V. I.   Lenin

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


6. Two lines Of Agrarian Programmes in the Revolution

If we now compare the agrarian programmes put forward by the different classes in the course of the revolution with the economic basis outlined above, we shall at once perceive two lines in these programmes, corresponding to the two types of agrarian evolution which we have indicated.

Let us take the Stolypin programme, which is supported by the Right landlords and the Octobrists. It is avowedly a landlords’ programme. But can it be said that it is reactionary in the economic sense, i. e., that it precludes, or seeks to preclude, the development of capitalism, to prevent a bourgeois agrarian evolution? Not at all. On the contrary, the famous agrarian legislation introduced by Stolypin under Article 87 is permeated through and through with the purely bourgeois spirit. There can be no doubt that it. follows the line of capitalist evolution, facilitates and pushes forward that evolution, hastens the expropriation of the peasantry, the break-up of the village commune, and the creation of a peasant bourgeoisie. Without a doubt, that legislation is progressive in the scientific-economic sense.

But does that mean that Social-Democrats should “sup port” it? It does not. Only vulgar Marxism can reason in that way, a Marxism whose seeds Plekhanov and the Mensheviks are so persistently sowing when they sing, shout, plead, and proclaim: we must support the bourgeoisie in its struggle against the old order of things. No. To facilitate the development of the productive forces (this highest criterion of social progress) we must support not bourgeois evolution of the landlord type, but bourgeois evolution of the peasant type. The former implies the utmost preservation of bondage and serfdom (remodelled on bourgeois lines), the least rapid development of the productive forces, and the retarded development of capitalism; it implies infinitely greater misery and suffering, exploitation and oppression for the broad mass of the peasantry and, consequently, also for the proletariat. The second type implies the most rapid development of the productive forces and   the best possible (under commodity production) conditions of existence for the mass of the peasantry. The tactics of Social-Democracy in the Russian bourgeois revolution are determined not by the task of supporting the liberal bourgeoisie, as the opportunists think, but by the task of supporting. the fighting peasantry.

Let us take the programme of the liberal bourgeoisie, 1. e., the Cadet programme. True to the motto: “at your service” (i. e., at the service of the landlords), they proposed one programme in the First Duma and another in the Second. They can change their programme as easily and imperceptibly as all the European unprincipled bourgeois careerists do. In the First Duma the revolution appeared to be strong, and so the liberal programme borrowed from it a bit of nationalisation (the “state land available for distribution”). In the Second Duma the counter-revolution appeared to be strong, and so the liberal programme threw the state land available for distribution overboard, swung round to the Stolypin idea of stable peasant property, strengthened and enlarged the scope of exemptions from the general rule of compulsory alienation of the landlords’ land. But we note this two-faced attitude of the liberals only in passing. The important thing to note here is some thing else, viz., the principle which is common to bothfaces” of the liberal agrarian programme. That common principle consists of: (1) redemption payments; (2) preservation of the landlords’ estates; (3) preservation of the landlords’ privileges when carrying out the reform.

Redemption payment is tribute imposed upon social development, tribute paid to the owners of the feudal latifundia. Redemption payment is tile realisation, ensured by bureaucratic, police measures, of the feudal methods of exploitation in the shape of the bourgeois “universal equivalent”. Further, preservation of the landlords’ estates is seen in one or another degree in both Cadet programmes, no matter how the bourgeois politicians may try to conceal that fact from the people. The third point—the preservation of the landlords’ privileges when carrying out the reform—is quite definitely expressed in the Cadets’ attitude to the election of local land committees on the basis of universal, direct, and equal suffrage by secret ballot.   We cannot here go into details[1] which concern another part of our argument. All we need do here is to define the line of the Cadet agrarian programme. And in this connection we must say that the question of the composition of the local land committees is of cardinal importance. Only political infants could be taken in by the sound of the Cadet slogan of “compulsory alienation”. The question is, who will compel whom? Will the landlords compel the peasants (to pay an exorbitant price for inferior land), or will the peasants compel the landlords? The Cadet talk “about equal representation of the conflicting interests” and about the undesirability of “one-sided violence” reveals as clear as clear can be the essence of the matter, namely, that the Cadet idea of compulsory alienation means that the land lords will compel the peasants!

The Cadet agrarian programme follows the line of Stolypin progress, i. e., landlord bourgeois progress. That is a fact. Failure to appreciate this fact is the fundamental mistake made by those Social-Democrats who, like some of   the Mensheviks, regard the Cadet agrarian policy as being more progressive than the Narodnik policy.

