V. I.   Lenin

The Language of Figures[1]

Published: Nash Put Nos. 13 and 14, September 8 and 10, 1913. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Nash Put text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 358-363.
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



It is well known that particularly in 1905 and after factory workers’ wages throughout Russia soared. The factory inspectors’ reports say that the average wages of factory workers in Russia for the five years 1901–05 were 206 rubles and for the following five years, 1906–10, were 238 rubles.

The wages of workers in Moscow Gubernia are somewhat below the average for Russia. According to Factory Inspector Kozminykh-Lanin, they averaged 201 rubles in the 1901–05 period and 235 rubles for the succeeding four years, 1906–09.

As a result of 1905, therefore, the wages per worker in Moscow Gubernia increased by an average of 34 rubles, i.e., by almost 17 per cent. Estimating the number of factory workers in Moscow Gubernia at between 300,000 and 350,000, this constitutes a total annual gain for all workers of something like 11,000,000 rubles.

We see that the sacrifices made by the workers during the strikes of 1905 have been repaid by a considerable improvement in their economic position.

Although the victory of the June Third system, i.e., the counter-revolutionary system, led to the withdrawal of a number of the workers’ gains, capital did not succeed in reducing workers’ wages to the former low level. Workers’ wages in Moscow Gubernia averaged about 200 rubles from 1901 to 1905, fluctuating between 197 rubles (1902) and 203 rubles (1905). In 1906, when the results of 1905 first   made themselves felt, wages rose to 228 rubles, and in 1907 to 237 rubles; in 1908 there was a slight drop (236.5 rubles) and in 1909 they again rose to 237 rubles.

The figures show that without the gains of 1905–06 the workers would have been subjected to intolerable poverty since the cost of living has been rising throughout the past decade.


Wages at the bigger factories in Moscow Gubernia are, as a rule, higher than those paid at the smaller establishments. The textile workers, who constitute 68 per cent, i.e., more than two–thirds, of the total number of factory workers in our gubernia, received the following average annual wages for the year 1909.

  Rubles Per cent
Factories employing more than 1,000 workers . . 219 100
” ” from 501 to 1,000 ” . . 204 93
” ” ” 101 ” 500 ” . . 197 90
” ” ” 51 ” 100 ” . . 188 86
” ” ” 21 ” 50 ” . . 192 88
” ” ” 2O or less ” . . 164 75
  Totals 211 96

The bigger the factory, the higher the wages. The same is to be found among the metalworkers. It is easier for the workers at a big factory to unite, repulse the capitalist and uphold their own demands collectively. To catch up with their more advanced comrades the workers in small factories and workshops must unite more strongly in associations (trade union, educational, co-operative and others) and rally more closely around their working-class newspaper.

Strikes are more easily organised and are conducted more successfully at big factories because of the greater solidarity of the workers. The big factories took part in the strike movement of 1905 and 1906 to a greater extent than the small factories.

We see that on account of this the workers in the biggest factories gained more from the strikes of those years than the workers at small establishments. Here are the figures for workers in all industries in Moscow Gubernia;

Average annual wages per worker
Category of factory Five years
Four years
Employing more than 1,000 workers 196 234 +38
” from 501 to 1,000 ” 186 231 +45
” ” 101 ” 500 ” 211 238 +27
” ” 51 ” 100 ” 215 240 +25
” ” 21 ” 50 ” 216 241 +25
” ” 20 or less ” 193 207 +14
Totals 201 235 +34

First of all we must explain, in respect of these figures, the (apparent) exception to the rule formulated above, according to which wages at the bigger factories are higher than at smaller establishments. The point is that metalworkers, printers and some others earn much more than textile workers (360 rubles, 310 rubles as compared with 211 rubles, etc.). The share of the textile workers in the total number of workers at big factories is much greater than their share at the medium and small establishments. This accounts for the apparent exception to the rule, which makes it appear that wages are higher at medium and small than at big factories.

What conclusion are we to draw concerning increased wages at big and small factories since 1905?

At the big factories (those employing 500 or more workers) the increase amounts to about 40 rubles a year, that is, about 20 kopeks to a ruble.

At medium and small factories, employing from 21 to 500 workers, the increase amounts to about 25 rubles, that is, about 12 kopeks to a ruble.

At the very smallest factories (20 workers and less) the increase is a mere 14 rubles, that is, 7–8 kopeks to a ruble.

Thus the more vigorous and united strike struggle by workers at the big factories resulted in a greater increase in wages. We have already said that workers in small factories can catch up with the workers in big factories in this respect by uniting in associations.



Increased wages were not the only gains made by workers in the strike movement of 1905. The position of the workers has, in general, changed for the better.

It is impossible to express the exact extent of this improvement in figures, but in 1905–06 every worker realised the improvement and felt it strongly.

