V. I.   Lenin

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


3. The Chief Argument of the Municipalisers Tested by Events

The above-quoted categorical assertions of John and Kostrov were made in April 1906, i. e., on the eve of the First Duma. I argued (see my pamphlet Revision, etc.[1] ) that the peasantry was in favour of nationalisation, but I was told that the decisions of the congresses of the Peasant Union[4] did not prove anything, that they were in spired by the ideologists of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, that the masses of the peasants would never support such demands.

Since then this question has been documentarily answered by the First, and Second Dumas. The representatives of the peasantry from all parts of Russia spoke, in the First and particularly in the. Second Duma. No one, with the possible exception of the publicists of Rossiya[5] and Novoye Vremya, could deny that the political and economic demands of the peasant masses found expression in both those Dumas. One would have thought that the idea of nationalising the peasants’ lands should be finally buried now, after the independent declarations made by the peasant deputies in the presence of the other parties. One would have thought that the supporters of John and Kostrov could easily have got the peasant deputies to raise an outcry in the Duma against nationalisation. One would have thought that Social-Democracy, led by the Mensheviks, should really have “isolated” from the revolution the advocates of nationalisation who are rousing an all-Russian counter-revolutionary Vendée.

As a matter of fact, something different happened. In the First Duma it was Stishinsky and Gurko who showed. concern for the peasants’ own (John’s italics) lands. In both Dumas it was the extreme Right-wingers who, jointly   with the spokesmen of the government, defended private ownership of the land and were opposed to any form of public ownership of land, whether by municipalisation, nationalisation, or socialisation. In both Dumas it was the peasant deputies from all parts of Russia who declared for nationalisation.

Comrade Maslov wrote in 1905: “Nationalisation of the land as a means of solving [?] the agrarian problem in Russia at the present time cannot be accepted, first of all [note this “first of all”] because it is hopelessly utopian. Nationalisation of the land presupposes the transfer of all the land to the state. But will the peasants, and particularly the homestead. peasants, voluntarily agree to transfer their land to anyone?” (P. Maslov, A Critique of Agrarian Programmes, Moscow, 1905, p. 20.)

Thus, in 1905, nationalisation was “first of all” hopelessly utopian because the peasants would not agree to it.

In 1907, in March, the same Maslov wrote: “All the Narodnik groups [the Trudoviks, the Popular Socialists, and the Socialist-Revolutionaries] are advocating nationalisation of the land in one form or another.” (Obrazovaniye, 1907, No. 3, p. 100.)

There’s your new Vendée! There’s your all-Russian revolt of the peasants against nationalisation!

But instead of pondering over the ridiculous position in which the people who spoke and wrote about a peasant Vendée against nationalisation now find themselves, in the light of the experience of the two Dumas, instead of trying to explain the mistake which he made in 1905, P. Maslov behaved like Ivan the Forgetful. He preferred to forget the words I have just quoted, and the speeches at the Stockholm Congress! Moreover, with the same light-heartedness with which he, in 1905, asserted that the peasants would not agree, he now asserts the opposite. Listen:

...“The Narodniks, reflecting the interests and hopes of the small proprietors [listen to this!], had to declare in favour of nationalisation” (ibid.).

There you have a sample of the scientific scrupulousness of our municipalisers! In solving a difficult problem before the elected representatives of the peasants from the whole of Russia made their political declarations, the   municipalisers, on behalf of the small proprietors, asserted one thing, and after those declarations in the two Dumas they assert, on behalf of the very same “small proprietors”, the very opposite.

It should be mentioned, as a particular curiosity, that Maslov explains this tendency towards nationalisation. on the part of the Russian peasants as being due not to any special conditions of the peasant agrarian revolution, but to the general characteristics of the small proprietor in capitalist society. That is incredible, but it is a fact:

The small proprietor,” Maslov announces, “is most of all afraid of the competition and domination of the big proprietor, of the domination of capital”.... You are mixing things up, Mr. Maslov. To put the big (feudal) landowner on a par with the owner of capital means repeating the prejudices of the petty bourgeoisie. The peasant is fighting so energetically against the feudal latifundia precisely because at the present historical moment he represents the free, capitalist evolution of agriculture.

