Trudovaya Pravda No. 22, June 22, 1914.
Published according to the text in Trudovaya Pravda.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1972, Moscow, Volume 20, pages 375-377.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Joe Fineberg
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
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The agrarian question in Russia is of tremendous importance at the present time. It is common knowledge that this question has been given front-rank prominence, not only by the broad masses of the people, but also by the government.
Historically, the movement of 1905 was characterised precisely by the fact that the vast majority of the population in Russia, namely, the peasantry, made the agrarian question a key issue. Both the liberal-bourgeois party and the workers’ party took this fact into consideration in their respective programmes. On the other hand, when the government, in its June Third regime, brought about an alliance between the landlords and the upper stratum of the bourgeoisie, it made the agrarian question the pivot of its policy (the forcible destruction of communal landownership and the conversion of allotment land into private property, mainly in the homestead system).
What is the economic essence of the agrarian question in Russia? It is the reorganisation of Russia on bourgeois-democratic lines. Russia has become a capitalist, bourgeois country, but the system of landownership in this country has to a very large degree remained feudal, as regards both landlordism and peasant allotment ownership. In very many cases the system of land economy has remained feudal: labour service and the corvée, under which the semi ruined, pauperised, and starving petty proprietors rent land, grassland and pastures and borrow money from the landlords, with the obligation to repay the debt by working on the “squire’s” land.
The more feudalist rural Rus lags behind industrial, commercial, capitalist Russia, the more complete will be the inevitable break-up of the ancient, feudalist system of landownership, both landlordism and allotment ownership.
The landlords tried to effect this break-up in the land lord fashion, to suit the interests of the landlords, retaining their own landed estates, and helping the kulaks to grab the peasants’ land. The majority of the peasants tried to do this in peasant fashion, to suit the interests of the peasants.
In either case the reform remains bourgeois in character. In his Poverty of Philosophy, in Capital, and in Theories of Surplus-Value, Marx amply proved that the bourgeois economists often demanded the nationalisation of the land, i.e., the conversion of all land into public property, and that this measure was a fully bourgeois measure. Capitalism will develop more widely, more freely and more quickly from such a measure. This measure is very progressive and very democratic. It will do away completely with serfdom, will break the monopoly in land, and will abolish absolute rent (the existence of which the liquidator P. Maslov, trailing in the wake of bourgeois scholars, erroneously denies). It will speed up the development of the productive forces in agriculture and purge the class movement among the wage-workers.
But, we repeat, this is a bourgeois-democratic measure. Like Mr. V—dimov in Smelaya Mysl, the Left Narodniks persist in calling the bourgeois nationalisation of the land “socialisation” and persistently ignore Marx’s comprehensive explanations of what nationalisation of land under capitalism implies.
The Left Narodniks persist in reiterating the purely bourgeois theory of “labour economy” and its development under “socialisation”, whereas, in fact, with the nationalisation of the land, it is capitalist landownership in its purest form, free of feudalism, that will inevitably develop more widely and quickly.
The catchword of “socialisation of the land” merely denotes the Left Narodniks’ utter failure to grasp the principles of Marx’s political economy, and the fact that they are going over (stealthily, by fits and starts, and often unconsciously) to the side of bourgeois political economy.
Marx advised class-conscious workers, while forming a clear idea of the bourgeois character of all agrarian reforms under capitalism (including the nationalisation of the land), to support bourgeois-democratic reforms as against the feudalists and serfdom. But Marxists cannot confuse bourgeois measures with socialism.