An Explanation for the Peasants of What the Social-Democrats Want
To the Rural Poor
|Audiobook||Socialism For All|
The Struggle of the Urban Workers
Many peasants have probably already heard about the labour unrest in the towns. Some of them have themselves been in the capitals and in the factories, and have seen the riots, as the police call them. Others know workers who were involved in the unrest and were deported to their villages by the authorities. Others again must have seen the leaflets issued by the workers, or pamphlets about the workers’ struggle. Still others have only heard stories about what is going on in the towns from people with first-hand experience.
Formerly, only students rebelled, but now thousands and tens of thousands of workers have risen in all the big towns. In most cases they fight against their employers, against the factory owners, against the capitalists. The workers declare strikes, all of them stop work at a factory at the same time and demand higher wages, demand that they should be made to work not eleven or ten hours a day, but only eight hours. The workers also demand other things that would make the working man’s life easier. They want the workshops to be in better condition and the machines to be protected by special devices so as to prevent them from maiming the workers; they want their children to be able to go to school and the sick to be given proper aid in the hospitals; they want the workers’ homes to be like human dwellings instead of being like pigsties.
The police intervene in the workers’ struggle. The police seize workers, throw them into prison, deport them without trial to their villages, or even to Siberia. The government has passed laws banning strikes and workers’ meetings. But the workers wage their fight against the police and against the government. The workers say: We, millions of working people, have bent our backs long enough! We have worked for the rich and remained paupers long enough! We have allowed them to rob us long enough! We want to unite in unions, to unite all the workers in one big workers’ union (a workers’ party) and to strive jointly for a better life. We want to achieve a new and better order of society: in this new and better society there must be neither rich nor poor; all will have to work. Not a handful of rich people, but all the working people must enjoy the fruits of their common labour. Machines and other improvements must serve to ease the work of all and not to enable a few to grow rich at the expense of millions and tens of millions of people. This new and better society is called socialist society. The teachings about this society are called socialism. The workers’ unions which fight for this better order of society are called Social-Democratic parties. Such parties exist openly in nearly all countries (except Russia and Turkey), and our workers, together with socialists from among the educated people, have also formed such a party: the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.
The government persecutes that Party, but it exists in secret, despite all prohibitions; it publishes its news papers and pamphlets and organises secret unions. The workers not only meet in secret but come out into the streets in crowds and unfurl their banners bearing the inscriptions: “Long live the eight-hour day! Long live freedom! Long live socialism!” The government savagely persecutes the workers for this. It even sends troops to shoot down the workers. Russian soldiers have killed Russian workers in Yaroslavl, St. Petersburg, Riga, Rostov-on-Don, and Zlatoust.
But the workers do not yield. They continue the fight. They say: neither persecution, prison, deportation, penal servitude, nor death can frighten us. Our cause is a just one. We are fighting for the freedom and the happiness of all who work. We are fighting to free tens and hundreds of millions of people from abuse of power, oppression and poverty. The workers are becoming more and more class- conscious. The number of Social-Democrats is growing fast in all countries. We shall win despite all persecution.
The rural poor must clearly understand who these Social-Democrats are, what they want, and what must be done in the countryside to help the Social-Democrats to win happiness for the people.
What Do the Social-Democrats Want?
The Russian Social-Democrats are first and foremost striving to win political liberty. They need political liberty in order to unite all the Russian workers extensively and openly in the struggle for a new and better socialist order of society.
What is political liberty?
To understand this the peasant should first compare his present state of freedom with serfdom. Under the serf-owning system the peasant could not marry without the land lord’s permission. Today the peasant is free to marry without anyone’s permission. Under the serf-owning system the peasant had unfailingly to work for his landlord on days fixed by the latter’s bailiff. Today the peasant is free to decide which employer to work for, on which days, and for what pay. Under the serf-owning system the peasant could not leave his village without the landlord’s per mission. Today the peasant is free to go wherever he pleases—if the mir allows him to go, if he is not in arrears with his taxes, if he can get a passport, and if the governor or the police chief does not forbid his changing residence. Thus, even today the peasant is not quite free to go where he pleases; he does not enjoy complete freedom of movement; the peasant is still a semi-serf. Later on we shall explain in detail why the Russian peasant is still a semi-serf and what he must do to escape from this condition.
Under the serf-owning system the peasant had no right to acquire property without the landlord’s permission; he could not buy land. Today the peasant is free to acquire any kind of property (but even today he is not quite free to leave the mir; he is not quite free to dispose of his land as he pleases). Under the serf-owning system the peasant could be flogged by order of the landlord. Today the peas ant cannot be flogged by order of the landlord, although he is still liable to corporal punishment.
This freedom is called civil liberty—freedom in family matters, in private matters, in matters concerning property. The peasant and the worker are free (although not quite) to arrange their family life and their private affairs, to dispose of their labour (choose their employer) and their property.
But neither the Russian workers nor the Russian people as. a whole are yet free to arrange their public affairs. The people as a whole are the serfs of the government officials, just as the peasants were the serfs of the landlords. The Russian people have no right to choose their officials, no right to elect representatives to legislate for the whole country. The Russian people have not even the right to arrange meetings for the discussion of state affairs. We dare not even print newspapers or books, and dare not even speak to all and for all on matters concerning the whole state without permission from officials who have been put in authority over us without our consent, just as the landlord used to appoint his bailiff without the consent of the peasants!
Just as the peasants were the slaves of the landlords, so the Russian people are still the slaves of the officials. Just as the peasants lacked civil freedom under the serf-owning system, so the Russian people still lack political liberty. Political liberty means the freedom of the people to arrange their public, state affairs. Political liberty means the right of the people to elect their representatives (deputies) to a State Duma (parliament). All laws should be discussed and passed, all taxes should be fixed only by such a State Duma (parliament) elected by the people them selves. Political liberty means the right of the people themselves to choose all their officials, arrange all kinds of meetings for the discussion of all state affairs, and publish whatever papers and books they please, without having to ask for permission.
All the other European peoples won political liberty for themselves long ago. Only in Turkey and in Russia are the people still politically enslaved by the sultan’s government and by the tsarist autocratic government. Tsarist autocracy means the unlimited power of the tsar. The people have no voice in determining the structure of the state or in running it. All laws are made and all officials are appointed by the tsar alone, by his personal, unlimited, autocratic authority. But, of course, the tsar cannot even know all Russian laws and all Russian officials. The tsar cannot even know all that goes on in the country. The tsar simply endorses the will of a few score of the richest and most high-born officials. However much he may desire to, one man cannot govern a vast country like Russia. It is not the tsar who governs Russia—it is only a manner of speech to talk about autocratic, one-man rule! Russia is governed by a handful of the richest and most high-born officials. The tsar learns only what this handful are pleased to tell him. The tsar cannot in any way go against the will of this handful of high-ranking nobles: the tsar himself is a landlord and a member of the nobility; since his earliest childhood he has lived only among these high-born people; it was they who brought him up and educated him; he knows about the Russian people as a whole only that which is known to these noble gentry, these rich landlords, and the few very rich merchants who are received at the tsar’s Court.
In every volost administration office you will find the same picture hanging on the wall; it depicts the tsar (Alexander III, the father of the present tsar) speaking to the volost headmen who have come to his coronation. “Obey your Marshals of the Nobility!” the tsar is ordering them. And the present tsar, Nicholas II, has repeated those words. Thus, the tsars themselves admit that they can govern the country only with the aid of the nobility and through the nobility. We must well remember those words of the tsar’s about the peasants having to obey the nobility. We must clearly understand what a lie is being told the people by those who try to make out that tsarist government is the best form of government. In other countries—those people say—the government is elected; but it is the rich who are elected, and they govern unjustly and oppress the poor. In Russia the government is not elected; an autocratic tsar governs the whole country. The tsar stands above everyone, rich and poor. The tsar, they tell us, is just to everyone, to the poor and to the rich alike.
Such talk is sheer hypocrisy. Every Russian knows the kind of justice that is dispensed by our government. Everybody knows whether a plain worker or a farm labourer in our country can become a member of the State Council. In all other European countries, however, factory workers and farm-hands have been elected to the State Duma (parliament); they have been able to speak freely to all the people about the miserable condition of the workers, and call upon the workers to unite and fight for a better life. And no one has dared to stop these speeches of the people’s representatives; no policeman has dared to lay a finger on them.
In Russia there is no elective government, and she is governed not merely by the rich and the high-born, but by the worst of these. She is governed by the most skilful intriguers at the tsar’s Court, by the most artful tricksters, by those who carry lies and slanders to the tsar, and flatter and toady to him. They govern in secret; the people do not and cannot know what new laws are being drafted, what wars are being hatched, what new taxes are being introduced, which officials are being rewarded and for what services, and which are being dismissed. In no country is there such a multitude of officials as in Russia. These officials tower above the voiceless people like a dark forest—a mere worker can never make his way through this forest, can never obtain justice. Not a single complaint against bribery, robbery or abuse of power on the part of the officials is ever brought to light; every complaint is smothered in official red tape. The voice of the individual never reaches the whole people, but is lost in this dark jungle, stifled in the police torture chamber. An army of officials, who were never elected by the people and who are not responsible to the people, has woven a thick web, and men and women are struggling in this web like flies.
Tsarist autocracy is an autocracy of officials. Tsarist autocracy means the feudal dependence of the people upon the officials and especially upon the police. Tsarist autocracy is police autocracy.
That is why the workers come out into the streets with banners bearing the inscriptions: “Down with the autocracy!”, “Long live political liberty!” That is why the tens of millions of the rural poor must also support and take up this battle-cry of the urban workers. Like them, undaunted by persecution, fearless of the enemy’s threats and violence, and undeterred by the first reverses, the agricultural labourers and the poor peasants must come forward for a decisive struggle for the freedom of the whole of the Russian people and demand first of all theconvocation of the representatives of the people. Let the people themselves all over Russia elect their representatives (deputies). Let those representatives form a supreme assembly, which will introduce elective government in Russia, free the people from feudal dependence upon the officials and the police, and secure for the people the right to meet freely, speak freely, and have a free press!
That is what the Social-Democrats want first and fore most. That is the meaning of their first demand: the demand for political liberty.
We know that political liberty, free elections to the State Duma (parliament), freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, will not at once deliver the working people from poverty and oppression. There is no means of immediately delivering the poor of town and country from the burden of working for the rich. The working people have no one to place their hopes in and no one to rely upon but themselves. Nobody will free the working man from poverty if he does not free himself. And to free themselves the workers of the whole country, the whole of Russia, must unite in one union, in one party. But millions of workers cannot unite if the autocratic police government bans all meetings, all workers’ newspapers, and the election of workers’ deputies. To unite they must have the right to form unions of every kind, must have freedom to unite; they must enjoy political liberty.
Political liberty will not at once deliver the working people from poverty, but it will give the workers a weapon with which to fight poverty. There is no other means and there can be no other means of fighting poverty except the unity of the workers themselves. But millions of people cannot unite unless there is political liberty.
In all European countries where the people have won political liberty, the workers began to unite long ago. Throughout the whole of Europe, workers who own no land and no workshops, and work for other people for wages all their lives are called proletarians. Over fifty years ago the call was sounded for the working people to unite. “Workers of all countries, unite!"—during the past fifty years these words have circled the whole globe, are repeated at tens and hundreds of thousands of workers’ meetings, and can be read in millions of Social-Democratic pamphlets and newspapers in every language.
Of course, to unite millions of workers in one union, in one party, is an extremely difficult task; it requires time, persistence, perseverance, and courage. The workers are ground down by poverty and want, benumbed by cease less toil for the capitalists and landlords; often they have not even the time to think of why they remain perpetual paupers, or how to be delivered from this. Everything is done to prevent the workers from uniting: either by means of direct and brutal violence, as in countries like Russia where there is no political liberty, or by refusing to employ workers who preach the doctrines of socialism, or, lastly, by means of deceit and bribery. But no violence or persecution can stop the proletarian workers from fighting for the great cause of the emancipation of all working people from poverty and oppression. The number of Social-Democratic workers is constantly growing. Take our neighbouring country, Germany; there they have elective government. Formerly, in Germany, too, there was an unlimited, autocratic, monarchist government. But long ago, over fifty years ago, the German people destroyed the, autocracy and won political liberty by force. In Germany laws are not made by a handful of officials, as in Russia, but by an assembly of people’s representatives, by a parliament, by the Reichstag, as the Germans call it. All adult males take part in electing deputies to this assembly. This makes it possible to count how many votes were cast for the Social-Democrats. In 1887 one-tenth of all votes were cast for the Social-Democrats. In 1898 (when the most recent elections to the Reichstag took place) the Social-Democratic voteincreased nearly threefold. This time more than one-fourth of all the votes were cast for the Social-Democrats. Over two million adult males voted for Social-Democratic candidates to parliament. Among the farm labourers of Germany socialism is not yet widespread but it is now making very rapid progress among them. And when the masses of farm-hands, day laborers and poor, pauperised peasants unite with their brothers in the towns, the German workers will win and establish an order under which the working people will suffer neither poverty nor oppression.
By what means do the Social-Democratic workers want to deliver the people from poverty?
To know this, one must clearly understand the cause of the poverty of the vast masses of the people under the present social order. Rich cities are growing, magnificent shops and houses are being built, railways are being constructed, all kinds of machines and improvements are being introduced in industry and agriculture, but millions of people remain iii poverty, and continue to work all their lives to provide a bare subsistence for their families. That is not all: more and more people are becoming unemployed. Both in town and country there are more and more people who can find no work at all. In the villages they starve, while in the towns they swell the ranks of the “tramps” and “down-and-outs,” find refuge like beasts in dug-outs on the outskirts of towns, or in dreadful slums and cellars, such as those in the Khitrov Market in Moscow.
Why is this? Wealth and luxury are increasing, and yet the millions and millions who by their labour create all this wealth remain in poverty and want! Peasants are dying of starvation, workers wander about without employment, and yet merchants export millions of poods of grain from Russia to foreign countries, factories are standing idle because the goods cannot be sold, for there is no market for them!
