The Capitalist System of Modern Agriculture

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V. I. Lenin


Written after September 11 (24), 1910First published in 1932
in Lenin Miscellany XIX
Signed: V. Ilyin

Published according to  
the manuscript  

From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1967

First published 1963
Second printing 1967

Vol. 16, pp. 423-46.

Translated from the Russian
Edited by Clemens Dutt

Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, (August 1997)



    Social statistics in general and economic statistics in particular have made tremendous advances during the last two or three decades. A series of problems, moreover those most fundamental concerning the economic system of modern states and its development, which were previously decided on the basis of general considerations and approximate data, cannot nowadays be analysed at all seriously without taking into account the mass of data about the whole territory of a given country collected according to a single definite programme and summed up by expert statisticians. In particular, the problems of the economics of agriculture, which arouse particularly many disputes, require answering on the basis of exact, mass data, the more so since in the European states and in America it is a growing practice to make periodic censuses covering all the agricultural enterprises of the country.

    In Germany, for example, such censuses were made in 1882, 1895 and the last in 1907. The importance of these censuses has often been mentioned in our press, and it is difficult to find a book or article on the economics of modern agriculture which does not refer to the statistical data on German agriculture. The last census has already occasioned a fair amount of noise<"p427a"> in both the German and our own press. Writing in Kieuskaya Mysl [147] last year, Mr. Valentinov, it will be recalled, loudly clamoured that this census allegedly refuted the Marxist doctrine and Kautsky's views by proving the viability of small-scale production and its triumph over

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large-scale production. Recently, in an article entitled "Tendencies in Agrarian Evolution in Germany"<"p428"> published in Ekonomist Rossii [148] No. 36 of September 11, 1910, Professor Vobly, on the basis of the data of the 1907 census, tried to refute the applicability to agriculture of "the scheme elaborated by Marx in relation to the development<"p428a"> of industry"[149] and to prove that "small enterprises not only do not perish in the struggle against large ones in the sphere of agriculture; on the contrary, each new census registers their success".

    We think, therefore, it would be opportune to analyse in detail the data of the 1907 census. True, the publication of the materials of this census is not yet complete; three volumes containing all the data of the census[*] have appeared, but a fourth volume devoted to an "exposition of the results of the census as a whole" has not yet appeared and it is not known whether it will appear soon. But there are no grounds for postponing a study of the results of the census until this concluding volume has appeared, for all the material is already available, as well as the summary of it, and it is being widely used in the press.

    We shall merely note that to put the question in the form in which it is usually put, confining oneself almost exclusively to a comparison of the number of farms of various sizes (in area) and the amount of land they possessed in various years, is an absolutely incorrect approach to the subject. The real differences between the Marxists and the opponents of Marxism on the agrarian question are much more deeply rooted. If the aim is to give a complete explanation of the sources of the differences, then attention must be devoted primarily and most of all to the question of the basic features of the capitalist system of modern agriculture. It is just on this question that the data of the German census of June 12, 1907, are particularly valuable. This census <"fnp428">

    * Statistik des Deutschen Reichs, Band 212, Teil 1 a, 1 b and 2 a. Berufs- und Betriebszählung vom 12. Juni 1907. Landwirtschaftliche Betriebsstatistik, Berlin 1909 und 1910. (Statistics of the German State, Vol. 212, Part 1 a, 1 b and 2 a. Census of occupations and enterprises of June 12, 1907. Statistics of agricultural production, Berlin. 1909 snd 1910. --Ed.)

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is less detailed on some questions than the earlier censuses of 1882 and 1895 but, on the other hand, it gives for the first time an unprecedented wealth of data on wage-labour in agriculture. And the use of wage-labour is the chief distinguishing mark of every kind of capitalist agriculture.

