[OPE-L:2737] Lenin referencing Sieber

From: Paul Zarembka (zarembka@acsu.buffalo.edu)
Date: Wed Apr 05 2000 - 23:09:40 EDT

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                 Passages from Lenin on Sieber's 1885 book:

The 'friends of the people', however, will never be able to grasp the fact
that despite its general wretchedness, its comparatively tiny
establishments and extremely low productivity of labour, its primitive
technique and small number of wage-workers, peasant industry is
capitalism. They simply cannot grasp the point that capital is a certain
relation between people, a relation which remains the same whether the
categories under comparison are at a higher or a lower level of
development. Bourgeois economists have never been able to understand this;
they have always objected to such a definition of capital. I recall how
one of them, writing in *Russkaya Mysl* about Sieber's book (on Marx's
theory), quoted this definition (capital is a relation), and indignantly
put exclamation marks after it.

[This seems to be to the Sieber's 1885 book but the citation is too
cryptic; it could be the 1871.]

("What the 'Friends of the People' Are", CW, Vol. 1, p. 217)


Under all the old economic systems production was every time resumed in
the same form and on the same scale as previously; under the capitalist
system, however, this presumption in the same form becomes *impossible*,
and *unlimited* expansion, perpetual progress, becomes the law of
production. [1]

[1]Cf. Sieber, David Ricardo, etc., St. Petersburg, 1885, p. 466,

...the surplus population exists in different forms. There are three
chief forms [1]: 1) *Floating overpopulation*...

[1]Cf. Sieber, David Ricardo, etc., St. Petersburg, 1885, pp. 552-53

("A Characterisation of Economic Romanticism", CW, Vol. 2, pp. 164, 180


"We shall not here, of course, expound the modern theory (i.e., Marx's
theory) of machine production. We refer the reader to, say, the
above-mentioned study by N. Sieber, chapter X: "Machines and Large-Scale
Industry," and particularly chapter XI: "An Examination of the Theory of
Machine Production."[1] We shall merely give the gist of it in briefest
outline. It boils down to two points: first, to a historical analysis,
which established the place machine production occupies as one of the
stages in the development of capitalism, and the relation of machine
industry to the preceding stages (capitalist simple co-operation and
capitalist manufacture); secondly, to an analysis of the part played by
machines under capitalist economy, and in particular, to an analysis of
the changes which machine industry effects in all the conditions of life
of the population. On the first point, the theory established that machine
industry is only one stage (namely, the highest) of capitalist production,
ahd showed how it arose out of manufacture. On the second point, the
theory established that machine industry marks gigantic progress in
capitalist society not only because it increases the productive forces
enormously and socialises labour throughout society,[2] but also because
it destroys the manufactory division of labour, compels the workers to go

From occupations of one kind to others, completes the destruction of
backward patriarchal relationships, particularly in the rural
districts,[3] and gives a most powerful impetus to the progress of
society, both for the reasons stated and as a consequence of the
concentration of the industrial population. This progress, like the
progress capitalism makes in every other field, is accompanied by the
"progress" of contradictions, i.e., by their intensification and

     [1] "To tell the truth," says Sieber at the beginning of this
chapter, "the theory of machines and of large-scale industry outlined
here, represents such an inexhaustible source of new thinking and
original research, that if anybody took it into his head to weigh up the
relative merits of this theory in full he would have to write almost a
whole book on this subject alone" (p. 473).
     [2] Comparing "associated labour" in the village community and in
capitalist society that has machine industry, Sieber quite rightly
observes "There is approximately the same difference between the
'component' of a village community and the 'component' of society with
machine production as there is, for example, between the unit 10 and the
unit 100' (p. 495)
     [3] Sieber, op. cit., p. 467.

(ibid, pp. 186-87)


Perhaps the reader will ask: what interest is there in examining
Sismondi's views on such a universally known question and in such a brief
reference to the modern theory, with which everybody is "familiar," and
with which everybody "agrees"?

Well, to see what this "agreement" looks like we shall take Mr. N.-on, the
most prominent Narodnik economist, who claims that he strictly applies the
modern theory. In his Sketches, it will be remembered, Mr. N.-on sets
himself as one of his special tasks the study of the capitalisation of the
Russian textile industry, the characteristic feature of which is precisely
that it employs machines on the biggest scale.

The question is: what is Mr. N.-on's point of view on this subject: the
point of view of Sismondi (whose view point, as we have seen, he shares on
very many aspects of capitalism), or the point of view of modern theory?
Is he, on this important subject, a romanticist or . . . a realist[1]?

We have seen that the first thing that distinguishes the modern theory is
that it is based on a historical analysis of the development of machine
industry from capitalist manufacture. Did Mr. N.-on raise the problem of
the development of Russian machine industry? No. True, he did say that it
was preceded by work in the home for the capitalist, and by the
hand-labour "factory"[2]; but he not only failed to explain the relation
of machine industry to the preceding stage, he even failed to "notice"
that it was wrong in scientific terminology to apply the term factory to
the preceding stage (production by hand in the home or in the capitalist's
workshop), which should undoubtedly be described as capitalist

     [1] The word "realist" was used here instead of the word Marxist
exclusively for censorship reasons. For the same reason, instead of
referring to Capital, we referred to Sieber's book, which summarised
Marx's Capital. (Author's footnote to the 1908 edition. -- Ed.)
     [2] P. 108. Quoted from Statistical Returns for Moscow Gubernia, Vol.
VII, Part III, p. 32 (the statisticians here summarise Korsak's Forms of
Industry): "Since 1822 the very organisation of industry has undergone a
complete change -- instead of being independent handicraft producers, the
peasants are becoming merely the performers of several operations of
large-scale factory production and only receive wages."
     [3] Sieber quite rightly indicated that the ordinary terminology
(factory, works, etc.) is unsuitable for scientific research, and urged
the need for drawing a distinction between machine industry and
capitalist manufacture: p. 474.

(ibid, pp. 187-88)

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