Women and Marxism - Lenin

From The Development of Capitalism in Russia

Chapter VI Capitalist Manufacture and Capitalist Domestic Industry

Written: 1896-99.
Source: The Emancipation of Women: From the Writings of V.I. Lenin.
Publisher: International Publishers.
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

Further, capitalist domestic industry inevitably entails extremely insanitary working conditions. The utter poverty of the worker, the utter impossibility of controlling morking conditions by regulations of any kind, and the combination of the living and working premises, such are the conditions that convert the dwellings of the home workers into hotbeds of infection and occupational disease. In the large establishments one can fight such things; domestic industry, however, is in this respect the most "liberal" form of capitalist exploitation.

An excessively long working day is also an essential feature of domestic work for the capitalist and of the small industries in general. Instances have been given illustrating the comparative length of the working day in the "factories" and among the "handicraftsmen".

The drawing of women and of children of the tenderest age into production is nearly always observed in domestic industry. To illustrate this, let us cite some facts from a description of the women's industries of Moscow Gubernia. There are 10,004 women engaged in cotton winding; children start work at the age of 5 or 6 (!); daily earnings are 10 kopeks, yearly 17 rubles. The working day in the women's industries in general is as much as 18 hours. In the knitting industry children start work from the age of six, daily earnings are 10 kopeks, yearly 22 rubles. Altogether 37,514 females are employed in the women's industries; they begin working f'rom the age of 5 or 6 (in 6 out of 19 industries, which 6 industries account for 32,400 female workers); the average daily earnings are 13 kopeks, yearly 26 rubles 20 kopeks.

One of the most pernicious aspects of capitalist domestic industry is that it leads to a reduction in the level of the worker's requirements. The employer is able to recruit workers in remote districts where the popular standard of living is particularly low and where the worker's connection with the land enables him to work for a bare pittance. For example, the owner of a village stocking establishment explains that in Moscow rents are high and that, besides, the knitters

"have to be... supplied with white bread,... whereas here the workers do the job in their own cottages and eat black bread.... Now how can Moscow compete with us!"

In the cotton-winding industry the explanation of the very low wages is that for the peasants' wives, daughters, etc., this is merely a supplementary source of income.

"Thus, the system prevailing in this trade forces down to the utmost limit the wages of those for whom it is the sole means of livelihood, reduces the wages of those who obtain their livelihood exclusively by factory labour below their minimum needs, or retards the raising of their standard of living. In both cases it creates extremely abnormal conditions."

"The factory seeks cheap weavers," says Mr. Kharizomenov, "and it finds them in their native villages, far from the centres of industry.... That wages drop steadily as one moves from the industrial centres to the outer regions is an undoubted fact."

Hence, the employers are perfectly well able to take advantage of the conditions which artificially tie the population to the rural districts.