Baku Congress of the Peoples of the East

Sixth Session
September 6

The session opened at 7. 10 p.m. Comrade Zinoviev took the chair.

Chairman: I declare the sixth session of the Congress of the Peoples of the East open. Today we have on the agenda the question of Soviet construction in the East. Translation, please. [Translation.]

Accordingly, we shall proceed to hear the report on this question. I call on Comrade Bela Kun. [Applause.]

Bela Kun: Comrades, in support of theses which have been discussed in detail by the Presidium and which it now unanimously puts before you, I propose to address you as follows.

Mighty Tsarist Russia, an immediate neighbour of the peoples of the East, fell beneath the blows of the workers and the poorest peasants. This revolution did not stop half-way. It did not leave state power in the hands of those classes which more or less disliked the Tsarist regime but whose whole existence was based on oppression of the working people. This revolution did not leave intact the former structure of government, but smashed it, in order to build upon its ruins the authority of the workers and the poorest peasants, endeavouring by means of this authority to carry the struggle forward until no possibility of any sort of oppression was left. In another sense, too, this revolution did not stop half-way: it was not checked at the frontiers of the state, but, like a devouring flame, spread both westward and eastward. This spreading of the revolution to West and East threatens to bring about the final downfall of that system which, not content with exploiting the working people of its own countries, has come to flower in imperialist colonial policy and borne fruit in world war. A revolution in the West and in the East must inevitably follow upon the social revolution of the workers and poorest peasants of Russia. These two revolutions are organically interconnected not only because they are directed against a common foe, world imperialism, but also because the necessary premise of their victory is common, concerted struggle. In order to subjugate the colonial peoples the imperialist exploiters have mobilised the European workers, whom they have tried to win over to their side by means of bribes — crumbs from the super-profits extorted from the colonial peoples. This happened both in Britain and in Germany. They aimed in this way to deflect the workers from the path to revolutionary understanding. On the other hand, the imperialist bourgeoisie have given much thought, especially in recent times, to using against the European workers’ movements the colonial troops they have recruited, exploiting the lack of consciousness of these soldiers so as to defend their shaken state power against the working class.

I, comrades, have had the opportunity to witness personally this sort of policy on the part of the imperialist bourgeoisie. When we, the workers and poorest peasants of Hungary, seized power, the French bourgeoisie at once attempted to strangle our revolution, using the hands of Moslem colonial troops. However, despite our difficulty in communicating with these soldiers owing to the difference of language, we nevertheless managed to find a way to their minds and hearts, and they threw down their arms when they were called upon to drown our revolution in blood.

The imperialist bourgeoisie usually succeeds in finding in the colonial countries a stratum of the native population, and in the semicolonial countries a ruling class, whose aid it can utilise so as to make its exploiting policy less difficult and less expensive than it would otherwise be, and also less costly in blood. The sultans and emirs and the ruling strata associated with them in the Eastern countries, after their own resistance has been broken, have always readily agreed to become collectors of tribute for the imperialist oppressors: thus, the Shah of Persia agreed to act as tribute-collector for Russian imperialism and for British imperialism, turn and turn about. The Young Turks skinned the Turkish peasants on behalf of the German imperialists, and now the Anglophiles headed by the Sultan are depriving the Turkish peasant of his last cow in the interests of the Anglo-French imperialist bloc. The Emir Feisal, who is on the payroll of the French bankers, has agreed to break up the unity of the Turkish people and to make the Turkish peasantry accept the position of beasts of burden to the French imperialists.

The imperialist bourgeoisie found allies in the colonial and semicolonial countries of the East sooner than the revolutionary proletariat did. It helped these allies not only by giving them miserable crumbs from what it had plundered from the toiling poor of these countries, but also by training them in those methods by which it had deceived and stupefied its own working class.

Capitalism succeeded in holding in submission the rebellious worker masses of Europe only by persuading them that they too shared in state power, though this was in fact merely an instrument in the hands of the ruling class with which to oppress the working people. Similar to this was the parliamentary constitution in Turkey, drafted in accordance with the European pattern: although to the outward view it gave rights to the working people, in reality everything remained as before — domination by the pashas, tyranny of the officials, and no hindrance to the activity of the usurers who brought ruin upon the people.

The revolution of the European and American proletariat and poorest peasantry is directed precisely against those lies which aim to keep exploitation and oppression in being behind a screen of democracy, freedom and equality. The revolution of the Russian workers and poorest peasants created that form of government which puts power into the hands of the working masses not merely in words but also in deeds. This form is the Soviets of workers and peasants. Until the Russian workers and peasants took power through their Soviets the land remained in the hands of the landlords and the factories and mines in those of the capitalists. ‘Freedom’ merely gave the bourgeoisie freedom to squeeze sweat out of their workers and to refuse to the non-Russian nationalities the right to decide for themselves whether they wanted to remain within the Russian state or to be independent of it. The Communist revolution and the victory of the Soviet order at once transferred to the working people the land, factories and mines and, in place of the inequality between exploiters and exploited, established the equality of all working people. With the ending of exploitation there ended all interest in enslaving and exploiting other peoples. One of the first steps taken by the Soviet republic was recognition of the right to self-determination for all peoples and liberation of Russia’s colonies. just as the Tsarist regime had secured alliances with the shahs and emirs, that is, with the ruling strata of the oppressed countries, so Soviet Russia immediately proposed an alliance to those toilers whom the old Russia, both Tsarist and democratic, had kept in a colonial situation.

Only the Soviet system made it possible to transfer power to those whose interest it was that the instruments of production should not serve the interests of a tiny handful of persons but should belong to all the working people.

The Soviets, these fighting organs of the workers and peasants, organs of their authority and government, are a new form of state. The workers and poorest peasants, having disarmed the enemies of the people, organise themselves in Soviets, take up arms, and themselves promulgate laws and decide what shall be the norms of the social order. The toiling masses themselves, either directly or through their representatives, pass the laws.

