V. I.   Lenin

Is the Condition of the Peasants Improving or Worsening?

Published: Pravda No. 111, May 16, 1913. Signed: F.. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 96-98.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
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.README

Under this heading some official ink-slinger, a Mr. Y. P—v, published an article in the official Torgovo-Promyshlennaya Gazeta[1] (No. 100), to prove, of course, that the peasants’ condition is improving and “undoubtedly ... is steadily progressing year by year”.

It is extraordinarily instructive to note that the figures quoted by the author show the exact opposite! This is typical proof of the shameless lying of official writers and official newspapers!

What are the author’s figures? First, be it noted that he does not give an exact source. We should not for a moment conclude, therefore, that the official ink-slinger is quoting this unknown source at first hand, or that he is quoting correctly.

Let us, however, for a minute suppose that he is quoting correctly.

Some Zemstvos,” writes the author, “for instance, the Moscow Zemstvo, resort to questionnaires to determine whether the condition of the peasants is worsening or improving. The Zemstvo’s local correspondents provide general answers that are then summarised.

The result of these lengthy investigations (taking six years),” writes Mr. Y. P—v, “was a rather interesting numerical summary for the central zone. To each hundred answers of all types we get”

Answers indicating the economic condition of the peasants:
Year Improved Worsened Unchanged Total
1907 15 44 41 100
1908 8 53 39 100
1909 8 64 28 100
1910 21 34 45 100
1911 32 16 52 100
1912 38 15 47 100

And so the writer in an official newspaper draws the conclusion—“in the last three years ... we have seen a continuous improvement in the economic level of the peasantry, with a corresponding reduction in the percentage under the headings ‘worsened’ and ‘unchanged’.”

Examine the figures carefully. For the first three years there was an obvious and considerable worsening. For the last three years there was an improvement, but to a far lesser degree than the worsening of the first three years!

Mr. Y. P—v himself admits that these fluctuations “are coincident with the fluctuations in harvests”.

Why does he take the three years with good harvests for his general conclusions and ignore the three years with bad harvests? What would we think of a merchant who summed up the results of his trading by showing his profit and concealing his losses? We should call him a swindler, should we not, Mr. Official Writer in an official newspaper?

Now let us make the simple calculation of profit and loss that is obligatory for everyone except swindlers, taking into consideration the “minuses” as well as the “pluses”, the “bad” as well as the “good” harvests. To do this we must add up the figures for the six years and divide by six (amazingly clever, Mr. Official Journalist, isn’t it?). We then get the average for all the six counter-revolutionary years.

The figures are these. From 100 answers:

Favourable (“improved”)—20

Unfavourable (“worsened”)—38

Average (“unchanged”)—42.

That is the result. What does it mean?

It means that the peasants are growing poorer and being ruined. For the six years of the counter-revolution the number of unfavourable answers is, on the average, almost twice as great as the number of favourable answers!

This conclusion can be demonstrated clearly by applying the figures to the whole of Russia, to 20,000,000 peasant families, as follows:

In six years 4,000,000 peasant families have impoved their condition, 7,600,000 have grown poorer and 8,400,000   families have remained at the former (i.e., impoverished) level!

And this is in a period of high prices when the landowners and bourgeoisie are raking in gold by the shovelful.

In all probability the peasants will thank and bless the landowners’ Duma and the government of the landowners.


[1] Torgovo-Promyshlennaya Gazeta (Commercial and Industrial Gazette)—government daily published in St. Petersburg from 1893 to September 1918. The newspaper carried statistics and economic reviews of industry, trade, agriculture and finance.

Works Index   |   Volume 19 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >