- Capitalism and Alternatives -

The peasant's role in the revolution

Posted by: Stoller on October 18, 1999 at 14:38:04:

In Reply to: Russia in 1917 posted by septimus on October 17, 1999 at 18:18:11:

: : Whatever else they did, the Bolsheviks made good on [ending the war and dispossessing the capitalists].

: One problem with this theory is that there were hardly any capitalists in Russia at the time. Russia in 1917 was still making the transition from feudal to capitalist society. It was this transitory weakness that gave the Bolsheviks the chance to step in. The revolution was supported by a handful of industrial workers and elements of the armed forces. The vast, vast majority of people were still poverty-stricken peasant farmers who took no active part in the original revolution.

I agree with point one: there were few capitalists in Russia in 1917. Nonetheless, Soviet nationalization did dispossess those capitalists (many of them foreign).

Yes, I agree Russia was making transition from feudal to capitalist society. Hence the great necessity to woo the peasants into supporting Bolsheviks (i.e. bread, peace, and land).

I do not agree with your concluding point, however. The peasants did take an active part in the revolution(s)---and they did support the Bolsheviks.

They had no choice. They were the Tsar's cannon fodder. Then they were Kerensky's. Many 'elements of the armed forces' were primarily peasants. The peasants at home were increasingly immiserated by war conditions and rampant foreclosures.

They responded by deserting their posts by the hundreds of thousands. They shot their officers and walked away from the front. When they returned home (still armed), they began to expropriate large landholdings owned by the Church, royalty, and kulaks. Why did they do so? They caught the revolutionary fervor of the Bolsheviks!

Not that I believe the peasants appreciated---or understood---all points of the Bolshevik's program. Not that I believe the Bolsheviks appreciated the land-hungry tenacity of the peasants.

History has shown that the 1917 revolution was premature. Trotsky’s famous 'law of combined and uneven development' was wrong. I believe the Bolshevik revolution first began to falter because socialism is essentially incompatible with masses of small peasant holdings.

Interestingly enough, capital in America has wiped out the small agricultural holding far less brutally but certainly no less effectively than Stalin did in Russia.(1) Therefore, as Marx observed, capital paves the way for the socialist future. It was Lenin, after all, who said: 'socialism calls for a conscious advance mass advance to greater productivity of labor compared with capitalism, and on the basis achieved by capitalism.'(2)


1. Byron Morgan, Senator (D) from North Dakota recently proclaimed: 'We are approaching the end-game for the family-based agriculture.' (The Economist, 28 August--3 September 1999, p. 21.)
2. Lenin, 'The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government' [1918], Selected Works, vol. 2, International 1975, p. 594, emphasis added.

Follow Ups:


The Debating Room Post a Followup