STALIN ADOPTED TROTSKY’S AGRARIAN PROGRAM BECAUSE TIME WAS RIGHT
Instead, in 1927-1928, Stalin astonished everybody by adopting much of the Trotskyist agrarian program he had recently denounced, less, he explained afterward, because it was wrong, than because it was untimely (and Stalin has a keen nose for the psychological moment),….
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 222
The Left Opposition, for example, held that the time had come for a decisive assault on the kulaks. It proposed that at least 150 million poods of grain be taken by force from the kulaks and prosperous middle peasants. In a resolution dated August 9, 1927, a plenary meeting of the Central Committee rejected this proposal as “absurd and demagogic, calculated to create additional difficulties in the development of the national economy.”
The opposition’s proposals were also unhesitatingly rejected at the 15th Party Congress in December 1927, when the grain crisis was in full effect. Stalin’s report to the Congress carefully evaded the underlying difficulties, but he did speak plainly on the party’s policy toward the kulaks:
“Those comrades are wrong who think that we can and should do away with the kulaks by administrative fiat, by the GPU: write the decree, seal it… That’s an easy method, but it won’t work. The kulak must be taken by economic measures, in accordance with Soviet legality. And Soviet legality is not an empty phrase. Of course, this does not rule out the application of some administrative measures against the kulaks. But administrative measures must not replace economic ones.”
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 217
WHAT PERCENT OF POPULATION SUPPORTED AND OPPOSED COLLECTIVIZATION
The richer peasants hated collectivization. They were five percent of the total. But the poorest peasants liked it, and they were 30 percent of the total. Of the others, half — the poorer half — were rather for it. The other half were rather against it. But both sections did not care much, provided that collectivization benefited them.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 297
Yet always the communists had on their side half or more than half of the total peasant population and against them only a small minority, while the remainder just judged by the results.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 298
…In short, Stalin was not forcing lines of development on a system in which there was no support for such developments. Rather he was pursuing policy lines for which there was significant support within some sections of the regime. Under such circumstances, the interpretation that Stalin was in part responding to other forces in the system seems to have as much validity as that which attributes an initiating role solely to the leader.
Gill, Graeme. Stalinism. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1990, p. 64
The peasant question is one of the most important questions in our politics. In the conditions prevailing in our country, the peasantry consists of various social groups, namely, the poor peasants, the middle peasants and the kulaks. It is obvious that our attitude to these various groups cannot be identical. The poor peasant is the support of the working-class, the middle peasant is the ally, the kulak is the class enemy–such is our attitude to these respective social groups.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 164
Stalin is giving the Russian people–the Russian masses, not Westernized landlords, industrialists, bankers and intellectuals, but Russia’s 150,000,000 peasants and workers–what they really want, namely joint effort, communal effort. And communal life is as acceptable to them as it is repugnant to a Westerner.
Duranty, Walter. “Red Russia of Today Ruled by Stalinism, not by Communism,” New York Times, June 14, 1931.
Finally, what about the other 90% of peasants who did not rebel? Some peasants did not reject collectivization and even supported it. In March 1929 peasants suggested at a meeting in Riazan okrug that the Soviet government should take all the land and have peasants work on it for wages, a conception not too distant from the future operation of kolkhozy. An OGPU report quoted one middle peasant in Shilovskii raion, Riazan okrug, in November 1929 to the effect that ‘the grain procurements are hard, but necessary; we cannot live like we lived before, it is necessary to build factories and plants, and for that grain is necessary’. In January 1930, during the campaign, some peasants said, ‘the time has come to abandon our individual farms. It’s about time to quit those, [we] need to transfer to collectivization.’ Another document from January reported several cases of peasants spontaneously forming kolkhozy and consolidating their fields, which was a basic part of collectivization. Bokarev’s analysis summarized above suggests a reason why many peasants did not rebel against collectivization: the kolkhoz in certain ways, especially in its collectivism of land use and principles of egalitarian distribution, was not all that far from peasant traditions and values in corporate villages throughout the USSR. In any case, this example, and the evidence that the vast majority of peasants did not engage in protests against collectivization, clearly disproves Graziosi’s assertion cited above that the villages were ‘united’ against collectivization.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 75.
For the same reasons, all such anecdotal citations from OGPU documents of peasants refusing to work are at best problematic and often meaningless as overall indicators of their actions and the consequences of them, and no generalizations or conclusions that most or all peasants resisted work in the farms, are valid if drawn from such evidence.
In such extreme versions, the “resistance interpretation” would lead one to expect that the kolkhoz system could not have functioned: peasants would have avoided work, committed sabotage and subterfuge, and produced little or nothing. Writings in this interpretation rarely indicate that peasants actually performed any agricultural work; from these studies, it appears that virtually all that peasants ever did was show resistance…. The harvest data for the 1930s, however, demonstrate that this interpretation is not compatible with the results of the system’s work. Many if not most peasants adapted to the new system and worked hard in the crucial periods every year. When conditions were favorable, harvests were adequate and sometimes abundant; when unfavorable, the results were crop failures, and famine if harvests were especially low. Most notably, harvests were larger in the years after natural disasters and crop failures (1933, 1935, 1937), indicating that many peasants worked under very difficult conditions, even famine, to produce more and overcome the crises. This means that in addition to its problems of evidence, the “resistance interpretation,” at least in its extreme versions, is one-sided, reductionist and incomplete. Peasants’ responses to the kolkhoz system cannot be reduced to resistance without serious omissions and distortions of actual events. A more complete and accurate interpretation has to take more than resistance into account.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 78.
When one reads that peasants refused to work ‘in certain kolkhozy’ or ‘in a series of kolkhozy’, sometimes one begins to think that those phrases are euphemisms or a code for ‘everyone’, ‘everywhere’ and ‘always’. In fact, of course, OGPU personnel did write ‘everywhere’ and ‘always’ when they meant it. This focus can also lead the researcher to inflate the concept of resistance to include actions and attitudes that were understandable and temporary responses to natural disaster, mismanagement or other problems, and not attacks on the system.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 79.
First we need to address the meaning of resistance. Scholars often cite OGPU reports of peasants not going out to work, or of only a few kolkhozniki working.. These reports have to be understood in the context that in 1930, and for years afterwards, most collective farms had a labor surplus. An investigation in April 1930 found that kolkhozy in the North Caucasus would employ only 60% of their available labor, and those in the Urals only 50%;… and Ukraine even lower, from 25 to 31%…. This low labor use in 1930 does not appear to have reduced farm work done: for example, a nearly complete survey in mid-1930 in the Middle Volga found that sowings in kolkhozy increased more than six-fold over 1929, and included one-third of the region’s sown area even though kolkhozy had only 22% of the region’s households. Farms could increase crop areas despite low labor turnout because collectivization eliminated the traditional inter-stripping of allotments, the typical pattern of landholding in Soviet villages. This pattern constrained many peasants’ capabilities, particularly because the population growth in the 1920s resulted in smaller allotments. Once this basically medieval system was eliminated, many fewer peasants could cultivate all the village land. For years farms had more labor than they could employ, despite dekulakization and recruitment of peasants for industrial labor. A low turnout for work, therefore, may not have been a sign of resistance as much as a result of the real demands of work in the kolkhozy.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 79.
Then, often kolkhozniki would not show up for work because of the income distribution plans in the kolkhoz. Apparently most kolkhozy in 1930 and many in 1931 distributed income in an equalizing manner, despite directives to distribute by work done (in 1931 according to the labor-day system)…. When some kolkhozy began work with plans to distribute jobs and remuneration on an equal basis, peasants stopped showing up for work. Then the farms announced that they would remunerate on the basis of the amount each member worked, and everyone showed up for work, even (in one case) members who had submitted doctors’ notes that they were not labor-capable. Admittedly, these are anecdotal sources, but they do suggest an alternative interpretation of some of the other anecdotal sources used to document resistance.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 80.
Based on these sources, however, the peasants’ most frequent form of ‘resistance’ was to divide up kolkhozy into individual fields to harvest. These actions were stimulated in some cases by a rumor of a secret state decree to dissolve the kolkhozy; one North Caucasus peasant urged division of his kolkhoz because (he thought) kolkhozy in Ukraine had been dispersed. In this case as in many others, however, peasants’ actions did not have the quality of opposition or sabotage, of a clandestine attempt to undermine the state. Their demands were open, sometimes formalized in a petition to higher authorities, and honest: to be allowed to work in the way they thought best. In several cases peasants urged division of the kolkhozy to save the harvest and to provide higher procurements for the government. These demands and actions do not fit easily into the “resistance interpretation,” because peasants explicitly stated that they intended their actions as a means to fulfill the government’s demands to produce more and to meet the procurement quotas.
Even besides these cases, and despite or because of the crisis conditions in summer and autumn 1932, many peasants tried to work within the system. During early 1933 OGPU and other personnel investigated villages to determine the extent of the famine for relief efforts. Invariably their reports showed that while famine affected mostly peasants who did not earn many labor-days, it often struck peasants who had earned hundreds of labor-days, and highly productive, successful kolkhozy. Clearly, since many kolkhozniki were hard-working and successful until the procurement campaign of autumn 1932, resistance is far from the whole story.
By early 1933, the USSR was in the throes of a catastrophic famine, varying in severity between regions but pervasive. After efforts in January to procure more grain, the regime began desperate efforts in February to aid peasants to produce a crop. The political departments, which the regime introduced into the state arms (sovkhozy) and the machine tractor stations (MTS) in early 1933, played a crucial role in these efforts. These agencies, composed of a small group of workers and OGPU personnel in each MTS or sovkhoz, removed officials who had violated government directives on farm work and procurements, replacing them with kolkhozniki or sovkhoz workers, who they thought would be more reliable, and organized and otherwise helped farms to produce a good harvest in 1933. They were supported by draconian and coercive laws enforcing labor discipline in the farms in certain regions, but also by the largest allocation of seed and food aid in Soviet history, 5.76 million tons, and by special sowing commissions set up in crucial regions like Ukraine, the Urals, the Volga and elsewhere to manage regional-level aspects of organization and supplies to the farms.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 82.
To focus so exclusively on resistance, especially as extreme versions of the resistance interpretation do, in light of Soviet peasants’ repeated production of good harvests in the wake of serious crop failures and famines, misrepresents most peasants’ actions and omits their accomplishments, and therefore presents an incorrect interpretation of Soviet rural life….
Collectivization was thus fundamentally ambivalent as a policy, with good sides and bad. Peasants’ responses to this were also ambivalent; including of course significant resistance but also many other attitudes including significant adaptation and support. And in the peak of crisis, peasants repeatedly demonstrated their ability to put aside their objections, to overcome adversity even at great cost, and to produce harvests that ended famines.
In other words, the ‘trope’ that I propose here to encompass and understand all of the peasants’ responses to collectivization is not that of heroic but futile resistance against a totally wrong system, the noble peasants fighting with the weapons of the weak, which refers only to a fraction of the peasants, but rather one of bitter and ambivalent heroism, desperate but often successful efforts by some peasants despite natural disasters, the ineptitude and harshness of the regime, and the scorn and hostility of some of their neighbors. This conception corresponds much better to the concrete results that in most years fed the growing population of the USSR.
The “resistance interpretation” seems to be an example of theory-driven or even politically motivated scholarship, in which scholars selected evidence to fit preconceived theoretical assumptions or express their hostility to the Soviet regime, but did not consider how representative and realistic their evidence actually was. The “resistance interpretation,” in its extreme versions at least, is actually deeply unrealistic: peasants, like other people, had different attitudes and responses to the events that affected them. Just consider the wide array of views of some former peasants who came to positions of prominence in the early 20th century Russia and the USSR:… Given such a spectrum of perspectives from former peasants, we should expect and seek out a variety of views in the evidence, rather than assume that all peasants were resistant and attribute to all of them the views of a minority.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 88.
PEASANTS HAVE ACCEPTED COLLECTIVIZATION
One thing, however, is sure–the peasants have accepted collectivization and are willingly obeying the Kremlin’s orders. The younger peasants already understand that the Kremlin’s way will benefit them in the long run, that machines and mass cultivation are superior to the old “strip system” and individual farming.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 318
Beyond all question, the new kolkhoz statute was Stalin’s greatest success in his whole political life. The collectivization of agriculture in the new form satisfied the peasants, and it had the most far-reaching historical consequences. The problem of the development of agricultural technique and of the restoration of large-scale farming had been solved. More still, for a long time to come this new reform attached most of the peasants in loyalty to the regime.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 190
It is widely supposed that the Russian peasant is against the kolkhozy. That is not so. It may confidently be said that it was just the reform of 1933 that brought victory to Russia in the Second World War, and that in spite of initial failures it was just this happily formulated kolkhoz statute that prevented the collapse of the regime….
It may safely be said that it was thanks to collectivization that the Soviet Union survived the Second World War.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 191
Collectivization now protected the peasant from his rightful primeval enemies: drought, hail, pests, and cattle disease.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 193
Now a new life was introduced, and, need it be said, it seemed marvelous to the peasant. Hence his eagerness to fight for his country in the Second World War, in contrast to the first.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 194
I saw collectivization break like a storm on the Lower Volga in the autumn of 1929. It was a revolution that made deeper changes than did the revolution of 1917, of which it was the ripened fruit. Farmhands and poor peasants took the initiative, hoping to better themselves by government aid. Kulaks fought the movement bitterly by all means up to arson and murder. The middle peasantry, the real backbone of farming, had been split between the hope of becoming kulaks and the wish for machinery from the state. But now that the Five-Year Plan promised tractors, this great mass of peasants began moving by villages, townships, and counties, into the collective farms….
A few months earlier, people had argued calmly about collectives, discussing the grain in sown area, the chances of tractors.. But now the countryside was smitten as by a revival. One village organized as a unit then voted to combine with 20 villages to set up a cooperative market and grain mill…. Then Yelan united four big communes into 750,000 acres. Learning of this, peasants of Balanda shouted in meeting: “Go boldly! Unite our two townships into one farm of a million acres.”…
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 35
What would they [Middle Volga Nationalists] do with the kolkhozes, Belinsky asked. The nationalist’s reply was stereotyped: they would disband them at once. And if the majority of the peasants were against this?–No matter, they would still be disbanded. They conflicted with “national sentiments,” Other industries would remain in State hands; but there was no need to plan all this in detail, all these problems would settle themselves once there was national independence.
We were by no means so sure. We found this to be the prevalent attitude; and yet–the truth must be faced–though we revolutionary democrats detested the kolkhoz system, we were not sure that it was any longer true to say this of the majority of the land workers. The generation who had known the world of independent holdings was dying out. Even those who as small children had witnessed scenes of bloodshed when the farms were being collectivized could hardly remember the earlier order; they had grown up in a different world, with public day nurseries, state schools, state food supplies, state newspapers, magazines, books, films, plays, state training at every stage of mind and body. They had their dissatisfactions but not consciously with the social structure. To them kolkhoz life was normal, not an innovation.
In this and in other ways, plans for the overthrow of Stalinism and for what was to replace it took a different form from earlier days. The revolution had been made in the name of the workers and peasants against other social classes; today the whole ruling class of the USSR was of worker and present origin. Nor could be the Red Army be regarded as a workers’ and peasants’ army in opposition to rulers of some other class origin. Both our friends and our enemies were workers and peasants, and the Red Army had become an amorphous, classless, or rather “inter-class” mass, with an altogether different mentality. The new program had to be planned for the whole of society, not for one section. The old worker and peasants slogans have lost their validity in the USSR.
