V. I.   Lenin

Some Remarks on the “Reply” by P. Maslov[3]

Published: Published in October-November 1908 in the journal Ptzegl&awhatthe;d Socjaldemokraiyczny, No 8-9. Signed: N. Lenin. Translated from the Polish. Published according to the text in the journal.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973, Moscow, Volume 15, pages 255-266.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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My opponent accuses me of using methods of polemics which distort the issue. To ascertain whether this is true, I will examine P. Maslov’s “Reply” step by step.

Maslov’s first example. Lenin says that a new upsurge of the revolution is unthinkable without the radical abolition of all the survivals of serfdom, “as though Social- Democracy, in adopting the programme of municipalisation of the land, intends to preserve the survivals of serfdom, to leave the estates in the hands of the landlords”.

Every reader will see that Maslov is begging the question; because what I have been pointing out all the time is that the term, a survival of serfdom, applies not only to land lord property but also to the allotment property still in existence. That was what the argument was about. By avoiding this question all through his reply, by not saying a word about whether there is a medieval element in allotment property in land, whether to clear away this medievalism is advantageous for capitalism or not, Maslov distracts the attention of the reader. Not to reply to an argument of one’s opponent on a question of principle, and to ascribe only “pathos” to him, means not to argue but to turn to abuse.

The second example. My remark about an agrarian and a political revolution being indissolubly connected Maslov calls lack of respect for the reader. Municipalisation does not break this connection either. Is that a reply? Is not Maslov passing over in silence here—(1) my explicit reference to the Menshevik Novosedsky, who definitely connected municipalisation with an incomplete political revolution; and (2) my argument that municipalisation does   not affect either the medieval village commune or medieval landowning, i. e., unquestionably and firmly condemns the agrarian revolution itself, and only the agrarian revolution, to remain half-finished?

Maslov’s third argument: “The peasants’ hatred of the landlords and the officials serves Lenin as an argument in favour of his programme and against the programme adopt ed.” Untrue. Every reader will notice that Maslov has substituted “hatred of the landlords” for “hatred of medievalism” (Maslov himself admits a few lines earlier that that Was what I spoke of). He needed this substitution in order to pass over in silence my argument as to the medieval character of allotment property.

It is not true that I called my programme a Bolshevik one. Nor is it true that the question of nationalisation was voted on at Stockholm. You should not distort facts, Comrade Maslov!

No theory of rent affords the least’ advantage to the programme of nationalisation or municipalisation, because the income from confiscated lands in any case goes to the state or the municipal authority.”

Here we have at last an argument in substance. An excellent argument, too, because it best shows how monstrously Maslov is distorting Marxism. Only by rejecting Marx’s absolute rent, which Maslov has “refuted”, can one reduce the question purely to “income”, forgetting about the lowering of prices for grain and ensuring access for capital to agriculture! Maslov has confirmed by his argument that the economic essence of the question is alien and in comprehensible to him. It is not a question of income, my dear sir, but of the relations of production in agriculture, which change for the better when absolute rent is abolished. By rejecting absolute rent in Marx’s theory, Maslov has deprived himself of any possibility of understanding the economic significance of nationalisation. Why millions of small proprietors in the Russian bourgeois revolution could and were bound to demand it—that economic problem does not exist for Maslov. That’s just the trouble with him!

It is true that my articles in the years 1905-08 were directed against the programme of the cut-off lands. But   “to leap and dance” on this question as Maslov does means to throw dust in the eyes of the reader, and not to clear up disputed questions. After all, Maslov himself has not stood by all his programme of 1903! Why then does he hide this from the reader, and put forward only one side of the past? Why does he quote the words, which I do not’ deny now either, that nationalisation of the land is harmful in a “police state”? Is that argument, or abuse?

