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Leon Trotsky 19100114 Around the Muzhik's Land

Leon Trotsky: Around the Muzhik's Land

[my own translation from the Russian text in the Vienna “Pravda”, No 9, 1/14 January 1910. Corrections by English native speakers would be extremely welcome]

On 27 November, the Duma adopted the government's draft law on land management in its final form. The State Council, of course, will immediately sign what Stolypin will tell it. The signature of the Tsar will not be lacking, either. And here we will soon have - it is a joke to say it: the law on the All-Russian peasant land management. Let's come closer to see what kind of law it is.

I. New owners

Krivoshein, the chief administrator for land management and agriculture, expressed the task of the government and the Duma as follows: "to create millions of new landowners". The law of 9 November pushes peasants into private land ownership, and the Duma's draft law on land management leads to the expansion of the allotments in farmlands. The law of 9 November kills communal land ownership – the law on land management wants – together with fragmentation of fields and forced crop rotation – to destroy and overturn the village. Not to give the weak peasants landlord's land, but to cut out several million "strong" farmsteads from 150 million desyatinas of peasant and state land. To create a Muzhik-farmer, a fanatic of private property, who, in the words of the deputy Prince Volkonsky, would know one single commandment: "Don't touch somebody else's!“ This farmer should become an indestructible stronghold of the landlord's property – against the onslaught of the landless and impoverished masses. Isn't it tempting? It is tempting to say that – only that this case has another side, a reverse side.

II. New proletarians

Under our conditions, no less than eight desyatinas are needed for a farm. Both the government and the Duma majority recognize this. Meanwhile, 2,857,000 households or 23 per cent of all farms have less than 5 desyatinas, and 27 per cent have 5-8 desyatinas of land. This means that 50 per cent, i.e. just half of all farmsteads, will receive land plots unsuitable for independent farming after the split up. Where will these 6 and more million farmsteads go? A certain proportion of them will go under the yoke of the peasant bank and buy land at unreasonable bank prices. But the overwhelming majority, on the contrary, will sell their insufficient plots to the farmers-kulaks. The landless cadres of the village will increase terribly in number. Hundreds of thousands, millions will turn to the cities. – "You are playing into the hands of social democracy, you are introducing a multi million proletariat!" – Cadet Kutler scared the Octobrists – "What can you do?" – replied Shidlovsky, the Octobrist landowner, helplessly spreading his arm: "No way you can prevent the emergence of the proletariat.”

This is the reverse side of their land laws. For the kulaks – land management. For the poor, land degradation. By creating cadres of new landowners, millions of old ones become landless. Fleeing from a class enemy, the community peasant, they create a class enemy, the rural and urban proletarian.

III. Who disposes of the Muzhik's land?

On the local level the land affairs are administered by the county land survey commissions. They enforce the law of 9 November, extend the allotments of land to farms, manage the sale of public and bank land, and select the lots of resettled people. The whole fate of land ownership is now in their hands. Who is a member of the commissions? First of all: the head of the nobility, the chairman of the Zemstvo administration and the Zemstvo chief – i.e. three officials from local landowners. Secondly: three representatives from the district Zemstvo, again three landowners. Thirdly, a member of the district court and an indispensable member appointed by the government – two officials. And finally, fourthly: 3-4 representatives from the peasants. According to their composition the land management commissions are more or less like the Third State Duma: 8 landowners and officials and 3-4 peasants. This means that in implementing the law of the landowner-official Duma, the landowner-official commissions will arbitrarily dispose of the land – not the landowner's, but the peasant's land. But after all, through the mediation of the state, the peasants paid the landowners not only the full price for their plots, but also a 25 per cent surplus, so what do the landowners care about the muzhik's' land? Well, the commandment: "Don't touch somebody else's" applies only to the peasants, not to the nobility. The strength and power now lies with the landowners, and the landlords are also armed with scissors to cut and re-cut the peasant's property. In this regard they are the masters. Their fathers, conservatives as well as liberals, pruned the peasant plots to the glory in 1861, and with the help of thieves' cuttings out of the community land, the peasants are still forced to pay serfdom rents. Of course, the Stolypin land management commissions will not destroy this purposely created diversified holdings. On the contrary, it will be multiplied as much as possible. They will succeed in turning and trimming the farmsteads in such a way that the muzhik cannot turn escape from the landowner's noose. This truth should firmly sink into the head of every peasant: It is not liberation but brutal bondage that the landowner's land-management dictatorship (domination) – in the centre and on the ground – brings to the rural masses.

