number of Russian factory workers (not less than two million people) only approximately one-sixth are able to make even the most modest deposits in the savings-banks -- and this despite the fact that workers' entire income comes exclusively in money, and they often have to support families living in the villages, so that tor the most part their deposits are not "savings" at all in the real sense of the word, but simply sums put aside for the next remittance to their families, etc. Moreover, we say nothing of the fact that the group listed under the heading "factory workers" probably
includes office clerks, foremen, superintendents, in a word, persons who are not actually factory workers.
As to the peasants -- if one considers that they are mostly entered under the heading of "agricultural and other rural occupations," -- well, their average savings account is, as we have seen, higher than even that of employees in private businesses, and considerably exceeds the average savings of those coming under the heading of "urban trades" (i.e., presumably, shopkeepers, artisans, janitors, etc.). Obviously, these 640,000 peasants (out of approximately 10,000,000 households, or families) with 126,000,000 rubles in savings-banks belong exclusively to the peasant bourgeoisie. It is only to these peasants, and perhaps to those most closely associated with them, that the data on progress in agriculture, the spread of machinery, improvements in land cultivation, and higher living standards, etc., apply -- data brought forward against the socialists by Messrs. the Wittes so as to show an "advancement in the people's welfare," and by Messrs. the Liberals (and the "Critics") so as to refute the "Marxist dogma" about the decline and ruin of small-scale farming. These gentlemen do not notice (or pretend not to notice) that the decline of small-scale production is expressed precisely in the fact that a negligible number of people who grow rich through the ruin of the masses come from the ranks of the small producers.
Of still greater interest are data classifying the total number of depositors according to the size of their deposits. In round figures, this classification is as follows: of three million depositors, one million possess accounts not exceeding 25 rubles. Their deposits total 7,000,000 rubles (out of 545,000,000 rubles, i.e., only 12 kopeks of every 10 rubles of the aggregate deposits!). The average account is 7 rubles. That is to say, the really small depositors, who constitute one-third of the total number, possess only 1/83 of the aggregate sum. Further, depositors with accounts of between 25 and 100 rubles constitute one-fifth of the total number (600,000) and own a total of 36,000,000 rubles, the average account being 55 rubles. If we combine these two groups, we see that over 50 per cent of all depositors (1,600,000 out of 3,000,000) own only 42,000,000 rubles, or 1/12, of the grand total of 545,000,000 rubles. Of the remaining
well-to-do depositors one million have accounts ranging from 100 to 500 rubles, with deposits totalling 209,000,000 rubles, the average account being 223 rubles. Four hundred thousand depositors have accounts exceeding 500 rubles each, with deposits totalling 293,000,000 rubles, an average of 762 rubles. Consequently, these evidently well-to-do people, who form less than 1/7 of the total number of depositors, possess more than half (54 per cent) of the total capital.
Hence, the concentration of capital in present-day society, the dispossession of the masses, makes itself felt with great force even in an institution especially intended for the "younger brother," the poorer section of the population, since deposits are limited by law to 1,000 rubles. And let us note that this concentration of property, which is typical of any capitalist society, is still higher in the advanced countries, despite the greater "democratisation" of their savings-banks. In France, for instance, as of December 31, 1899, there were 10,500,000 savings-bank accounts with deposits totalling 4,337,000,000 francs (a franc is slightly less than 40 kopeks). That makes an average of 412 francs per account, or about 160 rubles, i.e., less than the average deposit in Russian savings-banks. The number of small depositors in France is also comparatively larger than in Russia: approximately one-third of depositors (3 1/3 million) have accounts ranging up to 20 francs (8 rubles), the average deposit being 13 francs (5 rubles). Altogether these depositors possess only 35,000,000 francs out of a total of 4,337,000,000, i.e., 1/125. Depositors with accounts of up to 100 francs constitute a little over 50 per cent of the total number (5,300,000), but possess a total of only 143,000,000 francs, i.e., 1/33 of the aggregate deposits. On the other hand, depositors with accounts of 1,000 francs and over (400 rubles and over), while constituting less than one-fifth (18.5 per cent) of the total number of depositors, have concentrated in their hands over two-thirds (68.7 per cent) of all deposits, viz., 2,979,000,000 francs out of a total of 4,337,000,000 francs.
