V. I.   Lenin

The Agrarian Question and the Forces of the Revolution

Published: Nashe Ekho, No. 7, April 1, 1907. Published according to the text in Nashe Ekho.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 12, pages 333-336.
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The newspaper Trudovoi Narod, organ of the Trudoviks and members of the Peasant Union, has defined the alignment of forces in the Duma on the land question, that “life or death question” for the peasantry.

"The Trudoviks (100), Popular Socialists (14), and Socialist-Revolutionaries (34), 148 in all, may act together on the land question, to uphold the interests of the working people. Assuming that the Social-Democrats (64) will join them on many points of that question, the total will be 212.

“All these will he opposed by the Constitutional-Democrats (91), the Polish Kolo (46), Independents (52), Octobrists and Moderates (32), 221 in all.

“Thus there is a preponderance of votes against. And we have counted neither the Moslems (30) nor the Cossacks (17); it is likely that, at the very best, one half will side with the Left, and the other half with the Right. In any case there are more votes against the Trudoviks’ land law than for it.”

The enumeration omits the monarchists (22), but their inclusion only bears out the inference drawn by the Trudoviks.

This conclusion is of interest in two respects: firstly, it throws light on the fundamental question of the alignment of social forces in the present Russian revolution, and secondly, it helps to clarify the significance, for the liberation movement, of the Duma and the struggle in the Duma.

All Social-Democrats are convinced that, in its social and economic content, the present revolution is a bourgeois revolution. This means that it is proceeding on the basis of capitalist production relations, and will inevitably   result in a further development of those same production relations. To put it more simply, the entire economy of society will still remain under the domination of the market, of money, even when there is the broadest freedom and the peasants have won a. complete victory in their struggle for the land. The struggle for land and freedom is a struggle for the conditions of existence of bourgeois society, for the rule of capital will remain in the most democratic republic, irrespective of how the transfer of “all the land to the people” is effected.

Such a view may seem strange to anyone unfamiliar with Marx’s theory. Yet it is not hard to see that it is the correct view—one need but recall the great French Revolution and its outcome, the history of the “free lands” in America, and so on.

The Social-Democrats by no means wish to minimise the tasks of the present revolution, or to belittle its significance, by calling it a bourgeois revolution. On the contrary. The struggle of the working class against the capitalist class cannot develop on a wide enough scale and end in victory until the older historical enemies of the proletariat are overthrown.

Hence, the principal task of the proletariat at present is to win the broadest freedom and bring about the most complete destruction of landlord (feudal) landed proprietorship. Only by doing this, only by completely smashing the old, semi-feudal society through democratic action, can the proletariat rise to full stature as an independent class, lay full emphasis on its specific (i.e., socialist) tasks, as distinct from the democratic tasks common to “all the oppressed”, and secure for itself the most favourable conditions for an unrestricted, sweeping, and intensified struggle for socialism. If the bourgeois-democratic liberation movement stops half-way, if it is not carried through, the proletariat will have to spend a great deal more of its forces on general democratic (i.e., bourgeois-democratic) tasks than on its own class, proletarian, i.e., socialist, tasks.

But can the socialist proletariat accomplish the bourgeois revolution independently and as the guiding force? Does not the very concept “bourgeois revolution” imply that it can be accomplished only by the bourgeoisie?

The Mensheviks often fall into this error, although, as a viewpoint, it is a caricature of Marxism. A liberation movement that is bourgeois in social and economic content is not such because of its motive forces. The motive force may be, not the bourgeoisie, but the proletariat and the peasantry. Why is this possible? Because the proletariat and the peasantry suffer even more than the bourgeoisie from the survivals of serfdom, because they are in greater need of freedom and the abolition of landlord oppression. For the bourgeoisie, on the contrary, complete victory constitutes a danger, since the proletariat will make use of full freedom against the bourgeoisie, and the fuller that freedom and the more completely the power of the landlords has bee” destroyed, the easier will it be for the proletariat to do so.

Hence the bourgeoisie strives to put an end to the bourgeois revolution half-way from its destination, when freedom has been only half-won, by a deal with the old authorities and the landlords. This striving is grounded in the class interests of the bourgeoisie. It was manifested so clearly in the German bourgeois revolution of 1848 that the Communist Marx spearheaded proletarian policy against the “compromising” (the expression is Marx’s) liberal bourgeoisie.[2]

Our Russian bourgeoisie is still more cowardly, and our proletariat far more class-conscious and better organised than was the German proletariat in 1848. In our country the full victory of the bourgeois-democratic movement is possible only despite the “compromising” liberal bourgeoisie, only in the event of the mass of the democratic peasantry following the proletariat in the struggle for full freedom and all the land.

