V. I.   Lenin

Pictures From Life

Published: Pravda No. 149, July 2, 1913. Signed: T—in. Published according to the Pravda text.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 19, pages 256-257.
Translated: The Late George Hanna
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

Any mention of serfdom in Russian life in general, and in the Russian countryside in particular, calls forth a protest from our liberals, especially from those liberals who love to picture themselves as almost Marxists. What sort of serfdom, they say, is there in twentieth-century Russia! It is simply nothing but “agitation”....

Nevertheless amazingly clear pictures of serfdom are to be met with in the contemporary Russian countryside at every step, and only the accursed inertness of the Russian man in the street, who has “got used to it”, makes him pass these pictures by indifferently.

Here is one of them that we have borrowed from the official register of decisions passed by Chernigov Gubernia Zemstvo Assembly for the ten years 1900–09.

Leaving intact until the present time the archaic method of main taming rural roads by compulsory service is a dark stain on our Zemstvo...” writes Mr. Khizhnyakov on this subject (Russkoye Bogatstvo). “To say nothing of the great injustice of this being a service performed exclusively by the peasants ... the very way in which it is done is shameful. After the snow has melted and after torrential rains, the village elders, usually under a threatening order from the police sergeant, ‘drive out the people’, as we put it, to mend the road. The work is done without any sort of organisation, with no levelling or any technical instructions. I happened to see such work being done with unusual energy, to the accompaniment of menacing shouts from the police sergeants and with blows of a whip to urge on the slower workers. It was at the end of summer, just before the governor was due to pass that way.... About five hundred men and women with spades were driven out to work on a stretch of about three versts. On the orders of the police they dug ditches that were absolutely unnecessary and that later had to be filled in again.... And our Zemstvo, in the course of its almost fifty years’ existence, has not only failed to remove this burden from the peasant population but has even increased it....”

That Zemstvo, like all Russian Zemstvos, is a landowners’ Zemstvo.

And so the landowners are continuing to increase the old “service” performed by the peasants. When so instructed by the landowners, the police and the elders “drive out the people”, compelling hundreds of peasants to leave the work on their farms and “dig absolutely unnecessary ditches”, “with out any sort of organisation” and “with blows of a whip to urge on the slower workers”.

That is where the roots of the power of the Purishkeviches, Markovs & Co., lie. And how disgustingly hypocritical are our smooth, sedate, well-intentioned reformist liberal programmes when compared with such roots!


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