V. I.   Lenin

Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party



Comrade Maslov’s Principal Mistake

Here we must deal with another argument, which follows from the preceding one but requires more detailed examination. We have just said that we can be quite sure Maslov’s programme will be impracticable even if the democratic revolution achieves the most complete victory. Speaking generally, the argument that certain demands in the programme are “impracticable”, by which we mean that they are not likely to be carried out in present conditions or in the immediate future, cannot serve as an argument against those demands. K. Kautsky brought this out very clearly in his article in reply to Rosa Luxemburg on the question of the independence of Poland.[1] R. Luxemburg had said that the independence of Poland was “impracticable”, to which K. Kautsky rejoined that it was not a question of “practicability” in the sense mentioned above, but whether a certain demand corresponds to the general trend of development   of society, or to the general economic and political situation throughout the civilised world. Take, for example, the demand in the programme of the German Social-Democratic Party for the election of all government officials by the people, said Kautsky. Of course, this demand is “impracticable” in present conditions in Germany. Nevertheless, it is quite a correct and necessary demand, for it is an inseparable part of the consistent democratic revolution towards which all social development is tending and which the Social-Democrats are demanding as a condition for socialism and as an essential element in the political superstructure of socialism.

That is just why, in saying that Maslov’s programme is impracticable, we emphasise the words: even if the democratic revolution were to achieve the most complete victory. We do not merely say that Maslov’s programme is impracticable in the light of present political relations and conditions. No, we assert that it would be impracticable even after a complete and fully consistent democratic revolution, i.e., in political conditions that would be most remote from the present, and most favourable for fundamental agrarian reforms. Precisely in these conditions Maslov’s programme would be impracticable, not because it would be too big, so to speak, but because it would be too small for these conditions. In other words: if the democratic revolution is not completely victorious, then the abolition of landlordism, confiscation of the crown and other lands, municipalisation, and so forth, will be entirely out of the question. On the other hand, if the democratic revolution is completely victorious, it cannot confine itself to municipalising part of the land. A revolution that will sweep away all landlordism (and it is such a revolution that Maslov and all those who stand for division or confiscation of the landed estates assume) demands revolutionary energy and revolutionary action en a scale unprecedented in history. To assume that such a revolution is possible without confiscation of the landed estates (in his draft programme Maslov only speaks of “alienation”, not of confiscation), without the idea of nationalising all the land becoming widespread among the “people”, and without the most politically advanced forms of democracy being created, is to assume an   absurdity. All sides of social life are closely interconnected and, in the last analysis, are entirely subordinate to relations of production. A radical measure like the abolition of landlordism is unthinkable without a radical change in the forms of the state (a change which, given this economic reform, is possible only in the direction of democracy); it is unthinkable unless the “people” and the peasantry who demand the abolition of the most large-scale form of private property in land, are opposed to private ownership of land in general. In other words: a far-reaching revolution like the abolition of landlordism must, in itself, inevitably give a mighty impetus to the whole of social, economic and political development. A socialist who raises the question of such a revolution must also of necessity carefully consider the new problems that arise from it: he must examine this revolution in terms of the future as well as of the past.

It is from this aspect that Comrade Maslov’s draft is particularly unsatisfactory. First, it wrongly formulates the slogans that should now, at once, immediately, kindle, fan, spread and “organise” the agrarian revolution. The only slogans that can serve this purpose are confiscation of all the landed estates and the establishment, for this purpose, of none other than peasant committees, as the only advisable form of local revolutionary authority that is close to the people and powerful. Secondly, the draft is defective in that it does not specify the political conditions without which “municipalisation” is a measure that is not necessarily useful, and is, indeed, positively harmful for the proletariat and the peasantry; that is to say, it does not give a precise and unambiguous definition of the term “democratic state”. Thirdly, and this is one of the most serious and least frequently noticed defects in the draft, it does not examine the present agrarian revolution from the standpoint of its future, does not indicate the tasks that directly follow from this revolution, and suffers from a discrepancy between the economic and political postulates upon which it is based.

Examine carefully the strongest argument (the third) which might support Maslov’s draft. This argument reads: nationalisation will strengthen the bourgeois state, whereas the municipal bodies, and local bodies generally, in such a state are usually more democratic, are not burdened with expenditure   for the maintenance of the armed forces, do not directly fulfil the police functions of oppressing the proletariat, and so on, and so forth. This argument clearly assumes that the state will not be fully democratic; it assumes that the most important part of the state, the central authority, will retain most of the features of the old military and bureaucratic regime, and that the local bodies, being of second-rate importance and subordinate, will be better, more democratic, than the central bodies. In other words, this argument assumes that the democratic revolution will not be a complete one. This argument tacitly assumes something between Russia in the reign of Alexander III, when the Zemstvos were better than the central bodies, and France at the time of the “republic without republicans”, when the reactionary bourgeoisie, frightened by the growing strength of the proletariat, set up an anti-democratic “monarchist republic” with central bodies that were far worse than the local ones, less democratic and more permeated with the militarist, bureaucratic and police spirit. In essence, Maslov’s draft tacitly assumes a situation in which the demands of our political minimum programme have not been carried out in full, the sovereignty of the people has not been ensured, the standing army has not been abolished, officials are not elected, and so forth. In other words, it assumes that our democratic revolution, like most of the democratic revolutions in Europe, has not reached its complete fulfilment and that it has been curtailed, distorted, “rolled back”, like all the others. Maslov’s draft is especially intended for a half-way, inconsistent, incomplete, or curtailed democratic revolution, “made innocuous” by reaction.[2]