    We shall therefore endeavour first of all to give a general picture of the capitalist system of modern agriculture, relying chiefly on the data of the 1907 German census and supplementing them with the data of the best agricultural censuses of other countries, namely: the Danish, Swiss, American and the last Hungarian censuses. As regards the fact which most of all strikes the eye on a first acquaintance with the results of the census and which is being most talked about, namely, the reduction in Germany of the number of large farms (large in agricultural area) and the amount of land they possess, we shall turn to an examination of this only at the end of our work. For this is one of the complicated facts which are a function of a series of others, and it is impossible to understand its significance without first elucidating several much more important and basic questions. <"s1">



    The German agricultural censuses, like all the European (as distinct from the Russian) censuses of the kind, are based on information collected separately about each agricultural enterprise. At the same time the amount of information collected usually increases with each census. For instance, in Germany in 1907, although very important information on the number of cattle used in field work was omitted (this information was collected in 1882 and 1895), for the first time information was collected on the amount of arable land under various cereals and on the number of family workers and wage-workers. The information about each farm obtained in this way is quite sufficient for a politico-economic characterisation of the farm. The whole question, the whole difficulty of the task, is how to sum up these data in such a way as to obtain an accurate politico-economic characteri-

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sation of the different groups or types of farms as a whole. When the summing up is unsatisfactory, when the-grouping is incorrect or inadequate, the result can be -- and this continually happens in the treatment of modern census data -- that unusually detailed, excellent data on each separate enterprise disappear, become lost or are wholly missing when dealing with the millions of farms of the entire country. The capitalist system of agriculture is characterised by the relations which exist between employers and workers, between farms of various types, and if the distinguishing features of these types are taken incorrectly or selected incompletely, then even the best census cannot give a politico-economic picture of the actual situation.

    It is clear, therefore, that the methods of summarising or grouping the data of modern censuses are of extreme importance. Later on we shall examine an exposition of all the rather diverse methods used in the best censuses enumerated above. For the present let us note that the German census, like the vast majority of the others, gives a full summary, grouping the farms exclusively according to a single feature, namely, the size of the agricultural area of each farm. On this basis the census divides all the farms into 18 groups, beginning with farms of less than one-tenth of a hectare and ending with those over 1,000 hectares of agricultural area. That such detailed subdivision is a statistical luxury unjustified by politico-economic considerations is felt by the authors of the German statistics themselves, who provide a summary of all the data in six -- or, by separating a subgroup -- seven large groups according to the size of the agricultural area. These groups are as follows: farms having less than half a hectare, one-half to 2, 2 to 5, 5 to 20, 20 to 100, and over 100, the last including a subgroup of farms with over 200 hectares of agricultural area.

    The question arises: what is the politico-economic significance of this grouping? Undoubtedly the land is the chief means of production in agriculture; the amount of land is the most accurate criterion of the dimensions of a farm and, consequently, of its type, i.e., for example, whether it is a small, medium or large farm, a capitalist farm or one not using wage-labour. A farm of less than two hectares is usually accounted a small (sometimes called a parcellised or

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dwarf) farm; from two to 20 hectares (sometimes from two to 100) -- a peasant farm, over 100 hectares a large -- that is to say, a capitalist farm.

    And so, the information on wage-labour collected for the first time by the 1907 census gives us above all a first opportunity of verifying from mass data this "usual" supposition. For the first time we see the introduction in statistical procedure of at least a certain -- although far from adequate, as we shall see later -- element of rationality, i.e., an element taking into account data of the most direct, immediate politico-economic significance.

    In point of fact, much is said about small production But what is small production? The most usual answer is that small production is one that does not use wage-labour. It is not only Marxists who look at it in this way. Ed. David, for example, whose book, Socialism and Agriculture may be called one of the latest summaries of bourgeois theories on the agrarian question, writes on page 29 of the Russian translation: "In all those cases where we speak of small production, we have in mind the economic category which functions without permanent outside assistance and without an auxiliary occupation."

    The 1907 census fully establishes first of all that the number of these farms is very small, that in modern agriculture farmers who do not hire workers, and who do not hire themselves out to work for others, are an insignificant minority. Out of the total of 5,736,082 agricultural enterprises in Germany registered by the 1907 census, only 1,872,616, i.e., less than one-third, belong to farmers whose chief occupation is the independent conduct of agriculture and who have no auxiliary occupations. How many of them hire workers? On this there is no information; that is to say, it existed in the most detailed form on the original cards and was lost during the summarising! The compilers did not wish to calculate (after performing a mass of most detailed and futile calculations) how many farms in each group hire permanent or temporary wage-workers.

