V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy



There is hardly any need to prove at length that an “agrarian programme” is essential to the Russian Social-Democratic Party. By an agrarian programme we mean a definition of the guiding principles of Social-Democratic policy on the agrarian question, i.e., policy in relation to agriculture and the various classes, sections, and groups of the rural population. Naturally, in a “peasant” country like Russia the agrarian programme of the socialists is chiefly, if not exclusively, a “peasant programme,” a programme defining their attitude towards the peasant question. Big landowners, agricultural wage-workers, and “peasants”—these are the three main components of the rural population in any capitalist country, Russia included. In the same measure as the attitude of the Social-Democrats to the first two of these three components (the landowners and the labourers) is definite and self-evident, even the very concept of the “peasantry” is indefinite, and all the more indefinite is our policy with regard to the fundamental problems of its life and evolution. If in the West the crux of the Social-Democrats’ agrarian programme is precisely the “peasant question,” how much more so must that be the case in Russia. It is all the more necessary for us, Russian Social-Democrats, to have the most unambiguous definition of our policy in the peasant question because in Russia our movement is still quite new and because the whole of old Russian socialism was, in the final analysis, a “peasant” socialism. True, the mass of Russian “radicals,” who imagine themselves the custodian of the heritage left by our Narodnik socialists of all shades, have practically nothing socialistic left in them. But all of them are all the more eager to bring into the forefront their differences with   us on the “peasant” question, the more it pleases them to tone down the fact that the “labour” question has come into the foreground of the social and political life of Russia, and the fact that they have no stable principles whatever in this question, while in essence nine-tenths of them are the most ordinary bourgeois social-reformers in this matter. Lastly, the numerous “critics of Marxism,” who in the latter respect have almost entirely merged with the Russian radicals (or liberals?), are also endeavouring to lay specific emphasis on the peasant question, on which “orthodox Marxism is allegedly most completely put to shame by the “latest works” of the Bernsteins, Bulgakovs, Davids, Hertzes and even ... the Chernovs!

Further, in addition to the theoretical uncertainties and the war of “progressive” trends, the purely practical requirements of the movement itself have of late lent special urgency to the task of propaganda and agitation in the countryside. However, this work cannot be conducted at all seriously and on a large scale without a programme consistent in principle and politically expedient. Since the very day of their appearance as an independent trend, Russian Social-Democrats have realised the full importance of the “peasant question.” Let us recall that the draft programme of the Russian Social-Democrats prepared by the Emancipation of Labour group and published in 1885 contains a demand for a “radical revision of agrarian relationships (the terms of redemption and allotment of land to the peasants).”[1] In the pamphlet entitled The Tasks of the Socialists in the Fight Against the Famine in Russia (1892), G. V. Plekhanov also spoke of the Social-Democratic policy on the peasant question.

It is therefore quite natural that in one of its first issues (April 1901, No. 3) Iskra also published a rough outline of an agrarian programme, defining its attitude towards the principles of the Russian Social-Democrats’ agrarian policy, in an article entitled “The Workers’ Party and the Peasantry.”[2] A great many Russian Social-Democrats were perplexed by this article, in connection with which we,   the editors, have received a number of comments and letters. The clause on the restitution of the cut-off lands evoked most objections, and we were planning to launch a discussion on the matter in the columns of Zarya, when No. 10 of Rabocheye Dyelo appeared with an article by Martynov which, among other things, dealt with the Iskra agrarian programme. Since Rabocheye Dyelo has voiced many of the current objections, we hope that our correspondents will not resent our confining ourselves for the time being to a reply to Martynov alone.

I stress for the time being because of the following circumstances. The Iskra article was written by one of the editors, and although the other members of the Editorial Board agreed with the author on the general presentation of the question, there could, of course, have been differences of opinion on particulars and specific points. In the meantime, our entire Editorial Board (i.e., including the Emancipation of Labour group) was occupied with the preparation of a collective draft programme for our Party. This work was protracted (partly as a result of various Party affairs and certain circumstances of our illegal work, and partly because of the necessity for a special congress to discuss the programme from all angles), and was completed only quite recently. As long as the clause on the restitution of the cut-off lands remained my personal opinion, I made no haste to defend it, since the general presentation of the question of our agrarian policy was far more important to me than this particular clause, which could still be rejected or substantially modified in our general draft. I shall now be defending this general draft. As to the “friendly reader” who took the trouble of communicating to us his criticism of our agrarian programme, we ask him now to undertake the criticism of our general draft.


[1] See appendix to P. B. Axelrod’s pamphlet, Present Tasks and Tactics of the Russian Social-Democrats, Geneva, 1898. —Lenin

[2] See present edition, Vol. 4, pp. 420-28,—Ed.

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