Chayanov A.V. What is the Agrarian Question? (Article of A.V. Chayanov) // The Russian Peasant Studies. 2018. V.3. №2. P. 6-33.
About the authors
This text is a translation into English of the brochure “What is the ‘Agrarian Question’?” published by A.Chayanov in the summer of 1917, between the February and October Revolutions in Russia.
Young 29-year-old professor Chayanov took an active part in the revolutionary events of 1917, trying to justify the fine-drawn plan for agrarian reforms for the new Russia. Chayanov became one of the initiators of the creation of the League for Agrarian Reforms, which included many leading agrarians of various political trends in Russia with a view to discussing and developing a holistic strategy for agrarian reforms in Russia.
The popular-science version of his views on agrarian reform, summarizing the most varied ideas of the League for Agrarian Reforms, Chayanov presented in the brochure “What is the ‘Agrarian Question’”.
In the ideological basis of this work lies the realization of the revolutionary demand “Land to the working people!”, which affirmed the necessity of transferring the landlord’s land into the hands of the peasantry. Chayanov considered various options for such a transition of land in the form of agrarian programs of socialization, nationalization, municipalization of land, a single land tax, and the system of state regulation of land ownership.
In reforming Chayanov proposed to be guided by two principles: 1) the greatest productivity of peasant labor applied to the land; 2) democratization of the distribution of national income. The extensive development of peasant cooperation was to ensure the implementation of these principles. Chayanov also stressed in every possible way the importance of taking into account regional and national peculiarities in resolving the agrarian question in such a huge country as Russia.
Personally, Chayanov was inclined to the way of agrarian reforms combining state regulation of land ownership and progressive taxation. Though, the October Revolution under the leadership of the Bolsheviks and left-wing socialist revolutionaries in their “Decree on Land” declared the implementation of the most radical version of agrarian reforms — the socialization of the land, stopping the search for the best compromise agrarian solutions that Chayanov and his colleagues tried to implement in the League for Agrarian reforms.
Chayanov’s brochure “What is the ‘Agrarian Question’?” is a model of theoretical and practical search for alternatives to the fine-drawn solution of the agrarian question in the interests of the peasants on the basis of a broad political coalition of democratic forces.
Nikulin Alexander M., PhD (Economics), Head of the Center for Agrarian Studies, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration; 119571, Moscow, Prosp. Vernadskogo, 82.
Trotsuk Irina V., DSc (Sociology), Associate Professor, Sociology Chair, RUDN University; Senior Researcher, Center for Fundamental Sociology Higher School of Economics, Senior Researcher, Center for Agrarian Studies, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. 119571, Moscow, prosp. Vernadskogo, 82.