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V. I. Lenin
(Regarding Mr. P. Skvortsvo's Article
"Commodity Fetishism" in Nachnoye Obozreniye)
Written in January-March, 1900
Published in May and June, 1900
in the magazine Nauchnoye Obozreniye,
Nos. 5 and 6
Signed: Vladimir Ilyin
to the text of
From V. I. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition,
Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1964
Vol. 3, pp. 609-32.
Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, firstname.lastname@example.org (November 1997)
UNCRITICAL CRITICISM. (Regarding Mr. P. Skvortsvo's Article
"Commodity Fetishism " in Nachnoye Obozreniye , No. 12, 1899 ) . .
I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Jove is wrathful" . . . . This has long been known as a very amusing sort of spectacle, and actually the anger of the stern Thunderer merely calls forth laughter. Further confirmation of this old truth has been supplied by Mr. P. Skvortsov, who has let loose a host of the choicest "wrathful" remarks against my book on the process of the formation of a home market for Russian capitalism.
"To depict the process as a whole," Mr. Skvortsov grandly instructs me, "one must set forth one's understanding of the capitalist mode of production; to confine oneself to mere references to the theory of realisation is quite superfluous." Why references to the theory of the home market are "superfluous" in a book devoted to an analysis of data on the home market, remains the secret of our stern Jove, who by "setting forth one's understanding," "understands" . . . giving extracts from Capital, half of which are irrelevant. "The author may be reproached for the dialectical (a specimen of Mr. Skvortsov's wit!) "contradiction that, having set himself the aim of examining a problem" (of how the home market is being formed for Russian capitalism), "he comes, at the end of his references to theory, to the conclusion that no such problem exists at all." Mr. Skvortsov is so pleased with this remark of his that he repeats it several times, not seeing, or not wishing to see, that it is based on a gross error. At the end of the first chapter of my book I
say that "the problem of the home market as a separate, self-sufficient problem not depending on that of the degree of capitalist development<"p612"> does not exist at all" (69). Well, does the critic disagree with that? No, he agrees with it, for on the preceding page he says that my remarks are "fair." That being the case, what has occasioned his clamour and attempt to divest my conclusion of its most important part? That also remains a secret. At the end of the introductory, theoretical chapter, I definitely indicate the theme of interest to me: "the question of how a home market is being formed for Russian capitalism reduces itself to the following: How and in what direction are the diverse aspects of the Russian national economy developing? What constitutes the connection between and interdependence of these diverse aspects?" (69). Does the critic consider these questions unworthy of examination? No, he prefers to avoid the issue of the theme I set myself and to point to other themes with which, at Jove's behest, I should have occupied myself. I should, in his opinion, have "described the reproduction and circulation both of that part of the product which is produced in agriculture and in industry capitalistically, and of that part which is produced by independent peasant producers . . . and shown the relation between them, i.e., the magnitudes of constant and variable capital and of surplus-value in each of the indicated departments of social labour" (2278). Now that is simply a high-sounding and totally meaningless phrase! Before attempting to describe the reproduction and circulation of the product which is produced in agriculture capitalistically, one must first ascertain exactly how and to what extent agriculture becomes capitalist, among peasants or among landlords, in one district or in another, etc. Unless this is done (and that is what I have done in my book), the description suggested by Mr. Skvortsov will remain a series of commonplaces. Before we can speak of the part of the product which is produced in industry capitalistically, we must first ascertain exactly which industry in Russia is becoming capitalist and to what extent it is doing so. That is precisely what I tried to do by processing the data on the handicraft industry, for example; our stern critic grandly passes all this by in silence and with a supremely serious air invites me to mark time and to
dispose of the matter with empty commonplaces about capitalist industry! The question as to exactly which peasants in Russia are "independent producers" also requires a study of the facts, and that is what I tried to undertake in my book; had Mr. Skvortsov pondered over this question, he would not have made the nonsensical assertion that the categories of constant capital, variable capital and surplus-value may, without further ado, be applied to the economy of "independent peasant producers." In a word, the elaboration of the theme proposed by Mr. Skvortsov is possible only after clearing up the questions I have indicated. Under the guise of amending my formulation of the problem, our stern critic beats a retreat from an analysis of concrete and historically specific reality to simply copying Marx.
Incidentally, we cannot pass by in silence the following trick by Mr. P. Skvortsov, one that splendidly characterises our critic's methods. Prof. Sombart (says Mr. P. Skvortsov) shows that German exports lag behind the development of German industry. "These data," Mr. P. Skvortsov explains, "go to confirm my conception of markets." Good, isn't it? Mr. Skvortsov's arguments illustrate the meaning of the well-known saying: there's a bush in the garden, and my uncle's in Kiev. . . . We are discussing the theory of realisation, and he tells us: capitalism, like feudalism, lives on surplus-labour! If we add to such inimitable tricks a number of stern rebukes, we shall get the sum-total of Mr. Skvortsov's "criticism."
But let the reader judge for himself: to show my "failure to understand," Mr. P. Skvortsov cites, on pages 2279 and 2280, extracts from various parts of the first chapter, picks out isolated words from isolated sentences and exclaims: "The finding, the exchange, the theory of the home market, the finding of the replacing, and finally, the compensating ! I do not think such precision of terms can be taken as evidence that Mr. Ilyin clearly understands Marx's 'remarkable' theory of realisation!?" Now that is precisely the sort of "criticism" that was once ridiculed by Chernyshevsky; a man takes up The Adventures of Chichikov and begins to "criticise": "Chi-chi-kov, tchi-tchi. . . Oh how funny<"p613">! The finding, the exchange. . . . I do not think that is clear. . . ." Oh, what destructive criticism!
