Draft for a Speech on the Agrarian Question in the Second State Duma
|Written||21 March 1907|
Published: First published in 1925 in Lenin Miscellany IV. Published according to the manuscript.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 265-299.
This draft speech was written for the Social-Democratic Deputy G. A. Alexinsky, to be read during the Duma discussion on the agrarian question. In his speech on April 5 (18), 1907, Alexinsky only made partial use of the draft.
Gentlemen, a number of speakers have addressed the Duma and outlined the basic views of the different parties on the question of the land. It is time to start summing up. It is time to give ourselves clear-cut and precise answers to the questions: What is the essence of the dispute? What makes the land question such a difficult one? What are the basic views of all the main parties whose representatives have spoken in the Duma? In what do the various parties differ decisively and irrevocably on the land question?
Four principal views on the agrarian question have been laid before the house by representatives of the four main parties or party trends. Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky outlined the views of the Rights, using that word to mean jointly the Octobrists, monarchists, etc. Deputy Kutler outlined the views of the Cadets, the so-called “people’s freedom party”. Deputy Karavayev outlined the views of the Trudoviks. Further details were added by Deputies Zimin, Kolokolnikov, Baskin and Tikhvinsky, who, in essence, are in agreement with Karavayev. Lastly my comrade Tsereteli outlined the views of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party. Minister Vasilchikov, the government representative, gave us the government’s view which, as I shall show later in my speech, boils down to a reconciliation of the views of the Rights and those of the Cadets.
Let us see what the views of these four political trends on the agrarian question consist in. I shall take them in the same order as that in which they spoke in the Duma, i.e., I will begin with the Rights.
The basic view of Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky is that of all the so-called “monarchist” parties and of all Octobrists, the view of the majority of Russian landowners. Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky expressed it superbly in the words: “And so, gentlemen, abandon the idea of increasing the area of peasant-owned land, other than in exceptional cases where the land is really overcrowded” (I quote from the report in the newspaper Tovarishch, which is the fullest, since the verbatim reports have not yet been published).
This was well said; it was straightforward, clear and simple. Abandon the idea of increasing the peasants’ land— this is the real view of all the Right parties, from the Union of the Russian People to the Octobrists. And we are well aware that this is the view of the mass of Russian landowners and those of other nations inhabiting Russia.
Why do the landlords advise the peasants to abandon the idea of extending the peasant-owned land? Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky provides the explanation—it is because landlord farming is better organised, more “cultured” than peasant farming. The peasants, he says, are “dull, backward and ignorant”. The peasants cannot, if you please, get along without the guidance of the landlords. “As the priest is, so is his parish,” was the way Deputy Svyatopolk Mirsky wittily put it. Apparently he firmly believes that the landlord will always be the priest and the peasants will always be the sheep of his flock and allow themselves to be shorn.
But will it always be so, Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky? Will it always be so, Messrs. Landlords? May you not be mistaken in this. Is it not because they were too “backward and ignorant” that the peasants have, until now, remained “the sheep in the flock”? Today, however, we see that the peasants are becoming politically conscious. The peasant deputies to the Duma are not attaching themselves to the “Rights” but to the Trudoviks and Social-Democrats. Speeches like that made by Svyatopolk-Mirsky will help the most backward peasants understand where the truth lies, and whether it is possible for them to support those parties that advise the peasants to abandon the idea of extending peasant-owned lands?
For that reason I welcome from the bottom of my heart the speech made by Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky and also the future speeches on that question that will be made by all speakers from the Right benches. Continue in the same vein, gentlemen! You are helping us splendidly to open the eyes of the most backward peasants!
They say that landlord farming is more cultured than peasant farming ... that the peasants cannot get along without the landlord’s guidance.
But I will tell you that the whole history of landed proprietorship and landlord farming in Russia, all the data on landlord farming prove that the “guidance” of the land lords has always meant and today still means the unbridled coercion of the peasants, the endless denigration of peasant men and women, the most unconscionable and shameless exploitation (that word means “plunder” in Russian) of peasant labour, exploitation never seen anywhere else in the world. Such oppression and abuse, such poverty as that endured by the Russian peasant, is not to be found, not only in Western Europe, but even in Turkey.
My comrade Tsereteli has already spoken of the way in which inhabited estates were handed out to the favourites and hangers-on of court “circles”. I want to focus your attention on the question of farming touched upon by Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky, who spoke of the vaunted “culture” of the landlords.
Does that deputy know what the peasants call “labour service” or “squirism”? Or what labour-service farming is called in the science of economics?
The farming of a landed estate by labour service is the direct descendant, the direct survival, of the serf-owning, corvée farming of the landlords. What was the essence of the serf system of farming? The peasants obtained an allot merit from the landlord to feed their own families, and in return had to work three days (and sometimes more) on the land of the proprietor. Instead of paying the worker in money as is now the case everywhere in the towns, the landlords paid in land. The peasant was barely able to subsist from the allotment he received from the landlord. And for this bare ration the peasant and all his family had to till the landlord’s land, using the peasant’s own horses and the peasant’s own implements or “stock”. Such is the essence of serf farming—a beggarly allotment of land in stead of payment for labour; the tilling of the Landlord’s land, using the peasant’s labour and the peasant’s implements; the compulsory labour of the peasant under threat of the landlord’s cudgel. Under this system of farming the peasant himself had to become a serf, because without coercion nobody in possession of an allotment would have worked for the landlord. And what serfdom meant to the peasants—that they themselves know far too much about; it is too firmly fixed in their memories.
Serfdom is considered to have been abolished. In actual fact, however, the landlords retain so much power (thanks to the lands they have acquired by plunder) that today they still keep the peasant in serf dependence—by means of labour service. Labour service is the serfdom of today. When, in his speech on the government declaration, my comrade Tsereteli spoke of the serf-owning nature of landed proprietorship and of the entire existing state power in Russia, one of the newspapers that fawns on the government—the paper is called Novoye Vremya—raised an outcry about Deputy Tsereteli having spoken a lie. But that is not so; the deputy of the Social-Democratic Labour Party was speaking the truth. Only an ignoramus or a mercenary ink-slinger could deny that labour service is a direct survival of serfdom, and that landlord farming in our country is kept going by labour service.
What, in essence, is labour service? It boils down to this: the landlord’s land is not tilled with the landlord’s implements and not by hired labourers, but with the implements of the peasant who is in bondage to his landlord neighbour. And the peasant has to go into bondage because the landlord cut off the best lands for himself, planted the peasant on sandy wasteland and pushed him on to a beggarly allotment. The landlords took so much land for themselves that it is not only impossible for the peasant to run a farm but there is not even room “for a chicken to run around in”.
The gubernia committees of landlords, in 1861, and the landlords who were civil mediators (apparently they were called “civil” because they were civil to the landlords) emancipated the peasants in such a way that one-fifth of the peasants’ land was cut off by the landlords! They emancipated the peasants in such a way that the peasant was forced to pay treble the price for the allotment that remained in his possession after this plunder! It is no secret to any body that according to the “land redemption” scheme of 1861 the peasant was compelled to pay much more than the land was worth. It is no secret to anybody that the peasant was at that time forced to redeem not only the peasant land but also the peasant’s emancipation. It is no secret to anybody that the “philanthropy” of the state redemption scheme consisted in the Treasury filching more money from the peasant for the laud (in the form of redemption payments) than it gave to the landlord! This was a fraternal alliance between the landlord and the “liberal” civil servant to rob the peasant. If Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky has forgotten all this, the peasant, for sure, has not forgotten it. If Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky does not know this, then let him read what Professor Janson wrote thirty years ago in his Essay on the Statistical Investigation of Peasant Allotments and Payments and which has been repeated a thousand times since then in all our literature on economic statistics.
