V. I.   Lenin

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


6. Why Had the Small Proprietors in Russia to Declare in Favour of Nationalisation?

Look from this angle at the agrarian evolution of Russia since the second half of the nineteenth century.

What was our “great” Peasant Reform, the “cutting off” of the peasants lands, the removal of the peasants to the “poor lands”, the enforcement of the new land regulations   by military force, shootings, arid floggings? It was the first act of mass violence against the peasantry in the interests of nascent capitalism in agriculture. It was the “clearing of estates” for capitalism by the landlords.

What is Stolypin’s agrarian legislation under Article 87, that encouragement of the kulaks to plunder the village communes, that breaking-up of the old agrarian relation ships for the benefit of a handful of well-to-do proprietors at the price of the rapid ruin of the masses? It was the second big step in mass violence against the peasantry in the interests of capitalism. It was the second “clearing of estates” for capitalism by the landlords.

And what does the Trudovik nationalisation of the land stand for in the Russian revolution?

It stands for “clearing of estatesfor capitalism by the peasantry.

The main source of all the well-meant foolishness of our municipalisers is precisely their failure to understand the economic basis of the bourgeois agrarian revolution in Russia in its two possible types, i.e., the landlord-bourgeois revolution, and the peasant-bourgeois revolution. Without a “clearing” of the medieval agrarian relationships and regulations, partly feudal and partly Asiatic, there can be no bourgeois-revolution in agriculture, because capital must—through economic necessity—create for itself new agrarian relationships, adapted to the new conditions of free commercial agriculture. That “clearing” of the medieval lumber in the sphere of agrarian relations in general, and of the old system of landownership first and foremost, must chiefly affect the landlords’ estates and peasant allotments, since both kinds of landed property are now, in their present form, adapted to the labour-service system, to the corvée heritage, to bondage, and not to a free capitalistically developing economy. Stolypin’s “clearing” undoubtedly follows the line of the progressive capitalist development of Russia; but it is adapted solely to the interests of the landlords: let the rich peasants pay the “Peasant” (read: Landlord) Bank an exorbitant price for the land; in return we shall give them freedom to plunder the village communes, to forcibly expropriate the masses, to round off their plots, to evict the poor peasants, to undermine   the very foundations of the life of entire villages, and, at any price, in spite of everything, setting at naught the life and husbandry of any number of “old established” allotment peasants, to set up new otrub[5] holdings, as the basis for new capitalist agriculture. There is unquestionable economic sense in that line; it faithfully expresses the real course of development as it should be under the rule of landlords who are being transformed into Junkers.

What is the other line, the peasant line? Either it is economically impossible—in which case all talk about the peasants confiscating the landlords’ estates, about the peasant agrarian revolution, etc., is either humbug or an empty dream. Or it is economically possible—provided one element of bourgeois society is victorious over the other element of bourgeois society—in which case we must form a clear idea of, and clearly show to the people, the concrete conditions for that development, the conditions under which the peasants can reshape the old agrarian relations on a new, capitalist basis.

Here there naturally arises the thought that this peasant line is precisely the division of the landlords estates among the peasants for their private property. Very well. But if this division is to correspond to the really new, capitalist conditions of agriculture, it must he carried out in a new way and not in the old way. The division must be based riot on the old allotment land distributed among the peasants a hundred years ago at the will of the landlords’ bailiffs or of the officials of Asiatic despotism, but on the needs of free, commercial agriculture. To meet the requirements of capitalism, the division must be a division among free farmers, not among “indolent” peasants, the great majority of whom run their economies by routine and tradition in conformity with patriarchal, not with capitalist conditions. A division according to the old standards, i.e., in conformity with the old forms of landownership based on peasant allotments, will not be the clearing of the old land ownership, but its perpetuation; not clearing the way for capitalism, but rather encumbering it with a mass of unadapted and unadaptable “indolents” who cannot become free farmers. To be progressive, the division must be based on a new sorting process among the peasant cultivators,   which will sift the farmers from the useless lumber. And this new sorting out is nationalisation of the land, i.e., the total abolition of private landownership, complete freedom to till the land, the unhampered transformation of the old peasantry into free farmers.

