Replies to Plekhanov’s and Axelrod’s Remarks on the Article “The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy”
|Written||1 May 1902|
First published in 1925 in Lenin Miscellany III. Printed from the original
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 41, pages 53.2-69.1.
G. V. Plekhanov’s and P. B. Axelrod’s remarks on Lenin’s article “The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy” were written on the back of the original between April 20 and May 1 (May 3 and 14), 1902. Lenin’s replies were also written on the back of the original on May 1 (14), 1902, at the same time as his letter to Plekhanov (see present edition, Vol. 34, p. 103); the concluding part of Lenin’s replies (pp. 68–69) was written on separate sheets appended to the original of the article. Each of the replies was preceded by an extract from the article to which the remarks referred. Lenin used thin lines to underscore Plekhanov’s text. p. 53
|"4. establishment of peasant committees:
|NB. Please note this: expropriation (No. 3) does not rule out redemption; redemption does not rule out expropriation (proof superfluous); “redemption, etc.” (No. 2) is nothing but redemption—“etc.” should be deleted. The words in brackets could be replaced by these (by redemption, if after 1861 the land [and not lands] (No. 1) has changed hands by sale). This will make it clear that in other cases restitution shall take place without compensation for the present owners. Where the land has changed hands by inheritance, or donation, or exchange, there should be no redemption. I think we shall have time to alter this.
Axelrod. I agree. P.A.
|1. Once you have “lands” in the programme it is bad grammar to say “land” in brackets.
No.2. "etc." includes exchange of lands, and servitude for land, and redemarcation, etc. It would therefore b quite wrong to delete it.
No. 3. "Expropriation" normally implies deprivation of property, that is, taking away without compensation. So it is not all that strange to contrast it with redemption as it is may appear to the author of the remarks.
|"It is our duty to fight against all remnants of serf-owning relationships—that is beyond doubt to a Social-Demo crat—and since these relationships are most intricately interwoven with bourgeois relationships, we are obliged to penetrate into the very core, if I may use the word, of this confusion, undeterred by the complexity of the task.”|
|P l e k h a n o v. There is no need
to ask for permission to obtain
knowledge of the core.
|"...the workers’ section contains demands directed against the bourgeoisie, whereas the peasants’ section contains demands directed against the serf-owning landlords (against the feudal lords, I would say, if the applicability of this term to our landed nobility were not so disputable1)).|
|1) Personally I am inclined to decide this question in the affirmative, but in the given instance, it is of course neither the place nor the time for substantiating or even for proposing this solution, since what we are concerned with now is defence of the draft agrarian programme prepared collectively by the entire Editorial Board.”|
|Axelrod. NB. I do think that such
hints at differences could be waived
in a programme pamphlet.
|"However, to try to determine in advance, before the final outcome of the struggle, in the course of that struggle, that we shall perhaps fail to achieve the entire maximum, means lapsing into sheer = philistinism.”|
P l e k h a n o v. “Try to determine” that we shall fail to achieve the entire maximum, etc.—that is very ineptly phrased. I propose to substitute for it the phrase I wrote in the text. I request a vote on this proposal. Motive: fear of gibes from opponents.
|A bit of tact would suggest to the author of the remarks that it is highly improper to insist on a vote of the stylistic changes he proposes (perhaps for the worse?). It is equally ridiculous to fear that over the minor question of “feudal ism” (the Martynov's?) will raise a cry about a “difference of opinion”. My statement was a very general one.|
I also propose a vote on my proposal to delete the author’s considerations about Russian feudalism. Motive: such reasoning is irrelevant in a general, you might say, editorial, article. The author’s reservations merely suggest a difference ol opinion on the Editorial Board.
|A x e l r o d. I already spoke out in this vein above.|
|"'Our movement is the Social-Democratic labour movement. The peasant masses cannot just be ‘brought’ into it: that is not problematic, but impossible, and there was never any question of it. However, the peasant masses cannot but be brought into the ‘movement’ against all the remnants of the serf-owning system (including the = autocracy).”
