Letter to Georgi Plekhanov, April 4, 1902

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April 4, 1902

Dear G. V.,

I am sending you my article on the cut-off lands.[1] When you have read it, please send it to P. B. together with this letter, for if you keep to the plan which I originally supported (viz., that this article should be, so to speak, a general defence of our general draft), we must agree jointly on any necessary corrections. If, however, you reject this plan, then we shall have to make other arrangements.

In some places I have quoted the general part of the programme (the statement of principle) according to my draft; this will be altered, of course, if my draft is rejected, (I could then make some quotations from the Erfurt Programme,[2] if you had no objections.)

Velika Dmitrievna made some marginal comments without, however, suggesting definite changes in each particular case. Please write and give me your opinion on these points. On one of them, I should like to say a few words in my own defence. Velika Dmitrievna suggests deleting pages 79–82[3] ; I, of course, would not go out of my way to defend them. But she has also discovered in them the programme’s “encouragement of unfairness” in proposing not to give preference to small leaseholders (of nationalised land) but leasing to big and small alike on condition of fulfilment of the agrarian laws and (N.B.) proper cultivation of the land and livestock management.

She argues: this will be a “crime”, for “the rich will grab everything”, while improved cultivation will deprive of work nine-tenths of the workers whom no agrarian laws will help.

I think this argument is incorrect, for (1) it presumes a very highly developed bourgeois society in which it is a rare peasant who can manage without wage-labour; (2) the “rich” can then obtain land only if large-scale farming is technically and economically “well organised”, but this cannot be done all at once, hence the sudden transition that frightens Velika Dmitrievna cannot happen; (3) the ousting of workers by machines is, of course, the inevitable result of large-scale production, but we are pinning our hopes not on retarding the development of capitalist contradictions, but on their full development; moreover, improved cultivation of the soil presupposes a gigantic growth of industry and intensified efflux of population from the land; (4) the proposed measure will not only not help any “criminals” but, on the contrary, is the sole conceivable measure in bourgeois society for counteracting “crime”, for it directly restricts not only exploitation of the worker, but also plunder of the land and deterioration of livestock. It is precisely the petty producer in bourgeois society who especially squanders the forces not only of people, but of the land and livestock.

If you, too, are in favour of deleting pp. 79–82, please give your advice on how to alter the note on p. 92.[4]

What is your opinion as to whether it is possible in general to publish the agrarian part of the programme (and the commentaries on it) separately from the programme as a whole, prior to the publication of the whole programme?

I received yesterday the proofs of V. I.’s article and sent them to Dietz. Yesterday I sent to your address the continuation of the proofs of her article. (To speed things up she could send the corrected proofs directly to Dietz.)

It is now three weeks since we last heard of poor Tsvetov. He has probably gone under. It will be a great loss to us!

All the very best.



April 5. P.S. I have just received your letter. I have passed it on to our people. We shall answer in a few days.

Please send Berg’s draft (which you call commissional)[5] immediately to this address: Frau Kiroff, Schraudolfstrasse, 29, III. 1. bei Taurer. This is very urgent, for they have no copy and do not understand your comments. (Personally, I would have preferred publication of both drafts, in the form of the “third way” proposed by everyone, but the majority) apparently, is now of a different mind.) I shall send you the agrarian books. Velika Dmitrievna, it seems, is ready to soften her “detraction” of the legal Marxists.

  1. The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy” (see present edition, Vol. 6).—Ed.
  2. Erfurt programme—the programme of the German Social-Democratic Party adopted at the Congress in Erfurt in October 1891. See Engels’s article, Note 117. p. 96
  3. This refers to the MS. of “The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy” (see present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 140–42).—Ed.
  4. See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 145.—Ed.
  5. The text of the commission’s draft programme was the result of the work of the coordinating commission appointed by the Iskra editorial board to draw up a unified draft programme of the RSDLP on the basis of Lenin’s and Plekhanov’s previous drafts. The members of the Iskra editorial board were to give their comments on the commission’s draft, and the coordinating commission was to draw up a final draft programme. The commission’s draft was endorsed by the members of the Iskra editorial board in Zurich on April 14, 1902, in Lenin’s absence. p. 98