THE QUESTION OF THE PROLETARIAT
AND THE PEASANTRY
Speech Delivered at the Thirteenth Gubernia Conference
of the Moscow Organisation of the R.C.P.(B.)
Comrades, I should like to say a few words about the principles underlying the policy which the Party has now adopted towards the peasantry. That the question of the peasantry is particularly important at the present time there can be no doubt. Many comrades have gone to extremes and even say that a new era has begun -- the peasant era. Others have begun to interpret the slogan "face to the countryside" as meaning that we must turn our backs on the towns. Some have even gone to the length of talking about a political NEP. That is nonsense, of course. All that means going to extremes, of course. If, however, we put those extremes aside, one thing remains, namely, that at the present time, particularly just now, the question of the peasantry acquires exceptional importance.
Why? What is the reason?
There are two reasons for it. I am speaking of fundamental reasons.
The first reason why the peasant question has assumed exceptional importance for us at the present moment is that, of the allies of the Soviet power, of all the proletariat's principal allies -- of whom there are four,
in my opinion -- the peasantry is the only ally that can be of direct assistance to our revolution at this very moment. It is a question of direct assistance just now, at the present moment. All the other allies, while they will be of great importance in the future and while they constitute an immense reserve for our revolution, nevertheless, unfortunately, cannot render our regime, our state, direct assistance now.
What are these allies?
The first ally, our principal ally, is the proletariat in the developed countries. The advanced proletariat, the proletariat in the West, is an immense force, and it is the most faithful and most important ally of our revolution and our regime. But, unfortunately, the situation, the state of the revolutionary movement in the developed capitalist countries, is such that the proletariat in the West is unable to render us direct and decisive assistance at the present moment. We have its indirect, moral support, and this is so important that its value cannot even be measured, it is inestimable. Nevertheless, it does not constitute that direct and immediate assistance that we need now.
The second ally is the colonies, the oppressed peoples in the under-developed countries, which are oppressed by the more developed countries. Comrades, they constitute an immense reserve for our revolution. But they are very slow in getting into their stride. They are coming directly to our help, but it is evident that they will not arrive quickly. For that very reason they are unable to render us direct and immediate assistance in our work of socialist construction, of strengthening the Soviet regime, of building our socialist economy.
We have a third ally, intangible, impersonal, but for all that an extremely important one, namely, the conflicts and contradictions between the capitalist countries; they cannot be personified, but they certainly render our regime and our revolution very great support. That may seem strange, comrades, but it is a fact. Had the two chief coalitions of capitalist countries not been engaged in mortal combat during the imperialist war in 1917, had they not been clutching at each other's throats, had they not been busy with their own affairs and unable to spare time to wage a struggle against the Soviet power, it is doubtful whether the Soviet power would have survived. The struggle, conflicts and wars between our enemies, I repeat, constitute an extremely important ally for us. But what is the situation with regard to this ally? The situation is that world capital after the war, after passing through several crises, has begun to recover. That must be admitted. The chief victor countries -- Britain and America -- have now acquired such strength that they have the material possibility not only of putting capital's affairs in more or less tolerable order at home, but also of infusing new blood into France, Germany and other capitalist countries. That is one aspect of the matter. And as a result of that aspect of the matter, the contradictions between the capitalist countries are, for the time being, not developing with the same intensity as was the case immediately after the war. That is a gain for capital, and a loss for us. But this process has also another aspect, a reverse side. The reverse side is that, notwithstanding the relative stability which capital has been able to create for the time being, the contradictions at the other end of the
inter-relations, the contradictions between the exploiting advanced countries and the exploited backward countries, the colonies and dependent countries, are becoming sharper and deeper and are threatening to disrupt capital's "work" from a new and "unexpected" end. The crisis in Egypt and in the Sudan -- you have probably read about it in the newspapers -- also a number of key points of contradiction in China, which may set the present "allies" at loggerheads and wreck the strength of capital, a new series of key points of contradiction in North Africa, where Spain is losing Morocco, towards which France is stretching out her hands, but which she will be unable to take because Britain will not permit France to gain control over Gibraltar -- all these are facts which are in many ways reminiscent of the pre-war period and which are bound to imperil the "constructive work" of international capital.
Such are the gains and losses in the total balance-sheet of the development of contradictions. But as, for the time being, capital's gains in this sphere are bigger than its losses and as there are no grounds for expecting that armed conflicts between the capitalists will break out in the immediate future, it is evident that the situation as regards our third ally is still not what we would like it to be.
There remains the fourth ally -- the peasantry. It is by our side, we are living together, together we are building the new life; well or ill, we are building together. As you yourselves are aware, this ally is not a very staunch one; the peasantry is not as reliable an ally as the proletariat in the developed capitalist countries. But, for all that, it is an ally, and of all our existing
allies it is the only one that can render us, and is rendering us, direct assistance at this very moment, receiving our assistance in exchange.
That is why, particularly at the present moment, when the course of development of revolutionary and all other crises has slowed down somewhat, the question of the peasantry acquires exceptional importance.
Such is the first reason for the exceptional importance of the peasant question.
