Socialist-Revolutionary Party Cheats The Peasants Once Again

"The peasants must know that it is only the workers’ party, the Bolsheviks, who are prepared to stand to the last for the interests of the poor peasants and all working people against the capitalists and the landowners."

The Socialist-Revolutionary Party has made a solemn and public announcement, in its chief newspaper, Dyelo Naroda, of October 18 and 19, that the Minister of Agriculture’s new land bill is a “major step towards the implementation of the Party’s agrarian programme”, and that the “Party’s Central Committee insistently urges all Party organisations to launch a vigorous campaign in favour of the bill and popularise it among the masses”.

Actually, however, this bill, produced by the Minister, S. L. Maslov, who is a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, and summarised in Dyelo Naroda, is a fraud on the peasants. The S.R. Party has deceived the peasants: it has crawled away from its own land bill and has adopted the plan of the landowners and Cadets for a “fair assessment” and preservation of landed proprietorship. At its congresses during the first Russian revolution (1905) and the second Russian revolution (1917), the S.R. Party solemnly and publicly committed itself to the peasant demand for confiscation of the landed estates, that is, for their transfer to the peasants without compensation. Under Mr. Maslov’s present project, however, not only are the landed estates left intact but the landlord,s are also to get the “fairly” assessed rent paid by the peasants for the “leased” lands.

This bill of Mr. Maslov’s is downright betrayal of the peasants by the S.R. Party, and signifies its complete subservience to the landed proprietors. The utmost must be done, every effort must be made to drive this fact home to the widest possible sections of peasants.

On October 18, Dyelo Naroda carried Clauses 25-40 of Maslov’s bill. Here are its main points:

(1) Not all landed estates are to go into the proposed “provisional lease pool”.

(2) Landed estates are pooled by land committees set up under the law of April 21, 1917, which was issued by Prince Lvov’s government of landed proprietors.

(3) The rent paid by the peasants for these tracts is to be fixed by the land committees “in accordance with the net income” and after deduction of various payments goes to the “rightful owner”, that is, the landed proprietor.

This is a triple fraud worked on the peasants by the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and each of these three points must be dealt with in greater detail.

Izvestia Vserossiiskogo Soveta Krestyanskikh Deputatov No. 88, dated August 19, carries a “model mandate drawn up on the basis of 242 mandates submitted by deputies from various localities to the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies held in Petrograd in 1917”.

This summary of 242 mandates, made by representatives of peasants in the localities, gives the best idea of what the peasants want. This summarised mandate shows very well that the project of Maslov and the SB. Party is a swindle.

The peasants are demanding the abolition of the right to private ownership of land; the conversion of all private land holdings, etc., into the property of the whole people, without compensation; the conversion of land tracts farmed on a highly efficient level (orchards, plantations, etc.) into "model farms”, their transfer to “the exclusive use of the state and the communes”; the confiscation of “all livestock and farm implements”, etc.

Such is the clear-cut statement of the peasant demands based on 242 local mandates submitted by the peasants themselves.

But the S.R. Party, having entered “a coalition” (that is, an alliance or agreement) with the bourgeoisie (the capitalists) and the landowners, and taking part in the government of capitalists and landowners, has now produced a bill which does not abolish landed property but transfers only a part of the landed estates into a provisional lease pool.

Under the bill, no orchards, plantations, beet fields, etc., can go into the lease pool! Nor can the pool include lands required “to satisfy the needs of the owner, his family, employees and workers, or to ensure the maintenance of available livestock”!

This means that the great landowner who has a sugar refinery, a potato processing plant, oil or other mill, orchards and plantations, hundreds of head of cattle and dozens of employees and workers, is to retain a great estate farmed on capitalist lines. The S.R. Party has indeed cheated the peasants with exceptional brazenness.

Landed estates, or “privately held land”, as the bill puts it, are to be transferred to the lease pool by land committees set up under the law of April 21, 1917, by the government of landed proprietors headed by Prince Lvov and Co., the selfsame government of Milynkov and Guchkov, the imperialists and plunderers of the masses, who were routed by the workers’ and soldiers’ movement in Petrograd on April 20 and 21, i.e., a full six months ago.

The land committee law issued by this government of landed proprietors is, of course, far from being a democratic (popular) law. On the contrary, it contains a whole series of outrageous departures from democracy. Take its Clause lit, which gives the “gubernia [1] land committees the right to suspend decisions of the volost and uyezd committees, pending a final ruling by the central land committee”. Under this swindling landowners’ law, the committees are so constituted that the uyezd committee is less democratic than the volost committee, the gubernia committee is less democratic than the uyezd committee, and the central committee is less democratic than the gubernia committee.

The volost land committee is entirely elected by the population of the volost . Under the law, for instance, the uyezd committee must include the local magistrate and five members of “provisional executive committees” (pending the establishment of a new local government body). The gubernia committee includes a member of the circuit court and a magistrate, and also a representative of the ministry who is appointed by the minister, etc. The central land committee consists of 27 members “invited to sit on it by the Provisional Government”! This includes one each from the 11 political parties, with the majority (6 out of 11) going to the Cadets and those to the right of them. Isn’t this an obvious swindle on the part of Lvov, Shingaryov (who signed the bill) and their friends? Isn’t this simply flouting democracy to please the landed proprietors?

