Rosa Luxemburg
The Industrial Development of Poland

Part 2:
Russia’s Economic Policy in Poland

2.2 Conditions of Industrial Production
in Poland and in Russia

1. Fuel. One of the by far most important conditions of production for any factory industry is fuel. For Polish industry this factor is seen by many researchers as the decisive one in its development, and is regarded as the most important in its competitive struggle with Russian industry. So says the report of the above-mentioned commission of 1886: “Fuel is doubtless that factor of production which makes up the most important difference in the conditions of production of the central gubernias and the Kingdom of Poland.”

Polish industry possesses large and rich collieries, while the center of Russian industry, the Moscow district, lies far away from the collieries of the Donets area and is in the main forced to rely on more expensive wood or peat. “The price of wood in the Moscow gubernia is higher every day, and according to the calculation of Engineer Belikov, costs on the average 11.6 to 13.1 kopeks per pood of wood. Peat, whose use in the factories is growing rapidly and which is already being used in Moscow to the extent of 100,000 cords annually, comes to 12 and even 16 kopeks per pood, mainly due to high transport costs, and its use is in any case only to a factory’s advantage if it is in the close vicinity of the peatbog.”

In Moscow, Russian coal costs 13.3 kopeks (from Tula), 17.5 (from Riazan), and 25 (from the Donets area). English coal also costs 25 kopeks per pood. “How much more relatively expensive the most-used fuels, wood and peat, are – given at the same time the impossibility of replacing them by still more expensive coal – and how vital this question is for Russian industry, can be judged by the following: Average heat production, according to the account of the same Engineer Belikov, is 2,430 degrees (F.C.) to 2,700 degrees for wood, for Moscow peat 1,920 to 2,800 degrees; the same heat production for coal is 3,280 degrees for that from Tula, but for coal from Donets and for English coal it goes far above 5,000 degrees.”

In this connection, Polish industry finds itself in a quite different situation. The average price of coal in the main centers of industry – Sosnowiec, Lodz, and Warsaw – are: 2.4-4.95 kopeks, 11.5 kopeks, and 13 kopeks per pood, thus less than wood in Moscow, while heat production is of course significantly greater.

Calculated per unit of product, outlays for fuel amount to:

per pood of cotton yarn
  in Poland   in Moscow in St. Petersburg
38 kopeks 90 kopeks 53 kopeks

These figures suffice to show the great advantage that Polish industry has in regard to fuel over its Russian competition.

Professor Schulze-Gävernitz nevertheless believes it possible to say that “natural advantages are of no benefit to Polish industry. Certainly cheaper fuel is pointed to, but according to Mendeleyev’s data, compared with the above-mentioned report, this advantage declines to the extent that Moscow goes over to naphtha fuel (one pood of bituminous coal in Lodz, 12-13 kopeks, the same heat value in naphtha, 12.75 kopeks).”

On that, the following should be noted. First, a pood of bituminous coal does not cost 12-13 kopeks in Lodz, as Professor Schulze-Gavernitz says, but 8.75–13.5 (or 8.3–14.7), and a pood of naphtha coal, i.e., a quantity of naphtha corresponding calorifically to a pood of coal, costs not 12.75 kopeks but 13–20 kopeks, thus significantly more than coal in Poland. Second, for the present naphtha makes up only 20.5 per cent of all fuel in the Moscow district – in particular, 29.4 per cent in the cotton industry in the Moscow and Vladimir gubernias – and so cannot influence the conditions of production among the overwhelming majority of the factories in these districts.

But third, as far as the future of this fuel method, Professor Mendeleyev says in his essay dedicated to the naphtha industry: The use of this (naphtha residue) as a fuel today, where there is no possibility of utilizing the bulk of the naphtha obtained (as a result of the lack of a pipeline to carry naphtha from Baku to Batum), is the most natural phenomenon, although a unique and temporary one.” “For normal fuel needs, particularly for fueling steam engines where any sort of fuel is suitable, the use of a fuel as costly as naphtha residue can find wide circulation only temporarily, in those transitional moments of industrial activity in the nation where industry has not had the time to arrange a proper bed for itself; but today in all countries that presumes as its condition – the use of coal.”

