Capitalism in Agriculture
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1964, Moscow, Volume 4, pages 105-159.
Lenin’s study, “Capitalism in Agriculture (Kautsky’s Book and Mr. Bulgakov s Article),” was intended for publication in Nachalo, but upon the closing-down of that magazine it was published in Zhizn.
Zhizn (Life)—a literary, scientific, and political magazine published in St. Petersburg from 1897 to 1901; in 1902 it was published abroad. From 1899 onwards the magazine was in the hands of the “legal Marxists.”
First Article[edit source]
Nachalo, No. 1-2 (Section II, pp. 1-21), contains an article by Mr. S. Bulgakov entitled: “A Contribution to the Question of the Capitalist Evolution of Agriculture,” which is a criticism of Kautsky’s work on the agrarian question. Mr. Bulgakov rightly says that “Kautsky’s book represents a whole world outlook,” that it is of great theoretical and practical importance. It is, perhaps, the first systematic and scientific investigation of a question that has stimulated a heated controversy in all countries, and still continues to do so, even among writers who are agreed on general views and who regard themselves as Marxists. Mr. Bulgakov “confines himself to negative criticism,” to criticism of “individual postulates in Kautsky’s book” (which he “briefly”—too briefly and very inexactly, as we shall see—re views for the readers of Nachalo). “Later on,” Mr. Bulgakov hopes “to give a systematic exposition of the question of the capitalist evolution of agriculture” and thus “also present a whole world outlook” in opposition to Kautsky’s.
We have no doubt that Kautsky’s book will give rise to no little controversy among Marxists in Russia, and that in Russia, too, some will oppose Kautsky, while others will support him. At all events, the writer of these lines disagrees most emphatically with Mr. Bulgakov’s opinion, with his appraisal of Kautsky’s book. Notwithstanding Mr. Bulgakov’s admission that Die Agrarfrage is “a remark able work,” his appraisal is astonishingly sharp, and is written in a tone unusual in a controversy between authors of related tendencies. Here are samples of the expressions Mr. Bulgakov uses: “extremely superficial” .. ."equally little of both real agronomics and real economics” ... “Kautsky employs empty phrases to evade serious scientific problems” (Mr. Bulgakov’s italics!!), etc., etc. We shall therefore care fully examine the expressions used by the stern critic and at the same time introduce the reader to Kautsky’s book.
Even before Mr. Bulgakov gets to Kautsky, he, in passing, takes a shot at Marx. It goes without saying that Mr. Bulgakov emphasises the enormous services rendered by the great economist, but observes that in Marx’s works one “some times” comes across even “erroneous views.., which have been sufficiently refuted by history.” “Among such views is, for example, the one that in agriculture variable capital diminishes in relation to constant capital just as it does in manufacturing industry, so that the organic composition of agricultural capital continuously rises.” Who is mistaken here, Marx or Mr. Bulgakov? Mr. Bulgakov has in mind the fact that in agriculture the progress of technique and the growing intensity of farming often lead to an increase in the amount of labour necessary to cultivate a given plot of land. This is indisputable; but it is very far from being a refutation of the theory of the diminution of variable capital relatively to constant capital, in proportion to constant capital. Marx’s theory merely asserts that the ratio v / c (v= variable capital, C= constant capital) in general has a tendency to diminish, even when v increases per unit of area. Is Marx’s theory refuted if, simultaneously, c increases still more rapidly? Agriculture in capitalist countries, taken by and large, shows a diminution of v and an increase of c. The rural population and the number of workers employed in agriculture are diminishing in Germany, in France, and in England, whereas the number of machines employed in agriculture is increasing. In Germany, for example, from 1882 to 1895, the rural population diminished from 19,200,000 to 18,500,000 (the number of wage-workers in agriculture diminished from 5,900,000 to 5,600,000), whereas the number of machines employed in agriculture increased from 458,369 to 913,391 ; the number of steam-driven machines employed in agriculture increased from 2,731 (in 1879) to 12,856 (in 1897), while the total horse power of the steam-driven machinery employed increased still more. The number of cattle in creased from 15,800,000 to 17,500,000 and the number of pigs from 9,200,000 to 12,200,000 (in 1883 and 1892 respectively). In France, the rural population diminished from 6,900,000 (“independent”) in 1882 to 6,600,000 in 1892; and the number of agricultural machines increased as follows: 1862—132,784; 1882—278,896; 1892—355,795. The number of cattle was as follows: 12,000,000; 13,000,000; 13,700,000 respectively; the number of horses: 2,910,000; 2,840,000; 2,790,000 respectively (the reduction in the number of horses in the period 1882-92 was less significant than the reduction in the rural population). Thus, by and large, the history of modern capitalist countries has certainly not refuted, but has confirmed the applicability of Marx’s law to agriculture. The mistake Mr. Bulgakov made was that he too hastily raised certain facts in agronomics, without examining their significance, to the level of general economic laws. We emphasise “general,” because neither Marx nor his disciples ever regarded this law otherwise than as the law of the general tendencies of capitalism, and not as a law for all individual cases. Even in regard to industry Marx himself pointed out that periods of technical change (when the ratio v / c diminishes) are followed by periods of progress on the given technical basis (when the ratio v / c remains constant, and in certain cases may even increase). We know of cases in the industrial history of capitalist countries in which this law is contravened by entire branches of industry, as when large capitalist workshops (incorrectly termed factories) are broken up and supplanted by capitalist domestic industry. There cannot be any doubt that in agriculture the process of development of capitalism is immeasurably more complex and assumes incomparably more diverse forms.
Let us now pass to Kautsky. The outline of agriculture in the feudal epoch with which Kautsky begins is said to be “very superficially compiled and superfluous.” It is difficult to understand the motive for such a verdict. We are sure that if Mr. Bulgakov succeeds in realising his plan to give a systematic exposition of the capitalist evolution of agriculture, he will have to outline the main features of the pre-capitalist economics of agriculture. Without this the character of capitalist economics and the transitional forms which connect it with feudal economics cannot be understood. Mr. Bulgakov himself admits the enormous importance of “the form which agriculture assumed at the beginning [Mr. Bulgakov’s italics] of its capitalist course.” It is precisely with “the beginning of the capitalist course” of European agriculture that Kautsky begins. In our opinion, Kautsky’s out line of feudal agriculture is excellent; it reveals that remark able distinctness and ability to select what is most important and essential without becoming submerged in details of secondary importance which, in general, are characteristic of this author. In his introduction Kautsky first of all gives an extremely precise and correct presentation of the question. In most emphatic terms he declares: “There is not the slightest doubt—we are prepared to accept this a priori (von vornherein)—that agriculture does not develop according to the same pattern as industry: it is subject to special laws” (S. 5-6). The task is “to investigate whether capital is bringing agriculture under its domination and how it is dominating it, how it transforms it, how it invalidates old forms of production and forms of property and creates the need for new forms” (S. 6). Such, and only such, a presentation of the question can result in a satisfactory explanation of “the development of agriculture in capitalist society” (the title of the first, theoretical, part of Kautsky’s book).
At the beginning of the “capitalist course,” agriculture was in the hands of the peasantry, which, as a general rule, was subordinated to the feudal regime of social economy. Kautsky first of all characterises the system of peasant farming, the combining of agriculture with domestic industry, and further the elements of decay in this paradise of petty-bourgeois and conservative writers (à la Sismondi), the significance of usury and the gradual “penetration into the countryside, deep into the peasant household itself, of the class antagonism which destroys the ancient harmony and community of interests” (S. 13). This process, which began as far back as the Middle Ages, has not completely come to an end to this day. We emphasise this statement because it shows immediately the utter incorrectness of Mr. Bulgakov’s assertion that Kautsky did not even raise the question of who was the carrier of technical progress in agriculture. Kautsky raised and answered that question quite definitely; anyone who reads his book carefully will grasp the truth (often forgotten by the Narodniks, agronomists, and many others) that the carrier of technical progress in modern agriculture is the rural bourgeoisie, both petty and big; and (as Kautsky has shown) the big bourgeoisie plays a more important role in this respect than the petty bourgeoisie.
After describing (in Chapter III) the main features of feudal agriculture: the predominance of the three-field system, the most conservative system in agriculture; the oppression and expropriation of the peasantry by the big landed aristocracy; the organisation of feudal-capitalist farming by the latter; the transformation of the peasantry into starving paupers (Hungerleider) in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the development of bourgeois peasants (Grossbauern, who cannot manage without regular farm labourers and day labourers), for whom the old forms of rural relations and land tenure were unsuitable; the abolition of these forms and the paving of the way for “capitalist, intensive farming” (S. 26) by the forces of the bourgeois class which had developed in the womb of industry and the towns—after describing all this, Kautsky goes on to characterise “modern agriculture” (Chapter IV).
This chapter contains a remarkably exact, concise, and lucid outline of the gigantic revolution which capitalism brought about in agriculture by transforming the routine craft of peasants crushed by poverty and ignorance into the scientific application of agronomics, by disturbing the age long stagnation of agriculture, and by giving (and continuing to give) an impetus to the rapid development of the productive forces of social labour. The three-field system gave way to the crop rotation system, the maintenance of cattle and the cultivation of the soil were improved, the yield increased and specialisation in agriculture and the division of labour among individual farms greatly developed. Pre-capitalist uniformity was replaced by increasing diversity, accompanied by technical progress in all branches of agriculture. Both the use of machinery in agriculture and the application of steam power were introduced and underwent rapid development; the employment of electric power, which, as specialists point out., is destined to play an even greater role in this branch of production than steam power, has begun. The use of access roads, land improvement schemes, and the application of artificial fertilisers adapted to the physiology of plants have been developed; the application of bacteriology to agriculture has begun. Mr. Bulgakov’s assertion that “Kautsky’s data are not accompanied by an economic analysis” is completely groundless. Kautsky shows precisely the connection between this revolution and the growth of the market (especially the growth of the towns), and the sub ordination of agriculture to competition which forced the changes and specialisation. “This revolution, which has its origin in urban capital, increases the dependence of the farmer on the market and, moreover, constantly changes market conditions of importance to him. A branch of production that was profitable while the local market’s only connection with the world market was a high road becomes unprofitable and must necessarily be superseded by another branch of production when a railway is run through the locality. If, for example, the railway brings cheaper grain, grain production becomes unprofitable; but at the same time a market for milk is created. The growth of commodity circulation makes it possible to introduce new, improved varieties of crops into the country,” etc. (S. 37-38). “In the feudal epoch,” says Kautsky, “the only agriculture was small-scale agriculture, for the landlord cultivated his fields with the peasant’s implements. Capitalism first created the possibility for large-scale production in agriculture, which is technically more rational than small-scale production.” In discussing agricultural machinery, Kautsky (who, it should be said in passing, points precisely to the specific features of agriculture in this respect) explains the capitalist nature of its employment; he explains the influence of agricultural machinery upon the workers, the significance of machinery as a factor of progress, and the “reactionary utopianism” of schemes for restricting the employment of agricultural machinery. “Agricultural machines will continue their transformative activity: they will drive the rural workers into the towns and in this way serve as a powerful instrument for raising wages in the rural districts, on the one hand, and for the further development of the employment of machinery in agriculture, on the other” (S. 41). Let it be added that in special chapters Kautsky explains in detail the capitalist character of modern agriculture, the relation between large- and small-scale production, and the proletarisation of the peasantry. As we see, Mr. Bulgakov’s assertion that Kautsky “does not raise the question of knowing why all these wonder-working changes were necessary” is entirely untrue.
