V. I.   Lenin

To the Rural Poor

An Explanation for the Peasants of What the Social-Democrats Want


6. What Improvements are the Social-Democrats Striving to Obtain for all the Peasants?

To secure the complete emancipation of all working people, the rural poor must, in alliance with the urban workers, wage a fight against the whole of the bourgeoisie, including the rich peasants. The rich peasants will strive to pay their farm labourers as little as possible and make them work as long and as hard as possible; but the workers in town and countryside will try to secure better wages, better conditions, and regular rest periods for farm labourers working for the rich peasants. That means that the rural poor must form their own unions apart from the rich peasants. We have already said this, and we shall always repeat it.

But in Russia, all peasants, rich and poor, are still serfs in many respects; they are an inferior, “black,” tax-paying social-estate; they are all serfs of the police officers and rural superintendents; very often they have to work for the land lord in payment for the use of the cut-off lands, watering places, pastures or meadows, just as they worked for the feudal lord under the serf-owning system. All the peasants want to be free of this new serfdom; all of them want to have   full rights; all of them hate the landlords, who still compel them to perform serf labour, to pay “labour rent” for the use of the gentry’s land and pastures, watering places and meadows, to work also “for damage” done by straying cattle and to send their womenfolk to reap the landlord’s field merely “for the honour of it.” All this labour rent for the landlord is a heavier burden for the poor peasants than for the rich peasants. The rich peasant is sometimes able to pay the landlord money in lieu of this work, but as a rule even the rich peasant is badly squeezed by the landlord. Hence, the rural poor must fight side by side with the rich peasants against their lack of rights, against every kind of serf labour, against every kind of labour rent. We shall be able to abolish all bondage, all poverty only when we defeat the bourgeoisie as a whole (including the rich peasants). But there are forms of bondage which we can abolish before that time, because even the rich peasant suffers badly from them. There are many localities and many districts in Russia where very often all the peasants are still quite like serfs. That is why all Russian workers and all the rural poor must fight with both hands and on two sides: with one hand—fight against all the bourgeois, in alliance with all the workers; and with the other hand—fight against the rural officials, against the feudal landlords, in alliance with all the peasants. If the rural poor do not form their own union separately from the rich peasants they will be deceived by the rich peasants, who will become landlords themselves, while the landless poor will not only remain poor and without land but will not even be granted freedom to unite. If the rural poor do not fight side by side with the rich peasants against feudal bondage, they will remain fettered and tied down to one place, neither will they gain full freedom to unite with the urban workers.

The rural poor must first strike at the landlords and throw off at least the most vicious and most pernicious forms of feudal bondage; in this fight many of the rich peasants and adherents of the bourgeoisie will also take the side of the poor, because everybody is disgusted with the arrogance of the landlords. But as soon as we have curtailed the power of the landlords, the rich peasant will at once reveal his true character and stretch out greedy hands to grab   everything; these are rapacious hands and they have already grabbed a great deal. Hence, we must be on our guard and form a strong, indestructible alliance with the urban workers. The urban workers will help to knock the old aristocratic habits out of the landlords and also tame the rich peasants a bit (as they have already somewhat tamed their own bosses, the factory owners). Without an alliance with the urban workers the rural poor will never rid them selves of all forms of bondage, want, and poverty; except for the urban workers, there is no one to help the rural poor, and they can count on no one but themselves. But there are improvements which we can obtain earlier, which we can obtain immediately, at the very outset of this great struggle. There are many forms of bondage in Russia which have long ceased to exist in other countries, and it is from this bondage imposed by the officials and landlords, this feudal bondage, that the Russian peasantry as a whole can free itself immediately.

Let us now see what improvements the workers’ Social-Democratic Party is striving first of all to obtain so as to free the Russian peasantry as a whole from at least the most vicious forms of feudal bondage, and so as to untie the hands of the rural poor for their struggle against the Russian bourgeoisie as a whole.