On page 52 of my book I say that it was not necessary to divide the product according to its natural form in analysing the production of individual capital, but that it was absolutely necessary in analysing the reproduction of social capital, for in the latter case (and only in the latter case) are we dealing with the replacement of the natural form of the product. Mr. Skvortsov asserts that I "failed to understand" Marx, severely reprimands me for "translating freely," considers it "necessary to quote Capital at length" (the passages quoted stating exactly what I said), and pounces upon the following words of mine: "Now, however, the question," i.e., in analysing the reproduction of social, and not of individual, capital, "is: where will the workers and the capitalists obtain their articles of consumption, where will the capitalists obtain their means of production, how will the finished product meet all these demands and enable production to expand?" Underlining this passage, Mr. Skvortsov goes on to say: "The passages I have underlined do indeed contain a theory of realisation, only not Marx's, but Mr. Ilyin's, a theory which has nothing in common with Marx's theory" (2282). Strongly put! But let us see what sort of proof is advanced. The proofs, of course, are quotations from Marx, including the following: "The question as it immediately forelies (sic !)* is this: How is the capital
* By the way, about translations. Quoting from my book the following passage: ". . . as though only the absolute consuming power of society constituted their (the productive forces') outer limit" (57), Mr. Skvortsov gives me the following strict admonition: "Mr. Ilyin . . . did not notice the clumsiness of his translation, whereas the original says simply and clearly. 'als ob nur die absolute Konsumptionsfähigkeit der Gesellschaft ihre Grenze bilde'" (2286). What is wrong with this (quite correct) translation the critic does not indicate. But to show how strict he is, it will be sufficient to quote a couple of his translations. Page 2284: "But when the normal annual reproduction is shown on a given scale . . . thereby it is also shown . . ." (in the original: ist damit auch unterstellt); page 2285: "We are dealing, primarily, with simple reproduction. Further on it will be shown" (in the original: Ferner wird unterstellt) not only that products are exchanged at their value," etc. Thus, good Mr. Skvortsov is no doubt firmly convinced that "unterstellen" means "to show," and that "wird interstellt" is future tense.
I say nothing about the style of our stern critic, who treats us to such phrases as: "now the capitalist mode of production equals agricullural industry" (2293).
consumed in production replaced in value out of the annual product, and how is the movement of this replacement intertwined with the consumption of surplus-value by the capitalists, and of wages by the workers?" Conclusion: "I believe that I have shown sufficiently that the theory of realisation which Mr. Ilyin presents as Marx's has nothing in common with the analysis given by Marx," etc. All I can do is to ask once again: Good, isn't it? What the difference is between what I say and what is said in the quotations from Marx remains the secret of our stern critic. All that is clear is that my mortal sin lies in "translating freely," or perhaps in that I explain Marx in my "own words," as Mr. Skvortsov expresses it in another part of his article (2287). Just think of it! To expound Marx in one's "own words"! "Genuine" Marxism consists in learning Capital by heart and quoting passages from it, in season and out . . . à la Mr. Nikolai-on.
Here is an illustration confirming this last remark. In my book I say that capitalism "makes its appearance only as a result of widely developed commodity circulation," and, in another place, that "capitalism is that stage in the development of commodity-production in which labour-power, too, becomes a commodity." Midst thunder and lightning our stern Jove announces: "under what conditions capitalism makes its appearance . . . is known to every more or less educated reader" (sic !), "Mr. Ilyin's bourgeois horizon," and other pearls adorning the polemics of the wrathful Mr. Skvortsov. Then follow quotations from Marx: the first says exactly what I said (the purchase and sale of labour-power is the basic condition of capitalist production); the second says that the mode of circulation derives from the social<"p615"> character of production and not vice versa (Das Kapital, II. B., 93). Mr. Skvortsov imagines he has utterly confuted his opponent with this last quotation. Actually, however, he has replaced the question I raised by another one and given proof of his ability to offer irrelevant quotations. What did I speak of in the incriminating passage? Of the fact that capitalism is the result of commodity circulation, i.e., of the historical relation between capitalist production and commodity circulation. And what is spoken of in the passage quoted from Volume II of Capital (the volume devoted to the circulation of capital)? The relation between capitalist
<"p616"> production and capitalist circulation; Marx is polemising in this passage (S. 92. II. B.) against the economists who contrasted natural economy, money economy and credit economy as three characteristic economic forms of movement in social production; Marx says that that is wrong, because money and credit economy are merely modes of circulation peculiar to different stages in the development of capitalist production, and he concludes with a remark about the "bourgeois horizon" of these economists. Mr Skvortsov thinks that "genuine" Marxism consists in clutching at the last word of Marx and repeating it, even against an opponent who did not dream of discussing the relation between natural, money and credit economy. We leave it to the reader to determine which party displays "failure to understand," and among what sort of literature such tricks are classified. Behind the clamour of his stern rebukes Mr. Skvortsov not only resorted to the "point of replacing" but also completely evaded the problem of the relation between capitalist production and commodity circulation. That is a very important problem, to which I revert many times in my book, emphasising the historical role of merchant's capital as the predecessor of capitalist production. Mr. Skvortsov would seem to have no objection to this (judging by the fact that he says nothing about it). That being the case, what sense is there in the noise he makes about my statement that capitalism is a result of commodity circulation? Does not merchant's capital express the develoFment of commerce, i.e., commodity circulation without capitalist production? These questions too, once again, remain the secret of the wrathful Jove.
To finish with the "criticism" Mr. Skvortsov directs against the theoretical part of my book, I have to examine a few more of the stern rebukes and gross errors which abound in the article "Commodity Fetishism."
