Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Second Congress

Nineteenth Session

(Present: 43 delegates with 51 mandates and 12 persons with consultative voice.)

When the session began, Article 11 of the draft programme (the Iskra-Zarya draft) was read, i.e., Article 12 of the programme as adopted.

Lyadov proposed that the following three points be inserted:

1. Establishment of an agrarian inspectorate to check on all agricultural enterprises in which wage-workers were employed.

2. Points 1-13 to be applicable to all agricultural enterprises employing hired labour.

3. Tenants leasing land as sharecroppers or on condition that they work the landlord’s land to be regarded as wage-workers and, as such, brought within the competence of the agrarian inspectorate.

I think these points need to be inserted. Although agricultural enterprises ought, as has been said, to be brought under the factory inspectorate, this needs emphasising. Furthermore, I think it is necessary to set up a special agrarian inspectorate. This third point shows that we regard tenant-farmers as proletarians. Our agrarian programme as a whole does not relate to the proletariat, but in this point we single out the proletarians.

Lenin: I am against Comrade Lyadov’s amendment. His first two points are superfluous since in our programme we cal) for protection of labour in all branches of the economy, and so in agriculture as well. As for the third, this entirely relates to the agrarian section, and we shall deal with it when we discuss the draft of our agrarian programme.

Chairman: At Lyadov’s request we shall vote on his amendment point by point.

The two first points were rejected by all against one, and Lyadov withdrew the third. Article 12 was then voted on as a whole, and adopted unanimously.

Article 13 was read.

Gusev: It is not clear whether the health inspectorate is to be set up at the expense of the employers or whether this applies only to medical aid. I propose that the word ‘and’ after ‘labour’ be deleted, and replaced by a semi-colon.

The amendment was voted on and adopted by 18 to 3.

Makhov: The thing is that, however strange this may be in present circumstances, when free medical aid is adopted in the factories, the workers will remain on the payroll throughout their illness. In the programme of our demands we say nothing about this, and yet the point cannot be overlooked.

Yegorov: There is nothing to be said against such an amendment, except that the period during which the worker must go on being paid should be laid down. He might be ill for ten years.

Posadovsky moved an amendment, to add to this point: ‘the entire medico-sanitary organisation to be wholly independent of the employers’.

Makhov’s amendment (‘with continuance of pay during illness’) was passed by 20 to 3.

Makhov: I support Posadovsky’s amendment, since if the medical personnel are dependent on the employers it can lead to many abuses.

Posadovsky’s amendment was voted on and adopted by 25 to 4.

Article 13 was voted on as a whole and adopted unanimously.

Article 14 was read.

Makhov: Criminal responsibility of employers is laid down in all bodies of law. What we need to put in paragraph 14 is not that, but the right of every person to prosecute an employer for breaking the law for the protection of labour.

Kostich: I regard the amendment as unnecessary. At present the employers are subject to no responsibility.

Makhov withdrew his amendment.

Article 14, as a whole, was voted on and adopted unanimously.

Article 15 was read.

Lieber: What is meant by ‘industrial tribunals’? Are they composed according to branches of labour?

Lenin: Yes, of course.

Article 15 as a whole was read and adopted unanimously.

Article 16 was read.

Kostrov: Labour exchanges are of great importance for the workers and should therefore consist exclusively of workers.

Lieber: I propose an amendment: employment agencies in all branches of production to be administered by representatives of workers’ organisations’.

Martov: I want to say a few words in explanation of why this version was adopted. We wanted to provide for the setting up of such labour exchanges for agricultural workers as well. Since the latter are a more backward element, and nomadic into the bargain, it was not possible to propose that they should manage the labour exchanges, and so we adopted this form of words. I hope that we shall on every occasion fight for more active participation by the workers in the labour exchanges.

Yegorov: I agree with that observation. After all, a labour exchange is an employment agency, the responsibility of whose members is to put people in touch with each other. No law can assign this responsibility to particular workers’ organisations.

Plekhanov: I think Comrade Yegorov has not understood Comrade Lieber. One cannot object to this amendment from the standpoint of its feasibility. In Switzerland, for instance, the labour exchanges are already run by the workers. Martov, rather, has the right idea.

Makhov: When centres for the hiring of agricultural labourers are organised, the rule is to give the latter something to eat. The unemployed are included, despite the protests of the Zemstvo members. But we, in our programme, have forgotten the unemployed.

Muravyov: I therefore propose this amendment: ‘Establishment of medical and feeding centres in places where temporary (seasonal) concentrations of workers occur.’

Lieber’s amendment—after the word ‘ production’ to insert: ‘Under the administration of workers’ organisations’—was voted on, and rejected by 19 to 10.

Muravyov’s amendment was voted on and rejected by all against one. Kostrov’s amendment —‘and labour exchanges for industrial workers to be wholly managed by the latter’—was voted on and rejected by a majority, with one vote for.

Article 16 was voted on and adopted by a majority.

The introductory part of the agrarian programme was read.

Lieber: We thought there would be a report.

Lenin: It must be said that we have not produced a report. The commission proved unable to cope with this question.

In answer to a question from Yegorov the chairman said that in discussing the agrarian programme they would revert to the general procedure for debate, that is, the standing orders adopted at the beginning of the congress.

Lenin: I propose an amendment: instead of ‘will aim at’, we should say ‘demands first and foremost’.

Yegorov: I don’t know how we can debate these five lines. The question of our agrarian programme has not been clarified. I propose that we at least read the whole programme through and then have a general debate. These five lines show what the author’s idea is, but how they are connected with the programme as a whole remains unexplained.

This proposal was voted on and adopted.

The agrarian programme was read.

