Mobilisation of Allotment Lands
|Written||26 July 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 288-291.
A few days ago the official newspaper Rossiya published the results of an investigation carried out by the Ministry of the Interior in the summer of 1912 on the question of the mobilisation of allotment lands, that is, their sale and purchase, their transfer from one owner to another.
The Ministry of the Interior selected four gubernias for its investigation—Vitebsk, Perm, Stavropol and Samara (Nikolayev Uyezd). It is typical that the gubernias of the Great-Russian agricultural “centre” of European Russia, the gubernias where the traces of serfdom are the strongest and where the condition of the peasants is worst and the oppression by the feudal landowners is greatest, were not included in the investigation! It is obvious that the Ministry did not wish so much to investigate as to deceive, did not wish so much to study the matter as to distort it.
The statistics collected by the Ministry of the Interior and summarised in Rossiya are remarkably slipshod, haphazard and primitive; we have before us the usual “official work” produced by Russian civil servants, who can be relied on to bungle the simplest task. For the whole of Russia they examined something like a hundred thousand households but they could not devise a comprehensive programme, or engage competent statisticians, or ensure the uniform application of even a partial consistent programme to all areas!
The general results of the investigation are the following. In the four gubernias mentioned, on January 1, 1912, a total of 108,095 peasant households had left the communes and had acquired titles to their land. This means that of the total number of title-holding households, which now probably amounts to 2,000,000 in the whole of Russia (out of a total of 12,000,000–13,000,000 households), something like one-twentieth have been investigated. Even such an investigation would, of course, be valuable if it were done conscientiously, that is, if it were done not by Russian civil servants and not under Russian political conditions.
Of the hundred thousand or so households holding titles, 27,588, i.e., more than a quarter (25.5 per cent) sold land. This huge number of sales by peasant owners shows straight away that in Russia the notorious “private ownership” of land is primarily a means of liberating the peasants from the land. In fact, over ten thousand (10,380) households out of those that sold land were not engaged in farming at all. They had been artificially bound to the soil by the old, semi-medieval commune. The demand made by the Social-Democrats—to grant the right of free exit from the commune—was the only correct one; that alone could have given the peasants without any interference on the part of the police, rural superintendents and similar kindly “authorities” what life in capitalist society insistently demands. You cannot keep anyone on the land who cannot farm it, and to try to do so is absurd.
If the number of title-holding households in the whole of Russia amounts to two million, the above data lead one to suppose that about 200,000 of them did not engage in farming and immediately sold their land. “Private owner ship” immediately threw hundreds of thousands of fictitious farmers out of the countryside! The Ministry of the Interior statistics do not say a word about the price (probably a nominal one) at which these poor people sold their land. Pitiful statistics!
What caused these farmers to sell land to which they had obtained the title? Out of 17,260 such peasants only 1,791, i.e., a tiny minority, sold land in order to improve their farms or to buy new lots. The remaining mass of peasants sold land because they could not remain on it—4,117 house holds sold out to migrate to Siberia; 768 because they were going over to other types of employment; 5,614 from necessity, “drunkenness” (as the official statisticians say!) and bad harvests; 2,498 because of illness, old age and lack of family help; 2,472 for “other” reasons.
These unscrupulous statisticians try to make it seem that only 5,614 households “have actually lost their land”! This, of course, is the despicable kind of trick people who have been ordered to raise a cheer would use. As we have seen, the vast majority of those who sell land are ruined and become landless. It is not for nothing that the peasants who sell out are mostly those owning small plots; even official statistics recognise this fact although, needless to say, they avoid giving any precise and complete figures. Pitiful statistics....
Of the 27,588 title-holders who sold out, more than a half (14,182) sold all their land, the remainder selling only part of it. Purchasers of land numbered 19,472. A comparison of the number of purchasers with the number of sellers clearly shows that a concentration of land is taking place, that it is being concentrated in the hands of a smaller number of owners. The poor sell land and the rich buy it. Despite their efforts, official scribblers are powerless to minimise the significance of this fact.
In Stavropol Gubernia, 14,282 title-holders sold land to 7,489 purchasers. Of the latter, 3,290 bought more than 15 dessiatines—580 bought from 50 to 100 dessiatines, 85 bought from 100 to 500 dessiatines and 7 bought from 500 to 1,000 dessiatines. In Nikolayev Uyezd of Samara Gubernia, 142 purchasers bought from 50 to 100 dessiatines, 102 from 100 to 500 dessiatines and 2 from 500 to 1,000 dessiatines.
In Perm Gubernia, 201 purchasers bought two or more lots of land; in Stavropol Gubernia, 2,957 purchasers bought more than two; of these, 562 bought from 5 to 9 lots, and 168 even ten or more!
The concentration of land is taking place on a grand scale. We can see clearly how pitiful, senseless and reactionary are the attempts to curtail the mobilisation of the land made by the Third Duma and the government and defended by “liberal” civil servants through the Cadet Party. There is nothing that reveals the retrograde nature of the Cadets and their civil-service stupidity so much as their defence of “measures” against the mobilisation of peasant lands.
The peasant does not sell his land except from dire need. Attempts to limit this right are despicable hypocrisy and worsen the selling conditions for the peasant, because in reality such limitations are evaded in thousands of ways.
The Narodniks, who do not understand the inevitability of land mobilisation under capitalism, hold a much more democratic view when they demand the abolition of private property in land. But only an ignoramus could call such abolition a socialist measure. There is absolutely nothing socialist in it. In England, one of the most developed capitalist countries, the farmers (capitalist tenant farmers) farm land belonging to landlords (big landowners). If this land belonged to the state, capitalism would develop more freely and extensively in agriculture. There would be no hindrances from the landowners. There would be no need to withdraw capital from production to invest in land purchases. The mobilisation of the land, drawing it into circulation, would be still easier because the transfer of the land from one person to another would take place more freely, simply and cheaply.
The poorer a country is, and the more it is crushed and stifled under the yoke of feudal landed proprietorship, the more urgent (from the standpoint of the development of capitalism and the growth of the productive forces) is the abolition of private property in land, complete freedom for its mobilisation, and the break-down of the old spirit of routine and stagnation in agriculture.
Our Stolypin land legislation, however, far from delivering the peasant from ruin and his land from mobilisation, makes that ruin a hundred times more acute and worsens (to a far greater extent than the “general” capitalist standard) the condition of the peasant, compelling him to accept worse conditions when selling his land.
- Rural superintendent—an administrative post introduced by the tsarist government in 1889 to increase the power of the landowners over the peasantry. The rural superintendents, appointed from among the local landed nobility, were granted tremendous powers, not only administrative, but juridical, which included the right to arrest peasants and order corporal punishment.