V. I.   Lenin

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


2. The Cadets

Like all the parties, the Cadets came out in their true colours in the Second Duma. They “found themselves” by occupying the Centre and criticising the Rights and the Lefts from the “state point of view”. They revealed their counter-revolutionary nature by an obvious turn to the Right. How did they mark that turn on the agrarian question? They marked it by finally throwing overboard the last remnants of the idea of land nationalisation, by completely abandoning the plan for a “state land reserve” and by supporting the idea of making the land the peasants’ property. Yes, conditions in the Russian revolution have become such that turning to the Right means turning to wards the private ownership of land!

Ex-minister Kutler, the Cadet Party’s official spokesman on the agrarian question, at once proceeded to criticise the Left (12th session, March 19, 1907). “Since nobody proposes to abolish property in general,” exclaimed that worthy colleague of Witte and Durnovo, “it is necessary with all emphasis. to recognise the existence of landed property” (737). This argument fully coincides with that of the Black Hundreds. The Black-Hundred spokesman, Krupensky, like the Cadet Kutler, shouted: “If you are going to divide, divide everything” (784).

Like a true bureaucrat, Kutler dealt in particular detail with the question of different norms of “allotment” to the peasants. Not backed by any compact class, this liberal. intellectual and bureaucrat playing at liberalism evades the question of how much land the landlords have and how much can be taken. He prefers to talk about “norms” in order, on the pretext of raising the question to the state level, to obscure the issue, to conceal the fact that the Cadets propose that landlord economy be retained. “Even the government,” said Mr. Kutler, “has taken the path of extending peasant land tenure” (734), so there is nothing infeasible about the Cadets’ proposal, which is of the same bureaucratic type! By insisting on what is practical and feasible, this Cadet, of course, throws a veil over the fact that his criterion is whether it is possible to secure the landlords’ consent, in other words, to adapt his plan   to their interests, to pander to the Black Hundreds under the guise of a lofty striving for the conciliation of classes. “I think, gentlemen,” said Kutler, “that it is possible to envisage the political conditions under which a Bill for the nationalisation of the land could acquire the force of law, but I cannot envisage in the immediate future the political conditions under which that law could really be put into effect” (733). To put it bluntly, it is. possible to envisage the overthrow of the rule of the Black-Hundred landlords, but I cannot envisage that and, therefore, I adapt myself to this rule.

Urging that peasant ownership of land is preferable to the Trudoviks’ plan in general, and to “equalised tenure” in particular, Mr. Kutler argued as follows: “If for this purpose [equalising holdings] special officials are appoint ed, it will mean the introduction of an incredible despotism, an interference in the lives of the people such as we have never known before. Of course, it is proposed to place this matter in the hands of local self-governing bodies, in the hands of persons elected by the people themselves; but can it be taken that the people will be fully guaranteed against the tyranny of these persons, that these persons will always act in the interests of the people, and that the latter will suffer no hardship? I think that the peasants who are present here know that very often their own elected representatives, their volost and village elders, oppress the people as much as the government officials do” (740). Can one conceive of hypocrisy more revolting than that? The Cadets themselves propose the setting up of land committees on which the landlords will predominate (equal representation for landlords and peasants, the chairman to be a government official or a landlord), but the peasants are warned of the danger of despotism and tyranny on the part of those whom they themselves elect! Only shameless political charlatans can argue like this against equalised holdings, for they have neither the principles of socialism (adhered to by the Social-Democrats, who maintain that equalisation is impossible, but wholly support the election of local committees), nor the principles of the landlords who maintain that private property is the only salvation (adhered to by the Bobrinskys).

Unlike either the Right or the Left, the plan of the Cadets is characterised not by what they say, but what they keep quiet about, viz., their proposal for the composition of the land committees, which are to compel the peasants to accept a “second emancipation”, i.e:, to take poor plots at an exorbitant price. To obscure the crux of the matter, the Cadets in the Second Duma (as in the First) resort to downright chicanery. Take Mr. Shingaryov. He poses as a progressive, repeats the current liberal catchwords against the flight and, as is the fashion, bewails violence and anarchy, for which France “paid with a century of severe upheavals” (1355). But see how he dodges the question of the land-surveying committees:

On the question of the land-surveying committees,” he says, “we were opposed by Deputy Yevreinov.[1] I do not know [sic!!] what his objections are based on; up to now we have not said anything about this [a lie!]; I do not know what Bill he is speaking about, or why he talks about not trusting the people. No such Bill has yet been introduced in the State Duma; evidently, his objections are based on a misunderstanding. I wholly associate myself with those deputies on the Left, Uspensky and Volk-Karachevsky, who spoke of provisional rules, of the necessity of setting up local bodies to carry out land surveying on the spot. I think such bodies will be set up, and probably, within the next   few days, the Party of People’s Freedom will introduce a Bill to that effect and we shall discuss it” (1356).