Martynov: Underlying the agrarian programme which has been presented to us is a perfectly sound principle. We are on the eve of a revolution which must finally liquidate the obsolete system of social estates and serfdom and give place to a bourgeois-democratic system. This revolution can and must settle accounts in revolutionary fashion—that is, without considering historically acquired rights—with all the relations that have arisen on the basis of the old order. This revolution will not touch the foundations of the new order, the time for liquidating which has not yet come. The present revolution is, essentially, the historical task of the bourgeoisie. But the party of the proletariat has to take upon itself also the fulfilment of those revolutionary tasks which the bourgeoisie ought to have performed but did not. This is the fundamental principle of our programme. But it is not hard to discover that certain essential points in this programme do not proceed at all from that principle.

I have in mind two points: the return to the peasants of the redemption payments taken from them since 1861 and the return to the peasants of the lands which were cut off from their holdings in 1861. It seems to me that these two points have the purpose not of abolishing those semi-serf relations which have survived into our day, but merely to redress an historical injustice. This is obvious where the first point is concerned. But it is also true of the second point. First, it has not been established that at the time of the emancipation of the peasants those lands were cut off mainly so as to preserve relations of bondage. Secondly, in the period that has elapsed, the countryside has undergone a profound economic evolution. Many of the ‘cut-off lands’ which once had that significance have now lost it: on the other hand, many lands which were not cut off have since then acquired significance as means of enserfment. Finally, present-day bondage relations between tenants and landowners do not belong to the old ‘estates’ setting of opposition between peasant and noble landlord. Therefore, return of the cut-off lands will not achieve the purpose which the compilers of the programme set themselves, and the purpose which these measures actually will achieve is not one that we can set ourselves. We cannot arbitrarily demand the redressment of this particular historical injustice if we thereby indirectly, so to speak, sanctify other historical injustices. We cannot demand that the peasants should have restored to them precisely those lands which they were cultivating in 1861, because we do not recognise in principle the landlords’ right to those lands which they had seized before 1861. If we now bring forward the demand that all land be nationalised, we are guided in this by considerations that have nothing to do with the question of rights. If we want to apply consistently the principle which is embodied in the programme, we must define those lands and their appendages which serve the big landowners today as means of keeping the surrounding population in semi-serflike dependence and expropriate them regardless of when or how these lands becomes theirs.

Gorin: The fourth article of the agrarian programme is defended by the consideration that free small-scale ownership means a social revolution as compared with the semi-serflike leasing of the cut-off lands. But free small-scale tenancy is not inferior, in this connection, to free small-scale ownership. This free leasing of the cut-off lands can be organised, instead of the small-scale ownership which is proposed, either through a land-survey or through standardisation of tenancy. This standardisation should be (1) qualitative, in the sense of replacement of rent in kind (in labour and produce) by money rent, and (2) quantitative, in the sense of fixing the amount of money to be paid. But the free small-scale tenancy of the cut-off lands established in this way also has an advantage over free small-scale ownership, an economic advantage, in that small-scale tenancy, being, so far as the technical means of production are concerned (i.e., all the means of production apart from the land) also small-scale ownership, is an economic form which is closer to the proletarian form, since here part of the property, namely, the land, has already been expropriated. Furthermore the small tenant is less attached to the land and therefore can sooner be freed from rural idiocy. Finally, given that a section of the peasantry are in a semi-proletarian position and can take up the standpoint of the proletariat, hope of getting back the cut-off lands perforce strengthens the anti-proletarian ideology in the atmosphere. It must also be mentioned that, essentially, return of the cut-off lands changes nothing in the matter of abolishing semi-serfdom relations. Semi-serfdom relations on the basis of the cut-off lands are created through the extreme over-population of the countryside, which the backward state of production cannot absorb. But this same backwardness of production will, even after the cut-off lands have been restored, compel, as a result of the inevitable parcellisation of the land, the ploughing-up of these cut-off lands, so depriving them of their specific function as auxiliary lands. The peasants will again be obliged to ask the neighbouring landowners for auxiliary lands and will again fall into semi-serfdom. It can rightly be said that the present moment is too exceptional, as a moment when we stand on the brink of a revolution. At this moment we cannot refrain from staking everything on a small thing since thereby great possibilities are created for giving the revolution an amplitude that will put it in a level with the Great French Revolution—this is an idea of Comrade Akselrod’s which he expressed to me in private conversation. Having acknowledged this, of course, we shall not proceed quantitatively beyond the point at which quantity becomes quality, and after which We could be reproached for engaging in professional demagogy in the style of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. But this being so, we must recognise that the fourth point has purely agitational significance.

Akselrod: I must remind Comrade Gorin that those words of mine to which he referred apply to the programme as a whole. I added that we must have in mind the agitational significance of the cut-off lands for hastening the process and sharpening the relations which bring us nearer to the ultimate upheaval.

Yegorov: Our discussion is made considerably more difficult through the absence of a preliminary report. The Social-Democratic programme as a whole is not new to us, but the agrarian part of this programme has been less clarified than any other. True, it has been discussed in our publications, but even so it would have been desirable to have it briefly summed up and justified. The significance of this programme is not clear to me. Is it a programme for ourselves, that is, does it define our demands, or do we want to make it popular? The agrarian question is one of the most essential questions. The impending revolution in Russia, so far as the peasantry are concerned, if not completely analogous to the Great French Revolution, has much in common with it. The peasant question will be settled first, and the peasantry will take part in settling it. The peasants will, of course, put forward a number of demands, which will be satisfied to some extent. Therefore the Social-Democrats will, perhaps, make clear in their programme, first and foremost, what the economic process can give to the peasantry when the revolution comes. It may be that this was what the authors of the programme had in mind. And I agree with them that this is extremely important. But if what they intended was to draw the peasants into the work of liquidation, to sound a slogan of action for them, then in that case their programme is insolvent, for in this matter the Socialist-Revolutionaries will break the record sooner than we can, by advancing the slogan of dividing up the land, which will be a much more stirring slogan than the cut-off lands can provide. Passing to points of detail, I would ask whether it has even been proved statistically that the peasants live worse where there are cut-off lands, whether it can be said with conviction that the poverty of the peasants in a given locality is due to the cut-off lands? Can it be proved that the situation is worse where the cut-off lands are larger?

