V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy



We shall now proceed to the second general proposition, which defines the nature of all our peasant demands and is expressed in the following words: “... for the purpose of   facilitating the free development of the class struggle in the countryside....”

These words are of the utmost importance both for the principled presentation of the agrarian question in general, and for an appraisal of individual agrarian demands in particular. The demand for the eradication of the remnants of the serf-owning system is common to us and to all the consistent liberals, Narodniks, social-reformers, critics of Marxism on the agrarian question, etc., etc. In advancing this demand, we differ from all these gentlemen, not in principle, but only in degree: in this point too they will inevitably remain at all times within the limits of reforms; we, however, will not stop (in the sense indicated above) even at social-revolutionary demands. On the contrary, by demanding that the “free development of the class struggle in the countryside” be ensured, we place ourselves in opposition to all these gentlemen in principle, and even to all revolutionaries and socialists who are not Social-Democrats. These latter will also not stop at social-revolutionary demands in the agrarian question, but they will not wish to subordinate these demands precisely to such a condition as the free development of the class struggle in the countryside. This condition is the fundamental and focal point in the theory of revolutionary Marxism in the sphere of the agrarian question.[1] To acknowledge this condition means recognising that, despite all its confusion and complexity, despite all the diversity of its forms, the evolution of agriculture is also capitalist evolution, that (like the evolution of industry) it also engenders the proletariat’s class struggle against the bourgeoisie, that precisely this class struggle must be our prime and fundamental concern, the touchstone for both questions of principle and political tasks, as well as methods of propaganda, agitation, and organisation. To acknowledge this condition means undertaking to abide unswervingly by the class viewpoint also in the very painful   question of the participation of the small peasants in the Social-Democratic movement, means sacrificing nothing of the proletariat’s standpoint in favour of the interests of the petty bourgeoisie, but, on the contrary, demanding that the small peasant, who is being oppressed and ruined by all modern capitalism, should desert his own class standpoint and place himself at the standpoint of the proletariat.

By setting this condition, we shall resolutely and irrevocably put ourselves apart, not only from our enemies (i.e., the direct or indirect, conscious or unconscious supporters of the bourgeoisie, who are our temporary and partial allies in the struggle against the remnants of the serf-owning system), but also from those unreliable friends who, because of their mid-course presentation of the agrarian question, can cause (and actually do cause) much harm to the proletariat’s revolutionary movement.

By setting this condition, we are providing a guiding principle that will enable any Social-Democrat, even if he finds himself in some out-of-the-way village, even if he is faced with the most tangled web of agrarian relationships which bring general democratic tasks into the foreground, to apply and stress his proletarian standpoint when he is tackling those tasks—just as we remain Social-Democrats when we tackle general-democratic, political problems.

By setting this condition, we are replying to the objection that many people bring forward after a cursory acquaintance with the concrete demands in our agrarian programme.... “Redemption payments and cut-off lands shall be restituted to the village communes”!?—But, then, where is our specifically proletarian complexion and our proletarian independence? Is this not in effect a gift to the rural bourgeoisie??

Of course it is—but only in the sense that the fall of the serf-owning system was itself a “gift to the bourgeoisie,” i.e., since it relieved bourgeois, and not some other development, from the fetters and restrictions of the serf-owning system. The proletariat is distinguished from all the other classes oppressed by and opposed to the bourgeoisie for the very reason that it rests its hopes, not on a retardation of bourgeois development, or on any abatement or slackening of the class struggle, but, on the contrary, on the fullest and freest development of the class struggle, on the acceleration   of bourgeois progress.[2] In a developing capitalist society it is impossible to eradicate the remnants of the serf-owning system which hamper its development, in such a way as not to strengthen and fortify the bourgeoisie. To be “baffled” by this is equivalent to repeating the mistake of those socialists who said that we have no need of political liberty since it might strengthen and fortify the rule of the bourgeoisie.


[1] In essence all the delusions and fallacies of the “critics” of Marxism on the agrarian question boil down to a failure to understand this very point, and the boldest and most consistent (and to that extent the most honest) of them, Mr. Bulgakov, openly declares in his “survey” that the “doctrine” of the class struggle is quite inapplicable to agricultural relationships. (Capitalism and Agriculture, Vol. II, p. 289.) —Lenin

[2] It stands to reason that the proletariat does not support all measures accelerating bourgeois progress, but only those that tend directly to strengthen the capacity of the working class to struggle for its emancipation. And “labour rent” and bondage weigh upon the poor section of the peasantry, which is close to the proletariat, much more heavily than upon the well-to-do section of the peasantry. —Lenin

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