V. I.   Lenin

The Seventh (April) All-Russia Conference of the R.S.D.L.P.(B.)

APRIL 24–29, 1917


Report on the Agrarian Question April 28 (May 11)

Comrades, the agrarian question was threshed out so thoroughly by our Party during the first revolution that by this time, I think, our ideas on the subject are pretty well defined. Indirect proof of this is to be found in the fact that the committee of the Conference composed of comrades interested and fully versed in this subject have agreed on the proposed draft resolution without making any substantial corrections. I shall therefore confine myself to very brief remarks. And since all members have proof-sheets of the draft, there is no need to read it in full.

The present growth of the agrarian movement throughout Russia is perfectly obvious and undeniable. Our Party Programme, proposed by the Mensheviks and adopted by the Stockholm Congress in 1906, was refuted even in the course of the first Russian revolution. At that Congress the Mensheviks succeeded in getting their programme of municipalisation adopted. The essence of their programme was as follows: the peasant lands, communal and homestead, were to remain the property of the peasants while the landed estates were to be taken over by local self-government bodies. One of the Mensheviks’ chief arguments in favour of such a programme was that the peasants would never understand the transfer of peasant land to anyone but themselves. Anyone acquainted with the Minutes of the Stockholm Congress will recollect that this argument was particularly stressed both by Maslov, who made the report, and by Kostrov. We should not forget, as is often done nowadays, that this happened before the First Duma, when there was no objective   information about the character of the peasant movement and its strength. Everyone knew that Russia was aflame with the agrarian revolution, but no one knew how the agrarian movement would be organised, or in what direction the peasant revolution would develop. It was impossible to check whether the opinions expressed by the Congress were the real and practical views held by the peasants themselves. This was why the Mensheviks’ argument had carried such weight. Soon after the Stockholm Congress, we received the first serious indication of how the peasants viewed this question.In both the First and the Second Dumas, the peasants themselves put forward the Trudovik “Bill of the 104”.[2] I made a special study of the signatures to this bill, carefully studied the views of the various deputies, their class affiliations, and the extent to which they may be called peasants. I stated categorically in my book, which was burned by the tsarist censor but which I will republish,[3] that the overwhelming majority of these 104 signatories were peasants. That bill called for the nationalisation of the land. The peasants said that the entire land would become the property of the state.

How, then, are we to account for the fact that in both Dumas the deputies representing the peasants of all Russia preferred nationalisation to the measure proposed in both Dumas by the Mensheviks from the point of view of the peasants’ interests? The Mensheviks proposed that the peasants retain the ownership of their own lands, and that only the landed estates should be given to the people; the peasants, however, maintained that the entire land should be given to the people. How are we to account for this? The Socialist-Revolutionaries say that owing to their commune organisation the Russian peasants favour socialisation, the labour principle. All this phraseology is absolutely devoid of common sense, it is nothing but words. But how are we to account for this? I think the peasants came to this conclusion because all landownership in Russia, both peasants’ and landowners’, communal and homestead, is permeated with old, semi-feudal relationships, and the peasants, considering market conditions, had to demand the transfer of the land to all the people. The peasants say that the tangle of old agrarian life can only be unravelled by nationalisation.   Their point of view is bourgeois; by equalitarian land tenure they mean the confiscation of the landed estates, but not the equalisation of individual proprietors. By nationalisation they mean an actual reallotment of all the land among the peasants. This is a grand bourgeois project. No peasant spoke about equalisation or socialisation; but they all said it was impossible to wait any longer, that all the land had to be cleared,in other words, that farming could not be carried on in the old way under twentieth-century conditions. The Stolypin Reform[4] has since then confused the land question still more. That is what the peasants have in mind when they demand nationalisation. It means a reallotment of all the land. There are to be no varied forms of landownership. There is not the slightest suggestion of socialisation. This demand by the peasants is called equalitarian because, as a brief summary of the statistics relating to land holdings in 1905 shows, 300 peasant families held as much land (2,000 dessiatines) as one landowner’s family. In this sense it is, of course, equalitarian, but it does not imply that all small farms are to be equalised. The Bill of the 104 shows the opposite.

These are the essential points that have to be made in order to give scientific support to the view that nationalisation in Russia, as far as bourgeois democracy is concerned, is necessary. But it is also necessary for another reason—it deals a mighty blow at private ownership of the means of production. It is simply absurd to imagine that after the abolition of private property in land everything in Russia will remain as before.

