V. I.   Lenin

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


5. Two Types of Bourgeois Agrarian Evolution

To proceed. We have shown that the Narodnik theories, while absurd and reactionary from the standpoint of the struggle for socialism against the bourgeoisie, turn out to be “rational” (in the sense of being a specific historic task) and progressive in the bourgeois struggle against serfdom. The question now arises: when we say that serfdom must inevitably die out in Russian landownership and in the whole social system in Russia, when we say that a bourgeois-democratic agrarian revolution is inevitable, does that mean that this can take place only in one definite form? Or is it possible in various forms?

That question is of cardinal importance for arriving at correct views on our revolution and on the Social-Democratic agrarian programme. And solve this question we must, starting out from the data given above concerning the economic basis of the revolution.

The pivot of tile struggle is the feudal latifundia which are the most conspicuous embodiment and the strongest mainstay of the survivals of serfdom in Russia. The development of commodity production and capitalism will certainly and inevitably put an end to those survivals. In that respect Russia has only one path before her, that of bourgeois development.

But there may be two forms of that development. The survivals of serfdom may fall away either as a result of the transformation of landlord economy or as a result of the abolition of the landlord latifundia, i. e., either by re form or by revolution. Bourgeois development may proceed by having big landlord economies at the head, which will gradually become more and more bourgeois and gradually substitute bourgeois for feudal methods of exploitation. It may also proceed by having small peasant economies at the head, which in a revolutionary way, will remove the “excrescence” of the feudal latifundia from the social organism and then freely develop without them along the path of capitalist economy.

Those two paths of objectively possible bourgeois development we would call the Prussian path and the American path, respectively. In the first case feudal landlord economy slowly evolves into bourgeois, Junker landlord economy, which condemns the peasants to decades of most harrowing expropriation and bondage, while at the same time a small minority of Grossbauern (“big peasants”) arises. In the second case there is no landlord economy, or else it is broken up by revolution, which confiscates and splits up the feudal estates. In that case the peasant predominates, becomes the sole agent of agriculture, and evolves into a capitalist farmer. In the first case the main content of the evolution is transformation of feudal bondage into servitude and capitalist exploitation on the land of the feudal landlords—Junkers. In the second case the main background is transformation of the patriarchal peasant into a bourgeois farmer.

In the economic history of Russia both these types of evolution are clearly in evidence. Take the epoch of the fall of serfdom. A struggle went on between the landlords and the peasants over tile method of carrying out the reform.   Both stood for conditions of bourgeois economic development (without being aware of it), but the former wanted a development that would preserve to the utmost the land lord economies, the landlord revenues, and the landlord (bondage) methods of exploitation. The latter wanted a development that would secure for the peasants the greatest degree of prosperity possible with the existing level of agriculture, the abolition of the landlord latifundia, the abolition of all serf and bondage methods of exploitation, and the expansion of free peasant landownership. Needless to say, in the second case the development of capitalism and the growth of the productive forces would have been wider and more rapid than by peasant reform, carried out in the landlords’ way.[1] Only caricature Marxists, as the Narodniks, the opponents of Marxism, tried to depict them, could have believed that the divorcement of the peasantry from the land in 1861 guaranteed the development of capitalism. On the contrary, it would have been a guarantee— and so in fact it turned out to be—a guarantee of bondage, i.e., semi-serf tenant farming and labour rent, i. e., corvée economy, which exceedingly retarded the development of capitalism and the growth of the productive forces in Russian agriculture. The conflict of interests between the peas ants and the landlords was not a struggle waged by “people’s production” or the “labour principle” against the bourgeoisie   (as our Narodniks have imagined it to be)—it was a struggle for the American type of bourgeois development as against the Prussian type of bourgeois development.

And in those localities of Russia where no serfdom bad existed, where agriculture was undertaken entirely, or chiefly, by free peasants (for example, in the steppes of the Trans-Volga area, Novorossia, and the Northern Caucasus, which were colonised after the Reform), the growth of the productive forces and the development of capitalism proceeded far more rapidly than in the central provinces which were burdened by survivals of serfdom.[2]

