The development of capitalism in Russia

Alexandre Calder, Black Sun, 1953


Two prefaces by the author

Preface to the first edition

In this work, the author set out to examine the question: how was the internal market for Russian capitalism formed? It is known that this point has been raised a long time ago by the main representatives of populist conceptions (narodniki), and our task will be to criticize these conceptions. We did not consider it possible to limit this criticism to the analysis of errors and inaccuracies in the opponents' perspectives; It seemed to us insufficient to answer the question to bring facts that deal with the formation and growth of the internal market, as it could be argued that such facts were chosen arbitrarily and that those that say otherwise were omitted.

It seemed essential to us to examine and try to represent the entire process of the development of capitalism in Russia together. It is clear that such a broad task would be beyond the strength of a single individual if a series of limitations were not imposed. Firstly, as can be seen from the title, we take the question of the development of capitalism in Russia exclusively from the point of view of the internal market, leaving aside the question of the external market and data on foreign trade. Secondly, we limit ourselves to the post-reform period.

Thirdly, we take mainly and almost exclusively data from purely Russian internal provinces. Fourth, we limit ourselves to the economic aspect of the process. But, despite all the limitations mentioned, the topic remains too broad. The author does not in any way hide the difficulty and even the danger of approaching such a vast subject, but it seemed to him that, in order to examine the question of the internal market for Russian capitalism, it was essential to show the connections and interdependence of the isolated aspects of this process, which occurs in all domains of the social economy. We therefore limit ourselves to examining its essential features, leaving its more specialized study for later research.

The plan of our work is as follows. In Chapter I, we will address as briefly as possible the fundamental theoretical propositions of abstract political economy on the issue of the internal market for capitalism. This will serve as an introduction to the rest of the work, its factual part, and will avoid the need to make multiple references to the theory in the subsequent exposition. In the following three chapters, we will seek to characterize the capitalist evolution of agriculture in post-reform Russia: precisely in chapter II, statistical data on zemstvos referring to the decomposition of the peasantry; in chapter III, data on the transition situation of the latifundiary economy, on the change from the corvee system of this economy to the capitalist one; and in chapter IV, data on the forms in which the formation of commercial and capitalist agriculture occurs.

The other three chapters will be dedicated to the forms and stages of the development of capitalism in our industry: in chapter V, we will examine the first stages of capitalism in industry, precisely in small rural industry (called “artisan”); in chapter VI, data on capitalist manufacturing and domestic capitalist work; and in chapter VII, data on the development of large mechanized industry. In the last chapter (VIII), we will try to show the relationship between the different aspects of the exposed process and offer a general picture.

Note. It is a shame that we were not able to use, for this work, the notable analysis of the “development of the rural economy in capitalist society”, offered by Karl Kautsky in his book Die Agrarfrage [The Agrarian Question] (Stuttgart, Dietz, 1899), section I: “Die Entwicklung der Landwirtschaft in der kapitalistischen Gesellschaft” [The development of agriculture in capitalist society].

This book (which we received when a large part of the present work was already composed) represents, after Book III of The capital, the most notable event in recent economic literature.

Karl Kautsky investigates “the main trends” in the capitalist evolution of agriculture; His task is to examine the distinct phenomena of the modern rural economy as “partial manifestations of a general process”. It is interesting to note to what extent the main features of this general process are identical in Western Europe and Russia, despite the latter's enormous particularity in both economic and extra-economic relations. For example, for capitalist agriculture modern, in general, the progressive division of labor and the use of machines are typical, which attracts special attention in post-reform Russia.

The process of “proletarianization of the peasantry” (title of chapter VIII of Karl Kautsky's book) is expressed everywhere in the spread of all types of wage labor among small peasants; At the same time, we observe in Russia the formation of a huge class of salaried workers with land holdings. nadiel. The existence of the small peasantry in any capitalist society is explained not by the technical superiority of small production in agriculture, but by the fact that the small peasant reduces his needs to a level lower than the level of needs of salaried workers and devotes incomparably greater efforts to work ; A similar phenomenon is observed in Russia.

