V. I.   Lenin

Review of Home Affairs

I. Famine[6]

Again famine! The last ten years have been marked, not only by the ruin of the peasantry, but by its veritable extinction, which has proceeded with such an astonishing rapidity that no war, however prolonged and bitter, has claimed such a host of victims. The most powerful forces of modern times are massed against the peasant: world capitalism, which is developing at an ever increasing rate, has created transoceanic competition, and has provided the small minority of farmers able to hold out in the desperate struggle for survival with the most improved methods and implements of production; and the militarist state, whose adventurous policy in its colonial possessions in the Far East and Central Asia involves enormous costs heavily burdening the masses of working people, the state which, in addition, is organising at the people’s expense ever newer “suppression” and “restraints” to counteract the growing discontent and indignation of the masses.

Since famine has become a usual phenomenon in our country, it would .be natural to expect that the government would try to fix and strengthen its usual food distribution policy. While in 1891-92 the government was caught unawares and was at first thrown into consternation, now, however, it is rich in experience and knows precisely where (and how) to proceed. In its July issue (No. 6), Iskra wrote: “At this moment a black cloud of people’s distress is threatening our country and the government is once again making preparations for the exercise of its disgraceful function of brute violence to deprive the starving people of bread and punish everyone who, contrary to government policy, renders aid to the hungry.”

The government’s preparations were swift and determined. The spirit in which they were made is illustrated by the Elizavetgrad affair. Prince Obolensky, Governor of Kherson Gubernia, immediately declared war upon all who dared to write or speak about the famine in Elizavetgrad, appeal for public aid for the famine-stricken, form private groups, and invite private persons to organise this aid. The Zemstvo doctors wrote to the newspapers stating that famine was raging in the uyezd, that the people were disease-stricken and were dying, and that the “bread” they were eating was something unbelievable, not deserving to be called bread. The governor launched a polemic against the doctors and published official denials. Anyone at all acquainted with the general conditions under which our press has to work, anyone who will take the trouble to recall the severe persecution to which even moderate organs and incomparably more moderate authors have been subjected recently, will understand the significance of this “polemic” between the head of a gubernia and mere Zemstvo doctors who are not even in government service. It was simply an act of gagging them, an outright declaration without any ceremony that the government would not tolerate the truth about the famine. But what is a mere declaration? Whatever may be said of others, the Russian Government certainly cannot be reproached with restricting itself to mere declarations when the opportunity exists to “apply power”. And Prince Obolensky hastened to apply power; he appeared personally on the scene of war—war upon the famine-stricken and upon those who, though not on the pay roll of any department, desired to render real aid to the famine-stricken; and he prohibited a number of private persons (including Madame Uspenskaya), who had come to the famine-stricken area, from opening food-kitchens. Like Julius Caesar, Prince Obolensky came, saw, and conquered; and the telegraph promptly informed the entire Russian reading public of his victory. One thing is perplexing—that this victory, this brazen challenge to all Russians who have retained at least a shred of decency, a grain of civic courage, met with no opposition whatever from those who, one may say, were most interested in the matter. Very many persons in Kherson Gubernia doubtless knew—and know now—the reason for the silence about the famine and   the fight against famine relief; but no one has published a single statement on this instructive case, or the relevant documents, or even a simple appeal to protest against the monstrous prohibition of food-kitchens. When the government carries out its threat to dismiss all who “lost time” on the First of May, the workers declare a strike; but the intelligentsia keeps silent when intellectuals are prohibited... from rendering aid to the famine-stricken.

Encouraged, as it were, by success in the first skirmish with the “sowers of discord” who dare to aid the famine-stricken, the government soon launched an attack all along the line. Prince Obolensky’s valiant exploit was elevated to a guiding principle, into a law, which would henceforth regulate the relations between all administrators and all persons accessory to the distribution of food (the word “accessory”, strictly speaking, is a term in criminal law peculiar to the Penal Code; but as we have seen and shall see below, at the present time rendering aid to the famine-stricken without authority is regarded as a crime). Such a law was soon enacted— this time in the simplified form of “a circular from the Minister of the Interior to all governors of gubernias affected by the harvest failure of 1901” (August 17, 1901, No. 20).

It may be assumed that this circular will serve for many years to come as a souvenir of the monumental heights to which police fear rises in the face of the people’s distress, a fear of closer ties between the famine-stricken people and the “intellectuals” who desire to help them; at the same time, it is a fear that reveals a firm intention to suppress all “clamour” about the famine and to restrict relief to the most insignificant scope. One can only regret that the immoderate length of the circular and the ponderous official style in which it is written will hinder the public at large from becoming acquainted with its contents.