    In order to determine approximately the number of farms that do without wage-labour, we shall single out those groups in which the number of farms is less than the number of wage-workes. These will be groups with less than ten hec-

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tares of land per farm. These groups include 1,283,631 farmers who regard agriculture as their chief concern and have no auxiliary occupation. These farmers have a total of 1,400,162 wage-workers (if it is assumed that only those farmers who regard agriculture as their chief concern and have no auxiliary occupations maintain wage-workers). Only in the groups of farms with two to five hectares is the number of independent farmers without an auxiliary occupation greater than the number of wage-workers, namely: 495,439 farms and 411,311 wage-workers.

    Of course, cultivators who have auxiliary occupations sometimes have wage-workers and, of course, there are some "small" farmers who hire not one but several wage-workers. But nevertheless there can be no doubt that farmers who do not hire workers and who do not hire themselves out to work are an insignificant minority.

    From the data on the number of wage-workers three basic groups of farms in German agriculture are immediately distinguishable.

    I. Proletarian farms. These include groups in which the minority of farmers regard the conduct of independent agriculture as their chief occupation, groups in which the majority are wage-workes, and so on. For example, there are 2,084,060 farms of less than half a hectare. Of these only 97,153 are independent cultivators, and 1,287,312 are wage workers (in all branches of the national economy) by their chief occupation. The farms with one-half to two hectares of land numbered 1,294,449. Of these only 377,762 are independent cultivators, 535,480 are wage-workers, 277, 735 carry on small-scale industry, handicrafts or trade, 103,472 are employees or represent "various and unspecified" occupations. Clearly, both these groups of farms are in the main proletarian.

    II. Peasant farms. The bulk of the farms included here are those of independent cultivators; moreover, the number of family workers in them is greater than that of wage-workers. These will be groups with two to 20 hectares of land.

    III. Capitalist farms. Here we include farms with more wage-workers than family workers.

    The following are the total figures for these groups:

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Groups of farms

of farms

Of which

Farms subdivided according to the number of workers

ent culti-


Total num-
ber of
such farms

The workers in them being




I. Less than 2 ha
II. 2-20 ha
III. 20 ha and more








Total . . . .








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    This table gives a picture of the economic system of modern German agriculture. At the bottom of the pyramid is a vast mass of proletarian "farms", almost three-fifths of the total number; at the top is an insignificant minority (one-twentieth) of capitalist farms. Let us point out, anticipating a little, that this insignificant minority has more than half of all the land and arable area. They have one-fifth of the total number of workers engaged in agriculture and over half the total number of wage-workers. <"s2">



    Of the "farmers" with less than two hectares of land, the majority are wage-workers by their chief occupation. For them agriculture is an auxiliary occupation. Of the 3,378,509 enterprises in this group, 2,920,119 are auxiliary concerns (Nebenbetriebe ). A quite small minority, 14 per cent in al], 475,000 out of 3,4 million, are independent cultivators, and this includes those who have in addition an auxiliary, non-agricultural occupation.

    * . . . It is to be noted that the number of wage-workers[*] . . . in this group exceeds the number of independent cultivators.

    This fact indicates that the statistics here lump together with the mass of proletarians those few capitalist cultivators who carry out large-scale farming on a small plot of land. We shall repeatedly encounter this type in the course of our exposition.

    The question arises of the significance of these masses of proletarian "farmers" in the general system of agriculture. In the first place, they represent the link between the feudal and the capitalist systems of social economy, their close connection and their kinship historically, a direct survival of serfdom in capitalism. If, for example, we see in Germany and particularly in Prussia that the statistics of agricultura] enterprises include plots of land (known as Deputatland ) which the landlord gives the agricultural labourer as part of his <"fnp434">

    * Here the edge of the manuscript is torn off. --Ed.

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wages, is this not a direct survival of serfdom? The difference between serfdom, as an economic system, and capitalism lies in the fact that the former allots land to the worker, whereas the latter separates the worker from the land; the former gives the worker the means of subsistence in kind (or forces him to produce them himself on his "allotment"), the latter gives the worker payment in money, with which he buys the means of subsistence. Of course, in Germany this survival of serfdom is quite insignificant compared with what we see in Russia with her notorious "labour-rent" system of landlord farming, nevertheless it is a survival of serfdom. The 1907 census in Germany counted 579,500 "agricultural enterprises" belonging to agricultural workers and day-labourers, and of these 540,751 belong to the group of "farmers" with less than two hectares of land.

