Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin.

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already used on a large scale, 1000 human beings not
idlers living on 1000 acres could easily, without any
kind of overwork, obtain from that area a luxurious
vegetable and animal food, as well as the flax, wool, silk,
and hides necessary for their clothing. As to what may
be obtained under still more perfect methods also
known but not yet tested on a large scale it is better
to abstain from any forecast : so unexpected are the
recent achievements of intensive culture.

We thus see that the over-population fallacy does
not stand the very first attempt at submitting it to a
closer examination. Those only can be horror-stricken
at seeing the population of this country increase by one
individual every 1000 seconds who think of a human
being as a mere claimant upon the stock of material
wealth of mankind, without being at the same time a
contributor to that stock But we, who see in each new-


born babe a future worker capable of producing much
more than his own share of the common stock we
greet his appearance. We know that a crowded popula-
tion is a necessary condition for permitting man to
increase the productive powers of his labour. We know
that highly productive labour is impossible so long as
men are scattered, few in numbers, over wide territories,
and are thus unable to combine together for the higher
achievements of civilisation. We know what an amount
of labour must be spent to scratch the soil with a primi-
tive plough, to spin and weave by hand ; and we know
also how much less labour it costs to grow the same
amount of food and weave the same cloth with the
help of modern machinery. We also see that it is in-
finitely easier to grow 200,000 Ib. of food on one acre
than to grow them on ten acres. It is all very well
to imagine that wheat grows by itself on the Russian
steppes; but those who have seen how the peasant
toils in the " fertile " black-earth region will have one
desire : that the increase of population may permit the
use of the steam-digger and gardening culture in the
steppes; that it may permit those who are now the
beasts of burden of humanity to raise their backs and to
become at last men.

We must, however, recognise that there are a few
economists fully aware of the above truths. They
gladly admit that Western Europe could grow much
more food than it does ; but they see no necessity nor
advantage in doing so, as long as there are nations
which can supply food in exchange for manufactured
goods. Let us then examine how far this view is correct.

It is obvious that if we are satisfied with merely
stating that it is cheaper to bring wheat from Riga than
to grow it in Lincolnshire, the whole question is settled
in a moment But is it so in reality? Is it really
cheaper to have food from abroad? And, supposing it


is, are we not yet bound to analyse that compound result
which we call price, rather than to accept it as a supreme
and blind ruler of our actions ?

We know, for instance, how French agriculture is
burdened by taxation. And yet, if we compare the
prices of articles of food in France, which herself grows
most of them, with the prices in this country, which im<
ports them, we find no difference in favour of the import-
ing country. On the contrary, the balance is rather in
favour of France, and it decidedly was so for wheat
until the new protective tariff was introduced. As soon
as one goes out of Paris (where the prices are swollen
by a heavy octroi), one finds that every home produce
is cheaper in France than it is in England, and that the
prices decrease further when we go farther East on the

There is, however, another feature still more unfavour-
able for this country : namely, the enormous development
of the class of middlemen who stand between the im-
porter and the home producer on the one side and the
consumer on the other. We have lately heard a good
deal about the quite disproportionate part of the prices
we pay which goes into the middleman's pockets. We
have all heard of the East-end clergyman who was
compelled to become butcher in order to save his
parishioners from the greedy middleman. We read in
the papers that many farmers of the midland counties
do not realise more than gd. for a pound of butter, while
the customer pays from is. 6d. to is. 8d. ; and that from
i Xd. to 2d. for the quart of milk is all that the Cheshire
farmers can get, while we pay 46.. for the adulterated,
and 5d. for the unadulterated milk. An analysis of the
Covent Garden prices and a comparison of the same
with retail prices, which was made some years ago in
the Daily News, proved that the customer pays for
vegetables at the rate of 6d. to is., and sometimes more,
for each penny realised by the grower. But in a


country of imported food it must be so : the grower who
himself sells his own produce disappears from its
markets, and in his place appears the middleman.*
If we move, however, towards the East, and* go to
Belgium, Germany, and Russia, we find that the cost of
living is more and more reduced, so that finally we find
that in Russia, which remains still agricultural, wheat
costs one-half or two-thirds of its London prices, and
meat is sold throughout the provinces at from five to
ten farthings (kopecks) the pound. And we may there-
fore hold that it is not yet proved at all that it is cheaper
to live on imported food than to grow it ourselves.

