V. I.   Lenin

Report on the Unity Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.

A Letter to the St. Petersburg Workers



The Agrarian Question

The agrarian question, or rather, the question of the agrarian programme, was taken by the Congress as the first item on the agenda. There was a big debate on this, and a large number of most interesting points of principle were raised. There were five reporters. I spoke in favour of the draft of the Agrarian Committee (published in the pamphlet Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party), and attacked Maslov’s proposal for municipalisation. Comrade John spoke in favour of the latter. The third reporter, Plekhanov, defended Maslov, and tried to persuade the Congress that Lenin’s proposal for nationalisation smacked of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Narodnaya Volya. The fourth reporter, Schmidt,[10] supported the Agrarian Committee’s draft with amendments on the lines of “Variant A” (for which see the pamphlet mentioned above[1] ). The fifth reporter, Borisov, advocated division of the land. His programme was rather original in construction, but in substance it approximated most to our programme, except that for nationalisation—made conditional on the establishment of a republic—he substituted division of the land among the peasants as their property.

Of course, it is quite impossible for me to give in this re port a full account of that lengthy debate in all its details. I shall try to deal with the more important points, i.e., the nature of “municipalisation”, and the arguments advanced against nationalisation made conditional on the establishment of a republic, and so forth. I will remark that the pivot of the debate was Plekhanov’s formulation of the question: this was due to its polemical acerbity, which is always good and desirable for the purpose of clearly distinguishing between the fundamental tendencies of the various trends of thought.

What is the essence of “municipalisation”? It is the transfer of the landed estates (or to be precise, of all large private estates) to the Zemstvos, or to local self-government bodies in general. The peasants’ allotments, and the land of the smallholders, are to remain their property. The large estates are to be “alienated” and transferred to democratically organised local self-government bodies. This can be more simply expressed. as follows: the peasants’ land can remain the peasants’ property; as for the landed estates, let the peasants rent them from the Zemstvos, only they must be democratic Zemstvos.

As the first reporter, I emphatically opposed this proposal. It is not revolutionary. The peasants will not agree to it. It would be harmful without a fully consistent democratic state system, including a republic, the election of govern ment officials by the people, abolition of the standing army, etc. Such were my three main arguments.

I think that this draft is not revolutionary, first, because instead of confiscation (alienation without compensation) it speaks of alienation in general; secondly, and this is most important, it does not call for a revolutionary method of changing the agrarian system. Phrases about democracy mean nothing whatever at a time when the Cadets, those hypocritical advocates of compromise between the autocracy and the people, call themselves democrats. All methods of changing the agrarian system will be reduced to a liberal-bureaucratic reform, a Cadet reform, and not to a peasant revolution, if there is no slogan of the immediate seizure of the land by the peasants themselves, on the spot, that is, by revolutionary peasant committees, and of the peasants themselves disposing   of the land thus seized,[2] pending the convocation of a national constituent assembly. Without this slogan we shall have a programme for a Cadet, or semi-Cadet, agrarian re form, and not for a peasant revolution.

Furthermore, the peasants will not agree to municipalisation. Municipalisation means you can have the allotment land gratis, but for the landed estates you must pay rent to the Zemstvo. The revolutionary peasants will not agree to this. They will say either let us divide all the land among ourselves or let us make all the land the property of the whole people. Municipalisation will never become the slogan of a revolutionary peasantry. If the revolution is victorious it cannot in any circumstances stop at municipalisation. If the revolution is not victorious, “municipalisation” will only be another swindle for the peasants, like the Reform of 1861.[11]

My third main argument. Municipalisation will be harmful if made conditional on “democracy” in general, and not specifically on a republic and the election of government officials by the people. Municipalisation means transferring the land to the local authorities, to the self-government bodies. If the central government is not fully democratic (a republic, and so forth), the local authorities may be “autonomous” only in minor matters, may be independent only in “tinkering with wash-basins”: they may be no more “democratic” than, say, the Zemstvos were under Alexander III. In important matters, however, particularly in such a fundamentally important matter as the landed estates, the democracy of local authorities in face of an undemocratic central authority would be merely a plaything. Without a republic and the election of government officials by the people, municipal isation would mean transferring the landed estates to elect ed local authorities even though the central government   remained in the hands of the Trepovs and Dubasovs. Such a reform would be a plaything, and a harmful one, because the Trepovs and Dubasovs would allow the elected local authorities to provide water, electric trains, and so forth, but never could leave them in control of land taken from the landlords. The Trepovs and Dubasovs would transfer these lands from the “jurisdiction” of the Zemstvos to the “jurisdiction” of the Ministry of the Interior, and the peasants would be trebly swindled. We must call for the overthrow of the Trepovs and Dubasovs, for the election of all government officials by the people, and not design—instead of that and before that—toy models of liberal local reform.

