Various Subjects

A Letter to the Middle Peasants

From the People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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An agitation is being carried on among the peasants and in the Red Army, against the Soviet power and its policy in respect of food and of military affairs. This is quite natural, because the Soviet power has deprived all exploiters and, in particular, the village kulaks, of their former extensive privileges. It is also not surprising if counter-revolutionary agitators resort to all sorts of tricks and stratagems, trying to confuse the more backward, less informed peasants and Red Army men. Recently, counterrevolutionary agitators have widely circulated among the masses a rumour to the effect that there are very big disagreements among the central Soviet authorities: Comrade Lenin, they say, is for the middle peasants, whereas Trotsky, according to this story, is an irreconcilable enemy of the middle peasants, and even incites the army against them! Any worker who is at all serious-minded and politically experienced, any thinking peasant, cannot but realise that this rumour is a monstrous lie.

Comrade peasants! I belong to that same Communist Party whose leader Comrade Lenin is. We are both members of the Central Committee of this party. All questions relating to food supply, the army or any other sphere are always discussed in the Central Committee, under whose guidance work is carried on in all departments of the Soviet Republic.

I have no differences with Comrade Lenin where the middle peasants are concerned. Our Communist Party is the party of the proletariat and the village labourers, the poor peasants. The rural kulaks are, for us, enemies just like the town bourgeoisie. The middle peasants stand between the rural proletariat, on the one side, and the kulaks, on the other. One wing of the middle peasants is close to the proletariat while the other one passes over imperceptibly into kulak status. Is the peasant of middling status our enemy or our friend? By virtue of his whole situation and all his interests, the middle peasant, provided he has not been duped by kulaks” lies, ought to be our friend. Only the Soviet power finally did away with the landlords” yoke and gave the land to the peasants, among whom middle peasants predominate. Only the Soviet power is conducting and will continue to conduct a war of extermination against the kulaks, who are trying to get into their clutches the land and the means of agricultural production, robbing the middle peasants and depriving them completely of their share.

The Soviet power stands for a Communist economy and it will consistently lead the peasant masses along that path, which is the only right one. But the Soviet power does not compel and is not going to compel the middle peasants to go over to the Communist form of economy by force. The task of the Soviet power in this sphere consists in, first, proving in practice to the peasants the immense superiority of the social, Communist economy over the petty-peasant form, and, secondly, helping the peasant economy by disseminating agronomical knowledge and supplying the peasants with the technical forces and resources they need.

In the sphere of taxation policy, the task of the Soviet power consists in putting the tax burden mainly on the kulaks, while, as far as possible, lightening this burden for the middle peasants. In the sphere of state policy, the task of the Soviet power consists in supplying the middle peasants with cloth, metal articles, and so forth, on the most favourable terms possible.

It can, of course, be said that at the present time the Soviet power is able to do relatively little in any of the spheres mentioned. That is certainly the case. The impoverishment of the country and the disordered state of industry and transport bear heavily upon the rural population, including the middle peasants. Only with very great difficulty can a peasant acquire an arshin of calico, a nail, a horseshoe, and so on. But this unfortunate condition is common to us all. The country has been ruined by four years of imperialist war and by the brigand campaigns of the White-Guard bands, which have, all the time, kept us cut off from coal, iron ore and cotton. For the woes of the town workers and for those of the working peasants masses it is not the policy of the Soviet power that is responsible, but the policy of those classes which formerly ruled over us. Every conscious and honest peasant knows that very well. We need two or three years of intense work, in town and country, to heal the grave wounds our economy has suffered, restore production, bring transport to order and establish products-exchange between town and country – and then the middle peasants will at once appreciate the immense superiority of the Soviet order, and will sigh with relief.

Only fools or scoundrels can say that the Red Army has been formed to oppose the middle peasants. There is no place in the Red Army for counter-revolutionary bourgeois or kulaks. The mass of our army is made up of workers and peasants – poor peasants and middle peasants. It is the task of this army to protect those same working classes from which it has been formed. Every one of our Red Army men gives a solemn promise to fight for the interests of the working people. The Red Army is the only bulwark of the working masses, including the middle peasants.

True, a number of cases have occurred when soldiers with a low level of consciousness have given offence to the local population, including the working peasants. Not a few justified complaints on that score have been received from the countryside. But no honest and intelligent peasant will make the Soviet power responsible for such evildoings. What is to blame here is, on the one hand, hunger and the shortage of everything, and, on the other, ignorance – and also, often, counterrevolutionary kulak elements which have got into our army and incite the soldiers to play criminal and shameful tricks on the working population, so as to cause enmity between them and thereby to undermine the workers” and peasants” power. Acts of violence against the working peasantry can be combated only in one way – by educating the Red Army in a spirit of discipline and close solidarity with the working masses of our country. The Soviet power is doing just that, and every honest peasant will agree that, at the present time, outrages, acts of vandalism and violence on the part of the Red Army against the peaceful working population are incomparably less frequent than a few months ago. The stronger and firmer the Red Army becomes, the more victories it wins, the better, the more solicitous, the friendlier becomes its attitude to the working population.

Such, then, is the attitude of the Soviet power to the middle peasants. There have been no differences on that score within the Soviet Government. But nothing is left to the counterrevolutionaries, whose affairs are going from bad to worse, except to deceive the working masses with talk of a struggle which is supposed to be rending the Council of People’s Commissars. The open White-Guards have fled, or are hiding, their tails between their legs, squatting in nooks and crannies. Among the SRs and the Mensheviks, all the most honourable have seen, from experience, that the fight against the Soviet power now means giving direct help to the Anglo-French robbers and the Russian Black Hundreds. Being unready to appear with their true face, the White Guards, the enemies of the working people, have repainted themselves as Left SRs, or else they incite Left SR idiots and hysterical women against the Soviet power. The wretched clique of adventurers and political rogues who call themselves the Left SR party are now the principal centre from which come lies and slanders for duping the more backward sections of the population. It is mainly Left SR agitators who are spreading the false story about the Red Army being formed to fight the middle peasants.

Comrade peasants! Do not believe the slanders, and drive away the slanderers. The Soviet power is your power. You can have no other. The sins and blunders of the Soviet power are your sins and blunders. The more closely you, middle peasants, together with the village poor, link yourselves with the town workers, the sooner shall we by our joint effort get food supplies, industry and transport going again, and the sooner shall we emerge from the pit of hunger, ruin and epidemics.

Remember one thing: it is not a matter of individual persons appointed by you, but of you yourselves. At your congresses you can replace some deputies by others, worse ones by better. At the All-Russia Congress of Soviets you can always remove any People’s Commissar, and put another in his place. But do not let dishonest tricksters undermine the Soviet power, for only the power of the proletarians and semi-proletarians of town and country, in close alliance with the middle peasants, will save Soviet Russia and make it an independent and prosperous country.

February 6, 1919
Isv.V.Ts.I.K., No.28

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006