The first demand of the workers’ Social-Democratic Party is the immediate abolition of all land redemption payments, all quit-rent, and all the dues imposed upon the “tax-paying” peasantry. When the committees of nobles and the Russian tsar’s government, consisting of nobles, “emancipated” the peasants from serfdom, the peasants were compelled to buy out their own land, to buy out the land which they had tilled for generations! That was robbery. The committees of nobles, assisted by the tsarist government, simply robbed the peasants. The tsarist government sent troops to many places to impose the title-deeds[1] upon the peasants by force, to take military punitive measures against the peasants, who were unwilling to accept the curtailed “pauper” allotments. Without the help of the troops, without brutality and shootings, the committees of nobles would never have been able to rob the peasants in the brazen way they did at the time of the emancipation   from serfdom. The peasants must always remember how they were cheated and robbed by those committees of land-owning nobles, because even today the tsarist government always appoints committees of nobles or officials whenever it is a question of passing new laws concerning the peasants. The tsar recently issued a manifesto (February 26, i903), in which he promises to revise and improve the laws concerning the peasants. Who will do the revising? Who will do the improving? Again the nobility, again the officials! The peasants will always be defrauded until they secure the setting up of peasant committees for the purpose of improving their conditions of life. It is time to put a stop to the landlords, rural superintendents, and all kinds of officials lording it over the peasants! It is time to put a stop to this feudal dependence of the peasant upon every police officer, upon every drink-sodden scion of the nobility who is called a rural superintendent, a police chief, or a governor! The peasants must demand freedom to manage their affairs themselves, freedom to consider, propose, and carry out new laws themselves. The peasants must demand the setting up of free, elected peasant committees, and until they obtain this they will always be defrauded and robbed by the nobility and the officials. No one will free the peasants from the official leeches, if they do not free themselves, if they do not unite and take their fate into their own hands.

The Social-Democrats not only demand the complete and immediate abolition of land redemption payments, quit-rent, and imposts of all kinds; they also demand that money taken from the people in the form of land redemption payments should be restituted to the people. Hundreds of millions of rubles have been paid up by peasants all over Russia since they were emancipated from serfdom by the committees of nobles. The peasants must demand that this money be returned to them. Let the government impose a special tax on the big landed nobility; let the land be taken from the monasteries and from the Department of Demesnes (i.e., from the tsar’s family); let the national assembly of deputies use this money for the benefit of the peasants. Nowhere in the world is the peasant so downtrodden or so impoverished as is in Russia. Nowhere do millions of peasants die so horribly of starvation as they do in Russia. The   peasants in Russia have been reduced to dying of starvation because they were robbed long ago by the committees of nobles, and are being robbed to this day by being forced to pay tribute to the heirs of the feudal landlords every year in the form of redemption payments and quit-rent. The robbers must be made to answer for their crimes! Let money be taken away from the big landed nobility so as to provide effective relief for the famine-stricken. The starving peasant does not need charity, he does not need paltry doles; he must demand the return of the money he has paid for years and years to the landlords and to the state. The national assembly of deputies and the peasant committees will then be able to give real and effective assistance to the starving.

Further. The Social-Democratic Labour Party demands the immediate abolition of collective liability and of all laws restricting the peasant in the free disposal of his land. The tsar’s Manifesto of February 26, 1903, promises the abolition of collective liability. A law to this effect has already been passed. But this is not enough. All laws that prevent the peasant from freely disposing of his land must be abolished immediately; otherwise, even without collective liability the peasant will not be quite free and will remain a semi-serf. The peasant must be quite free to dispose of his land: to let or sell it to whomsoever he pleases, without having to ask for permission from anyone. That is what the tsar’s ukase does not permit: the gentry, the merchants, and the townspeople are free to dispose of their land, but the peasant is not. The peasant is a little child, who must have a rural superintendent to look after him like a nurse. The peasant must not be allowed to sell his allotment, for he will squander the money! That is how the feudal die-hards argue, and there are simpletons who believe them and, wishing the peasant well, say that he must not he allowed to sell his land. Even the Narodniks (of whom we have already spoken) and the people who call themselves “Socialist-Revolutionaries” also yield to this argument and agree that it is better for the peasant to remain somewhat of a serf rather than be allowed to sell his land.