Then follow some practical conclusions and demands. of the minor amendments in the draft I shall call attention to the following. The first point reads: “The party of the proletariat will support with all its might the immediate and complete confiscation of all landed estates....” Instead of “will support” we ought to say “will fight for”....Our point of view is not that the peasants have not enough land and that they need more. That is the current opinion. We say that the landed estates are the basis of oppression that crushes the peasants and keeps them backward. The question is not whether the peasants have or have not enough land. Down with serfdom!—this is the way the issue should be stated from the point of view of the revolutionary class   struggle, and not from the point of view of those officials who try to figure out how much land they have and by what norms it should be allotted. I suggest that the order of points 2 and 3 should be reversed, because, to us, the thing that matters is revolutionary initiative, and the law must be the result of it. If you wait until the law is written, and yourselves do not develop revolutionary initiative, you will have neither the law nor the land.

People very often object to nationalisation because, they say, it requires a colossal bureaucratic apparatus. That is true, but state landownership implies that every peasant is leasing the land from the state. The subletting of leaseholds is prohibited. But the question of how much and what kind of land the peasant shall lease must be entirely settled by the proper democratic, not bureaucratic, organ of authority.

For “farm-hands” we substitute “agricultural labourers”. Several comrades declared that the word “farm-hand” was offensive; objections were raised to this word. It should be deleted.

We should not speak now of proletarian-peasant committees or Soviets in connection with the settlement of the land question, for, as we see, the peasants have set up Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies, thus creating a division between the proletariat and the peasantry.

The petty-bourgeois defencist parties, as we know, stand for the land question being put off until the Constituent Assembly meets. We are for the immediate transfer of the land to the peasants in a highly organised manner. We are emphatically against anarchic seizing of land. You propose that the peasants enter into agreements with the landowners. We say that the land should be taken over and cultivated right now if we wish to avert famine, to save the country from the debacle which is advancing upon it with incredible speed. One cannot now accept the prescriptions offered by Shingaryov and the Cadets, who suggest waiting for the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the date of which has not been fixed yet, or making arrangements with the landowners for renting land. The peasants are already seizing the land without paying for it, or paying only a quarter of the rent.

One comrade has brought a local resolution, from Penza Gubernia, saying that the peasants are seizing the landowners’ agricultural implements, which however they do not divide among the households, but convert into common property. They are establishing a definite order of sequence, a rule, for using these implements to cultivate all the land. In resorting to such measures, they are guided by the desire to increase agricultural production. This is a matter of principle of tremendous significance, for all that the landowners and capitalists shout about it being anarchy. But if you are going to chatter and shout about this being anarchy, while the peasants sit back and wait, then you will indeed have anarchy. The peasants have shown that they understand farming conditions and social control better than the government officials, and apply such control a hundred times more efficiently. Such a measure, which is doubtless quite practicable in a small village, inevitably leads to more sweeping measures. When the peasant comes to learn this—and he has already begun to learn it—the knowledge of bourgeois professors will not be needed; he will himself come to the conclusion that it is essential to utilise the agricultural implements, not only in the small farms, but for the cultivation of all the land. How they do this is unimportant. We do not know whether they combine their individual plots for common ploughing and sowing or not, and it does not matter if they do it differently. What does matter is that the peasants are fortunate in not having to face a large number of petty-bourgeois intellectuals, who style themselves Marxists and Social-Democrats, and with a grave mien lecture the people about the time not yet being ripe for a socialist revolution and that therefore the peasants must not take the land immediately. Fortunately there are few such gentlemen in the Russian countryside. If the peasants contented themselves merely with taking the land by arrangement with the landowners, and failed to apply their experience collectively, failure would be inevitable, and the peasant committees would become a mere toy, a meaningless game. This is why we propose to add Point 8[1] to the draft resolution.

Once we know that the local peasants have themselves taken this initiative, it is our duty to say that we approve and recommend this initiative. Only this can serve as a guarantee that the revolution will not be limited to formal measures, that the struggle against the crisis will not remain a mere subject for departmental discussion and Shingaryov’s epistles, but that the peasants will actually go ahead in an organised way to combat famine and to increase production.

A brief report published May 13 (April 30), 1917 in Pravda No. 45 Published according to the typewritten copy of the Minutes
First published in full in 1921 in N. Lenin (V. Ulyanov), Works, Volume XIV, Part 2





[3] The reference is to The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–1907, written towards the end of 1907. The book was printed in St. Petersburg in 1908, but the police seized it while still at the printers and destroyed it. Only one copy was saved. The book was first published in 1917.


  Resolution on the Question of Revising the Party Programme | Rejoinder to N. S. Angarsky During the Debate on the Agrarian Question April 28 (May 11)  

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