Klaus Sender

Leninism and Civilization

- Introduction to a critical analysis


Introductory Remark

The formation of civilization under varied conditions of the historical epoch and varied natural conditions in the different regions of the globe is in itself an important component of all social research. This is also true both of Marx and Engels. The way in which the Russian revolutionary movement and revolution tackles the question of civilization and its genesis especially with respect to Russia is of particular import and influenced its immediate theory and practice, its results. This revolution on its part had a determining impact on the following 60-70 years.

The following article takes up questions concerning the course of development of Russia - questions which we encounter time and again while analyzing the fundaments, and which, themselves, form the focus of many of Lenin’s fundamental expositions.

Marx dealt very intensively with the Russian question towards the end of his life and finally arrived at views which he himself wound up by saying that the ’village commune in Russia’ was the well-spring of Russia's social rebirth. This village commune continued to exist because of the special historical conditions of Russia. In this article I will try to explain how this observation fits into the entire teachings of Marxism. It definitely does not exist in isolation.
Marx and Engels have very different ideas about the sources of culture as compared to Lenin and Russian social democracy as a whole.
Tsarism is qualitatively quite different to the feudalism of the West - this is one of the central points resulting from Marx’ studies. Both Marx and Engels emphasized with regard to the Western societies that they contained within them the potential of becoming civilized, of gradual emancipation of the working classes, and, ultimately, of revolution. And it is exactly this point which they disputed or at least questioned regarding tsarism, and also and even in particular the epoch of Peter I. Marx emphasized that the latter lent Russia only the „varnish“, the external coating of a civilization. This historical question as to the essence of the Russian state continues to be of importance even today right up to the time of Gorbachev. It gives us a fundamental means for comprehending the role and method of today’s revisionist social-imperialistic state, still being intent on expansion. It substantially enlarges the views propounded till date.
These views were based on our own social experiences, on Marxism-Leninism, on the teachings passed on by the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong (till 1976), and on the own analysis, which directly tied up to all these elements.
In my writing I will refer decisively to Marx and also to Engels, recapitulate them and allow them to speak by a lot of quotations. This approach is all the more justified because Lenin himself takes both these writers as his own presupposition. These theories in fact display an extraordinary degree of cohesiveness, even if they are assessed by today’s yardstick. The article presupposes overall an elementary knowledge of social development, the role of the productive forces, the revolutions, the superstructure and the state. In any case, Engels’ old basic work ‘The Origin of Private property, Family and the State’ is recommended as background reading.
This article also takes up observations made by me in my series of articles entitled „Lenins Stellung zu Alexander I. Herzen“ („Lenin’s attitude towards Alexander I. Herzen“) (chapter VII and IX).


The essence and significance of the theories advocated by Marx and Engels on civilization

What did Marx and Engels say about civilization? The best and most comprehensive exposition of their teachings can be found in Engels’ famous book „The Origin of Private Property, Family and the State“. This book traces the different stages of human development right from the savage stage through the higher stages of savagery to barbarism and its highest stage, which was the point of departure for the development of modern civilization. This seems to be a general feature in the development of mankind. Roughly spoken the Greeks, for example, reached the highest stage of barbarism at the time of Homer, the renowned poet (ca. 800 B.C.). They stood at the cradle and origin of civilization, i.e. the development of a class society, of the sciences, of property and of a great lot of productive forces enabling man to produce much more means of existence than he needs for his immediate existence upon a very low level, giv-ing him the opportunity of leisure thus leading to the blossoming of his intellectual and human faculties. The substance and the essence of Marx’ theory, as well as of Engels’, consists in their showing how mankind, after having lost its primitive unity, its primeval wholeness, will go through a relatively brief span of several thousand years which represent a relatively short historical epoch, to return ultimately to the unified society of man. Putting it more precisely: to a society which will overcome the contradiction, the alienation of work, in which the human community will regain the old qualities which were prevalent before entering civilization, upon a higher level, based upon being civilized and upon modern production. This certainly does not mean that we shall regress into primeval society but that we shall overcome the contradictions of civilization, i.e. class society and the exploitation of man by man as begun here-with, and shall return to communist society, upon the foundations presented to us by modern technology and all-embracing abundance of production. (This argument includes also optimum control and consideration of nature which were not at all alien to Marx. The term ‘abundant production’ is different from ‘depletion’.)

Marx and Engels did not prophesize all these ideas like priests but clearly demonstrated how the factors leading up to the elimination of this class contradiction were developing especially in the West European capitalist society and other closely related societies, such as the American society. In the ever increasing societal character of the entire production process, in the catenation of the entire world market - processes which we can see all the more clearly now at the end of the twentieth century than Marx could have seen during his time - this unification, this cohesiveness of mankind is being regained, at a higher level. Obviously, the emerging new things will not be comparable to the reality of primordial society in which this totality , this communism existed only in the smallest social cell. Moreover, people were already divided into different tribes who were hostile to each other.
At this point I should like to emphasize once again: Marx’ teachings neither say that struggles among people, contradictions of various kinds, e.g. between the old and the new, between the progressive and the regressive, will cease to exist in the communist society. Such an idea has nothing to do with Marx’ views. The relatively flat conception that political life, so to say, will be all peace, love and unity later was widespread in the worker’s movement for quite some time. This is outdated now and already the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong has stressed and clarified that the fight between the old and the new, between right and wrong will obviously continue in communist society.[1]
I reserve to myself several qualifying statements with reference to Engels’ text, „Origin..“. Undoubtedly, this century-old work alone will not suffice for our purpose. One should expect, in fact, more books of the same quality to exist today which could put forth a cohesive, plausible and thoroughly researched theory on the development of mankind which would take into account all the ethnological and historical experiences gained in the meantime. But there is no such work available as far as I know. Engels’ work will, however, be sufficient for discussing the various topics we have taken up because it will enable us to prove a clear contradiction between Lenin’s theories and those which originally provided their essential starting point. In my opinion, certain important points have been omitted by Lenin in his writings. [2]

Engels explains in great detail how the gentile society split up, leading to the formation of a class society. He uses the Greek example, which fits best for demonstrating. He shows how the Greek state came into existence, in chapters IV and V of this important book. He then goes on to trace the development of Roman society which also followed the same principles as those of the Greek society. It is interesting to note how he demonstrates, leaning on Morgan[3], that the preliminary elements of this society show parallels to the savage and barbaric tribes in other places; for example, the American Indians in the USA, where these studies were carried through.
It came to the formation of the historically basic epoch of the antique slave-owning society, or in more concrete terms, the society of the Greeks and the Romans, which, as any educated person would know, contributes largely to the basis of our present civilization; this is also the point of departure of our study.

What kind of leap did the development of civilization take after this point? We now come to the Middle Ages, which, as everyone is well aware, was quite different from the ancient world. But what are the actual differences? Among Marxists it is commonly known, too, that the system of feudalism followed the slave-owning system. But how did this change come about? Was it caused by a slave revolution which shook the yoke of the slave-owning system so vio-lently that it gave rise to feudalism? No, this is certainly not how it happened. It is exactly here that a most decisive turn occurred in history; which forms the moot point of the book, "Origin...". Roman society in the third and fourth centuries A.D. was unable to arrive at any solution resulting from the factors inherent in it.

The main point which Engels makes at this juncture is: at the conquest of the Roman Empire by the Germans and the procreation of a new system thus accomplished, which gave the exploited people in society a whole new set of rights and also improved the position of women in society considerably, certain essential elements of gentile society seeped into the substance of the new feudal society, forming thereby the very basis of modern civilization. In this process it is essential that new nations emerge in Europe, capable of surviving the ravages of time, which are still providing the framework for the cultural development and the high-altitude flight for this civilization up to our present time.

So, this development did not follow a linear course. Feudalism was not born out of the womb of the slave-owning society. Rather, a new form of society rose above the old one, which still carried within it some elements of the old society but was infused with a new life by people and by a culture from a very different, "unspoilt" milieu.

A change came about in civilization. The Roman Empire had assumed gigantic proportions and dragged also a large number of barbaric tribes into the realms of civilization. It subjugated some of these tribes, causing them to revolt again and again.. At the Northern border of the Empire lived the multitude of Celtic, Teutonic and Slavic tribes which belonged to a gentile order of society at the time of their contact with the Roman Empire.

The Celts were the first to be affected because of their geographical position. They had engaged in a series of wars with the Romans before being finally conquered by them. Around the year 50 B.C., major portions of their territory ,"Gaul", as well as large chunks of Britain and the Iberian Peninsula were totally under Roman control. Gaul became more or less fully romanized subsequently.
The majority of Germans did not come under Roman rule except for a brief period of time from 14 B.C. to about 9 A.D. But they stood in a close relation of exchange with the Roman Empire. Many of them were recruited for military duty by the Romans themselves. Finally, the Germans forced their way through the disintegrating Roman empires and occupied large portions of them. During the fifth century they finally take control of the West-Roman Empire. Their method of settlement, even in the provinces conquered by them, still followed the basic principles of the gentile order of society. In the decisive chapter VIII, ‘The Formation of the State Among the Germans’, Engels describes how the form of landowners and coloni (this was a new type of workers whose position was slightly higher than that of slaves and could be roughly compared to that of the later serfs) which had developed during the last phases of the Roman Empire, could not win through in this Roman society, which was primarily characterised by slavery. Engels goes on to say that Roman society could not overcome the effects of the poisonous sting left behind by dying slavery whereby productive work of the free was branded as ignoble. It is this very malady that the German invasion was successful in curing.

After the year 800 A.D., when the reign of the Merovingians and the Carolingians had in turn undermined the freedom of the peasantry, class relations resembled strongly those prevailing during the 5th century. But the point of departure, in this case, was quite different. A lengthy quote from Engels serves to illustrate this point more lucidly:

„Nevertheless, progress was made during these four hundred years. Even if in the end we find almost the same main classes as in the beginning, still, the people who constituted these classes had changed. Ancient slavery had disappeared; gone were also the ruined poor free-men, who had despised work as slavish. Between the Roman colonus and the new villains there had been the free Frankish peasant. The ‘useless reminiscences and vain strife’ of decaying Romanism were dead and buried. The social classes of the ninth century had taken shape not in the bog of a declining civilisation, but in the travail of a new one. The new race, masters as well as servants, was a race of men compared with its Roman predecessors. The relation of powerful landlords and serving peasants, which for the latter had been the hopeless form of the decline of the world of antiquity, was now for the former the starting-point of a new development. Moreover, unproductive as these four hundred years appear to have been, they, nevertheless, left one great product behind them: the modern nationalities, the refashioning and regrouping of West European humanity for impending history. The Germans, in fact, had infused new life into Europe; and that is why the dissolution of the states in the German period ended, not in Norman-Saracen subjugation, but in the development from the benefices and patronage (commendation) to feudalism, and in such a tremendous increase in the population that the profuse bloodshed caused by the Crusades barely two centuries later could be borne without injury. [4]
But what was the mysterious magic potion with which the Germans [5] infused new vitality into dying Europe? Was it in the innate miraculous power of the German race, as our chauvinistic historians would have it? By no means. The Germans were a highly gifted Aryan [6] tribe, especially at that time, in the process of all-out vigorous development. It was not their specific national qualities that rejuvenated Europe, however, but simply - their barbarism, their gentile constitution.
Their personal competence and bravery, their love of liberty, and their democratic instinct, which regarded all public affairs as its own affairs, in short, all those qualities which the Romans had lost and which were alone capable of forming new states and of raising new nationalities out of the muck of the Roman world - what were they but the characteristic features of barbarians in the upper stage, fruits of their gentile constitution?
If they transformed the ancient form of monogamy, moderated male rule in the family and gave a higher status to women than the classical world had ever known, what enabled them to do so if not their barbarism, their gentile customs, their still vital heritage from the time of mother right?
If they were able in at least three of the most important countries - Germany, Northern France and England - to preserve and carry over to the feudal state a piece of the genuine gentile constitution in the form of the Mark communities, and thus give to the oppressed class, the peasants, even under the hardest conditions of medieval serfdom, local cohesion and the means of resistance which neither the slaves of antiquity nor the modern proletarians found ready at hand - to what did they owe this if not to their barbarism, their exclusively barbarian mode of settling in gents?
And lastly, if they were able to develop and raise to universality the milder form of servitude which they had been practising at home, into which also slavery in the Roman Empire was more and more converted - a form which, as Fourier first emphasised, gave to those subjected to servitude the means of gradual emancipation as a class (fournit aux cultivateurs des moyens d'affranchissement collectif et progressif) and is therefore far superior to slavery, which permits only of the immediate manumission of the individual without any transitory stage (antiquity did not know any abolition of slavery by a victorious rebellion), whereas in fact the serfs of the Middle Ages, step by step, achieved their emancipation as a class - to what was this due if not their barbarism, thanks to which they had not yet arrived at complete slavery, either in the form of the ancient labour slavery or in that of the Oriental domestic slavery?
All that was vital and life-bringing in what the Germans infused into the Roman world was barbarism. In fact, only barbarians are capable of rejuvenating a world labouring in the throes of a dying civilisation. And the highest stage of barbarism, to which and in which the Germans worked their way up previous to the migration of peoples, was precisely the most favourable one for this process. This explains everything.“

Friedrich Engels, The 0rigin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Chapter VIII, The Formation of the State Among the Germans, Marx-Engels Collected Works (this will be referred to as MECW from now on), Volume 26, p. 254-256.


This particular quote by Engels is so succinct and manages to summarize complex ideas so well, that it is well nigh impossible to summarize it any further. A very tangible outcome of the process described by Engels is the emergence of "modern nationalities“ [7] which had risen in contrast to the Roman epoch, and also the evolution of a very different mentality, which in turn, would lead to quite a different blossoming of the productive forces.
The second important point here is the Mark community with all its consequences on the development of European civilization. Since this subject plays a central role in our deliberations on "Leninism and civilization", it will be discussed in greater detail.
Yet another central point is the highly different attitude towards women, which contains some elements of the previous gentile society and matriarchy. Under slavery, this relationship between the two halves of humanity meant not only the obvious enslavement of women through private property, as represented by men, but also led to the degradation of men. Thus, the revolution mentioned above had a tremendous impact on culture as a whole. This is described in detail in the "Origin.." and in the book written by Morgan. In this essay I can only allude to it.
However, these points also contain more details of historical significance. The term "nation" also encompasses the newly emerging, nationally homogeneous working class, at first in the form of the peasantry, the craftsmen and the entire petty bourgeoisie, later in the form of wage labourers or proletarians. The nation speaks one language and shares the same cultural interrelations. This very homogeneity forms a most vital precondition for emancipation. In the Roman Empire for the most part the slaves who had to cooperate were of diverse origin and spoke as many different languages. What kind of emancipation could these slaves then strive to-wards?
This new European society was revolutionary as compared to that of the previous epoch. And this was due to the violent or rather, revolutionary break-up of the Western portion of the Roman Empire since the regime of Odoacer [8], the Goths and above all, the Franconian conquest.

The Mark community

The institution of the Mark community may be considered to be one of the central points of the politically civilizing system. I would like to elaborate upon the above statement by quoting from Engels. This quote has been taken from the same book:

„The gens disappeared in the Mark community in which, however, traces of the original kinship of the members were visible still often enough. Thus, the gentile constitution, at least in those countries where Mark communities were preserved - in the North of France, in England, Germany and Scandinavia - was imperceptibly transformed into a territorial constitution, and thus became capable of being fitted into the state. Nevertheless, it retained the naturally evolved democratic character which distinguishes the whole gentile order, and thus preserved a piece of the gentile constitution even in its degeneration, forced upon it in later times, thereby leaving a weapon in the hands of the oppressed, ready to be wielded even in modern times.“

Friedrich Engels, The 0rigin of the Family, Private Property and the State, Chapter VIII, The Formation of the State Among the Germans, MECW, Volume 26, p. 251.