What were Plekhanov’s arguments in favour of municipal isation? In both his speeches he laid most stress on the question of guarantees against restoration. This curious argument runs as follows. Nationalised land was the economic basis of Muscovy before the reign of Peter I. Our present revolution, like every other revolution, contains no guarantees ·against restoration. Therefore, in order to prevent the possibility of restoration (i.e., the restoration of the old, pre-revolutionary regime), we must particularly shun nationalisation.

To the Mensheviks this argument seemed particularly convincing, and they enthusiastically applauded Plekhanov, especially for the “strong language” he used about nationalisation (“Socialist-Revolutionary talk”, etc.). And yet, if one ponders over the matter a little, one will easily see that the argument is sheer sophistry.

First of all, look at this “national isation in Muscovy before the reign of Peter I”. We will not dwell on the fact that Plekhanov’s views on history are an exaggerated version of the liberal-Narodnik view of Muscovy. It is absurd to talk about the land being nationalised in Russia in the period before Peter I; we have only to refer to Klyuchevsky, Yefimenko[12] and other historians. But let us leave these excursions into history. Let us assume for a moment that the land was really nationalised in Muscovy before the reign of Peter I, in the seventeenth century. What follows from it? According to Plekhanov’s logic, it follows that nationalisation would facilitate the restoration of Muscovy. But such logic is sophistry and not logic, it is juggling with words with out analysing the economic basis of developments, or the economic   content of concepts. Insofar as (or if) the land was nationalised in Muscovy, the economic basis of this national isation was the Asiatic mode of production. But it is the capitalist mode of production that became established in Russia in the second half of the nineteenth century, and is absolutely predominant in the twentieth century. What, then, remains of Plekhanov’s argument? He confused nationalisation based on the Asiatic mode of production with national isation based on the capitalist mode of production. Because the words are identical he failed to see the fundamental difference in economic, that is, production relations. Although he built up his argument on the restoration of Muscovy (i.e., the alleged restoration of Asiatic modes of production), he actually spoke about political restoration, such as the restoration of the Bourbons (which he mentioned), that is, the restoration of the anti-republican form of government on the basis of capitalist production relations.

Was Plekhanov told at the Congress that he had got him self muddled up? Yes, a comrade who at the Congress called himself Demyan[13] said in his speech that Plekhanov’s “restoration” bogy was an out-and-out fizzle. The logical deduction from his premises is the restoration of Muscovy, i.e., the restoration of the Asiatic mode of production—which is a sheer absurdity in the epoch of capitalism. What actually followed from his conclusions and examples is the restoration of the Empire by Napoleon, or the restoration of the Bourbons after the great French bourgeois revolution. But first, this sort of restoration had nothing in common with pre-capitalist modes of production. And secondly, this sort of restoration followed, not on the nationalisation of the land, but on the sale of the landed estates, that is, a measure that was arch-bourgeois, purely bourgeois and certainly one that strengthened bourgeois, i.e., capitalist production relations. Thus neither form of restoration that Plekhanov dragged in—neither the restoration of the Asiatic mode of production (the restoration of Muscovy). nor restoration in France in the nineteenth century, had anything at all to do with the question of nationalisation.

What was Comrade Plekhanov’s reply to Comrade Demyan’s absolutely irrefutable arguments? He replied with uncommon adroitness. He exclaimed: “Lenin is a Socialist-Revolutionary.   And Comrade Demyan is feeding me a new brand of Demyan hash.”[14]

The Mensheviks were delighted. They laughed till their sides ached at Plekhanov’s sparkling wit. The hall rocked with applause. The question whether there was any logic in Plekhanov’s argument about restoration was completely shelved at this Menshevik Congress.

I am far from denying, of course, that Plekhanov’s reply was not only a superb piece of wit, but, if you will, also of Marxist profundity. Nevertheless, I take the liberty of thinking that Comrade Plekhanov got himself hopelessly muddled up over the restoration of Muscovy and restoration in France in the nineteenth century. I take the liberty of thinking that “Demyan hash” will become a “historic term” that will be applied to Comrade Plekhanov and not to Comrade Demyan (as the Mensheviks, fascinated by the brilliance of Plekhanov’s wit, think). At all events, when Comrade Plekhanov, in speaking about the seizure of power in the present Russian revolution, was tickling his Mensheviks with a story about a Communard in some provincial town in France who munched sausage after the unsuccessful “seizure of power”, several delegates at the Unity Congress remarked that Plekhanov’s speeches were like a “Moscow stew”, and that they sparkled with “sausage wit”.