It is natural, therefore, that Western European and Russian Marxists converge, for example, in evaluating phenomena such as “agricultural work outside the locality of residence”, to use the Russian expression, or “the waged agricultural work of nomadic peasants ”, as the Germans say; or the transfer of large capitalist industry to the countryside. We are no longer talking about the identical assessment of the historical meaning of agricultural capitalism, the identical recognition of the progressive character of capitalist relations in agriculture in comparison with pre-capitalist ones.

Karl Kautsky categorically recognizes that “there is no need to even think about” the passage of the village community (obschina) for the community administration of contemporary large-scale agriculture, that the agronomists who demand, in Western Europe, the strengthening and development of communities are in no way socialists, but representatives of the interests of large landowners, eager to subject workers to rent give them the keys to the land, that in all European countries representatives of the interests of landowners wish to subjugate rural workers by granting them land and already trying to introduce the corresponding measures into legislation, which “must be fought for in the most determined manner ” against all attempts to help the small peasantry through artisanal industries (Hausindustrie) – since this is the worst type of capitalist exploitation.

We consider it necessary to highlight the complete solidarity of opinions between Western European Marxists and Russians, in view of the most recent attempt by representatives of populism to introduce a clear difference between the two.

Preface to the second edition

This work was written on the eve of the Russian Revolution, during the calm that followed the explosion of the great strikes of 1895-1896. It seemed, then, that the labor movement had closed in on itself, extending in breadth and depth and preparing the beginning of the demonstration movement in 1901.

The analysis of the socioeconomic structure and, consequently, the class structure of Russia that is provided in the present work, made on the basis of economic study and critical examination of statistical information, is confirmed by the clear political intervention of all classes in the course of the revolution. The leading role of the proletariat was fully revealed. It was also revealed that its strength in the historical movement is incomparably greater than its share in the general mass of the population. The economic basis of both phenomena is demonstrated in the work proposed here.

Furthermore, now the revolution is increasingly revealing the dual position and role of the peasantry. On the one hand, the enormous remnants of the corvée economy and the various residues of serfdom, with the pauperization and devastation of the poor peasants, fully explain the deep source of the peasant revolutionary movement, the deep roots of the revolutionary nature of the peasantry as a mass. On the other hand, both in the course of the revolution and in the character of the different political parties, as well as in many political-ideological tendencies, the internally contradictory class structure of this mass is revealed, its petty-bourgeois character, the antagonism between the bosses' tendencies and proletarians within it.

The oscillation of the impoverished small landowner between the bourgeoisie and the revolutionary proletarian is as inevitable as it is inevitable, in any capitalist society, that a tiny minority of small producers profit, “become people”, become bourgeois, while the overwhelming majority pray ruin himself completely, or become a wage-worker or pauper, sometimes lives eternally on the edge of the proletarian condition. The economic basis of both trends is demonstrated in this work.

From this economic basis it is clear that the revolution in Russia is inevitably bourgeois. This Marxist position is irrefutable. We must never forget her. It is essential to always apply it to all economic and political issues of the Russian Revolution.

But you need to know how to apply it. The concrete analysis of the situation and interests of the different classes must serve to define the exact meaning of this truth in its application to this or that question. The reverse method of reflection, which is often found among right-wing social democrats, with Plekhanov at the head, that is, the attempt to seek answers to concrete questions in the simple logical development of a general truth about the fundamental character of our revolution , is a vulgarization of Marxism and a complete mockery of dialectical materialism. Regarding such people, who deduce, for example, that the leading role in the revolution belongs to the “bourgeoisie” or that socialists must support liberals from the general truth about the character of this revolution, Marx would undoubtedly repeat a passage from Heine who once quoted: “I sowed dragon teeth and gathered fleas”.

On this basis of the Russian Revolution, two main lines of development and outcome are objectively possible.

Or the old landowner economy, connected by thousands of threads to serfdom, is preserved, gradually transforming into a purely capitalist economy, “junker”. The basis of the definitive transition from payment for work on manorial land to capitalism is the internal transformation of the latifundiary economy based on serfdom. The entire agrarian structure became capitalist, retaining traces of serfdom for a long time.

