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


A leading country of modern capitalism is of especial interest to the study of the socio-economic structure and evolution of present-day agriculture. The U.S.A. is unrivalled either in the rate of development of capitalism at the turn of the century, or in the record level of capitalist development already attained; nor has it any rival in the vastness of the territory developed with the use of the most up-to-date machinery, which is adapted to the remarkable variety of natural and historical conditions or in the extent of the political liberty and the cultural level of the mass of the population. That country, indeed, is in many respects the model for our bourgeois civilization and is its ideal.

The study of the forms and laws of agricultural evolution is made easier in the U.S.A. by its decennial censuses of population, which are coupled with remarkably detailed descriptions of all industrial and agricultural enterprises. This yields a wealth of exact information that is unavailable in any other country; it helps to verify many popular notions, most of which are very loosely formulated and repeated without criticism, and usually serve to funnel bourgeois views and prejudices.

Mr. Himmer in the June (1913) issue of Zavety[3] gives some data from the latest, Thirteenth (1910) Census, and on this basis reiterates the most popular and thoroughly bourgeois contention—bourgeois both as regards its theoretical basis and political significance—that “the vast majority of farms in the United States employ only family labour”; that “in the more highly developed areas agricultural capitalism is disintegrating”; that “in the great majority of areas . . . small-scale farming by owner-operators is becoming ever more dominant”; that it is precisely “in the older cultivated   areas with a higher level of economic development” that “capitalist agriculture is disintegrating and production is breaking up into smaller units”; 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”, and so on and so forth.

All these assertions are monstrously untrue. They are in direct contradiction to reality. They are a sheer mockery of the truth. Their incorrectness ought to be explained in detail for a very good reason: Mr. Himmer is not the man in the street, he is not a casual contributor of a casual magazine article, but one of the most prominent economists representing the most democratic, extreme Left-wing bourgeois trend in Russian and European social thinking. That is precisely why Mr. Himmer’s views may have, and indeed already have among some non-proletarian sections of the population, particularly wide circulation and influence. They are not merely his personal views, nor his individual mistakes, but are rather an expression—couched in the most democratic terms and heavily embellished with pseudo-socialist phraseology—of general bourgeois views which in the atmosphere of a capitalist society are most readily accepted both by the smug professor, treading the beaten path, and the small farmer who is more intelligent than millions of his fellows.

The theory of the non-capitalist evolution of agriculture in capitalist society, which Mr. Himmer advocates, is really the theory of the great majority of bourgeois professors and bourgeois democrats and also of opportunists in the labour movement of the whole world who are the latest variety of those selfsame bourgeois democrats. It is no exaggeration to say that this theory is an illusion, a dream, a delusion under which the whole of bourgeois society is labouring. In devoting my further exposition to the refutation of this theory, I shall try to give a complete picture of capitalism in American agriculture, because one of the main mistakes made by bourgeois economists is to isolate facts and figures, major and minor, from the general context of politico-economic relations. All my data are taken from official statistical publications of the United States of North America, including above all the volumes Five, devoted to agriculture, of the Twelfth and Thirteenth censuses taken in   1900 and 1910 respectively, [1] and also the Statistical Abstract of the United States for 1911. Having mentioned these sources, I shall not give references to pages or tables for each separate figure, as this would only burden the reader and needlessly encumber the text; anyone interested enough will easily find the data in question from the tables of contents in these publications.


1. General Characteristic of the Three Main Sections.
The Homestead West

The vast area of the United States, which is only slightly smaller than the whole of Europe, and the great diversity of farming conditions in the various parts of the country make absolutely imperative a separate study of the major divisions, each with its peculiar economic status. American statisticians adopted five geographical divisions in 1900, and nine in 1910:

(1) New England—six states on the Atlantic coast in the north-east (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut);
(2) Middle Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania)—in 1900 these two divisions formed the North Atlantic division;
(3) East North Central (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin);
(4) West North Central (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas)—in 1900, the last two made up the North Central division;
(5) South Atlantic (Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida)—unchanged from 1900;
(6) East South Central (Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi);
(7) West South Central (Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas)—in 1900, the last two made up the South Central division;
(8) Mountain (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada); and
(9) Pacific (Washington, Oregon, and California)—in 1900, the last two made up the Western division.

The excessive patchwork of these divisions prompted American statisticians in 1910 to compress them into three main sections—the North (1-4), the South (5-7) and the West (8-9). We shall presently see that this division into three main sections is really most important and vital, although here, too, as in everything else, there are transitional types, so that on some basic points New England and the Middle Atlantic states will have to be considered separately.

In order to define the fundamental distinction between the three main sections, let us designate them as the industrial North, the former slave-owning South and the homestead West.