And still further. “The use today of 130 million poods of naphtha residue in Russia must be regarded as a temporary phenomenon, which depends, on the one side, on the lack of a market for naphtha on the world market, and, on the other, on the lack of productivity in the extraction of coal and of its distribution throughout Russia, particularly in the center and the southeast.” “The construction of railway lines from the Donets coal district to the Volga, and various measures directed toward utilization of naphtha supplies in Baku and toward cheap export of coal from Donets, form the current tasks of Russia’s industrial development, and must make an end to today’s irrational, widespread use of naphtha residue from Baku for steam boilers.”

The above quotations, which express the opinion of the best judges on this question, suffice in our opinion to demonstrate that in the comparative valuation of fuels in Poland and in Moscow, naphtha fuel in the latter must be disregarded, as a temporary phenomenon. What is now called “naphtha residue” is not some actual production by-product, but the product of the naphtha extraction itself, which is very insufficiently utilized only as a result of the lack of a market, and to a great extent used for fuel rather than lighting: thus among exports from Baku, for every pood of naphtha in, for example, the year 1891 there corresponds 1.40 poods of naphtha residue, and in 1894 as much as 2.73 poods. Thus the so-called residue actually forms the main product, and naphtha on the other hand the by-product.

The abnormality of this phenomenon appears in the quality of the product itself. The “residue” so obtained explodes at 50 degrees, 40 degrees, and even 30 degrees Centigrade, while the normal explosion temperature for actual naphtha residue cannot be lower than 140–120 degrees. Thus also the costly results of cheap fuel: in the course of the years 1893 and 1894, 20 vessels of the Astrakhan Steamship Company that were fueled with “residue” were destroyed by outbreaks of fire. Another disadvantage of naphtha fuel is the fact that this residue, because of its chemical composition, is in fact used in much greater quantities to produce a specific effective heat than should be the case with real naphtha residue. The larger consumption of “residue” sometimes amounts to 40 per cent, and was confirmed by the administration of the Petersburg-Moscow railway line as an established phenomenon.

This makes the most important advantage of naphtha fuel – its cheapness – for the most part completely illusory. Here and there some are already beginning to renounce the use of naphtha residue, as with the Russian South-East railway, which recently returned to coal. Certainly the consumption of naphtha residue in the central industrial district will in the next few years increase before it will decrease, particularly as a result of overproduction and lower prices. With the Russian government’s current vigor in promoting capitalism and pushing aside all obstacles in its way, however, the use of naphtha will soon be reduced to its rational purpose, and factories will be reduced to using wood and coal. In the end, however, Poland’s advantage remains in full force, for “in general fuel is half as expensive in Poland as in Moscow.”

2. Labor power. This aspect of industrial activity is usually cited as proof that Poland has less favorable conditions than does Russia because its labor is more expensive than the latter’s. Wages are in fact significantly higher in Poland than in Russia, specifically:

Cotton Spinning Cotton Weaving Finishing Wool Spinning
for men      18.75% 36%   19% 59%
for women 42% 37% 107% 91%
for children 14% 79%   85% 27%

Wool Weaving Cloth Making Half-wool Weaving Average
for men   31% 13%   60% 32.2%
for women 105% 33% 122% 73.9%
for children 112% 40% 150% 60.0%

Labor time, on the other hand, is significantly longer in Russia than in Poland. “While 13- to 14-hour-long labor is very widespread in Moscow factories, in Poland it is to be found only in nine factories, and in three of these cases only in separate factory sections. While labor time lasting more than 14 hours is absolutely not a rarity in Moscow factories and its outer limit is 16 hours, 14-hour labor time must be described as the outer limit in Poland, and in fact this was found only in two cloth factories.” In general, 10 to 12 hours were worked in 75 per cent of the factories; thus 11 hours can be taken as the average labor time for Poland. In Moscow, the average labor time is more than 12 hours. In Poland, night labor is a rare exception; in Moscow it is wide-spread. And despite the fact that in Poland the number of work-days in the year is 292, while in Moscow it amounts to 286; for Poland there are nevertheless only 3,212 labor-hours per year, while the number in Moscow (figured on the basis of only 12 hours a day) is 3,430 hours, thus 218 hours more.

