V. I.   Lenin

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

*     *

I shall now proceed to the objections that may be raised against the peasants’ demands. And, strange as it may seem at first glance, in analysing the objections to the peasants’ demands I must in the main deal with the arguments of Mr. Kutler, representative of the so-called “people’s freedom” party.

The necessity for this does not arise out of any desire on my part to argue with Mr. Kutler. Nothing of the sort.   I should be very glad if those who champion the peasants’ struggle for land had to argue against the “Rights” only. Throughout his speech, however, Mr. Kutler objected, in substance, to the peasants’ demands as put forward by the Social-Democrats and the Trudoviks: he objected both directly (for instance, he disputed the proposal made by my comrade Tsereteli on behalf of the entire Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party) and indirectly by pointing out to the Trudoviks the need to curtail, need to limit their demands.

Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky did not actually expect to convince anybody. In particular, he was far from expecting that he could convince the peasants. He was not trying to convince, but was expressing his will, or, more correctly, the will of most landlords. In simple and direct terms, the “speech” made by Deputy Svyatopolk-Mirsky boils down to no increase whatsoever in the amount of land owned by the peasants.

Deputy Kutler, on the contrary, was all the time using his powers of persuasion, trying to convince mainly the peasants to renounce that which he declared to be impracticable and excessive in the Trudovik draft, and which, in the draft of our Social-Democratic Party was not only impracticable but even “the greatest injustice”, to use the words in which he expressed himself, concerning the proposal made by the representative of Social-Democracy.

I shall now analyse Deputy Kutler’s objections and the main basis for those views on the agrarian question, those drafts for agrarian reforms, that are defended by the so-called “people’s freedom” party.

Let us begin with what Deputy Kutler, in his argument against my Party comrade, called “the greatest injustice”. “It seems to me,” said the representative of the Cadet Party, “that the abolition of private property in land would be the greatest injustice, as long as the other forms of property, real and personal estate, still remain!..;” And then farther: “Since nobody proposes to abolish property in general, it is essential that the existence of property in land be in every way recognised.”

That is the line of argument followed by Deputy Kutler, who “refuted” Social-Democrat Tsereteli by stating   that “other property [other than landed property] was also acquired in a manner that was, perhaps, even less praise worthy”. The more I think over Deputy Kutler’s argument, the more I find it—how shall I express it mildly?—strange. “It would be unjust to abolish property in land if other forms of property are not abolished....”

But, gentlemen, kindly remember your own postulates, your own words and plans! You yourselves proceed from the fact that certain forms of landed property are “unjust”, and so unjust that they require a special law on the ways and means of abolishing them.

So what does this actually amount to? To saying that it is “the greatest injustice” to abolish one form of injustice without abolishing others?? That is what Mr. Kutler’s words amount to. This is the first time I have been con fronted by a liberal, and such a moderate, sober, bureaucratically-schooled liberal at that, who proclaims the principle of “everything or nothing”! For, indeed, Mr. Kutler’s argument is based entirely on the principle of “every thing or nothing”. I, as a revolutionary Social-Democrat, must positively declare against such a method of argument.

Imagine, gentlemen, that I have to remove two heaps of rubbish from my yard. I have only one cart. And no more than one heap can be removed on one cart. What should I do? Should I refuse altogether to clean out my yard on the grounds that it would be the greatest injustice to re move one heap of rubbish because they cannot both be removed at the same time?

I permit myself to believe that anyone who really wants to clean out his yard completely, who sincerely strives for cleanliness and not for dirt, for light and not for darkness, will have a different argument. If we really cannot remove both heaps at the same time, let us first remove the one that can be got at and loaded on to the cart immediately, and then empty the cart, return home and set to work on the other heap. That’s all there is to it, Mr. Kutler! Just that and nothing more!

To begin with, the Russian people have to carry away on their cart all that rubbish that is known as feudal, landed proprietorship, and then come back with the empty cart to   a cleaner yard, and begin loading the second heap, begin clearing out the rubbish of capitalist exploitation!

Do you agree to that, Mr. Kutler, if you are a real opponent of all sorts of rubbish? Let us write it into a resolution for the State Duma, using your own words: “recognising, jointly with Deputy Kutler, that capitalist property is no more praiseworthy than feudal landlord property, the State Duma resolves to deliver Russia first from the latter in order later to tackle the former”.