Lieber: I would like to make the same points as Comrade Yegorov. It is, of course, a great deal easier to say what should not be in the programme than to say what should be in it. But I would like to mention a general feature that distinguishes the agrarian part of our programme from the rest, namely, the meagreness of the demands made. Whereas in the other parts of the programme we put forward our maximum demands, here only one demand is presented, namely, the need to eliminate the survivals of feudal relations. But if life in Russia has taken such a course that a number of survivals of serfdom have been preserved there within the bourgeois order, our programme ought to include not only a negative attitude to these survivals but also a positive part, namely, radical reforms for the peasantry or for certain elements among them.

Moreover, is it enough that there should be one agrarian programme for the whole of the RSDLP? When we were talking about our maximum demands it was understood that these concerned the entire proletariat. But when we come to the minimum demands of our agrarian programme we have to pay attention to the special conditions of work in particular localities. Agrarian relations in Poland, for example, have been shaped in different historical circumstances from those of Russia. Certain points in the Party’s agrarian programme may prove not to fit conditions in certain parts of Russia. For an example, one may point to the PPS, which, despite the absence, where the Polish peasantry are concerned, of such survivals of serfdom as might unite all strata of the peasantry for struggle against them, and despite the fact that differentiation has proceeded very far among those peasants, nevertheless, in their agitation among the peasantry (as we see from their organ Gazeta Ludowa ) always address themselves to the peasantry as a whole, and not to the rural proletariat alone. Therefore, what may prove to be entirely correct and suitable for the Russian Social-Democrats is found to be harmful and not in accordance with the class standpoint in the programme of the PPS, against which we have to fight, just as we combat the programme of the Socialist-Revolutionaries. Consequently, our agrarian programme must either be common to all Russia, in which case it must put forward only general propositions, or else this programme will concretise the latter, in which case it will be a programme only for the Russian Social-Democrats. In the second eventuality we must, therefore, allow the Party s different national and regional groups to put forward their own programmes. It needs to be mentioned, incidentally, that our Programme does not contain a single point which is included in the programme of the West-European parties. It would be more appropriate, I think, to indicate the basic principles with which we approach the peasants, and, as regards concrete measures, to complete our programme as the various questions become clarified.

Trotsky: Our agrarian programme differs qualitatively from our general programme, said Comrade Yegorov. Of course it does. And this difference is formulated in those very five lines, or even not five but only three lines, of the section which deals with principles, to which Comrade Yegorov referred so ironically. ‘In order to eliminate the survivals of serfdom which are a heavy burden upon the peasants, and in the interests of free development of the class struggle in the countryside, the Party will aim at… ‘ Our general minimum programme represents the maximum that we can demand of the capitalist order. Our agrarian programme calls for clearing feudal hindrances from the path of this capitalist order as a whole. And this is the answer to Comrade Lieber, when he expresses surprise at the ‘meagreness’ of the demands of our agrarian programme. With what are we approach-ing the peasantry? asks Comrade Lieber. Why do we confine ourselves to an agrarian programme directed only against the survivals of serfdom? Why do we not draw up, as well, an agrarian programme adapted to the capitalist system in general? But it remains for us to ask whether the Social-Democrats need such a programme. Perhaps Comrade Lieber deems that that field of agrarian relations is an economic ghetto, or an economic Arcadia, whichever you prefer, for which the laws of capitalist evolution were not written. We do not agree. And for that reason we do not need a general agrarian programme. But we approach the peasantry not only with our ‘meagre’ agrarian programme, which pursues a special aim, but also with the whole of our Social-Democratic programme, principles and minimum demands included. We are not capable of fabricating a special ‘agrarian socialism’, in the sense of co-operatives and so on. That we leave to the Socialist-Revolutionaries.

But does our ‘meagre’ programme possess universal significance? Can it be proved, asks Comrade Yegorov, that the situation of the peasants is always worse where there are cut-off lands? I grant that we cannot. But what does that mean? We cannot prove that the situation of the proletariat is always and everywhere worse when wages are paid in kind. But that does not prevent us from demanding that this form of payment be prohibited, even though it has been preserved in only one-tenth of the country.

Here I disagree with Comrade Lieber when he says that since what we are discussing is our common programme, we do not need to work out demands applicable to particular localities and nations. The agrarian programme speaks of the elimination of ‘survivals of serfdom in the Urals, in the Altai, in the Western Territory and in other parts of the country’. But Comrade Lieber does not grasp the difference between the levelling character of capitalist evolution (which is what our general programme is concerned with) and the detailed character of the feudal survivals, which are distinguished by their extreme diversity, consolidated in legal forms (which is what the agrarian part of our programme is concerned with). We have to reckon with this diversity. If serfdom had been preserved in Tver province alone we would have to put forward the demand: ‘Abolition of serfdom in Tver province.’ If in Poland, as Comrade Lieber observed, such survivals are not to be found as exist in the Altai, that does not create any difficulties for us in agitating among the Polish peasantry. We approach the Polish peasants with the general-democratic part of our programme, we approach the rural poor with our propaganda for socialism. We shall ‘proletarianise’ them politically before they are proletarianised economically.

Lenin: I shall mention first a detail that came up in the debate. Comrade Yegorov expressed regret that there had been no report which might have considerably facilitated and guided our whole discussion. Since it was I who was suggested as rapporteur, I shall have, as it were, to defend myself for the absence of a report. And I shall say in my defence that I have a report; it is my reply to Comrade X,[3] which replies, in fact, to the most widespread of the objections and misunderstandings aroused by our agrarian programme, and which has been distributed to all the congress delegates. A report is no less a report for having been printed and distributed to the delegates instead of being read to them.