    In the second place, the bulk of the "farmers" owning such insignificant plots of land that it is impossible to make a living from them, and which represent merely an "auxiliary occupation", form part of the reserve army of unemployed in the capitalist system as a whole.<"p435"> It is, to use Marx's term, the hidden form of this army.[150] It would be wrong to imagine that this reserve army of unemployed consists only of workers who are out of work. It includes also "peasants" or "petty farmers" who are unable to exist on what they get from their minute farm, who have to try to obtain their means of subsistence mainly by hiring out their labour. Their kitchen garden or potato plot serves this army of the poor as a means of supplementing their wages or of enabling them to exist when they are not employed. Capitalism requires these "dwarf", "parcellised" pseudo-farms so that without expense it can always have a mass of cheap labour at its disposal. According to the 1907 census, out of two million "farms" of less than half a hectare 624,000 have only horticultural land and 361,000 have only a potato field. The total cultivated area of these two million "farms" is 247,000 hectares, of which more than half, namely, 166,000 hectares, is under potato. The total cultivated area of the million and a quarter "farms" with one-half to two hectares is 976,000 hectares, of which more than a third, namely, 334,000 hectares, is under potato. Deterioration of the people's diet (replacement of bread by potatoes) and cheaper labour-power for the employ-

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ers -- such is the significance of the "farming" of three million agricultural "farms" out of the five million in Germany.

    To conclude the description of these proletarian farms, let us add that almost one-third of them (one million out of 3.4 million) do not possess livestock of any kind, two-thirds (2.5 out of 3.4 million) do not have any cattle, more than nine-tenths (3.3 out of 3.4 million) have no horses. The share of these proletarian farms in the total agricultural production is minimal: three-fifths of them have less than one-tenth of all the cattle (2.7 million out of 29.4 million head, reckoning all livestock in terms of cattle), and one-twentieth of all the cultivated area (1.2 out of 24.4 million hectares).

    One can imagine what confusion and falsity is introduced into the subject by statistics which lump together in this group of farms of less than two hectares of land millions of proletarians without horses or cattle and with only a kitchen garden or potato field and thousands of big farmers, capitalists, who conduct big cattle-raising or horticultural and suchlike enterprises on 1-2 dessiatines. That such farm ers are contained in this group is evident if only from the fact that out of the 3.4 million (with less than two hectares of land) 15,428 are farmers each of whom have six or more workers (taking family and wage-workers together), all of these 15,428 together having 123,941 workers, i.e., an average of eight workers per farm. Taking into account the special features of agriculture as regards machinery, such a number of workers is undoubtedly an indication of large-scale capitalist production. That large-scale cattle-raising farms are included among the mass of proletarian "farms" of less than two hectares, I have already had to point out on the basis of the data of the earlier census of 1895 (see my book: The Agrarian Question, St. Petersburg, 1908, p. 239*). It was quite possible to single out these large-scale farms by means of the data both on the number of cattle and on the number of workers, but the German statisticians prefer to fill hundreds of pages with data on five subdivisions of the group of owners having less than half a hectare divided into still smaller groups according to the amount of land!

    * See present edition, Vol. 5, pp. 103-222. --Ed. [Transcriber's Note: See Lenin's The Agrarian Question and the "Critics of Marx" (1901). -- DJR]

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    Socio-economic statistics -- one of the most powerful means of acquiring social knowledge -- are converted in this way into a monstrosity, into statistics for the sake of statistics, into a game.

    That the majority or the great bulk of agricultural enterprises belong to the category of dwarf, parcellised, proletarian farms is a phenomenon that is common to many if not most European capitalist countries, but not all capitalist countries. In America, for example, according to data of the 1900 census, the average size of the farms is 146.6 acres (60 hectares), i.e., 71 1/2 times as large as in Germany. The very small farms, if one includes here those of less than 20 acres (8 hectares) form a little over one-tenth (11.8 per cent) of the total number. Even the farms of less than 50 acres (20 hectares) form only one-third of the total number. In order to compare these data with the German statistics one must take into account that farms of less than three acres (= 1.2 hectares) are included in the American census only if their gross income amounts to 500 dollars, i.e., the vast majority of farms of less than three acres are not registered at all. Hence we must exclude also the very small farms from the German data. Let us eliminate even all the farms of less than two hectares: of the remaining 2,357,572 farms there will be 1,006,277 of two to five hectares, i.e., over 40 per cent of the farms will be very small farms. In America the situation is quite different.