In my book I say: "The need for a capitalist country to have a foreign market is . . . determined . . . by the fact that capitalism makes its appearance only as a result of widely developed commodity circulation, which transcends the limits of the state. It is therefore impossible to conceive a capitalist nation without foreign trade, nor is there any such nation. As the reader sees, this reason is of a historical order" (65). The stern Jove "criticises": "I, as a reader, do not
see that this reason is of a historical order. A totally unfounded assertion" (2284), etc. If commodity circulation is the necessary historical predecessor of capitalism, is there any need to explain in addition why "this reason is of a historical order"?
For the abstract theory of capitalism all that exists is developed and fully established capitalism, and the question of its origin is eliminated.
"Mr. Ilyin . . . for the realisation of the product in capitalist society . . . turns to the aid of the foreign market" (2286). To the reader who is familiar with my Studies and The Development of Capitalism in Russia I need scarcely explain that this, too, is a trick performed by the same method as the preceding ones. A quotation from Marx:<"p617"> ". . . foreign commerce only replaces home products by articles of other use or bodily form. . . ." Conclusion: "Every literate person, with the exception of critically-minded individuals, will understand that Marx says the very opposite of Mr. Ilyin's theory that there is no need to go to the foreign market to find 'an equivalent for that part of the product which is being sold,' to find 'another part of the capitalist product that can replace the first"' (2284). Oh, splendid Mr. Skvortsov!
"Mr. Ilyin . . . by ignoring the essential features of capitalist society and thus converting it into planned production -- proportion in the development of different trades undoubtedly means planned production -- nicely realises, in the end, the same quantity of products within the country" (2286). Our "critic's" new trick consists in attributing to me the notion that capitalism ensures regular proportion. Constant, deliberately maintained proportion would, indeed, signify the existence of planning; but this is not the proportion which is "established only as the average magnitude of a number of continual fluctuations" (that is what I say in the passage quoted by Mr. Skvortsov). I definitely say that proportion (or conformity) is "assumed " by theory, but in fact it is "constantly disturbed," that to replace one distribution of capital by another and so create proportion "there must be a crisis " (all the words underlined are to be found on that very page 66, which is quoted by Mr. Skvortsov). The question arises, what can one
think of a critic who ascribes to his opponent the transformation of capitalism into planned production, while making reference to the very page and the very paragraph where that opponent says that for capitalism there must be a crisis so as to create a constantly disturbed proportion??
Let us pass to the second part of Mr. Skvortsov's article, which is devoted to a criticism of the factual data quoted and analysed in my book. Maybe here, at least, we shall find some serious criticism relating to problems of which a special study has been made by Mr. Skvortsov.
The social division of labour is the basis of commodity economy and is the basic process of the formation of a home market -- says Mr. Skvortsov, quoting my words -- "while plain 'division of labour' -- not social, we must assume -- is the basis of manufacture. . . ." In this "attempt at irony" the critic reveals his failure to understand the elementary difference between division of labour in society and division of labour in the workshop: the former creates (under commodity production -- a condition which I definitely specified, so that Mr. Skvortsov's reminder about the division of labour in the Indian village community relates to that author's deplorable weakness for quoting irrelevant passages from Marx) isolated commodity-producers, who, independently and separately from one another, produce different products which enter into exchange; the latter does not alter the relation of the producers to society, but merely transforms their position in the workshop. That is the reason, so far as I can judge, why Marx sometimes speaks of "social division of labour"* and at others simply
* In chapter twelve, volume one of Capital [in the English edition it is Chapter XIV. --Ed.], which deals with manufacture, there is a special section entitled "Division of Labour in Manufacture, and Division of Labour in Society."<"p618"> At the beginning of this section Marx says: "We shall now lightly touch upon the relation between the division of labour in manufacture, and the social division of labour, which forms the foundation of all production of commodities" (Das Kapital, I2, S. 362). How truly instructive it is to contrast this to the trick of our wrathful Jove!
of division of labour. If Mr. Skvortsov thinks otherwise, he should formulate and explain his opinion instead of dealing out stern but wholly meaningless remarks.
"Division of labour is not in the least a characteristic feature of manufacture, for division of labour exists in the factory too."
Very well, Mr. Skvortsov! But have I said that this is the only feature that distingulshes manufacture from the factory? Had the critic at all seriously wanted to discover whether I correctly understand the "characteristic features of manufacture" (a very interesting and by no means as simple a problem as may appear at first sight), could he have kept silent about the fact that in the very section concerned I definitely say: "We have had occasion elsewhere to enumerate the principal features of the concept of manufacture according to Marx (Studies, 179[*])" (385, footnote 1)? In the Studies, division of labour figures as only one of a series of features. The reader of Mr. Skvortsov's article might, therefore, get an absolutely distorted notion of my views, and no notion whatever of the critic's views.
To proceed. The attempt to present a whole number of so-called "handicraft" industries as the manufactory stage of Russian capitalism is made in my book, if I am not mistaken, for the first time, and I, of course, am far from imagining that this problem has been altogether settled (particularly since I have examined it from a specific point of view). I accordingly anticipated criticism of my views, and did so with all the more reason, and all the more interest, because certain Russian Marxists had expressed somewhat different views (see The Development of Capitalism, p. 550, footnote). But how has the problem been treated by Mr. P. Skvortsov? His "criticism" amounts in its entirety to an exhortation, magnificent for its laconic severity, not to confine myself to a "mechanical enumeration of the number of wage-workers, of aggregate output in such and such years in this or that sphere of production" (2278). If this exhortation does not refer to the section of my book which deals with the question of factory statistics (Mr. Skvortsov <"fnp619">
* See present edition, Vol. 2, The Handicraft Census of 1894-95 in Perm Gubernia. --Ed.
does not say a word about this), it must refer to the chapter on manufacture, the greater part of which consists of factual data. How they might have been dispensed with is a secret that our stern critic does not reveal, and I continue to hold to the opinion that it is better to incur the charge of my exposition being dry than to give the reader cause to think that my opinion is based on "quotations" from Capital, and not on a study of Russian data. If Mr. Skvortsov thinks my enumeration is "mechanical," are we to take it that he considers as wrong the conclusions which I have drawn from these data in the second half of Chapter VI, and repeated in Chapter VII, § XII? -- Are we to take it that he does not agree that these data show a specific structure of industry characterised by aspecific system of: 1) technique, 2) economy and 3) culture? The stern Jove had not a single word to say about this in his "criticism," which, if we discount the wrathful rebukes, is left without any content whatsoever. That's rather little, most respected Mr. Skvortsov!