Picture to yourselves the present system of peasant f arming and the character of the old peasant landownership based on allotments. “Although united by the village commune into tiny administrative, fiscal, and land-holding associations, the peasants are split up by a mass of diverse divisions, into grades, into categories according to size of allotment, amount of payments, etc. Let us take, for example, the Zemstvo statistical returns for Saratov Gubernia; there the peasants are divided into the following grades: gift-land peasants, owners, full owners, state peasants, state peasants with communal holdings, state peasants with quarter holdings, state peasants that formerly belonged to landlords, crown-land peasants, state-land tenants and landless peasants, owners who were formerly landlords’ peasants, peasants whose farmsteads have been redeemed, owners who are former crown-land peasants, colonist free-holders, settlers, gift-land peasants who formerly belonged to landlords, owners who are former state peasants, manumitted,those who do not pay quit-rent, free tillers, temporarily-bound, former factory-bound peasants, etc.; further there are registered peasants, migrant, etc.[6] All these grades differ in the history of their agrarian relations, in size of allotments, amount of payments, etc., etc. And within the grades there are innumerable differences of a similar kind: sometimes even the peasants of one and the same village are divided into two quite distinct categories: ‘Mr. X’s former peasants’ and ‘Mrs. Y’s former peasants’. All this diversity was natural and necessary in the Middle Ages.”[1] If the new division of the landlords’ estates were carried out in conformity with this feudal system of landownership—whether by levelling to a uniform rate, i.e., equal division, or by fixing some kind of ratio between   the new and the old, or in some other way—not only would it not guarantee that the new plots would meet the requirements of capitalist agriculture, but, on the contrary, it would perpetuate the obvious lack of conformity. Such a division would impede social evolution, would tie the new to the old instead of liberating the new from the old. Real liberation can only be achieved by nationalising the land, thus creating the conditions for the rise of free farmers, for the development of free farming without connection with the old, without any relation to medieval landownership in the form of peasant allotments.

Capitalist evolution on the medieval peasant allotments proceeded in post-Reform Russia in such a way that the progressive economic elements freed themselves from the determining influence of the allotments. On the one hand, proletarians emerged, who rented out their allotments, abandoned them, or let the land go to waste. On the other hand, peasant owners emerged, who purchased or rented land, built up a new economy out of various fragments of the old, medieval system of landownership. The land that is now cultivated by a more or less well-to-do Russian peasant, i. e., by one who, given a favourable outcome of the revolution, is really capable of becoming a free farmer, consists partly of his own allotment, partly of an allotment he has rented from a neighbour who is a village-commune member, partly, perhaps, of land rented on long-term lease from the state, land leased annually from the landlord, land purchased from the bank, and so forth. Capitalism requires the abolition of all these distinctions of category; it requires that all economy on the land be organised exclusively in accordance with the new conditions and demands of the market, the demands of agriculture. Nationalisation of the land fulfils this requirement by the revolutionary peasant method; at one stroke it completely divests the people of all the rotten rags of all forms of medieval landownership. There must be neither landlord nor allotment ownership, there must be only the new, free landowner ship—such is the slogan of the radical peasant. And that slogan expresses in the most faithful, in the most consistent and categorical manner the interests of capitalism (which the radical peasant in his simplicity tries to ward off by   making the sign of the cross), and expresses the need for the utmost development of the land’s productive forces under commodity production.