The peasant was “emancipated” in such a way in 1861 that he ran straight into the landlord’s noose. The peasant is so downtrodden on account of the land seized by the land lords that he must either die of starvation or give himself into bondage.
And in the twentieth century the “free” Russian peasant is still forced to give himself into bondage to his landlord neighbour in exactly the same way as the “smerdi” (as the peasants were called in Russkaya Pravda) gave themselves into bondage in the eleventh century and “registered them selves” as belonging to the landlords!
Words have changed, laws have been promulgated and repealed, centuries have elapsed, but things remain essentially the same as they were. Labour service is the bonded dependence of a peasant who is forced to till his landlord neighbour’s soil with his own implements. Labour-service farming is the same renovated, refurbished and reshaped serf farming.
In order to make my meaning clear, I will cite an example from the countless number that fills our literature on peasant and landlord farming. There is a very extensive publication, issued by the Department of Agriculture, that deals with the early nineties and is based on data obtained from farmers concerning the landlord farming system in Russia (Agricultural and Statistical Data Obtained from Farmers. Published by the Department of Agriculture, Issue V, St. Petersburg, 1892). These data were analysed by Mr. S. A. Korolenko (not to be confused with V. G. Korolenko); that Mr. S. A. Korolenko was no progressive writer but a reactionary civil servant. In his book of analysis, you may read, on page 118:
“In the south of Yelets Uyezd (Orel Gubernia), side by side with the work of labourers employed by the year, a substantial part of the land on big landlord estates is tilled by peasants in payment for land which they rent. Former serfs [note that, Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky] continue to rent land from their former landlords and, in payment for it, till the landlords’ land. Such villages are still called [mark this!] the ’corvée’ of such-and-such a landlord.”
This was written in the nineties of the last century, thirty years after what was called the “emancipation” of the peasants. Thirty years after 1861, the same “corvée” existed, the same cultivation of the land of the former landlords with the implements of the peasant!
Perhaps the objection will be raised that this is an individual case. But anyone who is acquainted with landlord farming in the central black-earth belt of Russia, anyone who has the slightest acquaintance with Russian economic literature, will have to admit that this is no exception, but the general rule. In the Russian gubernias proper, where the true Russian landlords are in the majority (not for nothing are they so dear to the hearts of the true Russian people on the Right benches!) labour-service farming predominates to this day.
I can refer you, for instance, to a well-known scientific work, the book The Influence of Harvests and Grain Prices, compiled by a number of scholars. The hook appeared in 1897. It shows the preponderance of labour-service farming in the following gubernias: Ufa, Simbirsk, Samara, Tambov, Penza, Orel, Kursk, Ryazan, Tula, Kazan, Nizhni Novgorod, Pskov, Novgorod, Kostroma, Tver, Vladimir, and Chernigov, i.e., in 17 Russian gubernias.
The preponderance of labour-service farming—what does that mean?
It means that the landlord’s land is cultivated with the same peasant implements, by the labour of the poverty-stricken, ruined and enslaved peasant. And here you have that “culture” of which Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky spoke, and of which all those who defend the landlords’ interests speak. The landlords, of course, possess better cattle, which live better in the master’s sheds than the peasant does in his own cottage. The landlord, of course, gets a better harvest because the landlords’ committees as long ago as 1861 took good care to cut the best lands off from the peasant holdings and register them in the landlords’ names. One can speak of the “culture” of the Russian landlords’ farms only by way of ridicule. On a large number of estates there is no landlord farming whatsoever; the same peasant system of farming is carried on, the land is ploughed by the peasant’s sorry nag and tilled with the peasant’s old and unsuitable implements. In no European country does serf farming still survive on big landed estates and latifundia, carried on with the aid of bonded peasants—in no other country, except Russia.
Landlord “culture” is the preservation of landlord serf-ownership. Landlord culture is usury perpetrated against the impoverished peasant, who is fleeced and enslaved for a dessiatine of land, for pasture, for water for his cattle, for firewood, for a pood of flour loaned to the hungry muzhik in winter at extortionate interest, for a ruble begged by the peasant’s family....
And those gentlemen on the Right benches talk about the Jews exploiting the peasants, about Jewish usury! But thousands of Jewish merchants would not skin the Russian muzhik in the way the true Russian, Christian landlords do! The interest claimed by the worst usurer is not to be compared with that claimed by the true Russian land lord, who hires a muzhik in winter for summer work or who forces him to pay for a dessiatine of land in labour, money, eggs, chickens, and God alone knows what else!
That may seem like a joke, but it is a bitter joke that is too close to the truth. Here is an actual example of what a peasant pays for one dessiatine of land (the example is taken from Karyshev’s well-known book on peasant rentings): for one dessiatine of land the peasant must cultivate one and a half dessiatines, bring the landlord ten eggs and a hen and in addition provide one day’s female labour (see p. 348 of Karyshev’s book).
What is that? “Culture”, or the most shameless feudal exploitation?
Those who want to make Russia and Europe believe that our peasants are hostile to culture are telling a blatant lie, are slandering the peasants. They are not speaking the truth! The Russian peasants are struggling for freedom, against feudal exploitation. The peasant movement is spreading ever more widely, ever more boldly, and the struggle of the peasants against the landlords has been the sharpest precisely in the true Russian gubernias, where true Russian serfdom, true Russian labour service, bondage and abuse of the impoverished and debt-ridden peasantry is strongest and most deep-rooted!
Labour service is not preserved by force of law—by law the peasant is “free” to die of starvation!—it is maintained by force of the peasant’s economic dependence. No laws, no prohibitions, no “supervision” or “tutelage” can do any thing whatsoever against labour service and bondage. There is only one way to get rid of this ulcer on the body of the Russian people—the abolition of landed proprietorship, because in the overwhelming majority of cases it is still serf proprietorship, the source and the mainstay of feudal exploitation.
All and any talk of “aid” for the peasants, of “improving” their condition, of “helping” them acquire land and other similar speechifying that the landlords and civil servants are so fond of, all this boils down to hollow pretexts and subterfuges, as long as it evades the principal question— whether or not to preserve landed proprietorship.
That is the kernel of the whole issue. And I must give special warning to the peasants and the peasant deputies— evasion of the real substance of the issue must not be allowed. You must trust in no promises no fine words, until the most important thing has been made clear—will the landed estates remain the property of the landlords or will they pass into the peasants’ hands? If they remain the property of the landlords, labour service and bondage will remain. Constant hunger and want for millions of peasants will also remain. The torment of gradual extinction from starvation—that is what the retention of landed proprietor ship means for the peasants.
To show what the real nature of the agrarian question is, we must recall some of the chief figures on the distribution of landed property in Russia. The latest statistical data available on land ownership in Russia refer to the year 1905. The Central Statistical Committee gathered them in the course of a special investigation, the full results of which have not yet been published. However, the chief results are known to us from the newspapers. European Russia is considered to have an area of about 400 million dessiatines. Of the 395.5 million on which preliminary data are available, 155 million belong to the state, the imperial family, the church and church institutions, 102 million belong to private persons, and 138.5 million are peasant allotments.