These two factors, lower wages and long labor time, are usually regarded as important advantages for Moscow industry in its competitive struggle with Polish manufacturing. Yet we believe that this opinion can be shown to be premature and superficial.

First, in comparing wages, usually the wages of male workers in Russia are juxtaposed to those of male workers in Poland, while likewise the wages of female workers in Russia are compared to those of female workers in Poland. This is how the 1886 commission for the investigation of Polish industry, among others, proceeded. This is wrong, as factory inspector Sviatlovski perceived, insofar as, in Poland, female and child labor is far more extensive than in Russia, so that frequently a female worker in Poland stands counterposed to a male worker in Russia; therefore, the wages of male Russian workers must frequently be compared with not those of male but of female Polish workers. In fact, the number of women employed in the Polish textile industry (the industry of most importance to the question of competition) amounts to more than 50 per cent of all factory personnel, while in the Moscow district female labor amounts to only 37 per cent in the cotton industry and only 28 per cent in the wool industry.

If the wages of male workers in Russia are compared with those of female workers in Poland, the picture shifts in many ways to the disadvantage of the Moscow district, or in any case there is an equalization of conditions. The average monthly wages in the textile industry are (in rubles):

  in Poland   in Russia
for men 20.1 15.2
for women 15.3   8.8
for children   8.8   5.5

To obtain true and exact data on relative wage levels in Russia and Poland, it is necessary to consider the composition of the labor force in terms of age and sex in both countries as well as nominal wages. The result thus attained will be in many ways significantly different than the foregoing. This above all is the corrective that should be applied to the usual conclusions drawn from the comparison of wages.

Second, the fact that the Russian worker frequently receives lodging (and here and there even board) from the factory is often disregarded. This applies not only to single but also to married workers, whose families usually live in the same factory barracks. Here heating fuel is likewise provided by the factory. This should be figured into the wages of Russian workers if one wants to make an exact comparison. Thus the difference even in nominal wages is not so greatly to Poland’s disadvantage as would appear from a more superficial comparison.

But far more important are further factors which show that factory labor in Poland is significantly more intensive than in Russia.

The Polish worker is first of all more intelligent and better educated, on the average. Insofar as Professor Yanshul investigated this question, it was shown that in the central district the number of workers who could read and write amounted to 22 to 36 per cent of the total, in Poland to 45 to 65 per cent.

Furthermore, the Polish worker is better fed than the Russian worker, and this is especially true for women. Third, the workforce in Poland is a stable layer of the population, devoted exclusively to factory labor. In Russia, an observable, although gradually decreasing, portion of the workforce is still made up of peasants who return to the land in the summer and exchange precise factory work for crude farm labor.

Fourth, the Polish worker is far more individualized in his way of life than the Russian. As was already mentioned, the latter in many cases lives in factory barracks and is allotted board by the factory. Such a way of life, under certain circumstances, leads to the stunting of individuality. The Russian worker thus remains constantly under the control of his master and is bound by the factory rules even in his private life. The Moscow factory inspector knew of factories where, he reported, singing – whether in workplace or living quarters – is is punished by a fine of five rubles; likewise workers incur a high fine when they pay each other a visit, and so forth. Not infrequently, workers are assigned to an apartment in a damp factory cellar, or in rooms that are so mean that one almost has to go on all fours to get into them. In Poland the situation is different: the worker always runs his own household, and his housing is significantly better overall.

According to the unanimous opinion of all researchers who have made wage labor the subject of their investigation, all the cited factors – education, better housing and food, individual households, in short, everything that raises the living standard of the worker – are of decisive significance for the intensity of his activity.

Finally, piece-rate wages predominate in Poland, which, it is recognized, raises the intensity of labor to the utmost, while in Russia the time wage predominates.

All the above-mentioned factors make it apparent that the labor of Polish factory workers is far more intensive in comparison to that of Russian workers. And this characteristic of the Polish worker so greatly outweighs his higher nominal wages and shorter work time that he turns out to be cheaper to the Polish factory owner than the Russian worker is to his employer.