I now pass to what was said in the speeches of those who, unfortunately, have paid no attention to this report of mine. Comrade Martynov, for example, failed even to take account of earlier writings about our agrarian programme, when he spoke repeatedly about redressing an historical injustice, about an unfounded reversion to forty years ago, about destroying not the feudalism of today but that which existed in the sixties, and so on. In replying to these arguments I shall be obliged to repeat myself. If we had indeed based ourselves only on the principle of ‘redressing an historical injustice’, we should have been guided by democratic phrasemongering alone. But we refer to the survivals of the serf-owning system which exist around us, to present-day reality, to what is today hampering and holding back the proletariat’s struggle for liberation. We are accused of reverting to the hoary past. This charge merely reveals ignorance regarding the most generally known facts about the activity of the Social-Democrats in all countries. Everywhere they set themselves the aim, and work for it, to finish what the bourgeoisie has left unfinished. That is just what we are doing. And in order to do it we are obliged to revert to the past and that is what the Social-Democrats do in every country, where they are always reverting to their 1789, to their 1848. Similarly, the Russin Social-Democrats cannot but revert to their 1861, and they do this all the more vigorously and frequently because our so-called peasant ‘reform’ has brought about so little in the way of democratic changes.

As to Comrade Gorin, he too commits the common error of forgetting the serf bondage that actually exists. Comrade Gorin says that ‘hope of getting back the cut-off lands perforce keeps the small peasant bound to an anti-proletarian ideology’. In fact, however, it is not ‘hope’ that he will get the cut-off lands but the present cut-off lands themselves that perforce maintain serf bondage, and there is no escape from this bondage, from this serf-type tenancy of land, except by transforming the pseudo-tenants into free proprietors.

Lastly, Comrade Yegorov asked the authors of the programme a question about its significance. Is the programme, he asked, a conclusion drawn from our basic conceptions about the economic evolution of Russia, a scientific anticipation of the possible and inevitable result of political changes (in which case Comrade Yegorov might agree with us)? Or is our programme, in practice, an agitational slogan? In that case, we could not outdo the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and the programme must be regarded as mistaken. I must say that I do not understand the distinction drawn by Comrade Yegorov. If our programme did not meet the first condition, it would be wrong and we could not accept it. If, however, the programme is correct, it cannot but furnish in practice a suitable slogan for agitation. The contradiction between Comrade Yegorov’s alternatives is only apparent: it cannot exist in reality, because a correct theoretical decision guarantees enduring success in agitation. And it is for enduring success that we are striving, and we are not at all disconcerted by temporary setbacks.

Comrade Lieber likewise repeated long-refuted objections, expressing astonishment at the ‘meagreness’ of our programme and calling for ‘radical reforms’ in the agrarian sphere as well. Comrade Lieber has forgotten the difference between the democratic and the socialist parts of the programme. What he has taken for ‘meagreness’ is the absence of anything socialistic in the democratic programme. He has not noticed that the socialist part of our agrarian programme is to be found elsewhere, namely, in the section on the workers, which also applies to agriculture. Only the Socialist-Revolutionaries, with their characteristic lack of principle, are capable of confusing, and constantly do confuse, democratic and socialist demands. The Party of the proletariat, however, is in duty bound to separate and distinguish between them in the strictest fashion.

Gorin: Comrade Lenin has not answered me. I was not arguing about the substance of the matter, I merely said that Article 4 does not deliver us from serfdom relations in the best possible way. My system is better. Since nobody has objected to it I consider that I have not been refuted. What I say is this: while recognising that the cut-off lands are a cause of semi-serfdom relations, I do not think that restoration of these cut-off lands will put an end to those relations. I consider that abolition of the corvée system, payments in kind, and so on, will serve better to bring about the ending of serfdom relations. If the cut-off lands are returned to the peasants those relations will soon return, because shortage of land will compel the peasants to resort to leasing land from the nobles. Under my system there are only free tenants, leasing land otherwise than on serfdom principles. Consequently, I propose a situation under which a part of the peasantry would be owners only of the technical means of production, and therefore more highly proletarianised. Besides, as is known, land binds the peasant more closely than anything else. With my system that won’t happen. I would transform serfdom tenancy into bourgeois tenancy.

Martynov: Comrade Lenin, in his answer to me, was knocking at an open door. ‘The proletariat has to finish what the bourgeoisie has left unfinished’, he says. I subscribe to that with both hands. But how is that proposition to be understood? Does it mean that if the bourgeoisie had not executed Louis XVI, then when Louis XVIII was on the throne we should have had to execute not the actual representative of the monarchy but the previous one, who was already dead? I think not. If the bourgeoisie in its time did not abolish feudalism, or did not abolish it completely, then we are now obliged to abolish feudalism, but feudalism in the form in which it exists now, and not in the form in which it existed forty years ago. But Comrade Lenin replies that ‘the lands which were cut off in 1861 still serve as a source of bondage; statistics show that there is complete correlation between the distribution of cut-off lands and the distribution of bondage relations’. I affirm that not only is there no such complete correlation, but there cannot be. Even at the time of the emancipation of the peasants, the Government and the landlords, when they cut off these lands, were not motivated by a desire to preserve serfdom relations. Statistics show that, as a general rule, the purpose of the cutting-off of these lands was different. Where craft occupations were plentiful and the land was poor, redemption payments were very much higher, but cut-off lands were insignificant. Where there were few craft occupations and the land was good, the level of redemption payments was relatively lower, and the percentage of cut-off lands was relatively higher. Thus, there may be a correlation not between the distribution of cut-off lands and that of bondage tenancy, but between the distribution of cut-off lands and the profitableness of the land. And, in fact, in the South, in New Russia, it is not bondage agriculture but capitalist agriculture that prevails, although it was there that the relatively largest percentage of land was taken from the peasants, ‘cut off’ by the landlords.

