The Unknown Revolution, Book Two : Part 05, Chapter 03

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(1882 - 1945) ~ Bolshevik-Aligned Leader of the Russian Nabat Anarchists : March of 1920 saw him taken to Moscow, where he would remain prisoner until October, when he and many other anarchists were released by virtue of a treaty between the Soviet Union and Makhno's army. Voline then returned to Kharkov, resuming his old activities... (From : Rudolph Rocker Bio.)
• "Yet there is consolation to be had. The masses learn through all too palpable first hand experience. And the experience is there." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "Socialism, so mighty in Germany, Austria and Italy, has proved powerless. 'Communism', itself very strong, especially in Germany, has proved powerless. The trade unions have proved powerless. How are we to account for this?" (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)
• "As we know, there it was an authoritarian state communism (Bolshevism) that scored a stunning and rather easy victory in the events of 1917. Now, these days, nearly seventeen years on from that victory, not only is communism proving powerless to resist fascism abroad, but, where the regime within the USSR itself is concerned, the latter is more and more often being described more and more deliberately as 'red fascism'." (From : "The Unknown Revolution," by Voline.)


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Part 05, Chapter 03

Chapter 3. Situation of the Peasants

Four successive periods must be distinguished.

At first, seeking to gain and consolidate the sympathies of Russia’s vast laboring masses and the Army, the Bolshevik government practiced a “laissez faire” policy toward the peasants. And the peasants — as the reader knows — began to take the land, the landlords either being in flight or having been driven out long before the October Revolution. The Lenin regime had only to approve this state of affairs.[37]

“By themselves, the soldiers stopped the war, while the peasants took over the land and the workers the factories,” we are told by Paul Milioukov, well-known Russian historian and writer, and ex-Foreign Minister of the first provisional government. “Lenin had only to sanction the accomplished fact to make sure of the sympathies of the soldiers, the peasants, and the workers.”[38]

There is much truth in this statement of the bourgeois leader, although he is wrong not to take any notice of the influence of the activity and propaganda of the revolutionists. With this reservation, his testimony is particularly interesting. Milioukov always was a keen observer and interpreter of Russian life. He held a post which permitted him to obtain sound information. Finally, he had no reason to diminish the role of the Bolsheviks. (We should note in passing that this testimony is very suggestive, not only in regard to the worker and peasant problem during the war, but also to the problem of war).

Notice [is pertinent here] to all who, intentionally or through ignorance, contend that the Revolution was achieved, not by the masses, but by the Bolsheviki. Here is a point to underline: That fundamentally, the October Revolution, like the one in February, was accomplished by the masses, of course with the help and sup. port of revolutionists of all schools. The masses were ready f0r the new revolution; they achieved it from day to day, everywhere at the moment. That is what is important; that is what it means to “accomplish a revolution”. As for the Bolsheviks, they performed a purely political act in taking power. That inevitably had to occur in the course of this popular revolution on the march. By their political act, the Bolsheviki stopped the real Revolution, and caused its deviation.

They claim that if they had not taken power, the counterrevolution would have regained control and the Revolution would have been defeated. That assertion is gratuitous. The Bolsheviks were able to seize power because the vast masses were for the Revolution. The “masses” mainly were the [industrial] workers, the peasants, and the soldiers. With the workers taking over the factories, the peasants seizing the land, the revolutionaries helping both, and the soldiers being partizans of the Revolution, what [possible] force — without industry, without funds, without help, and without an army — could have stopped it? Foreign intervention? Who knows what would have been the situation and the attitude in other countries if the Russian Revolution had taken the course visualized by the Anarchists? Who knows what the consequences would have been? At that moment, the two theses should have been debated publicly. The Bolsheviks preferred to suppress the other, and the world has been suffering the consequences for a quarter of a century.

The statement [by Miloukov], among others, confirms the fundamental thesis of the Anarchists. They had maintained, in fact, that when the essential and favorable conditions would come into being, the masses would be perfectly capable of achieving the Revolution themselves, with the aid and support of the revolutionaries. They add (and this is the essential point of their outlook) that after the victory, the Revolution should follow the same course — free action of the masses, supported by the free action of the revolutionaries of all schools, without any political party, having eliminated the others, installing itself in power, imposing its dictatorship, and monopolizing the Revolution.