As I have already said, I was the first reporter on the agrarian question. And in winding up the debate, I was not the last to be given the floor but the first, preceding the other four reporters. Consequently I spoke after Comrade Demyan and before Comrade Plekhanov. Hence I was unable to foresee Plekhanov’s brilliant defence against Demyan’s arguments. I briefly reiterated these arguments and concentrated on the question of restoration as such, rather than on revealing the utter futility of the talk about restoration as an argument in favour of municipalisation. What guarantees against restoration have you in mind?—I asked Comrade Plekhanov Is it absolute guarantees in the sense of eliminating the economic foundation which engenders restoration? Or a relative and temporary guarantee, i.e., creating political conditions that would not rule out the possibility of restoration, but would merely make it less probable,would hamper restoration? If the former, then my answer is: the only   complete guarantee against restoration in Russia (after a victorious revolution in Russia) is a socialist revolution in the West. There is and can be no other guarantee. Thus, from this aspect, the question is: how can the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia facilitate, or accelerate, the socialist revolution in the West? The only conceivable answer to this is: if the miserable Manifesto of October 17 gave a powerful impetus to the working-class movement in Europe, then the complete victory of the bourgeois revolution in Russia will almost inevitably (or at all events, in all probability) arouse a number of such political upheavals in Europe as will give a very powerful impetus to the socialist revolution.

Now let us examine the “second”, i.e., relative guarantee against restoration. What is the economic foundation of restoration on the basis of the capitalist mode of production, i.e., not the comical “restoration of Muscovy” but restoration of the type that occurred in France at the beginning of the nineteenth century? The condition of the small commodity producer in any capitalist society. The small commodity producer wavers between labour and capital. Together with the working class he fights against the survivals of serfdom and the police-ridden autocracy. But at the same time he longs to strengthen his position as a property-owner in bourgeois society, and therefore, if the conditions of development of this society are at all favourable (for example, industrial prosperity, expansion of the home market as a result of the agrarian revolution, etc.), the small commodity producer inevitably turns against the proletarian who is lighting for socialism. Consequently, I said, restoration on the basis of small commodity production, of small peasant property in capitalist society, is not only possible in Russia, but even inevitable, for Russia is mainly a petty-bourgeois country. I went on to say that from the point of view of restoration, the position of the Russian revolution may be ex pressed in the following thesis: the Russian revolution is strong enough to achieve victory by its own efforts; but it is not strong enough to retain the fruits of victory. It can achieve victory because the proletariat jointly with the revolutionary peasantry can constitute an invincible force. But it cannot retain its victory, because in a country where small   production is vastly developed, the small commodity producers (including the peasants) will inevitably turn against the proletarians when they pass from freedom to socialism. To be able to retain its victory, to be able to prevent restoration, the Russian revolution will need non-Russian reserves, will need outside assistance. Are there such reserves? Jes, there are: the socialist proletariat in the West.

Whoever overlooks this in discussing the question of restoration reveals that his views on the Russian revolution are extremely narrow. He forgets that France at the end of the eighteenth century, in the period of her bourgeois-democratic revolution, was surrounded by far more backward, semi-feudal countries, which served as the reserves of restoration; whereas Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century, in the period of her bourgeois-democratic revolution, is surrounded by far more advanced countries, where there is a social force capable of becoming the reserve of the revolution.

To sum up. In raising the question of guarantees against restoration, Plekhanov touched upon a number of most interesting subjects but he explained nothing at all on the point at issue and led away (led his Menshevik audience away) from the question of municipalisation. Indeed, if the small commodity producers, as a class, are the bulwark of capitalist restoration (this is what we shall for short call restoration on the basis, not of the Asiatic, but of the capitalist mode of production), where does municipalisation come in? Municipalisation is a form of landownership; but is it not clear that the forms of landownership do not alter the main and fundamental features of a class? The petty bourgeois will certainly and inevitably serve as the bulwark of restoration against the proletariat, no matter whether the land is nationalised, municipalised or divided. If any sharp distinctions between the forms of landownership can be drawn in this respect, it can, perhaps, only be in favour of division, since that creates closer ties between the small proprietor and the land—closer and, therefore, more difficult to break.[3] But to   urge municipalisation as an argument against restoration is simply ridiculous.

Comrades John and Plekhanov, who spoke after me in winding up the debate, tried once again to jump imperceptibly from this flimsy argument about restoration to another, which seemed to resemble it, but was really of an entirely different nature. They began to defend municipalisation, not as a guarantee against restoration of the monarchy after the establishment of a republic, that is, not as a measure that would safeguard the republic, not as a permanent institution, but as a basis in the process of the struggle against the monarchy for a republic, i.e., a measure that would facilitate further gains, a temporary and transitional institution. Plekhanov even went to the length of calling the large local self-government bodies that would municipalise the land local “republics” that would serve as strongholds in the war against the monarchy.

