V. I.   Lenin

Draft for a Speech on the Agrarian Question in the Second State Duma

*     *

I hope, gentlemen, that I have succeeded in making clear our Social-Democratic attitude to the “Right” parties and to the liberal Centre (the Cadets) in respect of the agrarian question. I must now deal with one important difference between, the views of the Social-Democrats and those of the Trudoviks in the broad sense of that word, i.e., all the parties that base themselves on the “labour principle”, which includes the Popular Socialists, the Trudoviks in the narrow sense of the word, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

From what I have already said, it can be seen that the Social-Democratic Labour Party gives its full support to the peasant masses in their struggle against the landlords for land, and for emancipation from feudal exploitation. There are not, there cannot be, more reliable allies for the peasantry in this struggle, than the proletariat, which has   made the greatest number of sacrifices to the cause of winning light and liberty for Russia. The peasantry have not, and cannot have, any other means of ensuring the satisfaction of their just demands than that of joining the class-conscious proletariat, which is struggling under the red banner of inter national Social-Democracy. Everywhere in Europe liberal parties have betrayed the peasantry and have sacrificed their interests to those of the landlords; and as I showed by my analysis of the liberal, Cadet programme, the same thing is happening here in Russia.

In previous parts of my speech, I have frequently touched on the differences in the views of the Trudovik Group and those of the Social-Democrats on the agrarian question. Now I must examine one of the principal views of the Trudovik Group.

For this purpose, I shall permit myself to take the speech made by the Reverend Tikhvinsky. Gentlemen! The Social-Democrats do not share the views of the Christian religion. We believe that the real social, cultural and political significance and content of Christianity is more truly ex pressed by views and aspirations of such members of the clergy as Bishop Eulogius, than by those of such as the Reverend Tikhvinsky. That is why, on the basis of our scientific, materialist philosophy to which all prejudice is alien, on the basis of the general aims of our struggle for the freedom and happiness of all working people, we Social-Democrats have a negative attitude towards the doctrines of Christianity. But, having said that, I consider it my duty to add, frankly and openly, that the Social-Democrats are fighting for complete freedom of conscience, and have every respect for any sincere conviction in matters of faith, provided that conviction is not implemented by force or deception. I consider it all the more my duty to stress this point since I am going to speak of my differences with the Reverend Tikhvinsky—a peasant deputy who deserves all respect for his sincere loyalty to the interests of the peasants, the interests of the people, which he defends fearlessly and with determination.

Deputy Tikhvinsky supports the land bill of the Trudovik Group; it is based on equalitarian principles of land tenure. In support of this bill, Deputy Tikhvinsky said:

“This is the way the peasants, the way the working people look at the land: the land is God’s, and the labouring peasant has as much right to it as each one of us has the right to water and-air. it would be strange if anyone were to start selling, buying or trading in water and air—and it seems just as strange to us that anyone should trade in, sell or buy land. The Peasant Union and the Trudovik Group wish to apply the principle—all the land to the working people. With regard to compensation for the land—how the above is to be effected, by means of compensation or by simple alienation without compensation, is a question that does not interest the labouring peasantry....”

That is what Deputy Tikhvinsky said in the name of the Peasant Union and the Trudovik Group.

The error, the profound error, of the Trudoviks is their not being interested in the question of compensation and that of ways of implementing the land reform, although whether or not the peasantry will achieve liberation from landlord oppression actually depends on this question. They are interested in the question of the sale and purchase of land and in that of the equal rights of all to land, although that question has no serious significance in the struggle for the real emancipation of the peasantry from the oppression of the landlords.

Deputy Tikhvinsky defends the point of view that land must not be bought or sold, and that all working people have an equal right to the land.

I am well aware that this viewpoint springs from the most noble motives, from an ardent protest against monopoly, against the privileges of rich idlers, against the exploitation of man by man, that it arises out of the aspiration to achieve the liberation of all working people from every kind of oppression and exploitation.

It is for this ideal, the ideal of socialism, that .the Social-Democratic Labour Party is struggling. It is, however, an ideal that cannot be achieved by the equalitarian use of land by small proprietors, in the way Deputy Tikhvinsky and his fellow-thinkers dream of.

Deputy Tikhvinsky is prepared to fight honestly, sincerely and with determination—and, I hope, to fight to the end—against the power of the landlords. But he has f or gotten another, still more burdensome, still more oppressive   power over the working people of today, the power of capital, the power of money.

Deputy Tikhvinsky has said that the sale of land, water and air seems strange to the peasant. I realise that people who have lived all their lives, or almost all their lives in the countryside, should acquire such views. But just take a look at modern capitalist society, at the big cities, at the rail ways, coal and iron mines and factories. You will see how the wealthy have seized the air and the water and the land. You will see how tens and hundreds of thousands of workers are condemned to deprivation of fresh air, to work under ground, to life in cellars and to the use of water polluted by the neighbouring factory. You will see how fantastically the price of land goes up in the cities, and how the worker is exploited, not only by the factory owners, but also by house owners who, as everybody knows, get much more out of apartments, rooms, corners of rooms and slums inhabited by workers than out of apartments for the wealthy. And, indeed, what is the sale and purchase of water, air and land when the whole of present-day society is based on the purchase and sale of labour-power., i.e., on the wage slavery of millions of people!

Just consider it: can you imagine equalitarian land tenure or prohibiting the sale and purchase of land as long as the power of money, the power of capital, continues to exist? Can the Russian people be delivered from oppression and exploitation if the right of every citizen to an equal-sized piece of land is recognised, when, at the same time, a handful of people own tens of thousands and millions of rubles each, and the mass of the people remain poor? No, gentlemen. As long as the power of capital lasts, no equality between land owners will be possible, and any sort of ban on the purchase and sale of land will be impossible, ridiculous and absurd. Everything, not merely the land, but human labour, the human being himself, conscience, love, science—everything must inevitably be for sale as long as the power of capital lasts.

In saying this, I have absolutely no desire to weaken the peasants’ struggle for land, or belittle its significance, its importance or its urgency. I do not intend anything of the sort. I have said, and I repeat, that this struggle is a just and necessary one, that the peasant, in his own interests, and in   the interests of the proletariat, and in the interests of social development as a whole, must throw off the feudal oppression of the landlords.

Class-conscious workers wish to strengthen the peasants’ struggle for land, not weaken it. Socialists do not strive to check this struggle, but to carry it further, and for this purpose shake off all naïve faith in the possibility of putting petty proprietors on an equal footing, or of banning the sale and purchase of land, as long as exchange, money and the power of capital exist.

Worker Social-Democrats give their full support to the peasants against the landlords. But it is not petty owner ship, even if it is equalitarian, that can save mankind from the poverty of the masses, from exploitation and from the oppression of man by man. What is needed for that is a struggle for the destruction of capitalist society, and its replacement by large-scale socialist production. This struggle is now being conducted by millions of class-conscious Social-Democrat workers in all countries of the world. It is only by joining in this struggle that the peasantry can, having got rid of their first enemy, the feudal landlord, conduct a successful struggle against the second and more terrible enemy, the power of capital!


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