Tokaev, Grigori. Comrade X. London: Harvill Press, 1956, p. 161
The peasants turned more and more in favor of collective farming as a result of seeing the state farms and the machine and tractors stations. The peasants would visit the state farms and the machine and tractor stations, watch the operation of the tractors and other agricultural machinery, admire their performance and there and then resolve to join the collective farm. It was in this manner that the collective farm movement developed, i.e., the peasants were persuaded by superior state farms and agricultural machinery to join collective farms–not my arm-twisting or use of force as is asserted by the paid and unpaid agents of the bourgeoisie–the Trotskyites, the ‘learned’ bourgeois professors, and bourgeois intellectuals.
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 176
When in the year 1924 Stalin recognized and proclaimed that the Russian peasant had within him the possibility of socialism, that he could, in other words, be national and international at the same time, his opponents laughed at him and decried him as a Utopian. Today  practice has proved Stalin’s theory to be correct: the peasant has been socialized from White Russia to the Far East.
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 80
The poor peasants saw emancipation in the collective; the richer ones saw the merging of their small fortune and position.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 114
COLLECTIVIZATION OPPOSED ONLY BY A MINORITY
To the London Times correspondent collectivization is one of the blackest spots in his gloomy picture. He writes: “During the last two years 70 million peasants have been driven from 14 million holdings onto 200,000 collective farms. Those who have proved themselves successful farmers, that is the kulaks, are hunted down, exiled to labor and timber camps in the North, massacred, and destroyed.” For anyone who knows the situation here, as well as the writer in question clearly does, this is a deliberate and ingenious perversion of fact. The truth is that during the past five (not two) years some 60 percent of the peasant population, which include about 70 million souls, have adopted the new system of combining their individual holdings (nearer 18 million holdings than 14 million) for collective working on modern lines. The kulaks naturally opposed the new system, which if successful would eliminate all their privileges. Generally, it is true they were the best and most productive farmers, but they were trying to hold back the clock of progress as obstinately as the “homeweavers” in England a century ago, who started riots to break the new power driven machines which ushered in the industrial age of England and gave her economics supremacy and great wealth for many decades.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 336
THE TWO OPPOSING VIEWS OF COLLECTIVIZATION
Wouldn’t you get an increased planted area and a larger harvest if you gave the richer peasants, who own more horses and machinery, greater opportunities in the way of leasing and farming land? I inquired.
Lebedev’s face grew more tense and his tired eyes flashed as he shot back:
Yes, perhaps we should. But then these richer peasants would grow in wealth and influence like bloated spiders until they had the whole district in their power. We didn’t fight through the civil war, we didn’t beat the White generals and landlords and capitalists, and Allied troops who came to help them, for this, to let capitalism creep back in veiled forms. Our policy is to unite the poor and middle class peasants in cooperatives and collective farms and raise the living standard of all the peasants gradually, instead of letting a few grow rich while the rest remain poor. As revolutionary Communists that is the only policy we can and shall pursue, no matter how many obstacles we shall have to overcome.
I left Lebedev’s office and went into a neighboring Cossack village, which had suffered so severely during the civil war that 30 percent of the homesteads were farmed by women. And one of these Cossack women, burned almost black by the fierce glare of the summer sun over the Don steppes, quite unconsciously gave me the individual peasant’s answer to Lebedev.
“What does the state mean by trying to make us all byedniaks [poor peasants]?,” she burst out. “We can’t all be equal, because some of us will always work harder than others. Let me work as much land as I can with my own arms and I’ll gladly pay rent and taxes to the state for it, and sell my grain too, if I get a fair price and some goods to buy with the money. But nothing will ever come out of this idea of making us all byedniaks and calling everyone who is a capable hard worker a bloodsucker and kulak. That sort of thing keeps us poor, and keeps the state poor too.”
Here, in a nutshell, are the two viewpoints which are competing for mastery all over the Russian countryside today.
Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 416
POOR PEASANTS DETERMINED WHO WERE THE KULAKS
The most spectacular act…which occured in those years was the exile of several hundred thousand kulaks–rural property owners who lived by trade, money lending or by exploiting small mills, threshers, and hired labor–from farm homes in European Russia and the Ukraine to Siberia or the northern woods. The usual assumption outside the Soviet Union is that this exiling occurred through arbitrary action by a mystically omnipotent GPU. That organization did of course organize the deportation and final place of settlement in labor camps or on new land. But the listing of kulaks who “impede our farming by force and violence” was done by village meetings of poor peasants and farmhands who were feverishly and not too efficiently organizing collectively owned farms with government loans of machinery and credits. The meetings I personally attended were as seriously judicial as a court trial in America. One by one there came before the people the “best families,” who had grabbed the best lands, exploited labor by owning the tools of production as best families normally and historically do, and who were fighting the rise of the collective farm–which had the right to take the best lands away from them–by every means up to arson, cattle killing, and murder…. The meeting of farmhands and poor peasants discussed each case in turn, questioned the kulaks, allowed most of them to remain but asked the government to deport some as “trouble-makers.”
It was a harsh, bitter and by no means bloodless conflict, but not one peculiar to Russia. I was reminded of it again in 1933 by the cotton-pickers’ strike in San Joaquin Valley of California. California local authorities deported pickets who interfered with the farming of ranchers; Soviet authorities deported kulaks who interfered with the collectively owned farming of the poor. In both cases central governments sent commissions to guard against the worst excesses. But the “property” which could count on government support was in California that of the wealthy rancher; in the USSR it was the collective property of the poor.
Strong, Anna Louise. This Soviet World. New York, N. Y: H. Holt and company, c1936, p. 53
Of the enforced removals there have been two kinds. In 1929 and 1930 drastic measures were taken against those elements in the villages which were seriously interfering with the formation of kolkhosi, often by personal violence, and willful damage to buildings and crops. These disturbers of the peace were in many cases forcibly removed from their homes. “The usual assumption outside the Soviet Union,” writes one who witnessed the proceedings of 1930, “is that this exiling occurred through drastic action by a mystically omnipotent GPU. The actual process was quite different: it was done by village meetings of poor peasants and farm hands who listed those kulaks who ‘impede our collective farm by force and violence,’ and asked the Government to deport them. In the hot days of 1930 I attended many of these meetings. There were harsh, bitter discussions, analyzing one by one the ‘best families,’ who had grabbed the best lands, exploited labor by owning the tools of production, as ‘best families’ normally and historically due, and who were now fighting the rise of the collective farms by arson, cattle-killing and murder…. The meetings I personally attended were more seriously judicial, more balanced in their discussion, than any court trial I have attended in America: these peasants knew they were dealing with serious punishments, and did not handle them lightly…. Those who envisage that the rural revolution which ended in farm collectivization was a ‘war between Stalin and the peasants’ simply weren’t on the ground when the whirlwind broke. The anarchy of an elemental upheaval was its chief. characteristic: it was marked by great ecstasies and terrors: local leaders in village township and province did what was right in their own eyes and passionately defended their convictions. Moscow studied and participated in the local earthquakes; and, out of the mass experience, made, somewhat too late to save the livestock, general laws for its direction. It was a harsh, bitter and by no means bloodless conflict…. Township and provincial commissions in the USSR reviewed and cut down the list of kulaks for exile, to guard against local excesses.”
[From The Soviet Dictatorship by Anna Louise Strong, in, October 1934]
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 205
Today, dekulakizing is being carried out by the masses of poor and middle peasants themselves, who are carrying through mass collectivization.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 177
The procedure on which the kulaks were got rid of was peculiar. Decrees of the USSR Sovnarkom declared that the kulaks as a class were to be liquidated. Up and down the country the batraks and bedniaks, the landless and the poor peasants, with such of the seredniaks (the middle peasants) as chose to attend, held village meetings, and voted that such and such peasants of their village were kulaks, and were to be dispossessed.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 467
WHAT ARE KULAKS AND WHAT DO THEY DO
Farming, especially, was in the hands of small owners, the strongest of whom were petty capitalists, called kulaks, who profited and grew by exploiting other peasants and cheating the state.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 13
The bourgeoisie has always maintained that the Soviet collectivization `destroyed the dynamic forces in the countryside’ and caused a permanent stagnation of agriculture. It describes the kulaks as individual `dynamic and entrepeneurial’ peasants. This is nothing but an ideological fable destined to tarnish socialism and glorify exploitation. To understand the class struggle that took place in the USSR, it is necessary to try to have a more realistic image of the Russian kulak.
At the end of the nineteenth century, a specialist on Russian peasant life wrote as follows:
`Every village commune has always three or four regular kulaks, as also some half dozen smaller fry of the same kidney…. They want neither skill nor industry; only promptitude to turn to their own profit the needs, the sorrows, the sufferings and the misfortunes of others… Stepniak’s The Russian Peasantry, quoted in Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation? second edition (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), p. 563 [footnote]
…`The distinctive characteristic of this class…is the hard, unflinching cruelty of a thoroughly educated man who has made his way from poverty to wealth, and has come to consider money-making, by whatever means, as the only pursuit to which a rational being should devote himself.’
Stepniak’s The Russian Peasantry, quoted in Sidney and Beatrice Webb, Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation? second edition (London: Victor Gollancz, 1937), p. 564
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 62 [p. 52 on the NET]
[December 1929 speech by Gelman to the First Congress of Shock Brigades]
…On the night shift a shock worker fell into the machine, and when he was being beaten by this Jagger, when his legs were being broken, when he was being boiled in the hot dye, a worker standing nearby did not stop the machine. When the matter was investigated, it turned out that [the latter] was a well-to-do kulak.
Siegelbaum and Sokolov. Stalinism As a Way of Life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, c2000, p. 32
Dr. Dillon, whose testimony is of unimpeachable authority, declared in 1918 that “this type of man was commonly termed a kulak, or fist, to symbolize his utter callousness to pity or ruth. And of all the human monsters I have ever met in my travels, I cannot recall any so malignant and odious as the Russian kulak. In the revolutionary horrors of 1905 and 1917 he was the ruling spirit–a fiend incarnate.”
[The Eclipse of Russia by Dillon, 1918, Page 67]
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 466 & 564
Many illustrative examples of relentless economic oppression by kulaks may be gathered from Russian sources. Yet the kulaks as a class may be said to have done no more than would have been considered “sound business” by the individualist economists of Victorian England; namely, habitually to take advantage of the economic weakness of those with whom they made their bargains; always to buy in the cheapest and sell in the dearest market; paying the lowest wage at which they could hire the services of those who begged for employment; and extracting the utmost usury from those who voluntarily accepted their loans.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, pp. 466 & 565
TWO VIEWS IN PARTY ON COLLECTIVIZATION AND KULAKS
The Right wing of the Communist Party held that kulaks should be allowed to get rich and that socialism could win through state ownership of industries. The left wing was for forcing peasants rapidly into collective farms under state control. Actual policy shifted for several years under pressure of different groups in the Party. The policy finally adopted was to draw peasants into collective farms by offering government credits and tractors, to freeze the kulaks out by high taxes and, later, to “abolish them as a class.”…
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 35
The “Socialized property created by the revolution” could not have triumphed automatically over the capitalist elements. It could only triumph in virtue of planned leadership, carrying through a definite policy, and before that policy could be operated two rival policies had to be brushed aside.
There was the policy of Bukharin, Rykov, and Tomsky, which meant the abandonment of Socialist attack on the capitalist elements of the country, the slowing down of the rate of development in industry, reliance on the individual rather than the collective farms. If this policy had been carried out, the grain difficulties would never have been overcome, industry would have been poorly developed, and the capitalist elements would have been able to dictate to the Soviet Government.
A still more spectacular fiasco would have resulted had the Party and the Government adopted the proposal of Trotsky and Zinoviev and attacked the rich peasants before the alliance with the middle peasantry had been cemented, and before the grain production of the rich peasant could be replaced by that of the Soviet and collective farms.
If either of those variants had been accepted the “conditions of socialized property” would not have saved the country from disaster.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 82
STALIN DID NOT USE FORCEFUL COLLECTIVIZATION OR CAUSE FOOD SHORTAGES
American commentators usually speak of collective farms as enforced by Stalin; they even assert that he deliberately starved millions of peasants to make them join collectives. This is untrue. I traveled the countryside in those years and know what occurred. Stalin certainly promoted the change and guided it. But the drive for collectivization went so much faster than Stalin planned that there were not enough machines ready for the farms, nor enough bookkeepers and managers. Hopeful inefficiency combined with a panic slaying of livestock under kulak urging, and with two dry years, brought serious food shortage in 1932, two years after Stalin’s alleged pressures. Moscow brought the country through by stern nationwide rationing.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 35
Stalin, half peasant by origin, added: “the peasant is not going to be driven to Socialism by any mystical phrase, but only by his self-interest. If we show him that with commonly owned machines he can harvest more and earn more, he will accept it.”
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 151
As early as March 2, 1930, even Stalin recoiled from the chaos and wrote his famous “Dizziness with Success” article, in which he called for a halt to forced collectivization and ordered a reduction in the use of violence against peasants….
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 109
In view of what followed it is interesting to note that much of his [Stalin] success in the villages, and therefore of his victory over the Opposition, was due to his obstinate refusal to put pressure too soon upon the richer peasants. Patience, willingness to bide his time and await the psychological moment, is another outstanding quality of Joseph Stalin.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 136
The basic success of the collective movement, Stalin said, lies in the fact that it is largely voluntary on the part of the peasants. To force them further would be a fatal and autocratic error and would imply a rupture between the Communist Party and the masses it controls, whereas in reality its strength and its whole reason for existence are based upon a close connection with and work for the masses.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 183
Thus it can be seen, notwithstanding the assertions to the contrary of the Trotskyites and the bourgeois intelligentsia, who are very ‘clever’ and yet stupid, it was Stalin and the Central Committee who were against any form of coercion in the matter of collectivization.
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 180
[Report from the commander of the Siberian Military District to Voroshilov, chairman of the Revolutionary Military Soviet, April 30, 1930, regarding directives forbidding use of the military in operations against the kulaks]
Based on your [Voroshilov] directives of Feb. 2 and 5 of this year, on Feb. 6 the Revolutionary Military Council of the district issued orders to divisional commanders and military divisional commanders categorically forbidding the use of military formations in the dekulakization operations.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 383
[Resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party March 26, 1932]
In many regions we can observe the collectivization of cattle and smaller livestock by forcible means. This practice is a flagrant violation of repeatedly issued directives by the party’s Central Committee as well as of the provisions contained in the statute of the agricultural artel.
The Central Committee stresses that only enemies of the kolkhozes would permit forced collectivization of livestock from individual kolkhoz members. The Central Committee emphasizes that forced requisition of kolkhoz members’ cattle and smaller livestock is contrary to the party’s political program. The goal of the party is that every member of the kolkhoz have a cow, some smaller livestock, and poultry. The further expansion and development of kolkhozes should occur through breeding and raising younger animals and/or by purchasing cattle by the farmers.
The central committee of the All-Union Communist Party proposes to all party, Soviet, and kolkhoz organizations:
1. Cease all attempts of forced collectivization of cattle and small livestock belonging to kolkhoz members and expel from the party those guilty of violating Central Committee directives,
2. Organize aid for the members of the kolkhozes who have no cattle or small livestock to purchase and raise young animals for their own personal needs.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 388
[Minutes of the March 23, 1932, meeting of a Politburo commission and the final version of a resolution on the forced collectivization of livestock]
Resolved: “The practice of collectivizing cattle and small livestock belonging to individual collective farmers by means of actual coercion has been noted in several regions, in flagrant violation of the repeated directives of the Central Committee of the party and the regulation governing agricultural co-operative associations. The Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party most strongly emphasizes that only enemies of collective farms could allow the forced collectivization of cattle and small livestock belonging to individual collective farmers.”
