the land. There will be only land which is national property and free tenants renting land from the state. When you set up this system it will not mean the transfer of the land to all the working people, it will merely mean that every farmer will freely dispose of his land; anybody who wants land will be free to rent it from the state. That will be a big step forward compared with the Russia of the tsars and landowners. It will be a big step forward because Russia of the tsars and landowners was a country in which 70,000,000 dessiatines were given over to 30,000 Markovs, Romanovs and other such landowners; it will be a Russia in which there will be free labour on free soil. This has already been done in many places. Already now Russia is ahead of the Russia of the tsars and landowners, but this is not a transfer of land to the working people, it is the transfer of land to the farmer, because if the land belongs to the state, and those people take it who want to farm it, that is not enough; it is not enough to want to farm, the ability to farm is also needed, and even ability is not enough. Any farm labourer or day-labourer has that ability, but he does not have sufficient animals, implements, and capital, so that no matter how many decisions are taken, no matter how much we talk about it, we shall not establish free labour on free soil in that way. Even if we were to hang up notices about free soil in every volost administration, it would not improve matters as far as the working people are concerned, any more than the prisons in West-European republics would cease to be prisons because they had the words "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" inscribed on them. If the words "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" are written on a factory, as in America, the factory does not thereby cease to be a hell for the workers and a paradise for the capitalists.
And so we have to think of what to do further, how to ensure that there should not be merely free labour -- that is a step forward, but it is still not a step towards protecting the interests of the working people; it is a step towards liberation from the landowner sharks, from exploitation by the landowners, liberation from the Markovs, from the police, etc., but it is not a step towards protecting the interests of the working people, because the poor, propertyless peasant cannot do anything with the land without animals,
implements, and capital. That is why I am very sceptical about the two so-called norms or standards of land tenure, the labour standard and the subsistence standard. I know that arguments about these two norms and explanations of them are always to be met with in the Narodnik parties. I know that those parties hold the view that these two norms, these two standards, must be established -- the labour standard is the largest amount of land a family can till; the subsistence standard is one just sufficient to feed the family, less would mean hunger. I have said that I am very sceptical about this question of standards or norms and I believe it is a bureaucrat's plan that will not do any good; it can't be put into practice even if it were decided upon here. That is the crux of the whole matter! That plan cannot relieve the position of the hired labourers and poor peasants to any appreciable extent, and even if you accept it, it will remain on paper so long as capitalism dominates. That plan does not help us find the true road for the transition from capitalism to socialism.
When people speak of these two norms, these two standards, they imagine that only two things exist -- the land and the citizen, as if there had never been anything else in the world. If that were so, the plan would be a good one. But that is not so -- there exists the power of capital, the power of money; without money there cannot be any farming on the freest land, no matter what "standards" of it you have, because as long as money remains wage-labour will remain. And this means that the rich peasants -- and there are no less than a million families of them in Russia -- are oppressing and exploiting hired labourers, and will continue to oppress them on the "free" soil. Those rich peasants constantly, not by way of exception but as a general rule, resort to the hiring of workers by the year, by the season and by the day, that is, they resort to the exploitation of the poor peasants, the proletarians. Alongside this you have millions and millions of peasants who have no horses and cannot exist without selling their labour-power, without doing seasonal work for somebody else, etc. As long as the power of money, the power of capital, remains, no matter what "standards" of land tenure you establish they will at best be useless in practice because they do not take into consideration the chief factor --
that property in implements, animals, and money is distributed unevenly; they do not take into consideration the existence of the hired labour that is exploited. That is a basic fact in the present-day life of Russia, and there is no getting away from it; but if we establish any kind of "standards", life will bypass them and they will remain on paper. To protect the interests of the propertyless, poor peasants in this great transformation of Russia in which you are now engaged and which you will undoubtedly carry through, when private property in land will be abolished and a step forward will have been made towards the better, socialist future; to protect the interests of the workers and poor peasants in this great work of transformation that you are only just beginning, which will go a long way forward and which, it may be said without exaggeration, will undoubtedly be brought to completion in Russia because there is no power that can stop it, we must not take the road of establishing norms or standards, but must find some other way.
I and my Party comrades, in whose name I have the honour to speak, know of only two ways of protecting the interests of agricultural labourers and poor peasants, and we recommend these two ways to the Peasants' Soviet for its attention.
The first way is to organise the agricultural labourers and poor peasants. We should like, and we advise it, to have in each peasant committee, in each volost, uyezd and gubernia, a separate group of agricultural labourers and poor peasants who will have to ask themselves: "If the land becomes the property of the whole people tomorrow -- and it certainly will, because the people want it to -- then where do we come in? Where shall we, who have no animals or implements, get them from? How are we to farm the land? How must we protect our interests? How are we to make sure that the land, which will belong to the whole people, which will really be the property of the nation, should not fall only into the hands of proprietors ? If it falls into the hands of those who own enough animals and implements, shall we gain anything by it? Is that what we made this great revolution for? Is that what we wanted?"
The "people" will have the land, but that is not enough to protect the interests of agricultural labourers. It is not
a matter of us here, from above, or the peasant committee, establishing a "standard" of land to be held by individuals. Such measures will not help as long as capital is dominant, and they will not offer deliverance from the domination of capitalism. There is only one way to escape the yoke of capitalism and ensure that the people's land goes to the working people, and that is by organising the agricultural labourers, who will be guided by their experience, their observations and their distrust of what the village sharks tell them, even though these sharks wear red rosettes in their buttonholes and call themselves "revolutionary democrats".