At this stage it is necessary to point out once again, that these theses of Engels were based on the views of Marx, among others, and their basic tenets had actually been approved of by Marx himself, a fact which is evident from their correspondence. Similar reflections by Marx with particular reference to the Mark community can be found in his studies on Russia, for example, in the first drafts of his reply to Vera Zasulich's letter, written in 1881.
To quote from it:

„In one way or another this commune perished in the midst of incessant wars, foreign and internal; it probably died a violent death. When the Germanic tribes came to conquer Italy, Spain, Gaul, etc., the commune of the archaic type no longer existed. Yet its natural viability is demonstrated by two facts. There are sporadic examples which survived all the vicissitudes of the Middle Ages and have been preserved into our own day, for instance the district of Trier, in my native country. But more importantly, it imprinted its own characteristics so effectively on the commune which replaced it - a commune in which the arable land has become private property, whereas forests, pastures, common lands, etc., still remain communal property - that Maurer, when analysing this commune of secondary formation, was able to reconstruct the archaic prototype. Thanks to the characteristic features borrowed from the latter, the new commune introduced by the Germanic peoples in all the countries they invaded was the sole centre of popular liberty and life throughout the Middle Ages.“

Karl Marx, Drafts of the Letter to Vera Zasulich, First Draft, MECW Vol. 24, p. 350.

In view of the fact that during the Middle Ages it was the countryside which governed the cities and that the agricultural contributions, the ground rent formed the basis of feudal power, this point is extremely important.
In his writing, Engels shows us a side of feudalism which we are not accustomed to seeing. Seen from our historical location, feudalism is usually denounced because, from the viewpoint of capitalism, it is reactionary. Here, we are shown another side of feudalism, where it is seen in a progressive and revolutionary light, as a procreator struggling against the social conditions prevailing in the antique world.

How should the essence of these ideas be summed up:
On the one hand, this society is deeply fissured by class contradictions, such as the feudal lord - the peasant (as a serf, half-free or bondsman) or the capitalist - the wage labourer. But it also contains some elements of gentile society which lend a very different degree of cohesion to it. This is a peculiarity, constituting a point of departure vis-à-vis the question of West European culture.

In view of the fact that in Western Europe society subsequently reached a level from where it gave rise to the modern forms of bourgeois society, which in turn carried socialism in their womb, it would be meaningful to look for the connection with these basic, historical elements. The fact that the development in Europe attained extraordinary heights in the context of world history, prompts us to look for the reason behind it. We have to assume that the historical element presented here provided a basis for this extraordinary development. This origin lent a unique degree of cohesion to "occidental society". Here Engels elaborated the theses on the emergence of unified nations, on the development of rights for peasants in feudal society, as a very significant difference from antique, imperial society. In my opinion here also one of the most essential pillars of Europe's historical identity is to be found.
On this very basis class contradictions were to erupt even more vigorously which in turn acted as a catalyst for faster social development (the masses as moving force in history). Likewise, we acknowledge that the more developed a society is, the more developed its social struggles will be and not vice versa, as we sometimes hear in practice. This is also logical, and it is all the more interesting to note that both Marx and Engels, who both were the most important theoreticians of the workers' movement, and who both lived in an epoch when European society was undergoing the most crucial changes, prepared these theses in the course of their intensive political practice. (I emphasize once more that the "Origin.." should be regarded as a work also by Karl Marx.)

Here, we encounter a very different degree of awareness of responsibility on the part of the individual members of society, as compared to the developed slave-owning society of Rome for example. (In this context, I would like to point out that the origins of this society also displayed some similar characteristics, as it had also emerged from gentile society. The Roman Republic's initial vitality, too, is to be attributed to the fact that it had assimilated some of these features.)

And we can see here quite clearly that both Marx and Engels attached principal economic and cultural significance to the primordial communal property and the relation to labour. They regarded the basic elements which had been absorbed from gentile society, on account of the Franco-Germanic conquest, as one of the pre-conditions for the subsequent thousand years of development, as also for the cultural development. These factors, in turn, were instrumental in creating the conditions which eventually enabled man to think along the lines of establishing communism. Thus, in the Russian context, the institution of the village commune, if indeed it has a substantial role for civilization, should also have an important role to play, in view of the economic and cultural tasks involved in the abolition of the tsarist system.

Here emerges a class which is capable of emancipation. The new forms of mitigated rule establish certain means for gradual liberation as a class. So, here the beginning of class struggle is being dated to coincide with the advent of civilization.
When Engels writes that this class of the peasantry - in spite of their bondage and serfdom - had conditions which neither the antique slaves had nor the modern proletarians, we must connect this to the basic program of communism, as this program expressly starts out from the assumption (cf. the Communist Manifesto) that out of this existing civilization the proletariat will be capable to fight for total emancipation or, to put it more precisely, for the abolition of class society. This is Marx’ basic idea.

It becomes clear in this context that Marx regarded this commune, which still was wide-spread in Russia, to be of fundamental import - and that he repeatedly touched upon this topic in his writings. In his famous letter addressed to Vera I. Zasulich written after much deliberation , he said:

„Hence the analysis provided in Capital does not adduce reasons either for or against the viability of the rural commune, but the special study I have made of it, and the material for which I drew from original sources, has convinced me that this commune is the fulcrum of social regeneration in Russia, but in order that it may function as such, it would first be necessary to eliminate the deleterious influences which are assailing it from all sides, and then ensure for it the normal conditions of spontaneous development.“

Karl Marx, Letter to Vera Zasulich, March 8, 1881, MECW Vol. 24, p. 371.

The deliberations which prompted Marx to make this, indeed, sweeping conclusion do not negate the contradictory character of the Russian village commune in any way. In fact, Marx himself spoke of a dualism inherent in the village commune. The village commune or the Russian Mir, like the earlier Mark community of Western countries, is associated with low productivity rates in the form that it existed. As soon as machines start being used and the peasant, as an individual, becomes motivated to work his land more intensively and to invest capital on land and on agricultural production upon this land, a tendency arises to make capitalist production predominant.

Marx makes a clear distinction between the archaic community where collective farming was still being practised, thereby representing the most primitive type of work and work combination, and the agricultural commune(1) which emerged from it. Though communal property was retained in the agricultural commune, it was qualified by the emergence of private elements.
To quote Marx directly:

„ It is easy to see that the dualism inherent in the ‘agricultural commune’ might endow it with a vigorous life, since on the one hand communal property and all the social relations springing from it make for its solid foundation, whereas the private house, the cultivation of arable land in parcels and the private appropriation of its fruits permit a development of individuality which is incompatible with conditions in more primitive communities.
But it is no less evident that this very dualism might in time become a source of decay. Apart from all the influences of hostile surroundings, the mere gradual accumulation of chattels which begins with wealth in the form of cattle (even admitting wealth in the form of serfs), the increasingly pronounced role which the movable element plays in agriculture itself, and a host of other circumstances inseparable from this accumulation but which it would take me too long to go into here, will eat away at economic and social equality and give rise to a conflict of interests at the very heart of the commune, entailing first the conversion of arable land into private property and ending with the private appropriation of the forests, pastures, common lands, etc., which have already become communal appendages of private property.
This is why the ‘agricultural commune’ occurs everywhere as the most recent type of the archaic form of societies, and why in the historical development of Western Europe, ancient and modern, the period of the 'agricultural commune' appears as a period of transition from communal property to private property, as a period of transition from the primary form to the secondary one. But does this mean that in all circumstances the development of the 'agricultural commune’ must follow this path? Not at all. Its constitutive form allows this alternative: either the element of private property which it implies will gain the upper hand over the collective element, or the latter will gain the upper hand over the former. Both these solutions are a priori possible, but for either one to prevail over the other it is obvious that quite different historical surroundings are needed. All this depends on the historical surroundings in which it finds itself.“

Karl Marx, Drafts of the Letter to Vera Zasulich, First Draft, MECW Vol. 24, p. 351-352.

After establishing the point that the physical configuration of the Russian land invited the use of machines on a large scale - this idea was followed up directly at a later date and at-tempts were made to implement it - and after describing the favourable conditions which would facilitate the transition to a co-operative form of labour on the basis of modern machinery, Marx said:

„If the spokesmen of the ‘new pillars of society’ were to deny the theoretical possibility of the suggested evolution of the modern rural commune, one might ask them: Was Russia forced to pass through a long incubation period in the engineering industry, as was the West, in order to arrive at the machines, the steam engines, the railways, etc.? One would also ask them how they managed to introduce in their own country within the twinkling of an eye the entire mechanism of exchange (banks, joint-stock companies, etc.), which it took the West centuries to devise?“

Karl Marx, Drafts of the Letter to Vera Zasulich, First Draft, MECW Vol. 24, p. 353.

Here, Marx states quite clearly why he does not want this possibility of a transition of the village commune into modern production to be walled up, which, by the way, Chernyshevskii had also correctly deduced. In Russia tsarism, so to speak, was raising the most modern forms of capitalism with all its mechanisms, at the same time exploiting the peasants in the most brutal manner, destroying even the means of livelihood of the peasants. What, by consequence, would be the nature of class struggle in such a country where capitalism was advancing in quite different manner than else? It is unambiguous that Marx, in his theoretical deduction, saw that the proletariat would have to use the reverse side of Russia's backwardness, i.e. the village commune, in order to create conditions which would be favourable for speedy progress. Russian liberalism, as also tsarism, from a certain point onwards, started making radical attempts to break up the village commune; at best to leave it for some time subjected to the most cruel ripping off by means of tax legislation. The village commune stood in the way of their desired - or as one is forced to say: corrupt - capitalist development. Therefore, it had to be squeezed dry and then destroyed. This is being demonstrated by the entire policy of tsarism up to the time of Stolypin, who applied all his strength and power in trying to destroy the village commune, even in 1910 when the village commune apparently still put up a very stiff resistance against these endeavours.

Apart from the point that the village commune becomes differentiated out of its own development, there are another two negative features which must be taken into consideration with regard to the Russian village commune. One is the high degree of isolation of the individual village communes due to the enormous geographical distance separating the villages and regions of Russia, giving rise to the term: localised „microcosm". Time and again reference has been made to the fact that in Russian, the term "Mir" means both "village commune" and "world", whereby the village commune often represented the world, the closed world of the respective peasant community. Naturally, this isolation reduced the chances of bonding between the different communes or of any form of extra-regional solidarity. It had also penetrated deep into the psyche of the people. The conditions for that, on the one hand, are given by the geo-graphical distance, as mentioned earlier, but also by the despotism which had prevailed in Russia for hundreds of years and which, in turn, had its roots in this very isolation. Another aspect to be considered is the patriarchal character of the Russian village commune. This was noted and mentioned by both Marx and Engels.

But nothing is to be said against the possibility to overcome these negative traits of the village commune, aided by modern factors such as the introduction of modern means of transportation, modern forms of education, which involuntarily were also entering Russia. Especially here Marx’ basic idea in all his deliberations about Russian civilization is to be met again. According to this idea, the combination of the modern industrial world and modern infrastructure with the Russian village commune and the Russian structure facilitate a different development as compared to capitalist development in the West; of course, this did not mean that Russia could skip capitalism altogether.
Here we have to differentiate between the views of the later Narodniki, which were being criticised, and those of Marx, and also of Chernyshevskii. Chernyshevskii, too, incidentally, had not said that the abstract option of 'another way' meant that Russia would not have to go through capitalism at all; an idea that is often wrongly assumed to be his. [9]
To quote Chernyshevskii himself in this context:

„Whether our civilization presently has indeed reached that high level to which necessarily belongs rural common property - this question can no more be resolved by means of logical inductions and conclusions from the general principles ruling the world, but by the analysis of facts. It has been dealt with partly by us in our previous articles [10] on rural common property, and will be analyzed once again more comprehensively in the following articles which will deal with the description of the particular facts about agriculture in Western Europe and in our country.“

N.G. Tschernyschewski, Zur Kritik der philosophischen Vorurteile gegen ländlichen Gemeinbesitz [N.G. Chernyshevskii, Critique of the philosophical prejudices against rural collective property] in: N.G. Tschernyschewski, Das anthropologische Prinzip [N.G. Chernyshevskii , The anthropological principle], Aufbau-Verlag Berlin 1956, p. 172. (2)

This is to say that one would still have to do a detailed study on the question to which extent capitalism can be circumvented or not.

In order to comprehend the term "social rebirth" used by Marx, we have to take into account the fact that through this communal ownership of land in a varied form, Marx attempts to correct the development of civilization in Russia, analogously to the development in the West. The term is based upon the ideas about the development of civilization in Western Europe described above.

Finally, to those who might argue that this is merely a statement taken from a letter which, in addition, was not meant for publication, and therefore should not be rated too highly, I would say:
Marx wrote four drafts of the reply to V.I. Zasulich's letter, out of which three contained more or less similar accounts. Though they all emphasize somewhat different aspects, they are however the same in principle. Marx tried very hard to formulate his theories but failed to do so due to shortage of time. He spoke about the difficulties in putting strain on his nerves and finally wrote a very short letter in which, however, he incorporated the principal statements of the three drafts and took a very clear stand on the subject. Here, we have to consider the fact that Marx could not refer to works like "The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State" (1884) or even the "The Mark" (1882) by Engels when working on this theory. The latter work which was published shortly before Marx' demise was rated as "very good" by him. [11]

Thus, he faced the problem of possibly incorporating the detailed correlations which were to be explained at a later date, into his letter - a task which proved to be beyond his capabilities. This could be one of the reasons why he finally chose to give a very brief reply which he could stand by.
So Marx could not present a paper intended for publication, for instance, but he wanted to give the group to which V.I. Zasulich belonged, "Chorny Peredel", a clear indication. Thus, this letter and its drafts because of its position and in conjunction with other writings assume great significance indeed among the statements by Marx.

About some fundamental features of the theory of primordial communities

Without doubt Marx as well as Engels developed their theory of the evolution of civilization as a valuable addition in the course of their work over the decades after 1848. It was not until the 1860’s that they came into contact with Maurer’s writings and studied them very extensively. Maurer was a Bavarian scholar who spent some time working in Greece, accompanying the Bavarian sovereign who then occupied the Greek throne. He studied the conditions in the Orient as well as the transformation of communal into private property and the development of village and city constitutions in Germany and Europe, writing detailed treatises on these subjects. This means that he was effectively writing about the history of European civilizations. As Marx pointed out in a letter, Maurer was above all familiar with the conditions in Scandinavia, Germany and the Orient - namely Turkey and Greece; as for the West, that is to say the evolution of the Celts, his work contained a number of gaps, Marx claimed. Nonetheless he uncovered the general principles linking the various evolutionary strands.

There is no question that the old Germanic tribes owned their land jointly. Equally certain is the fact that private property evolved from this state of affairs, as the productive forces continued to develop and the need for individual tillage emerged, and as princes and kings attempted to appropriate communal land for use as private crown land. Indeed, from the perspective of evolutionary theory, the notion that humans had lived as single individuals on their land since primeval times or even, so to speak, eternally - only later settling in Mark communities - is fundamentally absurd, contradicting as it does the entire course of man's development and his initial union in primitive hordes, tribes, gents, etc. It is contrary to the practical experience, the practical insights to be gained among peoples who are still at a primitive stage of development.
Not surprisingly, though, this theory of the development of landed property has come under attack from the bourgeoisie, precisely because it shows in itself the historical relativity of the private ownership of the means of production and of the private landed property.
At the time when they originally wrote the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels did not know about the interrelations as described above, between present European civilization and its development from the gentile order (such as in what way it differed from the slave-owning society). They worked these out bit by bit over the following decades, supplementing their work in the 1870s with new insights into the inner working of primitive societies and the significance of the gents, insights which they had obtained from L.H. Morgan’s book in particular. Engels used Morgan’s book as the basis of his „The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State“. From then on, Marx and Engels were in a position to apply to Russian society at least part of their theory of the development of Western European culture and its inherent characteristics.
They never quite came to an end with the question. This can be seen, among other things, from the fact that Marx never managed to write articles on the subject that were ready for publication. In fact he confined himself to succinct, concise statements in letters and short resolutions. It is perfectly possible, however, to reconstruct Marx’ and Engels’ views from the entirety of their work.

This theory of the village commune, of the constitutions and of civilization advocated by Maurer, which Marx acknowledged as being relevant, albeit with some modifications, even for Russia, became a burning political question in the last third of the nineteenth century, especially in the specific context of the course of development to be followed by Russian agriculture. A series of theoreticians came to the forefront at that time and tried to present the Russian village commune, which was actually a counterpart of the erstwhile village commune of Western Europe, as an institution which had been established by the Tsars for the purpose of tax collection. They thereby turned the whole thing upside down. They claimed that the present-day Russian village commune had come into being only in the 16th century. Though they did not dispute the former Mark community, as an analogy to Celtic and German forms of communal property, they argued that it had perished at some early date. Accordingly, tsarism must have recreated a quite similar community already at a quite early date. The fact that the tsarist system of tax extortion was literally flogging the institution of the village commune to death was reinterpreted by them as the assertion that the commune really had been created for the purpose of tax collection. The theoretician in Russia who advanced this idea was Chicherin. But there were also many Prussian-German academicians in Germany who followed in the footsteps of this propaganda.
It is interesting to note that in the nineties Georgii Plekhanov, whom we have already criticised in another context, acknowledged this theory advanced by Chicherin as being valid. That is to say that he finally adopted the pretentious "theories" of the liberal bourgeoisie, who rejected the idea that private property was a relatively recent historical outcome out of communal property. He hailed these ideas as being the valid and correct ones for himself as well as for Russian social democracy. Apparently, Lenin, who was a disciple of Plekhanov in his early days, also subscribed to this idea and obviously used it in nearly all his writings relating to agriculture from 1893 to 1913.