One may judge from this how clever Pyotr Maslov is in thinking that the only difference between his agrarian programme and the peasant programme of the Trudoviks is the perpetuation of the old, medieval, allotment ownership! The peasant allotment land is a ghetto in which the peasantry is suffocating and from which it is straining to escape to free[2] land. Yet in spite of the peasants’ demands for free, i. e., nationalised, land, Pyotr Maslov seeks to perpetuate this ghetto, to perpetuate the old system; he would subject the best lands, confiscated from the land lords and converted to public use, to the conditions of the old system of landownership and the old methods of farming. In deeds, the Trudovik peasant is a most determined bourgeois revolutionary, but i u words he is a petty-bourgeois utopian who imagines that a “General Redistribution” is the starting-point of harmony and fraternity,[3] and not of capitalist farming. Pyotr Maslov is, in deeds, a reactionary who, fearing the Vendée of a future counter-revolution, seeks to consolidate the present anti-revolutionary elements of the old forms of landownership and to perpetuate the peasant ghetto, while in words lie thoughtlessly repeats mechanically learnt phrases about bourgeois progress. What the real conditions are for real free-bourgeois progress and not for the Stolypin-bourgeois progress of Russian agriculture, Maslov and Co. absolutely fail to understand.

The difference between the vulgar Marxism of Pyotr Maslov and the methods of research that Marx really used   can be seen most clearly in the latter’s attitude towards the petty-bourgeois utopias of the Narodniks (including the Socialist-Revolutionaries). In 1846, Marx ruthlessly exposed the petty-bourgeois character of the American Socialist-Revolutionary Hermann Kriege, who proposed a veritable General Redistribution for America. and called it “communism”. Marx’s dialectical and revolutionary criticism swept away the husks of petty-bourgeois doctrine and picked out the sound kernel of the “attacks on landed property” and of the “Anti-Rent movement”. Our vulgar Marxists, however, in criticising “equalised redistribution”, “socialisation of the land”, and “equal right to the land”, confine themselves to repudiating the doctrine, and thus reveal their own obtuse doctrinairism, which prevents them from seeing the vital life of the peasant revolution beneath the lifeless doctrine of Narodnik theory. Maslov and the Mensheviks have carried this obtuse doctrinairism—ex pressed in our “municipalisation” programme,, which perpetuates the most backward arid medieval form of land ownership—to such lengths that in the Second Duma the following truly disgraceful things could be uttered in the name of the Social-Democratic Party: ...“While on the question of the method of land alienation we [Social-Democrats] stand much nearer to these [Narodnik] groups than to the People’s Freedom group, on the question of the forms of land tenure we stand farther away from them” (47th sitting, May 26, 1907, p. 1230 of Stenographic Record).

Indeed, in the peasant agrarian revolution the Mensheviks stand farther away from revolutionary peasant nationalisation, and closer to liberal-landlord preservation of allotment (and not only allotment) ownership. The preservation of allotment ownership is the preservation of downtroddenness, backwardness, and bondage. It is natural for a liberal landlord, who dreams of redemption payments, to stand up for allotment ownership[4] ... with the preservation   of a goodly share of landlord ownership! But the Social-Democrat, led astray by the “municipalisers”, does not understand that the sound of words vanishes but the deed remains. The sound of the words about equality, socialisation, etc., will. vanish, because there cannot be equalisation under commodity production. But the deed will remain, i. e., the greatest break with the feudal past that can possibly be achieved under capitalism, the break with medieval allotment ownership and with all routine and tradition. When people say “nothing will come of equalised redistribution”, the Marxist ought to understand that this “nothing” relates exclusively to the socialist aims, exclusively to the fact that this is not going to abolish capitalism. But from attempts to bring about such a redistribution, even from the very idea of such a redistribution, very much will come that will be of advantage to the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

For that revolution may take place either with the predominance of the landlords over the peasants—and that requires the preservation of the old form of ownership and the Stolypin reform of it exclusively by the power of the ruble; or it will take place as a result of the victory of the peasantry over the landlords—and that, in view of the objective conditions of capitalist economy, is impossible without the abolition of all forms of medieval landownership, both landlord and peasant. The choice is between the Stolypin agrarian reform and peasant revolutionary nationalisation. Only these solutions are economically real. Anything intermediate, from Menshevik municipalisation to Cadet redemption payments, is petty-bourgeois narrow-mindedness, a stupid distortion of theory, a poor invention.