|Plekhanov I propose that instead of the words: “peasant masses (in the phrase about “bringing in”) we write: the peasant mass as such, i.e., as an estate, and, moreover, regard ed as a single whole, etc.||See 28 reverse.|
|I request a vote on this.|
|Axelrod. I agree. P.A.|
||The example of Britain is not very apt because of her exceptional position. To compare Russia with Britain just now is to sow great confusion among the public. The “necessity” of a republic is indicated by the remarks of Marx (1875) and Engels (1891) concerning the demand for a republic in Germany—but there can always be exceptions.|
|A x e l r o d. In favour of the proposal. P.A.|
|“But if you do not want to stray into these back-alleys, then say so frankly and don’t try to get away by phrase-mongering.”|
|P l e k h a n o v. I put to the vote the question of crossing out this page. It lends a somewhat feuilleton character to the reasoning, which in itself is clear and consistent. In order to put forward the demand for restitution of the cut-off lands, there is no need “to crawl along the edge of precipices”, etc. This imagery suggests that the author himself has not quite tied in the “cut-off lands” with his own orthodoxy.||I put to the vote the question of whether it is proper to use such cancan-toned remarks in respect of a colleague. And where is it going to get us if we all start cudgelling each other
in that way??
|A x e l r o d. I propose we leave out this page, starting from the words: “This meets...” to the end of the following page (47). P.A.|
|“The importance of the cut-off lands in present-day peasant farming is a question of reality.”|
|P l e k h a n o v. I would advise throwing out all the reasoning about “simplicity” and “non simplicity”, and continuing the article with the words: “The imporrtance of the cut-off lands....” The article will gain therefrom, because this whole passage spoils it by being terribly (??) dragged out. I propose a vote.||The reasoning about simplicity, as a summing up of the foregoing (and as a reply to a host of remarks made by those even who sympathise with us), is not at all superfluous, and I suggest we leave it in.|
|“Labour rent makes for stagnation in cultivation techniques and for stagnation in all social and economic relation ships in the countryside, since this labour rent hampers the development of a money economy and the differentiation of the peasantry, disembarrasses the landlord (comparatively) of the stimulus of competition (instead of raising the technical level, he reduces the share of the sharecropper; incidentally, this reduction has been recorded in a number of localities for many years of the post-Reform period), ties the peasant to the land, thereby checking the progress of migration, outside employment, etc."|
||How? Whom? Why?—this baffles all understanding.|
|Furthermore: what means “comparatively disembarrasses”? The word “comparatively” does not fit in here.||It’s quite plain. It means: it disembarrasses relative to the current state in Russia (and not as compared with, say, America).|
|"And in general: once it is generally acknowledged that the cut-off lands are one of the principal roots of the labour-rent system—and this system is a direct survival of serf-ownership which retards the development of capitalism—how can one doubt that the restitution of the cut-off lands will undermine the labour-rent system and accelerate social and economic = progress?”|
|P l e k h a n o v. That is just why there is no need to go to such lengths to prove this.||A hasty conclusion. See end of this (55) and beginning of the next page.|
|"As far as I can judge, all objections ’against the cut-off lands’ fit into one or another of these four groups; moreover, most of the objectors (including Martynov) have answered all four questions in the negative, considering the demand for the restitution of the cut-off lands wrong in principle, politically inexpedient, practically unattainable, and logically = inconsistent.”|
|P l e k h a n o v. I propose that Martynov should be deleted: there’s much too much of him stuck in all over the place.||See p. 28 reverse.|
|A x e l r o d. Indeed, des Guten, i.e., Martynov, mehr als zu viel. P.A.||Martynov has cited arguments reiterated by very many of our friends. It would be highly tactless to let these arguments go, with out replying to them, and to refrain from mentioning Martynov, when he speaks to the point.|
|"And we shall not be in the least contradicting ourselves if we delete from our programme the struggle against the remnants of the serf-owning system in the subsequent historical period when the special features of the present social and political ‘juncture’ will have disappeared, when the peasants, let us suppose, will have been satisfied by insignificant concessions made to an insignificant number of property-owners and begin definitely to ’snarl’ at the proletariat. Then, we shall probably also have to delete from our programme the struggle against the autocracy, for it is quite inconceivable that the peasants will succeed in ridding themselves of the most repulsive and grievous form of feudal oppression before political liberty has been attained.”|
|P l e k h a n o v. I propose we throw out the part starting with the words: “And we shall not be...” and ending with: "..has been attained.” Instead of reinforcing, they weaken the conviction carried by the foregoing.||These words should stand, for they arise out of a necessary precaution. Other wise, we could later be very well accused of lack of foresight.|
A x e l r o d. In favour. P.A.