Finally, around the year 1913 Lenin must indeed have made a new discovery. This can be gauged from the conspectus of the correspondence between Marx and Engels which Lenin prepared in 1913. Here Lenin stumbled on to a letter by Marx dated November 7, 1868, in which Marx had written something about the false notions regarding the Russian village commune, and noted the following remarks in the margin of the letter:

„The Russian commune not feudalistic but primordial commune.“

W.I. Lenin, Konspekt zum "Briefwechsel zwischen Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels 1844 -1883" [Conspectus of the "Correspondence between Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels 1844 - 1883“] Dietz Verlag Berlin, 1963, p. 95. (The translation is ours, from the German edition)

Actually, Lenin has emphasized the "medieval" or "feudal" character of the village commune in many places.

Evidently, Lenin made a discovery at that point. He realized that his previous one-sided view stating that the Russian community was so to say born out of the womb of feudalism and its tax structure, was false, and that the Russian community had a much longer history of evolution. In this context, it would not be entirely wrong to associate the community with feudalism. We have seen all along, that feudalism, in combination with the Mark community, is characterised by the adoption of certain elements of primordial forms of society. But it would be incorrect to ignore the whole fundamental role played by this form of property, which has been explained by us earlier in the text.
Through this remark Lenin himself recognized a certain contradiction to his own previous expositions. He was evidently not aware of the role of the evolution of civilization, as described here. He had apparently failed to glean this view from his perusal of Marx’ teachings, although it is obviously present in various elements.
There is another good example which can be given: In a letter written to Plekhanov on July 25, 1901, he questions in a quite disbelieving manner the accuracy of the translation at a particular point in Engels' article, "The Mark", where the latter speaks about the "Rebirth of the Mark" in a rejuvenated form. Lenin doubts if this point was an unjustified addition by the translator. Plekhanov was to give him detailed information on the subject. But in actual fact, this was not a wrong rendering on the part of the translator. From this passage we can see Lenin's whole astonishment at these expositions made by Engels. [12]

However, it is not known whether Lenin followed up this discovery which he had stumbled upon while going through the correspondence between Marx and Engels in 1913, whether he elaborated on the subject in more detail. Most of his writings on the development of capitalism and the dissolution of the agricultural society were written before 1913.

More details on Karl Marx' treatment of this subject

The quotation that Lenin referred to in his remark is one of the most important ones made by Marx on this topic. Marx had studied a book written by the Russian landowner Schédo-Ferroti who disparaged the communal ownership of landed property in Russia in a typical manner. The quotation is as follows:

„He“ (Borkheim) „is translating for me the main passages from a Russian book about agrarian disintegration, and has also given me a French book on the subject by the Russian Schédo-Ferroti. The latter is very much mistaken - he is altogether a very superficial fellow - in saying that the Russian communal system came into existence only as a result of the ban on peasants leaving the land. The whole business, down to the smallest detail, is absolutely identical with the primeval Germanic communal system. Add to this, in the Russian case (and this may be found also amongst a part of the Indian communal systems, not in the Punjab, but in the South), (1) the non-democratic, but patriarchal character of the commune leadership and (2) the collective responsibility for taxes to the state, etc. It follows from the second point that the more industrious a Russian peasant is, the more he is exploited by the state, not only in terms of taxes, but also for supplying provisions and horses, etc. for the constant passage of troops, for government couriers, etc. The whole shit is breaking down.“

Marx to Engels, November 7, 1868, MECW Vol. 43, p. 154.

The patriarchal character of the community is in itself a further topic for discussion. If this is a matter of fact, it is, of course, necessary to carry on the fight for the democratization of society in a particular manner, that is to say, again to learn from the West. Here, we are once again faced with a certain justified moment in Lenin’s policies to demand the democratization of society and the overcoming of the village commune at least with regard to this. As it can be seen here, this questions leads to really essential questions of cultural history, to ethnological questions of the history of mankind, if what the quotation states, happens to be true. The negative feature existing in the patriarchal character of the village commune does not at all, however, abolish the principal significance of the village commune for the development of civilization. In fact, if we delve into the past history of any nation or nationality, we are bound to encounter some negative feature or the other. The historic-cultural analysis which can be found in Marx's writings on Germany, for example, aims at sounding out negative and positive aspects and at developing a corresponding dealing with the cultural questions.
The same approach should have been followed in the case of Russia. Accordingly, we find a series of reflections by Marx in the same vein. Whenever the contribution of the village commune is acknowledged, there is also a discussion on how one should overcome the negative aspects of this development.

Let us take the following quotation as an example:

„There is one characteristic of the ‘agricultural commune’ in Russia which afflicts it with weakness, hostile in every sense. That is its isolation, the lack of connexion between the life of one commune and that of the others, this localised microcosm which is not encountered everywhere as an immanent characteristic of this type but which, wherever it is found, has caused a more or less centralised despotism to arise on top of the communes. The federation of Russian republics of the North proves that this isolation, which seems to have been originally imposed by the vast expanse of the territory, was largely consolidated by the political destinies which Russia had to suffer after the Mongol invasion.
Today it is an obstacle which could easily be eliminated. It would simply be necessary to replace the volost, the government body, with an assembly of peasants elected by the communes themselves, serving as the economic and administrative organ for their interest.“

Karl Marx, Drafts of the Letter to Vera Zasulich, 1881, First Draft, MECW Vol. 24, p. 353.

And this quotation on the possibilities of the village commune prior to that:

„Russia is the sole European country where the ‘agricultural commune’ has kept going on a nationwide scale up to the present day. It is not the prey of a foreign conqueror, as the East Indies, and neither does it lead a life cut off from the modern world. On the one hand, the common ownership of land allows it to transform individualist farming in parcels directly and gradually into collective farming, and the Russian peasants are already practising it in the undivided grasslands; the physical lie disposition of the land invites mechanical cultivation on a large scale; the peasant's familiarity with the contract of artel facilitates the transition from parcel labour to cooperative labour; and, finally, Russian society, which has so long lived at his expense, owes him the necessary advances for such a transition. On the other hand, the contemporaneity of western production, which dominates the world market, allows Russia to incorporate in the commune all the positive acquisitions devised by the capitalist system without passing through its Caudine Forks.“

Karl Marx, Drafts of the Letter to Vera Zasulich, First Draft, MECW Vol. 24, p. 352-353

These quotations show that Marx again and again gave a lot of thought to the peculiarities of Russia. "The physical lie of the land invites mechanical cultivation on a large scale " - this observation later went on to assume great significance in the Soviet Union, when people were mulling over the possibility of collectivization. The crux of these ideas, however, was that Russia did not necessarily have to go through the "Caudine Forks" of capitalism. In another place, Marx says that the notion that the "Russian village commune is of Mongolian origin" is a "historical lie“, in another important letter with a polemic against the same Baltic-German landowner, Schédo-Ferroti, who proposed such theses:

„ Schédo-Ferroti is one of the fellows who (naturally IN THE INTERESTS OF LAND-LORDISM*) attribute the miserable situation of the Russian peasantry to the existence of communal property, just as, formerly, the abolition of serfdom in Western Europe, instead of the serfs’ loss of their land, was decried as the cause of pauperism..... The Russian peasantry is thrown into misery by the same thing that made the French peasantry miserable un-der Louis XIV, etc. - state taxation and the obrok** to the big landowners. Instead of producing the misery, communal property alone diminished it.
It is, further, a historical lie that this communal property was Mongolian. As I have indicated at various points in my writings, it is of Indian origin, and may, therefore, be found among all European peoples at the beginning of their development. The specific Slav (not Mongolian) form of the same in Russia (which is also repeated amongst the non-Russian South Slavs) even resembles most, mutatis mutandis***, the Old German modification of Indian communal property.“

Marx to Ludwig Kugelmann, February 17, 1870, MECW Vol. 43, p. 434-435.
* or. English. **, *** see [13]

Marx not only refuted the false romanticization of the village commune as a "communist Eldorado", which was aimed at Alexander Herzen in particular, but he also acknowledged its historical significance and took an increasingly distinct stand as he delved deeper and deeper into the subject.

Lenin's views on capitalism in Russia

What, now, are the views of Leninism about the development of capitalism in Russia? Very briefly they may be summed up in the following.
Lenin sees that capitalism had developed quite extensively in Russia in the last decade of the nineteenth century. He now speaks about the task to secure as free and unhindered an evolution for capitalism in Russia as possible because exactly this evolution would optimally prepare the development towards socialism and the overcoming of capitalism by the proletariat. It would not be an exaggeration if we were to summarize this idea thus: Russia should plunge headlong into capitalism, all the medieval attachments, as he sees it, should be swept away if possible. Lenin constantly compares the two paths of development which could be followed by capitalism. He elaborated on these two paths several times but basically stuck to the same idea: Russia, according to him, had a choice between the Bismarckian-Prussian or the American pattern for developing capitalism. The Prussian way of gradual conversion of landed property to capitalist landed property and of a slow development of capitalism, in Lenin’s opinion, and the American pattern of unrestricted development of capitalism, which had taken place in the nineteenth century in USA, because American society was free of the fetters of feudal structures. As regards the village commune, Lenin has believed for a long time that it was a relic of medieval and feudal times and should therefore be done away with and discarded as soon as possible. According to him, all hopes revolving around the village commune were illusions of the Narodniki, and he even went so far as to lump together all the Narodniki of his time and the revolutionaries of the previous epoch, i.e. the followers of Chernyshevskii's direction, on this issue; he accuses all of them of harbouring a mystical belief in the village commune. As for Chernyshevskii, though, these views were not correct. Lenin was willing to concede only a historical legitimacy of Chernyshevskii's social perspectives. He also acknowledged Chernyshevskii's role as a political "revolutionary" and as a sharp critic of liberalism. But he dismissed the essence of Chernyshevskii's social perceptions as some kind of a reverie. [14]

Lenin’s views on the village commune and thus also on the development of capitalism underwent several modifications in the course of development, however, which we shall discuss in detail later in the text.
Here we would like to touch upon Lenin's debate with the Narodnik Mikhailovskii who had attacked Lenin on certain points. This debate is of import also for the whole divergence as to the basic approach of Marxism. We must remember in this context, that Lenin did not know about the most important reference to Obshchina (peasant's common property in Russia) made by Marx in his letter written to Vera Zasulich in 1881, because Plekhanov, V. Zasulich and P. Akselrod had ignored the letter that Marx had written to them and had not published it for a long time for the Russian movement. So, Lenin was unaware of this reference, the most direct of all, at least till that point of time. But there were other well-known documents, too. In 1886, Engels had published the letter of 1877 intended by Marx to be a response to the editorial committee of "Otechestvennyje Zapiski"; here Marx had addressed this topic to a certain extent, though not as clearly as in the document of 1881. Besides, Lenin also had access to the comment contained in the preface of the Russian edition of 1882 of the „Manifesto“. [15]

Lenin, in his criticism against the Narodnik Mikhailovskii entitled "What the ‘friends of the people’ are...“, Part III, quotes this letter of 1877, actually mainly one crucial sentence. He quotes Marx’ dictum:

"If Russia is tending to become a capitalist nation on the pattern of the West-European countries - and during the last years she has been taking much trouble in this respect - she will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of her peasants into proletarians."

Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 1, p. 266 (cf. MECW, Vo1. 24, p. 196)

Marx had, in fact, made this statement, that is to say this „if....then...“-case. But it cannot be said that this is the whole substance of this work. There are also quite different statements in this writing which the later Narodniks tried to misuse for themselves, but, nevertheless, cannot be overlooked. In the same writing there is equally to be found the following:

„I have arrived at this result: if Russia continues along the path it has followed since 1861, it will miss the finest chance“ (!!!) „that history has ever offered to a nation, only to undergo all the fatal vicissitudes of the capitalist system.“

Karl Marx, Letter to Otechestvenniye Zapiski, MECW Vol. 24, p. 199.

This gives at any rate a clear indication that Marx thought it worthwhile to look for other paths too, and his positive evaluation of Chernyshevskii, mentioned in this article, further substantiates this. This is not all. In his continuation of the draft of the letter, Marx polemicizes against the method of applying the historical sketch that he had prepared for West Europe, directly to Russia. He reproaches the liberal Shukovskii thus:

„ It is absolutely necessary for him to metamorphose my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into a historico-philosophical theory of general development, imposed by fate on all peoples, whatever the historical circumstances in which they are placed, in order to eventually attain this economic formation which, with a tremendous leap of the productive forces of social labour, assures the most integral development of every individual producer. But I beg his pardon. This does me too much honour, and yet puts me to shame at the same time.“

Ibid. , p. 200

Marx says time and again in his articles, that it depends on the historical conditions or historical milieu in which the dissolution and transformation of the village commune takes place. The method criticized by him, however, which consists in taking the analysis prepared by himself for Western Europe as an universal law, is put to practice by Lenin incessantly in all his articles. Also for Lenin it seems clear that from the theoretical point of view the village com-mune was bound to decomposition, that capitalism had to win through, even in the most radical manner, and that socialized property, on its turn, politically pushed through by the proletarian revolution, was to spring from capitalism
Marx then illustrates what he wants to say by a very profound reference which is to demonstrate the nonsense of that method. He portrays how this kind of split had already taken place even in ancient Rome, that is to say the alienation of the producer from his means of production, the ousting of peasants from their land and the emergence of proletarians. This proletarian was, however, quite different from the one belonging to modern European society. The Roman proletariat became a stinking mob, and was certainly not in any position to bring about the proletarian revolution. Marx uses this rather extreme example to demonstrate that proletarianization and development of capital under a different set of historical conditions does by no means necessarily give rise to an evolution towards socialism. This, as Marx viewed it, depends on the historical milieu in which it is taking place.

So, if one were to go into the deliberations of this letter, exactly these thoughts would have had to be dealt with. Lenin could very well have criticised this letter addressed to the editorial board of "Otechestvennyje Zapiski". It goes without saying, that Marx can, or rather should, be criticised if one thinks he is in the wrong. But what Lenin did in this writing is not permissible, i.e. to extract a small portion from the whole argument, use it for one's own purposes and con-veniently forget to mention all the other points raised, just because they contradict one's own argument.

Lenin would have been quite justified if he had proved his point by producing an analysis stating that the much-awaited chance which Marx had mentioned in his article had been missed, did not exist any longer, or that Marx had anyway sensed a false chance, depending on how one wants to go about criticising Marx. But nothing of the sort is evident in Lenin's dispute with Mikhailovskii. All these points are left out, and against Mikhailovskii, who actually seems to have represented a dreamful Narodnik ideology, a partial Marxism is being set. And this is also not a correct thing to do.

Lenin's views with regard to this are very constant. But we would like to point out an exception here. Lenin's perspectives did, after all, undergo several changes in the course of time and the observation of reality. In the year 1902 the peasant movement in Russia experienced a sharp upswing.

In 1902, the movement among the Russian peasantry in particular in certain provinces at the mid-Wolga came to the fore, i.e. in the regions which were the most characterized by the village commune. The peasants were by no means fighting against the village commune but against the extortionist policy of the tsar, which deprived them of their money, and against the landowners, who snatched away their food. The peasants themselves suffered pangs of hunger and had to sacrifice even their last grain of corn to fulfil their never-ending obligations. They broke into the granaries of landowners and seized the contents for their consumption, an action for which they were butchered in the most brutal manner by the tsarist mafia.
Moreover, the famine and the deterioration in the condition of the peasants during the years 1900 and 1901, which in the end sparked off these revolts, had given a clear indication to many people, also to the social democrats, about the direction that their demands should take. And this became apparent in Lenin's draft programme of 1902, which now clearly speaks about returning the portions of land which had been cut off to the village communes, and unmistakably and markedly demands the abolition of indirect taxes. [16]

Tsarism, on its part, henceforth found itself induced to vary its line into the direction of immediate dissolution of the village commune. This policy was on its agenda during the following years and became the focus of its policy after 1905. It now switches over to a policy of directly promoting individual ownership of land by renouncing the collective tax liability and by enacting laws which actively promoted the secession of the peasantry from the commune as well as privately taking possession. This very program, however, moves near to what had been propagated by the Russian social democracy for quite a long time and even had been depicted as a progressive development. Lenin wrote detailed commentaries on this, where he tried to justify the stand taken by him ("The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social Democracy" of 1902).

