V. I. Lenin

Landowners on the Migration of Agricultural Labour

Written: Written on May 10 (23), 1913
Published: Published on May 18, 1913 in Pravda No. 113. Printed from the Pravda text. Signed: D..
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 285.2-287.1.
Translated: Yuri Sdobnikov
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  

Novoye Vremya, a newspaper of the Black-Hundred landowners, reports some interesting discussions among landowners in Poland and in the frontier areas of Russia in general over the migration of agricultural workers to Germany and other European countries in search of employment.

This migration has been rapidly growing. In 1901, some 218,000 persons a year were estimated to have migrated. In 1911, the figure was set at 740,000, more than three times the 1901 figure. In 1912, as many as 800,000 must have left.

Let us note that apart from Polish peasants and workers, Russian workers from the centre of Russia have been also leaving for Germany. “Now one very often meets men from Tula, Orel and Ryazan on the border and beyond.” The issue of free ten-month foreign passports for workers going to do agricultural work has intensified this movement.

What is the cause? It is that the Russian peasants are being increasingly ruined and it is ever harder to earn a living in Russia, because of the general stagnation of economic life, which is depressed by the serf-owners and lawlessness. Wages in Russia are being kept down at the low serf level.

In Russia, the annual agricultural wage averages 62 rubles; add to this 46 rubles’ worth of food a year and you get wages totalling 108 rubles a year. In Germany, however, wages average 180 rubles a year, i.e., just under twice as much!! (In Britain, let us note in parenthesis, agricultural labourer’s wages come to 300 rubles a year, and in America, to 500 rubles.)

It is natural, therefore, that hundreds of thousands of workers are fleeing from lawless, starving and impoverished Russia to find employment in Germany, and even beyond it—in Denmark, Switzerland and France. There the workers find out about a higher level of culture, much better cultivation of the soil, incomparably higher crop yields and, what is most important, political freedom, freedom for the labour press and labour organisations.

And so, we find the landowning gentlemen debating between themselves: some say that the landowner will benefit from this massive training of our workers in better methods of agriculture. Others wax indignant over the fact that the migration of workers tends to raise wages in the places which they leave.

In Russia, generally speaking—and in Russian legislation in particular—the opinion of the latter prevails, and they would like to see the peasants “settled” (i.e., tied to the land), submissive (without any prospect of moving), downtrodden   and barbaric (to prevent them from seeing how to improve their living conditions and how much better off workers in other countries are).

Fortunately, these landowning serf-masters, however hard they may try to break and distort Russian life, no longer have the power to stem the tide of world-wide capitalism, which is uprooting the Russian muzhik as well from his godforsaken hole.


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