[Classics] The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky

Subservience To The Bourgeoisie In The Guise of “Economic Analysis”

As has already been said, if the title of Kautsky’s book were properly to reflect its contents, it should have been called, not The Dictatorship of the Proletariat, but A Rehash of Bourgeois Attacks on the Bolsheviks.

The old Menshevik “theories” about the bourgeois character of the Russian revolution, i.e., the old distortion of Marxism by the Mensheviks (rejected by Kautsky in 1905!), are now once again being rehashed by our theoretician. We must deal with this question, however boring it may be for Russian Marxists.

The Russian revolution is a bourgeois revolution, said all the Marxists of Russia before 1905. The Mensheviks, substituting liberalism for Marxism, drew the following conclusion from this: the proletariat therefore must not go beyond what is acceptable to the bourgeoisie and must pursue a policy of compromise with them. The Bolsheviks said this was a bourgeois-liberal theory. The bourgeoisie were trying to bring about the reform of the state on bourgeois, reformist, not revolutionary lines, while preserving the monarchy, the landlord system, etc., as far as possible. The proletariat must carry through the bourgeois-democratic revolution to the end, not allowing itself to be “bound” by the reformism of the bourgeoisie. The Bolsheviks formulated the alignment of class forces in the bourgeois revolution as follows: the proletariat, winning over the peasants, will neutralise the liberal bourgeoisie and utterly destroy the monarchy, medievalism and the landlord system.

It is the alliance between the proletariat and the peasants in general that reveals the bourgeois character of the revolution, for the peasants in general are small producers who exist on the basis of commodity production. Further, the Bolsheviks then added, the proletariat will win over the entire semi-proletariat (all the working and exploited people), will neutralise the middle peasants and overthrow the bourgeoisie; this will be a socialist revolution, as distinct from a bourgeois-democratic revolution. (See my pamphlet Two Tactics, published in 1905 and reprinted in Twelve Years, St. Petersburg, 1907.)

Kautsky took an indirect part in this controversy in 1905, when, in reply to an inquiry by the then Menshevik Plekhanov, he expressed an opinion that was essentially against Plekhanov, which provoked particular ridicule in the Bolshevik press at the time. But now Kautsky does not say a single word about the controversies of that time (for fear of being exposed by his own statements!), and thereby makes it utterly impossible for the German reader to understand the essence of the matter. Mr. Kautsky could not tell the German workers in 1918 that in 1905 he had been in favour of an alliance of the workers with the peasants and not with the liberal bourgeoisie, and on what conditions he had advocated this alliance, and what programme he had outlined for it.

Backing out from his old position, Kautsky, under the guise of an “economic analysis”, and talking proudly about “historical materialism”, now advocates the subordination of the workers to the bourgeoisie, and, with the aid of quotations from the Menshevik Maslov, chews over the old liberal views of the Mensheviks. Quotations are used to prove the new idea of the backwardness of Russia. But the deduction drawn from this new idea is the old one, that in a bourgeois revolution one must not go farther than the bourgeoisie! And this in spite of all that Marx and Engels said when comparing the bourgeois revolution of 1789–93 in France with the bourgeois revolution of 1848 in Germany! [Karl Marx, The Bourgeoisie and the Counter-Revolution (Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Moscow, 1962, Vol. I, pp. 66–69).]

Before passing to the chief “argument” and the main content of Kautsky’s “economic analysis”, let us note that Kautsky’s very first sentences reveal a curious confusion, or superficiality, of thought.

“Agriculture, and specifically small peasant farming,” our “theoretician” announces, “to this day represents the economic foundation of Russia. About four-fifths, perhaps even five-sixths, of the population live by it” (p. 45). First of all, my dear theoretician, have you considered how many exploiters there may be among this mass of small producers? Certainly not more than one-tenth of the total, and in the towns still less, for there large-scale production is more highly developed. Take even an incredibly high figure; assume that one-fifth of the small producers are exploiters who are deprived of the franchise. Even then you will find that the 66 per cent of the votes held by the Bolsheviks at the Fifth Congress of Soviets represented the majority of the population. To this it must be added that there was always a considerable section of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries who were in favour of Soviet power—in principle all the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries were in favour of Soviet power, and when a section of them, in July 1918, started an adventurous revolt, two new parties split away from the old party, namely, the “Narodnik Communists” and the “Revolutionary Communists”[33] (of the prominent Left Socialist-Revolutionaries who had been nominated for important posts in the government by the old party, to the first-mentioned belongs Zax, for instance, and to the second Kolegayev). So, Kautsky has himself—inadvertently—refuted the ridiculous fable that the Bolsheviks only have the backing of a minority of the population.

Secondly, my dear theoretician, have you considered the fact that the small peasant producer inevitably vacillates between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie? This Marxist truth, which has been confirmed by the whole modern history of Europe, Kautsky very conveniently “forgot”, for it simply demolishes the Menshevik “theory” that he keeps repeating! Had Kautsky not “forgotten” this he could not have denied the need for a proletarian dictatorship in a country in which the small peasant producers predominate.

Let us examine the main content of our theoretician’s “economic analysis”.

That Soviet power is a dictatorship cannot be disputed, says Kautsky. “But is it a dictatorship of the proletariat?” (p. 34.)

“According to the Soviet Constitution, the peasants form the majority of the population entitled to participate in legislation and administration. What is presented to us as a dictatorship of the proletariat would prove to be—if carried out consistently, and if, generally speaking, a class could directly exercise a dictatorship, which in reality can only be exercised by a party—a dictatorship of the peasants” (p. 35).

And, highly elated over so profound and clever an argument, our good Kautsky tries to be witty and says: “It would appear, therefore, that the most painless achievement of socialism is best assured when it is put in the hands of the peasants” (p. 35).

In the greatest detail, and citing a number of extremely learned quotations from the semi-liberal Maslov, our theoretician labours to prove the new idea that the peasants are interested in high grain prices, in low wages for the urban workers, etc., etc. Incidentally, the enunciation of these new ideas is the more tedious the less attention our author pays to the really new features of the post-war period—for example, that the peasants demand for their grain, not money, but goods, and that they have not enough agricultural implements, which cannot be obtained in sufficient quantities for any amount of money. But more of this later.