In Chapter V (“The Capitalist Character of Modern Agriculture”) Kautsky expounds Marx’s theory of value, profit, and rent. “Without money, modern agricultural production is impossible,” says Kautsky, “or, what is the same thing, it is impossible without capital. Indeed, under the present mode of production any sum of money which does not serve the purpose of individual consumption can be transformed into capital, i.e., into a value begetting surplus-value and, as a general rule, actually is transformed into capital. Hence, modern agricultural production is capitalist production” (S. 56). This passage, incidentally, enables us to appraise the following statement made by Mr. Bulgakov: “I employ this term (capitalist agriculture) in the ordinary sense (Kautsky also employs it in the same sense), i.e., in the sense of large-scale production in agriculture. Actually, however (sic!), when the whole of the national economy is organised on capitalist lines, there is no non-capitalist agriculture, the whole of it being determined by the general conditions of the organisation of production, and only within these limits should the distinction be made between large-scale, entrepreneur farming and small-scale farming. For the sake of clarity a new term is required here also.” And so it seems, Mr. Bulgakov is correcting Kautsky.... “Actually, however,” as the reader sees, Kautsky does not employ the term “capitalist agriculture” in the “ordinary,” inexact sense in which Mr. Bulgakov employs it. Kautsky understands perfectly well, and says so very precisely and clearly, that under the capitalist mode of production all agricultural production is “as a general rule” capitalist production. In support of this opinion he adduces the simple fact that in order to carry on modern agriculture money is needed, and that in modern society money which does not serve the purpose of individual consumption becomes capital. It seems to us that this is somewhat clearer than Mr. Bulgakov’s “correction,” and that Kautsky has fully proved that it is possible to. dispense with a “new term.”
In Chapter V of his book Kautsky asserts, inter alia, that both the tenant farmer system, which has developed so fully in England, and the mortgage system, which is developing with astonishing rapidity in continental Europe, express, in essence, one and the same process, viz., the separation of the land from the farmer. Under the capitalist tenant farmer system this separation is as clear as daylight. Under the mortgage system it is “less clear, and things are not so simple; but in essence it amounts to the same thing” (S. 86). Indeed, It is obvious that the mortgaging of land is the mortgaging, or sale, of ground rent. Consequently, under the mortgage system, as well as under the tenant farmer system, the recipients of rent (=the landowners) are separated from the recipients of the profit of enterprise (=farmers, rural entrepreneurs). “In general, the significance of this assertion of Kautsky is unclear” to Mr. Bulgakov. “It can hardly be considered as proved that the mortgage system expresses the separation of the land from the farmer.” “Firstly, it cannot be proved that debt absorbs the whole rent; this is possible only by way of exception....” To this we reply: There is no need to prove that interest on mortgage debts absorbs the whole rent, just as there is no need to prove that the actual amount paid for land leased coincides with rent. It is sufficient to prove that mortgage debts are growing with enormous rapidity; that the landowners strive to mortgage all their land, to sell the whole of the rent. The existence of this tendency—a theoretical economic analysis can, in general, deal only with tendencies—cannot be doubted. Consequently, there can be no doubt about the process of separation of the land from the farmer. The combination of the recipient of rent and the recipient of the profit of enterprise in one person is, “from the historical point of view, an exception” (ist historisch eine Ausnahme, S. 91).... “Secondly, the causes and sources of the debt must be analysed in each separate case for its significance to be understood.” Probably this is either a misprint or a slip. Mr. Bulgakov cannot demand that an economist (who, moreover, is dealing with the “development of agriculture in capitalist society” in general) should investigate the causes of the debt “in each separate case” or even expect that he would be able to do so. If Mr. Bulgakov wanted to say that it is necessary to analyse the causes of debt in different countries at different periods, we cannot agree with him. Kautsky is perfectly right in saying that too many monographs on the agrarian question have accumulated, and that the urgent task of modern theory is not to add new monographs but to “investigate the main trends of the capitalist evolution of agriculture as a whole” (Vorrede, S.vi ). Among these main trends is undoubtedly the separation of the land from the farmer in the form of an increase in mortgage debts. Kautsky precisely and clearly defined the real significance of mortgages, their progressive historical character (the separation of the land from the farmer being one of the conditions for the socialisation of agriculture, S. 88), and the essential role they play in the capitalist evolution of agriculture. All Kautsky’s arguments on this question are extremely valuable theoretically and provide a powerful weapon against the widespread bourgeois talk (particularly in “any handbook of the economics of agriculture”) about the “misfortune” of debts and about “measures of assistance.” ..."Thirdly,” concludes Mr. Bulgakov, “land leased out may, in its turn, be mortgaged; and in this sense it may assume the same position as land not leased out.” A strange argument! Let Mr. Bulgakov point to at least one economic phenomenon, to at least one economic category, that is not interwoven with others. The fact that there are cases of combined leasing and mortgaging does not refute, does not even weaken, the theoretical proposition that the separation of the land from the farmer is expressed in two forms: in the tenant farmer system and in mortgage debts.
Mr. Bulgakov also declares that Kautsky’s statement that “countries in which the tenant farmer system is developed are also countries in which large land ownership predominates” (S. 88) is “still more unexpected” and “altogether untrue.” Kautsky speaks here of the concentration of land ownership (under the tenant farmer system) and the concentration of mortgages (under the system in which the landowners manage their own farms) as conditions that facilitate the abolition of the private ownership of land. On the question of concentration of land ownership, continues Kautsky, there are no statistics “which would enable one to trace the amalgamation of several properties in single hands”; but “in general it may be taken” that the increase in the number of leases and in the area of the leased land proceeds side by side with concentration of land ownership. “Countries in which the tenant farmer system is developed are also countries in which large land ownership predominates.” It is clear that Kautsky’s entire argument applies only to countries in which the tenant farmer system is developed; but Mr. Bulgakov refers to East Prussia, where he “hopes to show” an increase in the number of leases side by side with the break-up of large landed properties—and he thinks that by means of this single example he is refuting Kautsky! It is a pity, however, that Mr. Bulgakov forgets to inform his readers that Kautsky himself points to the break-up of large estates and the growth of peasant tenant farming in the East Elbe province and, in doing so, explains, as we shall see later, the real significance of these processes.
Kautsky points to the concentration of mortgage institutions as proof that the concentration of land ownership is taking place in countries in which mortgage debts exist. Mr. Bulgakov thinks that this is no proof. In his opinion, “It might easily be the case that the deconcentration of capital (by the issue of shares) is proceeding side by side with the concentration of credit institutions.” Well, we shall not argue with Mr. Bulgakov on this point.
After examining the main features of feudal and capitalist agriculture, Kautsky passes on to the question of “large and small-scale production” in agriculture (Chapter VI). This chapter is one of the best in Kautsky’s book. In it he first examines the"technical superiority of large-scale production." In deciding the question in favour of large-scale production, Kautsky does not give an abstract formula that ignores the enormous variety of agricultural relations (as Mr. Bulgakov, altogether groundlessly, supposes); on the contrary, he clearly and precisely points to the necessity of taking this variety into account in the practical applications of the theoretical law. In the first place, “it goes without saying” that the superiority of large-scale over small-scale production in agriculture is inevitable only when “all other conditions are equal” (S. 100. My italics). In industry, also, the law of the superiority of large-scale production is not as absolute and as simple as is sometimes thought; there, too, it is the equality of “other conditions” (not always existing in reality) that ensures the full applicability of the law. In agriculture, however, which is distinguished for the incomparably greater complexity and variety of its relations, the full applicability of the law of the superiority of large-scale production is hampered by considerably stricter conditions. For instance, Kautsky very aptly observes that on the borderline between the peasant and the small landlord estates quantity is transformed into quality”: the big peasant farm may be “economically, if not technically, superior” to the small landlord farm. The employment of a scientifically educated manager (one of the important advantages of large-scale production) is too costly for a small estate; and the management by the owner himself, is very often merely “Junker,” and by no means scientific, management. Secondly, large-scale production in agriculture is superior to small production only up to a certain limit. Kautsky closely investigates this limit further on. It also goes without saying that this limit differs in different branches of agriculture and under different social-economic conditions. Thirdly, Kautsky does not in the least ignore the fact that, “so far," there are branches of agriculture in which, as experts admit, small-scale production can compete with large-scale production; for example, vegetable gardening, grape growing, industrial crops, etc. (S. 115). But these branches occupy a position quite subordinate to the decisive (entscheidenden) branches of agriculture, viz., the production of grain and animal husbandry. Moreover, “even in vegetable gardening and grape growing there are already fairly successful large-scale enterprises” (S. 115). Hence, “taking agriculture as a whole (in Allgemeinen), those branches in which small-scale production is superior to large-scale production need not be taken into account, and it is quite permissible to say that large-scale production is decidedly superior to small-scale production” (S. 116).
After demonstrating the technical superiority of large-scale production in agriculture (we shall present Kautsky’s arguments in greater detail later on in examining Mr. Bulgakov’s objections), Kautsky asks: “What can small production offer against the advantages of large-scale production?” And he replies: “The greater diligence and greater care of the worker, who, unlike the hired labourer, works for himself, and the low level of requirements of the small independent farmer, which is even lower than that of the agricultural labourer” (S. 106); and, by adducing a number of striking facts concerning the position of the peasants in France, England, and Germany, Kautsky leaves no doubt whatever about “overwork and under-consumption in small-scale production.” Finally, he points out that the superiority of large-scale production also finds expression in the striving of farmers to form associations: “Associated production is large-scale production.” The fuss made by the ideologists of the petty bourgeoisie in general, and the Russian Narodniks in particular (e.g., the above-mentioned book by Mr. Kablukov), over the small farmers’ associations is well known. The more significant, therefore, is Kautsky’s excellent analysis of the role of these associations. Of course, the small farmers’ associations are a link in economic progress; but they ex press a transition to capitalism (Fortschritt zum Kapitalismus) and not toward collectivism, as is often thought and asserted (S. 118). Associations do not diminish but enhance the superiority (Vorsprung) of large-scale over small-scale production in agriculture, because the big farmers enjoy greater opportunities of forming associations and take greater ad vantage of these opportunities. It goes without saying that Kautsky very emphatically maintains that communal, collective large-scale production is superior to capitalist large- scale production. He deals with the experiments in collective farming made in England by the followers of Robert Owen and with analogous communes in the United States of North America. All these experiments, says Kautsky, irrefutably prove that it is quite possible for workers to carry on large-scale modern farming collectively, but that for this possibility to become a reality “a number of definite economic, political, and intellectual conditions” are necessary. The transition of the small producer (both artisan and peasant) to collective production is hindered by the extremely low development of solidarity and discipline, the isolation, and the “property-owner fanaticism,” noted not only among West-European peasants, but, let us add, also among the Russian “commune” peasants (recall A. N. Engelhardt and G. Uspensky). Kautsky categorically declares that “it is absurd to expect that the peas ant in modern society will go over to communal production” (S. 129).
Such is the extremely rich content of Chapter VI of Kautsky’s book. Mr. Bulgakov is particularly displeased with this chapter. Kautsky, we are told, is guilty of the “fundamental sin” of confusing various concepts; “technical advantages are confused with economic advantages.” Kautsky “proceeds from the false assumption that the technically more perfect mode of production is also economically more perfect, i.e., more viable.” Mr. Bulgakov’s emphatic statement is altogether groundless, of which, we hope, the reader has been convinced by our exposition of Kautsky’s line of argument. Without in the least confusing technique with economics, Kautsky rightly investigates the question of the relation of large-scale to small-scale production in agriculture, other conditions being equal, under the capitalist system of production. In the opening sentence of the first section of Chapter VI Kautsky points precisely to this connection between the level of development of capitalism and the degree of the general applicability of the law of the superiority of large-scale agriculture: “The more capitalist agriculture becomes, the more it develops the qualitative difference between the techniques of small- and large-scale production” (S. 92). This qualitative difference did not exist in pre-capitalist agriculture. What then can be said of this stern admonition to which Mr. Bulgakov treats Kautsky: “In point of fact, the question should have been put as follows: what significance in the competition between large- and small-scale production can any of the specific features of either of these forms of production have under the present social-economic conditions?” This “correction” bears the same character as the one we examined above.