Therefore, in the beginning — in the first period — Lenin did not bother the peasants. It was for this reason, among others, that the latter supported him, thus leaving him the time necessary to consolidate his power and his State. At that stage it was even said — especially abroad — that the peasants were the ones who had gained the most from the Russian Revolution, and that the Bolsheviks, despite the Marxist doctrine, were obliged to base themselves, not on the working class but on the peasant class.

But later — in the second period — to the extent that the State strengthened itself and in the measure that the cities, their provisions exhausted, turned their attention to the country, Lenin began to close the circle around the peasants more and more.

If the workers in the cities and the industrial regions had had, through their independent and active organizations, freedom of initiative and action, they certainly would have established direct and fruitful economic contact with the peasants for production and exchange. One can be sure that such contact between the free producers of the cities and the country would have led to alliances and finally to a practical and satisfactory solution of this basic problem of the Social Revolution — that of the relations between the two classes of toilers, between the two essential branches of the national economy.

But, look! The workers and their organizations had no freedom of action, no freedom of initiative. And likewise the peasants had neither. Everything was concentrated in the hands of the State, of the Government. It alone could act, venture, resolve.

Under these conditions, naturally everybody awaited its decisions.

The peasants who, at the direct suggestions and proposals of the workers certainly would have done, on their own initiative, long before and in a natural way, spontaneous and simple, what was necessary for the cities, now did not move, while the Government — which was there for that purpose — did not make its intentions known.

By its presence and its very functions, a government interposes itself between the two strata of workers and separates them. Automatically, it prevents them from conferring, since it takes charge of intervening between the two as an intermediary, an arbiter.

Therefore Lenin intervened. Naturally, as a Marxist dictator he understood nothing of the real situation. He explained the indifferent attitude of the peasants, not as an inevitable consequence of the application of false governmental principles, but as a manifestation of their “egoism”, their “petty-bourgeois mentality”, their “hostility to the cities”.

He acted brutally. Through a series of decrees and ordinances, he called upon the peasants to turn over the greater part of their harvest to the State. That summons was supported by the armed forces and the police. This was the period of requisitions, of impositions, of “armed expeditions”, in short, of “war Communism”. The military violence was thrust upon the peasants in order to take from them all that the State needed.

The peasants were forbidden to sell their products. Around the railroads, on the highways, and around the cities, “barricades” were set up to prevent such selling, which the State called “speculation”. Thousands of peasants and other “citizens” were arrested and some of them were shot for violating those [anti-sales decrees]. It should be unnecessary to say that it was primarily the poor wretches who were carrying a sack of flour to a city for the sole purpose of enabling themselves to increase their daily sustenance, or else the peasants who came to help their famished relatives or friends, who were caught. The real big-time speculators easily “forced” the barricades by greasing palms. Once more, in a statist system, the reality mocked the “theory”.

Soon this policy led to serious disturbances. The peasants opposed the violence with fierce resistance. They hid their wheat; they reduced their crops to the proportions strictly necessary to satisfy their own needs; they killed their livestock, sabotaged the work; they took a stand against the perquisitions and requisitions here and there; they assassinated more and more frequently the “commissars” in charge of these operations.

Now the cities found themselves threatened with famine, and no improvement in the situation could be envisaged. The workers, undergoing bitter privations, understanding more and more the true reasons for this failure, and seeking to save the Revolution, began to be seriously disturbed. And part of the Army showed itself fairly disposed to support this mass movement. (It was then that there arose, in March, 1921, the great uprising in Kronstadt). The situation became critical.

Believing that the State, that is to say, all the forces of support and coercion, were insufficiently consolidated to impose its will upon the country at any cost, Lenin retreated. Soon after Trotsky’s “victory” over Kronstadt, he [Lenin] proclaimed the famous N.E.P., the “New Economic Policy”.