Thus, Kautsky charges the Bolsheviks, the party of the proletariat, with having surrendered the dictatorship, the work of achieving socialism, to the petty-bourgeois peasants. Excellent, Mr. Kautsky! But what, in your enlightened opinion, should have been the attitude of the proletarian party towards the petty-bourgeois peasants?

Our theoretician preferred to say nothing on this score—evidently bearing in mind the proverb: “Speech is silver, silence is gold.” But he gives himself away by the following argument:

“At the beginning of the Soviet Republic, the peasants’ Soviets were organisations of the peasants in general. Now this Republic proclaims that the Soviets are organisations of the proletarians and the poor peasants. The well-to-do peasants are deprived of the suffrage in the elections to the Soviets. The poor peasant is here recognised to be a permanent and mass product of the socialist agrarian reform under the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ ” (p. 48).

What deadly irony! It is the kind that may be heard in Russia from any bourgeois: they all jeer and gloat over the fact that the Soviet Republic openly admits the existence of poor peasants. They ridicule socialism. That is their right. But a “socialist” who jeers at the fact that after four years of a most ruinous war there remain (and will remain for a long time) poor peasants in Russia—such a “socialist” could only have been born at a time of wholesale apostasy.

And further:

“. . . The Soviet Republic interferes in the relations between the rich and poor peasants, but not by redistributing the land. In order to relieve the bread shortage in the towns, detachments of armed workers are sent into the countryside to take away the rich peasants’ surplus stocks of grain. Part of that stock is given to the urban population, the other—to the poorer peasants” (p. 48).

Of course, Kautsky the socialist and Marxist is profoundly indignant at the idea that such a measure should be extended beyond the environs of the large towns (and we have extended it to the whole of the country). With the matchless, incomparable and admirable coolness (or pigheadedness) of a philistine, Kautsky the socialist and Marxist sermonises: . . . “It [the expropriation of the well-to-do peasants] introduces a new element of unrest and civil war into the process of production” . . . (civil war introduced into the “process of production”—that is something supernatural!) . . . “which stands in urgent need of peace and security for its recovery” (p. 49).

Oh, yes, of course, Kautsky the Marxist and socialist must sigh and shed tears over the subject of peace and security for the exploiters and grain profiteers who hoard their surplus stocks, sabotage the grain monopoly law, and reduce the urban population to famine. “We are all socialists and Marxists and internationalists,” the Kautskys, Heinrich Webers[34] (Vienna), Longuets (Paris), MacDonalds (London), etc., sing in chorus. “We are all in favour of a working-class revolution. Only . . . only we would like a revolution that does not infringe upon the peace and security of the grain profiteers! And we camouflage this sordid subservience to the capitalists by a ‘Marxist’ reference to the ‘process of production’. . . . ” If this is Marxism, what is servility to the bourgeoisie?

Just see what our theoretician arrives at. He accuses the Bolsheviks of presenting the dictatorship of the peasants as the dictatorship of the proletariat. But at the same time he accuses us of introducing civil war into the rural districts (which we think is to our credit), of dispatching into the countryside armed detachments of workers, who publicly proclaim that they are exercising the “dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasants”, assist the latter and confiscate from the profiteers and the rich peasants the surplus stocks of grain which they are hoarding in contravention of the grain monopoly law.

On the one hand, our Marxist theoretician stands for pure democracy, for the subordination of the revolutionary class, the leader of the working and exploited people, to the majority of the population (including, therefore, the exploiters). On the other hand, as an argument against us, he explains that the revolution must inevitably bear a bourgeois character—bourgeois, because the life of the peasants as a whole is based on bourgeois social relations—and at the same time he pretends to uphold the proletarian, class, Marxist point of view!

Instead of an “economic analysis” we have a first-class hodge-podge. Instead of Marxism we have fragments of liberal doctrines and the preaching of servility to the bourgeoisie and the kulaks.

The question which Kautsky has so tangled up was fully explained by the Bolsheviks as far back as 1905. Yes, our revolution is a bourgeois revolution as long as we march with the peasants as a whole. This has been as clear as clear can be to us; we have said it hundreds and thousands of times since 1905, and we have never attempted to skip this necessary stage of the historical process or abolish it by decrees. Kautsky’s efforts to “expose” us on this point merely expose his own confusion of mind and his fear to recall what he wrote in 1905, when he was not yet a renegade.

Beginning with April 1917, however, long before the October Revolution, that is, long before we assumed power, we publicly declared and explained to the people: the revolution cannot now stop at this stage, for the country has marched forward, capitalism has advanced, ruin has reached fantastic dimensions, which (whether one likes it or not) will demand steps forward, to socialism. For there is no other way of advancing, of saving the war-weary country and of alleviating the sufferings of the working and exploited people.

Things have turned out just as we said they would. The course taken by the revolution has confirmed the correctness of our reasoning. First, with the “whole” of the peasants against the monarchy, against the landowners, against medievalism (and to that extent the revolution remains bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic). Then, with the poor peasants, with the semi-proletarians, with all the exploited, against capitalism, including the rural rich, the kulaks, the profiteers, and to that extent the revolution becomes a socialist one. To attempt to raise an artificial Chinese Wall between the first and second, to separate them by anything else than the degree of preparedness of the proletariat and the degree of its unity with the poor peasants, means to distort Marxism dreadfully, to vulgarise it, to substitute liberalism in its place. It means smuggling in a reactionary defence of the bourgeoisie against the socialist proletariat by means of quasi-scientific references to the progressive character of the bourgeoisie in comparison with medievalism.

Incidentally, the Soviets represent an immensely higher form and type of democracy just because, by uniting and drawing the mass of workers and peasants into political life, they serve as a most sensitive barometer, the one closest to the “people” (in the sense in which Marx, in 1871, spoke of a real people’s revolution[35]), of the growth and development of the political, class maturity of the people. The Soviet Constitution was not drawn up according to some “plan”; it was not drawn up in a study, and was not foisted on the working people by bourgeois lawyers. No, this Constitution grew up in the course of the development of the class struggle in proportion as class antagonisms matured. The very facts which Kautsky himself has to admit prove this.