Let us see now how Mr. Bulgakov refutes Kautsky’s arguments in favour of the technical superiority of large-scale production in agriculture. Kautsky says: “One of the most important features distinguishing agriculture from industry is that in agriculture production in the proper sense of the word [Wirtschaftsbetrieb, an economic enterprise] is usually connected with the household (Haushalt), which is not the case in industry.” That the larger household has the advantage over the small household in the saving of labour and materials hardly needs proof.... The former purchases (note this! V. I.) “kerosene, chicory, and margarine wholesale; the latter purchases these articles retail, etc.” (S. 93). Mr. Bulgakov “corrects”: “Kautsky did not mean to say that this was technically more advantageous, but that it cost less”!... Is it not clear that in this case (as in all the others) Mr. Bulgakov’s attempt to “correct” Kautsky was more than unfortunate? “This argument,” continues the stern critic, “is also very questionable in itself; because under certain conditions the value of the product may not include the value of the scattered huts, whereas the value of a common house is included, even with the interest added. This, too, depends upon social-economic conditions, which—and not the alleged technical advantages of large-scale over small-scale production—should have been investigated."... In the first place, Mr. Bulgakov forgets the trifle that Kautsky, after comparing the significance of large-scale production with that of small-scale production, all other conditions being equal, proceeds to examine these conditions in detail. Consequently, Mr. Bulgakov wants to throw different questions together. Secondly, how is it that the value of the peasants’ huts does not enter into the value of the product? Only because the peasant “does not count” the value of the timber he uses or the labour he expends in building and repairing his hut. Insofar as the peasant still conducts a natural economy, he, of course, may “not count” his labour; there is no justification for Mr. Bulgakov’s not telling his readers that Kautsky very clearly and precisely points this out on pp. 166-67 of his book (Chapter VIII, “The Proletarisation of the Peasant”). But we are now discussing the “social-economic condition” of capitalism and not of natural economy or of simple commodity production. Under capitalist social conditions “not to count” one’s labour means to work for nothing (for the merchant or another capitalist); it means to work for incomplete remuneration for the labour-power expended; it means to lower the level of consumption below the standard. As we have seen, Kautsky fully recognised and correctly appraised this distinguishing feature of small production. In his objection to Kautsky, Mr. Bulgakov repeats the usual trick and the usual mistake of the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois economists. These economists have deafened us with their praises of the “viability” of the small peasant, who, they say, need not count his own labour, or chase after profit and rent, etc. These good people merely forget that such arguments confuse the “social-economic conditions” of natural economy, simple commodity production, and capitalism. Kautsky excellently explains all these mistakes and draws a strict distinction between the various systems of social-economic relations. He says: “If the agricultural production of the small peasant is not drawn into the sphere of commodity production, if it is merely a part of household economy, it also remains outside the sphere of the centralising tendencies of the modern mode of production. However irrational his parcellised economy may be, no matter what waste of effort it may lead to, he clings to it tightly, just as his wife clings to her wretched household economy, which likewise produces infinitely miserable results with an enormous expenditure of labour-power, but which represents the only sphere in which she is not subject to another’s rule and is free from exploitation” (S. 165). The situation changes when natural economy is supplanted by commodity economy. The peasant then has to sell his produce, purchase implements, and purchase land. As long as the peasant remains a simple commodity producer, he can be satisfied with the standard of living of the wage-worker; he needs neither profit nor rent; he can pay a higher price for land than the capitalist entrepreneur (S. 166). But simple commodity production is supplanted by capitalist production. If, for instance, the peasant has mortgaged his land, he must also obtain the rent which he has sold to the creditor. At this stage of development the peasant can only formally be regarded as a simple commodity producer. De facto, he usually has to deal with the capitalist—the creditor, the merchant, the industrial entrepreneur—from whom he must seek “auxiliary employment,” i.e., to whom he must sell his labour-power. At this stage— and Kautsky, we repeat, compares large-scale with small-scale farming in capitalist society—the possibility for the peasant “not to count his labour” means only one thing to him, namely, to work himself to death and continually to cut down his consumption.
Equally unsound are the other objections raised by Mr. Bulgakov. Small-scale production permits of the employment of machinery within narrower limits; the small proprietor finds credit more difficult to obtain and more expensive, says Kautsky. Mr. Bulgakov considers these arguments false and refers to—peasant associations! He completely ignores the evidence brought forward by Kautsky, whose appraisal of these associations and their significance we quoted above. On the question of machinery, Mr. Bulgakov again reproaches Kautsky for not raising the “more general economic question: What, upon the whole, is the economic role of machinery in agriculture [Mr. Bulgakov has forgotten Chapter IV of Kautsky’s book!] and is it as inevitable an instrument in agriculture as in manufacturing industry?” Kautsky clearly pointed to the capitalist nature of the use of machinery in modern agriculture (S. 39, 40, et seq.); noted the specific features of agriculture which create “technical and economic difficulties” for the employment of machinery in agriculture (S. 38, et seq.); and adduced data on the growing employment of machinery (S. 40), on its technical significance (42, et seq.), and on the role of steam and electricity. Kautsky indicated the size of farm necessary, according to agronomic data, for making the fullest use of various machines (94), and pointed out that according to the German census of 1895 the employment of machinery steadily and rapidly increases from the small farms to the big ones (2 per cent in farms up to two hectares, 13.8 per cent in farms of 2 to 5 hectares, 45.8 per cent in farms of 5 to 20 hectares, 78.8 per cent in farms of 20 to 100 hectares, and 94.2 per cent in farms of 100 and more hectares). Instead of these figures, Mr. Bulgakov would have preferred “general” arguments about the “invincibility” or non-invincibility of machines!...
“The argument that a larger number of draught animals per hectare is employed in small-scale production is unconvincing.., because the relative intensity of animal maintenance per farm... is not investigated"—says Mr. Bulgakov. We open Kautsky’s book at the page that contains this argument and read the following: “The large number of cows in small-scale farming [per 1,000 hectares] is to no small extent also determined by the fact that the peasant engages more in animal husbandry and less in the production of grain than the big farmer; but this does not explain the difference in the number of horses maintained” (page 96, on which are quoted figures for Saxony for 1860, for the whole of Germany for 1883, and for England for 1880). We remind the reader of the fact that in Russia the Zemstvo statistics reveal the same law expressing the superiority of large-scale over small-scale farming: the big peasant farms manage with a smaller number of cattle and implements per unit of land.
Mr. Bulgakov gives a far from complete exposition of Kautsky’s arguments on the superiority of large-scale over small-scale production in capitalist agriculture. The superiority of large-scale farming does not only lie in the fact that there is less waste of cultivated area, a saving in live stock and implements, fuller utilisation of implements, wider possibilities of employing machinery, and more opportunities for obtaining credit; it also lies in the commercial superiority of large-scale production, the employment in the latter of scientifically trained managers (Kautsky, S. 104). Large-scale farming utilises the co-operation of workers and division of labour to a larger extent. Kautsky attaches particular importance to the scientific, agronomic education of the farmer. “A scientifically well-educated farmer can be employed only by a farm sufficiently large for the work of management and supervision to engage fully the person’s labour-power” (S. 98: “The size of such farms varies, according to the type of production,” from three hectares of vineyards to 500 hectares of extensive farming). In this connection Kautsky mentions the interesting and extremely characteristic fact that the establishment of primary and secondary agricultural schools benefits the big farmer and not the peasant by providing the former with employees (the same thing is observed in Russia). “The higher education that is required for fully rationalised production is hardly compatible with the peasants’ present conditions of existence. This, of course, is a condemnation, not of higher education, but of the peasant.s’ conditions of life. It merely means that peas ant production is able to exist side by side with large-scale production, not because of its higher productivity, but be cause of its lower requirements” (S. 99). Large-scale production must employ, not only peasant labourers, but also urban workers, whose requirements are on an incomparably higher level.
Mr. Bulgakov calls the highly interesting and important data which Kautsky adduces to prove “overwork and under consumption in small-scale production” “a few [!] casual [??] quotations.” Mr. Bulgakov “undertakes” to cite as many quotations of an opposite character." He merely forgets to say whether he also undertakes to make an opposite assertion which he would prove by “quotations of an opposite character.” This is the whole point! Does Mr. Bulgakov undertake to assert that large-scale production in capitalist society differs from peasant production in the prevalence of overwork and the lower consumption of its workers? Mr. Bulgakov is too cautious to make such a ludicrous assertion. He considers it possible to avoid the fact of the peasants’ overwork and lower consumption by remarking that “in some places peasants are prosperous and in other places they are poor”!! What would be said of an economist who, instead of generalising the data on the position of small- and large- scale production, began to investigate the difference in the “prosperity” of the population of various “places”? What would be said of, an economist who evaded the overwork and lower consumption of handicraftsmen, as compared with factory workers, with the remark that “in some places handicraftsmen are prosperous and in other places they are poor”? Incidentally, a word about handicraftsmen. Mr. Bulgakov writes: “Apparently Kautsky was mentally drawing a parallel with Hausindustrie, where there are no technical limit.s to overwork [as in agriculture], but this parallel is unsuitable here.” Apparently, we say in reply, Mr. Bulgakov was astonishingly inattentive to the book he was criticising, for Kautsky did not “mentally draw a parallel” with Hausindustrie, but pointed to it directly and precisely on the very fist page of that part of the chapter which deals with the question of overwork (Chapter VI, b, S. 106): “As in domestic industry (Hausindustrie), the work of the children of the family in small peasant farming is even more harmful than wage-labour for others.” However emphatically Mr. Bulgakov decrees that this parallel is unsuitable here, his opinion is nevertheless entirely erroneous. In industry, over work has no technical limits; but for the peasantry it is “limited by the technical conditions of agriculture,” argues Mr. Bulgakov. The question arises: who, indeed, confuses technique with economics, Kautsky or Mr. Bulgakov? What has the technique of agriculture, or of domestic industry, to do with the case when facts prove that the small producer in agriculture and in industry drives his children to work at an earlier age, works more hours per day, lives “more frugally,” and cuts down his requirements to such a level that he stands out in a civilised country as a real “barbarian” (Marx’s expression)? Can the economic similarity of such phenomena in agriculture and in industry be denied on the grounds that agriculture has a large number of specific features (which Kautsky does not forget in the least) ? “The small peasant could not put in more work than his field requires even if he wanted to,” says Mr. Bulgakov. But the small peasant can and does work fourteen, and not twelve, hours a day; he can and does work with that super-normal intensity which wears out his nerves and muscles much more quickly than the normal intensity. Moreover, what an incorrect and extreme abstraction it is to reduce all the peasant’s work to field work! You will find nothing of the kind in Kant- sky’s book. Kautsky knows perfectly well that the peasant also works in the household, works on building and repairing his hut, his cowshed, his implements, etc., “not counting” all this additional work, for which a wage-worker on a big farm would demand payment at the usual rate. Is it not clear to every unprejudiced person that overwork has incomparably wider limits for the peasant—for the small farmer— than for the small industrial producer if he is only such? The overwork of the small farmer is strikingly demonstrated as a universal phenomenon by the fact that all bourgeois writers unanimously testify to The “diligence” and “frugality” of the peasant and accuse the workers of “indolence” and “extravagance.”