Every political organization in Russia knew or at least felt that the peasantry would revolt. Therefore, as early as January 21st, 1902, a "Special commission on agricultural requirements" was set up under the chairmanship of the finance minister, Witte; this commission was entrusted with the task of addressing the problem of taxation, or, to put it more precisely, the tax extortion of the peasants, which in some way was on the end of its tether. That something had to happen about the peasant question had nothing of a secret in the country. A few weeks later, heavy rioting broke out, as mentioned above.

“Here we must say a few words about the much-vaunted and memorable ‘village commune’. Actually, of course, the annulment of collective liability (Mr. Witte may manage to put this particular reform through before the revolution), the abolition of division into social-estates, freedom of movement, and the right for each individual peasant freely to dispose of his land will rapidly and inevitably bring about the removal of the burden of taxation and serf-bondage that the land commune to a three-fourths extent constitutes at the present time. But this result will only prove the correctness of our views on the village commune, prove how incompatible it is with the entire social and economic development of capitalism. The result will by no means follow from any particular measure recommended by us ‘against the village commune’, for we never have supported and never shall support a single measure aimed directly against this or that system of peasant land tenure.“ (3)

The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy, LCW, Vol. 6, p. 146.

The derogatory stand on the village commune is being retained here in principle and the destruction of the village commune is predicted as something inevitable and necessary. But the last sentence of the quotation contains something new. It has to be kept in mind that the village commune does not at all consist only in a system of peasant land tenure (strip-farming, three-field system or more modern forms of farming) but is a form of possession. Lenin skirts this issue here. Though the Russian social democrats may not have recommended direct measures against the village commune, their negative propaganda naturally had an adverse effect on it.

But Lenin goes further:

„Moreover, we shall unreservedly defend the village commune as a democratic organisa-tion of local government, as a co-operative or a neighbours' association, against all encroachments on the part of the bureaucrats - encroachments which find such favour with opponents of the village commune in the camp of Moskovskiye Vedomosti. We shall never help anyone to ‘destroy the village commune’, but we shall strive absolutely for the abolition of all institutions that run counter to democracy, irrespective of the effect of this abolition on the basic or partial reallotment of the land, etc.“

Ibid, p. 146

These sentences come after a period of ten long years during which Lenin had not uttered a single positive word in favour of the village commune; on the contrary, he had incessantly attacked the institution and negated it as a source of socialist strivings in his attacks against the Narodniki. Though most of his single accusations levelled against the latter were justified, Lenin denied the possible historical function described several times by Marx. In Lenin's eyes , the village commune was a relic which stood in the way of all modern development. But apparently the peasant movement had made obvious a very strong tendency to preserve this self-administration, and this was conceded by Lenin to a certain extent.

We cannot help but acknowledge Lenin’s ability for taking into account the evolution in political life. This he proved time and again, he adapted himself to practical conditions.

This becomes clear in particular by a debate which Lenin had with Plekhanov on this issue. The program of the Social Democrats states: “2) annulment of collective liability and of all laws restricting the peasant“ (NB the singular) „in the free disposal of his land;“

This is what Lenin wrote in reply:

„The objection may be raised that, by sanctifying the individual will of each particular peasant, the latter measure will destroy the village commune, not only as a system of land reallotment, etc., but outright, even as a co-operative neighbours’ association. Each individual peasant will have the right to demand, despite the will of the majority, that his land be allotted to him as a separate plot. Does this not run counter to the general tendency of all socialists to further the extension rather than the restriction of the right of the collective body over the individual?
To this we reply that it does not at all follow from our formulation that every peasant must necessarily demand that a separate plot of land be allotted to him. What does follow is only liberty to sell the land: moreover, the preferential right of the commune members to purchase land that is being sold does not run counter to this liberty.“

Ibid, p. 147.

Later, Lenin corrected this particular passage in the course of the debate. In his replies to the comments made by Plekhanov and Akselrod on the article entitled "The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social Democracy" the following is to be found:

„This objection would be groundless. Our demands do not destroy the association but, on the contrary, set up in place of the archaic (de facto semi-feudal) power of the commune over the muzhik, the power of a modern association over its members who join of their own accord. Nor, in particular, is our formulation at variance with the recognition, for instance, of fellow members having the preemptive right, on certain terms, to buy land put up for sale by a fellow member.“

V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 41, p. 67.

This paragraph and the question of its origin throw up some interesting details which I shall discuss later in the text. But first, let us tackle the significant dispute between Plekhanov and Lenin. For Plekhanov, even this small amount of consideration is too much. He said in this context:

„I don’t agree with this. This right” (referring to the preemptive right of fellow members) “would merely depreciate the peasant’s land.
As for collective liability, it has partially already been abolished, and the rest will be abolished by Mr. Witte any day now.
Contradiction. I fail to understand: at the one hand, I freely enter an association and freely withdraw from it. On the other, the commune has a preemptive right to buy my land. There is a contradiction in this.“

as quoted in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 41, p. 67-68.

Lenin reacts very sharply to this statement. He feels that Plekhanov would totally discredit social democracy in the eyes of the peasants:

“The author of the remarks“ (Plekhanov) „overdoes his hostility to the commune. On this point great care must be taken to keep out of the embrace of Messrs. A. Skvortsov [17] & Co. (into which the author of the remarks falls). On certain terms, the right of preemption may increase instead of decreasing the value of the land. My expression is deliberately broader and more general, whereas the author of the remarks is in too much of a hurry to cut the Gordian knot. By carelessly ‘denying’ the commune (as an association) we may easily spoil all our ‘good will’ to the peasant. After all, the commune is also connected with the conventional type of settlement, and so on, and only the A. Skvortsovs ‘remake’ this in their projects with the stroke of a pen.“
V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 41, p.67-68.

Look how Lenin himself now describes the whole question as a Gordian knot!
These sentences now really show a certain degree of acceptance of the practical role played by the village commune. They show that it was not something that could be ignored. But at the same time, a tactical argument is forwarded here. Why would the belief in the good will of the social democrats be undermined due to Plekhanov’s hostility? Why were the peasants clinging so tightly to the "conventional type of settlement, and so on" if this was based on out-dated relics, as alleged?

Now let us revert to the paragraph mentioned above. It is interesting to note that Lenin uses the term "archaic" here. This could possibly indicate that Lenin knew the background of the whole argument of Marx, but this cannot be said with surety. In another translation, we find the word "obsolete" which is a more neutral term. Finally, it is noteworthy that this paragraph, which was written during the course of an intense argument with Plekhanov and Akselrod, was quoted by the publishers of "Lenin Collected Works" in the additional volume 41 without any reference to the source. The single passages from "The Agrarian Programme of Social Democracy" are systematically quoted in this text, and the exact location of these quotes in Volume 6 is carefully listed. Then comes this paragraph without any reference whatsoever to the source, so that, at first instance, it seems as if something has been left out in the edition "Lenin Collected Works" vol. 6. But the actual reason for this editorial proceeding is that Lenin corrected his own text, the draft for the program, several times, and in the course of the discussion certain of the meanwhile corrected paragraphs are being discussed, whereas the text in Volume 6 of "Lenin Collected Works" was reproduced as per the original version (cf. also Lenin, Sämtliche Werke - "Rote Ausgabe"- Vol. V, p. 166).
Apparently, the publishers of "Lenin Collected Works (4th edition)” were well aware of the tricky nature of this problem, which Lenin himself had described as a "Gordian knot".

Not knowing of the actual significance of the village commune and in contradiction to what Marx and previously even Chernyshevskii had written, Lenin, however, continues to pursue a policy in practice which regarded the destruction of the village commune as a matter of priority.
Though Lenin says that he would not support the destruction of the village commune by the reactionaries, he nevertheless expects this destruction to come about through the social differentiation in the village, through the development of class struggle in the countryside, and finally he even went so far as to represent Stolypin's policies as being economically progressive (see below).

Lenin expected the "liberation" of the village commune from the collective liability and the newly-introduced "freedom of movement" to involuntarily lead to its downfall because he saw, without reserve, the development of capitalism as an inevitable stage. The burden of taxation and of serf-bondage is not an inherent feature of the agricultural community as such, it had not been produced by it, but by the tsarist system. In many places, it is clear that Lenin has taken from Chicherin the assessment of the village commune, and this must in the end favour the destruction of the village commune, even if the person concerned does not want it, in view of a massive peasant movement. After all, a commune which stems from tsarist tax legislation, could hardly be defended by the socialists; in this context only concessions of the kind as Lenin made in the above paragraphs are logical. But this assessment contradicts Marx’, which has been explained in detail in the initial sections. And Lenin does not refer to this change in Plekhanov's views in any of his writings. We have to examine articles like "The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social Democracy" in the light of these fundamental points even if they contain in detail many valid observations in contrast to the Mensheviks or the social revolutionaries.

„We hold that the class struggle is the main factor also in the sphere of agrarian relationships in Russia. We base our entire agrarian policy (and, consequently, our agrarian programme as well) on unswerving recognition of this fact along with all consequences resulting from it.“

The Agrarian Programme of Russian Social-Democracy, V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 6, p. 148.

The following quotation expresses the essence of his political theses:

„To clear the way for the free development of the class struggle in the countryside, it is necessary to remove all remnants of serfdom, which now overlie the beginnings of capitalist antagonisms among the rural population, and keep them from developing.“

Ibid, p. 148.

This article, as also various other pieces, reveal time and again the sharp, uncompromising denial of any possibility of a course of development for Russia different from the West European model; this was a direct affront to the basic statements by Marx and Engels on this subject. It is not as if Lenin had tried to qualify his words here to mean that capitalism was developing up to this or that point and that the other existing forms of collective ownership from the past still made themselves felt during the struggle in a certain manner; on the contrary, his statements boil down to a complete denial. Even the landlords, around the years 1902/1903, according to the opinion of the social democrats, should not be dispossessed but only obliged to give back the extra portions of land that they had robbed additionally from the peasants („otreski“). These portions of land which previously had belonged to the peasants now blocked them from vital entrances to drinking troughs, pastures and roads, and were used by the landlords to force them to work off the debts allegedly incurred by the use of this previously peasant land (indirect socage). Lenin himself later on criticized this demand by the social democrats as insufficient.

On reading this article, it seems at first instance to be a positive sign when Lenin turns his attention to the free development of the class struggle within the village in order to find and encourage the modern allies for the proletariat. His portrayals of social differentiation within the village structure, which he wrote during this time and even in the end of the nineties seem quite plausible. But later Lenin had to admit that the leadership of the RSDWP [Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party] had overrated the extent of class struggle in the villages and underestimated the significance of the struggle against "serfdom" (this should actually read 'against the tsarist system'). In actual fact, the decisive question was the relativity of the two problems with one another (cf. V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 13, p. 292].
In this article on the agrarian program written in 1902, he made also the following statement:

„But this transition“ (to capitalism) „is also conceivable in the form of the forcible overthrow of those heirs of the serf-owners who, relying on the tradition of the former power of the slave-owners, rather than on the ‘power of money’, are sucking the last drops of blood from the patriarchal peasantry. This patriarchal peasantry, which lives under a system of natural economy by the labour of its hands, is doomed to disappear, but there is no ‘necessity’ or any ‘immanent’ law of social and economic evolution that dooms it to endure the torment of being ‘ground down by taxes’, of floggings, or a long-drawn out, horribly protracted death by starvation.“

Ibid, p. 148-149.

There is no doubt that the patriarchal peasantry was doomed - these sentences are correct if they are emphasized in this manner. But Lenin ignored every opportunity to apprehend these collective forms which had been passed down through the ages and which had also seeped into Western civilizations, but so far had not been able to develop accordingly in Russia; he failed to link them with modern class struggle and to regard them in a totally different historical context. Lenin was justified in fighting against the „collective tax liability", against the division into social-estates and against patriarchy, but was wrong in treating these institutions as being synonymous with the village commune. As far as patriarchy is concerned, one must proceed with particular caution because capitalism, at least in the initial stages, does not necessarily result in the abolition of patriarchy, just as collective ownership of land does not inevitably have to be associated with patriarchy.

A transition to capitalism accompanied by complete dismemberment of the village commune and the resultant release of millions of peasants, however, must have lead, under all conditions which were imaginable then, to large-scale starvation of millions of peasants. On the whole, the characteristic feature of this work is that Lenin made considerable concessions here with respect to the role of the village commune. However, there was no fundamental change in this detailed article of 1902.

Now let us turn to one of the most important writings of Lenin on the agrarian question. The book entitled "The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution,1905 -1907" was given for printing for the first time in the year 1907, but could not come out because it was confiscated. On account of its great significance, it was published once again in 1917. Lenin devoted large portions of the book to his arguments against his opponents in the RSDWP and amongst the Social Revolutionaries. What is of interest for us here is above all how Lenin himself evaluated the new development which had taken place since 1905/6.

At the time of the Stolypin reaction, during the years 1906/7, a standpoint emerged which cannot be termed but completely and astonishingly contrary. Tsarism was still forced to struggle against the village commune. Even though 45 years had gone by since the introduction of the so-called reforms, the institution of the village commune was not yet dead; more than 20 years had elapsed since Marx and Engels (in their foreword to the second Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto) had posed that fundamental question as to whether the village commune could still be of significance in connection with the revolution in the West. Tsarism now was getting ready to crush the village commune with all the brute force that it could muster, it would not be exaggerated here to term it a harbinger of fascism. Stolypin - the very name became synonymous with one of the most brutal executioners the century had ever seen. This policy had already been drafted in 1902, reacting to the experiences with the unrest of the peasantry. Stolypin studded the entire Russian countryside with gallows and demanded to wipe out the Russian village commune with all the strength, brute force and power of the government machinery.
In the year 1905, the elements of the peasants’ revolution, which had already played a vital role during the 1902 uprisings, started becoming all the more prominent. In June 1906, after several other abortive attempts had been carried out, the Tsar appointed the Home Minister Stolypin as the Prime Minister; Stolypin had the distinction of having brutally oppressed the peasants in the 1902 uprisings. The agrarian question was of central import for the revolution of 1905. Widespread revolts by peasants swept across the length and breadth of the country for a full year starting from autumn 1905 up to autumn 1906, which had to be quelled by massive deployment of military force. They continued even after the great workers' uprising in Moscow (December 1905) was cracked down by the military. The peasants in places set fire to land-lords’ estates in order to focus attention on their demand for land in their desperate situation.

Stolypin, on his part, went on to become the perfect paradigm of tsarist counter-revolution and of a regime of pogroms. From 1905 onwards, the so-called "Black Hundreds" burst on to the scene; they were gangs formed from drunkards, depraved men and criminals, with the task to unscrupulously and basely terrorize the revolutionary workers and peasants. [18] [19]

But we are primarily interested in the economic central point of Stolypin’s government program. It is identical with the question which has been interesting us all the time: the destruction of the village commune.
On 9th November 1906, an ordinance was issued by the tsar, with Stolypin in overall charge, which was published under the section of the emergency decree; this ordinance was aimed at pushing through private property against the village commune.
It enabled every yard owner to have his portion of the communal landed property declared his personal property, over which he had full and complete control, including the right to sell the portion of land if he so desired. The entire concept had been inspired by the experiences gained since 1902 as also by the recently concluded war with Japan, which once again had exposed the whole weakness of tsarism. The ambition of the tsar and the threatening economic condition of the country, which was dependent on foreign countries, all the more forced these measures. In this policy the concept played a pivotal role to create a pliant land-owning class in the countryside in order to secure the rule of tsarism. But this is far from being something like a capitalist system modelled along the lines of the one in West Europe.