Consequently, the measure proposed to us by the compilers of the programme does not correspond at all to that correct general principle which is set forth in this programme, calling upon us to carry out a revolutionary abolition of all surviving serfdom relations. The measure proposed is meagre, but not at all because it will give little to the peasants. We cannot be guided by the criterion of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, for whom those measures are most revolutionary which promise to be the most peasant. This measure is meagre because it actually proceeds not from a revolutionary principle but from a meagre one, from concern to redress only one historical injustice.

Yegorov: As regards the theoretical part of the programme, the answers given by Trotsky and Lenin have satisfied me. I quite agree that there are not two economic processes. Turning to Lieber, I do not understand why he brings his special point of view into everything. Russia is a single economic entity, and so demands affecting one section of the peasants affect all Russia. But I have not been answered on the main question. In our propaganda among the peasantry, how can we compete with the Socialist-Revolutionaries? Comrade Trotsky said that we say to classes which have outlived themselves, either come over to us or we can do nothing for you. He is right of course: but does he really think that such a phrase as that can serve as an appeal? No! We cannot do much among the peasants. This means that our slogan cannot compete with the slogan of the adventurers. You won’t get the agricultural labourer to fight alongside the rich peasant for the cut-off lands which are already to no small extent in the possession of that rich peasant.

Kostrov: I fully agree with the fundamental parts of the draft agrarian programme. We certainly need to abolish all survivals of serfdom, whatever forms these may assume. So I am not going to argue about that. But the point is that peasant life has thrown up problems which are bound up not only with the old order but with the new one as well. In our part of the country,[4] the peasant movement has begun not where there are important survivals of serfdom, but where these are very slight—in Guria, for instance. Clearly, this results not from the old way of life only, but also from the new. These are modernised peasants, so to speak, who stand at the head of the peasantry and urge them on to a new path. Consequently, to tell them that the revolution must confine itself merely to eliminating survivals means to tell them nothing. They want more than that, and probably when the revolution comes they will seize the land. How shall we react in that case? In one of two ways: either we shall have to put them down, or else we shall say, ‘it’s no concern of ours’. In the first case we shall play the role of reactionaries, and in the second that of mere observers, and the revolution will be carried out independently of us. This is what we need to keep in mind when we discuss our agrarian programme. Comrade Lenin said in his printed report: ‘we would be abandoning the class standpoint of the proletariat if we allowed our programme to state that ”the peasantry” (i.e., the rich plus the poor) will go together beyond the eradication of the remnants of serfdom.’ Good. But the fact that this is not in the programme does not mean that it is not found in practice. I say: if the peasantry do actually go beyond’, what are we going to do? Comrade Yegorov said that we shall probably not have any success with the peasantry and that the latter will be headed by various adventurers. I protest strongly against that. We ought to stand at the head of the peasant movement and lead it beneath the banner of the proletariat, not leave it to the will of fate. In short, our agrarian programme should express demands both negative and affirmative: elimination of the survivals of the old order and introduction of the new, socialist order—those are the principles from which we should proceed when we work among the peasants.

Plekhanov: In my ten minutes I cannot, of course, reply to everything that has been said here. I will answer Comrade Martynov first. This speech was very witty. He brought a pleasant animation into our debates by asking us how we would have dealt with Louis XVI if the bourgeoisie had not disposed of him. I quite agree that if the bourgeoisie had not beheaded Louis XVI then we should have had to do that, a bit later. But let us make a different supposition. Louis XVI survives. On the throne in our country sit two Louis, XVI and XVIII—one an up-to-date representative of the constitutional regime, the other a representative of the feudal order, a ghost from the past. What should we do in that case? I think that we should first dispose of the legacy from the old order, Louis XVI, and then proceed undeviatingly to fight against Louis XVIII. This is how we have proceeded in our programme, seeking to bring our society up to date. Look at Prussia, Austria, Hungary. In each of those countries they had in 1848 to dispose of the historical injustices towards the peasantry which had not been eliminated by previous reforms. This was a purely practical question. On the shoulders of our peasantry lies a yoke which chafes its shoulders and must be smashed. And we want to smash it. Comrade Martynov says that the cut-off lands do not bear the same significance everywhere, since in some places the landlords put the emphasis particularly on redemption payments. But here we are shod on both feet, for we call for return both of the cut-off lands and of the redemption-payments.

In so far as bondage relations result from the present state of affairs, the means of combating them are shown in another part of the programme. Finally, we are told that our demands are meagre. This recalls the objection made to us by the Anarchists, who say that demands such as, for example, the demand for a shorter working day, are too meagre. According to them, one should start by socialising the means of production. But that, of course, is merely absurd. When we are rebuked for allegedly being against making the land public property, those who rebuke us forget that our ultimate aim is precisely to make all the means of production public property, but that on the way to that ultimate aim we shall strive for a number of partial reforms. The call for the return of the cut-off lands belongs to the category of our partial demands. But there is something special about it. It aims at modernising our society. Only such demands as that are included in our agrarian programme. When what is involved is present-day bourgeois society we take Kautsky’s view and do not regard it as necessary to work out a special agrarian programme. We are remote from opportunism à la David.[5]

I turn to Comrade Lieber’s objection. Certainly, all those component sections of the RSDLP which have to work in special conditions have the right to put forward demands inspired by those conditions. But we, the compilers of the programme, must criticise these demands from the standpoint of the principles of scientific socialism, and either adopt them or decline to adopt them, depending on whether or not they correspond to these principles.