But if we analyse price, and make a distinction
between its different elements, the disadvantage becomes
still more apparent. If we compare, for instance, the
costs of growing wheat in this country and in Russia,
we are told that in the United Kingdom the hundred-
weight of wheat cannot be grown at less than 8s. /d ;
while in Russia the costs of production of the same
hundredweight are estimated at from 33. 6d. to 43. pd.t
The difference is enormous, and it would still remain
very great even if we admit that there is some exag-
geration in the former figure. But why this difference ?
Are the Russian labourers paid so much less for their

* A few winters ago, a friend of mine, who lived in a London suburb,
used to get his butter from Bavaria per parcel post. It cost him los. the
eleven pounds in Bavaria, parcel post inclusive (as. ad.), 6d. the money
order, and 2$d. the letter; total, less than us. Butter of an inferior
quality (out of comparison), with 10 to 15 per cent, of water inclusive,
was sold in London at is. 6d. the Ib. at the same time.

t The data for the calculation of the cost of production of wheat in
this country are those given by the Mark Lane Express ; they will be
found in a digestible form in an article on wheat-growing in the Quarterly
Review for April, 1887, and in W. E. Bear's book, The British Farmer
and his Competitors, London (Casseli), 1888. Although they are a little
above the average, the crop taken for the calculations is also above the
average. A similar inquiry has been made on a large scale by the
Russian Provincial Assemblies, and the whole is summed up in an elabo-
rate paper, in the Vyestnik Promyshlennosti, No. 49, 1887. To compare
ihe paper kopecks with pence I took the rouble at fa of its nominal
value: such was its average quotation during the year 1886. I took 475
English Ib. in the quarter of wheat.


work ? Their money wages surely are much lower, but
the difference is equalised as soon as we reckon their
wages in produce. The twelve shillings a week of the
British agricultural labourer represents the same amount
of wheat in Britain as 4he six shillings a week of the
Russian labourer represents in Russia,* not to say a
word about the cheapness of meat in Russia and the
low house rent The Russian labourer is thus paid the
same amount of the produce grown as he is paid here.
As to the supposed prodigious fertility of the soil in the
Russian prairies, it is a fallacy. Crops of from sixteen
to twenty-three bushels per acre are considered good
crops in Russia, while the average hardly reaches thir-
teen bushels, even in the corn-exporting parts of the
empire. Besides, the amount of labour which is neces-
sary to grow wheat in Russia with no thrashing-
machines, with a plough dragged by a horse hardly
worth the name, with no roads for transport, and so
on, is certainly much greater than the amount of labour
which is necessary to grow the same amount of wheat
in Western Europe.

When brought to the London market, Russian wheat
was sold in 1887 at 315. the quarter, while it appeared
from the same Mark Lane Express figures that the
quarter of wheat could not be grown in this country
at less than 363. 8d., even if the straw be sold, which is
not always the case. But the difference of the land rent
in both countries would alone account for the difference
of prices. In the wheat belt of Russia, where the

* It results from the detailed figures given by the Agricultural Depart-
ment (The Year 1885 with regard to Agriculture, vol. ii.), that the
average wages of the agricultural labourers were from 180 kopecks a
week in middle Russia to 330 kopecks in the wheat-exporting belt (from
35. gd. to 6s. 6d.), and from 55. 6d. to los. 5d. during the harvest. Since
1885 the wages went up in both countries ; the average wages of the
English labourer were given for 1896 at 133. yd. If the Russian labourer
is so miserable in comparison with the English, it is due chiefly to the
exceedingly high personal taxation and several other causes which cannot
be here treated incidentally.


