Lenin Collected Works: Volume 40: Preface by Progress Publishers

Lenin Collected Works:
Volume 40

Preface by Progress Publishers

The present Volume contains Lenin's Notebooks on the Agrarian Question, which is preparatory material for his works analysing capitalist agriculture in Western Europe, Russia and the United States, and criticising bourgeois and petty-bourgeois theories, and reformism and revisionism in the agrarian question.

The material in this volume relates to the period from 1900 to 1916. In the new conditions, with capitalism at its highest and final stage—the stage of imperialism—Lenin worked out and substantiated the agrarian programme and agrarian policy of the revolutionary proletarian party, and took Marxist theory on the agrarian question a step forward in its view of classes and the class struggle in the country side, the alliance of the working class and the peasantry under the leadership of the proletariat, and their joint struggle against the landowners and capitalists, for democracy and socialism. The success of the revolution depended on whom the peasantry would follow, for in many European countries it constituted the majority or a sizable section of the population. In order to win over the peasantry, as an ally of the proletariat in the coming revolution, it was necessary to expose the hostile parties which claimed leader ship of the peasantry, and their ideologists.

In the new epoch, these questions became especially pressing and acquired international significance. That is why bourgeois economists, reformists and revisionists fiercely attacked Marxism. It was subjected to criticism by bourgeois apologists, the ideologists of petty- bourgeois parties, and opportunists among the Social Democrats. They all rejected Marx's theory of ground-rent, and the law of concentration of production in agriculture, and denied the advantages of large- over small-scale production; they insisted that agriculture developed according to special laws, and was subject to the inexorable “law of diminishing returns”. They said it was not, human labour and the implements of labour, but the elemental forces of nature that were decisive in agriculture. These “critics of Marx” juggled with the facts and statistics, in an effort to show that the small-scale peasant economy was “stable” and had advantages over large-scale capitalist production.

Lenin's great historical service in working out the agrarian question lies in the fact that he defended Marx's revolutionary teaching against the attacks of his “critics”, and further developed it in application to the new historical conditions and in connection with the working out of the programme, strategy and tactics of the revolutionary proletarian party of the new type; he proved the possibility, and the necessity, of an alliance between the working class and the peasantry under the leadership of the proletariat at the various stages of the revolution, and showed the conditions in which this could be realised.

It was of tremendous importance to produce a theoretical elaboration of the agrarian question so as to determine the correct relations between the working class and the various groups of peasantry as the revolutionary struggle went forward. Under capitalism, the peasantry breaks up into different class groups, with differing and antithetical interests; the “erosion” of the middle peasantry yields a numerically small but economically powerful rich peasant (kulak) top section at one pole, and a mass of poor peasants, rural proletarians and semi-proletarians, at the other. Lenin revealed the dual nature of the peasant as a petty commodity producer—the dual nature of his economic and political interests: the basic interests of the toiler suffering from exploitation by the landowner and the kulak, which makes him look to the proletariat for support, and the interests of the owner, which determine his gravitation towards the bourgeoisie, his political instability and vacillation between it and the working class. Lenin emphasised the need for an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, with the leading role belonging to the proletariat, as a prerequisite for winning the dictatorship of the proletariat and building socialism through a joint effort by the workers and peasants.

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The first part of the volume contains the plans and out lines of Lenin's writings on the agrarian question, the main being the preparatory materials for “The Agrarian Question and the 'Critics of Marx"' (see present edition, Vols. 5 and 13). The variants of the plan for this work give a good idea of how Lenin mapped out the main line and the concrete points for his critique of reformist bourgeois theories and of revisionism. Lenin defined a programme for processing the relevant reliable material from numerous sources to refute the arguments of the “critics of Marx” concerning the dubious “law of diminishing returns” and the Malthusian explanation of the root causes of the working man's plight, and to ward off their attacks on the Marxist theory of ground-rent, etc.

In preparing “The Agrarian Question and the 'Critics of Marx"' and his lectures on the agrarian question, Lenin made a thorough study of the most important sources, and utilised European agrarian statistics to give Marxist agrarian theory a sound basis. He verified, analysed and summed up a mass of statistical data, and drew up tables giving an insight into the deep-going causes, nature and social significance of economic processes. Lenin's analysis of agrarian statistics shows their tremendous importance as a tool in cognising economic laws, exposing the contradictions of capitalism, and subjecting it and its apologists to scientific criticism.

