Agrarian Program of Bolshevism

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Agrarian Program of Bolshevism

 

the part of the Communist Party’s general program which determined the fundamental tasks of the party with respect to the agrarian question.

During the period of preparation for the bourgeois-democratic revolution in Russia (1903–17), the Bolshevik agrarian program aimed at the liquidation of all vestiges of feudalism and serfdom in Russia’s agrarian relations and demanded that all lands be transferred to the peasantry. The goal of the program was to create the most favorable conditions for the struggle to develop the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the socialist revolution.

V. I. Lenin laid the bases for the Bolshevik agrarian program in his work What Are the “Friends of the People” and How Do They Fight the Social Democrats? (1894) and elaborated these ideas in later works. Furthering the development of Marxist doctrine, Lenin was the first Russian Marxist to advance the proposition of the hegemony of the proletariat in the bourgeois-democratic revolution and the idea of the revolutionary alliance of the working class and the peasantry as the main conditions of victory for the revolution in Russia. During the bourgeois-democratic revolution, this alliance was with the peasantry as a whole. Lenin thought that the workers’ party in Russia should strive for the complete expropriation of landlord lands and the nationalization of all the land.

The Second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP), held in July and August 1903, adopted the party program proposed by the editorial board of the Leninist Iskra. With respect to the agrarian question, the program demanded that (1) redemption dues and quit-rents, as well as all obligations falling on the peasantry as the tax-paying class, be abolished; (2) all laws restricting the peasant’s control of his land be abolished; (3) redemption dues and quitrents be refunded to the peasants; (4) peasant committees be set up which would return to the peasants the otrezki (lands taken away from them after the abolition of serfdom), transfer to the “temporarily obligated” peasants of the Caucasus the lands they used, and eliminate the vestiges of serfdom in the Urals, Altai, the western region, and other areas of the state; and (5) the courts be empowered to lower inordinately high rent and invalidate bondage agreements. The program demanded the confiscation of monastery and church property as well as appanages and cabinet and crown estates. As far as landlord estates were concerned, the program proposed to confiscate only the otrezki. However, Lenin and other Bolsheviks never rejected the transfer of all the land to the peasantry. Lenin wrote later that the program’s point on returning the otrezki was unsatisfactory. When the mass peasant movement began during the Revolution of 1905–07, he proposed replacing it by the demand to confiscate all land from the landlords.

The agrarian program was not considered at the Third Congress of the RSDLP (April 1905), but in the resolution “On the attitude toward the peasant movement” the congress set the task of supporting all revolutionary measures of the peasantry (see KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh . . ., 7th ed., part 1, 1954, pp. 80–81). To carry out the revolutionary democratic transformation, the congress called for the immediate organization of revolutionary peasant committees.

The First Conference of the RSDLP (Tammerfors, December 1905) adopted the Leninist resolution that eliminated from the party program the points on redemption dues—which were abolished by the tsarist Manifesto of Nov. 3, 1905—and on the return of the otrezki. They were replaced by the demand for the confiscation of all state, church, monastery, crown, cabinet, and privately owned land (ibid., p. 100).

While working out the new agrarian program for the Fourth (Unity) Congress of the RSDLP (April 1906), Lenin wrote the brochure Revision of the Agrarian Program of the Workers’ Party, which promulgated his draft program. Its first points demanded “(1) the confiscation of all church, monastery, crown, state, cabinet, and landlord lands and (2) the establishment of peasant committees for the immediate elimination of all traces of landlord authority and privileges and for the actual control of the confiscated lands until the establishment of a new land system by a national constituent assembly” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 12, p. 269). With the victory of the revolution and the creation of a democratic state structure, the party was to strive for the transfer of all lands to the state—that is, for the nationalization of land. The program stressed that the party should strive for the independent class organization of the rural proletariat and should explain to the rural proletariat the irreconcilable differences between its interests and those of the peasant bourgeoisie. The agrarian program of Bolshevism was directly tied to the Leninist idea of the growth of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the socialist revolution. Lenin took into account that it was difficult for peasants to understand the idea of nationalization of land, although objectively it corresponded most closely to their interests. “In order to eliminate any idea,” Lenin wrote, “that the workers’ party might want to impose some projects of reform on the peasantry without regard to their will or the independent movement among them, Variant A is attached to the draft program, in which, instead of directly demanding nationalization, we first talk of the party’s support of the revolutionary peasantry’s aspirations to abolish private ownership of land” (ibid., p. 268, footnote).

At the Fourth Congress of the RSDLP, the Mensheviks, who predominated at the Congress, succeeded in passing the program of municipalization of land, demanding the transfer of large private landholdings to organs of local self-government. Small landholding, including the semifeudal allotment land, was not affected by the program. In his work The Agrarian Program of Social Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905–07 (written at the end of 1907), Lenin showed the theoretical and economic unsoundness and political harm of the Menshevik program of municipalization of land and the program’s error in dividing the landlords’ land among the peasants as private property (an idea propounded by some Bolsheviks). Lenin exposed the real content of the Narodnik-SR ideas of the “socialization of land” and “equalization,” showing that they had nothing in common with socialism, but rather reflected the struggle of the peasantry against the vestiges of serfdom.