... “Being unable to contend with capital in the economic field, the small proprietor puts his faith in government authority, which should come to the aid of the small proprietor against the big one.... The reason the Russian peasant has hoped for centuries to be protected from the landlords and government officials by the central authority, the reason Napoleon in France, relying for support on the peasants, was able to crush the Republic, was the hope the peasants entertained of receiving aid from the central authority.” (Obrazovaniye, p. 100.)

How magnificently Pyotr Maslov argues! In the first place, what has nationalisation of the land to do with the fact that at the present historical moment the Russian peasant is displaying the same characteristics as the French peasant under. Napoleon? The French peasant under Napoleon was not and could not be in favour of nationalisation. You are rather incoherent, Mr. Maslov!

Secondly, what has the struggle against capital to do with it? We are comparing peasant ownership of land with the nationalisation of all the land, including that of the peasants. The French peasant under Napoleon clung fanatically to the small property as a barrier against capital, but the Russian peasant.... Once again, my dear fellow,   where is the connection between the beginning and the end of your argument?.

Thirdly, in speaking about the hopes placed in government authority, Maslov makes it appear that the peasants do not understand the harmfulness of bureaucracy, do not understand the importance of local self-government, where as he, the progressive Pyotr Maslov, does appreciate all this. This criticism of the Narodniks is much too simplified. A reference to the famous Land Bill (the Bill of the 104), which the Trudoviks introduced in the First and Second Dumas, will suffice to show the falsity of Maslov’s argument (or hint?). The facts show, on the contrary, that the principles of local self-government and of hostility towards a bureaucratic solution of the land problem are more clearly expressed in the Trudovik Bill than in the programme of the Social-Democrats written according to Maslov! In our programme we speak only about “democratic principles” in electing local bodies, whereas the Trudovik Bill (Clause 16) distinctly and directly provides for the election of local self-governing bodies on the basis of “universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot”. Moreover, the Bill provides for local land committees—which, as is known, the Social-Democrats support—to be elected in the same. way, and which are to organise the discussion on the land reform and make preparations for carrying it out (Clauses 17-20). The bureaucratic method of carrying out, the agrarian reform was advocated by the Cadets, and not by the Trudoviks, by the liberal bourgeoisie, and not by the peas ants. Why did Maslov have to distort these well-known facts?

Fourthly, in his remarkable “explanation” of why the small proprietors “had to declare in favour of nationalisation”, Maslov lays stress on the peasants’ hope of receiving, protection from the central authority. That is the point. of distinction between municipalisation and nationalisation: in the one case there are local authorities, in the other case, the central authority. That is Maslov’s pet idea, the economic and political implications of which we shall deal with in greater detail further on. Here we will point out that Maslov is dodging the question put to him by the history of our revolution, namely, why the peasants are   not afraid of the nationalisation of their own land. That is the crux of the question!

But that is not all. A particularly piquant feature of Maslov’s attempt to explain the class roots of the Trudovik policy of nationalisation as against municipalisation is the, following: Maslov conceals from his readers the fact that on the question of the actual disposal of the land the Narodniks were also in favour of local self-governing bodies! Maslov’s talk about the peasants placing their “hopes” in the central authority is mere intellectualist tittle-tattle about the peasants. Read Clause 16 of the Land Bill that the Trudoviks introduced in both Dumas. Here is the text of this clause:

The management of the national land fund must be entrusted to local self-governing bodies, elected by universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot, which shall act independently within the limits laid down. by the law.”

Compare this with the corresponding demand made in our programme: “...The R.S.D.L.P. demands: ...(4) the confiscation of privately owned lands, except small holdings, which shall be placed at the disposal of large local self-governing bodies (comprising urban and rural. districts, as per Point 3) to be elected on democratic principles”....

What is the difference here from the point of, view of the comparative rights of central and local authorities? In what way does “management” differ from “disposal”?

Why, in speaking about the attitude of the Trudoviks towards nationalisation, did Maslov have to conceal from his readers—and perhaps from himself too—the contents of this Clause 16? Because it completely shatters the whole of his absurd “municipalisation” theory.

