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Rosa Luxemburg
The Industrial Development of Poland

Part I:
The History and Present State of Polish Industry

1.5 Poland’s Industrial Market

It has become clear from the foregoing that the Russian market forms the real mainspring of the current industrial development of Poland. It would therefore be interesting to hear more precise statements about the extent of the market for Polish commodities in Russia, but this can be determined only with difficulty. As in the statistics of all nations, there exists in those of Russia a great lack of data on internal trade. Here an overview can be obtained only indirectly and approximately. The official inquiry that took place in 1886 showed that of the 141 largest factories, which together represent a third of all production,

37 factories with   7,061,984 rubles produce exclusively for Poland,
27 factories with   7,480,645 rubles produce exclusively for Russia,
11 factories with 13,224,589 rubles produce chiefly for Poland,
34 factories with 22,824,013 rubles produce chiefly for Russia,
32 factories with 19,311,695 rubles produce half for Poland and half for Russia.

If we assume the expression “chiefly” to be equivalent to two-thirds, then Polish industry’s market can be represented as follows: The 141 factories produce commodities

for Poland to the value of 33,142,228 rubles, equaling 47%;
for Russia to the value of 36,760,698 rubles, equaling 52%.

The general conclusion reached by the commission of inquiry was that Polish factories sell 50 to 55 per cent of their products in Russia. This conclusion also confirms particular statements on the market for the city of Lodz’s textile industry. These were (in poods):

  1884 (crisis)   1885   1886
Poland Russia Poland Russia Poland Russia
Cotton wool and cloth 372,390 1,004,286 321,344 1,115,460 443,565 1,507,259
Yarn      45,290        4,524   63,051      99,951   56,583      90,136
Total 417,680 1,008,810 384,395 1,215,411 500,148 1,597,395

Thus the center of the textile industry was already selling three-fourths of its products in Russia by the middle of the 1880s. In the ten years since the above calculations were made, however, it is probable that this situation has shifted in much greater measure in favor of sales in Russia, since production has grown by roughly half again since then, while the domestic market has obviously been able to increase only relatively little. On the other hand, we have direct evidence that the Polish market opened up new areas in Russia during these ten years, about which we will have more to say later. Thus one can assume as the minimum situation today that two-thirds of the products of Polish industry are absorbed by Russia. Specifically, this market encompasses those branches of industry that form the main stem of large-scale capitalist production in any country: the textile, metal, and coal industries. Naturally a whole series of smaller industrial branches, such as sugar and fancy-goods production, tanning, etc., are also sending their products to Russia in ever growing amounts.

The advance of the Polish market in Russia offers an interesting picture from a geographical standpoint. As was said, this trade began in larger scale only in the 1870s. For a long time, however, it was restricted to only the western and southern gubernias of the Empire – to Lithuania and the Ukraine, thus actually to the old parts of what was then Poland. But in the beginning of the 1880s, Poland conquered a new market in Russia’s south, in so-called New Russia. In the middle of the 1880s, Polish trade makes another step forward. In 1883 the free transit to the Transcaucasus via Batum, agreed to in the Berlin Congress, was abolished and a tariff border erected. With this the Western European countries, above all England, lost a significant market for their products, a market that now went over to Russian and Polish industrialists. In the year 1885 Polish manufactured goods appeared for the first time in the Caucasus; since that time their import of these goods to the three centers of Caucasian trade has grown as follows:

In poods   Batum   Tiflis   Baku
1885-86 39,000   55,000   68,000
1887-88 95,100 200,000 258,000

At the end of the 1880s Polish trade pushed to the northeast – to the Volga region. Polish imports to the center of Volga trade, Tsaritsyn, were:

1887     55,640 poods;
1888   73,729 poods;
1889 106,403 poods.

At the same time Poland began to take part in European-Asiatic trade; its products appeared in the two colossal annual fairs in Nizhni-Novgorod, where large Polish warehouses were built beginning in 1889, and in Irbit. Finally, at the end of the 1880s and the beginning of the 1890s, Polish trade steps onto Asian ground. First, trade relations were entered into with Siberia: in 1888 with Tomsk in West Siberia, in 1892 with Nerchinsk in southeastern Siberia, in 1894 Polish commodities appear in Omsk. During the same time Polish trade in Asia also developed in two other directions, on the one hand to China, on the other to Persia and Asia Minor.