The Central Committee would like to clarify that the practice of forced confiscation of cattle and small livestock from collective farmers has nothing to do with the policy; the aim of the party consists in seeing that each collective farmer has his own cattle, small livestock, and poultry. The further expansion and development of collective farms should progress only by means of allowing these collective farmers to rear young animals.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 389
A few facts.
1. The success of our collective farm policy is to be explained, among other things, by the fact that this policy is based on the collective farm movement being a voluntary one and on the recognition of the diversity of conditions existing in the various regions of the Soviet Union. Collective farms cannot be set up by force. To do so would be stupid and reactionary. The collective farm movement must lean on the active support of the basic masses of the peasantry. Forms of collective farm construction in the developed regions cannot be mechanically transplanted to the backward regions. Do so would be stupid and reactionary. Such a “policy” would discredit the idea of collectivization at one blow. In determining the speed and methods of building collective farms we must carefully take into account the diversity of conditions prevailing in the various regions of the Soviet Union….
But what do we sometimes find taking place in practice? Can it be said that the voluntary principle and the principle of taking local peculiarities into account are not violated in a number of regions? No, unfortunately, that cannot be said. It is known, for example, that a number of the northern regions of the grain-importing belt, where favorable conditions for the immediate organization of collective farms are comparatively less than in the grain-bearing regions, not infrequently endeavor to replace the preparatory work for the organization of collective farms by bureaucratically decreeing the collective farm movement, by paper resolutions regarding the growth of collective farms, by the organization of collective farms, “on paper,” farms which in reality do not yet exist, but regarding the “existence” of which there is a pile of braggart resolutions. Or, let us take certain regions of Turkestan, where conditions favoring the immediate organization of collective farms are even less than in the northern oblasts of the grain-importing belt. We know that in a number of regions of Turkestan there have already been attempts to “overtake and surpass” the advanced regions of the Soviet Union by resorting to threats of applying military force, by threatening to deprive the peasants who do not yet wish to enter the collective farms of irrigation water and of manufactured goods.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 254
What relation is there between this sergeant Prishibeiev’s [a person in one of Chekhov’s plays who has the manners of the barracks and the drill ground] “policy” and the policy of the Party, which is based on the voluntary principle and on a regard for local peculiarities in collective farm construction? It is obvious that they have nothing in common.
Who benefits by these distortions, this bureaucratic decreeing of the collective farm movement, this wretched threatening of the peasants? Nobody, but our enemies!
What may be the result of these distortions? The strengthening of our enemies and the discrediting of the collective farm movement idea….
The question arises: who benefits by this stupid and harmful precipitancy? Irritating the peasant-collective-farm member by “collectivizing” living premises, all the milk cattle, all the small livestock and the domestic poultry, when the grain problem is still unsolved, when the artel form of the collective farm is not yet consolidated–is it not obvious that such a “policy” can please and benefit only our sworn enemies? One such fiery “collectivizer” even went so far as to issue an instruction to the artel ordering “that within three days every single head of poultry in every household be registered,” that special “commanders” be appointed to register and supervise, “to occupy the key positions in the artel,” “to lead the fight for socialism, without quitting their posts,” and–of course–to seize the whole artel by the throat. What do you call that–a policy of leading the collective farm, or a policy of disintegrating and discrediting it?…
How could such blockheaded exercises in collectivization, such ludicrous attempts to lift oneself by one’s own bootstraps, attempts the purpose of which is to ignore classes and the class struggle, but which in practice bring grist to the mill of our class enemies, occur in our midst?… They could occur only as a result of the fact that certain of our comrades became dizzy with success, and for a while lost clear-mindedness and sober vision….
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 256
Now he [Stalin] intimated that his instructions had been misunderstood: ‘Collective farms cannot be set up by force. To do so would be stupid and reactionary.’ He railed at ‘opportunists’, ‘blockheads’, ‘noisy lefts’, ‘timid philistines’, and ‘distortionists ‘: and he called for a halt to ‘excesses’.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 330
Volodya says, “There is the question of the repressions carried out during the time of collectivization; people now put the blame on Stalin. The first thing to say is that the Party fully supported the policy of collectivization. The policy of the liquidation of the kulaks as a class was a policy which Lenin considered to be most correct; he considered the kulak the most malicious enemy of Soviet power beside the capitalist landowner. He considered that as long as the kulaks continued to exist there would be a threat of the restoration of capitalism.
… in the course of this collectivization mistakes were made. But in that case you have to look at the people who were carrying out the policy. Stalin’s business was to arrange the general direction, but it was a question of how it was organized locally that affected how it was actually carried out.
… There is probably data on how many were transported to the camps; I would think that far more were transported than perished. As for those who were transported, in the end they did have the possibility of going home! People talk a lot now about how it was not just the head of the family who was transported, but also his family and children. People consider this anti-humanitarian, but from the other point of view, to abandon the children to the vagaries of fate would be far less humane than to exile them and to provide them with a place to live in another region of the country.”
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 276
PEOPLE DIFFER WIDELY ON THEIR VIEWS OF COLLECTIVIZATION
Into these discussions penetrated organizers from the Party, sometimes farm experts giving counsel, sometimes workers ignorant of farming but aflame with zeal for collectivization…. Discussions were hot and hostile. Later, Moscow denounced the “disease of giantism.” But at first the enthusiasts called all caution “counter-revolution.” Families split; the young man followed the enthusiasts, eager for new ways. The old men doubted; they saw themselves losing control of the household along with the acres. The women worried over the fate of the family cow….
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 35
ONLY A MINORITY WERE COMPLAINING ABOUT COLLECTIVIZATION MISTAKES
Toward the end of March, I went south to meet the spring. Twenty-four hours from Moscow I found it, on the line to Stalingrad. When my train set me down after midnight, I was appalled by the crowds of peasants who surrounded me, pouring out bitter words. “A former bandit got into the Party and bossed our village.” Stalin says collectives are voluntary, but they won’t give back our oxen.”
Next morning in the township center, I heard similar complaints heaped on a tired secretary from dawn till long after dark. “The chairman isn’t here,” he explained. “He went to help a village where kulaks last night burned a barn containing 27 horses that were relied on for the sowing. He must organize emergency help.” Meantime the secretary wearily repeated to all comers that of course they would get their oxen back if they decided to leave the collective farm, but they couldn’t disorganize sowing by grabbing the oxen on a day’s notice from field-gangs plowing 20 miles away. Especially, when they kept changing their minds several times a week.
Farms seemed going to pieces under a dozen pressures–violence of kulaks, attacks by priests, official stupidities, and just plain inefficiency of medieval Russia. Yet, as soon as I left the railway and went inland, the chaos was replaced by a spectacular, mass sowing. I saw then that all journalists who judge by the railway and the township center must judge wrongly. All complaints and injustice flowed to the railroad and sought adjustment from the township center. No peasant who could plow went to the railway–he was plowing. Beyond the railroad, men were fighting for a record harvest to establish their right to land and machines.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 39-40
A REPORTER NOTES THE GRAIN SHORTAGE BUT SAYS WORKING ALONE WILL BE WORSE
Working out from Stalingrad went the Traveling Struggle, a newspaper published from three railway cars. It journeyed through the spring from township to township, investigated and published abuses, and even summoned judges from the city for special courts. Melnikov, its most energetic reporter, could digest ten shocking cases daily and find in them no discouragement but a call to battle….
Not all the anti-Soviet sheets in America could invent more “Bolshevik atrocities” than Melnikov triumphantly recorded in his routine. This Traveling Struggle had had more than two hundred officials arrested that season for crimes ranging from graft to banditry. But when I asked whether the harvest would be much less because of the turmoil, Melnikov stared as if I were crazy.
“Less? It must be much greater! Have you not seen tractors doubling the sown area? Have you not seen, even without tractors, how farmhands and peasants use kulaks horses to increase area 70 percent? The kulaks sabotaged the harvest, fearing taxes and hating the Soviet power. These new owners drive forward like madmen.”
The hunger of the poor peasants for more life was the power released in that “First Bolshevik Spring.” This power was led by Communists who, despite inexperience and excesses, were a disciplined and tireless group. I could pick them out in field brigades by their tense concern that everything go well. It is thus I recall Kovalev, Party secretary of a small Tatar district south of Stalingrad, and his talk with ten shiftless, deserting peasants.
These peasants were leaving the collective farm. One said: “I have no warm coat and they make me pasture livestock in the rain.” Another: “They work my camel hungry and he dies before my eyes.” A third: “My wife won’t live with me since I joined the kolhoz.”
The reasons seemed sound to me but not to Kovalev. “These conditions you always had,” he said. “Nobody offered a golden dish in the kolhoz. Faults of management can be corrected. Men working at night must have warm clothes. Hay is scarce from last year’s drought, but it will be no better in individual fields. Who leaves will not better himself, for the whole Soviet power helps the kolhoz. A peasant is not an independent person; his farm depends on the nation and the nation depends on his farm. Our land is surrounded by capitalist lands. We must swiftly build great industry and modern farming or we perish. That great factory in Stalingrad will this summer give tractors to our farms. That great power station, Stalgres, will this autumn give light to your homes. While these are unfinished, they need bread; there must be a great increase in grain. Can this be done if every peasant sits at home, deciding whether to plow? The task of every citizen this year is to strengthen the collective farm.”…
Melnikov guessed right. Though the seed was sown in the chaos of class war–by men who stormed their way out of the Middle Ages in a year–yet such was the drive of their awakened will that when crop returns at last came in, the Soviet Union (and the foreign powers who watched like hawks) knew that the country had achieved the widest sown area and the greatest harvest it had ever known.
That harvest changed the history of farming for the world.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 41
STALIN ARGUES FOR COLLECTIVIZATION AND CONTENDS IT WAS NECESSARY
In Stalin’s words: “The way out is to turn the small and scattered peasant farms into large united farms based on common cultivation of the soil, to introduce collective cultivation of the soil on the basis of new and higher technique. The way out is to unite the small and dwarf peasant farms gradually but surely, not by pressure, but by example and persuasion, into large farms based on common, cooperative, collective cultivation of the soil with the use of agricultural machines and tractors and scientific methods of intensive agriculture.”
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 59
“Tell me,” Churchill inquired, “for you personally is this war as much of a stress as was the burden of collectivization?”
“Oh, no,” the “father of the people’s” replied. “The campaign of collectivization was a terrible struggle.”
“I thought you would have found it rough going. You were not dealing with a few score thousands of aristocrats or big landlords, but rather with millions of small landholders.”
“Ten million!” Stalin exclaimed, raising his hands. “It was fearful! For four years it went on. But it was absolutely necessary for Russia if we were to avoid periodic famines and to supply enough tractors for the countryside.”
Stalin’s figure for the number of farmers repressed during collectivization roughly tallies with the one recently published in the Soviet press. If we assume that about half of the uprooted villagers, after drifting around the country, eventually joined the kolkhozes or ended up working at construction projects, then about 5 million people perished or were purged, a number close to the 6 million that is a figure accepted by most researchers.
“Were they all kulaks?” Churchill asked.
“Yes,” Stalin replied, and after a pause repeated: “It was very hard, but necessary.”
Berezhkov, Valentin. At Stalin’s Side. Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Pub. Group, c1994, p. 299-300
A conversation about the kulaks which Stalin had with Churchill on Aug. 14, 1942 is instructive. The talks had come to an end and Stalin had invited the British leader to dine with him in his Kremlin apartment. Molotov and an interpreter were present during the long conversation. Churchill reproduces the occasion in his memoirs thus:
“Tell me,” [he asked Stalin], “have the stresses of this war been as bad to you personally as carrying through the policy of the Collective Farms?”
This subject immediately aroused the Marshal.
“Oh, no,” he said, “the Collective Farm policy was a terrible struggle.”
“I thought you would have found it bad,” said I, “because you were not dealing with a few score thousands of aristocrats or big landowners, but with millions of small men.”
“Ten millions,” he said, holding up his hands. “It was fearful. Four years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary for Russia, if we were to avoid periodic famines, to plow the land with tractors. We must mechanize our agriculture. When we gave tractors to the peasants they were all spoiled in a few months. Only Collective Farms with workshops could handle tractors. We took the greatest trouble explaining it to the peasants. It was no use arguing with them. After you have said all you can to a peasant he says he must go home and consult his wife, and he must consult is herder.” This last was a new expression to me in this connection. “After he has talked it over with them he always answers that he does not want the Collective Farm and would rather do without the tractors.”
“These were what you call kulaks?”
“Yes,” he said, but he did not repeat the word. After a pause, “It was all very bad and difficult–but necessary.”
“Well,” he said, “many of them agreed to come in with us. Some of them were given land of their own to cultivate in the province of Tomsk or the province of Irkutsk or farther north, but the great bulk were very unpopular and were wiped out by their laborers.”
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 167
As Stalin looked back in his later years at collectivization and the record of the collective farms, he might well have groaned as he groaned to Churchill. But he might also have had much cause for satisfaction. The agricultural settlement had been difficult, but it did work. The countryside was socialist, the threat of counter-revolution was gone, the regime was getting the lion’s share of the crops. Production was now more scientific, and it was rising, even if it did not outstrip the rise in population. The agrarian surplus appropriated by the regime had proved sufficient to support the new industrial plant that had made the defeat of Hitler possible. Stalin had in the long run secured the essentials of what he wanted from the peasants. The only sufferers were the peasants themselves. Yet theirs was the glory of having toiled and suffered for the benefit of posterity, which would be appropriately grateful to them. In the last analysis, Stalin thought the sufferings of his peasants were unfortunate, but that they were more than justified by the record of his industry, which the sufferings of the peasants had made possible.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 170
LENIN WOULD HAVE CARRIED OUT COLLECTIVIZATION THE SAME WAY
CHUEV: Some argue that Lenin would have carried it through differently.
MOLOTOV: They are opportunists. They just don’t understand. They are obtuse. They are unable to get to the heart of the matter.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 245
KHRUSHCHOV OPPOSES COLLECTIVIZATION
Personally I think Gomulka was absolutely right to oppose collectivization.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 206
BOLSHEVIKS REALIZE POWER RESTS ON A BALANCE BETWEEN THE TOWNS AND PEASANTRY
The Bolsheviks, who are the least blind of men when looking into the future, knew quite well that the future of the socialist State depended upon harmony between the productive economy of the land and that of the towns (in the same way that the Revolution itself, indeed, only succeeded because the peasants as a whole had accepted it–in some cases had even assisted it–or had let it go on).
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 124
WORKING CLASS CONTROL WOULD HAVE COLLAPSED IF THE KULAKS HAD PREVAILED
If the kulaks, who represented already 5 per cent of the peasantry, had succeeded in extending their economic base and definitively imposing themselves as the dominant force in the countryside, the socialist power in the cities would not have been able to maintain itself, faced with this encirclement by bourgeois forces. Eighty-two per cent of the Soviet population was peasant. If the Bolshevik Party had no longer succeeded in feeding the workers at relatively low prices, the very basis of working class power would have been threatened.
Hence it was necessary to accelerate the collectivization of certain sectors in the countryside in order to increase, on a socialist basis, the production of market wheat. It was essential for the success of accelerated industrialization that a relatively low price for market wheat be maintained. A rising rural bourgeoisie would never have accepted such a policy. Only the poor and middle peasants, organized in co-operatives, could support it. And only industrialization could ensure the defence of the first socialist country….
