In 1927, SR and Volya Rossii editor Evsei Stalinskii claimed that the pre-revolutionary arguments between the Russian Marxists and narodniki over Russia’s future development which ‘seemed at the time so abstract and doctrinaire’, had not in fact been academic.1 They had served as the prologue for the struggle between the people and the Bolshevik regime, which was taking place in the 1920s. This chapter looks at the Prague SR analysis of Soviet agriculture and peasant behaviour during the 1920s. Their programme of development for Russia is outlined as well as their attitude to the Bolshevik Party’s dealings with the peasantry. The SRs believed that the forced abandonment of War Communism and the adoption of NEP showed the regime had completely failed in its approach to the Russian peasants. The SRs also poured over the implications of the fact that by the mid 1920s some Bolsheviks were developing a hybrid theory which mixed the ‘narodnik heresy’ of peasant socialism with Marxism. At the beginning of NEP in 1921, the Prague SRs had set out a series of questions about the relationship between the regime and the economy which they believed would undermine economic development: how is self-activity possible under conditions of a dictatorship and police state? How can the economy be improved with the help of the peasantry when they are deprived of participation in governing the country? What kind of economy is possible in a state where power has no social base?2 These questions provided the framework for their analysis throughout. Chernov noted that the term NEP went from being an acronym for a political
manoeuvre to stand for an assumed complete socio-economic structure.3 After an initial left critique of NEP as the Thermidorian introduction of capitalism, the SR focus shifted to the emerging economic, political and social relations in the 1920s. What they saw made them believe that the debate over whether ‘the peasant is king’ or ‘historically invisible’ was being decided in their favour, as were all arguments between the Russian Marxists and narodniki.4 After all, the Russian Revolution had seen for the ﬁrst time in history the peasantry join forces with industrial workers, proving that they were a revolutionary class. Peasant revolutions would of course become the standard in the twentieth century. Developments in the Soviet Union in
the 1920s seemed to conﬁrm the SR belief that Russian agriculture did not necessarily have to undergo the stage of capitalist development, and that the communal and egalitarian traditions of the Russian peasantry could be the basis for a transition to socialism. The reluctant introduction of NEP had a strong hold on the Prague SRs for it seemed to prove the peasantry could defeat the Bolshevik regime. In 1925, they noted a growth in political activity by the peasantry which they hoped could develop into a peaceful ‘coup’. They still could not imagine the long-term stabilisation of the Bolshevik regime, let alone the success of forced collectivisation in capturing the peasants for the state.