New Land “Reform” Measures
|Written||29 August 1913|
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 337-339.
The government has drafted a new bill on peasant land tenure. It is proposed to speedily “limit the fragmentation” of individual farmsteads and non-commune holdings. The landowners want to “protect small landed properties” from scattering, disintegration and fragmentation.
In essence the law prohibits the break-up of medium-sized peasant holdings—farmsteads and non-commune properties. When such lands are sold or inherited they must pass into the hands of a single owner. Co-heirs are to receive a cash “indemnity”, to he assessed by landowners’ survey commissions.
Cash, for the indemnity payments is to be advanced on especially favourable terms by the Peasant Bank with the land as security. The size of the average (undivided) holdings is to be determined on the basis of the 1861 feudal laws on the size of the decree allotment.
The significance of this bill is obvious. The landowners want to create privileged landed properties protected against capitalism for the peasant bourgeoisie. Realising that their privileges and their feudal system of land tenure are shaky, the landowners are trying to win over to their side the richest section of the peasant bourgeoisie, insignificant in numbers as it is. I will share a small part of my privileges with you, says the landowner to the kulaks and rich peasants, I will help you grow richer at the expense of the masses of peasants, who are being ruined, and you will protect me from those masses, you will be the bulwark of law and order. Such is the class meaning of the new bill.
Here we have absolutely perfect conformity with the general tendency of the June Third agrarian policy, otherwise known as the Stolypin agrarian policy. It is one and the same landowners’ policy, and the landowners as a class have not been able to pursue any other policy in Russia since 1905. There is no other way in which they can uphold their privileges or even their existence.
Democrats, both working-class and bourgeois (i.e., the peasantry as a mass), must recognise this indisputable truth of class relationships and draw from it the inevitable conclusion. There is nothing more foolish and reactionary than the bureaucratic point of view held by the liberals and the Narodniks, who fear the mobilisation of peasant lands, i.e., their free sale and purchase. Rech, for instance, in two editorials, states in reference to the new bill that “the protection of small landed properties is a necessity”. The trouble, you see, was that the June Third agrarian policy was adopted “suddenly, as a sharp political weapon”.
This is the sapient liberal, in the role of a “supra-class” civil servant, reproaching Stolypin, the leader of the land owners, for having used a political weapon for the benefit of the landowners! The cowardly desire to escape the inevitable class struggle is hidden by whimpering about the connection between the interests of a class and the politics of a class. No wonder Stolypin only laughed at such opponents.
“The protection of small landed properties”, that favourite formula of the liberals (Russian) and the Narodniks, is a reactionary phrase. The working class supports the peasantry (and guides it) only when, and only to the extent that, its actions are democratic, that is, when they are in the interests of social development and of capitalist development, when they are in the interests of the country’s deliverance from the yoke of the feudals and from their privileges. Every curtailment of the mobilisation of peasant lands is, first, a foolish measure, incapable of halting capitalism, a measure that can only worsen the condition of the masses, make their life more difficult and compel them to evade the law. Secondly, it is a measure that actually creates a small section of privileged petty bourgeois, the most hidebound and backward enemies of progress.
The working class does not counterpose to the class politics of the feudal landowners phrases in the “supra-class” spirit, it counterposes the interests of the other classes that constitute nine-tenths of the population. The peasantry, as a petty-bourgeois mass, will for a long time waver between the consistent democracy of the proletariat and hopes of obtaining concessions from the landowners, hopes of sharing their privileges.
However, the conditions provided by the Russian land owners are so burdensome for the peasants, starvation for millions is so common under these conditions, that there can be no doubt whatsoever which side everything that is alive, viable and politically conscious will follow.
- Decree allotment—was fixed by the law of February 19, 1861. In the black-earth and non-black-earth regions two sizes of allotment were fixed, a higher and a lower (the latter being one-third of the former), but for the steppe areas, because of the abundance of land, only one type of allotment was fixed by special decree and was known as the “decree allotment”.