V. I.   Lenin

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


6. The Nationalisation of the Land and Money Rent

An interesting economic argument against nationalisation was advanced by A. Finn, an advocate of division of the land. Both nationalisation and municipalisation, he says, mean transferring rent to a public body. The ques tion is: what kind of rent? Not capitalist rent, for “usually the peasants do not obtain rent in the capitalist sense from their land” (The Agrarian Question and Social-Democracy, p. 77, cf. p. 63), but pre-capitalist money rent.

By money rent Marx means the payment by the peasant to the landlord of the whole of the surplus product in the form of money. The original form of the peasant’s economic dependence upon the landlord under the pre-capitalist modes of production was labour rent (Arbeitsrente), i. e., corv6e; then came rent in the form of produce, or rent in kind, and finally came money rent. That rent, says A. Finn, “is the most widespread form in our country even today” (p. 63).

Undoubtedly, tenant farming based on servitude and bondage is extremely widespread in Russia, and, according to Marx’s theory, the payment which the peasant makes under such a system of tenancy is largely money rent. What power makes it possible to extort that rent from the peas antry? The power of the bourgeoisie and of developing capitalism? Not at all. It is the power of the feudal latifundia. Since the latter will be broken up—and that is the starting-point and fundamental condition of the peasant agrarian revolution—there is no reason to speak of “money rent” in the pre-capitalist sense. hence, the only signifi cance of Finn’s argument is that he emphasises once more the absurdity of separating the peasant allotment land from the rest of the land in the event of an agrarian revolution; since allotment lands are often surrounded by landlords’ lands, and since the present conditions of demarcation of the peasant lands from the landlords’ lands give rise to bondage, the preservation of this demarcation is reactionary. Unlike eUher division of the land or nationalisation, municapallsation preserves this demarcation.

Of course, the existence of small landed property, or, more correctly, of small farming, introduces certain changes in the general propositions of the theory of capitalist. rent, but it does not destroy that theory. For example, Marx points out that absolute rent as such does not usually exist under small farming, which is carried on mainly to meet the needs of the farmer himself (Vol. III, 2. Teil, S. 339, 344).[2] But the more commodity production develops, the more all the propositions of economic theory become applicable to peasant farming also, since it has come under the conditions of the capitalist world. It must not be forgotten   that no land nationalisation, no equalised land tenure, will abolish the now fully established fact that the well-to-do peasants in Russia are already farming on capitalist lines. In my Development of Capitalism I showed that, according to the statistics of the eighties and nineties of the last century, about one-fifth of the peasant house holds account for up to half of peasant agricultural production and a much larger share of rented land; that the farms of these peasants are now commodity-producing farms rather than natural-economy farms, and that, finally, these peasants cannot exist without a vast army of farm-hands and day-labourers.[1] Among these peasants the elements of capitalist rent are taken for granted. These peasants express their interests through the mouths of the Peshekhonovs, who “soberly” reject the prohibition of hired labour as well as “socialisation of the land”, who soberly champion the point of view of the peasant economic individualism which is asserting itself. If, in the utopias of the Narodniks, we carefully separate the real economic factor from the false ideology, we shall see at once that it is precisely the bourgeois peasantry which stands to gain most from the break-up of the feudal latifundia, irrespective of whether that is carried out by division, nationalisation, or municipalisation. “Loans and grants” from the state, too, are bound to benefit the bourgeois peasantry in the first place. The “peasant agrarian revolution” is nothing but the subordination of the whole system of land ownership to the conditions of progress and prosperity of precisely these capitalist farms.

Money rent is the moribund yesterday, which cannot but die out. Capitalist rent is the nascent tomorrow, which cannot but develop under the Stolypin expropriation of the poor peasants (“under Article 87”), as well as under the peasant expropriation of the richest landlords.


[1] See present edition, Vol. 3, pp. 136-39.—Ed.

[2] Ibid., pp. 785, 789-90.

  5. Criticism of Private Landownership from the Standpoint of the Development of Capitalism | 7. Under What Conditions Can Nationalisation Be Brought About?  

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