V. I.   Lenin

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


8. The “Nationals”

Among the representatives of the non-Russian nationalities in the Duma who spoke on the agrarian question were Poles, Byelorussians, Letts and Ests, Lithuanians, Tatars, Armenians, Bashkirs, Kirghiz, and Ukrainians. Here is how they expounded their points of view.

The National-Democrat[4] Dmowski said in the Second Duma “on behalf of the Poles—the representatives of the Kingdom of Poland and of the adjacent western part of the country” (742): “Although our agrarian relations are already in the stage of transition to West-European relations, nevertheless, the agrarian question exists for us too, and land hunger is the curse of our life. One of the chief points of our social programme is: increase in the area of peasant landownership” (743).

The big agrarian disturbances that occurred in the Kingdom of Poland in the form of the seizure of landlord estates were confined to the eastern areas, namely, Wlodawa Uyezd, where the peasants were told that they, as members of the Orthodox Church, would receive allotments of landlords’ land. Those disturbances occurred only among the population belonging to the Orthodox Church” (745).

Here [in the Kingdom of Poland] agrarian affairs, like all other social reforms, ... can be settled in conformity with the requirements of life only by an assembly of representatives of the region—only by an autonomous Sejm” (747).

This speech by a Polish National-Democrat provoked violent attacks against the Polish landlords on the part of the Right Byelorussian peasants (Gavrilchik, Minsk Gubernia, Szymánski, and Grudzinski); and Bishop Eulogius, of course, seized the opportunity to deliver a jesuitical police-minded speech in the spirit of the Russian politicians of 1863 about the Polish landlords oppressing the Russian peasants (26th session, April 12).

What a simple plan!” answered the National-Democrat Grabski (32nd session, May 3). “The peasants will receive land; the Russian landlords will keep their estates; the peasants, as in the good old days, will support the, old regime, and the Poles will be duly punished for raising the question of a Polish Sejm” (62). And the speaker, vehemently exposing the shameless demagogy of the Russian Government, demanded that “the settlement of the agrarian reform in our region be transferred to a Polish Sejm” (75).

To this we will add that the above-mentioned peasants demanded additional allotments with right of ownership (see, for example, p. 1811). In the First Duma, too, the Polish and Western peasants, in demanding land, spoke in favour of private ownership. “I am a peasant with little land from Lublin Gubernia,” said Nakonieczny on June 1,1906. “Compulsory alienation is needed in Poland as well. One dessiatin forever is better than five dessiatins for an indefinite period” (881-82). The same was said by Poniatowski (Volhynia Gubernia) in the name of the Western Region (May 19, p. 501), and by Trasun from Vitebsk Gubernia (418, May 16, 1906). Girnius (Suvalki Gubernia) opposed the idea of an imperial stock of distributable land and demanded local distributable lands (June 1, 1906, p. 879). During the same debate, Count Tysczkiewiez stated that he regarded the idea of forming a national stock of distributable land as “impracticable and risky” (874). Stecki also spoke (May 24, 1906, pp. 613-14) in favour of private ownership as against renting.

A speaker from the Baltic Region in the Second Duma was Juraszewski (Courland Gubernia), who demanded the abolition of the feudal privileges of the big landowners (May 16, 1907, p. 670) and the alienation of all landlords’ land over and above a definite norm. “While admitting that present-day agriculture in the Baltic Region developed on the principle of private ownership, or hereditary lease, that was practised there, one must come to the conclusion, however, that for the future regulation of agricultural relations it is necessary immediately to introduce in the Baltic Region local self-government on broad democratic lines which could correctly solve this problem” (672).

