Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Concerning PL’s erroneous line: Peasants and socialism

First Published: The Worker, Vol 11, No 6, April 12, 1979
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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A Continuation of the Critique on PLP’s “General Line” – by G. Del Sesto

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It is the fervent belief of PLP that the chief failure of the Russian Revolution was that the peasantry was not “won to socialism” and instead the Bolsheviks built capitalism by dividing the land among the peasants. RTR III tells us that:

...The result of all this was that never were the Bolsheviks able to introduce the Paris Commune type state they desired to introduce. How could they when the peasants were not committed to socialism?... As Lenin put it, the peasants neither need nor desire the abolition of capitalism. Capitalism is to the peasant what socialism is to the proletarian. This is all wrong.

First, why is the proletariat the ’only consistently revolutionary class’? According to Marx it is because, whether or not he realizes it, his social problems cannot be solved short of socialism. Does not history prove that this is also true for the peasant? The experience of every single land reform without exception proves that the peasant cannot overcome his social problems short of the collectivization of the land, which is to say socialism.

That statement is typical of the mixture of sophistry, vagueries, eclecticism and illogic that is the essence of RTR III which became the “general line” of PLP. In the first place Marx in the Communist Manifesto stated clearly that the proletariat is the only revolutionary class because: “The other classes decay and finally disappear in the face of Modern Industry: the proletariat is its special and essential product.”

RTR III, on the other hand, says that the proletariat is a revolutionary class because its problems can only be solved under socialism and says this should be true for peasants too. Here RTR III openly replaces Marx’s scientific, objective statement with a subjective, idealist statement and is the clearest possible sign of PLP’s departure from scientific socialism to pre-Marxism utopian socialism. Marx’s clear-cut statement tells us why Marxists have always treated the workers and peasants from different perspectives and why these two classes must be approached with different programs – one class is the most essential product of capitalism, the other is dying out under capitalism. (The statement RTR III attributed to Lenin is likewise a misquote.)

For the Bolsheviks solving the land question was crucial. It was the only way to survive the Civil War. The destruction of the Russian feudal aristocracy and capitalist landed gentry was best achieved by dividing the land among the peasants. It was important in itself to destroy the material base of the enemy classes. But in addition the Bolsheviks gained a footing among the peasants precisely by means of their land policy, which they put to use later in leading a mass movement among the peasants to collectivize the farms. RTR III’s conclusion that dividing up the land only led to the growth of capitalist consciousness among the peasants is belied by the historic collectivization movement which followed within ten years. By leading the land reform movement the Bolsheviks gained poltical credit as well as peasant cadre that subsequently made collectivization possible.

Here, as elsewhere in RTR III, PLP’s hasty desire to be more “left” than the Bolsheviks lands them in an objectively rightist position. PLP’s prescriptions to the Bolsheviks would have led to certain defeat in the civil war and the objective impossibility of collectivization of the countryside.

In its criticism of the Bolshevik’s national policy PLP is likewise “left in form but right in essence”.