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


13. How the Displacement of Small-Scale by Large-Scale Production in Agriculture is Minimised

The objection may be raised that if the displacement of small-scale production “also” proceeds in the form of the intensification (and “capitalization”) of operations on the smaller-size farms, is the grouping by acreage of any use at all? Is this not a case of two contradictory tendencies which make any general conclusion impossible?

This objection can be met by a complete picture of American agriculture and its evolution; to meet it we must try to compare all three methods of grouping which present, as it were, the maximum of information social statistics has produced in the sphere of agriculture in recent years.

Such a comparison is possible. All it calls for is a table which may at first sight appear to be so abstract and complex that it may “scare” the reader away. However, it takes only a little bit of concentration to “read”, understand and analyzes the table.

To compare the three different groupings we need take only their percentage ratios. All the necessary calculations are given in the American Census report for 1900. Each grouping is tabulated under three main heads. By acreage we have: (1) small farms (under 100 acres), (2) medium (100 to 175 acres), and (3) large (175 and over). By value of product we have: (1) non-capitalist farms (under $500), (2) medium   ($500 to 1.000), and (3) capitalist ($1,000 and over). By the principal source of income we take (1) slightly capitalist (livestock, cotton), (2) medium (hay and grain; and miscellaneous), and (3) highly capitalist (the special “commercial” crops listed above, in Chapter 12, under heads 5 to 14).

For every group we first take the percentage of farms, i.e., the number of farms in a given group expressed as a percentage ratio of the total number of farms in the U.S.A. We then take the percentage of all land, i.e., the total acreage in a given group expressed as a percentage ratio of the total acreage of all farms in the U.S.A. The acreage serves as an indicator of the extensive character of the enterprise (unfortunately, the only figures available are for total acreage, instead of the improved acreage only, which would have been more exact). If the percentage share of the total acreage is higher than the percentage share of the number of farms, for example, if 17.2% of the farms have 43.1% of the land, it is evident that we are dealing with large farms, larger-than-average farms, which are besides more than double the size of the average farm. The reverse is true if the percentage of land is lower than the percentage of farms.

Next come the indexes of intensiveness of agriculture: the value of implements and machinery, and the total expenditure on fertilizers. Here, too, we take the value and the expenditure in the given group expressed as a percentage share of the totals for the country as a whole. Here again, if the percentage is higher than the percentage of land, the conclusion is that intensiveness is above the average, etc.

Finally, in order to determine exactly the capitalist character of the enterprises, the same method is applied to the total expenditure on hired labour; while in order to determine the scale of production this is done in relation to the total value of the agricultural product for the entire country.

This has produced the following table, which I shall now proceed to explain and analyze:

Comparison of the Three Groupings (figures are percentages of total, sum total of each horizontal row of three figures = 100)

Number of farms
By principal source of income By farm acreage By value of product
Medium Highly
Small Medium Large Non-capitalist Medium Capitalist
46.0 41.5 12.5 57.5 24.8 17.7 58.8 24.0 17.2 Index of extensiveness of agriculture
Total acreage 59.2 38.5 8.6 17.5 22.9 59.6 33.3 23.6 43.1
Constant capital Value of implements
and machinery

Outlays on fertilizers


















Index of intensiveness of agriculture
Variable capital Outlays on hired labour









Index of capitalist character of enterprise
Scale of production Value of product









Let us consider the first grouping—according to the principal source of income. Here farms are grouped, so to say, according to their line of farming, which is to some extent similar to the grouping of industrial enterprises by branches of industry. But the picture is immensely more complex in agriculture.

The first column shows the group of slightly capitalist farms. It comprises almost one-half the total number of farms—46%. They own 52.9% of the total a acreage, i.e., they are larger than average (this group includes both the very large, extensive, livestock farms and the smaller-than-average cotton farms). Their shares of the value of machinery (37.2%) and the expenditure on fertilizers (36.5%) are lower than their acreage percentages, which means that their intensiveness is lower than the average. The same thing is true of the capitalist character of the enterprise (35.2%) and the value of the product (45%). Hence, their productivity of labour is lower than the average.

The second column shows the medium farms. Because farms which are “medium” in every respect fall into the medium group by all three methods of grouping, we find here that all their percentage ratios are closer to each other than in any of the other groups. The fluctuations are relatively small.

The third column shows the highly capitalist farms. I gave above a detailed analysis of what the figures in this column mean. Be it noted that only for this type of farm do we have accurate and comparable data both for 1900 and 1910—data testifying that these highly capitalist crops have a faster than-average rate of development.

In what way is this more rapid development evident in the ordinary classification in use in most countries? This is shown in the next column: the small farms grouped by acreage.

This group consists of a great number of farms (57.5 por cent of the total). Its acreage is only 17.5% of the total, i.e., less than one-third of the average. Hence, this is the “poorest” group, the most “land-starved” group. But then we and that it has a higher-than-average intensiveness of agriculture (the value of machinery and expenditures for   fertilizers); that it is more capitalist (expenditures for hired labour); and that it has a higher-than-average-productivity of labour (value of product): 22.3 to 41.9% with 17.5% of the acreage.

