V. I.   Lenin

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


3. The Right Peasants

Actual Right peasants are to be found in the Second Duma only by way of exception—Remenchik (Minsk Gubernia) is one, perhaps the only one, who will-not hear of any village communes or “land funds” and stoutly defends private ownership (in the First Duma there were many Polish and West-Russian peasants who stood for ownership). But even Remenchik is in favour of alienation “at a fair price” (648), i. e., he in effect turns out to be a Cadet. We place the other “Right peasants” in the Second Duma in a special group because they are undoubtedly more Left than the Cadets. Take Petrochenko (Vitebsk Gubernia). He begins by saying that he “will defend tsar and country unto death”   (1614). The Rights applaud. But then he passes on to the question of “land hunger”. “You can hold all, the debates you like,” he says, “but you will never Create another world. Therefore you will have to give us this, land. One speaker said here that our peasants are backward and ignorant and, therefore, it is useless giving them a lot of land, because it won’t be any good to them all the same. To he sure, the land has not been of much good to us up to now, that is to those who have not had any. As for our being ignorant, well, all we are asking for is some land in order, in our stupidity, to grub about in. Personally, I don’t think it’s dignified for a nobleman to busy himself with the laud. It has been said here that private landed property must not be touched because it is against the law. Of course, I agree that the law must he upheld, but to do away with land hunger a law must be passed to make all that lawful. And so that nobody should have any grievance, Deputy Kutler proposed that good terms be offered. Of course, being a wealthy man, he has named a high figure, and we, poor peasants, cannot pay such a price. As for how we should live—in communes, on separate holdings, or on khutors—I, for my part, think that everybody should be allowed to live as he finds convenient” (1616).

There is a wide gulf between this Right peasant and the Russian liberal. The former vows devotion to the old regime, but actually he is out to get land, he is fighting the landlords and will not agree to pay the amount of compensation the Cadets propose. The latter says that he is fighting for the people’s freedom, but actually he is engineering a second enthralment of the peasants by the land lords and the old regime. The latter can move only to the Right, from the First Duma to the Second, from the Second to the Third. The former, finding that there is no hope of the landlords “giving up” the land, will move the other way. The “Right” peasant will, perhaps, be found going our way more than the “liberal”, “democratic” Cadet....

Take the peasant Shimansky (Minsk Gubernia). “I have come here to defend our faith, tsar, and country, and to demand land ... not by robbery, of course, but in a peaceful way, at a fair value.... Therefore, in the name of all the peasants I call upon the landlord members of the Duma to   come on to this rostrum and say that they are Willing to cede land to the peasants at a fair valuation, and then our peasants will, of course, say thank you, and I think our Father the Tsar, will also say thank you. As for those land lords who refuse to do this, I propose that the Duma impose a progressive tax on their land, and undoubtedly they too will yield in time, because they will learn that they have bitten off more than they can chew” (1617).

By compulsory alienation and fair valuation this Right peasant means something entirely different from what the Cadets have in mind. The Cadets are deceiving not only the Left peasants but also the Right. What the Right peasants’ attitude towards the Cadet plans for setting up the land committees (according to Kutler, or according to Chuprov: see The Agrarian Question, Vol. II) would have been, had they studied them, is evident from the following proposal made by the peasant Melnik (Octobrist, Minsk Gubernia). “I consider it a duty,” he said, “that 60 per cent of the members of the committee [agrarian] should be peas ants who have practical acquaintance with want [!] and are familiar with the conditions of the peasant class, and not peasants who, perhaps, are peasants only in name. This is a question of the peasants’ welfare and of the poor people generally, and has no political significance whatever. People must be chosen who can settle the question practically and not politically for the good of the people” (1285). These Right peasants will go a long way to the Left when the counter-revolution reveals to them the political significance of “the questions that concern the welfare of the poor people”!

To show how infinitely wide apart are the representatives of the monarchist peasantry and the representatives of the monarchist bourgeoisie, I shall quote passages from the speech delivered by the “Progressist” Rev. Tikhvinsky, who sometimes spoke in the name of the Peasant Union and Trudovik Group. “Our peasants, in the mass, love the tsar,” be said. “How I wish I had the cap of invisibility and could fly on a magic carpet to the foot of the throne and say: Sire, your chief enemy, the chief enemy of the people, is the irresponsible ministry.... All that the toiling peasantry demands is the strict application of the principle; ‘All   the land to all the people.’... [on the question of redemption payments:]... Have no fear, gentlemen of the Right, you can rely on our people not to treat you unfairly.” (Voices from the Right: “Thank you! Thank you!”) “I now address myself to the spokesman from the Party of People’s Freedom. He says that the programme of the Party of People’s Freedom is close to that of the peasantry and of the Trudovik Group. No, gentlemen, it is remote from that programme. We heard the speaker say: ‘Our Bill may be less just, but it is more practical’. Gentlemen, justice is sacrificed to practical expediency!” (789.)

In political outlook, This deputy is oil the level of a Cadet. But what a difference there is between his rural simplicity and the “business men” of the bar, the bureaucracy, and liberal journalism!


  2. The Cadets | 4. The Non-Party Peasants  

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