The cause of all this is, first of all, that most of the land, and also the factories, workshops, machines, buildings, ships, etc., belong to a small number of rich people. Tens of millions of people work on this land and at these factories and workshops, but they are all owned by a few thousand or tens of thousands of rich people, landlords, merchants, and factory owners. The people work for those rich men for hire, for wages, for a crust of bread. All that is produced over and above what is required to provide a bare subsistence for the workers goes to the rich; this is their profit, their “income.” All the benefits arising from the use of machines and from improvements in methods of production go to the landowners and capitalists: they accumulate wealth untold, while the workers get only a miserable pittance. The workers are brought together for work; on large estates and at big factories several hundred and sometimes even several thousand workers are employed. When labour is united in this way, and when the most diverse kinds of machines are employed, work becomes more productive: one worker produces much more than scores of workers did working separately and without the aid of machines. But the benefits of this more productive labour go not to all the working people, but to an insignificant number of big landowners, merchants, and factory owners.
One often hears it said that the landlords and merchants “provide work” for the people, that they “provide” the poor with earnings. It is said, for instance, that a neighbouring factory or a neighbouring landlord “maintains” the local peasants. Actually, however, the workers by their labour maintain themselves and also all those who do not work themselves. But for permission to work on the landlord’s land, at a factory, or on a railway, the worker gives the owner gratis all he produces, while the worker himself gets only enough for a bare subsistence. Actually, therefore, it is not the landlords and the merchants who give the workers employment, but the workers who by their labour maintain everybody, surrendering gratis the greater part of their labour.
Further. In all present-day states the people’s poverty is due to the fact that the workers produce all sorts of articles for sale, for the market. The factory owner and the artisan, the landlord and the well-to-do peasant produce various goods, raise cattle, sow and harvest grain for sale, in order to obtain money. Money has everywhere become the ruling power. All the goods produced by human labour are exchanged for money. With money you can buy anything. With money you can even buy a man, that is to say, force a man who owns nothing to work for another who has money. Formerly, land used to be the ruling power—that was the case under the serf-owning system: whoever possessed land possessed power and authority. Today, however, money, capital, has become the ruling power. With money you can buy as much land as you like. Without money you will not be able to do much even if you have land: you must have money to buy a plough or other implements, to buy livestock, to buy clothes and other town-made goods, not to speak of paying taxes. For the sake of money nearly all the landlords have mortgaged their estates to the banks. To get money the government borrows from rich people and bankers all over the world, and pays hundreds of millions of rubles yearly in interest on these loans.
For the sake of money everyone today is waging a fierce war against everyone else. Each tries to buy cheap and to sell dear, each tries to get ahead of the other, to sell as many goods as possible, to undercut the other, to conceal from him a profitable market or a profitable contract. In this general scramble for money the little man, the petty artisan or the small peasant, fares worse than all: he is always left behind by the rich merchant or the rich peasant. The little man never has any reserves; he lives from hand to mouth; each difficulty or accident compels him to pawn his last belongings or to sell his livestock at a trifling price. Once he has fallen into the clutches of a kulak or of a usurer he very rarely succeeds in escaping from the net, and in most cases he is utterly ruined. Every year tens and hundreds of thousands of small peasants and artisans lock up their cottages, surrender their holdings to the commune gratisand become wageworkers, farm-hands, unskilled workers, proletarians. But the rich grow richer and richer in this struggle for money. They pile up millions and hundreds of millions of rubles in the banks and make profit not only with their own money, but also with the money deposited in the banks by others. The little man who deposits a few score or a few hundred rubles in a bank or a savings-bank receives interest at the rate of three or four kopeks to the ruble; but the rich make millions out of these scores and use these millions to increase their turnover and make ten and twenty kopeks to the ruble.
That is why the Social-Democratic workers say that the only way to put an end to the poverty of the people is to change the existing order from top to bottom, throughout the country, and to establish a socialist order, in other words, to take the estates from the big landowners, the factories from the factory owners, and money capital from the bankers, to abolish their private property and turn it over to the whole working people throughout the country. When that is done the workers’ labour will be made use of not by rich people living on the labour of others, but by the workers themselves and by those elected by them. The fruits of common labour and the advantages from all improvements and machinery will then benefit all the working people, all the workers. Wealth will then grow at a still faster rate because the workers will work better for them selves than they did for the capitalists; the working day will be shorter; the workers’ standard of living will be higher; all their conditions of life will be completely changed.
But it is not an easy matter to change the existing order throughout the country. That requires a great deal of effort, a long and stubborn struggle. All the rich, all the property-owners, all the bourgeoisie will defend their riches with all their might. The officials and the army will rise to defend all the rich class, because the government it self is in the hands of the rich class. The workers must rally as one man for the struggle against all those who live on the labour of others; the workers themselves must unite and help to unite all the poor in a singleworking class, in a single proletarian class. The struggle will not be easy for the working class, but it will certainly end in the workers’ victory because the bourgeoisie, or those who live on the labour of others, are an insignificant minority of the population, while the working class is the vast majority. The workers against the property-owners means millions against thousands.
The workers in Russia are already beginning to unite for this great struggle in a single workers’ Social-Democratic Party. Difficult as it is to unite in secret, hiding from the police, nevertheless, the organisation is growing and gaining strength. When the Russian people have won political liberty, the work of uniting the working class, the cause of socialism, will advance much more rapidly, more rapidly than it is advancing among the German workers.
Riches and Poverty, Property-Owners and Workers in the Countryside
We know now what the Social-Democrats want. They want to fight the whole of the rich class to free the people from poverty. In our countryside there is no less and, perhaps, even more poverty than there is in the towns. We shall not speak here about how great the poverty in the countryside is. Every worker who has been in the country and every peasant are well acquainted with want, hunger, and ruin in the countryside.
But the peasant does not know the cause of his distress, hunger and destitution, or how to rid himself of this want. To know this one must first find out what causes all want and poverty in both town and countryside. We have already dealt with this briefly, and we have seen that the poor peas ants and rural workers must unite with the urban workers. But that is not enough. We must also find out what sort of people in the countryside will follow the rich, the property-owners, and what sort of people will follow the workers, the Social-Democrats. We must find out whether there are many peasants who, no less than the landlords, are able to acquire capital and live on the labour of others. Unless we get to the bottom of this matter, no amount of talking about poverty will be of any use, and the rural poor will not know who in the countryside must unite among themselves and with the urban Workers, or what must be done to make it a dependable union and to prevent the peasant from being hoodwinked by his own kind, the rich peasant, as well as by the landlord.
To get to the bottom of this let us now see how strong the landlords are and how strong the rich peasants are in the countryside.
Let us begin with the landlords. We can judge of their strength in the first place by the amount of land they own as private property. The total amount of land in European Russia, including peasant allotment land and privately owned land, has been calculated at about 240,000,000 dessiatines (except the state lands, of which we shall speak separately). Out of this total of 240,000,000 dessiatines, 131,000,000 dessiatines of allotment land are held by the peasants, that is to say, by over ten million households; whereas 109,000,000 dessiatines are held by private owners, i.e., by less than half a million families. Thus, even if we take the average, every peasant family holds 13 dessiatines, while every family of private owners owns 218 dessiatines! But the distribution of the land is much more unequal, as we shall presently see.
Of the 109,000,000 dessiatines owned by private owners seven million are royal demesnes, in other words, the private property of the members of the imperial family. The tsar, with his family, is the first landlord, the biggest landowner in Russia. One family possesses more land than half a million peasant families! Further, the churches and monasteries own about sixmillion dessiatines of land. Our priests preach frugality and abstinence to the peasants, but they themselves have, by fair means and foul, accumulated an enormous amount of land.
Further, about two million dessiatines are owned by the cities and towns, and an equal amount by various commercial and industrial companies and corporations. Ninety-two million dessiatines (the exact figure is 91,605,845, but to simplify matters we will quote round figures) belong to less than half a million (481,358) families of private owners. Half these families are quite small owners, owning less than ten dessiatines of land each, and all of them together own less than one million dessiatines. On the other hand, sixteen thousand families own over one thousand dessiatines each; and the total land owned by them amounts to sixty-five million dessiatines. What vast areas of land are concentrated in the hands of the big land owners is also to be seen in the fact that just under one thousand families (924) own more than ten thousand dessiatines each, and all together they own twenty-seven million dessiatines! One thousand families own as much land as is owned by two million peasant families.
Obviously, millions and tens of millions of people are bound to live in poverty and starvation and will go on living in poverty and starvation as long as such vast areas of land are owned by a few thousand of the rich. Obviously, the state authorities, the government itself (even the tsar’s government) will always dance to the tune of these big land owners. Obviously, the rural poor can expect no help from anyone, or from any quarter, until they unite, combine in a single class to wage a stubborn, desperate struggle against the landlord class.
At this point we must observe that very many people in this country (including even many people of education) have a totally wrong idea about the strength of the landlord class; they say that the “state” owns much more land. These bad counsellors of the peasant say: “A large portion of the territory [i. e., of all the land] of Russia already belongs to the state.” (These words are taken from the news paper Revolutsionnaya Rossiya, No. 8, p. 8.) The mistake these people make arises from the following. They have heard that the state owns 150,000,000 dessiatines of land in European Russia. That is true. But they forget that these 150,000,000 dessiatines consist almost entirely of uncultivable land and forests in the Far North, in the Archangel, Vologda, Olonets, Vyatka, and Perm gubernias. Thus, the state has retained only that land which up to the present has been quite unfit for cultivation. The cultivable land owned by the state amounts to less than four million dessiatines. And these cultivable state lands (for example, in Samara Gubernia, where they are particularly extensive), are leased for very low rents, for next to nothing, to the rich. The rich lease thousands and tens of thous ands of dessiatines of these lands and then sublet them to the, peasants at exorbitant rents.
The people who say that the state owns a great deal of land are very bad counsellors of the peasant. The actual case is that the big private landowners (including the tsar personally) own a lot of good land, and the state itself is in the hands of these big landowners. As long as the rural poor fail to unite, and by uniting become a formidable force, the “state” will always remain the obedient servant of the landlord class. There is another thing that must not be forgotten: formerly almost all the landlords were nobles. The nobility still owns a vast amount of land (in 1877-78, 115,000 nobles owned 73,000,000 dessiatines). But today money, capital, has become the ruling power. Merchants and well-to-do peasants have bought very large amounts of land. It is estimated that in the course of thirty years (from 1863 to 1892) the nobility lost (i. e., sold more than they bought) land to the value of over six hundred million rubles. And merchants and honorary citizens have acquired land to the value of 250,000,000 rubles. Peasants, Cossacks, and “other rural inhabitants” (as our government calls the common folk, to distinguish them from the “gentry,” the “clean public”) have acquired land to the value of 300,000,000 rubles. Thus, on the average, every year, the peasants in the whole of Russia acquire land as private property to the value of 10,000,000 rubles.
And so, there are different sorts of peasants: some live in poverty and starvation; others grow rich. Consequently, the number of rich peasants who incline towards the landlords and will take the side of the rich against the workers is increasing. The rural poor who want to unite with the urban workers must carefully ponder over this and find out whether there are many rich peasants of this kind, how strong they are, and what kind of a union we need to fight this force. We have just mentioned the bad counsellors of the peasant. Those bad counsellors are fond of saying that the peasants already have such a union. That union is the mir, the village commune. The mir, they say, is a great force. The mir unites the peasants very closely; the organisation (i.e., the association, unity) of the peasants in the mir is colossal (i.e., enormous, boundless).
That is wrong. It is a tale. A tale invented by kind hearted people, but a tale nevertheless. If we listen to tales we shall only wreck our cause, the cause of uniting the rural poor with the urban workers. Let every rural inhabitant look round carefully: is the unity of the mir, is the peasant commune, at all like a union of the poor to fight all the rich, all those who live on the labour of others? No, it is not, and it cannot be. In every village, in every commune, there are many farm labourers, many impoverished peasants, and there are rich peasants who employ farm labourers and buy land “in perpetuity.” These rich peasants are also members of the commune, and it is they who lord it in the commune because they are a force. But do we need a union to which the rich belong, and which is lorded over by the rich? Of course not. We need a union to fight the rich. And so, the unity of the mir is no good to us at all.
What we need is a voluntary union, a union only of people who have realised that they must unite with the urban workers. The village commune, however, is not a voluntary union; it is enforced by the state. The village commune does not consist of people who work for the rich and who want to unite to fight the rich. The village commune consists of all sorts of people, not because they want to be in it, but because their parents lived on the same land and worked for the same landlord, because the authorities have registered them as members of that commune. The poor peasant are not free to leave the commune; they are not free to accept in the commune a man whom the police have registered in another volost, but whom we may need for our union in a particular village. No, we need a very different kind of union, a voluntary union consisting only of labourers and poor peasants to fight all those who live on the labour of others.
The times when the mir was a force have long passed, never to return. The mir was a force when hardly any of the peasants were farm labourers, or workers wandering over the length and breadth of Russia in search of a job, when there were hardly any rich peasants, when all were equally ground down by the feudal landlords. But now money has become the principal power. Members of the same commune will now fight one another for money like wild beasts. The moneyed peasants sometimes oppress and fleece their fellow peasants more than the landlords do. What we need today is not .the unity of the mir, but a union against the power of money, against the rule of capital, a union of all the rural labourers and of all the poor peasants of different communes, a union of all the rural poor with the urban workers to fight both the landlords and the rich peasants.
We have seen how strong the landlords are. We must now see whether there are many rich peasants and how strong they are.