The Social-Democrats say: that is sheer hypocrisy, aristocratic talk, merely honeyed words! When we have attained socialism, and the working class has defeated the   bourgeoisie, the land will be owned in common and nobody will have the right to sell land. But what in the meantime? Are the nobleman and the merchant to be allowed to sell their land, while the peasant is not!? Are the nobleman and the merchant to be free while the peasant remains a semi-serf!? Is the peasant to continue to have to beg permission from the authorities!?

All this is mere deceit, though covered up with honeyed words, but it is deceit for all that.

As long as the nobleman and the merchant are allowed to sell land, the peasant must also have full right to sell his land and to dispose of it with complete freedom, in exactly the same way as the nobleman and the merchant.

When the working class has defeated the entire bourgeoisie, it will take the land away from the big proprietors and introduce co-operative farming on the big estates, so that the workers will farm the land together, in common, and freely elect delegates to manage the farms. They will have all kinds of labour-saving machines, and work in shifts for not more than eight (or even six) hours a day. The small peasant who prefers to carry on his farm in the old way on individual lines will not then produce for the market, to sell to the first comer, but for the workers’ co-operatives; the small peasant will supply the workers’ co-operatives with grain, meat, vegetables, and the workers in return will provide him free of charge with machines, livestock, fertilisers, clothes, and whatever else he needs. There will then be no struggle for money between the big and the small farmer; there will then be no working for hire for others; all workers will work for themselves, all improvements in methods of production and all machines will benefit the workers themselves and help to make their work easier, improve their standard of living.

But every sensible man understands that socialism can not be attained at once: to attain it a fierce struggle must be waged against the entire bourgeoisie and all governments; all urban workers all over Russia must unite in a firm and unbreakable alliance with all the rural poor. That is a great cause, and to that cause it is worth devoting one s whole life. But until we have attained socialism, the big owner will always fight the small owner for money. Is the   big landowner to be free to sell his land, while the small peasant is not? We repeat: the peasants are not little children and will not allow anyone to lord it over them; the peasants must receive, without any restriction, all the rights enjoyed by the nobility and the merchants.

It is also said: the peasant’s land is not his own, but communal land. Everyone cannot be allowed to sell communal land. This, too, is a deception. Have not the nobles and the merchants their associations too? Do not the nobles and the merchants combine to float companies for the joint purchase of land, factories, or any other thing? Why then are no restrictions invented for the associations of the nobility, while the police scoundrels zealously think up restrictions and prohibitions for the peasantry? The peasants have never received anything good from the officials, except beatings, extortions, and bullying. The peasants will never receive anything good until they take their affairs into their own hands, until they obtain complete equality of rights and complete liberty. If the peasants want their land to be communal, no one will dare to interfere with them; and they will voluntarily form an association which will include whomsoever they like, and on whatever terms they like; they will quite freely draw up a communal contract in what ever form they like. And let no official dare poke his nose into the communal affairs of the peasants. Let no one dare exercise his wits on the peasants and invent restrictions and prohibitions for them.

*     *

Lastly, there is another important Improvement which the Social-Democrats are striving to obtain for the peasants. They want immediately to impose limits on the peasants’ bondage to the nobility, their serf bondage. Of course bondage cannot be completely abolished as long as poverty exists, and poverty cannot be abolished as long as the land and the factories are in the hands of the bourgeoisie, as long as money is the principal power in the world, and until a socialist society has been established. But in the Russian countryside there is still much bondage of a particularly vicious sort which does not exist in other countries, although   socialism has not yet been established there. There is still much serf bondage in Russia which is profitable to all the landlords, weighs heavily on all the peasants, and can and must be abolished immediately, in the first place.