The poor peasants can only be taught by independent organisation in the localities, they can only learn from their own experience. That experience will not be easy, we cannot and do not promise them a land flowing with milk and honey. The landowners will be thrown out because the people wish it, but capitalism will remain. It is much more difficult to do away with capitalism, and the road to its overthrow is a different one. It is the road of independent, separate organisation of the agricultural labourers and the poor peasants. And that is what our Party proposes in the first instance.
Only this road promises a gradual, difficult, but real and certain transfer of the land to the working people.
The second step which our Party recommends is that every big economy, for example, every big landed estate, of which there are 30,000 in Russia, should be organised as soon as possible into a model farm for the common cultivation of the land jointly by agricultural labourers and scientifically trained agronomists, using the animals, implements, etc., of the landowner for that purpose. Without this common cultivation under the direction of the Soviets of Agricultural Labourers the land will not go entirely to the working people. To be sure, joint cultivation is a difficult business and it would be madness of course for anybody to imagine that joint cultivation of the land can be decreed from above and imposed on people, because the centuries-old habit of farming on one's own cannot suddenly disappear, and because money will be needed for it and adaptation to the new mode of life. If this advice, this view, on the common cultivation
of the land with commonly owned animals and implements to be used to the best purpose jointly with agronomists -- if this advice-were the invention of individual political parties, the case would be a bad one, because changes are not made in the life of a people on the advice of a party, because tens of millions of people do not make a revolution on the advice of a party, and such a change would be much more of a revolution than the overthrow of the weak-minded Nicholas Romanov. I repeat, tens of millions of people will not make a revolution to order, but will do so when driven to it by dire need, when their position is an impossible one, when the joint pressure and determination of tens of millions of people break down the old barriers and are actually capable of creating a new way of life. When we advise such a measure, and advise caution in the handling of it, saying that it is becoming necessary, we are not drawing that conclusion from our programme, from our socialist doctrine alone, but because we, as socialists, have come to this conclusion by studying the life of the West-European nations. We know that there have been many revolutions over there and that they have established democratic republics; we know that in America in 1865 the slave-owners were defeated and hundreds of millions of dessiatines of land were distributed among the peasantry for nothing or next to nothing, and nevertheless capitalism dominates there more than anywhere else and oppresses the mass of the working people as badly as, if not worse than, in other countries. This is the socialist teaching, this is our study of other nations that firmly convinces us that without the common cultivation of the land by agricultural labourers using the best machinery and guided by scientifically trained agronomists there is no escape from the yoke of capitalism. But if we were to be guided only by the experience of the West-European countries it would be very bad for Russia, because the Russian people in the mass are only capable of taking a serious step along that new path when the direst need arises. And we say to you: the time has now come when that dire need for the entire Russian people is knocking at the door. The dire need I speak of is precisely this -- we cannot continue farming in the old way. If we continue as before on our small isolated farms, albeit as free citizens on free soil, we are still faced with imminent
ruin, for the debacle is drawing nearer day by day, hour by hour. Everyone is talking about it; it is a grim fact, due not to the malice of individuals but to the world war of conquest, to capitalism.
The war has exterminated millions of people, has drenched the world in blood, brought it to the brink of disaster. This is no exaggeration, nobody can vouch for what will happen tomorrow; everyone is talking about it. Take the newspaper Izvestia of the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies -- everybody there is saying that the capitalists are resorting to slow-down tactics and lockouts. That means there is no work and the capitalists are laying off large numbers of workers. That is what this criminal war has brought all countries to, and not Russia alone.
That is why we say that farming on individual plots, even if it is "free labour on free soil", is no way out of the dreadful crisis, it offers no deliverance from the general ruin. A universal labour service is necessary, the greatest economy of manpower is necessary, an exceptionally strong and firm authority is necessary, an authority capable of effecting that universal labour service; it cannot be done by officials, it can be done only by the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers', and Peasants' Deputies, because they are the people, they are the masses, because they are not a government of officials, because they, knowing the life of the peasant from top to bottom, can organise labour conscription, can organise that protection of human labour that would not permit the squandering of the peasant's labour, and the transition to common cultivation would, under these circumstances, be carried out gradually and with circumspection. It is a difficult business, but it is necessary to go over to common cultivation on big model farms; if that is not done it will be impossible for Russia to find a way out of the debacle, out of the truly desperate situation in which she finds herself, and it would be the greatest mistake to think that such a gigantic transformation in the life of the people can be made at a single stroke. That cannot be done, it requires the greatest labour effort, it requires concentration, determination and energy on the part of each peasant and worker at his own place, at his own particular job, which he knows and has been working at for years. It is not a thing that can
be done by any sort of decree, but it is a thing that must be done, because this war of conquest has brought all mankind to the brink of destruction; tens of millions of lives have been lost, and still more will be lost in this terrible war unless we strain our efforts, unless all organisations of the Soviets of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies take joint and determined action towards the common cultivation of the soil without the capitalists and without the landowners. That path is the only one that will lead to the real transfer of the land to the working people.