Volna, No. 15, May 12, 1906.
Published according to the Volna text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 414-417.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The Cadets’ first move in the Duma was to draw up an address in reply to the address from the throne. Instead of a demand, they drew up a timid request. Their second “move” was silently to pass to the order of the day when their request that a deputation be received to present the Address was rejected. This time they behaved still more timidly. Now comes the third move—the debate on the land question, which has been included in the business of the Duma.
All workers should pay particular attention to this question. The land question is the one that is most of all worrying the masses of the peasants; and the peasants have now become the principal and almost the sole allies of the workers in the revolution. The land question will show better than anything else whether the Cadets, who call themselves the party of people’s freedom, are loyally serving the cause of people’s freedom.
What do the people, i.e., primarily the peasantry, want? The peasants want the land. Everybody knows that. The peasants are demanding that all the land in the country should belong to them. They want to throw off the tyranny of the landlords and the bureaucrats. They want to take the land from the landlords so that the latter may no longer impose labour-service upon them, which is virtually the old corvée; and they want to take power away from the bureaucrats, to prevent them from lording it any longer over the common people. The workers must help the peasants in their fight for the land, and also must help them to formulate the land question in straightforward, clear and definite terms.
It is particularly easy to confuse and obscure the land question. It is easy to argue that, of course, land must be allotted to the peasants, and then to hedge this allotting of land around with such conditions as will make it quite useless for the peasants. If the government officials do the allotting again, if the liberal landlords are again appointed as “civil mediators”, and if the old autocratic government determines the “modest dimensions” of the compensation to be paid, then the peasants, instead of deriving any benefit, will be swindled as they were in 1861, and there will only be another noose around their necks. Therefore the class-conscious workers must most vigorously explain to the peasants that on the question of the land they should be particularly cautious and distrustful. As matters stand today, the question of compensation, and the question of which authority is to “allot” the land, are of the greatest importance. The question of compensation will serve as an immediate and infallible test of who stands for the peasants and who for the landlords, and also who is trying to desert from one side to the other. The Russian peasant knows— ah, how well he knows!—what compensation means. On this question, the divergence of interests of the peasants and the landlords is splendidly revealed. And the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. was therefore quite right in substituting the word “confiscation” (i.e., alienation without compensation) for the word “alienation” in the original draft of the agrarian programme.
On the question of which authority is to allot the land, the interests of the peasants and the government officials diverge as sharply as do those of the peasants and the land lords on the question of compensation. The socialist workers must therefore show especial perseverance in explaining to the peasants how important it is that the land question should not be handled by the old authorities. Let the peasants know that no agrarian reform whatever will be of any use if it is handled by the old authorities. Happily, on this question too, agreement was reached at the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. as regards the substance of the matter, for the Congress resolution unreservedly recognised the necessity of supporting the revolutionary actions of the peasantry. True, the Congress in our opinion made a mis- take by not stating plainly that the land reform can be entrusted only to a fully democratic state, only to government officials who are elected by, accountable to, and subject to recall by, the people. But we intend to deal with this point in greater detail on another occasion.
In the Duma, two main agrarian programmes will be proposed. The Cadets, who predominate in the Duma, want the landlords to have their own way without harm to the peasants. They agree to the compulsory alienation of a large part of the landed estates, but first, they stipulate compensation, and secondly, they want a liberal-bureaucratic and not a revolutionary-peasant settlement of the question of the ways and means of carrying out the agrarian reform. In their agrarian programme the Cadets, as always, wriggle like eels between the landlords and the peasants, between the old authorities and people’s freedom.
The Trudovik, or Peasant, Group has not yet definitely formulated its agrarian programme. It urges that all the land must belong to the working people; but for the time being it says nothing about compensation, or about the question of the old authorities. We shall have more than one occasion to discuss this programme when it is definitely formulated.
The bureaucratic government, of course, refuses to consider even a Cadet agrarian reform. The bureaucratic government, which is headed by some of the richest landlord-bureaucrats, many of them owning tens of thousands of dessiatines of land each, “would sooner accept the Mohammedan faith” (as a certain writer wittily expressed it) than agree to the compulsory alienation of the landed estates. Thus the “settlement” of the agrarian question by the Duma will not be a settlement in the true sense of the term, but only a proclamation, only a declaration of demands. In the case of the Cadets, we shall again hear timid requests instead, of the proud and bold, honest and open demands befitting representatives of the people. Let us hope that at least on this occasion the Trudovik Group will come out quite independently of the Cadets.
As for the socialist workers, they now have a particularly important duty to fulfil. In all ways and with all their strength they should enlarge their organisation in general, and their contacts with the peasantry in particular. They should explain to the peasants—as widely, clearly, minutely and circumstantially as possible—the significance of the question of compensation and of whether they can put up with leaving the agrarian reform in the hands of the old authorities. They must strain every nerve to strengthen and enlarge the alliance between the socialist proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry, in preparation for the inevitable climax of the present political crisis. This alliance is the only earnest that the question of “all the land” for the peasants, and of full freedom and complete power for the people, will be effectively settled.