The article New Economic Developments in Peasant Life. (On V. Y. Postnikov's Peasant Farming In South Russia ) is the earliest of V. I. Lenin's works that has been preserved. It was written in Samara in the spring of 1893, and the manuscript was read in circles attended by young Marxists of that town. Lenin intended to have it printed in the liberal magazine Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought ), published in Moscow, but it was rejected by the editorial board "as unsuited to the policy of the magazine." In a letter dated May 30, 1894, Lenin said the following: "I was even naïve enough to send it to Russkaya Mysl, but of course they turned it down. The thing became quite clear to me when I read in No. 2 of that magazine an article about Postnikov by 'our well-known' liberal vulgarian, Mr. V. V. One must surely be an artist to be able to completely distort magnificent material and to obscure all the facts with phrase-mongering!"
The Institute of Marsism-Leninism of the C.C. C.P.S.U. possesses two manuscript copies of the article New Economic Developments in Peasant Life. The first (rough) copy was found among Lenin's personal papers; the second, which contains some additions made by Lenin when it was finally copied, was handed by him to S. I. Mickiewicz, from whom it was confiscated during a search on December 3, 1894. The manuscript was discovered in 1923 in the records of the Moscow Law Court, and was then published for the first time in the miscellany The Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the First Party Congress (1898 -1923 ). In the present edition the article New Economic Developments in Peasant Life is printed according to the text of the second manuscript, as corrected by V. I. Lenin.
The Institute of Marxism-Leninism also possesses a copy of V. Y. Postnikov's book Peasant Farming in South Russia bearing Lenin's comments.
Lenin used the most important material of this article in the second chapter of his The Development of Capilalism in Russia written in 1896-1899 and published in March 1899.
Zemstvos -- local self-government bodies, in which the nobility dominated. The Zemstvos were established in 1864 in the central gubernias of tsarist Russia, their competence being confined to purely local economic affairs (hospital and road building, statistics, insurance, etc.). They functioned under the control of the Gubernia
Governors and the Minister of Home Aftairs, who could invalidate decisions undesirable to the government.
The statistical sections, bureaux, and commissions of Gubernia and Uyezd Zemstvo Boards, engaged in statistical research (house to-house censuses of peasant farms and handicraft establishments, determination of profitability of lands, revaluations of land and property liable to Zemstvo taxation, study of peasant budgets, etc.) and issued numerous reviews and statistical abstracts covering uyezds or gubernias, and containing a wealth of factual material.
Lenin had a high opinion of the Zemstvo statistical data, and pointed out that "a close study of Russian Zemstvo statistics by Europeans would no doubt give a strong impetus to the progress of social statistics in general." (The Agrarian Question and the "Critics of Marx." See present edition, Vol. 5.) At the same time Lenin criticised the methods of analysing and grouping statistical data used by the Zemstvo statisticians. "This is the greatest weakness of our Zemstvo statistics, that are magnificent in the thoroughness and detail with which they are compiled," wrote Lenin. (The Tasks of Zemstvo Statistics. See present edition, Vol. 20.) The Zemstvo statisticians, many of whom were Narodniks in outlook, were frequently biassed in their approach to the statistical data. In their treatment of these data, essential differences and features of the various peasant groups formed in the course of capitalist development were hidden behind columns of figures.
Lenin studied, checked and analysed Zemstvo statistical data made his own calculations, drew up tables aod summaries, and gave a Marsist analysis and scientific classification of data on peasant farms and handicraft establishments. He used the wealth of material contained in the Zemstvo statistics to expose the far-fetched schemes of the Narodniks, and drew a real picture of Russia's economic development. He made extensive use of the data in his writings, and especially in his book The Development of Capitalism in Russia. (On Zemstvo statistics see V. I. Lenin's paper The Tasks of Zemstvo Statistics, written in 1914.)
Reference is made to the collection entitled Results of the Economic Investigation of Russia According to Zemstvo Statistical Data, of which Vol. I is: V. V. -- The Peasant Community ; Vol. II: N. Karyshev -- Peasant Rentings of Non-Allotment Land, Dorpat, 1892. Both the books expressed liberal-Narodnik views. V. V. was the Dseudonym of V. P. Vorontsov, an ideologist of liberal Narodism of the 1880s and 1890s.