Let us pass to the part played by peasant taxes in developing commodity economy. I asserted that at one time poll-taxes had been an important factor in the development of exchange, but that now commodity-production had become so firmly established that the importance of taxes "is becoming altogether secondary." Against this Mr. Skvortsov launches a host of paltry and fearful words such as, "fetishism of commodities," unite everything, "omnipotence," potency of commodity-production, etc.; but alas, these potent words merely cover up the stern critic's impotence to refute the conclusion I drew. "Even Mr. Kautsky," writes Mr. Skvortsov, "to whom Mr. Ilyin bears resemblance in many respects" . . . (poor "Mr. Kautsky," who "bears resemblance" to the "commodity fetishist," completely fails to understand Capital, and resembles that man who is weighed down by a "bourgeois horizon," Mr. Ilyin! Will he recover from the blow struck by a "genuine" Marxist?) . . . "says that the conversion of peasant dues in kind into dues in cash increases the peasants' demand for money" (2288). Very well, stern Mr. Critic, but surely that has absolutely nothing to do with the problem of the part played by taxes in the peasants' cash expenditure as compared with outlays on the rest of their needs and requirements. This problem is
not even touched upon by Kautsky. Mr. Skvortsov over and over again reveals his remarkable talent for offering irrelevant quotations. "The main question," says Mr. Skvortsov, advancing his second objection, "which is not explained even by the budget data, is as follows: where is the horseless peasant to obtain 25 rubles to pay his taxes" (25 per cent of his cash espenditure, 25 rubles out of 100 rubles has been turned by Mr. Skvortsov simply into 25 rubles!) "and the horse-owning peasant 10 rubles? The question is not what part of the income (?) taxes constitute in the peasants' total cash expenditure" (2290). I advise Mr. Skvortsov to take out a patent for a remarkable invention: the very latest and very easiest method of "scientific criticism" that radically destroys an opponent. On one out of several hundred pages of his book your opponent incidentally raises the question of the share of tax expenditure in the total cash expenditure; all you have to do is to quote this passage, foist another question on your opponent, and you brilliantly prove that he is a "commodity fetishist," who, monster that he is, does not give a thought to where the poor horseless peasant is to get 25 rubles! And then, as to other pages in the book, which deal with the ratio of taxes to income, with the items and with the source of income, you can omit them and thus prove that your opponent has a "bourgeois horizon." Really, take out a patent, Mr. Skvortsov!
Here is another example of how Mr. Skvortsov utilises his invention. I ask the reader's attention: such gems of "scientific criticism" are the only ones of their kind.
We refer to the same page 156, which deals with the budget figures for peasant taxes. After showing the role of taxes in the peasants' total cash expenditure, I continue: "If, however, we do not take the role of taxes in the development of exchange, but take them relative to income, we shall see that it is an excessively high one. How heavily the traditions of the pre-Reform epoch weigh down upon the peasant of today is seen most strikingly in the existence of taxes which absorb one-seventh of the gross espenditure of the small farmer, or even of the allotment-holding farm labourer. Moreover, the distribution of taxes within the village community is astonishingly uneven: tbe better off the peasant, the smaller the part of his total
expenditure that goes in taxes. The horseless peasant pays in proportion to his income nearly three times as much as the peasant owning many horses (see above, table on distribution of expenditure). . . ." Any reader who is at all attentive in his approach to what he reads must naturally ask: Why do I speak of the distribution of taxes within the village community, when the budgets relate to the farms of peasants not only of different communities, but even of different uyezds? Perhaps the uneven distribution is here fortuitous -- perhaps it depends on the different assessment of one dessiatine of allotment land in the different uyezds or in the different village communities from which the farms were taken for compiling the typical budgets? And so, in order to eliminate this inevitable objection, I immediately went on, after what I had said, to explain: ". . . We speak of the distribution of taxes within the village community, because if we calculate the amount of taxes and duties per dessiatine of allotment land, it will be found to be nearly uniform. . . ." Had the critic wanted to verify these words, all he needed to do was to compare the table on page 151 (amount of taxes and dues per farm) with the table on p. 157 (quantity of allotment land per household) to convince himself with ease that, judging by the budget data, although the budgeted farms belong to different communities, and even to different uyezds, the amounts of taxes and dues per dessiatine of allotment land are nearly uniform.
And now, observe what methods Mr. Critic uses to destroy his opponent! He picks out the words I underlined about the amount of taxes per dessiatine of allotment land; fails to notice (sic !) that these words relate only to the budget data ; ascribes to these words the meaning that the amount of taxes per dessiatine of allotment land is nearly uniform for the whole of the Russian peasantry; triumphantly accuses me, because of this latter conclusion, of not being acquainted with Zemstvo statistical publications, and cites two tables to confirm the (generally known) fact that in different village communities, volosts and uyezds, the amounts of taxes per dessiatine of allotment land are far from being uniform. Having performed this trick, the critic goes on to add: "Indeed, within a village community where one and the same size of allotment is received, the
payments will be not nearly but actually uniform in size. The whole point is that Mr. Ilyin does not know which village community he is talking about. To finish with Mr. Ilyin's abuse of the Zemstvo statistics," etc. . . (2292). I would like very much to know whether another example could be found in scientific literature of this sort of criticism.