No parasites or exploiters boss the workers about, no usurers lord it over the poor. All these elements have been deprived of all rights. Soviet power is in sharp contrast to what prevails in the East today. It means rule by the toilers and the poor peasants, in place of rule by the rich and the parasites. I think that there is no delegate present here who is not convinced that oppression and exploitation can be ended only by introducing this form of state power. It is clear that until now, while our beys, khans, usurers and tribute-collectors possessed political rights, while they were able to distort the truth by means of all sorts of tricks and deceptions, to interpret the law in accordance with their own interests, and to resort to force of arms whenever their cunning did not help them — until now it has been quite futile to talk of putting an end to oppression and exploitation.

The theses I am laying before you set out in brief outline the essential features of Soviet power. Soviet power is not a system which cannot be adapted to the special conditions of a particular people or a particular region. In places where the predominant element consists of industrial workers, where exploitation is carried on by factory-owners and bankers, the Soviet organisation will be quite different from what it will be in places where the main part of the population is engaged in agriculture and where exploitation takes the form of usury. Whereas in Western states it is the factory-owners, bankers and big landowners who have, first and foremost, to be removed from power and stripped of rights, in the Eastern countries Soviet power must be directed, first and foremost, against usurers, kulaks, khans, beys, foreign exploiters and officials. The Eastern Soviets must, of course, be soviets of the peasant poor, and just as in Daghestan and Azerbaidzhan a method has been found for determining at what number of cattle the exploitation of others’ labour begins, so in all other tribal communities it will be possible to determine rules which will ensure that Soviets so organised will really be organs of the toiling poor.

The hangers-on of the bourgeoisie know how to spread all manner of dreadful stories about the Soviet order. Those in the East who are interested in keeping the toilers of the East in slavery, either along with the Western capitalists or independently of them, have quickly learned to do the same.

Whereas, in the West, Soviet power is the expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in the East, in those countries where there is no industrial working class, it will be the expression of the dictatorship of the poorest peasantry. It is self-evident that where a factory exists, where there are, even if only in small numbers, some better educated and experienced industrial workers, these workers will be the leaders of the rural poor. They will not, of course, be leaders of the same sort as the previous rulers, who, concerned with their own well-being, led the poor peasants into exploitation and want, but will be leaders who, since they are themselves interested in the ending of all forms of oppression and exploitation, will act in the interests of the general good of the people.

Very briefly, I want to speak against the time-hardened view by which peoples who have not passed through a phase of capitalist development, and so through bourgeois democracy, have to experience all this before they can go over to the Soviet system. This idea is maintained for the sole purpose of keeping the poorest peasantry of the East for a still longer period in the power of the emirs, pashas, beys and foreign colonialists. There is another objection which is advanced against the formation of Soviets in the East, namely, that the dictatorship of the proletariat is impossible without an industrial proletariat, and in the East the numbers of the industrial proletariat are infinitesimal. To this we reply: ‘In the West, Soviet power is indeed the form and expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but in the East, where the exploited element is not the industrial workers but the poorest peasantry, the latter must also be the leading element in the Soviets.'

There is yet another objection. ‘The peoples of the East are not yet mature enough to decide their fate for themselves; they need to pass through the phase of bourgeois democracy in order to acquire the capacity for self-government.’ Only imperialist colonialists argue like this.

In the language of the people it means: ‘Wait, Moslem poor peasants, until the pashas, beys, speculators and usurers deign to teach you how to take the land and power away from them.'

I think the falsity of this is clear to all the delegates. The Moslem poor have lived for many centuries under the rule of the Sultans, pashas and so on, and then came the colonialist merchants, those oppressors: they not only did not teach the people anything, but tried to keep them in ignorance. If the people are to wait, they will wait for centuries, until these hangmen have not only plundered them but have made them quite incapable of taking power for themselves. The ability to rule, like the ability to use a weapon, demands that you make a start and get some practice in: he who never handles a rifle will never learn to shoot.

In conclusion, I want to remind you of the changes which will be brought about in the pattern of everyday life, for the peoples of both East and West, by the common victory of their revolution. Economic intercourse between West and East will certainly not cease with the victory of the revolution. On the contrary, these ties will be very much closer than before; but they will be of quite a different kind from what they are today. The East is now united with the West by bonds of oppression and the coercion exercised by colonial troops. The means of colonial rule have always been alcohol, syphilis and weapons. Officers of the British and French imperialist armies have undressed the womenfolk of the oppressed Moslems not only with their eyes. The natural resources of the fertile Eastern lands have flowed away to the West — not into the hands of the Western workers, however, but into the coffers of the Western bankers, factory-owners and landlords.

These bankers and factory-owners, the oppressors of the Western workers, have always found allies in the East. The usurer who collects the fruits of Eastern fields, the state ruler and his entourage who have obtained loans from Western capitalists and ruthlessly collect the interest on these loans from the working peoples, these have always served as tools of colonial policy.

When the revolution of the proletariat and the poorest peasantry deprives the capitalists, landlords, factory-owners and bankers of all power and sends their myrmidons — generals, officials, priests — to the devil, and when power passes to the Soviets, which represent the masses of the working people, these new workers’ and peasants’ states will not, of course, pursue any aggressive aims in the East. They will not seek their allies among the Sultans and emirs, among the pashas and beys, and will not allow usurers to act as intermediaries in the economic dealings that will take place between the West and the peasantry of the East. The workers of the West and the peasants of the East can regulate their economic relations only directly, through their Soviet states. The Soviet state of the workers can sell the fruits of its labour only directly to the peasants of the East, and will never consent, can never consent, to receive goods produced by the stubborn labour of Eastern peasants through the mediation of usurers who rob them. Soviet states cannot follow the example of the capitalist system, which is entirely based upon buying and selling. Fraternal aid one to another, a just distribution of the fruits of joint labour — this is what can serve as the fundamental principle in the economic relations linking West and East after the victory of the revolution. And when the Soviet system triumphs in the West and the East there will disappear that difference which has existed and exists today between colonial and metropolitan countries. Entry into an international federation, into a world union of Soviet states, will equalise, so to speak, the East with the West, and will organically rule out any possibility of exploitation of the Eastern peoples.

