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


12. Different Types of Enterprises in Agriculture

What I have said above about the intensive, large-scale capitalist enterprises on small tracts raises this question: is there any reason to believe that the intensification of agriculture leads to a reduction of farm acreage? In other words, are there any conditions relating to modern farming techniques as such that require smaller farm acreage for greater intensity of farming?

No answer is provided either by general theoretical reasoning or by examples. In each case it is a matter of the concrete technical level of agriculture under a given set of conditions, and the actual amount of capital required by a given system of farming. In theory, any amount of capital can be invested in any acreage in any possible way, but it is obvious that “this depends” on the existing economic, technical, and cultural conditions, etc., and the whole point is the kind of conditions prevalent in a given country at a given time. Examples serve no purpose at all, because in the sphere of such complex, varied, interwoven and contradictory trends in the economics of modern agriculture, any number of examples will be found to support opposite views. What this calls for above all—and more so than in any other sphere—is a picture of the process as a whole, with all the trends taken into account and summed up in the form of a resultant.

The third method of grouping used by American statisticians in 1900 helps to find an answer to this question. It is classification according to the principal source of income. Accordingly, farms fall into one of the following groups: (1) hay and grain as the principal source of income; (2) miscellaneous; (3) livestock; (4) cotton; (5) vegetable; (6) fruit; (7) dairy produce; (8) tobacco; (9) rice; (10) sugar; (11) flowers and plants; (12) nursery products; (13) taro; and (14) coffee. The last seven groups (8-14) together make up only 2.2% of the total number of farms, i.e., such an insignificant share, that I shall not consider them separately. These groups (8-14) are similar to the preceding three groups (5-7) in economic characteristics and significance and constitute a single type.

Here are the data characterizing the various types of farms;

Average per acre of all land ($)
Groups of farms by
principal source
of income
of total
number of

per farm



Outlays on fertilizers
Value of

Value of
Hay and grain




















Dairy produce















Average for all farms 100.0 146.6 72.3 0.43 0.07 0.90 3.66

It is clear that the first two groups of enterprises (hay and grain, and miscellaneous) may be classified as average both as regards the degree of their capitalist development (their expenditures for hired labour are nearest the average—0.35 to 0.47, as against an average of 0.43 for the U.S.A.) and the intensiveness of agriculture. All the characteristics of intensive operations—expenditures for fertilizers, the per-acre value of machinery and livestock—are nearest to the general average for the U S.A.

There is no doubt that these two groups are especially typical of the majority of agricultural enterprises in general. Hay and grain, followed by a combination of various farm products (“miscellaneous” sources of income), are the chief types of agricultural enterprises in all countries. It would be extremely interesting to have more detailed data about these groups, such, for instance, as a breakdown into more and less commercialized enterprises, etc. But, as we have seen, the American Census, having made one step in that direction, did not go forward, but went back.

The next two groups, livestock and cotton, are an example of farms with the least capitalistic development (the expenditures for hired labour: 0.29 to 0.30 as against the average of 0.43), and the least intensive methods of agriculture. Their values of implements and machinery are the lowest and considerably lower than the average (0.66 and 0.53 as against 0.90). Farms whose principal source of income is livestock naturally have more livestock per acre than the average for the U.S.A. (4.45 as against 3.66), but appear to be engaged in extensive livestock raising: their expenditures for fertilizers are the minimum, they have the largest average acreage (226.9 acres) and the smallest proportion of improved acreage (86.1 out of 226.9). The cotton farms have a higher than-average figure for fertilizers, but other indexes indicative of intensive agriculture (the per-acre value of livestock and machinery) are very low.

Finally, the last three groups—vegetables, fruit, and dairy produce—include farms which are, first, the smallest in acreage (33 to 63 acres of improved land, as against 42 to 86 and 46 to 111 in the other groups); secondly, the most capitalist: they have the heaviest expenditure of hired labour,   from 2 to 6 times the average; and thirdly, the most intensive. Almost all the indexes of intensive agriculture are above the average: the expenditure on fertilizers, the value of machinery, the value of livestock (a minor exception are the fruit-growing farms which lag behind the average, but are well ahead of the farms which derive their income chiefly from hay and grain).

Let us now see what is the share of these highly capitalist farms in the country’s economy. But we must first examine their intensive character in somewhat greater detail.

Take the farms whose main income is derived from vegetables. It is well known that in all capitalist countries the development of towns, factories, industrial settlements, railway stations, ports, etc., stimulates a demand for this type of product, it pushes up their prices, and increases the number of agricultural enterprises raising them for the market. The average “vegetable” farm has less than one-third of the improved acreage of an “ordinary” farm deriving income chiefly from hay and grain: the former is 33.8 acres, and the latter, 111.1. This means that this particular technical level with this particular accumulation of capital in agriculture requires “vegetable” farms of smaller acreage; in other words, if capital invested in agriculture is to yield a not less-than average profit, a vegetable-raising farm should have, technology being what it is, a smaller acreage than a hay-and grain farm.