The writings in the first part of the volume show the direct connection between Lenin's theoretical inquiry, his elaboration of Marxist agrarian theory and the practical revolutionary struggle of the working class.

The preparatory materials for his lectures on the “Marxist Views of the Agrarian Question in Europe and Russia”, and on “The Agrarian Programme of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and of the Social-Democrats”, both included in this volume, are a reflection of an important stage of Lenin's struggle against the petty-bourgeois party of Socialist- Revolutionaries and opportunists within the Social-Democratic movement, in working out and substantiating a truly revolutionary agrarian programme and tactics for the Marxist working-class party in Russia.

Russia was then on the threshold of her bourgeois-democratic revolution. In Russia, capitalism had grown into imperialism, while considerable survivals of serfdom still remained in the country's economy and the political system as a whole. The landed estates were the main relicts of pre- capitalist relations in the economy; the peasant allotment land tenure, adapted to the landowners' corvée system, was also shackled with relicts of serfdom. These tended to slow down the development of the productive forces both in Russia's industry and agriculture, widen the technical and economic gap separating her from the leading capitalist countries of the West, and create the conditions for indentured forms of exploitation of the working class and the peasantry. That is why the agrarian question was basic to the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia and determined its specific features.

Lenin laid special emphasis on the importance of theory in working out the Party programme: “In order to make a comparison of the programmes and to assess them, it is necessary to examine the principles, the theory, from which the programme flows” (see p. 53). Lenin's theoretical analysis of the economic nature of the peasant economy enabled him to determine correctly the community or the distinction of class interests between the proletariat and the various sections of the peasantry in the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and to map out the Party's policy towards the peasantry. The main task of the agrarian programme during the bourgeois-democratic revolution was to formulate the demands that would secure the peasantry as the proletariat's ally in the struggle against tsarism and the landowners. “The meaning of our agrarian programme: the Russian proletariat (including the rural) must support the peasantry in the struggle against serfdom” (see p. 62). Lenin subjected the agrarian programme of the Socialist-Revolutionaries to withering criticism and proved that their theoretical unscrupulousness and eclecticism had induced them to say nothing of the historical task of the period—destruction of the relicts of serfdom—to deny the stratification of the peasantry along class lines, and the class struggle in the countryside, to invent all manner of projects for “socialisation of land”, “equalisation”, etc.

While Lenin aimed his criticism against the Socialist-Revolutionaries, he also exposed the anti-Marxist stand on the agrarian issue in Russia and the peasantry taken by P. P. Maslov, A. S. Martynov, D. B. Ryazanov and other Mensheviks-to-be, who denied that the peasantry had a revolutionary role to play, and who regarded it as a solid reactionary mass. By contrast, Lenin emphasised the dual nature of Narodism: the democratic side, inasmuch as they waged a struggle against the relicts of serfdom, and the utopian and reactionary side, expressive of the urge on the part of the petty bourgeois to perpetuate his small farm. In this context, Lenin pointed to the need to take account of the two sides of Narodism in evaluating its historical importance.

The first part ends with two plans for “The Peasantry and Social-Democracy” (see pp. 69-70). These plans warrant the assumption that Lenin had the intention of writing a special work on the subject to sum up his studies of agrarian relations and the experience gained by socialist parties abroad in working out agrarian programmes, and to substantiate the R.S.D.L.P.'s policy towards the peasantry. With his usual insight, he points to the “practical importance of the agrarian question in the possibly near future” (see p. 70), and notes the specific nature of class relations in the Russian countryside, and the need for the rural proletariat to fight on two flanks: against the landowners and the relicts of serfdom, and against the bourgeoisie. Lenin marked out the guiding principles which were to serve the Marxist party as a beacon in the intricate conditions of the class struggle in the countryside: “Together with the peasant bourgeoisie against the landowners. Together with the urban proletariat against the peasant bourgeoisie” (see p. 69).

The writings in the second part of the present volume are a reflection of his critical processing of a great mass of facts and statistical data from bourgeois and petty- bourgeois agrarian works and official sources. Of special interest in this part is the material on the study and processing of the results of special statistical inquiries into the state of agriculture, especially the peasant economy, in a number of European countries.

