The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the Russian Revolution
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 158-181.
The Autoabstract The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the Russian Revolution is a brief summary of the book The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905-07. Lenin wrote the Autoabstract in order to acquaint the Polish Social-Democrats with the differences of opinion existing in the RSDLP on the agrarian question. It was published in the journal Przeglad Socjaldemokratyczny, No. 6, August 1908.
In response to the request of the Polish comrades, I will try briefly to set forth here the contents of my book bearing the above title which was written in November 1907, but which has not yet appeared for reasons not under my control.
In the first chapter of this book I examine the “economic basis and nature of the agrarian revolution in Russia”. Comparing the latest data about landownership in Russia (1905 figures) and defining in round figures the land area in all the fifty gubernias of European Russia at 280 million dessiatines, I arrive at the following picture of the distribution of all landed property, both allotment land and privately-owned:
|Number of holdings||Total area in dessiatines (millions)||Average dessiatines per holding|
|(a) Ruined peasantry crushed by feudal exploitation||10.5||75.0||7.0|
|(b) Middle peasantry||1.0||15.0||15.0|
|(c) Peasant bourgeoisie and capitalist landownership||1.5||70.0||46.7|
|(d) Feudal latifundia||0.03||70.0||2,333.0|
Anyone at all familiar with social statistics will under stand that this picture can be only approximately accurate. For us, however, what is important is not the details, in which economists of the liberal-Narodnik trend usually flounder themselves and submerge the essence of the question, but the class content of the process. My picture brings out this content, showing what the struggle in the Russian revolution is about. Thirty thousand landowners—mainly the nobility, but also the state—possess 70 million dessiatines of land. This basic fact should be regarded in the light of another fact: 10 1/2 million peasant households and smallest proprietors possess 75 million dessiatines.
This second group could double their possessions . at the expense of the first: such is the objectively inevitable tendency of the struggle, irrespective of the various views about it held by various classes.
The economic essence of the agrarian crisis emerges from this picture quite clearly. Millions of petty, ruined, impoverished peasants, oppressed by poverty, ignorance and the survivals of feudalism, cannot live otherwise than in semi-feudal dependence on the landlord, tilling his land with their own agricultural implements in exchange for pasturage, commonage, watering-places, for “land” in general, loans in the winter, etc., etc. On the other hand, the owners of vast latifundia cannot in such conditions manage otherwise than with the help of the labour of their ruined local peasants, since that kind of management does not require any investment of capital or new systems of cultivation. There necessarily arises what has been described many. times in Russian economic literature as the labour-service system of economy. This system is merely the further development of serfdom. The basis of exploitation is not the separation of the worker from the land, but the compulsory attachment of the ruined peasant to it; not the proprietor’s capital but his land; not the implements belonging to the owner of latifundia, but the age-old wooden plough of the peasant; not the progress of agriculture but ancient, centuries-old routine; not “freely hired labour”, but enslavement to the money-lender.
The results of this state of affairs in the sphere of agriculture may be expressed in the following figures. Harvest yield on allotment land is 54 poods per dessiatine; on land lord’s land, with sowing in separate farms, and worked at the expense of the landlord, using his implements and employing hired labour, it is 66 poods; on the same landlord’s land under the métayer system it is 50 poods; and, finally, on land rented by the peasants from the landlord it is 45 poods. Thus landlords’ lands worked on a feudalist-money-lending basis (the above-mentioned métayer and renting by. the peasantry) produce worse yields than the exhausted and qualitatively worse allotment lands. This falling into bond age, consolidated by the feudally-run latifundia, is becoming the main obstacle to the development of Russia’s productive forces.
Another thing that emerges from the picture drawn above is that this development in a capitalist country may take place in two different ways. Either the latifundia remain, and gradually become the basis of capitalist economy on the land. This is the Prussian type of agrarian capitalism, in which the Junker is master of the situation. For whole decades there continue both his political domination and the oppression, degradation, poverty and illiteracy of the peas ant. The productive forces develop very slowly, as they did in Russian agriculture between 1861 and 1905.
Or else the revolution sweeps away the landed estates. The basis of capitalist agriculture now becomes the free farmer on free land, i. e., land clear of all medieval junk. This is the American type of agrarian capitalism, and the most rapid development of productive forces under conditions which are more favourable for the mass of the people than any others under capitalism.
In reality the struggle going on in the Russian revolution is not about “socialisation” and other absurdities of the Narodniks—this is merely petty-bourgeois’ ideology, petty- bourgeois phrase-mongering and nothing more—but about what road capitalist development of Russia will take: the “Prussian” or the “American”. Without ascertaining this economic basis of the revolution, it is absolutely impossible to understand anything about an agrarian programme (as Maslov has not understood it, because he examines the abstractly desirable, without ascertaining the economically inevitable).
Shortage of space prevents me from setting forth the rest of the first chapter: I will sum up in a few words. All the Cadets do their utmost to obscure the essence of the agrarian revolution, while the Prokopoviches help them in this. The Cadets mix up ("reconcile”) the two main types of agrarian programme in the revolution—the landlord and the peasant types. Then (also in a few words): in Russia both types of capitalist agrarian evolution already made their appearance in the years between 1861 and 1905—both the Prussian (the gradual development of landlord economy in the direction of capitalism) and the American (differentiation of the peasantry and a rapid development of productive forces in the more free South, with its abundance of land). Finally, there is the question of colonisation which I deal with in this chapter, and which I shall not be able to dwell on here. I will only mention that the main obstacle in Russia to putting into use hundreds of millions of dessiatines is the feudal latifundia persisting in Central Russia. Victory over these landlords will give such a powerful impetus to the development of technique and scientific cultivation that the area of arable land will increase ten times faster than it did after 1861. Here are a few figures. Out of the total area throughout the Russian . Empire—I ,965 million dessiatines—there is no information whatever about 819 million dessiatines. Thus, only 1,146 million dessiatines are available for consideration—of which 469 million dessiatines are in use, but they include 300 million dessiatines of forest. A vast amount of land that is not fit for anything now will become useful in the immediate future if Russia frees herself from the latifundia.