At first glance it might seem that the state has the greatest share so that the question is not one of landlords’ lands.
This is a frequently occurring mistake that should be eliminated once and for all. It is true that the state owns 138 million dessiatines, but almost all that land is in the northern gubernias—Archangel, Vologda and Olonets, in places where farming is impossible. The government itself, according to the precise figures of the statisticians (I refer you, for example, to Mr. Prokopovich and his book The Agrarian Question in Figures) could not find more than slightly over seven million dessiatines of state lands that could be given to the peasants.
One cannot, therefore, speak seriously of state-owned lands. Nor need one speak about peasant migration to Siberia. This question has been made clear enough by the Trudovik speaker in the Duma. If the landlord gentlemen really believe in the advantages of migration to Siberia, let them go to Siberia themselves! The peasants would most likely agree to that.... But they would probably regard as sheer mockery the proposal that the neediness of the peasants should be remedied with Siberia.
In respect of the Russian gubernias, and the central black-earth gubernias in particular, where the peasants are the most needy, the matter is precisely one of the landlords’ lands and no others. And Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky is wasting his time talking about “exceptional cases where the land is really overcrowded”.
Overcrowding on the land is the rule and not the exception in central Russia. And the peasants are overcrowded because the landlord gentlemen have accommodated themselves far too spaciously, because they give themselves too much room to move. “Peasant overcrowding” is the result of the seizure of land masses by the landlords.
“Land hunger” for the peasant means “land surfeit” for the landlord.
Here, gentlemen, are the plain and simple figures. Peas ant land allotments total 138.5 million dessiatines. Privately-owned land amounts to 102 million dessiatines. How much of this last amount belongs to big estate owners?
Seventy-nine and a half million dessiatines belong to owners possessing more than 50 dessiatines each.
And how many owners does this huge area of land belong to? Less than 135,000 (the exact figure is 133,898).
Think well over these figures: 135,000 people out of a hundred odd million inhabitants of European Russia own almost eighty million dessiatines of land!!
And side by side with this, twelve and a quarter million peasant family allotments total 138.5 million dessiatines.
The average per big landowner, per (for simplicity’s sake we’ll say) landlord, is 594 dessiatines.
The average per peasant household is eleven and one-third dessiatines.
And this is what Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky and others of his ilk call “exceptional cases of overcrowding on the land”. How can there be anything but universal “overcrowding” of the peasants when a handful of rich people numbering 135,000 have 600 dessiatines each and millions of peasants have it dessiatines per farm? How can there be anything but peasant “land hunger” when there is such a tremendously excessive surfeit of land in the hands of the land lords?
Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky advised us “to abandon the idea” of increasing the amount of land owned by the peasants. But no, the working class will not abandon that idea. The peasants will not abandon that idea. Millions and tens of millions of people cannot give up that idea, or abandon the struggle to achieve their goal.
The figures 1 have quoted show clearly what that struggle is about. Landlords, with an average of 600 dessiatines per estate, are struggling for their wealth, for their incomes that probably total more than 500 million rubles a year. The biggest landlords are often the highest officers of the state as well. Our state, as my comrade Tsereteli has already in all justice said, protects the interests of a handful of landlords and not the interests of the people. No wonder the majority of the landlords and the whole government are struggling furiously against the demands of the peas ants. History does not know any cases of the ruling and oppressing classes voluntarily relinquishing their right to rule and to oppress, their right to huge incomes from enslaved peasants and workers.
The peasants are struggling to free themselves from bondage, from labour service, from feudal exploitation. The peasants are struggling for an opportunity to live just a little bit like human being. And the working class gives full support to the peasants against the landlords, gives its support in the interests of the workers themselves, who also bear the burden of landlord oppression; it gives its support in the interests of our entire social development that is being held back because of landlord oppression.
In order to show you, gentlemen, what the peasantry can and must achieve by their struggle, I will make a small calculation.
“The time has come to have recourse to the eloquence of figures,” Mr. Vasilchikov, the Minister of Agriculture, has said, “facts and reality, rather than to words, to make this question clear.” I am in the fullest agreement with the minister. Yes, yes, gentlemen, that is how it is—more figures, more figures on the extent of l-a-n-d-l-o-r-d ownership of land and on the sizes of the allotments owned by the peasants. I have already quoted figures showing how much “surplus” land the landlords own. Now I will give the figures on the extent of the peasant need for land. On the average, as I have said, each peasant household owns eleven and one-third dessiatines of allotment land. But this aver age figure conceals the peasants’ need for land, because most peasants possess an allotment of land that is below the average, and an insignificant minority have more than the average.
Out of twelve and a quarter million peasant households, 860,000 (in round figures) have allotments amounting to less than five dessiatines per household. Three million, three hundred and twenty thousand have from five to eight dessiatines. Four million, eight hundred and ten thousand have from eight to twenty dessiatines. Only one million, one hundred thousand households have from twenty to fifty dessiatines and only a quarter of a million have more than fifty dessiatines (these last-named probably do not have more than seventy-five dessiatines per household on the average).
Let us assume that 79.5 million dessiatines of landlords’ land is used to extend peasant holdings. Let us assume that the peasant—in the words of the Reverend Tikhvinsky, a supporter of the Peasant Union—does not want to denude the landlord of his land and will leave fifty dessiatines to each landlord. This is probably too high a figure for such “cultured” gentlemen as our landlords, but, for the time being, we can take this figure as an example. Deducting fifty dessiatines for each of the 135,000 landlords would leave seventy-two million dessiatines that could he freed for the peasants. There is no reason to deduct the forests from this figure (as some writers do, for example Mr. Prokopovich, whose figures I have used several times) because forest land also produces an income which cannot possibly be left in the hands of a small group of landlords.
To this seventy-two million add the cultivable state lands (about 7.3 million dessiatines), all the lands of the imperial family (7.9 million dessiatines), the church and monastery lands (2.7 million dessiatines), and you will get a total of about ninety million dessiatines. This total amount is sufficient to expand the aggregate land owned by the poorest peasant households to no less than sixteen dessiatines per household.
Do you realise what that means, gentlemen?
That would be a tremendous step forward, that would deliver millions of. peasants from starvation; that would raise the living standard of tens of millions of peasants and workers, would give them greater opportunities to live more or less like human beings, in the way more or less cultured citizens of a “cultured” state live, and not in the way the dying race of modern Russian peasantry is living. That would not, of course, deliver all the working people from all forms of poverty and oppression (for that it would be necessary to transform capitalist into socialist society) but it would go a very long way towards making easier their struggle for such deliverance. Over six million peasant households, more than half of the total number of peasants, possess, as I have said, less than eight dessiatines per household. The land they own would be more than doubled, almost trebled.
This means that half the peasantry, always impoverished, hungry, and undercutting the price of the labour of the workers in the towns, at the factories—half the peasants would be able to feel that they are human beings!
Can Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky, or others of his ilk, seriously advise millions of workers and peasants to abandon the idea of a way out of an unbearable, desperate situation, a way out that is quite possible, practicable and near at hand?