While Russia’s agricultural centre and agricultural borderlands show us, as it were, the spatial or geographical distribution of the localities in which one or the other type of agrarian evolution prevails, the fundamental features of both types of evolution are also clearly evident in all those localities where landlord and peasant farming exist side by side. A cardinal mistake of the Narodnik economists was that they believed that landlord farming was the only source of agrarian capitalism, while they regarded peasant farming from the point of view of “people’s production” and the “labour principle” (that is the view taken even now by the Trudoviks, the “Popular Socialists”, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries). We know that this is wrong. Landlord economy evolves in a capitalist way and gradually replaces the labour rent system by “free wage-labour”, the three-field system by intensive cultivation, and the obsolete peasant implements by the improved machinery employed on the big private farms. Peasant farming also evolves in a capitalist way and gives rise to a rural bourgeoisie and a rural proletariat. The better the condition of the “village commune” and the greater the prosperity of the peasantry in general, the more rapid is the process of differentiation among the peasantry into the antagonistic   classes of capitalist agriculture. Consequently, we see two streams of agrarian evolution everywhere. The conflict of interests between the peasants and the landlords which runs like a scarlet thread through the whole history of post-Reform Russia and constitutes the most important economic basis of our revolution, is a struggle for one or the other type of bourgeois agrarian evolution.

Only by clearly understanding the difference between these two types and the bourgeois character of both, can we correctly explain the agrarian question in the Russian revolution and grasp the class significance of the various agrarian programmes put forward by the different parties.[3] The pivot of the struggle, we repeat, is the feudal latifundia. The capitalist evolution of these is beyond all dispute, but it is possible in two forms:, either they will be abolished, eliminated in a revolutionary manner by peasant farmers, or they will be gradually transformed into Junker estates (and correspondingly,, the enthralled muzhik will be transformed into an enthralled Knecht).



[1] In the magazine Nauchnoye Obozreniye (May-June 1900), I wrote on this subject as follows: "... The more the land the peasants received when they were emancipated, and the lower the price they paid for it, the faster, wider, and freer would have been the development of capitalism in Russia, the higher would have been the standard of living of the population, the wider would have .been the home market, the faster would have been the introduction of machinery into production; the more, in a word, would the economic development of Russia have resembled that of America. I shall confine myself to indicating two circumstances which, in my opinion, confirm the correctness of the latter view: (1) land-poverty and the burden of taxation have led to the development over a very considerable area of Russia of the labour-service system of private-landowner farming, i. e., a direct survival of serfdom, and not at all to the development of capitalism; (2) it is in our border regions, where serfdom was either entirely unknown, or was feeblest, and where the peasants suffer least from land shortage, labour-service, and the burden of taxation, that there has been the greatest development of capitalism in agriculture.” (See, present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 624-25.—Ed.) —Lenin

[2] I have dealt in detail with the importance of the borderlands of Russia as colonisation lands during the development of capitalism in The Development of Capitalism in Russia. (St. Petersburg, 1899, pp. 185, 444, et al.) Second edition issued, St. Petersburg, 1908. (See present edition, Vol. 3, pp.. 257, 561, 590-95.—Ed.) The question of the importance of the borderlands in regard to the Social-Democratic agrarian programme will be dealt with separately later on. —Lenin

[3] The amount of confusion that reigns at times in the minds of Russian Social-Democrats about the two paths of bourgeois agrarian evolution in Russia is demonstrated by P Maslov. In Obrazovaniye (No. 3,1907), he outlines two paths: (1) “capitalism in process of development” and (2) “a useless struggle against economic development”. “The first path,”. if you please, “leads the working class and the whole of society towards socialism; the second path pushes [!] the working class into the arms [!] of the bourgeoisie, into a struggle between big and small proprietors, into a struggle from which the working class has nothing to gain but defeat” (p. .92). In the first place, the “second path” is an empty phrase, a dream and not a path; it is a false ideology, and not a real possibility of development. Secondly, Maslov fails to see that Stolypin and the bourgeoisie are also leading the peasantry along the capitalist road; consequently, the real struggle is not about capitalism as such, but about the type of capitalist development. Thirdly, it is sheer nonsense to talk as if there can be a path in Russia which will not “push” the working class under the domination of the bourgeoisie Fourthly, it is equally nonsensical to allege that there can be a “path” on which there will be no struggle between small and big proprietors. Fifthly, by the use of terms descriptive of general European categories (big and small proprietors), Maslov obscures the historical peculiarity of Russia which is of great significance in the present revolution: the struggle between petty-bourgeois and big feudal proprietors. —Lenin

  4. The Economic Nature of the Agrarian Revolution and its Ideological Cloaks | 6. Two lines Of Agrarian Programmes in the Revolution  

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