Chapter II of my book is devoted to the testing of the agrarian programmes of the RSDLP by the revolution. The principal error of all previous programmes has been an insufficiently concrete idea of what the type of capitalist agrarian revolution in Russia can be. And this mistake was repeated by the Mensheviks, who were victorious at the Stockholm Congress, and gave the Party a programme of municipalisation. It was precisely the economic aspect of the question—the most important aspect—that at Stockholm was not examined at all. Instead, it was “political” considerations, the manoeuvres of politicians and not Marxist analysis, that prevailed. An explanation of this can only partially be found in the actual moment when the Stockholm Congress met, when the assessment of December 1905 and the First Duma of 1906 claimed all the attention of the Congress. That was why Plekhanov, who at Stockholm carried Maslov’s plan for municipalisation, gave no thought at all to the economic content of a “peasant agrarian revolution” (Minutes of the Stockholm Congress, p. 42, the words of Plekhanov) in a capitalist country. Either this was a mere phrase, and “capturing” the peasants by means of demagogy and deception (“Bauernfang”) unworthy of a Marxist; or there exists the economic possibility of the most rapid development of capitalism through the victory of the peasantry. And in that case it is essential clearly to realise the kind of victory, the kind of path of agrarian capitalism, the kind of system of relations in landownership, which correspond to that victory of the “peasant agrarian revolution”.
The main argument of the most influential “municipalisers” in Stockholm was based on the assertion that the peasants are hostile to the nationalisation of the allotment lands. John, who was reporting for the supporters of municipalisation, exclaimed: “We would have not one Vendée, but a general revolt of the peasantry [how terrible! I against attempts by the state to interfere with the peasants’ own allotments, against attempts to ‘nationalise’ the latter” (Minutes of the Stockholm Congress, p. 40). Kostrov exclaimed: “To go to the peasants with it [nationalisation] means antagonising them. The peasant movement will go on apart from or against us, and we shall find ourselves thrown overboard in the revolution. Nationalisation deprives Social-Democracy of its strength, isolates it from the peasantry and thus also deprives the revolution of its strength” (p. 88).
That is clear, it would seem. The peasants are hostile to nationalisation: this is the main argument of the Mensheviks. And if this is true, is it not obvious that it is ridiculous to carry out “a peasant agrarian revolution” against the will of the peasants?
But is it true? In 1905 P. Maslov wrote: “Nationalisation of the land as a means of solving the agrarian problem in Russia at the present time cannot be accepted, first of all [note this “first of all"] because it is hopelessly utopian.... But will the peasants ... agree?” (P. Maslov, A Critique of Agrarian Programmes, 1905, p. 20.)
But in March 1907: “All the Narodnik groups [the Trudoviks, the Popular Socialists, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries] are advocating nationalisation of the land in one form or another” (the journal Obrazovaniye, 1907, No. 3, p. 100). And who wrote this? That same P. Maslov!
There’s your new Vend6e! There’s your revolt of the peasantry against nationalisation! And instead of honestly admitting his mistake, instead of making an economic study of the reason why the peasants should declare in favour of nationalisation, Maslov acted like Ivan the Forgetful. He preferred to forget his own words and all the speeches at the Stockholm Congress.
Not only that. In order to cover up the traces of this “unpleasant occurrence”, Maslov invented the fable that the Trudoviks had declared for nationalisation for petty-bourgeois reasons, “placing their hopes in the central authority” (ibid.). The following comparison shows that this is a fable. The agrarian Bill moved by the Trudoviks in both the First and the Second Dumas says in Clause 16: “The management of the national lands must be entrusted to local self-governing bodies elected by universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot, which shall act independently within the limits laid down by the law.”
The agrarian programme of.the RSDLP, carried by the Mensheviks, proclaims that the RSDLP demands... "(4) the confiscation of privately-owned lands, except small holdings, which shall be placed at the disposal of large local self-governing bodies (comprising urban and rural districts, as per Point 3) to be elected on democratic principles”. The essential difference between these programmes is not in the words “management” and “disposal”, but on the question of purchase (which at the Stockholm Congress was rejected by Bolshevik votes against Dan and Co. and which the Mensheviks again tried to drag in after the Congress) and on the question of the peasant lands. The Mensheviks separate them, the Trudoviks do not. The Trudoviks have demonstrated to the municipalisers that I was right.
There can be no doubt that the programme of the Trudoviks brought forward in the First and Second Dumas is the programme of the peasant masses. The literature of the peas ant deputies, their signatures to the Bills and the gubernias they come from, all prove this quite convincingly. In 1905 Maslov wrote that the homestead peasants “in particular” could not agree to nationalisation (p. 20 of the pamphlet I have already quoted). This turned out to be “particular” nonsense. In Podolsk Gubernia, for example, the peasants are homesteaders, yet 13 Podolsk peasants in the First Duma, and 10 in the Second, signed the Land Bill of the "104” (the Trudovik Bill quoted above).