We estimate the strength of the landlords by the size of their estates, by the amount of land they own. The landlords are free to dispose of their land, free to buy land and to sell it. That is why it is possible to judge their strength very accurately by the amount of land they own. The peas ants, however, still lack the right freely to dispose of their land; they are still semi-serfs, tied to their village commune. Hence, the strength of the rich peasants cannot be judged by the amount of allotment land they hold. The rich peasants do not grow rich on their allotments; they buy a considerable amount of land, buying both “in perpetuity” (i.e., as their private property) and “for a number of years” (i.e., on lease); they buy both from the landlords and from their fellow peasants, from those peasants who leave the land, or are compelled by want to let their holdings. It will therefore be more correct to divide the rich, middle, and poor peasants according to the number of horses they own. A peasant who owns many horses will nearly always be a rich peasant; if he keeps many draught animals it shows that he cultivates a lot of land, owns land besides his communal allotment, and has money saved up. Moreover, we are in a position to calculate the number of peasants owning many horses in the whole of Russia (European Russia, exclusive of Siberia and the Caucasus). Of course, it must not be forgotten that we can speak of the whole of Russia only in averages: the different uyezds and gubernias vary to a considerable degree. For instance, in the neighbourhood of cities we often find rich peasant farmers who keep very few horses. Some of them engage in market-gardening—a profitable business; others keep few horses but many cows and sell milk. In all parts of Russia there are also peasants who do not make money out of the land, but engage in trade: they run creameries, hulling-mills, and other enterprises. Everybody who lives in the country very well knows of rich peasants in his own village or district. But we want to know how many there are in the whole of Russia and how strong they are, so that the poor peasant shall not have to guess and go about blind fold, as it were, but know exactly his friends and his foes.
Well then, let us see whether there are many peasants who are rich or poor in horses. We have already said that the total number of peasant households in Russia is estimated at about ten million. Between them they now own, probably, about fifteen million horses (about fourteen years ago the number was seventeen million, but it is smaller now). Thus, on the average, every ten households have fifteen horses. But the whole point is that some of them—a few— own many horses, while others—very many—own no horses, or very few. There are at least three million peasants, who own no horses, and about three and a half million own one horse each. All these are either utterly ruined or very poor peasants. We call these the rural poor. They number six and a half million out of a total of ten million, that is to say, almost two-thirds! Next come the middle peasants who own a pair of draught animals each. These peasants number about two million households, owning about four million horses. Then come the rich peasants each of whom owns more than one pair of draught animals. Such comprise one and a half million households, but they own seven and a half million horses.Thus, about one-sixth of the total house holds own half the total number of horses.
Now that we know this we are in a position to judge fairly accurately the strength of the rich peasants. In number they are very few: in the different communes and volosts they will comprise ten to twenty households in every hundred. But these few households are the richest. Taking Russia as a whole, they own almost as many horses as all the other peasants taken together. That means that their land under crops must also amount to nearly half the total area sown to crops by the peasants. Such peasants harvest much more grain than they require for their families. They sell large quantities of grain. They grow grain not merely to feed themselves, but grow it chiefly for sale, to make money. Peasants like these can save money. They deposit it in savings-banks and banks. They buy land as property. We have already said how much land the peasants all over Russia buy every year; nearly all this land goes to these few rich peasants. The rural poor have to think not of buying land, but of getting enough to eat. Often they have not enough money to buy grain, let alone land. Therefore, the banks in general and the Peasants’ Bank in particular do not help all peasants to buy land (as is sometimes asserted by people who try to deceive the muzhik or by the very simple-minded), but only an insignificant number of peasants, only the rich peasants. Therefore, the peasant’s evil counsellors whom we have mentioned tell an untruth when they say that the land is being bought by the peasants, that it is passing from capital to labour. The land can never pass to labour, that is, to the poor working man, because land has to be paid for with money. But the poor never have any money to spare. The land can go only to the rich, moneyed peasants, to capital, to those people against whom the rural poor must fight in alliance with the urban workers.
The rich peasants not only buy land in perpetuity; most often they take land for a number of years, on lease. By renting large plots they prevent the rural poor from getting land. For example, it has been calculated how much land rich peasants have rented in a single uyezd (Konstantinograd) in Poltava Gubernia. And what do we find? The number who rented thirty dessiatines or more per house hold is very small, only two out of every fifteen households. But these rich peasants have gained possession of one half of all the rented land, and each of them has on the average seventy-five dessiatines of the rented land! Or take Taurida Gubernia, where a calculation has been made of how much of the land rented by the peasants from the state through the mir, through the village commune, has been grabbed by the rich. It has been found that the rich, who account for only one-fifth of the total number of households, have grabbed three-fourths of the rented land. Everywhere land goes to those who have money, and only the few rich have money.
Further, much land is now let by the peasants themselves. The peasants abandon their holdings because they have no livestock, no seed, nothing with which to run their farms. Today even land is of no use unless you have money. For instance, in Novouzensk Uyezd in Samara Gubernia, one, sometimes even two, out of every three rich peasant house holds rent allotment land in their own or in another commune. The allotments are let by those who have no horses, or only one horse. In Taurida Gubernia as much as one-third of all peasant households let their allotments. One-fourth of the peasant allotments, a quarter of a million dessiatines, are let. Of this quarter of a million dessiatines, one hundred and fifty thousand dessiatines (three-fifths) are rented by rich peasants! This, too, shows whether the unity of the mir, the commune, is of any use to the poor. In the village commune, he who has money has power. What we need is the unity of the poor of all communes.
Just as with land purchase, the peasants are deceived by talk about buying cheap ploughs, harvesters, and all sorts of improved implements. Zemstvo stores and artels are set up and it is said: improved implements will better the conditions of the peasantry. That is mere deception. All these improved implements always go to the rich; the poor get next to nothing. They cannot think of buying ploughs and harvesters; they have enough to do to keep body and soul together! All this sort of “helping the peasants” is nothing but helping the rich. As for the mass of the poor, who have neither land, livestock, nor reserves, they will not benefit by the fact that the better implements will be cheaper. Here is an example. In an uyezd in Samara Gubernia all the improved implements belonging to the poor and to the rich peasants have been taken stock of. It was found that one-fifth of all households, i.e., the most well-to-do, owned almost three-fourths of the improved implements, while the poor—half the households—had only one-thirtieth. Out of a total of 28,000 households, 10,000 possessed one horse each, or none; these 10,000 had only seven improved implements out of a total of 5,724 improved implements owned by all the peasant households in the uyezd. Seven out of 5,724—that is the share of the rural poor in all these farm improvements, in all this increase in the number of ploughs and harvesters which are supposed to help “all the peasantry”! That is what the rural poor must expect from those who talk about “improving peasant farming”!
Finally, one of the main features of the rich peasants is that they hire farm-hands and day labourers. Like the landlords, the rich peasants also live on the labour of others. Like the landlords, they grow rich because the mass of the peasants are ruined and pauperised. Like the landlords, they try to squeeze as much work as they can out of their farm-hands and to pay them as little as possible. If millions of peasants were not utterly ruined and compelled to go to work for others, become hired labourers, sell their labour-power—the rich peasants could not exist, could not carry on their farms. There would be no “abandoned” allotments for them to pick up and no labourers for them to hire. The million and a half rich peasants throughout Russia certainly hire no less than a million farm-hands and day labourers. Obviously, in the great struggle between the propertied class and the class of the propertyless, between masters and workers, between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, the rich peasants will take the side of the property-owners against the working class.
We now know the position and the strength of the rich peasantry. Let us examine the conditions of the rural poor.
We have already said that the rural poor comprise the vast majority, almost two-thirds, of the peasant households throughout Russia. To begin with, the number of households without horses cannot be less than three million—probably more than that today, perhaps three and a half million. Every famine year, every crop failure, ruins tens of thou sands of farms. The population grows, life on the land becomes more crowded, but all the best land has been grabbed by the landlords and the rich peasants. And so, every year more and more people are ruined, go to the towns and the factories, take work as farm-hands, or become unskilled labourers. A peasant who has no horse is one who has become quite poor. He is a proletarian. He gains a living (if you can call it living; it would be truer to say that he just contrives to keep body and soul together) not from the land, not from his farm, but by working for hire. He is brother to the town worker. Even land is of no use to the peasant without a horse: half the households without horses let their allotments, while some even surrender them to the commune for nothing (and sometimes even pay the difference between the taxes and the expected income from the land!) because they are not in a position to till their land. A peasant who has no horse sows one dessiatine, or two at the most. He always has to buy additional grain (if he has the money to buy it with)— his own crop will never suffice to feed him. Peasants who own one horse each, and there are about three and a half million such households throughout Russia, are not very much better off. Of course, there are exceptions, and we have already said that, here and there, there are peasants with one horse each who are doing middling well, or are even rich. But we are not speaking of exceptions, of individual localities, but of Russia as a whole. If we take the entire mass of peasants who have one horse each, there can be no doubt that they are a mass of paupers. Even in the agricultural gubernias the peasant who has one horse sows only three or four dessiatines, rarely five; his crop does not suffice either. Even in a good year his food is no better than that of a peasant without a horse—which means that he is always underfed, always starves. His farm is in decay, his livestock is poor and short of fodder, and he is not in a position to look after his land properly. The peasant who owns one horse—in Voronezh Gubernia, for instance—can afford to spend (not counting expenditure on fodder) not more than twenty rubles a year on the whole of his farm! (A rich peasant spends ten times as much.) Twenty rubles a year for rent, to buy livestock, repair his wooden plough and other implements, pay the shepherd, and for everything else! Do you call that farming? It is sheer misery, hard labour, endless drudgery. It is natural that some of the peasants with one horse each, and not a few, should also let their allotments. Even land is of little use to a pauper. He has no money and his land does not even provide him with enough to eat, let alone with money. But money is needed for everything: for food, for clothing, for the farm, and to pay taxes. In Voronezh Gubernia, a peasant who owns one horse usually has to pay about eighteen rubles a year in taxes alone, while he cannot make more than seventy-five rubles a year to meet all his expenses. Under these circumstances it is sheer mockery to talk about buying land, about improved implements, about agricultural banks: those things were not invented for the poor.
Where is the peasant to get the money from? He has to look for “earnings” on the side. A peasant who owns one horse, like the peasant who owns none, ekes out a living only with the help of “earnings.” But what does “earnings” mean? It means working for others, working for hire. It means that the peasant who owns one horse has half ceased to be an independent farmer and has become a hireling, a proletarian. That is why such peasants are called semi proletarians. They, too, are brothers to the town workers because they, too, are fleeced in every way by all sorts of employers. They, too, have no way out, no salvation, except by uniting with the Social-Democrats to fight all the rich, all the property-owners. Who works on the building of railways? Who is fleeced by the contractors? Who goes out lumbering and timber-floating? Who works as farm-hand? Or as day labourer? Who does the unskilled work in the towns and ports? It is always the rural poor, the peasants who have no horses or only one each. It is always the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians. And what vast numbers of these there are in Russia! It has been calculated that throughout Russia (exclusive of the Caucasus and Siberia) eight and sometimes even nine million passports are taken out yearly. Those are all for migratory workers. They are peasants only in name; actually, they are hirelings, wage-labourers. They must all unite in one union with the town workers—and every ray of light and knowledge that reaches the countryside will strengthen and consolidate this unity.
There is one more point about “earnings” that must not be forgotten. All kinds of officials and people who think as the officials do are fond of saying that the peasant, the muzhik, “needs” two things: land (but not very much of it— besides, he cannot get much, because the rich have grabbed it all!) and “earnings.” Therefore, they say, in order to help the people, it is necessary to introduce more trades in the rural districts, to “provide” more “earnings.” Such talk is sheer hypocrisy. For the poor, “earnings” mean wage-labour. To “provide earnings” for the peasant means transforming him into a wage-labourer. Fine sort of assistance this! For the rich peasants there are other kinds of “earnings,” which require capital, for instance, the building of a flour-mill or some other plant, the purchase of threshing-machines, trade, and so on. To confuse the earnings of moneyed people with the wage-labour of the poor means deceiving the poor. Of course, this deception is to the advantage of the rich; it is to their advantage to make it appear that all kinds of “earnings” are open to and within the reach of allthe peasants. But he who really cares for the welfare of the poor will tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
It remains for us to consider the middle peasants. We have already seen that, on the average, taking Russia as a whole, we must regard as a middle peasant one who has a pair of draught animals, and that out of a total of ten million households there are about two million middle peas ant households in the country. The middle peasant stands between the rich peasant and the proletarian, and that is why he is called a middle peasant. His standard of living, too, is middling: in a good year he makes ends meet on his farm, but poverty is always knocking at the door. He has either very few savings or none at all. That is why his farm is in a precarious position. He finds it hard to get money: only very seldom can he make as much money out of his farm as he needs, and if he does, it is just barely enough. To go out for earnings would mean neglecting the farm and everything would go to rack and ruin. Nevertheless, many of the middle peasants cannot get along with out earnings: they, too, have to hire themselves to others; want compels them to go into bondage to the landlord, to fall into debt. And once in debt the middle peasant is hardly ever able to get out of it, for unlike the rich peasant he has no steady income. Therefore, once he falls into debt it is as if he had put his neck in a halter. He remains a debtor until he is utterly ruined. It is chiefly the middle peasant who falls into bondage to the landlord, because for work paid on a job basis the landlord needs a peasant who is not ruined, one who owns a pair of horses and all implements required in farming. It is not easy for the middle peas ant to go elsewhere in search of earnings, so he goes into bondage to the landlord in return for grain, permission to use pasture land, the lease of the cut-off lands, and money advances during the winter. The middle peasant is hard pressed, not only by the landlord and the kulak, but also by his rich neighbour, who is always one jump ahead when he wants to acquire more land and never misses an opportunity to squeeze him in some way or other. Such is the life of the middle peasant; he is neither fish nor fowl. He can be neither a real master nor a worker. All the middle peasants strive to become masters: they want to be property-owners, but very few succeed. There are a few, a very few, who even hire farm-hands or day labourers, try to become rich on the labour of others, to rise to wealth on the backs of others. But most middle peasants have no money to hire labourers— in fact, they have to hire themselves out.
Wherever a struggle begins between the rich and the poor, between the property-owners and the workers, the middle peasant remains in between, not knowing which side to take. The rich call him to their side: you, too, are a master, a man of property, they say to him, you have nothing to do with the penniless workers. But the workers say: the rich will cheat and fleece you, and there is no other salvation for you but to help us in our fight against all the rich. This struggle for the middle peasant is going on everywhere, in all countries, wherever the Social-Democratic workers are fighting to emancipate the working people. In Russia the struggle is just beginning. That is why we must most care fully study the matter and understand clearly the deceits the rich resort to in order to win over the middle peasant; we must learn how to expose these deceits and help the middle peasant to find his real friends. If the Russian Social-Democratic workers at once take the right road, we shall establish a firm alliance between the rural workers and the urban workers more quickly than our comrades, the German workers, and we shall speedily achieve victory over all the enemies of the working people.