The data given by Factory Inspector Kozminykh-Lanin enable us to determine the influence of 1905 only on the fining of workers. By fining workers the capitalist is taking upon himself the role of judge. For this reason fines are always accompanied by particularly extensive arbitrary action in respect of the workers and at times even by direct humiliation of the workers. It is natural that the workers always demand the annulment of fines, the abolition of the capitalists’ right to be judges in the workers’ affairs.

The following are the figures for fines levied on all workers in Moscow Gubernia year by year.

Year Average fine per
worker (kopeks)
1901 30
1902 27
1903 27
1904 29
1905 17
1906 12
1907 15
1908 18
1909 21

We see how successfully the workers “reduced” the amount of the fines. Before 1905 the fines amounted to 27–30 kopeks a worker.

But then comes the year 1905. Fines immediately drop to almost a hall—to 17 kopeks. In 1906 the results of 1905 are more clearly demonstrated—fines drop to 12 kopeks.

The revolution passes. The capitalists grow bolder. The fines again rise to 15–18–21 kopeks.

But even in 1909—the year of the longest and deepest lull—the capitalists did not succeed in raising fines to the former disgraceful level. No matter how the capitalist   may fawn upon Purishkevich, these two “dear friends” have not succeeded in going back to the good old days—the worker in Russia has changed. The worker in Russia has learned a thing or two!

If we compare the total fines with the total wages of the workers—and such a comparison is essential for it is not the same thing to pay twenty kopeks out of wages of one ruble as paying twenty kopeks out of wages of a ruble and a half—the victory of the workers in 1905 becomes still more obvious.

Out of every 100 rubles of the workers’ wages, the fines per annum averaged in kopeks:

1901 . . . . . 15
1902 . . . . . 14
1903 . . . . . 13
1904 . . . . . 14
1905 . . . . . 9
1906 . . . . . 5
1907 . . . . . 6
1908 . . . . . 8
1909 . . . . . 9

It follows, therefore, that the workers of Moscow Gubernia achieved a reduction of atrocious fines to one-third as a result of 1905. They will succeed in obtaining the complete abolition of fines.


In conclusion let us take a brief glance at the question of what share of his wages the Moscow worker obtains in cash.

The Moscow workers are in a difficult position in this respect. In 1909 their total wages amounted to 73,000,000 rubles; of this sum they received 61,500,000 rubles, that is, 84.2 per cent, in cash. Almost a tenth of their wages, 7,200,000 rubles, was paid in the shape of groceries and other commodities from the factory shops. This type of wages places the workers in serf-like dependence on the owners and gives those owners “superprofits”.

The position of workers in the cotton industry is particularly bad—over one-fifth of their wages (5,900,000 rubles out of 28,800,000) is paid in foodstuffs. If the workers were to win for themselves free workers’ co-operatives there would not only be a saving of hundreds of thousands of rubles for the slaves of capital, but the semi-serf dependence   of the workers on the factory owners’ shops would he removed.

To continue: 3,750,000 rubles (5 per cent) of the workers’ wages went to pay for products they took from the shops of consumers’ associations, etc. Lastly, 680,000 rubles (0.9 per cent) of the wages went for the maintenance of workers boarded by factory owners.

This form of payment, which dooms the workers to a thousand forms of dependence of a serf character, has been preserved most noticeably in industries processing silk and flax, and after them in those processing food and live stock products.

As for the influence of 1905 on the forms in which wages are paid, we may say that there have been practically no gains. Here are the figures, as from 1901:

Percentages of wages paid in:
Year Workers’ total
wages (million
Cash Goods from
Goods from
Boarding of
workers by
factory owners
1901 . . . . 53 81.4 8.9 7.3 2.4
1902 . . . . 54 81.5 9.1 7.0 2.4
1903 . . . . 57 83.0 8.3 6.6 2.1
1904 . . . . 55 82.7 9.0 6.5 1.8
1905 . . . . 57 82.8 9.2 6.5 1.5
1906 . . . . 64 85.1 7.6 5.8 1.5
1907 . . . . 71 83.8 9.4 5.3 1.5
1908 . . . . 73 82.9 10.4 5.2 1.5
1909 . . . . 73 84.2 9.8 5.1 0.9

Since 1905 payment in cash has increased to an extremely insignificant extent. The system of boarding workers by factory owners has been reduced to an equally small extent. And payment of wages through factory shops, on the contrary, has somewhat increased.

Taking it by and large, the situation has remained as bad as it was before. Moscow workers must struggle for the payment of wages in cash and for the replacement of factory shops by free workers’ consumers’ associations.


[1] When this article was published in Nash Put (Our Path) it was accompanied by the following editorial comment: “The editors offer the author their apologies for the necessary deletions and amendments to his article.” Exactly what changes were made is not known since Lenin’s manuscript has not been found.

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