At first, the Soviets embraced the peasants as a whole. It was owing to the immaturity, the backwardness, the ignorance of the poor peasants that the leadership passed into the hands of the kulaks, the rich, the capitalists and the petty-bourgeois intellectuals. That was the period of the domination of the petty bourgeoisie, of the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries (only fools or renegades like Kautsky can regard either of these as socialists). The petty bourgeoisie inevitably and unavoidably vacillated between the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (Kerensky, Kornilov, Savinkov) and the dictatorship of the proletariat; for owing to the basic features of its economic position, the petty bourgeoisie is incapable of doing anything independently. Kautsky, by the way, completely renounces Marxism by confining himself in his analysis of the Russian revolution to the legal and formal concept of “democracy”, which serves the bourgeoisie as a screen to conceal their domination and as a means of deceiving the people, and by forgetting that in practice “democracy” sometimes stands for the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, sometimes for the impotent reformism of the petty bourgeoisie who submit to that dictatorship, and so on. According to Kautsky, in a capitalist country there were bourgeois parties and there was a proletarian party (the Bolsheviks), which led the majority, the mass of the proletariat, but there were no petty-bourgeois parties! The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries had no class roots, no petty-bourgeois roots!

The vacillations of the petty bourgeoisie, of the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, helped to enlighten the people and to repel the overwhelming majority of them, all the “lower sections”, all the proletarians and semi-proletarians, from such “leaders”. The Bolsheviks won predominance in the Soviets (in Petrograd and Moscow by October 1917); the split among the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks became more pronounced.

The victorious Bolshevik revolution meant the end of vacillation, meant the complete destruction of the monarchy and of the landlord system (which had not been destroyed before the October Revolution). We carried the bourgeois revolution to its conclusion. The peasants supported us as a whole. Their antagonism to the socialist proletariat could not reveal itself all at once. The Soviets united the peasants in general. The class divisions among the peasants had not yet matured, had not yet come into the open.

That process took place in the summer and autumn of 1918. The Czech counter-revolutionary mutiny roused the kulaks. A wave of kulak revolts swept over Russia. The poor peasants learned, not from books or newspapers, but from life itself, that their interests were irreconcilably antagonistic to those of the kulaks, the rich, the rural bourgeoisie. Like every other petty-bourgeois party, the “Left Socialist-Revolutionaries” reflected the vacillation of the people, and in the summer of 1918 they split: one section joined forces with the Czechs (the rebellion in Moscow, when Proshyan, having seized the Telegraph Office—for one hour!—announced to Russia that the Bolsheviks had been overthrown; then the treachery of Muravyov,[36] Commander-in-Chief of the army that was fighting the Czechs, etc.), while the other section, that mentioned above, remained with the Bolsheviks.

The growing food shortage in the towns lent increasing urgency to the question of the grain monopoly (this Kautsky the theoretician completely “forgot” in his economic analysis, which is a mere repetition of platitudes gleaned ten years ago from Maslov’s writings!).

The old landowner and bourgeois, and even democratic-republican, state had sent to the rural districts armed detachments which were practically at the beck and call of the bourgeoisie. Mr. Kautsky does not know this! He does not regard that as the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie”—Heaven forbid! That is “pure democracy”, especially if endorsed by a bourgeois parliament! Nor has Kautsky “heard” that, in the summer and autumn of 1917, Avksentyev and S. Maslov, in company with the Kerenskys, the Tseretelis and other Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, arrested members of the Land Committees; he does not say a word about that!

The whole point is that a bourgeois state which is exercising the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie through a democratic republic cannot confess to the people that it is serving the bourgeoisie; it cannot tell the truth, and has to play the hypocrite.

But the state of the Paris Commune type, the Soviet state, openly and frankly tells the people the truth and declares that it is the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasants; and by this truth it wins over scores and scores of millions of new citizens who are kept down in any democratic republic, but who are drawn by the Soviets into political life, into democracy, into the administration of the state. The Soviet Republic sends into the rural districts detachments of armed workers, primarily the more advanced, from the capitals. These workers carry socialism into the countryside, win over the poor, organise and enlighten them, and help them to suppress the resistance of the bourgeoisie.

All who are familiar with the situation and have been in the rural districts declare that it is only now, in the summer and autumn of 1918, that the rural districts themselves are passing through the “October” (i.e., proletarian) Revolution. Things are beginning to change. The wave of kulak revolts is giving way to a rise of the poor, to a growth of the “Poor Peasants’ Committees”. In the army, the number of workers who become commissars, officers and commanders of divisions and armies is increasing. And at the very time that the simple-minded Kautsky, frightened by the July (1918) crisis[37] and the lamentations of the bourgeoisie, was running after the latter like a cockerel, and writing a whole pamphlet breathing the conviction that the Bolsheviks are on the eve of being overthrown by the peasants; at the very time that this simpleton regarded the secession of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries as a “narrowing” (p. 37) of the circle of those who support the Bolsheviks at that very time the real circle of supporters of Bolshevism was expanding enormously, because scores and scores of millions of the village poor were freeing themselves from the tutelage and influence of the kulaks and village bourgeoisie and were awakening to independent political life.

We have lost hundreds of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, spineless intellectuals and kulaks from among the peasants; but we have gained millions of poor people.[At the Sixth Congress of Soviets (November 6–9, 1918), there were 967 voting delegates, 950 of whom were Bolsheviks, and 351 delegates with voice but no vote, of whom 335 were Bolsheviks, i.e., 97 per cent of the total number of delegates were Bolsheviks.]

A year after the proletarian revolution in the capitals, and under its influence and with its assistance, the proletarian revolution began in the remote rural districts, and it has finally consolidated the power of the Soviets and Bolshevism, and has finally proved there is no force in the country that can withstand it.

Having completed the bourgeois-democratic revolution in alliance with the peasants as a whole, the Russian proletariat finally passed on to the socialist revolution when it succeeded in splitting the rural population, in winning over the rural proletarians and semi-proletarians, and in uniting them against the kulaks and the bourgeoisie, including the peasant bourgeoisie.