But it is not only a matter of the land owned by the greater part of the poor peasant households possibly being almost trebled at the expense of the landlords’ surfeit of land. In addition to these six million poor households, there are almost five (to be exact, 4.8) million peasant house holds owning from eight to twenty dessiatines. There is no doubt that no less than three out of the five million live in poverty on their beggarly allotments. These three million households, too, could raise their holdings to sixteen dessiatines per household, i.e., increase the holding by a half, and some could even double it.
On the whole, it works out that nine million households out of a total of 12.25 million could greatly improve their condition (and improve the condition of the workers, whom they would stop undercutting!) at the expense of the land of the landlord gentlemen, who have too great an excess of land and who are too accustomed to the serf system of farming!
This is what we are told by the figures on the relative dimensions of large-scale landlord ownership and insufficient peasant holdings. I am very much afraid these facts and figures will not be to the liking of that lover of facts and figures, Mr. Vasilchikov, the Minister of Agriculture. Did he not say to us in his speech, immediately after expressing a desire to use figures:
“... In connection with this, one cannot but express the apprehension that those hopes which many people place in the implementation of such reforms [i.e., extensive land reforms] will, when confronted with the figures, lose all chance of being realised....”
Your apprehension is groundless, Mr. Minister of Agriculture! It is precisely confrontation with the figures that should give the peasants’ hopes of deliverance from labour service and feudal exploitation every chance of being realised in their entirety! And no matter how unpleasant these figures may be for Mr. Vasilchikov, the Minister of Agriculture, or for Mr. Svyatopolk-Mirsky and other land lords, these figures cannot be refuted!
I shall now proceed to the objections that may be raised against the peasants’ demands. And, strange as it may seem at first glance, in analysing the objections to the peasants’ demands I must in the main deal with the arguments of Mr. Kutler, representative of the so-called “people’s freedom” party.
The necessity for this does not arise out of any desire on my part to argue with Mr. Kutler. Nothing of the sort. I should be very glad if those who champion the peasants’ struggle for land had to argue against the “Rights” only. Throughout his speech, however, Mr. Kutler objected, in substance, to the peasants’ demands as put forward by the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks: he objected both directly (for instance, he disputed the proposal made by my comrade Tsereteli on behalf of the entire Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party) and indirectly by pointing out to the Trudoviks the need to curtail, need to limit their demands.
Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky did not actually expect to convince anybody. In particular, he was far from expecting that he could convince the peasants. He was not trying to convince, but was expressing his will, or, more correctly, the will of most landlords. In simple and direct terms, the “speech” made by Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky boils down to no increase whatsoever in the amount of land owned by the peasants.
Deputy Kutler, on the contrary, was all the time using his powers of persuasion, trying to convince mainly the peasants to renounce that which he declared to be impracticable and excessive in the Trudovik draft, and which, in the draft of our Social-Democratic Party was not only impracticable but even “the greatest injustice”, to use the words in which he expressed himself, concerning the proposal made by the representative of Social-Democracy.
I shall now analyse Deputy Kutler’s objections and the main basis for those views on the agrarian question, those drafts for agrarian reforms, that are defended by the so-called “people’s freedom” party.
Let us begin with what Deputy Kutler, in his argument against my Party comrade, called “the greatest injustice”. “It seems to me,” said the representative of the Cadet Party, “that the abolition of private property in land would be the greatest injustice, as long as the other forms of property, real and personal estate, still remain!..;” And then farther: “Since nobody proposes to abolish property in general, it is essential that the existence of property in land be in every way recognised.”
That is the line of argument followed by Deputy Kutler, who “refuted” Social-Democrat Tsereteli by stating that “other property [other than landed property] was also acquired in a manner that was, perhaps, even less praise worthy”. The more I think over Deputy Kutler’s argument, the more I find it—how shall I express it mildly?—strange. “It would be unjust to abolish property in land if other forms of property are not abolished....”
But, gentlemen, kindly remember your own postulates, your own words and plans! You yourselves proceed from the fact that certain forms of landed property are “unjust”, and so unjust that they require a special law on the ways and means of abolishing them.
So what does this actually amount to? To saying that it is “the greatest injustice” to abolish one form of injustice without abolishing others?? That is what Mr. Kutler’s words amount to. This is the first time I have been con fronted by a liberal, and such a moderate, sober, bureaucratically-schooled liberal at that, who proclaims the principle of “everything or nothing”! For, indeed, Mr. Kutler’s argument is based entirely on the principle of “every thing or nothing”. I, as a revolutionary Social-Democrat, must positively declare against such a method of argument.
Imagine, gentlemen, that I have to remove two heaps of rubbish from my yard. I have only one cart. And no more than one heap can be removed on one cart. What should I do? Should I refuse altogether to clean out my yard on the grounds that it would be the greatest injustice to re move one heap of rubbish because they cannot both be removed at the same time?
I permit myself to believe that anyone who really wants to clean out his yard completely, who sincerely strives for cleanliness and not for dirt, for light and not for darkness, will have a different argument. If we really cannot remove both heaps at the same time, let us first remove the one that can be got at and loaded on to the cart immediately, and then empty the cart, return home and set to work on the other heap. That’s all there is to it, Mr. Kutler! Just that and nothing more!
To begin with, the Russian people have to carry away on their cart all that rubbish that is known as feudal, landed proprietorship, and then come back with the empty cart to a cleaner yard, and begin loading the second heap, begin clearing out the rubbish of capitalist exploitation!
Do you agree to that, Mr. Kutler, if you are a real opponent of all sorts of rubbish? Let us write it into a resolution for the State Duma, using your own words: “recognising, jointly with Deputy Kutler, that capitalist property is no more praiseworthy than feudal landlord property, the State Duma resolves to deliver Russia first from the latter in order later to tackle the former”.
If Mr. Kutler does not support this proposal of mine I shall be left with the firm conviction that, in sending us from feudal property to capitalist property, the “people’s freedom” party is merely sending us from Pontius to Pilate, as the saying goes, or, to put it more simply, is seeking evasion, saving itself by flight from a clear statement of the question. We have never heard that the “people’s freedom” party wants to struggle for socialism (and is not the struggle against capitalist property a struggle for socialism?). But we have heard a lot, a very great deal, about that party wanting to struggle for freedom, for the people’s rights. But now, when the question on the order of the day is not one of the immediate introduction of socialism but of the immediate introduction of freedom, and freedom from serfdom, Mr. Kutler suddenly refers us to questions of socialism! Mr. Kutler declares the abolition of landed proprietorship based on labour service and bondage to be “the greatest injustice”—and this for the reason, exclusively for the reason, that he has remembered the injustice of capitalist property.... Have it as you will—it is rather strange.
I have believed until now that Mr. Kutler is not a socialist. Now I have become convinced that he is not a democrat at all, that he is no champion of people’s freedom—of real freedom, not people’s freedom in inverted commas. Nobody in the world will agree to call or consider democrats those people who, in an epoch of struggle for freedom, qualify as “the greatest injustice” the abolition of that which is destroying freedom, which is oppressing and suppressing freedom....
Mr. Kutler’s other objection was not directed against the Social-Democrat but against the Trudovik. “It seems to me,” said Mr. Kutler, “that it may be possible to imagine the political conditions under which the land nationalisation bill [he is referring to the project of the Trudovik Group; Mr. Kutler described it inaccurately but that is not the important thing at the moment] might become law, but I cannot imagine there being, in the near future, political conditions under which such a law could actually be implemented.”