    It is evident that when the traditions of serfdom are absent (or all traces of it are more thoroughly abolished), and when the yoke imposed by land rent on agricultural production is absent (or weakened), capitalism in agriculture can exist and even develop with special rapidity without creating a category of a million agricultural labourers and day-labourers with allotments. <"s3">



    We have put under the heading peasant farms those groups in which, on the one hand, the majority of cultivators are independent farmers and, on the other hand, the number of family workers is greater than the number of wage-workers.

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It was found that the absolute number of wage-workers in such farms is very great -- 1.6 million, more than a third of the total number of wage-workers. Obviously there are not a few capitalist enterprises among the general mass (2.1 million) of "peasant" farms. We shall see below the approximate number and significance of these enterprises, for the present we shall deal in more detail with the relationship between family and wage-labour. Let us see how big the average number of workers per farm is:

Average number of workers per farm

Groups of farms





 / Less than 0.5 ha
 \ 0.5 - 2 ha





 / 2-5    "
<  5-10  "
 \ 10-20 "





 / 20-100 "
 \ 100 ha or more




Altogether .   .   .   .  




    We see from this table that, compared with industry, agricultural enterprises are generally of a small size as regards the number of workers. Only owners possessing more than 100 hectares have over 50 wage-workers: the number of such owners is 23,566, i.e., less than one-half per cent of the total number of farms. The total number of wage-workers on these farms is 1,463,974, i.e., a little less than the total number on the two million peasant farms.

    Among the peasant farms, the group that is seen at once to stand out from the rest is that with 10-20 hectares: this group has an average of 1.7 wage-workers per farm. If we single out only the permanent workers we shall find that they number 412,702 for the 412,741 farms of this group (411,940 of the farms distributed according to the number of workers). This means that not a single enterprise is able to do without permanent use of wage-labour. That is why we single out this group as that of "Grossbauer ", big peasant farmers or peasant bourgeoisie. Usually it is owners of 20 or more hectares that are reckoned to belong to this category, but the 1907 census has shown that the use of wage-labour in agriculture is more widely distributed than is usually thought,

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and that the boundary at which the constant use of wage-labour begins must be shifted considerably lower.

    Further, in examining the relationship between family and wage-labour, we find that in proletarian and peasant farming the average number of family workers shows a continual increase parallel to the increase in the number of wage-workers, whereas in capitalist farms the number of family workers begins to fall as the number of wage-workers grows larger. This phenomenon is quite natural and confirms our conclusion that farms of over 20 hectares are capitalist farms, in which not only is the number of wage-workers greater than that of family workers, but also the average number of family workers per farm is less than in the case of peasant farms.

    Long ago, even at the very beginning of the controversy between the Marxists and the Narodniks, it was established from Zemstvo statistical data that in peasant farming family co-operation is the basis for the creation of capitalist co-operation, i.e., substantial peasant farms notable for their particularly large number of family workers become converted into capitalist farms employing wage-labour to an ever-increasing extent. Now we see that the German statistics for the whole of German agriculture confirm this conclusion.

    Let us take the German peasant farms. As a whole they differ from the proletarian farms by being enterprises based on family co-operation (2.5-3.4 family workers per farm) and not enterprises of individuals. The proletarian farms have to be called the farms of individuals because they do not even average two workers per farm. Among the peasant farms, however, there is competition over the number of wage-workers taken on: the greater the size of the peasant farm, the higher is the number of its family workers and the more rapidly does the number of its wage-workers increase. The big peasant farms surpass the small peasant farms (of 2-5 hectares) by less than one-and-a-half times as regards the number of family workers but they exceed them by more than four times as regardg the number of wage-workers.

    We see here a precise statistical confirmation of the cardinal distinction between the class of small farmers in general, and of small peasants in particular, and the class of wage-workers, a distinction that is always being pointed

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out by Marxists and which the bourgeois economists and revisionists are quite unable to grasp. All the circumstances of commodity farming lead to the result that the small peasants are unable to exist without striving to consolidate and extend their enterprises, and this struggle implies a struggle to increase the use of outside labour-power and to make its use cheaper. That is why in every capitalist country the mass of small peasants as a whole, of whom only an insignificant minority "rise to prominence", i.e., become real capitalists, are permeated by capitalist psychology and follow the agrarians in politics. The bourgeois economists (and the revisionists, too, in their wake) support this psychology; the Marxists explain to the small peasants that their only salvation lies in joining hands with the wage-workers.