The first para of this ordinance said:

"Every yard-owner (domochozjain] owning a piece of land in accordance with the law of the Mark community (obscinnoe pravo) is entitled to declare his share of this land as his private property at any time." [20]

From October 1905 onwards, the Tsar made attempts to disguise his regime by a parliament, the so-called Duma. When the first Duma did not prove to be pliable, a second one was called in its place. The main task of this second Duma, which convened in summer 1906, was to address the agrarian question. As soon as it became clear that it did not want to decide as requested, it was scattered, although anyway it was not a democratic institution. For the next Duma the body of delegates for electing the parliamentary representatives was structured as to secure the majority for tsarism in advance. The largest section went to the nobility, the second largest to the bourgeoisie, whereas the huge peasantry and the proletariat had only a tiny fraction. By these measures, the Tsar retracted even the rest of the concessions of his so-called October Manifesto. This is why one speaks of the „coup d’état“ of 3rd June named after the Act of 3rd June 1907. The central point of this very „coup d’état“ consisted in the undisputable necessity to implement Stolypin's line.

In fact, there were clear reasons for enacting such an ordinance because the village commune was closely connected to the peasants' rebellion in the central agricultural provinces of the country. The peasants had continued to defend the village commune for years by way of countless demonstrations inspite of all kinds of bans and laws, still! [21]

In the view of the above situation, it is in fact interesting to see the position taken by Lenin in the matter. The following paragraph deserves exact reading:

„Stolypin’s ‘clearing’ undoubtedly follows the line of the progressive capitalist development of Russia; but it is adapted solely to the interests of the landlords: let the rich peasants pay the ‘Peasant’ (read: Landlord) Bank an exorbitant price for the land; in return we shall give them freedom to plunder the village communes, to forcibly expropriate the masses, to round off their plots, to evict the poor peasants, to undermine the very foundations of the life of entire villages, and. at any price, in spite of everything, setting at naught the life and husbandry of any number of ‘old established’ allotment peasants, to set up new otrub holdings, as the basis for new capitalist agriculture. There is unquestionable economic sense in that line; it faithfully expresses the real course of development as it should be under the rule of landlords who are being transformed into Junkers.“

The Agrarian Programme of Social-Democracy in the First Russian Revolution, 1905 -1907, V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 13, p. 277-278.

We find that though the destruction has been described in detail here, a somewhat progressive development under Stolypin is supposed. The economically reactionary character is disputed here. This amounts to an indirect appreciation by Lenin of the tsarist hangman, Stolypin, which cannot be explained otherwise but on the basis of the hotchpotch of Lenin’s views with respect to the village commune. Stolypin - this perpetuator of the executioner’s deeds of tsarism is described by Lenin because of his deeds in agrarian policies as somebody whose line basically corresponds to the proceeding capitalist development. To this line Lenin attributes „unquestionable economic sense“. It is said to express the real course of the development of the landlords transforming themselves into Junkers.

This extreme position taken by Lenin around the year 1907 clearly shows that he was not aware of the significance of the Stolypin reaction; this was a tsarist reaction even in the economic sense - a tsarist act of violence unleashed in the name of the military-bureaucratic machinery of the Russian state. This policy resulted in the pauperization of the village and the ruin of Russian agriculture. This was actually a continuation of the "reform" of 1861 carried to extremes.
And anyone harbouring the notion that this is just one isolated quotation, is advised to read the following extract from the same article:

„The Black Hundreds fully take the stand of capitalist development and definitely depict a programme that is economically progressive, European; this need to be specially emphasised, because a vulgar and simplified view of the nature of the reactionary policy of the landlords is very widespread among us. The liberals often depict the Black Hundreds as clowns and fools, but it most be said that this description is far more applicable to the Cadets. Our reactionaries, however, are distinguished by their extremely pronounced class-consciousness. They know perfectly well what they want where they are going, and on what forces they can count. They do not betray a shadow of half-heartedness or irresolution (at all events in the Second Duma; in the First there was ‘bewilderment’ among the Bobrinskys!). They are clearly seen to be connected with a very definite class, which is accustomed to command, which correctly judges the conditions necessary for preserving its rule in a capitalist environment, and brazenly defends its interests even if that entails the rapid extinction, degradation, and eviction of millions of peasants. The Black-Hundred programme is reactionary not because it seeks to perpetuate any precapitalist relations or system (in that respect all the parties of the Second Duma already, in essence, take the stand of recognising capitalism, of taken it for granted), but because it stands for the Junker type of capitalist development in order to strengthen the power and to increase the incomes of the landlords, in order to place the edifice of autocracy upon a new and stronger foundation. There is no contradiction between what these gentlemen say and what they do; our reactionaries, too, are ‘businessmen’, as Lassalle said of the German reactionaries in contrast to the liberals.“

Ibid, p. 370-371.

Ferdinand Lassalle is however a bad witness because he himself did not have a very clean slate as far as admiration of certain aristocrats in Prussia was concerned. The fact that openly reactionary people could sometimes turn out to be greater realists than the liberals themselves, proved occasionally to be true. But in this form it is an outrageous exaggeration. The quotation is self-explanatory.

And we find in Lenin also the source of the ideas, that retort against the theory of civilization, as represented by the theory of evolution, and represented by Marx.

This article also discusses the allotment land (the name given to the sections of agricultural land in the village commune) in connection with how nationalization of landed property would be achieved:

„The division must be based not on the old allotment land distributed among the peasants a hundred years ago at the will of the landlords’ bailiffs or of the officials of Asiatic despotism, but on the needs of free, commercial agriculture.“

Ibid, p. 278.

It is obvious here that Lenin had Chicherin’s ideas in mind and had formulated his theoretical statements on their basis; Chicherin was an apologist for tsarism who had claimed in 1856 that the village commune was a product of the tax legislation of the 18th century. Lenin does not talk about the change in Plekhanov's views anywhere in his published works, although he tried to develop the history of these views. While representing this history, he should have touched upon the allegedly outdated and false opinions on this question such as those of Marx and Engels. But he did no such thing.

„To meet the requirements of capitalism, the division must be a division among free farmers, not among ‘indolent’ peasants, the great majority of whom run their economies by routine and tradition in conformity with patriarchal, not with capitalist conditions. A division according to the old standards, i.e., in conformity with the old forms of landownership based on peasant allotments, will not be the clearing of the old landownership, but its perpetuation; not clearing the way for capitalism, but rather encumbering it with a mass of unadapted and unadaptable ‘indolents’ who cannot become free farmers. To be progressive, the division must be based on a new sorting process among the peasant cultivators, which will sift the farmers from the useless lumber.“

Ibid, p. 278/9

In plain language, this just means that the majority of peasants, who Lenin refers to as "useless lumber" should be set free as soon possible, a process to which Lenin ascribes an allegedly progressive, necessary meaning. The objective here is to clear the way for capitalism. Something different is not at all any more admitted to debate.

Finally it is stated very clearly that:

„The mass of small owner cultivators declared in favour of nationalisation at the congresses of the Peasant Union in 1905, in the First Duma in 1906, and in the Second Duma in 1907, i. e., during the whole of the first period of the revolution. They did so not because the ‘village commune’ had imbued them with certain special ‘rudiments’, certain special, non-bourgeois ‘labour principles’. On the contrary, they did so because life required of them that they should seek emancipation from the medieval village commune and from the medieval allotment system. They did so not because they wanted or were able to build a socialist agriculture, but because they have been wanting and have been able to build a really bourgeois small-scale farming, i. e., farming freed as much as possible from all the traditions of serfdom.“

Ibid, p. 425.

History has proved that this was not the case. Naturally, the peasants wanted to be rid of the tradition of socage . But to the village commune the majority of the concerned peasants held on tightly. For them, the two were not identical.

Lenin himself, however, admitted much later that Stolypin had distinguished himself by his excellent capacity to conceal his "Asiatic ‘practices' behind glib phrases, external appearances, poses and gestures made to look ‘European’.“ [22]

Stolypin's policies proved to be a failure. In spite of all the hardship they suffered, most of the peasants of Great Russia remained firmly in favour of Obshchina. It was primarily rich peasants who chose to leave the village commune because it was advantageous for them to do so; as well as a larger number of peasants who wanted to leave anyway and sold their yards after they were converted into private property. All these developments emphasize the historical relevance of the question thrown up by Chernyshevskii.
The laws against the Obshchina were worked out in even greater detail in 1910-1911. By the year 1914, out of a total of eleven million yards in Central Russia, less than 20 per cent had been converted into individual ownership. Literature with the most varied ideological leanings arrives at the conclusion that Stolypin's efforts had suffered a failure.
Lenin himself wrote the following in July 1912:

„For the time being we shall note that the only entirely real result of the Stolypin break-up is a famine among 30 million people.“

A Comparison of the Stolypin and the Narodnik Agrarian Programmes, V.I. Lenin, Col-lected Works, Vol. 18, p.149.

But Lenin continued to stand by his theoretical views. For example, he speaks of the "the necessity of a more consistent and resolute procedure" (as compared to Stolypin's) here. Therefore, the critique formulated here can also be applied to subsequent articles dealing with the agrarian question.

On the development of Russia after 1861

If we follow Lenin’s analysis of the reform of 1861, it was a reform useful to and in the interest of the landowners and absolutism in Russia. It was a reform which turned serf-owning landowners into hidden serf-owning landowners and capitalist landowners, and which was eventually taken advantage of by the Kulaks in order to enrich themselves. Thus the way was being paved for the capitalist development in Russia, even though this happened in a way the proletariat could not approve of. The final quintessence is that in Russia the capitalist development made headway after 1861, and according to Lenin the proletariat had to take the situation in such a way that it ensured as rapid and democratic a development as possible. In the following, we are going to take a closer look at this “capitalist development“ in Russia, since this is exactly what matters. For we have seen how complex and subtly differentiated things become with Marx. How is the reform of 1861 to be evaluated?

There exist several comprehensive works on the economic development of the entire epoch between 1861 and 1917, which, however, have to be analysed by ourselves and would also have to be compared with one another if the task were to write an extensive book. Among these works there are certain detailed studies by Marx - who worked on them from the end of the 1870s until 1882 - providing not only highly interesting ideas which are helpful as starting-points

for our study but, moreover, highly interesting and useful findings on the epoch up until 1881. The studies in question are the “Notizen zur Reform von 1861 und der damit verbundenen Entwicklung in Rußland“1 from Marx' literary remains(4). They constitute a documentation of particular importance and provide detailed support for the views Marx had given on the “reform“ on several occasions.
It might be said that his fundamental explanations are referring only to the period between 1856 and 1881, about which these notes were made, thus not including the last period from 1881 to the nineties when Lenin took up his work.
Naturally, such material raises the question as to whether it had not better be amplified if one wants to use it for a comprehensive exposition of the development. This is another task we are confronted with. Yet these notes on the Russian reform of 1861 do so clearly direct the attention to certain questions that a judgement on at least some points becomes possible and we are given a main connecting thread to analyse further things. They also offer excellent incentives for as well as clues to an examination and evaluation of Lenin´s views.

The central point of these notes is the centralization of the Russian tsarist state through its tax-raising power over the entire empire, the elimination of the power of the landlords, which was rival to that of the tsar, the complete, brutal and ruthless squeezing-dry of the peasants by means of a tax system which provided the state with the immeasurable values it needed for the strengthening of its military-bureaucratic apparatus, for its expansionist policy and for the maintenance of autocratic rule as well as for the development of a particular form of capitalism under the care of just that tsarism. A further point is, eventually, the economic gratification of the landlords at the expense of the peasants along with the former´s deprivation of political power.

In these notes, Marx provides very detailed statistical material which he had procured from the various Russian works. It is true that the reform received its decisive stimulus by Russia´s proven backwardness in the Crimean War and the defeat of 1855. Even the tsars before Alexander II had considered the idea of reform. Then, in 1861, it took shape and became concrete. The history of this reform shows that the tsar most rigorously suppressed the proposals made by certain representatives of the nobility which amounted to demanding that the personal emancipation of the peasants must not depend on the stipulated condition to acquire land; the publication of these proposals was even prohibited by the tsar. What mattered to tsarism was in fact to push through this acquisition of land on incredibly bad terms and on terms which were to mean decade-long enslavement and debt liability of the peasants. It was exactly by this that they could be brutally strangled and squeezed dry. Marx´ “Notes“ record in every detail the infinite disadvantages the peasants suffered. One of the links in the chain of procedure of tsarism was that the state itself compensated the landowners for having to give up their right to ownership of land. The peasants had to pay the interests to the banks which were, at that time, under the control of the state and were later united to form the State Bank. They actually had to pay the interests to the government. Through this, the government, in other words tsarism, managed to have the whole financial mechanism of this operation under control.

Furthermore, Marx demonstrates to what extent the former state serfs and the serfs of the landed gentry had now to pay their revenues to the state. He shows that the state serfs had to pay 92.75 per cent of their net revenue to the government and had only 7.25 per cent left over for themselves. But then:

“The former serfs of the landed gentry had to pay 198.25 per cent of their agricultural revenue, thus not only handing over the entire revenue from their lands to the government but also having to pay an almost equally high sum from the salaries (wages) they receive for various kinds of labour - agricultural or other.” (mostly labour for the landlord or the major peasants). [23]

Karl Marx, Notizen zur Reform von 1861...., MEW 19, S. 418

A really crucial point is added here. Although Lenin, too, wrote a lot about the system of redemption labour and emphasized that it was simply a different form of serf labour for the landlord, a new component is introduced here, namely that the peasants had to perform additional labour in order to be able to pay the tax.

Marx gives another example:

“In the province of Nowgorod, according to estimates by the Semstwos, the ratio between the payments and the income per Desjatine is, for the former state peasants, - 100% (i.e. the entire revenue);
the former appanage peasants - 161%
the former landowners´serfs - 180%
the temporarily bound persons 210%
furthermore those with small pieces of land and
high taxes for the previously redeemed serfs - 275%
for the temporarily bound persons 565%
(Publication by the “Tax Commission“, Volume 22.)

In non-black-earth areas, their share of the land is more often than not too small to provide the peasants with basic nourishment, even. These northern provinces are at the same time the industrialized ones, but their local factory wages are not sufficient to offset the deficit <nor are the wages they get for agricultural work for the landowners>. They are forced to look for wage labour in places far away from their homes, in the South, in New-Russia, beyond the Ural mountains, in Siberia and Central Asia.“

ibid., S. 419

This demonstrates the extraordinary size of the redemption payments which now forced the peasants to work not only on their own fields but to do additional work either in the industry or for their landlords. And a considerable part of these redemption payments made its way into the state treasury. And the treasury is another essential point in these notes as it indicates where this extorted money landed. Marx reveals that an immense part of the tsarist budget was provided by the peasants and their tax and redemption payment funds.

Marx eventually summarizes the “advantages of the emancipation for the government“; and each of following points should be considered most carefully:

“1. Transfer of the debts to the state-guaranteed banks (later united to form the State Bank), to the government to which the peasants therefore had to pay the interests.

2. In the reports of the editorial commission (Skrebizki: Letter from Rostowzew to Emperor: ‘Government receives many candidates for the highest positions, both for the provincial and the central administration’).

3. Direct collection of taxes from the peasants (in the past the landlords used to be liable for it), which makes tax increase much easier.

4. The breaking of the domain of power of the gentry.

5. Area for conscription [24] (and general reform of the army) thus extended.

6. Connected with the emancipation are the so-called Semstwo Institutions:
The burden of the state is passed on to the provinces and districts for the most part (without reduction but rather increase of the direct taxes payable to the state).“

ibid., S. 417

Tsarism thus rid itself of the landlords as a rival political power and set the peasants under conditions that really forced them to destroy the productive forces. The peasants actually had to sell their cattle in order to be able to pay the taxes. The village commune was legally transformed into an instrument with which to squeeze dry the peasants by means of collective liability, for the village commune was now liable as a whole for the infinitely high taxes and redemption payments. Through this, tsarism pushed forward both the squeezing-dry and the destruction of the village commune which it had come to see as an opposing force.
The focus of this account by Marx is the reorganization of power, the centralization of power in Russia through the reform of 1861. With Marx these are the central points. At the same time, these notes are a further confirmation of a political judgement he had come to as early as 1859 [!!] when he stressed in his well-known critique of Karl Vogt that this kind of „emancipation of the serfs in the way of the Russian government would heighten the aggressive power of Russia a hundred times“.

„It is simply intended to perfect autocratic rule by tearing down the barriers which the big autocrat has hitherto encountered in the shape of the many lesser autocrats of the Russian nobility, whose might is based on serfdom, as well as in the shape of the self administrating peasant communes, whose material foundation, common ownership of land, is to be destroyed by the so-called emancipation.“

Karl Marx, Herr Vogt, VIII, MECW, Vol. 17, p.141

The centralization of tsarism´s state power is a really crucial aspect which is also and particularly well perceptible in the tax-raising power. And it is just this aspect which cannot be found in Lenin´s writings.