The N.E.P. marks the third period in the evolution of the agrarian problem. It was “new”, however, only in relation to the pitiless rigor and the military measures of the preceding period. It simply provided some degree of relaxation. The pressure was let up a little to satisfy the bellies of the peasants and to appease their spirits. The “new policy” granted them a certain amount of liberty in disposing of the product of their labor: notably to sell a part of it freely in the open market. The barricades were eliminated. Small traders benefited from some “liberalities”. Individual property recovered some rights.

But, for a thousand reasons, the N.E.P. did not change anything basic. It did not constitute a solution. It was a half-measure, vague and doubtful. To be sure, it cleared the atmosphere a bit. But it created, at the same time, an aspect of irresolution and disorganization. Speedily it led to confusion and contradictions heavy with consequences, both in the economic field and in the life of the country in general.

Moreover, the equivocal and unstable situation which it brought about represented a decided danger to the government’s security. Having made concessions, the Bolshevik regime admitted a certain weakness. This indirect admission raised the hopes of the bourgeois circles. It gave a new impetus to forces and elements whose activity and spirit could quickly become seditious and even perilous for the regime. This was all the more true in that the sympathies for the masses for Bolshevism had been greatly weakened since 1917, which the Government knew very well. The eventual reawakening of the bourgeois appetites among some elements of the peasantry appeared particularly serious.

The members of the Bolshevik Party and the privileged strata already formed in the new State, and fairly influential, were afraid. They insisted that it was necessary for the government to put an end to “the pause of the N.E.P.” and return to the regime of the State-employer and the State mailed-fist.

For ail these reasons Josef Stalin, the successor of Lenin, who died in 1924, felt obliged to choose between two solutions: either enlarge the N.E.P., which would mean, despite the possession of the “levers of control”, opening the doors to the economic and perhaps political restoration of a private capitalistic regime — or else return to integral statism, to a totalitarian regime, and resume the offensive of the State against the peasants.

Having weighed everything, sure of the acquired power and mastery of the State, assured of the active support of the privileged strata as well as of the support of a sizable part of the Army, completely subjugated, and of all the coercive forces of his “apparatus”, Stalin finally decided in favor of the second solution. At the end of 1928 he proceeded to effect the total nationalization of Russia’s agriculture: a nationalization called “collectivization”, and representing the fourth period of the evolution of the peasant problem.

Through force of arms, through terror which before long took on unheard-of forms and proportions, the State set about taking away from the peasant who had remained a land-owner his piece of land, even though that property were middle-sized or small. Thus it gained effective and complete possession of the soil.

Prior to that operation it was necessary to distinguish in the U.S.S.R. three factors in the situation:

  1. The sovkhoz, an abbreviation of the Russian words, “Soviet possessions”, which were exploited directly by the State.

  2. The kolkhoz, meaning “collective possessions”, which were exploited communally by the peasants, working under the control and direction of the State.

  3. The individual cultivator, a sort of State farmer, who, like the kolkhoz, then owed a part of his product to the State.

This distinction disappeared with the “collectivization”. From that time onward all agriculture became a direct enterprise of the State, effective lord of the land. Each “agricultural workshop” took the name of kolkhoz.

Every peasant was compelled by force to enter a kolkhoz. His piece of land and his other possessions were confiscated. And, we must emphasize, it was not only a question of the more or less well-off peasants, but also of millions of poor farmers, who had just enough to feed themselves, not employing help and possessing solely what was strictly necessary for their individual labor.

Since then every peasant in the U.S.S.R. has been compulsorily attached to a kolkhoz, as the [industrial] worker is to a factory. The State has transformed him not only into a State farmer, but into a serf, and forces him to work for his new master. And like all real masters, it leaves him, out of the product of his toil, only the indispensable minimum to maintain life. The rest, the major part, is put at the disposal of the Government. And also, like all real masters, the latter decides how this shall be made use of, without the peasant having the slightest say in the matter. True, this surplus does not go to enrich the capitalists, but there are other strata [the privileged] to enrich in the Soviet Union.