Again, an astonishingly strange argument, but not in any way strange from the standpoint of socialism (nothing of the sort!) or even from the standpoint of the “right to land” or any other “Trudovik” principle—no, it is strange from the point of view of that very same “people’s freedom” we hear so much about from Mr. Kutler’s party.
Mr. Kutler has all the time been trying to convince the Trudoviks that their bill is “impracticable”, that they are wasting their time by pursuing the aim of"radically reforming existing land relations”, and so on and so forth. We now see clearly that Mr. Kutler sees this impracticability as due to nothing else but the political conditions of the present day and the immediate future!!
You will excuse me, gentlemen, but this is really some sort of fog, some unpardonable confusion of concepts. It is because we discuss and propose changes to better bad conditions that we here call ourselves representatives of the people and are considered members of a legislative assembly. And in the thick of a discussion on the question of changing one of the very worst conditions, the objection is raised: “impracticable ... either now ... or in the near future ... political conditions”.
One of the two, Mr. Kutler—either the Duma is itself a political condition, in which case it is unworthy of a democrat to adapt himself, to readjust himself to whatever curtailments may arise out of other “political conditions”, or else the Duma is not a “political condition” but merely an ordinary office that has to take into consideration what may or may not please those more highly placed—and in the latter case we have no reason for posing as representatives of the people.
If we are representatives of the people, we must say what the people are thinking and what they want, and not that which is agreeable to the higher-ups or some sort of “political conditions”. If we are government officials, then I am perhaps prepared to understand that we shall declare in advance that anything is “impracticable” which the powers that be have given us to understand is not to their liking.
... “Political conditions...”! What does that mean? It means: military courts, an augmented secret police, lawlessness and lack of civil rights, the Council of State and other equally sweet in-sti-tu-tions of the Russian Empire. Does Mr. Kutler want to adapt his agrarian reform to what is practicable under military courts, augmented secret police and the Council of State? I should not be at all surprised if Mr. Kutler were to be rewarded for that, not with the sympathy of the people, of course, but with a medal for his servility!
Mr. Kutler is able to imagine the political conditions under which the bill to nationalise the land could become law.... Of course he can! A man who calls himself a democrat has been unable to imagine democratic political conditions.... But the task of a democrat who is counted among the representatives of the people is not only to give himself a picture of all kinds of good and bad things, but to give the people truly popular projects, declarations and expositions.
Mr. Kutler should not think of suggesting that I pro pose departing from the law or infringing it in the Duma.... I am not proposing anything of the sort! There is no law that prohibits speaking in the Duma about democracy and tabling really democratic agrarian bills. My colleague Tsereteli did not infringe any law when he introduced the declaration of the Social-Democratic group, which speaks of “the alienation of land without compensation”, and about a democratic state.
Mr. Kulter’s arguments in their entirety boil down to this—since ours is not a democratic state there is no need for us to present democratic land bills! No matter how you twist and turn Mr. Kutler’s arguments, you will not find a grain of any other idea, of any other content, in them. Since our state serves the interests of the landowners we must not (representatives of the people must not!) include anything displeasing to the landowners in our agrarian bills.... 0 no, Mr. Kutler, that is not democracy, that is not people’s freedom—it is something very, very far removed from freedom and not very far removed from servility.
Now let us look at what Mr. Kutler actually did say about his party’s land bill.
In speaking of land, Mr. Kutler first raised objections to the Trudoviks on the question of the “subsistence standard” and on the question of whether land suffices. Mr. Kutler took the “1861 standard” which, he said, is lower than the subsistence standard and informed the Chamber that “according to his approximate calculation” (the Duma had not heard a word about this calculation and knows absolutely nothing about it!) even for the 1861 standard another 30 million dessiatines would be required.
I would remind you, gentlemen, that Deputy Kutler spoke after Karavayev, representative of the Trudovik Group, and raised the objection specifically to him. But Deputy Karavayev stated in the Duma, directly and explicitly, and then made it known to the public in a special letter to the newspaper Tovarishch (March 21), that up to 70 million dessiatines would be required to raise peasant holdings to the subsistence standard. He also said that the total of the state, crown, church and privately-owned lands comes to that figure.
Deputy Karavayev did not indicate the source from which he made his calculation and did not acquaint the Duma with the method employed to arrive at this figure. My calculation, based on a source that I can name exactly and which is, furthermore, the very latest official publication of the Central Statistical Committee, gives a figure that is higher than 70 million dessiatines. Of the privately-owned lands alone, 72 million dessiatines are available to the peasants, while the crown, state, church and other lands provide more than 10 million and up to 20 million dessiatines.
In any case, the fact remains—in raising objections to Deputy Karavayev, Deputy Kutler tried to prove that there is not sufficient land to help the peasants, but could not prove it since he gave unsubstantiated, and, as I have shown, untrue figures.
In general I must warn you, gentlemen, against abuse of the concepts “labour standard” and “subsistence standard”. Our Social-Democratic Labour Party takes the much more correct line of avoiding all these “standards”. “Standards” introduce something of officialdom, of red tape, into a vital and militant political question. These “standards” confuse people and hide the real nature of the issue. To transfer the dispute to these “standards” or even to discuss them at the present moment is truly a case of dividing up the skin before the bear is killed and, furthermore, dividing that skin up verbally in a gathering of people who will probably not divide up the skin at all when we kill the bear.
Don’t you worry, gentlemen! The peasants will divide up the land themselves once it falls into their hands. The peasants can easily divide it; the thing is to get hold of it. They will not ask anybody how to divide it, nor will they allow anybody to interfere with their division of the land.
All these speeches about how to divide the land are sheer empty talk. We are a political body, not a surveyor’s office or a boundary commission. We have to help the people solve an economic and political problem; we have to help the peasantry in their struggle against the landlords, against a class that lives by feudal exploitation. And this vital, urgent problem is befogged by chatter about “standards”.
Why befogged? Because, instead of the real question of whether or not 72 million dessiatines should be taken from the landowners for the peasantry, the extraneous question of “farming standards” is being discussed, a question that in the final analysis is by no means important. This facilitates evasion of the issue and makes it easy to avoid a real answer. Disputes on subsistence, on labour, or any other standards you like, only serve to confuse the basic issue: should we take 72 million dessiatines of the landlords’ land for the peasants, or not?
Attempts are being made to show whether there is sufficient or insufficient land for one standard or another.
What is this demonstrating for, gentlemen? Why these empty speeches, why this muddy water in which it is easy for some people to fish? Is it not clear enough that there is no use arguing about that which does not exist, and that the peasants do not want any sort of imaginary land, but the land of the neighbouring landlord that they. are already familiar with? It is not about “standards” that we have to talk, but about landlords’ land, not about any of your standards and whether any of them is sufficient, but about how much landlords’ land there is. Everything else is nothing but evasion, excuses and even attempts to throw dust in the peasants’ eyes.
Deputy Kutler, for instance, avoided the real point at issue. Trudovik Karavayev at least went straight to the point: 70 million dessiatines. And how did Deputy Kutler answer that? He did not answer that point. He confused the issue with his “standards”, i.e., he simply avoided giving an answer to the question of whether he and his party agree to hand over all the landlords’ land to the peasants.