The small peasants, says an investigator of the life of the rural population in Westphalia quoted by Kautsky, overwork their children to such an extent that their physical development is retarded; working for wages has not such bad sides. A small Lincolnshire farmer stated the following to the parliamentary commission which investigated agrarian conditions in England (1897): “I have brought up a family and nearly worked them to death.” Another said: “I and my children have been working eighteen hours a day for several days and average ten to twelve during the year.” A third: “We work much harder than labourers, in fact, like slaves.” Mr. Read described to the same commission the conditions of the small farmer, in the districts where agriculture in the strict sense of the word predominates, in the following manner: “The only way in which he can possibly succeed is this, in doing the work of two agricultural labourers and living at the expense of one ... as regards his family, they are worse educated and harder worked than the children of the agricultural labourers” (Royal Commission on Agriculture, Final Report, pp. 34, 358. Quoted by Kautsky, S. 109). Will Mr. Bulgakov assert that not less frequently a day labourer does the work of two peasants? Particularly characteristic is the following fact cited by Kautsky showing that “the peasant art of starvation (Hungerkunst) may lead to the economic superiority of small production”: a comparison of the profitableness of two peasant farms in Baden shows a deficit of 933 marks in one, the large one, and a surplus of 191 marks in the other, which was only half the size of the first. But the first farm, which was con ducted exclusively with the aid of hired labourers, had to feed the latter properly, at a cost of nearly one mark (about 45 kopeks) per person per day; whereas the smaller farm was conducted exclusively with the aid of the members of the family (the wife and six grown-up children), whose maintenance cost only half the amount spent on the day labourers: 48 pfennigs per person per day. If the family of the small peasant had been fed as well as the labourers hired by the big farmer, the small farmer would have suffered a deficit of 1,250 marks! “His surplus came, not from his full corn bins, but from his empty stomach.” What a huge number of similar examples would be discovered, were the comparison of the “profitableness” of large and small farms accompanied by calculation of the consumption and work of peasants and of wage-workers. Here is another calculation of the higher profit of a small farm (4.6 hectares) as compared with a big farm (26.5 hectares), a calculation made in one of the special magazines. But how is this higher profit obtained?—asks Kautsky. It turns out that the small farmer is assisted by his children, assisted from the time they begin to walk; whereas the big farmer has to spend money on his children (school, gymnasium). In the small farm even the old people, over 70 years of age, “take the place of a full worker.” “An ordinary day labourer, particularly on a big farm, goes about his work and thinks to himself: ’I wish it was knocking-off time.’ The small peasant, however, at all events in all the busy seasons, thinks to himself: ’Oh, if only the day were an hour or two longer.” The small producers, the author of this article in the agricultural magazine says didactically, make better use of their time in the busy seasons: “They rise earlier, retire later and work more quickly, whereas the labourers employed by the big farmer do not want to get up earlier, go to bed later or work harder than at other times.” The peasant is able to obtain a net income thanks to the simple” life he leads: he lives in a mud hut built mainly by the labour of his family; his wife has been married for 17 years and has worn out only one pair of shoes; usually she goes barefoot, or in wooden sabots; and she makes all the clothes for her family. Their food consists of potatoes, milk, and on rare occasions, herring. Only on Sundays does the husband smoke a pipe of tobacco. “These people did not realise that they were leading a particularly simple life and did not express dissatisfaction with their position.... Following this simple way of life, they obtained nearly every year a small surplus from their farm.”
After completing his analysis of the interrelations between large- and small-scale production in capitalist agriculture, Kautsky proceeds to make a special investigation of the “limits of capitalist agriculture” (Chapter VII). Kautsky says that objection to the theory that large-scale farming is superior to small-scale is raised mainly by the “friends of humanity” (we almost said, friends of the people...) among the bourgeoisie, the pure Free Traders, and the agrarians. Many economists have recently been advocating small-scale farming. The statistics usually cited are those showing that big farms are not eliminating small farms. And Kautsky quotes these statistics: in Germany, from 1882 to 1895, it was the area of the medium-sized farms that increased most; in France, from 1882 to 1892, it was the area of the smallest and biggest farms that increased most; the area of the medium- sized farms diminished. In England, from 1.885 to 1895, the area of the smallest and the biggest farms diminished; it was the area of the farms ranging from 40 to 120 hectares (100 to 300 acres), i.e., farms that cannot be put in the category of small farms, which increased most. In America, the average area of farms is diminishing: in 1850 it was 203 acres; in 1860—199 acres; in 1870—153 acres; in 1880—134 acres; and in 1890—137 acres. Kautsky makes a closer examination of the American statistics and, Mr. Bulgakov’s opinion notwithstanding, his analysis is extremely important from the standpoint of principle. The main reason for the diminution in the average farm area is the break-up of the large plantations in the South after the emancipation of the Negroes; in the Southern States the average farm area diminished by more than one-half. “Not a single person who understands the subject will regard these figures as evidence of the victory of small-scale over modern [=capitalist] large-scale production.” In general, an analysis of American statistics by regions shows a large variety of relations. In the principal “wheat states,” in the northern part of the Middle West, the average farm area increased from 122 to 133 acres. “Small-scale production becomes predominant only in those places where agriculture is in a state of decline, or where pre-capitalist, large-scale production enters into competition with peasant production” (135). This conclusion of Kautsky is very important, for it shows that if certain conditions are not adhered to, the handling of statistics may become merely mishandling: a distinction must be drawn between capitalist and pre-capitalist large-scale production. A detailed analysis must be made for separate districts that differ materially from one another in the forms of farming and in the historical conditions of its development. It is said, “Figures prove !" But one must analyse the figures to see what they prove. They only prove what they directly say. The figures do not speak directly of the scale on which production is carried on, hut of the area of the farms. It is possible, and in fact it so happens, that “with intensive farming, production can be carried on upon a larger scale on a small estate than on a large estate extensively farmed.” “Statistics that tell us only about the area of farms tell us nothing as to whether the diminution of their area is due to the actual diminution of the scale of farming, or to its intensification” (146). Forestry and pastoral farming, these first forms of capitalist large-scale farming, permit of the largest area of estates. Field cultivation requires a smaller area. But the various systems of field cultivation differ from one another in this respect: the exhaustive, extensive system of farming (which has prevailed in America up to now) permits of huge farms (up to 10,000 hectares, such as the bonanza farms of Dalrymple, Glenn, and others. In our steppes, too, peasant farms, and particularly merchants’ farms, attain such dimensions). The introduction of fertilisers, etc., necessarily leads to a diminution in the area of farms, which in Europe, for instance, are smaller than in America. The transition from field farming to animal husbandry again causes a diminution in the area of farms: in England, in 1880, the average size of livestock farms was 52.3 acres, whereas that of field farms was 74.2 acres. That is why the transition from field farming to animal husbandry which is taking place in England mast give rise to a tendency for the area of farms to diminish. “But it would be judging very superficially if the conclusion were drawn from this that there has been a decline in production” (149). In East Elbe (by the investigation of which Mr. Bulgakov hopes some time to refute Kautsky), it is precisely the introduction of intensive farming that is taking place: the big farmers, says Sering, whom Kautsky quotes, are increasing the productivity of their soil and are selling or leasing to peasants the remote parts of their estates, since with intensive farming it is difficult to utilise these remote parts. “Thus, large estates in East Elbe are being reduced in size and in their vicinity small peasant farms are being established; this, however, is not because small-scale production is superior to large-scale, but because the former dimensions of the estates were adapted to the needs of extensive farming” (150). The diminution in farm area in all these cases usually leads to an increase in the quantity of products (per unit of land) and frequently to an increase in the number of workers employed, i.e., to an actual increase in the scale of production.
From this it is clear how little is proved by general agricultural statistics on the area of farms, and how cautiously one must handle them. In industrial statistics we have direct indices of the scale of production (quantity of goods, total value of the output, and number of workers employed), and, besides, it is easy to distinguish the different branches. Agricultural statistics hardly ever satisfy these necessary conditions of evidence.
Furthermore, the monopoly in landed property limits agricultural capitalism: in industry, capital grows as a result of accumulation, as a result of the conversion of surplus- value into capital; centralisation, i.e., the amalgamation of several small units of capital into a large unit, plays a lesser role. In agriculture, the situation is different. The whole of the land is occupied (in civilised countries), and it is possible to enlarge the area of a farm only by centralising several lots; this must be done in such a way as to form one continuous area. Clearly, enlarging an estate by purchasing the surrounding lots is a very difficult matter, particularly in view of the fact that the small lots are partly occupied by agricultural labourers (whom the big farmer needs), and partly by small peasants who are masters of the art of maintaining their hold by reducing consumption to an unbelievable minimum. For some reason or other the statement of this simple and very clear fact, which indicates the limits of agricultural capitalism, seemed to Mr. Bulgakov to be a mere “phrase” (??!!) and provided a pretext for the most ground less rejoicing: “And so [!], the superiority of large-scale production comes to grief HI at the very first obstacle." First, Mr. Bulgakov misunderstands the law of the superiority of large-scale production, ascribing to it excessive abstractness, from which Kautsky is very remote, and then turns his misunderstanding into an argument against Kautsky! Truly strange is Mr. Bulgakov’s belief that he can refute Kautsky by referring to Ireland (large landed property, but without large-scale production). The fact that large landed property is one of the conditions of large-scale production does not in the least signify that it is a sufficient condition. Of course, Kautsky could not examine the historical and other causes of the specific features of Ireland, or of any other country, in a general work on capitalism in agriculture. It would not occur to anyone to demand that Marx, in analysing the general laws of capitalism in industry, should have explained why small industry continued longer in France, why industry was developing slowly in Italy, etc. Equally groundless is Mr. Bulgakov’s assertion that concentration “could” proceed gradually: it is not as easy to enlarge estates by purchasing neighbouring lots as it is to add new premises to a factory for an additional number of machines, etc.
In referring to this purely fictitious possibility of the gradual concentration, or renting, of land for the purpose of forming large farms, Mr. Bulgakov paid little attention to the really specific feature of agriculture in the process of concentration—a feature which Kautsky indicated. This is the latifundia, the concentration of several estates in the hands of a single owner. Statistics usually register the number of individual estates and tell us nothing about the process of concentration of various estates in the hands of big landowners. Kautsky cites very striking instances, in Germany and Austria, of such concentration which leads to a special and higher form of large-scale capitalist farming in which several large estates are combined to form a single economic unit managed by a single central body. Such gigantic agricultural enterprises make possible the combination of the most varied branches of agriculture and the most extensive use of the advantages of large-scale production.
The reader will see how remote Kautsky is from abstractness and from a stereotyped understanding of “Marx’s theory,” to which he remains true. Kautsky warned against this stereotyped understanding, even inserting a special section on the doom of small-scale production in industry in the chapter under discussion. He rightly points out that even in industry the victory of large-scale production is not so easy of achievement, and is not so uniform, as those who talk about Marx’s theory being inapplicable to agriculture are in the habit of thinking. It is sufficient to point to capitalist domestic industry; it is sufficient to recall the remark Marx made about the extreme variety of transitional and mixed forms which obscure the victory of the factory system. How much more complicated this is in agriculture! The increase in wealth and luxury leads, for example, to millionaires purchasing huge estates which they turn into forests for their pleasures. In Salzburg, in Austria, the number of cattle has been declining since 1869. The reason is the sale of the Alps to rich lovers of the hunt. Kautsky says very aptly that if agricultural statistics are taken in general, and uncritically, it is quite easy to discover in the capitalist mode of production a tendency to transform modern nations into hunting tribes!
