It goes without saying that Sismondi could not but realise how actual development was proceeding. Therefore, in demanding “encouragement for small farming” (II, 355), he plainly said that it was necessary “to direct agriculture along a road diametrically opposite to that which it is following in England today” (II, 354–55).
“Happily, England possesses means for doing a great deal for her rural poor by dividing among them her vast common lands (ses immenses communaux ). . . . If her common lands were divided up into free allotments (en propriêtês franches ) of twenty to thirty acres they” (the English) “would see the revival of that proud and independent class of countrymen, the yeomanry, whose almost complete extinction they now deplore” (II, 357-58).
The “plans” of romanticism are depicted as very easily realisable—precisely because they ignore real interests, and this is the essence of romanticism. “Such a proposal” (to allot small plots of land to day labourers and to impose the duty of guardianship over the latter upon the landowners) “will probably rouse the indignation of the big landowners, who alone enjoy legislative power today in England; nevertheless, it is a just one. . . . The big landowners alone need the services of day labourers; they created them—let them, therefore, maintain them” (II, 357).
One is not surprised to read such naïve things written at the beginning of the century: the “theory” of romanticism conforms to the primitive state of capitalism in general, which conditioned such a primitive point of view. At that time there was still conformity between the actual development of capitalism—the theoretical conception of it—and the attitude towards capitalism, and Sismondi, at all events, appears as a writer who is consistent and true to himself.
“We have already shown,” says Sismondi, “the protection that this class” (i.e., the class of artisans) “once found in the establishment of guilds and corporations (des jurandes et des maïtrises ). . . . We are not proposing that their strange and restrictive organisation should be restored. . . . But the legislator should set himself the aim of increasing the reward for industrial labour, of extricating those engaged in industry from the precarious (prêcaire ) position in which they are living and, finally, of making it easier for them to acquire what they call a status (un êtat ). . . . Today, the workers are born and die workers, whereas formerly, the status of worker was merely the preliminary stage, the first rung to a higher status. It is this ability to advance (cette facultê progressive ) that it is important to restore. Employers must be given an incentive to promote their workers to a higher status; to arrange it so that a man who hires himself to work in a manufactory shall actually start by working simply for wages, but that he should always have the hope, provided his conduct is good, of sharing in the profits of the enterprise” (II, 344-45).
It would be difficult to express the viewpoint of the petty bourgeois more strikingly! The guilds are Sismondi’s ideal, and the reservation he makes about the undesirability of restoring them obviously means only that the principle, the idea of the guilds should be taken (exactly as the Narodniks want to take the principle, the idea of the village community, and not the contemporary fiscal association called the village community) and that its monstrous medieval features should be discarded. The absurdity of Sismondi’s plan is not his wholesale defence of the guilds, nor his wanting to restore them in their entirety—he did not set out to do that. The absurdity lies in his making his model an association which arose out of the local artisans’ narrow, primitive need for organisation, and wanted to apply this yardstick, this model, to capitalist society, whose organising, socialising element is large-scale machine industry, which breaks down medieval barriers and obliterates differences of place, origin and trade. Appreciating the need for association, for organisation in general, in one form or another, the romanticist takes as a model the association which satisfied the narrow need for organisation in patriarchal, immobile society, and wants to apply it to a totally transformed society, a society with a mobile population, and with labour socialised within the bounds not of a village community, or a corporation, but of a whole country, and even beyond the bounds of a single country.
It is this mistake that quite justly earns for the romanticist the designation of reactionary, although this term is not used to indicate a desire simply to restore medieval institutions, but the attempt to measure the new society with the old patriarchal yardstick, the desire to find a model in the old order and traditions, which are totally unsuited to the changed economic conditions.
Ephrucy understood nothing of this circumstance. He understood the characterisation of Sismondi’s theory as reactionary in the crude, vulgar sense. Ephrucy was abashed. . . . What do you mean? he argued, how can Sismondi be called a reactionary when he plainly says that he does not want to restore the guilds? And Ephrucy decided that it was unfair to “accuse” Sismondi of being “retrogressive,” that, on the contrary, Sismondi’s attitude “to the guild organisation was correct” and that he “fully appreciated its historical importance” (No. 7, p. 147), as has been proved, he says, by the historical researches of such and such professors into the good sides of the guild organisation.
