V. I.   Lenin

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


7. The Peasants and the Narodniks on the Nationalisation of Allotment Land

That the abolition of allotment ownership is a condition for the creation of free peasant farming in conformity with the new capitalist conditions is quite clearly realised by the peasants themselves. Mr. Groman, in his detailed and accurate description of the discussion at the peasant congresses,[1] cites the following remarkable opinion expressed by a peasant: A little further on (p. 20) Mr. Groman repeats this as the general opinion of the peasants.

They will get land in any case when it is distributed”! Is it not perfectly clear what economic necessity dictated this argument? The new distribution of all the land, both landlord and allotment land, cannot reduce the holdings of nine-tenths (or rather, ninety-nine hundredths) of the peasantry; there is nothing to fear from it. But the redistribution is necessary because it will enable the real, genuine farmers to arrange their land tenure in accordance with the new conditions, in accordance with the requirements of capitalism (the “dictates of the market” to individual producers), without submitting to the medieval relations which determined the size, location, and distribution of allotment land.

Mr. Peshekhonov, a practical and sober-minded “Popular Socialist” (read: Social-Cadet) who, as we have seen, has managed to adapt himself to the demands of the masses of small proprietors all over Russia, expresses this point at view even more definitely.

The allotment lands,” he writes, “the part of the territory most important from the standpoint of production, are permanently assigned to a certain social-estate, and what is worse, to small groups of that estate, to. separate households and villages. The result is that the peasantry, taken as a whole, cannot freely settle even within the area of the allotment land.... The population is not properly distributed to suit the requirements of the market [note this!].... The ban on the state lands must he lifted, allotment land must be freed from the fetters of property, the fences around the private estates must be removed. The land must be returned to the Russian people, who will then settle upon it in a manner that will suit their economic requirements.” (A. V. Peshekhonov, The Agrarian Problem in Connection with the Peasant Movement, St. Petersburg, 1906, pp. 83, 86, 88-89. Our italics.)

Is it not clear that the voice of this “Popular Socialist” is the voice of the free farmer who wants to stand up on his own feet? Is it not clear that it is really necessary for the farmer that the “allotment land” should be “freed from the fetters of property” in order that the population may distribute itself in a new way, in order that holdings may be redistributed in a manner to “suit the requirements of the market”, i. e., the requirements of capitalist agriculture? Mr. Peshekhonov, we repeat, is so sober-minded that he rejects any kind of socialisation, rejects any kind of adaptation to communal law—it is not for nothing that the Socialist-Revolutionaries curse him for an individualist!—he rejects any prohibition on hired labour on the peasant farm.

In view of this kind of striving of the peasantry for nationalisation, the reactionary nature of support for peasant allotment ownership becomes quite obvious. A. Finn, who in his pamphlet cites some of Mr. Peshekhonov’s arguments which we have quoted, criticises him as a Narodnik and tries to prove to him that the development of capitalism out of peasant farming, and within that system of farming, is inevitable (p. 14, et seq. in the pamphlet mentioned). That criticism is unsatisfactory because A. Finn has allowed the general question of the development of capitalism make him overlook the concrete question of the conditions for a freer development of capitalist agriculture on allotment land! A. Finn contents himself with. merely posing the question of capitalism in general, thus scoring an easy victory over Narodism, which was vanquished long ago.   But we are dealing with a more concrete[2] question, viz., the landlord versus the peasant way of “removing the fences” (Mr. Peshekhonov’s expression), of “clearing” the land for capitalism.

In winding up the debate on the agrarian question in the Second Duma, Mr. Mushenko, the official spokesman of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, revealed just as definitely as Mr. Peshekhonov the capitalist nature of the land nationalisation that the petty-bourgeois socialists choose to call “socialisation”, the establishment of “equal right to the land”, and so on.

The population will be properly distributed,” Mr. Mushenko said, “only when the land is unfenced, only when the fences imposed by the principle of private ownership of land are removed” (47th sitting, May 26, 1907, p. 1172 of Stenographic Record). Exactly! The “proper” distribution of the population is the very thing the market, capitalism, requires. But. the “proper” distribution of “proper” farmers is hindered by both landlord and allotment ownership.

One more observation on the statements made by delegates of the Peasant Union merits our attention. Mr. Groman writes in the above-mentioned pamphlet:

The notorious question of the ‘village commune’—that corner stone of the tenet;s of the old and new Narodism—was not raised at all and was tacitly rejected: the land must be placed at the disposal of individuals and associations, state the resolutions passed at both the First and Second Congresses” (p. 12).

Thus, the peasants have clearly and emphatically declared against the old village commune in favour of free associations and individual land tenure. That this was the real voice of the peasantry as a whole there can be no doubt, since there is not a hint at the village commune even in the Land Bill of the Trudovik Group (of the 104). Yet the village commune is an association for the ownership of allotment land!

Stolypin is forcibly abolishing the village commune for the benefit of a handful of rich persons. The peasantry wants to abolish it and replace it by free associations and tenure by “individuals” on the nationalised allotment land. But Maslov and Co., in the name of bourgeois progress, are challenging the fundamental requirement of this very progress and defending medieval landownership. God save us from that sort of “Marxism”!


[1] Material on the Peasant Question. (A report of the Delegates’ Congress of the All-Russian Peasant Union, November 6-10, 1905, with an introduction by V. Groman. Navy Mir Publishers, St. Petersburg, 1905, p. 12.) —Lenin

[2]What will this Peshekhonov labour economy lead to in the long run?” A. Finn asks, and answers quite rightly: “to capitalism” (p. 19 of his pamphlet). From that unquestionable truth, which It was certainly necessary to explain to a Narodnik, he should have taken a further step; he should have explained the specific forms of the manifestation of the demands of capitalism under the conditions of a peasant agrarian revolution. Instead, A. Finn took a step backward: “The question arises,” he writes, “why should we go back to the past; why should we go by some roundabout way of our own only, in the long run, to find ourselves back again on the road we are already travelling? That is useless labour, Mr. Peshekhonov!” (ibid.) No; that is not useless labour, and it does not bring us to capitalism “in the long run”; it is the straightest, freest, and quickest road to capitalism. A. Finn did not ponder over the comparative features of the Stolypin capitalist evolution of agriculture in Russia and a peasant-revolutionary capitalist evolution of agriculture in Russia. —Lenin

  6. Why Had the Small Proprietors in Russia to Declare in Favour of Nationalisation? | 8. The Mistake Made by M. Shanin and Other Advocates of Division  

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