It will be remembered that the law of June 12, 1900, took the management of food affairs out of the hands of the Zemstvos and transferred it to the rural superintendents and uyezd congresses. What, it seemed, could be more reliable? The elective principle was eliminated; persons in any way independent of the authorities would have no jurisdiction and consequently would make no more noise. But after Prince Obolensky’s campaign, all this appeared to be   inadequate. The whole business must be more strictly subordinated to the Ministry and to the officials directly carrying out its orders; the slightest possibility of exaggeration must be definitely removed. For that reason, the question as to which uyezds are “affected by the harvest failure” is from now on to be decided exclusively by the Ministry,[1] which apparently is to serve as the headquarters for the general staff for conducting military operations against the famine-stricken. Through the medium of the governors, these headquarters will direct the activities of the individuals (principally the uyezd marshals of the nobility) in whose hands the Central Uyezd Food Board is concentrated. The initiator of military operations against the famine-stricken, Prince Obolensky, was obliged to travel personally to the district in order to prohibit, restrain, and curtail. Now, everything is “regulated”, and all that is necessary is an exchange of telegrams (possible, thanks to the grant of a thousand rubles per uyezd for office expenses) between the Central Uyezd Board and the St. Petersburg Central Board for the necessary “orders” to be given. Turgenev’s civilised landlord not only kept away from the stables, but even gave orders in subdued tones to a livened footman in white gloves: “See that Fyodor gets it...”[7] So it will be here now; “orders” will be given, “without clamour”, nicely and quietly, to restrain the immoderate appetites of the starving population.

The fact that Mr. Sipyagin is convinced that the appetite of the starving peasant is immoderate becomes evident,   not only from the persistent warnings in the circular against “exaggeration”, but from the new regulations it lays down which remove all possibility of exaggeration. Do not be in a hurry to draw up the lists of the distressed, for this will arouse among the population “exaggerated hopes”, the Minister states explicitly, and orders that the lists be drawn up only immediately before grain is to be distributed. Furthermore, the circular regards it as superfluous to determine when an uyezd should be considered a distressed area; but it distinctly states when an uyezd should not be considered a distressed area (e.g., when not more than one-third of the volosts are affected, when usual auxiliary employment is available, etc.). Finally, in regard to the rate of relief to be granted to the famines-stricken, the Minister introduces regulations which show with extreme clarity that the government desires at all costs to cut down these grants to the very minimum, to mere doles that do nothing to secure the population against starvation. In point of fact, the quota is forty-eight poods of grain per family (calculated on the average yield of the harvest in each village), and those who possess that amount or more are not in need. How this figure was arrived at, no one knows. All that is known is that in non-famine years even the poorest peasant consumes twice as much grain (cf. Zemstvo Statistical Investigation of Peas ants’ Budgets). Consequently, undernourishment is considered a normal state according to the Minister’s prescript. But even this quota is reduced, first by half, in order to prevent the working elements, which represent about fifty per cent of the population, from obtaining loans, and then by one-third, one-fifth, and one-tenth, “in proportion to the approximate number of well-to-do farmers having stocks left over from last year, or any other [literally so: “or any other”!] material resources”. One can judge from this what an insignificant fraction of the amount of grain actually required by the population will be represented by the loan the government intends to grant. And, as if rejoicing in his insolence, Mr. Sipyagin, in explaining this incredible system of curtailing relief, declares that such an approximate computation “has rarely been found to be greatly exaggerated”. Comment is superfluous.

Whenever official declarations of the Russian Government contain something more than bare instructions and make at least some attempt to explain them, they almost invariably —it is a kind of law more stable than the majority of our laws —advance two principal motives or rather two principal types of motives. On the one hand, we invariably find a number of general phrases, written in pompous style, about official solicitude and a desire to meet the requirements of the time and the wishes of public opinion. Thus, reference is made to the “important task of averting a food shortage among the rural population”, to the “moral responsibility for the welfare of the local population”, etc. It goes without saying that these commonplaces signify nothing and impose no definite obligation; but they are as alike as two peas to the immortal sermons delivered by the immortal Judas Golovlyov to the peasants he had robbed. Parenthetically it should be said, these commonplaces are constantly exploited (sometimes out of simple-mindedness and sometimes as a “duty”) by the censored liberal press whereby to demonstrate that the government shares its point of view.

But if the other, less general and less obviously hollow motives of the government’s orders are examined more closely, concrete statements will always be found which repeat in toto the established arguments of the most reactionary organs of our press (e.g., Moskovskiye Vedomosti). We are of the opinion that it would be well worth while (and quite possible even for those who work legally) to follow up and record every case of this solidarity between the government and Moskovskiye Vedomosti. In the circular under discussion, for example, we find a repetition of the vile accusations levelled by the terribly “wild landlords” to the effect that the premature compilation of lists of the distressed stimulates “efforts among certain well-to-do householders to give their farms an appearance of poverty by selling their supplies, reserves, and implements”. The Minister states that this “has been proved by experience in the course of previous food campaigns”. Consequently? Consequently, the Minister acquires his political experience from the lessons taught him by the most hidebound serf-owners, who raised such a clamour in previous famine years, who are clamouring now   about the deceit of the peasants, and who are so indignant over the “noise” that is being raised about the epidemic of famine typhus.