Why, then, did the peasants declare for nationalisation? Because they instinctively realised the necessity of abolishing all medieval forms of landed property much better than did short-sighted so-called Marxists. Medieval landed property must be abolished in order to clear the way for capitalism in agriculture; and in various countries and to various degrees capital has abolished the old medieval landownership, subordinating it to the requirements of the market and transforming it in keeping with the conditions of commercial agriculture. Marx already pointed out in the third volume of Capital that the capitalist mode of production finds landed property in historical forms incompatible with capitalism (clan ownership, communal, feudal, patriarchal, etc., ownership) and re-creates them in keeping with the new economic demands.
In the paragraph, “The historical conditions of Ricardo’s theory of rent”, in his Theories of Surplus-Value Marx developed this conception with the clarity of genius. He wrote: “Nowhere in the world has capitalist production, since Henry VII, dealt so ruthlessly with the traditional relations of agriculture and so adequately moulded its conditions and made them subject to itself. England is in this respect the most revolutionary country in the world.... But what does this ‘clearing of estates’ mean? It means that without regard for the local population—which is driven away, for existing villages—which are levelled to the ground, for farm buildings—which are torn down, for the kind of agriculture—which is transformed at a stroke, being converted, for example, from tillage to pasture, all conditions of production, instead of being accepted as they are handed down, by tradition, are historically fashioned in the form necessary under the circumstances for the most profitable investment of capital. To that extent, therefore, no landed properly exists; it allows capital—the farmer—to manage freely, since it is only concerned about the money income” (pp. 6–7).
Such are the conditions for the speediest possible abolition of forms inherited from the Middle Ages and for the freest possible development of capitalism—the abolition of all the old system of landowning, the abolition of private property in land, as an obstacle to capital. In Russia, too, such a revolutionary “clearing” of the medieval landowning system is inevitable, and no power on earth can stave it off. The question is only, and the struggle is solely, about whether this “clearing” will be done by the. landlords or by the peas ants. The “clearing” of medieval land owning by the landlords is. the robbery of the peasants that took place in 1861 and the Stolypin agrarian reform of 1906 (legislation under Article 87). The peasant “clearing” of lands for capitalism is nationalisation of the land.
It is this economic substance of nationalisation in a bourgeois revolution carried out by. workers and peasants, which Maslov, Plekhanov and Co. have completely failed to understand. They drew up their agrarian programme not for a struggle against medieval landowning ’as one of the most important survivals of serfdom, not to clear the way completely for capitalism, but for a pitiful philistine attempt to combine “harmoniously” the old with the new, landed property which arose as a result of the system of allotment and the latifundia of the feudalists confiscated by the revolution.
In order, finally, to demonstrate all the reactionary philistine character of the idea of municipalisation, I quote data about the leasing of land. (I pointed out the importance of the question of leasehold in my dispute with Maslov in 1906 in my pamphlet, Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party. ) in Kamyshin Uyezd of Saratov Gubernia :
|Groups of householders||Dessiatines per household|
|Allotment land||Rented land||Leased land||Total crop area|
|With no draught animals. . .||5.4||0.3||3.0||1.1|
|” 1 animal . . .||6.5||1.6||1.3||5.0|
|” 2 animals . . .||8.5||3.5||0.9||8.8|
|” 3 ” ” . .||10.1||5.6||0.8||12.1|
|” 4 ” ” . .||12.5||7.4||0.7||15.8|
|” 5 draught animals and more . .||16.1||16.6||0.9||27.6|
Take a look at the real economic relationship between allotment land, which the most sage Maslov and Plekhanov leave to the peasants as their property, and the non-allotment land (rented land) which they “municipalised”. The horseless peasants—and in 1896-1900 there were in all 3 1/2 million such households out of 11.1 million—lease ten times more land than they rent themselves. Their area under crops is five times less than their “allotments”. Among the peasants owning one horse (3.3 million households in all Russia) the amount of rented land scarcely exceeds the amount of land which they lease, and their crop area is less than their “allotment”. In all the higher groups, i. e., among the minority of the peasants, the land they rent is several times larger than the land they lease, and the wealthier the peasants the more does their crop area exceed the size of their “allotment”.
Relations like this prevail throughout Russia. Capitalism is destroying the agricultural commune; it is liberating the peasants from the yoke of the “allotment”; it is diminishing the role of the allotment lands at both poles in the country side—yet the profound Menshevik thinkers exclaim: “The peasants will revolt against nationalisation of the allotment lands."
It is not only landlord property that dates from the Middle Ages in Russia, but also the peasants’ allotment property— a thing the Mensheviks have “overlooked”. The reinforcement of allotment property, which is completely at variance with the new capitalist relations, is a reactionary measure, and municipalisation reinforces allotment property as distinct from non-allotment property, which is “subject to municipalisation”. Allotment land ownership divides the peasants with a thousand medieval barriers, and through the medieval fiscal “village commune”, retards the development of productive forces. The “village commune” and this allotment ownership are bound to be destroyed by capitalism. Stolypin realises this, and destroys them the Black-Hundred way. The peasants feel it, and want to destroy them in the peasant, or revolutionary-democratic way. And the Mensheviks exclaim: “You mustn’t touch the allotment lands."