On this argument, we would make the following observations:

First, neither Maslov’s original programme nor the John Plekhanov-Kostrov[15] programme that was adopted at the Congress indicated by a single word that they regarded municipalisation as a temporary, transitional measure in the course of the revolution, i.e., as a weapon in the struggle for further gains. Thus such an interpretation is “a free invention”, which is not confirmed but refuted by the text of the programme. For example, in advocating in my programme the establish ment of revolutionary peasant committees as an instrument of the revolution, as a basis in the struggle for further gains, I say in so many words: the Party advises the peasant committees to seize the land and dispose of it pending the convocation of a constituent assembly. The Maslov-John-Plekhanov Kostrov programme, not only does not say this,[4] but on the   contrary, outlines beyond question a plan for a permanent system of land tenure.

Secondly, the main and fundamental answer to the argument we are examining is that in the guise of a guarantee against restoration or against reaction, Plekhanov’s programme actually advocates a deal with reaction. Just think. Do we not write our programme, and particularly the agrarian (peasant) programme, for the broad masses whom we want to lead? But what do we get? Some members of the Party, be they even leaders, will say that Zemstvos which have municipalised the land will be republics, fighting against the monarchy at the centre. In the programme, the agrarian revolution is directly and definitely linked with democratic local administration; but not by one word is it linked with complete democracy in the central govern ment and state system! I ask you: What is to guide our rank-and-file Party workers in their everyday agitation and propaganda? Plekhanov’s talk about local “republics”

fighting against the central monarchy, or the text of our new Party programme, in which the demand for land for the peasants is definitely linked only with democratic local administration, not with democratic central government and state system? Plekhanov’s statements, muddled in them selves, will inevitably play the same role of a “misleading” slogan as the “celebrated” (“celebrated” in Plekhanov’s opinion) slogan of “revolutionary local self-government”. In practice, our Party programme remains the programme of a deal with reaction. If we take its real political significance in the present situation in Russia, and not the motives advanced by some of our speakers, it is not a Social-Democratic programme, but a Cadet programme. Some of our speakers’ motives are of the very best, their intentions are most Social-Democratic; but the programme has turned out in practice to be a Cadet programme, filled with the spirit of a “deal” and not of a “peasant revolution” (incidentally, Plekhanov   said that formerly we were afraid of the peasant revolution but now we must get rid of this fear).

Above, I examined the scientific significance of the argument about “guarantees against restoration”. I now come to its political significance, in the period of Dubasov constitutionalism and of the Cadet State Duma. The scientific significance of this argument is zero, or minus one. Its political significance is that it is a weapon borrowed from the Cadet arsenal and brings grist to the mill of the Cadets. Look around! Which trend in politics has made almost a monopoly of pointing to the danger of restoration? The Cadet trend. What answer have the Cadets given millions of times to our Party comrades who have pointed to the contradiction between the “democratic principles” of the Cadets and their monarchist, etc., programme? That to touch the monarchy means creating the danger of restoration. The Cadets have been shouting to the Social-Democrats in a thousand different sharps and fiats: “Don’t touch the monarchy, for you have no guarantee against restoration. Why create the danger of restoration, the danger of reaction? Far better to strike a bargain with reaction!” This is the sum and substance of the Cadets’ political wisdom, all their programme, all their tactics. And these are the logical outcome of the class position of the petty bourgeois, of the danger that democratic revolution carried through to the end represents for the bourgeoisie.

I will give only two examples in confirmation of the foregoing. In December 1905, Narodnaya Svoboda, the organ of Milyukov and Hessen, wrote that Moscow had proved that insurrection was possible; nevertheless, insurrection was fatal, not because it was hopeless, but because reaction would sweep away the gains of the insurrection (quoted in my pamphlet Social-Democracy :and the State Duma[5] ). The other example. In Proletary, in 1905, 1 quoted an extract from an article by Vinogradov in Russkiye Vedomosti.[6] Vinogradov had expressed a desire that the Russian revolution should follow the lines of 1848-49 and not 1789-93; that is to say, that we should not have any victorious insurrections, that our revolution should not be carried to its   complete fulfilment, that it should be cut short as early as possible by the treachery of the liberal bourgeoisie, by the latter’s deal with the monarchy. He raised the bogy of restoration in the guise of the Prussian drill sergeant—without saying a word, of course, about such a “guarantee of revolution” as the German proletariat.

This argument about the absence of guarantees against restoration is a purely Cadet idea: it is the bourgeoisie’s political weapon against the proletariat. The interests of the bourgeoisie force it into struggling to prevent the proletariat from completing the bourgeois-democratic revolution jointly with the revolutionary peasantry. In this struggle, the bourgeois philosophers and politicians inevitably clutch at historical arguments and examples from the past. In the past it always happened that the workers were bamboozled, that even the victory of the revolution was followed by restoration. Consequently, the same thing must happen here, says the bourgeoisie, naturally striving to undermine the faith of the Russian proletariat in its own strength and in the strength of European socialism. The sharpening of political contradictions and of the political struggle results in reaction, says the bourgeois for the edification of the workers: therefore these contradictions must be blunted. Rather than run the risk of reaction coming after victory, it would be better not to fight for victory, but to strike a bargain with reaction.