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 65 [p. 52 on the NET]
WHEN COLLECTIVIZATION IS CALLED FOR GROUPS RUSH TO HELP INSTALL IT
Once the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party had called for accelerating the collectization, a spontaneous movement developed, brought to the regions by activists, youth, old soldiers of the Red Army and the local apparatus of the Party.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 65 [p. 53 on the NET]
A Trotskyite capitulator, an engineer of the Putilov factory, mentioned an interesting case to me in which the workers took a favorable attitude towards Stalin’s policy of collectivization. One of the 25,000 had been killed; 10 volunteers offered to replace him. Among them was one of the oldest workers in the factory. My informant quoted the case to prove that the mass of the workers was supporting Stalin’s policy and that the Opposition should do the same.
Ciliga, Ante, The Russian Enigma. London: Ink Links, 1979, p. 111
POOR PEASANTS WERE THE PRIMARY IMPLIMENTERS OF COLLECTIVIZATION
Numerous anti-Communist books tell us that collectivization was `imposed’ by the leadership of the Party and by Stalin and implemented with terror. This is a lie. The essential impulse during the violent episodes of collectivization came from the most oppressed of the peasant masses.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 66 [p. 54 on the NET]
Lynn Viola continued on page 216 in The Best Sons of the Fatherland:
“The state ruled by circular, it ruled by decree, but it had neither the organizational structure nor the manpower to enforce its voice or to ensure correct implementation of its policy in the administration of the countryside…. The roots of the Stalin system in the countryside do not lie in the expansion of state controls but in the very absence of such controls and of an orderly system of administration, which, in turn, resulted as the primary instrument of rule in the countryside.”
This conclusion, drawn from a careful observation of the real progress of collectivization, requires two comments.
The thesis of `Communist totalitarianism’ exercised by an `omnipresent Party bureaucracy’ has no real bearing with the actual Soviet power under Stalin. It is a slogan showing the bourgeoisie’s hatred of real socialism. In 1929–1933, the Soviet State did not have the technical means, the required qualified personnel, nor the sufficient Communist leadership to direct collectivization in a planned and orderly manner: to describe it as an all-powerful and totalitarian State is absurd.
In the countryside, the essential urge for collectivization came from the most oppressed peasants. The Party prepared and initiated the collectivization, and Communists from the cities gave it leadership, but this gigantic upheaval of peasant habits and traditions could not have succeeded if the poorest peasants had not been convinced of its necessity. Viola’s judgment according to which `repression became the principal instrument of power’ does not correspond to reality. The primary instrument was mobilization, consciousness raising, education and organization of the masses of peasants. This constructive work, of course, required `repression’, i.e. it took place and could not have taken place except through bitter class struggle against the men and the habits of the old regime.
Be they fascists or Trotskyists, all anti-Communists affirm that Stalin was the representative of an all-powerful bureaucracy that suffocated the base. This is the opposite of the truth. To apply its revolutionary line, the Bolshevik leadership often called on the revolutionary forces at the base to short-circuit parts of the bureaucratic apparatus.
`The revolution was not implemented through regular administrative channels; instead the state appealed directly to the party rank and file and key sectors of the working class in order to circumvent rural officialdom. The mass recruitments of workers and other urban cadres and the circumvention of the bureaucracy served as a breakthrough policy in order to lay the foundations of a new system.’
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 67 [p. 55 on the NET]
To understand the Bolshevik Party’s line during the collectivization, it is important to keep in mind that on the eve of 1930, the State and Party apparatus in the countryside was extremely weak—the exact opposite of the `terrible totalitarian machine’ imagined by anti-Communists. The weakness of the Communist apparatus was one of the conditions that allowed the kulaks to throw all their forces into a vicious battle against the new society.
On January 1, 1930, there were 339,000 Communists among a rural population of about 120 million people! Twenty-eight Communists for a region of 10,000 inhabitants.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 69 [p. 56 on the NET]
The usual assumption outside the Soviet Union is that this exiling occurred through drastic action by a mystically omnipotent G.P.U.. The actual process was quite different; it was done by the village meetings of poor peasants and farmhands which listed those kulaks who “impede the collective farm by force and violence” and asked the government to deport them. In the hot days of 1930 I attended several of these meetings. They were harsh, ruthless discussions, analyzing one by one the “best families,” which had grabbed the best lands, exploited labor by owning the tools of production, as “best families” normally and historically do, and who were now fighting the rise of the collective farms by arson, cattle-killing and murder. Meetings of poor peasants and farmhands discussed them, questioned them, passed on them, allowing some to remain but listing others as “dangerous to our peaceful development–should be deported from our village.”
It was a harsh, bitter and by no means bloodless conflict. I was reminded of it again in the San Joaquin Valley of California by the cotton pickers’ strike in the autumn of 1933. The same gradations from half-starved farmhand to wealthy rancher, though the extremes in California were wider. California local authorities permitted deportation of pickets who interfered with farming of private ranchers; Soviet authorities permitted deportation of kulaks who interfered with the collectively owned farms of poor peasants and laborers. In both cases the central government sent investigating commissions, slightly moderating and
therewith sanctioning the local actions. The governor’s commission in California threw out a few of the most untenable cases against strikers. In the USSR the township and provincial commissions reviewed the lists of “kulaks for exile” and greatly cut them down, guarding against local spites and excesses. But the active winning will which could count on the backing of government was in California the will of ranchers and finance corporations; in the USSR, the will of organized farmhands.
Strong, Anna Louise. Dictatorship and Democracy in the Soviet Union. New York: International Pamphlets, 1934, p. 4-5
The traditions of the rural Russian communities and the primitive collectivism of the peasants contributed mightily to the success of collectivization. The Russian villages had never liked the capitalist peasant, the kulak, growing rich at the expense of the mir (village community).
Ciliga, Ante, The Russian Enigma. London: Ink Links, 1979, p. 101
The dispossession and dispersal of the ‘kulaks’ was, on the whole, a popular policy among proletarians and party activists, by no means something that Stalin imposed on reluctant comrades.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 313
THE KULAK CLASS WAS TO BE ELIMINATED NOT THE KULAKS THEMSELVES
The Soviet term, `liquidation of the kulaks as a class’, indicates perfectly clearly that it is the capitalist exploitation organized by the kulaks that is to be eliminated and not the physical liquidation of the kulaks as persons. Playing with the word `liquidation’, academic hacks such as Nolte and Conquest claim that the exiled kulaks were `exterminated’.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 94 [p. 80 on the NET]
In a “directive circular” Stalin declared: “One must rely entirely on the poor peasants and consolidate the alliance with the moderately prosperous peasants in order to engage in the decisive struggle to annihilate the kulaks as a social class.” Of course, to annihilate them as a social class did not mean the physical extinction of the kulaks.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 162
It is hard and horrible, for twentieth century America to hear this, but facts are facts. Stalinism not only aims but boasts of aiming at the complete smashing of class boundaries, at the death of all distinctions save talent and State service between man and man. Rank may replace class in the Bolshevik cosmogony to satisfy human needs, but rank based on merit, not on wealth or birth.
But what, you may ask, becomes of “the Former People,” or the kulaks or engineers thus doomed apparently to perish? Must all of them and their families be physically abolished? Of course not–they must be “liquidated” or melted in the hot fire of exile and labor into the proletarian mass….
To illustrate–they take a kulak or other type of “former” individualism–a private business man or self-seeking engineer–and send him to the northern woods or Siberian construction camps. Sometimes his family goes too. More generally it remains to be absorbed by poverty into the lower proletarian surroundings.
Then they tell him: “You outcast! You man that was, and now is not! You can get back your civic rights; can be reborn a proletarian; can become a free member of our ant heap by working for and with us for our communal purpose. If you don’t, we won’t actually kill you, but you won’t eat much, won’t be happy, will remaini forever an outsider, as an enemy, as we consider it, even if ultimately you return from exile and rejoin your family….
That reduced to its harsh essentials, is Stalinism today. It is not lovely, nor, in the outside world, of good repute, and your correspondent has no brief for or against it, nor any purpose save to try to tell the truth. But truth it is–ant-heap system, ant-heap morality–each for all and all for each, not each for self and the devil take the hindmost.
Duranty, Walter. “Stalinism Smashes Foes in Marx’s Name,” New York Times, June 24, 1931.
BUKHARIN SUPPORTED THE KULAKS
The next great ideological struggle was led against Bukharin’s rightist deviation during the collectivization. Bukharin put forward a social-democratic line, based on the idea of class re-conciliation. In fact, he was protecting the development of the kulaks in the countryside and represented their interests. He insisted on a slowing down of the industrialization of the country. Bukharin was torn asunder by the bitterness of the class struggle in the countryside, whose `horrors’ he described and denounced.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 135 [p. 116 on the NET]
“Well,” said Okman, “I’ll tell you. Bukharin is the leading counsel of the Kulaks; he is always on the side of any opportunist in the communist parties abroad; he is on the side of anyone who’s drifting to the Right.”
This was a complete surprise to me. Andrey [Tokaev’s older brother] had taught me to believe that in the whole Olympus of Bolshevism there was not a man cleverer, better qualified, more honorable or more revolutionary than Bukharin. Yet here he was condemned by someone who knew him personally, and who obviously himself had a considerable standing in the Party–how otherwise would he be touring the Caucasus with his own chauffeur-driven car?
“Shall I tell you what your Bukharin is like?” cried Okman. “He will never come out into the open. He will prove to you privately that Stalin wants to be the leader of an ‘autarchic communism’–the communism of a Russia isolated from the rest of the world. He detests both Stalin and Molotov, but he will never publicly oppose their views. He wants others to fight his political battles for him, that’s what he’s like.”
Tokaev, Grigori. Betrayal of an Ideal. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 64
TROTSKY STARTS BY WANTING TO END THE KULAKS AND LATER DEFENDS THEM
Trotsky, who in December 1925, at the 14th Party Congress of the CPSU, had tried to force on the Party the policy of immediate collectivization of the peasantry, when the conditions necessary for such collectivization were totally lacking, this same Trotsky in 1933, when collectivization was well on the way to completion, comes out in opposition to the policy of liquidating the kulaks as a class, demanding instead the establishment of “a policy of severely restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks.”
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 36
THE PEASANTS SUPPORTED THE BOLSHEVIKS ON ONE ISSUE AFTER ANOTHER
Anyone who thinks that the Soviet peasantry “remained a sullen and disenchanted force,” that it was never won over wholeheartedly for the revolution, let him answer the following questions: How was it possible, without winning the peasantry wholeheartedly, for the Bolsheviks to come to power? How was it possible for them to defeat the combined strength of the Russian Whiteguards and the 14 imperialist and non-imperialist countries who, armed to the teeth, attacked the young Soviet Republic in the period of the Civil War and the War of Intervention? How was it possible for the USSR, possessed of such a “sullen disenchanted force,” namely the peasantry, to have such earth-shaking achievements in the task of building socialism and putting the entire economy of the country, including agriculture, on a new technical basis, the technical basis of modern large-scale production? How was it that this “sullen disenchanted force” joined the movement for collectivization with such enthusiasm? How was it possible for these “sullen”, “disenchanted” and allegedly miserable people to defeat the Nazi war machine? One has only to ask these questions to realize the absurdly counter-revolutionary nature of the charge.
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 499
GOVT COMPROMISED ON COLLECTIVIZATION WITH THE FARMERS IN FAR EAST
During the first years after 1929, when the whole country was in an uproar from so many social upheavals occurring simultaneously, forced laborers were treated worse than they were later. The police simply couldn’t cope with the problem of handling so many people at once, and it took years to build up an efficient organization. Thousands of them didn’t have decent quarters to live in, or sufficient food. But this wasn’t deliberate, as I see it; the police simply were given more to do than they could handle properly. Later, the forced labor camps became better organized, and those I have observed in recent years were orderly and reasonably comfortable. They had schools and cinema theaters, and inmates didn’t live a very different life from ordinary Soviet citizens.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 134
COLLECTIVIZATION COULD ONLY WORK WHEN THE MIDDLE PEASANT WAS READY TO JOIN
There is no industry here. The building of socialism could only be carried through on the basis of decisively attacking the rich peasant, not by tickling him, or irritating him, but by eliminating him. That could only be done on the basis of ruthless class struggle on the countryside, and for the struggle the working class and the poor peasantry required a firm ally –the middle peasant. To have attacked the capitalist peasant in 1925-26 before this alliance had been strengthened would have been a despairing adventure worthy of a Trotsky.
The alliance could only be strengthened and the middle peasant turned towards collectivization when industry was able to give active support to the peasantry, by the provision of tractors, fertilizers, etc., and when the State was able to advance credits. Further, the middle peasantry had to be led, on the basis of their own experience in agricultural cooperation, to see the possibility of the collective farms. Here the State farms helped the peasantry in the transfer from the individual to the collective working of the soil. The State farm “SHEVSHENKO” established the first machine and tractor station, and helped the surrounding peasantry with the loan of machinery. The success of these and similar measures led to a powerful turn of the middle peasants to the collective farms. It was the extent of this turn and not merely the existence of difficulties on the grain front that led the Soviet Government to accelerate the process of collectivization.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 73
STALIN HOPED TO ENLIST THE LEFT OPPOSITION IN HIS BATTLE WITH THE KULAKS
Stalin needed the assistance of men of ability who would be eager to carry out an anti-kulak policy and would carry it out with conviction and zeal. He could find such men in the Left Opposition. He was therefore anxious to win to his side as much Trotskyist and Zinovievist talent as he could without yielding ground to Trotsky & Zinoviev….
…Another Trotskyist, who was still in Stalin’s diplomatic service, informed him [Trotsky] from Berlin about Stalin’s presumed plan of action. According to this correspondent, Stalin hoped to improve his difficult position by inducing influential banished Oppositionists to recant–with their assistance he expected to put the left course into effect and to give Trotsky the coup de grace.
Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Unarmed. London, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1959, p. 410
BUKHARIN OPPOSES COLLECTIVIZATION
He [Bukharin] almost always favored longer postponement of the collectivization drive, slower rates, and, in effect, less collectivization than any other major participant in a given debate. One wonders if Soviet agriculture would ever have been collectivized if Bukharin had gained power.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 148
COLLECTIVIZATION AND THE SCISSORS CRISIS PRODUCE REAL HARDSHIP
The year 1927 saw the recrudescence of these three elemental powers [the cry for bread, the emergency of war and the economic isolation]. The cry for bread went up once more. The abundance of grain in the village and the famine of goods in the city led the peasant to retain his reserves. The “scissors,” the disparity in prices of manufactured articles and rural produce, grew wider than ever. The state was deprived of its greatest medium of exchange abroad–the export of grain. The city workers suffered intensely. The peasants had no incentive to surrender their bread. The grain collection program of the government showed an enormous deficit. The winter of 1927-28 was ushered in with all the appearances of an internal catastrophe.
“We had but two or three months left before the spring thaw,” declared Stalin several months later in an address delivered at Leningrad. “We therefore faced this alternative: either to make up the losses and reestablish the normal rate of grain collections for the future, or be confronted by the inevitability of a serious crisis in our entire national economy.”
…The grain question, the specter of starvation, was defying all peaceful theories.
Levine, Isaac Don. Stalin. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, c1931, p. 366-367
The crisis atmosphere of the late 1920s precluded moderate approaches to socialist construction.
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 26
STALIN SAID JOINING KOLKHOZ COLLECTIVES WAS TO BE VOLUNTARY
We had been taught in the Lenin School, and the same had been preached at all the Comintern’s informational gatherings as well as in the press, that joining a collective farm was voluntary; no one was forced to do so. During the early period of setting up the kolkhozes an error admittedly had occurred in that a few polit-commissars had used strong-arm methods and threats, but as soon as Stalin had heard about it he had given the strict order that such threats and force had to be discontinued. The entire kolkhoz system, in other words, was based on volunteerism.
