V. I.   Lenin

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


Chapter II

The Agrarian Programmes of the R.S.D.L.P. and Their Test in the First Revolution

Let us pass to an examination of the Social-Democratic agrarian programme. I outlined the chief historical stages in the evolution of the views of Russian Social-Democrats on the agrarian question in the first section of the pamphlet Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party[1] We must explain more fully the nature of the mistake contained in the previous agrarian programmes of Russian Social-Democracy, i. e., in the programmes of 1885 and 1903.

1. What Was the Mistake in the Previous Agrarian Programmes of Russian Social-Democracy?

In the draft issued by the Emancipation of Labour group in 1885, the agrarian programme was outlined as follows: “A radical revision of our agrarian relations, i. e., of the terms on which the land is to be redeemed and allotted to the peasant communities. The right to refuse their allotments   and to leave the commune to be granted to those peasants who may find it advantageous to do so, etc.”

That is all. The error of that programme is not that its principles or partial demands were wrong. No. Its principles are correct, while the only partial demand it puts forward (the right to refuse allotments) is so incontestable that it has now been carried out by Stolypin’s peculiar legislation. The error of that programme is its abstract character, the absence of any concrete view of the subject. Properly speaking, it is not a programme, but a Marxist declaration in the most general terms. Of course, it would he absurd to put the blame for this mistake on the authors of the programme, who for the first time laid down certain principles long before the formation of a workers’ party. On the contrary, it should be particularly emphasised that in that programme the inevitability of a “radical revision” of the Peasant Reform was recognised twenty years before the Russian revolution.

Theoretically that programme should have been developed by clarifying the economic basis of our agrarian programme, the facts upon which the demand for a radical revision, as distinct from a non-radical, reformist revision can and should he based, and finally, by concretely defining the nature of this revision from the standpoint of the proletariat (which differs essentially from the general radical standpoint). Practically the programme should have been developed by taking into account the experience of the peasant movement. Without the experience of a mass— indeed, more than that—of a nation-wide peasant movement, the programme of the Social-Democratic Labour Party could not become concrete; for it would have been too difficult, if not impossible, on the basis of theoretical reasoning alone, to define the degree to which capitalist disintegration had taken place among our peasantry, and to what extent the latter was capable of bringing about a revolutionary-democratic change.

In 4903, when the Second Congress of .our Party adopted the first agrarian programme of the R.S.D.L.P., we did not yet have such experience as would enable us to judge the character, breadth, and depth of the peasant movement. The peasant risings in South Russia in the spring of 1902 remained   sporadic outbursts. One can therefore understand the restraint shown by the Social-Democrats in drafting the agrarian programme: it is not the proletariat’s business to “devise” such a programme for bourgeois society, and the extent to which the peasant movement against the survivals of serfdom, a movement worthy of proletarian support, was likely to develop was still unknown.

The 1903 programme attempts to define concretely the nature and terms. of the “revision” about which the Social-Democrats in 1885 spoke only in a general way. That at tempt—in the main item of the programme, dealing with the cut-off lands—was based upon a tentative distinction between lands which serve for exploitation by means of serfdom and bondage (“lands ‘cut off’ in 1861”) and lands which are exploited in a capitalist manner. Such a tentative distinction was quite fallacious, because, in practice, the peasant mass movement could not be directed against particular categories of landlord estates, but only against landlordism in general. The programme of 1903 raised a question which had not yet been raised in 1885, namely, the question of the conflict of interests between the peasants and the landlords at the moment of the revision of agrarian relations, which all Social-Democrats regarded as inevitable. But the solution given to this question in the programme of 1903 is not correct, for, instead of contraposing the consistently peasant to the consistently Junker method of carrying out the bourgeois revolution, the programme artificially sets up something intermediate. Here, too, we must make allowance for the fact that the absence of an open mass movement at that time made it impossible to solve this question on the basis of precise data, and not on the basis of phrases, or innocent wishes, or petty-bourgeois utopias, as the Socialist-Revolutionaries did. No one could say in advance with certainty to what extent disintegration among the peasantry had progressed as a result of the partial transition of the landlords from the labour-service system to wage-labour. No one could estimate how large was the stratum of agricultural labourers which had arisen after the Reform of 1861 and to what extent their interests had become separated from those of the ruined peasant masses.

At all events, the fundamental mistake in the agrarian programme of 1903 was the absence of a clear idea of the issue around which the agrarian struggle could and should develop in the process of the bourgeois revolution in Russia—a clear idea of the types of capitalist agrarian evolution that were objectively possible as the result of the victory of one or other of the social forces engaged in this struggle.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 169-74.—Ed.

  8. Summary of the Economic Deductions of Chapter I | 2. The Present Agrarian Programme of the R.S.D.L.P.  

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