The village community (obshchina or mir ) in Russia was the communal form of peasant use of the land, characterised by compulsory crop rotation, and undivided woods and pastures. Its principal features were collective responsibility (compulsory collective responsibility of the peasants for making their payments in full and on time, and the performance of various services to the state and the landlords), the regular redistribution of the land with no right to refuse the allotment given, the prohibition of its purchase and sale.
The Russian village community was known in ancient times, and in the course of historical development gradually became one of the pillars of feudalism in Russia. The landlords and the tsarist government used the village community to intensify feudal oppresslon and to squeeze redemption payments and taxes out of the people. Lenin pointed out that the village community "does not save the peasant from turning into a proletarian; actually it serves as a medieval barrier dividing the peasants, who are as if chained to small associations and to 'categories' which have lost all 'reason for existence.'" (The Agrarian Question in Russia Towards the Close of the Nineteenth Century. See present edition, Vol. 15.)
The problem of the village community aroused heated arguments and was the subject of an extensive economic literature. The Narodniks displayed particularly great interest in the village community, seeing in it the guarantee of Russian development to socialism by a special path. By tendentiously gathering and falsifying facts, and employing so-called "average figures," the Narodniks sought to prove that the community peasantry in Russia possessed a special sort of "steadfastness," and that the peasant cammunity protected the peasants against the penetration of capitalist relations into the village, and "saved" the peasants from ruin and class differentiation. As early as the 1880s, G. V. Plekhanov showed how unfounded were the Narodniks' illusions about "community socialism," while in the 1890s V. I. Lenin completely destroyed the Narodniks' theories. Lenin cited a tremendous amount of factual and statistical material to show how capitalist relations were deyeloping in the Russian village, and how capital, by penetrating into the patriarchal village community, was splitting the peasantry into the antagonistic classes of kulaks and poor peasants.
In 1906 the tsarist minister Stolypin issued a law beneflting the kulaks; it allowed peasants to leave the community and to sell their allotments. This law laid the basis for the official abolition of the rural community system and intensified the differentiation among the peasantry. In nine years following the adoption of the law, over two million peasant householders withdrew from the communities.
This refers to registered males subject to the poll-tax in feudal Russia (the peasantry and lower urban categories were chiefly affected), and to this end recorded in special censuses (so-called "registrations"). Such "registrations" began in 1718, the tenth and last being made in 1857-1859. In a number of districts redistribution of the land within the village communities took place according to the number of registered males in the family.
Dessiatiners -- peasants in South Russia who rented land for part of the harvest and not for a money payment.
Mennonites -- members of a religious sect who came to Russia from West Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. Their name was derived from that of their founder, the Dutchman Menno Simons. They settled mainly in the Yekalerinoslav and Taurida gubernias,
The farms of the Mennonite colonists were mostly prosperous, kulak farms.
The Peasant Reform of 1861, which abolished serfdom in Russia was effected by the tsarist government in the interests of the serf-owning landlords. The Reform was made necessary by the entire course of Russia's economic development and by the growth of a mass movement among the peasantry against feudal exploitation. The "peasant Reform" was feudal in character, but by force of the economic development that had drawn Russia on to the capitalist path the feudal form was given a capitalist content, and "this was the more evident the less the land was filched from the peasants the more fully the land of the peasants was separated from that of the landlords, the less the tribute (i.e., "redemption") paid to the serf owners." (See present edition, Vol. 17, The "Peasant Reform" and Proletarian-Peasant Revolution.) The "peasant Reform" marked a step towards Russia's transformation into a bourgeois monarchy. On February 19, 1861, Alexander II signed a Manifesto and "Regulations" for the peasants, who were being released from serf depend^ence. In all, 22,500,000 serfs, formerly belonging to landlords, were "emancipated." Landed proprietorship, however, remained, the peasants' lands were declared the property of the landlords and the peasant could only get a land allotment of the size established by law (and even then by agreement with the landlord) for which he had to pay (redeem). The peasants made their redemption payments to the tsarist government, which had paid the established sums to the landlords. Approximate estimates show that after the Reform, the nobility possessed 71,500,000 dessiatines of land and the peasants 33,700,000 dessiatines. Thanks to the Reform the landlords cut off and appropriated from one to two-fifths of the lands formerly cultivated by the peasants.