A further concomitant of this so-called reform was the fact that the peasants permanently frittered away their working hours trying to interpret the regulations or make out which rights they still had and which not.

As regards the “true meaning of emancipation“ the “Notes“ say:
“Guerrilla war between peasants and landowners.“

Marx explains:

“The emancipation simply comes down to the noble landlord no longer having the right of disposal over the peasant as a person, thus no longer being able to sell him etc. This form of personal serfdom has been abolished. They have lost their personal power over the person of the peasant.
No sooner had rumours leaked out about the planned emancipation of the peasants than the government felt compelled to take measures against the landlords´ attempts to expropriate the peasants by force or to allot to them the most barren land.
In the past, in times of serfdom, it was in the landlords´own interest to preserve the peasant as an indispensable source of human labour. This is no more. The peasant has become economically dependent on his former landlord.“

Karl Marx, Notizen...., MEW Bd. 19, S. 414

As a result of the radical reorganization of finances in Russia it was now possible to raise the funds not only needed for military expenditures but also for the development of railway companies which were to be one of the chain links in the emergence of the more modern capitalism. Marx demonstrates that a gigantic part of the taxes paid by the peasants made its way into these state-owned, later on privatized, railway companies, or rather into the pockets of their proprietors. Marx wants to show here that a really special form of capitalism was emerg-ing which produced a boom-like development of all branches of modern finance, of the stock exchange system and of centralized big business through the downright over-exploitation of the substance of the peasantry. This was in fact affected in connection with the autocratic power which was, initially, by no means undermined by this reform. In the above-mentioned drafts of his letter to Vera Zasulich, Marx writes bluntly about a “capitalist vermin“ evolving in Russia, and about a “special form of capitalism“ whose characteristic feature was not, for instance, the formation of a domestic market but the downright predatory squeezing-dry of the substance of the vast majority of the population with the aim of attaining certain elementary capitalist achievements which were of decisive importance also to the Russian military.
Marx makes uses of the official publication on cattle breeding in Kazan in order to describe his view of this type of capitalism with the help of a concrete example:

“In the province of Kazan the livestock (of the former serfs who in the past were entitled to drive their cattle onto the landlords´ pastures) has dropped considerably. From that the reasons for the decrease: lack of pastureland, sale of the cattle to be able to pay the taxes; small harvest. In the province of Simbirsk the livestock has slightly decreased; the better-off peasants sell the cattle they do not absolutely need when the opportunity arises in order not to be forced to sell it in case of tax arrears for which they are liable due to the commune´s general solidarity (either of a group of peasants or all peasants together - collective responsibility). Another reason: The cutting-off of pastures from the land allotted to the peasants, mainly forested areas. The same holds true for the provinces of Samara, Saratov, Penza (where the stock of horses also decreases). In the province of Riazan there is a diminution of livestock by 50% for lack of pasture. For the same reason we find, in the province of Tula, enforced sale carried through by the tax-collectors and cattle disease which reduces the rearing of horses and livestock. The same merciless sale of livestock for tax arrears is found in the province of Kursk, for lack of pasture, division within the family etc. (see p.75).“

ibid., S. 419

This overexploitation of agriculture was leading directly to stagnation in the production of cereals. Marx draws our attention to the interesting fact that the exports of Russian cereals to Europe partly increased, a fact which was rated a success abroad, while at home the famine was becoming more severe, so that in the tsarist-Russian double game foreign exchange earnings and the effect produced on foreign affairs complemented each other.

Also in Lenin´s numerous essays, we can time and again find references to the tax issue and, occasionally, more detailed accounts on that question. But although he depicts how heavily the taxes and redemption payments weighed on the peasants and, elsewhere, who was mainly affected by the indirect taxes, namely the mass of the population, and although there is a passage where, in connection with the national budget for the year 1901, Lenin refers to „an economy of robbery“1 [25] , the crucial point is missing(5). This point is, namely, the question of centralization, the reorganization of forces - a process which had long since been comprehended by Marx and constitutes a central part of his earlier reflections.
It goes without saying that a power which pursued the over-exploitation of its domestic economy and which would not be able, of course, to survive such policy in the long run, had to be outwardly aggressive to the utmost degree. Sooner or later there is a limit to any policy of over-exploitation. What it raided at home must in the end be replaced by loot from outside. The expansion of Russian tsarism and the new exploitation of other territories as a substitute for the lack of own resources were measures following the very law according to which a society like that inevitably functions. It is exactly against this background that all of Marx´ statements on Russian foreign policy become very well understandable. They confirm this conclusion. We thus see that the exploitation and squeezing-dry of the peasants by the state constitute an essential, and in fact even the central element of Marx´ analysis of this “reform“. If you like, as early as the last third of the 19th century some sort of state capitalism in connection with the railway companies evolved in Russia. It was a “capitalism grown in the hothouse“, as Engels puts it.

The points mentioned here lead to a criticism of Lenin´s writings about the agrarian question and the economic development of Russia. How, for instance, is one to evaluate his book “The Development of Capitalism in Russia“ (1898) which provided the foundation stone for the later analyses? We find in this book details about the development of capitalism in agriculture, the separation of agriculture from modern industry, the development of a market within Russia against all that “resistance“, especially on the part of the village commune, which was characteristic of the Russian agricultural structure. (Lenin makes use of individual examples, though, for instance that of a village or a district. In view of the role the Russian village commune was still to play in the following decades, and even in 1917, it will be quite reasonable to subject these details to a renewed examination with regard to their general significance.)
In view of what has been stated above it is, however, more important for us that Lenin does not analyse what role this typically Russian form of state capitalism was playing, this peculiarity which had already been analysed by Marx. He does not refer to it at all. As regards the peasant question, for example, there is only a single and very short passage referring to the complex subject of the Russian state´s tax policy, namely that the peasantry suffers from in-credibly high taxes - that is all. In this book not a single word can be found on the redistribution of values effected through extracting them from the peasantry and putting them into the industry by way of the state. Even if we considered only the period when the book was written: Was all that no longer relevant in 1898? This can hardly be assumed.
In the preface to the book, Lenin himself makes the qualification that he is going to treat the development of capitalism in Russia „exclusively from the standpoint of the home market“. [26] But does one really have the right to do so? Can one ignore the part of the state in the economic process, the state´s financial policy and the re-organization which played such a central role particularly in Russia? And, unlike he did in other cases, Lenin does not even mention the fact that he is going to leave this aspect out.

But this way of approach is also employed in his later writings. Even in quite late articles about the “peasant reform“ of 1861, such as “Apropos of an Anniversary“ (1911) (LCW 17 p. 110ff.), there is not a single word on the centralization of the tsarist state power and the re-organization by the state.
It should once again be noted as positive here that unlike many Liberals, Narodniks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, Lenin is outspoken with regard to many aspects of the exploitation of the peasants by the reform of 1861.
This leads us to the question how taxation policy developed after 1882, i.e. after the formation of the group “Liberation of Labour“ from which the Russian Social Democratic Party emerged.

The State and the Tax Question in Russia

What we find in Russia right from the beginning is the state´s eminent role in the development of capitalism. We find a redistribution of enormous amounts of capital passing from the hands of those producers who were still attached to their means of production, i.e. the village commune, into the hands of the capitalist state and from then on into capitalist speculation, into the building of railways - in which not only the capital but also the Russian militaristic state had a strong interest - and into the development of large factories which were chiefly concentrated in the big cities and rural centres.

What are the proportions the development of capitalism actually assumed? There are some figures available on the development of the proletariat and the industrial proletariat in Russia.
As regards the factory proletarians who were under the supervision of factory inspectors, Lenin gives the number of 1.5 million proletarians for the year 1894. In addition to that, there were also the miners and the workers in the non-excise-free [27] industries which were under the special control of the state, as well as agricultural workers, forestry workers and others. Lenin holds that the above-mentioned figure, which includes a really substantial part of the industrial work force, is part of a far larger number of wage labourers, namely 10 million, he estimates. This figure, however, also includes a considerable number of agricultural semi-proletarians who earned only part of their living by selling their labour. [28]
For the later period, i.e. for the year 1910, various works report figures of around 1,9 million male and female workers in those industries which were under the control of the factory inspectors. The miners added, the figure amounted to approx. 2.3 million. In the following years until 1914, the former number once again increased markedly to 2.28 million, with the arma-ments industry being of crucial importance here, however. [29]
Undoubtedly, starting out from this tsarism-pushed sector, capitalism was increasingly pene-trating into the remaining sectors of the national economy, particularly into the peasantry, the production of commodities there developed more rapidly und thereby also gradually capitalism. Yet what is still the relationship between this development and the overall situation of the peasants up to the year 1917? In numerous articles and books about the agrarian question, Lenin analyses how the peasantry in the village commune becomes differentiated, how one peasant actually becomes the worker of the other, how the poor peasant actually becomes a prole or half-proletarian who has to sell his labour e.g. in order to be able to pay the rent to his bigger neighbour. But that is just not all. We can now see that the tsarist tax legislation was such that many peasants were forced to enter service with the landlord or a major peasant - thus actually entering a state of wage-slavery - in order to redeem the enormous tax burden they had to pay to the state and with which they financed tsarist militarism, but also the pushing-up of capitalism through tsarism. And this is a point not mentioned by Lenin. Particularly this omission must inevitably be regarded as a really serious weak point in his portrayal of capitalism, a portrayal which, without this point, basically appears as a completely simple painting of capitalism depicting only one sector of reality while another, at least as important one, is completely omitted.

Here too, as I have already shown elsewhere, a direct examination of the tsarist state is missing, a traditional shortcoming I also detect e.g. in the thought of the group “Liberation of Labour“.
Most certainly Lenin time and again attacks autocracy as something which must be overcome. In this context he also speaks of “absolute monarchy“ or “the landlords’ tsar“. But he does not pay sufficient attention to the peculiarities of this tsarist state.

As the taxation system of tsarism plays such an eminent role in the assessment of capitalism and in the development of the entire civilization under tsarism, it is quite worthwhile to go into the Russian history of taxation.
A second useful document about the tsarist system of taxation is V. Wittschewsky´s book “Budget und Steuerverhältnisse Rußlands“ (Budget and Tax Conditions in Russia), Berlin 1904, [30] the second part of which contains a detailed account of the Russian history of taxation from Peter I. up to the beginning of the 20th century.

It shows that the poll tax, which for a long time was to hinder Russia´s development, was in-troduced under the reign of Peter I., the so-called Great. He introduced the poll tax towards the end of his reign, apparently in order to cope with the enormous military expenses. What does poll tax mean? The poll tax was fixed in censuses, so-called revisions, by way of which all male persons within a village or town were made liable for taxation solely on the grounds of their existence - thus the name poll tax. In order to make this system function it was necessary that the citizens virtually stayed in the place where they had been registered for the tax setting. Thus, at the same time, the poll tax entailed a rigid detention, with an extreme curtailing of the citizens´ freedom of movement. Every citizen who wished to leave his village at all had to have a passport issued to him, a procedure which was bound up with tiresome additional harassments - if the passport was granted at all.

On this issue the above-mentioned author notes:

“An order was issued,“ (under Peter I.) “ requiring that ´in order to find out who of the peasants had to become a soldier inquiries were to be made in all villages about the number of male souls, from the old man right down to the last baby, without any embezzlement´. People were threatened with severe punishment, death even, for any ´embezzlement´ of souls. Those to be registered by the census included ´those holding a piece of arable land´ as well as <alle Lostreiber, Arbeiter und Hofesleute>(6) who did not own any land and worked for the landlord. Also to be counted were those clergymen who did not occupy a state office, those noblemen who had not signed up for public service (which was obligatory to all without exception), vagrant individuals, refugees. The law sums up the last four categories under the title ´travelling people´ or vagabonds. All classes of the population listed were to be registered in a commune, which they were no longer permitted to leave from then on (and in the period following only if they complied with extremely irksome conditions).“

V.Wittschewsky, Budget und Steuerverhältnisse Rußlands, Berlin 1904, S. 730

Eventually even the collective responsibility of the peasant commune for the poll tax was introduced and pushed through with the most ruthless rigidity. The landlord himself was made liable with his head for the complete, correct and unreserved collection of this poll tax.
The effects of the poll tax are depicted as follows:

“The communes´ obligation to take on collective liability for the total amount of the poll tax lead to a restriction of the freedom of movement pushed through with ruthless rigidity. Among the methods employed to achieve this aim, the brutal use of the passport system provided a disastrous weapon. The dreadful moral inferiority of the subordinate powers knew how to use the legal regulations to create a scourge against the people which inflicted terrible harm upon those among the peasants who strived for progress.“

ibid., S. 735

The poll tax was also introduced in the cities. The poll tax was an impediment to the whole development. This became obvious at the beginning of the 19th century at the latest, when Russia had to compete with the French Revolution and Napoleon.
Even since 1811, tsarism and its politicians had been trying to get rid of the poll tax system and to replace it. But they did not get that far. Once again one had to face the difficulty that if one wanted to abolish the poll tax tsarism as a whole would be jeopardized because any modern development in Russia would question tsarism. The reform that was finally carried through by tsarism itself in the years from 1856 to 1861, the so-called reform of Emperor Alexander II, distinguished itself by the fact that it ruined the peasants completely whereas the poll tax was kept even despite those 50 years of criticism. Now the peasants were being forced by way of the redemption system to work off their own land, the actual beneficiary being the state, for it was the state which compensated the landlords and became the peasants´ creditor who positioned himself in front of them to collect the money. The village commune continued to exist as an institution of collective tax liability. In order to be able to pay the taxes to the state the peasants were sometimes forced to sell their own cattle, to sell the elementary means of pro-duction. Under these conditions, the village commune became a devilish instrument turned against the mass of the population. One can say that the squeezing-dry of the peasants took on such a dimension that it by and large ruined the peasants. We have seen this factor described by Marx, and it is confirmed by this author. Shortly after the period where Marx´ notes stop, the time was eventually ripe for tsarism itself to realize that the times of the poll tax were definitely over and that in spite of all drastic measures there was nothing left to be squeezed out. Thus we can read in our text:

“At last the manifesto of mercy issued on 15 May 1883 on the occasion of the coronation of Emperor Alexander III. deleted all records of outstanding arrears of the poll tax amounting to 28 million rubles. Yet the major part of this sum was to be considered as uncollectable anyway.“

ibid., S. 745

Now in the years between 1882 and 1887, the poll tax actually disappeared. Only for many Siberian peasants the poll tax continued to exist until 1898 - the very year in which Lenin wrote his book in Siberia - because the system could not be transformed rapidly enough.

Now was this change of taxation a tax reduction? Of course not. That was not to be expected, and it was actually not the case. For parallel to the abolition of this tax, indirect taxes were massively raised. Among the indirect taxes the tax on spirits assumed the greatest importance or, more generally, the tax on beverages of which, however, the tax on spirits made up the largest part. Alcoholism in Russia and among the Russian peasants had been taking on an immense dimension for a long time already. It reflected the desperate and hopeless situation of the peasants under the tsarist system.
Even at the beginning of the century, the tax on spirits had been the only lucrative object for indirect taxation. Due to its inevitability in Russian social life, even then spirits were, “apart from salt, the sole profitable object for indirect taxation at the beginning of the century,“ Wittschewsky writes (S. 739). At that time, however, indirect taxes played only a minor role compared with the poll tax.
Now, the indirect taxes were being raised to an extent which we can only indicate here with the help of some figures. In the period between 1880 and 1901, tax revenues from beverages amounted to:

1880 223.3 million rubels
1887 257.7 “
1895 298.2 “
1899 310.3 “
1900 316.8 “
1901 312.9 “
(see V. Wittschewsky, p. 771)

In addition to that there were the revenues from the spirits monopoly, i.e. the sale of beverages carried out by the state which was introduced in 1895. According to the tables compiled by the author, net revenues alone amounted to:

1895 - 1901 188.7 million rubles

(see ibid., p. 773)

The particulars:

1895 4.7
1896 9.7
1897 15.0
1898 32.3
1899 37.4
1900 36.8
1901 52.8 (million rubles)

Compare these figures to those of the military budget. In 1901, the total expenses of the colossal tsarist army amounted to 317.6 million rubles, that is a sum almost equalling the sum collected by indirect taxes on beverages. By contrast: Spendings on national education, in fact on the entirety of national education in Russia, amounted to 65.1 million rubles. All of 11 million rubles - that is approximately 3 percent of the spendings on the army, or of the revenues from the tax on spirits - were spent on elementary schools in a Russia which was underdeveloped in this respect. All indirect taxes added up, they always came to a sum between 40 and 60 per cent of the total revenues of Russia. The direct taxes imposed on the capitalists paled into insignificance beside this tax which was first and foremost paid by the gigantically large peasantry.

