Proletary, No. 87, October 16 (29), 1908. Signed: N. Lenin.
Published according to the text in Proletary verified with the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 247-254.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
P. Maslov has published a “Letter to the Editor” in No. 8–9 of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata which can only be called hysterical. Indeed, is it not hysterics when he not only tries to shame me by comparing my style with that of the Priest Iliodor, but trots out some conversation or other which took place 14 years ago? The reader may think this a joke, but it is a fact. “When, before the appearance of Volume III of Capital, Lenin read my manuscript, in which there was the same answer to the question of the distribution of profit as in Volume III,” writes Maslov, “Lenin stated that he considered the ridiculous solution of the problem by Prof. Skvortsov to be correct.” Fancy that—before the appearance of Volume III, i.e., before 1894! One must have the naiveté of a child—which cannot be said of my most reverend opponent—or to be in a state of hysterics, to pretend to remember exactly some conversation which was supposed to have taken place fourteen years ago, and one’s own unprinted manuscripts. Would it not be better to print that manuscript, eh, Comrade Maslov? What an advantage it would be to prove that Maslov, and Maslov alone, before Volume III, solved the problem that Engels put to the world! True, it would seem a bit late perhaps—but better late than never. One cannot really imagine, after all, that Maslov simply wanted to praise himself by referring to his own re collections.
It would appear that the editors of the paper in which Maslov is writing have not yet praised Maslov’s amendment to Marx, and so Maslov has decided to praise himself for what he did (under his breath) fourteen years ago.... It would also appear that (if one is to believe the titanic strength of Comrade Maslov’s memory) I made mistakes fourteen years ago, before the appearance of Volume III of Capital, and have not printed these mistakes; whereas Maslov began to make mistakes 7 years and 14 years after the appearance of Volume III, and prints these mistakes. However, it is possible that Maslov’s hysterics are not quite unpremeditated. Exactly five years ago Martov threw a fit of hysterics in front of Plekhanov, and thereby impelled him to go over from the Bolsheviks to the Mensheviks. Can P. Maslov be hoping that Plekhanov, after reading his outcries in the newspaper edited by Plekhanov and Co., will go over from the ranks of the supporters of Marx’s theory of rent to the supporters of Maslov’s theory of rent? That would be very interesting; but so long as it has not happened, let us see how matters stand with Maslov’s accusation that my article “consists of a mass of distortion and obvious untruths”.
Really, “a mass”, Comrade Maslov?
Well, let’s look at all your arguments.
“Lenin writes: ‘It is not true to say that according to Marx absolute rent results from the low composition of agricultural capital. Absolute rent arises from the private ownership of land. This private ownership creates a special monopoly.’”
Here Maslov breaks off my sentence, which does not end at the word “monopoly” and goes on to refer to a definite page in Volume IV (Theories of Surplus-Value). This is not distortion on Maslov’s part, oh no! It is only a “correction” of somebody else’s exposition....
“This is what Lenin writes,” continues P. Maslov. “And this is what Marx writes: ‘If the average composition of agricultural capital were equal to, or higher than, that of the average social capital, then absolute rent—again in the sense just described—would disappear; i.e., rent which differs equally from differential rent as well as that based upon an actual monopoly price’ (Capital, Vol. III, p. 631, Russian translation). I will leave it to the reader to judge who gives a better version of Marx” (then follows a footnote about the mistake regarding the law of profit which I made fourteen years ago, as P. Maslov so well remembers, in a private conversation with him).
I also leave it to the reader to judge on whose side there are “distortions and obvious untruths”. The most worthy Maslov broke off my sentence before my reference to Marx, and gives me another reference! What sort of an argument is this? Has not Maslov again and again exposed the self- contradiction of Marx’s “rough notes” (I would remind the reader that Maslov in 1906, i.e., ’even after the Theories of Surplus-Value had been published, made so bold as to account for the mistakes he had found in Marx by the fact that Volume III consisted of “rough notes”)? Does not this prove that Marx’s arguments were faulty, because he derived absolute rent now from private property in land, now from the low composition of capital in agriculture?
No, it only proves that Maslov is once again in an unholy muddle. You can find in Marx dozens of phrases where absolute rent is derived from private property in land, and dozens of phrases where it is derived from the low composition of agricultural capital. And this for the simple reason that Marx puts forward both these conditions in the appropriate passages of his exposition—just as I put forward both when I was setting out Marx’s ideas. In that very same passage of my article from which Maslov has taken his quotation I also speak of the low composition of agricultural capital! (Proletary, No. 33, p. 3, cols. 2-3. ) Maslov quotes against me Chapter 45 of Volume III, the chapter on absolute rent. Maslov takes his quotation from page 298 of the original. Yet earlier on page 287, Marx says that differential rent is not “created” by private property in land (differential rent is inevitable under capitalism even without property in land), whereas property in land creates absolute rent. “Landed property itself,” writes Marx in italics, “has created rent” (Vol. III, section 2, S. 287 ).