For Polish readers who don’t know the details of the discussion on the agrarian question among Russian Social-Democrats, I will explain that in 1903, before the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., Maslov put forward in the press a different programme from the one he recommended in 1906. I should have thought it impermissible to dig up previous differences, and in my previous article I did not touch on them. But now Maslov himself has brought up the old dispute. It came into his head that it would be a brilliant piece of wit to refute the programme of 1903 which I have given up—or was he perhaps attracted by the thought that to argue about the past would draw attention away from the weak points in his new views? The fact remains that, in touching on earlier disputes, Maslov did not tell the Polish Social-Democrats that he himself had changed his programme of 1903. While blaming his opponent for the open and long since completed alteration in the previous programme, he conceals the fact that he himself has changed his programme. He also conceals the fact that in 1903 Pyotr Maslov not only did not insist on the necessity of leaving the allotment lands at all costs in the hands of their owners, but on the contrary, simply included in his programme the socialisation if possible of the allotment lands as well.

Splendid, is it not? For whom are recollections of the past unpleasant? For him who has openly recognised the source of mistakes in his previous view, or for him who hides the fact that his views have changed? Why was it that in 1903 P. Maslov thought the socialisation of allotment lands possible as well, while in 1900-08 he flies into a rage at the mere thought of such views being entertained?

Let the reader judge for himself of such “polemical” methods or rather such covering-up of traces. Maslov follows   the recipe of the ’sly old fellow depicted by Turgenev: denounce as loudly as possible what you want to hide in your own actions! Others have changed their views, and pointed it out themselves. Shout as loudly as possible against these changes, in order to hide the change in your own views! In the absence of arguments, one needs must fall back on swindling.

My table showing the distribution of landed property in European Russia displeases Maslov. He is indignant that I compare “Kalmyk” property with the “intensive economy” of south-western Russia. The reader who is familiar with the literature on the agrarian question knows, of course, that Maslov himself as well as other authors compare— though it be for particular districts—the ruined horseless peasant having four dessiatines of land in some remote back woods, with the rich farmer carrying on intensive market- gardening on the same quantity of land near a large city. Out of place, quite out of place, is Comrade Maslov’s boasting of his “detailed analysis”! It is. boasting, and not scientific argument: because it is impossible to ascertain the results of the struggle in any other way than the one I adopted, and Maslov himself understands the impossibility of making “detailed analyses” in Przegl&awhatthe;d.

In dealing with my argument that when the Trudovik group declared for nationalisation they proved to the Mensheviks that I was right, Maslov does not simply examine this argument, but tries indirectly to weaken it by saying that (1) the nationalisation was “whittled down” and (2) many joined the autonomists in the First Duma “just be cause their electorate did not want nationalisation of the land”.

Is not this evasion of the question? What has nationalisation in common with this “whittling down”? And what have the autonomists in common with what Maslov in 1905 and all the Mensheviks at Stockholm categorically stated about the Russian peasants—that they would not in any case agree to nationalisation, and would reply to it with a Vendee? Maslov passes over in silence the fact—for him an unpleasant one—that the adoption of a programme of nationalisation by the Trudovik group after the Stockholm Congress refuted the arguments of the Mensheviks. Such   a “reply”, in which the real issue is systematically avoided, is not difficult, but it is not of great value. It is a fact that both the First and Second Dumas often put the workers’ deputies in an embarrassing position, because the Social- Democrats were “whittling down” nationalisation more than the peasants themselves. The Social-Democrats found themselves in the position of timorous philistine intellectuals advising the peasant to deal more carefully with the old, medieval allotment property, to reinforce it as much as he could, to adapt the new free property in land to capitalism as slowly as possible! The point is, Comrade Maslov, not that the Trudoviks were whittling down nationalisation but that the Social-Democrats, the Marxists, were whittling it down still more—because municipalisation is nationalisation whittled down to the point of distortion. The trouble is not that the autonomists sometimes rejected[1] nationalisation; the trouble is that the Russian Social-Democrats failed to understand the nature of the struggle of the Russian peasants. Maslov’s demagogy is not that he records the disagreement of some of the autonomists with nationalisation, but that he is silent about the fact that many autonomists disagree with municipalisation, and that he uses petty-bourgeois separatist arguments to incite them against nationalisation!