Reckoned per pood, wages amount to (in rubles):

  for cotton fabrics   for cotton yarn
in Poland 0.77–1.50 0.66–1.20
in Russia 2 and more 0.80–1.50

The difference in the length of the workday in Poland and Russia belongs to the past now that the workday has recently been reduced by law to 11.5 hours. However, the new measure will primarily be to the advantage of the Polish industrialists in their competitive struggle, perhaps for years to come, even if it will, in time, doubtless become a spur to technical development for the Moscow district. For the Russian worker’s productivity, whose lower level depends on so many other factors, will obviously not increase overnight. Just how justified this conclusion is is shown by the fact that already in 1892 the Polish factory owners – in part to show a friendly face to the workers, who in May of that year had mounted an impressive strike in Lodz – went to the government with the request that the workday be reduced to 11 hours throughout the Empire, a project which foundered primarily because of the resistance of the Moscow industrialists.

3. Composition of capital. This important factor is also differently shaped in Poland than in Moscow. In Poland, a firm’s sum of fixed capital is in most cases exceeded by the value of its yearly production, sometimes even two or three times, but on the average the relationship of fixed capital to the value of production is 2:3.2. In Russia, particularly in the central district, this relationship is inverted. Here the value of production (in the same branches of production) is often smaller than fixed capital, at most the same, and only seldom significantly higher. This phenomenon stems from two circumstances. First, far more is spent on buildings for enterprises in Russia than in Poland, because construction materials are very significantly more expensive. Second, however, because the great majority of factories in Russia include their own factory barracks, which never occurs in Poland.

If, therefore, what Marx calls the “organic composition of capital” (the relationship of the constant to the variable portion of capital) is “higher” in Russia than in Poland, this has absolutely nothing to do with the higher stage of development of Russian production, but on the contrary with its primitive plant, for the most part. This makes necessary a series of expenditures that have nothing to do with the actual production process. As a result – all other conditions of production and sale being equal – the Polish industrialists are able to realize a surplus profit from the sale of their goods on the Russian market, in comparison with the Russian entrepreneurs. In addition, Polish labor, as was shown, is far more intensive.

4. The turnover period of capital is much shorter in Poland than in Russia. First, reserves of fuel and raw materials are stocked for long periods. The high prices and the general shortage of fuel in inner Russia mean, for the Russian entrepreneur, the necessity of laying out large sums of money for the purchase of forests or peat bogs. In this way almost every large Moscow factory has put more or less considerable dead capital into forests and bogs. In addition, wood and especially peat are cheaply and easily delivered only in winter; therefore every Moscow factory lays in reserves of these fuels for a full year, even for two years. In Poland, because of the short distances involved, stocks of coal are laid in for only one to four weeks, at most for three months. Similarly, in Russia stocks of raw materials, particularly cotton, are laid in for lengthy periods, in Poland only for two to six months.

Second, the Polish industrialist realizes his product much more quickly than does the Russian entrepreneur. The Poles grant their customers only three to six months’ credit, the Russians 12 to 18 months. The Poles – following the English and German model – produce produce on orders obtained by their traveling agents; the Russians produce according to their own estimates, often stocking for two or three years. This factor also signifies that Polish industrial capital – all other things being equal – is better armed for competitive struggle.

5. The concentration of production is significantly greater in Poland than in Russia. The value of production per factory in those branches of industry not levied with excise duties averaged in rubles:

  1885   1886   1887   1888   1889   1890
in Russia 50,824 52,248 54,601 58,237 58,972 57,578
in Poland 57,875 63,860 71,894 74,051 71,305 71,248

The difference is still greater if particular branches of production are compared. In the coal industry, for example, the situation is as follows. If the number of pits and shafts as well as the quantity of production in Russia are taken to be 100, then one finds in Poland in 1890 6.8 per cent pits, 6.2 per cent shafts, 70.6 per cent production.

With a number of shafts 16 times smaller, therefore, coal extraction in Poland equals more than eleven-sixteenths of Russian coal extraction. Eighty-five per cent of the quantity of the entire yearly production of the Dabrova district (1893) is yielded by five firms.