Having acquainted ourselves with the methods by which Mr. Skvortsov "has proved" the utter "worthlessness" of the budget data I have given, we may presumably ignore the potent (and impotent) terms in which the critic expresses his dissatisfaction with the very use of budget data. In demanding mass data on budgets, Mr. Skvortsov is evidently talking again about something that has nothing to do with the case, for descriptions of specific farms, such as I made use of, never are and never can be of a mass nature. The literature relating to the budgets of specific farms is indicated by me at the beginning of the section criticised, and I would, of course, only be grateful to the critic if he supplemented or corrected me. But Mr. Skvortsov knows how to "criticise" without touching on the substance of the point at issue! I attempted to prove that the budgets were typical by comparing the average sizes of family, crop area, land rented and number of animals per horseless and one horse households, according to the budget data and the "mass data" (p. 158 of my book); but our stern critic simply calls this a "curiosity" -- on what grounds, nobody knows. Perhaps for the same reason that a certain "critic" found the name Chichikov so funny? The budgets "are not typical . . . if only because the disposal of . . . grain . . . from the autumn onwards and its acquisition in the spring are very rarely met with in Voronezh Gubernia, whereas for the whole of Russia" such disposal has been proved to be the case, supposedly, by Mr. Nik.-on (2291). It is a true proverb which says that les beaux esprits se rencontrent *: That "genuine" Marxist, Mr. Pavel Skvortsov, coming up against a contradiction between the assertions of the "genuine" Marxist, Mr. Nikolai-on, and Zemstvo statistical data, unhesitatingly settles the problem along the lines that the data are not typical, and not that Mr. Nik. -- on's statements are wrong, or too
* All great minds think alike. --Ed.
general. Besides, what has the question of selling grain in autumn and buying grain in spring to do with the controversy over whether or not certain budgets are typical, budgets which, in examining the problem, I do not use at all?
After the thankless job of explaining the things imputed to me, it is a pleasure to meet, at last, with an objection on fundamentals, even if formulated in terms of the stern rebukes ("fetishism," "utter failure to understand") which Mr. Skvortsov evidently considers very convincing, and even if the critic's own opinions have had to be surmised rather than seen plainly stated. Mr. Skvortsov is quite right when he says that my views "are the central theme of the entire book." In order to set off our points of disagreement more sharply, I will compare two extreme formulations of our opposite views: Mr. Skvortsov probably thinks (at all events, it follows from his objections) that the less the land the peasants received when they were emancipated, and the higher the price they paid for it, the faster would have been the development of capitalism in Russia. I think the opposite: the more the land the peasants received when they were emancipated, and the lower the price they paid for it, the faster, wider and freer would have been the development of capitalism in Russia, the higher would have been the standard of living of the population, the wider would have been the home market, the faster would have been the introduction of machinery into production; the more, in a word, would the economic development of Russia have resembled that of America. I shall confine myself to indicating two circumstances which, in my opinion, confirm the correctness of the latter view: 1) land-poverty and the burden of taxation have led to the development over a very considerable area of Russia of the labour-service system of private-landowner farming, i.e., a direct survival of serfdom,* and not at all to the
* Incidentally, in my book I definitely advance this thesis (that labour-service is a survival of serfdom). Mr. Skvortsov says nothing about this but takes my remark that, fundamentally, labour-service has existed ever since the time of Russkaua Pravda and storms about it; he cites a quotation from Klyuchevsky, talks of home markets in the 12th century, and of commodity fetishism, and asserts that [cont. onto p. 625. -- DJR] I think that "commodity production is the miraculous and all-explaining starting-point in history (sic !) since the days of Russkaya Pravda " (sic !). This, apparently, is some more of the "tchi-tchi" type of criticism to which, as it is, I think I devoted too much time at the beginning of this article.
development of capitalism; 2) it is in our border regions, where serfdom was either entirely unknown, or was feeblest, and where the peasants suffer least from land shortage, labour-service and the burden of taxation, that there has been the greatest development of capitalism in agriculture. This comparison is necessary precisely for an analysis of the conditions of the "transition from the one social formation to the other," which I am so fiercely and so sweepingly accused of ignoring by Mr. Skvortsov.
The extremely stereotyped nature of Mr. Skvortsov's views on the economic processes in peasant economy in this country is also revealed by his remarks on migration and on the way capitalism breaks down medieval barriers. Now, was I not right in drawing a comparison between Mr. Pavel Skvortsov and Mr. Nikolai-on? Both "solve" the problem of migration by an extremely simple and entirely negative criticism of those "who attach importance" to migration. But that conclusion is worthy only of the most primitive -- to wit, "genuine" -- Marxism, which contents itself with absolutely abstract . . . commonplaces. What does "attach importance" to migration mean? If we take these words in their literal sense, can there be a single economist of sound mind and good memory who does not attach importance to the annual migrations? If we take these words in the specific sense of capitalism, then, firstly, Mr. Skvortsov distorts my meaning, for I say the very opposite in the passage he quotes. Secondly, an economist who sets out to study the characteristics of the economic system and development of Russia (not only to bring lengthy, and often irrelevant, quotations from Marx) must necessarily ask: what influence is exerted by the migrations in Russia? Without making a special study of the question, I remarked in the passage indicated by Mr. Skvortsov that my conclusions on the differentiation of the peasantry fully correspond to those of Mr. Hourwich.* Moreover, I repeatedly
* A propos of Mr. Hourwich, Mr. Skvortsov, by his unwarranted [cont. onto p. 626. -- DJR] and supercilious attitude towards the "conclusions" of this writer who is known in Marxist literature as the author of two books and as a contributor to magazines, only reveals his own conceit.