Lenin gives a model of scientific analysis of agrarian relations, application of the Marxist method in processing social and economic statistics, and critical use of bourgeois sources and writings. Lenin adduces reliable data to refute the assertions of bourgeois economists, reformists and revisionists, and shows that in agriculture as well large-scale capitalist production is more effective than small-scale production and tends inevitably to supplant it, that small peasant farms are being expropriated by big capital, and that the toiling peasantry is being ruined and proletarised. That is the general law governing the development of agriculture on capitalist lines, although it may differ in form from country to country.

In his critical remarks on the works of S. Bulgakov, F. Hertz, M. Hecht, E. David, and K. Klawki, Lenin refutes the bourgeois reformist theories which extol small farming and assert that it is “superior” to large-scale production. He exposes the tricks used by bourgeois and petty-bourgeois economists to minimise the earnings of the big farms and exaggerate those of the small. Lenin counters the false eulogies to the “viability” of the small farms—due allegedly to the small farmer's industry, thrift and hardiness, by showing that small-scale production in agriculture is sustained by the back-breaking toil and poor nutrition of the small farmer, the dissipation of his vital forces, the deterioration of his livestock, and the waste of the soil's productive forces.

Lenin has some particularly sharp words for the reformists and revisionists who “fool others by styling themselves socialists”, and put more into prettifying capitalist reality than the bourgeois apologists themselves. Lenin makes a detailed analysis of E. David's Socialism and Agriculture— the main revisionist work on the agrarian question—and shows it to be a collection of bourgeois falsehood and bias wrapped up in “socialist” terminology.

At the same time, Lenin takes pains to sift and examine any genuine scientific data and correct observations and conclusions which he finds in bourgeois sources and writings. He makes the following extract from O. Pringsheim's article: “Modern large-scale agricultural production should be compared with the manufacture (in the Marxian sense)" (see p. 108), and repeatedly makes such comparisons in his works (see present edition, Vol. 5, p. 141 and Vol. 22, p. 99). On F. Maurice's book, Agriculture and the Social Question. Agricultural and Agrarian France, Lenin makes this remark: “The author has the wildest ideas of the most primitive anarchism. There are some interesting factual remarks” (see p. 173).

Lenin devotes special attention to an analysis of statistics on the agrarian system in Denmark, which the apologists of capitalism liked to present as the “ideal” country of small-scale peasant production. He exposes the trickery of bourgeois economists and revisionists and demonstrates the capitalist nature of the country's agrarian system. The basic fact which bourgeois political economists and revisionists try to hush up is that the bulk of the land and the livestock in Denmark is in the hands of landowners running farms on capitalist lines (see p. 225 and pp. 376-82). “The basis of Danish agriculture is large-scale and medium capitalist farming. All the talk about a 'peasant country' and 'small-scale farming' is sheer bourgeois apologetics, a distortion of the facts by various titled and untitled ideologists of capital” (see present edition, Vol. 13, p. 196). Lenin castigates the “socialists” who try to obscure the fact that production is being concentrated and that the petty producer is being ousted by the big producer, and the fact that the prosperity of capitalist agriculture in Denmark is based on the massive proletarisation of the rural population.

The third part of the volume contains material for' a study of the capitalist agriculture of Europe and the United States from 1910 to 1916, including the material relating to Lenin's New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture. Part One. Capitalism and Agriculture in the United States of America.

In this work, Lenin stresses that the United States, “a leading country of modern capitalism”, was of especial interest for the study of the social and economic structure of agriculture, and of the forms and laws of its development in modern capitalist conditions. “In America, agricultural capitalism is more clear-cut, the division of labour is more crystallised; there are fewer bonds with the Middle Ages, with the soil-bound labourer; ground-rent is not so burden some; there is less intermixing of commercial agriculture and subsistence farming” (see p. 420). The important thing is that the United States is unrivalled in the vastness of territory and diversity of relationships, showing the greatest spectrum of shades and forms of capitalist agriculture.

