V. I.   Lenin

A Highborn Liberal Landlord on the “New Zemstvo Russia”

Published: Put Pravdy No. 13, February 5, 1914. Published according to the text in Put Pravdy.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 102-104.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2004). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
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Deafened by liberal catch-phrases, people in our country are apt to overlook the actual class stand of the liberal party’s real bosses. In Russkaya Mysl No. 12, Prince Yevgeny Trubetskoi has splendidly revealed this stand and strikingly shown to what extent liberal landlords like the Trubetskois, and reactionary landlords like the Purishkeviches have drawn closer together on all important issues.

Stolypin’s agrarian policy[1] is one such momentous issue. The highborn liberal landlord has this to say of it:

Ever since Stolypin became Premier, the government’s entire concern for the countryside has been prompted largely by two motives: fear of Pugachovism,[2] which caused so much trouble in 1905, and the desire to offset it with a new type of peasant—one who is well-to-do and therefore cherishes private property, one who will not be susceptible to revolutionary propaganda....”

By the very use of the word “Pugachovism” our liberal reveals that he is at one with the Purishkeviches. The only difference is that the Purishkeviches utter this word ferociously and menacingly, whereas the Trubetskois pronounce it in the dulcet and sugary Manilov manner,[3] to the accompaniment of phrases about culture, disgustingly hypocritical exclamations about the “new peasant communities” and the “democratisation of the countryside”, and pathetic speeches on things divine.

Owing to the new agrarian policy, the peasant bourgeoisie is growing much faster than before. There is no question about that. The peasant bourgeoisie in Russia cannot help growing whatever the political and agrarian system may be, because Russia is a capitalist country which has been completely drawn into the orbit of world capitalism. His   Liberal Highness would have known this had he possessed at least an elementary knowledge of the “fundamental principles of Marxism”, of which he speaks with such boundless aplomb and with equally boundless ignorance. But His Highness exerts every effort to obscure the fundamental question of what the development of capitalism is like without any Purishkeviches, and what it is like with their class in complete power. His Highness goes into ecstasies over the progress of co-operation, fodder grass cultivation, and “growing prosperity”; but he does not say a word about the high cost of living, the mass pauperisation of the peasants, their desperate poverty and starvation, about labour rent, and so forth. His Highness sees that the “peasants are turning bourgeois”, and goes into raptures over it, but our liberal landlord turns a blind eye to the fact that they are becoming wage-labourers under conditions in which the relations of feudal bondage are preserved.

The intelligentsia’s first contact with the broad masses of the peasantry,” he writes, “took place as far back as 1905, but at that time it bore an altogether different character; it was destructive rather than constructive. At that time the affiliation was established solely for the purpose of destroying the old forms of life, and was therefore superficial. The demagogue intellectual did not imbue the peasants’ minds and peasant life with his own independent ideas; if anything, he himself was guided by the instincts of the masses of the people. He flattered them and adapted his party programme and tactics to them.”

Familiar Purishkevich-style talk! A little example: if eighty peasant homesteads of twenty-five dessiatines each are set up on 2,000 dessiatines of the Trubetskois’ land, that will be “destructive”; but if a score or so of such homesteads are set up on the land of the pauperised village-commune peasants, that will be “constructive”. Is that not so, Your Highness? Don’t you realise that in the first in stance, Russia would really be “bourgeois-democratic”, and in the second she would remain Purishkevichian for decades to come?

However, shying away from unpleasant questions, the highborn liberal assures his readers that the big landowners, who are selling their land, will “soon, very soon” disappear entirely.

If, by its measures, the government does not accelerate the future revolution excessively, ‘compulsory alienation’ will no longer be a problem when that revolution does come, as there will be almost nothing left to alienate.”

According to the latest statistics of the Ministry of the Interior,[4] 30,000 landlords owned 70,000,000 dessiatines of land in 1905, while a similar area was owned by 10,000,000 peasants. But that does not concern the highborn liberal in the least! He assures his readers that the Purishkeviches will disappear very “soon”, because he wishes to defend the Purishkeviches. The only thing that really interests him is that:

there will be in the countryside enough people interested in private property to counter, not only Pugachov propaganda, but socialist propaganda in all its forms”.

Thanks for being so candid!

What will the result be?” the liberal prince asks. “Will the government, with the aid of the intelligentsia [who are joining co-operative societies, etc.], re-educate the peasants to become loyal petty landed proprietors, or, on the contrary, will the intelligentsia educate them wit h the aid of government loans?”

The prince anticipates neither of these alternatives. But that is merely a hypocritical turn of speech. Actually, as we have seen, he stands heart and soul for peasants being re-educated to become “loyal petty landed proprietors”, and assures us that “the intelligentsia is coming down to earth”, and that there will be no room for the “demagogic agrarian programme” of the socialists (which, in the opinion of His Highness, runs counter to the “fundamental principles of Marxism”. Don’t laugh, reader!).

That a landlord should entertain such views is not surprising, Neither is his indignation at the growth of atheism surprising, or his pious speeches. What is surprising is that there are still foolish people in Russia who do not understand that while such landlords and such politicians set the tone in the liberal party, including the Cadet Party, it is ridiculous to hope that the people’s interests can be really defended “with the co-operation” of the liberals and the Cadets.


[1] Stolypin’s agrarian policy aimed at using the kulaks as a bulwark of the regime in the countryside. The tsarist government issued a Ukase on November 9(22), 1906 regulating the peasants’ withdrawal from the communes and the establishment of their proprietary rights on the allotment lands. After its approval, with slight modifications by the Duma and the Council of State, this Ukase became known as the Law of June 14, 1910. Under this Stolypin law (which got its name from P. A. Stolypin, Chairman of the Council of Ministers) the peasant was free to withdraw from the village commune, take possession of his allotment on a proprietorship basis, and sell it. The rural community was obliged to give the peasants who withdrew from the commune an allotment of land in one place (an otrub, homestead). The Stolypin reform speeded up the development of capitalism in the country side and the process of differentiation among the peasantry, and sharpened the class struggle in the village.

The Stolypin reform is characterised and evaluated in a number of works by Lenin, notably in his The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–1907. (See present edition, Vol. 13, pp. 217 -429.)

[2] Pugachovism—a non-scientific term used by bourgeois historians for the peasant uprising of 1773–75 led by Yemelyan Pugachov.

[3] Manilov—a character in Gogol’s Dead Souls, whose name has become a synonym for unprincipled philistinism, sentimentality and day-dreaming.

[4] The reference is to the book Statistics of Landownership for 1905. Returns for Fifty Gubernias of European Russia. St. Petersburg. Published by the Central Statistical Committee of the Ministry of the Interior, 1907.

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