In the course of 20 years, 1870-1890, Polish trade found access step-by-step to every corner of European Russia. This rapid expansion of the market, as we have seen, turned Polish factory production into large-scale industry in 20 years. Since then, however, it has been preparing itself for a new, important undertaking: the conquest of Asian markets. Polish trade has already made several important steps in this direction. This, however, is doubtless only the beginning of a beginning, and the tremendous prospects that are opening to industry thanks to the Trans-Siberian Railway and the powerful effect of Russian policy in Asia mean a new revolution for Polish industry (among other things),a revolution perhaps even more thoroughgoing than that which it experienced in the 1870s. Polish entrepreneurs are preparing themselves in all seriousness for this future and turn their attention persistently to Asia. A museum of the East has been built in Warsaw, which has the special task of making manufacturers thoroughly familiar with the commodities, the tastes, and the requirements of Asia. The prospectus of the new institution reports:

“Sugar and brandy, machines and pipe, glass, faience, and porcelain, shoes, cravats, and gloves, shawls, cotton and linen, which are made here did not go further than to a neighboring gubernia not long ago; today they travel over the Don, the Urals, to the Caucasus, over the Caspian Sea, to China, Persia, and Asia Minor. But in order to extend this as far as possible, our taste cannot be imposed on those for whom the goods are intended; rather they must be adapted to, we must produce what will sell in those markets, where, however, taste is endlessly different from our own ... The type of cloth, the form, the pattern, the favorite colors are different there than here... That which we have produced until now was pre-eminently intended for the civilized emigrant population layers of those countries. The masses stand outside the scope of our industry. However, we want to produce goods that correspond to the taste and the customs of the masses, and therefore we must become acquainted with the needs of these masses.”

This in brief outline is the history of industry in Russian Poland. Beginning with the efforts of the Kingdom of Poland, it attempts from the first moment to take possession of the Russian market. Then, with access to those markets impeded, industry develops slowly and stepbystep. The social crisis that Russia experienced in the 1860s also tears Poland out of its economic stasis and drags it into the whirlpool of capitalist development. With the renewed and this time permanent opening up of the Russian market, Polish industry gains very fertile ground and quickly goes through the process of transformation into large-scale industry. Russia’s tariff policy monopolizes the favors of this enormous market area for Russian and Polish capitalists and engenders feverish capital accumulation. Factory industry becomes the leading factor of Poland’s entire social life, in which a total revolution has also occurred in the last 25 years.

As we have mentioned above, until the 1860s Poland preserved the character of an agricultural country dominated by the landowner class in all areas of public life. The Peasant Reform diminished to a great extent this predominance of noble landed property. The necessity of laying out the money capital now indispensable for operations heavily increased its indebtedness. The supervening general crisis in European agriculture in the 1880s and the fall in the price of grain finished it off.

The whole broad layer of medium-sized noble landed property thus moved, and moves, closer to its own ruin every day. Fifteen per cent of aristocratic property has already passed out of the hands of its owners and into German and Jewish hands; another 15 per cent has been broken up into parcels and sold to peasants. The remaining landed property is burdened with .mortgages amounting to 80 per cent of the value on the average, but in two-fifths of the cases to 100 up to 250 per cent. But at the same time industry grew stronger and stronger, and soon it was to overtake agriculture in all respects. Already in 1880 the value of industrial production was equal to that of grain production. Today it has surpassed grain production by more than double; the former amounts to at least 23 rubles per capita, the latter only 11 rubles. Furthermore, this quantitatively inferior agriculture is wholly reduced to dependence on industry. While Poland was then “a European granary,” a country producing grain principally for the world market, it now hardly satisfies its own needs. Industry created an internal market that devours the entire farm product. If today Poland still exports considerable quantities of wheat, this happens only because she imports still greater quantities of lesser kinds of grain from Russia as substitute. Secondly, agriculture today, in view of the constantly falling price of grain is forced to emancipate itself altogether from pure wheat production and to devote itself more and more to the cultivation of so-called technical crops for industry as well as cattle-breeding. It is unnecessary to emphasize that handicraft, too, where it has not been destroyed directly by the competition of factories, on the contrary lives on factory industry – in part working for it directly, in part profiting from the accumulation of capital and growth in the domestic market that industry brought about. Industry has now become the stem from which all other branches of the country’s material existence draw their life’s blood. Or better put, it is the mainspring around which all aspects of material existence revolve and subordinate themselves: agriculture, handicraft. trade, and transportation. Poland, once the country so very unique in its social relations, has become a typical capitalist country. The mechanical loom and the steam engine have robbed her of her original physiognomy and imprinted on her a leveling international character. Already in 1884 Poland suffered the specifically capitalist disease,its first big crisis. Today, here and there in the awakening labor movement, Polish capitalism’s Hypocratic characteristics are emerging as well.

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Last updated on: 28.11.2008