If Mr. Kutler does not support this proposal of mine I shall be left with the firm conviction that, in sending us from feudal property to capitalist property, the “people’s freedom” party is merely sending us from Pontius to Pilate,[1] as the saying goes, or, to put it more simply, is seeking evasion, saving itself by flight from a clear statement of the question. We have never heard that the “people’s freedom” party wants to struggle for socialism (and is not the struggle against capitalist property a struggle for socialism?). But we have heard a lot, a very great deal, about that party wanting to struggle for freedom, for the people’s rights. But now, when the question on the order of the day is not one of the immediate introduction of socialism but of the immediate introduction of freedom, and freedom from serfdom, Mr. Kutler suddenly refers us to questions of socialism! Mr. Kutler declares the abolition of landed proprietorship based on labour service and bondage to be “the greatest injustice”—and this for the reason, exclusively for the reason, that he has remembered the injustice of capitalist property.... Have it as you will—it is rather strange.

I have believed until now that Mr. Kutler is not a socialist. Now I have become convinced that he is not a democrat at all, that he is no champion of people’s freedom—of real freedom, not people’s freedom in inverted commas. Nobody in the world will agree to call or consider democrats those people who, in an epoch of struggle for freedom, qualify as “the greatest injustice” the abolition of that which is destroying freedom, which is oppressing and suppressing freedom....

Mr. Kutler’s other objection was not directed against the Social-Democrat but against the Trudovik. “It seems   to me,” said Mr. Kutler, “that it may be possible to imagine the political conditions under which the land nationalisation bill [he is referring to the project of the Trudovik Group; Mr. Kutler described it inaccurately but that is not the important thing at the moment] might become law, but I cannot imagine there being, in the near future, political conditions under which such a law could actually be implemented.”

Again, an astonishingly strange argument, but not in any way strange from the standpoint of socialism (nothing of the sort!) or even from the standpoint of the “right to land” or any other “Trudovik” principle—no, it is strange from the point of view of that very same “people’s freedom” we hear so much about from Mr. Kutler’s party.

Mr. Kutler has all the time been trying to convince the Trudoviks that their bill is “impracticable”, that they are wasting their time by pursuing the aim of"radically reforming existing land relations”, and so on and so forth. We now see clearly that Mr. Kutler sees this impracticability as due to nothing else but the political conditions of the present day and the immediate future!!

You will excuse me, gentlemen, but this is really some sort of fog, some unpardonable confusion of concepts. It is because we discuss and propose changes to better bad conditions that we here call ourselves representatives of the people and are considered members of a legislative assembly. And in the thick of a discussion on the question of changing one of the very worst conditions, the objection is raised: “impracticable ... either now ... or in the near future ... political conditions”.

One of the two, Mr. Kutler—either the Duma is itself a political condition, in which case it is unworthy of a democrat to adapt himself, to readjust himself to whatever curtailments may arise out of other “political conditions”, or else the Duma is not a “political condition” but merely an ordinary office that has to take into consideration what may or may not please those more highly placed—and in the latter case we have no reason for posing as representatives of the people.

If we are representatives of the people, we must say what the people are thinking and what they want, and not that   which is agreeable to the higher-ups or some sort of “political conditions”. If we are government officials, then I am perhaps prepared to understand that we shall declare in advance that anything is “impracticable” which the powers that be have given us to understand is not to their liking.

... Political conditions...”! What does that mean? It means: military courts, an augmented secret police, lawlessness and lack of civil rights, the Council of State and other equally sweet in-sti-tu-tions of the Russian Empire. Does Mr. Kutler want to adapt his agrarian reform to what is practicable under military courts, augmented secret police and the Council of State? I should not be at all surprised if Mr. Kutler were to be rewarded for that, not with the sympathy of the people, of course, but with a medal for his servility!

Mr. Kutler is able to imagine the political conditions under which the bill to nationalise the land could become law.... Of course he can! A man who calls himself a democrat has been unable to imagine democratic political conditions.... But the task of a democrat who is counted among the representatives of the people is not only to give himself a picture of all kinds of good and bad things, but to give the people truly popular projects, declarations and expositions.

Mr. Kutler should not think of suggesting that I pro pose departing from the law or infringing it in the Duma.... I am not proposing anything of the sort! There is no law that prohibits speaking in the Duma about democracy and tabling really democratic agrarian bills. My colleague Tsereteli did not infringe any law when he introduced the declaration of the Social-Democratic group, which speaks of “the alienation of land without compensation”, and about a democratic state.

Mr. Kulter’s arguments in their entirety boil down to this—since ours is not a democratic state there is no need for us to present democratic land bills! No matter how you twist and turn Mr. Kutler’s arguments, you will not find a grain of any other idea, of any other content, in them. Since our state serves the interests of the landowners we must not (representatives of the people must not!) include anything   displeasing to the landowners in our agrarian bills.... 0 no, Mr. Kutler, that is not democracy, that is not people’s freedom—it is something very, very far removed from freedom and not very far removed from servility.


[1] This Russian expression means “to one and the same thing (or person)”.

  one | three  

Works Index   |   Volume 12 | Collected Works   |   L.I.A. Index
< backward   forward >