Is it an accident that Plekhanov began to snatch at the ideological weapon that the bourgeoisie uses against the proletariat? No, this was inevitable after he had wrongly appraised the December uprising (“it was wrong to take up arms”) and, without calling a spade a spade, had begun, in his Dnevnik, to advocate that the workers’ party should support the Cadets. At the Congress this question was touched upon during the debate on another item of the agenda, when the question was raised as to why the bourgeoisie was praising Plekhanov. I shall deal with this point in its proper place; but here I will note that I did not elaborate the foregoing arguments at length, but presented them in the most general outline. I said that our “guarantee against restoration” was the complete fulfilment of the revolution, and not a deal with reaction. And it is this, and this alone, that is emphasised in my agrarian programme which is entirely a programme   of peasant uprising and of the complete fulfilment of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. For example, “peas ant revolutionary committees” are the only line along which peasant uprising can advance (moreover, 1 do not counter- pose peasant committees to revolutionary power, in the way the Mensheviks draw a contrast between the latter and revolutionary self-government; I regard these committees as one of the instruments of such authority, an instrument that must be supplemented by other, central instruments, by a provisional revolutionary government and a national constituent assembly). This is the only formulation of the agrarian programme that can preclude a bourgeois-bureaucratic settlement of the agrarian question, a settlement by the Petrunkeviches, Rodichevs, Kaufmans and Kutlers.

Plekhanov could not but see this fundamental feature of my programme. He saw it, and admitted it at the Congress. But (true to his nature) his admission was just another Demyan hash, or Plekhanov trash: oh, Lenin’s programme contains the idea of seizing power. Lenin himself admits it. But that’s just what is bad. It’s Narodnaya Volya-ism. Lenin is reviving Narodnaya Volya-ism. Comrades, fight against the revival of Narodnaya Volya-ism! Lenin even talks about “the creative activity of the people”. Isn’t that Narodnaya Volya-ism? And so on, and so forth.

We Bolsheviks, both Voyinov[16] and I, heartily thanked Plekhanov for these arguments. Arguments like these can only benefit us, and we welcome them. Ponder over this argument, comrades: “Since Lenin’s programme contains the idea of seizing power, Lenin is a Narodnaya Volya-ist.” Which programme are we discussing? The agrarian programme. Who is to seize power, according to this programme? The revolutionary peasantry. Does Lenin confuse the proletariat with the peasantry? Far from doing that, he singles it out in the third part of his programme, which (the third part) the Menshevik Congress copied in full in its resolution on tactics!

Good, isn’t it? Plekhanov himself said that it is unbecoming for Marxists to be afraid of a peasant revolution. But at the same time he fancies he can see Narodnaya Volya-ism in the seizure of power by the revolutionary peasants!! But how can a peasant revolution win if the revolutionary peasantry   does not seize power?? Plekhanov has reduced his own arguments to absurdity. Having stepped on to a slope; he irresistibly rolls down. First he denied that it was possible for the proletariat to seize power in the present revolution. Now he denies that it is possible for the revolutionary peasantry to seize power in the present revolution. But if neither the proletariat nor the revolutionary peasantry can seize power, then, logically, that power must remain in the hands of the tsar and of Dubasov. Or should the Cadets take power? But the Cadets do not want to seize power themselves, for they are in favour of retaining the monarchy, the standing army, the Upper Chamber and all the other delights.

Was I not right when I said at the Congress that Plekhanov’s fear of seizing power is fear of the peasant revolution? Was not Voyinov right when he said that in his youth Plekhanov had been so scared by the Narodnaya Volya that he fancies he can see it even when he himself admits that a peas ant revolution is inevitable, and when not a single Social-Democrat has any illusions as to peasant socialism? Was not Voyinov right when, in connection with the Menshevik resolution on armed uprising (Clause 1 of which starts with the admission that the task is “to wrest power from the autocratic government”), he ironically remarked at the Congress that to “seize power” means reviving the Narodnaya Volya, but to “wrest power” is true and profound Marxism? But really, it has turned out that in order to combat a Narodnaya Volya trend among the Social-Democrats, the Mensheviks have bestowed on our Party a programme which advocates the “wresting of power”—by the Cadets.

Of course,these outcries about Narodnaya Volya-ism did not surprise me in the least. I remember only too well that the opportunists in the Social-Democratic movement have always (ever since 1898-1900) raised this bogy against the revolutionary Social-Democrats. And Comrade Akimov, who at the Unity Congress made a brilliant speech in defence of Axelrod and the Cadets, quite appropriately recalled this. I hope to return to this subject on another occasion in the literature.