The representative of Estland Gubernia, the Progressist Jurine, introduced a separate Bill for this gubernia (47th session, May 26, 1907, p. 1210). He spoke in favour of a “compromise” (1213), in favour of “hereditary or perpetual leasing” (1214). “The one who cultivates the land, who makes the best use of it, shall have possession of the land” (ibid.). While demanding compulsory alienation for this purpose, he rejects confiscation of the land (1215). In the First Duma, Cakste (Courland Gubernia) demanded the   transfer to the peasants of church (parish) land as well as landlords’ land (4th session, May 4,1906, p. 195). Tenison (Livland Gubernia) agreed to vote for the address, i.e., for compulsory alienation, and expressed the opinion that “all the supporters of the individualisation of the land” (ibid., p. 209) could do this. Kreuzberg (Courland Gubernia), on behalf of the Courland peasants, demanded the “expropriation of the latifundia” and the allotment of land to peasants with little or no land, and, of course, “with right of ownership” (12th session, May 19, 1906, p. 500). Ruth (Livland Gubernia) demanded compulsory alienation, etc. “As regards converting the land into a state stock of distributable land,” be said, “our peasants are fully aware that this is a new form of serfdom. Therefore, we must de fend small peasant farming and productivity of labour, and protect them from the encroachments of capitalism. Thus, if we convert the land into a state stock of distributable land we shall create capitalism on the largest scale” (497, ibid.). Ozolins (Livland Gubernia), on behalf of the Lettish peasants, spoke in favour of compulsory alienation and private ownership; he was emphatically opposed to the creation of a reserve of state distributable land and was in favour only of local, regional distributable lands (13th session, May 23, 1906, p. 564).

Leonas, “representative of Suvalki Gubernia, namely, of the Lithuanian nationality” (39th session, May 16, 1907, p. 654), spoke in favour of the plan proposed by the Constitutional-Democratic Party, to which he belongs. Bulat, another Lithuanian autonomist from the same gubernia, associated himself with the Trudoviks, but proposed that a decision on the question of redemption payments and so forth, be postponed until the matter was discussed by the local land committees (p. 651, ibid.). Povilius (Kovno Gubernia), in the name of the “Duma group of Lithuanian Social-Democrats” (ibid., p. 681, supplement) put forward this group’s precisely-formulated agrarian programme, which coincides with our R.S.D.L.P. programme, with this difference, however, that “the local distributable land within the borders of Lithuania” is to be placed at the disposal of “the Lithuanian organ of autonomous self-government” (ibid., Point 2).

On behalf of the Moslem group in the Second Duma Khan Khoisky (Elisavetpol Gubernia) said: “We Moslems, who number over 20,000,000 in the total population of the Russian state, are following the debate on the agrarian question with the same keen interest and are looking for ward to its satisfactory settlement with the impatience” (20th session, April 2, 1907, p. 1499). In the name of the Moslem group the speaker agreed with Kutler and sup ported compulsory alienation based on a fair valuation (1502). “But to whom are these alienated lands to go? On this matter the Moslem group is of the opinion that the alienated lands should form not a state stock,, but regional stocks of distributable land, each within the borders of the given region” (1503). Deputy Mediev (Taurida Gubernia), the “representative of the Crimean Tatars”, in an ardent revolutionary speech, demanded “land and liberty”. “The longer the debate goes on the clearer we hear the demand of the people that the land must go to those who till it” (24th session, April 9,1907, p. 1789). The speaker snowed “how sacred landed property was established in our border regions” (1792), how the land of the Bashkirs was plundered, how ministers, councillors of state, and chiefs of the gendarmerie received tracts ranging from two to six thousand dessiatins. He cued the mandate of his “Tatar brethren”, complaining of the way the wakf lands[5] were plundered. He also quoted the answer, dated December 15, 1906, which the Governor-General of Turkestan gave a certain Tatar to the effect that only persons of the Christian faith could settle on state land. “Do not those documents smell of decay, of the Arakcheyev regime[6] of the last century?” (1794.)