As for the spokesmen of the peasantry, i. e., the Trudoviks, the Social-Narodniks, and partly the Socialist-Revolutionaries, we find that, in spite of considerable vacillation and wavering, they, in both Dumas, adopted a very clear line of defending the interests of the peasantry against the landlords. For instance, vacillation is observed in the programme of the Trudoviks on the question of redemption payments, but, in the first place, they frequently interpret that as something in the nature of public relief for disabled landlords[2] ; secondly, in the records of the Second Duma one can find a number of exceedingly characteristic speeches by peasants repudiating redemption payments and proclaiming the slogan: all the land to all the people.[3] On the question of the local land committees—this all-important question as to who will compel whom—the peasant deputies are the originators and supporters of the idea of having them elected by universal suffrage.

We are not, for the time being, dealing with the content of the agrarian programmes of the Trudoviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, on the one hand, and the Social-Democrats, on the other. We must first of all note the incontrovertible fact that the agrarian programmes of all the parties and classes which came out openly in the Russian revolution can be clearly divided into two basic types, corresponding to the two types of bourgeois agrarian evolution. The dividing line between the “Right” and “Left” agrarian programmes does not run between the Octobrists   and the Cadets, as is frequently and mistakenly assumed by the Mensheviks (who allow themselves to he taken in by the sound of “constitutional-democratic” words and substitute analysis of the respective titles of the parties for a class analysis). The dividing line runs between the Cadets and the Trudoviks. That line is determined by the interests of the two principal classes in Russian society which are fighting for the land, viz., the landlords and the peasantry. The Cadets stand for the preservation of landlordism and for a civilised, European, but landlord bourgeois evolution of agriculture. The Trudoviks (and the Social-Democratic workers’ deputies), i.e., the representatives of the peasantry and the representatives of the proletariat, advocate, a peasant bourgeois evolution of agriculture.

A strict distinction must be drawn between the ideological cloak of the agrarian programmes, their different political details, etc., and the economic basis of those programmes. The present difficulty does not lie in understanding the bourgeois character of the agrarian demands and programmes of both the landlords and the peasants: that was already explained by the Marxists before the revolution, and the revolution has confirmed the correctness of their explanation. The difficulty lies in understanding fully the basis of the struggle between the two classes with in the framework of bourgeois society and bourgeois evolution. The fact that this struggle is a normal social phenomenon will not be understood unless it is seen as part and parcel of the objective tendencies of the economic development of capitalist Russia.

Now, having shown the connection between the two types of agrarian programmes in the Russian revolution and the two types of bourgeois agrarian evolution, we must pass on to the examination of a new, extremely important aspect of the question.


[1] See the records of the First Duma, 14th sitting, May 24, 1906, which show that the Cadets Kokoshkin and Kotlyarevsky, hand in hand with the (then) Octobrist Heyden, resorted to the basest sophistry to repudiate the idea of local land committees. In the Second Duma: the evasions by the Cadet Savelyev (16th sitting. March 26, 1907) and the open opposition to the idea of local committees by the Cadet Tatarinov (24th sitting, April 9,1907, p. 1783 of Stenographic Record). The newspaper Rech, No. 82, for May 25, 1906. contained a noteworthy leading article which is reprinted in Milyukov’s A Year of Struggle, No. 117, pp. 457-59. Here is the decisive passage from this Octobrist in disguise: “We believe that setting up these commit tees on the basis of universal suffrage would mean preparing them not for the peaceful solution of the land problem in the local areas, but for something entirely different. Control of the general direction of the reform ought to be left in the hands of the state.... The local commissions should consist as equally as possible [sic!] of representatives of the conflicting interests which can be reconciled without impairing the state importance of the proposed reform, and without turning it into an act of one-sided violence”... (p. 459). In the Cadet Agrarian Question, Vol. II, Mr. Kutler published the text of his Bill which ensures to the landlords, plus the officials, preponderance over the peasants in all the principal, gubernia and uyezd land commissions and committees (pp. 640-41), while Mr. A. Chuprov—a “liberal”!— defends on principle the same despicable plan of the landlords to swindle the peasants (p. 33). —Lenin

[2] See Sbornik “Izvestii Krestyanskikh Deputatov” i “Trudovoi Rossii” (The Symposium of “Peasant Deputies’ News” and “Toiling Russia”), St. Petersburg, 1906, a collection of newspaper articles by the Trudoviks in the First Duma; for instance, the article entitled “Grants, Not Redemption Payments” (pp. 44-49), et al. —Lenin

[3] See the speech made by the Right-wing peasant deputy Petrochenko in the Second Duma (22nd sitting, April 5, 1907): Kutler, he said, proposed good conditions.... “Of course, being a wealthy man he has named a high figure, and we, poor peasants, cannot pay such a price” (p. 1616). Thus, the Right-wing peasant is more to the left than the bourgeois politician who is playing at being a liberal. See also the speech of the non-party peasant deputy Semyonov (April 12, 1907), which breathes the spirit of the spontaneous revolutionary struggle of the peasants, and many other speeches. —Lenin

  5. Two Types of Bourgeois Agrarian Evolution | 7. Russia’s Land Area. The Question of the Colonisation  

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