8 46.8
4 to 14 64,110 504,193 72,173 539,301 73,958 552,944 12.5 6.9 2.5 2.5 38.2 31.8 31.7
1 to 3 78.156 144,930 70,218 141,748 68,292 140,730 10.2 2.2 2.7 0.7 11.0 8.4 8.1
Total 167,996 1,320,529 179,800 1,696,190 180,641 1,744,797 7.0 28.4 0.5 2.9 100.0 100.0 100.0

These figures, covering a longer period of time and a more important type of livestock, illustrate the process of capitalist concentration as graphically as those previously quoted. The growth of livestock farming in Denmark indicates the progress almost exclusively of large-scale capitalist farming. The total livestock increase between 1876 and 1898 was 424,000 head. Of these, 76,000 belonged to farms having 50 head and more, and 303,000 to farms having from 15 to 49 bead each, i.e., these upper 38,000 farms gained 379,000 head, or nearly nine-tenths of the total in crease. No more striking picture of capitalist concentration could be imagined.

The total number of cattle-owning farms increased between 1876 and 1898 by 12,645 (180,641-167,996), or by 7.5 per cent. The total population of Denmark increased between 1880 and 1901 (i. e., during a slightly shorter period of time) from 1,969,039 to 2,449,540,[9] i. e., by 24.4 per cent. Clearly, the relative number of “haves”, i. e., owners of livestock, diminished. The smaller part of the population belongs to the class of property-owners. The number of smallest owners (one to three head of livestock) steadily diminished. The number of medium-small owners (with 4 to 14 head) increased very slowly (+12.5 per cent between 1876 and 1893, +2.5 per cent between 1893 and   1898) and lagged behind the increase of the population. A real “and rapid increase is observed only in large-scale capitalist livestock farming. Between 1876 and 1893 the medium-big farms increased more rapidly than the big farms; but between 1893 and 1898, the biggest farms increased more rapidly.

Taking the figures for 1876 and 1898 for the group of biggest farms, i. e., owners of 200 or more head of cattle, we find that in 1876 they numbered 79 (0.05 per cent of the total number of livestock owners) with 18,970 head of cattle (1.4 per cent of the total); while in 1898, there were twice as many, viz., 195 (0.1 per cent of the total) with 52,385 head of cattle (3.0 per cent of the total). The number of the biggest farmers more than doubled and their output nearly trebled.

The ousting of small-scale production by large-scale production proceeded steadily between 1876 and 1898. The share of the small farms in the total number of cattle continually diminished: from 11.0 per cent in 1876 to 8.4 per cent in 1893, and to 8.1 per cent in 1898. The share of the medium farms also continually diminished, although somewhat more slowly (38.2—31.8—31.7 per cent). The share of the medium-big farms increased from 39.0 per cent in 1876 to 46.8 per cent in 1893, but remained at the same level between 1893 and 1898. Only the share of the biggest farms steadily increased, pushing aside all the other categories (11.8—13.0—13.4 per cent).

The more favourable the conditions for livestock farming, the more rapid is the development and progress of commercial livestock farming, an.d the more intense is the process of capitalist concentration. For example, in the Copenhagen district, which had a population of 234,000 in 1880 and 378,000 in 1901, dairy and meat products were, of course, the most marketable items. The farmers in that district were richer in cattle than all the other farmers in Denmark, both in 1876 and in 1898, having on an average 8.5 and 11.6 head of cattle each, compared with an average of 7.9 and 9.7 for the whole country. And in this district, in which the conditions are most favourable for the development of livestock farming, we see the process of concentration is most intense.

The following are the figures for this district for 1876 and 1898, according to the groups which we adopted above:

  1876 1898
Number of
Number of
Number of
Number of
50 head and over 44 4,488 86 9,059
15 to 49 1,045 22,119 1,545 35,579
4 to 14 2,011 16,896 1,900 14,559
1 to 3 2,514 4,468 1,890 3,767
Total 5,614 47,971 5,421 62,964

During the 22 years even the absolute number of owners diminished! Livestock wealth was concentrated in the hands of a smaller number of farmers. Both the small and the middle farmers after 22 years proved to be fewer and to have fewer livestock. The medium-big farmers increased their possessions by fifty per cent (from 22,000 to 35,000). The big farmers more than doubled their possessions. Of the biggest farmers, owning 200 and more head of cattle, there were in 1876 two who owned 437 head; in 1898, how ever, there were 10 who owned 2,896 head of cattle.

The concern which the Pudors, Davids, and other voluntary or involuntary servants of capital show for improved marketing conditions, the development of farmers’ associations, and technical progress in livestock farming and agriculture can have only one purpose: to bring about through out the country and in all branches of agriculture conditions like those in the Copenhagen district, i. e., particularly rapid concentration of production in the hands of the capitalists and the expropriation, proletarianisation of the population, a reduction of the proportion of property owners to the total population, an increase in the proportion of those whom capitalism is forcing out of the country into the towns, etc.

To sum up; the “ideal country” from the standpoint of the opponents of Marxism on the agrarian question very clearly reveals (despite the socio-economic statistics being still at a low level and lacking analysis) the capitalist agrarian system, the sharply expressed capitalist contradictions in agriculture and livestock farming, the growing concentration of agricultural production, the ousting of small-scale production by large-scale production, and the proletarianisation and impoverishment of the overwhelming majority of the rural population.


[1] This article is a chapter (XII) of the author’s book The Agrarian Question and the “Critics of Marx” included in his recently published book The Agrarian Question, Part I (St. Petersburg, 1908). Only accidental delay in delivering this chapter prevented it from being included in the above-mentioned book. Hence, all the references given in the portion now published are to that book. —Lenin

[2] Vl. Ilyin, The Agrarian Question, Part I, article “The Agrarian Question and the ‘Critics of Marx’", Chapters X and XI. (See pp. 171-194 of this volume.—Ed.) —Lenin

[3] Dr. Heinrich Pudor, Das landwirtschaftliche Genossenschaftswesen im Auslande, I. B. S. V, Leipzig, 1904. Pudor is a violent opponent of Marxism. —Lenin

[4]Danmarks Statistik. Statistik Aarbog”, 8-de aargang, 1903, p. 31, footnote. All the following statistics apply to Denmark proper, with out Bornholm. —Lenin

[5] Danish Statistics, etc., Danish Agriculture, 4th series, No. 9, Letter C.—Ed.

[6] Danmarks Statistik. Statistik Tabelvaerk. Femte Raekke, litra C, Nr. 2. Kreaturholdet d. 15 juli 1898. KØbenhavn, 1901. —Lenin

[7] To be more precise, farmers who own no cattle, for unfortunately the Danish statistics do not give the number of farmers who own no   animals whatever. From these statistics we only learn the number of owners of each type of animal. But undoubtedly, cattle form the principal basis of livestock farming in Denmark. —Lenin

[8] We showed above, according to Drechsler’s figures, that the livestock in the big farms are bigger. Here too, therefore, the overall statistics minimise the degree of concentration. —Lenin

[9] In 188O, the urban population constituted 28 per cent, and in 1901, 38 per cent. —Lenin

[10] See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 791.

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