The Second Duma offers still more striking confirmation of this view. Even the peasants have now realised that the liberal bourgeoisie, the Constitutional-Democrats, belong to the Right, and the peasants and the workers to the Left. True, the Trudoviks, Popular Socialists, and Socialist-Revolutionaries constantly vacillate between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and as often as not are in reality political hangers-on of the liberals (the voting for Golovin, the “tactics of silence”, agreement to refer the budget to a commission, etc., etc.[3]). This vacillation is not accidental. It springs from the class nature of the petty bourgeoisie.

Why must the Constitutional-Democrats be included among the Rights in a question as pressing as that of the land? Because the Constitutional-Democrat agrarian policy is essentially a landlord policy. The “compulsory alienation” advocated by the Constitutional-Democrats actually means the landlords compelling the peasants to pay ruinous compensation, for in fact both the amount of these payments and rates of taxation are determined by the landlords; the land lords and officials will constitute the majority in the local land committees (in the First Duma the Constitutional-Democrats were opposed to the election of these committees by universal ballot), and in the central all-Russian legislature the landlords will be predominant through the Council of State, etc. Cadet “liberalism” is the liberalism of the bourgeois lawyer who reconciles the peasant with the landlord, and does that to the advantage of the landlord.[1]

Take the second question. The Constitutional-Democrats and the Rights constitute a majority in the Duma. “What is the way out?” asks Trudovoi Narod. The answer is simple: the “way out” is to rise above Duma discussions which lead nowhere.

This would be necessary even if the Left had a majority in the Duma, for the Duma is powerless, and the Council of State would, in the interests of the landlords, “improve” any project passed by the Duma. And it is necessary now— not from any subjective party viewpoint, but in the objective historical sense; unless this is done, the land question can be settled only in favour of the landlords.


[1] In view of what Rech said about the landlord affiliation of the Constitutional-Democrats being only a platform catchword, we must add this: we estimated 79 unmistakable Constitutional-Democrats from the well-known book Members of the Second State Duma (St. Petersburg, 1907); of these 20 are landlords. We can name Tuchkov, Boguslavsky, Bychkov, Bakunin, Rodichev, Bogdanov, Salazkin, Tatarinov, Stakhovich, Ikonnikov, Savelyev, Dolgorukov, Chelnokov, Golovin, both Pereleshins, Volotsky, Iordansky, Chernosvitov. The underlined are Marshals of the Nobility,[4] Rural Superintendents[5] or chairmen of Zemstvo Boards.[6]Lenin

[2] Lenin is referring to Marx’s article “The Bourgeoisie and Counter Revolution”. (Marx-Engels-Lenin, Zur deutschen Geschichte, Bd. II, 1. Halbband, 1. Aufl., Dietz Verlag, Berlin, 1954, 5. 302.)

[3] Lenin is referring to the Trudoviks, Popular Socialists, and S.R.’s having voted for F. A. Golovin, the Cadet candidate for the post of Chairman of the Second State Duma. By “tactics of silence” Lenin means the Trudoviks’ attitude to the government declaration, announced by Stolypin in the Duma on March 6 (19), 1907. The Social-Democratic group proposed criticising the government, but the Trudoviks answered that they had decided to greet the declaration with “the silence of the grave” and that they had already reached agreement with the majority of the oppositional groups on this question, in particular with the Cadets. When the budget was discussed in the Duma, the Trudoviks voted together with the Cadets to refer the budget to the Duma Budget Commission.

[4] Marshal of the Nobility—the representative of the nobility of a gubernia or uyezd in tsarist Russia. He was elected by the Assembly of the Nobility for the gubernia or uyezd, and was in charge of all the affairs of the nobility. He occupied an influential position and took the chair at meetings of the Zemstvo.

[5] Rural Superintendent—the administrative post introduced in 1899 by the tsarist government, in order to strengthen the landlords’ power over the peasants. These officials were appointed from among the local landed nobility and were given tremendous powers, both administrative and juridical, to deal with the peasants. The powers included the right to arrest peasants and administer corporal punishment.

[6] Zemstvo Boards—the executive bodies of the Zemstvos the local self-government institutions in pre-revolutionary Russia. The Zemstvos had jurisdiction over the purely local affairs of the rural population (road building, hospitals, schools, etc.). The landlords dominated in the Zemstvos.

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