V. I.   Lenin

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


7. The Socialist-Revolutionaries

The speeches of the Socialist-Revolutionary intellectuals (we dealt with the S.R. peasants above when dealing with the Trudoviks) are full of the same scathing criticism of the Cadets and bitter enmity towards the landlords. Not to repeat what we have said above, we shall merely point out a new feature that this group of deputies possesses. Unlike the Popular Socialists who, instead of the ideal of socialism, are inclined to paint the ideal of ... Denmark, and unlike the peasants, who are strangers to all doctrine and directly express the sentiments of the oppressed person who just as directly idealises emancipation from the existing form of exploitation, the Socialist-Revolutionaries introduce into their speeches the doctrine of their own “socialism”. Thus, Uspensky and Sagatelyan (a member of “Dashnaktsutyun”—which stands very close to the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the “young ones” of which even belong to the S. R. Party) raise the question of the village commune. The latter speaker rather naïvely observes: “it must be noted with regret that in developing the wide theory of nationalisation of the land, no special emphasis is laid on the living, surviving institution, on the basis of which alone progress can be made.... The safeguard against all these horrors [the horrors of Europe, the destruction of small farming, etc.] is the Village commune” (1122).

The “regret” of this worthy knight of the village commune will be understood if we bear in mind that be was the twenty-sixth speaker on the agrarian question.

He was preceded by not less than fourteen Left members; Trudoviks, and others, and “no special emphasis was laid on the living, surviving institution” by any one of them!   There is reason for “regret” when one sees among the peas ants in the Duma the same indifference towards the village commune as was displayed by the congresses of the Peas ant Union. Sagatelyan and Uspensky took up the cause of the village commune like true sectarians in the midst of the peasant revolution, which does not want to hear of the old agrarian associations. “I sense a certain danger to the village commune,” mourned Sagatelyan (1123). “Now is just the time at which the village commune must be saved at all costs” (1124). “This form [i. e., the village commune] may develop into a world movement, capable of offering a solution to all economic problems” (1126). Apparently, Mr. Sagatelyan gave vent to all these arguments about the village commune “sadly and irrelevantly”. And his colleague Uspensky, criticising Stolypin’s legislation against the village communes, expressed time desire that “the mobilisation of landed property be reduced to the utmost limits, to the last degree” (1115).

This Narodnik’s wish is undoubtedly reactionary. Curiously enough, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, in whose name this wish was expressed in the Duma, advocates the abolition of private ownership of land, without realising that this involves the utmost mobilisation of the land, that it creates the freest and easiest conditions for the laud to pass from farmer to farmer, the freest and easiest conditions for the penetration of capital into agriculture! Confusing private ownership of land with the domination of capital in agriculture is a characteristic mistake of the bourgeois laud nationalisers (including Henry George, and many others). In their endeavour to “reduce mobilisation”, the Socialist—Revolutionaries are at. one with the Cadets, whose representative Kutler openly stated in his speech: “The Party of People’s Freedom proposes to limit their [the peasants’] rights only in respect of alienation and mortgage, i. e., to prevent, in the future, the wide development of the sale and purchase of land” (12th session, March 19, 1907, p. 740).

The Cadets link this reactionary aim with methods of solving the agrarian problem (domination of time landlords and the bureaucracy) that make possible stupid bureaucratic restrictions and red-tape that will help to enthral the peasants.   The Socialist-Revolutionaries link the reactionary aim with measures that preclude the possibility of bureaucratic restraints (local land committees elected on the basis of universal, etc., suffrage). In the case of the former, what is reactionary is their entire (bureaucratic-landlord) policy in the bourgeois revolution. In the case of the latter, what is reactionary is their petty-bourgeois “socialism”, which they mistakenly want to force upon the consistent bourgeois revolution.

On the question of the Socialist-Revolutionaries’ economic theories, it is interesting to note the arguments of their Duma representatives about the influence of agrarian reforms upon the development of industry. The naïve point of view of bourgeois revolutionaries, barely concealed by a veneer of Narodnik doctrine, stands out very strikingly. Take, for example, the Socialist-Revolutionary Kabakov (Perm Gubernia), known in the Urals as the organiser of the Peasant Union, as “the President of the Alapayevsk Republic”,[2] and also as “Pugachov”.[1] In the purely peasant manner he bases the peasants’ right to the land on the grounds, among other things, that the peasants have never refused to defend Russia against her enemies (1953). “why allot the land?” he exclaims. “We bluntly declare that the land must be the common property of the toiling peasantry, and the peasants will be able to divide the land among themselves in the local areas without the interference of any government officials, who, we have long known, have never been of any use to the peasantry” (1954). “In our region, the Urals, entire factories have come to a stand still because there is no sale for sheet iron, yet in Russia all the peasants’ huts have straw-thatched roofs. Those huts should have been roofed with sheet iron long ago.... There is a market, but there are no buyers. Who constitute the mass of buyers in our country? The hundred mil lion toiling peasants—that is the foundation of the mass of buyers” (1952).

