V. I.   Lenin

The Left Narodniks Whitewash the Bourgeoisie

Published: Put Pravdy No. 56, April 6, 1914. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 213-216.
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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As soon as the Left-Narodnik gentry pass from empty and general phrases about the “labouring peasantry”—phrases that have been worked to death and reveal ignorance of both The Communist Manifesto and of Capital—to precise figures, we immediately see how the Left Narodniks white wash the bourgeoisie.

The bourgeois character of the entire “labouring peasantry” theory is disguised behind catch-phrases and exclamations, but it is exposed by facts and by a study of Marx’s theory.

Thus, in Stoikaya Mysl No. 14, a certain Mr. Batrak,[1] who writes in an extremely highbrow style, discusses “socialism and the peasantry”.

The number of labour economies is growing,” Mr. Batrak declares, and goes on to quote French and German statistics. Statistics are not the sort of thing that can be dismissed with catch-phrases or exclamations, and deception is very quickly exposed.

In France, the total area of “small farms”, i. e., those of five to ten hectares (a hectare is slightly less than a dessiatine) has increased.

Very good, Mr. Batrak! But have you not heard that the more intensive farming is, the more often one meets with the employment of wage-labour on “small” (in area) farms? Does not this hushing up of the facts about the employment of wage-labour mean whitewashing the bourgeoisie, Mr. Batrak?

Let us take the German figures. Out of 652,798 farms of five to ten hectares, 487,704 employ hired labourers. What do you say to that? Most small farmers exploit wage-workers! And in France? In France, vinegrowing, which   entails the employment of wage-labour on small holdings, is far more widespread than in Germany.

The “labour economy” theory is one that deceives the workers by hushing up the facts about the employment of wage-labour.

Mr. Batrak takes Germany. The “small and medium” farms go as “labour” economies (the tongue is so flexible it can call anybody a “labouring” farmer!). And so, from the fact that the number of “small” and “medium” farms is growing, Mr. Batrak infers that the number of “labour” economies is growing.

But consider the figures quoted by this new champion of the bourgeoisie.

He starts with farms of up to two hectares. They constituted 58.3 per cent in 1882, 58.22 per cent in 1895 and 58.89 per cent in 1907. An increase, is it not?

But our “Left Narodnik” has hushed up the fact that this is an increase in the number of wage-workers!

The figures he distorts state definitely that of the 3,378, 509 farmers who own farms of up to two hectares (1907), only 474,915, i. e., a little over 116 (one-tenth), are independent farmers whose chief occupation is agriculture. Most of them are wage-labourers (1,822,792).

Of the 3,378,509 farms, 2,920,119, i. e., the vast majority, are subsidiary undertakings where farming does not provide the main earnings.

One may ask: Is not passing off farm-hands and day-labourers, wage-workers, as “labouring farmers” a white-washing of the bourgeoisie and capitalism?

Does not the silly catch-phrase of “labouring farmers” serve here to conceal the gulf between the proletariat (the wage-workers) and the bourgeoisie? Does not this catch-phrase serve as a means of putting over bourgeois theories?

To proceed. Farms from two to five hectares. These constituted 18.60 per cent in 1882, 18.29 per cent in 1895, and 17.57 per cent in 1907. This is what Mr. Batrak writes.

What is his deduction? On that point he is silent.

The deduction is: a decrease, not growth. It is precisely in this group of farms, and only in this group, that employers of labour (people who buy the labour of private individuals)   and those who hire themselves out do not quite preponderate. The number of farmers who hire labour is 411,311 (counting the number of hired labourers) while the number of those who hire themselves out is 104,251 (the latter is not the total number; here the statistics are incomplete). Together, we get a total of 515,000, and the total number of these peasant farms is 1,006,277, so that even here more than half either hire themselves out or employ labourers!

The nice little catch-phrase of “labour economy” serves to deceive the workers by withholding the facts about the buying and selling of labour-power.

Mr. Batrak then takes farms of five to twenty hectares, and shows that their number is increasing.

But what about the employment of wage-labour? Not a word, not a sound about that. The theoreticians of “labour economy” have been commissioned by the bourgeoisie to conceal the figures about the employment of wage-labour.

We shall take these figures: 652,798 farms (1907) of five to ten hectares employ 487,704 wage-labourers, i. e., more than half exploit wage-labour.

A total of 412,741 farms of ten to twenty hectares employ 711,867 wage-labourers, i. e., all, or nearly all, exploit wage-labour.

What should we call a man who poses as a “socialist” and yet classifies exploiters of wage-labour as “labouring farmers”?

As the Marxists have more than once explained, the Left Narodniks are petty bourgeois, who whitewash the bourgeoisie and obscure the fact that it exploits wage-labour.

We shall return to the bourgeois theories of the Left Narodniks, and particularly to Mr. Batrak’s theories, on a future occasion. At present we shall briefly sum up.

The “labour economy” theory is a bourgeois deception of the workers, based, among other things, on the concealment of the figures concerning the buying and selling of labour-power.

As a matter of fact, the vast majority of the “small and medium” peasants to whom the Left Narodniks are fond of referring without discrimination, either sell or buy labour-power, either hire themselves out or hire labour. That is the crux of the matter, which the bourgeois “labour economy” theory obscures.


The proletarian says to the small peasant: you are a semi-proletarian, so follow the lead of the workers; it is your only salvation.

The bourgeois says to the small peasant: you are a small proprietor, a “labouring farmer”. Labour economy “grows” under capitalism as well. You should be with the proprietors, not with the proletariat.

The small proprietor has two souls: one is a proletarian and the other a “proprietory” soul.

The Left Narodniks are, in effect, repeating the theories of the bourgeoisie and corrupting the small peasants with “proprietory” illusions. That is why the Marxists relentlessly combat this bourgeois corruption of the small peasants (and backward workers) by the Left Narodniks.


[1] Batrak—the Socialist-Revolutionary M. Zatonsky.

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