It was from these serf-owners also that Mr. Sipyagin learned to talk about demoralisation. “It is extremely important,” he writes, “for ... the local institutions ... to help economise the allocated funds and, above all [sic!!], prevent the unjustified grants of government relief to persons who are materially secure, because of the harmful and demoralising effect of such grants." This shameless instruction to help economise the funds is sealed by the following advice based on a point of principle: ". . .wide distribution of food grants to families that can dispense with them [that can subsist on twenty-four poods of grain a year per family?], apart from being an unproductive [!] expenditure of state funds, will be no less harmful from the standpoint of the benefits and requirements of the state than if those really in distress were left without proper aid." In bygone times, monarchs would in their sentimental moments say: “It is better to acquit ten criminals than to convict one innocent man”; but nowadays the right arm of the tsar declares: It is as harmful to give relief to families that can manage on twenty-four poods of grain a year as to leave families “really” in need without relief. What a pity that this magnificently candid “point of view” regarding “the benefits and requirements of the state” is obscured from the eyes of the general public by a lengthy and dull circular! One hope is left: perhaps the Social-Democratic press and Social-Democratic oral agitation will enable the people to become more closely acquainted with the contents of the ministerial circular.

*     *

But the circular directs an especially vigorous “attack” upon private philanthropists. Everything indicates that the administrators, who are waging war against the famine stricken, consider the most important “enemy” position to be private relief circles, private food-kitchens, etc. With laudable frankness Mr. Sipyagin explains why private philanthropy has for a long time now given the Ministry of the Interior sleepless nights. “Beginning with the poor harvest   of 1891 and 1892, and during all subsequent calamities of a similar kind,” says the circular, “it has not infrequently been found that certain philanthropists, while rendering material aid to the inhabitants of the affected districts, strive to rouse among them discontent with the present system and encourage the people to make totally unjustified demands on the government. At the same time, the failure to meet the distress to the full, and the inevitable ailments and economic disorders that arise therefrom, create an extremely favourable soil for anti-government agitation; politically unreliable persons freely take advantage of this and pursue their criminal aims under the cloak of helping their neighbour. Usually, as soon as the first news of a serious harvest failure is received, persons with a political past that is not irreproachable pour into the affected districts from all directions, strive to make contact with representatives of charitable organisations and institutions from the capital, who, through ignorance, engage those persons as local helpers and in this way create serious difficulties inimical to the interests of good order and administration.”

However, the Russian Government is becoming hard pressed in the land of Russia. Time was when only the student youth was considered as a stratum calling for special security measures. The students were subjected to the strictest surveillance, contact with them on the part of persons whose political past is not irreproachable was regarded as a great offence, every study circle and society, even if it pursued purely philanthropic aims, was suspected of anti-government aims, etc. In those times—not far in the past—there was no other stratum, to say nothing of a social class, that in the eyes of the government, represented “an extremely favourable soil for anti-government agitation”. But since the middle nineties, one meets in official government communications mention of another, immeasurably more numerous, social class that calls for special security measures—the factory workers. The growth of the labour movement compelled the government to establish a full-fledged system of institutions to maintain surveillance over this new stormy element. Among the districts prohibited as places of residence for politically doubtful persons were included factory centres and settlements, uyezds and whole   gubernias, in addition to the capitals and university cities.[2] Two-thirds of European Russia came under special protection against unreliable elements, while the remaining third is becoming so crowded with “persons whose political past is not irreproachable” that even the remotest province is becoming restless.[3] It now appears that according to the authoritative judgement of so competent a person as the Minister of the Interior even the remotest village represents “favourable soil” for anti-government agitation, insofar as there occur in it cases of not fully relieved distress, of sickness, and of economic disorder. And are there many Russian villages in which such “cases” are not constant? And should not we Russian Social-Democrats immediately take advantage of Mr. Sipyagin’s instructive reference to “favourable” soil? On the one hand, precisely at this moment, the rural districts are displaying interest in the rumours which at times have managed to penetrate to them in one way or another about the skirmishes that occurred between the government’s gendarmes and the urban proletariat and the young intelligentsia in February and March. On the other hand, do not phrases like the peasant’s “totally unjustified demands”, etc., provide a sufficiently wide programme for the most extensive, all-round agitation?

We must take advantage of Mr. Sipyagin’s useful information and laugh at his simplicity. It is indeed the sheerest naïveté to imagine that by placing private charity under the supervision and control of the governor he can hinder the spread of the influence of “unreliable” persons in the rural districts. Genuine philanthropists have never pursued political aims, so that the new measures of prohibition and restriction will mostly affect the very persons who are least dangerous to the government. Those, however, who desire to   open the eyes of the peasants to the real significance of these measures, and to the government’s attitude towards the famine, will not consider it necessary to establish con tact with representatives of the Red Cross or present them selves to the governors. Thus, when it was found that the factory environment represented “favourable soil”, those who desired to establish contact with that environment did not visit the factory managers for information about factory conditions or present themselves to the factory inspectors for permission to organise meetings with the workers. We are fully aware, of course, that it is extremely difficult to carry on political agitation among the peasantry, the more so since it is impossible and irrational to withdraw revolutionary forces from the cities for that purpose. Yet we must not lose sight of the fact that the government’s heroic deeds, such as restricting private charity, remove a good half of these difficulties and do half our work for us.