Whoever appreciates that the liberating revolution of the peoples of the East, like the social revolution, will lead on to socialism cannot have any view on the question of the state system to be proposed for the East other than advocacy of Soviet power. In the days when bourgeois revolutions and the bourgeois order were flourishing, endeavours by the ruling strata of the East to establish a parliamentary system for the East as well, fully corresponding to capitalism and bourgeois democracy, were quite comprehensible. Establishing a parliamentary system meant at that time trying to raise the East to the level of the West, to give economic forces the opportunity to develop freely. Strictly speaking, the idea was that the working people should allow to sit astride their necks, instead of the foreign exploiters and oppressors, the native variety of the same breed.

At the present stage of development of the international revolution it is no longer a question of who will be the oppressors, among whom and in what way the wealth created by the toiling people is to be divided up. The Soviet system means an end to all forms of exploitation. The point is that the fruits of the toilers’ labour are to be enjoyed by the toilers alone.

‘Whoever does not work shall not eat.’ Naturally, whoever wants to see the complete emancipation of the toilers of the East cannot be for a system which seeks, by means of its organs of power, to maintain exploitation. Whoever wants the peoples of the East to be freed from all forms of exploitation and oppression, whoever wants to be liberated from foreign colonialists and from the native agents of foreign imperialists, whoever wants to replace the rule of the pashas, khans, beys, usurers and other bloodsuckers by the rule of the working masses, can take no road but that of Soviet power. Whoever wants the poor peasants to cease being subject to the tyranny of the rich and their hangers-on, whoever wants the poor to be able to settle their affairs for themselves, will, on his return from the congress to his aul, to his village, fight tirelessly for that peasant agrarian revolution which is being realised in the East by Soviet power and which will lead the East out of its present oppressed situation. We are sure that at the Second Congress of the Peoples of the East the representatives of the federation of Eastern Soviet states will report on how the poor of the East took power, how they are building their Soviet organs, and how they are marching onward along the road which leads to the abolition of all exploitation — to communism. I propose the adoption of the following theses.

Theses on Soviet power in the East

1. The revolution of the peoples of the East against external and internal oppression, against the foreign imperialists and the local exploiters, puts on the agenda the question of the state system in all the countries of the East. The European bourgeoisie has succeeded for a long time, by means of all sorts of intrigues, in concealing from the propertyless and those with little property, the proletarian and semi-proletarian elements, the essential nature of state power as an instrument of oppression. In contrast to this, in the states of the East the coercive nature of the ruling power is quite obvious.

The lives and all the products of the labour of the poor, who are totally without political rights, are liable to be bought and sold by various sultans, shahs, emirs and tribal leaders, and by the rich and the bureaucratic cliques associated with them. This situation prepared the way for the imperialist exploiters, who, in the colonial countries and those reduced to a semi-colonial condition, always concluded their deals with the help of the state rulers and the higher officers and officials, at the expense of the poor.

2. As in Western states, the rich exploiting strata of the population in the Near-Eastern countries have tried to give their rule an appearance of democracy. The parliamentarising of Turkey and Persia and the transformation into democratic republics of Georgia (under the leadership of the Mensheviks), Armenia (under the leadership of the Dashnaks) and Azerbaidzhan (under the leadership of the Musavatists) took place under the slogans of freedom and equality. All these policies proved useless, however, even for creating a facade of democracy. Unheard-of poverty of the masses continues, together with prosperity for the agents of the foreign imperialists. The land remains in the power of its previous owners, the old tribute system continues, bringing immeasurable harm to the working people, and not only is usury tolerated, it is backed by the state power, to the detriment of the poor. All this has revealed the falsity of the slogans about equality put forward by the Turkish, Persian and Azerbaidzhanian national-democratic parties, and also by the Menshevik and Dashnak parties, which operate under cover of socialist slogans.

3. The revolution of the toiling masses of the East will not come to a halt even after the rule of the foreign imperialists has been eliminated. It will not cease with a system which, under the false slogan of democracy, under cover of slogans of equality, seeks to maintain the power of the sultans, shahs, emirs, pashas and beys, seeks to maintain the oppression of the working people, inequality between the haves and the have-nots, the oppressors and the oppressed, between rich and poor, those who pay tribute and those who live on this tribute. The revolution will not halt at the estate boundaries of the landlords, proclaimed to be sacred: the Eastern peasantry, like the Russian, will develop their revolution to the dimensions of a huge agrarian peasant revolution, as a result of which the land must pass into the posse of the working people and all exploitation must disappear. just as the Russian peasantry carried through their agrarian revolution with the support of the industrial workers under the leadership of the Communist Party, and, welded together in Soviets, are now defending the land they took from the landlords and the power they took from the exploiters — in the same way the oppressed peasantry of the East will in their revolutionary struggle count upon the support of the revolutionary workers of the West, on the support of the Communist International and on that of the present and future Soviet states.

4. Soviet power and Soviet organisation are not only the instrument of power and the organisational form of the industrial proletariat, but also constitute the only appropriate system whereby the working masses, after excluding from power the privileged, and consequently hostile, elements (landlords, speculators, higher officials, officers) can themselves build their own destiny. Only Soviet power gives power exclusively to the toiling poor. Unity of the Soviets, and their federation, is the only way to secure peaceful co-operation between the toiling elements of different peoples who have hitherto slaughtered each other in the East, and to help them to join forces to destroy the power of their oppressors, both foreign and native, and repel the oppressors’ attempts to restore the former position.

5. So-called democratic self-government, putting the administration exclusively into the hands of the privileged strata (khans, beys, and so on) prevents the toiling masses from managing their own affairs. It deprives them of the possibility of learning to govern, stops them from acquiring the knowledge they need for this purpose. In contrast to this, experience among the peasants of Soviet Russia, Siberia, the Bashkir-Kirghiz republic and Turkestan has shown that the peasants of the Eastern countries are capable of managing their own affairs.