Now, if the Bolshevik proletariat in the capitals and large industrial centres had not been able to rally the village poor around itself against the rich peasants, this would indeed have proved that Russia was “unripe” for socialist revolution. The peasants would then have remained an “integral whole”, i.e., they would have remained under the economic, political, and moral leadership of the kulaks, the rich, the bourgeoisie, and the revolution would not have passed beyond the limits of a bourgeois-democratic revolution. (But, let it be said in parenthesis, even if this had been the case, it would not have proved that the proletariat should not have taken power, for it is the proletariat alone that has really carried the bourgeois-democratic revolution to its conclusion, it is the proletariat alone that has done something really important to bring nearer the world proletarian revolution, and the proletariat alone that has created the Soviet state, which, after the Paris Commune, is the second step towards the socialist state.)

On the other hand, if the Bolshevik proletariat had tried at once, in October–November 1917, without waiting for the class differentiation in the rural districts, without being able to prepare it and bring it about, to “decree” a civil war or the “introduction of socialism” in the rural districts, had tried to do without a temporary bloc with the peasants in general, without making a number of concessions to the middle peasants, etc., that would have been a Blanquist[38] distortion of Marxism, an attempt by the minority to impose its will upon the majority; it would have been a theoretical absurdity, revealing a failure to understand that a general peasant revolution is still a bourgeois revolution, and that without a series of transitions, of transitional stages, it cannot be transformed into a socialist revolution in a backward country.

Kautsky has confused everything in this very important theoretical and political problem, and has, in practice, proved to be nothing but a servant of the bourgeoisie, howling against the dictatorship of the proletariat.

* *

Kautsky has introduced a similar, if not greater, confusion into another extremely interesting and important question, namely: was the legislative activity of the Soviet Republic in the sphere of agrarian reform—that most difficult and yet most important of socialist reforms—based on sound principles and then properly carried out? We should be boundlessly grateful to any West-European Marxist who, after studying at least the most important documents, gave a criticism of our policy, because he would thereby help us immensely, and would also help the revolution that is maturing throughout the world. But instead of criticism Kautsky produces an incredible theoretical muddle, which converts Marxism into liberalism and which, in practice, is a series of idle, venomous, vulgar sallies against the Bolsheviks. Let the reader judge for himself:

“Large landed estates could not be preserved. This was a result of the revolution. That was at once clear. The transfer of the large estates to the peasant population became inevitable. . . .” (That is not true, Mr. Kautsky. You substitute what is “clear” to you for the attitude of the different classes towards the question. The history of the revolution has shown that the coalition government of the bourgeois and the petty bourgeois, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, pursued a policy of preserving big landownership. This was proved particularly by S. Maslov’s bill and by the arrest of the members of the Land Committees.[39] Without the dictatorship of the proletariat, the “peasant population” would not have vanquished the landowners, who had joined forces with the capitalists.)

“But as to the forms in which it was to take place, there was no unity. Various solutions were conceivable. . . .” (Kautsky is most of all concerned about the “unity” of the “socialists”, no matter who called themselves by that name. He forgets that the principal classes in capitalist society are bound to arrive at different solutions.) “. . . From the socialist point of view, the most rational solution would have been to convert the large estates into state property and to allow the peasants who hitherto had been employed on them as wage-labourers to cultivate them in the form of co-operative societies. But such a solution presupposes the existence of a type of farm labourer that did not exist in Russia. Another solution would have been to convert the large estates into state property and to divide them up into small plots to be rented out to peasants who owned little land. Had that been done, at least something socialistic would have been achieved. . . .”

As usual Kautsky confines himself to the celebrated: on the one hand it cannot but be admitted, and on the other hand it must be confessed. He places different solutions side by side without a thought—the only, realistic and Marxist thought—as to what must be the transitional stages from capitalism to communism in such-and-such specific conditions. There are farm labourers in Russia, but not many; and Kautsky did not touch on the question which the Soviet government did raise—of the method of transition to a communal and co-operative form of land cultivation. The most curious thing, however, is that Kautsky claims to see “something socialistic” in the renting out of small plots of land. In reality, this is a petty-bourgeois slogan, and there is nothing “socialistic” in it. If the “state” that rents out the land is not a state of the Paris Commune type, but a parliamentary bourgeois republic (and that is exactly Kautsky’s constant assumption), the renting of land in small plots is a typical liberal reform.

Kautsky says nothing about the Soviet government having abolished all private ownership of land. Worse than that: he resorts to an incredible forgery and quotes the decrees of the Soviet government in such a way as to omit the most essential.

After stating that “small production strives for complete private ownership of the means of production”, and that the Constituent Assembly would have been the “only authority” capable of preventing the dividing up of the land (an assertion which will evoke laughter in Russia, where everybody knows that the Soviets alone are recognised as authoritative by the workers and peasants, while the Constituent Assembly has become the slogan of the Czechs and the landowners), Kautsky continues:

“One of the first decrees of the Soviet Government declared that: (1) Landed proprietorship is abolished forthwith without any compensation. (2) The landed estates, as also all crown, monastery and church lands, with all their livestock, implements, buildings and everything pertaining thereto, shall be placed at the disposal of the volost Land Committees of the uyezd Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies pending the settlement of the land question by the Constituent Assembly.”

Having quoted only these two clauses, Kautsky concludes:

“The reference to the Constituent Assembly has remained a dead letter. In point of fact, the peasants in the separate volosts could do as they pleased with the land” (p. 47).

Here you have an example of Kautsky’s “criticism”! Here you have a “scientific” work which is more like a fraud. The German reader is induced to believe that the Bolsheviks capitulated before the peasants on the question of private ownership of land, that the Bolsheviks permitted the peasants to act locally (“in the separate volosts”) in whatever way they pleased!

But in reality, the decree Kautsky quotes—the first to be promulgated, on October 26, 1917 (old style)—consists not of two, but of five clauses, plus eight clauses of the Mandate, which, it was expressly stated, “shall serve as a guide”.

Clause 3 of the decree states that the estates are transferred ”to the people”, and the “exact inventories of all property confiscated” shall be drawn up and the property “protected in the strictest revolutionary way”. And the Mandate declares that “private ownership of land shall be abolished for ever”, that “lands on which high-level scientific farming is practised . . . shall not be divided up”, that “all livestock and farm implements of the confiscated estates shall pass into the exclusive use of the state or a commune, depending on size and importance, and no compensation shall be paid for this”, and that “all land shall become part of the national land fund”.