*     *

We shall not dwell on the same Minister’s circular calling for stricter surveillance over charitable concerts, theatrical performances, etc.; for that is a “mere bagatelle”, as compared with the circular we have just examined (cf. article “Fresh Obstacles”, Iskra, No. 9).

We will endeavour to establish the relation that exists now between the government relief for the population, fixed and distributed according to the new regulations, and the actual extent of the distress. True, our information on this point is exceedingly scanty. The press now is thoroughly muzzled, the voices of private organisers of food-kitchens have been silenced simultaneously with the “prohibition” of their activities, and the only sources of information available to the Russian public, now struck dumb by the new stringent measures, are the official police reports on the favourable progress of the food campaign, the articles written in the same spirit in Moskovskiye Vedomosti, sometimes the interviews of an idle reporter with this or that Jack-in-office pompously expatiating on “His Excellency’s singleness of mind and His Excellency’s singleness of authority, etc.”.[8] Thus, Novoye Vremya, No. 9195,   reports that the Governor of Saratov, A. P. Engelhardt (formerly Governor of Archangel), gave an interview to a representative of a local newspaper, in the course of which he said that he had personally convened in that locality a conference of marshals of the nobility, of representatives of the Zemstvo Boards, of the rural superintendents, and of representatives of the Red Cross, at which he had “distributed tasks”.

“Scurvy, in the form I have seen it in Archangel Gubernia, is not to be found here [said A. P. Engelhardt]. In Archangel, one cannot approach within five paces of a patient; there the disease is really a form of ’rot’. Here we see mostly the effects of severe anaemia, which results from the awful conditions of domestic life. Almost the only symptoms of scurvy observed here are white lips and white gums.... With proper nutrition such patients recover within a week. Food is now being distributed. About one thousand rations are being distributed daily, although not more than four hundred cases of acute distress have been registered.

“Besides scurvy, only three cases of typhus have been reported in the whole district. We may hope that things will not get worse, for everywhere public works have been organised and the population is assured of employment.”

What prosperity! In the whole of Khvalynsk Uyezd (to which the Jack-in-office refers) there are only four hundred persons in acute distress (in all probability the rest, in Mr. Sipyagin’s and Mr. Engelhardt’s opinion, “can manage well” on twenty-four poods of grain per family per annum!), the population is provided for, and the sick recover within a week. After this, how can we not believe Moskovskiye Vedomosti when, in a special leading article (in No. 258), it informs us that “according to the latest reports, in twelve gubernias affected by the harvest failure the administration is very actively organising relief. Many uyezds have already been investigated for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is a shortage of food; uyezd managers of food affairs have been appointed, etc. Apparently, official representatives of the government are doing everything possible to render timely and adequate aid.”

“...very actively organising”, and ... “not more than four hundred cases of acute distress have been registered”....   in Khvalynsk Uyezd there are 165,000 rural inhabitants, and one thousand rations are being distributed. The yield of rye in the whole of the south-eastern area (including Saratov Gubernia) this year was 34 per cent below average. Of the total area of peasant lands planted to crops in Saratov Gubernia (1,500,000 dessiatines), 15 per cent suffered a complete failure of the harvest (according to the report of the gubernia Zemstvo Board) and 75 per cent suffered a poor harvest, while Khvalynsk and Kamyshin uyezds are the two worst affected uyezds in the gubernia. Consequently, the total amount of grain gathered in by the peasants in Khvalynsk Uyezd is at least 30 per cent below average. Let us assume that half of this shortage affects the well-to-do peasantry, which is not yet reduced thereby to starvation (a very risky assumption, since the well-to-do peasant possesses better land and cultivates it better, so that he always suffers less from a bad harvest than do the poor peasants). But even on this assumption, the number of the starving must be something like 15 per cent, or about 25,000. Yet we are offered the consolation that scurvy in Khvalynsk is not nearly so bad as it is in Archangel, that there were only three cases of typhus (if only they would lie more cleverly!), and that one thousand rations are being distributed (the size of which is in all probability determined by Sipyagin’s system of combating exaggerations).