|"It may be argued: ’However slowly the labour-rent farming may be yielding to the pressure of capitalism, still it is yielding; it is, moreover, doomed to disappear complete ly; large-scale labour-rent farming is giving way to, and will be directly replaced by, large-scale capitalist farming. What you want is to accelerate the elimination of serf-owning by a measure which in essence amounts to the splitting-up (partial, but nevertheless splitting-up) of large-scale farms. Are you not thereby sacrificing the interests of the future to the interests of the present? For the sake of the problematic possibility of a peasant revolt against serf-owning in the immediate future, you are placing obstacles in the way of a revolt of the agricultural proletariat against capitalism in the more or less distant future!’
|P l e k h a n o v. It’s pretty unconvincing even at first glance. It reeks of such wild pedantry, that the least said of it the better: I blush for the Social-Democrats. This sense of shame is the stronger now that thousands of Russian peasants are rising up to liquidate the old order. I request a vote on the proposal to declare this argument unconvincing even at first glance.||I think it is ridiculous to see this as a “compliment to our opponents”, when they are being refuted (this is even actually wrong, because the argument was repeated in their letters by Iskra’s closest friends). Besides, there’s no point at all in the abuse heaped on them by the author of the remarks.|
|A x e l r o d. I believe we should throw out the compliment to our opponents à la Martynov. P.A.|
|"....this could not fail to exert the profoundest influence on the spirit of protest and the independent struggle of the entire rural working population”.|
|P l e k h a n o v. What does “independent struggle” mean?||See Belgium in April 1902. She provides the answer to this “difficult” question.|
||Is it so hard to understand that everyone has his own way of using quotes? Perhaps the author of the remarks will want to “v o t e” on the quotes as well? I shouldn’t be at all surprised!|
|"It is the Russian bourgeoisie who were ‘late’ with what is really their task of sweeping away all the remnants of the old regime, and we must and shall rectify this omission until it has been rectified, until we have won political liberty, as long as the position of the peasants continues to foster dissatisfaction among practically the whole of educated bourgeois society (as is the case in Russia), instead of fostering a feeling of conservative self-satisfaction among it on account of the ’indestructibility’ of what is supposed to be the strongest bulwark against socialism (as is the dase in the West where this self-satisfaction is displayed by all the parties of Order, ranging from the agrarians and conservatives pur sang, through the liberal and free-thinking bourgeois, to even as far—without offence to Messrs. the Chernovs and the Vestnik Russkoi Revolutsii!—to even as far as the fashionable ‘critics of Marxism’ in the agrarian = question).”|
|P l e k h a n o v. I strongly advise that we throw out here the words “Vesinik Rueskot Revolutsii”. They stand alongside Chernov’s name, and we could be accused of carelessly bringing the two together, giving a hint, and almost divulging a pseudonym. This should be avoided at all costs.||I agree, but I prefer to throw out “the Chernovs”.|
|P l e k h a n o v. I quite ad here to this remark. That’s the “crux” of the matter.||It's a pity the “adherent” quite forgot that the remark related to the unedited article. Just a little attention would have spared him this amusing mistake.|
|Nationalisation of the land in a police state would mean a fresh and vast increase of that state. That is why it is not right to say, as the author says here, “much less expressive”, etc. One measure is revolutionary and the other reactionary.
||This is wrong. Nationalisation is not always “reactionary”, regardless of time and character. That’s an absurdity.|
|If the authors of the remarks refuse to take the trouble to give a precise formulation to the amendments, even in a second reading (although this demand was specially accepted and communicated to all)—there will he endless delays through votes on “changes” in general (and then on the text of the changes??). It would be better to worry less about the author of a signed article expressing himself in his own manner.