Nationalisation abolishes the obsolete “village commune” and the medieval allotted property as completely as it is conceivably possible for these institutions to be abolished in capitalist society while observing the best interests of the peasant. In the booklet, Material on the Peasant Question (A Report of the Delegates’ Congress of the All-Russian Peasant Union, November 6-10, 1905), published in St. Petersburg in 1905, we read: “The notorious question of the ’village commune’ was not raised at all and was tacitly rejected: the land must be placed at the disposal of individuals and associations, state the resolutions passed at both the First and Second Congresses” (p. 12). To the question, whether the peasants themselves would suffer as a result of nationalisation of the allotment lands, the delegates replied: “They will get land in any case when it is distributed” (p. 20). The peasant proprietor (and his ideologist Mr. Peshekhonov) understands perfectly well that “they will get land in any case when it is distributed” and that soon the feudal latifundia will be abolished. He needs “redistribution” on a vast scale, which means the nationalisation of all lands, in order to shake himself free from the toils of the Middle Ages, in order to “clear” the land, in order that its utilisation should be brought into line with the new economic conditions. This was well expressed in the Second Duma by Mr. Mushenko when, speaking on behalf of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, he said, with his native simplicity: “The population [farmers] will be properly, distributed only when the land is unfenced, only when the fences imposed by the principle of private ownership of land are removed” (Minutes of the Second Duma, p. 1172). Compare this statement with the words of Marx quoted earlier, and you will realise that the philistine phrases about “socialisation” and “equalisation” conceal, a very real content: the bourgeois revolutionary clearing of the old medieval system of landed property.
The municipalisation of lands in the bourgeois revolution is a reactionary measure, because it hinders the economically necessary and inevitable process of abolishing medieval landed property, the process of establishing uniformity of economic conditions on the land for all proprietors,, whatever their condition, their past, their allotment in 1861, etc. The division of land into private property now would be reactionary, because it would preserve the present, out- of-date and obsolete allotment ownership; but eventually, after the land will have been completely cleared by means of nationalisation, division would be possible as the slogan of a new and free farming class. The business of Marxists is to help the radical bourgeoisie (i. e., the peasantry) to carry out the fullest possible elimination . of old junk and to ensure the rapid development of capitalism, and not at all to help the petty bourgeoisie in their striving to come to a comfortable arrangement and adapt themselves to the past.
Chapter III is devoted to"The Theoretical Basis of Nationalisation and of Municipalisation”.
Naturally I shall not start repeating to the Polish comrades things that are commonly known to every Marxist, the fact that nationalisation of the land in capitalist society means abolishing absolute, and not differential rent, etc. But having in mind my Russian readers, I was obliged to write of this in detail, because Pyotr Maslov was asserting that Karl Marx’s theory of absolute rent is a “contradiction” which “one can only account for [!!I by the fact that Volume III is a posthumous publication containing also the rough notes of t.he author” (The Agrarian Question).
This pretension on the part of Pyotr Maslov, who desires to correct Karl Marx’s rough notes, is not anything new for me. In the journal Zarya as early as 1901, I pointed out that Maslov in Zhizn had distorted Marx’s theory of rent. Soon afterwards, however, Pyotr Maslov repeated this presumptuous and . unquestionable nonsense in 1906 (the preface to the 3rd edition is dated April 26, 1906) after the publication of the Theories of Surplus-Value, where Marx explained the theory of absolute rent with complete clarity. Here Maslov surpassed himself! As I am unable to repeat here the detailed. analysis of Pyotr Maslov’s “corrections” to Marx given in my book, I will confine myself only to the observation that these corrections turn out to be the hackneyed arguments of bourgeois political economy. Pyotr Maslov goes as far as to contrast Marx’s theory of absolute rent to “brickmaking”. (p. 111); he warms up again “the law of diminishing returns”, affirms .that “without this law it is impossible to explain ‘trans-Atlantic’ competition” (p. 107) and finally, talks himself into the assertion that without refuting Marx it is impossible to refute the views of the Narodniks: “If it were not for the ‘fact’ that the productivity of successive expenditures of labour on the same plot of land diminishes, the idyll which. the ... Narodniks depict could, perhaps, be realised.” .(Maslov in the journal Obrazovaniye, 1907, No.2, p.. 123.) In a word, Pyotr Maslov’s economic theory does not contain one single new idea on the question of absolute rent, on the “fact” of diminishing returns, on the principal mistakes of “Narodism”, on the difference between the improvement of cultivation and the improvement of technique. Having refuted the theory of absolute rent by purely bourgeois arguments worked to death by the official defenders of capitalism, Maslov was bound to land in the ranks of the distorters of Marxism. But while distorting Marxism, Pyotr Maslov was clever enough to omit all his corrections to Marx’s rough notes from the German translation of his book on The Agrarian Question. Faced with Europeans, Maslov hid his theory in his pocket! As I wrote in Chapter III, I could not help recalling in this connection the story about a stranger who was present for the first time at a discussion between ancient philosophers but remained silent all the time. One of the philosophers said to the stranger: “If you are wise, you are behaving foolishly; if you are a fool, you are behaving wisely."
Naturally, to repudiate the theory of absolute rent is to deprive oneself of any chance of understanding the significance of the nationalisation of land in capitalist society, because nationalisation can lead to the abolition only of absolute, and not differential, rent. To repudiate absolute rent is to repudiate the economic significance of private land- owning as an obstacle to the development of capitalism. Thanks to this, Maslov and Co. inevitably reduce the question of nationalisation or municipalisation to a political issue ("who should get the land?”) and ignore the economic essence of the question. The combination of private owner ship of allotment land (i. e., of inferior land owned by inferior proprietors) with public ownership of the remaining (superior) part of the land becomes an absurdity in any at all developed and free capitalist state. It is nothing more or less than agrarian bimetallism.
