V. I.   Lenin

Material for the Preparation of the Programme of the R.S.D.L.P.


An Amendment to the Agrarian Section of the Programme[2]

I propose the following amendment to Clause 4 of our agrarian programme: instead of “Establishment of peasant committees (a) for the restitution to the village communes (by expropriation, or, when the land has changed hands, by redemption, etc.) of the land," etc., to state: “Establishment of peasant committees (a) for the restitution to the village communes (by expropriation) of the land which..." etc.,

i.e., to _ s c r a p _ t h e _ i t a l i c i s e d _ w o r d s.

It seems to me that this amendment should be made for the following considerations:

1. In the agrarian programme we present our “maximum,” our “socio-revolutionary demands” (see my commentary[3]). Allowing land redemption, however, runs counter to the socio-revolutionary nature of the entire demand.

2. Both the historical tradition of “redemption” (that of 1861)[4] and its very content (cf. the well-known phrase: “redemption is nothing but purchase”)[5] give it the specific flavour of a mawkishly well-intentioned and bourgeois measure. Our allowing land redemption makes it not impossible for the entire essence of our demand to be discredited (and there will be more than enough vilifiers prepared to do this.)[1]

3. The fear that an “injustice” would be committed by taking away the cut-off lands from people who have paid money for them is groundless. We have in any case set two restrictive conditions for this measure of restituting the   cut-off lands: [(1)—“the lands cut off in 1861,” and <2)— “now used as a means of keeping the peasants in bondage.”] It is absolutely right to confiscate property serving the purposes of feudal exploitation, and to do so without compensation. (Let the purchaser of the cut-off lands then sue the seller—that is no affair of ours.)

4. By allowing “redemption,” we are placing the onus of monetary payment on the peasants, who by reason of labour rent were most deeply involved in natural economy: the abruptness of the transition to monetary payments may ruin the peasants in an _ e s p e c i a l l y _ rapid way, and this would run counter to the entire spirit of our programme.

5. Even if a purchaser of cut-off lands is to be “compensated” by way of exception, this should by no means be done at the expense of the peasants, who have the moral and historical right to these cut-off lands. “Compensation” can be made by giving a corresponding plot somewhere in the border regions, etc.; but that does not concern us.

I ask everyone to vote: F o r=discarding the words about redemption, deleting the words I have indicated.

A g a i n s t=endorsing of the old text.

1) G. V.—
    2) P. B.—
    3) V. I.—
    4) Berg—
    5) A. N.—
    6) Frey—for.

Written April 1902


[1] By allowing land redemption, we are degrading the restitution of the cut-off lands from an extraordinary, revolutionary measure to the most petty “reform.” —Lenin

[2] “An Amendment to the Agrarian Section of the Programme” was presented by Lenin for discussion by the other members of the Iskra Editorial Board.

To conduct a vote on this amendment, Lenin wrote at the end of the manuscript the pseudonyms or initials of the members of the Iskra Editorial Board: G. V..—Plekhanov; P. B.—Axelrod; V. I.—Zasulich; Berg—pseudonym of Y. 0. Martov; A. N.— Potresov.

[3] Lenin calls his work entitled The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy a commentary on the agrarian section of the Party programme (see pp. 107-50 of this volume).

[4] According to the “Regulation Governing Redemption by Peas ants Who Have Emerged from Serf Dependence..." adopted on February 19, 1861, the peasants were obliged to pay compensation to the landlords for land allotted to them. In concluding the land redemption deal, the tsarist government paid over to the landlords the compensation money, which was regarded as a debt of the peasants payable over a period of 49 years. The instalments of this debt, which the peasants paid annually, were called land redemption payments, whose heavy and intolerable burden result ed in mass ruination and impoverishment of the peasants. The landlords’ former peasants alone paid the tsarist government about 2,000 million rubles at a time when the market price of the land which had passed to the peasants did not exceed 544 million rubles. As all the peasants did not come under the land redemption scheme at once, but at various times until 1883, the land redemption payments were to be completed only by 1932. However, the peasant movement during the first Russian revolution of 1905-07 compelled the tsarist government to abolish land redemption payments as from January 1907.

[5] “Redemption is nothing but purchase” was said by Volgin, one of the characters in N. G. Chernyshevsky’s Prologue, which expressed N. G. Chernyshevsky’s own attitude to the “emancipation” of the peasants in 1861.

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