The autonomists are against nationalisation. Let the reader consider in whose favour such an argument works. For my part, I would mention that as early as 1903, when criticising Maslov’s programme of that day, I called municipalisation whittled nationalisation. I would mention that, when arguing with Maslov in 1906 before the Stockholm Congress, I pointed out that it was wrong to confuse the question of national autonomy with that of nationalisation of the land.[2] The very foundations of our programme guarantee autonomy. Consequently they also guarantee the autonomous disposal of the nationalised land! Maslov cannot understand this elementary fact! Nationalisation means the abolition of absolute rent, the passing of the land   into the property of the state, the prohibition of all transfers of land, i. e., the elimination of all mediators between those who work the land and the owner of the land—the state. Within the limits of this prohibition, the autonomy of countries and peoples in relation to the disposal of the land, the establishment of conditions for settlement, and regulations for distribution, etc., etc., is quite permissible, does not in any way contradict nationalisation and is included in the demands of our political programme. It follows clearly from this that only petty bourgeois—and that is what all the “autonomists” were—could cover up their cowardice, their unwillingness to fight actively to the end for a single, centralised agrarian revolution, by expressing a fear that they would lose their autonomy. For Social-Democracy the question is posed the other way round: it is the business of the proletariat to carry the revolution through to its very end, both, in the political sphere and in the agrarian. For this purpose it is necessary to nationalise the land—a thing that is demanded by the Trudoviks, i. e., the politically-minded Russian peasants. The important thing for a Marxist is the economic criterion, of such a step; and this economic criterion proclaims that, in keeping with Marx’s teaching, bourgeois nationalisation of the land ensures the maximum development of productive forces in agriculture. Thus a resolute bourgeois-revolutionary step in the agrarian sphere is indissolubly bound up with a resolute bourgeois-democratic revolution in the political sphere, i. e., with the establishment of a republic, which alone guarantees true autonomy. Such is the real relationship between autonomy and an agrarian revolution, which Maslov has completely failed to understand!

Maslov calls my reference to Marx’s Theories of Surplus-Value an “evasion”, because Marx never said “that the peasants want to expropriate themselves”. Come, come, Comrade Maslov! Can it really be that you have not understood Marx’s clear words? Does Marx say that for capitalism the complete abolition of medieval property in land is an advantage—does he or does he not? Is the nationalisation of the land advocated by the Trudoviks and demanded by the Russian peasants in 1905-07, abolition of medieval property—is   it or is it not? For it was about this that we were talking, my dear sir, and the laughable renaming of bourgeois-peasant nationalisation of the land “expropriation” of the peasants does not in the least refute the correctness of the question as I put it.... “In industry as well,” Maslov continues, “capitalism ruins small proprietorship, but does it follow from this that the Social-Democrats have got to assume the task of expropriating the handicraftsmen?"

This is a perfect gem! To call the struggle of the peasants against medieval barriers in landownership, the struggle for nationalisation of the land, which (Marx showed) most favours the development of capitalism, “expropriation” of the peasants, and to put it on the same footing as expropriation of the handicraftsman by the capitalist. For God’s sake, Comrade Maslov! Just think, in the name of all that is holy, why we support the peasant against the landlord, and leave it to the anti-Semites to support the handicrafts man against the factory!

Maslov does not understand that to support the handicraftsman, i. e., petty proprietorship in industry, can never be the job of Social-Democrats, since this activity is decidedly and invariably reactionary. But support of petty proprietorship in agriculture may be the duty of Marxists, and must be their duty wherever petty-bourgeois economy is economically progressive compared with large-scale feudal economy. Marx never supported small-scale industry against large-scale, but Marx supported small-scale farming in the forties in respect to America, and peasant agriculture against the feudal latifundia in 1848 in relation to Germany. In 1848 Marx proposed the breaking-up of the German feudal estates. He supported the movement of the small farmers against the large-scale slave-owning estates in America, for freedom of the soil and for the abolition of private property in land in America.[4]

Was Marx’s trend of thought in agrarian policy correct? It was correct, esteemed Comrade Maslov—who has “revised” the theory of absolute rent in the spirit of bourgeois economics, but has not had time to “revise” the rest of Marx. A bourgeois revolution in the agrarian sphere can be consistent and really victorious only when it forcibly and drastically abolishes all feudal property, when it wipes   out all previous property in land, and instead creates a basis for the new free bourgeois property in land, adapted to the requirements of capital and not of the landlords. Nationalisation of the land is fully in keeping with the trend of such a revolution. Moreover nationalisation of the land is the only measure which ensures that such a revolution takes place with the greatest consistency think able in capitalist society. There is no other means so resolutely and painlessly to liberate the peasants from the “ghetto” of allotment property. There is no other means to destroy the old rotten village commune without police, bureaucracy and money-lender.