Now, is that not fraud? Are we really to believe that this person knew nothing about the debates in the First Duma on the question of local committees, or about the article in Rech at that time? Could he really have failed to understand Yevreinov’s perfectly plain statement?

But he promised to introduce a Bill “within the next few days”, you will say. In the first place, a promise to restore what has been obtained by fraudulent means does not cancel the fact of fraud. Secondly, what happened “within the next few days”, was this. Mr. Shingaryov spoke on March 29, 1907. On April 9, 1907, the Cadet Tatarinov spoke and said: “I will now, gentlemen, deal with one more question which, I think [he only “thinks”!], is creating considerable controversy, namely, the question that has been raised by all the parties on our Left: the question of local land committees. All these parties urge the necessity of setting up local land committees on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot with the object of settling the land question in the localities. We quite categorically expressed our opposition to such committees last year, and we categorically express it now” (1783).

Thus, on the extremely important question of the actual terms of the Cadet proposal for “compulsory alienation”, two Cadets say different things, swing from one side to another under the blows of the Left parties which bring to light what the Cadets wanted to keep secret! First, Mr. Shingaryov says: “I do not know”; then: “I agree with the Left”; and then: “a Bill within the next few days”. Mr. Tatarinov says: ”Now, as before, we are categorically opposed”. And he adds arguments to the effect that the Duma must not be split up into a thousand Dumas, that the settlement of the agrarian question must not be postponed until political reforms are carried out, until universal, etc., suffrage is introduced. But that is just another evasion. The point at issue is not the moment when a particular measure is to be carried out: the Left members of the Second Duma could have no doubts whatever on that score. The point is: what are the Cadets’ real plans? Who is to compel whom in their scheme for “compulsory alienation”? Are the landlords to   compel the peasants, or are the peasants to compel the landlords? This question can be answered only by the composition of the land committees. The Cadets’ view of what this composition should be was set forth in Milyukov’s leading article in Rech, in Kutler’s Bill, and in Chuprov’s article (quoted above)[2] ; but in the Duma, the Cadets kept silent about it, they did not answer the question bluntly put by Yevreinov.

It cannot be too strongly emphasised that this conduct of the party’s representatives in parliament is nothing more than deception of the people by the liberals. Scarcely anybody is deceived by the Bobrinskys and Stolypins; but very many of those who do not want to analyse, or who are incapable of understanding, the real meaning of political slogans and phrases are deceived by the Cadets.

Thus, the Cadets are opposed to any form of socialised land tenure in any form,[3] they are opposed to alienation without compensation, opposed to local land committees in which the peasants will predominate, opposed to revolution in general and to a peasant agrarian revolution in particular. Light is thrown on their manoeuvring between the Left and Right (to betray the peasants to the landlords) by their attitude towards the Peasant “Reform” of 1861. The Left, as we shall see later on, speak of it with disgust and indignation as of a noose put round the peasants’ necks by the landlords. The Cadets are at one with the Bight in their affection for this reform.

Count Bobrinsky said: “Dirt has been thrown here at the cleanest and brightest page in Russian history.... The emancipation of the peasants is a matter beyond all reproach... the great and glorious day, February 19, 1861” (March 29, pp. 1289, 1299).

Kutler said: “the great Reform of 1861... the government, in the person of the Chairman of the Council of Ministers, is renouncing Russian history, renouncing its best and brightest pages” (May 26, pp. 1198-99).

This appraisal of compulsory alienation as it was actually carried out throws more light on the Cadet agrarian programme than all their Bills and speeches, the object of which was to conceal their thoughts. If people regard the dispossession of the peasants of their land by the landlords, triple redemption payments for poor plots, and the implementation of the charters[4] by brute military force as the brightest page, then it becomes obvious that what they are after is a “second emancipation”, a second enthralment of the peasants by means of redemption payments. Bobrinsky and Kutler are at one-in their estimation of the Reform of 1861. But Bobrinsky’s estimation directly and truly expresses the rightly understood interests of the landlords— and therefore it clarifies the class-consciousness of the broad masses. Praise from the Bobrinskys means that the land lords got the best of it. Kutler’s estimation, expressing the poverty of intellect of a petty official who all his life has cringed to the landlords, is sheer hypocrisy and befogs the consciousness of the masses.