The spokesman for the Caucasian peasants—besides our Party Social-Democrats, whom we shall speak of later on— was the above-mentioned Sagatelyan (Erivan Gubernia) who shares the Socialist-Revolutionary standpoint. Ter-Avetikyants (Elisavetpol Gubernia), another representative of the “Dashnaktsutyun” Party, spoke in the same strain: “The land must belong to the toilers, i.e., the working people, and to nobody else, on the basis of village commune ownership” (39th session, May 16, 1907, p. 644). “On behalf of all the Caucasian peasants I declare ... at the decisive   moment, all the Caucasian peasants will go hand in hand with their elder brothers—the Russian peasants— and win for themselves land and liberty” (646). Eldarkhanov “on behalf of his constituents—the natives of the Terek Region—requests that plunder of the natural wealth be stopped pending the settlement of the agrarian question” (32nd session, May 3, 1907, p. 78). It was the government that was stealing the land, taking the best part of the high land zone, robbing the land of the Kumyk people and laying claim to its minerals (this must have been before the Stockholm lectures of Plekhanov and John on municipalised land being out of the reach of the undemocratic state power).

Speaking on behalf of the Bashkirs, Deputy Khasanov (Ufa Gubernia) mentioned the stealing by the government of two million dessiatins of land, and demanded that this land “be taken back” (39th session, May 16, 1907, p. 641). Deputy Syrtlanov from Ufa made the same demand in the First Duma (20th session, June 2, 1906, p. 923). The spokesman for the Kirghiz-Kaisak people in the Second Duma was Deputy Karatayev. (Urals Region) who said: “We Kirghiz-Kaisaks... deeply understand and sympathise with the land hunger of our brother-peasants, we are ready and willing to make room for them” (39th session, p. 673), but “there is very little surplus land”, and “re-settlement at the present time entails the eviction of the Kirghiz Kaisak people”.... “The Kirghiz are evicted not from the land, but from their dwellings” (675). “The Kirghiz Kaisaks always sympathise with all the opposition groups” (675).

The spokesman for the Ukrainian group in the Second Duma was the Cossack Saiko, from Poltava Gubernia. Speaking on March 29, 1907, he quoted the Cossack song: “Hey, Tsarina Catherina, look what you have done! Boundless steppe and happy land to the landlords you have flung. Hey, Tsarina Catherina, pity us and give us land, happy land and shady woods...", and supported the Trudoviks, demanding only that the words “national stock of distributable land” in § 2 of the Bill of the 104 be amended to “regional national [sic!] stock of distributable land to serve as the beginning of socialist organisation”, “The Ukrainian   group is of the opinion that the greatest injustice in the world is the private ownership of the land” (1318).

In the First Duma, Deputy Chizhevsky from Poltava said: “As an ardent advocate of the autonomy idea, as an ardent advocate of Ukrainian autonomy in particular, I should very much like the agrarian question to be settled by my people, by individual autonomous bodies, in that autonomous system of our state that I regard as the ideal” (14th session, May 24, 1906, p. 618). At the same time, this Ukrainian autonomist deems state distributable lands to be absolutely essential, and he clarifies an issue which our “municipalisers” have muddled up. “We must firmly and positively establish the principle,” said Chizhevsky, “that the state distributable lands must be managed exclusively by local self-governing Zemstvo or autonomous bodies when these are set up. It may be asked: What sense is there in the term ‘state distributable lands’ if in every particular case they will be managed by local government bodies? I think there is very much sense.... First of all ... part of the state lands should be at the disposal of the central government... our state colonisation lands.... Secondly, the sense of establishing a state stock of distributable land, and the sense of calling it such, is this: although the local bodies will be free to dispose of that land in their respective areas, they will be able to do so only within certain limits” (620). This petty-bourgeois autonomist understands the significance of state power in a society centralised by economic development far better than our Menshevik Social-Democrats.

By the way, in dealing with Chizhevsky’s speech, we cannot leave unmentioned his criticism of “norms”. “Labour norm is an empty sound,” he says bluntly, pointing out the diversity of agricultural conditions,. and on the same grounds he also rejects the “subsistence” norm. “I think land should be allotted to the peasants not according to a norm, but according to the amount of land available.... The peasants should be given all that can be given in the particular locality,” —for example, in Poltava Gubernia “land should be taken away from all the landowners, who should be left with an average of 50 dessiatins each at the most” (621). Is it surprising that the Cadets chatter about norms in order to conceal their plans regarding the actual   amount of land to be alienated? Although criticising the Cadets, Chizhevsky does not yet realise this.[1]

The conclusion to be drawn from our review of the Duma speeches on the agrarian question delivered by the “nationals” is obvious. Those speeches fully confirm what I said in opposition to Maslov in the pamphlet Revision, etc., on p. 18 (first edition)[2] on the question of the relation between municipalisation arid the rights of the nationalities, namely, that it is a political question, which is fully dealt with in the political section of our programme, and is dragged into the agrarian programme merely because of philistine provincialism.