But that is not all. The growth of capitalism in agriculture consists above all in a transition from natural agriculture to commercial agriculture. This is being constantly forgotten, and must be brought up again and again. Commercial agriculture, it should be noted, does not develop along the “simple” lines imagined or projected by bourgeois economists, namely, through an ever greater output of the same products. Not at all. Commercial agriculture very frequently develops by shifting from one type of product to another, and the shift from hay and grain to vegetables is very common. But what bearing does it have on the question before us, that of farm acreage and the growth of capitalism in agriculture?

Such a shift signifies the split-up of a “large” 111.1-acre farm into more than three “small” 33.8-acre farms. The old farm produced a value of $760—the average value of its products, less the feed raised on the farm, whose chief source of income is hay and grain. Each of the new farms produces a value of $665, or a total of $665 x 3 = $1,995, i.e., more than double the original figure.

As large-scale production displaces small-scale production, farm acreage is reduced.

The average expenditure on hired labour on the old farm was $76; on the new farm it is $106, or almost half as much again, while acreage is one-third or even less. Expenditure on fertilizers has gone up from $0.04 per acre to $0.59, an increase of almost 15 times; the value of implements and machinery has doubled from $1.04 to $2.12, etc.

There will, of course, be the usual objection that the number of such highly capitalist farms with specialized “commercial” crops is negligible, as compared with the total. The answer is that, first, the number and the role, the economic role of such farms, are much greater than is generally realized; and secondly—and this is the most important point—it is such crops that are developed more rapidly than others in the capitalist countries. That is just why a reduction in farm acreage with the intensification of agriculture so often implies an increase and not a reduction in the scale of operations, an increase and not a decrease in the exploitation of hired labour.

Here are the exact American statistics for the country as a whole. Let us take all the special, or “commercial”, crops listed above under heads 5-14, namely, vegetables, fruit, dairy produce, tobacco, rice, sugar, flowers, nursery products, taro, and coffee. In 1900, these products were the principal source of income for 12.5% of all farms in the U.S.A. This is one-eighth, a very small minority. Their acreage was 8.6%, or one-twelfth, of the total. But to continue. Let us take the total value of the products of American agriculture (less feed). Of this value the farms in question accounted for as much as 16%, i.e., their share of the value was almost double their share of the acreage.

This means that the productivity of labour and land on these farms was almost double the average.

Let us take the sum total of expenditure on hired labour in American agriculture. Of this total, 26.6%, i.e., over one-quarter, fell to the farms in question. This is more than three times their share of the acreage, and more than three times the average. This means that these farms are very much more capitalist than the average.

Their share of the total value of implements and machinery is 20.1%, and of the expenditures for fertilizers, 31.7%, i.e., slightly less than one-third of the total, and nearly four times the average.

Consequently, an incontrovertible fact is established for the country as a whole. It is that the especially intensive farms have an especially small acreage, especially great employment of hired labour, and especially high productivity of labour; that the economic role of these farms in the nation’s agriculture is two, three and more times greater than their proportion of the total number of farms, to say nothing of their share of the total acreage.

As time goes on, does the role of these highly capitalist and highly intensive crops and farms increase or decrease in comparison with other crops and farms?

The answer is provided by a comparison of the last two census reports: their role is unquestionably increasing. Let us take the acreage planted to the various crops. From 1900 to 1910, the acreage under grain increased by only 3.5% for the U.S.A.; under beans, peas, and the like, 26.6%; hay and forage, 17.2%; cotton, 32%; vegetables, 25.5%; sugar-beets, sugar-cane, etc., 62.6%.

Let us examine the crop returns. From 1900 to 1910, the grain crop went up only 1.7%; beans, 122.2%; hay and forage, 23%; sugar-beets, 395.7%; sugar-cane, 48.5%; potatoes, 42.4%; grapes, 97.6%; there was a poor crop of berries, apples, etc., in 1910, but the orange and lemon crops, etc., were treble those of 1900.

Thus, the apparently paradoxical but nevertheless proven fact bas been shown to apply to U.S. agriculture as a whole   that, generally speaking, small-scale production is not only being displaced by large scale production, but also that this displacement is taking place in the following form:

Small-scale production is being crowded out by large-scale production through the displacement of farms which are “larger” in acreage, but are less productive, less intensive and less capitalist, by farms which are “smaller” in acreage, but are more productive, more intensive, and more capitalist.


  11. A More Exact Comparison of Small and Large Enterprises | 13. How the Displacement of Small-Scale by Large-Scale Production in Agriculture is Minimised  

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