OF THE FIFTH ECCI PLENUM
ON THE PEASANT QUESTION
Inprekorr, v, 77 , p. 1026 , 11 May 1925
The general communist line towards the peasantry was laid down in the agrarian theses drafted by Lenin for the second CI congress. The fourth congress endorsed these theses and supplemented them with considerations drawn from the subsequent experience of various communist parties. The second congress theses still remain the basic principles on this question, to which all parties affiliated to the CI are committed.
. . . Since the overwhelming majority of the world's population are peasants, the struggle for the peasantry becomes a vital political question, from the point of view of the proletarian struggle for power, the consolidation of that power, and the
economic prerequisites of that consolidation. The colonial question is at bottom nothing but the question of the relations between town and country on a world scale, in which the countryside suffers under the threefold pressure of feudal
landownership, capitalist exploitation, and national inequality.
As a result of the instability of capitalist relations the question of the peasantry has also become extremely acute for the ruling classes too, for the bourgeoisie and the large agrarians. . . . The ruling classes are trying to extend their influence along
the entire peasant front, to win it for the fight against the revolutionary proletarian front. . . .
The peasantry, which in the past was the basic class in feudal society, is not a class at all, in the real sense of the word, in capitalist society. . . .
But in so far as we are dealing with a society which is passing from feudal relations to the relations of capitalist production, the peasantry as a whole is in a contradictory situation: in
relation to the large landowners it is a class, but in so far as capitalist relations have invaded and disintegrated the peasantry, it ceases to be a class. In countries with strong feudal agrarian survivals, the peasantry, whose interests are sharply opposed to those of the landowners, may therefore at a certain phase of the revolution become as a whole allies of the proletariat. This applies above all to the colonial and
semi-colonial countries. . . .
The essential factor dividing the proletariat and the large peasants is the interests of capitalist property, that is, the contradiction between the buyer and seller of labour power. . . In the proletarian revolution which destroys capitalist property
the large peasants therefore become a reserve of the anti-proletarian forces. But in those countries where the agrarian revolution against feudal landownership is still to come, even the large peasants may revolt against the landowners.
The essential factor which divides the interests of the middle peasantry from those of the working class is the interests of private commodity economy. . . .
The interests of grain sellers (peasants) and grain buyers (workers) are in this respect in conflict. But a number of other factors connected with the entanglement of the medium peasants in the process of capitalist exploitation (money-lending, the highprice policy of industrial trusts, taxation, the pressure of the imperialist State machine, wars, etc.) may far outweigh those which divide the medium peasants from the
proletariat. Therefore these strata can be neutralized. . . .
The factors dividing the small peasantry also derive from the character of private commodity interests. But the proportion between dividing and unifying factors is quite different in this case. The smallholder often has to buy grain, and often has to hire himself out as a wage labourer. . . .
The small peasants can therefore be won over as allies of the proletariat. . . .
Agricultural labourers are a part of the proletariat. But there are special features in their situation which often make their fight against capitalist society difficult. These arise from their geographical dispersal in the labour process, and from the strongly 'patriarchal' character of rural conditions . . .
which make the agricultural proletariat a 'backward' stratum of the working class. It is obviously the job of proletarian parties to win this stratum over first of all. . . .
THE AGRARIAN PROBLEM OF THE PEASANTRY IMMEDIATELY
BEFORE THE SEIZURE OF POWER BY THE WORKING CLASS
The period of proletarian revolution creates a situation ... in which absolutely everything must be subordinated to the task of seizing power and establishing the proletarian dictatorship. . . .
In countries with large-scale capitalist production the proletariat must aim at transforming large landholdings into State undertakings farmed by wage labour. But the principle of the technical superiority, economically, of large-scale agricultural production should not stop communists from dividing part of the large estates among the small, and in some cases even the medium, peasants...
In the great majority of countries the proletarian dictatorship cannot be established without the direct help of the small peasants and the neutralization of the middle peasants. The
negative experience of the Hungarian, Italian, and Polish movements, and the positive experience of the Russian, show that mistakes on this question are absolutely fatal. . . .
. . . . Since the proletarian dictatorship in the most important industrial countries creates conditions enabling development in countries of a colonial type to take another course, the basic task in these latter is not the struggle against anticapitalist,
pre-capitalist, and other ideas; it is to criticize irresolution and timidity in the fight against foreign capital and feudal landownership, and to give the movement greater scope and impetus.
THE PROBLEM AFTER THE SEIZURE OF POWER
With the seizure of power by the working class, with the expropriation of the capitalists and landlords . . , there is a radical change in the conditions of economic life in general, and the life of the rural population in particular. . . .
