V. I.   Lenin

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


6. The Trudovik Peasants (Narodniks)

The Trudovik peasants and the Socialist-Revolutionary peasants do not differ essentially from the non-party peas ants. A comparison of their speeches clearly reveals the same needs, the same demands, and the same outlook. The party peasants are merely more politically conscious, they express themselves more clearly, and grasp more fully the connection between the different aspects of the question.

The best speech of all, perhaps, was that of the peasant Kiselyov, a Trudovik, at the 26th session of the Second Duma (April 12, 1907). In contrast to the “state point of view” of the liberal petty bureaucrat, he emphasised the fact that “our government’s entire domestic policy, which is actually controlled by the landlords, is directed to keeping the land in the possession of its present owners” (1943). The speaker showed that that was the reason why the people were kept “in abysmal ignorance”, and then he went on to deal with the speech delivered by the Octobrist, Prince Svyatopolk-Mirsky. “You have, of course, not forgotten the horrible things he said: ‘Abandon all idea of increasing the area of peasant landownership. Preserve and support the private owners. Without landlords, our backward and   ignorant peasant mass would be a flock without a shepherd’. Fellow-peasants, need anything be added to this to make you understand what these gentlemen, our benefactors, are hankering after? Is it not clear to you that they are still longing and sighing for serfdom? No, shepherd gentlemen, enough.... The only thing I would like is that the words of the noble Rurikovich[4] should be well remembered by the whole backward peasantry of Russia, by the whole of the land of Russia; that these words should burn, within the heart of every peasant and light up more brightly than the sun the gulf that lies between us and these uninvited benefactors. Enough, shepherd gentlemen.... Enough. What we need is not shepherds, but leaders; arid we shall find them without you, and with them we shall find the road to light and truth, the road to the promised land” (1947).

The Trudovik has exactly the same standpoint as the revolutionary bourgeois who is under the delusion that the nationalisation of the land will bring him to the “promised land”, but who is fighting devotedly for the present revolution and detests the idea of limiting its scope: “The Party of People’s Freedom rejects the just settlement of the agrarian question.... Gentlemen, representatives of the people,. can a legislative institution like the State Duma, in its actions, sacrifice justice to expediency? Can you pass laws knowing in advance that they are unjust?... Are the unjust laws our bureaucracy has bestowed upon us not enough that we ourselves should make still more?... You know perfectly well that, for reasons of expediency—the need to pacify Russia—punitive expeditions have been sent out and the whole of Russia has been proclaimed in a state of emergency; for reasons of expediency summary military tribunals have been instituted. But tell me please, who among us goes into raptures over this expediency? Have you not all been cursing it? Do not ask, as some here have done: ‘What is justice?’ [The speaker is evidently referring to the Cadet landlord Tatarinov who, at the 24th session, on April 9, said: “Justice, gentlemen, is a rather relative term,” “justice is an ideal towards which we are all striving, but this ideal remains” (for the Cadet) “only an ideal, and whether it will be possible to achieve it is still an open question for me.” 1779.] Man is justice. When a   man is born—it is just that he should live, and to live it is just that he should have the opportunity to earn his bread by his labour.”...

You see: this ideologist of the peasantry adopts the typical standpoint of the French eighteenth-century enlightener. He does not understand the historical limitedness, the historically-determined content of his justice. But for the sake of this abstract justice he wants to, and the class he represents is able to completely sweep away all the vestiges of medievalism. That is the real historical content of the demand that justice must not be sacrificed to “expediency”. It means: no concessions to medievalism, to the landlords, to the old regime. It is the language of the members of the Convention. For the liberal Tatarinov, however, the “ideal” of bourgeois freedom “remains only an ideal”, for which he does not fight in earnest, does not sacrifice everything for its realisation, but makes a deal with the landlords. The Kiselyovs can lead the people to a victorious bourgeois revolution, the Tatarinovs can only betray them.

...“For the sake of expediency, the Party of People’s Freedom proposes that no right to land be created. It is afraid that such a right will draw masses of people from the towns into the countryside, and in that case each will get very little. I would like, first of all, to ask: What is the right to land? The right to land is the right to work, the right to bread, the right to live—it is the inalienable right of every man. How can we deprive anybody of that right? The Party of People’s Freedom says that if all citizens are granted that right, and if the land is divided among them, each will get very little: But a right and the exercise of that right in practice are by no means the same thing. Every one of you here has the right to live in, say, Chukhloma, but you live here; on the other hand, those who live in Chukhloma have the same right to live in St. Petersburg, but they stick in their lair. Therefore, the fear that to grant the right to land to all those who are willing to till it will draw masses of people away from the towns is totally groundless. Only those who have not broken their ties with the countryside, only those who have left the country side recently, will leave the towns.... The people who have assured means of livelihood in the towns will not go into the, countryside.... I think that only the complete and irrevocable abolition of private ownership of the land ... etc. ... only such a solution can be regarded as satisfactory” (1950).

This tirade, so typical of the Trudovik, raises an interesting question: Is there any difference between such speeches   about the right to work and the speeches about the right to work delivered by the French petty-bourgeois democrats of 1848? Both are certainly declamations of a bourgeois democrat vaguely expressing the real historical content of the struggle. The declamations of the Trudovik, however, vaguely express the actual aims of the bourgeois revolution which objective conditions make possible (i. e., make possible a peasant agrarian revolution in twentieth-century Russia), whereas the declamations of the French Kleinbürger[1] in 1848 vaguely expressed the aims of the socialist revolution, which was impossible in France in the middle of the last century. In other words: the right to work demand ed by the French workers in the middle of the nineteenth century expressed a desire to remodel the whole of small production on the lines of co-operation, socialism, and so forth, and that was economically impossible. The right to work demanded by the Russian peasants in the twentieth century expresses the desire to remodel small agricultural production on nationalised land, and that is economically quite possible. The twentieth century Russian peasants’ “right to work” has a real bourgeois content in addition to its unsound socialistic theory. The right to work demanded by the French petty bourgeois and worker in the middle of the nineteenth century contained nothing but an unsound socialistic theory. That is the difference that many of our Marxists overlook.