Deputy Kutler took advantage of Deputy Karavayev’s error in not having raised the question clearly and sharply enough, and avoided the point at issue. That, gentlemen, is the hub of our problem. Whoever does not agree to hand over literally all the landlords’ land to the peasants (remember, I made the proviso that each landowner be left with 50 dessiatines so that nobody would be ruined!) does not stand for the peasants and does not really want to help the peasants. For if you allow the question of all the landlords’ land to be befogged or shelved, the whole issue is in doubt. The question then arises—who will determine the share of the landlords’ land that is to be given to the peasants?
Who will decide it? Out of 79 million, 9 million is a “share” and so is 70 million. Who will decide it if we do not, if the State Duma does not decide it clearly and with determination?
It was not without reason that Deputy Kutler kept quiet on this question. Deputy Kutler toyed with the words “compulsory alienation”.
Don’t allow yourselves to be fascinated by words, gentlemen! Don’t fall under the spell of a pretty turn of phrase! Get to the bottom of things!
When I hear the expression “compulsory alienation”, I always ask myself: who is compelling whom? If millions of peasants compel a handful of landlords to submit to the interests of the nation, that is very good. If a handful of landlords compel millions of peasants to subordinate their lives to the selfish interests of that handful, that is very bad.
That is the insignificant question that Deputy Kutler managed to evade! With his arguments about “impracticability” and “political conditions” he, in actual fact, was even calling on the people to reconcile themselves to their subordination to a handful of landlords.
Deputy Kutler spoke immediately after my comrade Tsereteli. Tsereteli, in the declaration of our Social-Democratic group, made two definite statements that provide a clear solution to precisely this problem, the main, fundamental problem. The first statement—the transfer of the land to a democratic state. “Democratic” means that which expresses the interests of the masses of the people, not of a handful of the privileged. We must tell the people, clearly and forthrightly, that without a democratic state, without political liberty, without a fully authoritative representation of the people, there cannot possibly be any land reform to the advantage of the peasants.
The second statement—the need for a preliminary discussion of the land question in equally democratic local committees.
How did Deputy Kutler answer that? He did not. Silence is a poor answer, Mr. Kutler. You kept silent precisely on the question of whether the peasants will compel the landlords to make concessions to the people’s interests, or whether the landlords will compel the peasants to put a fresh noose of more ruinous compensation round their necks.
You cannot be allowed to ignore such a question.
In addition to the Social-Democrat, the Popular Socialists (Deputy Baskin) and the Socialist-Revolutionaries (Deputy Kolokolnikov) spoke in the Duma on the subject of local committees. The local committees have been spoken of in the press for a long time, they were also spoken of in the First Duma. That is something we must not forget, gentlemen. We must make quite clear to ourselves and to the people why so much has been said on this question and what its present significance is.
The First State Duma discussed the question of local laud committees at its fifteenth session, May 26, 1906. The question was raised by members of the Trudovik Group, who presented a written statement signed by thirty-five members of the Duma (including two Social-Democrats, I. Savelyev and I. Shuvalov). The statement was first read at the fourteenth session of the Duma on May 24, 1906 (see page 589 of the Verbatim Report of Sessions of the First State Duma); the statement was then printed and discussed two days later. I will read you the most important parts of the statement in full.
“...It is necessary to set up local committees immediately; they should be elected on the basis of universal, equal and direct suffrage, by secret ballot, for the needful preparatory work, such as—the elaboration of subsistence and labour standards of land tenure as applicable to local conditions, the determination of the amount of cultivable land and the amount of it that is rented, tilled with the farmer’s own or with other’s implements, etc. In view of the need to adapt the land law as fully as possible to the multiplicity of local conditions, it is advisable for the committees to take an active part in the general discussion on the very fundamentals of the land reform, detailed in the various bills submitted to the Duma....” The Trudoviks therefore proposed the immediate election of a commission and the immediate elaboration of the necessary bill.
How was this proposal greeted by the various parties? The Trudoviks and the Social-Democrats gave it unanimous support in their periodicals. The so-called “people’s freedom” party spoke categorically in its chief organ Rech, on May 25, 1906 (i.e., the day after the first reading of the Trudovik bill in the Duma), against the Trudovik bill. Rech said straight out that it feared that such land committees might “shift the solution of the agrarian problem to the Left”.
“We shall try, insofar as it depends on us,” wrote Rech, “to preserve the official and specifically business character of the local land committees. And for the same reason,we believe that to choose the committees by universal suffrage would mean to prepare them, not for the peaceful solution of the land question on the spot, but for something very different. The guidance of the general direction to be taken by the reform must remain in the hands of the state; representatives of state power, therefore, must have their places in the local committees, if not for purposes of making decisions, at least for the purpose of exercising control over the decisions of local bodies. Then, again within the general fundamentals of the reform, there must be represented in the local committees, as far as possible on an equal footing, those conflicting interests that can be reconciled without contravening the state significance of the reform in question, and without converting it into an act of unilateral violence that might end in the complete failure of the whole matter.”
This is quite clear and definite.
The “people’s freedom” party gives an estimate of the proposed measure in substance, and opposes it. The party does not want local committees elected by universal, direct, equal and secret ballot, but committees in which a handful of landlords amid thousands and tens of thousands of peasants would have equal representation. Representatives of state power should participate for reasons of “control”.
Let the peasant deputies give good thought to this statement. Let them realise the essence of the matter, and explain it to the peasants.
Try to get a picture, gentlemen, of what it really means. In the local committees landlords and peasants are represented on an equal footing, and there is a representative of the government to exercise control, to “reconcile” them. That means one-third of time votes for the peasants, one-third for the landlords, and one-third for government representatives. And the highest state dignitaries, all those who have control over state affairs, are themselves among the wealthiest landowners! In this way time landlords will “exercise control over” both the peasants and the landlords! Landowners will “reconcile” peasants and landowners!
Oh yes, there would no doubt be “compulsory alienation”— compulsory alienation of the peasants’ money and labour by the landlords, in exactly the same way as the landlords’ gubernia committees in 1861 cut off one-fifth of the peasants’ land and imposed a price for the land that was double its real value.
An agrarian reform of this type would mean nothing more than selling to the peasants, at exorbitant prices, the worst lands and those that the landlords do not need, in order to place the peasants in still greater bondage. “Compulsory alienation” of this sort is far worse than a voluntary agreement between landlord and peasant, because one half of the votes would go to the peasants and the other half to the landlords in the case of a voluntary agreement. According to the Cadet idea of compulsory alienation the peasants would have one-third of the votes and the landlords two-thirds—one-third because they are landlords and another third because they are government officials!
Nikolai Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky, the great Russian writer and one of Russia’s first socialists, who was brutally persecuted by the government till his dying day, wrote the following about the “emancipation” of the peasants and the land redemption payments of 1861 of accursed memory: it would have been better for the peasants and landlords to come to a voluntary agreement than to be “emancipated and pay redemption fees for the land” through the gubernia landlords’ committees. In the case of a voluntary agreement on the purchase of land it would not have been possible to extract as much from the peasants as has been extracted by means of the government’s “reconciliation” of peasants and landlords.