And now the question is, does the quotation from page 287 contradict the quotation from page 298? Not at all. Having ascertained that private property in land creates rent (i. e., absolute rent), Marx goes on to ascertain that that rent will be either simply a monopoly, only a monopoly, purely a monopoly, or the result of the fact that monopoly prevents the levelling of profits on capital low in its composition (agriculture) with that which is higher in composition (industry).
Maslov consequently repeats in the newspaper edited by Plekhanov and Co. his flagrant distortion of Marxism. Maslov consequently insists, here too—without however saying it straight out—that there cannot be any absolute rent, that Marx’s theory is an error, while the theory of bourgeois political economy which denies the existence of absolute rent is true.
Why then not say straight out what he has already said in The Agrarian Question and what I gave in my quotation? Isn’t that a “distortion and obvious untruth”? If not, what is it? In The Agrarian Question he says that Marx was wrong and that there can be no absolute rent, whereas in the newspaper edited by Plekhanov and Co. he keeps silent about this and talks only about who sets out the views of Marx more correctly! So it transpires that all we were arguing about with Maslov was “who sets out Marx’s theory more correctly”, and that I was not telling the truth when I said that Maslov had “amended” Marx’s “rough notes” by throwing out absolute rent! For shame, Comrade Maslov!
“Further. ‘Pyotr Maslov,’ writes Lenin, ‘has failed to under stand ... Marx’s differential rent as well.... When a fresh investment of capital in his land yields the tenant additional profit and additional rent (Lenin’s italics), it is the tenant, not the landowner, who appropriates that rent.’ In this connection Lenin, of course, reads the ‘ignorant’ Maslov the appropriate lecture. We take Volume I of The Agrarian Question, and on page 112 we find: ‘If the intensification of agriculture, by the fresh investment of 500 rubles, results in the same quantity of product, the tenant will receive a profit not of 25 per cent but of 100 per cent, as on the first investment of capital he pays 333 rubles of rent.... If in the investment of the first capital he contented himself with average profit..., it is of more advantage to him to reduce the rented area and to expend new capital on the same land, because it will result in a surplus over the profit, it will provide rent for the tenant also.’ But Lenin needed an untruth in order to abuse me.”
Let us see who has told an untruth. To get to the bottom of this, it is important to notice the dots in the quotation I made, as reproduced by Maslov. For I quoted all that Maslov had said on this subject in full. Dots stand for omissions. And what Maslov has done is to omit in his quotation from page 112 of his first volume the very passage in which he attacks Marx, and which he prints in italics on page 112! This may seem incredible, but it is a fact. In my article in Proletary, as Maslov’s second argument against Marx, I quote the following phrase from page 112 of his first volume: “Rent from the ‘last’ investment of capital, Rodbertus’s rent and Marx’s absolute rent, will disappear because the tenant can always make the ‘last’ investment the last but one, if it produces anything besides the ordinary profit” (Maslov’s italics).
This is Maslov’s argument against Marx. It was this argument which I attacked, and which, I continue to assert, is a mass of falsehood and muddle. And Maslov replies to me by quoting this same page 112, but leaving out his attack on Marx! In place of this attack he puts dots: before the dots he quotes the beginning of the page, after them the end, but ’the attack on Marx has disappeared. What is this if not a distortion and an obvious untruth?
I never asserted and do not assert now, that in the four hundred pages of The Agrarian Question one cannot find sound passages. I only asserted that Maslov’s arguments against Marx are unheard-of nonsense and incredible muddle. If Maslov, in the fourth edition he promises., cuts out these arguments, if for example, on page 112 he leaves what he has quoted in Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, I will say, and anyone will say, that as from the fourth edition Maslov has ceased to correct Marx. But until this is. done, anyone reading Volume I will see on page 112 Maslov’s argument against Marx, the argument he left out in Golos. And everyone will see that I was right in criticising this argument, i.e., that this argument against absolute rent is ridiculous, since the tenant appropriates during the period of his lease the additional rent from his fresh investment of capital in full, i.e., both absolute and differential.
I will not dwell on Maslov’s next “example”, because it refers to the very argument which Maslov omitted in Golos. Obviously my criticism of the argument falls if Maslov withdraws the argument. But if he does not do this, and only shortens his quotations, I ask the reader, who is responsible for “a mass of distortion and obvious untruths”?
Maslov’s last quotation from my article is as follows:
“‘What is intensification?’ asks Lenin, and replies: ‘It is the further expenditure of labour and capital. A reaping machine, according to the discovery of our great Maslov, is not (Lenin’s italics) expenditure of capital. A seed drill is not an expenditure of capital.’ Owing to his ignorance of the most elementary terms in the agrarian question, Lenin has given a wrong definition of intensification, and has not only written obvious nonsense but also asserts an obvious untruth. In The Agrarian Question (p. 62) I wrote: ‘A threshing-machine diminishes the expenditure of labour per unit of land area, both in an extensive and in an intensive economy.’ (It is by such expenditure, and not expenditure in general, irrespective of the land area involved, that the degree of intensiveness is determined. P. M.) A harvester has the same significance.”