Viewed objectively, the question presents itself in the Russian bourgeois revolution in the following way, and only in the following way: will Stolypin (i. e., the landlords and the autocracy) adapt the old form of landed property to the requirements of capitalism, or will the peasant masses themselves do it by overthrowing the power of the landlords and the tsar? In the first case,adaptation is only possible by means of reforms, i. e., by a half-hearted, long-dragged-out process, involving a much slower growth of the productive forces, the least possible development of democracy condemning Russia to the prolonged supremacy of the Junker. In the second case, only a revolutionary adaptation is possible, i. e., one which forcibly sweeps away the landlords’ estates and ensures the most rapid possible development of the productive forces. Is that revolutionary abolition of landlord property thinkable if the old allotment property of the peasants remains? No, it is unthinkable—and the peasant deputies in both Dumas demonstrated that it was impossible. They demonstrated this by creating a political type of peasantry representative of all Russia .in the period of the bourgeois revolution: the Trudovik type, who demands nationalisation of the land.

In shouting about the S. R. character of nationalisation, Maslov is repeating the old tactic of the Mensheviks: while themselves flirting with the Cadets, to accuse the revolutionary Social-Democrats of coming closer to the Socialist-Revolutionaries. People coquette with the liberal— monarchist landlords and merchants, but are indignant that the revolutionary Social-Democrats in a bourgeois   revolution want to march together with the revolutionary peasant bourgeois. Nor is that all. Thundering against the S. R. character of nationalisation, Maslov demonstrates his complete incomprehension of the Marxist analysis of the Narodnik views and aspirations of the Russian peasantry. Maslov does not understand that the Social-Democrats in Russia were long ago pointing out the reactionary nature of the socialist, or rather quasi-socialist, theories or dreams of a reallotment of the land (the general redistribution), etc., and the bourgeois progressiveness of this ideal in present-day semi-feudal Russia. Beyond the S. R.s’ petty-bourgeois phrase about socialism, Maslov is incapable of discovering the bourgeois reality—namely, revolutionary struggle against all the old medieval rubbish. When a Socialist-Revolutionary talks about equalised land tenure, socialisation of lands, etc., the Socialist-Revolutionary is talking balderdash from the economic point of view, he is revealing his illiteracy in the sphere of economic ,science and the theory of the development of capitalism. But behind these phrases, behind these dreams, is hidden a live and highly realistic content—not at all a socialist one, however, but a purely bourgeois content, namely, clearing the ground for capitalism, abolishing all medieval and social-estate barriers existing on the land, and the creation of a free arena for capitalism. That is what our poor Maslov can’t get himself to understand—and this is directly connected with the fact that Maslov cannot under stand Marx’s doctrine of absolute rent, which, unlike differential rent, can be abolished in capitalist society, the development of which will be advanced by its abolition.

Incapable of fighting the S.R.s, Maslov vulgarises Marxism, condemning himself only to contemplation of the “rear aspect” of the peasant, who is shackled to his plot of land, and is quite unable to understand the democracy and the revolutionary bourgeois spirit of the peasant who wants to sweep away both landlord property and allotment property in the soil.

Incapable of fighting the S.R.s, Maslov surrenders to them, to the petty-bourgeois socialists, the criticism of private property in land. That criticism from the point of view of the development of capitalism, was given by Marx   and should be given by Marxists. But in cutting himself off from that road by his denial of absolute rent, Maslov capitulates to the S.R.s, admitting in theory that they are right—when it is Marx who is right! He capitulates to the S.R.s, who criticise private ownership of the land in a petty-bourgeois way, not from the point of view of the development of capitalism, but only from the point of view of delaying its development. Maslov has, not under stood that the mistake of the S.R.s in their agrarian programme begins after nationalisation, i. e., when they go on to “socialisation” and “equalisation” and reach the point of denying a class struggle amongst the small peasantry. The S.R.s do not understand the bourgeois character of nationalisation: that is their principal error. And let any Marxist who has studied Capital tell me, is it possible to understand the bourgeois character of nationalisation when one denies the existence of absolute rent?