The great Russian socialist proved to be right. Today, forty-six years after the famous “emancipation with redemption payments”, we know the results of that redemption operation. The market price of the land that went to the peasants was 648,000,000 rubles, and the peasants were forced to pay 867,000,000 rubles, 219,000,000 rubles more than the land was worth. For half a century the peasants have suffered, have languished in hunger, and have died on those land allotments, weighted down by such payments, oppressed by the government’s “reconciliation” of peasants and landlords— until the peasantry has been reduced to its present in tolerable condition.
The Russian liberals want to repeat this sort of “reconciliation” of peasants and landlords. Beware, peasants! The workers’ Social-Democratic Party warns you—decades of new torment, hunger, bondage, degradation and abuse are what you will inflict on the people if you agree to this sort of “reconciliation”.
The question of local committees and redemption payments constitutes the keypoint of the agrarian problem. Every care must be taken to ensure that here there should be no obscurity, that nothing should be left unsaid, and that there is no beating about the bush, and no provisos.
When this question was discussed in the First State Duma on May 26, 1906, Cadets Kokoshkin and Kotlyarevsky, who spoke against the Trudoviks, confined themselves to provisos and beating about the bush. They kept harping on the fact that the Duma could not immediately decree such commit tees, although nobody had proposed any such decrees! They said that the question was bound up with a reform of the election law and local self-government; that is, they simply delayed the important and simple matter of setting up local committees to help the Duma solve the agrarian problem. They spoke of the “distortion of the course of legislation”, of the danger of creating “eighty or ninety local Dumas” and said that “actually there was no need to set up such bodies as local committees”, etc., etc.
All these are nothing but excuses, gentlemen, one long evasion of a question that the Duma must decide clearly and definitely: will a democratic government have to solve the agrarian problem, or should the present government? Should the peasants, i.e., the majority of the population, predominate in the local land committees, or should the landlords? Should a handful of landlords submit to the mil lions of the people, or should millions of working people submit to a handful of landlords?
And don’t try to tell me that the Duma is impotent, helpless and without the necessary powers. I know all that very well. I would willingly agree to repeat that and under score it in any Duma resolution, statement or declaration. The rights of the Duma, however, do not enter into the present question, for none of us has even thought of making the slightest suggestion that would contravene the law on the rights of the Duma. The matter in hand is this—the Duma must clearly, definitely and, most important of all, correctly express the real interests of the people, must tell them the truth about the solution of the agrarian problem, and must open the eyes of the peasantry so that they recognise the snags lying in the way of a solution to the land problem.
The will of the Duma, of course, is still not law, that I am well aware of! But let anybody who likes do the job of limiting the Duma’s will or gagging it—except the Duma itself! And the Duma’s decision, of course, will meet with every known type of counteraction, but that will never he a justification for those who beforehand begin to twist and turn, how and scrape, adapt themselves to the will of others, and make the decision of the people’s representatives fit in with the wishes of just anybody.
In the final analysis, it is not the Duma, of course, that will decide the agrarian question, and the decisive act in the peasants’ struggle for land will not be fought out in the Duma. If we really wish to be representatives of the people, and not liberal civil servants; if we really want to serve the interests of the people and the interests of liberty, we can and must help the people by explaining the question, by formulating it clearly, by telling them the whole truth with no equivocation and no beating about the bush.
To be of real help to the people, the Duma decision must give the clearest possible answer to the three basic aspects of the land problem that I set forth in my speech, and which Deputy Kutler evaded and confused.
Question number one—that of the 79,000,000 dessiatines of landlords’ land and of the need to transfer no less than 70,000,000 of them to the peasants.
Question number two—compensation. The land reform will be of some real advantage to the peasants only if they obtain it without paying compensation. Compensation would be a fresh noose around the neck of the peasant and would be an unbearably heavy burden on the whole of Russia’s future development.
Question number three—that of the democratic state system that is necessary to implement the agrarian reform, including, in particular, local land committees, elected by universal, direct, equal and secret ballot. Without it the land reform will mean compelling the peasant masses to enter into bondage to the landlords, and not compelling a handful of landlords to meet the urgent demands of the whole people.
I said at the beginning of my speech that Mr. Vasilchikov, the Minister of Agriculture, was reconciling the “Rights” and the “Cadets”. Now that I have made clear the significance of the question of 70,000,000 dessiatines of landlords’ land, of compensation and, most important of all, of the composition of the local land committees, it will be sufficient for me to quote one passage from the minister’s speech:
“Taking this stand,” said the minister, referring to the “inviolability of the boundaries” of landed property and the “shifting” of them only “in the interests of the state”— “taking this stand, and admitting the possibility of the compulsory shifting of boundaries in certain cases, we believe that we are not shaking ... the basic principles of private property....
Have you given proper consideration to these significant words of the minister’s, gentlemen? They are worth pondering over.... You must ponder over them.... Mr. Kutler fully convinced the minister that there is nothing inconvenient for the landlords in the word “compulsory Why not? Because it is the landlords themselves who will do the compelling!
I hope, gentlemen, that I have succeeded in making clear our Social-Democratic attitude to the “Right” parties and to the liberal Centre (the Cadets) in respect of the agrarian question. I must now deal with one important difference between, the views of the Social-Democrats and those of the Trudoviks in the broad sense of that word, i.e., all the parties that base themselves on the “labour principle”, which includes the Popular Socialists, the Trudoviks in the narrow sense of the word, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.
From what I have already said, it can be seen that the Social-Democratic Labour Party gives its full support to the peasant masses in their struggle against the landlords for land, and for emancipation from feudal exploitation. There are not, there cannot be, more reliable allies for the peasantry in this struggle, than the proletariat, which has made the greatest number of sacrifices to the cause of winning light and liberty for Russia. The peasantry have not, and cannot have, any other means of ensuring the satisfaction of their just demands than that of joining the class-conscious proletariat, which is struggling under the red banner of inter national Social-Democracy. Everywhere in Europe liberal parties have betrayed the peasantry and have sacrificed their interests to those of the landlords; and as I showed by my analysis of the liberal, Cadet programme, the same thing is happening here in Russia.
In previous parts of my speech, I have frequently touched on the differences in the views of the Trudovik Group and those of the Social-Democrats on the agrarian question. Now I must examine one of the principal views of the Trudovik Group.
For this purpose, I shall permit myself to take the speech made by the Reverend Tikhvinsky. Gentlemen! The Social-Democrats do not share the views of the Christian religion. We believe that the real social, cultural and political significance and content of Christianity is more truly ex pressed by views and aspirations of such members of the clergy as Bishop Eulogius, than by those of such as the Reverend Tikhvinsky. That is why, on the basis of our scientific, materialist philosophy to which all prejudice is alien, on the basis of the general aims of our struggle for the freedom and happiness of all working people, we Social-Democrats have a negative attitude towards the doctrines of Christianity. But, having said that, I consider it my duty to add, frankly and openly, that the Social-Democrats are fighting for complete freedom of conscience, and have every respect for any sincere conviction in matters of faith, provided that conviction is not implemented by force or deception. I consider it all the more my duty to stress this point since I am going to speak of my differences with the Reverend Tikhvinsky—a peasant deputy who deserves all respect for his sincere loyalty to the interests of the peasants, the interests of the people, which he defends fearlessly and with determination.