But the Trudovik himself reveals the real content of his theory: not everybody will go on the land, although every body “has an equal right”. Clearly, only farmers will go on the land, or establish themselves there. Doing away with private ownership of the land means doing away with all obstacles to the farmers establishing themselves on the land.

It is not surprising that Kiselyov, imbued with deep faith in the peasant revolution and with a desire to serve it, speaks scornfully about the Cadets, about their wish to alienate not all, but only a part of the land, to make the peasants pay for the land, to transfer the matter to “unnamed land institutions”, in short, about “the plucked bird which the Party of People’s Freedom is offering the peasants”   (1950-51). Neither is it surprising that Struve and those like him were bound to hate the Trudoviks, especially after the Second Duma: the Cadets’ plans cannot succeed as long as the Russian peasant remains a Trudovik. But when the Russian peasant ceases to be a Trudovik, the difference between the Cadet and the Octobrist will completely disappear!

We shall briefly mention the other speakers. The peasant Nechitailo says: “The people who have drunk the blood and sucked the brains of the peasants call them ignorant” (779). Golovin interrupted: The landlord can insult the peasant, but the peasant insulting the landlord?... “These lands that belong to the people—we are told: buy them. Are we foreigners, who have arrived from England, France, and so forth? This is our country, why should we have to buy our own land? We have already paid for it ten times over with blood, sweat, and money” (780).

Here is what the peasant Kirnosov (Saratov Gubernia) says: “Nowadays we talk of nothing but the land; again we are told: it is sacred, inviolable. In my opinion it can not be inviolable; if the people wish it, nothing can be inviolable.[2] (A voice from the Right: “Oh-ho!”) Yes, oh-ho! (Applause on the Left.) Gentlemen of the nobility, do you think we do not know when you used us as stakes in your card games, when you bartered us for dogs? We do. It was all your sacred, inviolable property.... You stole the land from us.... The peasants who sent me here said this: The land is ours. We have come here not to buy it, but to take it” (1144).[3]

Here is what the peasant Vasyutin (Kharkov Gubernia) says: “We see here in the person of the Chair-man of the Council of Ministers not the minister of the whole country, but the minister of 130,000 landlords. Ninety million peasants are nothing to him.... You [addressing the Right] are exploiters, you lease your land out at exorbitant rents and skin the peasants alive.... Know that if the government fails to meet the people’s needs, the people will not ask for your consent, they will take the land.... I am a Ukrainian [he relates that Catherine made Potemkin a gift of a little estate of 27,000 dessiatins with 2,000 serfs].... Formerly land was sold at 25 to 50 rubles per dessiatin, but now the rent is 15 to 30 rubles per dessiatin, and the rent of hayland is 35 to 50 rubles. I call that fleecery. (A voice from the Right: “What? Fleecery?” Laughter.) Yes, don’t get excited (applause on the Left); I call it skinning the peasants alive” (643, 39th session, May 16).

The Trudovik peasants and the peasant intellectuals have in common a vivid recollection of serfdom. They are all united by burning hatred for the landlords and the landlord state. They are all animated with an intense revolutionary passion. Some spontaneously exert their efforts to “throw them off our backs”, without thinking of the future system they are to create. Others paint that future in utopian colours. But all of them detest compromise with the old Russia, all are fighting to shatter to bits accursed medievalism.

Comparing the speeches of the revolutionary peasants in the Second Duma with those of the revolutionary workers, one is struck by the following difference. The former are imbued with a far more spontaneous revolutionary spirit, a passionate desire to destroy the landlord regime immediately, and immediately to create a new system. The peasant is eager to fling himself upon the enemy at once and to strangle him. Among the workers this revolutionary spirit is more abstract, aimed, as it were, at a remoter goal. This difference is quite understandable and legitimate. The peasant is making his, bourgeois, revolution now, at this moment, and does not see its inherent contradictions, he is not even aware that there are such contradictions. The Social-Democratic worker does see them and because he   sets himself aims of world socialism, cannot make the fate of the working-class movement hinge on the outcome of a bourgeois revolution. Only we must not conclude from this that the worker must support the liberals in the bourgeois revolution. The conclusion to be drawn from it is that, while merging with no other class, the worker must with all his energy help the peasant to carry through this bourgeois revolution to the end.


[1] Kleinbürger—petty bourgeois.—Ed.

[2] A characteristic expression by a simple peasant of the revolutionary idea of the sovereignty of the people. In our revolution there is no bourgeoisie other than the peasantry to carry out this demand of the proletarian programme. —Lenin

[3] The Trudovik peasant Nazarenko (Kharkov Gubernia) said in the First Duma: “If you want to judge how the peasant looks on the land, I will tell you that to us peasants land is as essential as its mother’s breast is to an infant. That is the only standpoint from which we regard the land. You probably know that not so very long ago the gentry compelled our mothers to suckle pups. The same is happening now. The only difference now is that it is not the mothers who bore us who are suckling the gentry’s pups, but the mother that feeds us— the land” (495). —Lenin

[4] Rurikovichi—off shoots of Rurik, a semi-legendary prince of ancient Russia, from, whom many aristocratic families in tsarist Russia claimed descent. The present allusion is to Prince Svyatopolk Mirsky.

  5. The Narodnik Intellectuals | 7. The Socialist-Revolutionaries  

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