Here are the figures on their area, percentage of improved[2] land, and population:


Total Land Area
(000,000 acres)
Percentage of
improved land
The North 588 49 56
The South 562 27 29
The West 753 5 7

The U. S. A. 1,903 25 92

The North and the South have approximately the same area, while the West is nearly half as large again as either. The population of the North, however, is eight times that of the West, which, one might say, is hardly populated. How rapidly it is being settled is evident from the fact that in the 10 years between 1900 and 1910, the population in the North increased by 18%; the South, by 20%; and the West, by 67%! There is hardly any increase in the number of farms in the North: 2,874,000 in 1900, and 2,891,000 in 1910 (+0.6%); in the South the number increased by 18%, from 2,600,000 to 3,100,000; and in the West, by 54%, i.e., more than half as much again, from 243,000 to 373,000.

How land is being settled in the West is seen from the data on homesteads, which are parcels of land, mostly of 160 acres, i.e., about 65 dessiatines, allocated by the government free of charge or at a nominal price. In the 10 years between 1901 and 1910, the area occupied by homesteads in the North was 55.3 million acres (including 54.3 million, i.e., more than 98%, in one division alone, namely the West North Central); the area in the South was 20 million acres (including 17.3 million in one division, the West South Central), and in the West, it was 55.3 million acres spread over both divisions. This means that the West is a solid homestead area, i.e., one where unoccupied land is given away practically free—somewhat similar to the squatter land tenure in the outlying districts of Russia, except that it is not regulated by a feudal state, but in a democratic manner (I very nearly said: in a Narodnik manner; the American Republic has implemented in a capitalist way the “Narodnik” idea of distributing unoccupied land to all applicants). The North and the South, however, each have only one homestead division, which may be regarded as a transitional type from the unsettled West to the settled North and South. Let us note, by the way, that only in two divisions of the North—the New England and the Middle Atlantic—were there absolutely no homestead grants made in the last decade. We shall later have to return to these two most highly industrialized divisions, where there is no longer any homesteading at all.

The above figures on homesteads refer only to claims that have been staked and not to those actually settled; we have no figures on the latter for the various divisions. But even if these returns are somewhat exaggerated as absolute magnitudes, they are, at any rate, a faithful reflection of the relative importance of homesteads in the various divisions. In the North in 1910 the farms totaled 414 million acres, so that homestead claims in the last 10 years came to about one-eighth of the total; in the South, about one seventeenth (20 out of 354); and in the West, one-half (55 out of 111)! To lump together data on areas with hardly any land ownership at all, and data on areas where all the land is occupied, would be to make nonsense of scientific investigation.

America provides the most graphic confirmation of the truth emphasized by Marx in Capital,[4] Volume III, that capitalism in agriculture does not depend on the form of land ownership or land tenure. Capital finds the most diverse types of medieval and patriarchal landed property—feudal, “peasant allotments” (i.e., the holdings of bonded peasants); clan, communal, state, and other forms of land ownership. Capital takes hold of all these, employing a variety of ways and methods. For agricultural statistics to be properly and rationally compiled, the methods of investigation, tabulation, etc., would have to be modified to correspond to the forms of capitalist penetration into agriculture; for instance, the homesteads would have to be put into a special group and their economic fate traced. Unfortunately, however, the statistics are all too often dominated by routine and meaningless, mechanical repetition of the same old methods.

How extensive agriculture is in the West, as compared with the other sections, is evident, by the way, from the data on expenditures for artificial fertilizers. In 1909, the expenditure per acre of improved land was 13 cents ($0.13) in the North; 50 cents, in the South, and only 6 cents in the West. The South has the highest figure because cotton demands great quantities of fertilizers, and the South is primarily a cotton-growing area: cotton and tobacco account for 46.8% of the total value of all its farm crops; grain, only 29.3%; hay and forage, 5.1%. By contrast, grain leads in the North with 62.6%, followed by 18.8% of hay and forage, most of which is cultivated. In the West, grain accounts for 33.1% of the total value of all farm crops; hay and forage, with wild grasses predominating, 31.7%, while fruits, a special branch of commercial farming rapidly developing on the Pacific coast, account for 15.5% of the total value.


[1] Census Reports. Twelfth Census 1900. Vol. V. Agriculture, Wash. 1902.—Thirteenth Census of the United States, Taken in the Year 1910. Vol. V. Agriculture, Wash. 1913. —Lenin

[2] The 1910 Census defined farmland as consisting of (1) improved land, (2) woodlands and (3) all other unimproved land. Improved land includes all land regularly tilled or mowed, land pastured and cropped in rotation, land lying fallow, land in gardens, orchards vineyards, and nurseries, and land occupied by farm buildings. —Lenin



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