What Path Should the Middle Peasant Take? Should He Take the Side of the Property-Owners and the Rich or the Side of the Workers and the Poor?
All property-owners, the entire bourgeoisie, try to win over the middle peasant by promising him all sorts of ways to improve his farm (cheap ploughs, agricultural banks, the introduction of grass sowing, cheap livestock and fertilisers, and so on) and also by inducing the peasant to join all sorts of agricultural societies (co-operatives, as they are called in books) which unite all kinds of farmers with the object of improving farming methods. In this way the bourgeoisie try to keep the middle and even the small peasant, even the semi-proletarian, from uniting with the workers, and try to induce them to side with the rich, with the bourgeoisie, in their fight against the workers, the proletariat.
To this the Social-Democratic workers reply: improved farming is an excellent thing. There is no harm in buying cheaper ploughs; nowadays even a merchant, if he is not a fool, tries to sell more cheaply to attract customers. But when a poor or a middle peasant is told that improved farming and cheaper ploughs will help all of them to escape from poverty and to get on their feet, without touching the rich, this is deception. All these improvements, lower prices, and co-operatives (societies for the sale and purchase of goods) benefit the rich far more than anybody else. The rich grow stronger and oppress the poor and middle peasants more and more. As long as the rich remain rich, as long as they own most of the land, livestock, implements, and money—as long as all this lasts, not only the poor but even the middle peasants will never be able to escape from want. One or two middle peasants may be able to climb into the ranks of the rich with the aid of all these improvements and co-operatives, but the people as a whole, and all the middle peasants, will sink deeper and deeper into poverty. For all middle peasants to become rich, the rich themselves must be turned out, and they can be turned out only if the urban workers and the rural poor are united.
The bourgeoisie say to the middle (and even to the small) peasant: we will sell you land at a low price, and ploughs at a low price, but in return you must sell yourselves to us and give up fighting all the rich.
The Social-Democratic worker says: if you are really offered goods at a low price, why not buy them, if you have the money; that is sound business. But you should never sell yourselves. To give up the fight in alliance with the urban workers against the entire bourgeoisie would mean remaining in poverty and want for ever. If goods become cheaper, the rich will gain still more and become richer. But those who never have money to spare will gain nothing from cheaper goods until they take that money from the bourgeoisie.
Let us take an example. Those who support the bourgeoisie make much ado about all sorts of co-operatives (societies for buying cheap and selling profitably). There are even people who call themselves “Socialist-Revolutionaries,” who, echoing the bourgeoisie, also talk loudly about the peasant needing nothing so much as co-operatives. All sorts of co-operatives are beginning to spring up in Russia, too, although there are still very few of them here, and there will not be many until we enjoy political liberty. Take Germany: there the peasants have many co-operatives of all kinds. But see who gains most from these co-operatives. In all Germany, 140,000 farmers belong to societies for the sale of milk and dairy products, and these 140,000 farmers (we again take round figures for the sake of simplicity) own 1400,000 cows. It is calculated that there are four million poor peasants in Germany. Of these, only 40,000 belong to co-operatives: thus, only one out of every hundred poor peasants enjoys the benefits of these co-operatives. These 40,000 poor peasants own only 100,000 cows in all. Further, the middle farmers, the middle peasants, number one million; of these, 50,000 belong to co-operatives (that is to say, five out of every hundred) and they own a total of 200,000 cows. Finally, the rich farmers (i.e., both land lords and rich peasants) number one-third of a million; of these, 50,000 belong to co-operatives (that is to say, seven teen out of every hundred!) and they own 800,000 cows!
That is whom the co-operatives help first and foremost. That is how the peasant is deceived by those people who talk loudly about saving the middle peasant by means such societies for buying cheap and selling profitably. It is, indeed, at a very low price that the bourgeoisie want to “buy off” the peasant from the Social-Democrats, who call upon both the poor and the middle peasant to join them.
In our country, too, co-operative cheese dairies and amalgamated dairies are beginning to be formed. In our country, too, there are plenty of people who shout: artels, the mir, and co-operatives—that is what the peasant needs. But see who gains by these artels, co-operatives, and renting by the mir. Out of every hundred households in our country, at least twenty own no cows at all; thirty own only one cow each: these sell milk from dire need, their own children have to go without milk, starve, and die off like flies. The rich peasants, however, own three, four and more cows each, and these rich peasants own half the total number of cows owned by peasants. Who, then, gains from co-operative cheese dairies? Obviously, the landlords and the peasant bourgeoisie gain first of all. Obviously, it is to their advantage that the middle peasants and the poor should follow in their wake and that they should believe that the means of escaping from want is not the struggle of all the workers against the entire bourgeoisie, but the striving of individual small farmers to climb out of their present position and get into the ranks of the rich.
This striving is fostered and encouraged in every way by all the champions of the bourgeoisie, who pretend to be the champions and friends of the small peasant. And many simple-minded people fail to see the wolf in sheep’s clothing, and repeat this bourgeois deception in the belief that they are helping the poor and middle peasants. For instance, they argue in books and in speeches that small-scale farming is the most profitable, most remunerative form of farming, that small-scale farming is flourishing, and that Is why, they say, there are so many small producers in agriculture everywhere, and why they cling to their land (and not because all the best lands are owned by the bourgeoisie, and all the money, too, while the poor have to live in drudgery all their lives crowded on tiny patches of land!). The small peasant does not need much money, these smooth tongued people say; the small and the middle peasants are more thrifty and more industrious than the big farmers, and know how to live a simpler life; instead of buying hay for their cattle, they are content to feed them on straw. Instead of buying an expensive machine, they get up earlier and toil longer and do as much as a machine does; instead of paying money to strangers for doing repairs, the peasant himself takes his hatchet on a Sunday and does a bit of carpentry—and that is much cheaper than the way a big farmer goes about it; instead of feeding an expensive horse or an ox, he uses his cow for ploughing. In Germany all the poor peasants use cows to haul their ploughs, and in our country, too, the people have become so impoverished that they are beginning to use not only cows, but men and women to pull ploughs! How profitable, how cheap all this is! How praiseworthy of the middle and small peasants to be so industrious, so diligent, to live such simple lives, and not to waste their time on nonsense, not to think of socialism, but only of their farms, not to strive towards the workers who organise strikes against the bourgeoisie, but towards the rich and try to join the ranks of respectable folk! If only all were so industrious and so diligent, and lived frugally, and did not drink, and saved more money, and spent less on calico, and had fewer children—all would be happy and there would be no poverty and no want!
Such are the sweet songs the bourgeoisie sings to the middle peasant, and there are simpletons who believe these songs and repeat them! Actually, all these honeyed words are nothing but deceit and mockery of the peasant. What these smooth-tongued people call cheap and profitable farming is the want, the dire need, which forces the middle and small peasant to work from morning till night, to begrudge himself a crust of bread, to grudge every penny he spends. Of course, what can be “cheaper” and “more profitable” than to wear the same pair of trousers for three years, go about barefoot in summer, repair one’s wooden plough with a piece of rope, and feed one’s cow on rotten straw from the roof! Put a bourgeois or a rich peasant on such a “cheap” and “profitable” farm, and he will soon forget all this honeyed talk!
The people who extol small-scale farming sometimes want to help the peasant, but actually they only do him harm. With their honeyed words they deceive the peasant in the same way as people are deceived by a lottery. I shall tell you what a lottery is. Let us suppose I have a cow, worth 50 rubles. I want to sell the cow by means of a lottery, so I offer everyone tickets at a ruble each. Everyone has a chance of getting the cow for one ruble! People are tempted and the rubles pour in. When I have collected a hundred rubles I proceed to draw the lottery: the one whose ticket is drawn gets the cow for a ruble, the others get nothing. Was the cow “cheap” for the people? No, it was very dear, because the total money they paid was double the value of the cow, because two persons (the one who ran the lottery and the one who won the cow) gained without doing any work, and gained at the expense of the ninety-nine who lost their money. Thus, those who say that lotteries are advantageous to the people are simply practising deceit on the people. Those who promise to deliver the peasants from poverty and want by means of co-operatives of every kind (societies for buying cheap and selling profitably), improved farming, banks, and all that sort of thing, are deceiving them in exactly the same way. Just as in a lottery where there is one winner and all the rest are losers, so it is with these things: one middle peasant may manage to get rich, but ninety-nine of his fellow peasants bend their backs all their lives, never escape from want, and even sink more deeply into poverty. Let every villager examine his commune and the whole district a little more closely: are there many middle peasants who become rich and forget want? And how many are there who can never rid themselves of want? How many are ruined and leave their villages? As we have seen, it has been calculated that in the whole of Russia there are not more than two million middle peasant farms. Suppose there were ten times as many societies of all kinds for buying cheap and selling profitably as there are now. What would the result be? It would be a big figure if a hundred thousand middle peasants succeeded in raising themselves to the level of the rich. What would that mean? It would mean that out of every hundred middle peasants, five would become rich. But what about the other ninety-five? They would be in the same straits as ever, and many of them would be in even greater difficulties I And the poor would only be Impoverished all the more!
Of course, the bourgeoisie want nothing more than that the largest possible number of middle and small peasants should strive to get rich, believe in the possibility of escaping from poverty without fighting the bourgeoisie, place their hopes in diligence and frugality and in becoming rich, and not in uniting with the rural and urban workers. The bourgeoisie do all they can to foster this deceptive faith and hope in the peasant, and try to lull him with honeyed words.
To expose the deception practised by these smooth-tongued people it is sufficient to ask them three questions.
Question one: can the working people rid themselves of want and poverty when, in Russia, a hundred million dessiatines out of two hundred and forty million dessiatines of arable land belong to private landowners? When sixteen thousand very big landowners possess sixty-five million dessiatines?
Question two: can the working people rid themselves of want and poverty when one and a half million rich peasant households (out of a total of ten million) have concentrated in their hands half of all peasants’ land under crops, half the total number of horses and livestock owned by peasants, and much more than half the total peasant stocks and savings? When this peasant bourgeoisie is growing richer and richer, oppressing the poor and middle peasants, making money out of the labour of others, of the farm-hands and day labourers? When six and a half million households consist of poor peasants, destitute, always starving, and reduced to winning a miserable crust of bread by all kinds of wage-labour?
Question three: can the working people rid themselves of want and poverty when money has become the ruling power, when everything can be bought for money—factories and land, and even men and women can be bought to serve as wage-workers, wage-slaves? When no one can live or run a farm without money? When the small farmer, the poor peasant, has to wage a struggle against the big farmer to get money? When a few thousand landlords, merchants, factory owners, and bankers have concentrated in their hands hundreds of millions of rubles, and, moreover, control all the banks, where thousands of millions of rubles are deposited?
No honeyed words about the advantages of small-scale farming or of co-operatives will enable you to evade these questions. To these questions there can be only one answer: the real “co-operation” that can save the working people is the union of the rural poor with the Social-Democratic workers in the towns to fight the entire bourgeoisie. The faster this union grows and becomes strong, the sooner will the middle peasant realise that the promises of the bourgeoisie are all lies, and the sooner will the middle peasant come over to our side.
The bourgeoisie know this, and that is why, in addition to honeyed words, they spread all sorts of lies about the Social-Democrats. They say that the Social-Democrats want to deprive the middle and small peasants of their property. That is a lie. The Social-Democrats want to deprive of their property only the big proprietors, only those who live on the labour of others. The Social-Democrats will never take away the property of the small and middle farmers who do not hire labourers. The Social-Democrats defend and champion the interests of all the working people, not only the interests of the urban workers, who are more class-conscious and more united than the others, but also of the agricultural workers, and of those small artisans and peasants who do not hire workers, do not strive towards the rich, and do not go over to the side of the bourgeoisie. The Social-Democrats are fighting for all improvements in the conditions of the workers and peasants which can be introduced immediately, when we have not yet destroyed the rule of the bourgeoisie, and which will help them in the struggle against the bourgeoisie. But the Social-Democrats do not deceive the peasant; they tell him the whole truth, plainly tell him in advance that no improvements will rid the people of want and poverty as long as the bourgeoisie is in power. To enable all the people to know what the Social-Democrats are and what they want, the Social-Democrats have drawn up a programme. A programme is a brief, clear, and precise statement of all the things a party is striving and fighting for. The Social-Democratic Party is the only party that advances a clear and precise programme for all the people to know and see, and for the party to consist only of people who really want to fight for the emancipation of all the working people from the yoke of the bourgeoisie, and who properly understand who must unite for this fight and how the fight must be conducted. Furthermore, the Social-Democrats believe that they must explain in their programme, in a direct, frank, and precise way, the causes of the poverty and want among the working people, and why the unity of the workers is becoming wider and stronger. It is not enough to say that life is hard and to call for revolt; every tub-thumper can do that, but it is of little use. The working people must clearly under stand whythey are living in such poverty and with whom they must unite in order to fight to liberate themselves from want.
We have already stated what the Social-Democrats want; we have explained the causes of the working people’s want and poverty; we have indicated whom the rural poor must fight and with whom they must unite for this fight.
We shall now explain what improvements we can win at once by fighting for them, improvements in the lives of the workers and in the lives of the peasants.
What Improvements are the Social-Democrats Striving to Obtain for the Whole People and for the Workers?
The Social-Democrats are fighting for the liberation of all the working people from all robbery, oppression, and in justice. To become free the working class must first of all become united. And to become united it must have freedom to unite, have the right to unite, have political liberty. We have already said that autocratic government means enslavement of the people by the officials and the police. Political liberty is therefore needed by the whole people, except a handful of courtiers and a few money-bags and high dignitaries who are received at Court. But most of all, political liberty is needed by the workers and the peasants. The rich can escape the self-will and the tyranny of officials and the police by buying them off. The rich can make their complaints heard in the highest places. That is why the police and the officials take much fewer liberties with the rich than with the poor. The workers and the peasants have no money to buy off the police or the officials; they have no one to complain to and are not in a position to sue them in court. The workers and the peasants will never rid themselves of the extortions, tyranny, and insults of the police and the officials as long as there is no elective government, as long as there is no national assembly of deputies. Only such a national assembly of deputies can free the people from enslavement by the officials. Every intelligent peasant must support the Social-Democrats, who first and foremost demand of the tsarist government the convocation of a national assembly of deputies. The deputies must be elected by all, irrespective of social-estate, irrespective of wealth or poverty. The elections must be free, without any interference on the part of the officials; they must be carried out under the supervision of such that enjoy the people’s confidence, and not of police officers or the rural superintendents. Under such conditions, deputies representing the entire people will be able to discuss all the needs of the people, and introduce a better state of affairs in Russia.