As a result of this error of the Mensheviks, it transpires that the Social-Democrats have handed over criticism of private ownership of the land to the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Marx gave an admirable example of such criticism in Capital. But with us it appears that the Social-Democrats do not conduct that criticism from the point of view of the development of capitalism, and all that reaches the masses is criticism by the Narodniks, i. e., a distorted philistine criticism of private property in land.
I will mention as a detail that the following argument has also been used against nationalisation in Russian literature: it would mean “money rent” for small peasant property. That is not so. “Money rent” (see Capital, .Vol. III) is a modern form of interest for the landlord. In present-day peasant leasehold, payment for land is undoubtedly money rent to a certain degree. The abolition of the feudal latifundia will hasten the differentiation of the peasantry and strengthen the peasant bourgeoisie, which is already carrying out capitalist renting of land (recall the data quoted earlier about renting of land among the higher groups of the peasantry).
Finally, it should be said that the view is fairly wide spread among Marxists that nationalisation is practicable only at a very high stage of development of capitalism. That is incorrect. It would then be a question not of a bourgeois but of a socialist revolution. Nationalisation of the land is the most consistent bourgeois measure. Marx repeatedly affirmed this, from The Poverty of Philosophy onwards. In his Theories of Surplus-Value Marx says (II. Band, I. Teil, S. 208): “In theory the radical bourgeois arrives at the repudiation of private landed property.... In practice, however, he lacks courage, since the at.tack on one form of property, private property in relation to the conditions of labour, would be very dangerous for the other form. Moreover, the bourgeois has territorialised himself.” In Russia the bourgeois revolution is taking place in conditions when there exists a radical bourgeois (the peasant) who “has the courage” to put forward a programme of nationalisation on behalf of a mass of many millions, and who has not yet “territorialised himself”, i. e., he derives more harm from (medieval) private property in land, than advantage and “profits” from (bourgeois) property in the same land. The Russian revolution cannot be victorious unless that “radical bourgeois”, who wavers between the Cadet and the worker, supports the proletariat in its revolutionary struggle by mass action. The Russian revolution cannot be victorious except in the form of a revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.
Chapter IV of the book deals with “political and tactical” considerations in questions of the agrarian programme. First among these is the “famous” argument of Plekhanov. “The key to my position,” he exclaimed at Stockholm, “is that I draw attention to the possibility of restoration” (Minutes, p. 113). But the key is a completely rusty one—the Cadet key of a deal with reaction under the guise of a “guarantee against restoration”. Plekhanov’s argument is the most pitiful piece of sophistry, for while he asserts that there is no guarantee against restoration, he nevertheless invents such a guarantee. “it [municipalisation] will not surrender the land to the political representatives of the old order” (p. 45, Plekhanov’s speech). What is restoration? The passing of power in the state into the hands of representatives of the old order. Can there be a guarantee against restoration? “No, there can be no guarantee” (Minutes, p. 44, Plekhanov’s speech). Therefore ... he invents a guarantee—“municipalisation will not surrender the land”.
Under municipalisation there will remain the difference between allotment and landlords’ lands in the economic sense, i. e., it will facilitate a restoration, or the recognition of this difference de jure. In the political sense municipalisation is a law changing the ownership of landlords’ estates. What is a law? The expression of the will of the ruling classes. If there is a restoration, the same classes once again become the ruling classes. Will they be bound by law, Comrade Plekhanov? If you gave this any thought, you would under stand that no law can restrict the expression of the will of the ruling classes. Nationalisation makes restoration more difficult in the economic sense, because it destroys all the old barriers, all medieval property in land, and adapts it to the new uniform capitalist conditions of production.
Plekhanov’s sophistry is an acceptance of the Cadet tactics of leading the proletariat not to complete victory but to a deal with the old authorities. In fact ,the only absolute “guarantee against restoration” is a socialist revolution in the West, while a relative guarantee would be to carry the revolution through to its conclusion, to do away with the old in the most radical fashion, to provide the greatest degree of democracy in politics (the republic) arid to clear the ground for capitalism in the economy.
Another argument of Plekhanov’s runs: “In the shape of local self-governing bodies which will possess the land, municipalisation will create a bulwark against reaction. And a very powerful bulwark it will be” (Minutes, p. 45). This is untrue. Never and nowhere has local self-government been a bulwark against reaction in the epoch of capitalism. nor could it be. Capitalism inevitably leads to centralisation of state power,and every local self-government will unquestionably be vanquished if the state authority is reactionary.I Plekhanov is preaching opportunism when he concentrates attention not on “democracy in the centre”, or a republic—the only bulwark against reaction conceivable in capitalist society—but on local self-government, which is always impotent in relation to great historical tasks, always small-scale, petty, subordinate and scattered. “A peasant agrarian revolution” cannot be victorious in Russia unless it defeats the central authority, but Plekhanov suggests to the Mensheviks views expressed at Stockholm by the Menshevik Novosedsky: “In the event of truly democratic local self-government being established, the programme now adopted may be carried into effect [listen to this!] even with a degree of democratisation of the central government which cannot be described as the highest degree of its democratisation. Even under democratisation of a comparative degree, so to speak, municipalisation will not be harmful, but useful” (Minutes, p. 138).
Nothing could be more clear. Let us teach the people to adapt itself to the monarchy: perhaps the latter won’t “notice” our regional activity, and will “grant us our lives” like Shchedrin’s gudgeon had his granted. The Third Duma is a good illustration of the possibility of municipalisation and local democracy, given a “relative”, Menshevik democracy in the centre.