6. The victory of the Communist Party in the West will put an end to the exploitation of the Eastern peoples. But victory for the Communist revolution in the West will not mean that East and West can then get on without mutual economic links. On the contrary, the victory of the revolution in the East and in the West will mean that in relations between different countries there will be, instead of exploitation, reciprocal support and aid. After the victory of the Communist revolution, economic intercourse will take place between states, and so the economic intercourse of those Eastern states which have not adopted the Soviet system would only serve the interests of the small group of capitalists who, having obtained corn and raw materials, would carry on trade with the Western Soviet states in exactly the same way as they do at the present time with the imperialist states exploiting for this purpose the toiling masses of the East.

In the interests of complete liberation from imperialist exploitation, with transfer of the land to the toilers and emancipation from the power of speculator — exploiters, what is needed is removal from power of the non-working element, of all foreign colonialist elements (generals, officials, etc.) and of all privileged persons, and it is also necessary to organise the rule of the poor on Soviet principles. And all the other interests of the working people demonstrate to the East that it is imperative to establish Soviet power.

Chairman: Comrades, we now come to the vote on Comrade Bela Kun’s theses, which were unanimously approved by the Presidium. Will those in favour please raise their hands. Who is against? Nobody. The theses are adopted. [Applause.] Let us proceed to the next question. Comrade Skachko will give the report on the agrarian question.


Skachko: Comrades, all the Eastern countries are peasant countries. Owing to various conditions, and principally to the oppressed state in which they have been kept by the Western European capitalists, who denied them the possibility of independent development, the inhabitants of these countries have not developed their own industry and to this day they are still exclusively engaged in agricultural labour. The great mass of the entire population of the Eastern countries consists of peasants. Emancipation of the peoples of the East means emancipation of the peasants. While in the Western countries the productive class consists mainly of industrial workers, and while it is the industrial proletariat that can be called the King of the West, in the Eastern countries the sole producers of material values are the peasants. And so only they can be called the Kings of the East, and the Eastern countries should belong only to them. Let us look, comrades, at how these Kings of the East live, these men and women whose labour sustains not only all the peoples of the East but also a good part of those of the West. They live in the same wretched, pitiful, downtrodden and oppressed condition in which the peasantry of Western Europe lived many centuries ago. Though creating everything, they themselves enjoy none of it, and they bear the burden of unlimited oppression both by foreign capitalist conquerors and by their own privileged classes and despots. Various sultans, shahs, khans and beys, the masters of Eastern countries and lands, wallow in fabulous Eastern luxury while the peasants whose labour created this are dying of hunger and want, and are forced to leave their own very rich and fertile countries for alien lands, in search of the crust of bread they cannot obtain at home. Despite the fact that at the basis of the Moslem religion lay principles of religious communism, by which no man may be slave to another and not a single piece of land may be privately owned, and all religious institutions must make it their principal concern to care for the orphaned and indigent, nevertheless these religious principles have not saved the peasants from being reduced to serfdom, or preserved the land from seizure by landlords and despots. Gradually, these principles have been modified to the advantage of the ruling classes. The land, free and belonging only to God, was first declared to belong to the ruling Sultans and Shahs, and then became the property of feudalists and capitalists. The waqf lands which were given to the mosques and the clergy so that the income from them might support charitable institutions of value to the people, gradually lost their original function and became lands belonging to the clergy and to private persons, and the income from them, instead of being used for the benefit of the poor, was taken by the secular and ecclesiastical rulers — parasites who used these lands merely in order to exploit the poor peasants. The peasant, a free man according to the shariat was gradually turned into a slave, either by direct coercion on the part of the khans and beys or by economic compulsion based on the seizure of the land by the landlords. The situation of the peasantry of the Eastern peoples has not improved but constantly deteriorated, and has finally become so impossible and unbearable that no other way out is left for them but either to die a slow death from hunger or to break their servile chains and make a new life for themselves through social revolution.

How, indeed, can a man live in the conditions in which the Eastern peasant is living? Can we call a human life the existence that the wretched Persian rayat drags out? He is not a human being, he is only the beast of burden of his landlord, the molkadar. This landlord has power to dispose of his life and property, to execute him or to punish him with strokes of the cane, to take the peasant’s wives and daughters for his harem. Comrades, all this is going on a few hundred versts from Baku, over which flies the red flag of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Socialist Republic. A few hundred versts from this place, where the peasants have taken power into their own hands, other peasants are living in a state of utter slavery. The Persian peasant cannot call a single fragment of land his own: he can easily be evicted by his landlord even from his farmhouse, to die of hunger in the barren steppe. For the right to work his land, for the right to grow corn, he has to hand over to the landlord four-fifths of the crop, four-fifths of what he has produced by the labour of his hands. Of all that he gets from the land by his own work he is allowed to keep only miserable leavings, while the main part is devoured by the various parasites who sit astride his neck and make his life a sheer unbearable torment of grim slavery.