Examine the arguments in favour of this municipalisation that Maslov advanced before the Stockholm Congress, read the Minutes of that Congress; you will find innumerable allusions to the impossibility of suppressing nationalities, of oppressing the borderlands, of ignoring the differences of local interests, etc., etc. Even prior to the Stockholm Congress, I had pointed out to Maslov (see Revision, etc., p. 18[2] ) that all arguments of this kind are a “sheer mis-   understanding” because our programme— I said— already recognised the right of self-determination of nationalities as well as wide local and regional self-government. Consequently, from that aspect, there was no need, nor was it possible, to devise any additional “guarantees” against excessive centralisation, bureaucracy, and regulation, be cause that would be either devoid of content or would be interpreted in an anti-proletarian, federalist spirit.

The Trudoviks have demonstrated to the municipalisers that I was right.

Maslov must admit now that all the groups that voice the interests and the point of view of the peasantry have declared in favour of nationalisation in a form that will ensure the rights and powers of the local self-governing bodies no less than in Maslov’s programme! The law defining the powers of the local self-governing bodies is to be passed by the central parliament. Maslov does not say that, but such ostrich-like tactics will be of no avail, be cause no other procedure is conceivable.

The words “placed at the disposal” introduce the utmost confusion. Nobody knows who are to be the owners[3] of the lands confiscated from the landlords! That being the case, the owner can only be the state. What does “disposal” consist of? What are to be its limits, forms, and conditions? That, too, will have to be determined by the central parliament. That is self-evident, and, moreover, in our Party’s programme special mention is shade of “forests of national importance” and of “lands available, for colonisation”. Obviously, only the central state authority is in a position to single out the “forests of national importance” from the general mass of forest land, and, the “lands available for colonisation” from the total land area.

In short, the Maslov programme, which, in a particularly distorted form, has now become the programme of our Party, is quite absurd in comparison with the Trudovik programme.   No wonder Maslov found it necessary, in talking about nationalisation, to drag in even the Napoleonic peasant in order to conceal from the public the absurd position we have put ourselves in before the representatives of bourgeois democracy by our muddled “municipalisation”!

The only difference between the two—a real essential difference—is the attitude towards the peasants’ allotment lands. Maslov singled these out only because he was afraid of a “Vend6e”. And it turned out that the peasant deputies who were sent to the First and Second Dumas laughed at the fears of the tail-ist Social-Democrats and declared in favour of the nationalisation of their own lands!

The municipalisers should now oppose the Trudovik peasants and urge them not to nationalise their lands. The irony of history has brought the arguments of Maslov, John, Kostrov, and Co. tumbling down upon their own heads.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 10, p. 172—Ed.

[2] See present edition, Vol. 10, p. 182,—Ed.

[3] At the Stockholm Congress the Mensheviks rejected an amendment to substitute for the words “placed at the disposal”, the words “made the private property” (Minutes, p. 152). Only in the resolution on tactics is it said, “in possession”, in the event of the “victorious development of the revolution”, but it does not define more precisely what that means. —Lenin

[4] The All-Russian Peasant Union— a revolutionary-democratic organisation founded in 1905. The programme and tactics of the Union were adopted at its first and second congresses held in Moscow in August and November 1905. The Peasant Union demanded political freedom and the immediate convocation of a constituent assembly, and adhered to the tactics of boycotting the First Duma. The Union’s agrarian programme called for the abolition of private ownership of the land, and the transfer of monastery, crown and state lands to the peasants without compensation. The Union, however, pursued a hall-hearted vacillating policy. While demanding the abolition of landlordism, it agreed to partial compensation for the landlords. From the very beginning of its activities the Union was persecuted by the police. It ceased to exist early in 1907.

[5] Rossiya (Russia)—a police-sponsored, Black-Hundred newspaper, published in St. Petersburg from 1905 to 1914. From 1906 it was the official organ of the Ministry of the Interior.

  2. The Present Agrarian Programme of the R.S.D.L.P. | 4. The Agrarian Programme of the Peasantry  

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