The Social-Democrats demand that the police be deprived of the power to imprison anyone without trial. Officials must be severely punished for arbitrarily arresting anyone. To put an end to their self-assumed power, they must be chosen by the people, and everyone must have the right to lodge a complaint against any official directly in a court. What is the use of complaining to the rural superintendent about a police officer, or to the governor about the rural superintendent? The rural superintendent will, of course, always protect the police officer and the governor will always protect the rural superintendent, while the complainant will get into trouble. He runs a fair chance of being put into prison or deported to Siberia. The officials will be curbed only. when everyone in Russia (as in all other countries) has the right to complain both to the national assembly and to the elected courts, and to speak freely of his needs, to write about them in the newspapers.
The Russian people are still in feudal dependence upon the officials. Without permission from the officials the people cannot call meetings, or get books and newspapers printed. Is that not feudal dependence? If meetings cannot be freely called, or books freely printed, how can one obtain redress against the officials, or against the rich? Of course, the officials suppress every book, every utterance that tells the truth about the people’s poverty. The present pamphlet, too, has to be printed by the Social-Democratic Party secretly and circulated secretly: anyone who is found in possession of this pamphlet will make the acquaintance of courts and prisons. But the Social-Democratic workers are not afraid of this: they print more and more, and give the people more and more truthful books to read. And no prisons, no persecution can halt the fight for the people’s freedom!
The Social-Democrats demand that the social-estates be abolished, and that all the citizens of the state enjoy exactly the same rights. Today the social-estates are divided into tax-paying and non-tax-paying, into privileged and non-privileged; we have blue blood and common blood; even the birch has been retained for the common people. In no other country are the workers and peasants in such a position of inferiority. In no country except Russia are there different laws for different social-estates. It is time the Russian people, too, demanded that every muzhik should possess all the rights possessed by the nobility. Is it not a disgrace that the birch should still be used and that a tax paying social-estate should be in existence more than forty years after the abolition of serfdom?
The Social-Democrats demand that the people shall have complete freedom of movement and occupation. What does freedom of movement mean? It means that the peasant should be free to go wherever he pleases, to move to whatever place he wants to, to live in any village or town he chooses with out having to ask for permission from anyone. It means that passports should be abolished in Russia too (in other countries passports were abolished long ago), that no local police officer or rural superintendent should dare to hinder any peasant from settling or working wherever he pleases. The Russian peasant is still so much the serf of the officials that he is not free to move to a town, or to settle in a new district. The minister issues orders that the governors should not allow unauthorised settlement! A governor knows better than the peasant what place is good for the peasant! The peas ant is a little child and must not move without permission of the authorities! Is that not feudal dependence? Is it not an insult to the people when any profligate nobleman is allowed to lord it over grown-up farmers?
There is a book called Crop Failure and the Distress of the People (famine), written by the present “Minister of Agriculture” Mr. Yermolov. This book says in so many words: the peasant must not change residence as long as their worships the landlords need hands. The minister says this quite openly, without the least embarrassment: he thinks the peas ant will not hear what he is saying and will not understand. Why allow people to go away when the landlords need cheap labour? The more crowded the people are on the land the more that is to the landlords’ advantage; the poorer the peasants are, the more cheaply can they be hired and the more meekly will they submit to oppression of every kind. Formerly, the bailiffs looked after the landlord’s interests, now the rural superintendents and governors do that. Formerly, the bailiffs ordered the flogging of peasants in the stables; now the rural superintendent in the volost administration office orders the flogging.
The Social-Democrats demand that the standing army be abolished and that a militia be established in its stead, that all the people be armed. A standing army is an army that is divorced from the people and trained to shoot down the people. If the soldier were not locked up for years in barracks and inhumanly drilled there, would he ever agree to shoot down his brothers, the workers and the peasants? Would he go against the starving peasants? A standing army is not needed in the least to protect the country from attack by an enemy; a people’s militia is sufficient. If every citizen is armed, Russia need fear no enemy. And the people would be relieved of the yoke of the military clique. The upkeep of this clique costs hundreds of millions of rubles a year, and all this money is collected from the people; that is why the taxes are so heavy and why it becomes increasingly difficult to live. The military clique still further increases the power of the officials and police over the people. This clique is needed to plunder foreign peoples, for instance, to take the land from the Chinese. This does not ease but, on the contrary, increases the people’s burden because of greater taxation. The substitution of the armed nation for the standing army would enormously ease the burden of all the workers and all the peasants.
Similarly, the abolition of indirect taxation, which the Social-Democrats demand, would be an enormous relief. Indirect taxes are such taxes that are not imposed directly on land or on a house but are paid by the people indirectly, in the form of higher prices for what they buy. The state imposes taxes on sugar, vodka, kerosene, matches, and all sorts of articles of consumption; these taxes are paid to the Treasury by the merchant or by the manufacturer, but, of course, he does not pay it out of his own pocket, but out of the money his customers pay him. The price of vodka, sugar, kerosene, and matches goes up, and every purchaser of a bottle of vodka or of a pound of sugar has to pay the tax in addition to the price of the goods. For instance, if, say, you pay fourteen kopeks for a pound of sugar, four kopeks (approximately) constitute the tax: the sugar-manufacturer has already paid the tax to the Treasury and is now exacting from every customer the sum he has paid. Thus, indirect taxes are taxes on articles of consumption, taxes which are paid by the purchaser in the form of higher prices for the articles he buys. It is sometimes said that indirect taxation is the fairest form of taxation: you pay according to the amount you buy. But this is not true. Indirect taxation is the most unfair form of taxation, because it is harder for the poor to pay indirect taxes than it is for the rich. The rich many s income is ten times or even a hundred times as large as that of the peasant or worker. But does the rich man need a hundred times as much sugar? Or ten times as much vodka, or matches, or kerosene? Of course not! A rich family will buy twice, at most, three times as much kerosene, vodka, or sugar as a poor family. But that means that the rich man will pay a smaller part of his income in taxes than the poor man. Let us suppose that the poor peasant’s income is two hundred rubles a year; let us suppose he buys sixty rubles’ worth of such goods as are taxed and which are consequently dearer (the tax on sugar, matches, kerosene, is an excise duty, i.e., the manufacturer pays the duty before placing the goods on the market; in the case of vodka, a state monopoly, the State simply raises the price; cotton goods, iron and other goods have risen in price because cheap foreign goods are not admitted into Russia unless a heavy duty is paid on them). Of these sixty rubles twenty rubles will constitute the tax. Thus, out of every ruble of his income the poor peas ant will pay ten kopeks in indirect taxes (exclusive of direct taxes, land redemption payments, quit-rent, land tax, Zemstvo, volost and mir taxes). The rich peasant has an income of one thousand rubles; he will buy one hundred and fifty rubles’ worth of taxed goods and pay fifty rubles in taxes (included in the one hundred and fifty rubles). Thus, out of every ruble of his income the rich peasant will pay only five kopeks in indirect taxes. The richer the man, the smaller Is the share of his income that he pays in indirect taxes. That is why indirect taxation is the most unfair form of taxation. Indirect taxes are taxes on the poor. The peas ants and workers together form nine-tenths of the population and pay nine-tenths or eight-tenths of the total indirect taxation. And, in all probability, the income of the peasants and workers amounts to no more than four-tenths of the whole national income! And so, the Social-Democrats demand the abolition of indirect taxation and the introduction of a progressive tax on incomes and inheritances. That means that the higher the income the higher the tax. Those who have an income of a thousand rubles must pay one kopek in the ruble; if the income is two thousand, two kopeks in the ruble must be paid, and so on. The smallest incomes (let us say incomes of under four hundred rubles) do not pay anything at all. The richest pay the highest taxes. Such a tax, an income-tax, or more exactly, a progressive income-tax, would be much fairer than indirect taxes. And that is why the Social-Democrats are striving to secure the abolition of indirect taxation and the introduction of a progressive income-tax. Of course, all the property-owners, all the bourgeoisie, object to this measure and resist it. Only through a firm alliance between the rural poor and the urban workers can this improvement be won from the bourgeoisie.
Finally, the free education of children, which the Social-Democrats demand, would be a very important improvement for the whole of the people, and for the rural poor in particular. Today there are far fewer schools in the country side than in the towns, and everywhere it is only the rich classes, only the bourgeoisie, who are in a position to give their children a good education. Only free and compulsory education for all children can get the people, at least to some extent, out of their present state of ignorance. The rural poor suffer most from this ignorance and stand in particular need of education. But, of course, we need real, free education, and not the sort the officials and the priests want to give.
The Social-Democrats further demand that everybody shall have full and unrestricted right to profess any religion he pleases. Of the European countries Russia and Turkey are the only ones which have retained shameful laws against persons belonging to any other faith than the Orthodox, laws against schismatics, sectarians, and Jews. These laws either totally ban a certain religion, or prohibit its propagation, or deprive those who belong to it of certain rights. All these laws are as unjust, as arbitrary and as disgraceful as can be. Everybody must be perfectly free, not only to profess whatever religion he pleases, but also to spread or change his religion. No official should have the right even to ask anyone about his religion: that is a matter for each person’s conscience and no one has any right to interfere. There should be no“established” religion or church. All religions and all churches should have equal status in law. The clergy of the various religions should be paid salaries by those who belong to their religions, but the state should not use state money to support any religion whatever, should not grant money to maintain any clergy, Orthodox, schismatic, sectarian, or any other. That is what the Social-Democrats are fighting for, and until these measures are carried out without any reservation and without any subterfuge, the people will not be freed from the disgraceful police persecution of religion, or from the no less disgraceful police hand-outs to any one of those religions.
We have seen what improvements the Social-Democrats are out to achieve for all the people, and especially for the poor. Now let us see what improvements they strive to achieve for the workers; not only for factory and urban workers, but for agricultural workers too. The factory workers live in more cramped conditions; they work in large workshops, so it is easier for them to avail themselves of the assistance of educated Social-Democrats. For all these reasons the urban workers started the struggle against the employers much earlier than the others and have achieved more considerable improvements; they have also obtained the passing of factory laws. But the Social-Democrats are fighting for the extension of these improvements to all the workers: to handicraftsmen both in town and country, who work for employers at home; to the wage-workers employed by petty masters and artisans; to workers in the building trades (carpenters, bricklayers, etc.); to lumbermen and unskilled labourers, and also the agricultural labourers. All over Russia, all these workers are now beginning to unite, following the example of, and aided by, the factory workers, to unite for the struggle for better conditions of life, for a shorter working day, for higher wages. And the Social-Democratic Party has set itself the task of supporting all workers in their struggle for a better life, of helping them to organise (to unite) the most resolute and reliable workers in strong unions, of helping them by circulating pamphlets and leaflets, by sending experienced workers to those new to the movement, and in general helping all the workers in every possible way. When we have won political liberty, we shall have our people in a national assembly of deputies, worker deputies, Social-Democrats, and, like their comrades in other countries, they will demand laws for the benefit of the workers.
We shall not enumerate here all the improvements the Social-Democratic Party is striving to obtain for the workers: they have been set out in our programme and explained in detail in the pamphlet, The Workers’ Cause in Russia. Here it will be sufficient to mention the most important of those improvements. The, working day must not be longer than eight hours. One day a week must always be a day of rest. Overtime must be absolutely banned, and so must night-work. Children up to the age of sixteen must he given free education and, consequently, must not be allowed to work for hire until that age. Women must not work in trades injurious to their health. The employer must compensate the workers for all injury caused during work, for example, for injury caused when working on threshing-machines, winnowing-machines, and so forth. All wage-workers must always be paid weekly, and not once in two months or once in a quarter as is often the case with agricultural labourers. It is very important for the workers to be paid regularly every week and, moreover, to be paid in cash, and not in goods. Employers are very fond of making the workers accept all sorts of worthless goods at exorbitant prices in payment of wages; to put an end to this disgraceful practice. the payment of wages in goods must be absolutely prohibited by law. Further, aged workers must receive state pensions. By their labour the workers maintain all the rich classes, and the whole state, and that gives them as much right to pensions as government officials, who get pensions. To prevent employers from taking advantage of their position to disregard regulations introduced to protect the workers, inspectors must be appointed to supervise, not only the factories, but also the big landlord farms and, in general, all enterprises where wage-labour is employed. But those inspectors must not be government officials, or be appoint ed by ministers or governors, or be in the service of the police. The inspectors must be elected by the workers; the state must pay salaries to persons who enjoy the confidence of the workers and whom they have freely elected. These elected deputies of the workers must also see to it that the workers’ dwellings are kept in proper condition, that the employers dare not compel the workers to live in what is like pigsties or in mud huts (as is often the case with agricultural labourers), that the rules concerning the workers’ rest are observed, and so on. It must not be forgotten, however, that no elected workers’ deputies will be of any use as long as there is no political liberty, as long as the police are all-powerful, and are not responsible to the people. Everyone knows that at present the police will arrest without trial, not only workers’ deputies but any worker who will dare speak in the name of all his fellow workers, expose breaches of the law, or call on the workers to unite. But when we have political liberty, the workers’ deputies will be of very great use.
All employers (factory owners, landlords, contractors, and rich peasants) should be absolutely forbidden to make any arbitrary deductions from the wages of their workers, for example, deductions for defective goods, deductions in the form of fines, etc. It is unlawful and tyrannical for employers arbitrarily to make deductions from workers’ wages. The employer must not reduce a worker’s wage by means of any deductions, or in any way whatsoever. The employer should not be allowed to pass and execute judgement (a fine sort of judge, who pockets the deductions from the worker’s wages!); he should appeal to a proper court, and this court must consist of deputies elected by the workers and the employers in equal numbers. Only such a court will be able to judge fairly all the grievances of the employers against the workers and of the workers against the employers.
