V. I.   Lenin

New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture

PART ONE—Capitalism and Agriculture in the United States of America


7. Machinery and Hired Labour in Agriculture

Let us consider another form of capital investment in land which is technically different from the form examined above—implements and machinery. All European agricultural statistics provide irrefutable evidence that the larger the farm acreage, the greater is the proportion of farms using all types of machines and the greater the number of machines used. The superiority of big farms in this highly important respect has been established beyond doubt. In this field, too, American statisticians have a rather unconventional approach: neither implements nor farm machinery are recorded separately, only their total value being given. Such data may, of course, be less exact in each individual case, but taken as a whole they allow definite comparisons   between divisions and between groups of farms—comparisons which are impossible with other kinds of data.

Below are the figures for farm implements and machinery by divisions:

Value of implements and machinery (1909)
Divisions Average per farm


Average per acre
of all farmland

New England
Middle Atlantic

East North Central
West North Central
The South (three divisions)
The West (two divisions)

The U.S.A. 199 1.44

The former slave-owning South, the area of share-cropping, occupies a bottom place in the use of machinery. The value of implements and machinery per acre—for its three divisions—is one-third, one-quarter, one-fifth of the figures for the intensive states of the North. The latter lead the rest and, in particular, are far ahead of the West North Central states, America’s most agricultural area and her granary, which superficial observers still frequently regard as a model area of capitalism and of the use of machinery.

It should be noted that the American statistical method of determining the value of machinery, as well as of land, livestock, buildings, etc., per acre of all farmland and not per acre of improved land, understates the superiority of the “intensive” areas of the North and cannot, in general, be considered correct. The difference between the divisions in regard to the proportion of improved acreage is very great: in the West, it is as low as 26.7% for the Mountain states, and as high as 75.4% for the East North Central states in the North. For the purposes of economic statistics, improved land is undoubtedly of much greater importance than total acreage. In New England, improved acreage in farms and its proportion of the total has decreased substantially, especially since 1880, probably   under the impact of competition from the free lands of the West (i.e., free from ground-rent, from tribute to the landowning gentry). At the same time, the use of machinery in this division is very extensive and the value of machinery per acre of improved land is especially high. In 1910, it amounted to $7 per acre, while in the Middle Atlantic States it was about $5.50 and not more than $2-3 in the other divisions.

Again, the division with the smallest farms, in terms of acreage, turns out to have the largest capital investments in land in the form of machinery.

Comparing the Middle Atlantic, one of the “intensive” divisions of the North, with the most extensive region of the North, the West North Central, we discover that as far as improved acreage per farm is concerned, that of the former is less than half that of the latter—62.6 acres as against 148.0—while the value of machinery used is greater—$358 per farm as against $332. The smaller farms are thus larger enterprises in terms of-machinery used.

We still have to compare the data on the intensive nature of agriculture with the data on the employment of hired labour. I already gave these figures in brief above, in Chapter 5. We must now examine them in greater detail by divisions .

Divisions Percentage of farms
hiring labour
in 1909

on hired
labour per
hiring farm
Outlays on
labour per acre
of improved land
of outlays
from 1899
to 1909


The North New England
Middle Atlantic

East North Central
West North Central
The South South Atlantic
East South Central
West South Central
The West Mountain

The U.S.A. 45.9 223 1.36 0.86 +58

This shows, firstly, that capitalism is undoubtedly much more developed in the agriculture of the Northern intensive states than in that of the extensive states; secondly, that in the former, capitalism is developing faster than in the latter; thirdly, that the division with the smallest farms, New England, has both the highest level of development of capitalism in agriculture and the highest rate of its development. There the increase of expenditure on hired labour per acre of improved land is 86%; the Pacific states come second in this respect. California, where, as I have said, “small-scale” capitalist fruit-raising is rapidly developing, is also the leader in this respect among the Pacific states.

The West North Central division, with the largest farm acreages (an average of 148 acres in 1910, counting improved land only) and with the most rapid and steady growth of farm acreages since 1850, is commonly regarded as the “model” capitalist region of American agriculture. We have now seen that this contention is profoundly erroneous. The extent to which hired labour is used is certainly the best and most direct indicator of the development of capitalism. And it tells us that America’s “granary”, the region of the much vaunted “wheat factories”, which attract so much attention, is less capitalist than the industrial and intensively farmed region, where the indication of agricultural progress is not an increase in improved acreage but an increase in capital investments in the land, together with a simultaneous reduction of the acreage.

It is quite possible to imagine that with the use of machinery the improvement of the “black soil” or unploughed virgin lands in general can proceed very rapidly despite a small increase in the employment of hired labour. In the West North Central states expenditure on hired labour per acre of improved land was $0.56 in 1899, and $0.83 in 1909, an increase of only 48%. In New England, where the improved area is decreasing and not increasing and where the average size of farms is decreasing and not in creasing, expenditure on hired labour was not only very much higher both in 1899 ($2.55 per acre) and in 1909 ($4.76 per acre), but had grown during the period at a much faster rate (+86%).

The average farm in New England is one-fourth the size of farms in the West North Central states (38.4 as against 148 acres), yet its average expenditure on hired labour is greater : $277 as against $240. Consequently, the reduction in the size of farms means in such cases that a greater amount of capital is invested in agriculture, and that the capitalist nature of agriculture is intensified; it signifies a growth of capitalism and capitalist production.

While the West North Central states, which comprise 34.3% of the total improved acreage in the U.S.A., are the most typical division of “extensive” capitalist agriculture, the Mountain states offer an example of similar extensive farming in conditions of the most rapid colonization. Here less hired labour is employed, in terms of the proportion of farms employing labour, but the average expenditure on hired labour is very much higher than in the West North Central division. But in the former the employment of hired labour increased at a slower rate than in any other division of America (only +22%). This type of evolution was apparently due to the following conditions. In this division, colonization and the distribution of homesteads are extremely widespread. The area under crops increased more than in any other division: by 89% from 1900 to 1910. The settlers, the owners of the homesteads, naturally employ little hired labour, at any rate when starting their farms. On the other hand, hired labour must be employed on a very large scale, firstly, by some latifundia, which are especially numerous in this division as in the West in general; and secondly, by farms raising special and highly capitalist crops. In some states of this division, for instance, a very high proportion of the total crop value comes from fruits (Arizona—6%, Colorado—10%), and vegetables (Colorado—11.9%, Nevada—11.2%), and so forth.

In summing up, I must say the following: Mr. Himmer’s assertion that “there are no areas where colonization is no longer continuing, or where large-scale capitalist agriculture is not decaying and is not being replaced by family-labour farms”, is a mockery of the truth, and entirely contrary to the actual facts. The New England division, where there is no colonization at all, where farms are smallest, where   farming is most intensive, shows the highest level of capitalism in agriculture and the highest rate of capitalist development. This conclusion is most essential and basic for an understanding of the process of capitalist development in agriculture in general, because the intensification of agriculture and the reduction in the average farm acreage that goes with it is not some accidental, local, casual phenomenon, but one that is common to all civilized countries. Bourgeois economists of every stripe make a host of mistakes when considering data on the evolution of agriculture (as in Great Britain, Denmark, and Germany) because they are not familiar enough with this general phenomenon, they have not given it enough thought and have not understood or analysed it.


  6. Areas of the Most Intensive Agriculture | 8. Displacement of Small by Big Enterprises. Quantity of Improved Land  

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