Thus, the reader now has before him a certain amount of information for an appraisal of our "critics'" arguments. One and the same fact -- the enormous increase
in savings-bank deposits, and in particular the increase in the number of small depositors -- is interpreted in different ways. The "critics of Marxism" say: the people's welfare is growing and decentralisation of capital is increasing. The socialists say: what is taking place is the conversion of savings "in kind" into monetary savings, and the number of well-to-do peasants, who are turning bourgeois and converting their savings into capital, is increasing. An incomparably more rapid growth is to be seen in the number of peasants being driven into the ranks of the proletariat, which lives by the sale of its labour-power and puts (at least temporarily) part of its meagre income into the savings-banks. The large number of small depositors merely goes to show how numerous are the poor in capitalist society, since the share of these small depositors in the aggregate deposits is negligible.
The question arises: in what way do the "critics" differ from the most ordinary bourgeois?
Let us go further, and see how the capital of the savings-banks is used and for what purposes. In Russia this capital serves primarily to strengthen the might of the militarist and bourgeois-police state. The tsarist government (as we have already pointed out in a leading article in No. 15 of Iskra*) disposes of this capital just as arbitrarily as it does of all other public property it lays hands on. It quite calmly "borrows" hundreds of millions of this capital for financing its Chinese expeditions, for hand-outs to capitalists and landowners, for re-equipping the army, enlarging the navy, etc. Thus, in 1899, for example, 613,000,000 rubles out of aggregate savings-bank deposits of 679,000,000 rubles were invested in securities, viz., 230,000,000 rubles in state loans, 215,000,000 rubles in mortgages held by the Land Banks, and 168,000,000 rubles in railway loans.
The Treasury is doing some very profitable "business": first, it covers all expenses incurred by the savings-banks and gets a net profit (hitherto credited to the reserve fund of the savings-banks); secondly, it compels the depositors to cover the deficits in our state economy (compels them to
* See present edition, Vol. 5, "The Budget". --Ed. [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's "Concerning the State Budget". -- DJR]
loan money to the Treasury). From 1894 to 1899, deposits in savings-banks totalled an average of 250,000,000 rubles per annum, while withdrawals amounted to 200,000,000 rubles. Consequently, that leaves fifty million rubles annually that can be used for loans to patch up holes in the Treasury's money-bags, into which thieving fingers are dipped by all but the laziest. Why fear deficits due to squandering money on wars and on hand-outs to hangers-on at Court, to landlords and manufacturers when it is always possible to obtain sizable sums from the "people's savings"!
We shall add parenthetically that one of the reasons the Treasury is conducting such profitable business is because it is steadily lowering the rate of interest paid on monetary deposits, which is lower than the interest on securities. For example, in 1894 the interest paid on monetary deposits was 4.12 per cent, and on securities -- 4.34 per cent; in 1899 it was 3.92 per cent and 4.02 per cent, respectively. As is well known, reduction of interest is a feature common to all capitalist countries and it brings out most clearly and graphically the growth of big capital and large-scale production at the expense of small-scale production, because in the final analysis the rate of interest is determined by the ratio between aggregate profits and the aggregate capital invested in production. Nor can we ignore the fact that the Treasury is constantly intensifying its exploitation of postal and telegraph employees: at first they had only the mails to look after; then the telegraph was added; now they have been burdened also with the job of receiving and paying out savings deposits (it should be remembered that 3,718 out of the 4,781 savings-banks are at post- and telegraph-offices). A terrific increase in the intensity of labour and a longer working day -- that is what this means to the mass of postal and telegraph employees. As to their salaries, the Treasury scrimps on them like the most close-fisted kulak: the lowest grade of employees, those who have just entered service, are paid literally starvation rates; then comes an endlessly graded succession of twenty-five-kopek and fifty-kopek rises, and the prospect of a niggardly pension after forty to fifty years of drudgery is intended to increase even more the bondage of this varitable "proletariat of officialdom."