Let us explain the sort of bondage we call serf bondage.

Everyone who lives in the country knows cases like the following. The landlord’s land adjoins the peasant’s land. At the time of the emancipation the peasants were deprived of land that was indispensable to them: pasture, woodland, and watering places were cut off. The peasants cannot do without this cut-off land, without pastures and watering places. Whether they like it or not the peasants are forced to go to the landlord to ask him to let their cattle to go to the water, to graze on the paatures, and so forth. The land lord does not farm any land himself and, perhaps, has no money; he lives only by keeping the peasants in thrall. In return for the use of the cut-off lands the peasants work for him for nothing; they plough his land with their horses, harvest his grain and mow his hay, thresh his grain, and in some places even have to cart their manure to the landlord’s fields, or bring him homespun cloth, and eggs and poultry. Just as under serfdom! Under serfdom the peasants had to work for nothing for the landlord on whose estate they lived, and today they very often have to work for nothing for the landlord in return for the very same land which the com mittees of nobles filched from them at the time of the eman cipation. It is just the same as the corvbe system. In some gubernias the peasants themselves call this system barshehina, or panshchina. Well, that is what we call serf bond age. At the time of the emancipation from serfdom the committees of landowning nobles deliberately arranged matters in such a way as to keep the peasants in bondage in the old way. They would deliberately dock the peasants’ allot ments; they would drive a wedge of the landlord’s land in between peasants’ holdings so as to make it impossible for the peasant even to let his poultry out without trespass ing; they would deliberately transfer the peasants to inferior land, deliberately block the way to the watering place by a strip of landlord’s land—in short, they arranged matters in such a way that the peasants should find them selves in a trap, and, just as before, could easily be taken   captive. There are still countless numbers of villages where the peasants are in captivity to nearby landlords, just as much as they were under serfdom. In villages like these, both the rich peasant and the poor peasant are bound hand and foot and at the mercy of the landlords. The poor peasant fares even worse than the rich peasant from this state of affairs. The rich peasant sometimes owns some land and sends his labourer to work for the landlord instead of going himself, but the poor peasant has no way out, and the land lord does what he likes to him. Under this bondage the poor peasant often has not even a moment’s breathing-space; he cannot go to look for work elsewhere because of the work he has to do for his landlord; he cannot even think of freely uniting in one union, in one party, with all the rural poor and the urban workers.

Well then, are there no means by which it would be possible to abolish this sort of bondage at once, forthwith, immediately? The Social-Democratic Labour Party proposes to the peasants two means to this end. But we must repeat that only socialism can deliver all the poor from bondage of every kind, for as long as the rich have power they will always oppress the poor in one way or another. It is impossible to abolish all bondage at once, but it is possible greatly to restrict the most vicious, the most revolting form of bond age, serf bondage, which weighs heavily on the poor, on the middle and even on the rich peasants; it is possible to obtain immediate relief for the peasants.

There are two means to this end.

First means: freely elected courts consisting of delegates of the farm labourers and poor peasants, as well as of the rich peasants and landlords.

Second means: freely elected peasant committees. These peasant committees must have the right, not only to discuss and adopt all kinds of measures for abolishing the corvée, for abolishing the remnants of serfdom, but they must also have the right to expropriate the cut-off lands and restore them to the peasants.

Let us consider these two means a little more closely. The freely elected delegate courts will consider all cases arising out of complaints of peasants against bondage. Such courts will have the right to reduce rents for land if the   landlord, taking advantage of the peasants’ poverty, has fixed them too high. Such courts will have the right to free the peasants from exorbitant payments; when a landlord engages a peasant in the winter for summer work at an excessively low wage, the court will judge the case and fix a fair wage. Of course, such courts must not consist of officials, but of freely elected delegates, and the agricultural labourers and the rural poor must also without fail elect their delegates, whose number must not in any case be less than those elected by the rich peasants and the landlords. Such courts will also try disputes between labourers and employers. When such courts exist it will be easier for the labourers and all the rural poor to defend their rights, to unite and to find out exactly what people can be trusted to stand up faithfully for the poor and for the labourers.