Tuominen, Arvo, The Bells of the Kremlin: Hanover: University Press of New England, 1983, p. 112
INTELLECTUALS SYMPATHIZE WITH THE KULAKS
For the most part, our Russian intellectuals were closely linked with the well-to-do peasants who had a pro-kulak mentality. Ours was a country of peasants.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 309
STALIN REIGNS IN COLLECTIVIZATION EXCESS
At no time did Stalin lose control of the situation.
It had been estimated that by the end of the First Five-year Plan some 30 percent of the farms would be collectivized, but suddenly towards the end of 1929 and in 1930 the process of transformation developed into a mass rush of the poor and middle poor peasants into collectivization, a rush that entirely out-stripped the capacity of the still developing industry to supply the requisite technical equipment. With the characteristic Russian flare for making “the sky limit,” collectivization at all costs and by all means, including compulsory methods, became a universal craze…. Stalin put on the breaks. Standing firmly on the cumulative decisions of the Congresses, he published an open letter telling the Bolsheviks they had become “dizzy with success,” and brought them back to the line of voluntary collectivization.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 177
Kulak opposition is often no less ruthless than the communist hot-heads whom Stalin denounced during March 1930.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 381
0n March 2, 1930, there appeared in all the papers his [Stalin] famous article ‘Dizzy with Success!’ The newspapers were then reporting the complete collectivization of agriculture in European Russia. In this famous article Stalin declared that the success of collectivization had intoxicated the party and government officials in the villages, so that they had lost all sense of proportion. They had shot far beyond the target. It was an entire mistake to aim already at the agricultural commune; it was success enough to have attained the agricultural co-operative, the artel. Associations for common use of the soil would also suffice. In this article Stalin quite openly mentioned the dangers, especially the possibility that the majority of the peasants might turn against the Soviet State.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 185
On March 2, 1930, when the basic grain areas had their “seed collections” made, Stalin issued his famous statement: “Dizziness From Success.” He said that the speed with which peasants joined collective farms had made “some comrades dizzy.” He reminded everyone that membership was voluntary and that the type of collective farm recommended for the present period socialized only the land, draft animals, and larger machinery, but left as personal property such domestic animals as cows, sheep, pigs, chickens. Every paper in the land published the statement in full; millions of copies circulated as leaflets. Peasants road to town and paid high for the last available copy, to wave in the face of local organizers as their charter of freedom. Stalin suddenly became a hero to millions of peasants, their champion against local excesses. Stalin quickly checked this hero-worship by publishing Answers to Collective Farmers, in which he stated: “Some people speak as if Stalin alone made that statement. The Central Committee does not… permit such actions by any individual. The statement was… by the Central Committee.”
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 39
How did Stalin and the leadership of the Bolshevik Party react to the spontaneous and violent collectivization and `dekulakization’ tide?
They basically tried to lead, discipline and rectify the existing movement, both politically and practically.
The Party leadership did everything in its power to ensure that the great collectivization revolution could take place in optimal conditions and at the least cost. But it could not prevent deep antagonisms from bursting or `blowing up’, given the countryside’s backward state.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 68 [p. 56 on the NET]
[Letter from Stalin to Sholokhov, May 3, 1933, on sabotage by the grain growers of the Veshenskii raion]
… I am thankful to you for your letters, as they reveal the open sores in party and Soviet work; they reveal how our officials, in their ardent desire to restrain the enemy, sometimes inadvertently beat up their friends and sink to the point of sadism.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 397
In his article “Dizzy from Success” he was quite frank to admit that the collectivization of the peasants had progressed too quickly.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 517
But with all the phenomenal progress of collectivization, certain faults on the part of Party workers, distortions of the Party policy in collective farm development, soon revealed themselves. Although the Central Committee had warned Party workers not to be carried away by the success of collectivization, many of them began to force the pace of collectivization artificially, without regard to the conditions of time and place, and heedless of the degree of readiness of the peasants to join the collective farms….
It was found that the voluntary principle of forming collective farms was being violated, and that in a number of districts the peasants were being forced into the collective farms under threat of being dispossessed, disfranchised, and so on.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 307
Although the Central Committee had specified that the chief form of the collective-farm movement must be the agricultural artel, in which only the principal means of production are collectivized, in a number of places pigheaded attempts were made to skip the artel form and pass straight to the commune; dwellings, milk-cows, small livestock, poultry, etc., not exploited for the market, were collectivized….
Carried away by the initial success of collectivization, persons in authority in certain regions violated the Central Committee’s explicit instructions regarding the pace and time limits of collectivization.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 307
Take, for example, our mistakes in collective farm construction. You, no doubt, remember 1930, when our Party comrades thought they could solve the very complicated problem of transferring the peasantry to collective farm construction in a matter of three or four months, and when the Central Committee of the Party found itself obliged to curb these over-zealous comrades. This was one of the most dangerous periods in the life of our Party. The mistake was that our Party comrades forgot about the voluntary nature of collective farm construction, forgot that the peasants could not be transferred to the collective farm path by administrative pressure; they forgot that collective farm construction required, not several months, but several years of careful and thoughtful work. They forgot about this and did not want to admit their mistakes. You, no doubt, remember that the Central Committee’s reference to comrades being dizzy with success and its warning to our comrades in the districts not to run too far ahead and ignore the real situation were met with hostility. But this did not restrain the Central Committee from going against the stream and turning our Party comrades to the right path. Well? It is now clear to everybody that the Party achieved its aim by turning our Party comrades to the right path. Now we have tens of thousands of excellent peasant cadres for collective farm construction and for collective farm leadership. These cadres were educated and trained on the mistakes of 1930. But we would not have had these cadres today had not the Party realised its mistakes then, and had it not rectified them in time.
Stalin, Joseph. Works, Vol. 14, Speech in Reply to Debate, 1 April 1937, Red Star Press, London, Pravda 1978, pp. 285.
KILLING OF PRIEST WHO SUPPORTED COLLECTIVIZATION
April 4, 1930–The following is an authentic case which recently occurred in a Volga village:
The local priest was up-to-date and enthusiastic, which is not always so in Russian villages. He did not fast like many of his colleagues, despair of the church in a communist state, or attempt to engage in futile opposition, but tried to reconcile his congregation to the facts of their present existence.
One Sunday he chose as the theme of his sermon the story of Ananias and Sapphira who fell dead before Peter because they had sold a piece of land, lied about its price, and withheld part of the money from the common fund. This, the priest said, was like the peasant who before joining a collective sold his cow or his horse instead of contributing it for the common weal. He enlarged upon the communism of the early Christians and quoted texts to show the duty of obedience to authority.
The following night the priest was shot dead by an unknown person as the clergyman was entering a barn to see whether it was suitable for the storage of newly collected seed grain. A week later the church “caught fire” and burned to the ground….
No legal proceedings have followed, and the murder of the priest remains unpunished, but it is common gossip in the village that the killing was inspired by kulaks.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 381
Our situation, especially after Lenin was gone, became very dangerous.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 246
HOW KULAKS AND PRIVATE TRADERS WERE TAKING OVER
While, however, Russia had the appearance in 1924 of great prosperity, impressing foreign observers and assisting Russian foreign policy, the NEP faced the country with very serious new problems. In spite of thriving trade and industry there was a certain amount of unemployment. Still more serious was the competition between private and State enterprise. Innumerable small traders, artisans, owners of businesses, and speculative builders, had resumed their past activities in private enterprise….
Meanwhile, private industry was continually growing at the expense of state industry. It was very useful that all these new employers brought gold and securities out of their hiding places in order to open a shop or a small factory. But the capital and goods that thus reappeared were on a much smaller scale than had been expected. And in spite of this the private capitalists were applying through the banks for credits from State resources. These traders and owners of businesses knew just how to corrupt the government officials with whom they had to deal. Their aim was to secure the flow of capital from the money bags of the State into the pockets of private individuals; yet all these traders and businessman made up the typical Russian middle-class, whose initiative and energy were of particular importance in economic life. Even the Communists had to admit that there were capitalists who did good work; after all, the invitation to foreign countries had been inspired by the desire to get hold of capitalists of that sort.
The grasping private traders, however, with their corruption and their speculative business activities at the expense of the State, activities that brought no real benefit to Russia, seemed altogether undesirable as a permanent element in Russian economic life. But the more private enterprise grew fat at the expense of the State and with the resources of the State, the greater became its political demands. It was evident that in the long run private enterprise would not rest content with its lack of formally established political rights, that it would seek to attain political influence, and that to some extent it had it already in the lower ranks of officialdom. Its ambition was, of course, the breaking of its bonds….
Where the Tsarist Government had not succeeded in forming a class of kulaks in the countryside as bastions of the tsarist regime, the conditions in the Russian market now produced a development of this sort. ‘Kulak’ means ‘closed fist’, and for hundreds of years this had been the name of the village money-lender, who was usually also the village shopkeeper. The village usurer, generally a cunning and close-fisted peasant, knew no mercy, and had a whole village under his thumb. Under the Soviets the meaning of the term was extended to include not merely money lenders or shopkeepers, but every substantial farmer who was prosperous enough to employ male and female labor.
It was found after the Civil War that except for the distribution of the great estates there had been virtually no social revolution in the countryside. The soviet system was to have begun with the village soviets, but for political purposes it really began in the towns. For in the countryside sovietization had been merely a formality. In a very short time the village was entirely under the political influence of the prosperous farmers. They secured election to the Soviets and became their chairmen, thus ruling the village. Party cells were established in villages, but the prosperous farmers smuggled their sons into the cells, so gaining influence there as well. The villages threatened to fall more and more under the sole rule of the well-to-do farmers. What was still worse for the regime was that as early as 1925 it became evident that the private enterprises in the towns were becoming economic allies of the well-to-do farmer class. The peasants paid their income-tax in kind, but the prosperous farmer, the only one who had any surplus yield to sell, sold it to the private dealer, because he offered the highest prices. He preferred also to buy his manufactured goods from the private trade rather than the State or the co-operatives. This intercourse between town & country also promoted all sorts of deals and speculations which associated the private enterprises in the towns more and more closely with the villages.
Moreover, the prosperous farmer was also a voter. He had conquered local power in the village; and already he was demanding from the State not only a reduction of taxation but the abolition of taxes in kind and the introduction of a money tax, which would be greatly to his advantage and also make it more difficult to check his actual crops. This check was always difficult. Stalin said at this time that the village with individual farming bred capitalism and strengthened it every second, and there was some truth in this. If it continued, it was obvious that in time the dictatorship of the party would come to an end. Private enterprise would have achieved what all the armies of the White counter-revolutionaries had failed to achieve–the downfall of Bolshevism. Many foreign observers in Moscow also thought that inevitable. Very many Russians, even members of the Communist Party, hoped for it.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 153-156
It happened in the following way. The New Economic Policy involved a certain growth of the capitalist elements in town and country. In the towns new capitalist middlemen began to appear. In the villages the rich peasants waxed fat and kicked against the policy of the Soviet Government. They began to penetrate into the village Soviets and to win a certain influence over the middle peasants. In certain areas they passed over to the murder of Soviet officials and village correspondents.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 57
KULAKS OPPOSED COLLECTIVIZATION WITH TERROR AND DESTRUCTION
At the time of the collectivization of agriculture, the liquidation of private trade and all private enterprise, and the pushing on with industrialization at an almost intolerable pace, a fearful political slogan was shouted throughout the country: ‘Liquidation of the whole class of yeomen farmers.’ This at once provoked widespread consequences. In the war on the prosperous farmers thus declared, resort was had to devices of the civil war. At that time [during the civil war] Poor Peasants Committees had played an important part, and now these committees were called into being again. The village party cells were to have control of them. The committees were given vast powers. The Government and the party declared quite officially that in each village 2 to 3 percent of the farms were big farms.
…this new war without visible fronts was much more gruesome and horrible. The big farmers, men of a hard and cruel type, did not give up easily. They, too, had open or secret supporters in the villages. There came the first terrorist acts; Soviet officials, Communist agitators, leaders of the Poor Peasants’ Committees, were murdered openly or in secret. The weapons hidden after the First World War and in the civil war were brought out.
A counter-terror began at once, radical and merciless….
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 163-164
This was done and, as more tractors and supplies became available, more and more of the poor and middle peasants flocked to the collectives. The wealthy peasant or kulak was bitterly hostile to the collectivization movement. He was often a man who “lived off the backs of the other peasants” through granting loans, renting out machinery and implements, or by control of local trade. The collective deprived him of these advantages. A kind of civil war broke out between the kulaks and the collectives, the counterpart of the revolutionary battles which had been fought in the cities. Communist leaders of the collectives were murdered or beaten. The kulaks burned collective farm buildings and slaughtered livestock. In some places overzealous communists used coercive measures and turned entire villages against collectivization.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 59
Another thing happened over and over again. Big farmers, and others of those who were determined not to go into the kolkhozy, destroyed the whole of their property and fled. They slaughtered their cattle, cut down their fruit trees, pulled their house to pieces, drove the horse away or killed it and departed.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 165
The most difficult period was from the 1932 to the 1933 harvest when kulak sabotage, added to difficulties of inefficient organization, caused a grain shortage that put the whole country on short rations.
Strong, Anna Louise. This Soviet World. New York, N. Y: H. Holt and company, c1936, p. 180
After this resolution, which announced the end of capitalist relations in the countryside, the kulaks threw themselves into a struggle to the end. To sabotage collectivization, they burnt crops, set barns, houses and other buildings on fire and killed militant Bolsheviks.
Most importantly, the kulaks wanted to prevent collective farms from starting up, by killing an essential part of the productive forces in the countryside, horses and oxen. All the work on the land was done with draft animals. The kulaks killed half of them. Rather than cede their cattle to the collectives, they butchered them and incited the middle peasants to do the same.
Of the 34 million horses in the country in 1928, there remained only 15 million in 1932. A terse Bolshevik spoke of the liquidation of the horses as a class. Of the 70.5 million head of cattle, there only remained 40.7 million in 1932. Only 11.6 million pigs out of 26 million survived the collectivization period.
Charles Bettelheim. L’Economie sovietique (Paris: editions Recueil Sirey, 1950), p. 87.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 79 [p. 66 on the NET]
Before joining the collective farms, many peasants slaughtered their livestock: cows, sheep, pigs, even poultry. In February and March 1930 alone, approximately 14 million head of cattle, one-third of all pigs, and 1/4 of all sheep and goats were destroyed.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 225
[Footnote: In 1928 on the entire territory of the RSFSR 1123 terrorist acts by kulaks were recorded.]
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 232
No one doubts that acts of sabotage did take place. Many who have been officers, manufacturers, or large farmers, but were now deposed, contrived to obtain important appointments and carry on sabotage. If, today, the supply of leather for private citizens and of shoes in particular, is inadequate, it is without question the fault of these large farmers who, at the time, sabotaged cattle-breeding. The chemical industry and the transport services, too, suffered for a long time from acts of sabotage. If, today, there is an extremely strict supervision of factories and machines, it can be justified on very good grounds.
Feuchtwanger, Lion. Moscow, 1937. New York: The Viking Press, 1937, p. 37
The liquidation also caused many of the kulaks to destroy their domestic animals so that now, after almost 10 years, there is still a shortage of meat and dairy products in Russia.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 82
The slaughter of the cattle by the peasants intent on sabotaging collectivization had placed leather at a premium from 1932 to 1935. In 1935 the shortage of livestock had been almost filled. The quantify of leather increased.
