Leon Trotsky

Platform of the Joint Opposition


Chapter 3
The Agrarian Question
and Socialist Construction

Small production gives birth to capitalism and the bourgeoisie constantly, daily, hourly, elementally, and on a vast scale. [1]

EITHER the proletarian state, relying upon the high development and electrification of industry, will be able to overcome the technical backwardness of millions of small and very small farms organizing them on the basis of large units and collectivism, or capitalism, recruiting its strength in the country, will undermine the foundations of socialism in the towns.

From the point of view of Leninism, the peasantry – that is, the fundamental peasant mass which does not exploit labour – is that ally upon correct relations with whom depends the security of the proletarian dictatorship, and so the fate of the socialist revolution. For the stage we are living through, Lenin most accurately formulated our task with regard to the peasants in the following words:

To succeed in achieving an alliance with the middle peasants – without for one minute renouncing the struggle against the kulak. and always firmly relying only on the poor peasant. [2]

The revision of Lenin on the peasant question being carried through by the Stalin-Bukharin group may be summed up in the following eight principal points:

  1. Abandonment of the fundamental principle of Marxism, that only a powerful socialized industry can help the peasants transform agriculture along collectivist lines.
  2. Underestimation of hired labour and the peasant poor as the social basis of the proletarian dictatorship in the country districts.
  3. Basing our hopes in agriculture upon the so-called “economically strong” peasant, i.e., in reality on the kulak.
  4. Ignoring or directly denying the petty-bourgeois character of peasant property and peasant economy – a departure from the Marxian position towards the theories of the Socialist Revolutionaries.
  5. Underestimation of the capitalist elements in the present development of the countryside, and hushing up of the class differentiations that are taking place among the peasants.
  6. The creation of soothing theories to the effect that “the kulak and kulak organizations will have no chance anyway, because the general framework of evolution in our country is predetermined by the structure of the proletarian dictatorship.” [3]
  7. Belief in the “grafting into our system of kulak cooperative nuclei”. [4] “The problem may be expressed thus, that it is necessary to set free the economic possibilities of the well-oft peasant, the economic possibilities of the kulak.” [5]
  8. The attempt to counterpoise Lenin’s “co-operative plan” to his plan of electrification. According to Lenin himself, only these two plans in combination can guarantee the transition to socialism.

Relying on these revisionist tendencies of the official course, the representatives of the new bourgeoisie having got into association with certain links of our state apparatus, are openly aspiring to switch our whole policy in the countryside on to the capitalist path. At the same time, the kulaks and their ideological defenders hide all their ambitions under a pretence of worrying about the development the productive forces, about increasing the volume of commodity production “in general”, etc. As a matter of fact, a kulak development on the productive forces, a kulak increase of commodity production, represses and checks the development of the productive forces of the entire remaining mass of the peasant farms.

In spite of the comparatively swift reconstruction process in agriculture, the commodity production of peasant economy is very low. In 1925-1926, the total volume of goods sent to the market was only 64 per cent of the pre-war level, the volume exported only 24 per cent of the export in 1913. The cause of this, aside from the increasing total consumption in the village itself [6], lies in the disparity between agricultural and industrial prices and in the rapid accumulation of foodstuffs by the kulaks. Even the five-year plan is compelled to recognize that “the lack of industrial products in general places a definite limit to the equivalent exchange of goods between town and country, lowering the possible volume of agricultural products brought to the market”. [7] Thus the lagging of industry retards the growth of agriculture and in particular the growth of agricultural commodity production. It undermines the alliance of town and country and leads to a swift class differentiation among the peasants.

The views of the Opposition on disputed questions of peasant policy have been confirmed wholly and absolutely. The partial corrections introduced into our general line, under pressure of sharp criticism from the Opposition, have not checked the continuing deviation of the official policy to the side of the “economically strong peasant”. To prove this, it is sufficient to recall that the Fourteenth Congress of the Soviets, in the resolution on Kalinin’s, report, had not one single word to say about class differentiation in the countryside or the growth of the kulak.

There can be but one result of such a policy: we shall lose the poor peasants and fail to win the middle ones.

Class Differentiation Among The Peasants

In recent years the rural districts have gone far in the direction of capitalist differentiation.

The groups which sowed little or no land have diminished during the last four years to 30 to 45 per cent. The group which sowed from six to ten dessiatines (17 to 28 acres) increased at the same time 100 to 120 per cent. The group sowing ten dessiatines and more increased 150 to 350 per cent. The diminishing percentage of groups which sowed little or no land is due very largely to their ruin and dissolution. Thus, in Siberia, during one year, 15.8 per cent of those sowing no land, and 3.8 per cent of those sowing less than two dessiatines, disappeared. In the Northern Caucasus, 14.1 per cent of those sowing no land disappeared, and 3.8 per cent of those sowing less than two dessiatines.

The advancement of horseless and toolless farm properties into the lower stratum of the middle peasantry is going on extremely slowly. At the present date there remain in the entire Union 30 to 40 per cent of horseless and toolless properties, and the bulk of these fall into the group of the peasants who sow very little land.

