V. I.   Lenin

Book Review: I. Drozdov, The Wages of Farm Labourers

I. Drozdov, The Wages of Farm Labourers in Russia in Connection with the Agrarian Movement in 1905–06. St. Petersburg (published by M. I. Semyonov), 1914. Pp. 68. Price 50 kopeks.

Published: Prosveshcheniye No. 5, May 1914. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the text in Prosveshcheniye.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 348-350.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
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.
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One cannot but welcome Mr. Drozdov’s initiative in raising, in his pamphlet, an extremely interesting and important question. The author has taken the figures of the daily wages (expressed in terms both of money and of grain), the rye crop yield on private landlord fields during 1902–04, and the annual figures for the period 1905–10, and compared these data for different parts of European Russia.

The author found the biggest pay rises for 1905 in the south-western region (a ten per cent rise compared with 1902–04). The average increase for Russia was 1.2 per cent in 1905, and 12.5 per cent in 1906. From this the author draws the conclusion that wages rose most in regions in which agricultural capitalism is most developed, and the strike form of struggle (as distinct from what is known as the “riot and wreck” form) is most widespread. Strictly speaking, these figures are inadequate to support this conclusion. For example, the second highest rise in wages occurred in 1905 in the Urals region (a rise of 9.68 per cent, as against 10.35 per cent in the south-western region). If we take average wages for the whole of the post-revolutionary period, i. e., 1905–10, we shall get an index number of 110.3 (taking 1902–04 at 100) in the south-western region, and 121.7 in the Urals. The author, as it were, makes an “exception” for the Urals, on the basis of my book The Development of Capitalism. But in that book I made an exception for the Urals in studying workers’ mass migration, not the level of wages in general.[1] The author’s reference   to my book, therefore, is wrong. Nor can his reference to the very small percentage of private landlord farming in the Urals[2] be regarded as satisfactory. The author should have taken the more detailed gubernia figures and compared the rise in wages with the figures showing the relative strength of the agrarian movement in general, and of its strike form, “riot and wreck” form, and so on.

On the whole, the money wages of agricultural labourers throughout Russia rose most between 1905 and 1906. Taking the wages of 1902–04 at 100, the index number for 1905 and 1906 will be 101.2 and 112.5 respectively. The index numbers for the ensuing four years are: 114.2, 113.1, 118.4 and 119.6. It is clear that with the general rise in money wages as a result of the revolution, we see the direct and predominating influence of the struggle of 1905–06.

Referring our readers to Mr. Drozdov’s excellent pamphlet for the details, we shall observe here that the author has no grounds whatever for describing as “manifestly impracticable” those demands of the peasants which virtually amounted to “smoking out the landlords” (p. 30). Equally groundless and unreasoned is his statement that in the “riot and wreck” regions the “struggle was waged for equalised land tenure, and, in general, for other equally petty-bourgeois, utopian demands” (p. 38). Firstly, the peasants fought, not only for land tenure, but for landownership (“smoking out”); secondly, they fought, not for equalised tenure, hut for the transfer to them of the landed estates—that is something entirely different. Thirdly, what was and remains utopian is the subjective hopes (and “theories”) of the Narodniks in the matter of “equality”, “socialisation”, “taking the land out of commercial circulation”, and similar nonsense; but there was nothing “utopian” in the petty-bourgeois masses “smoking out” the feudalists. The author con fuses the objective historical significance of the peasants’ struggle for land—a struggle that was progressive-bourgeois and radical-bourgeois—with the subjective theories and hopes of the Narodniks, which were, and still are, utopian   and reactionary. Such confusion is profoundly erroneous, undialectical and unhistorical.

Comparing the averages for 1891–1900 with those for 1901–10, the author draws the general conclusion that daily money wages all over Russia rose by 25.5 per cent, while real wages, expressed in terms of grain, rose only by 3.9 per cent, i. e., underwent hardly any change at all. We would remark that, arranged to reflect money-wage rises during the above-mentioned decades, the order of the various regions is as follows: Lithuania 39 per cent, the Volga area 33 per cent, the Urals 30 per cent, the Ukraine 28 per cent, the central agricultural region 26 per cent, etc.

In conclusion, the author compares the rise in agricultural labourers’ wages during the past two decades (1891–1900 and 1901–10) with the rise in ground-rent. It appears that for the whole of Russia, average wages rose from 52.2 kopeks per day to 66.3 kopeks, i.e., by 27 per cent. However, the price of land—it is well known that the price of land is capitalised rent—rose from 69.1 rubles per dessiatine to 132.4 rubles, that is, by 91 per cent. In other words, wages rose by one-fourth, while ground-rent almost doubled!

And this circumstance,” the author rightly concludes, “signifies only one thing, namely: the deterioration in the relative standard of living of the agricultural labourers in Russia, with a simultaneous relative rise in the standard of living of the landowning class.... The social gulf between the landlord class and the class of wage-labourers is steadily widening.”


[1] See present edition, Vol. 3, p. 586.—Ed.

[2] In this connection the author puts the northern region on a par with the Urals. But in the northern region, wages in 1905 dropped by six per cent, and in 1906 showed only an eight per cent rise. —Lenin

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