Finally, among the conditions setting the limits to capitalist agriculture, Kautsky also points to the fact that the shortage of workers—due to the migration of the rural population—compels the big landowners to allot land to labourers, to create a small peasantry to provide labour-power for the landlord. An absolutely propertyless agricultural labourer is a rarity, because in agriculture rural economy, in the strict sense, is connected with household economy. Whole categories of agricultural wage-workers own or have the use of land. When small production is eliminated too greatly, the big landowners try to strengthen or revive it by the sale or lease of land. Sering, whom Kautsky quotes, says: “In all European countries, a movement has recently been observed towards... settling rural labourers by allotting plots of land to them.” Thus, within the limits of the capitalist mode of production it is impossible to count on small-scale production being entirely eliminated from agriculture, for the capitalists and agrarians themselves strive to revive it when the ruination of the peasantry has gone too far. Marx pointed to this rotation of concentration and parcellisation of the land in capitalist society as far back as 1850, in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.
Mr. Bulgakov is of the opinion that these arguments of Kautsky contain “an element of truth, but still more of error.” Like all Mr. Bulgakov’s other verdicts, this one has also extremely weak and nebulous grounds. Mr. Bulgakov thinks that Kautsky has “constructed a theory of proletarian small-scale production,” and that this theory is true for a very limited region. We hold a different opinion. The agricultural wage-labour of small cultivators (or what is the same thing, the agricultural labourer and day labourer with an allotment) is a phenomenon characteristic, more or less, of all capitalist countries. No writer who desires to describe capitalism in agriculture can, without violating the truth, leave this phenomenon in the background. Kautsky, in Chapter VIII of his book, viz., “The Proletarisation of the Peasant,” adduces extensive evidence to prove that in Germany, in particular, proletarian small-scale production is general. Mr. Bulgakov’s statement that other writers, including Mr. Kablukov, have pointed to the “shortage of workers” leaves the most important thing in the background—the enormous difference in principle between Mr. Kablukov’s theory and Kautsky’s theory. Because of his characteristically Kleinbürger point of view, Mr. Kablukov “constructs” out of the shortage of workers the theory that large-scale production is unsound and that small-scale production is sound. Kautsky gives an accurate description of the facts and indicates their true significance in modern class society: the class interests of the landowners compel them to strive to allot land to the workers. As far as class position is concerned, the agricultural wage-workers with allotments are situated between the petty bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but closer to the latter. In other words, Mr. Kablukov develops one side of a complicated process into a theory of the unsoundness of large-scale production, whereas Kautsky analyses the special forms of social-economic relations created by the interests of large-scale production at a certain stage of its development and under certain historical conditions.
We shall now pass to the next chapter of Kautsky’s book, the title of which we have just quoted. In this chapter Kautsky investigates, firstly, the “tendency toward the parcellisation of landholdings,” and, secondly, the “forms of peasant auxiliary employments.” Thus, here are depicted those extremely important trends of capitalism in agriculture that are typical of the overwhelming majority of capitalist countries. Kautsky says that the break-up of landholdings leads to an increased demand for small plots on the part of small peasants, who pay a higher price for the land than the big farmers. Several writers have adduced this fact to prove that small-scale farming is superior to large-scale farming. Kautsky very appropriately replies to this by comparing the price of land with the price of houses: it is well known that small and cheap houses are dearer per unit of capacity (per cubic foot, etc.) than large and costly houses. The higher price of small plots of land is not due to the superiority of small-scale farming, but to the particularly oppressed condition of the peasant. The enormous number of dwarf farms that capitalism has called into being is seen from the following figures: in Germany (1895), out of 5,500,000 farms, 4,250,000, i.e., more than three-fourths, are of an area of less than five hectares (58 per cent are less than two hectares). In Belgium, 78 per cent (709,500 out of 909,000) are less than two hectares. In England (1895), 118,000 out of 520,000 are less than two hectares. In France (1892), 2,200,000 (out of 5,700,000) are less than one hectare; 4,000,000 are less than five hectares. Mr. Bulgakov thinks that he can refute Kautsky’s argument that these dwarf farms are very irrational (insufficient cattle, implements, money, and labour-power which is diverted to auxiliary occupations) by arguing that “very often” (??) the land is spade-tilled “with an incredible degree of intensity,” although with “an extremely irrational expenditure of labour-power.” It goes without saying that this objection is totally ground less, that individual examples of excellent cultivation of the soil by small peasants are as little able to refute Kautsky’s general characterisation of this type of farming as the above-quoted example of the greater profitableness of a small farm is able to refute the thesis of the superiority of large-scale production. That Kautsky is quite right in placing these farms, taken as a whole, in the proletarian category is seen from the fact, revealed by the German census of 1895, that very many of the small farmers cannot dispense with subsidiary earnings. Of a total of 4,700,000 persons obtaining an independent livelihood in agriculture, 2,700,000, or 57 per cent, have subsidiary earnings. Of 3,200,000 farms of less than two hectares each, only 400,000, or 13 per cent, have no subsidiary incomes! In the whole of Germany, out of 5,500,000 farms, 1,500,000 belong to agricultural and industrial wage-workers (±704,000 to artisans). And after this Mr. Bulgakov presumes to assert that the theory of proletarian small landholdings was “constructed” by Kautsky! Kautsky thoroughly investigated the forms assumed by the proletarisation of the peasantry (the forms of peasant auxiliary employment) (S. 174-93). Unfortunately, space does not permit us to deal in detail with his description of these forms (agricultural work for wages, domestic industry—Hausindustrie, “the vilest system of capitalist exploitation—work in factories and mines, etc.). Our only observation is that Kautsky makes the same appraisal of auxiliary employment as that made by Russian economists. Migratory workers are less developed and have a lower level of requirements than urban workers; not infrequently, they have a harmful effect on the living conditions of the urban workers. “But for those places from which they come and to which they return they are pioneers of progress.... They acquire new wants and new ideas” (S. 192), they awaken among the back woods peasants consciousness, a sense of human dignity, and confidence in their own strength.
In conclusion we shall deal with the last and particularly sharp attack Mr. Bulgakov makes upon Kautsky. Kautsky says that in Germany, from 1882 to 1895, it was the smallest (in area) and the largest farms that grew most in number (so that the parcellisation of the land proceeded at the expense of the medium farms). Indeed, the number of farms under one hectare increased by 8.8 per cent; those of 5 to 20 hectares increased by 7.8 per cent; while those of over 1,000 hectares increased by 1.1 per cent (the number of those in the intervening categories hardly increased at all, while the total number of farms increased by 5.3 per cent). Mr. Bulgakov is extremely indignant because the percentage is taken of the biggest farms, the number of which is insignificant (515 and 572 for the respective years). Mr. Bulgakov’s indignation is quite groundless. He forgets that these farms, insignificant in number, are the largest in size and that they occupy nearly as much land as 2,300,000 to 2,500,000 dwarf farms (up to one hectare). If I were to say that the number of very big factories in a country, those employing 1,000 and more workers, increased, say, from 51 to 57, by 11 per cent, while the total number of factories increased 5.3 per cent, would not that show an increase in large-scale production, notwithstanding the fact that the number of very large factories may be insignificant as compared with the total number of factories? Kautsky is fully aware of the fact that it was the peasant farms of from 5 to 20 hectares which grew most in total area (Mr. Bulgakov, p. 18), and he deals with it in the ensuing chapter.
Kautsky then takes the changes in area in the various categories in 1882 and 1895. It appears that the largest increase (±563,477 hectares) occurred among the peasant farms of from 5 to 20 hectares, and the next largest among the biggest farms, those of more than 1,000 hectares (±94,014), whereas the area of farms of from 20 to 1,000 hectares diminished by 86,809 hectares. Farms up to one hectare increased their area by 32,683 hectares, and those from 1 to 5 hectares, by 45,604 hectares.
And Kautsky draws the following conclusion: the diminution in the area of farms of from 20 to 1,000 hectares (more than balanced by an increase in the area of farms of 1,000 hectares and over) is due, not to the decline of large-scale production, but to its intensification. We have already seen that intensive farming is making progress in Germany and that it frequently requires a diminution in the area of farms. That there is intensification of large-scale production can be seen from the growing utilisation of steam-driven machinery, as well as from the enormous increase in the number of agricultural non-manual employees, who in Germany are employed only on large farms. The number of estate managers (inspectors), overseers, bookkeepers, etc., increased from 47,465 in 1882 to 76,978 in 1895, i.e., by 62 per cent; the percentage of women among these employees increased from 12 to 23.4.
“All this shows clearly how much more intensive and more capitalist large-scale farming has become since the beginning of the eighties. The next chapter will explain why simultaneously there has been such a big increase in the area of middle-peasant farms” (S. 174).
Mr. Bulgakov regards this description as being “in crying contradiction to reality,” but the arguments he falls back on again fail to justify such an emphatic and bold verdict, and not by one iota do they shake Kautsky’s conclusion. “In the first place, the intensification of farming, if it took place, would not in itself explain the relative and absolute diminution of the cultivated area, the diminution of the total pro portion of farms in the 20- to 1,000-hectare group. The cultivated area could have increased simultaneously with the increase in the number of farms. The latter need merely (sic!) have increased somewhat faster, so that the area of each farm would have diminished.”
We have deliberately quoted in full this argument, from which Mr. Bulgakov draws the conclusion that “the diminution in the size of farms owing to the growth of intensive farming is pure fantasy” (sic!), because it strikingly reveals the very mistake of mishandling “statistics” against which Kautsky seriously warned. Mr. Bulgakov puts ridiculously strict demands upon the statistics of the area of farms and ascribes to these statistics a significance which they never can have. Why, indeed, should the cultivated area have increased “somewhat”? Why “should not” the intensification of farming (which, as we have seen, some times leads to the sale and renting to peasants of parts of estates remote from the centre) have shifted a certain number of farms from a higher category to a lower? Why “should it not” have diminished the cultivated area of farms of from 20 to 1,000 hectares? In industrial statistics a reduction in the output of the very big factories would have indicated a decline in large-scale production. But the diminution in area of large estates by 1.2 per cent does not and cannot indicate the volume of production, which very often increases with a decrease in the area of the farm. We know that the process of livestock breeding replacing grain farming, particularly marked in England, is going on in Europe as a whole. We know that sometimes this change causes a decrease in the farm area; but would it not be strange to draw from this the conclusion that the smaller farm area implied a decline in large-scale production? That is why, incidentally, the “eloquent table” given by Mr. Bulgakov on page 20, showing the reduction in the number of large and small farms and the increase in the number of medium farms (5 to 20 hectares) possessing animals for field work, proves nothing at all. This may have been due to a change in the system of farming.
That large-scale agricultural production in Germany has become more intensive and more capitalist is evident, firstly, from the increase in the number of steam-driven machines employed: from 1879 to 1897 their number increased fivefold. It is quite useless for Mr. Bulgakov to argue in his objection that the number of all machines in general (and not steam-driven machines only) owned by small farms (up to 20 hectares) is much larger than that owned by the large farms; and also that in America machines are employed in extensive farming. We are not discussing America now, but Germany, where there are no bonanza farms. The following table gives the percentage of farms in Germany (1895) employing steam ploughs and steam threshing machines:
|Farms||Per cent of farms employing|
|Under 2 hectares||0.00||1.08|
|2 to 5 "||0.00||5.20|
|5 to 20 "||0.01||10.95|
|2O to 100 "||0.10||16.60|
|100 hectares and over||5.29||61.22|
And now, if the total number of steam-driven machines employed in agriculture in Germany has increased fivefold, does it not prove that large-scale farming has become more intensive? Only it must not be forgotten, as Mr. Bulgakov forgets on page 21, that an increase in the size of enterprises in agriculture is not always identical with an increase in the area of farms.
