V. I. Lenin

The Capitalist System of Modern Agriculture


Social statistics in general and economic statistics in particular have made tremendous advances during the last two or three decades. A series of problems, moreover those most fundamental concerning the economic system of modern states and its development, which were previously decided on the basis of general considerations and approximate data, cannot nowadays be analysed at all seriously without taking into account the mass of data about the whole territory of a given country collected according to a single definite programme and summed up by expert statisticians. In particular, the problems of the economics of agriculture, which arouse particularly many disputes, require answering on the basis of exact, mass data, the more so since in the European states and in America it is a growing practice to make periodic censuses covering all the agricultural enterprises of the country.

In Germany, for example, such censuses were made in 1882, 1895 and the last in 1907. The importance of these censuses has often been mentioned in our press, and it is difficult to find a book or article on the economics of modern agriculture which does not refer to the statistical data on German agriculture. The last census has already occasioned a fair amount of noise in both the German and our own press. Writing in Kievskaya Mysl{2} last year, Mr. Valentinov, it will be recalled, loudly clamoured that this census allegedly refuted the Marxist doctrine and Kautsky’s views by proving the viability of small-scale production and its triumph over   large-scale production. Recently, in an article entitled “Tendencies in Agrarian Evolution in Germany” published in Ekonomist Rossii{3} No. 36 of September 11, 1910, Professor Vobly, on the basis of the data of the 1907 census, tried to refute the applicability to agriculture of “the scheme elaborated by Marx in relation to the development of industry”{4} and to prove that “small enterprises not only do not perish in the struggle against large ones in the sphere of agriculture; on the contrary, each new census registers their success

We think, therefore, it would be opportune to analyse in detail the data of the 1907 census. True, the publication of the materials of this census is not yet complete; three volumes containing all the data of the census{1} have appeared, but a fourth volume devoted to an “exposition of the results of the census as a whole” has not yet appeared and it is not known whether it will appear soon. But there are no grounds for postponing a study of the results of the census until this concluding volume has appeared, for all the material is already available, as well as the summary of it, and it is being widely used in the press.

We shall merely note that to put the question in the form In which it is usually put, confining oneself almost exclusively to a comparison of the number of farms of various sizes (in area) and the amount of land they possessed in various years, is an absolutely incorrect approach to the subject. The real differences between the Marxists and the opponents of Marxism on the agrarian question are much more deeply rooted. If the aim is to give a complete explanation of the sources of the differences, then attention must be devoted primarily and most of all to the question of the basic features of the capitalist system of modern agriculture. It is just on this question that the data of the German census of June 12, 1907, are particularly valuable. This census   is less detailed on some questions than the earlier censuses of 1882 and 1895 but, on the other hand, it gives for the first time an unprecedented wealth of data on wage-labour in agriculture. And the use of wage-labour is the chief distinguishing mark of every kind of capitalist agriculture.

We shall therefore endeavour first of all to give a general picture of the capitalist system of modern agriculture, relying chiefly on the data of the 1907 German census and supplementing them with the data of the best agricultural censuses of other countries, namely: the Danish, Swiss, American and the last Hungarian censuses. As regards the fact which most of all strikes the eye on a first acquaintance with the results of the census and which is being most talked about, namely, the reduction in Germany of the number of large farms (large in agricultural area) and the amount of land they possess, we shall turn to an examination of this only at the end of our work. For this is one of the complicated facts which are a function of a series of others, and it is impossible to understand its significance without first elucidating several much more important and basic questions.


{1} Statistik des Deutschen Reichs, Band 212, Teil 1 a, 1 b and 2 a. Berufs- und Betriebszählung vom 12. Juni 1907. Landwirtschaftliche Betriebsstatistik, Berlin 1909 und 1910. (Statistics of the German State, Vol. 212, Part 1 a, 1 b and 2 a. Census of occupations and enterprises of June 12, 1907. Statistics of agricultural production, Berlin, 1909 and 1910.—Ed.)

{2} Kievskaya Mysl (Kiev Thought)—a daily bourgeois-democratic newspaper published in Kiev from 1908 to 1918, Mensheviks were among its most active contributors.

Lenin is referring to the article by the liquidator N. Valentinov, “Concerning the Recent German Census”, published in Kievskaya Mysl No. 308.

{3} Ekonomist Rossii (Russian Economist)—a weekly bourgeois journal devoted to economic and financial questions in Russia and abroad; it was published in St. Petersburg from 1909 to 1912.

{4} Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 600–863.

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