Lieber: I want to begin by saying that I was not so happy as Comrade Yegorov, to whom Lenin and Trotsky made everything clear. But what Plekhanov has just said has answered me on at least one point, and this answer satisfies me completely. I have, of course, always considered that every demand in the programme of a particular national organisation must be subject to criticism and rejected if it does not fulfil the requirements of scientific socialism. Now I will reply to certain objections that have been made to what I said. First, regarding the example so unhappily quoted by Martynov and still more unhappily utilised by Plekhanov. We must not forget that in this example we are dealing with Louis XVIII, who has inherited something from Louis XVI, and it is hard to imagine the affair going so easily that it would suffice to remove Daddy while Sonny calmly continued to reign. It would be all right to argue in this way if the system could be personified. But I think that we cannot simply extract the survivals of feudalism from the capitalist system, like an aching tooth from a jaw, on the assumption that everything left will remain unchanged. No, it is all bound up together, by thousands of threads. You have forgotten that your cut-off lands may fall into the hands of the rich peasants. Along with those survivals which really are only hangovers from the feudal order there are also survivals from the pre-Reform period which the capitalist system has managed to adapt to itself. If you lay hands on these survivals you will also have to lay hands on the modern capitalist system as well.

While agreeing with Lenin on principles, and declaring that I should like to see this section dealing with principles included in the programme, I propose that the concrete demands be removed from it. They are either unnecessary or incorrect. Comrade Martynov wants to show us that he is a good lad, understands what constitutes the essence of being revolutionary, and counterposes his conception to mine, which is said to concentrate exclusively on the quantitative aspect. No, I did not call these demands meagre because they give too little, but because they do not respond to a whole series of problems which are raised by present-day peasant life. Trotsky made the objection that it would be enough for these survivals to exist in only two of Russia’s provinces for us to include in our programme a demand for their elimination. It is not, of course, for me to deny that. But it is especially necessary to recall this to Trotsky, who pulls out different principles like labels, depending on which of them is most convenient. When I referred to a whole series of special features which distinguish the position of the Jewish proletariat, and said that they all need to be taken into consideration, Trotsky gave me precisely the opposite answer. But the point here is not whether we ought to pay any attention to peculiarities which exist, say, in two provinces, but whether these special survivals of serfdom relations existing in certain parts of Russia ought to set their mark on our entire programme. Trotsky solves the problem very simply: since capitalist evolution is going on in agriculture too, it is clear that we do not need any special programme for the peasants. But that is not true. Of course we can and must give one general, principled answer to questions which arise in both branches of the economy. But this does not mean that there are no special problems applying to one or to the other.

I point to the fact that both Kautsky, in his Agrarfrage, and Lenin, in his lectures, have shown that though an essentially identical process of capitalisation is going on in industry and agriculture alike, the forms assumed by this process are substantially different.[6] A whole number of demands may be of special concern to the rural proletariat, owing to the special technical conditions in which it works. It is enough to mention that in our workers’ programme (as Lenin calls it) there are several such demands, which result from the special technical conditions governing the work of the industrial proletariat, and yet there is not a single demand of that kind in the agrarian programme. I recall that when Comrade Lyadov proposed to include in the workers’ programme a number of concrete demands concerning the rural proletariat, Lenin himself replied by proposing that these demands be transferred to the agrarian programme. So there can be no doubt that, despite the oneness of the process of capitalisation going on in both of these branches of the economy, we still need to have a special agrarian programme, which cannot be reduced merely to elimination of survivals of serfdom.

Makhov: I have been listening for a rather long time to the discussion on our agrarian programme, and I observe that the majority of the speakers positively cannot understand what the programme submitted means and what its aims are. Thus, despite the fact that the agrarian programme is preceded by a pretty unambiguous inscription stating: ‘this is a lion and not a dog’ (otherwise reading: ‘in order to eliminate the survivals of serfdom and in the interests of free development of class struggle in the countryside, the Party will strive for . . .’), nobody wants to pay any attention to this label and everybody stubbornly takes the lion for a dog. And one must be fair: the agrarian programme submitted does, as a whole, really need that inscription: ‘this is a lion, and not a dog’, since otherwise it could hardly be considered a Social-Democratic agrarian programme.

It is not a matter of such demands as abolition of redemption payments and laws restricting the peasants’ right to dispose of their land, that is, Articles 1 and 2, to which, of course, nobody has any objection and which are certainly included in order to eliminate survivals of serfdom. But I cannot refrain from directing attention to Article 3: ‘return to the people of the sums of money extorted from them in the form of redemption and quit-rent payments,’ and so on. What is this? And for what purpose has it been included in the agrarian programme of the RSDLP? In order to eliminate survivals of serfdom or in the interests of free development of class struggle in the countryside? Neither the one nor the other. Returning sums of money to the people, whatever they may be and in whatever form, does not mean eliminating survivals of serfdom; but return in the form proposed does not help free development of class struggle in the countryside, either, since use of such sums to establish a special fund for the cultural and welfare needs of rural communities is, of course, in no way necessary in order that class struggle may develop freely in the countryside. Furthermore, to say nothing of the financial absurdity of setting up a special fund for the cultural and welfare needs of rural communities, I cannot understand why it was necessary to christen this fund ‘return to the people of redemption and quit-rent payments’. Was it supposed that the amount extorted from the people in redemption and quit-rent payments exactly corresponded to the price of the confiscated property? If not, and this is, of course, self-evident, then we must ask why the confiscation of this particular form of property, with this particular aim, should be called return of the redemption and quit-rent payments, with which it has nothing whatever to do? And here I must say that, quite apart from the fact that this smacks somewhat of a game at redressing historical injustices, as has already been pointed out here, the measure proposed also bears the trace of demagogy and adventurism.