Secondly, the fact that large-scale production has become more capitalist is evident from the increase in the number of agricultural non-manual employees. It is useless for Bulgakov to call this argument of Kautsky a “curiosity”: “an increase in the number of officers, side by side with a reduction of the army”—with a reduction in the number of agricultural wage-workers. Again we say: Rira bien qui rira le dernier! Kautsky not only does not forget the reduction in the number of agricultural labourers, but shows it in detail in regard to a number of countries; only this fact has absolutely nothing to do with the matter in hand, be cause the rural population as a whole is diminishing, while the number of proletarian small farmers is increasing. Let us assume that the big farmer abandons the production of grain and takes up the production of sugar-beet and the manufacture of sugar (in Germany in 1871-72, 2,200,000 tons of beets were converted into sugar; in 1881-82, 6,300,000 tons; in 1891-92, 9,500,000 tons, and in 1896-97, 13,700,000 tons). He might even sell, or rent, the remote parts of his estate to small peasants, particularly If he needs the wives and children of the peasants as day labourers on the beet plantations. Let us assume that he introduces a steam plough which eliminates the former ploughmen (on the beet plantations in Saxony—“models of intensive farming” –steam ploughs have now come into common use). The number of wage-workers diminishes. The number of higher grade employees (bookkeepers, managers, technicians, etc.) necessarily increases. Will Mr. Bulgakov deny that we see here an increase in intensive farming and capitalism in large-scale production? Will he assert that nothing of the kind is taking place in Germany?
To conclude the exposition of Chapter VIII of Kautsky’s book, viz., on the proletarisation of the peasants, we need to quote the following passage. “What interests us here,” says Kautsky, after the passage we have cited above, quoted also by Mr. Bulgakov, “is the fact that the proletarisation of the rural population is proceeding in Germany, as in other places, notwithstanding the fact that the tendency to parcellise medium estates has ceased to operate there. From 1882 to 1895 the total number of farms increased by 281,000. By far the greater part of this increase was due to the greater number of proletarian farms up to one hectare in area. The number of these farms increased by 206,000.
“As we see, the development of agriculture is quite a special one, quite different from the development of industrial and trading capital. In the preceding chapter we pointed out that in agriculture the tendency to centralise farms does not lead to the complete elimination of small-scale production. When this tendency goes too far it gives rise to an opposite tendency, so that the tendency to centralise and the tendency to parcellise alternate with each other. Now we see that both tendencies can operate side by side. There is an increase in the number of farms whose owners come into the commodity market as proletarians, as sellers of labour-power.... All the material interests of these small farmers as sellers of the commodity labour-power are identical with the interests of the industrial proletariat, and their land owner ship does not give rise to antagonism between them and the proletariat. His land more or less emancipates the peasant small holder from the dealer in food products; but it does not emancipate him from the exploitation of the capitalist entrepreneur, whether industrial or agricultural” (S. 174).
In the following article we shall deal with the remaining part of Kautsky’s book and give the work a general appraisal; in passing, we shall examine the objections Mr. Bulgakov raises in a later article.
Second Article[edit source]
In Chapter IX of his book (“The Growing Difficulties of Commercial Agriculture”) Kautsky proceeds to analyse the contradictions inherent in capitalist agriculture. From the objections which Mr. Bulgakov raises against this chapter, which we shall examine later, it is evident that the critic has not quite properly understood the general significance of these “difficulties.” There are “difficulties” which, while being an “obstacle” to the full development of rational agriculture, at the same time stimulate the development of capitalist agriculture. Among the “difficulties” Kautsky points, for example, to the depopulation of the countryside. Undoubtedly, the migration from the countryside of the best and most intelligent workers is an “obstacle” to the full development of rational agriculture; but it is equally indubitable that the farmers combat this obstacle by developing technique, e.g., by introducing machinery.
Kautsky investigates the following “difficulties”: a) ground rent; b) right of inheritance; c) limitation of right of inheritance; entailment (fideicommissum, Anerbenrecht); d) the exploitation of the countryside by the town; e) depopulation of the countryside.
Ground rent is that part of surplus-value which remains after the average profit on invested capital is deducted. The monopoly of landed property enables the landowner to appropriate this surplus, and the price of land (=capitalised rent) keeps rent at the level it has once reached. Clearly, rent “hinders” the complete rationalisation of agriculture: under the tenant farmer system the incentive to improvements, etc., becomes weaker, and under the mortgage system the major part of the capital has to be invested, not in production, but in the purchase of land. In his objection Mr. Bulgakov points out, first, that there is “nothing terrible” in the growth of mortgage debts. He forgets, however, that Kautsky, not “in another sense,” but precisely in this sense, has pointed to the necessary increase in mortgages even when agriculture is prospering (see above, First Article, II). Here, Kautsky does not raise the question as to whether an increase in mortgages is “terrible” or not, but asks what difficulties prevent capitalism from accomplishing its mission. Secondly, in Mr. Bulgakov’s opinion, “it is hardly correct to regard increased rent only as an obstacle.... The rise in rent, the possibility of raising it, serves as an independent incentive to agriculture, stimulating progress of technique and every other form” of progress (“process” is obviously a misprint). Stimuli to progress in capitalist agriculture are: population growth, growth of competition, and growth of, industry; rent, however, is a tribute exacted by the landowner from social development, from the growth of technique. It is, therefore, incorrect to state, that the rise in rent is an “independent incentive” to progress. Theoretically, it is possible for capitalist production to exist in the absence of private property in land, i.e., with the land nationalised (Kautsky, S. 207), when absolute rent would not exist at all, and differential rent would be appropriated by the state. This would not weaken the incentive to agronomic progress; on the contrary, it would greatly increase it.
“There can be nothing more erroneous than to think that it is in the interest of agriculture to force up (in die Höhetreiben) the prices of estates or artificially to keep them at a high level,” says Kautsky. “This is in the interest of the present (augenblicklichen) landowners, of the mortgage banks and the real estate speculators, but not in the interest of agriculture, and least of all in the interest of its future, of the future generation of farmers” (S. 199). As to the price of land, it is capitalised rent.
The second difficulty confronting commercial agriculture is that it necessarily requires private property in land. This leads to the situation in which the land is either split up on passing to heirs (such parcellisation even leading in some places to technical retrogression) or is burdened by mortgages (when the heir who receives the land pays the co-heirs money capital which he obtains by a mortgage on the land). Mr. Bulgakov reproaches Kautsky for “overlooking, in his exposition, the positive side” of the mobilisation of the land. This reproach is absolutely ground less; for in the historical part of his book (in particular Chapter III of Part I, which deals with feudal agriculture and the reasons for its supersession by capitalist agriculture), as well as in the practical part, Kautsky clearly pointed out to his readers the positive side and the historical necessity of private property in land, of the subjection of agriculture to competition, and, consequently, of the mobilisation of the land. The other reproach that Mr. Bulgakov directs at Kautsky, namely, that he does not investigate the problem of “the different degrees of growth of the population in different places,” is one that we simply cannot understand. Did Mr. Bulgakov really expect to find studies in demography in Kautsky’s book?
Without dwelling on the question of entailment, which, after what has been said above, represents nothing new, we shall proceed to examine the question of the exploitation of the countryside by the town. Mr. Bulgakov’s assertion that Kautsky “does not contrapose the positive to the negative sides and, primarily, the importance of the town as a market for agricultural produce,” is in direct contradiction to the facts. Kautsky deals very definitely with the importance of the town as a market for agriculture on the very first page of the chapter which investigates “modern agriculture” (S. 30, et seq.). It is precisely to “urban industry” (S. 292) that Kautsky ascribes the principal role in the transformation of agriculture, in its rationalisation, etc.
That is why we cannot possibly understand how Mr. Bulgakov could repeat in his article (page 32, Nachalo, No. 3) these very ideas as i/in opposition to Kautsky! This is a particularly striking example of this stern critic’s false exposition of the book he is subjecting to criticism. “It must not be forgotten,” Mr. Bulgakov says to Kautsky admonishingly, that “part of the values [which flow to the towns] returns to the countryside.” Anyone would think that Kautsky forgets this elementary truth. As a matter of fact Kautsky distinguishes between the flow of values (from the countryside to the town) with or without an equivalent re turn much more clearly than Mr. Bulgakov attempts to do. In the first place, Kautsky examines the “flow of commodity values from the country to the town without equivalent return (Gegenleistung)” (S. 210) (rent which is spent in the towns, taxes, interest on loans obtained in city banks) and justly regards this as the economic exploitation of the countryside by the town. Kautsky further discusses the question of the efflux of values with an equivalent return, i.e., the exchange of agricultural produce for manufactured goods. He says: “From the point of view of the law of value, this efflux does not signify the exploitation of agriculture ; actually, however, in the same way as the above-mentioned factors, it leads to its agronomic (stofflichen) exploitation, to the impoverishment of the land in nutritive substances” (S. 211).
As for the agronomic exploitation of the countryside by the town, here too Kautsky adheres to one of the fundamental propositions of the theory of Marx and Engels, i.e., that the antithesis between town and country destroys the necessary correspondence and interdependence between agriculture and industry, and that with the transition of capitalism to a higher form this antithesis must disappear. Mr. Bulgakov thinks that Kautsky’s opinion on the agronomic exploitation of the country by the town is a “strange” one; that, “at all events, Kautsky has here stepped on the soil of absolute fantasy” (sic!!!). What surprises us is that Mr. Bulgakov ignores the fact that Kautsky’s opinion, which he criticises, is identical with one of the fundamental ideas of Marx and Engels. The reader would be right in concluding that Mr. Bulgakov considers the idea of the abolition of the antithesis between town and country to be “absolute fantasy.” If such indeed is the critic’s opinion, then we emphatically disagree with him and go over to the side of “fantasy” (actually, not to the side of fantasy, of course, but to that of a more profound criticism of capitalism). The view that the idea of abolishing the antithesis between town and country is a fantasy is not new by any means. It is the ordinary view of the bourgeois economists. It has even been borrowed by several writers with a more profound outlook. For ex ample, Dühring was of the opinion that antagonism between town and country “is inevitable by the very nature of things.”
Further, Mr. Bulgakov is “astonished” (I) at the fact that Kautsky refers to the growing incidence of epidemics among plants and animals as one of the difficulties confronting commercial agriculture and capitalism. “What has this to do with capitalism...?” asks Mr. Bulgakov. “Could any higher social organisation abolish the necessity of improving the breeds of cattle?” We in our turn are astonished at Mr. Bulgakov’s failure to understand Kautsky’s perfectly clear idea. The old breeds of plants and animals created by natural selection are being superseded by “improved” breeds created by artificial selection. Plants and animals are be coming more susceptible and more demanding; with the present means of communication epidemics spread with astonishing rapidity. Meanwhile, farming remains individual, scattered, frequently small (peasant) farming, lacking knowledge and resources. Urban capitalism strives to provide all the resources of modern science for the development of the technique of agriculture, but it leaves the social position of the producers at the old miserable level; it does not systematically and methodically transplant urban culture to the rural districts. No higher social organisation will abolish the necessity of improving the breeds of cattle (and Kautsky, of course, did not think of saying anything so absurd); but the more technique develops, the more susceptible the breeds of cattle and plants become, the more the present capitalist social organisation suffers from lack of social control and from the degraded state of the peasants and workers.