In other branches, such as the cotton industry, the gross product per factory is greater in Russia. The smaller concentration of this sort of production in Poland has to do with special circumstances, however, which to go into here would lead us into too much detail and which in any case have nothing to do with the degree of technological development, On the contrary, in Poland, as we will soon see, the yearly value of production per worker is in this as in most branches greater than in Russia.

6. The technology of production, lastly, forms the most important difference between Polish and Russian industry. We will compare the most significant branches of production in both countries in terms of technology.

To begin with the textile branch, first the cotton industry shows:

1890   Factories Spindles   Looms Steam
Russia 351 2,819,326 91,545 38,750
Poland   94    472,809 11,084 13,714

1890   Production
(in thousands
of rubles)
Male   Female
Russia 208,581 103,916 83,941
Poland   31,495   10,474   9,535

The technical superiority of the Polish cotton industry is clear from the above comparison. In comparison with the Russian industry, it has: 10 per cent of the workers, 15 per cent of the production. 35 per cent of the steam power.

For every worker there is 1,110 rubles production yearly in Russia and 1,574 rubles in Poland, that is, 42 per cent more. Steam power amounts to 204 for every 1,000 workers in Russia, to 186 for every 1 million rubles of production; it amounts to 685 for every 1,000 workers in Poland, to 439 for every 1 million rubles of production, thus 236 per cent and 136 per cent more, respectively, in Poland.

Finally. the use of female labor is greater in Poland than in Russia. In the latter, female workers make up 44.7 per cent of the personnel, in the former 47.6 per cent. According to other accounts which we noted above and which inspire more confidence because they were determined not by summary bureaucratic statistics but by a special commission, the use of female labor in Poland is much higher, and in Russia, on the contrary, much lower.

Roughly the same result is obtained by comparing the wool industry in Poland and in Russia, This shows:

1890   Factories   Spindles   Looms Steam
Russia 164   77,474 11,784 2,230
Poland 168 245,892   4,016 6,667

1890   Production
(in thousands
of rubles)
Male   Female
Russia 21,585 14,471 7,050
Poland 26,199   8,486 6,670

For Poland, in comparison with Russia, this comes out to: Workers 70.4 per cent, production 121 per cent, steam power 299 per cent; thus for every worker in Russia 1,003 rubles production annually, for every worker in Poland 1,729 rubles, that is, 72 per cent more. Steam power amounts to 104 for every 1,000 workers in Russia, to 103 for every 1 million rubles of production; it amounts to 440 for every 1,000 workers in Poland, to 254 for every 1 million rubles of production.

Thus if we take 100 as the number for the steampower per 1,000 workers or 1 million rubles of production in Russia, then we find the same in Poland to be 323 per cent and 146 per cent more, respectively. In the use of female labor, we see here an even greater difference between Poland and Russia than in the cotton industry, specifically 32.7 per cent female workforce in Russia, 44 per cent in Poland. The technical superiority of the Polish textile industry is even more evident in the fact that higher grades of spinning yarn and finer sorts of cloth are manufactured in Poland in many branches than in Russia.

Let us turn to the second most important branch of capitalist production, the coal industry. We have already made mention of the strong concentration of this branch in Poland. Of the product extracted annually comes:

  Coal in poods
from 1 pit   from 1 shaft
in the South Russian district    678,000    240,000
In Poland 7,500,000 2,985,000
(+1,006%) (+ 1,144%)

(Here and below we compare the Polish coalfields with the South Russian fields in particular, because that is Russia’s biggest reservoir and the most important for the future.)

A corresponding relationship is discovered when the quantity of production, the number of workers employed, and the steam power used are compared:

1890 Steampower Workers Production
(in millions of poods)
Russia   6,701 30,077 213.4
South Russian district   5,856 25,167 183.2
Poland 10,497   8,692 150.8

Thus, while in Poland (1890) one worker raises 17,348 poods of coal a year, in Russia this comes to only 7,096 poods per worker and in the South Russian district in particular, 7,281 poods, approximately two and half times less than in Poland.

for every
1,000 workers
for every
Steam power amounts to:
Russia  223     8
South Russian district  233
Poland 1,208  

From 1890 to 1894, the amount of steam-power in Polish mining rose by more than 50 per cent: from 10,497 to 15,934.

