V. I.   Lenin

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


4. The Agrarian Programme of the Peasantry

We shall try to analyse the question (as to why all the political groups which reflect the interests and hopes of the small proprietors should have spoken in favour of nationalisation) in regard to which P. Maslov flounders so helplessly.

First of all, let us see to what extent the Land Bill of the 104, i. e., of the Trudoviks in the First and Second Dumas, really expresses the demands of the peasantry of the whole of Russia. That it does is borne out by the nature of the representation in both Dumas, as well as by the nature of the political, struggle on the agrarian question which developed in the “parliamentary” arena among the spokes men of the different classes. The idea of landownership in general, and of peasant ownership in particular, far from being pushed into the background in the Duma, was, on the contrary, constantly brought to the fore by certain parties. The idea was supported by the government, in the shape of Stishinsky. Gurko, and all the ministers, as well as all the official press, addressing especially the peasant deputies. The political parties of the Right, too, beginning with the “famous” Svyatopolk-Mirsky in the Second Duma,   kept dinning into the peasants’ ears about the blessings of peasant proprietorship. The actual alignment of forces on this question has been depicted by such a wealth of data that there can be no doubt as to its correctness (from the standpoint of class interests). The Cadet Party in the First Duma, when the liberals regarded the revolutionary people as a force and tried to woo them, was also swept along by the general current in the direction of land nationalisation. As is known, the Cadet Land Bill introduced in the First Duma contained a clause about a “state land reserve” to include all alienated land and from which land would be granted on long-term leases. Of course, the Cadets in the First Duma did not put that demand forward on any grounds of principle—it would be ridiculous to speak of the Cadet Party having principles. No. That demand of the liberals sprang up as a feeble echo of the demands of the peasant masses. Already in the First Duma the peasant deputies at once began to form a separate political group, and the Land Bill of the “104” served as the chief and basic platform of the whole of the Russian peasantry, which came forward as a conscious social force. The speeches of the peasant deputies in the First and Second Dumas and the articles in the Trudovik papers (Izvestia Krestyanskikh Deputatov, Trudovaya Rossiya) showed that the Bill of the 104 faithfully expressed the interests arid hopes of the peas ants. That Bill must, therefore, be dealt with in somewhat greater detail.

It is interesting, by the way, to look at the composition of the group of deputies who signed the Bill. In the First Duma it was. signed by 70 Trudoviks, 17 non-party deputies, 8 peasants who supplied no information as to their party affiliation, 5 Cadets,[1] 3 Social-Democrats,[2] and 1 Lithuanian Autonomist. In the Second Duma the Bill of the “104” had 99 signatures, and after deducting duplicates, 91 signatures, namely, 79 Trudoviks, 4 Popular Socialists, 2 Socialist-Revolutionaries, 2 deputies from the Cossack   group, 2 non-party deputies, 1 deputy more to the left than the Cadets (Peterson), and 1 Cadet (Odnokozov, a Peasant). There was a preponderance of peasants among the signatories (no fewer than 54 out of 91 in the Second Duma, and no fewer than 52 out of 104 in the First). It is interesting that P. Maslov’s special expectations regarding the home stead peasants (referred to above[3] ) who; he said, could not agree to nationalisation, were also completely defeated by the attitude of the peasant deputies in both Dumas. For instance, in Podolsk Gubernia nearly all the. peasants are homestead peasants (in 1905 there were 457,134 homestead peasants and only 1,630 members of village communes); nevertheless, 13 Podolsk deputies (mainly peasant farmers) signed the Land Bill of the “104” in the First Duma, and 10 in the Second Duma! Among other gubernias with homestead landownership we will mention Vilna, Kovno, Kiev, Poltava, Bessarabia, and Volhynia, deputies from which signed the Land Bill of the “104”. The distinction between village commune members and homestead peas ants as regards land nationalisation may appear important and material only to those who share Narodnik prejudices and those prejudices, by the way, were dealt a hard blow when the peasant deputies of the whole of Russia first came forward with a land programme. As a matter of fact, the demand for the nationalisation of the land is called forth not by any specific form of landownership, not by the “communal habits and instincts” of the peasants, but by the general conditions of the whole system of small peasant landownership (both communal and homestead) which is crushed by the feudal latifundia.

Among the deputies in the First and Second Dumas who sponsored the nationalisation Bill of the 104 we see representatives from all parts of Russia, not only from the central agricultural and the industrial non-black-earth gubernias, not only from the northern (Arkhangelsk and Vologda— in the Second Duma), eastern and southern borderlands (Astrakhan, Bessarabia, Don, Ekaterinoslav, Kuban, Taurida, and Stavropol gubernias and regions), but also from the gubernias of Little Russia, the South-west, North-west,   Poland (Suvalki) and Siberia (Tobolsk). Obviously, the plight of the small peasant under the oppression of feudal landlordism, which is most forcefully and clearly demonstrated in the purely Russian agricultural centre, is felt throughout Russia, and causes the small farmers everywhere to support the struggle for the nationalisation of the land.

The nature of that struggle bears all the earmarks of petty-bourgeois individualism. In this respect special stress must be laid on the fact, all too frequently ignored in our socialist press, that the greatest blow to the “socialism” of the Socialist-Revolutionaries was struck by the very first entry of the peasants into the open, all-Russian political arena with an independent land programme. The Socialist-Revolutionary Land Socialisation Bill (the Bill of the “33” in the First Duma) was supported by a minority of progressive peasant deputies. The great majority were found on the side of the Land Bill of the 104, drafted by the Popular Socialists, whose programme the Socialist-Revolutionaries themselves describe as individualistic.