The other means is still more important: the establishment of free peasant committees consisting of elected delegates of the farm labourers and poor, middle and rich peas ants in every uyezd (or, if the peasants think fit, they may elect several committees in each uyezd; perhaps they will even prefer to establish peasant committees in every volost and in every large village). No one knows better than the peasants themselves what bondage oppresses them. No one will be able to expose the landlords, who to this day live by keeping the peasants in thrall, better than the peas ants themselves. The peasant committees will decide what cut-off lands, what meadows, pastures, and so forth, were taken from the peasants unfairly; they will decide whether those lands shall be expropriated without compensation, or whether those who bought such lands should be paid compensation at the expense of the high nobility. The peasant committees will at least release the peasants from the traps into which they were driven by very many committees of the land-owning nobles. The peasant committees will rid the peasants of interference by officials; they will show that the peasants themselves want to, and can, manage their own affairs; they will help the peasants to reach agreement among themselves about their needs and to recognise those who are really able to stand up for the rural poor and for an alliance with the urban workers. The peasant committees will be the first step towards enabling the peasants even in   remote villages to get on to their feet and to take their fate into their own hands.

That is why the Social-Democratic workers warn the peasants:

Place no faith in any committees of nobles, or in any commissions consisting of officials.

Demand a national assembly of deputies.

Demand the establishment of peasant committees.

Demand complete freedom to publish pamphlets and news papers of every kind.

When all have the right freely and fearlessly to express their opinions and their wishes in the national assembly of deputies, in the peasant committees, and in the newspapers, it will very soon be seen who is on the side of the working class and who is on the side of the bourgeoisie. Today, the great majority of the people do not think about these things at all; some conceal their real views, some do not yet know their own minds, and some lie deliberately. But when this right has been won, everyone will begin to think about these things; there will be no reason for concealing anything, and everything will soon become clear. We have already said that the bourgeoisie will draw the rich peasants to its side. The sooner and the more completely we succeed in abolishing serf bondage, and the more real freedom the peasants obtain for themselves, the sooner will the rural poor unite among themselves, and the sooner will the rich peasants unite with all the bourgeoisie. Let them unite: we are not afraid of that, although we know perfectly well that this will strengthen the rich peasants. But we, too, will unite, and our union, the union between the rural poor and the urban workers, will embrace far more people. It will be a union of tens of millions against a union of hundreds of thousands. We also know that the bourgeoisie will try (it is already trying!) to attract the middle and even the small peasants to its side; it will try to deceive them, entice them, sow dissension among them, and promise to raise each of them into the ranks of the rich. We have already seen the means and the deceit the bourgeoisie resort to in order to lure the middle peasant. We must therefore open the eyes of the rural poor beforehand, and consolidate in advance their separate union with the urban workers against the entire bourgeoisie.

Let every villager look around carefully. How often we hear the rich peasants talking against the nobility, against the landlords! How they complain of the oppression the people suffer from! Or of the landlords’ land lying idle! How they love to talk (in private conversation) about what a good thing it would be if the peasants took possession of the land!

Can we believe what the rich peasants say? No. They do not want the land for the people; they want it for them selves. They have already got hold of a great deal of land, bought outright or rented, and still they are not satisfied. Hence, the rural poor will not long have to march side by side with the rich peasants against the landlords. Only the first step will have to be taken in their company, and after that their ways will part.