Theoretically the State “buys” the products from the kolkhoz. It is in this way that it remunerates the peasants for their labor. But, being the only landlord and purchaser, it pays an absurdly low price for those commodities. That remuneration is only a new form of exploitation of the peasant masses by the capitalistic State.

To understand this, it suffices to say that, according to the reports of the “Soviet” press, the State realized, in 1936, a profit of nearly 25,000,000 rubles from the re-sale of products bought from the kolkhozes. Again, in 1937, the kolhhozists got only 50 per cent, of the real value of the products of their labor. The remainder was retained as taxes, administrative expenses, various revenues, et cetera.

Nearly all of the peasant population in the U.S.S.R. finds itself today in a state of serfdom. This agricultural organization recalls the famous “military colonies” of Araktcheiev in the time of Czar Alexander I. In fact, “Soviet” agriculture is “mechanized”, “bureaucratized”, “militarized”.

To arrive at that goal, Stalin had to use terrible methods of violence against the peasants. In many places, the countryside did not accept the announced reforms with good grace: It was recalcitrant. Stalin had expected this. He did not hesitate. Millions of peasants were imprisoned, deported, or shot for the least resistance. Detachments of “special” troops — a sort of militarized police force — primarily fulfilled that task. In the course of these “expeditions” a number of recalcitrant or rebel villages were demolished by artillery and machine-guns and burned.

And, parallel with those upheavals, several famines devastated whole regions and carried off other millions of victims.

Finally, “might was right”. There is no reason to be astonished or to be skeptical about our revelations. We know from other examples, such as those of Fascism and Hitlerism, to what an extent an authoritarian regime, armed with all !the modern methods, can subjugate the masses, and impose its will upon them, despite all resistance and all obstacles, so long as the police and the Army obey it.

Some say that the Bolshevik government had no other means to safeguard its regime, to save the country from permanent famine and other disasters worse than the remedy, to “make agricultural progress”, and to “assure the march toward Socialism”.

We agree — except for the goals.

Yes, the statist, governmental process has no other means tha these. But that is, precisely, irrefutable proof that its doctrine is erroneous and that the situation created is insoluble. For by such means Socialism will never he achieved.

This system can “assure” a march, not toward Socialism, but toward State capitalism, which is more abominable than private capitalism. And this system is not at all a “transitional” state, as they [the “Communists”] frequently wish to make us believe; it is simply another method of domination and exploitation. It will have to be combated as other systems, based on domination and exploitation, have been and are being combated.

As for the “progress of agriculture”, we are convinced that the true progressive collectivization of this branch — as indeed of the whole economy — will have to be achieved by forces which have nothing in common with those of a statist political dictatorship.

We have said that for a while the agrarian problem became seriously complicated in the U.S.S.R. The peasant masses carried on a struggle, blind but effective, against the State-employer, and sabotaged the work of the kolkhoz; the agricultural output began to fall catastrophically. In order to stimulate the kolkhozists and to reconcile them to the system, they were then allowed, within the kolkhoz itself, a certain amount of individual property, very restricted, a little land, a few animals, some tools. And the kolkhozist was permitted to work a little for himself.

The inevitable result of this measure was not slow in making itself felt: the struggle between the peasant and the State soon crystallized itself around this “private sector” (“around the cow”, they [the Russians] in the country say).

Since then the peasants have tried stubbornly to increase their “property”, their rights, and their personal work, to the detriment of the kolkhoz. Naturally the State has opposed this tendency. But, on the other hand, it has been compelled to spare as much as possible the “individual sector”, the output of which is superior to that of the kolkhoz, and which contributes largely to the State’s prosperity.

At present this strugglo and theso hesitations combine to make up the nerve center of the agrarian problem in the “Soviet” Union. It is not impossible that that domain is on the eve of a new and fifth period in its agricultural evolution.

We must note, however, that these details and others change nothing of the general picture which we have just painted.

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November 30, 1920 :
Part 05, Chapter 03 -- Publication.

February 22, 2017 19:33:11 :
Part 05, Chapter 03 -- Added to

March 20, 2019 08:15:07 :
Part 05, Chapter 03 -- Last Updated on


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