That is how things are in Persia. But the position of the peasants is no better in the other countries of the East. Even in the most advanced of the Moslem countries, Turkey, the peasant is poverty-stricken. Although serfdom has been abolished in Turkey, nevertheless even there the peasant is being reduced to a servile situation through economic conditions. The despotic government of Turkey, which always looked upon the peoples subject to its rule as conquered peoples, always pursued one aim and one alone in its administration: to extract from the population as much income as possible, taking no account at all of what it cost the population to produce this income and what frightful want was created by this barbarous, ruthless extortion. For centuries the despotic government of Turkey and its minions enforced such a frightful system of taxation and such a barbarous system of levying them, by means of tax-farming, that it completely ruined the peasantry and rendered them quite incapable of cultivating their holdings. In Turkey there are huge tracts of land, located in the most fertile vilayets, which are lying uncultivated, in utter desolation, the peasants having left the country, in search of a bite to eat. This has happened because the peasants are unable to work the abandoned land, since they have neither oxen, nor money, nor seed — they have none of the things they need in order to cultivate the land. In the southern part of Asia Minor, where also there are huge uncultivated tracts, there are more than 100,000 so-called marabas, nomadic wage-labourers who, having neither land, nor farmsteads, nor shelter, wander in hordes all over the country, looking for miserably-paid seasonal work on the landlords’ estates. Even those peasants who still have a holding of their own cultivate it not for themselves but for all manner of usurers, to whom their indebtedness obliges them to hand over four-fifths of their crop. The extent of the exploitation and the poverty-stricken situation of the Turkish peasants is shown by statistics. These figures reveal that even in peacetime the Turkish peasant never has left, out of all the corn he produces, more than six poods per year per head, or three-quarters of a pound a day. Today the Russian proletariat, ruined by many years of war and receiving, in the big centres which are worst stricken with famine, only one-and-a-half pounds of bread a day, is better supplied with bread than the Turkish peasant living in a fertile country abounding in free land! In Turkey as in Persia the position of the peasant is absolutely unbearable. It is a position of utter want, chronic hunger, endless indebtedness and work for the tribute-collectors and usurers, without any certainty regarding his title to the land and with no hope whatsoever of any improvement in his wretched situation.

This is the desperate, oppressive situation in which the peasants of other Eastern countries also find themselves. Not to speak of the Armenians, driven from their land, forced to take refuge in barren mountains, deprived of their homes and livelihoods and stripped of all they possess by the Kurdish landlords, the aghas, the peasants of all the other nationalities, even if not driven from their land, have little joy in their lives, for they work not for themselves but for their oppressors. In Khiva, Bukhara and Afghanistan, where agriculture can be carried on only on irrigated land, all such land has been grabbed by the landlords, the beys and khans, and the peasants are able to work it only as wage-labourers. In India the British rulers have taken nearly all the land, and, seeking to squeeze the maximum revenue from this unfortunate country, have leased it out to big capitalists, so that the peasant can gain access to the land only as a sub-tenant or a wage-labourer. Out of what the Indian peasant produces from the land he has to hand over the lion’s share to the British rulers and another share to the capitalist farmer, keeping for himself only such a share as enables him to die of hunger amidst the flowering valleys of his fertile homeland, his wondrous country with its countless riches.

Everywhere, in all the countries of the East, the peasantry, who alone create all the material values which sustain their own people and others as well, themselves drag out the wretched existence of downtrodden, starving slaves. Everywhere in the countries of the East the peasant, that king and creator of riches, is starving to death and groaning beneath the whips of his own and foreign oppressors. ‘Starving to death’, comrades, is no mere phrase: the peasantry of the East really are starving — it has been proved statistically. In order to escape from his miserable situation, to escape from want, poverty and hunger, the peasant of the Eastern countries must throw off the centuries-old oppression both of the foreign capitalist exploiters and of his own oppressors the sultans, khans, shahs and beys. [Applause.] The peasantry of the East have starved long enough, they have served their various oppressors long enough — now they must free themselves and become the actual owners of their own land and the absolute masters of their fate. The many-millioned masses of peasants of the East must now rise up in all their colossal might and throw off all their oppressors, must take power into their own hands [Applause] by forming their own peasant Soviet government, by forming revolutionary peasant Soviets. All the sources of the oppression of the peasants must be destroyed — first and foremost, the system of landlordship which enslaves the peasant. Whoever does not work shall not eat; whoever does not till the land shall not possess it! [Applause. ] All the land belonging to the landlords and feudalists, shahs and khans must be taken from them and given to the peasants, without any purchase-price, without any compensation to the former owners. Together with the land, all the animals and farm implements belonging to the estates of the feudalists and landlords must be taken, for the peasant must receive not only land but also the possibility of working it, and for this purpose he must seize all the instruments of production and all the wealth that his landlord oppressors possessed. Since there are in the East, besides the landlords’ land, also huge tracts of state-owned land which are used by various secular and ecclesiastical institutions, officials and clergy, this land too must be taken from the ruling privileged classes and turned over to the peasants. Comrades, there is no cause to fear because some of this land belongs to the clergy. Of course the latter, who have concentrated huge tracts of land in their possession, and exploited peasant labour on this land, declare that this land belongs to God and therefore is inviolable, and the peasant dares not reach out to take it, but, comrades, this is all lies and fraud! Even according to the shariat, the land can belong only to him who tills it, and not to the clergy who have grabbed it, like the mujtahids in Persia, who were the first to violate the fundamental law of the Moslem religion. They are not defenders of this religion but perverters of it. They are just such parasites and oppressors as the feudal landlords, except that they are also hypocrites who disguise their character as oppressors behind the white turban and the Holy Koran. This mask of sanctity must be torn from them, comrades, and the land they own must likewise be wrested from them and given to the working peasantry. [Applause.] All the confused and complicated legislation of the countries of the East, disguising private ownership under various masks and restricting the right of the possessor of a holding to use it as he pleases, preventing the peasant from cultivating his land as he wishes, must be swept away. Every peasant must have the right to utilise his land as he chooses, ignoring all such prohibitions and restrictions. [Applause.] Instead of the complicated and confused land laws which serve to enslave the peasant, it is necessary to establish just one land law, consisting of a single article: all land belongs to the state, and the right to use it belongs only to whoever works it with his own labour. [Applause.] That must be the only land law, giving the land to the toilers, to the peasants, and casting out from the land all parasites, exploiters and slaveowners. [Tumultuous applause.]