Further, simultaneously with the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly (January 5, 1918), the Third Congress of Soviets adopted the Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People, which now forms part of the Fundamental Law of the Soviet Republic. Article 2, paragraph 1 of this Declaration states that “private ownership of land is hereby abolished”, and that “model estates and agricultural enterprises are proclaimed national property”.

So, the reference to the Constituent Assembly did not remain a dead letter, because another national representative body, immeasurably more authoritative in the eyes of the peasants, took upon itself the solution of the agrarian problem.

Again, on February 6(19), 1918, the land socialisation law was promulgated, which once more confirmed the abolition of all private ownership of land, and placed the land and all private stock and implements at the disposal of the Soviet authorities under the control of the federal Soviet government. Among the duties connected with the disposal of the land, the law prescribed:

“the development of collective farming as more advantageous from the point of view of economy of labour and produce, at the expense of individual farming, with a view to transition to socialist farming” (Article 11, paragraph e).

The same law, in establishing the principle of equal land tenure, replied to the fundamental question: “Who has a right to the use of the land?” in the following manner:

(Article 20.) “Plots of land surface within the borders of the Russian Soviet Federative Republic may be used for public and private needs. A. For cultural and educational purposes: (1) by the state as represented by the organs of Soviet power (federal, as well as in regions, gubernias, uyezds, volosts, and villages), and (2) by public bodies (under the control, and with the permission, of the local Soviet authorities); B. For agricultural purposes: (3) by agricultural communes, (4) by agricultural co-operative societies, (5) by village communities, (6) by individual families and persons. . . .”

The reader will see that Kautsky has completely distorted the facts, and has given the German reader an absolutely false view of the agrarian policy and agrarian legislation of the proletarian state in Russia.

Kautsky proved even unable to formulate the theoretically important fundamental questions!

These questions are:

(1) Equal land tenure and

(2) Nationalisation of the land—the relation of these two measures to socialism in general, and to the transition from capitalism to communism in particular.

(3) Farming in common as a transition from small scattered farming to large-scale collective farming; does the manner in which this question is dealt with in Soviet legislation meet the requirements of socialism?

On the first question it is necessary, first of all, to establish the following two fundamental facts: (a) in reviewing the experience of 1905 (I may refer, for instance, to my work on the agrarian problem in the First Russian Revolution), the Bolsheviks pointed to the democratically progressive, the democratically revolutionary meaning of the slogan “equal land tenure”, and in 1917, before the October Revolution, they spoke of this quite definitely; (b) when enforcing the land socialisation law—the “spirit” of which is equal land tenure—the Bolsheviks most explicitly and definitely declared: this is not our idea, we do not agree with this slogan, but we think it our duty to enforce it because this is the demand of the overwhelming majority of the peasants. And the idea and demands of the majority of the working people are things that the working people must discard of their own accord: such demands cannot be either “abolished” or “skipped over”. We Bolsheviks shall help the peasants to discard petty-bourgeois slogans, to pass from them as quickly and as easily as possible to socialist slogans.

A Marxist theoretician who wanted to help the working-class revolution by his scientific analysis should have answered the following questions: first, is it true that the idea of equal land tenure has a democratically revolutionary meaning of carrying the bourgeois-democratic revolution to its conclusion? Secondly, did the Bolsheviks act rightly in helping to pass by their votes (and in most loyally observing) the petty-bourgeois equal land tenure law?

Kautsky failed even to perceive what, theoretically, was the crux of the problem!

Kautsky will never be able to refute the view that the idea of equal land tenure has a progressive and revolutionary value in the bourgeois-democratic revolution. Such a revolution cannot go beyond this. By reaching its limit, it all the more clearly, rapidly and easily reveals to the people the inadequacy of bourgeois-democratic solutions and the necessity of proceeding beyond their limits, of passing on to socialism.

The peasants, who have overthrown tsarism and the landowners, dream of equal land tenure, and no power on earth could have stopped the peasants, once they had been freed both from the landowners and from the bourgeois parliamentary republican state. The workers say to the peasants: We shall help you reach “ideal” capitalism, for equal land tenure is the idealisation of capitalism by the small producer. At the same time we shall prove to you its inadequacy and the necessity of passing to farming in common.

It would be interesting to see Kautsky’s attempt to disprove that this kind of leadership of the peasant struggle by the proletariat was right.

Kautsky, however, preferred to evade the question altogether . . .

Next, Kautsky deliberately deceived his German readers by withholding from them the fact that in its land law the Soviet government gave direct preference to communes and co-operative societies.

With all the peasants right through to the end of the bourgeois-democratic revolution; and with the poor, the proletarian and semi-proletarian section of the peasants, forward to the socialist revolution! That has been the policy of the Bolsheviks, and it is the only Marxist policy.

But Kautsky is all muddled and incapable of formulating a single question! On the one hand, he dare not say that the workers should have parted company with the peasants over the question of equal land tenure, for he realises that it would have been absurd (and, moreover, in 1905, when he was not yet a renegade, he himself clearly and explicitly advocated an alliance between the workers and peasants as a condition for the victory of the revolution). On the other hand, he sympathetically quotes the liberal platitudes of the Menshevik Maslov, who “proves” that petty-bourgeois equal land tenure is utopian and reactionary from the point of view of socialism, but hushes up the progressive and revolutionary character of the petty-bourgeois struggle for equality and equal tenure from the point of view of the bourgeois-democratic revolution.

Kautsky is in a hopeless muddle: note that he (in 1918) insists on the bourgeois character of the Russian revolution. He (in 1918) peremptorily says: Don’t go beyond these limits! Yet this very same Kautsky sees “something socialistic” (for a bourgeois revolution) in the petty-bourgeois reform of renting out small plots of land to the poor peasants (which is an approximation to equal land tenure)!!

Understand this if you can!

In addition to all this, Kautsky displays a philistine inability to take into account the real policy of a definite party. He quotes the empty phrases of the Menshevik Maslov and refuses to see the real policy the Menshevik Party pursued in 1917, when, in “coalition” with the landowners and Cadets, they advocated what was virtually a liberal agrarian reform and compromise with the landowners (proof: the arrest of the members of the Land Committees and S. Maslov’s land bill).

