V. I.   Lenin

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


6. Is Land Nationalisation a Sufficiently Flexible Method?

Comrade John said at Stockholm (p. 111 of the Minutes) that the “draft providing for land municipalisation is more acceptable, because it is more flexible: it takes into account the diversity of economic conditions, and it can be carried out in the process of the revolution itself”. I have already pointed out the cardinal defect of municipalisation in this respect: it rivets allotment ownership to the property form. Nationalisation is incomparably more flexible in this respect, because it makes it much easier to organise new farms on the “unfenced” land. Here it is also necessary to refer briefly to other, minor arguments that John raised.

The division of the land,” says John, “would in some places revive the old agrarian relations. In some regions the distribution would be as much as 200 dessiatins per household, so that in the Urals, for instance, we would create a class of new landlords.” That is a sample of an argument which denounces its own system I And it was that kind of argument that decided the issue at the Menshevik Congress! It is municipalisation, and it alone, that is guilty of the sin referred to here, for it alone rivets the land to individual regions. It is not the division of land that is to blame, as John thinks, thus falling into a ridiculous logical error, but the provincialism of the municipalisers. In any case, according to the Menshevik programme, the municipalised   lands in the Urals would remain the “property” of the people of the Urals. That would mean the creation of a new, reactionary, Cossack stratum—reactionary because privileged small farmers having ten times more land than all the rest of the farmers could not but resist the peasant revolution, and could not but defend the privileges of private landownership. It only remains for us to assume that on the basis of that same programme, the “democratic state” might declare the tens of millions of dessiatins of Ural forests to be “forests of national importance”, or “colonisation lands” (does not the Cadet Kaufman apply that term to the forest land in the Urals, within the 25 per cent limit, which means 21,000,000 dessiatins in the Vyatka, Ufa, and Perm gubernias?). and on that ground become their “owner”. Not flexibility, but confusion, pure and simple, is the distinguishing feature of municipalisation.

Now let us see what carrying out municipalisation in the very process of the revolution means. Here we meet with attacks on my “revolutionary peasant committees” as a class institution. “We are for non-class institutions,” the Mensheviks argued at Stockholm, playing at liberalism. Cheap liberalism! It did not occur to our Mensheviks that in order to introduce local self-government of a non-class character it is necessary to defeat the privileged class against which the struggle is being waged and to wrest the power from it. It is just “in the very process of the revolution”, as John puts it, i. e., in the course of the struggle to drive out the landlords, in the course of those “revolutionary act ions of the peasantry” that are mentioned also in the Mensheviks’ resolution on tactics, that peasant committees can be set up. The introduction of local self-government of a non-class character is provided for in our political programme; it is bound to be established as the organisation of administration after the victory, when the whole of the population will have been compelled to accept the new order. If the words of our programme about “sup porting the revolutionary actions of the peasantry, including the confiscation of the landlords’ lands” is not mere phrase-mongering, then we must think about organising the masses for those “actions”! Yet that is entirely overlooked in the Menshevik programme. That programme is so   drawn up as to be easily and wholly converted into a parliamentary Bill, like the Bills proposed by the bourgeois parties, which either (like the Cadets) hate all “actions”, or opportunistically shirk the task of systematically assisting and organising such actions (like the Popular Socialist). But a programme built on such lines is unworthy of a workers’ party which speaks of a peasant agrarian revolution, a party which pursues the aim not of reassuring the big bourgeoisie and the bureaucracy (like the Cadets), not of reassuring the petty bourgeoisie (like the Popular Socialists), but exclusively of developing the consciousness and initiative of the broad masses in the course of their struggle against feudal Russia.

Recall, if only in general outline, the innumerable “revolutionary actions” of the peasantry which took place in Russia in the spring of 1905, in the autumn of 1905, and in the spring of 1906. Do we pledge our support to such actions or riot? If not, then our programme would not be telling the truth. If we do, then obviously our programme fails to give directives about the organisation of such actions. Such actions can be organised only on the spot where the struggle is going on; the organisation can be created only by the masses who are directly taking part in the struggle, i. e., the organisation must definitely be of the peasant committee type. To wait for big,. regional self-governing bodies to be set up during such actions would be ridiculous. The extension of the power and influence of the victorious local committees to adjacent villages, uyezds, gubernias, towns, areas, and to the entire country is, of course, desirable and essential. There can be no objection to the need for such an extension being indicated in the programme, but that should certainly not be confined to regions, it should embrace the central government as well. That in the first place. Secondly, in that case we must not speak about local self-governing bodies, since that term points to the dependence of the local governing organisations upon the structure of the state. “Local self-government” operates according to the rules laid down by the central authority,. and within the limits set by the latter. The organisations of the fighting people of which we are speaking must be quite independent of all the institutions of the old regime, they   must fight for a new state structure, they must serve as the instrument of the full power of the people (or the sovereignty of the people), and as the means for securing it.

In short, from the standpoint of the “very process of the revolution”, the Menshevik programme is unsatisfactory in all respects. It reflects the confusion of Menshevik ideas on the question of the provisional government, etc.


  5. A Peasant Revolution Without the Conquest of Power by the Peasantry? | 7. Municipalisation of the Land and Municipal Socialism  

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