Rosa Luxemburg
The Industrial Development of Poland

Part I:
The History and Present State of Polish Industry

1.2 The Transition to
Large-Scale Industry, 1850-1870

We have become acquainted with the first beginnings and development of industry in Poland within the internal market. We have seen that it owes its start to the efforts of the government, and that as a result of the limited internal market it was not able to divest itself of the manufacturing form even into the 1850s. But here the first epoch of its history ends, and a new page begins. Beginning in the 1850s a series of new circumstances arose which, although in themselves very diverse, ultimately had the effect that the Russian market was opened up to Polish production, which was thus assured a mass market. This gradually brought about a complete revolution in Polish industry and transformed it from manufacture into genuine mass-production, large-scale industry. Therefore we can characterize the second period of its history as the period of large-scale industry. The decades 1850-1870 constitute the transition period from the first to the second phase.

Four important factors revolutionized Polish industry in this period.

First, the abolition of the customs-barrier between Russia and Poland. In the year 1851 Poland’s tariff relations were remodeled in two ways. On the one hand, the tariff which until then had cut Poland off from Russia was set aside; on the other, an end was made of Poland’s independent policy on trade coming in from outside, and Poland was admitted into the Russian tariff zone. In this way, Poland has formed a single whole with Russia in reference to trade ever since. For Poland, the great significance of the tariff reform of 1851 lay first of all in the fact that completely free export trade to Russia was now possible. So Polish manufacture had the prospect of producing for a mass market, of overstepping the narrow limits of the domestic market and becoming real mass-production industry. However, this result could only take effect after a long period of time. At the moment when the tariff barrier between Poland and Russia was set aside, three important hindrances still stood in the way of a real mass export of Polish manufactures to Russia. First, since it had until then been adjusted mainly to the demands of the domestic market, manufacture in Poland was still not capable of the rapid expansion by leaps and bounds which characterizes large-scale mass-production industry to such a great extent. Second, no modern means of transport existed between Poland and Russia; third, the domestic market in Russia was also of limited dimensions, restricted by the persistence of serfdom and of natural economy. But soon a complete transformation occurred in all three areas.

Certainly the Crimean War had a revolutionizing effect on Polish as well as on Russian manufacturing. The blockade of Russia’s sea borders cut off the import of foreign goods for the most part, and the rest were redirected to the western land borders, to Poland, which became the route of lively trade traffic. But more important was the mass demand created by the needs of the Russian army, above all for products of the textile industry. In Russia the growth of the latter in the years 1856-1860 amounted to 11.6 per cent yearly for cotton spinning, 5.5 per cent for cotton weaving, and 9.4 per cent for dyeing and finishing. In Poland, an even greater jump is observable.

The value of production in thousands of rubles was:

    1854   1860   +%
in the linen industry    723 1,247   +72%
in the wool industry 2,044 4,354 +113%
in the cotton industry 2,853 8,091 +183%

The Crimean War period gave rise to a profound transformation in the technology of the textile industry as well: it brought about the introduction of the mechanical loom and the mechanical spindle in Russia and Poland. First, the now-gigantic Scheibler factory was founded in Lodz in 1854, with 100 looms and 18,000 spindles. The following year, the first mechanical linen spinning mill was established in Russia, and in 1857, the biggest and today still important linen factory in Poland, the Zyradow factory, was converted from a hand to a mechanical weaving mill.

The second important result was the establishment of a series of railway lines between Poland and the most distant parts of Russia. In 1862, Poland was connected with St. Petersburg, in 1866 with Wolynien, White Russia, and Podolien, in 1870 with Moscow, in 1871 with Kiev, in 1877 with southern Russia. Moreover, the feverish building of railway lines in inner Russia opened ever more areas to trade. The construction of each new railway line leading to Russia was followed by an increase in demand for Polish products and an expansion of production. Disregarding the depressive effects of the uprising of 1864 and the consequent temporary paralysis of trade with Russia, the decade 1860-1870, the period of the technological revolution in transport, had as a result that while the total value of Poland’s industrial production amounted to only 31 million rubles in 1851 (21 million, according to another source), it represented 73 million rubles (from both sources) in 1872, after 15 years – an increase of 135 per cent and 248 per cent respectively.

The third factor that contributed to the industrial revolution was the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861 and in Poland in 1864 and the resulting transformation of agriculture. Now robbed of the unpaid labor power of the villeins, the landowners turned to the employment of wage laborers and the purchase of industrial products which earlier they had made on their own estates. On the other side, the great mass of peasants consequently had money to spend, and also became buyers of factory goods. Connected with this was a tax reform and the beginning of the government’s policy of squeezing the Russian peasantry, which violently pushed even the small peasant onto the market with the products of his labor and, as it undermined the agricultural natural economy more and more, to that degree prepared the ground for a money economy and the mass market for manufactured goods. The other result of the reform was the proletarianization of broad layers of the peasantry, thus the “setting free” of a mass of workers who put themselves at industry’s disposal.

So in Russia we see a transformation of all social relations in connection with the Crimean War. The collapse of the old patrimonial land ownership and of natural economy, the reformation of taxation and finance, the establishment of a whole network of railways – all this meant the creation of markets, market channels, and workers for Russian industry. But since, in terms of trade policy, Poland formed a single whole with Russia ever since the tariff abolition of 1851, so Polish manufacture was swept into the whirlpool of Russia’s economic metamorphosis and was transformed by the rapidly growing market into real mass-production industry.

But at the end of the 1870s yet a fourth important factor supervened, which within a few years made Polish industrial production into large-scale industry, such as we see today in Poland, and this is Russia’s tariff policy.

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Last updated on: 28.11.2008