Programme of the Belorussian Socialist Society (Gramada)

Translator's note: The Belorussian Socialist Society, often known at the time as the Gramada ("Society") was a political party founded in Belorussia around the turn of the 20th century. Its orientation was originally moderately Belorussian nationalist, with a particular emphasis on encouraging the Belorussian language. A few years after its foundation, it adopted a programme of narodnik socialism. During the period of reaction following the failure of the first Russian revolution after 1905, the party virtually disappeared, and the main effort of its intellectual leaders went into producing the legal journal Nasha niva, one of the few publications published in the Belorussian language during that period. It reconstituted itself after the fall of the Tsar in 1917. A major problem for the Gramada at that time was the fact that much of Belorussia was a war zone, in which normal political activity was impossible. Another problem was the low level of national consciousness at that time in Belorussia. The main all-Russia Party of Socialist Revolutionaries was much stronger in Belorussia in 1917 than the Gramada. After the Bolshevik seizure of power, the Gramada disintegrated. Part of it adopted a more explicitly social-democratic programme, and some of it was absorbed into the Bolshevik party after 1918. - FK

Working poor of all countries, unite.

What does the Belorussian Socialist Society want?

Draft programme

(Discussed and adopted by the Petrograd Conference of the Belorussian Socialist Society, 4 - 6 June 1917)

The ultimate goal of the Belorussian Socialist Society is the establishment of a socialist system through the development of class struggle and social revolution.
In the immediate term the Belorussian Socialist Society demands the following reforms:

Minimum Programme:

The political system:
1. Freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association and union; inviolablity of the person, home and correspondence; complete personal autonomy; the abolition of passports.
2. Equal rights for all citizens without distinction of sex, class, nationality or religion.
3. Universal, direct, equal, secret and proportional suffrage for every citizen who has reached the age of 18, without distinction of sex, for elections both to the Constituent Assembly and to parliament and local government bodies.
4. The participation of society itself in law-making via a right to take legislative initiatives and the use of referenda to decide the most important questions.
5. The establishment of a democratic federative republic in Russia.
6. Territorial and personal autonomy for all nationalities; autonomy for regions and communities with distinctive economic conditions and ways of life.
7. The establishment of an international court to decide on disputes between states.
8. The abolition of military service and the establishment of an all-national militia in place of the army.
9. General, compulsory and free education for all children in all schools, with payments for their maintenance while they are at school.
10. Officials elected by the local inhabitants, accountable to the courts and replaceable at the people's request.
11. Election of judges, no charge for courts and defence, compensation for those wrongly convicted, the abolition of the death penalty in all cases.
12. Separation of church and state, separation of schools from the church, religion to be declared a private matter for everyone.

The economic system:
13. A ban on the purchase and sale of land.
14. Confiscation of all royal, monastery, church and landowners' land without compensation, for the benefit of all the people who work it.
15. A special tax on the most profitable land (with good harvests, near towns etc.), set so as to equalise the rewards to labour on poor and good soil (confiscation of land rents).
16. The whole structure of landholding in Belorussia should be governed by a Belorussian Regional Rada, elected by the whole people through universal, equal, direct, secret and proportional suffrage. The Rada itself will administer the parcels of land required for resettlement, and all the other confiscated land will pass under the control of the local authorities.
17. All forests, rivers, lakes and mineral deposits will pass without compensation into national ownership under the control of the Regional Rada.
18. Assistance in the organisation and development of producer co-operatives; the idea of socialising all production is to be advanced through education within and outside school.
19. Broad support for and extension of co-operative organisations, consumer and credit societies etc.
20. An eight-hour working day and a minimum wage.
21. A ban on child labour up to the age of 16. A maximum six-hour working day for workers between 16 and 18.
22. A ban on women working in sectors where the work is damaging to the female organism. Maternity leave for two months prior to giving birth and two months afterwards, on full pay for this period. Time off in working hours whenever required for breastfeeding.
23. Freedom to strike with legal immunity; wages are to continue for the duration of the strike; factory or industrial courts to be elected by the workers.
24. Elected inspectors to monitor factories and mills. An elected medical commission to ensure that workers live and work in healthy premises.
25. Labour exchanges to be created and put into the hands of the workers.
26. The introduction of a progressive tax on income and inheritance. The abolition of indirect taxes except on luxury items.

On the National Question:
Successful and lasting social and political reforms can only be introduced when the cultural level of the masses is raised radically. Therefore the Belorussian Socialist Society considers it essential that there should be:
1. A broad development of Belorussian national culture, as the only way to develop society and generally raise the cultural level of the masses in Belorussia.
2. The nationalisation of schooling.
3. Wide-ranging autonomy for Belorussia with a Regional Rada, elected on the basis of universal, equal, direct, secret and proportional suffrage, as a legislative body for local legislation and reworking and developing laws issued by the Russian Parliament.
4. No customs barriers between Belorussia and other parts of the Russian Federation.
5. Complete equality of political and economic rights for all nationalities inhabiting the territory of Belorussia.

Source: Chago khocha Belaruskaya Sotsyalistychnaya Gramada. Praekt pragramy, Minsk, 1917.