Bourgeois economists, reformists and revisionists distort the facts in an effort to prove that the U.S. farm economy is a model of the “non-capitalist evolution” of farming, where the “small family farm” is allegedly supplanting large-scale production, where most farms are “family-labour farms”, etc. N. Himmer, who gave his views in an article on the results of the U.S. Census of 1910, epitomises those who believe that agriculture in capitalist society develops along non-capitalist lines. Lenin makes this note: “Himmer as a collection of bourgeois views. I n t h i s r e s p e c t, his short article is worth volumes” (see p. 408). The opponents of Marxism based their conclusions on facts and figures, major and minor, which were isolated from “the general context of politico-economic relations”. On the strength of massive data provided by the U.S. censuses, Lenin gives “a complete picture of capitalism in American agriculture” (present edition, Vol. 22, p. 18). Lenin notes that through their agricultural censuses, bourgeois statisticians collect “an immense wealth of complete information on each enterprise as a unit” but because of incorrect tabulation and grouping it is reduced in value and spoiled; the net result is meaningless columns of figures, a kind of statistical game of digits”.

Lenin goes on to work the massive data of agricultural statistics into tables on scientific principles for grouping farms. The summary table compiled by Lenin (pp. 440-41) is a remarkable example of the use of socio-economic statistics as an instrument of social cognition. He brings out the contradictions and trends in the capitalist development of U.S. agriculture through a three-way grouping of farms: by income, that is, the value of the product, by acreage, and by specialisation (principal source of income).

Lenin's analysis of the great volume of facts and massive agrarian statistics proves that U.S. agriculture is developing the capitalist way. Evidence of this is the general increase in the employment of hired labour, the growth in the number of wage workers, the decline in the number of independent farm owners, the erosion of the middle groups and the consolidation of the groups at both ends of the farm spectrum, and the growth of big capitalist farms and the displacement of the small. Lenin says that capitalism in U.S. agriculture tends to grow both through the faster development of the large-acreage farms in extensive areas, and through the establishment of farms with much larger operations on smaller tracts in the intensive areas. There is growing concentration of production in agriculture, and the expropriation and displacement of small farmers, which means a decline in the proportion of owners.

In his book, Lenin shows the plight of the small and Lenant farmers, especially Negroes, who are most ruthlessly oppressed. “For the 'emancipated' Negroes, the American South is a kind of prison where they are hemmed in, isolated and deprived of fresh air” (present edition, Vol. 22, p. 27). Lenin notes the remarkable similarity between the economic status of the Negroes in America and that of the one-time serfs in the heart of agricultural Russia.

An indicator of the ruin of small farmers in the United States is the growth in the number of mortgaged farms, which “means that the actual control over them is transferred to the capitalists”. Most farmers who fall into the clutches of finance capital are further impoverished. “Those who control the banks, directly control one-third of America~ s farms, and indirectly dominate the lot” (ibid., pp. 92, 100).

Lenin's study of the general laws governing the capitalist development of agriculture and the forms they assumed in the various countries shed a strong light on the whole process of displacement of small-scale by large-scale production. This complex and painful process involves not only the direct expropriation of toiling peasants and farmers by big capital, but also the “ruin of the small farmers and a worsening of conditions on their farms that may go on for years and decades” (Vol. 22, p. 70), a process which may assume a variety of forms, such as the small farmer's overwork or malnutrition, heavy debt, worse feed and poorer care of livestock, poorer husbandry, technical stag nation, etc.

Lenin analysed the capitalist agriculture of Europe and the United States decades ago. Since then, considerable changes have taken place in the agriculture of the capitalist countries. However, the objective laws governing capitalist development are inexorable. The development of capitalist agriculture fully bears out the Marxist-Leninist agrarian theory, and its characteristic of classes and the class struggle in the countryside. The Programme of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union emphasises that the agriculture of the capitalist countries is characterised by a further deepening of the contradictions inherent in the bourgeois system, namely, the growing concentration of production, and ever greater expropriation of small farmers and peasants. The monopolies have occupied dominant positions in agriculture as well. Millions of farmers and peasants are being ruined and driven off the soil.

In the decades since Lenin made his analysis, there have been major changes in the technical equipment of agricultural production. But, as in the time of Marx and Lenin, the machine not only raises the productivity of human labour but also leads to a further aggravation of the contradictions in capitalist agriculture.

The mechanisation of production on the large capitalist farms is accompanied by intensification of labour, worsening of working conditions, displacement of hired labour and growing unemployment. At the same time, there is increasing ruin of small peasants and farmers, who are unable to buy and make rational use of modern machinery, and who are saddled with debts and taxes; the small and middle farmers, who are supplanted by the large farms, become tenants, or wage workers; and the dispossessed tenant farmers are driven off the land. This is borne out by the massive statistics furnished by agricultural censuses in the United States, Canada, France, the Federal Republic of Germany and other capitalist countries.