The second reason for our making the question of the peasantry the corner-stone of our policy at the present moment is that our industry, which is the basis of socialism and the basis of our regime, rests on the home market, the peasant market. I do not know what the situation will be when our industry develops to the full, when we are able to cope with the home market, and when we are faced with the question of winning foreign markets. We shall be faced with that question in the future, you can have no doubt about that. It is doubtful whether we shall be able in the future to count on capturing foreign markets in the West from capital, which is more experienced than we are. But as regards markets in the East, our relations with which cannot be considered bad -- and they will improve still further -- here we shall find more favourable conditions. There can be no doubt that textile goods, means of defence, machinery, and so forth, will be the principal commodities with which we shall supply the East in competition with the capitalists. But that concerns the future of our industry. As for the present, when we have not yet fully utilised even a third of our peasant market, at the present moment, the chief question that faces us is that of the home market, and above all the peasant market. The fact that the peasant market is at the present moment the chief basis of our industry is precisely the reason why we, as the government, and we, as the proletariat, are interested in improving to the utmost the condition of peasant economy, in improving the material conditions of the peasantry, in raising the purchasing power of the peasantry, in improving the relations between the proletariat and the peasantry, in establishing that bond which Lenin spoke about, but which we have not yet established properly.
That is the second reason why we, as the Party, must put the question of the peasantry in the forefront at the present moment, why we must devote special attention and special care to the peasantry.
Such are the premises of our Party's policy in regard to the peasantry.
The whole trouble, comrades, is that many of our comrades do not understand, or do not want to understand, how extremely important this question is.
It is often said: our leaders in Moscow have made it the fashion to talk about the peasantry; probably, they don't mean it seriously, it is diplomacy. Moscow needs these speeches to be made for the outside world, but we can continue the old policy. That is what some say. Others say that the talk about the peasantry is just talk. If the Moscow people did not stick in their offices, but were to visit the countryside, they would see what the peasants are, and how the taxes are collected. That is the sort of talk one hears. I think, comrades, that of all the dangers that face us, this failure of our local responsible workers to understand the tasks before us is the most serious danger.
One thing or the other:
Either our local comrades will realise how very serious the question of the peasantry is, in which case they will really set about drawing the peasantry into our constructive work, improving peasant economy and strengthening the bond; or the comrades will fail to realise it, in which case things may end in the collapse of the Soviet power.
Let not the comrades think that I am trying to frighten somebody. No, comrades, there would be no sense in trying to frighten anybody. The question is too serious, and it must be dealt with in a way that befits serious people.
On arriving in Moscow, comrades often try to show the "right side of the cloth," saying that all is well in the countryside where they are. This official optimism is sometimes sickening, for it is obvious that all is not well, nor can it be. Obviously, there are defects, which must be exposed without fear of criticism, and then eliminated The issue is as follows: either we, the entire Party, allow the non-Party peasants and workers to criticise us, or we shall be criticised by means of revolts. The revolt in Georgia was criticism. The revolt in Tambov was also criticism. The revolt in Kronstadt -- was not that criticism? One thing or the other: either we abandon this official optimism and official approach to the matter, do not fear criticism and allow ourselves to be criticised by the non-Party workers and peasants, who, after all, are the ones to feel the effects of our mistakes, or we do not do this, and discontent will accumulate and grow, and we shall have criticism in the form of revolts.
The greatest danger now is that many of our comrades fail to understand this specific feature of the present situation.
Has this question -- the question of the peasantry -- any connection with the question of Trotskyism, which you have discussed here? Undoubtedly it has.
What is Trotskyism?
Trotskyism is disbelief in the forces of our revolution, disbelief in the alliance between the workers and peasants, disbelief in the bond. What is our principal task at the present time? In the words of Ilyich, it is to convert NEP Russia into socialist Russia. Can this task be carried out if the bond is not established? No, it cannot. Can the bond, the alliance between the workers and peasants, be established if the theory which involves disbelief in that alliance, i.e., the theory of Trotskyism, is not smashed? No, it cannot. The conclusion is obvious: whoever wants to emerge from NEP as the victor must bury Trotskyism as an ideological trend.
Before the revolution in October, Ilyich would often say that of all our ideological opponents the most dangerous were the Mensheviks, for they were trying to instil disbelief in the victory of the October Revolution. Therefore, he said, the victory of October could not be achieved unless Menshevism was smashed. I think that there is some analogy between Menshevism at that time, in the period of October, and Trotskyism at the present time, in the period of NEP. I think that of all the ideological trends in communism today, after the victory of October, under the present conditions of NEP, Trotskyism must be regarded as the most dangerous,
for it tries to instil disbelief in the forces of our revolution, disbelief in the alliance of the workers and peasants, disbelief in the work of converting NEP Russia into socialist Russia. Therefore, unless Trotskyism is smashed, it will be impossible to achieve victory under the conditions of NEP, it will be impossible to achieve the conversion of present-day Russia into socialist Russia.
Such is the connection between the Party's policy towards the peasantry and Trotskyism.
 The Thirteenth Gubernia Conference of the Moscow Organisation of the R.C.P.(B.) took place from January 24 to 28, 1925. There were present 1,150 delegates representing 64,078 members and 30,770 candidate members of the Party. The conference discussed the report of the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.); the report of the Moscow Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) and the co-report of the Moscow Committee of the Russian Leninist Young Communist League; a report on the work of the Moscow Control Commission; the budget and the economic situation of the Moscow Gubernia; the question of work in the countryside. It also elected the leading bodies. J. V. Stalin spoke at the conference on the question of work in the countryside.