average rent stands at about I2s. per acre, and the crop
is from fifteen to twenty bushels, the rent amounts to
from 35. 6d. to 55. 8d. in the costs of production of each
quarter of Russian wheat; while in this country, where
the rent and taxes are valued (in the Mark Lane Ex-
press figures) at no less than 40$. per each wheat-
growing acre, and the crop is taken at thirty bushels,
the rent amounts to IDS. in the costs of production of
each quarter.* But even if we take only 305. per acre
of rent and taxes, and an average crop of twenty-eight
bushels, we still have 8s. 8d. out of the sale price of
each quarter of wheat, which goes to the landlord and
the State. If it costs so much more in money to grow
wheat in this country while the amount of labour is so
much less in this country than in Russia, it is due to the
very great height of the land rents attained during the
years 1860-1880. But this growth itself was due to the
facilities for realising large profits on the sale of manu-
factured goods abroad. The false condition of British
rural economy, not the infertility of the soil, is thus the
chief cause of the Russian competition.

Much more ought to be said with regard to the
American competition, and therefore I must refer the
reader to the remarkable series of articles dealing with
the whole of the subject which Schaeffle published in
1886 in the Zeitschrift fur die gesammte Staatswis-
senschaft, and to a most elaborate article on the costs
of growing wheat all over the world which appeared in
April, 1887, in the Quarterly Review. The conclusions
of these two writers are fully corroborated by the yearly
reports of the American Board of Agriculture, and
Schaeffle's previsions were fully supported by the subse-

* The rents have declined since 1887, but the prices of wheat also went
down. It must not be forgotten that as the best acres only are selected
for wheat-growing, the rent for each acre upon which wheat is grown
must be taken higher than the average rent per acre in a farm of from
200 to 300 acres.


quent reports of Mr. J. R. Dodge. It appears from
these works that the fertility of the American soil had
been grossly exaggerated, as the masses of wheat which
America sends to Europe from its north-western farms
are grown on a soil the natural fertility of which is not
higher, and often lower, than the average fertility of the
unmanured European soil. The Casselton farm in
Dakota, with its twenty bushels per acre, is an excep-
tion ; while the average crop of the chief wheat-growing
States in the West is only from eleven to twelve bushels.
If we wish to find a fertile soil in America, and crops
of from thirty to forty bushels, we must go to the old
Eastern States, where the soil is made by man's hands.*
But we shall not find it in the Territories, which are
satisfied with crops of from eight to nine bushels. The
same is true with regard to the American supplies of
meat. Schaeffle has pointed out that the great mass of
live stock which we see in the census of cattle in the
States is not reared in the prairies, but in the stables
of the farms, in the same way as in Europe ; as to the
prairies, we find on them only one-eleventh part of the
American horned cattle, one-fifth of the sheep and one-
twenty-first of the pigs.t " Natural fertility " being thus
out of question, we must look for social causes ; and we
have them, for the Western States, in the cheapness of
land and a proper organisation of production ; and for
the Eastern States in the rapid progress of intensive
high farming.

It is evident that the methods of culture must vary
according to different conditions. In the vast prairies

* L. de Lavergne pointed out as far back as forty years ago that the
States are the chief importers of guano. In 1854 they imported it almost
to the same amount as this country, and they had, moreover, sixty-two
manufactories of guano which supplied it to the amount of sixteen times
the imports. Compare also Ronna's L' agriculture aux Etats Unis, 1881 ;
Lecouteux, Le ble ; and J. R. Dodge's Annual Report of the American
Department of Agriculture for 1885 and 1886. Schaeffle's work is also
summed up in Schmoller's Jahrbuch.

f See also J. R. Dodge's Farm and Factory, New York, 1884


of North America, where land could be bought from 8s.
to 403. the acre, and where spaces of from 100 to 150
square miles in one block could be given to wheat
culture, special methods of culture were applied and
the results were excellent Land was bought not
rented. In the autumn, whole studs of horses were
brought, and the tilling and sowing were done with the
aid of formidable ploughs and sowing machines. Then
the horses were sent to graze in the mountains ; the
men were dismissed, and one man, occasionally two or
three, remained to winter on the farm. In the spring
the owners' agents began to beat the inns for hundreds
of miles rofind, and engaged labourers and tramps, both
freely supplied by Europe, for the crop. Battalions of
men were marched to the wheat fields, and were
camped there ; the horses were brought from the moun-
tains, and in a week or two the crop was cut, thrashed,
winnowed, put iu sacks, by specially invented machines,
and sent to the next elevator, or directly to the ships
which carried it to Europe. Whereupon the men were
disbanded again, the horses were sent back to the
grazing grounds, or sold, and again only a couple of
men remained on the farm.