Of the other important branches of industry we want to single out the sugar industry.

Sugar-beet growing itself is carried on in a significantly more rational way in Poland than in the two Russian sugar production districts. For example, the average beet harvest per desyatin in the years 1882-1890 was:

Central Russia   73.2–125.3 berkovez
Southwestern Russia 80.1–114.4 berkovez
Poland 88.0–127.6 berkovez

In the year 1895:

Central Russia   51.1–117.4berkovez
Southwestern Russia 90.0–121.2 berkovez
Poland 94.3–144.5 berkovez

Likewise, the quality of the Polish beet is much higher than the Russian. The sugar content of the juice and its purity are:

1890-91   Sugar content
in juice   Purity
Southwestern district 13.49% 80.85%
Central district 13.63% 78.94%
Poland 14.81% 85.20%

The same superiority of Polish technology is shown by the higher yield of white sugar from the beet juice and the lower yield of molasses

In 1881-82–1890-91 this was on average:

  White sugar   Molasses
Central district 7.0–  9.47% 3.29–4.24%
Southwestern district 7.7–10.48% 3.60–4.31%
Poland 8.2–11.39% 1.53–2.28%

Finally, the utilization of processing by-products is far more intensive and more widespread in the Polish sugar industry than in the Russian. In 1890-91, of 182 factories in the central and southern districts, 10 with 125 osmosis devices conducted the extraction of sugar from molasses by osmosis; of 40 factories in Poland, 24 with 206 osmosis devices.

The above comparative analysis of the most important conditions of production shows that Polish industry is considerably better equipped than Russian and especially central Russian industry. Certainly it is a well-established fact that the Moscow district for its part exhibits an important advantage in the cotton industry, namely the abundance of water, while in this respect the Lodz district suffers from a tremendous shortage, as was mentioned. On the other hand, Poland lags behind in one of the most important branches of the economy – the iron industry – relative to the natural wealth of Russia, so that it must obtain part of the ore and likewise coke for its ironworks from the South Russian region. In addition, metal production in the Donets region is also much more concentrated than in Poland. It is furthermore true that Moscow is located much closer to the important market outlets for the textile industry — the eastern part of Russia and Asia — than Poland is.

However, the advantages which we find in every branch on the Polish side – more capable labor power, cheaper fuel, higher technology in the production process and trade – could in our opinion outweigh numerous advantages of Russian industry. For all the cited factors have an invariant significance, indeed become more decisive in the competitive struggle with every passing day. How very much the significance of industry’s distance from markets has already receded into the background, compared with its technical superiority, was recently proved by the amazing spread of the German market in England, and even in the English colonies. Within one and the same customs zone, of course, the outcome of competition in the market depends to still greater degree on the stage of development of production, i.e., on just those factors which Polish industry has on its side. This is corroborated by, among other things, the fact that the Polish iron industry, for example, despite the above-mentioned dearth of natural advantages, is mounting severe competition to the South Russian iron industry itself, and that the Polish iron industry is developing parallel to the South Russian industry, at the expense of every other district in the Empire. Aside from the Polish industrial sector, industry in St. Petersburg is also shaping up into a progressive and rather highly technically developed Russian industrial region, and it is a particularly favorable circumstance for Poland that in the most important markets it is in competition with the Moscow district – the most anachronistic industrial district in Russia, which is unique in the Empire in its long workday, low wages, truck system, barracks housing of the workforce, enormous stocks of raw materials, in short, its economic backwardness.

The coexistence of such diverse levels of production, as represented by the Polish and St. Petersburg industries on the one side and Moscow industry on the other, is possible only because of two circumstances: first, the size of the Russian market, in which all competitors can still find room for themselves, and second, the hot-house atmosphere created by the customs policy, which has made this enormous market the exclusive monopoly of domestic – Russian and Polish – entrepreneurs.

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Last updated on: 28.11.2008