And what if the peasants, having grasped the idea of the return of redemption payments, do not want to use the confiscated property in order to set up a special fund, but decide simply to divide it up among themselves? Will the composers of the draft follow the peasants in that event, too? After all, we must reckon with the possibility of such an outcome, and decide what our attitude will be. I know our peasant, the peasant is everywhere the same, he will take for himself everything he can get. And he will never be satisfied with setting up a special fund from the confiscated property, even if it be for raising the cultural level of the countryside. He will say: ‘Give us what you think it is just should be returned to us, and raise the cultural level by taking some special measures or other.’ The whole programme clearly testifies, and Comrade Lenin’s pamphlet confirms this, that they want to treat the peasantry as something homogeneous in composition; but, as the peasantry split up into classes long ago, advancing a single programme must inevitably render the whole programme demagogic and make it adventurist when put into practice.

Martov: Comrade Makhov thinks that Article 3 does not relate to any survival of serfdom. But no, as emerges clearly from Comrade Makhov’s arguments it does relate to one such survival, namely, the prejudice that ‘the muzhik is a stupid fellow’. This prejudice was detectable in other speeches, too. They think that the muzhik is incapable of understanding political programmes and therefore our definite proposal will unfailingly be misinterpreted by him in the sense of grabbing for himself even the money taken from the nobles. They also think that since we are talking about land, the peasants will unfailingly take this proposal as meaning a redistribution of all land. But a fantastic, semi-mystical notion about a universal levelling is one thing, and a realistic reform proposal is another. They think that the peasants, thirsting for a general redistribution, will not want even to listen to any talk about the cut-off lands. I do not agree. When the peasants are faced with various political programmes of land reform conceived in the bourgeois spirit, with redemption payments, which offer the peasants the prospect of satisfying their need for land through alliance with the bourgeois parties, then we can be sure that we still need to revolutionise the peasants’ consciousness, to bring them up to the level of such a ‘meagre’ reform as the return of the cut-off lands.

Gusev: After a number of speeches devoted to the agrarian programme as a whole, it is a little awkward for me to speak about one partial and small question which was touched on in passing by previous speakers. But however small this question may be, it is extremely important, especially for the comrades in Russia. I refer to those fears, that pessimism, which Comrade Yegorov showed regarding our propaganda in the countryside. ‘They want us to beat the record of the Socialist-Revolutionaries,’ said Comrade Yegorov. ‘They want to wage a struggle against political charlatans for influence in the countryside—but in our agrarian programme we can offer the peasants much less than the Socialist-Revolutionaries can. The slogan we bring to the countryside is a small thing compared with the promises of those adventurers.’ I have frequently encountered such a pessimistic view of our work among the comrades active in Russia. I think this view is groundless.

In the first place, the slogan we offer to the peasantry is not so narrow, or ‘meagre’, as Comrade Lieber put it. Our slogan is not at all exhausted by what is in our agrarian programme. We also bring to the countryside the general part of our programme, all our democratic demands. We can say with confidence that our slogan is very broad, and not one political party in Europe has yet presented the peasantry with such an extensive programme all at once. Secondly, following from this, our agitation in the countryside will not consist merely of appealing to the peasants as peasants. On the contrary, the principal content of our agitation will be provided by our general programme and with this we shall address the peasantry, not as a peasantry but as a mass that has been or is being proletarianised, and which is capable of coming over to the proletarian standpoint. Thirdly and finally, we must not forget that our best propagandists and agitators in the countryside will be town workers who will have much better success in winning over to the side of the proletariat the proletarianised masses of the rural population than can be achieved by adventurers who have nothing in common with the class interests of the proletariat.

Consequently, Comrade Yegorov’s fears are groundless, and I think that it is very important for the comrades in Russia to shake off these fears. And I think that Comrade Lenin was quite right when, listening to Comrade Yegorov’s speech, he exclaimed: ‘Well, we have yet to see.’ Yes, we have yet to see!

A proposal was put to the Bureau that the list of speakers be closed.

Akimov: I think that the congress cannot adopt the agrarian programme, in view of the insufficient work that has been done on this question. What I have heard here has only confirmed my view. All the comrades have said that the programme is not clear to them. It seems to me that, this being so, we cannot close the list of speakers.

The proposal was voted on, and it was resolved to close the list of speakers.

Plekhanov: In Comrade Makhov’s opinion, return of the redemption payments is not only an undesirable but also a demagogic measure. In order to reassure him, let me remind him of the demand put forward by Marx in 1848 in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung for the return of the Silesian milliards.different.[7] Thus, in answer to the charge of opportunism, I can only say that this charge also applies to Marx. But Comrade Makhov’s reasoning did not even provide a hint of why this measure is demagogic in character. Suppose the peasants do divide amongst themselves the money they receive. I see nothing bad in hundreds of millions going to improve the peasants’ holdings. Such improvement would, of course, only increase the differentiation among the peasants, but we shall not be frightened by that. As for Lieber, it must be said that his second speech was not like his first. At the outset he spoke to us of general demands relating to the agricultural proletariat, that is, he called for concretisation. We do not suppose, of course, that our programme has no gaps in it, but Comrade Lieber did not show us what they were.

I turn to the question of the famous Black Redistribution. We are told: when you raise the demand for the cut-off lands to be returned, you must remember that the peasants will go beyond this demand.different.[8] This does not alarm us in the least. Let us, indeed, get clear about what is meant by a Black Redistribution. Engelhardt’s opinion on this is interesting. ‘In the countryside,’ he says, ‘Black Redistribution is most vigorously advocated by the rich peasants, who hope that the land taken from the landlords will be divided up ”for money”, that is, it will go to the rich’.different.[9] And such a movement in favour of redistribution would certainly be a movement in the bourgeoisie’s favour. We are, of course, not obliged actively to set forth a programme for the bourgeoisie, but if, in the struggle against survivals of serfdom relations, the peasantry should take that path, then it would not be for us to hold back this progressive movement. Our role would be merely this: unlike our opponents the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who would see in it the beginning of socialisation, we would direct all our forces to ensuring that the proletariat retained no illusions about the results of this movement, exposing its bourgeois nature. Acknowledging that such a movement is possible, we must tell ourselves that it is not for us, revolutionary Social-Democrats, to halt this process, crying out at it, as Archimedes in his time cried out to the Roman soldiers: ‘Stop! You are spoiling my diagram!’