    The data of the 1907 census are also extremely instructive in regard to the proportion between the number of permanent and temporary workers. Altogether the latter are exactly one-third of the total number: 5,053,726 out of 15,169,549. Of the wage-workers 45 per cent are temporary, of the family workers 29 per cent are temporary. But these proportions undergo substantial change in the different types of farm. The following are the data for the groups we have distin guished.

Temporary Workers as a Percentage of
the Total Number of Workers

Groups of farms





 / Less than 0.5 ha
 \ 0.5 - 2 ha





 / 2-5    "
<  5-10  "
 \ 10-20 "





 / 20-100 "
 \ 100 ha or more




Average .   .   .   .  




    We see from this table that among the proletarian farms with less than half a hectare (there are altogether 2.1 million such farms!) temporary workers form more than half of both the family workers and wage-workers. These are chiefly auxiliary farms which occupy only part of the time of their owners. Among the proletarian farms of 0.5-2 hectares, too,

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the percentage of temporary workers is very high. As the size of the farm increases the percentage falls -- with only one exception. This exception is that among wage-workers of the biggest capitalist farms the percentage of temporary workers increases slightly, and since the number of family workers in this group is quite negligible, the percentage of temporary workers among the workers as a whole increases considerably, from 25 to 32 per cent.

    The difference between peasant and capitalist farms as regards the total number of temporary workers is not very great. The difference between the numbers of family and wage-workers is very considerable in all types of farm, and if we take into account that among temporary family workers there is, as we shall see, an especially high percentage of women and children this difference becomes still greater. Hence wage-workers are the most mobile element. . . . <"s4">



    . . . they carry on agriculture. Generally speaking, women's labour predominates also in the peasant farm, and it is only in the big peasant and capitalist enterprises that men constitute the majority.

    There are in general fewer women among wage-workers than among family workers. Obviously, the capitalist cultivators in all the groups are among those farmers who obtain the best labour forces. If the predominance of women over men can be taken as a measure of the straitened circumstances of the farmer and of the unsatisfactory state of a farm that has no possibility of using the best labour forces (and this supposition inevitably follows from all the data on women. . . .



.  .  .  .


.  .  .  .


    The significance of the data on the use of machinery in agriculture is usually underestimated in economic literature. Firstly, the capitalist character of the use of machinery is quite often ignored (always, in the case of bourgeois economists); the economists make no investigation of this problem, they do not know how to raise it or do not even want to do so. Secondly, the use of machinery is considered in isolation and not as a criterion of the different types of farm; different methods of cultivation and different economic conditions of farming.

    If, for example, as a general rule we find an incomparably greater use of machinery in large-scale compared with-small scale production, and a huge concentration of machines in the capitalist farms, which sometimes even have almost a monopoly of up-to-date implements, this is an indication of the difference in care for the land among farms of different types. Among the machines registered by the German census are such machines as steam ploughs, seed-drills and potato planting machines. The fact that they are mainly used in capitalist agriculture means that in this case care for the land is better,<"p442"> the technique of cultivation higher and the productivity of labour greater. Bensing,[151] the author of a well-known monograph on agricultural machinery, basing himself on the data of specialists concerning the effect of using various machines, has calculated that, even without changing the system of cultivation, the use of machines by itself raises the net return from farming many times over. These calculations have not been refuted by anyone and basically they cannot be refuted.

    The small-scale producer who has no opportunity of using up-to-date implements is forced to lag behind in care for the land, and it is only individuals or a few dozen out of hundreds and thousands who can try to "overtake" the big farmer by applying more labour to the land while retaining the old tools, and by greater "assiduousness" and a longer working day. The statistics of the use of machinery indicate therefore the existence of excessiue labour in small-scale pro-

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duction, a fact which is always stressed by Marxists. No statistics can take direct account of this fact, but if the statistical data are regarded in the light of their economic significance, it becomes clear which types of farming are bound to develop, cannot fail to develop, in modern society when machines are used, and when their use is impossible.