In Stockholm, the Mensheviks worked with comical zeal to “purge municipalisation of nationalisation” (the words of the Menshevik Novosedsky, Minutes of the Stockholm Congress, p. 146). “Some historical regions, such as Poland and Lithuania,” said Novosedsky, “coincide with national territories, and the transfer of land to these regions may serve as the basis for the successful development of nationalist-federalist tendencies, which will again, in effect, transform municipalisation into nationalisation piecemeal.” And so Novosedsky and Dan proposed and secured the adoption of an amendment: for the words, “self-governing large regional organisations” in Maslov’s draft substitute the words: “large local self-governing bodies that will unite urban and rural districts”.

An ingenious way of “purging municipalisation of nationalisation”, I must say. To substitute one word for another—is   it not obvious that this will automatically lead to the reshuffling of the “historical regions”?.

No, gentlemen, no substitution of words will help you to rid municipalisation of its inherent, “nationalist-federalist” nonsense. The Second Duma showed that what the “municipalisation” idea did in fact was only to promote the nationalist tendencies of various groups of the bourgeoisie. It was these groups alone, not counting the Right Cossack Karaulov, that “took upon themselves” the protection of various “territorial” and “regional” distributable lands. In so doing these nationals threw out the agrarian content of provincialisation (for actually Maslov “gives” the land to provinces and not to “municipalities”, so the word provincialisation is more exact): nothing is to be decided beforehand, everything—the question of redemption payment, the question of ownership, and so forth—is to be left to the autonomous Sejms, or to regional, etc., self-governing bodies. The result is the fullest confirmation of my statement that “just the same, the law transferring the Trans Caucasian lands to the Zemstvo will have to be passed by a constituent assembly in St. Petersburg, because, surely, Maslov does not want to give any region freedom to retain landlordism” (Revision, etc., p. 18).[3]

Thus, events have confirmed that to argue the case for municipalisation on the basis of the nationalities’ agreement or disagreement is a poor argument. The municipalisation in our programme turns out to be in conflict with the definitely expressed opinion of very diverse nationalities.

Events have confirmed, in fact, that municipalisation serves not as a guide for the mass, nation-wide peasant movement, but as a means of breaking this movement up into provincial and national streams. The only thing that life absorbed from Maslov’s idea of regional stocks of distributable land is national-autonomist “regionalism”.

The “nationals” stand somewhat aloof from our agrarian question. Many non-Russian nationalities have no independent peasant movement at the heart of the revolution, such as we have. It is quite natural, therefore, that in their   programmes the “nationals” often keep somewhat aloof from the Russian agrarian question, as much as to say: it has nothing to do with us, we have our own problem. For the nationalist bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie such a standpoint is inevitable.

For the proletariat, however, such a standpoint is impermissible; but it is precisely into this impermissible bourgeois nationalism that our programme actually falls. Just as the “nationals”, at best, only associate themselves with the all-Russian movement, without the intention of strengthening it tenfold by uniting and concentrating the movement, so the Mensheviks draft a programme which associates itself with the peasant revolution instead of presenting a programme to guide the revolution, to unite it, and advance it. Municipalisation is not a slogan of the peasant revolution, but an artificial plan of petty-bourgeois reformism added on from outside in a backwater of the revolution.