Kautsky failed to notice that P. Maslov’s phrases about the reactionary and utopian character of petty-bourgeois equality are really a screen to conceal the Menshevik policy of compromise between the peasants and the landowners (i.e., of supporting the landowners in duping the peasants), instead of the revolutionary overthrow of the landowners by the peasants.

What a “Marxist” Kautsky is!

It was the Bolsheviks who strictly differentiated between the bourgeois-democratic revolution and the socialist revolution: by carrying the former through, they opened the door for the transition to the latter. This was the only policy that was revolutionary and Marxist.

It would have been wiser for Kautsky not to repeat the feeble liberal witticism: “Never yet have the small peasants anywhere adopted collective farming under the influence of theoretical convictions” (p. 50).

How very smart!

But never as yet and nowhere have the small peasants of any large country been under the influence of a proletarian state.

Never as yet and nowhere have the small peasants engaged in an open class struggle reaching the extent of a civil war between the poor peasants and the rich peasants, with propagandist, political, economic and military support given to the poor by a proletarian state.

Never as yet and nowhere have the profiteers and the rich amassed such wealth out of war, while the mass of peasants have been so utterly ruined.

Kautsky just reiterates the old stuff, he just chews the old cud, afraid even to give thought to the new tasks of the proletarian dictatorship.

But what, dear Kautsky, if the peasants lack implements for small-scale farming and the proletarian state helps them to obtain machines for collective farming—is that a “theoretical conviction”?

We shall now pass to the question of nationalisation of the land. Our Narodniks, including all the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, deny that the measure we have adopted is nationalisation of the land. They are wrong in theory. Insofar as we remain within the framework of commodity production and capitalism, the abolition of private ownership of land is nationalisation of the land. The term “socialisation” merely expresses a tendency, a desire, the preparation for the transition to socialism.

What should be the attitude of Marxists towards nationalisation of the land?

Here, too, Kautsky fails even to formulate the theoretical question, or, which is still worse, he deliberately evades it, although one knows from Russian literature that Kautsky is aware of the old controversies among the Russian Marxists on the question of nationalisation, municipalisation (i.e., the transfer of the large estates to the local self-government authorities), or division of the land.

Kautsky’s assertion that to transfer the large estates to the state and rent them out in small plots to peasants who own little land would be achieving “something socialistic” is a downright mockery of Marxism. We have already shown that there is nothing socialistic about it. But that is not all; it would not even be carrying the bourgeois-democratic revolution to its conclusion. Kautsky’s great misfortune is that he placed his trust in the Mensheviks. Hence the curious position that while insisting on our revolution having a bourgeois character and reproaching the Bolsheviks for taking it into their heads to proceed to socialism, he himself proposes a liberal reform under the guise of socialism, without carrying this reform to the point of completely clearing away all the survivals of medievalism in agrarian relations! The arguments of Kautsky, as of his Menshevik advisers, amount to a defence of the liberal bourgeoisie, who fear revolution, instead of defence of consistent bourgeois-democratic revolution.

Indeed, why should only the large estates, and not all the land, be converted into state property? The liberal bourgeoisie thereby achieve the maximum preservation of the old conditions (i.e., the least consistency in revolution) and the maximum facility for a reversion to the old conditions. The radical bourgeoisie, i.e., the bourgeoisie that want to carry the bourgeois revolution to its conclusion, put forward the slogan of nationalisation of the land.

Kautsky, who in the dim and distant past, some twenty years ago, wrote an excellent Marxist work on the agrarian question, cannot but know that Marx declared that land nationalisation is in fact a consistent slogan of the bourgeoisie.[40] Kautsky cannot but be aware of Marx’s controversy with Rodbertus, and Marx’s remarkable passages in his Theories of Surplus Value where the revolutionary significance—in the bourgeois-democratic sense—of land nationalisation is explained with particular clarity.

The Menshevik P. Maslov, whom Kautsky, unfortunately for himself, chose as an adviser, denied that the Russian peasants would agree to the nationalisation of all the land (including the peasants’ lands). To a certain extent, this view of Maslov’s could be connected with his “original” theory (which merely parrots the bourgeois critics of Marx), namely, his repudiation of absolute rent and his recognition of the “law” (or “fact”, as Maslov expressed it) “of diminishing returns”.

In point of fact, however, already the 1905 Revolution revealed that the vast majority of the peasants in Russia, members of village communes as well as homestead peasants, were in favour of nationalisation of all the land. The 1917 Revolution confirmed this, and after the assumption of power by the proletariat this was done. The Bolsheviks remained loyal to Marxism and never tried (in spite of Kautsky, who, without a scrap of evidence, accuses us of doing so) to “skip” the bourgeois-democratic revolution. The Bolsheviks, first of all, helped the most radical, most revolutionary of the bourgeois-democratic ideologists of the peasants, those who stood closest to the proletariat, namely, the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, to carry out what was in effect nationalisation of the land. On October 20, 1917, i.e., on the very first day of the proletarian, socialist revolution, private ownership of land was abolished in Russia.

This laid the foundation, the most perfect from the point of view of the development of capitalism (Kautsky cannot deny this without breaking with Marx), and at the same time created an agrarian system which is the most flexible from the point of view of the transition to socialism. From the bourgeois-democratic point of view, the revolutionary peasants in Russia could go no farther: there can be nothing “more ideal” from this point of view, nothing “more radical” (from this same point of view) than nationalisation of the land and equal land tenure. It was the Bolsheviks, and only the Bolsheviks, who, thanks only to the victory of the proletarian revolution, helped the peasants to carry the bourgeois-democratic revolution really to its conclusion. And only in this way did they do the utmost to facilitate and accelerate the transition to the socialist revolution.

One can judge from this what an incredible muddle Kautsky offers to his readers when he accuses the Bolsheviks of failing to understand the bourgeois character of the revolution, and yet himself betrays such a departure from Marxism that he says nothing about nationalisation of the land and presents the least revolutionary (from the bourgeois point of view) liberal agrarian reform as “something socialistic”!