Quasi-scientific writers often possess an amazing ability not to see the wood for the trees! Sismondi’s point of view on the guilds is characteristic and important precisely because he links his practical proposals with them. That is why his theory is described as reactionary. But Ephrucy begins to talk without rhyme or reason about modern historical works on the guilds!
The result of these inappropriate and quasi-scientific arguments was that Ephrucy by-passed the very substance of the question, namely: is it or is it not fair to describe Sismondi’s theory as reactionary? He overlooked the very thing that is most important—Sismondi’s point of view. “I have been accused,” says Sismondi, “of being an enemy of social progress in political economy, a partisan of barbarous and coercive institutions. No, I do not want what has already been, but I want something better than the present. I can not judge the present otherwise than by comparing it with the past, but I am far from wishing to restore the old ruins when I refer to them in order to demonstrate the eternal needs of society” (II, 433). The wishes of the romanticists are very good (as are those of the Narodniks). Their recognition of the contradictions of capitalism places them above the blind optimists who deny the existence of these contradictions. And it is not because he wanted to return to the Middle Ages that he was regarded as a reactionary, but because, in his practical proposals, he “compared the present with the past” and not with the future; because he “demonstrated the eternal needs of society” by referring to “ruins” and not by referring to the trends of modern development; It was this petty-bourgeois viewpoint of Sismondi’s which sharply distinguishes him from the other authors, who also demonstrated, in his time and after, the “eternal needs of society,” that Ephrucy failed to understand.
This mistake of Ephrucy’s was due to the very same narrow interpretation of the terms “petty-bourgeois” doctrine and “reactionary” doctrine referred to above in connection with the first of these terms. They by no means imply the selfish greed of the small shopkeeper, or a desire to halt social development, to turn back: they simply indicate the given author’s mistaken point of view, his limited understanding and narrow outlook, which prompt the choice of means (for the achievement of very good aims) that cannot be effective in practice, and that can satisfy only the small producer or be of service to the defenders of the past. Sismondi, for example, is not at all a fanatical advocate of small proprietorship. He understands the need for organisation and for association no less than our contemporary Narodniks do. He expresses the wish that “half the profits” of industrial enterprises should be “distributed among the associated workers” (II, 346). He openly advocates a “system of association” under which all the “achievements of production benefit the one engaged in it” (II, 438). In speaking of the relation between his doctrine and the doctrines, then well known, of Owen, Fourier, Thompson and Muiron, Sismondi says: “I, like they, want to see association instead of mutual opposition among those who produce a given article in common. But I do not think that the means which they proposed for the achievement of this object could ever lead to it” (II, 365).
The difference between Sismondi and these authors is precisely one of viewpoint. It is quite natural, therefore, that Ephrucy, who does not understand this viewpoint, should completely misinterpret Sismondi’s attitude to these authors.
“That Sismondi exercised too little influence upon his contemporaries,” we read in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 8, p. 57, “that the social reforms he proposed were not put into effect, is due mainly to the fact that he was a long way ahead of his time. He wrote at a time when the bourgeoisie was enjoying its honeymoon. . . . Naturally, under these circumstances, the voice of a man who was demanding social reforms could not but remain a voice crying in the wilderness. But we know that posterity has not treated him much better. This, perhaps, is due to Sismondi’s having been, as we have already said above, an author who wrote in a transitional period; although he wanted big changes, he could not completely discard the past. Moderate people therefore thought he was too radical, whereas in the opinion of the representatives of more extreme trends, he was too moderate.”
Firstly, to say that Sismondi was “ahead of his time” with the reforms he proposed indicates a complete misunderstanding of the very substance of the doctrine of Sismondi, who himself stated that he compared the present with the past. One must indeed be infinitely short-sighted (or in finitely partial to romanticism) to overlook the general spirit and general significance of Sismondi’s theory only because Sismondi favoured factory legislation, and so forth.
Secondly, Ephrucy thus assumes that the difference between Sismondi and the other authors is only in the degree of radicalness of the reforms they proposed: they went further, but he did not entirely discard the past.