|"That is why we think that, on the basis of the present social system, the maximum demand in our agrarian programme should not go beyond the democratic revision of the Peasant Reform. The demand for nationalisation of the land, while quite valid in principle and quite suitable at certain moments, is politically inexpedient at the present moment.”|
P l e k h a n o v. I agree with Berg’s remark. But I propose this wording: in a police state, nationalisation of the land is harmful, and in a constitutional one it will be a part of the demand for the nationalisation of all the means of production. I request a vote.
A x e l r o d. I agree. P.A.
|See p. 75 reverse.|
|P l e k h a n o v. The style here is terrible. I propose a vote on improving it.||A “terrible” concept of the “voting” game! It looks as if we have nothing better to do!|
|A x e l r o d. How?|
|P l e k h a n o v. The author promised not to speak of Russian feudalism (see above), but has failed to keep his promise. That’s a pity. I request a vote on the proposal to delete here the word feudal (rent).||That’s not true. If you do take a look above, you will find that the author “promised” nothing of the sort. Once the author has made the specific reservation that this is not a general opinion, the quibbling here is doubly tactless.|
|" Even the autocracy has therefore been obliged more and more frequently to institute a special fund (utterly trifling, of course, and going more to line the pockets of embezzlers of state property and bureaucrats than for the relief of the famine-stricken) ’for the cultural and charitable needs of the village communes’. We, too, cannot but demand, among other democratic reforms, that such a fund be established. That can scarcely be disputed.”|
|P l e k h a n o v. This passage here about the “autocracy” is extremely inappropriate. After all, why should we look to It for example? As if we are unable to make any proposals without looking to it for a cue?||That even the autocracy has been obliged to go in for charity (in the small. est way) is a fact, fear of reference to which is rather strange. That this is put forward as an “example”, is a “poor invention” by a man who wants to quibble.|
|The restitution to the peasants should be motivated by it being a revolutionary measure, rectifying an “injustice” which is not only still in everyone’s mind, but which largely served to ruin the Russian peasant (cf. Martynov).|
|P.S. When the French émigrés demanded their billion (at the time of the Restoration) they said nothing about charity. They had a better understanding of the class struggle.|
|I propose a vote on the proposal to rewrite this passage.|
|A x e l r o d. Cf. Plekhanov’s remark to p. 90 Read that and these remarks carefully and you will agree with them. P.A.|
|P l e k h a n o v. Why can’t the cut-off lands be restituted in full? The programme says nothing about it.||That’s absolutely wrong. Lenin’s insertion in his article does not alter the meaning of what the programme says, and c a n n o t do so. The author of the remarks has forgotten the elementary truth that “it is the law, and not the motives of the law, that is subject to application”.|
|I call everyone’s attention to the fact that the meaning of the paragraph we adopted has been changed here.|
|A x e l r o d. Why do you restrict and weaken a principled decision by an insertion?|
|"Actually, of course, the annulment of collective liability (Mr. Witte may manage to put this particular reform through before the revolution), the abolition of division into social-estates, freedom of movement, and the right for each individual peasant freely to dispose of his land will rapidly and inevitably bring about the removal of the burden of taxation and serf-bondage that the land commune to a three-fourths extent constitutes at the present time. But this result will only prove the correctness of our views on the village commune, prove how incompatible it is with the entire social and economic development of capitalism.”|
|P l e k h a n o v. There is now talk of its destruction. The relevant phrase should therefore be changed||"Therefore" has nothing to do with it. The “talk” has been going on for quite some time, and even if it does lead to some action, still nothing need be altered there.|
|I propose that instead of “capitalism” we say: “with all the social and economic development of our time”. Motive: this will spare us any “demagogic criticism” by the proponents of the commune.||I find this fear of “demagogy” absolutely unwarranted, because these gentlemen will always come up with similarly “bad criticism”.|
|"To this we reply that it does not at all follow from our formulation that every peasant must necessarily demand that a separate plot of land be allotted to him. What does follow is only liberty to sell the land; moreover, the preferential right of the commune members to purchase land that is being sold does not run counter to this liberty.”