With respect to the “subsidiary earnings”, which, to avoid exaggeration, Mr. Sipyagin thrice takes into account in his circular (once, when he orders that uyezds in which subsidiary earnings are usual shall not be regarded as affected areas; a second time when he orders that the forty-eight poods scale be reduced by half because 50 per cent of the working population “must” be earning wages; and a third time when he orders this scale to be further reduced by amounts ranging from one-third to one-tenth according to local conditions) —with respect to these subsidiary earnings, not only agricultural but even non-agricultural earnings have diminished in Saratov Gubernia. “The harvest failure,” we read in the above-mentioned Zemstvo Board report, “has also affected the handicraftsmen, due to the drop in the sales of their manufactures. Owing to these circumstances, a crisis .e observed in the uyezds in which handicrafts are most highly   developed.” Among these is Kamyshin Uyezd, which has suffered most, and in which many thousands of poor people are engaged in weaving the celebrated local striped calico (sarpinka). Even in normal years conditions in the handicraft industry of this remote rural district were woeful; six- and seven-year-old children, for example, were employed at a wage of seven or eight kopeks a day. We can picture to ourselves what conditions are like there in a year of severe harvest failure and acute crisis in the handicraft industry.

In Saratov Gubernia (and in all affected gubernias, of course), the poor grain harvest is accompanied also by a shortage of fodder. The past few months (i.e., in the second half of the summer!) have seen the spread of various cattle diseases and an increase in cattle mortality. “According to a report of the veterinary surgeon in Khvalynsk Uyezd [we quote from the newspaper that contained the above-mentioned Zemstvo Board report], an examination of the contents of the stomachs of the dead cattle revealed nothing but earth.”

The “Report of the Zemstvo Department of the Ministry of the Interior” on the progress of the food campaign contained, incidentally, the statement that of the uyezds recognised as affected areas “in Khvalynsk alone a number of cases of epidemic scurvy have been discovered in two villages since July. The local medical staff is exerting all its efforts to stop the epidemic and two Red Cross detachments have been sent to the district to assist the local forces. According to the report of the governor [the very A. P. Engelhardt, whose acquaintance we have made], their efforts are meeting with considerable success; according to reports received by the Ministry up to September 12, in none of the other affected uyezds were there any cases of acute distress left without relief, and no development of disease as a consequence of inadequate nutrition is observed.”

To show what confidence may be placed in the statement that no cases of acute distress were left unrelieved (were there cases of chronic distress?) and that the development of disease is not observed, we shall confine ourselves to comparing data on two other gubernias.

In Ufa Gubernia, Menzelinsk and Belebeyev uyezds were declared to be affected areas, and the Zemstvo Department   of the Ministry of the Interior reports that “according to the governor’s statement” the amount of the government grant required “specifically for food” is 800,000 poods. However, a special meeting of the Ufa Gubernia Zemstvo. Assembly held on August 27 to discuss the question of rendering relief to the famine-stricken estimated food requirements of those uyezds at 2,200,000 poods of grain, 1,000,000 poods for the other uyezds, not including grants of seed-grain (3,200,000 poods for the entire gubernia) and cattle fodder (600,000 poods). Consequently, the Ministry fixed the grant at one-fourth the amount fixed by the Zemstvo.

Another instance. In Vyatka Gubernia none of the uyezds was declared affected areas at the time when the Zemstvo department issued its report; nevertheless, the food grant was fixed by that body at 782,000 poods. This is the figure which, by press reports, was fixed by the Vyatka Gubernia Food Department at its meeting of August 28 (in accordance with the decisions of the Uyezd Assemblies held between August 18 and 25). Approximately on August 12, these very Assemblies had fixed a different amount for the grant, viz., 1,100,000 poods for food and 1,400,000 poods for seed. Why this difference? What happened between August 12 and 28? The answer is, Sipyagin’s circular of August 17 on fighting the famine-stricken had been published. Consequently, the circular had an immediate effect, and the trifling amount of 230,000 poods of grain was struck out of the estimate, drawn up, mark you, by the Uyezd Assemblies, i.e., by the very institutions which, by the law of June 12, 1900, were established in place of the unreliable Zemstvos, institutions composed of officials generally and of rural superintendents in particular.... Shall we really live to see the day when even the rural superintendents will be accused of liberalism? Perhaps we shall. Recently we read in Moskovskiye Vedomosti the following reprimand inflicted on a certain Mr. Om., who, in Priazovsky Krai[9] had dared to propose that the newspapers publish the minutes of the meetings of the Gubernia Boards for Urban Affairs (since press representatives were not permitted to attend them):

“The purpose is all too transparent: the Russian civil servant frequently suffers from a fear of appearing illiberal, and publicity may compel him, at times even against his   own conscience, to support some fantastically liberal scheme proposed by the city or the Zemstvo. By no means an altogether false calculation.”

Should not the Vyatka rural superintendents, who. (apparently out of fear of appearing illiberal) have revealed such unpardonable frivolity in “exaggerating” the food crisis, be placed under special surveillance?[4]

Incidentally, if the wise Russian Government had not withdrawn from it jurisdiction over food affairs, the “fantastically liberal” Vyatka Zemstvo would have gone even further in its estimate of the distress. At all events, the Special Gubernia Conference, held from August 30 to September 2, declared the amount of grain harvested to be 17 per cent, and the amount of cattle fodder 15 per cent, below   subsistence needs. The amount absolutely essential is 105,000,000 poods (the amount harvested in an ordinary year being 134,000,000; in this year, 84,000,000 poods). There is, therefore, a shortage of 21 million poods. “The total number of volosts in the gubernia suffering from a shortage of grain this year is 158 out of 310. The population of these volosts numbers 1,566,000 persons of both sexes.” Yes, undoubtedly, “the administration is very actively organising”—minimising the real extent of the distress and reducing the work of relieving the starving to a kind of acrobatics of cheese-paring philanthropy.