Such are the improvements the Social-Democrats are striving to obtain for the whole of the working class. The workers on every landed estate, on every farm, in the employ of every contractor, must meet and discuss with trustworthy persons what improvements they must strive to obtain and what demands they should advance (for the demands of the workers will, of course, be different at different factories, on different estates, and with different con tractors).
All over Russia Social-Democratic committees are helping the workers to formulate their demands in a clear and precise way, and are helping them to issue printed leaflets where these demands are set out, so that they may be known to all workers, and to the employers and the authorities. When the workers unite as one man in support of their demands, the employers always have to give way and agree to them. In the towns the workers have already obtained many improvements in this way, and now handicraftsmen, artisans, and agricultural labourers are also beginning to unite (to organise) and fight for their demands. As long as we have no political liberty, we carry on the fight in secret, hiding from the police, who prohibit the publication of all leaflets and associations of workers. But when we have won political liberty, we shall carry on the fight on a wider scale and openly, so that working people all over Russia may unite and defend themselves more vigorously from oppression. The larger the number of workers who unite in the workers’ Social-Democratic Party, the stronger will they be, the sooner will they be able to achieve the complete emancipation of the working class from all oppression, from all wage-labour, from all toil for the benefit of the bourgeoisie.
We have already said that the Social-Democratic Labour Party is striving to obtain improvements, not only for the workers, but also for all the peasants. Now let us see what improvements it is striving to obtain for all the peasants.
What Improvements are the Social-Democrats Striving to Obtain for all the Peasants?
To secure the complete emancipation of all working people, the rural poor must, in alliance with the urban workers, wage a fight against the whole of the bourgeoisie, including the rich peasants. The rich peasants will strive to pay their farm labourers as little as possible and make them work as long and as hard as possible; but the workers in town and countryside will try to secure better wages, better conditions, and regular rest periods for farm labourers working for the rich peasants. That means that the rural poor must form their own unions apart from the rich peasants. We have already said this, and we shall always repeat it.
But in Russia, all peasants, rich and poor, are still serfs in many respects; they are an inferior, “black,” tax-paying social-estate; they are all serfs of the police officers and rural superintendents; very often they have to work for the land lord in payment for the use of the cut-off lands, watering places, pastures or meadows, just as they worked for the feudal lord under the serf-owning system. All the peasants want to be free of this new serfdom; all of them want to have full rights; all of them hate the landlords, who still compel them to perform serf labour, to pay “labour rent” for the use of the gentry’s land and pastures, watering places and meadows, to work also “for damage” done by straying cattle and to send their womenfolk to reap the landlord’s field merely “for the honour of it.” All this labour rent for the landlord is a heavier burden for the poor peasants than for the rich peasants. The rich peasant is sometimes able to pay the landlord money in lieu of this work, but as a rule even the rich peasant is badly squeezed by the landlord. Hence, the rural poor must fight side by side with the rich peasants against their lack of rights, against every kind of serf labour, against every kind of labour rent. We shall be able to abolish all bondage, all poverty only when we defeat the bourgeoisie as a whole (including the rich peasants). But there are forms of bondage which we can abolishbefore that time, because even the rich peasant suffers badly from them. There are many localities and many districts in Russia where very often all the peasants are still quite like serfs. That is why all Russian workers and all the rural poor must fight with both hands and on two sides: with one hand—fight against all the bourgeois, in alliance with all the workers; and with the other hand—fight against the rural officials, against the feudal landlords, in alliance with all the peasants. If the rural poor do not form their own union separately from the rich peasants they will be deceived by the rich peasants, who will become landlords themselves, while the landless poor will not only remain poor and without land but will not even be granted freedom to unite. If the rural poor do not fight side by side with the rich peasants against feudal bondage, they will remain fettered and tied down to one place, neither will they gain full freedom to unite with the urban workers.
The rural poor must first strike at the landlords and throw off at least the most vicious and most pernicious forms of feudal bondage; in this fight many of the rich peasants and adherents of the bourgeoisie will also take the side of the poor, because everybody is disgusted with the arrogance of the landlords. But as soon as we have curtailed the power of the landlords, the rich peasant will at once reveal his true character and stretch out greedy hands to grab everything; these are rapacious hands and they have already grabbed a great deal. Hence, we must be on our guard and form a strong, indestructible alliance with the urban workers. The urban workers will help to knock the old aristocratic habits out of the landlords and also tame the rich peasants a bit (as they have already somewhat tamed their own bosses, the factory owners). Without an alliance with the urban workers the rural poor will never rid them selves of all forms of bondage, want, and poverty; except for the urban workers, there is no one to help the rural poor, and they can count on no one but themselves. But there are improvements which we can obtain earlier, which we can obtain immediately, at the very outset of this great struggle. There are many forms of bondage in Russia which have long ceased to exist in other countries, and it is from this bondage imposed by the officials and landlords, this feudal bondage, that the Russian peasantry as a whole can free itself immediately.
Let us now see what improvements the workers’ Social-Democratic Party is striving first of all to obtain so as to free the Russian peasantry as a whole from at least the most vicious forms of feudal bondage, and so as to untie the hands of the rural poor for their struggle against the Russian bourgeoisie as a whole.
The first demand of the workers’ Social-Democratic Party is the immediate abolition of all land redemption payments, all quit-rent, and all the dues imposed upon the “tax-paying” peasantry. When the committees of nobles and the Russian tsar’s government, consisting of nobles, “emancipated” the peasants from serfdom, the peasants were compelled to buy out their own land, to buy out the land which they had tilled for generations! That was robbery.The committees of nobles, assisted by the tsarist government, simply robbed the peasants. The tsarist government sent troops to many places to impose the title-deeds upon the peasants by force, to take military punitive measures against the peasants, who were unwilling to accept the curtailed “pauper” allotments. Without the help of the troops, without brutality and shootings, the committees of nobles would never have been able to rob the peasants in the brazen way they did at the time of the emancipation from serfdom. The peasants must always remember how they were cheated and robbed by those committees of land-owning nobles, because even today the tsarist government always appoints committees of nobles or officials whenever it is a question of passing new laws concerning the peasants. The tsar recently issued a manifesto (February 26, i903), in which he promises to revise and improve the laws concerning the peasants. Who will do the revising? Who will do the improving? Again the nobility, again the officials! The peasants will always be defrauded until they secure the setting up of peasant committees for the purpose of improving their conditions of life. It is time to put a stop to the landlords, rural superintendents, and all kinds of officials lording it over the peasants! It is time to put a stop to this feudal dependence of the peasant upon every police officer, upon every drink-sodden scion of the nobility who is called a rural superintendent, a police chief, or a governor! The peasants must demand freedom to manage their affairs themselves, freedom to consider, propose, and carry out new laws themselves. The peasants must demand the setting up of free, elected peasant committees, and until they obtain this they will always be defrauded and robbed by the nobility and the officials. No one will free the peasants from the official leeches, if they do not free themselves, if they do not unite and take their fate into their own hands.
The Social-Democrats not only demand the complete and immediate abolition of land redemption payments, quit-rent, and imposts of all kinds; they also demand that money taken from the people in the form of land redemption payments should be restituted to the people.Hundreds of millions of rubles have been paid up by peasants all over Russia since they were emancipated from serfdom by the committees of nobles. The peasants must demand that this money be returned to them. Let the government impose a special tax on the big landed nobility; let the land be taken from the monasteries and from the Department of Demesnes (i.e., from the tsar’s family); let the national assembly of deputies use this money for the benefit of the peasants. Nowhere in the world is the peasant so downtrodden or so impoverished as is in Russia. Nowhere do millions of peasants die so horribly of starvation as they do in Russia. The peasants in Russia have been reduced to dying of starvation because they were robbed long ago by the committees of nobles, and are being robbed to this day by being forced to pay tribute to the heirs of the feudal landlords every year in the form of redemption payments and quit-rent. The robbers must be made to answer for their crimes! Let money be taken away from the big landed nobility so as to provide effective relief for the famine-stricken. The starving peasant does not need charity, he does not need paltry doles; he must demand the return of the money he has paid for years and years to the landlords and to the state. The national assembly of deputies and the peasant committees will then be able to give real and effective assistance to the starving.
Further. The Social-Democratic Labour Party demands the immediate abolition of collective liability and of all laws restricting the peasant in the free disposal of his land. The tsar’s Manifesto of February 26, 1903, promises the abolition of collective liability. A law to this effect has already been passed. But this is not enough. All laws that prevent the peasant from freely disposing of his land must be abolished immediately; otherwise, even without collective liability the peasant will not be quite free and will remain a semi-serf. The peasant must be quite free to dispose of his land: to let or sell it to whomsoever he pleases, without having to ask for permission from anyone. That is what the tsar’s ukase does not permit: the gentry, the merchants, and the townspeople are free to dispose of their land, but the peasant is not. The peasant is a little child, who must have a rural superintendent to look after him like a nurse. The peasant must not be allowed to sell his allotment, for he will squander the money! That is how the feudal die-hards argue, and there are simpletons who believe them and, wishing the peasant well, say that he must not he allowed to sell his land. Even the Narodniks (of whom we have already spoken) and the people who call themselves “Socialist-Revolutionaries” also yield to this argument and agree that it is better for the peasant to remain somewhat of a serf rather than be allowed to sell his land.
The Social-Democrats say: that is sheer hypocrisy, aristocratic talk, merely honeyed words! When we have attained socialism, and the working class has defeated the bourgeoisie, the land will be owned in common and nobody will have the right to sell land. But what in the meantime? Are the nobleman and the merchant to be allowed to sell their land, while the peasant is not!? Are the nobleman and the merchant to be free while the peasant remains a semi-serf!? Is the peasant to continue to have to beg permission from the authorities!?
All this is mere deceit, though covered up with honeyed words, but it is deceit for all that.
As long as the nobleman and the merchant are allowed to sell land, the peasant must also have full right to sell his land and to dispose of it with complete freedom, in exactly the same way as the nobleman and the merchant.
When the working class has defeated the entire bourgeoisie, it will take the land away from the big proprietors and introduce co-operative farming on the big estates, so that the workers will farm the land together, in common, and freely elect delegates to manage the farms. They will have all kinds of labour-saving machines, and work in shifts for not more than eight (or even six) hours a day. The small peasant who prefers to carry on his farm in the old way on individual lines will not then produce for the market, to sell to the first comer, but for the workers’ co-operatives; the small peasant will supply the workers’ co-operatives with grain, meat, vegetables, and the workers in return will provide him free of charge with machines, livestock, fertilisers, clothes, and whatever else he needs. There will then be no struggle for money between the big and the small farmer; there will then be no working for hire for others; all workers will work for themselves, all improvements in methods of production and all machines will benefit the workers themselves and help to make their work easier, improve their standard of living.
But every sensible man understands that socialism can not be attained at once: to attain it a fierce struggle must be waged against the entire bourgeoisie and all governments; all urban workers all over Russia must unite in a firm and unbreakable alliance with all the rural poor. That is a great cause, and to that cause it is worth devoting one s whole life. But until we have attained socialism, the big owner will always fight the small owner for money. Is the big landowner to be free to sell his land, while the small peasant is not? We repeat: the peasants are not little children and will not allow anyone to lord it over them; the peasants must receive, without any restriction, all the rights enjoyed by the nobility and the merchants.
It is also said: the peasant’s land is not his own, but communal land. Everyone cannot be allowed to sell communal land. This, too, is a deception. Have not the nobles and the merchants their associations too? Do not the nobles and the merchants combine to float companies for the joint purchase of land, factories, or any other thing? Why then are no restrictions invented for the associations of the nobility, while the police scoundrels zealously think up restrictions and prohibitions for the peasantry? The peasants have never received anything good from the officials, except beatings, extortions, and bullying. The peasants will never receive anything good until they take their affairs into their own hands, until they obtain complete equality of rights and complete liberty. If the peasants want their land to be communal, no one will dare to interfere with them; and they will voluntarily form an association which will include whomsoever they like, and on whatever terms they like; they will quite freely draw up a communal contract in what ever form they like. And let no official dare poke his nose into the communal affairs of the peasants. Let no one dare exercise his wits on the peasants and invent restrictions and prohibitions for them.
Lastly, there is another important Improvement which the Social-Democrats are striving to obtain for the peasants. They want immediately to impose limits on the peasants’ bondage to the nobility, their serf bondage. Of course bondage cannot be completely abolished as long as poverty exists, and poverty cannot be abolished as long as the land and the factories are in the hands of the bourgeoisie, as long as money is the principal power in the world, and until a socialist society has been established. But in the Russian countryside there is still much bondage of a particularly vicious sort which does not exist in other countries, although socialism has not yet been established there. There is still much serf bondage in Russia which is profitable to all the landlords, weighs heavily on all the peasants, and can and must be abolished immediately, in the first place.
Let us explain the sort of bondage we call serf bondage.
Everyone who lives in the country knows cases like the following. The landlord’s land adjoins the peasant’s land. At the time of the emancipation the peasants were deprived of land that was indispensable to them: pasture, woodland, and watering places were cut off. The peasants cannot do without this cut-off land, without pastures and watering places. Whether they like it or not the peasants are forced to go to the landlord to ask him to let their cattle to go to the water, to graze on the paatures, and so forth. The land lord does not farm any land himself and, perhaps, has no money; he lives only by keeping the peasants in thrall. In return for the use of the cut-off lands the peasants work for him for nothing; they plough his land with their horses, harvest his grain and mow his hay, thresh his grain, and in some places even have to cart their manure to the landlord’s fields, or bring him homespun cloth, and eggs and poultry. Just as under serfdom! Under serfdom the peasants had to work for nothing for the landlord on whose estate they lived, and today they very often have to work for nothing for the landlord in return for the very same land which the com mittees of nobles filched from them at the time of the eman cipation. It is just the same as the corvbe system. In some gubernias the peasants themselves call this system barshehina, or panshchina. Well, that is what we call serf bond age. At the time of the emancipation from serfdom the committees of landowning nobles deliberately arranged matters in such a way as to keep the peasants in bondage in the old way. They would deliberately dock the peasants’ allot ments; they would drive a wedge of the landlord’s land in between peasants’ holdings so as to make it impossible for the peasant even to let his poultry out without trespass ing; they would deliberately transfer the peasants to inferior land, deliberately block the way to the watering place by a strip of landlord’s land—in short, they arranged matters in such a way that the peasants should find them selves in a trap, and, just as before, could easily be taken captive. There are still countless numbers of villages where the peasants are in captivity to nearby landlords, just as much as they were under serfdom. In villages like these, both the rich peasant and the poor peasant are bound hand and foot and at the mercy of the landlords. The poor peasant fares even worse than the rich peasant from this state of affairs. The rich peasant sometimes owns some land and sends his labourer to work for the landlord instead of going himself, but the poor peasant has no way out, and the land lord does what he likes to him. Under this bondage the poor peasant often has not even a moment’s breathing-space; he cannot go to look for work elsewhere because of the work he has to do for his landlord; he cannot even think of freely uniting in one union, in one party, with all the rural poor and the urban workers.