[1] The Development of Capitalism, Chapters V, IX, “Some Remarks on the Pre-Capitalist Economy of Our Countryside”. (See present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 381-82.—Ed.) —Lenin

[2] The “Socialist-Revolutionary” Mr. Mushenko, the most consistent exponent of the views of his party in the Second Duma, bluntly declared: “We raise the banner of the liberation of the land” (47th sitting, May 26, 1907, p. 1174), One must be blind to fail to perceive not only the essential capitalist nature of this supposedly “socialist” banner (Pyotr Maslov sees this too), hut also the progressive economic nature of such an agrarian revolution compared with the Stolypin-Cadet revolution (this Pyotr Maslov does not see). —Lenin

[3] Cf. the naive expression of this bourgeois-revolutionary point of view in the speech of the “Popular Socialist” Volk-Karachevsky about “equality, fraternity, and liberty”. (Second Duma, 16th sitting, March 26, 1907, pp. 1077-80.) —Lenin

[4] Incidentally, the Mensheviks (including Comrade Tsereteli, whose speech I have quoted) are deeply mistaken in believing that the Cadets are at all consistent in their defence of free peasant owner ship. They are not. Mr. Kutler, on behalf of the Cadet Party, spoke   in the Second Duma in favour of ownership (as distinct from the Cadet Bill on state land reserve introduced in the First Duma), but at the same time he added: “The Party proposes only [!] to limit their [the peasants’] right to alienate, and right to mortgage, i. e., to prevent the selling and buying of land on a large scale in future” (12th sitting, March 19, 1907, p. 740 of Stenographic Record). That is the archreactionary programme of a bureaucrat disguised as a liberal. —Lenin


[5] Otrub (farmstead)—land allotted to peasants, who, under a law is sued by the tsarist Minister Stolypin in 1906, were allowed to with draw from the village communes. The purpose of this law was to create a mainstay for the autocracy in the countryside in the shape of a kulak class.

[6] The peasants in Russia, as a class of feudal society, were divided into three major categories: 1) privately owned (landlords’) peasants,   2) state peasants, and 3) crown-land peasants (belonging to the tsar’s family). Each of these categories, in turn, was divided into grades and special groups, which differed from one another in origin, forms of land ownership and land tenure, legal and agrarian status, etc. The Peasant Reform of 1861, carried out from above by the tsarist government in the interests of the, feudal landlords, kept this diversity of grades intact right up to 191 7.

Gilt-land peasants—former serfs, chiefly of the southern and south-eastern black-earth gubernias, who, at the time of the abolition of serfdom, received from their landlords gift allotments without having to pay compensation. Under the “Regulations” of the Peasant Reform of 1861, the landlord had the right, “by voluntary agreement” with the peasant, to make him a “gift” of a quarter of the “top” or “statutory” allotment due to the peasant (including the cottage plot) on the understanding that all the rest of peasant’s land became the property of the landlord. Gift allotment, which strikingly illustrated the predatory nature of the 1861 Reform, was known among the people as “quarter”, “orphan”, “cat’s”, or “Gagarin” allotment (the latter from the name of Prince P. P. Gagarin, who put forward a draft of the corresponding clauses to the local regulations governing land endowment of the peasants in the Great Russian and Ukrainian gubernias).

There were numerous gift-land peasants in such land-poor blackearth gubernias as Voronezh, Kharkov, Poltava, and Tambov, where the market price of land seized by the landlords was very high. Many peasants received gift allotments in the south-eastern and southern black-earth gubernias of Orenburg, Ufa, Saratov, Ekaterinoslav, and Samara, where rentals were much lower than the quit-rents due to the landlord, under the “Regulations of February 19”. By the beginning of the twentieth century, as a result of the growth of the population and the reallotments which this involved, the gift-landers lost practically all their allotments and formed the bulk of the land-poor peasants,

Temporarily-bound peasants—former landlords’ peasants who, after the abolition of serfdom in 1861, were obliged to perform various services for the landlords (corvée service or quit-rent payment) in return for the use of allotments. This “temporarily-bound status” continued until the peasants, by agreement with the landlords, had purchased their allotments by redemption payments. The landlords were obliged to accept redemption payments which became obligatory only after the Ukase of 1881, by which the “obligatory relation” between the peasants and the landlords had to cease as from January 1, 1883.

