V. I.   Lenin


To:   B. N. KNIPOVICH[3]

Written: Written in Paris
Published: First published in 1928 in the magazine Bolshevik No. 7. Printed from the original.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1976], Moscow, Volume 35, pages 38-39.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   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.
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June 6, 1912

Dear Colleague,

It is terribly annoying that my first letter to you about the book (thank you very much for sending it) has been lost. It is an incredible—but with us, it turns out, a possible—fact that a letter of a purely scientific nature can be lost. I will try and repeat it from memory, because I did not take a copy.

I read your book[1] with great pleasure, and was very glad to see that you had taken up a serious and large-scale work. This work will certainly enable you to test, deepen and consolidate your Marxist convictions.

I will note some ideas which came into my mind when reading it. It seemed to me that here and there, when studying the results of “differentiation”, departures from the countryside are overlooked. I will make clear what I mean by this example, (a) first aspect: out of 100 households 25 have no horse = 25 per cent, or have no sowings; (b) second aspect: of 150 households 36 have no sowings = 24 per cent. Diminished differentiation, it, would seem? But if 30 households or families have left the village for the town, or migrated, etc., then in fact proletarisation has increased. I think this is a typical example. The statistics always consider the households in existence, remaining “narrowly statistical” and omitting what is sometimes most important.

Then, the author definitely and more than once confines the subject of his research to the tillage aspect. But in his conclusions he imperceptibly extends the theme, speaking of the whole of agriculture and sometimes even of the whole economy. This leads to error, because some aspects of “differentiation”, i.e., of the proletarisation of the peasants and the genesis of capital, are, as a consequence, lost (for example, commercial stock-breeding in Yaroslavl Gubernia and other forms of penetration of exchange into agriculture, as it becomes specialised).

Furthermore. Do not the rows of figures sometimes obscure the types, socio-economic types of farmers ( substantial bourgeois farmer; middle farmer; semi-proletarian; proletarian)? This danger is very great because of the qualities of statistical material. The “rows of figures” carry one away. I would advise the author to take this danger into account: our “socialists of the chair” unquestionably in this way throttle the living Marxist content of data. They drown the class struggle in rows and rows of figures. This does not occur with the author, but in the big work he has undertaken he ought particularly to take account of this danger, this “line” of the socialists of the chair, the liberals and the Narodniks. He should take it into account and trim it down, of course.

Lastly, Maslov[4] has appeared as something like a deus ex machina. Cur? Quomodo? Quibus auxiliis?[2] After all, his theory is very remote from Marxism. The Narodniks rightly called him a “critic” (=opportunist). Perhaps the author took him on trust more by chance?

Such were my thoughts when reading your interesting and serious book. I shake you by the hand, and wish you success in your work. I take this opportunity to send warm greetings to the whole family, and particularly to the “water-carrying nags”[5]—do you remember?

V. Ulyanov


[1] Reference is to B. N. Knipovich’s book K voprosu o differentsiatsii russkogo krestyanstva. Differentsiatsia v sfere zemledelcheskogo khozyalstva (A Contribution to the Problem of Differentiation of the Russian Peasantry. Differentiation in the Sphere of Farming), St.  Petersburg, 1912.—Ed.

[2] Why? How? By what means?—Ed.

[3] Knipovich, B. N. (1880–1924)—economist and statistician, participated in the Social-Democratic movement, arrested in 1911 and deported. His first scientific work A Contribution to the Problem of Differentiation of the Russian Peasantry appeared in 1912.

[4] Maslov, P. P. (1867–1946)—economist, Social-Democrat, wrote a number of books on the agrarian problem in which he attempted to revise Marxism.

[5] The expression recalls the summer of 1907, when Lenin for conspiratorial purposes and to restore his health was living at Knipovich’s country house in Stjernsund (Finland). To get water for their flowers the Knipovich family had to pull a water-cart from a well that was situated a long way from the garden. When he saw members of the family setting out for water, Lenin came out of the house and helped them pull the cart.

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