Edelman, Maurice. G.P.U. Justice. London: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd.,1938, p. 32
A great deal of trouble is caused by the “kulaks” who not only try to cut down production but terrorize the middle (seredniaks) and poor (byedniaks) peasants in order to bring disaster to all government endeavors. The Soviets are striving to put over a project never before undertaken–complete socialization of agriculture. Every means possible, including large expenditures, is employed. They are counteracting the menace of the “kulaks,” who are withholding and lessening their production, by using every resource available for the completion of the collective and state farm projects.
Wright, Russell. One-Sixth of the World’s Surface. Hammond, Ind., The Author, c1932, p. 94
The slaughter of cattle, the fall in grain production are all ascribed to administrative errors of the leadership. That there were administrative errors is undoubted….
But the difficulties of carrying through the first Five Year Plan were not difficulties due to administrative mistakes, they were difficulties created by the resistance of the capitalist elements whom the plan was threatening. The aim of the plan was not merely the reconstruction of the technical basis of the country, but also the transformation of economic and social relations–the progressive elimination of the capitalist elements. To expect the Five~Year Plan to proceed without class struggle, without sabotage, as if it was a question of the new housing estate, instead of the revolutionary transformation of a great country, is indeed to adopt a bourgeois administrative point of view, which ignores the class struggle. To ascribe the relative temporary disorganization caused in certain branches of economy by the fiercely contested class struggle, to the administrative mistakes of the leadership or the lack of foresight, as Trotsky does repeatedly in his book, can hardly be called ignorance. It is calculated misrepresentation.
But because the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had won the confidence of the working class, because it could mobilize the great trade unions and co-operatives, because it had a firm alliance with the middle peasantry, it was able to lead the masses of the Soviet Union in the struggle to break down the class opposition, and to realize the plan. Not by bureaucracy, not by slick administration, but by the struggle of the majority of the Russian people under Communist leadership, were the plans realized.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 80-81
From 1931 till 1932, the struggle of the rich peasants in the Soviet Union grew in intensity, and all kinds of sabotage were resorted to in order to destroy the collective farms from within. Here is a description, from the pen of a Ukrainian counter-revolutionary, of the sabotage that was practiced:
“At first there were mass disturbances in the kolkhozy (collective farms) or else the Communist officials or their agents were killed; but later a system of passive resistance was favored, which aimed at the systematic frustration of the Bolshevik plans for the sowing and the gathering of the harvest. The peasants and workers, seeing the ruthless export by their Bolshevik masters of all food produce, began to take steps to save themselves from starvation in the winter time and to grasp at any means of fighting against the hated foreign rule. This is the main reason for the wholesale hoarding of grain and the thefts from the fields–offenses which if detected are punishable by death. The peasants are passive resisters everywhere; but in Ukrainia the resistance has assumed the form of a national struggle. The opposition of the Ukrainian population caused the failure of the grain storing plan of 1931 and still more so that of 1932. The catastrophe of 1931-32 was the hardest blow that the Soviet Ukraine had to face since the famine of 1921-22. The autumn and spring sowing campaigns both failed. Whole tracts were left unsown. In addition, when the crops were being gathered last year, it happened that, in many areas, especially in the South, 20, 40, or even 50 percent was left in the fields and was either not collected at all or was ruined in the threshing” (Isaac Mazeppa in Slavonic Review, January 1934).
How leaving the harvest to rot in the fields squares with a desire to take steps to save oneself from starvation in the winter time, heaven and the Ukrainian counter-revolutionaries alone know. But the description of the methods of sabotage, practiced not by the whole population as alleged, but by the kulaks with some misguided middle peasants supporting them, gives a sufficiently clear idea of the situation in some parts of the country, at the height of the resistance to collectivization.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 198
The Ukraine and several of the more distant provinces were in the throes of famine [in 1932]. Drought had nothing to do with it. Food shortage was due entirely to the breakdown of agriculture caused by collectivization, and by the policy of maximum exports.
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited, 1938, p. 264
As a result of deliberations by a Politburo Commission chaired by Molotov, and under pressure from Stalin, in January 1930 the Central Committee passed a resolution “On Measures for Liquidating Kulak Farms in Areas of Full Collectivization”…. Correspondingly, kulak assaults on the Soviet regime rose, at times extending over wide areas. Actions against the better-off section of the peasantry gave rise to a wave of protest, banditry, and armed risings against the authorities.
Grain production immediately went into a slide, soon followed by a decline in stock breeding. The peasants native enterprise was cut down at the root…. The mass order of animals began in many regions: compared to 1928, livestock fell to half or a third in number by 1933.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 169
Rather than allow their cattle to fall into the hands of the state, they had slaughtered half the country’s herd. By March it was plain that disaster had overtaken the countryside.
Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 160
In the case of full-scale collectivization, which commenced in late 1929, resistance was massive. It ran the gamut from insurgencies and other acts of violence, to murders of collectivizers and their local collaborators, to vociferous protests by women, frequently in connection with raion soviet decisions to close churches and/or confiscate church property, to the razbazarivanie (“squandering”) of livestock and other property through slaughter and sale, the destruction of collective farm buildings, the liberation of arrested kulaks, the reacquisition of confiscated property, and the disbandment of collective farms.
Siegelbaum and Sokolov. Stalinism as a Way of Life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, c2000, p. 11
Once implemented, collectivization had a catastrophic effect on agricultural production. Animal husbandry suffered more than anything else because of the mass slaughter of cattle when peasants joined collective farms.
Siegelbaum and Sokolov. Stalinism as a Way of Life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, c2000, p. 62
…Masses of kulaks were deported to remote unpopulated lands in Siberia. Their houses, barns, and farm implements were turned over to the collective farms–Stalin himself put the value of their property so transferred at over 400 million rubles. The bulk of the peasants decided to bring in as little as possible of their property to the collective farms which they imagined to be state-owned factories, in which they themselves would become mere factory hands. In desperation they slaughtered their cattle, smashed implements, and burned crops. This was the muzhik’s great Luddite-like rebellion. Only three years later, in January 1934, did Stalin disclose some of its results. In 1929 Russia possessed 34 million horses. Only 16.6 million were left in 1933–18 million horses had been slaughtered. So were 30 millions of large cattle, about 45 percent of the total, and nearly 100 million, or two-thirds of all sheep and goats. Vast tracts of land were left untilled. Famine stalked the towns and the black soil steppe of the Ukraine.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 325
…Between January and March 1930, the number of peasant holdings brought into the collective farms increased from 4 million to 14 million. Over half the total peasant households had been collectivized in five months. And in the countryside the peasants fought back with “the sawed-off shotgun, the ax, the dagger, the knife.” At the same time, they destroyed their livestock rather than let it fall into the hands of the State.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 18
Passive resistance became the universal form of resistance. The peasants refused to join kolkhozes as long as they had sufficient strength not to yield to threats and force, and they destroyed their livestock as a sign of protest. Livestock transferred to the kolkhoz died from lack of shelter, fodder, and care.
The statistics demonstrate the disaster that struck the Soviet livestock herd. In 1928 there were 33.5 million horses in the country; in 1932, 19.6 million. For cattle the figures were, respectively, 70.5 million and 40.7 million; for pigs, 26 million and 11.6 million; for sheep and goats, 146 million and 52.1 million. In Kazakhstan the number of sheep and goats fell from 19.2 million in 1930 to only 2.6 million in 1935. From 1929 to 1934 a total of 149.4 million head of livestock were destroyed. The value of these animals and their products (milk, butter, wool, etc.) far exceeded the value of the giant factories built during the same period. The destruction of horses meant a loss of 8.8 million horsepower.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 237
The peasant thought that if the Government wanted him to go to the kolkhoz it was for the Government to look after him there and, if the stock was to be pooled, he would prefer to go in with as little as possible. There followed all over the country a colossal slaughter of livestock. There was nothing that the peasant regarded as more specially “property” than his cow; and indeed, whatever the advantages of brigades in agriculture, they can hardly replace the individual care of an owner for his cattle. The livestock of the country was reduced to one-third; half the horses, sheep, and goats. The general supply of meat and wool sank to one-third. This was in itself a public catastrophe.
Pares, Bernard. Russia. Washington, New York: Infantry Journal, Penguin books, 1944, p. 162
A few years of non-interference with ordinary normal farming had put money in the hands of the peasantry again, perhaps not very much but enough to be accounted wealth in impoverished Russia. The village Hamptons of Russia refused to give money to the government they detested. All the work of the Right faction of the Party was undone. Stalin sent his underlings to collect contributions by force from the richer peasants and they reverted to boycott. They cut the acreage under cultivation and sold their stock, bringing about in a very short time a food crisis in all the towns. The peasants buried their grain and their potatoes and lived on their secret food hordes while the towns starved.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 109
After collectivization was put into effect, agriculture was ruined, production fell off, and there was famine.
Bazhanov, Boris. Bazhanov and the Damnation of Stalin. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, c1990, p. 139
The peasants reacted by killing practically all their livestock which, after 1930, resulted in a new period of famine for Russia.
Socialist Clarity Group. The U. S. S. R., Its Significance for the West. London: V. Gollancz, 1942, p. 35
The kulaks responded–fighting against collectivization with an organized campaign of large-scale destruction. The struggle swept through the countryside, approaching civil war scale in many areas, with devastating results particularly in Ukraine.
Frederick L. Schuman, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government at Williams College at the time of writing, states that he and thousands of other tourists traveled in Ukraine during the famine period. He writes:
“Their [kulak] opposition took the initial form of slaughtering their cattle and horses in preference to having them collectivized. The result was a grievous blow to Soviet agriculture, for most of the cattle and horses were owned by the kulaks. Between 1928 and 1933 the number of horses in the USSR declined from almost 30 million to less than 15 million; of horned cattle from 70 million (including 31 million cows) to 38 million (including 20 million cows); of sheep and goats from 147 million to 50 million; and hogs from 20 million to 12 million. Soviet rural economy had not recovered from this staggering lost by 1941.
… Some [kulaks] murdered officials, set the torch to the property of the collectives, and even burned their own crops and seed grain. More refused to sow or reap, perhaps on the ´assumption that the authorities would make concessions and would in any case feed them.
The aftermath was the Ukraine “famine” of 1932-33 … Lurid accounts, mostly fictional, appeared in the Nazi press in Germany and in the Hearst press in the United States, often illustrated with photographs that turned out to have been taken along the Volga in 1921…. The “famine” was not, in its later stages, a result of a food shortage, despite the sharp reduction of seed grain and harvests flowing from special requisitions in the spring of 1932 which were apparently occasioned by fear of war with Japan. Most of the victims were kulaks who had refused to sow their fields or had destroyed their crops.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books, 1987, p. 93
The struggle around collectivization was not limited to kulaks. A considerable number of middle peasantry were wrongly treated as kulaks. Instead of being won over to supporting collectivization, they resisted collectivization. Louis Fisher observed: “In my book I quote a violently anti-Bolshevik source to the effect that the difficulty was due to the widespread passive resistance of the peasants, as a result of which “whole tracts were left unsown’ and between 20 and 50 percent of the crop deliberately allowed to rot in the fields. I myself saw, all over the Ukraine in October 1932, huge stacks of grain which the peasants had refused to gather in and which were rotting. This I write ‘was their winter’s food. Then those same peasants starved.’ Mr. Chamberlain has falsely interpreted the famine and some Americans have accepted his interpretation. If the famine was “man-made’ the peasants were the men who made it.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 93
Anna Louise Strong writes (New Republic, August 7, 1935), “There was a serious grain shortage in the 1932 harvest due chiefly to inefficiencies of the organizational period of the new large-scale mechanized farming among peasants unaccustomed to machines.”…
… The point is that the Soviet government was engaged in a tremendous, epochal struggle to socialize the land, for what they claimed to be the eventual good of the peasants; the peasants, however, resisted and–terribly enough– suffered. To balk the government, they refused to harvest grain. Therefore they did not have enough to eat. And died.
The real story of the famine is briefly this. The Five-Year plan included “collectivization” of the peasantry. Russia, overwhelmingly an agrarian country, contained in 1927 almost 25 million peasant holdings; Stalin’s plan was to unite them into socialized collective farms. The peasants would turn over implements and livestock to a farm manager, and work in common on comparatively large rather than very small holdings, assisted by tractors furnished by the state. This was the idea. On it, the future of socialism in the USSR depended.
What happened was that the peasants, bitterly indignant, staged two major resistances to the immense forcible process of collectivization. First, they slaughtered their livestock, rather than turn it over to the collectives. It was an extraordinary and tragic event–though not so tragic as the human starvation later. There was no organization among the peasants, no communication; yet in hundreds of villages, separated by hundreds of miles, a simultaneous destruction of animals began. Rather than turn over their precious pigs, sheep, cattle, to the collective authorities, the peasants murdered them.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 527
[In the Introduction by Adam Ulam]
Unable to counter force with force, the peasants turned to passive resistance. One, and from the government’s point of view the most dangerous, manifestation of it was the villagers slaughtering their livestock rather than surrendering it to the kolkhoz. In 1928, the USSR had 32 million horses; by 1934 the figure stood at 15.5 million. In January and February 1930 alone, 14 million head of cattle were destroyed.
In 1930, with the harvest of 83.5 million tons, the regime extracted from the peasants 22 million and exported 5.5. In the next year the country, largely for reasons already adduced, produced 14 million tons less [69.5], but the regime squeezed out of the… peasantry 22.8 million and exported 4.5.
Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger. New York: W.W. Norton, c1985, p. ix-x
A complete turnover of livestock ownership was affected by the collectivization of agriculture. As the farmer joined the collective farm, he was expected to contribute his stock to it. Naturally, he preferred to enter the collective farm with as few animals in his possession as possible. Many, embittered by the policy of collectivization, slaughtered their livestock prior to their forced joining of the kolkhoz`. Others attempted to trade or sell their animals.
Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger. New York: W.W. Norton, c1985, p. 116
The rich, and many abused (as well as paranoid) peasants in the winter of 1930 responded by fighting against the organized poor peasants and Party cadre; many Communists and poor peasant leaders were assassinated. In the words of a leading anti-Soviet historian of the CPSU: “There was open war in the villages and the desperate peasants did not hesitate to kill any Communists, regarding them as natural enemies.” Other acts of violence were committed against government and Party buildings and personnel; and some riots and small-scale insurrections had to be suppressed by the Army. In response to the massive economic sabotage which occurred over the course of a couple of years, as well as violence against the Party and its supporters in the countryside, the Party again adopted extraordinary measures–measures not seen since the Civil War period of 1918-20.
Rich peasants were classified into three categories: (1) ‘active counter-revolutionaries’ who were subject to criminal proceedings, which sometimes resulted in execution; (2) ‘counter-revolutionary elements’ who were exiled and re-settled after the confiscation of most of their productive property; and (3) ‘those who had to be drawn into socially useful labor and who were given the opportunity for re-education through socially useful production,’ a category which covered most of the rich peasants. The total percentage of those classified as kulaks was not to exceed 3-5% in grain areas and 2-3% in non-grain areas. About 20% of kulaks were to be classified in categories (1) and (2).
… Economic sabotage by the rich peasants continued. As a result of these serious problems the great promise of collectivization–the development of a modern efficient agriculture with a rapidly expanding output– remained unfulfilled. By 1932 ‘vast tracts of land were left untilled. Famine stalked the towns and the black steppe of the Ukraine.’
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 223
The kulaks, and many “middle” and even poor peasants, were implacable in their hatred of the “commissars.” Arson and killings of party agents and agitators were daily occurrences in the villages.
Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Outcast. London, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963, p. 69
While the peasants were being rapidly reduced to this state, they still took a fiercely insane plunge into dissipation. In the first months of collectivization they slaughtered over 15 million cows and oxen, nearly 40 million goats and sheep, 7 million pigs, and 4 million horses; the slaughter went on until the nation’s cattle stock was brought down to less than half what it had been. This great shambles of meat was the main dish at the feast with which the smallholder celebrated his own funeral. The kulak began the carnage and incited others to follow suit. Seeing that he had lost all, that he, the nation’s provider, was to be robbed of his property, he set out to rob the nation of its food supply; and rather than allow the collectivizers to drive away his cattle to communal assembly stations, he filled his own larders with the carcasses so as to let his enemies starve. The collectivizers were at first taken aback by this form of “class warfare” and watched with helpless amazement as the “middle” presents and even the poor joined in the butchery, until the whole of rural Russia was turned into an abbatoir.
…an epidemic of orgiastic gluttony spread from village to village, from volost to volost, and from gubernia to gubernia. Men, women, and children gorged themselves, vomited, and went back to the fleshpots. Never before had so much vodka been brewed in the country–almost every hut became a distillery–and the drinking was, in the old Slav fashion, hard and deep. As they guzzled and gulped, the kulaks illuminated the villages with bonfires they made of their own barns and stables. People suffocated with the stench of rotting meat, with the vapors of vodka, with the smoke of their blazing possessions, and with their own despair. Such was often the scene upon which a brigade of collectivizers descended to interrupt the grim carouse with the rattle of machine-guns; they executed on the spot or dragged away the crapulous enemies of collectivization….
Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Outcast. London, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963, p. 118
Since it was rapidly known that most of the crops and animals would be seized by the regime for its collective farms, most peasants who had such wealth ate as much as possible before it should vanish. Even a kulak can only eat so much, so he often prepared breads from his grain, slaughtered many of his animals, and gave mad, hysterical, gargantuan feasts for family, friends, and often the whole village. These feasts often combined elements of a potlatch, of Nero’s banquet while Rome burned, and of an apocalyptic holy communion table. To Stalin’s men, however, not only the givers of the feasts but the poorest banqueters were saboteurs, knowing destroyers of the people’s food supply.
There was an enormous amount of intentional sabotage as well, especially after the collective farms had actually been formed. Collective fields were fired, collective animals were murdered wholesale by enraged, vengeful, self-destructive peasants. In many villages more than half the grain crops from 1929 to 1932 were destroyed. In the whole USSR, collectivization meant the destruction by peasants of roughly 40 percent of the cattle and hogs, half the horses, and two-thirds of the sheep and goats. The grain losses had a cumulative effect, since seed grains were also involved. All this contributed mightily to the ghastly famine of 1933, which killed perhaps one million people in the Ukraine alone.
Not all animals are merely economic assets to peasants. Many are prized and beloved pets, fellow workers, and friends. The pathos of the peasant who lost his dear horse to the kolkhoz, or who killed it to save it from the Communists, was repeated many thousand times, and often hurt as badly as starvation or arrest.
The course of collectivization was wildly unsteady. An often-published allegation in 1929 was that the regime planned to collectivize 20 percent of the villages during the First Five-Year Plan. In October, 1929, after the harvest, when the big drive began, only some 4% of Russian agriculture seems to have been in any form of socialist farm. By the end of January, 1930, almost 15 percent of the peasants of the USSR were already herded into kolkhozes. In the next five mad weeks, more than another 40 percent of the peasants were gunned into forming collective farms–a rate far more intense than anyone had planned, and one that provoked the major peasant resistance and reprisals that Stalin and other high Communist had feared.
On March 2, 1930, Stalin published his famous editorial in Pravda, “Dizzy with Success…,” in which he blasted the Communist organizers of collective farms for using hasty, coercive, and violent methods when they should have persuaded the peasants to join voluntarily on a much slower schedule. Stalin has often been accused by his enemies of blaming his agents for atrocities which he himself had secretly ordered. Certainly Stalin had set forth no detailed schedules, and had made no effective administrative provisions against letting the collectivization drive get out of hand. Yet he certainly felt himself sincerely aggrieved at the incompetence of his agents–he did not yet suggest treason as the explanation. Stalin’s dim view of the peasants had led him into authorizing the most forceful measures against them when necessary. But his Bolshevik optimism had led him to expect that these measures would not be so invariably necessary…. He sincerely blamed others.
Stalin’s blast sent the entire collectivization drive into chaotic reverse. By May Day, 1930, the percentage of Soviet peasants in collective farms has gone from 58 percent down to 24 percent. Then this wild stampede out of the collectives was reversed by force. Those who had left were made to return, and the formation of new kolkhozes was resumed. The decollectivization of the spring of 1930 was more than made up for by the end of 1932, when roughly 60 percent of the peasants were supposed to be in collectives.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press, 1965, p. 159-161
The answer turns on an ominous phenomenon that had already begun in the last quarter of 1929: the mass slaughter of livestock by peasants who were being pressured into joining collective farms….
To various officials, both local and at the center, a logical countermeasure appeared to be to go at once to the “higher forms” of collective farm in which even small animals, poultry, and the family milk cow would be appropriated for the collective before they could be slaughtered by the peasants.
…the peasants’ already apparent tendency to slaughter their stock rather than turn it over to the collectives. To strike out the Politburo commission’s stipulation on retention of some animals was therefore the only course that Stalin could think of taking.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 144-145
In this his [Stalin] revolutionary motivation was doubtless stiffened by a sense of desperation over incoming information on the spreading peasant slaughter of livestock. By the beginning of 1930, for example, the number of horses in the country–and in the continuing absence of large numbers of tractors, horses were as essential to collective farming as they had been to private farming– had sharply declined due to slaughter, disease, and lack of feeding.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 178
More serious still, the livestock slaughter begun by the peasants in the last quarter of 1929 continued on a steeply rising scale in early 1930, and the regime’s frantic effort to forestall it by preemptive seizure proved unavailing: it only turned the collective farm into the thrice-dreaded commune and hardened the peasant’s solemn resolve to enter it, if he must, without his livestock….
I [a rural Communist leader] told the people that they had to join the collective, that these were Moscow’s orders, and if they didn’t, they would be exiled and their property taken away from them. They all signed the paper that same night, every one of them. Don’t ask me how I felt and how they felt. And the same night they started to do what the other villages of the USSR were doing when forced into collectives– to kill their livestock. According to the official account, it was during the two months of February and March 1930 that the great bulk of the slaughter of the following totals of livestock lost in the 1929-30 economic year took place: one quarter of all cattle, a third of the country’s pigs, and more than a quarter of its sheep and goats. Over the whole period of peasant collectivization (1928-33), the statistics of peasant livestock slaughter, revealed after Stalin died, are: 26.6 million head of cattle, or 46.6% of the total; 15.3 million head of horses, or 47% of the total; and 63.4 million head of sheep, or 65.1% of the total.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 182
There were things the peasants could do in protest, and they were doing them. They were slaughtering their livestock, consuming it, and giving it away rather than surrendering it to the kolkhoz. In January and February alone 14 million head of cattle were destroyed. In 1928 the USSR had 32 million horses; in 1934, after the regime had made some concessions on this issue and the situation improved, the figure stood at 15.5 million. For cattle, the figures are 60 and 33.5 million; for pigs 22 and 11.5 million; for sheep 97.3 and 32.9 million. The peasants’ resistance assumed ominous proportions also in a more direct sense–riots and terrorist acts against officials were reaching epidemic proportions.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 331
That many people died in the 1930s is of course certain, but by far the largest number died as a result not of the Stalin purges proper but of the collectivization of agriculture during the earlier part of the decade. In the liquidation of the kulaks many were killed, since they desperately and often violently resisted collectivization, but a far greater number were deported, together with their families, to timber camps. This deportation in itself would not have bought about many deaths had it not been for the deliberate slaughter by the peasants (and not only the kulaks) of an immense proportion of the country’s livestock. Together with the chaotic state of agriculture during the few years that followed the collectivization drive (aggravated moreover by some severe droughts), this produced perhaps the worst famine Russia had ever known. It reached its peak in 1931-32 and as a result several million people died of hunger or acute undernourishment, and not just in the timber camps to which the kulaks had been deported, but in the country generally. The consequences of the mass-slaughter of livestock were to be felt for many years after, and by the time the war broke out in 1941 meat and dairy produce were still lamentably short….
Even long after the war, in 1959, there were many fewer cattle in the Soviet Union than there had been in 1916, before the Revolution, and today  their number scarcely exceeds the 1916 figure. This is, of course, in fantastic contrast with industrial production, which, since the Revolution, has increased about 70 times. During the intervening period Russia had developed from a near-undeveloped country to the second-largest industrial power in the world.
Werth, Alexander. Russia; the Post-War Years. New York: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1971, p. 29
The peasants believed they could force the government to stop by destroying their own livestock; the despair that could lead a peasant to kill his own animals, the equivalent in our world of burning down our own house, gives a hint of the scale of desperation; 26.6 million head of cattle were slaughtered, 15.5 million horses. On 16 January 1930, the government decreed that kulak property could be confiscated if they destroyed livestock.
Montefiore, Sebag. Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. New York: Knopf, 2004, p. 47
And, in fact, the resistance of the kulaks became increasingly stubborn. They refused en masse to sell to the Soviet state their grain surpluses, of which they had considerable hoards. They resorted to terrorism against the collective farmers, against Party workers and government officials in the countryside, and burned down collective farms and state granaries.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 292
Furthermore, the kulaks instigated the peasants to slaughter their animals before entering the collective farms, arguing that “they will be taken away anyhow.”
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 307
The middle peasants, feeling themselves condemned to a merger that was repugnant to them, in many instances slaughtered, in 1929-1930, their cattle and horses, sheep and pigs, rather than bring them into the common stock. So widespread was the outcry that the central committees were driven to instruct Stalin to issue his manifesto entitled “Dizzy with Success,” in which the zeal of the government agents was rebuked; the voluntary character of membership of the collectives was emphasized; permission to withdraw was conceded; and proper consideration of the varying stock brought in by different members was insisted on. Nevertheless the animals continued to be slaughtered and the total membership to fall off. Partial failures of crop in 1931 and 1932 deepened the discontent.
Footnote: The magnitude of this holocaust of live-stock is seldom realized. The following table shows that in one year, 1929-1930, more than 60 million animals were slaughtered, being one quarter of the whole; and in the course of the next three years 1931-1933, over 80 million more. In 1933 the total livestock was less than four ninths of the total in 1929.
This colossal slaughter, repeated in successive years– has been subsequently excused as having been due to lack of wheat or oats for fodder, owing to government exactions. But why did they slaughter sheep and pigs, and even goats?…
The whole organized movement for an independent Ukraine was, we are told, from 1928 onwards, directed towards stimulating the peasants to resist collectivization. The forms taken by this resistance, it has been frankly stated by one of the Ukrainian emigres, “have greatly varied. At first there were mass disturbances in the kolkhosi, or else the communist officials and their agents were killed; but later a system of passive resistance was favored, which aimed at the systematic frustration of the Bolshevik plans for the sowing and gathering of the harvest….
The peasants are passive resisters everywhere; but in Ukrainia the resistance has assumed the character of a national struggle. The opposition of the Ukrainian population caused the failure of the grain-storing plan of 1931, and still more so, that of 1932. The catastrophe of 1932 was the hardest blow that the Soviet Ukraine had to face since the famine of 1921-1922. The autumn and spring sowing campaigns both failed. Whole tracks were left unsown. In addition when the crop was being gathered last year, it happened that, in many areas, especially in the South, 20, 40 and even 50% was left in the fields and was either not collected at all or was ruined in the threshing.”
Towards the close of 1932, when the extent of this continuous deliberate sabotage had become manifest; when the two persistent rains of the summer had ruined the prospect of an abundant harvest, even where the agricultural operations had been loyally carried out; and when it was realized that the reserves had been specially depleted owing to the measures taken in order to stave off a Japanese invasion, the food situation again looked desperate. There is reason to believe that those in authority did not know where to turn. Finally, in January 1933, Stalin announced an administrative campaign, designed to reach the nerve-centers of every one of the 225,000 collective farms; a campaign which for boldness of conception and vigor in execution, as well as in the magnitude of its operations, appears to us unparalleled in the peace-time annals of any government. The desperate situation had to be saved. And, aided fortuitously by good crops in 1933 and 1934, it was saved. How this was accomplished will appear in the following pages.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 189-191
In 1930, the Soviet government was driven in its desperate quest for capital to export commodities badly needed at home and to issue paper currency, according to the official figures, six times the amount provided for in the Five-Year Plan.
Levine, Isaac Don. Stalin. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, c1931, p. 382
During 1930, the country was stripped of its elementary food reserves, which were dumped abroad in the frenzied search for capital. At the end of the year, the meager gold reserves of the state were being exported.
Levine, Isaac Don. Stalin. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, c1931, p. 390
The peasants refused to be accommodating and preferred to slaughter their beasts rather than to deliver them up to the kolkhosi. From the new arrivals we learned that both bread and meat were lacking in the towns, especially in Leningrad and Moscow.
Ciliga, Ante, The Russian Enigma. London: Ink Links, 1979, p. 187
Draft forces declined drastically directly or indirectly as a result of collectivization. In response to collectivization and the socialization of their property in the kolkhosi, many peasants sold or slaughtered their livestock, for a variety of reasons: as a protest against collectivization; because they did not want to surrender their animals to the new collective farms without compensation; because of local officials’ unrealistic promises about mechanization. During the initial campaign of 1930, these actions most affected animals used for consumption, especially cattle and pigs. Afterward, when most peasants had already been collectivized and subjected to the procurement demands of 1931, the number of draft animals, especially horses, declined rapidly. Animals were the immediate victims of shortages in 1930-33 since starving peasants had no choice but to feed themselves first from the dwindling reserves, and because peasants frequently expressed their resentment of collectivization by neglect and abusive treatment of socialized livestock. Also, as discussed above, the main grain forage for horses, oats, suffered substantial losses from rust in 1932.
As a result, the number of horses declined drastically by 1932. Soviet factories were producing tractors in the early 1930s, but not in sufficient quantity to compensate for the losses of horses.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 21
On the other hand, in some actions peasants clearly expressed outrage and aimed to take revenge on the regime by reducing the harvest. The most obvious such actions were arson attacks on kolkhoz buildings and fields. In the Middle Volga, Nizhni Novgorod, Ivanovo, and Northern regions, arson destroyed thousands of hectares of unharvested grain and hundreds of tons of harvested grain, in addition to hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests, cut timber, housing, and fuel. In some places peasants attacked officials and other peasants involved in harvest work and destroyed harvest machinery, according to the OGPU, with the goal of hindering the harvest.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 31
I do not mean to imply that all the OGPU reports, such as those on agriculture cited above, were falsified. Most of those descriptions can be confirmed in other archival and published sources. Many sources, for example, document efforts by peasants to dismantle kolkhosi and restore traditional farming practices during the process of collectivization in 1929-1930 and repeatedly thereafter; the OGPU reports on this cited above confirm these reports and provide important details.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 41
According to the research reports insofar as they deal with the kulaks, the rich peasants, there were 381,000 families, i.e., about 1.8 million people sent into exile. A small number of these people were sentenced to serve terms in labour camps or colonies. But what gave rise to these punishments?