    The Hungarian statistics provide an illustration of what has been said. Like the German census of 1907 (and of 1882 and 1895), like the Danish statistics on the use of machines in 1907, and like the French enquiry in 1909, the Hungarian census of 1895, which for the first time collected precise data for the whole country, shows the superiority of capitalist agriculture and the increased percentage of farms with machines as the size of the farms increases. From this angle there is nothing new here but only a confirmation of the German data. The special feature of the Hungarian statistics, however, is that information was collected not only on the few up-to-date implements and machines, but on the entire, or almost the entire, farm inventory, on the number of the simplest and most essential implements, ploughs, harrows, carts, etc.

    Thanks to these exceptionally detailed data it becomes possible to establish accurately the, as it were, symptomatic significance, characteristic of the whole system of farming, of the information on the use of some agricultural machines and technological "rarities" (such as steam ploughs). Let us take the Hungarian statistical data* on the use of ploughs other than steam ploughs (of which in 1895 there were altogether 179 in the whole of Hungary, including 120 in 3,977 largest farms).

    The following are data of the total number of ploughs and of the number of the simplest, most primitive and least

    * See Landwirtschaftliche Statistik der Länder der ungarischen Krone (Agricultural Statistics of the Lands of the Hungarian Crown ). Budapest, 1900, Vols. 4 and 5. The Hungarian statistics divide all the farms into four chief groups: 1) dwarf farms (less than 5 yokes; one yoke = 0.57 hectares); 2) small farms (5-100 yokes); 3) medium farms (100-1,000 yokes); 4) big farms (over 1,000 yokes). The second group obviously includes very diverge kinds of farms and therefore I make four subdivisions of it.

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strongly built of all the implements of this kind (the simplest comprise single-share ploughs with a wooden pole; the others are: the same but with an iron pole, then two- and three-share ploughs, cultivators, ridging ploughs, and ploughs for deep ploughing).

Groups of farms

of farms

of ploughs


Dwarf (less than 5 yokes)
 / 5-10 yokes   .  .  .  .  .  .
 | 10-20  "  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
 | 20-50  "  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
 \ 50-100 "  .  .  .  .  .  .  .
Total small  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 
Medium (100 - 1,000 yokes)
Large (over 1,000 yokes)




Total .   .   .   .  




    Without mentioning the dwarf farms, we see that in the small peasant farms (5-10 yokes, i.e., 2.8-5.7 hectares) 233,000 out of 569,000 do not- own any ploughs at all, and of the middle peasant farms 69,000 out of 467,000 are without ploughs. Only the higher groups, i.e., the big peasant and capitalist farms, all have ploughs, and it is only in the farms of over 100 yokes (there are only 25,000 such farms = 0.9 per cent of the total number!) that the more elaborate implements predominate. In the peasant farms the simplest implements, those least strongly built and worst in performance, predominate (and the smaller the farm the more marked is this predominance).

    Leaving out of account the dwarf farms, which constitute the majority (52 per cent) of all the farm's but which occupy an insignificant fraction of the total area (7 per cent), we reach the following conclusion:

    Over one million small- and middle-peasant farms (5-20 yokes) are inadequately provided with even the simplest implements for tilling the soil.

    A quarter of a million big peasant farms (20-100 yokes) are tolerably equipped with implements of the simplest kind. And only 25,000 capitalist farms (but possessing, it is true, 55 per cent of the entire area of land) are fully equipped with up-to-date implements.

page 445

    The Hungarian statistics, on the other hand, calculate how many yokes of arable land there are to one agricultural implement and obtain figures such as the following (we quote only the data for ploughs, harrows and carts, while pointing out that the picture of their distribution among the farms is completely analogous to that we saw in regard to ploughs).

Yokes of arable land

In farms

to one

to one

to one

dwarf .  .  .  .  .  .  .
small .  .  .  .  .  .  .
medium  .  .  .  .  .  .
large  .  .  .  .  .  .  .




    This means that the proletarian and peasant farms, which are quite unsatisfactorily equipped with all agricultural implements, have an excessively large number of them in relation to the whole amount of the arable land of their farms. A beggarly equipment of implements and an unbearable costliness of maintaining them -- such is the lot of small-scale production under capitalism. In exactly the same way the statistics relating to housing in every large town show us that the poorest classes of the population, the workers, small traders, petty employees, etc., live worst of all, have the most crowded and worst dwellings and pay most dearly of all for each cubic foot. Calculated per unit of space the dwellings of factory barracks or hovels for the poor are more costly than the fashionable dwellings anywhere on the Nevsky.

