The existence of landed estates in Russia is the material mainstay of the power of the feudalist landowners and a guarantee of the possible restoration of the monarchy. This system of landownership necessarily condemns the great mass of Russia’s population, the peasantry, to pauperism, bondage, and a downtrodden existence, and the entire country to backwardness in every sphere of life.
Peasant landownership in Russia, both of allotment land (communal and homestead) and private land (leased or purchased), is fettered all round, from top to bottom, by old semi-feudal ties and relationships, by the division of the peasants into categories inherited from the time of serfdom, by the open field system, and so on, and so forth. The need for breaking down all these antiquated and harmful restrictions, for “clearing” the land; and reconstructing and readjusting all the relations of landownership and agriculture to the new conditions of Russian and world economy, forms the material foundation of the peasants’ urge towards the nationalisation of all the land in the state.
Whatever the petty-bourgeois utopias in which all Narodnik parties and groups array the struggle of the peasant masses against feudalist big landownership and all the feudal fetters of the entire system of landownership and land tenure in Russia, that struggle is itself an expression of a thoroughly bourgeois-democratic, undoubtedly progressive, and economically essential striving resolutely to break all those fetters.
Nationalisation of the land, though being a bourgeois measure, implies freedom for the class struggle and freedom of land tenure from all non-bourgeois adjuncts to the greatest possible degree conceivable in a capitalist society. Moreover, nationalisation of the land, representing as it does the abolition of private ownership of land, would, in effect, deal such a powerful blow to private ownership of all the means of production in general that the party of the proletariat must facilitate such a reform in every possible way.
On the other hand, the well-to-do peasants of Russia long ago evolved the elements of a peasant bourgeoisie, and the Stolypin agrarian reform has undoubtedly strengthened, augmented, and reinforced these elements. At the other pole of the rural population, the agricultural wage workers, the proletarians, and the mass of semi-proletarian peasantry, who stand close to the proletarians, have likewise gained in strength and numbers.
The more determined and consistent the break-up and elimination of the landed estates and the more determined and consistent the bourgeois-democratic agrarian reform in Russia in general, the more vigorous and speedy will be the development of the class struggle of the agricultural proletariat against the well-to-do peasants (the peasant bourgeoisie) [kulaks].
The fate and the outcome of the [February] Russian revolution—unless the incipient proletarian revolution in Europe exercises a direct and powerful influence on our country—will depend on whether the urban proletariat succeeds in rallying the rural proletariat together with the mass of rural semi-proletarians behind it, or whether this mass follows the lead of the peasant bourgeoisie, which is gravitating towards an alliance with Guchkov and Milyukov, with the capitalists and landowners, and towards the counter-revolution in general.
In view of this class situation and balance of forces the Conference resolves that:
1) The party of the proletariat will fight with all its might for the immediate and complete confiscation of all landed estates in Russia (and also crown lands, church lands, etc., etc.);
2) The party will vigorously advocate the immediate transfer of all lands to the peasantry organised in Soviets of Peasants Deputies, or in other organs of local self-government elected in a really democratic way and entirely independent of the landowners and officials;
3) The party of the proletariat demands the nationalisation of all the land in the country; nationalisation, which signifies the transfer of the right of ownership of all land to the state, vests the right of administering the land in local democratic institutions;
4) The party must wage a determined struggle, on the one hand, against the Provisional Government, which, both through the mouth of Shingaryov and by its collective utterances, is trying to force the peasants to come to a “voluntary agreement with the landowners”, i. e., is trying virtually to impose upon them a reform which suits the interests of the landowners, and is threatening the peasants with punishment for “arbitrary action”, that is, with the use of violence by a minority of the population (the landowners and capitalists) against the majority; on the other hand, against the petty-bourgeois vacillations of the majority of the Narodniks and the Menshevik Social-Democrats, who are advising the peasants not to take all the land pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly;
5) The party advises the peasants to take the land in an organised way, not allowing the slightest damage to property, and taking measures to increase production;
6) Agrarian reforms, by and large, can be successful and durable only provided the whole state is democratised, i. e., provided, on the one hand, the police, the standing army, and the privileged bureaucracy are abolished, and provided, on the other, there exists a system of broad local self-government completely free from supervision and tutelage from above;
7) The separate and independent organisation of the agricultural proletariat must be undertaken immediately and everywhere, both in the form of Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies (as well as of separate Soviets of deputies of the semi-proletarian peasantry) and in the form of proletarian groups or factions within the general Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies, in all local and municipal government bodies, etc.,
8) The party must support the initiative of those peasant committees which in a number of localities in Russia are handing over the livestock and agricultural implements of the landowners to the peasants organised in those committees, to be used in a socially regulated manner for the cultivation of all the land;
9) The party of the proletariat must advise the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians to strive to convert every landed estate into a fair-sized model farm to be run on public lines by the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies under the direction of agricultural experts and with the application of the best technique.
|Pravda No. 45, May 13 (April 30), 1917||Published according to the text of the proof-sheets with Lenin’s corrections|