The crop from each acre was small, but the machinery
was so perfected that in this way 300 days of one man's
labour produced from 200 to 300 quarters of wheat ; in
other words the area of land being of no account
every man produced in one day his yearly bread food
(eight and a half bushels of wheat) ; and taking into
account all subsequent labour, it was calculated that
the work of 300 men in one single day delivered to the
consumer at Chicago the flour that is required for the
yearly food of 250 persons. Twelve hours and a half
of work are thus required in Chicago to supply one man
with his yearly provision of wheat-flour.

Under the special conditions offered in the Far West
this certainly was an appropriate method for increasing


all of a sudden the wheat supplies of mankind. It
answered its purpose when large territories of unoccupied
land were opened to enterprise. But it could not answer
for ever. Under such a system of culture the soil was
soon exhausted, the crop declined, and intensive agri-
culture (which aims at high crops on a limited area) had
soon to be resorted to. Such was the case in Iowa in
the year 1878. Up till then, Iowa was an emporium
for wheat-growing on the lines just indicated. But the
soil was already exhausted, and when a disease came
the wheat plants had no force to resist it. In a few
weeks nearly all the wheat crop, which was expected to
beat all previous records, was lost ; eight to ten bushels
per acre of bad wheat were all that could be cropped
The result was that " mammoth farms " had to be broken
up into small farms, and that the Iowa farmers (after a
terrible crisis of short duration everything is rapid in
America) took to a more intensive culture. Now, they
are not behind France in wheat culture, as they already
grow an average of sixteen and a half bushels per acre
on an area of more than 2,000,000 acres, and they will
soon win ground. Somehow, with the aid of manure
and improved methods of farming they compete ad-
mirably with the mammoth farms of the Far West
/"In fact, over and over again it was pointed out, by
Schaeffle, Semler, Oetken, and many other writers, that
the force of " American competition " is not in its mam-
moth farms, but in the countless small farms upon which
wheat is grown in the same way as it is grown in
Europe, i.e. t with manuring, but with a better organised
production and facilities for sale, and without being com-
pelled to pay to the landlord a toll of one-third part, or
more, of the selling price of each quarter of wheat
However, it was only after I had myself made a tour
in the prairies of Manitoba that I could realise the full
truth of the just-mentioned views. The 15,000,000 to
20,000,000 bushels of wheat, which are exported every


year from Manitoba, are grown almost entirely in farms
of one or two "quarter-sections," i.e., of 1 60 and 320
acres. The ploughing is made in the usual way, and in
an immense majority of cases the farmers buy the reap-
ing and binding machines (the " binders ") by associating
in groups of four. The thrashing machine is rented by
the farmer for one or two days, and the farmer carts his
wheat to the elevator with his own horses, either to
sell it immediately or to keep it at the elevator if he is
in no immediate need of money and hopes to get a
higher price in one month or two. In short, in Mani-
toba one is especially struck with the fact thar7~~Sven
under a system of keen competition, the middle-size farm
admirably well competes with the mammoth farm, and
that it is not manufacturing wheat on a grand scale
which pays best. It is also most interesting to note that
thousands and thousands of farmers produce mountains
of wheat in the Canadian province of Toronto and in
the Eastern States, although the land is not prairie-
land at all, and the farms are, as a rule, small.

The force of " American competition " is thus not in
the possibility of having hundreds of acres of wheat in
one block. It lies in the ownership of the land, in a
system of culture which is appropriate to the character
of the country, in a widely developed spirit of associ-
ation, and, finally, in a number of institutions and
customs intended to lift the agriculturist and his pro-
fession to a high level which is unknown in Europe.