Deputy Tikhvinsky supports the land bill of the Trudovik Group; it is based on equalitarian principles of land tenure. In support of this bill, Deputy Tikhvinsky said:
“This is the way the peasants, the way the working people look at the land: the land is God’s, and the labouring peasant has as much right to it as each one of us has the right to water and-air. it would be strange if anyone were to start selling, buying or trading in water and air—and it seems just as strange to us that anyone should trade in, sell or buy land. The Peasant Union and the Trudovik Group wish to apply the principle—all the land to the working people. With regard to compensation for the land—how the above is to be effected, by means of compensation or by simple alienation without compensation, is a question that does not interest the labouring peasantry....”
That is what Deputy Tikhvinsky said in the name of the Peasant Union and the Trudovik Group.
The error, the profound error, of the Trudoviks is their not being interested in the question of compensation and that of ways of implementing the land reform, although whether or not the peasantry will achieve liberation from landlord oppression actually depends on this question. They are interested in the question of the sale and purchase of land and in that of the equal rights of all to land, although that question has no serious significance in the struggle for the real emancipation of the peasantry from the oppression of the landlords.
Deputy Tikhvinsky defends the point of view that land must not be bought or sold, and that all working people have an equal right to the land.
I am well aware that this viewpoint springs from the most noble motives, from an ardent protest against monopoly, against the privileges of rich idlers, against the exploitation of man by man, that it arises out of the aspiration to achieve the liberation of all working people from every kind of oppression and exploitation.
It is for this ideal, the ideal of socialism, that .the Social-Democratic Labour Party is struggling. It is, however, an ideal that cannot be achieved by the equalitarian use of land by small proprietors, in the way Deputy Tikhvinsky and his fellow-thinkers dream of.
Deputy Tikhvinsky is prepared to fight honestly, sincerely and with determination—and, I hope, to fight to the end—against the power of the landlords. But he has f or gotten another, still more burdensome, still more oppressive power over the working people of today, the power of capital, the power of money.
Deputy Tikhvinsky has said that the sale of land, water and air seems strange to the peasant. I realise that people who have lived all their lives, or almost all their lives in the countryside, should acquire such views. But just take a look at modern capitalist society, at the big cities, at the rail ways, coal and iron mines and factories. You will see how the wealthy have seized the air and the water and the land. You will see how tens and hundreds of thousands of workers are condemned to deprivation of fresh air, to work under ground, to life in cellars and to the use of water polluted by the neighbouring factory. You will see how fantastically the price of land goes up in the cities, and how the worker is exploited, not only by the factory owners, but also by house owners who, as everybody knows, get much more out of apartments, rooms, corners of rooms and slums inhabited by workers than out of apartments for the wealthy. And, indeed, what is the sale and purchase of water, air and land when the whole of present-day society is based on the purchase and sale of labour-power., i.e., on the wage slavery of millions of people!
Just consider it: can you imagine equalitarian land tenure or prohibiting the sale and purchase of land as long as the power of money, the power of capital, continues to exist? Can the Russian people be delivered from oppression and exploitation if the right of every citizen to an equal-sized piece of land is recognised, when, at the same time, a handful of people own tens of thousands and millions of rubles each, and the mass of the people remain poor? No, gentlemen. As long as the power of capital lasts, no equality between land owners will be possible, and any sort of ban on the purchase and sale of land will be impossible, ridiculous and absurd. Everything, not merely the land, but human labour, the human being himself, conscience, love, science—everything must inevitably be for sale as long as the power of capital lasts.
In saying this, I have absolutely no desire to weaken the peasants’ struggle for land, or belittle its significance, its importance or its urgency. I do not intend anything of the sort. I have said, and I repeat, that this struggle is a just and necessary one, that the peasant, in his own interests, and in the interests of the proletariat, and in the interests of social development as a whole, must throw off the feudal oppression of the landlords.
Class-conscious workers wish to strengthen the peasants’ struggle for land, not weaken it. Socialists do not strive to check this struggle, but to carry it further, and for this purpose shake off all naïve faith in the possibility of putting petty proprietors on an equal footing, or of banning the sale and purchase of land, as long as exchange, money and the power of capital exist.
Worker Social-Democrats give their full support to the peasants against the landlords. But it is not petty owner ship, even if it is equalitarian, that can save mankind from the poverty of the masses, from exploitation and from the oppression of man by man. What is needed for that is a struggle for the destruction of capitalist society, and its replacement by large-scale socialist production. This struggle is now being conducted by millions of class-conscious Social-Democrat workers in all countries of the world. It is only by joining in this struggle that the peasantry can, having got rid of their first enemy, the feudal landlord, conduct a successful struggle against the second and more terrible enemy, the power of capital!
- Civil mediators—an office introduced by the tsarist government at the time of the Peasant Reform of 1861. The civil mediators were appointed by the governor from among the local nobility on the recommendation of the Assembly of the Nobility, and were approved by the Senate; they were empowered to examine and settle disputes between landlords and peasants arising out of the implementation of the “Regulations” on the emancipation of the peasants, their real function being to protect the interests of the landlords. Their chief duty was to draw up “title deeds” defining the exact dimensions of the peasant allotments of land and also the obligations of the peasants towards the landlords; the civil mediators also supervised rural self-government. They approved the officials elected to the rural councils, had the right to inflict punishment on the peasants, arrest and fine them, and also to annul such decisions of peasant meetings that were not to the liking of the landlords.
The institution of civil mediators was representative exclusively of the social-estate of the nobility, and aided the tsarist government in implementing the plunder of the peasants, in favour of the landlords, by the Reform of 1861.
- Russkaya Pravda (Russian Law)—the first written codification of laws and princes’ decrees (eleventh-twelfth centuries). Its statutes protected the lives and property of the feudal lord and were indicative of the bitter class struggle between peasants in feudal bondage and their exploiters.
- The article referred to is N. Karyshev’s “Peasant Non-Allotment Rentings” published in Volume Two of the book Results of an Economic Investigation of Russia According to Zemstvo Statistical Data (Derpt, 1892).
- In pre-revolutionary Russia, the landed estates belonging to the imperial family were administered by a Ministry of the Court and Crown Lands.
- An exact calculation (in case of questions) is given at the end of Notebook 3.—Lenin
- This Russian expression means “to one and the same thing (or person)”.
- The labour standard was the measure of the amount of land each peasant household should receive under an equalitarian system of land distribution. This utopian ideal had a long history in Russia and was strongly supported by the various Narodnik groups and parties that emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century after the emancipation of the serfs. The “labour standard” implied the allotment to each peasant household of the maximum amount of land its members could farm without employing hired labour. It was proposed in opposition to the “standard of 1801”, i.e., the amount of land actually allotted to the peasants at the time of the Reform which in many cases was far from sufficient even to feed the peasant and his family so that he had to seek “outside employments” (for details of this feature of Russian peasant life see Volume Three of this edition, “The Development of Capitalism in Russia”). The third standard mentioned in this article is the “subsistence standard”, i.e., the minimum amount of land that would feed the peasant and his family. Needless to say this standard was far below the “labour standard”.
- See newspaper Vperyod, No. I for May 26, 1906; leading article—“The Cadets Are Betraying the Peasants”, signed: G. Al—sky.—Lenin
- It would be a good thing to find the exact quotation; I think it is from “Letters Unaddressed”, and elsewhere.—Lenin