But in the teeth of these facts present-day bourgeois economists, reformists and revisionists of every stripe keep coming up with the theories long since refuted by Marxism-Leninism and upset by practice itself—asserting that under capitalism the small farm is “stable”, that it offers “advantages” over the large farm, and that under capitalism the toiling peasant can enjoy a life of prosperity.

Modern reformists and revisionists try to revive the old theories of the “non—capitalist evolution of agriculture" through the co-operatives. However, the marketing co-operatives extolled by the bourgeoisie and their “socialist” servitors fail to save the small farmers from privation and ruin. Modern reality fully bears out Lenin's analysis of co-operatives under capitalism. Lenin adduced concrete facts on associations for the marketing of dairy produce in a number of capitalist countries to show that these consist mainly of large (capitalist) farms, and that very few small farmers take part in them (see pp. 207, 209-10). In the capitalist countries, today, co-operative societies, which are under the control of banks and monopolies, are also used mainly by capitalist farmers and not by the small farmers.

Lenin's critique of bourgeois reformist and revisionist views on the agrarian question is just as important today as a brilliant example of the Party approach in science, and of irreconcilable struggle against a hostile ideology, bourgeois apologetics, and modern reformism and revisionism. With capitalism plunged in a general crisis, and class contradictions becoming more acute, the bourgeoisie and its ideologists have been trying very hard to win over the peasantry, by resorting to social demagogy, propounding reformist ideas of harmonised class interests, and promising the small farmer better conditions under capitalism. Lenin s guiding statements on the agrarian question teach the Communist and Workers' Parties of the capitalist and colonial countries to take correct decisions on the working-class attitude towards the peasantry as an ally in the revolutionary struggle against capitalism and colonialism, for democracy and socialism.

Lenin stressed that, in contrast to those bourgeois pundits who sow illusions among the small peasants about the possibility of achieving prosperity under capitalism, the Marxist evaluation of the true position of the peasantry in the capitalist countries “inevitably leads to the recognition of the small peasantry's blind alley and hopeless position (hopeless, outside the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat against the entire capitalist system)" (present edition, Vol. 5, p. 190).

The historic example of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries has shown the peasants of the world the advantages of the socialist way of farming; they are coming to realise that only the establishment of truly popular power and producers' co-operatives can rid the peasants of poverty and exploitation, and assure them of a life of prosperity and culture. The experience of the U.S.S.R. and the People's Democracies has toppled the theories spread by the servants of the bourgeoisie which say that the peasantry is basically hostile to socialism. There is now practical proof of the correctness of the Marxist-Leninist proposition that the peasant economy must and can be remodelled on socialist lines, and that the toiling peasants can be successfully involved in the construction of socialism and communism.

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The bulk of the material contained in the present volume was first published from 1932 to 1938, in Lenin Miscellanies XIX, XXXI and XXXII. Seven writings were first publish ed in the Fourth Russian edition, among them: remarks on M. E. Seignouret's book, Essays on Social and Agricultural Economics; a manuscript containing an analysis of data from the Agricultural Statistics of France; remarks on G. Fischer's The Social Importance of Machinery in Agriculture; a manuscript containing extracts from Hand and Machine Labor; and remarks on E. Jordi's Electric Motor in Agriculture.

The publishers have retained Lenin's arrangement of the material, his marks in the margin and underlinings in the text. The underlinings are indicated by type variations: a single underlining by italics, a double underlining by s p a c e d   i t a l i c s, three lines by heavy Roman type, and four lines by s p a c e d   h e a v y   R o m a n   t y p e. A wavy underlining is indicated by heavy italics, if double—by s p a c e d   h e a v y   i t a l i c s.

In the Fourth Russian edition the entire text of this volume was verified once again with Lenin's manuscripts and sources.

All statistical data were checked again, but no corrections were made where the totals or percentages do not tally, because they are the result of Lenin's rounding off the figures from the sources.

The present volume contains footnote references to Lenin's “The Agrarian Question and the 'Critics of Marx"' and New Data on the Laws Governing the Development of Capitalism in Agriculture. This has been done to show the connection between the preparatory material and the finished works, and to give an idea of how Lenin made use of his notes.

Institute of Marxism-Leninism under the C.P.S.U. Central Committee

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