V. I.   Lenin

The Capitalist System of Modern Agriculture



Peasant Farms Under Capitalism

We have put under the heading peasant farms those groups in which, on the one hand, the majority of cultivators are independent farmers and, on the other hand, the number of family workers is greater than the number of wage-workers.   It was found that the absolute number of wage-workers in such farms is very great—1.6 million, more than a third of the total number of wage-workers. Obviously there are not a few capitalist enterprises among the general mass (2.1 million) of “peasant” farms. We shall see below the approximate number and significance of these enterprises, for the present we shall deal in more detail with the relation ship between family and wage-labour. Let us see how big the average number of workers per farm is:

  Groups of farms Average Number of Workers per Farm
Total Family
Proletarian farms . . { Less than 0.5 ha 1.3 1.2 0.1
{ 0.5-2 ha 1.9 1.7 0.2
Peasant farms . . { 2-5 ” 2.9 2.5 0.4
{ 5-10 ” 3.8 3.1 0.7
{ 10-20 ” 5.1 3.4 1.7
Capitalist farms . . { 20-100 ” 7.9 3.2 4.7
{ 100 ha or more 52.5 1.6 50.9
Altogether 3.0 2.1 0.9

We see from this table that, compared with industry, agricultural enterprises are generally of a small size as regards the number of workers. Only owners possessing more than 100 hectares have over 50 wage-workers: the number of such owners is 23,566, i.e., less than one-half per cent of the total number of farms. The total number of wage-workers on these farms is 1,463,974, i.e., a little less than the total number on the two million peasant farms.

Among the peasant farms, the group that is seen at once to stand out from the rest is that with 10-20 hectares: this group has an average of 1.7 wage-workers per farm. If we single out only the permanent workers we shall find that they number 412,702 for the 412,741 farms of this group (411,940 of the farms distributed according to the number of workers). This means that not a single enterprise is able to do without permanent use of wage-labour. That is why we single out this group as that of “Grossbauer”, big peasant farmers or peasant bourgeoisie. Usually it is owners of 20 or more hectares that are reckoned to belong to this category, but the 1907 census has shown that the use of wage-labour in agriculture is more widely distributed than is usually thought,   and that the boundary at which the constant use of wage-labour begins must be shifted considerably lower.

Further, in examining the relationship between family and wage-labour, we find that in proletarian and peasant farming the average number of family workers shows a continual increase parallel to the increase in the number of wage-workers, whereas in capitalist farms the number of family workers begins to fall as the number of wage-workers grows larger. This phenomenon is quite natural and confirms our conclusion that farms of over 20 hectares are capitalist farms, in which not only is the number of wage-workers greater than that of family workers, but also the average number of family workers per farm is less than in the case of peasant farms.

Long ago, even at the very beginning of the controversy between the Marxists and the Narodniks, it was established from Zemstvo statistical data that in peasant farming family co-operation is the basis for the creation of capitalist co-operation, i.e., substantial peasant farms notable for their particularly large number of family workers become converted into capitalist farms employing wage-labour to an ever-increasing extent. Now we see that the German statistics for the whole of German agriculture confirm this conclusion.

Let us take the German peasant farms. As a whole they differ from the proletarian farms by being enterprises based on family co-operation (2.5–3.4 family workers per farm) and not enterprises of individuals. The proletarian farms have to be called the farms of individuals because they do not even average two workers per farm. Among the peasant farms, however, there is competition over the number of wage-workers taken on: the greater the size of the peasant farm, the higher is the number of its family workers and the more rapidly does the number of its wage-workers increase. The big peasant farms surpass the small peasant farms (of 2–5 hectares) by less than one-and-a-half times as regards the number of family workers but they exceed them by more than four times as regards the number of wage-workers.

We see here a precise statistical confirmation of the cardinal distinction between the class of small farmers in general, and of small peasants in particular, and the class of wage-workers, a distinction that is always being pointed   out by Marxists and which the bourgeois economists and revisionists are quite unable to grasp. All the circumstances of commodity farming lead to the result that the small peas ants are unable to exist without striving to consolidate and extend their enterprises, and this struggle implies a struggle to increase the use of outside labour-power and to make its use cheaper. That is why in every capitalist country the mass of small peasants as a whole, of whom only an in significant minority “rise to prominence”, i.e., become real capitalists, are permeated by capitalist psychology and follow the agrarians in politics. The bourgeois economists (and the revisionists, too, in their wake) support this psychology; the Marxists explain to the small peasants that their only salvation lies in joining hands with the wage-workers.

The data of the 1907 census are also extremely instructive in regard to the proportion between the number of permanent and temporary workers. Altogether the latter are exactly one-third of the total number: 5,053,726 out of 15,169,549. Of the wage-workers 45 per cent are temporary, of the family workers 29 per cent are temporary. But these proportions undergo substantial change in the different types of farm. The following are the data for the groups we have distinguished.

  Groups of farms Temporary Workers as a Percentage of the Total
Number of Workers
I { Less than 0.5 ha 55 79 58
{ 0.5-2 ” 39 78 45
II { 2.5 ” 22 68 29
{ 5-10 ” 11 54 24
{ 10-20 ” 14 42 23
III { 20-100 ” 14 32 25
{ 100 ha or more 11 33 32
Average . . . . 29 45 33

We see from this table that among the proletarian farms with less than half a hectare (there are altogether 21 million such farms!) temporary workers form more than half of both the family workers and wage-workers. These are chiefly auxiliary farms which occupy only part of the time of their owners. Among the proletarian farms of 0.5–2 hectares, too,   the percentage of temporary workers is very high. As the size of the farm increases the percentage falls—with only one exception. This exception is that among wage-workers of the biggest capitalist farms the percentage of temporary workers increases slightly, and since the number of family workers in this group is quite negligible, the percentage of temporary workers among the workers as a whole increases consider ably, from 25 to 32 per cent.

The difference between peasant and capitalist farms as regards the total number of temporary workers is not very great. The difference between the numbers of family and wage-workers is very considerable in all types of farm, and if we take into account that among temporary family workers there is, as we shall see, an especially high percentage of women and children this difference becomes still greater. Hence wage-workers are the most mobile element....


  The Real Nature of the Majority of Modern Agricultural “Farms” (Proletarian “Farms”) | Labour of Women and Children in Agriculture  

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