influence of the farmsteads. This fact shows most clearly that even after the change in the government's agrarian policy, and after the notorious Stolypin reforms,the Russian countryside is just as much over whelmed by oppression, exploitation, destitution, lack of human rights as it was under serfdom. The "new " agrarian policy of the Council of the United Nobility left untouched the old serf-owners and the oppression on their estates of thousands and tens of thousands of dessiatines. The "new" agrarian policy enriched the old landowners and a handful of the peasant bourgeoisie, and ruined the masses of the peasants to a still greater extent.
"We bank on the strong," exclaimed the late Stolypin in explanation and justification of his agrarian policy. These words are well worth noting and remembering as extraordinarily truthful, exceptionally truthful words for a minister. The peasants have fully understood and learned through their own bitter experience the truthfulness of these words, which mean that the new laws and the new agrarian policy are laws for the rich and made by the rich, a policy for the rich and carried out by the rich. The peasants have understood the "simple " game, that the Duma of the master class makes laws for the master class -- that the government is the instrument of the will of the feudal landowners and of their rule over Russia.
If Stolypin wanted to teach this to the peasants by means of his "famous" (shamefully famous) dictum, "we bank on the strong", we are sure he has found and will find apt pupils among the masses of the ruined and embittered who, having learned on whom the government banks, will understand so much the better on whom they themselves should bank -- on the working class and on its struggle for freedom.
In order not to make unsupported statements, I shall quote a few examples drawn from real life by so able an observer, one so boundlessly devoted to his work, as Ivan Andreyevich Konovalov. (Ivan Konovalov, Sketches of the Modern Village, St. Petersburg, 1913. Price 1 ruble 50 kopeks. In the quotations the pages are indicated.)
In Livny Uyezd, Orel Gubernia, four estates have been
divided into farmsteads: that of Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich -- 5,000 dessiatines, of Polyakov -- 900 dessiatines, of Nabokov -- 400 dessiatines, of Korf -- 600 dessiatines. The total is about 7,000 dessiatines. The size of the farmsteads is fixed at 9 dessiatines each and only in exceptional cases at 12 dessiatines. Thus, there are in all a little over 600 farmsteads.
In order to explain the significance of these figures more graphically, I shall quote the official statistics of 1905 for Orel Gubernia. Five nobles in this gubernia owned 143,446 dessiatines, i.e., an average of 28,000 dessiatines each. It is obvious that such monstrously big estates are not wholly cultivated by the owners; they only serve for oppression and enslavement of the peasants. The number of former serfs of landowners in Orel Gubernia in 1905 with holdings not exceeding 5 dessiatines per farm was 44,500, owning a total of 173,000 dessiatines of land. The landowner has 28,000 dessiatines and the "landowner's " muzhik of the poorer class -- 4 dessiatines.
In 1905, the number of nobles in Orel Gubernia owning 500 dessiatines of land and over was 378, the total amount of land in their possession being 592,000 dessiatines, i.e., an average of over 1,500 dessiatines each; while the number of "former serfs of landowners " in Orel Gubernia having up to 7 dessiatines per household was 124,000, giving them a total of 647,000 dessiatines, i.e., an average of 5 dessiatines per household.
One may judge by this to what extent the Orel peasants are oppressed by the feudal estates and what a drop in the ocean of misery and destitution were the four estates in Livny Uyezd that were divided into farmsteads. But how do the farmstead peasants live on their 9 dessiatine plots?
The land has been valued at 220 rubles per dessiatine. They have to pay 118 rubles and 80 kopeks per annum (i.e., about 20 rubles per dessiatine of sown area). A poor peasant is incapable of paying so much. He lets a part of the land cheaply just to get some ready cash. He sells all his grain to pay the instalment due to the bank. He has nothing left, either for seed or for food. He borrows, enslaves himself again. He has only one horse, he has sold his cow. His implements are old. Improving the farm is out of the question.
"The kids have simply forgotten the colour, let alone the taste, of milk" (p. 198). This sort of farmer falls into arrears with his instalments and is driven off his plot; his ruin is then complete.
In his explanatory memorandum, the Minister of Finance complacently tried to gloss over this ruin of the peasants by the new land settlement, or rather land unsettlement.
On page 57 of the second part of the explanatory memorandum the Minister gives official figures for the number of peasants who had sold their land by the end of 1911. The number is 385,407 families.
And the Minister "consoles " us by saying: the number of buyers (362,840) "is very close to the number of sellers " (385,407). For each seller we get on an average 3.9 dessiatines, for each buyer -- 4.2 dessiatines (p. 58 of the explanatory memorandum).
What is consoling in this? In the first place, even these official figures show that the number of buyers is less than the number of sellers. This means that the ruin and destitution of the countryside is increasing. And secondly, who does not know that the buyers of allotments evade the law, which forbids the purchase of land above a small number of dessiatines, by buying in the name of wife, relations, or of some other person? Who does not know that the selling of land under the guise of various other transactions, such as a lease, etc., is very widely practised by the peasants out of sheer necessity? Read, for instance, the works of the semi-Cadet, semi-Octobrist Prince Obolensky in Russkaya Mysl, and you will see that even this landowner, who is thoroughly imbued with the views of his class, admits the fact that the allotments are bought up to an enormous extent by the rich, and that these purchases are masked by means of evasions of the law in thousands of different ways!
