V. I.   Lenin

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


4. Is the Repudiation of Absolute Rent Connected with the Programme of Municipalisation?

Puffed up though Maslov may be with the importance of his remarkable discoveries in the sphere of political economic theory, he, evidently, has some doubts whether any such connection exists. At any rate, in the article quoted above (Obrazovaniye, No. 2, p. 120) he denies that there is any connection between municipalisation and the “fact” of diminishing returns. That is rather odd: the “law of diminishing returns” is connected with the repudiation of absolute. rent, is connected also with the fight against Narodism, but it is not connected with Maslov’s agrarian programme! The fallacy of this opinion that there is no connection between general agrarian theory and Maslov’s Russian agrarian programme can, however, be easily proved by direct means.

The repudiation of absolute rent is the repudiation of the economic significance of private land ownership under capitalism. Whoever claims that only differential rent exists, inevitably arrives at the conclusion that it makes not the slightest difference to the conditions of capitalist farming and of capitalist development whether the land belongs to the state or to private persons. In both cases, from the standpoint of the theory which repudiates absolute rent, only differential rent exists. Clearly, such a theory must lead to the repudiation of the significance of nationalisation as a measure which accelerates the development of capitalism, clears the path for it, etc. For such a view of nationalisation follows from the recognition of two forms of rent: the capitalist form, i. e., the form which cannot be eliminated under capitalism even on nationalised land (differential rent), and the non-capitalist form connected with monopoly, a form which capitalism does not need and which hinders the full development of capitalism (absolute rent).

That is why, proceeding from his “theory”, Maslov inevitably arrived at the conclusion that “it makes no difference whether it [ground rent] is called absolute or differential rent” (Obrazovaniye, No. 3, p. 103); that the only question is whether that rent is to be made over to the local or to the central authorities. But such a view is the result of theoretical ignorance. Quite apart from the question of whom the rent is paid to, and the political purposes for which it will be used, there is the far more fundamental question of the changes in the general conditions of capitalist farming and of capitalist development that are brought about by the abolition of private ownership of land.

Maslov has not even raised this purely economic question; it has not entered his mind, and it could not do so since he repudiates absolute rent. Hence the distorted one-sided, “politician’s” approach, as I might call it, which reduces the question of confiscating the landlords’ estates exclusively to that of who will receive the rent. Hence the distort ed dualism in the programme based on the anticipation of “the victorious development of the revolution” (the expression used in the resolution on tactics which was added to Maslov’s programme at the Stockholm Congress). The victorious development of the bourgeois revolution presupposes, first of all, fundamental economic changes that will really sweep away all the survivals of feudalism, and medieval monopolies. In municipalisation, however, we see a real agrarian bimetallism: a combination of the oldest, most antiquated and obsolete, medieval allotment owner ship with the absence of private landownership, i. e., with the most advanced, theoretically ideal system of agrarian relations in capitalist society. This agrarian bimetallism is a theoretical absurdity, an impossibility from the purely economic point of view. Here, the combination of private with public ownership of land is a purely mechanical combination “invented” by a man who sees no difference between the very system of capitalist farming under private landownership and without private landownership. The only question such a “theoretician” is concerned with is: how is the rent, “no matter what you call it, absolute or differential”, to be shuffled around?

Indeed; in a capitalist country it is impossible to leave half the land (138,000,000 dessiatins out of 280,000,000) in private hands. There are two alternatives. Either private landownership is really needed at a given stage of economic development, really corresponds to the fundamental interests of the capitalist farmer class—in which case it is inevitable everywhere as the basis of bourgeois society which has taken shape according to a given type.

Or private landownership is not essential for the given stage of capitalist development, does not follow inevitably from the interests of the farmer class, and even contradicts those interests—in which case the preservation of that obsolete form of ownership is impossible.

The preservation of monopoly in one half of the land area under cultivation, the creation of privileges for one category of small farmers, the perpetuation in a free capitalist society of the “pale of settlement”, which divides land owners from tenants of public land, is an absurdity inseparably bound up with the absurdity of Maslov’s economic theory.

Therefore, we must now proceed to examine the economic significance of nationalisation, which has been pushed into the background by Maslov and his supporters.[1]


[1] At Stockholm one of these was Plekhanov. By the irony of his tory, this supposedly stern guardian of orthodoxy failed to notice, or did not want to notice, Maslov’s distortion of Marx’s economic theory. —Lenin

  3. Is it Necessary to Refute Marx in Order to Refute the Narodniks? | 5. Criticism of Private Landownership from the Standpoint of the Development of Capitalism  

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