That is not the point. The difference between Sismondi and these authors is a much deeper one—it is not that some went further and others were timid, but that they regarded the very character of reforms from two diametrically opposite points of view. Sismondi demonstrated the “eternal needs of society.” So, too, did these authors. Sismondi was a utopian, he based his proposals on an abstract idea and not on real interests. So were these authors; they also based their plans on an abstract idea. But it was the character of their respective plans that differed entirely, because they regarded modern economic development, which presented the question of “eternal needs,” from diametrically opposite angles. The authors referred to anticipated the future; with the foresight of genius they divined the trend that would be taken by the “break-up” which the machine industry of that period was effecting before their eyes. They looked in the direction in which development was in fact proceeding; they, indeed, were ahead of that development. Sismondi, however, turned his back on this development; his utopia did not anticipate the future, but restored the past; he did not look forward, he looked backward, and dreamed of “stopping the break-up,” that very “break-up” from which the authors mentioned deduced their utopias. That is why Sismondi’s utopia is regarded—and quite rightly—as reactionary. The grounds for this characterisation, we repeat once again, are merely that Sismondi did not understand the progressive significance of that “break-up” of the old semi-medieval, patriarchal social relations in the West European countries which at the end of last century large-scale machine industry began to effect.
This specific viewpoint of Sismondi’s can be discerned even in his arguments about “association” in general. “I want,” he says, “the ownership of the manufactories (la propriêtê des manufactures) to be shared among a large number of medium capitalists, and not concentrated in the hands of one man who owns many millions. . .” (II, 365). The viewpoint of the petty bourgeois is still more strikingly reflected in the following utterance: “Not the poor class, but the day-labourer class should be abolished; it should be brought back to the propertied class” (II, 308) To be “brought back” to the propertied class—these words express the sum and substance of Sismondi’s doctrine!
It goes without saying that Sismondi himself must have felt that his fine wishes were impracticable, he must have been conscious that they were incompatible with the contemporary conflict of interests. “The task of reuniting the interests of those who associate in the same process of production (qui concourent à la même production ). . . is undoubtedly a difficult one, but I do not think this difficulty is as great as is supposed” (II, 450). The consciousness of this incompatibility of his desires and aspirations and the actual conditions and their development naturally stimulates the desire to prove that it is “not yet too late. . . to go back,” and so forth. The romanticist tries to base himself upon the undeveloped state of the contradictions of the existing system, upon the backwardness of the country. “The nations have won a system of freedom into which we have entered” (this refers to the fall of feudalism); “but at the time they destroyed the yoke that they had borne for so long, the labourers (les hommes de peine ) were not bereft of all property. In the rural districts they possessed land for a half share in the crops, were chinsh peasants (censitaires), and tenant farmers (ils se trouverent associês à la propriêtê du sol ). In the towns, as members of corporations and trade guilds (mêtiers ) which they formed for mutual protection, they were independent tradesmen (ils se trouverent associês à la propriêtê de leur industrie ). Only in our days, only in the most recent times (c’est dans ce moment même) is the progress of wealth and competition breaking up all these associations. But this break-up (rêvolution) is not yet half accomplished” (II, 437).
“True, only one nation is in this unnatural position today; only in one nation do we see this permanent contrast between apparent wealth (richesse apparente ) and the frightful poverty of a tenth of the population, which is forced to live on public charity. But this nation, so worthy of emulation in other respects, so dazzling even in its errors, has, by its example, tempted all the statesmen of the Continent. And if these reflections cannot now benefit her, I shall at least, I think, render a service to mankind and to my fellow countrymen by pointing to the danger of the path she is following, and by showing from her own experience that to base political economy on the principle of unrestricted competition means to sacrifice the interests of mankind to the simultaneous operation of all personal passions” (II, 368). That is how Sismondi concludes his Nouveaux Principes.
The general significance of Sismondi and of his theory was distinctly formulated by Marx in the following comment, which first outlines the conditions of West-European economic life that gave rise to such a theory (and did so exactly at the time when capitalism was only just beginning to create large-scale machine industry there), and then gives an appraisal of it.