We have now come to the third question formulated above, namely, to what extent the proletarian dictatorship in Russia has taken into account the necessity of passing to farming in common. Here again, Kautsky commits something very much in the nature of a forgery: he quotes only the “theses” of one Bolshevik which speak of the task of passing to farming in common! After quoting one of these theses, our “theoretician” triumphantly exclaims:

“Unfortunately, a task is not accomplished by the fact that it is called a task. For the time being, collective farming in Russia is doomed to remain on paper only. Never yet have the small peasants anywhere adopted collective farming under the influence of theoretical convictions” (p. 50).

Never as yet and nowhere has a literary swindle been perpetrated equal to that to which Kautsky has stooped. He quotes “theses”, but says nothing about the law of the Soviet government. He talks about “theoretical convictions”, but says nothing about the proletarian state power which holds in its hands the factories and goods! All that Kautsky the Marxist wrote in 1899 in his Agrarian Question about the means at the disposal of the proletarian state for bringing about the gradual transition of the small peasants to socialism has been forgotten by Kautsky the renegade in 1918.

Of course, a few hundred state-supported agricultural communes and state farms (i.e., large farms cultivated by associations of workers at the expense of the state) are very little, but can Kautsky’s ignoring of this fact be called “criticism”?

The nationalisation of the land that has been effected in Russia by the proletarian dictatorship has best ensured the carrying of the bourgeois-democratic revolution to its conclusion—even in the event of a victory of the counter-revolution causing a reversion from land nationalisation to land division (I made a special examination of this possibility in my pamphlet on the agrarian programme of the Marxists in the 1905 Revolution). In addition, the nationalisation of the land has given the proletarian state the maximum opportunity of passing to socialism in agriculture.

To sum up, Kautsky has presented us, as far as theory is concerned, with an incredible hodge-podge which is a complete renunciation of Marxism, and, as far as practice is concerned, with a policy of servility to the bourgeoisie and their reformism. A fine criticism indeed!

* *

Kautsky begins his “economic analysis” of industry with the following magnificent argument:

Russia has a large-scale capitalist industry. Cannot a socialist system of production be built up on this foundation? “One might think so if socialism meant that the workers of the separate factories and mines made these their property” (literally appropriated these for themselves) “in order to carry on production separately at each factory” (p. 52), “This very day, August 5, as I am writing these lines,” Kautsky adds, “a speech is reported from Moscow delivered by Lenin on August 2, in which he is stated to have declared: ‘The workers are holding the factories firmly in their hands, and the peasants will not return the land to the landowners.’ Up till now, the slogan: the factories to the workers, and the land to the peasants, has been an anarcho-syndicalist slogan, not a Social-Democratic one” (pp. 52–53).

I have quoted this passage in full so that the Russian workers, who formerly respected Kautsky, and quite rightly, might see for themselves the methods employed by this deserter to the bourgeois camp.

Just think: on August 5, when numerous decrees on the nationalisation of factories in Russia had been issued—and not a single factory had been “appropriated” by the workers, but had all been converted into the property of the Republic—on August 5, Kautsky, on the strength of an obviously crooked interpretation of one sentence in my speech, tries to make the German readers believe that in Russia the factories are being turned over to individual groups of workers! And after that Kautsky, at great length, chews the cud about it being wrong to turn over factories to individual groups of workers!

This is not criticism, it is the trick of a lackey of the bourgeoisie, whom the capitalists have hired to slander the workers’ revolution.

The factories must be turned over to the state, or to the municipalities, or the consumers’ co-operative societies, says Kautsky over and over again, and finally adds:

“This is what they are now trying to do in Russia. . . .” Now! What does that mean? In August? Why, could not Kautsky have commissioned his friends Stein or Axelrod, or any of the other friends of the Russian bourgeoisie, to translate at least one of the decrees on the factories?

“How far they have gone in this direction, we cannot yet tell. At all events, this aspect of the activity of the Soviet Republic is of the greatest interest to us, but it still remains entirely shrouded in darkness. There is no lack of decrees. . . .” (That is why Kautsky ignores their content, or conceals it from his readers!) “But there is no reliable information as to the effect of these decrees. Socialist production is impossible without all-round, detailed, reliable and rapidly informative statistics. The Soviet Republic cannot possibly have created such statistics yet. What we learn about its economic activities is highly contradictory and can in no way be verified. This, too, is a result of the dictatorship and the suppression of democracy. There is no freedom of the press, or of speech” (p. 53).

This is how history is written! From a “free” press of the capitalists and Dutov men Kautsky would have received information about factories being taken over by the workers. . . . This “serious savant” who stands above classes is magnificent, indeed! About the countless facts which show that the factories are being turned over to the Republic only, that they are managed by an organ of Soviet power, the Supreme Economic Council, which is constituted mainly of workers elected by the trade unions, Kautsky refuses to say a single word. With the obstinacy of the “man in the muffler”, he stubbornly keeps repeating one thing: give me peaceful democracy, without civil war, without a dictatorship and with good statistics (the Soviet Republic has created a statistical service in which the best statistical experts in Russia are employed, but, of course, ideal statistics cannot be obtained so quickly). In a word, what Kautsky demands is a revolution without revolution, without fierce struggle, without violence. It is equivalent to asking for strikes in which workers and employers do not get excited. Try to find the difference between this kind of “socialist” and common liberal bureaucrat!

So, relying upon such “factual material”, i.e., deliberately and contemptuously ignoring the innumerable facts, Kautsky “concludes”:

“It is doubtful whether the Russian proletariat has obtained more in the sense of real practical gains, and not of mere decrees, under the Soviet Republic than it would have obtained from a Constituent Assembly, in which, as in the Soviets, socialists, although of a different hue, predominated” (p. 58).

A gem, is it not? We would advise Kautsky’s admirers to circulate this utterance as widely as possible among the Russian workers, for Kautsky could not have provided better material for gauging the depth of his political degradation. Comrade workers, Kerensky, too, was a “socialist”, only of a “different hue”! Kautsky the historian is satisfied with the name, the title which the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks “appropriated” to themselves. Kautsky the historian refuses even to listen to the facts which show that under Kerensky the Mensheviks and the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries supported the imperialist policy and marauding practices of the bourgeoisie: he is discreetly silent about the fact that the majority in the Constituent Assembly consisted of these very champions of imperialist war and bourgeois dictatorship. And this is called “economic analysis”!