That is why we must draw a clear distinction between this first step and subsequent steps, and our final and most important step. The first step in the countryside will be the complete emancipation of the peasant, full rights for the peasant, and the establishment of peasant committees for the purpose of restoring the cut-off lands. But our final step will be the same in both town and country: we shall take all the land and all the factories from the landlords and the bourgeoisie and set up a socialist society. We shall have to go through a big struggle in the period between our first step and the final, and whoever confuses the first step with the final weakens that struggle and unwittingly helps to hood wink the rural poor.

The rural poor will take the first step together with all the peasants: a few kulaks may fall out, perhaps one peasant in a hundred is willing to put up with any kind of bondage. But the overwhelming mass of the peasants will, as yet, advance as one whole: all the peasants want equal rights. Bondage to the landlords ties everyone hand and foot. But the final step will never be taken by all the peasants together: then, all the rich peasants will turn against the farm labourers. Then, it is a strong union of the rural poor and the urban Social-Democratic workers that we need. Whoever tells the peasants that they can take the first and the final step simultaneously is deceiving them. He forgets about the great struggle that is going on among the peasants them-   selves, the great struggle between the rural poor and the rich peasants.

That is why the Social-Democrats do not promise the peasants immediately a land flowing with milk and honey. That is why the Social-Democrats first of all demand complete freedom for the struggle, for the great, nation-wide struggle of the entire working class against the entire bourgeoisie. That is why the Social-Democrats advise a small but sure first step.

Some people think that our demand for the establishment of peasant committees for the purpose of restricting bondage and of restoring the cut-off lands is a sort of fence or barrier, as if we meant to say: stop, not a step farther! These people have given insufficient thought to what the Social-Democrats want. The demand for peasant committees to be set up for the purpose of restricting bondage and of restoring the cut off lands is not a barrier. It is a door. We must first pass through this door in order to go farther, to march along the wide and open road to the very end, to the complete emancipation of all working people in Russia. Until the peasants pass through this door they will remain in ignorance and bondage, without full rights, without complete and real liberty; they will not even be able to decide definitely among themselves who is the friend of the working man and who his enemy. That is why the Social-Democrats point to this door and say that the entire people must all together first force this door and smash it in. But there are people who call them selves Narodniks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also wish the peasant well, shout and make a noise, wave their arms about and want to help him, but they do not see that door! Those people are so blind that they even say: there is no need at all to give the peasant the right freely to dispose of his land! They wish the peasant well, but some times they argue exactly like the feudal die-hards! Such friends can be of little help. What is the use of wishing the peasant all the best if you don’t clearly see the very first door that must be smashed? What is the use of wanting socialism if you don’t see how to enter on the road of a free, people’s struggle for socialism, not only in the towns, but also in the countryside, not only against the landlords, but also against the rich peasants in the village commune, the “mir”?

That is why the Social-Democrats point so insistently to this first and nearest door. The difficult thing at this stage is not to express a lot of good wishes, but to point to the right road, to understand clearly how the very first step should be taken. All friends of the peasant have been talking and writing for the past forty years about the Russian peasant being crushed by bondage and about his remaining a semi-serf. Long before there were any Social-Democrats in Rus sia, the friends of the peasant wrote many books describing how shamefully the landlords robbed and enslaved the peas ant by means of the various cut-off lands. All honest people now realise that the peasant must be given assistance at once, immediately, that he must get at least some relief from this bondage; even officials in our police government are be ginning to talk about this. The whole question is: how to set about it, how totake the first step, which door must be forced first?

To this question different people (among those who wish the peasant well) give two different answers. Every rural proletarian must try to understand these two answers as clearly as possible and form a definite and firm opinion about them. One answer is given by the Narodniks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The first thing to be done, they say, is to develop all sorts of societies (co-operatives) among the peasants. The unity of the mir must be strengthened. Every peasant should not be given the right to dispose of his land freely. Let the rights of the commune, the mir, be extended, and let all the land in Russia gradually become communal land. The peasants must be granted every assistance to purchase land, so that the land may more easily pass from capi tal to labour.