Then, comrades, attention must be paid to that scourge of the peasants of all the countries of the East which beats sweat and blood out of them and devastates the peasants’ holdings — that fearful burden of taxes which the peasantry of Turkey, Persia and India have borne for hundreds of years. There is no need to tell you what these taxes have meant, what a fearful burden they have laid upon the peasants, how they have taken the skin, the blood, the very life of the peasants by means of a venal, corrupt administration. You know how the tithe provided for in the shariat has been turned into three-quarters and four-fifths of the peasant’s crop, and how these taxes have reduced the peasantry of the Eastern countries to utter poverty. This scourge of taxation and the tyranny of officials and administrators associated with it must be destroyed, all taxes must be cancelled. The peasants must be freed from exploitation not only by the landlords but also by the state. [Applause.] But as it is clear that no human organisation can exist without incurring certain expenses, the newly-formed Soviet Government of the peasants will also need to have a certain amount of revenue at its disposal, and so the peasants will have to give their government a certain portion of what they produce, which will be needed to support the urban workers, the state machine and the Red Army which defends the peasants’ freedom. However, this levy, its amount and the actual way it is to be collected will be decided and put into effect not by venal, bloodsucking officials but by the peasants’ Soviets. [Applause.] Relieved of taxes, the peasantry must also be relieved of debts. You know, comrades, how burdened with debt the Eastern peasant is; you know that he is always in debt to a neighbouring landlord, or to some kulak, trader or usurer; you know that without contracting loans the Eastern peasant cannot carry on cultivating his exhausted holding, and is therefore always up to his ears in debt. This indebtedness of the peasants makes them serfs to the usurers and obliges them to work, their whole lives through, for the enrichment of a moneylender. If the land were to be taken over, but the power of the old debts were left pressing upon the peasants. it would mean that the latter would have escaped from the claws of the landlords merely to fall into those of the usurers. This heavy yoke of debt which harnesses the peasantry to the old world of slavery must be left behind in that old world, and one of the first steps taken by the risen revolutionary peasantry must be a complete and categorical cancellation of all peasant debts whatsoever — to the state, to land banks, to landlords, to traders, to usurers. All the debt liabilities of the peasants must be declared invalid. The new revolutionary world must tell the old world of the usurers that the peasants of the Eastern countries no longer owe anyone so much as a kopeck. [Applause.]

I have mentioned these, comrades, as the ‘first steps to be taken by the revolutionary peasants in the countries of the East. I have indicated the measures which the peasants will need to take at once. When you return home you will advise the peasants what they must do. They must annihilate their feudalists and landlords, overthrow the power of the despots who rule them, take power into the hands of peasant Soviets, take possession of all landlords’ land, state-owned land and waqf land, with all the animals and implements belonging to those lands, share them out among the peasant poor, stop paying taxes, cancel debts, and thereby free the peasantry from all exploitation from any and every quarter.

Then. when the peasants of the East have succeeded in casting off the yoke of the foreign capitalists and of their own oppressors, when the peasants of the East have succeeded in forming Soviet republics, closely linked with the Soviet republics of the West — then, with the aid of the friendly republics of the industrial proletariat, it will be necessary to organise on a wide scale the supply to the peasants of all the means and instruments of production needed for agriculture, so that agriculture may flourish in the Eastern countries, so that the land in these countries, which is rich and abundant, and which was once the cradle of all mankind, may again bloom with splendid flowers and again bring forth all the wealth of former times, and even more. The furnishing of these supplies will be the concern of the governments of the Eastern Soviet republics and of the proletariat of the Soviet republics of the West.

As well as supplying the peasants with means of production, with machines of tremendous power such as the East has not yet seen, it will be necessary to teach the peasants how to use them collectively, for these machines, which are extremely productive, easing the peasants’ labour tenfold, are not suitable for work on small holdings they are adapted only to large areas and entail the need for joint cultivation of the peasants’ land, the need to merge scattered labour into joint, collective labour, properly organised and shared. Only such joint, collective, properly-organised labour can transform the convict labour of the cultivator into labour which is sufficiently easy and pleasant. And it is for you, comrades, to show the peasantry the need to go over from scattered labour to joint labour. It is for you to show that the way of life of separate little economic cells, separate households, has always meant for the peasants and will continue to mean for them, the disintegration which makes possible their enslavement and oppression. In order that the peasantry may become a mighty force, they must merge into the close, organised unity into which the proletariat of the industrial countries of the West has merged. In order to achieve this unification it will be necessary to bring the peasants together into tens and hundreds of organisations of all kinds, agricultural and handicraft producers’ artels and cooperatives and consumers’ co-operatives of every sort, supplying the peasantry with all the products of urban industry that they need. All these organisations will free the peasantry from commercial middlemen and enable them to exchange their products directly for the products of factory industry. All middlemen, all parasites will be swept away, and the toilers will not have to hand over to them the slightest share of what they produce.

To arrive at this complete liberation of the peasantry from all their oppressors and all the parasites who feed at their expense, the peasantry will have to wage a protracted struggle, and this not only against the foreign capitalist conquerors but also against their own sultans and shahs, against their own landlords and feudalists, against their own bourgeoisie. Today in many Eastern countries, in Turkey, Persia and India, the peasantry is marching arm in arm with its own bourgeoisie in the fight to win independence for their countries from the foreign imperialist enslavers. Ibis path is the right one. At present, all the efforts of the Eastern peasantry must be directed to throwing off the yoke of the foreign imperialists which weighs upon them, freeing their countries from the yoke of the West-European bourgeoisie, the capitalists of Britain and France.

But the peasantry of the Eastern countries must remember that their task will not be finished when this liberation has been gained, that if they stop there, if they rest content with expelling the foreign oppressors, they will not be liberated at all. Political independence with retention of the capitalist system will not in the least guarantee liberation for the peasantry. If the government of Mustafa Kema in Turkey, or liberal-national governments in Persia and India, were to expel the British and then make peace with Britain on the basis of political independence of the Eastern countries, but with retention of the capitalist system in these countries, all the politically-independent Eastern countries would remain dependent economically. Political independence would not save them from penetration by industrial capital, and, with this penetration, or with the formation of native industrial capital and the development of native industry on the basis of private ownership of the means of production, the peasantry would be obliged to undergo an agonising period of primitive capitalist accumulation, in which they would be finally ruined, driven from their land, and all turned into wage-labourers with no holdings of their own. And this peasantry transformed into workers would be driven by the bourgeoisie, either native or foreign, into its plantations, factories and mines and made to work there, at miserable wages, for the enrichment of the capitalists — they would find themselves in even worse enslavement to capital than they are today.

