V. I.   Lenin

Farm Labourers’ Wages

Published: Put Pravdy No. 49, March 29, 1914. Signed: V. I.. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 174-176.
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.

Wages in the manufacturing industry are known to have risen by about twenty per cent since 1905.

A first attempt to study the situation as regards the wages of agricultural labourers was made in the recently published pamphlet by I. Drozdov, The Wages of Farm Labourers in Russia in Connection with the Agrarian Movement in 1905–06 (St. Petersburg, 1914, published by M. I. Semyonov, price 50 kopeks). We shall deal with the main conclusions of this interesting treatise.

The farm labourer’s average daily wage in European Russia was as follows (in kopeks):

  Kopeks Per cent
Average for 1902–04 . . . . . 64.0 100.0
” ” 1905 . . . . . 64.8 101.2
” ” 1906 . . . . . 72.0 112.5
” ” 1907 . . . . . 73.1 114.2
” ” 1908 . . . . . 72.4 113.1
” ” 1909 . . . . . 75.8 118.4
” ” 1910 . . . . . 76.6 119.6

These figures show that the highest increase in wages occurred in 1906, the very year when the impact of the 1905 movement must have been at its strongest.

Thus, beginning with 1905, an increase was achieved also in the incredibly low pay of farm labourers! That this progress is still far from adequate is evident from a comparison between money wages and grain prices. The author of the pamphlet made this comparison and expressed the money wages of farm labourers quoted above in terms of grain (rye) at average local prices. He found that wages expressed in terms of grain dropped from 0.93 poods in 1902-04 to 0.85 poods in 1905 and 0.91 poods in 1906.

In other words, for his day’s pay the farm labourer in Russia could buy 0.93 poods of rye in 1902–04 and only 0.91 poods in 1906. Obviously, if not for the impetus of 1905 and 1906, the reduction in real wages would have been even greater.

Wages fluctuate considerably from year to year according to the harvest and other causes. For example, between 1905 and 1907 wages rose, though very unevenly, and then in 1908 (the year when the reaction was strongest) they dropped, to rise slightly again in 1909 and 1910.

In view of the fluctuation of wages from year to year, it is necessary to take for the purposes of comparison, not individual years, but decades. Making such a comparison, Mr. Drozdov defines the average wage of farm labourers in European Russia for the ten years 1891–1900 at 55.08 kopeks per day, and for the subsequent ten years (1901–10) at 69.18 kopeks per day. This shows an increase of 25.5 per cent.

This means that three million farm labourers in Russia (the number is undoubtedly greatly understated) secured increases in pay amounting to about eighty million rubles per year, if we count only 200 working days per year.

True, during this period, the price of food products increased on an average by 20.5 per cent. Hence, the actual increase in wages, or increase in real wages, was very slight. Expressing daily money wages in terms of grain, the author found an increase of only 3.9 per cent during the revolutionary ten years as compared with, the pre-revolutionary ten years. Thus, by exerting all their efforts the labourers succeeded in keeping wages at their former level and in raising them only very slightly.

On the other hand, a comparison of the changes in labourers’ wages and in the price of land during the same two decades reveals an enormous increase in the incomes of the landed gentry. Purchasing land means purchasing the income obtained from the land; it means purchasing rent; the price of land is therefore capitalised rent. We see that during the two decades the average price per dessiatine rose from R. 69.1 to R. 132.4, i.e., almost doubled!

The wages of millions of hired workers increased by one-fourth. The incomes of the landlords doubled. Wages barely kept pace with the price of food products, but the landlords’   incomes rose five times as high as the price of food products. The landowners and well-to-do peasant proprietors are growing steadily richer.

It should be borne in mind that the increase in the income from land and the increaso in the price of agricultural produce steadily and inevitably widen the class gulf between the rural bourgeois and the rural proletarian, between the small proprietor (albeit a “labouring” proprietor) and the wage-worker. Therefore, those who say to the “labouring” peasants: under capitalism your small farm will not save you from poverty and want, your only salvation lies in joining the hired workers—speak the truth. But those who, like our “Narodniks”, try to defend the interests of the “labouring” peasant economy and declare that petty economy is viable under capitalism—such people foster bourgeois aspirations, cultivate the bourgeois, non-proletarian “streak” in the small proprietor, and speak like bourgeois.


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