The distribution of the essential means of production in the Northern Caucasus is as follows: To 50 per cent of the weakest proprietors, belong 15 per cent of the means of production. To the middle group, constituting 35 per cent of the proprietors, belong 35 per cent of the essential means of production. And to the highest group, constituting 15 per cent of the proprietors, belong 50 per cent of the means of production. The same picture of the distribution of the means of production is to be observed in other regions (Siberia, the Ukraine, etc.).

This record of inequality in the distribution of land sown and of means of production is confirmed by an unequal distribution of the reserves of grain among the different groups of peasant proprietors. On April 1, 1926, 58 per cent of all the surplus grain in the country was in the hands of 6 per cent of the peasant proprietors. [8]

The renting of land assumes larger and larger proportions every year. The renting proprietors are, in the majority of cases, the peasants who sow a lot of land and who own means of production. In the immense majority of cases, the fact that the land is rented is concealed in order to avoid payment of tax. The peasants who sow little land, lacking tools and animals, work the land for the most part with hired tools and hired animals. The conditions both of renting land and of hiring tools and animals amount almost to slavery. Side by side with extortion in kind, money usury is growing.

The continuous splitting up of peasant properties does not weaken but strengthens the process of class differentiation. The machines and credits, instead of serving as levers for the socialization of agriculture, generally fall into the hands of the kulaks and the well-off and thus help in the exploitation of the farm hands, the poor peasants, and the weaker middle peasants.

Besides this concentration of land and means of production in the hands of the highest groups, the latter are employing hired labour to a steadily increasing degree.

On the other hand, the lower and, in part, the middle group of peasant proprietors are losing, either by way of complete ruin and dissolution, or by way of the pushing out of individual members of the family, a continually increasing number of farm-hands. These surplus hands fall into servitude to the kulak or to the “strong ”middle peasant, or go away to the towns, where, in considerable numbers, they find no employment whatever.

In spite of these processes, which have gone very far, and which lead to a reduction in the relative economic weight of the middle peasant, the middle peasant continues to be numerically the largest agricultural group. To bring this middle peasant over to the side of a socialist policy in agriculture is one of the chief problems of the proletarian dictatorship. Basing our hope on the so-called “strong peasant ”means, in reality, basing it on the further disintegration of this middle layer.

Only a proper attention to the hired hand, only a course based on the poor peasant and his alliance with the middle peasant, only a decisive struggle against the kulak, only a course towards class co-operatives and a class credit system in the country, will make it possible to draw the middle peasant into the work for socialist reconstruction of agriculture.

Practical Proposals

In the class struggle now going on in the country, the party must stand, not only in words but in deeds, at the head of the farm-hands, the poor peasants, and the basic mass of the middle peasants, and organize them against the exploiting aspirations of the kulak.

To strengthen and reinforce the class position of the agricultural proletariat-which is part of the working class – that series of measures is necessary which we indicated in the section on the condition of the industrial workers.

Agricultural credit must cease to be for the most part a privilege of the well-off circles of the village. We must put an end to the present situation, which permits the savings of the poor, insignificant enough already, to be spent, not for their intended purpose, in the service of the well-off and middle groups.

The growth of land-renting must be offset by a more rapid development of collective farming. It is necessary systematically and from year to year to subsidize largely the efforts of the poor peasants to organize in collectives.

At the same time, we must give more systematic help to poor peasants not included in the collectives, by freeing them entirely from taxation, by a corresponding land policy, by credits for agricultural implements, and by bringing them into the agricultural co-operatives. Instead of the slogan, “Create non-party peasant-active cadres by revivifying the soviets” (Stalin-Molotov), a slogan deprived of all class content and which will in reality strengthen the dominant role of the upper levels in the villages, we must adopt the following slogan: Create non-party cadres composed of hired hands, poor peasants, and middle peasants who are close to them.

We must have a real, planned, universal, and durable organization of the poor, centred upon vital political and economic problems of life, such as elections, tax campaigns, influence upon the distribution of credit, machines, etc., land division and land utilization, the creation of co-operatives, realization of the cooperative funds allotted to the village poor.

The party ought to promote by all means the economic advancement of the middle peasant – by a wise policy of prices for grain, by the organization of credits and co-operatives accessible to him, by the systematic and gradual introduction of that most numerous peasant group to the benefits of large-scale, mechanical-collective agriculture.

The task of the party in relation to the growing kulak stratum ought to consist in the all-sided limitation of their efforts at exploitation. We must permit no departures from that article in our constitution depriving the exploiting class of electoral rights in the soviets. The following measures are necessary: A steeply progressive tax system; legislative measures for the defence of hired labour and the regulation of the wages of agricultural workers; a correct class policy in the matter of land division and utilization; the same thing in the matter of supplying the country with tractors and other implements of production.

The growing system of land rental in the country, the existing method of land-utilization, according to which land com. munities – standing outside of all Soviet leadership and control and falling more and more under the influence of the kulak – dispose of the land, the resolution adopted by the Fourteenth Congress of the Soviets for “indemnification” at the time of land redistribution – all this is undermining the foundations of the nationalization of the land.