|P l e k h a n o v. I quite agree with this remark, and propose that it be put to the vote.||“I agree” with what related to a deleted passage??!!?? A very fine proposal for a “vote”, indeed!|
|A x e l r o d. In favour.|
|“This objection would be groundless. Our demands do not destroy the association but, on the contrary, set up in place of the archaic (de facto semi-feudal) power of the commune over the muzhik, the power of a modern association over its members who join of their own accord. Nor, in particular, is our formulation at variance with the recognition, for instance, of fellow members’ having the pre-emptive right, on certain terms, to buy the land put up for sale by a fellow member.”
|P l e k h a n o v. I don’t agree with this. This right would merely depreciate the peasant’s land.||The author of the remarks overdoes his hostility to the commune. On this point great care must be taken to keep out of the embrace of Messrs. A. Skvortsov & Co. (into which the author of the remarks falls). On certain terms, the right of preemption may increase instead of decreasing the value of the land. My expression is deliberately broader and more general, whereas the author of the remarks is in too much of a hurry to cut the Gordian knot. By carelessly “denying” the commune (as an association) we may easily spoil all our “good will” to the peasant. After all, the commune is also connect ed with the conventional type of settlement, and so on, and only the A. Skvortsovs “remake” this in their projects with the stroke of a pen.|
|As for collective liability, it has artially already been abol iso ,and the rest will be abolished by Mr. Witte any day now.|
|Contradiction I fail to under stand: on the one hand, I freely enter an association and freely withdraw from it. On the other, the commune has a pre-emptive right to buy my land. There’s a contradiction in this.|
|"To clear the way for the free development of the class struggle in the countryside, it is necessary to remove all remnants of serfdom, which now overlie the beginnings of capitalist antagonisms among the rural population, and keep them from developing.”
|P l e k h a n o v. This is the first time I see the word antagonism used in the plural.||The author of the remarks should not imagine that he is past seeing anything for the first time.|
This alone is made fully clear by the remarks of the “author of the remarks”. If he set himself the task of making it impossible for comrades who disagree with him, even on trifling matters, to work together with him on the board, he is rapidly and very surely moving towards that noble goal. But if he does reach it, he himself should bear the consequences.
(1) The remarks are written in such a careless manner that no effort has even been made to compare what there was before and what there is after the corrections.
(2) In fact, the list of corrections has simply been thrown out! “Don’t buck me.
(3) Hardly any of the alterations proposed by the author of the remarks has been formulated by him personally—contrary to the specified condition adopted of necessity to avoid intolerable delays.
(4) The tone of the remarks is deliberately abusive. If I adopted such a tone in “analysing” Plekhanov’s article on the programme (i.e., his personal “article" and not the draft of a general statement, a general programme, etc.) that would at once be the end of our collaboration. And so I “put to the vote”: are members of the board to be allowed to provoke other members into doing so?
(5) It is the summit of tactlessness to use votings to interfere in the very manner in which the members of the board express themselves.
The author of the remarks puts me in mind of a coachman who thinks that to steer well, the horses have to be reined in and brought up as often and as hard as possible. Of course, I am nothing more than a horse, one of the horses of the coachman—Plekhanov—but even the most harassed horse may throw off the much too spirited coachman.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 112.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 116.—Ed.
- Ibid., p. 118.—Ed.
- See present edition. Vol. 6, p. 120.—Ed.
- Plekhanov proposed the following rewording: “However, to stop ourselves, before the final outcome of the struggle, in the course of that struggle, on the strength of the consideration....”—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 120.—Ed.
- See preceding reply to Plekhanov’s remark.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 122.—Ed.
- A reference to Karl Marx’s Critique of the Gotha Programme (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1962 pp. 13–48) and Engels’s “Zur Kritik des sozialdemokratischen Programmentwurfes 1891” (Criticism of the Draft Social-Democratic Programme of 1891) (Marx/Engels, Werke, Diets Verlag, Berlin, 1962, Bd. 22, S. 272-91). p. 56
- See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 128–29.—Ed.