The other answer is given by the Social-Democrats. The peasant must first of all obtain for himself all the rights possessed by the nobility and the merchants, all without exception. The peasant must have full right to dispose freely of his land. In order to abolish the most revolting forms of bondage, peasant committees must be set up for the purpose of restoring the cut-off lands. We need not the unity of the mir, but unity of the rural poor in the different village communes all over Russia, unity of the rural proletarians with the urban proletarians. All sorts of societies   (co-operatives) and the communal purchase of land will always benefit the rich peasants most, and will always serve to hoodwink the middle peasants.

The Russian Government realises that some relief must be given to the peasants, but it wants to make shift with trifles; it wants everything to be done by the officials. The peasants must be on the alert, because commissions of officials will cheat them just as they were cheated by the committees of nobles. The peasants must demand the election of free peasant committees. The important thing is not to expect improvement from the officials, but for the peasants to take their fate into their own hands. Let us at first take only one step, at first abolish only the vicious forms of bondage—so that the peasants should become conscious of their strength, so that they should freely reach a common agreement and unite! No honest person can deny that the cut-off lands often serve as the instruments of the most outrageous serf bondage. No honest person can deny that our demand is the primary and fairest of demands: let the peasants freely elect their own committees, without the officials, for the purpose of abolishing all serf bondage.

In the free peasant committees (just as in the free all-Russian assembly of deputies) the Social-Democrats will at once do all in their power to consolidate a distinct union of the rural proletarians with the urban proletarians. The Social-Democrats will make a stand for all measures for the benefit of the rural proletarians and will help them to follow up the first step, as quickly as possible and as unitedly as possible, with the second and the third step, and so on to the very end, to the complete victory of the proletariat. But can we say today, at once, what demand will be appropriate tomorrow for the second step? No, we cannot, because we do not know what stand will be taken tomorrow by the rich peasants, and by many educated people who are concerned with all kinds of co-operatives and with the land passing from capital to labour.

Perhaps they will not yet succeed in reaching an under standing with the landlords on the morrow; perhaps they will want to put an end to landlord rule completely. Very good! The Social-Democrats would very much like this to happen, and they will advise rural and urban proletarians   to demand that all the land be taken from the landlords and transferred to the free people’s state. The Social-Democrats will vigilantly see to it that the rural proletarians are not cheated in the course of this, and that they still further consolidate their forces for the final struggle for the complete emancipation of the proletariat.

But things may turn out quite differently. In fact, it is more likely that they will turn out differently. On the very day after the worst forms of bondage have been restricted and curtailed, the rich peasants and many educated people may unite with the landlords, and then the entire rural bourgeoisie will rise against the entire rural proletariat. In that event it would be ridiculous for us to fight only the landlords. We would then have to fight the entire bourgeoisie and demand first of all the greatest possible freedom and elbow-room for this fight, demand better conditions of life for the workers in order to facilitate this struggle.

In any case, whichever way things turn out, our first, our principal and indispensable task is to strengthen the alliance of the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians with the urban proletarians. For this alliance we need at once, immediately, complete political liberty for the people, complete equality of rights for the peasants and the abolition of serf bondage. And when that alliance is established and strengthened, we shall easily expose all the deceit the bourgeoisie resorts to in order to attract the middle peasant; we shall easily and quickly take the second, the third and the last step against the entire bourgeoisie, against all the government forces, and we shall unswervingly march to victory and rapidly achieve the complete emancipation of all working people.


[1] The title-deeds—the name given to the deeds drawn up by the landlords at the time of the “emancipation” of the peasants under the 1861 Reform. The deeds recorded the amount of land in use by the peasants before the Reform, and determined the land the despoiled peasants kept after the “emancipation.” The deeds also enumerated the services the serf peasants had previously performed for the landlord, and served as the basis in determining the amount of land redemption payment.

  5. What Improvements are the Social-Democrats Striving to Obtain for the Whole People and for the Workers? | 7. The Class Struggle in the Countryside  

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