Does this not bear out the repeated Bolshevik statement that the will of the peasantry can be correctly expressed and implemented only by the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies, elected by the mass of working people and subject to recall at any time?

The Socialist-Revolutionaries, who were returned in a majority to the All-Russia Executive Committee of the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies by the unsuspecting peasants, have now betrayed them; they have sold out the peasant Soviets, gone over to the landowners, and accepted the land committee law of Prince Lvov, the landed proprietor. Therein lies the second big fraud which the Socialist-Revolutionaries have worked on the peasants.

This makes it all the more imperative for us, the workers’ party, to reiterate the Bolshevik demand: all power in the countryside to the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies and Agricultural Labourers’ Deputies!

The peasant mandates demand the confiscation, that is, the alienation of landed estates without compensation, and the confiscation of stud farms, private pedigree stock-breeding and poultry farms, the transfer to state use of all highly efficient farms, and the confiscation of all livestock and implements on the landed estates.

Instead, the S.R. ministerial bill treats the peasants to a preservation of rent, which is still to go into landlords’ coffers.

“Rent,” says Clause 33 of the S.R. bill, “shall be paid to the committees, which shall hand over the remainder [after various payments to the Treasury, etc.] to the rightful owner.”

That is how the “Socialist-Revolutionaries”, having cheated the peasants with fine promises, now present them with a landowner-Cadet land bill!

This is a swindle, pure and simple.

Nothing at all remains of the peasant demand for confiscation. This is not confiscation of landed estates, but consolidation of landed property by a “republican” government which assures the landowners retention of both implements and land for the maintenance of their “employees and workers”, the retention of land “designated by the landowner [it’s as easy as that!] for the planting of sugar-beet and other industrial crops”, and of payment for the rest of the land which goes into the lease pool. The land committees are turned into rent collectors for the landed gentry!

The Socialist-Revolutionaries do not abolish but consolidate landed property. It is now abundantly clear that they have betrayed the peasants and have defected to the landowners.

The sly Cadets, these loyal friends of the capitalists and landowners, must not be allowed to bring off their fraud. The Cadets make believe that the S.R. bill is terribly “revolutionary”, and there is a great outcry in all the bourgeois papers against it; they all report “opposition” on the part of the bourgeois ministers (and, of course, of their avowed hangers-on like Kerensky) to this “terrible” bill. The whole thing is a farce, a game; it is the bartering of a trader who expects to drive a harder bargain with the spineless Socialist-Revolutionaries. Actually, Maslov’s is a landowners’ bill drawn up for the express purpose of securing an agreement with them and saving them.

It is pure humbug for Dyelo Naroda to declare, as it does in these issues, that it is “an outstanding land bill inaugurating [!] a great [!!] reform in socialising [!!!] land”. There is no trace of “socialisation” in the bill (save perhaps for the “social” help given the landlord in assuring him of his rent); there is not the least trace of anything “revolutionary or democratic”; there is in fact nothing at all in it with the exception of the Irish-type “reforms”[Land reforms intiated by the British due to pressure from the radical Irish Land movement]which are a common feature of European bourgeois reformism.

Let me say this again: it is a bill to save the landowners, and to “pacify” the incipient peasant uprising by making concessions on trifles and allowing the landowners to keep what is important.

The fact that the Socialist-Revolutionaries have submitted such a mean bill to the government really shows the incredible hypocrisy of those who accuse the Bolsheviks of “frustrating” the Constituent Assembly with their plans for transferring power to the Soviets. “Only 40 days till the Constituent Assembly”—Cadets, capitalists, landowners, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, all have joined in this hypocritical cry. Meanwhile, they slip the government a sweeping land bill, swindling the peasants, saddling them with landlords, consolidating landed property.

When it comes to supporting the landowners against the mounting peasant uprising, a sweeping bill can be rushed through 40 and even 30 days before the Constituent Assembly is due to meet.

When it comes to transferring all power to the Soviets in order to hand over all the land to the peasants, at once abolish landed property and at once offer a just peace, then Cadets, capitalists, landowners, Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries all join in the howl against the Bolsheviks.

The peasants must know how they have been cheated and betrayed to the landowners by the Socialist-Revolutionary Party.

The peasants must know that it is only the workers’ party, the Bolsheviks, who are prepared to stand to the last for the interests of the poor peasants and all working people against the capitalists and the landowners.

October 20, 1917.


[1] Gubernia, uyezd, volost—Russian administrative territorial units. The largest of these was the gubernia , divided into uyezds, which in turn were subdivided into volosts . This system continued under Soviet power until the introduction of the new system of administrative territorial divisions in 1929-30.


Source: Marxist Internet Archive.