Neither Land Nor Freedom
|Written||14 May 1906|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 421-422.
The Chairman of the Council of Ministers has communicated to the Duma the government’s “declaration” in reply to the Duma’s Address.
Everybody has been waiting impatiently for this declaration. It was to set forth the government’s programme.
And, indeed, it formulates the government’s “programme” in the clearest possible manner. We shall quote its two main points in full.
“As regards the settlement of the peasant land question by the means indicated by the State Duma, namely, by using for this purpose the crown, monastery and church lands, and by the compulsory alienation of privately-owned land, in which must be included the land of peasant proprietors who have acquired it by purchase, the Council of Ministers considers itself in duty hound to declare that the settlement of this question on the lines proposed by the State Duma is absolutely impermissible. The State cannot recognise the right of some to own land and at the same time deprive others of this right. Nor can the State repudiate in general the right to private property in land, without at the same time repudiating the right to own all other property. The principle of the inalienability and inviolability of property is, throughout the world and at all stages in the development of civic life a corner-stone of national prosperity and social development and the mainstay of the State, without which the very existence of the State is inconceivable. Nor is the proposed measure necessitated by the sub stance of the matter. With the extensive and far from exhausted resources available to the State, and by the wide application of all lawful methods for the purpose, the land question can undoubtedly he satisfactorily settled without disintegrating the very foundations of our statehood and without sapping The vital forces of our country.
“The other legislative measures proposed in the Address of the State Duma consist in the appointment of Ministers who shall be responsible to the popular representative body and enjoy the confidence of the majority in the Duma, consist in abolition of the Council of State, and in removal of the limits to the legislative functions of the State Duma laid down by special enactments. The Council of Ministers does not consider itself empowered to discuss these proposals: they involve a radical change in the fundamental laws of the State, which by their very nature are not subject to revision on the initiative of the State Duma.”
Thus, as regards the land: “absolutely impermissible”. As regards freedom, that is to say, the real rights of the representatives of the people: “not subject to revision on the initiative of the State Duma”.
As regards the land, the peasants must depend entirely on the good will of the landlords, entirely on the consent of the landlords. Compulsory alienation of the land is absolutely impermissible. The slightest appreciable improve ment in the conditions of life of the peasantry is absolutely impermissible.
As regards freedom, the people must depend entirely on the bureaucrats. Without their consent the people’s representatives dare not decide anything. The Council of Ministers even thinks that it is not entitled to discuss the wishes of the Duma as regards the extension of the rights of the people’s representatives. The people’s representatives must not even think of rights. Their function is to petition. The function of the bureaucrats is to examine these petitions—in the way the Duma’s “petitions” were examined in the declaration we have quoted.
Neither land nor freedom.
We cannot here go into a more detailed examination of the declaration itself.
We shall see whether the deputies to the Duma learn anything from this declaration. The Cadets will certainly learn nothing from it. The Trudovik and Workers’ Groups must now show whether they have become at all independent of the Cadets—whether they have realised that it is necessary to give up petitioning—whether they are able to talk straightforwardly and clearly to the people.