Between 1880 and 1901 direct taxes totalled:
1880 127.7
1887 81.2
1894 102.0
1900 131.9
1901 130.9 million rubles

ibid., from the chart p. 755

This means that in the period from 1880 to 1901 this tax increased by all of a minimal 3.2 million rubles.

At the same time the taxes burdening the capital, that is the trade tax and the capital gains tax together, amounted to:

1880 15.3
1887 30.6
1894 54.3
1900 85.9
1901 86.2
1902 83.2 million rubles

ibid., from the chart p. 757

This is again a fraction only of what was got out of the spirits tax!
In essence, the taxation policy of tsarism had remained the same. Either this way or that way, taxes were ruthlessly used to ask the peasantry to pay up. By way of the state their property and the fruits of their labour were shoved down the throat of the military apparatus and the recently emerged capitalism as well as that of the remaining gentry. In this procedure the meanest methods were used and a downright pauperization of the peasants and destruction of agriculture was taking place.

This tsarist tax policy led to a recurrent collapse of the entire tax system since it ruined the population to such an extent that in a way the Treasury itself was jeopardized because the tax could no longer be collected.
This is also confirmed by Wittschewsky. The Minister of Finance who introduced the wily system of indirect taxation was Nicholas Bunge (1881-1887). On his successor Wittschewsky notes:

“... Finance Minister Vyshnegradski (1887-1892), his fiscal policy of taxation being developed to the extremes, was not in the least prepared to let himself be shaken in his tax policy by any theoretical considerations or humanitarian impulses. His greed for taxation grabbed indiscriminately at almost anything. But even more than before, the whole situation was suitable for directing the tax-seeker´s attention to the indirect taxes. And in fact, any of them was made use of to the full. The famine of 1891 was the cruel price to be paid for this squeezing-out of the taxes.“

ibid., p. 770

This led to the fall of Vychnegradski, and a new finance minister, Sergius Witte, came to power. From 1892 to 1903 he was the tsarist Minister of Finance and, in fact, the tsar´s most important politician. He himself shall be quoted here since he very well expresses the views of tsarist policy.

“Particularly the agricultural earnings, the earnings from agricultural labour and from the travelling trades and similar lines of business are subject to great fluctuations, which makes the assessment as well as the levying of fixed taxes more difficult. As this essential feature holds true for the incomes of the vast majority of the population, decisive importance will have to be attached to indirect taxation. The facts prove that direct taxation leads to arrears whereas there is no difficulty at all in getting hold of indirect taxes. From this a rise in prosperity can be inferred.“ (!!!)

Memorandum on the Budget for 1897, quoted in V. Wittschewsky, p. 770f.

His logic is indeed that it is necessary allegedly to increase the productive forces in the country, and that all needs must come second place to the one and only task of developing the Russian military system. He is Finance Minister in the epoch in which Lenin is writing his first fundamental economic works. And it is precisely under him that the tax monopoly for beverages and spirits becomes a gigantic pool within the system of the Russian state. It is also highly important that this memorandum confirms that the tax on spirits was chiefly used for covering the immense deficits arising in the railway system, a fact already noticed by Marx. These railways themselves were being financed by way of loans granted by foreign capital. But they had to be redeemed, of course, thus giving rise to a whole system of debts and rescheduling of debts, a system which can be found in the developing countries even today. Yet the tremendous difference is that Russia, though being a developing country from the economic point of view, was at the same time a gigantic military power, in this sense an imperialistic super-power of that time, which has never lost its power and influence. It is precisely for that reason that the theory which makes Russia out to be something like a semi-colonial country is wrong. The political status of tsarist Russia completely contradicts this view.

Although he speaks of “revolutionary effects of the liberation of the peasants“ and occasionally tries to make tsarism seem better than it was, on the concrete level Wittschewsky actually comes to the same conclusions as Marx and depicts the continual tax attacks on the peasants. He shows that the most important elements in Marx´ analysis manifested themselves in a modified way even after 1881.

Thus in order to get an appropriate picture of the development of capitalism in Russia, all these processes must be analysed with regard to their interrelation. The state´s promotion of capitalism, the redistribution through the state of gigantic quantities of property to the benefit of this new hothouse-capitalism and militarism in Russia, the continued existence of the village commune up until Stolypin´s reform and up until the year 1917, the resistance of the village commune to this new capitalism on which tsarism had a forming influenced, the actual flourishing of a class struggle in the Russian cities, the differentiation and the emergence of class differences in the villages, the actual spread of a commodity economy in a number of regions and in various fields - all these aspects have to be seen in their interrelations if one wants to come to a picture of capitalism in Russia. In my opinion, only if all these factors are taken into consideration will it be possible to analyse Russian capitalism.

In the Entirety

We are now going back once more to Lenin´s analysis of the so-called reform of 1861 which is most closely connected to his views on the agricultural development and on the social development in Russia in general.

How does Lenin evaluate the tsarist transformation of Russian society which aimed at increasing its military power, thus leading to a very special kind of “renewal“?

In such an evaluation the view on the reform is the central link in the chain of argumentation and has a determining influence on all other views, a fact also emphasized by Lenin himself. In his earlier writings, Lenin sees Russian capitalism as a progressive phenomenon, actually without any reservations. He develops all the things parallel to the German development. He sees the rise of a weak bourgeoisie, which is going to have a certain short episode, and the rise of a proletariat which is then going to overrun this bourgeoisie and its development, a process completely analogous to the Communist Manifesto of 1848 on Germany.

The fundamental views we can find in the writings of Marx, Engels and also Chernyshevskii and which we have developed in the initial part of this text are not taken into account. No attempt whatsoever is made to, for instance, differentiate the Russian development and to see the rise of certain forms of capitalism along with the possibilities to put the peasantry on a new, higher level of the democratic movement by way of using the modern productive forces and by developing a thrust against tsarism and the military bureaucracy in the country. No attempt is made to make use of the still existing spirit of community among the peasants - a spirit deeply rooted in the peasantry for a thousand years - in order to reach socialism more directly, in connection with the workers´ movement. This is no populist ideology, for the Narodniks put forward a naive romantic theory and planned to reach socialism partly even together with tsarism and together with the bureaucracy in Russia, supported by the “reason“ of the ruling classes. This was nonsense of course, the roots of it going back to Herzen, by the way. But the opportunity to use these capacities of the peasantry was not grasped theoretically by Lenin. It was only later that Lenin acknowledged it slightly more in practice, although even then he kept to the theoretical views he had once adopted.

This weakness goes back to the group “Liberation of Labour“. The thrust against tsarism and the military bureaucracy, which the Russian revolutionaries had adopted some time ago already, was considerably weakened and annulled by this group which used the increasing development of capitalism as an opportunity to more or less propagate the development of capitalism in Russia and to annul in this respect the former considerations of Russian revolutionaries who were also in contact with Marx. The views on civilization of Georgij Plechanow have a wrong foundation. And this is now being continued by the Russian Social Democrats.

It would be wrong to describe this simply as a failure or even maliciousness. There are historical and epistemological reasons for it. In the 1880s, capitalism in Russia was indeed progressing and to a certain degree subverting the village commune in those Russian regions in which it still existed. But in the relatively large parts of Russia, which belonged to Russian-Poland then, and in South Russia conditions were different anyway and rather became similar to those in Western Europe. It was simply no longer possible to carry on with the old Narodniks' ideology and the ideology of the “Land and Freedom“society. The initial reaction to the new development was a rejection of the old Narodniks' ideas, a process in which at first - unsurprisingly for any dialectician - the pendulum swings in the other direction and overshoots the mark, encouraging ideas which now generally approve of the development of capitalism and consider the traditional village commune to be antiquated, backward and impeding the development of capitalism.
For the Social Democrats, who were mainly city-dwellers, it was much easier, naturally, to attack and negate the village commune in this way than to deal with the country´s complex development in all its diversity. In my opinion this is definitely one of the reasons why Russian social democracy took such a turn.

To treat the development of land ownership and to develop all special categories necessary for the analysis of this question was an extremely difficult task Marx was sitting over towards the end of his life, an undertaking he was not, however, able to complete. Interestingly enough, Marx intended to consult Chernyshevskii´s views on this question and planned, in particular, to take Russia as the prime example of land ownership, as he had quite similarly taken England as a prime example of capitalist conditions.

A further reason, though, has to be looked for in the Russian conditions and in the Russian tsarist ideology itself. According to Marx, the rule of Russian tsarism is the continuation of the rule of the Mongols who had had dominion over Russia in the Middle Ages. The characteristics of this dominion were a cynical demoralization of the people, a conscious and deliberate attempt to hamper the development of the people, the corruption of the Great Russians, especially by suppressing more highly developed European nations, first and foremost the Poles. Tsarism showed all characteristic features of a militaristic despotism which, on top of that, showed Asiatic traits.

The fact that conditions in Russia were not nationally homogeneous in many regions, i.e. that there existed about a hundred different nationalities, made it possible for tsarism to play off against each other the different nationalities within its empire. But this analysis alone does not suffice to characterize tsarism. With its Mongolian origin, tsarism is far more than mere feudal reaction. Tsarism´s opposition to Western Europe is also that of the most reactionary resistance to that society and its historical foundations in general. It is precisely this idea Lenin is unable to grasp, although it is already contained in the works of Marx. After having said it many times before already, Marx still speaks of tsarist Russia as the Mongolian threat to Western Europe as late as 1880. In his analysis of tsarism Marx therefore emphasizes totally different components than that of a merely delayed development of feudalism.

As regards the village commune, tsarism was able to tolerate this village commune as long as its isolation and the distance separating the communes from each other formed a supplement to Asiatic despotism in Russia. At the very moment, however, when Russia had to renew itself, when, not least because of its competition with Western Europe, it had to build railways and to permit a certain degree of democracy, if only for appearance’s sake, the village commune with its original democratic structure had to be strangled and destroyed, according to tsarism. It is exactly in this respect that both the measures taken in 1861 and Stolypin´s reform must be comprehended.
Over decades and centuries tsarism was deforming and demoralizing intellectual life in Russia and forced each and everyone to conform to the highest authority. The long process of developing a class capable of emancipation, as was found mentioned in the quotation by Engels cited at the beginning of our study, was never to take place in Russia. Intellectual life in Russia was therefore decomposed in this way to a high degree. And this decomposition meant a highly unfavourable precondition also for Russian social democracy. Lenin himself considered this point to be a weak point in the development of social democracy. It must be stated here once again what an extremely positive exception Chernyshevskii constitutes in this struggle. He eventually manages to declare war on this perverted spirit by making use of Western ideas. The period of his political activity was, however, restricted to a few years.

Furthermore, the question remains to be settled why Lenin turns a deaf ear to information as important as the one Marx is offering and completely ignores it in his theory about Russia. He takes only that part of Marxism which deals with capitalism. The cultural critique of Russia which Marx had after all started to write is, apart from some general formulations, spurned.

I will now once more go into some essential views Lenin gives on the reform. We have already seen how far Lenin goes in his assessment of Stolypin. In this field, there are conclusions drawn by Lenin which we are now - after all which has been expounded before - in a far better position to judge. I would now like to amplify this by adding a statement by Lenin from which his evaluation of the “reform“ of 1861 can be gathered quite clearly.

„One of the aims they“ (the Social Democrats of all countries) „set themselves and work for everywhere is to complete what the bourgeoisie has left unfinished. That is what we are doing. And in order to do so, we have unavoidably to revert to the past; and that is what the Social-Democrats in every country are doing, always reverting to their 1789, or to their 1848. Similarly, the Russian Social-Democrats cannot but revert to their 1861, and must do so all the more energetically and frequently since our so-called peasant ‘Reform’ has achieved so little in the way of democratic changes.“

Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., 1903, First Speech in the Discussion on the Agrarian Programme, V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.6, p. 494.

Here the tsarist “reform“ is actually being put on a par with the history-laden revolutions of 1789 and 1848! There are numerous statements by Lenin on the reform of 1861, some of which have been criticized above. But this quotation is probably the most explicit one I have come across. The Russian Social Democrats are to revert to “their“ 1861 and complete it (this would in fact mean tsarist modernization and centralization!!!). Lenin can only come to conclusions like that because he eliminates all political aspects concerning 1861.

Imagine a German social democrat in the 19th century, no matter at which point of time, declaring “We must revert to our 1807 [31] and complete our reform.“ This would have been taken to be nothing but a bow to the rulers. Those reforms of v. Stein and Hardenberg were also reforms which cheated the peasants completely, and they have often been compared to the Russian reform of 1861 because of their parallels to it. Yet they were superior after all to the “reforms“ of Alexander II or even Stolypin as the latter aimed at exterminating the majority of the peasantry, accepted the country´s decay and needed pogroms against Jews and counterrevolutionary excesses to accompany their policy. Nevertheless, the German socialists could not take up the reform movements in their own country. If there was any need at all to refer to the authority of historic events, people in Germany referred to the years 1789-94 in France or to the peasants´ uprising in the 16th century.

In the period between 1913 and 1917 the agrarian question attracted relatively little attention, which did not mean, however, that there was no unrest in the countryside. Large numbers of peasants were still defending the village commune, apparently until 1917. Now there is a point in the revolution which corroborates our reflections and investigations as for the practice, as for the actual course of history. When the Bolsheviks make the revolution in October 1917, the Land Decree issued on 26 October 1917 plays a decisive role. With the help of this decree land in Russia is nationalized, landed property is abolished - although the ordinary peasant is still allowed to make private use of the land - and the partitioning of the land - this is the decisive point - is carried out according to the principle of the balancing-out use of the land, which stems from the redistributions in the village commune and is applied to the totality now. Lenin himself confirms that this programme was written by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and accepted by the Bolsheviks because the peasants defended it.
When the fact was criticized that the Land Decree was based on the programme of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, Lenin said:

„Voices are being raised here that the Decree itself and the Mandate were drawn up by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. What of it? Does it matter who drew them up? As a democratic government, we cannot ignore the decision of the masses of the people, even though we may disagree with it. In the fire of experience, applying the Decree in practice, and carrying it out locally. the peasants will themselves realise where the truth lies. And even if the peasants continue to follow the Socialist-Revolutionaries, even if they give this party a majority in the Constituent Assembly, we shall still say - what of it? Experience is the best teacher and it will show who is right. Let the peasants solve this problem from one end and we shall solve it from the other. Experience will oblige us to draw together in the general stream of revolutionary creative work, in the elaboration of new state forms. We must be guided by experience; we must allow complete freedom to the creative faculties of the masses. The old government, which was overthrown by armed uprising, wanted to settle the land problem with the help of the old, unchanged tsarist bureaucracy. But instead of solving the problem, the bureaucracy only fought the peasants. The peasants have learned something during the eight months of our revolution; they want to settle all land problems themselves. We are therefore opposed to all amendments to this draft law. We want no details in it, for we are writing a decree, not a programme of action. Russia is vast, and local conditions vary. We trust that the peasants themselves will be able to solve the problem correctly, properly, better than we could do it. Whether they do it in our spirit or in the spirit of the Socialist-Revolutionary programme is not the point. The point is that the peasants should be firmly assured that there are no more landowners in the countryside, that they themselves must decide all questions, and that they themselves must arrange their own lives.“

Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets, V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 26, p. 260-261.

And in a later work written in 1920 it says:

„At the very moment of the October Revolution, we entered into an informal but very important (and very successful) political bloc with the petty-bourgeois peasantry by adopting the Socialist-Revolutionary agrarian programme in its entirety, without a single alteration - i.e., we effected an undeniable compromise in order to prove to the peasants that we wanted, not to „steam-roller“ them but to reach agreement with them. At the time we proposed (and soon after effected) a formal political bloc, including participation in the government, with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who dissolved this bloc after the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and then, in July 1918, went to the length of armed rebellion, and subsequently of an armed struggle, against us.“

Left-Wing Communism - An Infantile Disorder, V.I.Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 31, p. 72.