In fact, the term “acrobats of philanthropy” would be too flattering a name for the administrators who have rallied under the banner of the Sipyagin circular. What they have in common with acrobats of philanthropy is the paltry nature of the relief they render and their attempts to blow it up into something bigger than it is. But the acrobats of philanthropy at worst regard the people upon whom they bestow their charity as playthings that pleasantly tickle their vanity, whereas the Sipyagin administrators regard their beneficiaries as enemies, as people that make illegal demands ("totally unjustified demands on the government”) and that must therefore be held in restraint. This point of view was expressed most strikingly in the remarkable Provisional Regulations, which were accorded royal sanction on September 15, 1901.

These regulations represent in the full sense a law, which consists of twenty articles and contains so much that is remarkable that we would not hesitate to designate it as one of the most important legislative acts of the early twentieth century. To begin with the title: “Provisional Regulations Governing the Participation of the Population in the Famine-Affected Areas in the Works Undertaken by Order of the Departments of Railways, Agriculture, and State Property.” Evidently these works are so chock-full of benefits that to be allowed to “participate” in them must be regarded as a special act of grace, otherwise the first clause of the new law would not state: “Rural inhabitants of localities affected by the famine shall be allowed to participate in the carrying out of the works projects”, etc.

But the law provides for these “privileges” only in its second half, while in the first it deals with the organisation of the whole business. The competent authorities “determine the most suitable works projects to be undertaken” (Article 2), which “shall be carried out in conformity with the provision in the law” (Article 3, which, like the chapter headings in some Dickensian novel, may be entitled: “The clause of the new law, which tells of the necessity of acting in accordance with the old law”). The public works are to be launched on budget estimates, or on special credits, and the general supervision of the organisation of these works is vested in the Minister of the Interior, who may appoint officials with special powers and who arranges a special “Conference on Food Affairs” with representatives of various ministries participating under the chairmanship of the Deputy Minister. The functions of this body include: (a) granting permission for departures from the existing regulations; (b) discussing proposals for the allocation of funds; (c) “fixing the maximum remuneration to be paid to workmen, as well as establishing the other conditions under which the population may be permitted to participate in the aforesaid works; (d) distributing the work crews to the locations of the projects; and, (e) organising the transport of the crews to the works locations”. The decisions of the Conference must be sanctioned by the Minister of the Interior, as well as, “in corresponding cases”, by the ministers of other departments. The function of determining the works projects, and of ascertaining the number of residents in. need of work, is vested in the rural superintendents, who must report the information to the governors, who, in turn, communicate the information with their opinions to the Ministry of the Interior and “on its instructions arrange, through the rural superintendents, for the dispatch of workers to the works locations....”

Ugh! At last we have mastered the “organisation” of this new business! The question now arises how much lubrication will be required to set all the wheels of this ponderous, purely Russian administrative monster in motion. Try to imagine this thing concretely. Only the rural superintendent comes in direct contact with the famine-stricken. He therefore must take the initiative. He sends a communi   cation—to whom? To the governor, says an article of the Provisional Regulations of September 15. But in accordance with the circular of August 17, a special Central Uyezd Food Board has been established, whose function is “to concentrate the management of all food affairs in the uyezd in the hands of a single official” (under the circular of August 17 the uyezd marshal of the nobility should preferably be appointed to that post). A “dispute” arises, which, of course, is quickly settled on the basis of the remarkably clear and simple “principles” outlined in the six points of Article 175 of the General Gubernia Regulations which prescribes “the order for settling,disputes ... between public departments and officials”. In the end the document finds its way somehow into the office of the governor, where someone undertakes to draft an “opinion”. Following which, everything goes to St. Petersburg, there to be examined by the special Conference. But the representative of the Ministry of Railways to the Conference is unable to decide on the expediency of such a public works project as road re pairs in Buguruslan Uyezd, and so another document travels from St. Petersburg to the gubernia and back again. When, finally, the expediency of the works, etc., etc., is decided on in principle, the Conference in St. Petersburg will then set about “distributing the work crews” between Buzuluk and Buguruslan uyezds.

How shall this unwieldy machine be explained? By the novelty of the thing? Not at all. Before the Provisional Regulations of September 15 were introduced, public works could be organised ever so much more simply “on the basis of the existing laws”, and the circular of August 17, which refers to the public works organised by the Zemstvos, the Guardians of the poor, and the gubernia authorities, makes no reference to the necessity for any kind of special organisation. You see, therefore, that the government’s “food campaign” consists in the fact that the St. Petersburg departments spend a whole month (from August 17 to September 15) thinking and thinking, and finally produce a hopelessly tangled skein of red tape. We may be sure, however, that the St. Petersburg Conference stands in no danger of making exaggerations, as do the local bureaucrats who “fear to appear illiberal”....