Owners—former landlords’ peasants who had redeemed their allotments under the “Regulations of February 19, 1861” and thus ceased to be temporarily bound.

Full owners—former landlords’ peasants who had redeemed their allotments before the specified date and had the right to own   the land as private property. The full owners were comparatively few and constituted the most well-to-do element in the countryside.

State peasants—a category of peasants who tilled state lands and who, in addition to the poll-tax, paid feudal quit-rent to the state or the leaseholder of state property. They also performed numerous services (road repairs, billeting of soldiers, stage-horse posting, etc.); Under Peter I this category included odnodvortsi, chernososhniye peasants, half-croppers, Siberian ploughmen of the Northern maritime country, and peoples of the Volga and Ural regions (Tatars, Chuvashes, Mordovians, Udmurts, and Komi). Later other categories were added—“economy” peasants (serfs who passed to the state from the secularised church estates), state peasants of the western territories and Transcaucasia, Ukrainian Cossacks, and others. The forms of land tenure and land ownership among the state peas ants were extremely varied, and this condition continued even after the Peasant Reform.

State peasants with communal holdings had no right to own land as private property; they used arable and other lands belonging to the village commune.

State peasants with quarter holdings—descendants of former servicemen in the lower ranks (children of boyars, Cossacks, the streltsi, dragoons, soldiers, etc.) who guarded the southern and south-eastern borderlands of the State of Muscovy. The Tsar of Muscovy reward ed their services with an endowment of a quarter lot (half a dessiatin) and they settled in single households (hence their name odnodvortsi). Communal landownership arose among them in addition to their quarter holdings.

These odnodvortsi, being freemen, for a long time held an intermediate position between the nobles and peasants, and had the right to acquire serfs. Under Peter I they were turned into state peasants, and their land became the property of the state. Actually, however, the state peasants with quarter holdings disposed of their lands as their own private property; in this they differed from the state peasants with communal in s, who had no right to buy, sell, or bequeath their land.

State peasants who formerly belonged to landlords—a category of state peasants, acquired by the state from private owners or donated to the state, etc. Although regarded as state peasants they enjoyed fewer rights; they were given, equal rights in 1859 on the eve of the 1861 Reform, but certain distinctions remained.

Crown-land peasants—a category of peasants who tilled the crown lands. Besides the poll-tax, they paid feudal quit-rent, performed various services and were subjected to exactions in kind, all of which went for the maintenance of members of the tsarist household. When the crown lands took shape in 1797 the status of the peasants living on these estates was defined as something between state and landlords’ peasants. The abolition of serfdom was first applied to the crown-land peasants in 1858, but did not take full effect until 1863.   These peasants received allotments as their private property subject to redemption payments over a period of 49 years. They were provided with land slightly better than the landlords’ peasants, but worse than the state peasants.

Free tillers—the category of peasants freed from serfdom under the law of February 20,1803. This law permitted the landlords to decide the terms on which they gave their peasants freedom with land.

Registered peasants—a category of state peasants attached to state-owned and private manufactories for performing auxiliary jobs (wood chopping, coal handling, ore breaking, haulage, etc). This practice of attachment assumed wide dimensions in the Urals, Olonets gubernia, and other places in the early eighteenth century. Beginning with the early nineteenth century the registered peasants were gradually freed from factory jobs. They won complete freedom as a result of the Peasant Reform of 1861.

  5. Medieval Landownership and the Bourgeois Revolution | 7. The Peasants and the Narodniks on the Nationalisation of Allotment Land  

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