The Third Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.|
April 12 (25)-April 27 (May 10), 1905
Report on the Resolution on the Support of the Peasant Movement
April 19 (May 2)
V. I. Lenin
In view of the statement of seventeen comrades calling attention to the urgent need for speeding up the work of the Congress, I shall try to be as brief as possible. Strictly speaking, there are no moot points of principle in the question under discussion; none arose even during the Party crisis, which was rich in differences on points of "principle".
Moreover, the draft resolution was published in Vperyod quite some time ago; I shall therefore confine myself merely to supporting the resolution.
The question of supporting the peasant movement divides itself into two aspects: (1) fundamentals, and (2) the practical experience of the Party. The latter will be dealt with by our second reporter, Comrade Barsov, who is thoroughly familiar with our most advanced peasant movement— that in Guria. As regards the fundamentals involved, it is now a matter of reaffirming the slogans elaborated by Social-Democracy and adapting them to the peasant movement of today. This movement is growing and spreading before our eyes. The government is up to its old game of trying to fool the peasantry with sham concessions. This policy of corruption must be countered with the. slogans of our Party.
These slogans, in my opinion, are set forth in the following Draft Resolution:
"The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party, as the party of the class-conscious proletariat, strives to bring about the complete emancipation of all working people from every kind of exploitation, and supports every revolutionary movement against the present social and political system. Therefore, the R.S.D.L.P. strongly supports the present-day peasant movement, among others, and stands for all revolutionary measures capable of improving the condition of the peasantry, not halting at the expropriation of the landed estates to this end. At the same time, as the class party of the proletariat, the R.S.D.L.P. works undeviatingly towards an independent class organisation of the rural proletarians, ever mindful of its obligation to make clear to them the antagonism of their interests to those of the peasant bourgeoisie, to bring them to understand that only the common struggle of the rural and the urban proletariat against the whole of bourgeois society can lead to the socialist revolution, which alone is capable of really freeing the mass of the rural poor from poverty and exploitation.
"As a practical slogan for agitation among the peasantry, and as a means of instilling the utmost political consciousness into this movement, the R.S.D.L.P. proposes the immediate formation of revolutionary peasant committees for all-round support of all democratic reforms and for their implementation in detail. In these committees as well the R.S.D.L.P. will strive for an independent organisation of the rural proletarians for the purpose of supporting the entire peasantry in all its revolutionary-democratic actions, on the one band, and, on the other, of safeguarding the true interests of the rural proletariat in its struggle against the peasant bourgeoisie" (Vperyod, No. 11 ).
This Draft was discussed by the Agrarian Committee, which the delegates had appointed in advance of the Congress for its preparation. Although opinion was considerably divided, certain major trends were clearly in evidence, and it is with these that I intend to deal. The nature of the possible and necessary revolutionary measures in the sphere of the agrarian question is according to the Draft Resolution "the improvement in the condition of the peasantry". Thus, the Resolution clearly expresses thereby the general conviction of all Social-Democrats that no fundamental change in the present social and economic system can be achieved by these measures. In this we differ from the Socialists-Revolutionaries. The revolutionary movement of the peasants may lead to a considerable improvement in their condition, but not to the supplanting of capitalism by another mode of production.
The Resolution speaks of measures that will not halt at the expropriation of the landed estates. It has been said that this formulation modifies our agrarian programme. I consider this opinion wrong. The wording could be improved, of course, to read that it is the peasantry and not our Party that will not halt at expropriation; our Party supports the peasantry and will support it also when it does not halt at such measures. The narrower concept "confiscation" should be used instead of expropriation, since we are emphatically opposed to compensation in any shape or form. We will never hesitate to employ such measures as confiscation of the land. But apart from these partial emendations, we see nothing in our Resolution that modifies our agrarian programme. All Social-Democratic publicists have constantly expressed the view that the point concerning the cut-off lands does not by any means set limits to the peasant movement, either to curtail or to restrict it. Both Plekhanov and I have stated in the press that the Social-Democratic Party will never hold the peasantry back from revolutionary measures of agrarian reform, including the "general redistribution" of the land. Thus, we are not modifying our agrarian programme. We must now take a definite stand on the practical question of consistent support to the peasants, to avoid any possible misunderstandings or misinterpretations. The peasant movement is now on the order of the day, and the party of the proletariat should declare officially that it gives this movement full support and does not in any way limit its scope.
The Resolution goes on to speak of the need to bring the interests of the rural proletariat into focus and to organise this proletariat separately. There is hardly any need to defend this simple axiom before a gathering of Social-Democrats. It was stated in the Agrarian Committee that it would be a good thing to add a point on the support of strikes of the farm labourers and peasants, especially during the harvesting, haymaking, etc. In principle, of course, there can be nothing against this. Let our practical workers say what they think of the possible significance of such a point for the immediate future.
The Resolution further speaks of the formation of revolutionary peasant committees.
The idea that the demand for the immediate formation of revolutionary peasant committees should be made the pivot of our agitation was developed in Vperyod, No. 15. Even the reactionaries now talk of "improving the living conditions", but they stand for an official, bureaucratic way of pseudo-improvement, whereas the Social-Democrats, of course, must stand for the revolutionary way of effecting the improvement. The main task is to instil political consciousness into the peasant movement. The peasants know what they want in a vague sort of way, but they are unable to see their wishes and demands in relation to the entire political system. That is why they are such easy game for political tricksters, who reduce the question of political changes to economic "improvements", which cannot really be effected without political changes. Therefore, the slogan calling for revolutionary peasant committees is the only correct one. Unless these committees are able to enforce the revolutionary law, the peasants will never be able to hold what they may now win. It is objected that here, too, we are modifying the agrarian programme, which says nothing about revolutionary peasant committees or their functions in the field of democratic reforms. This objection does not hold water. We are not modifying our programme but applying it to a concrete case. Since no doubt exists that the peasant committees cannot be anything but revolutionary under the given conditions, by noting this fact we are merely applying the programme to the revolutionary moment, not changing it. Our programme, for instance, declares that we recognise the right of nations to self-determination; if concrete conditions brought us to express ourselves in favour of self-determination of a definite nation, of its complete independence, that would be, not a change of the programme, but its application. The peasant committees are an elastic institution, suitable both under present conditions and under, let us say, a provisional revolutionary government, when they would become organs of the government. Some hold that these committees may become reactionary instead of revolutionary. But we Social-Democrats have never forgotten the dual nature of the peasant or the possibility of a reactionary peasant movement against the proletariat. Not this is the point at issue, but rather that at the present time peasant committees formed to sanction land reforms cannot be anything but revolutionary. At the present time the peasant movement is unquestionably revolutionary. Some say that the peasants will quieten down after they have seized the land. Possibly. But the autocratic government will not quieten down if the peasants seize the land, and this is the crux of the matter. Only a revolutionary government or revolutionary peasant committees can sanction this seizure.
Lastly, the concluding part of the Resolution defines once more the position of the Social-Democrats in the peasant committees, namely, the necessity of marching together with the rural proletariat and organising it separately and independently. In the countryside, too, there can be only one consistently revolutionary class—the proletariat.
See pp. 235-36 of this volume—Ed.
See pp. 321-22 of this volume.—Ed.
Barsov—the Bolshevik M. G. Tskhakaya.
"General redistribution"—a slogan popular among the peasants of tsarist Russia and expressing their desire for a general redistribution of the land.
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