touch on the subject of migration in other parts of my book. Maybe my views on this subject are wrong, but Mr. Skvortsov does absolutely nothing to correct or to supplement them; he tota]ly obscures the issue with his stern rebukes. Further, my remarks give Mr. Skvortsov grounds for concluding that the "commodity fetishist believes in the miraculous power of his fetish now" (sic !). Now, that is truly "crushing"! But do you deny that I am right, most respected Mr. Critic? Why not share your factual considerations with the public and examine the data of at least one uyezd? That would be so natural for a person who makes a special study of Zemstvo statistics! And I take the liberty of holding this view, in spite of Mr. Skvortsov's terrible words (fetishism, miraculous power), which -- does anyone doubt it? -- are enough to frighten anybody.*
* My words: "Before capitalism appeared, agriculture in Russia was the business of the gentry, a lord's hobby for some, and a duty, an obligation for others" (313), in Mr. Skvortsov's opinion "indicate that a whole social formation, the feudal mode of production, was merely a lord's hobby." No, Mr. Skvortsov, they do not "indicate" this at all, for I pointed out elsewhere that "feudal economy was a definite, regular and complete system" (192), and here I merely described one of the features of this system. That landlord economy contained an element of the "lord's hobby" can easily be seen by anyone who remembers the "Oblomovs of the feudal or bondage-suffering countryside" (218); and it is borne out by the Zemstvo statisticians who invented the expression "lord's hobby" (213), -- it is proved even by the data on a certain period in the development of the agricultural machinery industry in Russia: the attempts of landlords simply to import both workers and machines from abroad (193), which (219) were nothing but a "lord's hobby." -- "When and where the transformation by capitalism of the lord of the manor [votchinnik ]" (Mr. P. S. is wrong in thinking that this category is applicable only to the period "prior to the rise of serfdom"; it is also applicable to the period of serfdom) "and of the dependent peasant into industrialists was completed Mr. Ilyin does not, unfortunately, tell us." (2293) I speak of this in chapters II and III, and particularly IV, of my book, where I deal precisely with the transformation of agriculture into commercial and industrial enterprise. Very possibly, what I say about this process requires supplementing and correcting, I have no doubt that any serious and well-informed critic could do this; but Mr. Skvortsov, unfortunately, has utterly obscured the issue by simply voicing stern rebukes. That's hardly enough!
Finally, the last point on which one can discuss fundamentals with Mr. Skvortsov is that of the classification of Zemstvo statistics on the peasantry. Mr. Skvortsov has made a special study of Zemstvo statistics, and, if we are not mistaken, still continues to do so. One would, therefore, be justified in expecting him to say something based on facts and explaining this controversial and extremely interesting subject. I wrote: "we reject a limine any classification according to allotment and exclusively employ classification according to economic strength (draught animals, area under crops)," and I went on to say that classification according to allotment, which is far more common in our Zemstvo statistics, is absolutely unsuitable because life disturbs the equality (within the village community) of allotment land tenure: it is sufficient to recall such universally known and unchallenged facts as the leasing of allotments, their abandonment, the purchase and the renting of land and the supplementing of agriculture with commercial and industrial enterprises and with work for hire. "Economic statistics must necessarily take the scale and type of farm as the basis of classification" (105). Mr. Skvortsov's "criticism" consists in the following: "Mr. Ilyin is displeased with the classification of statistics on the peasantry according to allotment. There are two (sic !) classifications of statistics. One is the historical classification, according to which village communities (!) having the same amount of allotment land per registered person are gathered into one group. The other is a factual classification, according to which peasant farms having allotments of equal size, regardless of the communities to which they belong, are gathered into one group. What makes the historical classification important is that it clearly shows what the conditions were under which the peasantry passed from feudal to capitalist society . . ." and so forth on this theme, also examined above. . . . "The classification Mr. llyin proposes . . . utterly confuses the historical conception of the conditions of our peasantry's transition from the one social formation to the other. Mr. Ilyin's proposal is more in the nature of an industrial census (sic !), such as is taken in Germany" (2289). This is a sample of Mr. Skvortsov's criticism on a subject on which he specialises, and on a question on which, with the best will in the world, it is
impossible to "quote" Marx. The question is: What is the point of this argument about the "historical" classification of village communities, when I am dealing with the classification of house-to-house data? By what miraculous means can the classification of present-day house-to-house data "utterly confuse" the long-established historical data on village communities? Mr. Skvortsov is entitled to use the word "historical" in this connection only to the extent that he turns his back on history : if the classification of village communities according to size of allotment per registered person relates to the history of what happened 40 years ago, then what is going on before our eyes with ever-increasing rapidity is also history. Further, it is altogether inexplicable how a man who studies Zemstvo statistics and talks of all things in nothing less than the tone of a prophet can write that "there are two classifications" (of village communities according to allotment and of households according to allotment), when everyone knows that there are very many classifications : according to area under crops, number of draught animals, number of working members, number of farm labourers, house ownership, and so forth? How can Mr. Skvortsov declare so categorically, and without a shadow of proof, that only classification according to allotment is "factual," when the point at issue is precisely: is this classification a factual one ? I show for a number of uyezds that the distribution of allotment land among the peasant farms continues to this day to be marked by an "equality" that is relatively very great (20% of well-to-do households, 26-30% of the population, account for 29-36% of the allotment land in various uyezds or groups of uyezds), whereas the distribution of the factual indices of farming, draught animals, area under crops, improved implements, etc., is everywhere, without exception, incomparably less equal. Mr. Skvortsov contrives to criticise, and even berate, my statements, without saying a word about fundamentals.
