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Role of the Peasantry

The Revolutionary Masses

Leninís next major adaptation of the classical Marxist doctrine stemmed from the fact that he wanted to stage an anti-capitalist proletarian revolution in a predominantly peasant country where capitalism barely existed. A land of peasants, Russia could not afford to rely for its future on the proletariat alone, and at least the poor peasants, if not the wealthier ones, had to be assigned the role of agents of revolutionary change in order to bring theory into some correspondence with the facts.  

Soviet poster, 1923

This was contrary to the views of Marx, Engels and Marxists in general who had neglected the peasants in their teachings and relegated them, as petty proprietors, to the bourgeois camp.  Lenin, however, came to the conclusion that, if properly led by the proletariat and the party, poor peasants could be a revolutionary force. As early as 1905, during Russiaís first revolution, he put forward the slogan: ĎA Revolutionary Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantryí.

Lenin hoped to create a government that would represent an alliance of peasants and proletarians and would thus be  based on the social support of most Russians. His recognition of the role of the peasantry in a Ďproletarianí revolution shows that he made use of many propositions previously asserted by the Narodniks. N. Berdiaev has pointed to this fact as evidence that Leninism had absorbed the revolutionary elements of Narodnichestvo in a changed form:  

   

Lenin was a Marxist and believed in the exclusive  mission of the proletariat.  He believed that the world was approaching a period of proletarian revolutions, but he was a Russian and he made his revolution in Russia, a country of an entirely peculiar character... He had to bring about in a peasant country the first proletarian revolution in the world. He felt himself free from any of the stereotyped [Marxist] doctrines... he proclaimed a workman and peasant revolution, a workman and peasant republic; he decided to make use of the peasantry for the proletarian revolution, and he succeeded in this, to the embarrassment of the Marxist doctrinaires.

 
 

Leninís reconsideration of the role of the peasantry in bringing about the establishment of the new order was a vital corrective that made Marxism more relevant to Russian conditions and helped bolster the revolutionary optimism of Lenin and his followers.

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