A word about “the creative activity of the people”. In what sense did I speak about this at the Congress? In the same sense as I speak about it in my pamphlet The Victory of the   Cadets and the Tasks of the Workers’ Party[7] (this pamphlet was distributed among the delegates at the Congress). I contrast October-December 1905 to the present Cadet period, and say that in the revolutionary period the creative activity of the people (the revolutionary peasants plus the proletarians) is richer and more productive than in the Cadet period. Plekhanov thinks that this is Narodnaya Volya-ism. I think that from the scientific point of view, Plekhanov’s opinion is an evasion of the highly important question of appraising the period of October-December 1905 (it never occurred to him to analyse the forms of the movement of this period in his Dnevnik; he confined himself to moralising!). From the political point of view, it is merely additional proof of how close Plekhanov’s tactics are to those of Mr. Blank, and of the Cadets in general.

To finish with the agrarian question, I will deal with the last of the important arguments. Plekhanov said: “Lenin is a dreamer; he has fantastic ideas about the election of govern ment officials by the people, and so forth. It is not difficult to draw up a programme for such a favourable contingency. Try to draw one up for an unfavourable contingency. Draw up your programme so as to have it ’well shod on all four hoofs’."

Undoubtedly, this argument contains an idea to which every Marxist should pay the strictest attention. Indeed, it would be a very poor programme that allowed for only a favourable contingency. But it is from this standpoint, I said in reply to Plekhanov, that my programme is obviously superior to Maslov’s. To satisfy oneself of this, one has only to remember that there is such a thing as the renting of land. What distinguishes the capitalist (and semi-capital ist) mode of production in agriculture? Everywhere it is the renting of land. Does this apply to Russia? Yes, on a very large scale. And Comrade John was wrong when, in re plying to me, he said that my programme contained an absurdity, namely, that the renting of land remains after the land. ed estates are confiscated. On this point, Comrade John was thrice wrong: first, the whole of the first part of my programme speaks of the first steps of the peasant revolution (seizure of the land pending the convocation of a national constituent   assembly); hence, in my programme, the renting of land does not “remain after” confiscation, but is taken for granted, because it is a fact. Secondly, confiscation means transferring the ownership of land to other hands, and in itself, the transference of ownership, does not in the least affect the renting of land. Thirdly, as everybody knows, peasant land and allotment land are also being rented.

See how things stand as regards being “well shod on all four hoofs”, as regards taking the worst as well as the best possible conditions into account. Maslov, with a majestic gesture, completely strikes out the renting of land. He assumes straightway a revolution that will abolish the renting of land. As I pointed out, this assumption is absolutely absurd from the point of view of “unpleasant reality” and of having to take it into account. Indeed, the whole of the first part of my programme is entirely based on the assumption of “unpleasant reality”, against which the revolutionary peasants are rebelling. Therefore in my programme the renting of land does not vanish into the realm of shades (the abolition of the renting of land in capitalist society is a reform no less, if not more, “fantastic”, from the point of view of Plekhanov’s “common sense”, than the abolition of the standing army, etc.). Hence I take “unpleasant reality” into account much more seriously than Maslov, while I preach pleasant reality to the peasants, not in terms of a Cadet deal (local republics versus the central monarchy), but in terms of the complete victory of the revolution and the winning of a really democratic republic.

I especially emphasised at the Congress that it was particularly important to have this element of political propaganda in the agrarian programme; and in all probability I shall have to deal with this point again more than once in the literature. At the Congress we Bolsheviks were told: we have a political programme, and that is where we ought to talk about a republic. This argument shows that those who made it have not thought out the question at all. True, we have a general programme, in which we formulate our principles (the first section of the Party programme) and we have special programmes: political, workers’, and peasants’ programmes. Nobody proposes that a reservation should also be made in the workers’ section of the programme (eight-hour day,   etc) regarding the special political conditions required for the various reforms proposed in it. Why? Because the eight-hour day and similar reforms must inevitably become instruments of progress under all political conditions. But is it necessary to make special reservations as regards political conditions in the peasant programme? Yes, because the very best redistribution of the land may become an instrument of retrogression under the regime of the Trepovs and Dubasovs. Take even Maslov’s programme. It advocates the transfer of the land to the democratic state and to democratic local self-government bodies. Thus, although the Party has a political programme, Maslov’s programme makes special reservations as regards the political conditions for present-day agrarian reforms. Hence there can be no argument about the necessity of making reservations as regards special political conditions for agrarian demands. The point at issue is: is it permissible, either from the standpoint of science or of consistent proletarian democracy, to link a radical agrarian revolution, not with the election of government officials by the people, not with a republic, but with “democracy” in general, i.e., with Cadet democracy as well, which today, whether we like it or not, is the principal and most wide spread form of pseudo-democracy, and the most influential in the press and in “society”. I think that this is not permissible. I predict that the mistake in our agrarian programme will have to be, and will be, put right by practical experience, that is to say. the political situation will compel our propagandists and agitators in their fight against the Cadets to emphasise, not Cadet democracy, but the election of govern ment officials by the people, and a republic.

