V. I.   Lenin

Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

July 17 (30)-August 10 (23), 1903


17. Second Speech in the Discussion on the Agrarian Programme

August 1 (14)

Before passing to details, I want to object to certain general statements, and in the first place to those of Comrade Martynov. Comrade Martynov says that it is not the feudalism of the past we must combat, but the feudalism that exists today. That is true, but let me remind you of my reply to X. The latter referred to Saratov Gubernia. I have consulted the data for that gubernia and found that the cut-off lands there amount to 600,000 dessiatines, i.e., two-fifths of the total land held by the peasants under serfdom, while the rented land amounts to 900.000 dessiatines. Consequently, two-thirds of the rented land consists of cut-off lands. That means that we are out to restore two-thirds of the laud held in tenure. Hence it is not a ghost we are fighting, but a real evil. We would arrive at the state of affairs which exists in Ireland, where the present peasant reform was required, which is turning the tenant farmers into small owners. The analogy between Ireland and Russia was already pointed out by the Narodniks in their economic literature. Comrade Gorin says that the measure I propose is not the best; that it would be better to turn the peasants into free tenant farmers. But he is mistaken in thinking that it would be better to turn semi-free tenants into free tenants. We are not inventing a transition, but are proposing one that would bring the land tenure laws into conformity with the actually existing conditions of land tenure, thereby abolishing the bondage relations that exist today. Martynov says that it is not our demands   that are meagre, but the principle from which they are derived. But that is like the arguments the. Socialist-Revolutionaries bring against us. We are pursuing two qualitatively different aims in the countryside: firstly, we want to achieve freedom for bourgeois relations; secondly, we want to conduct the proletarian struggle. Despite the Socialist-Revolutionaries’ prejudices, it is our task to show the peasants where the revolutionary proletarian task of the peasant proletariat begins. Comrade Kostrov’s objections are therefore groundless. We are told that the peas ants will not be satisfied with our programme and will go further. But we are not afraid of that; we have our socialist programme for that eventuality, and consequently are not afraid even of a redistribution of the land, which terrifies Comrades Makhov and Kostrov[1] so much.

I conclude. Comrade Yegorov has called our reliance on the peasants chimerical. No! We are not carried away; we are sufficiently sceptical, and that is why we say to the peasant proletarian: “Now you are fighting by the side of the peasant bourgeoisie, but you must always be prepared to fight against that same bourgeoisie, and you will wage that fight together with the urban industrial proletarians.”

In 1852 Marx said that the peasants had judgement as well as prejudices. And now, when we point out to the poor peasants the cause of their poverty, we may count on success. We believe that, since the Social-Democrats have now taken up the struggle for the interests of the peasants, we shall in future be reckoning with the fact that the peasant masses will get used to looking upon Social-Democracy as the defender of their interests.



[1] Makhov—pseudonym of the Menshevik D. P. Kalafati; Kostrov— pseudonym of the Menshevik N. N. Jordania.

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