In Europe we do not realise at all what is done in
the States and Canada in the interests of agriculture.
In every American State, and in every distinct region
of Canada, there is an experimental farm, and all the
work of preliminary experiment upon new varieties of
wheat, oats, barley, fodder and fruit, which the farmer
has mostly to make himself in Europe, is made under
the best scientific conditions at the experimental farms,
on a small scale first and on a large scale next The


results of all these researches and experiments are not
merely rendered accessible to the farmer who would
like to know them, but they are brought to his know-
ledge, and, so to speak, are forced upon his attention
by every possible means. The " Bulletins " of the ex-
perimental stations are distributed in hundreds of
thousands of copies; visits to the farms are organised
in such a way that thousands of farmers should inspect
the stations every year, and be shown by specialists the
results obtained, either with new varieties of plants or
under various new methods of treatment Correspon-
dence is carried on with the farmers on such a scale that,
for instance, at Ottawa, the experimental farm sends out
every year a hundred thousand letters and packets.
Every farmer can get, free of charge and postage, three
pounds of seed of any variety of cereals, out of which he
can get next year the necessary seed for sowing several
acres. And, finally, in every small and remote township
there are held farmers' meetings, at which special lec-
turers, who are sent out by the experimental farms or
the local agricultural societies, discuss with the farmers
in an informal way the results of last year's experiments
and discoveries relative to every branch of agriculture,
horticulture, cattle-breeding, dairying and agricultural

American agriculture really offers an imposing sight
Not in the wheat fields of the far West, which soon
will become a thing of the past, but in the development
of rational agriculture and the forces which promote
it Read the description of an agricultural exhibition,
" the State's fair," in some small town of Iowa, with its
70,000 farmers camping with their families in tents
during the fair's week, studying, learning, buying and
selling, and enjoying life. You see a national fte, and

* Some additional information on this subject will be found in the
articles of mine: " Some Resources of Canada," and "Recent Science,"
in The Nineteenth Century, January, 1898, and October, 1897.


you_feeL that you deal with a nation in which agriculture
is in respect Or read the publications of the scores of
experimental stations, whose reports are distributed
broadcast over the country, and are read by the farmers
and discussed at countless " farmers' meetings ". Con-
sult the " Transactions " and " Bulletins " of the count-
less agricultural societies, not royal but popular ; study
the grand enterprises for irrigation ; and you will feel
that American agriculture is a real force, imbued with
life, which no longer fears mammoth farms, and needs
not to cry like a child for protection.

" Intensive " agriculture and gardening are already by
this time as much a feature of the treatment of the soil
in America as they are in Belgium. As far back as
the year 1880, nine States, among which were Georgia,
Virginia and the two Carolinas, bought 5, 7 50,000 worth
of artificial manures ; and we are told that by this time
the use of artificial manure has immensely spread
towards the West. In Iowa, where mammoth farms
used to exist twenty years ago, sown grass is already
in use, and it is highly recommended by both the Iowa
Agricultural Institute and the numerous local agricul-
tural papers ; while at the agricultural competitions the
highest awards are given, not for extensive farming,
but for high crops on small areas. Thus, at a recent
competition in which hundreds of farmers took part,
the first ten prizes were awarded to ten farmers who had
grown, on three acres each, from 262 to 346^ bushels
of Indian corn, in other words from 8j to 7/5 bushels
to the acre. This shows where the ambition of the
Iowa farmer goes. In Minnesota the prizes were given
two years ago for crops of 300 to 1 120 bushels of pota-
toes to the acre, i.e., from eight and a quarter to thirty-
one tons to the acre, while the average potato crop in
Great Britain is only six tons.

At the same time market-gardening is immensely
extending in America. In the market-gardens of Florida



we see such crops as 445 to 600 bushels of onions per
acre, 400 bushels of tomatoes, 700 bushels of sweet
potatoes, which testify to a high development of culture.
As to the " truck farms " (market-gardening for export
by steamer and rail), they covered, in 1892, 400,000
acres, and the fruit farms in the suburbs of Norfolk,
in Virginia, were described by Prof. Ch. Baltet * as real
models of that sort of culture a very high testimony

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Online LibraryPetr Alekseevich KropotkinFields, factories, and workshops; or, Industry combined with agriculture and brain work with manual work → online text (page 7 of 22)