The peasantry of the Eastern countries must firmly keep in mind the fact that liberation merely from the yoke of the foreign conquerors will not bring them real freedom. They need to liberate themselves also from their own oppressors, their own despotic rulers, their own landlords, and their own bourgeoisie, and, after setting up their own peasants’ Soviet power, in alliance with the Soviet republics of Europe, they need to fight against the bourgeoisie of the whole world, fight for the overthrow of capitalism in all countries, both East and West. So long as somewhere the capitalist system has escaped destruction, so long as the entire world has not been transformed into a great federation of free workers’ and peasants’ Soviet republics, in which there will be no place for any exploitation or oppression, so long will the peasantry of the East be unable to attain real liberation and so long will they not have ensured for themselves a free, human existence.

Only with the final victory of the social revolution, only with the final establishment of the Communist order throughout the world, will the peasantry of the Eastern countries secure genuine freedom, both political and economic, becoming able to work for themselves on their own land, enjoying all the produce of their own labour and giving nothing to any oppressors and exploiters.

Therefore, there is no road for the peasantry of the East but to go forward together with the revolutionary workers of the West, in close alliance with the Soviet republics the latter have created, into struggle against both the foreign capitalist conquerors and their own despots, landlords, bourgeois and other oppressors, waging this fight to the end, not retreating until the complete victory of the social revolution, the establishment of the Communist order, which alone can bring real liberation to all the peoples of both West and East and alone can destroy all forms of oppression of one people by another and all forms of exploitation of man by man. [Applause.]

Comrades, all that I have said is summed up in the brief theses which the Congress Presidium has adopted. They explain how our Congress sees the situation of the peasants in the East, and the roads to their liberation which it advocates.

Theses on the agrarian question

1. The peasantry of the countries of the East, being the sole productive class and sustaining by their labour not only the landlords but also the entire bourgeoisie and bureaucracy, are crushed beneath a burden of survivals of feudalism, relations of bondage, landlords’ extortions and state taxes, and find themselves in an absolutely unbearable situation of utter ruin, chronic hunger, endless indebtedness and work for landlords, tribute-collectors and usurers. The oppression and exploitation of the peasants of the Eastern countries by the ruling authority, by foreign capitalists and by their own landlords have reached such limits that not only development but even more human existence has become impossible for the peasants. and have degraded them to the position of downtrodden and perpetually hungry beasts of burden.

2. The sources of the oppression and exploitation of the peasants are:

a) the retention of feudal relations, which place the peasants in both personal and economic dependence upon the landlords;

b) the seizure of the land by the landlords, which enables them, owing to the inadequate availability of free land, to reduce the peasants to bondage and turn them, though legally free, into de facto serfs;

c) the seizure of the land by the ruling authority, which leases out considerable tracts to the privileged classes and the capitalists, thus giving the latter a monopoly of landownership and obliging the peasants to become sub-tenants and labourers, under very burdensome conditions; d) the unbearable burden of taxes and the predatory way these are levied, by the irresponsible bureaucratic organs of the despotic ruling power; e) the lack of personal security, anarchy, and systematic brigandage by half-savage nomad tribes, which are backed by the ruling authority in their attacks on the peasants; f) the extreme ruin of the peasants caused by all these conditions, resulting in their complete impoverishment, and the monstrous indebtedness of the cultivators, arising from this ruin, so that they fall into a state of absolute economic dependence on usurers and the object of their work becomes the unending repayment of loans and the interest on loans to various banks, landlords, kulaks and usurers; g) the peasants’ complete lack, as a result of their ruin, of means and instruments of production — money, agricultural machinery, draught animals, seed-corn, etc. — which means that it becomes impossible for the peasants to work for themselves on their own land, even when free and accessible land is available to them.

3. In order to bring about liberation from the unbearable burden of oppression, exploitation and ruin and to create the conditions necessary for them to work for themselves so as to satisfy all their needs and make further development possible, the peasants of the Eastern countries must:

a) remove the prime source of all their oppression and exploitation, the power of the foreign capitalist conquerors and of their own despotic tyrants, the sultans, shahs, khans and beys, with their entire parasitic train of bureaucrats and spongers, and take power, with all its administrative, economic and financial functions into their own hands, by forming local and central peasants’ Soviets and setting up peasant Soviet republics of the East, linked in one indissoluble federation with the Soviet republics of the countries of the West;

b) refuse to fulfil any obligations towards the feudal landlords, overthrow their power, abolish all personal and economic dependence upon them, abolish large-scale landownership, under whatever legal form it may be concealed, take the land from the landlords without any purchase-price or compensation, and divide it among the peasants, tenants and labourers who till it, along with the land, take the herds of animals belonging to the landlords and divide them, in the first place among the labourers who possess no animals at all, and then among the tenants and poor peasant cultivators; turn over the implements found on the landlords’ estates to collective ownership by the peasants who have occupied the land — the peasants should unite in groups, concentrating the implements made available to them for use in collective cultivation of the land, which ensures the best results and the most rapid development of the peasants’ economy and of their prosperity;

c) take over all lands belonging to the state and to its various institutions, both secular and spiritual (including waqf lands) and divide them among the peasants and tenants, subtenants and labourers who work these lands, with complete abolition of all the rights of the big tenant-farmers who act as intermediaries between the state and the peasants, and confiscation for the benefit of the peasants of all the animals and implements belonging to these tenant-farmers;

