V. I.   Lenin

The Land Question and the Fight for Freedom

Written: Written on May 19 (June 1), 1906
Published: Published in Volna, No. 22, May 20, 191. Published according to the newspaper text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1965, Moscow, Volume 10, pages 436-439.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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The Duma is discussing the land question. Two main proposals are offered for the solution of this problem: one advocated by the Cadets, and the other advocated by the “Trudoviks”, i.e., the peasant deputies.

Concerning these solutions the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. quite rightly said in its resolution on the attitude to be taken towards the peasant movement: “The bourgeois panics are trying to utilise the peasant movement and to bring it under their control—one (the Socialist-Revolutionaries) in pursuit of their object of utopian petty-bourgeois socialism, and the other (the Cadets) with an eye to preserving, in some measure, large-scale private land ownership and at the same time, to weakening the revolutionary movement by satisfying the property instincts of the peasantry with partial concessions.”

Let us see what this resolution of the Social-Democratic Congress means. The Cadet Party is a semi-landlord party. Many liberal landlords belong to it. It strives to protect the interests of the landlords and agrees only to such concessions to the peasantry as are inevitable. The Cadets are striving as far as possible to protect large-scale private landownership and are opposed to complete alienation of all the landed estates for the benefit of the peasantry. The object of their proposal that the peasants should pay compensation for the land, i.e., should buy the land from the landlords through the state, is to transform the upper sections of the peasantry into a “party of order”. In fact, no matter how this compensation is arranged, no matter how “fair” a price may be fixed for the land, compensation will be an easier matter for the well-to-do peasants and will   fall as a heavy burden upon the poorer peasantry. No matter what regulations may be drawn up on paper providing for purchase by the village community, etc., the land will in practice remain inevitably in the hands of those who are able to pay for it. Hence the compensation scheme will strengthen the rich peasants at the expense of the poor; it will disunite the peasantry and thereby weaken its struggle for complete freedom and for all the land. The compensation scheme is a bait held out to the more prosperous section of the peasantry to induce it to desert the cause of freedom and to go over to the side of the old authorities. Paying compensation for the land means paying ransom to be freed from the struggle for freedom; it means bribing a section of the fighters for freedom to desert to the enemies of freedom. The well-to-do peasant who pays compensation money for his land will become a small landlord, and it will be very easy for him to desert to the side of the old landlord and bureaucratic authorities and remain there.

Hence the resolution of the Social-Democratic Congress is quite right when it says that the Cadet Party (this semi-landlord party) advocates measures that will weaken the revolutionary movement, i.e., the struggle for freedom.

Now let us examine the solution of the land problem pro posed by the “Trudovik”, or peasant, deputies in the Duma. They have not quite cleared up their views as yet. They stand midway: between the Cadets and the “rustics” (Popular Socialist Party), between compensation for part of the land (the Cadets’ proposal) and confiscation of all the land (proposed by the Socialist-Revolutionaries); but they are steadily moving away from the Cadets and drawing nearer to the “rustics”.

Is the resolution of the Social-Democratic Congress right in describing the “rustics” as a bourgeois party, whose objects are those of utopian petty-bourgeois socialism?

Let us take the very Latest Land Reform Bill proposed by the “rustics” and published in yesterday’s issue of their Narodny Vestnik (No. 9).[1] This Bill provides for the complete abolition of all private landownership and for “universal and equalised land tenure”. Why do the “rustics” want to introduce equalised land tenure? Because they want to abolish the distinction between rich and poor. This is a   socialist aim. All socialists want this. But there are different kinds of socialism; there is even clerical socialism; there is petty-bourgeois socialism, and there is proletarian socialism.

Petty-bourgeois socialism expresses the dream of the small proprietor of how to abolish the distinction between rich and poor. Petty-bourgeois socialism assumes that it is possible for all to become “equalised” proprietors, neither poor nor rich; and so the petty-bourgeois socialists draft Bills providing for universal and equalised land tenure. But in reality, poverty and want cannot be abolished in the way the small proprietor wants to do it. Equalised use of the land is impossible so long as the rule of money, the rule of capital, exists. No laws on earth can abolish inequality and exploitation so long as production for the market continues, and so long as there is the rule of money and the power of capital. Exploitation can be completely abolished only when all the land, factories and tools are transferred to the working class, and when large-scale socialised and planned production is organised. That is why proletarian socialism (Marxism) shows that all the hopes of petty-bourgeois social ism of the possibility of “equalised” small-scale production, or even of the possibility of preserving small-scale production at all under capitalism, are groundless.

The class-conscious proletariat fully supports the peas ant struggle for all the land and for complete freedom; but it warns the peasants against all false hopes. The peasants can, with the aid of the proletariat, completely throw off the tyranny of the landlords, they can completely put an end to landlordism and to the landlord and bureaucratic state. The peasants may even abolish all private ownership of land. All such measures will greatly benefit the peasants, the working class, and the whole people. It is in the interests of the working class to render the utmost assistance to the peasants’ struggle. But the overthrow of the power of the landlords and the bureaucrats, however complete, will not in itself undermine the power of capital. And only in a society freed from the rule of the landlords and bureaucrats will the last great struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the fight for a socialist system, be fought out.

That is why the Social-Democrats fight so resolutely against the treacherous programme of the Cadets, and warn the peasants against harbouring false hopes about “equalisation”. To achieve success in the present struggle for land and freedom, the peasants must be entirely self-reliant and independent of the Cadets. They should not be misled by the discussion of all sorts of land reform Bills. As long as power remains in the hands of the old autocratic, land lord and bureaucratic government, it will be a waste of time to discuss these proposals for “labour norms”, “equalisation”, etc. The peasants’ struggle for the land will only be weakened by this jumble of clauses and regulations in the various Bills, which the old authorities will either throw out or else transform into new instruments for deceiving the peasantry. “Land Reform Bills” will not help the peasants to understand how to obtain the land: if anything, they will make it more difficult. They merely clutter up the question of the power of the old bureaucratic government with petty and trivial legalistic crotchets. They merely muddle heads with hopes of the coming of good, kind government officials, when as a matter of fact the old savage officials retain all their unlimited power of violence. Drop this playing with paper “Land Reform Bills”, gentlemen. The peasants will settle the land question easily enough as soon as the obstacle of the old authorities is swept away. Better devote all your attention to the peasants’ struggle for the complete removal of all such obstacles.


[1] Lenin has in mind the “Draft of the Fundamental Land Law” prepared by a private conference of Trudovik deputies. Signed by 33 deputies (mostly Trudoviks), the draft was introduced into the Duma on June 6 (19), 1906, and was rejected on June 5 (21). The “Draft of the 33” demanded the immediate and complete abolition of private landownership; it was a supplement to the Trudoviks’ agrarian draft demanding equalised land tenure on the principle of labour norms, submitted to the Duma on May 23 (June 5), 1906, and known as the “Draft of the 104”.

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