These new conditions make possible a non-capitalist evolution of peasant farming, which . . . can pass through co-operation to socialism.. ..
It is obvious that this process of 'evolution' will occur only as the result of the struggle of various economic forms which reflect the struggle of classes. The proletarian State... must so regulate the capitalist relations which are bound to arise
that in the final result the victory of socialism is ensured. . . .
It will equally be possible for the colonial countries to by-pass the stage of capitalist development if the developing proletarian revolution gives the proletariat mastery of the important industrial centres. . . .
This does not mean that there will be no capitalist development at all in these countries. The entire process will occur in
contradictory forms ... but there will be a powerful socialist tendency which will determine the character of the process as a whole.
The most important guide for the ruling proletarian party must be: to reach agreement with the peasantry. It must be clearly recognized that this problem cannot be avoided, for the peasantry form the majority of the world's population. . . .
But agreement can be reached only if the proletarian State's economic policy takes account of the inclination of small producers towards private economy and, taking this as its starting-point, gradually guides the small producer to combine and to engage in more and more comprehensive forms of collective economy. . . .
. . . The partnership with the peasantry does not by any means imply a sharing of power. But to the extent that the peasantry is really drawn into socialist construction and in the process subjected to socialist re-education, its most advanced
elements will naturally have to be drawn into co-operation with the State apparatus.
. . . The Soviet form of the proletarian dictatorship, as the experience of the revolution has shown, ensures the proletarian class character of the State organization and enables the peasantry to be drawn to a growing extent into the process of constructing socialism. . . .
The final goal of the movement is the organization of collective large-scale agricultural production, the elimination of contradictions between town and country, and an end to the backwardness of agriculture which is inherent in the laws of
capitalist development. . . .
THE PEASANT MOVEMENT AND THE COMMUNIST PARTIES
The most fundamental task to be accomplished by the communist parties is to study the agrarian problem in their own country and 'their' colonies. Very little has so far been done in this respect. . . .
The chief object of communist party work is to emancipate the
relevant strata of the peasantry from the influence of the bourgeoisie and the landowners. In agrarian countries with strong feudal survivals the agrarian question must be given first place. . . .
In most countries of developed capitalism the emphasis in our propaganda and agitation must be placed on questions of taxation, the high monopoly prices of industrial products, the pressure of the imperialist State machine, and future wars... .
In the colonies all these questions appear in a more acute form: the pressure of feudal landownership and land-hunger, high prices, excessive taxation and dues, and the threat of war. All this is further complicated by the addition of exploitation by foreign capital and national oppression. It is therefore the task of communist parties to expand the struggle in all these directions. . . .
WORK AMONG THE PEASANTRY AND THE ATTITUDE TO PEASANT
Where various strata of the peasantry are united in a common organization led by the landowners and the capitalist large peasants, communist parties must aim at detaching the small peasants (and, as far as possible, the medium peasants also). If
it is impossible to capture such organizations, i.e. to get rid of the landlord leaders (as in the majority of cases), then efforts should be made to detach and form separate organizations of the small peasantry. . ..
For this it is necessary to adopt the tactics of a bloc between the communist party and associations of small peasants.
In those capitalist countries where the small peasants are badly organized or not organized at all, efforts should be made to organize them into peasant unions, peasant committees, etc., in which the party should wield influence through party
fractions. The formation of separate political peasant parties by the communists is inadvisable and cannot be recommended. By peasant unions, irrespective of the names they bear, should be understood broader organizations than political parties in
the specific sense of the term. These unions have no definitely defined programmes, discipline, or strict organizational forms. For that reason they can embrace a larger section of the masses, and also permit the existence in their ranks of various political tendencies and shades.
Where the peasantry is organized in political parties, heterogeneous in class composition, the communist party must support the small-peasant left wing and, at the necessary moment, promote its organization as a separate organization.
Communist parties form a bloc with small-peasant parties, and aim at bringing them under their ideological influence; they propagate the idea of the necessity of an alliance of workers and peasants as the indispensable prerequisite for the victorious struggle of the working people against the exploiters. . . .
All parties must try to get peasant organizations to affiliate to the International Peasant Council; they are obliged to support this international body.. . .
. . . Communists must make it clear to the peasantry everywhere that the peasants have always been defeated and betrayed when they have tried to act as an independent third power, without allying themselves with the proletariat and without its leadership. The experience of so-called peasant governments (Stambuliski) has also shown that the peasantry are not able to maintain power. Therefore it is only the
dictatorship of the proletariat, supported by the peasantry, which can really ensure victory in the struggle of both classes against the exploiters.