Yes, that correctly expresses the conditions for real capitalist production in the Urals in place of the age-old,   semi-feudal stagnation of “possessional” production.[3] Neither the Stolypin nor the Cadet agrarian policy can bring about any appreciable improvement in the conditions of life of the masses, and unless these conditions are improved, really “free” industry will not develop in the Urals. Only a peasant revolution could quickly transform wooden Russia into iron Russia. The Socialist-Revolutionary peasant has a truer and broader conception of the conditions necessary for the development of capitalism than have the sworn servants of capital.

Another Socialist-Revolutionary, the peasant Khvorostukhin (Saratov Gubernia), said: “Yes, gentlemen, of course, many spokesmen of the Party of People’s Freedom have accused the Trudovik Group of wanting to transfer the land to those who wish to till it. They say that then a lot of people will leave the towns, and this will make things worse. But I think, gentlemen, that only those who have nothing to do will leave the towns, but those who have work are used to work, and since they have work they will not leave the towns. Indeed, why should land be given to those who do not want to cultivate it?”... (774.) Is it not obvious that this “S.R.” does not in the least want universal, equalised land tenure, but the creation of free and equal farming on free land?... “It is necessary, at all costs, to release economic freedom for the whole people, particularly for the people who have suffered and starved for so many years” (777).

Do not think that this correct formulation of the real content of S.R.-ism (“release economic freedom”) is due only to the clumsy, peasant way of expression. It is more than that. The S.R. leader Mushenko, an intellectual, who replied to the debate on the agrarian question on be half of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, was far more naïve in expressing his economic views than the peasants Kabakov and Khvorostukhin.

We say,” declared Mushenko, “that proper resettlement, proper dispersion, will be possible only when the land is unfenced, when all the barriers erected by the principle of private ownership of the land are removed. Further, the Minister spoke about the increase in the population of our country.... It turned out that for this increase alone [1,600,000] about 3,500,000 dessiatins of land will be needed. He says: Thus, if you have equalised the land, where will you get land   for such an increase in the population? But I ask: Where, in what state [sic!] is the whole increase in the population absorbed, in agriculture? The law that regulates the distribution of the population according to social-estates, according to occupations, operates In the reverse direction [our italics]. If a state, if a country is not degenerating, but is developing industrially, it shows that on the foundation of agriculture, which is satisfying the elementary needs in food and raw materials, more and more economic storeys are being erected. Demand grows, new industrial products appear, new branches of industry spring up; the manufacturing industry ,attracts larger and larger numbers of workers. The urban population grows faster than the agricultural and absorbs the major pan of the population increase. It sometimes happens, gentlemen, that the agricultural population diminishes not only relatively, but even absolutely. If this [!] process is slow in our country, it, is because there is nothing on which to build those new economic storeys. Peasant economy is too shaky a foundation; the market for industry is too small. Create a healthy, numerous, and vigorous agricultural population by potting the land at the disposal of the people, and you will see what a demand there will be for industrial products, and what a mass of workers will be needed for the factories and mills, in the towns” (1173),

Now, isn’t he delightful, this “Socialist-Revolutionary” who calls the programme for the development of capitalism a programme for the socialisation of the land? He has no inkling that the law of the more rapid increase in the urban population is exclusively a law of the capitalist mode of production. It never occurs to him that this “law” does not and cannot operate otherwise than through the disintegration of the peasantry into a bourgeoisie and a proletariat, through the “sorting out” among the cultivators, i. e., the ousting of the “pauper” by the “real farmer”. The economic harmony which this S.R. depicts on the basis of a capitalist law is pathetically naïve. But it is not the harmony preached by the vulgar bourgeois economist who wants to conceal the struggle between labour and capital. It is the harmony of the unconscious bourgeois revolutionary who wants to make a clean sweep of the survivals of autocracy, serfdom, medievalism.

The victorious bourgeois revolution of which our present agrarian programme dreams cannot proceed except by means of such a bourgeois revolutionary. And the class-conscious worker must support him for the sake of social development, without allowing himself for a moment to be taken in by the childish prattle of the Narodnik “economists”



[1] See List of Members of the Second State Duma, privately published by an anonymous author, St. Petersburg, 1907. —Lenin

[2] Alapayevsk Republic—the name which tsarist officials gave to the Alapayevsk Volost in the Verkhnyaya Tura Uyezd, Perm Gubernia. G. I. Kabakov, the Socialist-Revolutionary peasant deputy in the Second Duma whom Lenin mentions, succeeded in organising a Peasant Union in the Alapayevsk Volost in 1905 with as many as 30,000 members.


[3] Possessional production—industrial enterprises based on the exploitation of possessional peasants. This category of peasants was introduced by Peter the Great (1721), who allowed serf peasants to be bought for work at the manufactories. These serfs were attached to the enterprise and could not be sold apart from the manufactory.

Possessional ownership was abolished in 1863 following the abolition of serfdom in 1861.

  6. The Trudovik Peasants (Narodniks) | 8. The “Nationals”  

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