The last “difficulty” confronting commercial agriculture that Kautsky mentions is the “depopulation of the countryside,” the absorption by the towns of the best, the most energetic and most intelligent labour forces. Mr. Bulgakov is of the opinion that in its general form this proposition “is at all events incorrect,” that “the present development of the urban at the expense of the rural population in no sense expresses a law of development of capitalist agriculture,” but the migration of the agricultural population of industrial, exporting countries overseas, to the colonies. I think that Mr. Bulgakov is mistaken. The growth of the urban (more generally: industrial) population at the expense of the rural population is not only a present-day phenomenon but a general phenomenon which expresses precisely the law of capitalism. The theoretical grounds of this law are, as I have pointed out elsewhere, first, that the growth of social division of labour wrests from primitive agriculture an increasing number of branches of industry, and, secondly, that the variable capital required to work a given plot of land, on the whole, diminishes (cf. Das Kapital, III, 2, S. 177; Russian translation, p. 526, which I quote In my hook, The Development of Capitalism, pp. 4 and 444 ). We have indicated above that in certain cases and certain periods we observed an increase in the variable capital required for the cultivation of a given plot of land; but this does not affect the correctness of the general law. Kautsky, of course, would not think of denying that not in every case does the relative diminution of the agricultural population become absolute diminution; that the degree of this absolute diminution is also determined by the growth of capitalist colonies. In relevant places in his book Kautsky very clearly points to this growth of capitalist colonies which flood Europe with cheap grain. (“The flight from the land of the rural population (Landflucht) which leads to the depopulation of the European countryside, constantly brings, not only to the towns, but also to the colonies, fresh crowds of robust country dwellers...” S. 242.) The phenomenon of industry depriving agriculture of its strongest, most energetic, and most intelligent workers is general, not only in industrial, but also In agricultural, countries; not only in Western Europe, but also in America and in Russia. The contradiction between the culture of the towns and the barbarism of the countryside which capitalism creates inevitably leads to this. The “argument” that “a decrease in the agricultural population side by side with a general increase in the population is inconceivable without the importation of large quantities of grain” is, in Mr. Bulgakov’s opinion, “obvious.” But in my opinion this argument is not only not obvious, but wrong. A decrease in the agricultural population side by side with a general increase in the population (growth of the towns) is quite conceivable without grain imports (the productivity of agricultural labour in creases and this enables a smaller number of workers to produce as much as and even more than was formerly produced). A general increase in the population parallel with a decrease in the agricultural population and a decrease (or a disproportionate increase) in the quantity of agricultural products is also conceivable —“conceivable” because the nourishment of the people has deteriorated under capitalism.
Mr. Bulgakov asserts that the increase of the medium- sized peasant farms in Germany in the period 1882-95, a fact established by Kautsky, which he connected with the other fact that these farms suffer least from a shortage of labour, “is capable of shaking the whole structure” of Kautsky’s argument. Let us examine Kautsky’s statements more closely.
According to agricultural statistics, the largest increase in area in the period 1882-95 occurred in the farms of from 5 to 20 hectares. In 1882 these farms occupied 28.8 per cent of the total area of all farms and in 1895, 29.9 per cent. This increase in the total area of medium-sized peasant farms was accompanied by a decrease in the area of big peasant farms (20 to 100 hectares; 1882—31.1 per cent, 1895—30.3 per cent). “These figures,” says Kautsky, “glad den the hearts of all good citizens who regard the peasantry as the strongest bulwark of the present system. ’And so, it does not move, this agriculture,’ they exclaim in triumph; ’Marx’s dogma does not apply to it."’ This increase in the medium-sized peasant farms is interpreted as the beginning of a new era of prosperity for peasant farming.
“But this prosperity is rooted in a bog,” Kautsky replies to these good citizens. “It arises, not out of the well-being of the peasantry, but out of the depression of agriculture as a whole” (230). Shortly before this Kautsky said that, “not withstanding all the technical progress which has been made, In some places [Kautsky’s italics] there is a decline in agriculture; there can be no doubt of that” (228). This decline is leading, for example, to the revival of feudalism—to attempts to tie the workers to the land and impose certain duties upon them. Is it surprising that backward forms of agriculture should revive on the soil of this “depression”? That the peasantry, which in general is distinguished from workers employed in large-scale production by its lower level of requirements, greater ability to starve, and greater exertion while at work, can hold out longer during a crisis? “The agrarian crisis affects all agricultural classes that produce commodities; it does not stop at the middle peasant” (S. 231).
One would think that all these propositions of Kautsky are so clear that it is impossible not to understand them. Nevertheless, the critic has evidently failed to understand them. Mr. Bulgakov does not come forward with an opinion: he does not tell us how he explains this increase in the medium-sized peasant farms, but he ascribes to Kautsky the opinion that “the development of the capitalist mode of production is ruining agriculture.” And Mr. Bulgakov exclaims angrily: “Kautsky’s assertion that agriculture is being destroyed is wrong, arbitrary, unproved, and contradicts all the main facts of reality,” etc., etc.
To this we can only say that Mr. Bulgakov conveys Kautsky’s ideas altogether incorrectly. Kautsky does not state that the development of capitalism is ruining agriculture; he says the opposite. Only by being very inattentive in reading Kautsky’s book can one deduce from his words on the depression (=crisis) in agriculture and on the technical retrogression to be observed in some places (nota bene) that he speaks of the “destruction,” the “doom” of agriculture. In Chapter X, which deals especially with the question of over seas competition (i.e., the main reason for the agrarian crisis), Kautsky says: “The impending crisis, of course (natürlich), need not necessarily (braucht nicht) ruin the industry which it affects. It does so only in very rare cases. As a general rule, a crisis merely causes a change in the existing property relations in the capitalist sense” (273-74). This observation made in connection with the crisis in the agricultural industries clearly reveals Kautsky’s general view of the significance of a crisis. In the same chapter Kautsky again expresses the view in relation to the whole of agriculture: “What has been said above does not give one the least right to speak about the doom of agriculture (Man braucht deswegen noch langenlcht von einem Untergang der Landwirtschaft zu sprechen), but where the modern mode of production has taken a firm hold its conservative character has disappeared for ever. The continuation of the old routine (das Verharren beim Alten) means certain ruin for the farmer; he must constantly watch the development of technique and continuously adapt his methods of production to the new conditions.... Even in the rural districts economic life, which hitherto has with strict uniformity moved in an eternal rut, has dropped into a state of constant revolutionisation, a state that is characteristic of the capitalist mode of production” (289).
Mr. Bulgakov “does not understand” how trends toward the development of productive forces in agriculture can be combined with trends that increase the difficulties of commercial agriculture. What is there unintelligible in this? Capitalism in both agriculture and industry gives an enormous impetus to the development of productive forces; but it is precisely this development which, the more it proceeds, causes the contradictions of capitalism to become more acute and creates new “difficulties” for the system. Kautsky develops one of the fundamental ideas of Marx, who categorically emphasised the progressive historical role of agricultural capitalism (the rationalisation of agriculture, the separation of the land from the farmer, the emancipation of the rural population from the relations of master and slave, etc.), at the same time no less categorically pointing to the impoverishment and oppression of the direct producers and to the fact that capitalism is incompatible with the requirements of rational agriculture. It is very strange indeed that Mr. Bulgakov, who admits that his “general social-philosophic world outlook is the same as Kautsky’s,” should fail to note that Kautsky here develops a fundamental idea of Marx. The readers of Nachalo must inevitably remain in perplexity over Mr. Bulgakov’s attitude towards these fundamental ideas and wonder how, in view of the identity of their general world outlook, he can say: “De principiis non est disputandum”!!? We permit ourselves not to believe Mr. Bulgakov’s statement; we consider that an argument between him and other Marxists is possible precisely because of the community of these “principia.” In saying that capitalism rationalises agriculture and that industry provides machinery for agriculture, etc., Mr. Bulgakov merely repeats one of these “principia.” Only he should not have said “quite the opposite” in this connection. Readers might think that Kautsky holds a different opinion, whereas he very emphatically and definitely develops these fundamental ideas of Marx in his book. He says: “It is precisely industry which has created the technical and scientific conditions for new, rational agriculture. It is precisely industry which has revolutionised agriculture by means of machines and artificial fertilisers, by means of the microscope and the chemical laboratory, giving rise in this way to the technical superiority of large-scale capitalist production over small- scale, peasant production” (S. 292). Thus, Kautsky does not fall into the contradiction in which we find Mr. Bulgakov bogged: on the one hand, Mr. Bulgakov admits that “capitalism [i.e., production carried on with the aid of wage- labour, i.e., not peasant, but large-scale production?] rationalises agriculture,” while on the other, he argues that “it is not large-scale production which is the vehicle of this technical progress”!
Chapter X of Kautsky’s book deals with the question of overseas competition and the industrialisation of agriculture. Mr. Bulgakov treats this chapter in a very offhand manner: “Nothing particularly new or original, more or less well-known main facts,” etc., he says, leaving in the background the fundamental question of the conception of the agrarian crisis, its essence and significance. And yet this question is of enormous theoretical importance.
The conception of the agrarian crisis inevitably follows from the general conception of agrarian evolution which Marx presented and on which Kautsky enlarges in detail. Kautsky sees the essence of the agrarian crisis in the fact that, owing to the competition of countries which produce very cheap grain, agriculture in Europe has lost the opportunity of shifting to the masses of consumers the burdens imposed on it by the private ownership of land and capitalist commodity production. From now on agriculture in Europe “must itself bear them [these burdens], and this is what the present agrarian crisis amounts to” (S. 239, Kautsky’s italics). Ground rent is the main burden. In Europe, ground rent has been raised by preceding historical development to an extremely high level (both differential and absolute rent) and is fixed in the price of land. On the other hand, in the colonies (America, Argentina, and others), insofar as they remain colonies, we see free land occupied by new settlers, either entirely gratis or for an insignificant price; more over, the virginal fertility of this land reduces production costs to a minimum. Up to now, capitalist agriculture in Europe has quite naturally transferred the burden of excessively high rents to the consumer (in the form of high grain prices); now, however, the burden of these rents falls upon the farmers and the landowners themselves and ruins them. Thus, the agrarian crisis has upset, and continues to upset, the prosperity which capitalist landed property and capitalist agriculture formerly enjoyed. Hitherto capitalist landed property has exacted an ever-increasing tribute from social development; and it fixed the level of this tribute in the price of land. Now it has to forego this tribute. Capitalist agriculture has now been reduced to the state of instability that is characteristic of capitalist industry and is compelled to adapt itself to new market conditions. Like every crisis, the agrarian crisis is ruining a large number of farmers, is bringing about important changes in the established property relations, and in some places is leading to technical retrogression, to the revival of medieval relations and forms of economy. Taken as a whole, however, it is accelerating social evolution, ejecting patriarchal stagnation from its last refuge, and making necessary the further specialisation of agriculture (a principal factor of agricultural progress in capitalist society), the further application of machinery, etc. On the whole, as Kautsky shows by data for several countries, in Chapter IV of his book, even in Western Europe, instead of the stagnation in agriculture in the period 1880-90, we see technical progress. We say even in Western Europe, because in America, for example, this progress is still more marked.
In short, there are no grounds for regarding the agrarian crisis as an obstacle to capitalism and capitalist development.
- The Agrarian Question.—Ed.
- Machines of various types are combined. Unless otherwise stated, all figures are taken from Kautsky’s book. —Lenin
- All these data,” thinks Mr. Bulgakov, “can be obtained from any (sic!) handbook of the economics of agriculture.” We do not share Mr. Bulgakov’s roseate views on “handbooks.” Let us take from “any” of the Russian books these of Messrs. Skvortsov (Steam Transport) and N. Kablukov (Lectures, half of them reprinted in a “new” book The Conditions of Development of Peasant Economy in Russia). Neither from the one nor from the other would the reader he able to obtain a picture of that transformation which was brought about by capitalism in agriculture, because neither even sets out to give a general picture of the transition from feudal to capitalist economy. —Lenin
- Marx pointed to this process in Volume III of Capital (without examining its various forms in different countries) and observed that this separation of “land as an instrument of production from landed property and landowner” is “one of the major results of the capitalist mode of production” (III, 2, S. 456-57; Russian translation, 509-10).(*) —Lenin(*) Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 603.
- Foreword, p. vi.—Ed.