d) cancel all existing land legislation and all restrictions on the right to use the land and to make changes on the surface of the holdings; proclaim that all land, regardless of its origin and independently of the rights of any owners or occupiers, belongs to the state and that it can be utilised free of charge by anyone who works it with his own labour; establish by means of a single land law the rule that ‘whoever works a plot of land with his own labour is the possessor of that land and the owner of its produce,’ and at the same time declare that the small-scale holdings of peasants who do not use others’ labour are inviolable, and nobody has the right to encroach upon them for any purpose whatsoever;

e) regulate the utilisation of local irrigation water-supplies and irrigated land, this to be the responsibility of the peasant soviets, both local and central;

f) secure the interests of the nomadic tribes, assigning for their use areas of pasture-land sufficient to meet their needs, and at the same time take all measures required to ease the transition of the nomads to a settled way of life;

g) cancel all existing taxes, including the tithe, replacing them with a single assessed levy of a proportion of all the peasants’ produce, this being necessary for the maintenance of the urban workers and of the army; the amount of this levy, its assessment and also the actual process of collection to be determined and implemented by the peasant Soviets, and everything taken from the peasants by means of this levy to be compensated by an assessed payment to the peasants of all the goods produced by urban industry which they need;

h) cancel all peasants’ debts of every kind, to the state and to its various secular and spiritual institutions, to banks, landlords, and traders, and recognise as invalid all manner of peasants’ debt liabilities;

i) undertake, after organising peasant soviets and peasant soviet republics in the East, with the help and support of the Soviet republics of the industrial West, the supplying to the peasants, on an extensive scale, of agricultural machinery, tools, draught animals and other means of production needed for carrying on agriculture, arranging for joint use of these means of production by all the peasants; undertake the organising of agronomic aid to the peasants and collective working of the land, without any compulsion of individual cultivators to participate in this; undertake the organising of peasant producers’ co-operatives, both for agriculture and for handicrafts, with extensive state support and gradual statisation; undertake the organising among the peasants of consumers’ co-operatives with extensive state support and gradual statisation, arranging through these co-operatives the supply to the peasants of all the products of urban industry needed by them; organise on free, uncultivated land, in step with the supplying of the peasants with all the means of production needed for agriculture, Communist soviet farms, to be run, under state supervision, by agricultural workers organised in production associations; endeavour to develop these Communist soviet farms on as wide a scale as possible, with a view to using their surplus produce for exchange for needed urban-industrial goods which are produced by the industrial countries of Europe.

The mere establishment of the political independence of the Eastern countries , such as Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan, etc., as also the proclamation of the merely political independence of the colonial countries — India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Arabia, etc. — cannot liberate the peasants of the East from oppression, exploitation and ruin. If the capitalist system is retained in Europe and Asia, the countries of the East which win freedom from political dependence upon the imperialist countries of the West, being more backward industrially, inevitably remain in complete economic dependence upon the latter, and, as before, serve as areas for the application of the finance-capital of the European industrial countries, which is associated with capitalist exploitation of the peasants and workers. If the capitalist system is retained, then, even in the event of the conquest of complete political independence by the countries and colonies of the East, the peasants of these countries must inevitably pass through an agonising period of primitive capitalist accumulation, associated with their final ruin, eviction from the land, proletarianisation and transformation into wage-earning factory hands or agricultural labourers, deprived of their own holdings and compelled to sell their labour-power. The peasantry of the East, now marching arm in arm with their own democratic bourgeoisie to win independence for their countries from the West-European imperialist powers, must remember that they have their own special tasks to perform, that their liberation will not be achieved merely by the winning of political independence, and that therefore they cannot halt and rest content when this is won. The peasantry of the East must go forward, continuing to fight even after the independence of their countries has been won — they must continue the fight against their dependence on their own landlords and their own bourgeoisie, who will certainly try, after the achievement of independence, to replace exploitation of the peasants by the West-European capitalists by exploitation of these peasants by themselves, the local landlords and bourgeoisie.

For complete and real liberation of the peasantry of the East from all forms of oppression, dependence and exploitation, what is further required is overthrow of the rule of their own landlords and bourgeoisie and the establishment in the countries of the East of the Soviet power of the workers and peasants. Only the complete abolition of the capitalist system, in West and East alike, will enable the peasants of the East not to lose but to retain and develop their holdings, and, avoiding the necessity of passing through an agonising phase of primitive capitalist accumulation, to advance, with the help of the working class of the more advanced countries, through a certain stage of development, to the Communist order, which will ensure for every peasant full freedom and full use of all the products of his labour.

Only the complete triumph of the social revolution and the establishment of a world-wide Communist economy can free the peasantry of the Eastern countries from ruin, want, poverty, famine, oppression and exploitation. And so for the peasants of the East, in their struggle for emancipation, there is no other road than that of struggle, together with the advanced revolutionary workers of the West, in close alliance with the Soviet republics these have formed, both against foreign capitalist conquerors and against their own despots — landlords, bourgeois and other oppressors: carrying on this struggle without retreating until complete victory has been won over the world bourgeoisie, until the complete victory of the social revolution, until the final establishment of the Communist order, which alone can bring true liberation to all the peoples of West and East alike, abolishing all oppression of one people by another and every kind of exploitation of man by man. [Translation.]

Chairman: I request the comrades to come over here so that we can take the vote. Comrades, we are going to vote on the resolution on Comrade Skachko’s report. You have heard his report and his clear theses, which have been approved by the Presidium.

All in favour of the theses, please raise your hands. Anyone against? No-one. Adopted unanimously. [Tumultuous applause. Shouts of ‘Bravo’.]

Please give me your attention. Tomorrow at 10 a meeting of the non-Party fraction will be held here. I request the non-Party delegates to be present in as large numbers as possible. Comrade Zinoviev will also be present.

Secretary: Comrades, the Communist fraction will meet tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Red Army Club. Everyone is to attend. Important questions will be decided.

Chairman: Comrades, tomorrow at 5 p.m. we shall hold the last session of our Congress. It is understood that absolutely every delegate must be present at this last session.

The session ended at 9.28 p.m.