Furthermore, Maslov says that I am turning all petty-peasant property throughout Europe into medieval property. Quite untrue. In Europe there is no “allotment” property in land, nor are there barriers deriving from the medieval ranks of society: there exists free and capitalist, not feudal, property in land. In Europe there is no peasant movement against the landlords supported by the Social-Democrats. P. Maslov has forgotten all this!

Let us go on to the political arguments. My argument that the municipalisation advocated by the Mensheviks is bound up with the idea of compromise with the monarchy is described by Maslov as an “insinuation” and a “deliberate lie”—but then how about my textual quotation from the speech of the Menshevik Novosedsky, Comrade Maslov? On whose side is there a lie? Isn’t the real trouble that you want to use terrible words to wipe away the unpleasant fact of Novosedsky’s admission?

Handing over the land to the municipalities increases their chances in the fight against a restoration, asserts Maslov; but I permit myself to think that only the strengthening of a central republican authority can seriously impede reaction, whereas the dispersal of its forces and resources among various regions facilitates the work of reaction. We must strive to unite the revolutionary classes,   and first of all the proletariat, of the various parts of the state into a single army, and not dream of a hopeless, economically impossible and senseless federalist attempt to hand over revenues from confiscated lands to the various regions. “Choose, Polish comrades,” says Maslov: “Should a Polish Sejm receive the revenues from confiscated lands, or should these revenues be handed over to the Russians in St. Petersburg?"

A magnificent argument! And, of course, not a hint of demagogy in it! No confusion of the agrarian question with the question of Polish autonomy!

But I will say: the freedom of Poland is impossible without the freedom of Russia. And that freedom will not be achieved if the Polish and Russian workmen do not do their duty of supporting the Russian peasants in their struggle for nationalisation of the land, and in carrying that struggle to complete victory in both the political sphere and the agrarian. Municipalisation and nationalisation should be evaluated from the point of view of the economic development of the centre of Russia and of the political destinies of the country as a whole, and not from the point of view of the specific features of any particular autonomous national territory. Without the victory of the proletariat and the revolutionary peasantry in Russia, it is absurd to talk about genuine autonomy for Poland, the rights of municipalities and so forth. They become empty phrases. The peasantry in Russia, on the other hand, inasmuch as it is revolutionary, inasmuch as it rejects the idea of compromise with the bourgeoisie and the Octobrists, but fights together with the workers and all democrats, has already irrefutably proved its sympathy for nationalisation of the land. If the peasantry ceases to be revolutionary, i.e., renounces this sympathy and turns away from a bourgeois-democratic revolution, then the peasants will be pleased with Maslov’s anxiety to preserve the old form of property in land—but then Maslov’s municipalisation will be altogether ridiculous. But so long as the revolutionary-democratic struggle of the peasantry continues, so long as there is sense in an “agrarian programme” of Marxists in a bourgeois revolution, it is our duty to sup port the revolutionary demands of the peasantry, including   the demand for nationalisation of the land. Maslov will not strike that demand of the Russian peasants out of the history of the Russian revolution; and it can safely be said that the rise of the tide, the revival of the struggle of the peasants for the land, when it takes place once again, will clearly reveal all the reactionary nature of “municipalisation”.


[1] Not at all, not all! The fact that nationalisation was defended by the Ukrainian autonomist, Chizhevsky, should have given Maslov food for thought. —Lenin

[2] See present edition, Vol. 10, pp. 181-84.—Ed.

[3] This article was written in reply to P. Maslov’s article published in September 1908 in issue No. 7 of Przeglad Socjaldemokratyczny,   the journal of the Polish Social-Democrats, under the heading “On the Question of the Agrarian Programme. (An Answer to Lenin.)” Maslov attacked the Bolshevik programme expounded by Lenin in his Autoabstract, The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the Russian Revolution (see pp. 158-80 of this volume) and defended the agrarian programme of the Mensheviks.

[4] See K. Marx und F. Engels, “Der Gesetzentwurf über die Aufhebung der Feudallasten" and “The Anti-Kriege Circular”.

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