One of the most essential measures for re-enforcing the nationalization of the land is the subordination of these land communities to the local organs of the state and the establishment of firm control by the local soviets, purified of kulak elements, over the regulations of all questions of the division and utilization of the land. The purpose of this control should be a maximum defence of the interests of the poor and the weak small peasants against domination by the kulaks. It is necessary in particular that the kulak, as a renter of land, should be wholly and absolutely, and not only in words but in fact, subject to supervision and control by the organs of the Soviet power in the countryside.

The party ought to oppose a shattering resistance to all tendencies directed towards annulling or undermining the nationalization of the land – one of the foundation pillars qf the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The existing system of a single agricultural tax ought to be changed in the direction of freeing altogether from taxation 40 to 50 per cent of the poorest and poorer peasant families, without making up for it by any additional tax upon the bulk of the middle peasants. The dates of tax collection should be accommodated to the interests of the lower groups of taxpayers.

A much larger sum ought to be appropriated for the creation of state and collective farms. Maximum privileges must be accorded to the newly organized collective farms and other forms of collectivism. People deprived of electoral rights must not be allowed to be members of the collective farms. The whole work of the co-operatives ought to be permeated with a sense of the task of transforming a small-scale production into large-scale collective production. A firm class policy must be pursued in the sphere of machine supply and a special struggle waged against the fake machine societies.

The work of land distribution must be carried on wholly at the expense of the state, and the first thing to be taken care of must be the collective farms and the poor peasant farms, with a maximum protection of their interests.

The prices of grain and other agricultural products ought to guarantee to the poor and the basic mass of the middle peasants the possibility, at the very least, of maintaining their farms at the present level and gradually improving them. Measures should be taken to abolish the parity between autumn and spring grain prices. For this disparity counts heavily against the rural poor and gives all the advantage to the upper levels.

It is necessary not only to increase considerably the appropriation to the poor peasants ”fund, but also radically to change the whole direction of agricultural credit towards assuring to the poor and the weak middle peasant cheap and long-term credits, and towards abolishing the existing system of guarantees and references.


The task of socialist construction in the country is to reform agriculture on the basis of large-scale, mechanized, collective agriculture. For the bulk of the peasants the simplest road to this end is co-operation, as Lenin described it in his work On Co-operation. This is the enormous advantage which the proletarian dictatorship and the Soviet system as a whole gives to the peasant. Only a process of growing industrialization of agriculture can create the broad basis for this socialist cooperation (or collectivism). Without a technical revolution in the very means of production – that is to say, without agricultural machinery, without the rotation of crops, without artificial fertilizers, etc – no successful and broad work in the direction of a real collectivization of agriculture is possible.

Co-operative producing and selling will be a road to socialism only in the event that:

  1. this process takes place under the immediate economic and political influence of the socialist elements, especially of large-scale industry and the trade unions; and
  2. this process of making the trade functions of agriculture co-operative gradually leads to the collectivization of agriculture itself.

The class character of the agricultural co-operatives will be determined not only by the numerical weight of the different groups of the co-operating peasantry, but more particularly by their relative economic weight. The task of the party is to see that agricultural co-operation constitutes a real union of the poor and middle groups of the peasants, and is a weapon in the struggle of those elements against the growing economic power of the kulak. We must systematically and persistently bring the agricultural proletariat into the task of building the cooperatives.

A successful co-operative structure is conceivable only upon condition of a maximum activity by the co-operating population. A true union of the co-operatives with large-scale industry and the proletarian state assumes a normal regime in the co-operative organizations, excluding bureaucratic methods of regulation.

In view of the obvious departure of the party leadership from the fundamental Bolshevik course in the countryside, their tendency to rely upon the well-off peasant and the kulak; in view of the covering up of this policy by anti-proletarian speeches about “poor man’,sillusions”, “sponging”, and do-nothingism, and about the alleged small value of the poor peasant in the defence of the Soviet Union-in view of these things, it is more than ever necessary to remember the words of our party programme. While unequivocally asserting the decisive importance for us of alliance with the middle peasant, our programme clearly and succinctly states:

In all its work in the country, the Russian Communist Party relies as before upon the proletarian and semi-proletarian forces. It organizes them above all into independent forces, creating party cells in the villages, organizations of the poor, a special type of trade union for the proletarian and semi-proletarian rural elements, etc.; associating them by every possible means with the urban proletariat; and tearing them away from the influence of the rural bourgeoisie and the small-propertied interests.


1. Lenin, “Left-Wing” Communism, 1920, Vol.XVII, p.118.

2. Valuable Admissions of Pitrim Sorokin, Vol.XV, p.564.

3. Bukharin: The Way to Socialism and the Worker-Peasant Union, p.49.

4. Bukharin, idem, p.49.

5. Pravda, April 24, 1925.

6. Due to the growth of population and the splitting up of properties.Thirty-eight per cent of the peasant estates in the grain-producing areas buy additional grain.

7. p.117.

8. Statistical Review, 1727, No.4, p.15.

Chapter II    |    Platform of the Opposition Index    |    Chapter IV

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Last updated on: 26.1.2007