Well then, are there no means by which it would be possible to abolish this sort of bondage at once, forthwith, immediately? The Social-Democratic Labour Party proposes to the peasants two means to this end. But we must repeat that only socialism can deliver all the poor from bondage of every kind, for as long as the rich have power they will always oppress the poor in one way or another. It is impossible to abolish all bondage at once, but it is possible greatly to restrict the most vicious, the most revolting form of bond age, serf bondage, which weighs heavily on the poor, on the middle and even on the rich peasants; it is possible to obtain immediate relief for the peasants.
There are two means to this end.
First means: freely elected courts consisting of delegates of the farm labourers and poor peasants, as well as of the rich peasants and landlords.
Second means: freely elected peasant committees. These peasant committees must have the right, not only to discuss and adopt all kinds of measures for abolishing the corvée, for abolishing the remnants of serfdom, but they must also have the right to expropriate the cut-off lands and restore them to the peasants.
Let us consider these two means a little more closely. The freely elected delegate courts will consider all cases arising out of complaints of peasants against bondage. Such courts will have the right to reduce rents for land if the landlord, taking advantage of the peasants’ poverty, has fixed them too high. Such courts will have the right to free the peasants from exorbitant payments; when a landlord engages a peasant in the winter for summer work at an excessively low wage, the court will judge the case and fix a fair wage. Of course, such courts must not consist of officials, but of freely elected delegates, and the agricultural labourers and the rural poor must also without fail elect their delegates, whose number must not in any case be less than those elected by the rich peasants and the landlords. Such courts will also try disputes between labourers and employers. When such courts exist it will be easier for the labourers and all the rural poor to defend their rights, to unite and to find out exactly what people can be trusted to stand up faithfully for the poor and for the labourers.
The other means is still more important: the establishment of free peasant committeesconsisting of elected delegates of the farm labourers and poor, middle and rich peas ants in every uyezd (or, if the peasants think fit, they may elect several committees in each uyezd; perhaps they will even prefer to establish peasant committees in every volost and in every large village). No one knows better than the peasants themselves what bondage oppresses them. No one will be able to expose the landlords, who to this day live by keeping the peasants in thrall, better than the peas ants themselves. The peasant committees will decide what cut-off lands, what meadows, pastures, and so forth, were taken from the peasants unfairly; they will decide whether those lands shall be expropriated without compensation, or whether those who bought such lands should be paid compensation at the expense of the high nobility. The peasant committees will at least release the peasants from the traps into which they were driven by very many committees of the land-owning nobles. The peasant committees will rid the peasants of interference by officials; they will show that the peasants themselves want to, and can, manage their own affairs; they will help the peasants to reach agreement among themselves about their needs and to recognise those who are really able to stand up for the rural poor and for an alliance with the urban workers. The peasant committees will be the first step towards enabling the peasants even in remote villages to get on to their feet and to take their fate into their own hands.
That is why the Social-Democratic workers warn the peasants:
Place no faith in any committees of nobles, or in any commissions consisting of officials.
Demand a national assembly of deputies.
Demand the establishment of peasant committees.
Demand complete freedom to publish pamphlets and news papers of every kind.
When all have the right freely and fearlessly to express their opinions and their wishes in the national assembly of deputies, in the peasant committees, and in the newspapers, it will very soon be seen who is on the side of the working class and who is on the side of the bourgeoisie. Today, the great majority of the people do not think about these things at all; some conceal their real views, some do not yet know their own minds, and some lie deliberately. But when this right has been won, everyone will begin to think about these things; there will be no reason for concealing anything, and everything will soon become clear. We have already said that the bourgeoisie will draw the rich peasants to its side. The sooner and the more completely we succeed in abolishing serf bondage, and the more real freedom the peasants obtain for themselves, the sooner will the rural poor unite among themselves, and the sooner will the rich peasants unite with all the bourgeoisie. Let them unite: we are not afraid of that, although we know perfectly well that this will strengthen the rich peasants. But we, too, will unite, and our union, the union between the rural poor and the urban workers, will embrace far more people. It will be a union of tens of millions against a union of hundreds of thousands. We also know that the bourgeoisie will try (it is already trying!) to attract the middle and even the small peasants to its side; it will try to deceive them, entice them, sow dissension among them, and promise to raise each of them into the ranks of the rich. We have already seen the means and the deceit the bourgeoisie resort to in order to lure the middle peasant. We must therefore open the eyes of the rural poor beforehand, and consolidate in advance their separate union with the urban workers against the entire bourgeoisie.
Let every villager look around carefully. How often we hear the rich peasants talking against the nobility, against the landlords! How they complain of the oppression the people suffer from! Or of the landlords’ land lying idle! How they love to talk (in private conversation) about what a good thing it would be if the peasants took possession of the land!
Can we believe what the rich peasants say? No. They do not want the land for the people; they want it for them selves. They have already got hold of a great deal of land, bought outright or rented, and still they are not satisfied. Hence, the rural poor will not long have to march side by side with the rich peasants against the landlords. Only the first step will have to be taken in their company, and after that their ways will part.
That is why we must draw a clear distinction between this first step and subsequent steps, and our final and most important step. The first step in the countryside will be the complete emancipation of the peasant, full rights for the peasant, and the establishment of peasant committees for the purpose of restoring the cut-off lands. But our final step will be the same in both town and country: we shall take all the land and all the factories from the landlords and the bourgeoisie and set up a socialist society. We shall have to go through a big struggle in the period between our first step and the final, and whoever confuses the first step with the final weakens that struggle and unwittingly helps to hood wink the rural poor.
The rural poor will take the first step together with all the peasants: a few kulaks may fall out, perhaps one peasant in a hundred is willing to put up with any kind of bondage. But the overwhelming mass of the peasants will, as yet, advance as one whole: all the peasants want equal rights. Bondage to the landlords ties everyone hand and foot. But the final step will never be taken by all the peasants together: then, all the rich peasants will turn against the farm labourers. Then, it is a strong union of the rural poor and the urban Social-Democratic workers that we need. Whoever tells the peasants that they can take the first and the final step simultaneously is deceiving them. He forgets about the great struggle that is going on among the peasants them- selves, the great struggle between the rural poor and the rich peasants.
That is why the Social-Democrats do not promise the peasants immediately a land flowing with milk and honey. That is why the Social-Democrats first of all demand complete freedom for the struggle, for the great, nation-wide struggle of the entire working class against the entire bourgeoisie. That is why the Social-Democrats advise a small but sure first step.
Some people think that our demand for the establishment of peasant committees for the purpose of restricting bondage and of restoring the cut-off lands is a sort of fence or barrier, as if we meant to say: stop, not a step farther! These people have given insufficient thought to what the Social-Democrats want. The demand for peasant committees to be set up for the purpose of restricting bondage and of restoring the cut off lands is not a barrier. It is a door.We must first pass through this door in order to go farther, to march along the wide and open road to the very end, to the complete emancipation of all working people in Russia. Until the peasants pass through this door they will remain in ignorance and bondage, without full rights, without complete and real liberty; they will not even be able to decide definitely among themselves who is the friend of the working man and who his enemy. That is why the Social-Democrats point to this door and say that the entire people must all together first force this door and smash it in. But there are people who call them selves Narodniks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also wish the peasant well, shout and make a noise, wave their arms about and want to help him, but they do not see that door! Those people are so blind that they even say: there is no need at all to give the peasant the right freely to dispose of his land! They wish the peasant well, but some times they argue exactly like the feudal die-hards! Such friends can be of little help. What is the use of wishing the peasant all the best if you don’t clearly see the very first door that must be smashed? What is the use of wanting socialism if you don’t see how to enter on the road of a free, people’s struggle for socialism, not only in the towns, but also in the countryside, not only against the landlords, but also against the rich peasants in the village commune, the “mir”?
That is why the Social-Democrats point so insistently to this first and nearest door. The difficult thing at this stage is not to express a lot of good wishes, but to point to the right road, to understand clearly how the very first step should be taken. All friends of the peasant have been talking and writing for the past forty years about the Russian peasant being crushed by bondage and about his remaining a semi-serf. Long before there were any Social-Democrats in Rus sia, the friends of the peasant wrote many books describing how shamefully the landlords robbed and enslaved the peas ant by means of the various cut-off lands. All honest people now realise that the peasant must be given assistance at once, immediately, that he must get at least some relief from this bondage; even officials in our police government are be ginning to talk about this. The whole question is: how to set about it, how totake the first step, which door must be forced first?
To this question different people (among those who wish the peasant well) give two different answers. Every rural proletarian must try to understand these two answers as clearly as possible and form a definite and firm opinion about them. One answer is given by the Narodniks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The first thing to be done, they say, is to develop all sorts of societies (co-operatives) among the peasants. The unity of the mir must be strengthened. Every peasant should not be given the right to dispose of his land freely. Let the rights of the commune, the mir, be extended, and let all the land in Russia gradually become communal land. The peasants must be granted every assistance to purchase land, so that the land may more easily pass from capi tal to labour.
The other answer is given by the Social-Democrats. The peasant must first of all obtain for himself all the rights possessed by the nobility and the merchants, all without exception. The peasant must have full right to dispose freely of his land. In order to abolish the most revolting forms of bondage, peasant committees must be set up for the purpose of restoring the cut-off lands. We need not the unity of the mir, but unity of the rural poor in the different village communes all over Russia, unity of the rural proletarians with the urban proletarians. All sorts of societies (co-operatives) and the communal purchase of land will always benefit the rich peasants most, and will always serve to hoodwink the middle peasants.
The Russian Government realises that some relief must be given to the peasants, but it wants to make shift with trifles; it wants everything to be done by the officials. The peasants must be on the alert, because commissions of officials will cheat them just as they were cheated by the committees of nobles. The peasants must demand the election of free peasant committees. The important thing is not to expect improvement from the officials, but for the peasants to take their fate into their own hands. Let us at first take only one step, at first abolish only the vicious forms of bondage—so that the peasants should become conscious of their strength, so that they should freely reach a common agreement and unite! No honest person can deny that the cut-off lands often serve as the instruments of the most outrageous serf bondage. No honest person can deny that our demand is the primary and fairest of demands: let the peasants freely elect their own committees, without the officials, for the purpose of abolishing all serf bondage.
In the free peasant committees (just as in the free all-Russian assembly of deputies) the Social-Democrats will at once do all in their power to consolidate a distinct union of the rural proletarians with the urban proletarians. The Social-Democrats will make a stand for all measures for the benefit of the rural proletarians and will help them to follow up the first step, as quickly as possible and as unitedly as possible, with the second and the third step, and so on to the very end, to the complete victory of the proletariat. But can we say today, at once, what demand will be appropriate tomorrow for the second step? No, we cannot, because we do not know what stand will be taken tomorrow by the rich peasants, and by many educated people who are concerned with all kinds of co-operatives and with the land passing from capital to labour.
Perhaps they will not yet succeed in reaching an under standing with the landlords on the morrow; perhaps they will want to put an end to landlord rule completely. Very good! The Social-Democrats would very much like this to happen, and they will advise rural and urban proletarians to demand that all the land be taken from the landlords and transferred to the free people’s state. The Social-Democrats will vigilantly see to it that the rural proletarians are not cheated in the course of this, and that they still further consolidate their forces for the final struggle for the complete emancipation of the proletariat.
But things may turn out quite differently. In fact, it is more likely that they will turn out differently. On the very day after the worst forms of bondage have been restricted and curtailed, the rich peasants and many educated people may unite with the landlords, and then the entire rural bourgeoisie will rise against the entire rural proletariat. In that event it would be ridiculous for us to fight only the landlords. We would then have to fight the entire bourgeoisie and demand first of all the greatest possible freedom and elbow-room for this fight, demand better conditions of life for the workers in order to facilitate this struggle.
In any case, whichever way things turn out, our first, our principal and indispensable task is to strengthen the alliance of the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians with the urban proletarians. For this alliance we need at once, immediately, complete political liberty for the people, complete equality of rights for the peasants and the abolition of serf bondage. And when that alliance is established and strengthened, we shall easily expose all the deceit the bourgeoisie resorts to in order to attract the middle peasant; we shall easily and quickly take the second, the third and the last step against the entire bourgeoisie, against all the government forces, and we shall unswervingly march to victory and rapidly achieve the complete emancipation of all working people.
The Class Struggle in the Countryside
What is the class struggle? It is a struggle of one part of the people against the other; a struggle waged by the masses of those who have no rights, are oppressed and engage in toil, against the privileged, the oppressors and drones; a struggle of the wage-labourers, or proletarians, against the property-owners, or bourgeoisie. This great struggle has always gone on and is now going on in the Russian countryside too, although not everyone sees it, and although not everyone understands its significance. In the period of serfdom the entire mass of the peasants fought against their oppressors, the landlord class, which was protected, defended, and supported by the tsarist government. The peasants were then unable to unite and were utterly crushed by ignorance; they had no helpers and brothers among the urban workers; nevertheless they fought as best they could. They were not deterred by the brutal persecution of the government, were not daunted by punitive measures and bullets, and did not believe the priests, who tried with all their might to prove that serfdom was approved by Holy Scripture and sanctioned by God (that is what Metropolitan Philaret actually said!); the peasants rose in rebellion, now in one place and now in another, and at last the government yielded, fearing a general uprising of all the peasants.
