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(Russian, kustari; from the German Künstler, “artist”), makers of commercial products who work for the market, as distinct from artisans (remeslenniki), who work on commissions from buyers.
Under the conditions of a capitalist society, craftsmen belong to a stratum of the petite bourgeoisie that is economically dependent on commercial capital. The most prevalent form of exploitation of the craftsmen by commercial capital consists in giving them raw materials to be worked at a set fee. In this case the “buyer-up” (skupshchik) acts as an industrial entrepreneur, the craftsmen becoming hired persons who work in their homes. This form of operation became very widespread in Russia after the reforms of the 1860’s.
The concentration of production and capital led to the crowding out of these domestic crafts and the separation of the craftsmen into various social strata. In the epoch of imperialism and the general crisis of capitalism, the number of craftsmen fell sharply and their material status worsened. V. I. Lenin noted several times that “small-scale masters” receive net incomes that are considerably smaller than the wages of industrial workers. In the USSR and other socialist countries, production cooperatives were established consisting of craftsmen and artisans working together.