“The medieval burgesses and the small peasant proprietors were the precursors of the modern bourgeoisie. In those countries which are but little developed, industrially and commercially, these two classes still vegetate side by side with the rising bourgeoisie.
“In countries where modern civilisation has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie and ever renewing itself as a supplementary part of bourgeois society. The individual members of this class, however, are being constantly hurled down into the proletariat by the action of competition, and, as modern industry develops, they even see the moment approaching when they will completely disappear as an independent section of modern society, to be replaced, in manufactures, agriculture and commerce, by overlookers, bailiffs and shopmen.
“In countries like France, where the peasants constitute far more than half of the population, it was natural that writers who sided with the proletariat against the bourgeoisie should use, in their criticism of the bourgeois regime, the standard of the peasant and petty bourgeois, and from the standpoint of these intermediate classes should take up the cudgels for the working class. Thus arose petty-bourgeois Socialism. Sismondi was the head of this school, not only in France but also in England.
“This doctrine dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the conditions of modern production. It laid bare the hypocritical apologies of economists. It proved, incontrovertibly, the disastrous effects of machinery and division of labour; the concentration of capital and land in a few hands; overproduction and crises; it pointed out the inevitable ruin of the petty bourgeois and peasant, the misery of the proletariat, the anarchy in production, the crying inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the industrial war of extermination between nations, the dissolution of old moral bonds, of the old family relations, of the old nationalities.
“In its positive aims, however, this form of Socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange, within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and utopian.
“Its last words are: corporate guilds for manufacture; patriarchal relations in agriculture.”
We tried to prove that this description is correct as we examined each separate item of Sismondi’s doctrine. Here let us merely note the curious trick employed by Ephrucy to crown all the blunders he made in his exposition, criticism and appraisal of romanticism. The reader will remember that at the very beginning of his article (in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 7), Ephrucy stated that it was “unfair” and “incorrect” to include Sismondi among the reactionaries and utopians (loc. cit., p. 138). To prove this thesis Ephrucy firstly contrived to say nothing at all about the main thing—the connection between Sismondi’s point of view and the position and interests of a special class in capitalist society, the small producers; secondly, in examining the various tenets of Sismondi’s theory Ephrucy in part presented his attitude to modern theory in a totally wrong light, as we have shown above, and in part, simply ignored the modern theory and defended Sismondi with references to German scholars who “went no further” than Sismondi; thirdly and lastly, Ephrucy was pleased to sum up his appraisal of Sismondi in the following way: “Our (!) opinion of the importance of Simonde de Sismondi,” he says, “we can (!!) sum up in the following words” of a German economist (Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 8, p. 57), and then follows the passage indicated above, i.e., only a part of the characterisation given by that economist; but the part which explains the connection between Sismondi’s theory and a special class in modern society, and the part where the final conclusion is drawn that Sismondi is reactionary and utopian, are omitted! More than that. Ephrucy did not confine himself to taking a fragment of the comment, which gives no idea of the comment as a whole, and thereby presenting this economist’s attitude towards Sismondi in a totally wrong light; he tried, further, to embellish Sismondi, while pretending that he was merely conveying the opinion of that economist.
“Let us add to this,” says Ephrucy, “that in some of his theoretical views, Sismondi is the predecessor of the most outstanding modern economists : let us recall his views on revenue from capital and on crises, his classification of national revenue, and so forth” (ibid.). Thus, instead of supplementing this German economist’s reference to Sismondi’s merits with the same economist’s reference to Sismondi’s petty-bourgeois point of view, and to the reactionary character of his utopia, Ephrucy supplements the list of Sismondi’s merits with precisely those parts of his theory (such as his “classification of the national revenue”) which, in the opinion of this same economist, contain not a single scientific word.
We may be told: Ephrucy may not in the least share the opinion that the explanation of economic doctrines must be sought in economic reality; he may be profoundly convinced that A. Wagner’s theory of the “classification of the national revenue” is the “most outstanding” theory. We are quite willing to believe this. But what right had he to flirt with the theory which the Narodnik gentlemen are so fond of saying they “agree” with, when in fact, he completely misunderstood that theory’s attitude to Sismondi, and did everything possible (and even impossible) to present this attitude in a totally wrong light?
