V. I.   Lenin

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


2. The Present Agrarian Programme of the R.S.D.L.P.

The present agrarian programme of the Social-Democratic Party, which was adopted at the Stockholm Congress, marks a great step forward in comparison with the preceding one in one important respect, viz., by recognising confiscation of the landlords’[1] estates, the Social-Democratic Party resolutely took the path of recognising the peasant agrarian revolution. The words in the programme: “... supporting the revolutionary actions of the peasantry, including the confiscation of the landlords’ estates”, quite definitely express that idea. In the course of the discussion at the Stockholm Congress, one of the reporters, Plekhanov, who together with John[3] sponsored that programme, spoke frankly about the necessity of ceasing to be afraid of a “peasant agrarian revolution”. (See Plekhanov’s report. Minutes of the Stockholm Congress, Moscow, 1907, p. 42.)

One would have thought that this admission—that our bourgeois revolution in the sphere of agrarian relations must be regarded as a “peasant agrarian revolution”—would have put an end to the major differences of opinion among Social-Democrats on the question of the agrarian programme. Actually, however, differences arose over the question whether Social-Democrats should support division of the landlords’ estates among the peasants. as private property, or municipalisation of the landlords’ estates, or nationalisation of all the land. First of all, therefore, we must definitely establish the fact, all too often forgotten by Social-Democrats, that these questions can be correctly answered   only from the standpoint of the peasant agrarian revolution in Russia. Of course, it is not a question of Social-Democracy refraining from independently defining the interests of the proletariat, as a separate class, in this peas ant revolution. No. It is a question of having a clear idea of the character and significance of the peasant agrarian revolution as. one of the forms of the bourgeois revolution in general. We cannot “invent” any particular reform “project”. We must study the objective conditions of the peasant agrarian revolution in capitalistically developing Russia; on the basis of this objective analysis, we must separate the erroneous ideology of the different classes from the real content of the economic, changes, and determine what, on the basis of those real economic changes, is required for the development of the productive forces and for the proletarian class struggle.

The present agrarian programme of the R.S.D.L.P. recognises (in a special form) the conversion of the confiscated lands into public property (nationalisation of forests, waters and lands for colonisation, and municipalisation of privately owned lands), at any rate in the event of the “victorious development of the revolution”. In the event of “unfavourable conditions”, the principle of dividing the landlords’ lands among the peasants as private property is adopted. In all cases, the property rights of the peasants and small landowners generally to their present holdings are recognised. Consequently, the programme provides for a dual system of land tenure in a renovated bourgeois Russia: private ownership of land, and (at least in the event of the victorious development of the revolution) public, ownership in the form of municipalisation anti nationalisation.

How did the authors of the programme account for this duality? First of all, and above all, by. the interests and demands of the peasantry, by the fear of drifting apart from the peasantry, the fear of setting the peasantry against the proletariat and against the revolution. By advancing such an argument the authors and the supporters of the programme took the stand of recognising the peasant agrarian revolution, the stand of proletarian support for definite peasant demands. And that argument was advanced by the most influential supporters of the programme, headed   by Comrade John! To become convinced of this, it is sufficient to glance at the Minutes of the Stockholm Congress.

That argument was directly and categorically advanced by Comrade John in his report. “If the revolution,” he.said, “were to lead to an attempt to nationalise the peasants’ allotments, or to nationalise the lands confiscated from the landlords, as Comrade. Lenin suggests, such a measure would lead to a counter-revolutionary movement, not only in the borderlands, but also in the central part of the country. We would have not one Vendée,[4] but a general revolt of the peasantry against attempts by the state to interfere with the peasants’ own [John’s italics] allotments, against attempts to nationalise the latter.” (Minutes of the Stockholm Congress, p. 40.)

That seems clear, does it not? The nationalisation of the peasants’ own lands would lead to a general revolt of the peasantry! That is the reason why Comrade X’s original municipalisation scheme, which had proposed to transfer to the Zemstvos not only the private lands, but “if possible” all the lands (quoted by me in the pamphlet Revision of the Agrarian Programme of the Workers’ Party[2] ), was replaced by Maslov’s municipalisation scheme, which proposed to exempt the peasants’ lands. Indeed, how could they ignore the fact, discovered after 1903, about the inevitable peasant revolt against attempts at complete nationalisation? How could they refrain from adopting the stand point of another noted Menshevik, Kostrov,[5] who exclaimed in Stockholm:

To go to the peasants with it [nationalisation] means antagonising them. The peasant movement will go on apart from or against us, and we shall find ourselves thrown over board in the revolution. Nationalisation deprives Social-Democracy of its strength, isolates it from the peasantry and thus also deprives the revolution of its strength” (p. 88).

One cannot deny the force of that argument. To try to nationalise the peasants’ own land against their wishes in a peasant agrarian revolution! Since the Stockholm Congress believed John and Kostrov, it is not surprising that it rejected that idea.

But was not the Congress wrong in believing them?

In view of the importance of the question of an all-Russian Vendée against nationalisation, a brief reference to history will not be out of place.


[1] The text of the programme (Point 4) speaks of privately owned lands. The resolution appended to the programme (the second part of the agrarian programme) speaks of confiscation of the landlords’ estates. —Lenin

[2] See present edition, Vol. 10, pp, 165-95.—Ed.

[3] John—the Menshevik P. P. Maslov.

[4] Vendáe—a department in Western France where, during the French bourgeois revolution in the late eighteenth century, a counter-revolutionary   insurrection of the ignorant and reactionary peasantry took place, directed against the Republic. The insurrection was staged by the Catholic clergy, the nobles, and royalist émigrés, and supported by England.

Vendée became a synonym for reactionary revolts and hot-beds of counter-revolution.

[5] Kostrov—Noah Jordania, leader of the Caucasian Mensheviks.

  1. What Was the Mistake in the Previous Agrarian Programmes of Russian Social-Democracy? | 3. The Chief Argument of the Municipalisers Tested by Events  

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