Agrarian socialism

Agrarian socialism is a political ideology which combines an agrarian way of life with a socialist economic system.


When compared to standard socialist systems which are generally urban/industrial and more progressive in terms of social orientation, many agrarian socialist movements have tended to be rural (with an emphasis on decentralization and non-state forms of collective ownership), locally focused, and traditional/conservative.

Agrarian socialism applies to predominantly pre-industrial, non-urbanized demographics. The emphasis of agrarian socialists is therefore on control, ownership and utilisation of land rather than other means of production.

A 17th century movement called the diggers based their ideas on agrarian communism.[1]

The Russian "populist" tradition and the Socialist Revolutionary Party

Socialist–Revolutionary election poster, 1917. The caption in red reads "партия соц-рев" (in Russian), short for Party of the Socialist Revolutionaries. The banner bears the party's motto "В борьбе обретешь ты право свое" ("In struggle you take your rights"), and the globe bears the slogan "земля и воля" ("land and freedom") expressing the agrarian socialist ideology of the party.

The Socialist Revolutionary Party was a major political party in early 20th century Russia and a key player in the Russian Revolution. After the February Revolution of 1917 it shared power with other liberal and democratic socialist forces within the Russian Provisional Government. In November 1917, it won a plurality of the national vote in Russia's first-ever democratic elections (to the Russian Constituent Assembly), but soon split and the remaining faction of this party who remained loyal to Alexander Kerensky was defeated and destroyed by the Bolsheviks in the course of the Russian Civil War and subsequent persecution.

The party's ideology was built upon the philosophical foundation of Russia's narodnikPopulist movement of the 1860s-70s and its worldview developed primarily by Alexander Herzen and Pyotr Lavrov. After a period of decline and marginalization in the 1880s, the Populist/narodnik school of thought about social change in Russia was revived and substantially modified by a group of writers and activists known as "neonarodniki" (neo-Populists), particularly Viktor Chernov. Their main innovation was a renewed dialogue with Marxism and integration of some of the key Marxist concepts into their thinking and practice. In this way, with the economic spurt and industrialization in Russia in the 1890s, they attempted to broaden their appeal in order to attract the rapidly growing urban workforce to their traditionally peasant-oriented program. The intention was to widen the concept of the 'people' so that it encompassed all elements in the society that were opposed to the Tsarist regime.

The party's program was both democratic socialist and agrarian socialist in nature; it garnered much support among Russia's rural peasantry, who in particular supported their program of land-socialization as opposed to the Bolshevik program of land-nationalization—division of land to peasant tenants rather than collectivization in state management. Their policy platform differed from that of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Parties — both Bolshevik and Menshevik — in that it was not officially Marxist (though some of its ideologues considered themselves such); the SRs believed that the 'laboring peasantry', as well as the industrial proletariat, would be the revolutionary class in Russia. Whereas Russian SDs defined class membership in terms of ownership of the means of production, Chernov and other SR theorists defined class membership in terms of extraction of surplus value from labor. On the first definition, small-holding subsistence farmers who do not employ wage labor are, as owners of their land, members of the petty bourgeoisie; on the second definition, they can be grouped with all who provide, rather than purchase, labor-power, and hence with the proletariat as part of the 'laboring class'. Chernov nevertheless considered the proletariat the 'vanguard', with the peasantry forming the 'main body' of the revolutionary army.[2]

See also


  1. Campbell 2009, pp. 127–129.
  2. Hildermeier, M., Die Sozilrevolutionäre Partei Russlands. Cologne 1978.


Further reading

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