- The Valuyev Commission—a commission set up to inquire into the state of agriculture in Russia and headed by tsarist Minister P. A. Valyuev. In 1872 and 1873, it collected extensive material on the state of agriculture in Russia following the 1861 Reform, and this was published in a book entitled Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Present State of Agriculture and Agricultural Productivity in Russia, St. Petersburg, 1873. p. 57
- See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 129–30.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 131–32.—Ed.
- Ibid., p. 32.—Ed.
- Lenin means the beginning of Chapter VII of his article (ibid., p. 132).—Ed.
- Ibid., p. 133.—Ed.
- A reference to Lenin’s reply to Plekhanov’s remark on p. 55 of this volume.—Ed.
- Too much of a good thing.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 134–35.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 135.—Ed.
- Ibid., p. 136.—Ed.
- A general strike in support of the demand for universal suffrage put forward in Parliament by representatives of the Labour, and Democratic parties. The strike involved over 300,000 workers, who staged demonstrations throughout the country. However, when Parliament rejected the Bill and troops fired on the demonstrators, the opportunist leadership of the Labour Party (Vandervelde and others) capitulated and, under the pressure of their “allies” from the cam p of the liberal bourgeoisie, called off the general strike. The defeat of the working class in Belgium in April 1902 was a lesson for the working-class movement of the world. p. 61
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 136.—Ed.
- Vestnik Russkoi Revolutsii. Sotsialno-politicheskoye obozreniye (Herald of the Russian Revolution. Socio-Political Review)—an illegal magazine published in Paris and Geneva from 1901 to 1905. Four issues appeared. From No. 2 on it was a theoretical organ of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. p. 62
- Ibid., pp. 137–38.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 139.—Ed.
- A reference to the following remark by L. Martov at the Zurich conference of the Iskra Editorial Board on April 2 (15), 1902: “We should emphasise and bring out the reactionary character of the demand for the nationalisation of the land in Russia at the present moment.”
After the Zurich conference, Lenin made several changes in Chapter VII, which deals with the demand for the nationalisation of the land (see present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 139–42). p. 63
- Ibid., pp. 139–40.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 140.—Ed.
- A reference to the following remark by L. Martov: “It must be said instead that we accept the nationalisation of the land only as an immediate prelude to the socialisation of all the means of production.” p. 64
- A reference to Lenin’s reply to Plekhanov’s remark on p. 63 of this volume.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 142.—Ed.
- See present edition. Vol. 6, p. 143.—Ed.
- Ibid., p. 144.—Ed.
- A reference to rewards given by the government of Charles X to former émigrés whose lands were confiscated and sold as national property during the French bourgeois revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. The law on compensation adopted on March 27, 1825, provided for pecuniary rewards totalling 1,091,360,000 francs (the “émigré billion”). Members of the royal retinue got the biggest rewards. To obtain this vast sum of money, the government increased taxes and converted the 5 per cent state rent to 3 per cent. p. 66
- A reference to Plekhanov’s remark on the following part of the article: “But why confine oneself to this source? Why not try, in addition, to return to the people at least part of the tribute which yesterday’s slave-owners extracted, and are still extracting, from the peasants with the assistance of the police state?” (See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 144.) Plekhanov wrote: “That is the only thing that should be proposed, and not charity. Only those who received the amounts can be expected to return them: the gentry.” p. 66
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 145.—Ed.
- Ibid., p. 146.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 147.—Ed.
- A reference to the following remark by L. Martov: “This proposition is wrong. Freedom to demand a separate plot flows precisely from the freedom to dispose of the land. It is enough to point out instead that the transformation of the power of the commune over the individual into the power of an association over the member who joins on his own accord is not ruled out by our demands.”
After the Zurich conference, Lenin crossed out both sentences in the original and wrote instead: “This objection would be ground less” ending with “put up for sale by a fellow member” (p. 67). p. 67
- See present edition, Vol. 6, p. 148.—Ed.