We would not have devoted so much space to this question had it concerned only Ephrucy—an author whose name we meet in Narodnik literature perhaps for the first time. It is not Ephrucy’s personality, nor even his views, that are important for us, but the Narodniks’ attitude in general towards the theory of the famous German economist which, they claim, they agree with. Ephrucy is by no means an exception. On the contrary, his is quite a typical case, and to prove this we have throughout drawn a parallel between Sismondi’s viewpoint and theory and Mr. N.-on’s viewpoint and theory. The similarity proved to be complete: the theoretical views, the viewpoint regarding capitalism, and the character of the practical conclusions and proposals of both authors proved to be identical. And as Mr. N.-on’s views may be described as the last word in Narodism, we have a right to conclude that the economic theory of the Narodniks is but a Russian variety of European romanticism.
It goes without saying that Russia’s specific historic and economic features, on the one hand, and her incomparably greater backwardness, on the other, lend Narodism particularly marked distinctive features. But these distinctions are no more than those between varieties within the same species and, therefore, do not disprove the similarity between Narodism and petty-bourgeois romanticism.
Perhaps the most outstanding and striking distinction is the effort the Narodnik economists make to disguise their romanticism by stating that they “agree” with modern theory and by referring to it as often as possible, although this theory sharply disapproves of romanticism and has grown up in the course of a fierce struggle against petty-bourgeois doctrines of every variety.
The analysis of Sismondi’s theory is of special interest precisely because it provides an opportunity to examine the general methods used in wearing this disguise.
We have seen that both romanticism and the modern theory indicate the same contradictions existing in contemporary social economy. The Narodniks take advantage of this when they point to the fact that modern theory recognises the contradictions which manifest themselves in crises, in the quest for a foreign market, in the growth of production simultaneously with a decline in consumption, in protective tariffs, in the harmful effects of machine industry, and so on, and so forth. And the Narodniks are quite right: modern theory does indeed recognise all these contradictions, which romanticism also recognised. But the question is: has a single Narodnik ever asked wherein lies the difference between the scientific analysis of these contradictions, which reduces them to the different interests that spring from the present system of economy, and the utilisation of these references to contradictions merely in order to utter good wishes? No, we do not find a single Narodnik who has examined this question of the difference between the modern theory and romanticism. The Narodniks likewise utilise their references to contradictions merely in order to utter good wishes.
The next question is: has a single Narodnik ever asked wherein lies the difference between the sentimental criticism of capitalism and the scientific, dialectical criticism of it? Not one of them has raised this question of the second major difference between modern theory and romanticism. Not one of them has considered it necessary to use the present development of social and economic relations as the criterion of his theories (yet it is the application of this criterion that constitutes the chief distinguishing feature of scientific criticism).
And the last question is: has a single Narodnik ever asked wherein lies the difference between the viewpoint of romanticism, which idealises small production and bewails the “break-up” of its foundations by “capitalism,” and the viewpoint of the modern theory, which takes large-scale capitalist machine production as its point of departure and proclaims this “break-up of foundations” to be progressive? (We employ this generally accepted Narodnik term. It vividly describes the process of change in social relations resulting from the influence of large-scale machine industry which everywhere, and not only in Russia, has taken place with an abruptness and sharpness that have astonished public opinion.) Again no. Not a single Narodnik has asked himself this question, not one of them has attempted to apply to the Russian “break-up” those yardsticks which made people acknowledge the West-European “break up” as progressive. They all weep about the foundations, advise that this break-up be stopped, and assure us through their tears that this is the “modern theory.”. . .
The comparison of Sismondi’s theory and their “theory,” which they have presented as a new and independent solution of the problem of capitalism based on the last word of West European science and life, clearly demonstrates to what a primitive stage of the development of capitalism and public thought the origin of that theory belongs. But the point is not that this theory is old. There are quite a few very old European theories that would be very new for Russia. The point is that even when that theory appeared, it was a petty-bourgeois and reactionary theory.