In this connection, one more aspect of the Cadets’ policy on the agrarian question must be noted. All the Left deputies openly side with the peasants as a fighting force, explain the need for a struggle, and show the landlord character of the government. The Cadets, together with the Right deputies, take the “state point of view” and repudiate the class struggle.

Kutler declares that there is no need “radically to reconstruct agrarian relations” (732). Savelyev warns against “touching a mass of interests” and says: “The principle of completely rejecting ownership would scarcely be expedient, and its application may give rise to very big and grave complications, particularly if we bear in mind that   the big owners with over 50 dessiatins have very much land, namely, 79,440,000 dessiatins” (March 26, 1907, p. 1088—the peasant points to the latifundia to prove the necessity of doing away with them; the liberal does so to prove that it is necessary to cringe). Shingaryov thinks it would be “an immense disaster” if the people themselves took the land (1355). Rodichev warbles: “We do not foment class enmity. We would like to forget the past” (632, May 16, 1907). Kapustin follows suit: “Our task is to sow everywhere peace and justice and not to sow and foment class enmity” (1810, April 9). Krupensky is indignant at the speech of the Socialist-Revolutionary Zimin because it was “full of hatred towards the propertied classes” (783, March 19). In short, in condemning the class struggle, the Cadets and the Rights are at one. But the Rights know what they are doing. The preaching of class struggle cannot hut be harmful and dangerous to the class against which the struggle is directed. The Rights are faithfully guarding the interests of the feudal landlords. And what of the Cadets? They are waging a struggle—they say they are waging a struggle!—they want to “compel” the landlords who are in power, and yet they condemn the class struggle! Did the bourgeoisie that really fought instead of acting as lackeys of the landlords behave in that way, for instance in France? Did not that bourgeoisie call upon the people to fight; did it not foment class enmity? Did it not create a theory of the class struggle?


[1] Yevreinov, a Socialist-Revolutionary, had said at the same session (18th session, March 29, 1907): “These [land] committees, according to the assumption of the Party of People’s Freedom, are to consist of equal numbers of landowners and peasants, with government officials acting as conciliators, which, of course, will undoubtedly give preponderance to the non-peasants. Why does the party which calls itself the party of the ‘people’s freedom’ distrust committees elected not in a bureaucratic, but in a democratic way? Probably be cause, if the committees are elected in that way, the vast majority of those elected will be peasants, i. e., representatives of the peasants’ interests. That being the case, I ask, does the Party of People’s Freedom trust the peasants? It will be remembered that in 1858, in connection with the agrarian reform, the government bad this matter transferred to local bodies, to committees. True, those committees consist ed of members of the nobility, but the government is not a party of the people’s freedom, it is a government that represents the rich and the propertied classes generally. It relies on the nobility and trusts them. The Party of People’s Freedom, however, wants to rely on the people, but does not trust the people” (1326). —Lenin

[2] See p. 245 of this volume.— Ed.

[3] Particularly noteworthy in this respect was the debate in the First Duma on the question of sending the Land Bill of the 33 (for the abolition of the private ownership of land) to committee. The Cadets (Petrunkevich, Mukhanov, Shakhovskoi, Frenkel, Ovchinnikov, Dolgorukov, and Kokoshkin) fiercely opposed the sending of such a Bill to committee, and in this they were fully supported by Heyden. Their reasons were a disgrace to any self-respecting liberal— they were simply police excuses used by lackeys of the reactionary government. To refer the Bill to committee, said Mr. Petrunkevich, means recognising that, to a certain degree, the standpoint of such a Bill is “possible”. Mr. Zhilkin put the Cadets to shame (23rd session, June 8, 1906) by saying that he would send to committee both this Bill and the Bill of the extreme Right. But the Cadets and the Right defeated the motion to send the Bill to committee by 140 votes to 78! —Lenin

[4] Charters—deeds defining the landowning relations of the temporarily-bound peasants and landlords upon the abolition of serfdom in 1861. These charters indicated the amount of land the peasant used before the Reform, and defined the size of the allotment remaining in his hands after the Reform. It also listed the duties the peasant had to perform for the landlord. The charter served as a basis for determining the amount of the peasant’s redemption payment.

  1. The Rights and the Octobrists | 3. The Right Peasants  

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