- The increase in mortgage debts does not always imply that agriculture is in a depressed state.... The progress and prosperity of agriculture (as well as its decline) “should find expression in an increase in mortgage debts—firstly, because of the growing need of capital on the part of progressing agriculture, and, secondly, because of the increase in ground rent, which facilitates the expansion of agricultural credit” (S. 87). —Lenin
- On pages 124-26 Kautsky describes the agricultural commune in Ralahine, of which, incidentally, Mr. Dioneo tells his Russian readers in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 2, for this year. —LeninRusskoye Bogatstvo (Russian Wealth)—a monthly magazine published in St. Petersburg from 1876 to the middle of 1918. In the early 1890s it became the organ of the liberal Narodniks and was edited by S. N. Krivenko and N. K. Mikhailovsky. The magazine advocated conciliation of the tsarist government and waged a bitter struggle against Marxism and the Russian Marxists. In 1906 it became the organ of the semi-Cadet “Popular Socialist” Party.
- The only thing Mr. Bulgakov could quote in support of his claim is the title Kautsky gave to the first section of his Chapter VI: "(a) The Technical Superiority of Large-Scale Production,” although this section deals with both the technical and the economic advantages of large-scale production. But does this prove that Kautsky confuses technique with economics? And, strictly speaking, it is still an open question as to whether Kautsky’s title is inexact. The point is that Kautsky’s object was to contrast the content of the first and second sections of Chapter VI: in the first section (a) he deals with the technical superiority of large-scale production in capitalist agriculture, and here, in addition to machinery, etc., he mentions, for instance, credit. “A peculiar sort of technical superiority,” says Mr. Bulgakov ironically. But Rirabien qui rira le dernier! (He laughs best who laughs last.—Ed.) Glance into Kautsky’s book and you will see that he has in mind, principally, the progress made in the technique of credit business (and further on in the technique of trading); which is accessible only to the big farmer. On the other hand, in t.he second section of this chapter (b) he compares the quantity of labour expended and the rate of consumption by the workers in large-scale production with those in small-scale production. Consequently, in this part Kautsky examines the purely economic difference between small- and large-scale production. The economics of credit and commerce is the same for both; but the technique is different. —Lenin
- See V. Y. Postnikov, Peasant Farming in South Russia. Cf. V. Ilyin, The Development of Capitalism, Chapter II, Section 1. (See present edition, Vol. 3.—Ed.) —Lenin
- Domestic industry.—Ed.
- Cf. V. Ilyin, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, pp. 112, 175, 201. (See present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 168-70, 244-46, 273-75.—Ed.) —Lenin
- These words are in English in the original.—Ed.
- The reference Is to Marx’s article criticising an essay by E. de Girardin, “Le Socialisme et l’impôt” (“Socialism and Taxes”).
The article was published in issue No. 4 of the journal Neue Rheinische Zeitung. Politisch-ökonomische Revue (New Rhenish Gazette. Political-Economic Review), issued in May 1850. The journal was published by Marx in Hamburg in 1850 and was a continuation of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung.
- Cf. The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Chapter II, Section XII, p. 120. (See present edition, Vol. 3, p. 478.—Ed.) It is estimated that in France about 75 per cent of the rural labourers own land. Other examples are also given. —Lenin
- Petty-bourgeois. — Ed.
- We emphasise “taken as a whole,” because it cannot, of course, be denied that in certain cases even these farms having an insignificant area of land can provide a large quantity of products and a large income (vineyards, vegetable gardens, etc.). But what would we say of an economist who tried to refute the reference to the lack of horses among Russian peasants by pointing, for instance, to the vegetable growers in the suburbs of Moscow who may sometimes carry on rational and profitable farming without horses? —Lenin
- In a footnote to page 15, Mr. Bulgakov says that Kautsky, believing that grain duties were not in the interest of the overwhelming majority of the rural population, repeats the mistake committed by authors of the book on grain prices.(*) We cannot agree with this opinion either. The authors of the book on grain prices made a large number of mistakes (which I indicated repeatedly in the above-mentioned book); but there is no mistake whatever in admitting that high grain prices are not in the interests of the mass of the population. What is a mistake is the direct deduction that the interests of the masses coincide with the interests of the whole social development. Messrs. Tugan-Baranovsky and Struve have rightly pointed out that the criterion in appraising grain prices must be whether, more or less rapidly, through capitalism, they eliminate labour-service, whether they stimulate social development. This is a question of fact which I answer differently from the way Struve does. I do not at all regard it as proved that the development of capitalism in agriculture is retarded by low prices. On the contrary, the particularly rapid growth of the agricultural machinery industry and the stimulus to specialisation in agriculture which was given by the reduction of grain prices show that low prices stimulate the development of capitalism in Russian agriculture (cf. The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Chapter III, Section V, p. 147, footnote 2). The reduction of grain prices has a profound transforming effect upon all other relations in agriculture.
(*) This is a reference to The Influence of Harvests and Grain Prices on Certain Aspects of Russian Economy, in two volumes, compiled by a group of authors of the liberal-bourgeois and Narodnik trend and edited by Professor A. I. Chuprov and A. S. Posnikov (1897). Lenin read this book when he was in exile and criticised it in his The Development of Capitalism in Russia.
- Mr. Bulgakov adduces data, in still greater detail, but they add nothing whatever to Kautsky’s data, since they show the same increase in the number of farms in one group of big proprietors and a reduction in the land area. —Lenin
- There was a reduction in this category from 16,986,101 hectares to 16,802,115 hectares, i.e., by a whole ... 1.2 per cent! Does not this speak in favour of the “death agony” of large-scale production seen by Mr. Bulgakov? —Lenin
- These words are in English in the original.—Ed.
- What is indeed a curiosity is Mr. Bulgakov’s remark that the increase in the number of non-manual employees testifies, perhaps, to the growth of agricultural industry, but not (!) to the growth of intensive large-scale farming. Until now we have thought one of the most important forms of increased intensification to be the growth of industry in agriculture (described in detail and appraised by Kautsky in Chapter X). —Lenin
- Kärger, quoted by Kautsky, S. 45. —Lenin
- Fideicommissum—entailment of an estate. Under this system a landed estate passed to the eldest son of the testator and could not be mortgaged; divided, or sold in parte or in toto.
Anerbenrecht—a peasant variant of fideicommissum which gave the landed proprietor a somewhat greater right in respect of the inherited estate but which forbade the division of the inheritance. p. 146
- Kautsky emphatically expressed his opposition to every medieval restriction upon the mobilisation of the land, to entailment (fideicommissum, Anerbenrecht), and to the preservation of the medieval peasant commune (S. 332), etc. —Lenin
- Cf. also S. 214, where Kautsky discusses the role urban capital plays in the rationalisation of agriculture. —Lenin
- Let the reader compare Kautsky’s clear statement as quoted above with the following “critical” remark by Mr. Bulgakov: “If Kautsky regards the giving of grain to the non-agricultural population by direct grain p reducers as exploitation,” etc. One cannot believe that a critic who has read Kautsky’s book at all attentively could have written that “if”! —Lenin
- It goes without saying that the opinion that it is necessary to abolish the antithesis between town and country in a society of associated producers does not in the least contradict the admission that the attraction of the population to industry from agriculture plays a historically progressive role. I had occasion to discuss this elsewhere (Studies, p. 81, footnote 69). (See present edition, Vol. 2, p. 229.—Ed.) —Lenin
- That is why in the practical part of his book Kautsky recommends the sanitary inspection of cattle and of the conditions of their maintenance (S. 397). —Lenin
- The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Chapter I, Section II, and Chapter VIII, Section II. (See present edition, Vol. 3.—Ed.) —Lenin
- Pointing to this circumstance, Mr. Bulgakov says that “the agricultural population may diminish relatively [his italics] even when agriculture is flourishing.” Not only “may,” but necessarily must in capitalist society.... “The relative diminution [of the agricultural population] merely (sic!) indicates here a growth of new branches of people’s labour,” concludes Mr. Bulgakov.That “merely” is very strange. New branches of industry do actually withdraw “the most energetic and most intelligent labour forces” from agriculture. Thus, this simple reason is sufficient to enable one to accept Kautsky’s general thesis as being fully correct: the relative diminution of the rural population sufficiently confirms the correctness of the general thesis (that capitalism withdraws the most energetic and most intelligent labour forces from agriculture). —Lenin
- Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, p. 622.
- See present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 40, 561.—Ed.
- Kautsky says elsewhere: “The small farmers hold out longer in a hopeless position. We have every reason to doubt that this is an advantage of small-scale production” (S. 134).
In passing, let us mention data fully confirming Kautsky’s view that are given by Koenig in his book, in which he describes in detail the condition of English agriculture in a number of typical counties (Die Lage der englischen Landwirtschaft, etc. [The Condition of English Agriculture, etc.], Jena, 1896, von Dr. F. Koenig). In this book we find any amount of evidence of overwork and under-consumption on the part of the small farmers, as compared with hired labourers, but no evidence of the opposite. We read, for instance, that the small farms pay “because of immence (ungeheuer) diligence and frugality” (88); the farm buildings of the small farmers are inferior (107); the small landowners (yeoman farmers [these words are in English in the original.—Ed.])are worse off than the tenant farmers (149); “their conditions are very miserable (in Lincolnshire), their cottages being worse than those of the labourers employed on the big farms, and some are in a very bad state. The small landowners work harder and for longer hours than ordinary labourers, but they earn less. They live more poorly and eat less meat ... their sons and daughters work without pay and are badly clothed” (157). “The small farmers work like slaves; in the sum mer they often work from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m.” (a report of the Chamber of Agriculture in Boston, S. 158). “Without a doubt,” says a big farmer, “the small man (der kleine Mann), who has little capital and on whose farm all the work is done by members of his family, finds it easier to cut down housekeeping expenses, while the big farmer must feed his labourers equally well in bad years and good” (218). The small farmers (in Ayrshire) “are extraordinarily (ungeheuer) diligent; their wives and children do no less, and often more, work than the day labourers; it is said that two of them will do as much work in a day as three hired labourers” (231). “The life of the small tenant farmer, who must work with his whole family, is the life of a slave” (253). “Taken as a whole... the small farmers have evidently withstood the crisis better than the big farmers; but this does not imply that the small farm is more profitable. The reason, in our opinion, is that the small man (der kleine Mann) utilises the unpaid assistance of his family.... Usually ... the whole family of the small farmer works on the farm.... The children are fed and clothed, and only rarely do they get a definite daily wage” (277-78), etc., etc. —Lenin
- As for the philosophic world outlook, we do not know whether what Mr. Bulgakov says is true. Kautsky does not seem to be an adherent of the critical philosophy, as Mr. Bulgakov is. —Lenin
- In matters of principle there is no disputing.—Ed.
- For the process of inflating and fixing rent see the apt remarks of Parvus in The World Market and the Agricultural Crisis. Parvus shares Kautsky’s main views on the crisis and on the agrarian question generally. —Lenin
- Parvus, op. cit., p. 141, quoted in a review of Parvus’ book in Nachalo, No. 3, p. 117. (See present volume, p. 66.—Ed.) We should add that the other “difficulties” of commercial agriculture confronting Europe affect the colonies to an incomparably smaller degree. —Lenin
- Absolute rent is the result of monopoly. “Fortunately, there is a limit to the raising of absolute rent....Until recent times it rose steadily in Europe in the same way as differential rent. But overseas competition bas undermined this monopoly to a very considerable extent. We have no grounds for thinking that differential rent in Europe has suffered as a result of overseas competition, except for a few counties in England.... But absolute rent has dropped, and this has benefited (zu gute gekommen) primarily the working classes” (S. 80; cf. also S. 328). —Lenin