Bolshevik Writers: J. V. Stalin (1879-1953)

J. V. Stalin

CONCERNING THE AGRARIAN QUESTION

Elva (The Lightning), No. 14,
March 29, 1906Signed: J. BesoshviliTranslated from the Georgian

From J. V. Stalin, Works,
Foreign Languages Publishing House,
Moscow, 1954

Vol. 1, pp. 232-37.


Prepared © for the Internet by David J. Romagnolo, djr@cruzio.com (June 1997)


    CONCERNING THE AGRARIAN QUESTION

        You probably remember the last article on "municipalisation" (see Elva,[60] No. 12). We have no wish to discuss all the questions the author touches upon -- that is neither interesting nor necessary. We wish to touch upon only two main questions: Does municipalisation contradict the abolition of the remnants of serfdom? And is the division of the land reactionary? This is exactly how our comrade presents the question. Evidently, he imagines that municipalisation, division of the land and similar questions are questions of principle; the Party, however, puts the agrarian question on an altogether different basis.

        The point is that Social-Democracy regards neither nationalisation, nor municipalisation, nor the division of the land as questions of principle, and raises no objection on principle to any of them. Read Marx's Manifesto, Kautsky's The Agrarian Question, Minutes of the Second Congress, and The Agrarian Question in Russia, also by Kautsky, and you will see that this is precisely the case. The Party regards all thesc questions from the practical point of view, and pl]ts the agrarian question on a prac-

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    tical basis: what most fully carries out our principle -- municipalisation, nationalisation or division of the land?

        This is the basis on which the Party puts the ques tion.

        It goes without saying that the principle of the agrarian programme -- the abolition of the remnants of serfdom and the free development of the class struggle -- remains unchanged; only the means of carrying out this principle have changed.

        That is how the author should have presented the ques tion, namely: Which is the better means of securing the abolition of the remnants of serfdom and the development of the class struggle -- municipalisation, or the division of the land? He, however, quite unexpectedly steps into the sphere of principles, palms off practical questions as questions of principle, and asks us: Does so-called municipalisation "contradict the abolition of the remnants of serfdom and the development of capitalism"? Neither nationalisation nor the division of the land contradicts the abolition of the remnants of serfdom and the development of capitalism; but that does not mean that there is no difference between them, that the advocate of municipalisation should at the same time advocate nationalisation and the division of the land! Clearly, there is some practical difference between them. That is the whole point, and that is why the Party puts the question on a practical basis. The author, however, as we noted above, carried the question to an entirely different plane, confused the principle with the means of carrying out this principle, and thus, involuntarily, evaded the question that is raised by the Party,

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        The author further assures us that the division of the land is reactionary, i.e., he hurls at us the same reproach that we have heard more than once from the Socialist-Revolutionaries. When those metaphysicians, the Socialist-Revolutionaries, tell us that the division of the land is reactionary from the standpoint of Marxism, this reproach does not surprise us in the least, for we know perfectly well that they do not look at the question from the standpoint of dialectics; they refuse to understand that everything has its time and place, that something which may be reactionary tomorrow may be revolutionary today. But when dialectical-materialists hurl that reproach at us we cannot help asking: What, then, is the difference between dialecticians and metaphysicians? It goes without saying that the division of the land would be reactionary if it were directed against the development of capitalism; but if it is directed against the remnants of serfdom, it is self evident that the division of the land is a revolutionary measure which Social-Democracy must support. What is the division of the land directed against today: against capitalism or against the remnants of serfdom? There can be no doubt that it is directed against the remnants of serfdom. Hence, the question settles itself.

        True, after capitalism has sufficiently established itself in the countryside, division of the land will become a reactionary measure, for it will then be directed against the development of capitalism. Then, Social-Democracy will not support it. At the present time Social-Democracy strongly champions the demand for a democratic republic as a revolutionary measure, but later on,

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    when the dictatorship of the proletariat becomes a practical question, the democratic republic will already be reactionary, and Social-Democracy will strive to destroy it. The same thing must be said about the division of the land. Division of the land, and petty-bourgeois farming generally, is revolutionary when a struggle is being waged against the remnants of serfdom; but the same division of the land is reactionary when it is directed against the development of capitalism. Such is the dialectical view of social development. Karl Marx regards petty-bourgeois farming in the same dialectical way when in Volume III of Capital he calls it progressive compared with feudal economy.

        In addition to all this, K. Kautsky says the following about the division of the land:

        "The division of the land reserve, i.e., the large estates, which the Russian peasants are demanding and are already beginning to carry out in practice . . . is not only inevitable and necessary, but also highly beneficial. And Social-Democracy has every ground for supporting this process " (see The Agrarian Question in Russia, p. 11).

        Of enormous importance for the settlement of a question is the correct method of presenting it. Every question must be presented dialectically, i.e., we must never forget that everything changes, that everything has its time and place, and, consequently, we must also present questions in conformity with concrete circumstances. That is the first condition for the settlement of the agrarian question. Secondly, we must also not forget that today Russian Social-Democrats put the agrarian question on a practical basis, and whoever

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    wishes to settle that question must stand on that basis. That is the second condition for the settlement of the agrarian question. Our comrade, however, took neither of these conditions into consideration.

        Well then, the comrade will answer, let us assume that the division of the land is revolutionary. Clearly, we shall strive to support this revolutionary movement; but that does not mean that we ought to introduce the demands of this movement into our programme -- those demands are totally out of place in the programme, etc. Evidently the author is confusing the minimum programme with the maximum programme. He knows that the socialist programme (i.e., the maximum programme) should contain only proletarian demands; but he forgets that the democratic programme (i.e., the minimum programme), and the agrarian programme in particular, is not a socialist programme, and, consequently, it will certainly contain bourgeois-democratic demands, which we support. Political freedom is a bourgeois demand; but despite that it occupies an honourable place in our minimum programme. But why go so far? Take Clause 2 of the agrarian programme and read: the Party demands ". . . the abolition of all laws which restrict the peasant in the disposal of his land " -- read all that and answer: what is socialistic about this clause? Nothing, you will say, because it demands freedom for bourgeois property, and not its abolition. Nevertheless, this clause is in our minimum programme. What is the point then? Only that the maximum programme and the minimum programme are two different concepts, which must not be confused. True, the Anarchists will be displeased with that; but we cannot help it. We are not Anarchists! . . .

        As regards the peasants' striving for the division of the land, we have already said that its importance is measured by the trend of economic development; and as this striving of the peasants "springs directly" from this trend, our Party must support, and not counteract it.

NOTES

  [60] Elva (The Lightning ) -- a daily Georgian newspaper, organ of the united Tiflis Committee of the R.S.D.L.P., began publication after the suppression of Gantiadi. The first number was issued on March 12 and the last on April 15, 1906. On behalf of the Bolsheviks the leading articles were written by J. V. Stalin. In all, twenty-seven numbers were issued.    [p.232]