As for the programme which advocates the division of the land, I expressed my attitude towards it at the Congress in the following terms: municipalisation is wrong and harmful; division, as a programme, is mistaken, but not harmful. Therefore I, of course, am closer to those who are for division, and I am prepared to vote for Borisov as against Maslov. In the first place, division cannot be harmful, because the peasants will agree to it; and in the second place, it does not have to be made conditional on the consistent reorganisation of the state. Why is it mistaken? Because it one-sidedly regards the peasant movement only in the light of the past   and present, and gives no consideration to the future. In arguing against nationalisation, the “divisionists” say: when you hear the peasants talking about nationalisation, you must understand that it is not what they want. Don’t pay attention to words, but to the substance. The peasants want private ownership, the right to sell land; and their talk about “God’s land”, and so forth, is merely an ideological cloak for their desire to take the land away from the land lords.

In my answer to the “divisionists” I said: all that is true; but our disagreements only begin where you think the question is settled. You repeat the mistake made by the old materialists, concerning whom Marx said: the old materialists have interpreted the world, but we must change it.[17] Similarly, the advocates of division rightly understand what the peasants say about nationalisation, they rightly interpret what they say; but the point is that they do not know how to convert this correct interpretation into an instrument for changing the world, into an instrument of progress. We are not suggesting that we should impose nationalisation on the peas ants instead of division (Variant A in my programme removes all ground for such absurd ideas if they do occur to any one). What we are suggesting is that a socialist, in ruthlessly exposing the peasants’ petty-bourgeois illusions about “God’s land”, should be able to show them the road of progress. I told Plekhanov at the Congress, and I will repeat it a thousand times, that the practical workers will vulgarise the present programme just as they vulgarised the demand for the restitution of the cut-off lands; they will convert a minor mistake into a major one. They will try to convince the crowds of peasants—who are shouting that the land is no body’s, the land is God’s,the land is the state’s—of the advantages of division, and by that will discredit and vulgarise Marxism. This is not what we must tell the peasants. We must say: there is a great deal of truth in what you say about the land being God’s, nobody’s or the state’s; but we must look at the truth very closely. If the land is the state’s and Trepov is at the head of the state, then the land will be Trepov’s. Is that what you want? Do you want the land to pass into the hands of the Rodichevs and Petrunkeviches if they should succeed in capturing power, and consequently, the state, as   they would like to do? Of course, the peasants will answer: no, we don’t want that. We will not surrender the land taken from the landlords either to the Trepovs or to the Rodichevs. If that is so, we must say, all government officials must be elected by the people, the standing army must be abolished, we must have a republic. Only then will the transfer of the land to the “state”, to “the people”, be a useful and not a harmful measure. And from the strictly scientific point of view, from the point of view of the conditions of develop ment of capitalism in general, we must undoubtedly say if we do not want to differ with Volume III of Capital—that the nationalisation of land is possible in bourgeois society, that it promotes economic development, facilitates competition and the influx of capital into agriculture, reduces the price of grain, etc. Hence, in a period of real peasant revolution, given fairly well-developed capitalism, we cannot in any circumstances adopt a crude and sweepingly negative attitude towards nationalisation. That would be narrow, one-sided, crude and short-sighted. We should only explain to the peas ants what political conditions are necessary for nationalisation to make it a useful measure, and then proceed to show its bourgeois character (as is done in Section 3 of my programme, now incorporated in the resolution of the Unity Congress[8] ).

In concluding my narrative of the arguments about the agrarian question at the Congress, I will mention the amendments that were proposed to Maslov’s draft programme. When the question of which draft to take as a basis was voted on, Maslov’s draft at first obtained only 52 votes, that is, less than half. About 40 voted in favour of division (I voted with the “divisionists” to avoid splitting the vote against municipalisation). Only when a second vote was taken did Maslov’s draft obtain 60-odd votes, as all the waverers voted for it, to save the Party from being left without any agrarian programme at all.