 Cf. Mr. V.V.’s Narodnik programme “to drag history along another line.” Cf. Volgin, loc. cit., p. 181. —Lenin
 The word is in English in the original. –Ed. —Lenin
 Author’s italics. —Lenin
 An exactly similar mistake is made by the Narodniks in relation to another association (the village community), which satisfied the narrow need of association of local peasants linked to each other by the joint ownership of land, pastures, etc. (but chiefly by the joint rule of the landlords and bureaucrats), but which does not in any way satisfy the needs of the commodity economy and capitalism that breaks down all local, social-estate and other such barriers and introduces a profound economic antagonism of interests within the village community. The need for association, for organisation, has not diminished in capitalist society; on the contrary in has grown immeasurably. But it is utterly absurd to use the old yardstick for the purpose of satisfying this need of the new society. This new society is already demanding, firstly, that the association shall not be according to locality, social estate, or other such category; secondly, that its starting-point shall be the difference in status and interests that has been created by capitalism and by the differentiation of the peasantry. Local, social-estate association, on the other hand, which links together peasants who differ sharply from each other in economic status and interests, now, because of its compulsory nature, becomes harmful for the peasants themselves and for social development as a whole. —Lenin
 See above, at least the title of the chapter from which we quoted the arguments about the guilds (quoted also by Ephrucy: p 147). —Lenin
 The fact that he demonstrated the existence of these needs places him, we repeat, far above the narrow-minded bourgeois economists. —Lenin
 But even on this subject Sismondi was not “ahead” of his day for he merely approved of what was already being practised in England, but was unable to understand the connection that existed between these changes and large-scale machine industry and the progressive historical work it was doing. —Lenin
 We do not wish to say that there is no difference in this respect between the authors referred to, but it does not explain the point and misrepresents the relation between Sismondi and the other authors: it is made to appear that they held the same point of view and differed only in the radicalness and consistency of the conclusions they drew. But the point is not that Sismondi “did not go” so far, but that he “went” back, whereas the other authors referred to “went” forward. —Lenin
 “Robert Owen,” says Marx, “the father of Co-operative Factories and Stores, but who. . . in no way shared the illusions of his followers with regard to the bearing (Tragweite ) of these isolated elements of transformation, not only practically made the factory system the sole foundation of his experiments, but also declared that system to be theoretically the starting-point of the ‘social revolution.’” —Lenin
 “The task which Russian society has to fulfil is becoming more and more complicated every day. Capitalism is extending its conquests day after day. . .” (ibid.). —Lenin
 “Russian society has to fulfil a great task, one that is extremely difficult but not impossible—to develop the productive forces of the population in such a form as to benefit not an insignificant minority, but the entire people” (N.-on, 343). —Lenin
 Cf. quotations in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 8, p. 57, and also Mr. N.-on’s article in Russkoye Bogatstvo, No. 6, p. 94. —Lenin
 Ephrucy quotes this passage in No. 8 of Russkoye Bogatstvo, p. 57 (from the beginning of this paragraph). —Lenin
 Cf. Russkoye Bogatstvo, 1894, No. 6, p. 88, article referred to. In the translation of this passage Mr. N.-on is guilty of two mistranslations and of one omission. Instead of “petty-bourgeois” and “petty-peasant” he translates “narrow-burgher and “narrow-peasant.” Instead of “cudgels for the workers” he translates “cudgels for the people,” although in the original we have the word Arbeiter. (In the English translation of 1888, authorized by Engels, it is “working class.” –Ed.) He omitted the words: “were bound to be exploded” (gesprengt werden mussten). —Lenin
 Such as Adolph Wagner?—K. T. —Lenin
 Mr. V. V., another Narodnik economist, is quite in accord with Mr. N.-on on the extremely important questions referred to above, and differs from him only in that his point of view is even more primitive. —Lenin
 Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Moscow, 1956, pp. 503-04.
In the 1897 and 1898 editions, because of the censorship, Lenin replaced the words social revolution” (der sozialen Revolution) by the words “social transformation.” In the 1908 edition Lenin translated the words as “social revolution.” This correction has been made in the present edition.
 Chinsh peasants—those entitled to the hereditary possession of the land in perpetuity, and who had to pay an almost fixed quit-rent, known as chinsh. In tsarist Russia, the chinsh system operated mainly in Poland, Lithuania, Byelorussia, and the Black Sea littoral of the Ukraine.
 Marx and Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party. Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 57.