Then municipalisation makes for federalism and separatism in the regions. No wonder, in the Second Duma, the Right-wing Cossack Karaulov denounced nationalisation no less strongly than Plekhanov (Minutes, p. 1366) and declared for municipalisation by regions. The Cossack lands in Russia already represent an example of municipalisation. And it was just this breaking-up of the state into separate regions that was one of the causes of the defeat of the revolution in the first three years’ campaign!
Nationalisation—runs the next argument—strengthens the central authority of the bourgeois state! In the first place, this argument is put forward with the object of arousing distrust in the Social-Democratic parties of the various nationalities. “Perhaps, in some places, the peasants would agree to share -their lands,” wrote P. Maslov in Obrazovaniye (1907, No. 3, p. 104). “But the refusal of the peasants in a single large area (for example, Poland) to share their lands would be enough to make the proposal to nationalise all the land an absurdity.” A fine argument, to be sure! Should we not give up the idea of a republic, since “the refusal of the peasants in a single large area is enough, etc."? It is not an argument but a piece. of demagogy. Our political programme excludes any violence and injustice, demanding wide autonomy for the individual provinces (see Clause 3 of the Party programme). Thus, it is not a question of re inventing new “guarantees” which are unattainable in bourgeois society, but of the party of the proletariat using its propaganda and agitation to call for unity and not for dismemberment, to solve the lofty problems arising in centralised states, and not to sink into rusticity and national insularity. It is the centre of Russia that solves the agrarian problem: the borderlands cannot be influenced otherwise than by example. This is obvious even to every democrat, let alone every Social-Democrat. And the question is only whether the proletariat should raise the peasantry to higher aims, or sink to the petty-bourgeois level of the peasantry it self.
Secondly, it is asserted that nationalisation will increase the possibility of arbitrary action at the centre, bureaucracy, etc. As regards bureaucracy, it should be observed that the management of the land even under nationalisation will remain in the hands of the local self-governing bodies. This means that the argument just quoted is false. The central authority will lay down the general conditions: i. e., for example, it will prohibit any alienation of the land, etc. And does not our present, i. e., Menshevik, programme hand over to the “democratic state for disposal” not only the “colonisation lands”, but also “forest and water areas of national importance"? But it is not wise to hide one’s head under one’s wing; here, too, unlimited arbitrary action is possible, since it is the central state authority itself which will deter mine what forests and waters are of national importance. The Mensheviks are looking for “guarantees” in the wrong place: only complete democracy at the centre, only a re public, can reduce the probability of disputes between the centre and the regions to a minimum.
“The bourgeois state will grow stronger,” cry the Mensheviks, who in secret support the bourgeois monarchists (the Cadets), and in public beat their breasts at the very thought of supporting bourgeois republicans. The genuine historical question which objective historical and social development is putting to us is: a Prussian or an American type of agrarian evolution? A landlords’ monarchy with the fig-leaf of a sham constitution, or a peasant (farmers’) republic? To close our eyes to such an objective statement of the case by history means to deceive oneself and others, hiding in philistine fashion from the acute class struggle, from the acute, simple and decisive presentation of the question of a democratic revolution.
We cannot get rid of the “bourgeois state”. Only petty- bourgeois philistines can dream of doing so. Our revolution is a bourgeois revolution precisely because the struggle going on in it is not between socialism and capitalism, but between two forms of capitalism, two paths of its development, two forms of bourgeois-democratic institutions. The monarchy of the Octobrists or the Cadets is a “relative” bourgeois “democracy”, from the point of view of the Menshevik Novosedsky. The proletarian-peasant republic, too, is a bourgeois democracy. In our revolution we cannot make a single step—and we have not made a single step—which did not support in one way or another one section of the bourgeoisie or another against the old order.
If we are told that nationalisation means using public funds for the army, while municipalisation means using them for public health and education, it is sophistry worthy of a philistine. Yet literally that is how Maslov argues:. “Nationalisation, i. e., [sic!] the expenditure of ground-rent on the army and navy ...; municipalisation of the land, i. e., the expenditure of rent on the needs of the population” (Obrazovaniye, 1907, No. 3, p. 103). This is petty-bourgeois socialism, or the destruction of flies by the use of a powder to be poured on the flies’ tails when they have been caught! Our good Maslov has not realised that, if the Zemstvos in Russia and the municipalities in the West spend more on public health, etc., compared with the state, it is only be cause the bourgeois state has already carried out its most important expenditures (to assure the domination of the bourgeoisie as a class) out of funds coming from the biggest sources of revenue, and has left the local authorities with secondary sources for the so-called “needs of the population”. Hundreds of thousands for the army, a few farthings for the needs of the proletariat—that is the true relationship of expenditures in the bourgeois state. And one has to be a Maslov to imagine that it is sufficient to hand over ground-rent for “disposal” by the municipalities, for the bourgeois state to be taken in by those subtle “politicians”, the Mensheviks! And really, will the bourgeois state, thanks to this “most subtle policy”, begin to give hundreds of thousands to the proletarians and farthings to the army - and the navy?
In reality, the Mensheviks are pursuing a philistine policy— seeking refuge in the provincial backwoods of local self- government against having to solve the burning problem with which we are faced by history, namely, should our country have a centralised bourgeois republic of farmers, or a centralised bourgeois monarchy of Junkers? You won’t dodge the-issue, gentlemen! No provincialism, no playing at municipal socialism, will rescue you from inevitable participation in the solving of this acute problem. Your wriggling really means only one thing—secret support of the Cadet tendency, while failing to understand the importance of the republican tendency.