What is the explanation? Obviously that an especially large number of highly capitalist farms—see the preceding vertical column—fall into this “small”-acreage group. A minority of rich, capital-owning farmers conducting large scale capitalist operations on small tracts of land are added to a majority of really small farmers who have little land and little capital. Such farmers make up only 12.5% ( = the percentage of highly capitalist farms) of the total in America, which means that even if they were all to be put into this one group of small-acreage farms, 45% of the farmers in that group (57.5—12.5) would still be short of land and capital. Actually, of course, a part of the highly capitalist farms, even if only a small one, consists of medium and large-acreage farms, so that the figure of 45% in fact understates the actual number of farmers who have little land and no capital.

It will be easily seen how the condition of these 45%—a minimum of 45%—of the farmers who are poor in land and capital is embellished by the inclusion into the same group of some 12,10 or so per cent of farmers who are supplied with higher-than-average amounts of capital, machinery, money to buy fertilizers, hire labour, and the rest of it.

I shall not dwell separately on the medium and large farms of this grouping, for this would be to repeat, in slightly different words what has been said about the small farms. For instance, if the data on the small-acreage farms put a better complexion on the oppressed condition of small-scale production, the data on the large-acreage farms obviously minimize the actual concentration of agriculture by large-scale production. We shall presently see an exact statistical expression of this minimized concentration.

We thus arrive at the following general proposition which may be formulated as a law applicable to the grouping of farms by acreage in any capitalist country:

The broader and more rapid the intensification of agriculture, the more the classification by acreage serves to give   a rosy picture of the oppressed condition of small-scale production in agriculture, the condition of the small farmer who is short of both land and capital; the more it serves to blunt the real sharpness of the class contradiction between the prospering large-scale producer and the small-scale producer going to the wall; the more it serves to minimize the concentration of capital in the hands of big operators and the displacement of the small.

This is graphically confirmed by the third, and last, classification, according to the value of product. The percentage of non-capitalistic farms (or not very profitable farms in terms of gross income) is 58.8%, i.e., even somewhat more than the “small” farms (57.5%). They have much more land than the group of “small” farmers (33.3% as against 17.5%). But their share of the total value of the product is one-third smaller : 22.1% as against 33.5%!

What is the explanation? It is that this group does not include the highly capitalistic farms on small tracts which have artificially and falsely inflated the small farmers’ share of the capital in the form of machinery, fertilizers, etc.

Thus, the oppression and dispossession—and hence the ruin—of the small producer in agriculture turn out to be much more advanced than one would suppose from the data on small farms.

The returns for the small and large farms, grouped by acreage, take no account of the role of capital, and the failure to reckon with this “trifle” in capitalist enterprise distorts the condition of the small producer, puts a false colour on it, for it “could be” tolerable “but for” the existence of capital, i.e., the power of money, and the relationship between the hired labourer and the capitalist, between the farmer and the merchant and creditor, etc.

For that reason the concentration of agriculture as shown by the large farms is much lower than its concentration as shown by large-scale, i.e., capitalist, production: 39.2% of the value of the product (slightly more than double the average) is concentrated on 17.7% of “large” farms, while 52.3% of the total value of the product, i.e., more than three times the average, is concentrated on 17.2% capitalist farms.

In the country which practices the free distribution of vast tracts of unoccupied land, and which the Manilovs[1] consider a country of “family” farms, more than one-half of the total agricultural production is concentrated in about one-sixth of the capitalist enterprises, whose expenditure on hired labour is four times greater than the per-farm average (69.1% on 17.2% of the total number of farms), and are half as great again as the per-acre average (69.1% of the expenditure on hired labour on farms owning 43.1% of the total amount of land).

At the other pole, more than one-half, almost three-fifths, of the total number of farms (58.8%) are non-capitalist. They have one-third of the land (33.3%) but on it they have less than the average quantity of machinery (25.3% of the value of machinery); they use less fertilizers than the average (29.1% of the expenditures for fertilizers) and so its productivity is only two-thirds of the average. With one-third of the total acreage, this immense number of-farms, which suffer the greatest oppression under the yoke of capital, produce less than one-quarter (22.1%) of the total product and of its total value.

Consequently, we arrive at a general conclusion concerning the significance of classification by acreage, namely, that it is not entirely useless. The one thing that should never be forgotten is that it understates the displacement of small-scale by large-scale production, and that the understatement increases with the pace and scope of intensification of agriculture, and with the gap between the amounts of capital invested by the farms per unit of land. With modern methods of research, which produce an abundance of sound information about each farm, it would, for instance, be sufficient to combine two methods of classification—say, each of the five acreage groups could bo broken down into two or three subgroups according to the employment of hired labour. If this is not done it is largely because of the fear of giving a much too naked picture of reality, a much too striking picture of the oppression, impoverishment, ruin, expropriation of the mass of small farmers, whose condition is so “conveniently” and “unnoticeably” made to look better by the “model” capitalist enterprises, which are also “small” in acreage and which are a small minority within the mass of   the dispossessed. From the scientific standpoint no one would dare deny that not only land, but also capital has a part to play in modern agriculture. From the standpoint of statistical techniques, or the amount of statistical work involved, a total number of 10 to 15 groups is not at all excessive in com parison, for instance, with the 18 plus 7 groups based on acreage given in the German statistical report of 1907. This report, which classifies an abundance of material about 5,736,082 farms into the above number of acreage groups, is an example of bureaucratic routine, scientific rubbish, a meaningless juggling of figures, for there is not a shadow of any reasonable, rational, theoretical or practical ground for accepting such a number of groups as typical.



  12. Different Types of Enterprises in Agriculture | 14. The Expropriation of the Small Farmers  

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