In conclusion let me quote another sample of this “economic analysis”:

“. . . After nine months’ existence, the Soviet Republic, instead of spreading general well-being, felt itself obliged to explain why there is general want” (p. 41).

We are accustomed to hear such arguments from the lips of the Cadets. All the flunkeys of the bourgeoisie in Russia argue in this way: show us, after nine months, your general well-being—and this after four years of devastating war, with foreign capital giving all-round support to the sabotage and rebellions of the bourgeoisie in Russia. Actually, there has remained absolutely no difference whatever, not a shadow of difference, between Kautsky and a counter-revolutionary bourgeois. His honeyed talk, cloaked in the guise of “socialism”, only repeats what the Kornilov men, the Dutov men and Krasnov men in Russia say bluntly, straightforwardly and without embellishment.

* *

The above lines were written on November 9, 1918. That same night news was received from Germany announcing the beginning of a victorious revolution, first in Kiel and other northern towns and ports, where power has passed into the hands of Councils of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, then in Berlin, where, too, power has passed into the hands of a Council.

The conclusion which still remained to be written to my pamphlet on Kautsky and on the proletarian revolution is now superfluous.

November 10, 1918


[33] Two new parties—Narodnik Communists and Revolutionary Communists—separated from the Left Socialist-Revolutionary Party after the provocative assassination by Left Socialist-Revolutionaries of the German Ambassador, Count Mirbach, and their revolt on July 6–7, 1918.

The Narodnik Communists condemned the anti-Soviet activity of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and formed their own party at a conference in September 1918. Their programme “Manifesto” was published in the newspaper Znamya Trudovoi Kommuny (The Banner of the Labour Commune) on August 21. They approved the Bolshevik course for an alliance with the middle peasants. Many of the Narodnik Communists were members of Soviet bodies and some of them, for example G. D. Zaks, sat on the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. On November 6, 1918, at its extraordinary congress the party decided to dissolve and merge with the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks).

The Party of Revolutionary Communism was founded at a congress of the newspaper Volya Truda (Freedom of Labour) supporters held in Moscow, September 25–30, 1918. The first issue of the paper appeared on September 14, carrying a policy statement for the coming congress, whose authors denounced terrorist acts by the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries and their attempts to torpedo the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty. The Inaugural Congress of the party went on record for co-operation with Soviet power. The programme of the “Revolutionary Communists” was very contradictory. While recognising that the Soviets created the prerequisites for the establishment of socialism, it denied the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat during the transition from capitalism to socialism. After the Second Congress of the Communist International had adopted a decision that there must be only one Communist Party in every country, the Party of Revolutionary Communism decided in September 1920 to affiliate to the R.C.P.(B.). In October of the same year the Central Committee of the R.C.P.(B.) allowed Party organisations to admit into their ranks former members of the Party of Revolutionary Communism.

[34] Heinrich Weber—Otto Bauer.

[35] Marx and Engels, Selected Correspondence, Moscow, 1955, pp. 318–19

[36] The treachery of M. A. Muravyov, Commander of Soviet troops on the Eastern Front, was closely connected with the revolt of Left Socialist-Revolutionaries in July 1918. According to the plans of the mutineers, Muravyov was to raise a revolt against Soviet power and, joining forces with the whiteguard Czechs, to march on Moscow. On July 10 Muravyov arrived in Simbirsk and stated he did not recognise the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty and declared war on Germany. The misguided troops occupied the Post, Telegraph and Radio Station and surrounded the building of the Executive Committee and the staff of the Simbirsk army group. Muravyov sent wireless messages calling on the whiteguards and interventionists between Samara and Vladivostok to march on Moscow.

The Soviet Government took urgent measures to defeat Muravyov’s venture. The Communists of Simbirsk carried out extensive explanatory work among the garrison troops and the townsmen. The army units which had formerly supported Muravyov now declared they were ready to fight him. On the night of July 11 Muravyov was summoned to the meeting of the Simbirsk Executive Committee. He interpreted this as the Executive Committee’s surrender. When his treacherous messages about the cessation of hostilities against interventionists and whiteguards were read at the meeting, the Communists demanded his arrest. Muravyov resisted and was shot; his associates were arrested.

[37] By the July crisis, Lenin means kulak counter-revolutionary revolts in the central gubernias, in the Volga area, the Urals and Siberia in the summer of 1918, which were organised by Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries with the assistance of foreign interventionists.

[38] Blanquism—a trend in the French socialist movement led by the prominent revolutionary and exponent of French utopian communism, Louis Auguste Blanqui (1805–1881). Lenin wrote about Blanquism: “Blanquism expects that mankind will be emancipated from wage-slavery, not by the proletarian class struggle, but through a conspiracy hatched by a small minority of intellectuals” (Collected Works, Vol. 10, p. 392). In substituting the actions of a secret group of conspirators for the activity of a revolutionary party the Blanquists lost sight of the real conditions necessary for a victorious uprising and ignored contacts with the people.

[39] This refers to the Socialist-Revolutionary bill submitted by the Minister for Agriculture S. L. Maslov to the Provisional Government a few days before the October Revolution. It was called “Rules for the Regulation by Land Committees of Land and Agricultural Relations” and was published in part in the newspaper Dyelo Naroda (People’s Cause), organ of the Cental Committee of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, on October 18 (31), 1917.

“This bill of Maslov’s,” Lenin wrote, “is downright betrayal of the peasants by the S.R. Party, and signifies its complete subservience to the landed proprietors” (Collected Works, Vol. 26, p. 228). The bill set up a special rent fund in the Land Committees, to which state-owned and monastery lands were to be transferred. Landed proprietorship was left intact. Landowners were to turn over to the fund only the land they previously used to rent out and the peasants were to pay the rent for the “rented” land to the landowners.

The Provisional Government arrested members of the Land Committees in retribution for peasant revolts and seizures of landed estates.

[40] Karl Marx, Theorien über den Mehrwert, Teil 2, Berlin 1959, S. 36.

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