Stolypin’s solution to the agrarian problem (1907)

In May 1907, future chief minister Pyotr Stolypin addressed the Second Duma. During this long speech he summarised and criticised the agrarian policies of the major parties while outlining his own program for reviving Russia’s peasantry:

“Before speaking of methods we should first clarify our goal. The Government wants above all to promote and enhance peasant land ownership. It wants to see the peasant earning well and eating well, since where there is prosperity there is enlightenment and also true freedom.

But for this, it is necessary to give opportunity to the capable, industrious peasant, who is the salt of the Russian earth. He must be freed from the vice of his present situation. He must be given the chance to consolidate the fruits of his labour and consider them his inalienable property… The Government should then assist such peasant smallholders with advice and credit facilities…

The Government only recently began to set up a land fund. The Peasant Bank has at its disposal more land than it can handle.

Some here have attacked the Peasant Bank, and the attacks were rather serious in nature. Someone said the Bank should be done away with. In the Government’s opinion, it is not necessary to do away with anything. Rather, the project we have begun should be improved.

In this matter, we must return to the idea to which I alluded earlier – the ideal of state assistance. Let us pause to recall, gentlemen, that a state is a single organism. If the parts of the organism are at odds with each other, then the state becomes a house divided against itself and must inevitably perish.

At the present time, our state is ailing, and the peasantry is the sickest part. They must be helped…

Gentlemen, it is impossible to strengthen a sick body by feeding it with pieces of its own flesh. The organism must be infused with nutrient fluids before it can overcome the disease. The whole state must be mobilised to fight the illness; all parts of the state must come to the aid of that part which at present seems weakest. The idea that all elements of the state must come to the aid of its weakest part may appear to be the principle of socialism – but if this be socialism, it is state socialism.”