IV. The Cadets and the Muzhik

"If you want to work with a horse," the cadet Berezovsky admonished the Duma, "you have to feed it. You have to do the same with the peasant ... He will feed himself – he will feed you as he has fed the previous generations ..."

The liberal deputy does not doubt that the peasant was born to feed present and future noble generations. But for this very purpose one must not plague the Muzhik too much with aristocratic domination. On behalf of the Cadet Party, Berezovsky therefore proposed to the Duma the following composition of the land management commissions: three Zemstvo landowners, two officials and five peasants. Equally, by "justice", five against five. But providently an official will be appointed as chairman according to the cadet draft, and the chairman's vote will decide when the commission is divided in the middle. This means that the cadets not only agree that the landowners get involved in the distribution of the peasant land, but they are also consciously ready to give them, together with the officials, the advantage over the owners of that land, the peasants. Whose interests are closer to the cadets' hearts: those of the peasants or those of the landowners? Think about it, peasant!

V. Peasant deputies and land management

How did the deputies of the peasantry themselves react to Stolypin's land management? Not equally.

Let's start with the Trudoviks. For them, the new law is a sharp knife. They represent the interests of the middle peasants, of owners standing insecurely on their feet, clinging to their meagre allotments with their fingernails and teeth, clinging on and fearing to lose them. And they see that the Duma legislation is handing them over, head and neck, to the "strong and powerful". They hold against it, protest. But there is no confidence in the Trudoviks' speeches : They threaten, they beg. They want a peasant majority in the land management commissions, but they agree to allocate seats there also for the Tsarist officials. "Even a lean sheep gives wool," they think. But in vain, they will not get a piece of wool, but with their hesitation they confuse the village masses.

Listening to the other right-wing peasant representatives is like listening to the Trudoviks. "You're just defending your personal interests," rightly hurled the right-winger Amosenok to the Duma, "and abandoning the peasants!" "This bill" - said the right-winger Danilyuk correctly - "can serve only 10 per cent of the population and 90 per cent will perish." It looks that way, doesn't it? The essence of the matter is that among the Octobrist and right-wing peasants the representatives of the 10 per cent and not the 90 per cent predominate. They are in harmony with their noblemen's deputies, they have their own access to the county commissions and the governor - they will not suffer any loss by the land management. The Danilyuks and Amosenoks can once again say a couple of bitter words to the Duma landlords, especially if they remember that they have to account to their peasant voters on the ground. But when the matter comes to a decision, to a vote - all these right-wing muzhiks also humbly and shamefully go about with the Duma majority. So here too. They tried to insist on increasing the number of peasants in the land management commissions, but they were scared by the dissolution of the Duma, the loss of deputy salaries – and they immediately turned tail, closed their mouths and silently betrayed the blood-related interests of the multi million peasantry.

The first duty of every conscious and honest peasant is to ruthlessly denounce the tricks and knacks of these traitors to the unenlightened masses of the countryside.

VI. The Voice of Social Democracy

The Social Democratic faction clearly, sharply and resolutely expressed its attitude to the land management of the counter-revolution.

"You are singing", told comrade Belousov the Duma, - "as if all evil came from the fragmentation of the land. Nonsense! We Social Democrats think that the worst enemy of agricultural progress is the landowners' latifundia – colossal estates, which like a boa constrictor entangle the farmland. Our solution is the same as in 1905: confiscation of the landed estates. Who should distribute these lands? Not you, of course, gentlemen of the nobility and officials, but people's land management commissions, elected by universal, equal, direct and secret ballot. - Another obstacle on the way to agricultural development is your state machinery, which waters and feeds you at the expense of the people, protects your latifundia and, at the same time, strangles and exhausts the muzhik. Therefore we call on the people to fight against the autocratic land management that reigns on Russian land!"

There is no more irreconcilable enemy of autocratic land management than social democracy. Nevertheless it is the only party that has nothing to fear from the Stolypin land management. With all its measures, the counter revolution will increase tenfold the process of proletarianization of the masses. The multi million rural proletariat, is rapidly growing and forming and will play a great role in the fate of our country. Or does Stolypin think that the "weak" from whom he is taking the allotment will remain weak? Settled! We will make them strong. We will enlighten their minds, we will unite them into associations, we will connect them with the workers' organizations of the cities, we will gather them under the banner of international socialism.

Work, work, autocratic land managers – we will not fall behind you. Our energy is inexhaustible, for we know and always remember that the future belongs not to you but to us!