The Social-Democratic proletariat cannot alter its programme in order to win the “agreement” of this or that nationality. Our task is to unite and concentrate the movement by advocating the best path, the best agrarian system possible in bourgeois society, by combating the force of tradition, prejudice, and conservative provincialism. “Disagreement” with the socialisation of the land on the part of the small peasants cannot alter our programme of the socialist revolution; it can only cause us to prefer action by example. The same applies to the nationalisation of the land in a bourgeois revolution. No “disagreement” with it on the part of a nationality or several nationalities can make us alter the doctrine that it is in the interest of the entire people that they should be freed to the utmost extent from medieval landownership and that private ownership of the land should be abolished. The “disagreement” of considerable sections of the toiling masses of this or that nationality will make us prefer influence by example to every other form of influence. The nationalisation of the land avail able for colonisation, the nationalisation of forest land, the nationalisation of all the land in central Russia, cannot exist for long side by side with private ownership of the land in some other part of the country (once the unification   of this country is due to the really main current of economic evolution). One or the other system must gain the upper hand. Experience will decide that. Our task is to explain to the people what conditions are most favourable for the proletariat and for the toiling masses in a capitalistically developing country.


[1] Chizhevsky also brings out very strikingly the thesis of the unconsciously-bourgeois Trudoviks, with which we are already familiar, namely, growth of industry and a decrease in the movement to the land in the event of a consistent peasant revolution. “The peas ants in our district, the very electors who sent us here, have made, for example, the following calculation: ‘If we were a little richer and if each of our families could spend five or six rubles on sugar every year, several sugar refineries would arise in each of the uyezds where it is possible to grow sugar beet, in addition to those that are already there’. Naturally, if those refineries were to arise, what a mass of bands would be required for intensified farming! The output of the sugar refineries would increase,” etc. (622). That is precisely the programme of “American” farming and of the “American” development of capitalism in Russia. —Lenin

[2] See present edition, Vol. 10, p. 182.—Ed.

[3] See present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 182-83.—Ed.

[4] National-Democrat—member of the National-Democratic Party, the chief, reactionary, nationalist party of the Polish landlords and bourgeoisie, closely associated with the Catholic Church. The party was founded in 1897, its leaders being R. Dmowski, Z. Balicki, W. Grabski, and others. The N.D.’s put forward the slogans of “class harmony” and “national interests”. They tried to win influence over the masses and draw them into the current of their reactionary policy. They preached aggressive nationalism and chauvinism as a means of struggle against the socialist and   general democratic movement among the Polish people, which they attempted to isolate from the Russian revolutionary movement. During the revolution of 1905-07 they sought to make a deal with tsarism to secure Polish autonomy, and openly supported it in its struggle against the revolution by every means in their power, including informing, lock-outs, and assassination”. The Fifth (London) Congress of the R.S.D.L.P. adopted a special resolution emphasising the need “unremittingly and relentlessly to expose the counter-revolutionary Black-Hundred physiognomy and activities of the National-Democrats as the allies of tsarism in its fight against the revolution” (see “The C.P.S.U. in Resolutions and Decisions of Its Congresses, Conferences, and Plenary Meetings of the Central Committee, Part I, 1954, p. 168). During the First World War (1914-18) the N.D.’s unreservedly supported the Entente, counting on the victory of tsarist Russia, the uniting of Polish territories which had been under the heel of Austria and Germany, and the granting of autonomy to Poland within the framework of the Russian empire. The downfall of the tsarist regime impelled the N.D.’s towards a pro-French orientation. Bitter enemies of the October Socialist Revolution and the Soviet state though they were, the N.D.’s, in keeping with their traditional anti-German attitude, did not always give whole-hearted support to the adventurist anti-Soviet foreign policy pursued by the Pilsudski clique which ruled Poland beginning from. 1926. At the present time various groups of the National-Democratic Party are active among reactionary Polish émigrés.

[5] Wakf lands—lands in areas with a Moslem population, which could not be sold or transferred. The revenue derived from such land was disposed of cheifly by the Moslem clergy. Under the Soviet government the wakf lands became state property.

[6] Arakcheyev, A.A.—reactionary tsarist statesman of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He greatly influenced home and foreign policies in the reigns of Paul I and Alexander I. His name stands for an epoch of unlimited police despotism and a brutal military regime.

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