This is what makes Maslov’s draft absolutely artificial, mechanical, impracticable in the above-mentioned sense of the word, inherently contradictory and rickety, and lastly, lop-sided (for it only conceives of the transition from the democratic revolution to anti-democratic bourgeois reaction, and not to the intensified struggle of the proletariat for socialism).

It is absolutely impermissible tacitly to assume that the democratic revolution will not be carried through to the end, .and that the fundamental demands of our political minimum programme will not be carried out. Such things must not be passed over in silence, but stated in very precise terms. If Maslov wanted to do justice to himself, if he wanted to eliminate any element of reticence and inherent falsity in his draft, he should have said: as the state that will emerge from the present revolution will “probably” not be very democratic, it will be better not to increase its power by nationalisation, but to keep to Zemstvo-isation, for “we must assume” that the Zemstvos will be better and more democratic than the central bodies of the state. This, and this alone, is the tacit assumption in Maslov’s draft. Therefore, when he uses the term “democratic state” in his draft (Point 3), and without any reservation at that, he is uttering a glaring untruth and misleading himself, the proletariat and the whole people. For in reality he is “adjusting” his draft precisely to a non-democratic state, a reactionary state arising out of a democracy that has been left incomplete, or has been “taken over” by reaction.

That being the case, it is clear why Maslov’s draft is so artificial and “synthetic”. Indeed, if we assume a state with a central authority that is more reactionary than the local authorities, a state like the third French republic without republicans, then it is positively ridiculous to imagine that landlordism can be abolished in such a state, or that it will at least be possible to prevent the restoration of landlordism abolished by the revolutionary onslaught. In that part of the world that is called Europe, and in the century that is called the Twentieth, every state of that kind would be compelled by the objective logic of the class struggle to start by protecting landlordism, or by restoring it if it had been partly abolished. The whole purpose, the objective purpose, of such a semi-democratic, but actually reactionary, state is to preserve the foundations of bourgeois, landlord and bureaucratic rule, and to sacrifice only the least important of its prerogatives. The existence in such states of a reactionary central authority side by side with comparatively “democratic” local bodies, Zemstvos, municipal councils, and so forth, is due solely and exclusively to the   fact that these local bodies are engaged in matters that are harmless for the bourgeois state: they are engaged in “tinkering with wash-basins”, water supply, electric trains, and similar matters that do not endanger the foundations of what is called “the existing social system”. It would be childishly naive to imagine that because the Zemstvos engage in activities such as supplying water and light, they can engage in the “activity” of abolishing landlordism. This is the same as if a municipal council with a 100 per cent Social-Democratic majority somewhere in the French Poshekhonye[3] were to set about “municipalising” all the privately-owned land in France that had privately-owned buildings erected on it. The whole point is that the measure which abolishes landlordism differs just a little from measures to improve water supply, lighting, sewage, and so forth. The whole point is that the first “measure” very daringly “encroaches” upon the foundations of the whole “existing social system”, it violently shakes and undermines these foundations, and facilitates the proletariat’s onslaught upon the bourgeois system as a whole, on a scale unprecedented in history. Yes, in such circumstances the first and most important thing any bourgeois state will have to concern itself with will be to preserve the foundations of bourgeois domination. As soon as the fundamental interests of the bourgeois and landlord state are encroached upon, all rights and privileges as regards autonomous “tinkering with wash-basins” will be abolished in the twinkling of an eye; all municipalisation will at once be scrapped, and every vestige of democracy in local government bodies will be extirpated by “punitive expeditions”. The innocent assumption that democratic municipal autonomy is possible under a reactionary central authority, and that this “autonomy” can be used to abolish landlordism, is a matchless specimen of visual incongruities, or of infinite political naïveté.


[1] An excerpt from it is quoted in my article on the draft agrarian programme in Zarya, No. 4. (See present edition, Vol. 6, pp. 122-23.–Ed.)—Lenin

[2] In his Agrarfrage Kautsky, to whom Maslov refers, points out particularly that nationalisation, which would be absurd in the conditions prevailing in Mecklenburg, would have a different significance in democratic England or Australia.—Lenin

[3] Poshekhonye (derived from the name of a small town in tsarist Russia)—a synonym for provincial “backwoods”, an out-of-the-way corner with barbarous Patriarchal customs. The term became cur rent after the appearance of Old Times in Poshekhonye, a story by the Russian satirist M. Saltykov-Shchedrin.

  Four Trends Among Social-Democrats on the Question of the Agrarian Programme | The Objects of Our Agrarian Programme  

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