For instance, in the Socialist-Revolutionary Collection of Articles (published by Nasha Mysl, St. Petersburg, 1907, No. 1) we find an article by P. Vikhlyaev entitled “The Popular Socialist Party and the Agrarian Question”. The writer criticises the Popular Socialist Peshekhonov, and quotes the latter’s statement that “the Bill of the 104 reflected our [the P.S.1 standpoint on the way in which the land may be taken” (p. 81 of the Collection). The Social ist-Revolutionaries declare bluntly that the Bill of the 104 “leads to the negation of the root principle of communal land tenure”—“in the same way” (sic!) as Stolypin’s agrarian legislation, the law of November 9, 1906, does. (Ibid., p. 86; we shall show presently how the Socialist-Revolutionaries were prevented by their own prejudices from appraising the real economic difference between the two ways, i. e., the Stolypin way and the Trudovik way.) The Socialist-Revolutionaries regard Peshekhonov’s programmatic views as “the manifestation of selfish individualism” (p. 89), “the pollution of the wide ideological stream with the mud of individualism” (p. 91), and “the encouragement of individualistic and selfish tendencies among the masses of the people” (ibid., p. 93).

All this is true. But the Socialist-Revolutionaries are wrong in believing that “strong” words can obscure the fact that the crux of the matter is not the opportunism of Peshekhonov and Co., but the individualism of the small farmer. The point is not that the Peshekhonovs are polluting the ideological stream of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, but that the majority of the progressive peasant deputies have revealed the real economic content of Narodism, the real aspirations of the small farmers. What the Land Bills of the 104 in the First and Second Dumas[4] revealed was the bankruptcy of the Socialist-Revolutionaries in face of.the representatives of the broad, really all-Russian, peasant masses.

While declaring in favour of nationalisation of the land, the Trudoviks very clearly reveal in their Bill the “selfish and individualistic” aspirations of the small farmers. They propose to leave the allotments and the small private hold ings in the possession of their present owners (Clause 3 of the Land Bill of the 104), provided legislative measures are taken to ensure that they “gradually become the property of the whole nation”. Translated into the language of real economic relations, it means just this: we take as our starting-point the interests of the real owners, of the real, not the nominal, tillers of the soil, but we want their economic activity to develop quite, freely on nationalised[5]   land. Clause 9 of the Bill, which states that “priority is to be given to the local population before outsiders, and to the agricultural population before the non-agricultural”, shows once more that the interests of the small proprietors come first with the Trudoviks. An “equal right to the land” is a mere phrase; state loans and grants “to persons without sufficient means to acquire the necessary agricultural equipment” (Clause 15 of the Land Bill of the 104) are pious wishes; these who will really and inevitably gain will be the ones who can become strong proprietors now, who can be transformed from enslaved tillers of the soil into free and well-to-do farmers. Of course, it is in the interests of the proletariat to support such measures as will most of all help agriculture in Russia to pass from the hands of feudal landlords and enslaved tillers of the soil, who are crushed by ignorance, poverty, and routine, into the hands of free farmers. And the Bill of the “104” is nothing but a platform of the struggle to turn the well-to-do section of the enslaved peasantry into free farmers.


[1] G. Zubchenko, T. Volkov, M. Gerasimov, all peasants; S. Lozhkin, a physician, and Afanasyev, a priest. —Lenin

[2] Antonov, a worker from Perm Gubernia, Yershov, a worker from Kazan Gubernia, and V. Churyukov, a worker from Moscow Gubernia. —Lenin

[3] See pp. 261-62 of this volume.—Ed.

[4] From the Stenographic Records of the Second Duma it appears that the Socialist-Revolutionary Mushenko introduced a Land Bill signed by 105 deputies. Unfortunately, I have not been able to obtain a copy of that Bill. Among the Duma materials I had at my disposal there was only the Trudovik Bill of the 104 that was introduced in the Second Duma too. The existence. of the Socialist-Revolutionary Bill of the 105 in addition to the two Trudovik Bills of the 104 (introduced in the First and Second Dumas) merely indicates, at best, that certain peasants wavered between the Popular Socialists and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, but it does not disprove what I have said above. —Lenin

[5] Incidentally, A. Finn-Yenotayevsky, in disputing the earnestness and consciousness of the nationalisation aspirations of the Peas ant Union and of the peasantry in general, quoted the statement of V. Groman that the delegates to the peasant’s congresses “do not anticipate having to make any payment for the land”, and that they have no idea that differential rent must revert to society as a whole. (A. Finn, The Agrarian Question and Social-Democracy, p. 69.). Clauses 7 and 14 of the Bill of the 104 prove that this view is erroneous. In   those clauses provision is made by the Trudoviks both for payment for the land (a land tax rising in accordance with the size of the allotment) and for the reversion of differential rent to the state (“limiting the right to appropriate the increase in the value” of the land, “insofar as it is not due to their, the owners’, labour and capital—[N. B.! the Trudoviks are not opposed to capital!]—but to social conditions”). It is true that in regard to urban and other lands, Clause 7 provides that: “until such property passes to the whole nation” the rights of occupiers, etc., shall be limited. But that is probably a slip of the pen, for otherwise it would mean that the Trudoviks take the rent from the proprietors and return it to the occupiers, the tenants of nationalised land! —Lenin

  3. The Chief Argument of the Municipalisers Tested by Events | 5. Medieval Landownership and the Bourgeois Revolution  

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