V. I.   Lenin

The “Labouring” Peasantry and the Trade in Land

Published: Put Pravdy No. 26, March 2, 1914. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 132-135.
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.

The Left-Narodnik talk about the “labouring” peasantry is such a scandalous imposture and corruption of the socialist consciousness of the workers that it is necessary to examine it again and again.

The more our Left Narodniks flaunt their platitudes and saccharine speeches, the more important it becomes to counter them with precise data on peasant economy.

There is nothing the Left Narodnik fights shy of so much as precise data on the peasant bourgeoisie and the peasant proletariat.

Let us take the returns of the last Zemstvo statistical survey of the peasants in the vicinity of Moscow.[1] Here agriculture has taken on a relatively very pronounced commercial character due to the considerable development of fruit and vegetable farming. And this example of a district that is more developed as regards the domination of the market reveals all the more strikingly the essential features of all peasant economy under capitalism.

The first district of Moscow suburban peasant economy (we take only this one district because, unfortunately, the statistics do not give us general summaries) covers over two thousand peasant farms. The number is sufficiently large to enable us to study the typical relations between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie among the “labouring” peasantry.

It is noteworthy that capitalist agriculture here is developing on ordinary land with farms of extremely small size, 2,336 peasant farms having a total of 4,253 dessiatines of allotment land, i.e., an average of less than two dessiatines per farm. If we add 1,761 dessiatines of leased land and subtract 625 dessiatines of land rented out, we get a total   of 5,389 dessiatines, i.e., an average of more than two dessiatines per farm. Nevertheless, two-thirds of the peasants employ hired labour!

The higher the level of agricultural techniques, the more intensive the farming, and the stronger the influence of the market, the more often do we meet with large-scale production on small plots of land. This is constantly overlooked by bourgeois professors and our Left Narodniks, who are so enthusiastic about small farms (reckoned in area of land), and gloss over the capitalist nature of modern small farms that employ hired labour.

Let us examine the trade that is going on in allotment land. The figures for leased and rented out laud show that this trade is very considerable. About half the leased land is allotment land. Altogether, 625 dessiatines of allotment land is rented out, and 845 dessiatines are leased. Clearly, the old system of-allotment land tenure, which by its very nature is identified with serfdom and medievalism, is be coming an obstacle to modern trade and capitalist circulation. Capitalism is breaking down the old system of allotment tenure. Farming is not adapting itself to the official allotment, but is demanding the free sale and purchase of land, free renting and leasing in conformity with the demands of the market, the requirements of the bourgeois economic system.

Take the peasant proletariat. Under this category, first of all, come 405 households (out of the 2,336) which are either landless or have up to half a dessiatine of land. These 405 households own 437 dessiatines of allotment land. But these are poor, largely horseless, peasants, who do not have the wherewithal to engage in farming. They rent out 372 dessiatines—the greater part of their land—and are themselves becoming wage-workers. Of the 405 households, 376 “provide” agricultural labourers, or industrial workers who have given up farming.

Take the richest peasant bourgeoisie. Here 526 households have farms of over three dessiatines. This already is capitalist farming, with fruit and vegetable growing. Of these 526 farmers, 509 employ labourers. The working members of the families number 1,706, and they employ 1,248 labourers (by the year or season), exclusive of day-labourers (51,000 working days).

These households own a total of 1,540 dessiatines, an average of less than three dessiatines of allotment land per household. But they rent out only 42 and lease 1,102 dessiatines, of which 512 dessiatines is allotment land! By “concentrating” land in this way, these “labouring” peasants, having an average of three working members of the faintly per farm, are becoming typical bourgeois with an average of two and a half hired labourers per farm and nearly a hundred hired day-labourer working days. The buying and selling of the produce of land leads to the development of the buying and selling of land itself (leasing and renting out), and to the buying and selling of labour-power.

Now consider the Left Narodniks’ assertion that the abolition of private ownership of the land means “withdrawing the land” from commercial circulation! This is a purely philistine fairy-tale. In fact, the very opposite is the case; this abolition would draw the land into commercial circulation on a vaster scale than ever before. The capital now being spent on the purchase of land would be released, the feudal and bureaucratic obstacles to the free transfer of land from one person to another would disappear, and capitalism, i. e., the renting out of land by the proletariat and the “concentration” of land by the bourgeoisie, would develop still more rapidly.

This measure, which is useful as a means of fighting the feudal landlords, the Left Narodniks try to pass off as “socialism”, though actually it is only a bourgeois measure. It is undeniable that the peasant proletarians and the peas ant bourgeoisie have common interests against the landlords. Every Marxist working man knows that, but to obscure consciousness of the class antagonisms between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie by jabber about the “labouring” peasantry means deserting to the bourgeoisie, deserting to the enemies of socialism.

Moscow suburban farming shows us, as if under a magnifying glass, what is going on everywhere in Russia in a milder and less definable form. Everywhere the peasant who does not hire himself out or does not himself employ hired labour is already becoming the exception. Every day, even in the remoter districts, we find trade developing, and the gulf between the proletarians (hired workers) and the small proprietors,   the petty bourgeoisie, the peasants, widening more and more.

It is the aim of the urban proletariat to develop a clear realisation of this class antagonism, which, in the rural districts, is obscured by the specific features of agriculture and the survivals of serfdom. It is the aim of the bourgeoisie, in whose footsteps the petty-bourgeois Left Narodniks are foolishly following, to hinder the realisation of this class antagonism by means of empty, meaningless and utterly false phrases about the “labouring” peasantry.


[1] Lenin refers to The Economico-Statistical Handbook, Issue VII. Vegetable and Fruit Cultivation In Moscow Uyezd. Moscow, 1913.

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