But the prize exhibit of the new Provisional Regulations is the prescript concerning the “rural inhabitants” hired for the works projects. When work is to be carried out “away from their place of residence”, the workers must first of all form themselves into a special artel, “under the supervision of the rural superintendent”, who endorses the appointment of the artel overseer responsible for maintaining order; secondly, the names of the workmen joining such an artel must be entered in a special list which “is to serve as a substitute for the ordinary legally established residence permits of the workmen thereon listed during their transfer to, and stay at, their place of work, and which must remain in the possession of the official accompanying the workmen on their journey, or, in his absence, in the possession of the artel overseer, and on arrival at the destination must be placed in charge of the works manager”.

Why is it necessary to substitute a special list for the ordinary passports, which every peasant who desires to travel has a right to receive gratis? This is clearly a restriction imposed upon the workmen, since, if they remained in possession of their passports, they would have more freedom in selecting a room, in spending their free time, or in changing one job for another, if they found it more remunerative or convenient to do so. We shall see below that this was done deliberately, not only out of love for red tape, but specifically in order to impose restrictions upon the workmen and make their conditions approximate those of gangs of transported serfs accompanied by an “inventory” of a kind.[10] It appears that the function of “maintaining order on the journey, and the delivery [sic!] of the work crew to the public works manager is vested in an official commissioned for the purpose by the Ministry of the Interior”. The farther into it we get, the more complicated it becomes. The substitution of lists for passports leads to the substitution of freedom of movement by—"consignment of work crews”. What have we here? Gangs of convicts being transported to penal servitude? Have all the laws permitting the peasant in possession of a passport to travel wherever and however he pleases been repealed—perhaps as a punishment for “exaggerating” the famine? Is conveyance at government expense a sufficient reason for depriving a citizen of his rights?

To continue. It appears that the persons in charge of distributing the workmen and of paying their wages, as well as the other officials of the department supervising the execution of the works projects, “on the instructions of the gubernia authorities in the district where the families of the workmen reside, dock the wages earned, wherever possible, and send the deducted amount to their home locations for the maintenance of the workmen’s families”. A further deprivation of rights. How dare the officials deduct part of the wages earned by the workers? How dare they interfere in the work men’s family affairs and decide for them, as if they were serfs, whom they are to maintain and how much they are to con tribute to that end? Would workmen permit their wages to be docked without their consent? Apparently, this question entered the heads of those who drafted the new “penal servitude regulations”, because the clause immediately following the one quoted above says: “The preservation of order among the workmen in the works locations is entrusted, by decision of the Minister of the Interior, to the local rural superintendents, to the officers of the special corps of gendarmerie, to the police officials, or to persons specially appointed for that purpose.” It is clear that the peasants are to be punished by deprivation of their rights for “exaggerating” the famine and for their “totally unjustified demands on the government”! It is not enough that the ordinary police, the factory police, and the secret police keep the Russian workers in general under surveillance; these regulations prescribe the establishment of a special surveillance. One might think the government has completely lost its head out of fear of these work crews of hungry peasants, freighted, transported, and delivered with a thousand precautions.

We read further: “Workers guilty of disturbing the public peace and quiet, deliberately shirking their work, or refusing to carry out the lawful demands of the works managers or those appointed for the purpose of preserving order, are liable, on the order of the officials mentioned in Article 16 [referred to above] to be placed under arrest for three days without trial; for persistent refusal to work they may, on the orders of the said officials, be transported under escort to their permanent place of residence,"

After this, can the Provisional Regulations of September 15 be called anything but provisional penal servitude regulations? Punishment without trial, deportation under escort.... The ignorance and wretchedness of the Russian peasant is very great indeed, but there is a limit to everything. For this constant starvation and the steady banishment of workers from the towns to the country cannot but have their effect. And our government, which is so fond of governing by means of provisional regulations[5] will one day receive a very severe shock.

The Provisional Regulations of September 15 must serve us as a means for wide agitation in workers’ study circles and among the peasantry; we must distribute copies of these regulations with leaflets explaining them; we must call meetings and read this law to the audience, explain its meaning in connection with the government’s “food” policy as a whole. We must see to it that every worker, who is in the least class-conscious and who goes to the village, shall thoroughly understand the meaning of the “provisional penal servitude regulations” and be able to explain to all whom he meets what the regulations are about and what must be done to gain deliverance from the penal servitude of starvation, tyranny, and lack of rights.