The Minutes of the Stockholm Congress are clear evidence of the fact that the Mensheviks, in defending municipalisation, are flirting with the Fabian “municipal socialism” existing in Europe. “Some comrades,” Kostrov said there, “seem to be hearing about municipal ownership for the first time. Let me remind them that in Western Europe there is a whole political trend [precisely! Kostrov, without wishing to do so, blurted out the truth! J called ’municipal socialism’ [England 1” (Minutes, p. 88). That this “trend” is the trend of extreme opportunism neither Kostrov nor Larin took into consideration. It is quite consistent for the Socialist-Revolutionaries to drag in petty-bourgeois peddling of reforms as one of the tasks of the bourgeois revolution, but it is not for the Social-Democrats to do it, gentle men! The bourgeois intellectuals in the West (the Fabians in England, the followers of Bernstein in Germany, the followers of Brousse in France) naturally shift the weight of emphasis from questions of state structure to questions of local self-government. But what we are faced with is precisely the question of the structure of the state, its agrarian basis— and to defend “municipal socialism” here is to play at agrarian socialism. Let the petty bourgeoisie hasten to “build themselves a nest” in the peaceful municipalities of future democratic Russia. The task of the proletariat is to organise the masses not for this purpose, but for the revolutionary struggle, for complete democratisation today and a socialist revolution tomorrow.
We Bolsheviks are often reproached for the utopianism and fantastic character of our revolutionary views. And these reproaches are heard most often in connection with nationalisation. But this is where they are least of all justified. Those who consider nationalisation to be “utopia” do not think about the necessary balance between political and agrarian changes. Nationalisation is no less “utopian"— from the point of view of an ordinary philistine—than a republic. And both are no less utopian than a “peasant” agrarian revolution, i. e., the victory of a peasant uprising in a capitalist country. All these changes are equally “difficult” as far as everyday peaceful development is concerned. And the outcry about nationalisation, of all things, being utopian, testifies first of all to failure to understand the essential and unbreakable connection between an economic and a political upheaval. Confiscation of the landed estates (a demand in our programme recognised both by the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks) is impossible without the abolition of the landlord autocracy (and with it the Octobrist, not purely landlord, autocracy). And the autocracy cannot be abolished without the revolutionary action of class- conscious millions, without a great surge of mass heroism, readiness and ability on their part to “storm heaven”, as Marx put it when speaking of the Paris workers at the time of the Commune. In its turn, this revolutionary surge is unthinkable without the radical abolition of all the relics of serfdom which for ages have oppressed the peasantry, including the whole of medieval property in land, all the shackles of the fiscal “village commune”, the crumbs of accursed memory “granted” by the government, etc., etc., etc.
Owing to lack of space (I have already gone beyond the length laid down by the editors of Przegląd) I omit a summary of the fifth chapter of my book (“Classes and Parties in the Debate on the Agrarian Question in the Second Duma”).
The speeches of the peasants in the Duma are of tremendous political importance, because in them were expressed that passionate desire to get rid of the yoke of the landlords, that fiery hatred of medievalism and the bureaucracy, that spontaneous, ingenuous, often naive and not quite definite, but at the same time stormy revolutionary spirit of the ordinary peasants, which prove better than any long arguments what potential destructive energy has accumulated within the mass of the peasantry against the nobility, the landlords and the Romanovs. The task of the class-conscious proletariat is mercilessly to show up, expose and eliminate all the numerous petty-bourgeois deceptions, allegedly socialist phrases, childishly naive expectations which the peasants link with an agrarian revolution—but to eliminate them not in order to calm and -pacify the peasants (as the betrayers of the people’s -freedom, the Cadet gentlemen, did in both Dumas) but in order to awaken among the masses a steel-like, unshakable and resolute revolutionary spirit. Without that revolutionary spirit, without a stubborn and merciless struggle of the peasant masses, all such things as confiscation, the republic, and universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot are hopelessly “utopian”. Therefore the Marxists must put the question clearly and definitely: two direct-ions in the economic development of Russia, two paths of capitalism, have emerged with absolute clarity. Let all think well on this. During the first revolutionary campaign, during the three years 1905-07, both these directions became clear to us not as theoretical general conclusions, not as lessons to he drawn from such-and-such features of the evolution which has taken place since 1861. No, these directions have now become clear t-o us precisely as the directions mapped out by hostile classes. The land lords and the capitalists (the Octobrists) are quite clear that there is no other development except the capitalist one, and that for them it is impossible to travel that road without compulsory and speedy destruction of the “village commune that kind of destruction which is identical with ... open robbery by the money-lender, with “destruction and plunder” by the police or “punitive” expeditions. It is the kind of “operation” in which it is extremely easy to break one’s neck! As for the masses of the peasantry, they discovered for themselves no less clearly during t-hose same three years that it was hopeless to expect anything from “Our Father the Tsar”, or to count in any way on a peaceful road, and that revolutionary struggle was necessary to abolish all medievalism in general and all medieval property in land in particular.
All the propaganda and agitation of the Social-Democrats should be based on bringing these results home to the masses, on preparing the masses to make use of this experience for a resolute and unswerving attack, organised in the best possible way, during the second campaign of the revolution.
That is just why Plekhanov’s speeches at Stockholm were so reactionary when he talked about the seizure of power by the proletariat and the peasantry meaning the rebirth of “the Narodnaya Volya spirit”. Plekhanov himself reduced his argument to an absurdity: according to him, there would take place a “peasant agrarian revolution” without seizure of power by the proletariat, without seizure of power by the peasantry! On the other hand, Kautsky—who at the beginning of the break between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks was patently inclined to favour the latter—has gone over ideologically to the side of the former, by recognising that only given “the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry” is a victory of the revolution possible.