Serfdom was abolished, but not altogether. The peasants remained without rights, remained an inferior, tax-paying, “black” social-estate, remained in the clutches of serf bondage. Unrest among the peasants continues; they continue to seek complete, real freedom. Meanwhile, after the abolition of serfdom, a new class struggle arose, the struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. Wealth increased, railways and big factories were built, the towns grew still more populous and more luxurious, but all this wealth was appropriated by a very few, while the people became poorer all the time, became ruined, starved, and had to leave their homes to go and hire themselves out for wages. The urban workers started a great, new struggle of all the poor against all the rich. The urban workers have united in the Social-Democratic Party and are waging their struggle stubbornly, staunchly, and solidly, advancing step by step, preparing for the great final struggle, and demanding political liberty for all the people.
At last the peasants, too, lost patience. In the spring of last year, 1902, the peasants of Poltava, Kharkov, and other gubernias rose against the landlords, broke open their barns, shared the contents among themselves, distributed among the starving the grain that had been sown and reaped by the peasants but appropriated by the landlords, and demanded a new division of the land. The peasants could no longer bear the endless oppression, and began to seek a better lot. The peasants decided—and quite rightly so—that it was better to die fighting the oppressors than to die of starvation without a struggle. But they did not win a better lot for themselves. The tsarist government proclaimed them common rioters and robbers (for having taken from the robber landlords grain which the peasants themselves had sown and reaped!); the tsarist government sent troops against them as against an enemy, and the peasants were defeated; peasants were shot down, many were killed; peas ants were brutally flogged, many were flogged to death; they were tortured worse than the Turks torture their enemies, the Christians. The tsar’s envoys, the governors, were the worst torturers, real executioners. The soldiers raped the wives and daughters of the peasants. And after all this, the peasants were tried by a court of officials, were compelled to pay the landlords 800,000 rubles, and at the trials, those infamous secret trials, trials in a torture chamber, counsels for the defence were not oven allowed to tell how the peasants had been ill-treated and tortured by the tsar’s envoys, Governor Obolensky, and the other servants of the tsar.
The peasants fought in a just cause. The Russian working class will always honour the memory of the martyrs who were shot down and flogged to death by the tsar’s servants. Those martyrs fought for the freedom and happiness of the working people. The peasants were defeated, but they will rise again and again, and will not lose heart because of this first defeat. The class-conscious workers will do all in their power to inform the largest possible number of working people in town and country about the peasants’ struggle and to help them prepare for another and more successful struggle. The class-conscious workers will do all in their power to help the peasants clearly to understand why the first peasant uprising (1902) was crushed and what must be done in order to secure victory for the peasants and workers and not for the tsar’s servants.
The peasant uprising was crushed because it was an up rising of an ignorant and politically unconscious mass, an uprising without clear and definite political demands, i.e., without the demand for a change in the political order. The peasant uprising was crushed because no preparations had been made for it. The peasant uprising was crushed because the rural proletarians had not yet allied themselves with the urban proletarians. Such were the three causes of the peasants’ first failure. To be successful an insurrection must have a conscious political aim; preparations must be made for it in advance; it must spread throughout the whole of Russia and be in alliance with the urban workers. And every step in the struggle of the urban workers, every Social-Democratic pamphlet or newspaper, every speech made by a class-conscious worker to the rural proletarians will bring nearer the time when the insurrection will be repeated and end in victory.
The peasants rose without a conscious political aim, simply because they could not bear their sufferings any longer, because they did not want to die like dumb brutes, without resistance. The peasants had suffered so much from every manner of robbery, oppression, and torment that they could not but believe, if only for a moment, the vague rumours about the tsar’s mercy; they could not but believe that every sensible man would regard it as just that grain should be distributed among starving people, among those who had worked all their fives for others, had sown and reaped, and were now dying of starvation, while the “gentry’s” barns were full to bursting. The peasants seemed to have forgotten that the best land and all the factories had been seized by the rich, by the landlords and the bourgeoisie, precisely for the purpose of compelling the starving people to work for them. The peasants forgot that not only do the priests preach sermons in defence of the rich class, but the entire tsarist government, with its host of bureaucrats and soldiers, rises in its defence. The tsarist government re minded the peasants of that. With brutal cruelty, the tsarist government showed the peasants what state power is, whose servant and whose protector it is. We need only remind the peasants of this lesson more often, and they will easily understand why it is necessary to change the political order, and why we need political liberty. Peasant uprisings will have a conscious political aim when that is understood by larger and larger numbers of people, when every peasant who can read and write and who thinks for himself becomes familiar with the three principal demands which must be fought for first of all. The first demand—the convocation of a national assembly of deputies for the purpose of establishing popular elective government in Russia in place of the autocratic government. The second demand—freedom for all to publish all kinds of books and newspapers. The third demand—recognition by law of the peasants’ complete equal ity of rights with the other social-estates, and the institution of elected peasant committees with the primary object of abolishing all forms of serf bondage. Such are the chief and fundamental demands of the Social-Democrats, and it will now be very easy for the peasants to understand them, to understand what to begin with in the struggle for the people’s freedom. When the peasants understand these demands, they will also understand that long, persistent and persevering preparations must be made in advance for the struggle, not in isolation, but together with the workers in the towns— the Social-Democrats.
Let every class-conscious worker and peasant rally around himself the most intelligent, reliable, and fearless comrades. Let him strive to explain to them what the Social-Democrats want, so that every one of them may understand the struggle that must be waged and the demands that must be advanced. Let the class-conscious Social-Democrats begin gradually, cautiously, but unswervingly, to teach the peasants the doctrine of Social-Democracy, give them Social-Democratic pamphlets to read and explain those pamphlets at small gatherings of trustworthy people.
But the doctrine of Social-Democracy must not be taught from books alone; every instance, every case of oppression and injustice we see around us must be used for this purpose. The Social-Democratic doctrine is one of struggle against all oppression, all robbery, all injustice. Only he who knows the causes of oppression and who all his life fights every case of oppression is a real Social-Democrat. How can this be done? When they gather in their town or village, class-conscious Social-Democrats must themselves decide how it must be done to the best advantage of the entire working class. To show how it must be done I shall cite one or two examples. Let us suppose that a Social-Democratic worker has come on a visit to his village, or that some urban Social-Democratic worker has come to any village. The entire village is in the clutches of the neighbouring landlord, like a fly in a spider’s web; it has always been in this state of bondage and cannot escape from it. The worker must at once pick out the most sensible, intelligent, and trustworthy peasants, those who are seeking justice and will not be frightened by the first police agent who comes along, and explain to them the causes of this hopeless bondage, tell them how the landlords cheated the peasants and robbed them with the aid of the committees of nobles, tell them how strong the rich are and how they are supported by the tsarist government, and also tell them about the demands of the Social-Democratic workers. When the peasants understand all these simple things they must all put their heads together and discuss whether it is possible to put up united resistance to the landlord, whether it is possible to put forward the first and principal demands (in the same way as the urban workers present their demands to the factory owners). If the landlord holds one big village, or several villages, in bondage, the best thing would be to obtain, through trustworthy people, a leaflet from the nearest Social-Democratic committee. In the leaflet the Social-Democratic committee will correctly describe, from the very be ginning, the bondage the peasants suffer from and formulate their most immediate demands (reduction of rent paid for land, proper rates, and not half-rates, of pay for winter hire, or less persecution for damage done by straying cattle or various other demands). From such a leaflet all peasants who can read and write will get to know very well what the issue is, and those who cannot read will have it explained to them. The peasants will then clearly see that the Social-Democrats support them, that the Social-Democrats condemn all robbery. The peasants will then begin to under stand what relief, if only slight, but relief for all that, can be obtained now, at once, if all stand together, and what big improvements for the whole country they must seek to obtain by a great struggle in conjunction with the Social-Democratic workers in the towns. The peasants will then prepare more and more for that great struggle; they will learn how to find trustworthy people and how to stand unitedly for their demands. Perhaps they may sometimes succeed in organising a strike, as the urban workers do. True, this is more difficult in the countryside than in the towns, but it is sometimes possible for all that; in other countries there have been successful strikes; for instance, in the busy seasons, when the landlords and rich farmers are badly in need of hands. If the rural poor are prepared to strike, if an agreement has long been reached about the general demands, if those demands have been explained in leaflets, or properly explained at meetings, all will stand together, and the landlord will have to yield, or at least put some curb on his greed. If the strike is unanimous and is called during the busy season, the landlord, and even the authorities with their troops, will find it hard to do any thing—time will be lost, the landlord will be threatened with ruin, and he will soon become more tractable. Of course, strikes are a new thing, and new things do not come off well at first. The urban workers, too, did not know. how to fight unitedly at first; they did not know what demands to put forward in common; they simply went out to smash machinery and wreck a factory. But now the workers have learned to conduct a united struggle. Every new job must first be learned. The workers now understand that immediate relief can be obtained only if they stand together; mean while, the people are getting used to offering united resistance and are preparing more and more for the great and decisive struggle. Similarly, the peasants will learn to stand up to the worst robbers, to be united in their demands for some measure of relief and to prepare gradually, persistently, and everywhere for the great battle for freedom. The number of class-conscious workers and peasants will constantly grow, and the unions of rural Social-Democrats will become stronger and stronger; every case of bondage to the land lord, of extortion by the priest, of police brutality and bureaucratic oppression, will increasingly serve to open the eyes of the people, accustom them to putting up united resistance and to the idea that it is necessary to change the political order by force.
At the very beginning of this pamphlet we said that at the present time the urban workers come out into the streets and squares and publicly demand freedom, that they inscribe on their banners and cry out: “Down with the autocracy!” The day will soon come when the urban workers will rise not merely to march shouting through the streets, but for the great and final struggle; when the workers will declare as one man: “We shall win freedom, or die in the fight!”; when the places of the hundreds who have been killed, fallen in the fight will be taken by thousands of fresh and still more resolute fighters. And the peasants, too, will then rise all over Russia and go to the aid of the urban workers, will fight to the end for the freedom of the workers and peasants. The tsar’s hordes will be unable to withstand that onslaught. Victory will go to the working people, and the working class will march along the wide, spacious road to the liberation of all working people from any kind of oppression. The working class will use its freedom to fight for socialism!
The Programme of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party Proposed by the Newspaper Iskra in Conjunction with the Magazine Zarya
We have already explained what a programme is, why one is needed, and why the Social-Democratic Party is the only party that comes out with a clear and definite programme. A programme can be finally adopted only by the congress of our Party, i.e., the assembly of representatives of all Party workers. Preparations for such a congress are now being made by the Organising Committee. But very many commit tees of our Party have already openly declared their agreement with Iskra, and their recognition of Iskra as the leading newspaper. Therefore, prior to the congress our draft (proposed) programme can fully serve as a precise indication of what the Social-Democrats want, and we consider it necessary to give that draft in full as an appendix to our pamphlet.
Of course, without an explanation not every worker will understand everything that is said in the programme. Many great socialists worked to create the doctrine of Social-Democracy, which was completed by Marx and Engels; the workers of all countries went through a great deal to acquire the experience that we want to utilise and make the basis of our programme. Therefore the workers must learn the teachings of Social-Democracy in order to understand every word of the programme, their programme, their banner of the struggle. And the workers are learning and understanding the Social-Democratic programme with particular ease because that programme speaks of what every thinking worker has seen and experienced. Let nobody be deterred by the “difficulty” of understanding the programme all at once: the more every worker reads and thinks, the more experience he acquires in the struggle, the more fully will he understand it. But let everybody think over and discuss the whole programme of the Social-Democrats; let everybody constantly keep in mind all that the Social-Democrats want, and what they think about the emancipation of all working people. The Social-Democrats want everybody to know clearly and precisely the truth, the whole truth, about what the Social-Democratic Party is.
We cannot here explain the whole programme in detail. A separate pamphlet would be needed for that. We shall merely indicate briefly what the programme says, and advise the reader to get hold of two pamphlets to use as aids. One pamphlet is by the German Social-Democrat Karl Kautsky, and its title is The Erfurt Programme. It has been translated into Russian. The other pamphlet is by the Russian Social-Democrat L. Martov, and its title is The Workers’ Cause in Russia. These pamphlets will help the reader to understand the whole of our programme.
Let us now indicate each part of our programme by a separate letter (see the programme below) and show what is spoken about in each part.
A) At the very beginning it says that the proletariat all over the world is fighting for its emancipation, and the Russian proletariat is only a detachment in the world army of the working class of all countries.
B) It then goes on to explain the bourgeois order of things in nearly all countries in the world, including Russia: how the majority of the population, working for the Landowners and capitalists, live in poverty and want; how the small artisans and peasants are being ruined while the big factories grow bigger; how capital crushes the worker and also his wife and children; how the conditions of the working class are growing worse and worse and unemployment and want are increasing.
C) It then speaks of the union of the workers, of their struggle, of the great aim of that struggle: to liberate all the oppressed and completely abolish all oppression of the poor by the rich. This part also explains why the working class is growing stronger and stronger, and why it will certainly defeat all its enemies, all those who defend the bourgeoisie.
D) Then it explains why Social-Democratic parties have been formed in all countries, how they help the working class to wage its struggle, unite and guide the workers, enlighten them and prepare them for the great struggle.
E) Further, it explains why the conditions of the people in Russia are even worse than in other countries, what a great evil the tsarist autocracy is, and why we must first of all overthrow that autocracy and establish popular, elective government in Russia.
F) What improvements must elective government bring the whole people? We explain that in our pamphlet, and it is also explained in the programme.
G) Then the programme indicates what improvements for the whole of the working class we must strive to immediately achieve in order to make life easier for it and enable it to fight more freely for socialism.
H) Special reference is made in the programme to those improvements which we must first of all strive to achieve for all the peasants so as to enable the rural poor to wage the class struggle more easily and freely against both the rural bourgeoisie and the entire Russian bourgeoisie.
I) Lastly, the Social-Democratic Party warns the people not to believe any police or bureaucratic promises or honeyed words, but to fight firmly for the immediate convocation of a free national assembly of deputies.