Either the revolution destroys the old landlord economy, annihilating all the remnants of serfdom and, above all, large land ownership. The basis for the definitive transition from payment in labor to capitalism is the free development of peasant agriculture, which receives an enormous boost thanks to the expropriation of landowners' lands in favor of the peasantry. The entire agrarian structure becomes capitalist, as the decomposition of the peasantry occurs the faster the more completely the traces of serfdom are eliminated. In other words, either the conservation of the bulk of the landownership of the land and the main pillars of the old “superstructure”; hence the predominant role of the liberal-monarchical bourgeoisie and the landowners, the rapid transition of the wealthy peasantry to their side, the demotion of the peasant mass, which is not only expropriated in enormous proportions, but is enslaved by some and other methods of rescuing the kadetee, oppressed and brutalized by the dominance of reaction; the executor of such a bourgeois revolution will be politicians of a type close to that of the Octobrists.

Or the destruction of the landownership of the land and of all the main pillars corresponding to the old “superstructure”; the predominant role of the proletariat and the peasant mass in neutralizing the hesitant or counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie; a faster and freer development of the productive forces on a capitalist basis, with a better position of the working and peasant masses – to the extent that is conceivable, in general, under the conditions of mercantile production; hence the creation of the most favorable conditions for the subsequent implementation, by the working class, of its true and radical task of socialist reorganization.

Infinitely diverse combinations of elements of one or another type of capitalist evolution are possible, of course, and only incorrigible pedants could resolve peculiar and complex questions with just a few quotes from this or that objection of Marx's about a different historical epoch.

The work proposed to the reader is dedicated to the analysis of the economy of pre-revolutionary Russia. In revolutionary times, the country lives so quickly and impetuously that it is impossible to define the great results of economic evolution at the height of the political struggle. Mr. Stolypin, on the one hand, and the liberals, on the other (and by no means, not a single cadet to Struve, but all kadetes in general), work in a systematic, tenacious and consistent way to achieve the first model. The coup d'état of June 3, 1907, which we have just experienced, marks the victory of the counter-revolution, which seeks to ensure the complete predominance of landowners in the so-called Russian popular representation.

How solid this “victory” is is another question, and the fight for the second outcome of the revolution continues. In a more or less decided, more or less consistent, more or less conscious way, not only the proletariat, but also the broad peasant masses aspire to this outcome. The immediate struggle of the masses, no matter how much the counter-revolution tries to suffocate it through direct violence, no matter how much the kadetes try to suffocate it with their petty and hypocritical counter-revolutionary ideas, this struggle breaks out here and there, despite everything, and leaves its mark on the politics of the “labor” and populist parties, even though the petty-bourgeois politicians at the top are , without a doubt, contaminated (above all, the “social-populists” and the “trudóviki”) by the spirit cadet of the treachery, flattery, and self-indulgence of the moderate and diligent officials and philistines.

How will this fight end, what will be the outcome of the first clash of the Russian Revolution? For now, it's impossible to say. Therefore, the time has not yet come (moreover, immediate party obligations as a member of the labor movement do not leave me free time) for the complete re-elaboration of this work. The second edition could not go beyond the characteristics of the economy of pre-revolutionary Russia. The author was forced to limit himself to reviewing and correcting the text, as well as the most essential additions to recent statistical material. Such data are the latest horse censuses, harvest statistics, the population census balance of 1897, new data from factory statistics, etc.

(July 1907).

*Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870-1924) was head of government of the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1924. Author, among other books, of Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism (boitempo). []


Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The development of capitalism in Russia. The process of formation of the internal market for large industry. Translation: Paula Vaz de Almeida. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2024, 622 pages. []

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Impasses and solutions for the political momentjose dirceu 12/06/2024 By JOSÉ DIRCEU: The development program must be the basis of a political commitment from the democratic front
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table
  • A myopic logicRED MAN WALKING _ 12/06/2024 By LUIS FELIPE MIGUEL: The government does not have the political will to make education a priority, while it courts the military or highway police, who do not move a millimeter away from the Bolsonarism that they continue to support
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives