V. I.   Lenin

Bourgeois Gentlemen on “Family” Farming

Published: Nash Put No. 15, September 11, 1918; Pravda Truda No. 4, September 14, 1913. Signed: V. Ilyin. Published according to the Pravda Truda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 364-368.
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

At the Kiev Agricultural Congress, before an audience of 1,000 landowners from all parts of Russia, Professor Kosinsky read the first paper, in which he tried to prove that “family farming” had become paramount in agriculture.

The question of “family” farming is one of the most important when one is seeking an explanation of capitalist relations in agriculture. In Russia, moreover, there is the Narodnik bourgeois party (this includes the Left Narodniks), which tries to make the workers believe it is a socialist party and most zealously advocates “family” farming. It is, therefore, necessary for every class-conscious worker to understand what this “family” farming is.

Mr. Bourgeois Professor Kosinsky, producing no data of any kind, asserted that peasant farming is growing and large-scale farming, which exploits wage-labour, is collapsing and dying out. The professor

distinguished three forms of peasant farms: (1) parcellised (dwarf) farms, when the peasant works at a factory, and at home, in his own village, has only a vegetable garden or an allotment attached to his house, the cultivation of which provides a small addition to his in come; (2) subsistence farms, with a somewhat larger allotment, the cultivation of which does not meet all the requirements of the family, some members of which work elsewhere; (3) family farms, peasant farms proper, on which the entire family works.

Agrarian evolution is leading to the break-up of the second category and its replacement by family and parcellised farms. The future is assured mainly for the family farms. The average size of these farms, expressed in Russian measure, is about 50 dessiatines. The triumph of family farming is in no way accompanied by the proletarianisation of the rural districts” (Kievskaya Mysl No. 242).

These, then, are the principles of the bourgeois theory of “family” farming borrowed by the Narodniks. Every   worker who is in any way familiar with political economy will immediately see that what Mr. Bourgeois calls parcellised or dwarf farms are the proletarian, labourer farms, the “farms” of wage-workers.

Evidently by “subsistence” farms he means small peas ant farms which do not produce mainly for exchange; not commercial farms, but natural economy farms (on which the peasant produces his own food). In admitting that these farms are being ousted our uninformed bourgeois professor admits the victory of capitalism, the growth of exchange, and the squeezing out of small farming. By what kind of farming is it being ousted? Firstly by proletarian farming. This is precisely what is called proletarianisation, Mr. Uninformed Professor! Secondly by “family” farming, in which the average size of farms is about 50 dessiatines.

It remains for me to prove to the uninformed professor and to his Socialist-Revolutionary (Narodnik) pupils that “family”, farming is precisely petty-bourgeois, capitalist farming.

What is the principal feature of capitalism? The employment of wage-labour. It is time our professors and Socialist-Revolutionaries learnt this truth.

What do European, scientific statistics tell us about wage-labour in peasant farming? They tell us that not only 50–dessiatine farms, but even farms of over 10 hectares (a hectare is about the same as a dessiatine), in the majority of cases, cannot dispense with wage-labour!

Germany. The last census (1907). Number of farms from 10 to 20 hectares—412,741. These employ 711,867 wage-workers. Even the farms from 5 to 10 hectares employ a total of 487,704 wage-workers on 652,798 farms. In other words: even here the number of wage-workers equals more than half the total number of farms. And everybody knows that in the overwhelming majority of cases the small farmer does not employ more than one hired worker.

Austria. The last census (1902). Number of farms from 10 to 20 hectares—242,293. Of these the majority, 142,272, i.e., nearly three-fifths, employ wage-workers. We will add that the development of capitalism in Austria is far behind that of Germany. Taking Austrian agriculture as a whole, the percentage of wage-workers employed is half   the German percentage (14 per cent as against 30 per cent).

Switzerland. The last census (1905). Number of farms from 10 to 15 hectares—19,641. Of these, 11,148, i.e., the majority, employ wage-workers. Of the farms of 5 to 10 hectares about 36 per cent in Switzerland and 33 per cent in Austria employ wage-workers.

One can judge from this how profoundly ignorant, or extremely unconscientious, is the bourgeois professor in whose train the Narodniks follow, a professor who denies the proletarianisation of the rural districts and admits that “subsistence” farms are being ousted, firstly, by proletarian farms, and secondly, by “family” farms, applying this sentimental catchword to farms employing wage-workers!

All those who praise the successes of “family” farming under capitalism (including our Left Narodniks) are bourgeois, Who deceive the workers. The deception lies, firstly, in painting the bourgeoisie in bright colours. The exploiter of wage-labour is called a “working” farmer! Secondly, the deception lies in concealing the gulf that divides the overwhelming majority of the proletarian farms from the insignificant minority of capitalist farms.

The interests of the bourgeoisie demand the embellishment of capitalism and the concealment of the gulf that divides the classes. The interests of the proletariat demand the exposure of capitalism and of the exploitation of wage-labour; they demand that the eyes of the masses be opened to the immensity of the gulf that divides the classes.

Here are brief figures taken from the census of 1907, showing the gulf that divides the classes in German agriculture. Total number of farms—5,700,000. Of these, proletarian farms (up to two hectares) number 3,400,000. The overwhelming majority of these “farmers” are wage-workers who possess small plots of land.

Then follow the petty farmers (2 to 5 hectares per farm; total number of farms, 1,000,000). These are the poorest peasants. Less than half of them (495,000) are independent tillers without any other occupation. The majority are in need of outside employment, i.e., they have to sell their labour-power. These peasants join the proletariat most easily.

We will combine these to make up Group I: proletarian and small peasant farms.

Group II: middle peasant farms (5 to 10 hectares). As we have seen, a fairly large number of these exploit wage-workers. The middle peasant is a petty bourgeois who wavers between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

Group III: the rest, i.e., the capitalists (20 hectares and over) and big peasants (10 to 20 hectares). As we have seen, the majority of the big peasants exploit wage-workers.

Thus, Group I consists of proletarian and small peasant farms; Group II consists of middle peasant farms; Group III consists of big peasant and pure capitalist farms. Let us see how much land and livestock these groups own.

Group Number of
Number of
Area of
Number of
(in terms
of cattle)
Number of
I . . . . 4.4 7.3 5.0 7.0 0.2
II . . . . 0.6 2.5 4.6 5.1 0.4
III . . . . 0.7 5.4 22.2 17.3 1.2
Total 5.7 15.2 31.8 29.4 1.8

Such is the picture of modern agriculture; not the picture drawn by the professor, or by the Narodniks, but the real picture. Most of the land, livestock and machines belong to an insignificant minority (less than one-eighth—0.7 out of 5.7) of capitalists and peasant bourgeois. The overwhelming majority of the “farmers” (4.4 million out of 5.7 million) have less than two workers, less than two dessiatines and less than two head of livestock per farm. These are paupers. Their share in the total agricultural production is insignificant. They are led by the nose with promises of salvation under capitalism.

Compare the productivity of labour in the various groups (i.e., the number of workers per dessiatine of land and per head of livestock), and you will see a barbarous dissipation and waste of labour on the small farms. The capitalist farms own nearly all the machines and labour productivity is high.

Compare the number of livestock with the amount of land (including meadow land, land under fodder crops, etc.)   in the various groups. You will see starving cattle in the small farms and capitalist “prosperity” among the small group at the top.

The Marxists champion the interests of the masses and say to the peasants: there is no salvation for you except by joining in the proletarian struggle. The bourgeois professors and the Narodniks are deceiving the masses with fables about small “family” farming under capitalism.


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