Without complete, abolition of all medieval property in the land, without the complete “clearing”, i. e., without nationalisation of the land, such a revolution is unthinkable. The business of the party of the proletariat is to spread most widely this watchword of a most consistent and most radical bourgeois agrarian revolution. And when we have done that, we shall see what are the further prospects; we shall see whether such a revolution is only the basis for a development of productive forces under capitalism at an American speed, or whether it will become the prologue to a socialist revolution in the West.
July 18, 1908
P.S. I do not repeat here my draft of an agrarian programme, which was submitted to the Stockholm Congress of the RSDLP and which has often been printed in Social- Democratic literature. I will confine myself merely to some observations. When two directions for capitalist agrarian evolution exist, there must necessarily be included in the programme an “if” (the technical expression used at the Stockholm Congress), i. e., the programme must take both possibilities into account. In other words, so long as things are going as they are, we demand freedom of use of the land, tribunals for lowering rents, abolition of social-estates, etc. At the same time we fight the present direction and support the revolutionary demands of the peasantry iii the interests of the speediest possible development of productive forces and of wide and free scope for the class struggle. While sup porting the revolutionary struggle of the peasants against medievalism, the Social-Democratic Labour Party makes it clear that the best form of agrarian relations in capitalist society (and at the same time the best form in which survivals of serfdom can be eliminated) is the nationalisation of the land, that only in connection with a radical political revolution, the abolition of the autocracy and the establishment of a democratic republic, is it possible to carry out a radical agrarian revolution, the confiscation of the landed estates and the nationalisation of the land.
Such is the content of my draft agrarian programme. The part which describes the bourgeois features of the whole of the present agrarian changes, and elucidates the purely proletarian point of view of Social-Democracy, was adopted at Stockholm and became an integral part of the present programme.
- See present edition, Vol. 13, pp. 217–431.—Ed.
- The liberal-Narodnik economists argue in this way: in view of the lack of land in the centre, in view of the unsuitability of Siberia, Central Asia, etc., for colonisation, it is necessary to allot supplementary lands to the peasantry. This means that there would be no need to hurry with the latifundia, but for the lack of land. Marxists have to argue quite differently: so long as the latifundia are not abolished, a rapid development of the productive forces is impossible, either in the centre or in the colonies (in Russia’s borderlands). —Lenin
- John—the Menshevik P. P. Maslov.
- Vendée—a department in western France where the backward peasantry began a counter-revolutionary uprising against the republic at the close of the eighteenth century, during the French bourgeois revolution. The uprising was led by the Catholic clergy, the nobility and émigré royalists, and had the support of England.
Vendée became a synonym for reactionary rebellion and hot-beds of counter-revolution.
- Kostrov–leader of the Caucasian Mensheviks N. N. Zhordania.
- Obrazovaniye (Education)—a literary, popular-scientific, and socio-political monthly published in St. Petersburg from 1892 to 1909. There were Social-Democrats among its contributors between 1902 and 1908.
- An amendment proposing to replace the words “placed at the disposal” by the words “made the private property” was rejected at Stockholm by the Mensheviks. (Minutes, p. 152.) —Lenin
- See K. Marx, Capital, Vol. III, Moscow, 1959, pp. 603-04.
- Theorien über den Mehrwert. II Band, 2. Teil, Stuttgart, 1905. —Lenin
- These words are in English in the original.—Ed.
- See present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 165–95.—Ed.
- The Development of Capitalism in Russia. 2nd ed., pp. 51, 54 and 82 (see present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 93, 97, 130–31.—Ed.). —Lenin
- M. Shanin in his pamphlet, Municipalisation or Division for Private Property (Vilna, 1907), underlined that aspect of the question which bears on agriculture, but did not understand the two paths of development and the importance of abolishing the present landowning system. —Lenin
- The Agrarian Question, 3rd ed., p. 108, footnote. —Lenin
- Zarya (Dawn)—a Marxist scientific and political journal published in Stuttgart in 1901-02 by the Iskra editorial board. Four issues appeared in all.
Zarya published Lenin’s writings: “Casual Notes”, “The Persecutors of the Zemstvo and the Hannibals of Liberalism”, the first four chapters of “The Agrarian Question and ‘the Critics of Marx’" (under the title “Messrs. the ‘Critics’ on the Agrarian Question”), “Review of Home Affairs”, and “The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy”.
- Zhizn (Life)—a monthly journal published in St. Petersburg from 1897 to 1901 and abroad in 1902. From 1899 the journal was the organ of the “legal Marxists”.
- See present edition, Vol. 5, p. 127.—Ed.
- See, for example, Das Kapital, III, 2. T., S. 346-47, on the price of land as a barrier to the development of capitalism; and Ibid., S. 344-45, 341, 342. —Lenin
- Ibid., pp. 777-82.
- See K. Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy, Moscow, pp. 173-87.
- In a capitalist state private property in land and nationalisation cannot exist side by side. One of them must gain the upper hand. The business of the workers’ party is to fight for the higher system. —Lenin
- The Peasant Question and Social-Democracy. A particularly vague commentary on the Menshevik programme. See p. 66. On p. 103 this wretched defender of municipalisation points to nationalisation as the best way out! —Lenin
- Lenin is quoting from a letter of K. Marx to L. Kugelmann dated April 42, 1871 (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, p. 319).
- Przeglad—see Note 29.