The Reform merely undermined but did not abolish the old corvée system of farming. The landlords secured possession of the best parts of the peasants' allotments (the "cut-off lands," woods, meadows, watering-places, grazing grounds, and so on), without which the peasants could not engage in independent farming. Until the redemption arrangements were completed the peasants were considered to be "temporarily bound," and rendered services to the landlord in the shape of quitrent and corvée service. To compel the peasants to redeem their own allotments was sheer plunder on the part of the landlords and the tsarist government. The peasants were given a period of 49 years in which to pay off the debt, with an interest of 6%. Arrears grew from year to year. The former landlords' peasants alone paid the tsarist government a total of 1,900 million rubles in redemption money, whereas the market price of the land that passed into their possession did not exceed 544 million rubles. The peasants had to pay hundreds of millions of rubles for what was actually their own land; this ruined their farms and resulted in the impoverishment of the peasant masses.
The Russian revolutionary democrats, headed by N. G. Chernyshevsky, criticised the "peasant Reform" for its feudal character.
V. I. Lenin called the "peasant Reform" of 1861 the first mass act of violence against the peasantry in the interests of nascent capitalism in agriculture -- the landlords were "clearing the estates" for capitalism.
The manuscript contained some slight inaccuracies in the figures used to illustrate Lenin's argument. The total area under crops should be 1,651 dessiatines; the volume of the money demand on the market, reckoning only farms with over 5 dessiatines per household under crops -- 22,498 rubles. The total area under crops, reckoning farms with over 5 dessiatines per household under crops should be 1,603 dessiatines. The general conclusions, however, are not affected by these inaccuracies.
Yoking -- an old elementary form of joint work by the village poor. Several peasant households combined their working animals and other means of production for farm work. V. I. Lenin, in the second chapter of The Development of Capitalism in Russia, calls yoking "the co-operation of tottering farms which are being ousted by the peasant bourgeoisie." (See present edition, Vol. III.)
Village court (in Russian: rasprava ) -- a special court for state owned peasants founded in tsarist Russia according to the Regulation of 1838, and consisting of the village elder (chairman) and two elected peasunts. The village court, being a court of first instance examined unimportant civil cases and misdemeanours, imposed fines, passed sentences of hard labour or flogging. The village court of second instance was the volost (district) court. In 1858 these courts were abolished, but the term rasprava continued to be used as referring to the primary village courts.
Russkaya Mysl (Russian Thought ) -- a monthly magnzine, liberal Narodnik in trend; appeared in Moscow from 1880 onwards. In the 1890s, during the polemics between the Marxists and the liberal Narodniks, the Narodnik editors of the magazine occasionally allowed articles by Marxists to be published in its columns. Items by the progressive writers A. M. Gorky, V. G. Korolenko, D. N. Mamin-Sibiryak, G. I. Uspensky, A. P. Chekhov, and others, were published in the magazine's literature section.
After the 1905 Revolution, Russkaya Mysl became the organ of the Right wing of the Cadet party, and was edited by P. B. Struve. It was closed down in the middle of 1918.
Long-tract system -- peasant allotments that stretched in a narrow tract for many miles on either side of the village, some of them being 15-20 miles away in one direction or another. The long-tract system was common in the southern and the eastern steppe regions of Russia, where big villages prevailed, each embracing several hundred peasant households.
Vestnik Yevropy (European Messenger ) -- a monthly magazine devoted to politics, history and literature, bourgeois liberal in trend, that appeared in St. Petersburg from 1866 to 1918. It published articles directed against the revolutionary Marxists.
Uyezd Boards of Peasants' Affairs were established in tsarist Russia in 1874 to supervise the village and volost "peasant public administration" bodies. The Boards were directed by Uyezd Marshals of the Nobility and consisted of police chiefs, justices of the peace, and chairmen of Uyezd Zemstvo Boards. The Uyezd Boards of Peasants' Affairs were subordinate to the Gubernia Boards, which were headed by the governors.
Reference is made to the famine of 1891 which was very severe in the eastern and south-eastern guhernias of Russia. This famine was more extensive than any similar natural calamity the country had ever experienced. The working people suffered incredible hardships as a result of the famine, which ruined masses of peasants and at the same time hastened the creation of a home market for the development of capitalism in Russia.