After the February Bourgeois-Democratic Revolution of 1917, the Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) adopted a resolution proposed by Lenin which acknowledged the need to reexamine the party’s program and indicated that its agrarian part should be reworked to conform to the resolution on the agrarian question adopted by the conference. The resolution of the April Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) on the agrarian problem was the most important program document during the period of preparation for the October Socialist Revolution. The resolution indicated that the party was struggling for the immediate and complete confiscation of landlord, crown, and other lands and for the immediate transfer of all lands to the peasantry, organized in soviets of peasant deputies or other fully democratic organs. The demand for the confiscation of landlord estates and their transfer to the peasantry was bourgeois-democratic in nature, but under the conditions existing after the February Revolution it could be realized only by a socialist revolution. The confiscation of privately owned lands, a large portion of which were mortgaged to banks, was impossible without the overthrow of capitalist hegemony and the transition of state power to the proletariat. In the context of a socialist revolution, nationalization of land would be a blow against private ownership of the means of production in general and a step toward socialism. As a first measure toward the organization of joint cultivation of land, the party supported the initiative of those peasant committees which transferred the landlords’ livestock and inventory into the hands of the peasants organized in these committees “for social, regulated use of this livestock and inventory in the cultivation of all lands.” The resolution proposed that every landlord estate be converted into a large-scale model farm, which would be run at public expense by the Soviet of Deputies of Agricultural Workers. With the transition of power to the soviets, this would mean the formation of socialist-type government-owned farms. The proletariat, allied with the poor peasantry, led the struggle for the preparation and implementation of the socialist revolution against the urban and rural bourgeoisie. The proletariat followed a policy of neutralizing the middle peasants, trying to overcome their vacillations to the side of the bourgeoisie and to win them to its own side. For this reason, the April Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) supported the organization of soviets of deputies from the agricultural proletariat and semi-proletarian peasantry or the organization of proletarian groups in common soviets of peasant deputies.

The victory of the October Socialist Revolution ensured the fulfillment of the demands of the Bolshevik agrarian program, which were intended to carry to conclusion the tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and the fulfillment of the revolutionary demands expressed in peasant “land decrees.” The October Revolution initiated the socialist transformation of agriculture. The development of the socialist revolution in the countryside in the summer of 1918 not only completed the confiscation and division of landlord estates among the peasants, but also struck a blow against the economic and political influence of the kulaks, who lost a portion of their instruments of production and their surplus land. At the end of 1917, the first socialist farms appeared in the countryside: government estates and peasants’ collectives—communes and so forth. The party program adopted by the Eighth Congress of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik), in March 1919, outlined the following measures for establishing a large-scale socialist agriculture: the organization of sovkhozes (large socialist estates); the encouragement of agricultural societies and also cooperatives for the collective cultivation of land; the organization by the state of sowing of all unplanted lands, no matter to whom they belonged; the state’s mobilizing of all agronomic forces to improve the agricultural level; and the encouragement of agricultural communes—completely voluntary unions of cultivators to manage large-scale public farms (see KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh. . . , 7th ed., part 1, 1954, p. 424). At the same time, proceeding from the assumption that “small peasant farming will continue to exist for a long time to come,” the program of the RCP (Bolshevik) indicated measures to raise its productivity (ibid). The RCP (Bolshevik) went over to a policy of firm alliance between the working class and the middle peasantry, while relying on the poor peasants and struggling with the kulaks. The all-out strengthening in every way of the alliance between the working class and the toiling peasantry was the decisive factor in ensuring the victory of the Soviet Republic over its enemies during the Civil War and foreign military intervention of 1918–20.

With the transition to the New Economic Policy, the party strengthened the union of the working class and the peasantry on a new economic basis. Generalizing the experience of the social and economic development of the peasantry during the first years of Soviet power, Lenin mapped out a concrete plan for the socialist transformation of the countryside. Lenin’s last articles and speeches became the Communist Party’s programmatic documents on the agrarian question. The consistent implementation of Lenin’s Cooperative Plan led to the victory of the kolkhoz system. Sovkhozes and kolkhozes became the basic forms of socialist agriculture.

The program of the CPSU adopted by the Twenty-second Congress (1961) defined the development of Soviet agriculture and social relations in the countryside in the period of the building of communism.

The agrarian program of Bolshevism is of international world-historical significance. The Leninist principles of the agrarian program of Bolshevism, with due regard for the peculiarities of the socioeconomic and political situations of different countries, lie at the base of the agrarian programs of communist and workers’ parties.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Agrarnaia programma russkoi sotsial-demokratii.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 6.
Lenin, V. I. “K derevenskoi bednote.” Ibid., vol. 7.
Lenin V. I. “Peresmotr agrarnoi programmy rabochei partii.” Ibid., vol. 12.
Lenin, V. I. “Agrarnaia programma sotsial-demokratii ν pervoirusskoi revoliutsii 1905–1907 godov.” Ibid., vol. 16.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad po agrarnomu voprosu 28 aprelia (11 maia), Sed’maia (Aprel’skaia) Vserossiiskaia konferentsiia RSDLP (b) 24–29 aprelia (7–12 maia) 1917.” Ibid., vol. 31.
Lenin, V. I. “Materialy po peresmotru partiinoi programmy.” Ibid., vol. 32.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad o partiinoi programme 19 marta. Doklad o rabote ν derevne 23 marta, VIII s”ezd RKP (b) 18–23 marta 1919 g.” Ibid., vol. 38.
Lenin, V. I. “O kooperatisii.” Ibid., vol. 45.
KPSS ν rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s”ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov TsK, parts 1–4, 7th ed. Moscow, 1954–60.
Lopatkin, A. N. Iz istorii razrabotki agrarnoi programmy bol’shevistskoi partii. Moscow, 1952.
Voronovich, A. A. Leninskaia agrarnaia programma i ee osushchestvlenie ν SSSR. Moscow, 1961.
Trapeznikov, S. P. Leninizm i agrarno-krest’ianskii vopros, vols. 1–2. Moscow, 1967.

E. A. LUTSKII

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.