It goes without saying that, not being a professional statistician, I laid no claims to solving the problem of classification. I think, however, that the basic problems of Zemstvo statistics (and the problem of the methods of classifying information concerning households is a basic one, as I point out in the passage quoted by Mr. Skvortsov) are things
which not merely Zemstvo statisticians, but all economists, have a right and even a duty to discuss. One cannot conceive of an economist who is studying the actual economic situation in Russia being able to dispense with Zemstvo statistics; and if the elaboration of Zemstvo statistics and the work of economists proceed independently, each in its own way, neither the one nor the other can achieve satisfactory results. That classification according to allotment is not a satisfactory factual classification has been admitted in part by the Zemstvo statisticians themselves, who have given a number of classifications according to draught animals and to area under crops of which I made use in my book. Just now, when the importance of the problem is particularly emphasised by practically all Marxists and is not denied even by economists of other trends, a re-examination of the problem should be particularly necessary. But Mr. Skvortsov, instead of offering criticism, presents us with pompous but quite vapid phrases like the following: "we need a summary of Zemstvo returns which gives a detailed account of the production and reproduction of peasant farming, so that anyone who desires may take up such an abstract and verify the 'conclusions' of Messrs. Ilyin, Postnikov and Hourwich" (2292). Yes, of course, "we need a summary"; but if these words are not to remain an empty sound, and if the summary is really to succeed in answering the main problems advanced by Russia's present economic system and by that system's evolution, what is needed is to raise and to discuss from all angles the fundamental problem of the methods to be employed in drawing up the summary, to discuss it without fail in general publications, and not merely among Zemstvo statisticians, and still less within the four walls of this or that Zemstvo statistical bureau. I raised this problem in my book and attempted to indicate its solution. It is not, of course, for me to judge whether the solution is a correct one. But I am justified in drawing the conclusion that Mr. Skvortsov, for all his sternness, has said nothing whatever about the problem, but has instead, without grounds for so doing, advocated routine methods, advocated a point of view that was already old in 1885 (see footnote on page 103 of The Development of Capitalism, where I quote from Mr. V. V.'s
article "A New Type of Local Statistical Publication" his admission that "the statistical data must be adapted to the groups themselves and not to such a conglomeration of the most diverse economic groups of peasants as the village or the village community," and where I raise the question as to why Mr. V. V. himself never once made use of the data on these most diverse groups).
In conclusion, a few words about "orthodoxy," which will not be superfluous, since Mr. Skvortsov's appearance in the role of "genuine" Marxist renders particularly urgent the precisest possible definition of what, if it may be so expressed, is one's position. While not in the least desiring to place Mr. B. Avilov on a par with Mr. Skvortsov, I nevertheless find it necessary to touch on a passage in the former's article in the same issue of the Nauchnoye Obozreniye. At the end of a postscript to this article Mr. B. Avilov says: "Mr. Ilyin stands also for orthodoxy. But I think there is still plenty of room for 'orthodoxy,' i.e., the simple interpretation of Marx . . ." (p. 2308). I think that the words I have italicised are probably a slip of the pen, for I said quite definitely that by orthodoxy I do not at all mean the simple interpretation of Marx. In the article which Mr. B. Avilov has in mind, after the words: "No, let us better remain 'under the sign of orthodoxy,"' I say: "Let us not believe that orthodoxy means taking things on trust, that orthodoxy precludes critical application and further development, that it permits historical problems to be obscured by abstract schemes. If there are orthodox disciples who are guilty of these truly grievous sins, the blame must rest entirely with those disciples and not by any means with orthodoxy,<"p630"> which is distinguisbed by diametrically opposite qualities" (Nauchnoye Obozreniye, 1899, No. 8, p. 1579). Thus I definitely said that to accept anything on trust, to preclude critical application and development, is a grievous sin; and in order to apply and develop, "simple interpretation" is obviously not enough. The disagreement between those Marxists who stand for the so-called "new critical trend" and those who stand for so-called "orthodoxy" is that they want to apply and develop Marxism in different directions : the one group want to remain consistent Marxists, developing the basic tenets of
Marxism in accordance with the changing conditions and with the local characteristics of the different countries, and further elaborating the theory of dialectical materialism and the political-economic teachings of Marx; the other group reject certain more or less important aspects of Marx's teachings, and in philosophy, for instance, take the side, not of dialectical materialism, but of neo-Kantianism, and in political economy the side of those who label some of Marx's teachings as "tendentious," etc. The former on this account accuse the latter of eclecticism, and in my opinion have very good grounds for doing so. The latter call the former "orthodox," and it should never be forgotten that use of this term has been made by opponents in controversy, that the "orthodox" do not reject criticism in general, but only "criticism" by eclectics (who would only be entitled to call themselves advocates of "criticism" to the extent that in the history of philosophy the teachings of Kant and of his followers are called "criticism," "critical philosophy"). In the same article I named authors (p. 1569, footnote, and p. 1570, footnote[*]) who, in my opinion, are representatives of the consistent and integral, and not eclectic, development of Marxism, and who have done for this development -- in the field of philosophy, in the field of political economy and in the field of history and politics -- incomparably more than, for example, Sombart or Stammler,** the mere repetition of whose eclectic views is regarded by many today as a big step forward. It is scarcely necessary for me to add that latterly the representatives of the eclectic trend have grouped themselves around E. Bernstein. I shall limit myself to these brief remarks on the question of my "orthodoxy," both because it is not immediately relevant to the subject of my article, and because I am unable here to elaborate in detail the views of the former, and must refer those who are interested to the German literature. On this subject the Russian controversies are merely echoes of the German, and unless <"fnp631">
* See present edition, Vol. 4, Once More on the Theory of Realisation. --Ed.