And so, gentlemen, the "new " agrarian policy of the government and the nobles was all the honourable nobles could produce, leaving their property and their revenues intact (often they even increased their revenues by inflating the price of the land for sale and by means of the thousands of favours the Peasant Bank extends to the nobility).
And the "all " of these nobles proved to be nothing. The Countryside is even more destitute, even more angered.
Terrible anger reigns in the villages. What is called hooliganism is due mainly to the incredible anger of the peasants, and is their primitive form of protest. No persecution, no increasing of punishments will allay this anger and stop this protest by millions of hungry peasants who are now being ruined by the "redistribution" of the land with unprecedented rapidity, roughness and brutality.
No, the nobles' or Stolypin's agrarian policy is not the way out; it is only a very painful approach towards a new solution of the agrarian problem in Russia. What this solution should be is shown indirectly even by the fate of Ireland where, in spite of a thousand delays, hindrances and obstacles placed in the way by the landowners, the land has after all passed into the hands of the farmers.
The essence of the agrarian problem in Russia is most strikingly revealed by the figures for the big landed estates. These figures are given in the official government statistics of 1905, and anyone who is seriously concerned about the fate of the Russian peasantry and the state of affairs in the entire field of politics of our country should study them with great attention.
Let us consider the big landed estates in European Russia: 27,833 landowners own over 500 dessiatines each, giving them a total of 62,000,000 dessiatines of land ! Adding to these the land owned by the imperial family and the enormous estates of the manufacturers in the Urals, we get 70,000,000 dessiatines owned by less than 30,000 landowners. This gives on an average over 2,000 dessiatines to each big landed proprietor. The size the biggest estates attain in Russia is seen from the fact that 699 proprietors own more than 10,000 dessiatines each, giving them a total of 20,798,504 dessiatines. On an average these magnates possess almost 30,000 (29,754) dessiatines each!
It is not easy to find in Europe, or even in the entire world, another country where big feudal landownership has been preserved on such a monstrous scale.
And the most important point is that capitalist farming, i.e., the cultivation of the soil by hired labourers with the implements and tools of the owners, is being conducted only on a part of these lands. For the most part, farming is being conducted on feudal lines, i.e., the landowners enslave the
peasants as they did one hundred, three hundred, and five hundred years ago, forcing the peasants to cultivate the estate land with their own horses, with their own implements.
This is not capitalism. This is not the European method of farming, gentlemen of the Right and Octobrists; take note of this, you who are boasting of your desire to "Europeanise" (i.e., refashion in the European way) agriculture in Russia! No, this is not European at all. This is the old Chinese way. This is the Turkish way. This is the feudal way.
This is not up-to-date farming, it is land usury. It is the old, old enslavement. The poor peasant, who even in the best year remains a pauper and is half-starved, who owns a weak, scrawny nag and old, miserable, wretched implements, is becoming the slave of the landowner, of the "master ", because he, the muzhik, has no alternative.
The "master" will neither lease his land, nor give right of way, nor watering-places for animals, nor meadows, nor timber, unless the peasant enslaves himself. If a peasant is caught "illegally" felling wood in the forests, what happens? He is beaten up by the foresters, Circassians, etc., and then the "master ", who in the Duma delivers fervent speeches on the progress of our agriculture and on the necessity of copying Europe -- this same master offers the following alternative to the beaten muzhik: either go to prison or cultivate, plough, sow and harvest two or three dessiatines! The same thing happens when the peasants' cattle trespass on the landowners' estates. The same for the winter loan of grain. The same for the use of meadows and pastures, and so on without end.
This is not big landowner farming. It is the enslavement of the muzhik. It is feudal exploitation of millions of impoverished peasants by means of estates of thousands of dessiatines, the estates of the landowners who have been squeezing and stifling the muzhik in all directions.
The farmsteads are helping out a handful of rich peasants. But the masses continue to starve as before. Why is it, you landowning gentlemen, that Europe has not known famine for a long time? Why is it that terrible famines, such as that which raged in our country in 1910-11, occurred in Europe only under serfdom?
Because in Europe there is no serf bondage. There are rich and middle peasants and there are labourers in Europe, but not millions of ruined, destitute peasants, driven to despair by perennial suffering and hard labour, disfranchised, downtrodden, dependent on the "master".
What is to be done? What is the way out?
There is only one way out: the liberation of the countryside from the oppression of these feudal latifundia, the transfer of these seventy million dessiatines of land from the landed proprietors to the peasants, a transfer that must be effected without any compensation.
Only such a solution can make Russia really resemble a European country. Only such a solution will enable the millions of Russian peasants to breathe freely and recover. Only such a solution will make it possible to transform Russia from a country of perennially starving, destitute peasants, crushed by bondage to the landowner, into a country of "European progress", from a country of illiterate people into a literate country, from a country of backwardness and hopeless stagnation into a country capable of developing and going forward, from a disfranchised country, a country of slaves, into a free country.
And the party of the working class, knowing that without free, democratic institutions there is not and cannot be a road to socialism, points, as a way out of the blind alley into which the government with its agrarian policy has again led Russia, to the free transfer of all the landed estates, to the peasants, to the winning of full political liberty by a new revolution.