    The conclusion to be drawn from this as regards both Germany and all the capitalist countries is as follows. If the data on the utilisation of a few up-to-date implements and agricultural machines show us that their employment increases as the size of the farm increases, this means that small-scale production in agriculture is poorly equipped with all necessary implements. This means that in small-scale production squandering of labour on maintaining an immense quantity of poor and out-of-date implements suitable only for farming on a minute scale is combined with acute want, causing the peasant to overstrain himself in order somehow to keep going on his plot of land with these obsolete barbaric implements.

    That is what the data, so simple and so well-known to all, on the use of agricultural machinery tell us if we reflect on their socio-economic significance.

page 446

    Capitalism raises the level of agricultural technique and advances it, but it cannot do so except by ruining, depress ing and crushing the mass of small producers.

    In order to give a graphic illustration of the social significance and tempo of this process, we shall conclude by comparing the data of the three German censuses of 1882, 1895 and 1907. For the purpose of this comparison we must take the data on the number of instances of the use of the five agricultural machines which were registered during the whole of this period (these machines are: steam ploughs, seed-drills, mowing machines and harvesters, steam and other threshing-machines). We obtain the following picture:

Number of instances of the use of the chief
agricultural machines per hundred farms

Groups of farms





  Less than 2 ha





 / 2-5    "
<  5-10  "
 \ 10-20 "





 / 20-100 "
 \ 100 ha or more




Average .   .   .   .  




    The progress seems considerable: during a quarter of a century the number of instances of the use of the chief machines has grown in general nearly fourfold. But, on making a careful examination, it has to be said that it has required a whole quarter of a century to make the use of at least one of the five chief machines a regular phenomenon in a small minority of the farms that cannot do without the constant employment of wage-labour. For such use can only be called regular when the number of instances of it exceeds the number of farms, and we find that this occurs only in relation to the capitalist and big peasant farms. Together they comprise 12 per cent of the total number of farms.

    The bulk of the small and middle peasants, after a quarter of a century of capitalist progress, have remained in a position in which only a third of the former and two-thirds of the latter can use any of these five machines during the year.

(End of first article)



  <"en146">[146] The article "The Capitalist System of Modern Agriculture" is the first part of a large work on capitalist agriculture in Germany which Lenin intended to write as a second instalment of his well-known work, New Data on the Laws of the Development of Capitalism in AgriculturePart 1. Capitalism and Agriculture in the United States of America.
    The article "The Capitalist System of Modern Agriculture " is included for the first time in Lenin's Collected Works. It was published in 1932 in the magazine Bolshevik No. 9 and Lenin Miscellany XIX after the discovery of part of the manuscript. The succeeding parts of the manuscript are still missing: the end of Chapter III -- "Peasant Farms under Capitalism", the beginning and end of Chapter IV -- "Labour of Women and Children in Agriculture", Chapters V and VI -- "Squandering of Labour in Small-Scale Production" and "The Capitalist Character of the Use of Machinery in Modern Agriculture".
    The end of the article with the signature "V. Ilyin", as well as the end of Chapter I ("A General Picture of the Economic System of Modern Agriculture") and the beginning of Chapter II ("The Real Nature of the Majority of Modern Agricultural 'Farms' [Proletarian "Farms"]"), which were missing when the article was published in 1932, have now been found; hence Chapters I, II and VII are now published in full for the first time.    [p.423]

  <"en147">[147] Rievskaya Mysl (Kiev Thouht ) -- a daily bourgeois-democratic newspaper published in Kiev from 1906 to 1918. Mensheviks were among its most active contributors.

    Lenin is referring to the article by the liquidator N. Valentinov, "Concerning the Recent German Census", published in Kievskaya Mysl No. 308.    [p.427]

  <"en148">[148] Ekonomist Rossii (Russian Economist ) -- a weekly bourgeois journal devoted to economic and financial questions in Russia and abroad; it was published in St. Petersburg from 1909 to 1912.    [p.428]

  <"en149">[149] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 600-863.    [p.428]

  <"en150">[150] Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1959, pp. 640-48.    [p.435]

  <"en151">[151] Franz Bensing, Der Einfluss der landwirtschaftlichen Maschinen auf VoIks- und Privatwirtschaft (The Effect of Agricultural Machinery on the National Economy and Private Undertakings ), Breslau, 1897.    [p.442]