** Cf. against Stammler the very proper remarks made by G. Cunow, part of whose article was translated and published in the Nauchnoye Obozreniye in 1899; then B. Lvov's The Social Law (ibid.), and the translation of Mr. Sadi Gunter's article which the Nauchnoye Obozreniye promises to publish in 1900.
one is familiar with the latter one cannot obtain a roally precise idea of the point at issue.*
* It is this eclecticism, in my opinion, which is the substance of the "new" "critical" trend that has "begun to take shape" in our literature latterly (cf. Struve's articles in Zhizn, 1899, No. 10, and 1900, No. 2, and Tugan-Baranovsky's in Nauchnoye Obozreniye, 1899, No. 5, and 1900, No. 3). The first-mentioned author began to "give shape" to leanings towards eclecticism over five years ago in his Critical Remarks, and immediately after that book appeared an attempt was made (as Struve will be good enough to recall)<"p632"> to "open the eyes" of the public to the mixture of Marxism and bourgeois science in his views. It is strange, therefore, to hear the following from Struve: "Simply to close one's eyes to the so-called (wrongly so-called, perhaps? -- V. I.) 'bourgeois' criticism of Marx's teachings and to engage in repeating and paraphrasing them, has hitherto proved not only useless but even harmful" (Zhizn, No. 2, 305). "Simply to close one's eyes," not only to bourgeois science, but even to the most absurd doctrines, up to and including extreme obscurantism is, of course undoubtedly harmful; that is a banal commonplace. It is one thing however, not to close one's eyes to bourgeois science, by keeping watch on it, and using it, but being critical towards it, and refusing to surrender the integrity and definiteness of one's world outlook; but it is another thing to give way to bourgeois science and to repeat for example, catchwords about Marx being "tendentious," etc., which have a very definite meaning and significance. As for "repeating and paraphrasing," does the repeating and paraphrasing of Bohm-Bawerk and Wieser, Sombart and Stammler, in itself, a priori, deserve more attention than the repeating and paraphrasing of Marx? Has Struve, who has managed to discern (in Russian literature, mind you) the "harmfulness" (sic !) of repeating Marx, failed to notice the harmfulness of uncritically repeating the fashionable corrections of fashionable bourgeois "science"? How far must one have departed from Marxism to have arrived at such an opinion, and at such an unpardonable "closing of eyes" to the present-day "vacillation of thought"! At the end of his article Struve particularly requests my views on the questions raised by the so-called "critics." I would reply to this that what specially interests me just now is the contemporary eclectic trend in philosophy and in political economy,<"p632a"> and that I still hope at some future date to present a systematic analysis of this trend; but to chase after every single "fundamental error" and "fundamental antinomy" . . . of eclecticism is (I ask the pardon of the respected "critics"!) simply uninteresting. That is why I shall confine myself for the moment to putting forward a counter-suggestion. Let the new "critical trend" take the most definite shape, and not limit itself to mere hints. The sooner this happens the better, for then the less will be the confusion and the more clearly will the public appreciate the difference between Marxism and the new "trend" in the bourgeois criticism of Marx.
<"en169"> Lenin's article "Uncritical Criticism" is an answer to a hostile review of The Development of Capitalism in Russia by P. N. Skvortsov, a "Legal Marxist." Lenin began working on the article in January 1900, during his last weeks of exile at Shushenskoye. This information is contained in a letter written by N. K. Krupskaya to Lenin's mother, M. A. Ulyanova, dated January 19, 1910. The article was finished in March 1900, after Lenin's return from
exile, and appeared in the magazine Nauchnoye Obozreniye (Scientific Review ) in May and June, 1900. This was the last of Lenin's articles to appear in the Russian legal press before he went abroad. [p.609]
<"en170"> In his references to The Development of Capitalism in Russia Lenin gives the page numbers of the 1899 edition. These have been changed to correspond to the pages of the present edition. [p.612]
<"en171"> The words in inverted commas "Chi-chi-kov . . . etc.," are a paraphrase of the following extract from Chernyshevsky's Essays on the Gogol Period in Russian Literature. ". . . A witty examination of Dead Souls might be written as follows: After giving the book's title: The Adventures [pokhozhdeniya] of Chichikov, or Dead Souls, begin directly in the following way: 'The cooling down [prokhlazhdeniya] of Tchi! tchi! kov -- don't think reader, that I have sneezed . . . etc., etc.' Some twenty years ago there were readers who thought that witty" (see N. G. Chernyshevsky, Essays on the Gogol Period in Russian Literature, St. Petersburg, 1892, p. 64). [p.613]
<"en172"> Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II, Moscow, 1957, pp. 116-17. [p.615]
<"en173"> Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II Moscow, 1957; p. 115. [p.616]
<"en174"> Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. II, Moscow, 1957, p. 470. [p.616]
<"en175"> Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, pp. 350-351. [p.618]
<"en176"> Lenin's article "Once More on the Theory of Realisation," signed V. Ilyin, appeared in Nauchnoye Obozreniye, Issue No. 8, August 1899. (See present edition, Vol. 4.) [p.630]
<"en177"> "An attempt to 'open the eyes' of the public to the mixture of Marxism and bourgeois science" is a reference to Lenin's criticism of Struveism, "Legal Marxism," in his essay The Economic Content of Narodism and the Criticism of It in Mr. Struve's Book. This essay, contained in Volume 1 of the present edition of Lenin's Collected Works, exposed the real nature of the "Legal Marxists," and showed that they were bourgeois liberals who were attempting to use the Marxist banner and the working-class movement in the interests of the bourgeoisie. [p.632]
<"en178"> "A systematic analysis of this trend " was made by Lenin in his Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. This supremely important philosophical work was written in 1908 and appeared in book form in Moscow in 1909. (See present edition, Vol. 14.) [p.632]