But let us return to the way savings-bank capital is used. We have seen that (by order of the Russian Government) the banks invest 215,000,000 rubles in mortgages held by the Land Banks and 168,000,000 rubles in railway loans. This fact has provided food for still another and of late extremely widespread display of bourgeois . . . I meant to say "critical" wisdom. In essence, the Bernsteins, the Hertzes, the Chernovs, the Bulgakovs, and their like tell us, this fact means that the small depositors in the savings-banks are becoming railway owners and land mortgage holders. It is a fact, they argue, that even such purely capitalist and colossal enterprises as the railways and banks are becoming more and more decentralised, are being divided up, and are passing into the hands of petty proprietors, who acquire them by purchasing shares, bonds, mortgages, etc.; it is a fact that the wealthy, the owners of property are growing in number -- yet those narrow-minded Marxists are fussing about with the antiquated theory of concentration and the theory of impoverishment. If, for instance, the Russian factory workers have 157,000 accounts at savings-banks with aggregate deposits amounting to 21,000,000 rubles, about 5,000,000 rubles of this sum is invested in railway loans, and about 8,000,000 rubles in Land Bank mortgages. That means that Russian factory workers own 5,000,000 rubles' worth of railways and are landowners worth 8,000,000 rubles. Now go and talk of a proletariat! Hence, the workers are exploiting the landowners, since, in the form of interest on mortgages, they receive a modicum of rent, i.e., a small portion of the surplus-value.
Yes, this precisely is the line of reasoning adopted by the latest critics of Marxism. . . . And -- here is something that will surprise you -- I am prepared to agree with the widespread opinion that we should welcome this "criticism," since it has brought a stir into a theory which was alleged to be stagnant; I am prepared to agree to that on the following condition. There was a time when the French socialists whetted their skill as propagandists and agitators by analysing the sophisms of Bastiat, while the German socialists followed suit by unravelling the sophisms of Schulze-Delitzsch; as for us, Russians, it has thus far fallen to
our lot to deal only with the company of "critics." And so, I am prepared to shout, "Long live criticism!" -- on condition that, in our propaganda and agitation among the masses, we, socialists, engage as widely as possible in an analysis of all the bourgeois sophisms of fashionable "criticism." If you agree to this condition we can call it a bargain! Incidentally, our bourgeoisie are more and more maintaining a discreet silence; for they prefer the protection of the tsarist archangels[*] to that of the bourgeois theoreticians, and it will be very convenient for us to accept the "critics" as the "devil's advocates."
Through the savings-banks ever larger numbers of workers and small producers are taking a share in big enterprises. This is undoubtedly a fact. What this fact shows, however, is not an increase in the number of property-owners, but 1) the growing socialisation of labour in capitalist society, and 2) the growing subordination of small-scale production to large-scale production. Take the small Russian depositor. Over 50 per cent of such depositors, as we have seen, have accounts of up to 100 rubles, to wit 1,618,000 depositors with savings totalling 42,000,000 rubles, i.e., an average of 26 rubles per depositor. Thus, this depositor "owns" about 6 rubles' worth of railways and about 9 rubles' worth of "landed property." Does this make him wealthy or a "proprietor"? No, he remains a proletarian, who is forced to sell his labour-power, i.e., to become a slave of those who own the means of production. As for his "share" in "railway and hanking" business, it merely shows that capitalism is increasingly linking together individual members of society and individual classes. The interdependence of individual producers was infinitesimal in patriarchal economy; it is now constantly increasing. Labour is becoming more and more social, and enterprises less and less "private," although they still remain almost entirely in private hands.
His participation in a big enterprise undoubtedly weaves the small depositor into the pattern of that enterprise. Who benefits from this link? Big capital does, which extends its transactions by paying the small depositor no
* An appellation given in tsarist Russia to members of the secret police. --Ed.
more (and often less) than it pays any other lender, and by being the more independent of the small depositors, the smaller and the more scattered the latter are. We have seen that the share of the small depositors is extremely small even in the savings-bank capital. How insignificant, then, must it be in the capital of the railway and banking magnates. By giving his mite to these magnates, the small depositor enters into a new dependence on big capital. He cannot even think of having any say in the use of this big capital; his "profit" is ridiculously small (26 rubles at 4 per cent = 1 ruble a year!). Yet in the event of a failure he loses even his miserable mite. What the abundance of these small depositors signifies is not the decentralisation of big capital but the strengthening of the power of big capital, which is able to dispose of even the smallest mites in the "people's" savings. His share in big enterprises does not make the small depositor more independent; on the contrary, he becomes more dependent on the big proprietor.
What follows from the increase in the number of small depositors is not the reassuring philistine deduction about an increase in the number of wealthy people, but the revolutionary conclusion of the growing dependence of the small depositors on the big, of the mounting contradiction between the increasingly socialised nature of the enterprises and the preservation of private ownership of the means of production. The more the savings-banks develop, the more interested do the small depositors become in the socialist victory of the proletariat, which alone will make them real, and not fictitious, "sharers" in and administrators of social wealth.