V. I. Lenin

What is Happening in the Countryside?

Published: Rabochaya Gazeta No. 2, December 18 (31), 1910. Published according to the text in Rabochaya Gazeta.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, [1974], Moscow, Volume 16, pages 359-360.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Copyleft: V. I. Lenin Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) © 2004 Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.  

Ex-Minister of Agriculture Yermolov’s new book about the “present epidemic of incendiarism in Russia” has given rise to controversy in the newspapers. The liberal press has pointed out that fires in the countryside have not decreased but rather increased after the revolution. The reactionary newspapers have taken up Yermolov’s outcry and lamentation about “the impunity of the incendiaries”, “terrorism in the countryside”, and so on. There has been an extraordinary increase in the number of fires in rural localities. For in stance, between 1904 and 1907 the figure went up twofold in Tambov Gubernia, two and a half times in Orel Gubernia, and threefold in Voronezh Gubernia. “The more or less well-to-do peasants,” writes Novoye Vremya, which acts as a lackey of the government, “want to set up farmsteads and are trying to introduce new farming methods, but are besieged, as if by guerrillas in enemy territory, by a lawless rural element that has run wild. They are being burned out and hounded, hounded and burned out until there is nothing left for them to do but ‘abandon everything and flee’.”

An unpleasant admission indeed for those supporting the tsarist government! For us Social-Democrats the latest in formation is not lacking in interest as further confirmation of the lies of the government and the pitiful impotence of liberal policy.

The Revolution of 1905 fully showed that the old order in the Russian countryside is irrevocably doomed by history. Nothing in the world can bolster up this order. How is it to be changed? The peasant masses gave the answer by their uprisings in 1905 and through their deputies in the First and Second Dumas. The landed estates must be taken away from the landlords without compensation. When 30,000 land lords (headed by Nicholas Romanov) own 70 million dessiatines of land and ten million peasant households almost the   same amount, the result can be nothing except bondage, abject poverty, ruin and stagnation of the whole national economy. Hence the Social-Democratic Labour Party called on the peasants to take up the revolutionary struggle. By their mass strikes in 1905 the workers throughout Russia rallied the peasants and directed their struggle. The liberal plan to “reconcile” the peasants with the landlords through “redemption payments at a fair valuation”{1} was an empty, miserable, treacherous trick.

How does the Stolypin government want to refashion the old order in the countryside? It wants to speed up the complete ruin of the peasants, to preserve the landed estates, to help an insignificant handful of rich peasants to set up farmsteads and grab as much as possible of the land of the village communes. The government has realised that the peasant masses are against it and it is trying to find allies among the rich peasants.

Stolypin himself once said that “twenty years of tranquillity” would be needed to carry out the “reform” proposed by the government. By “tranquillity” he means submissiveness on the part of the peasants, the absence of any struggle against violence. Yet without violence committed by the rural superintendents and other authorities, violence at every step, violence against tens of millions—without sup pressing the slightest signs of independence on the part of these millions, the Stolypin “reform” cannot be carried out. Not even for three years, let alone twenty, has Stolypin been able to bring about “tranquillity”, nor will he be able to do so; this is the unpleasant truth of which the tsar’s lackeys have been reminded by the ex-minister’s book about fires in the countryside.

The peasants do not and cannot have any other way out of the position of desperate want, poverty, and death by starvation into which the government has plunged them than by mass struggle together with the proletariat to overthrow the tsarist regime. Preparation of the forces of the proletariat for this struggle, the creation, development and consolidation of proletarian organisations—this is the immediate task of the R.S.D.L.P.


{1} This refers to the plan put forward by the Constitutional-Democratic Party (Cadets) in 1906 for transferring to the peasants part of the landlords’ land for which compensation was to be paid to the landlords. The “fair valuation” of which the Cadets spoke meant that the peasants would have to pay for the land much more than it was actually worth.

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