Concerning N. S. Polyansky’s Letter
|Written||15 September 1912|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1975, Moscow, Volume 18, pages 326-327.
N. S. Polyansky’s letter from the countryside, published in this issue of Pravda, poses a very interesting question. It would be desirable for the peasants themselves to comment on this question as often as possible.
For our part, we consider it necessary to point out the following.
N. S. Polyansky is perfectly right in saying that only an “idle parasite” would regard the volost meeting as a gathering of fools. Only the peasants themselves can decide which form of land tenure and landownership is to be preferred in a particular locality. All interference on the part of the law or the administration in the unfettered use of the land by the peasants is a survival of the serf-owning system. Such interference can only do harm; it can only humiliate and insult the peasant.
A worker-peasant vividly showed, in his letter published in Pravda No. 38, the absurd red tape resulting from such interference.
Let us now see what view the tens of millions of people who are for ever working and are for ever being exploited should take of the question: khutor or village commune?
What these people have to worry about is not at all the choice between the khutor and the village commune. They must worry about who is exploiting them and how they can lighten or do away with this exploitation.
In European Russia, for example, 30,000 of the big land lords own 70,000,000 dessiatines of land, and 10,000,000 poor peasants own as much. Whether these peasants are settled on khutors or in communes, their paupers’ living conditions will not be changed in the slightest. If you have seven dessiatines of bad land for your whole family, while your landlord neighbour has 2,000 dessiatines of excellent land, the result will be almost the same as under serfdom, no matter whether you live on a khutor or in a commune.
Hungry people are being deluded with talk about khutors or communes, about a buckwheat pie or a cabbage pie. Mean while they have to eat turnip tops and live on marshy or sandy land; they have to do corvée for using the watering-place, the pastures and ploughlands.
By means of khutors attempts are being made to create “small landlords” to defend the big ones. But millions and tens of millions of peasants will starve even more in consequence.
In Western Europe, a really rapid and successful development of agriculture occurred only where all survivals of feudal oppression had been completely abolished.
In the genuinely free countries, where agriculture is well organised, there remains only one force that is crushing the peasant and the worker: the force of capital. There is only one way of countering this force—a free alliance of the wage-workers and ruined peasants. Such alliances will develop into a new social system under which cultivated lands, efficient machinery, steam and electricity will serve to improve the life of the working people themselves, and not to enrich a handful of millionaires.