V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy



In conclusion, let us sum up the fundamental principles on which our agrarian programme is based. Anyone who has had occasion to engage in drawing up programmes or enter   into the details of their drafting in other countries knows that one and the same thought can be formulated in the most diverse ways. What we hold important is that all the comrades to whom we are now submitting our draft for consideration should reach common ground, first and foremost, on the fundamental principles. Then this or that specific feature in the formulation will not be of decisive importance.

We hold that the class struggle is the main factor also in the sphere of agrarian relationships in Russia. We base our entire agrarian policy (and, consequently, our agrarian programme as well) on unswerving recognition of this fact along with all consequences resulting from it. Our principal immediate aim is to clear the way for the free development of the class struggle in the countryside, the class struggle of the proletariat, which is directed towards attainment of the ultimate aim of the international Social-Democratic movement, the conquest of political power by the proletariat, and the laying of the foundations of a socialist society. By declaring the class struggle our guiding line in all “agrarian questions,” we resolutely and for all time dissociate ourselves from adherents, so numerous in Russia, of half-hearted and nebulous theories, such as “Narodnik,” “ethico-sociological,” “critical,” social-reformist, and whatever else they may be called!

To clear the way for the free development of the class struggle in the countryside, it is necessary to remove all remnants of serfdom, which now overlie the beginnings of capitalist antagonisms among the rural population, and keep them from developing. And we are making a final attempt to help the peasantry sweep away all these remnants at a single decisive blow—“final” because developing Russian capitalism is itself spontaneously doing the very same work, is making for the very same goal, but making for it along its own peculiar road of violence and oppression, ruin and starvation. The transition from exploitation by the serf-owners to capitalist exploitation is inevitable, and it would be a harmful and reactionary illusion to attempt to hold it back or to “get round” it. But this transition is also conceivable in the form of the forcible overthrow of those heirs of the serf-owners who, relying on the tradition of the former power of the slaveowner, rather than on the “power of money,” are sucking the last   drops of blood from the patriarchal peasantry. This patriarchal peasantry, which lives under a system of natural economy by the labour of its hands, is doomed to disappear, but there is no “necessity” or any “immanent” law of social and economic evolution that dooms it to endure the torment of being “ground down by taxes,” of floggings, or a long-drawn out, horribly protracted death by starvation.

And so, without harbouring any illusions about it being possible for the small producers to thrive or even to lead a tolerable existence in a capitalist society (such as Russia is becoming to a greater and greater extent), we demand the complete and unconditional revolutionary and not reformative annulment and eradication of the survivals of serf-ownership; we hold that the lands which the government of the nobility cut off from the peasantry and which to this day still serve to keep the peasants in virtual bondage are peasants’ lands. Thus, we take our stand—by way of exception and by reason of the specific historical circumstances—as defenders of small property; but we defend it only in its struggle against what has come down from the “old order,” and only on condition that those institutions be abolished which retard the transformation of the patriarchal Oblomov villages,[1] frozen in their immobility, backwardness, and neglect, on condition of the establishment of complete freedom of movement, freedom to dispose of land, and the complete abolition of division into social-estates. We want to supplement democratic revision of the state and civil laws of Russia with democratic, revolutionary revision of the notorious “Peasant Re form.”

Guided by these principles of agrarian policy, any Russian Social-Democrat who finds himself in the countryside will be able to see his way in the intricate maze of relationships there, and will be able to “adapt” his strictly consistent revolutionary propaganda and agitation to these relationships. He will not be caught napping by a possible movement in the peasantry (which already seems to have started here and there). He will not then limit himself to those demands on behalf of wage-workers in agriculture which are set forth in detail in the section on the immediate “working-class” demands of our programme, and which, of course, he will advance every where and at all times.Among the peasantry too he will be   able to give an impulse to the general democratic movement which (if it is destined to pass beyond the embryonic stage in our countryside) will begin with the struggle against the former serf-owners in the countryside, and end in an uprising against that most formidable and foul remnant of the serf-owning system known as the tsarist autocracy.

*     *

P. S. This article was written before the outbreak of the peasant uprisings in the south of Russia in the spring of this year.[2] These events have fully confirmed the principles set forth in this article. As to the tactical tasks which are now presenting themselves more forcibly than ever to our Party in its “rural” work, we hope to deal with them next time.


[1] Oblomovka—the name of a village belonging to the landlord Oblomov. (See Note 51.) Here the word “Oblomoyka” is used to denote a Russian village in the days of tsarism.

[2] The reference is to the peasant movement in the Poltava and Kharkov gubernias at the end of March and beginning of April 1902—the first large-scale revolutionary action of Russian peasants at the beginning of the twentieth century. It was sparked by the desperate condition of the peasants in these gubernias, which became still worse in the spring of 1902 owing to the crop failure of 1901 and the resulting famine. The peasants demanded a redistribution of the land, but in the 1902 movement they limited themselves in the main to seizing stocks of food and fodder on the landlords’ estates. In all, 56 estates in Poltava Gubernia and 24 in Kharkov Gubernia were attacked. Troops were dispatched to crush the peasants. These reprisals by the tsarist government resulted in many peasants being killed, all the inhabitants of certain villages flogged, and hundreds of peasants condemned to varying terms of imprisonment. The peasants were forced to pay an indemnity of 800,000 rubles for “losses” caused to the landlords by the peasant disorders. In his pamphlet, To the Rural Poor (see pp. 424-30 of this volume), V. I. Lenin gave an analysis of the aims and character and causes of the defeat of the peasant movement in the Kharkov and Poltava gubernias, and the causes of its defeat.

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