This shows how explosive an issue the question here treated was for the revolution of 1917. These facts themselves are an illustration of what has been expounded above. They show that even in 1917, contrary to what the Bolsheviks had expected, the question of the village commune had by no means disappeared. The requirements of the practice induced also Lenin to give in with regard to that question and to accept a programme different to what he had originally planned.
But this does not, of course, mean that we can dispense with an analysis of certain errors and wrong approaches when examining essential, fundamental aspects of the revolution and its perspectives. And it goes without saying that such analysis is necessary even if the criticized approaches were corrected in certain pressing situations. The further development of the revolution, the utilization of the centuries-old tradition of the communal solidarity of the peasants, which obviously played a great role in further concepts of the revolution - to treat all this in detail is a task to be tackled in further articles. Anyway, the present article could not but provide a first lead-in to reflections on the topic. This must be continued.
I think that much further time will have to be devoted to this problem since it is so far-ranging a subject that it cannot nearly be dealt with by one single person within two years. Even in the past scholars were arguing about some aspects of these questions but did not come to any solution. Then, for some time, these questions tended to be neglected, there was not much meticulous fundamental research. Time and again there were articles trying to elaborate on one or the other aspect of the question. Some went so far as to deny the Soviet Revolution altogether because of this or that mistake they detected, others simply tried to evade the question - as was done to a considerable degree by the official historiography of the Soviet Union - or to approach it thus that the Soviet Revolution was virtually a priori right.
These approaches are wrong. It must rather be comprehended that as significant a revolution as that of the Soviet Union cannot be completely denied, that its historical successes must be recognized, but also its weaknesses, that one must see it in relative terms and cannot go on adopting its principles in such a way - principles which were once developed in the past - as if there was nothing to check and nothing to reflect upon.

It must thus be emphasized that the October Revolution itself was carried out in connection with accepting demands made by the village commune. Lenin himself was convinced that the adoption of the programme of the Socialist-Revolutionaries in the Land Decree of the October Revolution played a decisive role for winning over the majority of the masses. The Socialist-Revolutionaries, whose programme we have not made our task to criticize in detail but among whose essential characteristic features was the formal recognition of certain aspects of the village commune, had drawn up an agrarian programme which appealed to the majority of the population, namely the peasantry, and this programme was adopted. This is in itself a confirmation of the elaborations made in the present text on the subject of the Russian Revolution and on the importance the question of the village commune had in Russian history, and it is also an indirect confirmation of the question being of transcending importance for us, which has been the starting point of the present article: the question of civilization.

written: 1st part (p. 1-17) August 1986 – June 1989
2nd part (p. 17- 44) July 1987 – autumn 1989


[1] „In the future, even after classes have disappeared, there will still be contradictions between the superstructure and the economic basis and between the conditions of production and the productive forces. And there will still be two-line struggles reflecting these contradictions, i.e. struggles between the advanced and the backward and between the correct and the erroneous.“
Thus it reads in 1973 in the Report to the Tenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China, delivered by Chou En-lai, p. 16.

[2] It is possible to object that Engels’ work operates upon a level of ethnological insight which is a hundred years old. This is correct, of course there is much more knowledge today than hundred years ago.

”The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State “ has to be looked at as something like a fundamental primary work, which needs supplements and rewritings with regard to many details today. But there is no proof/evidence at all that the fundamental conclusions, in particular about the seeping in of elements of gentile order into post-antique Europe must be disputed. Lenin himself, in particular, does not try something like that in his analysis of Russian history.

[3] Lewis Henry Morgan (1818-1881), American ethnologist and archaeologist. His book „Ancient Society“ (1877) is a key work for the understanding of prehistory. By comparing phenomena which were found with very different tribes and nations and historical epochs he was able to identify essential laws governing primeval society. His work is the most important basis for Marx’ and Engels’ studies (though not the only one) and the starting point for Engels’ book.

[4] For the terms „benefices“ and „patronage (commendation)“ see Engels’ article „Franconian Time“ (MECW Vol. 26, p. 58 - 107) which anyhow forms an important supplement to the explanations of the text, „Origin...“.

[5] The way Engels uses the term „Deutsche“ here is not without problems:

Generally, for the time before the Middle Ages and the Franconian empire the term „Germanen“ is being used. The term „deutsch“ turns up for the first time during the 8th century in the Merowingian empire as a linguistic term. It denotes the language of the tribes in the East who had not become Latinized. „Lingua theodisca“ is mentioned in a document for the first time in 786/788. This term means „the language that belongs to the people“. From then on it is transferred to the East-Franconian empire, which for the most part consisted of the tribes speaking Germanic languages. At this point in „The Origin..“However, Engels has in mind the part of the Germanic tribes who originated from the region between the Rhine and the Elbe and the Slavic border regions, and it was these tribes from which “die Deutschen” emerged in their majority. With respect to this fact his use of this term is quite plausible.

[Translator’s note: The above annotation by the author was necessitated by Engels’ use of the term „Deutsche“ in the passage quoted. Engels, at this point, uses “Deutsche“ for the Germanic tribes which were the forerunners of the latter Germans.] ?

[6] The term „Aryans“ later fell into disrepute because of its improper use in a racist meaning. Here with Engels 1884 this term denotes Indo-European peoples whose languages are grouped around Old-Indian Sanskrit. See also F. Engels, „Manuscripts on Early German History“, MECW Vol. 26, p.9 and the respective annotation to F. Engels' article „Bruno Bauer and Early Christianity“ in MECW 24

[7] To illustrate this point further: Engels, taking up his previous description of the emergence of the Athenian and the Roman state, writes:

„In proceeding chapters/earlier we stood at the cradle of ancient Greek and Roman civilisation. Now we are standing at its grave. The levelling plane of Roman world domination had been passing over all countries of the Mediterranean basin, and this for centuries. Where the Greek language offered no resistance all national languages had had to give way to a corrupt Latin. There were no longer any distinctions of nationality, no more Gaels, Iberians, Ligurians, Noricans; all had become Romans. Everywhere Roman administration and Roman law had dissolved the old bodies of consanguine and thus crushed the last remnants of local and national self-expression. The new-fangled Romanism offered no compensation; it expressed no nationality, but only lack of nationality. The elements of new nations existed everywhere. The Latin dialects of the different provinces diverged more and more; the natural boundaries that had once made Italy, Gaul, Spain and Africa independent territories still existed and still made themselves felt. Yet nowhere was there a force capable of combining these elements into new nations; nowhere was there the least trace of any capacity for development or any power of resistance, much less of creative capacity. The immense human mass of that enormous territory was held together by one bond alone - the Roman state; and this, in the course of time, had become its worst enemy and oppressor. The provinces had ruined Rome; Rome itself had become a provincial town like all the others, privileged, but no longer ruling, no longer the centre of the world empire, no longer even the seat of the emperors and vice-emperors, who lived in Constantinople, Trier and Milan. The Roman state had become an immense complicated machine, designed exclusively for draining dry its subjects. Taxes, services for the state and levies of all kinds drove the mass of the people deeper and deeper into poverty. The extortionate practices of the governors, tax collectors and soldiers caused the pressure to become intolerable. This is what the Roman state with its world domination had brought things to: it had based its right to existence on the preservation of order within and protection against the barbarians outside. But its order was worse than the worst disorder, and the barbarians, against whom the state pretended to protect its citizens, were longed for by them as saviours.“

Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, VIII.,
The Formation of the State Among the Germans, MECW Vol.26, p. 247-248.

[8] Odoaker (433-493), leader of Germanic armies in the service of the West-Roman emperors, who deposed the last West-Roman emperor in 476 and seized the leadership of the state.

[9] Cf. my work „W.I. Lenins Stellung zu Alexander I. Herzen“ (The attitude of W.I. Lenin towards Alexander I. Herzen), chapter IX

[10] The articles mentioned here appeared in the periodical „Sovremennik“, the organ in which Chernyshevskii published.

[11] Cf. Marx’ letter to Engels of Dec. 18, 1882, MEWC 46, p. 409

[12] Cf. Lenin Collected Works vol. 34, p. 81f. and MECW vol. 24, p. 456

[13] **: The Russian word denotes feudal dues
***: all necessary modifications having been made

[14] Cf. Lenin Collected Works vol. 17, p. 123

[15] Karl Marx, Letter to Otechestvenniye Zapiski, MECW Vol. 24, p.196
Karl Marx, Letter to Vera Zasulich, March 8, 1881, MECW Vol. 24, p.370
Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Preface to the 2nd Russian edition of „Manifesto of the Communist Party“, 1882, MECW 24, p. 425f.

[16] In the draft program by Plechanow of 1885 it had been said: „abolition of the present system of taxation and introduction of a progressive income tax“.
This formula is completely open and not binding. At that time, the poll tax, an extremely reactionary institution, was abolished, but at the same time replaced by high indirect taxes (see the chapter on „The State and the Tax Question in Russia.“) It should have been demanded very clearly to abolish these taxes.

[17] A.I. Skvorzov: a writer on economics, mentioned and criticized several times in Lenin’s works Vol. 1,3,4,5.

[18] The Black Hundreds have been compared to the later Nazis and fascists quite often. Actually the SA („storm detachments“) of the Nazis resembled a lot the gangs of Black Hundreds. Also pogroms against Jews, which formed a central point of Nazi banditry, were already peculiar to the Black Hundreds. Therefore it is quite interesting to note that Nazi banditry on its part took over some elements of decaying tsarism, which were fundamentally similar, and put them into practice in Central Europe.
The foundations for this were laid by the mental decline in the Prusso-German state, by the bestialization of life through First World War and by the downgrading of millions of people ensuing from the big crisis of world economy.

[19] About Stolypin also Lenin writes (in „Stolypin and the Revolution“):
„A landowner and Marshal of the Nobility, he was appointed governor in 1902, under Plehve, gained ‘fame’ in the eyes of the tsar and the reactionary court clique by his brutal reprisals against the peasants and the cruel punishment he inflicted upon them (in Saratov Gubernia), organised Black-Hundred gangs and pogroms in 1905 (the pogrom in Balashov), became Minister of the Interior in 1906 and chairman of the Counsel of Ministers after the dissolution of the First Duma.“
V.I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol.17, p. 248

„Stolypin the pogrom-monger groomed himself for a ministerial post in the only way in which a tsarist governor could: by torturing the peasants, by organising pogroms and by showing an ability to conceal these Asiatic ‘practices’ behind glib phrases, external appearances, poses and gestures made to look ‘European’.“
V.I. Lenin, Collected Works Vol.17, p. 249/250

[20] Quoted following Andreas Moritsch, „Landwirtschaft und Agrargesetzgebung in Rußland vor der Revolution“, 1986 (Agriculture and Agrarian Legislation in Russia before the Revolution) (Wiener Archiv für Geschichte des Slaventums und Osteuropas, vol. 12, p. 90/91)

[21] „More than twenty thousand peasant rallies during the years 1907 and 1913 were the answer to Stolypin’s agrarian reform.“ (Great Soviet Encyclopedia, German ed., Berlin 1952, col. 629 - our transl.)

[22] Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 17, p.250, „Stolypin and the Revolution“

[23] The quotations from Marx’ „Notizen zur Reform von 1861 und der damit verbundenen Entwicklung in Rußland“ were translated by us. These „Notes...“ are not contained in the English edition of Marx/Engels, Collected Works. Russian words employed by Marx have been translated. Some brackets of various shapes, which mark passages in various foreign languages used by Marx have been omitted. [Translator’s note, replacing an author’s note referring to the way the quotations from Marx are rendered in the German original of “Leninism and Civilization”]

[24] area of conscription: region of enrolling for compulsory service in the armed forces

[25] Two passages from Lenin Collected Works, Vol. 5, „Concerning the State Budget“:

„The State Bank has not only granted loans to tottering enterprises with a liberal hand, but has practically taken many of them under its full control. The bankruptcy of industrial enterprises threatened to lead to the bankruptcy of the state! Lastly, let us not forget, either, that it is under the administration of the ‘genius’ Witte that the sum of the loans and the size of the taxes are constantly increasing, despite the fact that the capital of the saving-banks is applied exclusively to support state credits. This capital has already exceeded 800 million rubles. Taking all this into consideration, we realise that Witte’s economy is wasteful, that the autocracy is heading slowly but surely for bankruptcy, since taxation cannot be raised indefinitely and the French bourgeoisie will not always come to the aid of the Russian Tsar.“
V.I.Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p.333

„Yet in actual fact it is notorious that indirect taxation affecting articles of mass consumption is distinguished by its extreme injustice. The entire burden is placed on the shoulders of the poor, while it creates a privilege for the rich. The poorer a man is, the greater the share of his income that goes to the state in the form of indirect taxes. The masses who own little or nothing constitute nine-tenths of the population, consume nine-tenths of the taxed items, and pay nine-tenths of the total of all indirect taxes, while they receive no more than two- or three-tenths of the national income.“
V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p.336

There is also a very interesting single passage from the article on the Chinese war:

„The Chinese people suffer from the same evils as those from which the Russian people suffer -they suffer from an Asiatic government that squeezes taxes from the starving peasantry and that suppresses every aspiration towards liberty by military force; they suffer from the oppression of capital, which has penetrated into the Middle Kingdom.“

V.I. Lenin , Collected Works, Vol. 4, p.377

[26] The complete quotation reads as follows:
„It seemed to us that it was necessary to examine the whole process of the development of capitalism in Russia, to endeavour to depict it in its entirety. It goes without saying that such an extensive task would be beyond the powers of a single person, were a number of limitations not introduced. Firstly, as the title itself shows, we treat the problem of the development of capitalism in Russia exclusively from the standpoint of the home market, leaving aside the problem of the foreign market and data on foreign trade. Secondly, we limit ourselves purely to the post-Reform period. Thirdly, we deal mainly and almost exclusively with data concerning the interior, purely Russian, gubernias. Fourthly, we limit ourselves exclusively to the economic aspect of the process.“

V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 3, p.25

[27] Non-excise-free industry:
The excise was a surcharge by the state put upon the product in advance and thereby was incorporated into the price of the product (similar to our tobacco-tax). This industry which was loaded with an excise thereby stood under particular control from the state.

[28] Cf. V.I. Lenin , The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Collected Works Vol. 3, Chapter 8, III.

[29] Cf. „Geschichte der Kommunistischen Partei der Sowjetunion“ in 6 vols. (German edition), Vol. II „Die Partei der Bolschewiki im Kampf für den Sturz des Zarismus, 1904 - Feb. 1917“, Progress Publishers, Moscow, without year, p. 367-369

Furthermore, it reads here p. 371:

„During the years of the industrial upturn the numerical strength of the proletariat in Russia increased substantially. Taken alone the enterprises which were under the supervision of the factory inspection the number of workers increased by almost 50.000 from 1st Jan. , 1910 to 1st Jan. , 1914, i.e. by 27,3%. In spite of the economic and cultural backwardness of Russia its working class had developed into a really progressive class with outstanding revolutionary qualities and rich revolutionary traditions. Essential for its formation was the high degree of concentration of production, the union of largest columns of workers in big and biggest factories.“ (our transl.)

[30] V. Wittschewsky, Budget und Steuerverhältnisse Rußlands (Jahrbücher für Nationalökonomie und Statistik, Inhalt des XXVII. Bandes, Dritte Folge (LXXXII), 1904 (Conrads Jahrbücher)
The quotations from this work have been translated by us.

[31] 1807:
In 1807 the Prussian king under the impact of the defeat at Jena and the continuing pressure exerted by the French revolution enacted an edict for the release of the German peasants from serfdom. The threat had hardly subsided when the edict was withdrawn to a large extent - only to renew it when the threat revived. After the defeat of the French many promises were withdrawn. On the whole the Prussian peasant emancipation dragged on until 1848. The peasants were cheated by the regulations.

Footnotes :

(1) Marx' term „Ackerbaugemeinde“ reads either „agricultural commune“ or or „land commune“
in the various English translations. [Translator's remark]

(2) The translation was made by us from the German edition.

(3)Translator’s remark: The expression „land tenure“ in the English translation in the LCW
must not be misunderstood as if having the meaning of possession. The Russian words denote
a system of regulation – rasporiadkov - of the use of the land.

(4)Translator’s remark: This work by Marx „Notes on the Reform of 1861 and the Development
in Russia related to it”, as the title would spell in English, has not been included into
the English MECW edition. As no English translation was available to us, we did the
translations of the quoted passages ourselves

(5)Translator’s note: the English translation in Lenin, Collected Works employs only the much
weaker expression „wastefull“.

(6)Translator’s remark: These partly old-fashioned German expressions in Wittschewsky’s book,
for which an English translation could not be found, denote such categories as day laborers
and landless peasants.

[translation from the German original]

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