Kostrov: I fully agree with Comrade Plekhanov. The peasant movement is not a survival from the old order but a result of new tendencies. But we must make use of this movement, we must take care that the revolutionary leadership of the peasants is in our hands and not in that of any adventurers.

Lange: I am not, of course, opposed to the proletariat combating survivals of feudalism. But I am not clear about the significance of the cut-off lands. I do not know what role is played, as regards bondage, by the cut-off lands, and what role by the rest of the land. If we take the Western Territory, where most of the land went to the peasants, we see that bondage is flourishing there. The method proposed in the programme with regard to the cut-off lands does not follow from the role played by these lands. The cut-off lands, as I see it, play a role different from that of the surviving noble estates, to the expropriation of which Social-Democrats can have no objection. I do not know why we should not call for the expropriation of all land. It is necessary to remark that we must not become carried away by our programme. It will, of course, be used as propaganda in study circles, but its role in mass propaganda among the peasants will be infinitesimal.

Yegorov: I shall not say much, so as not to take up the time of the meeting, especially as the question is evidently clear to most of the comrades. I will merely reply to Comrade Gusev. Contrary to what he says, I am not inclined to pessimism, but I do regard the programme as opportunist. It may be that the demand put forward is the maximum that can be given, in accordance with the course of economic development. I merely think that it will not win the race in competition with adventuristic demands. I would add, further, that I am far from sharing the infatuation of the editorial board for the peasant movement, an infatuation to which many Social-Democrats have succumbed since the peasant disturbances. In this connection the example of Western Europe constitutes for me a convincing proof. There, despite the incomparably better conditions for propaganda, and despite the better conditions in which the peasants live, the preaching of socialism among them has met with no success. I do not doubt that the peasantry will play a big role in the movement, but it will be a purely spontaneous one. It is a long way from that, however, to saying that by including socialism in our programme we shall enjoy success among the peasantry.

Makhov: There is a prejudice, says Comrade Martov, to the effect that the muzhik is a stupid fellow, and our Article 3 is directed towards eliminating this survival of serfdom. If this article is directed merely towards eliminating that survival, and Comrade Martov thinks that I harbour this superstition, then I advise him to vote against Article 3, since I do not in the least suppose that the muzhik is a stupid fellow. On the contrary, I think the muzhik is a shrewd fellow. He is shrewd, but shrewd like any petty-bourgeois. One cannot call the muzhik stupid just because his ideal is that of the petty-bourgeois. But just because I regard the muzhik as shrewd within the limits of his narrow class standpoint, I think that he will persist in his petty-bourgeois ideal of seizing and dividing up.

If, says Comrade Martov, the muzhik accepts our general demand for nationalisation of the land, then he will accept all the more readily our demand for nationalisation of the property mentioned in Article 3, and the purpose given for this. But who told Comrade Martov that the muzhik would accept this is the first place? I think that, on the contrary, if we have in mind the whole mass of peasants—not some particular class among them, but the mass of the peasantry as a whole; and it is only of the peasantry in that sense that our agrarian programme speaks—then it will accept neither the general demand for nationalisation of the land nor the demand contained in Article 3. It will not accept them, that is, in their Social-Democratic sense. But the peasants will accept them in the petty-bourgeois sense, they will be for nationalising the land and dividing it up.

‘What a misfortune!’ said Comrade Plekhanov. ‘If the peasants want to divide up all the land, that will be a revolution, and we shall not oppose it, and if they ask for the redemption and other payments to be returned to them, and put the money in their pockets, those sums will go to improve their holdings, and that will be no great misfortune.’ I do not know, of course, what to call a misfortune. But this revolution, if it can be called such, would not be a revolutionary one. [Posadovsky: ‘I ask that this expression be recorded in the minutes!’] It would be truer to call it, not revolution but reaction [laughter], a revolution that was more like a riot. This revolution would throw us back, and only after twenty years would we return to the position we have today. [Plekhanov: ‘Look at Revolyutsionnaya Rossiya!different.[10] Look at it! [Laughter.] I see that many comrades do not like my precise statement of the number of years, and so I will put it more indefinitely. Such a revolution would throw us back, and it would require a certain amount of time to get back to the position we have today. And today we have far more than at the time of the French Revolution [ironical applause], we have a Social-Democratic Party [laughter]. Division of the land and of the money returned from the redemption and other payments would have the same effect as would result from confiscating the factories and then dividing them up among the proletariat or, worse still, among the people as a whole.

The session was closed



[3] The two delegates who disagreed with each other about breast-feeding, etc., were Yegorov and Posadovsky.

[4] This refers to Lenin’s ‘Reply to Criticism of Our Draft Programme’ (by’X’, i.e. P.P. Maslov), June 1903, Collected Works, Vol. 6, pp. 438-453.

[5] Kostrov (Zhordania) speaks here about Georgia.

[6] Plekhanov refers to the German Social-Democrat Eduard David, whose book on Socialism and Agriculture had appeared in February 1903.

[7] Kautsky’s book on the agrarian question had appeared in 1899. Lenin gave some lectures on the agrarian question at the Russian Higher School of Social Sciences, in Paris, in February 1903: see Collected Works, Vol. 6, pp. 337-347.

[8] See Marx and Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 7 (1977), p. 118.

[9] Actually, at their ‘Third’ Congress, in 1905, the Bolsheviks did decide in favour of calling for the confiscation of all landlords’ estates.

[10] A .N. Engelhardt’s Letters from the Countryside described survivals of serfdom in the 1870s: see Lenin, ‘The Heritage We Renounce’, in Collected Works, Vol. 2.