One of the amendments that the Mensheviks voted down was aimed at a more precise definition of the term: democratic state. We proposed the formulation: “a democratic republic fully guaranteeing the sovereignty of the people”. This   amendment was based on the idea, outlined above, that with out complete democratisation of the central state authority, municipalisation would be positively harmful, and might degenerate into a Cadet agrarian reform. The amendment caused a storm. I was not in the hail at the time. I remember that as I was passing through an adjoining room on my way back to the hall, I was struck by the extraordinary noise in the “lobbies” and heard people jesting, saying: “Comrade John has proclaimed a republic!” “He could find no guarantees against restoration!” “Comrade Plekhanov has restored the monarchy.”

As I was told afterwards, what happened was this. The Mensheviks, thin-skinned as usual, took offence at this amendment, which they regarded as an attempt to prove that they were opportunists, that they were opposed to a republic. There were angry speeches and shouts. The Bolsheviks also got heated, of course. They demanded a vote by roll-call. This stirred passion to fever heat. Comrade John was embarrassed, and being loath to create discord—he was not at all “against a republic”, of course—he got up and announced that he would withdraw his formulation and sup port the amendment. The Bolsheviks applauded the “proclamation of a republic”. But Comrade Plekhanov, or some other Menshevik, intervened, the argument started afresh, a demand was made for another vote, and the “monarchy was restored” by—according to what I was told—a matter of 38 votes to 34 (evidently many of the delegates were absent from the hall, or abstained from voting).

Of the amendments that were accepted, I must mention the substitution of the term “confiscation” for the term “alienation”. Then the “municipalisers” had, after all, to make a concession to the “divisionists”, and Comrade Kostrov proposed an amendment which in certain conditions permitted of division as well. Thus, instead of Maslov’s original programme, the result was, as someone wittily put it at the Congress, a “castrated” programme. It is, in effect, a blend of nationalisation (certain lands are to become national property), municipalisation (part of the land is to be transferred to large local self-government bodies), and lastly, division. To this must be added that neither the programme nor the resolution on tactics specifies when   we are to support municipalisation and when division. The upshot was a programme, not well shod on all four hoofs, but with all four shoes loose.[9]


[1] See p. 194 of this volume.—Ed.

[2] My draft said “confiscated”. Comrade Borisov quite rightly remarked that this was a wrong formula. We should say “seized”. Confiscation is the legal recognition of seizure, its legalisation. We should advance the slogan of confiscation. To put it into effect, we should call upon the peasants to seize the land. This seizure by the peasantry must he recognised, legalised, by the national constituent assembly, which, as the supreme organ of a sovereign people, will transform seizure into confiscation by passing a law to that effect.—Lenin

[3] We say “perhaps”, because it is still an open question whether these closest ties between the small proprietor and his “plot” are not the most reliable bulwark of Bonapartism. But this is not the place to go into the details of this concrete question.—Lenin

[4] It was because Plekhanov’s programme does not say this that we, at the Congress, had every right to put this new interpretation of municipalisation on a par with the “revolutionary local self-govern ment” advocated by the Mensheviks. But it was none other than Plekhanov who, after the Bolsheviks had explained the point at great length, was compelled to admit that the slogan of “revolutionary local self- government” explained nothing and, indeed, misled many people (see Dnevnik, No. 5). Even in Vperyod and Proletary, the Bolsheviks bad already said that the slogan of “revolutionary local self-government”   was inadequate and incomplete, that it did not express the conditions of the complete victory of the revolution It is not revolutionary local self-government that is needed for such a victory, but revolutionary authority; and not only local revolutionary authorities, but also a central revolutionary authority. (See present edition, Vol. 9, pp. 179-87, 212-23, 356-73.—Ed.) —Lenin

[5] See p. 109 of this volume—Ed.

[6] See present edition, Vol. 9, pp. 240-45.—Ed.

[7] See pp. 242-70 of this volume.—Ed.

[8] See pp. 194-95 of this volume.—Ed.

[9] The sharpest criticism of Maslov’s “castrated” programme was uttered at the Congress by a Menshevik comrade (Strumilin), an advocate of partial division. He read a written statement in which he very aptly and ruthlessly exposed—perhaps it would be more correct to say flayed—the inherent contradictions in the programme as it finally emerged. Unfortunately, I did not take any notes of his speech.—Lenin

[10] Schmidt—P. P. Rumyantsev, who at the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. adhered to the Bolsheviks.

[11] The reference is to the abolition of serfdom in Russia in 1861.

[12] Klyuchevsky, V. 0. (1841-1911) and Yefimenko, A. Y. (1848-1919)— prominent Russian historians.

[13] Demyan—I. A. Teodorovich.

[14] Demyan Hash”—title of a fable by I. A. Krylov.

[15] Kostrov—N. N. Jordania, Caucasian Menshevik leader.

[16] Voyinov—the Bolshevik A. V. Lunacharsky.

[17] Lenin is quoting Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach” (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 405).

  Election of the Bureau. The Congress Agenda | Appraisal of the Revolutionary Situation and of the Class Tasks of the Proletariat  

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