Look here, my worthy friend, I will say to Maslov in reply: one must draw the line somewhere! Was the argument really about whether the intensiveness of the expenditure of capital is determined per unit of area, or irrespective of the area? That is indeed a distortion and an obvious untruth! The argument was not about that at all. In the second part of my article, now quoted by Maslov, I was not arguing against The Agrarian Question but against Maslov’s article in “Obrazovaniye”, 1907, No. 2.
Just try arguing with an individual who now removes from his works the very arguments against Marx which the critic was challenging, now throws out entire articles he has written, and slips under the nose of the reader something quite irrelevant to the matter!
The second part of my article is headed: “Is It Necessary to Refute Marx in Order to Refute. Narodism?” In this part I criticise only Maslov’s article in Obrazovaniye, 1907, No. 2.
Maslov says nothing in Golos about that article, and quotes from his Agrarian Question! But that is a silly game of hide-and-seek! I never said that Maslov, in The Agrarian Question, went to the length of asserting that to refute Narodism it was necessary to refute Marx.
But in Obrazovaniye Maslov did say this. And it was to this that I was objecting, and not at all to what expenditure of capital determines intensification. Does or does not Maslov maintain his assertion that “if it were not for the fact that the productivity of successive expenditures of labour on the same plot of land diminishes, the idyll which the Socialist- Revolutionaries ... depict could, perhaps, he realised”?
You go into hiding, worthy opponent? But that means acknowledging defeat.
Do you maintain your assertion that you “happened to be the first to lay special emphasis on the difference between the significance of the cultivation of the soil and of technical progress for the development of farming, and, in particular, for the struggle between large-scale and small production”? That is what you said in Obrazovaniye. And that is what I quoted in Proletary. It is to that, and only to that question, that your argument about the reaping-machine refers—an argument in Obrazovaniye, and not in The Agrarian Question. By not defending what he has said in Obrazovaniye, Maslov admits he is wrong.
Thus on the substance of the question all Maslov does in Golos is to wriggle. He repeats his muddle about Marx not deducing absolute rent from private property in land, but does not directly defend his amendments to Marx; his arguments against Marx he omits from his quotations; what he has said in Obrazovaniye he evades altogether. And we re peat: Maslov’s abolition of Marx’s absolute rent in The Agrarian Question, and Maslov’s arguments in Obrazovaniye, remain unsurpassed pearls of confusion, the importation of a bourgeois point of view into theory.
As regards the German edition of Maslov’s book, I poked fun at the fact that in it all the corrections to Marx are hidden away. Maslov defends himself by saying that the publisher did not bring out the whole of the first part of his book. What does this correction by Maslov amount to? I said Maslov had thrown out these corrections. Maslov says it was the publisher who did it—and the publisher is the German Social-Democrat Dietz.
If it was Dietz who threw out Maslov’s “theory”, Maslov’s “corrections” to Marx, with Maslov’s consent, then my argument is not affected in any way. If Dietz did it without Maslov’s consent, then my argument changes only in its form: Dietz, by throwing out the stupidities from Maslov’s book, acted wisely.
Was that the correction which the worthy Maslov was seeking?
Maslov says that I “begin to seek heresies in my opponents” because I “wish to cover up” the heresy of my friends That is not true. Against what I consider heresy in my friends I speak as strongly as I do against you. That can be seen from my footnote in the symposium, In Memory of Marx, which has just appeared. As for Maslov’s heresies I “began to seek” them in “Zarya” in 1901, i.e., two years before the split into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, two years before Maslov’s first municipalisation programme. In 1901 Maslov was my “opponent” in the Party only on the question of his corrections to Marx’s theory.
P.S. The present article had already been written when I received a special leaflet from the management of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, which says:
"Owing to a printer’s error in No. 8–9 of Golos Sotsial-Demokrata, the comment of the editorial board to Comrade Maslov’s letter was omitted. This mistake will be immediately corrected, and the comment made available to subscribers and purchasers.”
We have not yet received this correction. I think it my duty to inform our readers about this printer’s error. But is there not yet another printer’s error in the special leaflet I reprint here? Should it not, instead of Comrade Maslov, read Mr. Maslov? Was it not Plekhanov who declared in print that people who depart from Marx are for him not comrades but gentlemen! Or does not that hold good for Mensheviks who preach departure from Marxism?
 See present edition, Vol. 13, p. 301.—Ed.
 See present edition, Vol. 43, pp. 301–02.—Ed.
 See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 737.—Ed.
 See present edition, Vol. 13, p. 303,—Ed.
 See present edition, vol. 13, p. 302.—Ed.
 See present edition, Vol. 13, p. 309.—Ed.
 See p. 34 of this volume.—Ed.
 See present edition, Vol. 5, p. 127.—Ed.
 Skvortsov, A. I.—a bourgeois economist, author of a number of works on agriculture. Lenin criticised Skvortsov’s views repeatedly in his writings (see present edition, Vol. 1, pp. 198, 474-77 and Vol. 3, p. 54).
 See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 746.