Let these provisional regulations governing workers’ artels serve as a standing reproach and a serious warning to the soulful Russian intellectuals who advocate the establishment of various kinds of artels and similar legal societies permitted or encouraged by the government—a reproach for that naiveté with which they believed in the sincerity of the government’s permission or encouragement, without perceiving the base serf character that was concealed behind the signboard of “the furtherance of people’s labour”, etc. A warning—when they speak in the future of artels and other societies permitted by the Sipyagins, never to forget to tell the whole truth about the workers’ artels established   in accordance with the provisional regulations of September 15, and if they dare not talk about such artels, to remain entirely silent.


[1] The manner in which the Ministry decides this question can be judged from the example of Perm Gubernia. According to the latest press reports, this gubernia is still regarded as having “a good harvest”, notwithstanding the fact that (according to the report of the extraordinary gubernia Zemstvo congress held on October 10) the harvest this year is even worse than the extremely poor harvest of 1898. The yield this year represents only 58 per cent of the average, and in the Shadrinsk and Irbit uyezds is only 36 per cent and 34 per cent respectively. In 1898 the government granted the gubernia (in addition to local grants) 1,500,000 poods of grain and over 250,000 rubles in money. Now, however, the Zemstvos have no funds, they are restricted in their powers, the harvest is far worse than that of 1898, the price of grain began to rise as from July 1, the peasants have begun selling their cattle—and the government persists in declaring that the gubernia has “a good harvest”!! —Lenin

[2] See, for instance, the secret circular published in Iskra, No. 6, on the people banished from St. Petersburg, mostly writers, many of whom had never been involved in political affairs of any kind, let alone “labour” affairs. Nevertheless, they have been denied domicile, not only in university cities, but also in “factory localities”, while for some the prohibition relates only to factory localities. —Lenin

[3] See, for example, the correspondence in Iskra, Nos. 6 and 7, in which it is reported that public unrest and aid to the peasants in despite of the government had penetrated even into such God-guarded cities as Penza, Simferopol, Kursk, etc. —Lenin

[4] Another Instance of the manner in which the Governor of Vyatka combats exaggerations:

“In an ’announcement’ sent out to the Volost Boards the Governor of Vyatka records a very cautious attitude on the part of the peasants towards food grants from the government and the Zemstvo. ’During my tour of the gubernia,’ writes Mr. Klingenberg, ’I saw for myself with what deliberation and caution the peasants act in the present circumstances. They hesitate to contract debts except under pressure of extreme necessity and are firmly resolved to wait patiently or God’s help in the year to come, striving by their own efforts to extricate themselves from their difficult condition.’ Hence, the Governor of Vyatka expresses the conviction that ’the peaceful and sensible inhabitants of Vyatka Gubernia will not allow themselves to be disturbed by rumours about free government and Zemstvo aid and about the annulment of debts and arrears, or by exaggerated re ports of the failure of the harvest’. The Governor deems it his duty to warn the peasants that ’if a check of the grants shows that householders, even with no reserve stocks, have gathered in sufficient corn this year to feed themselves and their families and to sow their fields, but have sold their corn and utilised the proceeds for other purposes, such householders must not count on obtaining a loan. According to the new law, the loans granted will be recoverable, not on the basis of collective liability,[11] but in accordance with the regulations governing the collection of taxes. Consequently, every householder who applies for and receives a loan must bear in mind that he and he alone will be responsible for repayment, that no one will help him, that repayment will be strictly enforced, and that if he falls into arrears all his movable property may be sold and his real estate confiscated.’"

We can well imagine how the local volost authorities treat starving peasants who have fallen into arrears and demand a loan after such a statement by the Governor! —Lenin

[5] It is an old adage that any fool can govern under a state of siege. In Europe, it may be necessary to declare a state of siege from time to time, but in Russia a state of siege is always in force, supplemented, now here, now there, by provisional regulations. Are not all political affairs in Russia conducted according to provisional regulations? —Lenin

[6] The first chapter of Lenin’s Review of Home Affairs was published as a separate pamphlet in two editions under the title of “Fighting the Famine-Stricken”. The first edition appeared as a separate re print from Zarya, No. 2-3; the second edition of 3,000 copies was printed at the Iskra illegal press in Kisbinev.

[7] The reference is to Arkady Pavlych Penochkin, a character in I. Turgenev’s story “The Village Elder”.

[8] Lenin quotes from M. Y. Saltykov-Shchedrin’s The History of a Town.

[9] Priazovsky Krai (Azov Region)—a daily newspaper published in Rostov-on-Don from 1891 to 1916: it was a continuation of the newspaper Donskoye Polye (The Don Field) published froni 1889 to 1891.

[11] Collective liability—the compulsory collective responsibility of the peasants of each village commune for the making of timely and full payments and for the fulfilment of all sorts of services to the state and to the landlords (payment of poll-taxes and of redemp tion instalments, provision of recruits for the army, etc.). This form of bondage, which was retained even after serfdom had been abol ished, remained in force until 1906.

[10] Inventory”—a criminal list maintained by the gubernia authorities; it contained detailed information on convicts banished to Siberia.

  | II. Attitude Towards the Crisis and the Famine  

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