V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905-1907


3. The Cadet Writers Obscure the Nature of the Struggle

The data given here on the role of the large landlord estates in the struggle for land in Russia must be amplified in one respect; A characteristic feature of the agrarian programmes of our bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie is the fact that in them the question as to which class is the most powerful opponent of the peasantry, and which holdings form the bulk of the expropriable lands are obscured by arguments about “norms”. They (both the Cadets and the Trudoviks) talk mainly about how much land the peasants need according to this or that “norm”, instead of dealing with the more concrete and vital question: how much land is available for expropriation? The first way of presenting the question obscures the class struggle, conceals the essence   of the matter by hollow pretensions to a “state” point of view. The second places the chief emphasis on the class struggle, on the class interests of a definite landowning stratum which largely represents feudal tendencies.

We shall revert to the question of “norms” elsewhere. Here we want to mention one “happy” exception among the Trudoviks, and one typical Cadet writer.

In the Second Duma, the Popular Socialist Delarov referred to the percentage of landowners who would be affect ed by the alienation of land (47th sitting, May 20, 1907). Delarov spoke of alienation (compulsory), without raising the question of confiscation, and apparently accepted the same norm of alienation which I have taken hypothetically in my table, namely, 500 dessiatins. Unfortunately, in the stenographic records of the Second Duma this particular passage in Delarov’s speech (p. 1217) is distorted, unless Mr. Delarov himself made a mistake. The record says that compulsory alienation would affect 32 per cent of the private estates and 96 per cent of their total area of land; the rest, 68 per cent of the landowners, it is claimed, have only 4 per cent of the private land. Actually, the figure should be not 32 per cent, but 3.7 per cent, because 27,833 out of 752,881 landowners constitute 3.7 per cent, whereas the area of land affected—62,000,000 dessiatins out of a total of 85,800,000 dessiatins—amounts to 72.3 per cent. It is not clear whether this was a slip on Mr. Delarov’s part, or whether he got hold of the wrong figures. At all events, of the numerous speakers in the Duma, he, if we are not mistaken, was the only one who approached the real issue of the struggle in the most direct and concrete way.

A Cadet writer whose “works” one must mention when dealing with this question is Mr. S. Prokopovich. True, he is, strictly speaking, a member of the Bez Zaglaviya group, who, like the majority of the contributors to the bourgeois newspaper Tovarishch, at one moment poses as a Cadet and at another as a Menshevik Social-Democrat. Lie is a typical representative of the handful of consistent Bernsteinians among the Russian bourgeois intellectuals who waver between the Cadets and the Social-Democrats, who (in most cases) join no party, and in the liberal press   pursue a line slightly to the right of Plekhanov. Mr. Prokopovich must be mentioned here because he was one of the first to quote in the press figures from the 1905 landed property statistics, and in so doing actually adopted the Cadet position on agrarian reform. In two articles which he wrote for Tovarishch (No. 214 of March 13, 1907, and No. 238 of April 10, 1907), Mr. Prokopovich argues against General Zolotaryov, the compiler of the official statistics, who tries to prove that the government can tackle the land reform quite easily without any compulsory alienation, and that 5 dessiatins per household are quite sufficient for the peasant to conduct his husbandry! Mr. Prokopovich is more liberal: he puts the figure at 8 dessiatins per household. He repeatedly makes the reservation, however, that this amount of land is “quite inadequate”, that this is a “very modest” calculation, and so forth; nevertheless, he accepts this figure in order to determine the “degree of the land shortage” (the title of the first of Mr. Prokopovich’s articles mentioned above). He explains that he takes this figure “to avoid unnecessary disputes”—presumably with the Zolotaryovs. Calculating thus the number of “obviously land-poor” peasant households at one half the total, Mr. Prokopovich correctly estimates that in order to bring the peasants’ holdings up to 8 dessiatins, 18,600,000 dessiatins will be required, and since the government’s total land reserve is alleged to be not more than 9,000,000 dessiatins, “it will be impossible to avoid compulsory alienation”.

Both in his calculations and in his arguments, this Menshevik-minded Cadet, or Cadet-minded Menshevik, admirably expresses the spirit and meaning of the liberal agrarian programme. The questions of the semi-feudal latifundia, and of latifundia in general, is quite glossed over. Mr. Prokopovich quoted the figures only for private hold ings of more than 50 dessiatins. Thus, the actual issue of this struggle is obscured. The class interests of a handful, literally a handful, of landlords are concealed behind a veil. Instead of an exposure of those interests, we are given the “state point of view”: the state lands “will not suffice”. Hence, if they did suffice, Mr. Prokopovich, to judge from his argument, would be quite willing to leave the feudal latifundia intact....

The peasant’s allotment scale that he takes (8 dessiatins) is a starvation scale. The amount of land to be “compulsorily alienated” from the landlords that he allows for is insignificant (18—9=9 million dessiatins out of 62,000,000 in estates of over 500 dessiatins!). To carry out that kind of “compulsory alienation”, the landlords will have to use compulsion on the peasants, as in 1861!

Whether he meant to or not, wittingly or unwittingly, Mr. Prokopovich has correctly expressed the landlord nature of the Cadet agrarian programme. But the Cadets are cautious and sly: they prefer to say nothing at all about how much land they are inclined to expropriate from the land lords.


  2. What is the Struggle About? | 4. The Economic Nature of the Agrarian Revolution and its Ideological Cloaks  

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