V. I.   Lenin

There’s a Trudovik For You!

Published: Pravda Truda No. 18, October 1, 1913. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Pravda Truda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 432-435.
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

Zavety[2] is an out-and-out Narodnik, Left-Narodnik, publication with Mr. Chernov himself on the staff. It is a bulky and serious magazine. And if the celebrated “family labour principle” that all Trudoviks,[1] all Narodniks, including all the Socialist-Revolutionaries, have constantly on their lips is to be found anywhere it is in this magazine.

Some people even assert that the “family labour principle” is a socialist principle, and that its theoreticians are socialists.

Let us see how Mr. S. Zak, a Left Narodnik who has made a special study of the question of industrial capitalism, discusses the “family labour principle” in industry.

Mr. S. Zak distinguishes three types of industry: (1) “family labour” industry; (2) “transitional” industry which stands midway between “family labour” and capitalist industry, and (3) capitalist industry. Enterprises employing over 50 workers he classifies as capitalist; those employing from 11 to 50 workers come under the heading “transitional industry” and those employing no more than 10 he classifies as “family labour” industry.

Why does he classify the last-named enterprises as “family labour”? The reason, if you please, is that “since these undertakings do not employ on the average even one clerk and one technician per undertaking, it is absurd to say that they are capitalist undertakings”.

This theory is worthy of a semi-literate clerk, but not of an author who wants to be regarded as a socialist! Until Mr. Zak and the other Narodniks have invented “their own”,   new, truly Russian political economy, we shall stick to the old view that capitalism means production of commodities, in which labour-power is also transformed into a commodity.

This is elementary, and to be ignorant of it is disgraceful. The Narodniks say that they subscribe to Marx’s theories, and that they are opposed to bourgeois political economy, but what they offer the public is nothing more than the views of the most banal philistine, who has learnt nothing and who repeats scraps of bourgeois phrases, such as: if the owner has an “office”, he is a capitalist. But if my plant is a small one, how can I be a capitalist? I am a working man!

The defence of such views in the press is a rejection of the science of political economy, it is the defence of ignorance.

Capitalists may be small or big, foolish or clever, but this is not a criterion of capitalism. Capitalism means producing commodities and hiring wage-labour.

In the opinion of our Narodnik another criterion of “family labour” industry is—do the members of the owner’s family take part in the work? Anybody who is familiar with the rudiments of political economy knows that family labour is typical of petty-bourgeois industry. Exalting. the petty bourgeoisie with the title of “family labour” industry shows a complete failure to understand what socialism is.

Here are Mr. Zak’s own figures. For every group of 100 factories, we find on the average the following numbers of members of owners’ families employed: (1) 28 in the factories employing up to 3 workers; (2) 34 in the factories employing 4 to 5 workers; (3) 22 in the factories employing 6 to 10 workers.

Our “neo-Narodnik” is splendid, is he not? He himself quotes figures which show that wage-labour predominates, and yet he calls it “family labour” industry!

Mr. Zak skips over the returns of various industrial censuses, waxes enthusiastic over the “numerous” “working” masters he finds, and asserts that this proves the “unsoundness of the orthodox theory”—as the Narodniks ironically call Marx’s doctrine. We shall quote the complete figures of the German census returns, to which Mr. Zak primarily refers. We shall take industry in the broad sense of the term, including commerce and transport.

Enterprises Number % Number or quantity (millions)
Workers % H. P. % kilowatts %
One-man workshops 1,452,000 44.4 1.4 10.1
Small (2 to 5 workers) 1,524,000 46.7 3.8 26.2 0.7 7.4 0.1 7.1
Medium (6 to 50 workers) 259,000 8.0 3.5 24.3 1.5 17.3 0.2 15.7
Large (51 workers and over) 31,000 0.9 5.7 39.4 6.6 75.3 1.2 77.2
  Total . . . . 3,266,000 100 14.4 100 8.8 100 1.5 100

Look closely at this picture of capitalism in industry. One-man, petty-bourgeois workshops are very “numerous”: one and a half million. Their share of industry? One-tenth of the workers and none of the machinery, either steam or electrically driven!

What about the big capitalists? They account for one-hundredth of the factories, but they employ nearly two-fifths (39 per cent) of the total number of workers and have over three-fourths (75–77 per cent) of the total machinery.

Every intelligent worker will see at once that these figures fully confirm his everyday experience: the existence of a vast number of miserable petty bourgeois crushed by capital, and the most complete predominance of a handful of large capitalist enterprises.

To proceed. The statistics, so hopelessly garbled by this “Left” Narodnik, reveal a very rapid growth of capitalism and the elimination of small production. We shall compare the returns of three German censuses, that of 1882, 1895 and 1907 (the last). So as not to weary the reader with figures, we shall take only the most important of them; we shall compare the one-man workshops with the capitalist plants, taking medium and large together.

Year One-man workshops Medium and large capitalist
% of total
number of
% of total
number of
% of total
number of
% of total
number of
1882 . . . . 62 26 4 41
1895 . . . . 54 17 7 53
1907 . . . . 42 10 9 63

Twenty–five years ago the one–man workshop owners constituted the majority of the masters (three–fifths). Now they constitute the minority (two–fifths). Formerly, they employed one–fourth of the total number of workers; they now employ only one–tenth.

On the other hand, the share of the capitalist plants shows a rapid increase. Twenty-five years ago they employed only a minority of the workers (two-fifths), but they now employ the majority, nearly two-thirds of the total number of workers (63 per cent). And we have already seen that the concentration of steam, to say nothing of electrically driven machinery, in the hands of a small number of capitalists is far greater than the concentration of workers.

Thus, the industrial censuses of the free and rapidly developing countries are the best proof of the correctness of Marx’s theory. Capitalism rules everywhere. Everywhere it is squeezing out small production. Everywhere the masses of peasants and small artisans and handicraftsmen are being ruined. Big capital forces down and crushes the small master in a thousand ways that are still poorly reflected in statistics. There is no salvation for the small master. His only way of escape is to join the struggle of the proletariat.

From first to last the theory of the “family labour principle” and “family labour industry” is a repetition of the old bourgeois prejudices, prejudices that are being shattered all the time by the experience of every country.

In trying to prove to the workers that the capitalist or small master who employs from five to ten wage-workers is a “working master”, the Left Narodniks only reveal their own bourgeois nature.


[1] See Note 95.—Ed.

[2] Zavety (Testament)—a legal Socialist-Revolutionary literary and political monthly published in St. Petersburg from April 1912 to July 1914.

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