The rich Russian peasant, the kulak, had subjected poor peasants for hundreds of years to boundless oppression and unbridled exploitation. Of the 120 million peasants in 1927, the 10 million kulaks lived in luxury while the remaining 110 million lived in poverty. Before the revolution they had lived in the most abject poverty. The wealth of the kulaks was based on the badly-paid labour of the poor peasants. When the poor peasants began to join together in collective farms, the main source of kulak wealth disappeared. But the kulaks did not give up. They tried to restore exploitation by use of famine. Groups of armed kulaks attacked collective farms, killed poor peasants and party workers, set fire to the fields and killed working animals. By provoking starvation among poor peasants, the kulaks were trying to secure the perpetuation of poverty and their own positions of power. The events which ensued were not those expected by these murderers. This time the poor peasants had the support of the revolution and proved to be stronger than the kulaks, who were defeated, imprisoned and sent into exile or sentenced to terms in labour camps
Of the 10 million kulaks, 1.8 million were exiled or convicted. There may have been injustices perpetrated in the course of this massive class struggle in the Soviet countryside, a struggle involving 120 million people. But can we blame the poor and the oppressed, in their struggle for a life worth living, in their struggle to ensure their children would not be starving illiterates, for not being sufficiently ‘civilised’ or showing enough ‘mercy’ in their courts? Can one point the finger at people who for hundreds of years had no access to the advances made by civilisation for not being civilised? And tell us, when was the kulak exploiter civilised or merciful in his dealings with poor peasants during the years and years of endless exploitation.
Sousa, Mario. Lies Concerning the History of the Soviet Union, 15 June 1998.
KULAKS OPPOSED THOSE BRINGING IN COLLECTIVIZATION
When the harbingers of such revolutionary ideas arrived in the villages, their observations soon aroused the opposition of the kulaks, who had formerly, by virtue of their wealth, exercised much authority in local affairs. They endeavored at first to smooth out the difficulties, on the ground that Collectivization was a step forward to true Socialism, but soon became aware that the kulaks were far more concerned with defending their own privileged position than pursuing abstractions for the general good.
In many districts the local proprietors took the offensive against the proposals of the Five Year plan and used their money to obstruct the scheme as much as possible.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 83
[A May 8, 1933, decree by Stalin and Molotov halting mass arrests states] …the class struggle in the countryside will inevitably become more acute. It will become more acute because the class enemy sees that the kolkhozy have triumphed, that the days of his existence are numbered, and he cannot but grasp–out of sheer desperation–at the harshest forms of struggle against Soviet power. For this reason there can be no question at all of relaxing our struggle against the class enemy.
Getty & Naumov. The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 115-116
Contradicting all his recent statements, Stalin now asserted that, by withholding grain from the government, the ‘kulak was disrupting the Soviet economic policy’. In June 1928 new emergency measures were announced; and in July Stalin called upon the party ‘to strike hard at the kulaks’. Such injunctions were not willingly followed by Bolsheviks in the countryside: for in the last three years the importance of the ‘alliance with the peasantry’ had been impressed upon them and they had been taught that hostility toward the muzhik was the distinctive mark of the Trotskyist heresy.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 313
The cost was terrible. Stalin–four years late–admitted it. The agrarian economy of the Soviet Union suffered a blow from which it cannot fully recover till about 1940; it’ll take till then to replenish the slaughtered stock. For, once the killing began, it progressed till about 50 percent of the animals in the Soviet Union were killed. Official figures admit that the number of horses in the country diminished from 33,500,000 in 1928 to 19,600,000 in 1932; the number of cattle from 70,500,000 to 40,700,000; sheep and goats from 146,700,000 to 52,100,000; pigs from 25,900,000 to 11,600,000.
The peasants, stunned by this catastrophe, sank into temporary stupor. The government–when the worst of the damage was done–retreated hastily. Probably Stalin had not realized the formidable extent of the slaughter until it was too late…. The tempo of collectivization had been far too rapid. The plan called for full collectivization only after 10 years, but within two years, in 1930, 65 percent of all the farms had been collectivized. So the pace was toned down.
Even so, in 1932, the peasants, stiffening into a final vain protest, rebelled again. As if by government agreement, another psychic epidemic spread through the rich fields of the Caucasus and Ukraine. The farmers, those still outside the collectives, were paid miserable prices; either they could buy no manufactured goods at all, or goods only of indifferent quality. They hit on a plan. They had sowed the crop, which was abundant; but they decided not to harvest all of it. They harvested exactly what they calculated they would themselves need during the winter, and left the rest to rot. “What was the use of slaving to produce a handsome crop, if the state simply seized it all?”
This was, of course, mutiny. But it was not only defiance of Stalin; it was a threat to starve him into submission. The Soviet government needed grain to distribute to the industrial regions, the great cities; it needed grain for export, to pay for the machinery it had to import for the Five-Year plan.
Even the farmers already in the collectives let their grain rot. There were few communist overseers, few trained and loyal farm managers. Word got to Moscow that the harvest, which should have been handsome, was largely lost. Stalin saw that this was a major crisis. If the peasants were permitted to get away with this, the revolution was beaten. (“Obsolete classes don’t voluntarily disappear,” he told Wells). He had to act. And he acted.
Government grain collectors descended on the farms, tall with weeds, and seized that small share of the crop that the peasants had saved for their own use! One by one, they visited every holding, and took every lick of grain due the government in taxes. If a man’s normal crop was, say, 60 bushels, the tax might be 20 bushels. But the farmer had only harvested, say, 25 bushels. So when the government took 20, the farmer and his family had only five–instead of 25–to live on the whole winter and spring.
Russian economy is still extremely primitive. The question of grain, of bread, is a matter of life and death. When there was no grain left, the people began to die. The government might have diverted some grain from the cities–though that was a pinched, hungry year everywhere–to feed the peasants. But the government did not do so. Stalin decided that the peasants must pay the penalty for their rebellion. They had refused, blindly, stupidly, to provide grain; very well, let them starve. And they starved….
The famine broke the back of peasant resistance in the USSR….
The peasants killed their animals, then they killed themselves.
Gunther, John. Inside Europe. New York, London: Harper & Brothers, c1940, p. 528-529
STALIN ONLY REACTED AGAINST THOSE OPPOSING COLLECTIVIZATION AS A LAST RESORT
Guerrilla bands roamed the country districts robbing the new Collectives, destroying their buildings and burning their crops. Without any clear objective they descended into thinly disguised banditry, raiding and killing in the way their Mongolian and Tatar ancestors had done under Tamerlane.
For a long time Stalin remained patient. He knew from bitter experience in Georgia, how difficult it is to bring new ideas to a backward people, and he had a sympathetic regard for the sturdy individualism which resists any active authority by force. When finally action was forced upon him, he moved with his usual firmness but not until every other avenue had been exhaustively explored.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 84
STALIN HAD GREAT PATIENCE BUT IT WAS FINALLY EXHAUSTED BY ANTI-COLLECTIVISTS
Where resistance persisted in spite of all efforts, the State began the wholesale deportation of treasonous elements and, if necessary, did not hesitate to remove whole villages to Siberia and the northern wastes.
As had been done many times before, Stalin’s training gave him strength to carry on through this period. The man who could pardon Zinoviev and Kamenev, who had three times betrayed him; the leader who let Bukharin live in freedom, though Bukharin had openly proclaimed a determination to kill him, would stop at nothing where his faith was concerned.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 85
KULAKS SPREAD RUMORS ABOUT THE COLLECTIVES AND USE VIOLENCE
Kulaks and priests clouded the issue with rumors, playing on the emotions of sex and fear. Everywhere, I heard of the “one great blanket” under which all men and women of the collective farm would sleep! Everywhere, rumor said that babies would be “socialized.” In some places, kulaks joined collectives–to rule or ruin. Elsewhere, they were being expelled from collectives as undesirable. Some collectives took in kulaks horses but not kulaks, as had been done with landlords’ equipment in the revolution. Kulaks fought back by burning the collective barns and even by assassination. The trial of 12 kulaks for the murder of a Party secretary was closing in Atkarsk. “He died for all of us,” declared the prosecution; the peasant audience wept. The storm of collectivization rose higher as farms were named in the martyr’s honor.
As I left the area, I asked a local official. “What does Moscow say about this, about that?” He replied, hurriedly but proudly: “We can’t wait to hear from Moscow; Moscow makes its plans from what we do.”
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 35
COLLECTIVIZATION WENT TO EXCESS AT TIMES
The winter of 1929-1930 was a time of considerable chaos. The precise form of the collective was not yet clear. Stalin, also making his plans from the peasants’ actions, stated on December 27, 1929, that the time had come “to abolish kulaks as a class.” This merely authorized what poor peasants were already doing, but with the authorization they began doing more. Cruel tales came of the unroofing of kulaks’ houses, of chaotic deportations. Meantime, organizers, eager for a record, forced peasants into farms by threat of deportation as “kulaks”; they “communized” cows, goats, chickens, even dishes and underwear. Kulaks grossly exaggerated these excesses and incited peasants to kill and eat their livestock and “go naked into the collective where the state supports you all.”
“Why doesn’t Stalin stop it?” I asked a communist friend. “Has a kulak no rights? This is chaos!”
“There is really too much anarchy,” he answered. “It comes from division in the Party; we Communists must take the blame. Stalin has stated the ‘line’–‘to abolish kulaks as a class.’ The Right-wing elements, who control the government apparatus”–I knew he meant Rykov–“delay the formulation in law. So the Left-wing elements among our local comrades, having no law as a guide, do what is right in their own eyes and the eyes of farmhands and poor peasants. This is anarchy. We expect government decrees soon; then there will be more order.”
The first decree appeared February 5, 1930–it authorized deportation of kulaks in areas where collectivization was “total” and where peasants meetings asked for the deporting of definite people after hearings. The list must then be checked by the provincial authorities, and arrangements made for the districts to which the kulaks should go. These were usually construction jobs or virgin land in Siberia. After the decree, the anarchy lessened,….
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 38
Problems inherent to the massive introduction of a new, collective system of farming further complicated the situation. The very scale and speed of collectivization was astounding: in the space of four years, over 14 million farms were collectivized, including 70 percent of the farms in Ukraine. Collectivization took place at rates and with methods subject to extreme swings depending on the abilities and attitudes of local and the regional authorities. Careful planning gave way to confusion as even at the top level collectivization schedules and targets were subject to drastic changes and revisions. With limited historical experience to draw upon and in a countryside renowned for backwardness and age-old peasant traditions, millions of small strips and holdings were amalgamated into a few hundred thousand collective farms. Peasants long used to manual labor and working with draught animals were now introduced to tractor ploughs, tractor-drawn seeders, mechanical combines and threshers. Against this background and widespread sabotage, a smooth transition was impossible.
Added to this were errors and excesses committed in the course of collectivization. Contrary to what Nationalist ideologues and “experts” would have us believe, Soviet historiography does not ignore this period, nor does it gloss over errors committed.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 95
That property expropriated from kulaks was assigned to the new collectives together with the over-zealousness of many Party cadre led poor peasants to take aggressive action against the rich peasants, and treat many recalcitrant middle peasants as kulaks; in some areas 15-20% of peasants were treated as if they were kulaks, contrary both to Party policy and common sense.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 221
Some rich peasants slaughtered their animals rather than contribute them to the collectives, more because the fodder to keep them alive was appropriated to feed the cities. Between spring 1929 and spring 1930 the number of farm animals in the USSR fell by 25%. To have continued the hectic measures of January and February would have resulted in famine and possibly collapse of the regime.
On March 2, 1930, summing up those measures, the Central Committee of the Party issued a statement criticizing its local cadre and poor peasant supporters for becoming ‘dizzy with success,’ ignoring the basic rule that peasants must join the collectives voluntarily, and alienating the majority of middle peasants who, until the winner of 1930, had been undecided about whether or not to join (thus pushing them into the arms of the kulaks). The Party also emphasized that the collective farm socialized only the land, draft animals and larger machinery, leaving cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, and other personal property in the hands of the individual peasants. The decree read in part:
“The Kolkhoz must not be imposed by force. That would be stupid and reactionary. The Kolkhoz movement must be based on the active support of the main mass of the peasantry….
What can these distortions lead to? To the strengthening of our enemies and the complete discrediting of the idea of the Kolkhoz movement….
As a result of the March 1930 decree, the errors of the previous two months were largely corrected and pressure on the rich, especially the middle, peasants considerably relaxed. More than half the peasants who, in January and February, had been induced to join the collectives, left them within a few weeks. By September 1930, the percentage of peasants in collectives had dropped to 21% of the total (from a peak of about 58% in early March).
Subsequently subtler incentive structures (and a balance between collective and individual interests) were employed to induce the middle peasants to join the collectives. Private plots, from which peasants could sell their produce on an individual basis, were institutionalized; profit-sharing, rather than set wage payments, became the norm. Most state farms were disbanned and their land and resources given free to the collectives. This more moderate approach after 1930 resulted in a fairly rapid pace of collectivization. By 1933 about 60%, by 1934 about 75%, and by 1940, 97% of peasants were organized in collective or state farms….
The slaughter of farm animals by rich and middle peasants in the winner of 1930 together with the continuingly serious problems of organization of the collectives and motivation of the peasants meant, in Isaac Deutschers’ words, that ‘Rapid mechanization of agriculture now became a matter of life and death.’ The food crisis continued unabated. In 1929 the average Soviet urban dwellers annual consumption of meat, poultry and fat was 48 pounds, in 1930 it was 33, falling to 27 in 1931, and less than 17 in the famine year of 1932.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 221-222
… since Stalin said he desired a smooth transition to socialist agriculture, the government put out vague and shifting schedules for collectivization, which supposedly spread the process out over 10 years or more. But the local Communist organizers in fact went ahead far more quickly and disruptively, not because Stalin had given them secret hurry-up orders (as his enemies charge) but because schedules were hopelessly vague, and because both idealism and careerism pressed the Communist organizer ahead as fast as possible.
To Stalin the enemy in the villages was above all the kulak, while the poor peasantry and even most of the middle peasantry were merely coerced or misled by the kulaks.
Randall, Francis. Stalin’s Russia. New York: Free Press,1965, p. 157
Curiously enough, collectivization which was at first forced has now become more of a response to the exigencies of the situation. Peasants are flocking into the kolhozi as into arks of safety. It is largely a matter of expediency and to that extent voluntary. Thus all Soviet expectations have been surpassed. It was planned to collectivize only as machinery could be supplied and to have 15% of the small-farm holders organized by 1933. But once the backbone of opposition was broken and it became expedient to join, the collectives increased so rapidly that four times the quota has already been reached.
… The crisis that compulsory socialization created in 1930 is forgotten, but its effects are not repaired. When the peasants saw what awaited them, they ate up or killed their livestock rather than let it be collectivized, and by midsummer 1930 from 1/4 to 1/2 of the farm animals had disappeared. The confiscation of grain and property together with the ruthless policy of the proletarian collectivizers had two consequences. It caused acute hunger and dissatisfaction in the cities and rebellious outbreaks in the country. Partisan zeal was jeopardizing the dictatorship. Thereupon Stalin, in the famous letter of March, 1930, called a halt, saying there was “giddiness from success” among the organizers. They were ordered to desist from coercive methods and roundly scored for their excesses. Collectivization was declared to be purely voluntary. Thus a “strategic retreat” was negotiated and the crisis successfully passed with the result that subsequently a policy of modernization has prevailed and socialization has been secured by inducement rather than force. However, the war upon the kulaki has not ceased.
Davis, Jerome. The New Russia. New York: The John Day company, c1933, p. 58
STALIN WAS LESS STRINGENT TOWARD THOSE OPPOSED TO DEKULAKIZATION THAN OTHERS
In some cases, local militants’ zeal outstripped the plans of the center, and Moscow often had to rein in excessive dekulakizations, forcible collectivization, and ultraleftist zeal in persecuting religion.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 43
Kuibyshev’s terms were tough. Indeed, there is reason to believe that Stalin’s lieutenants took a more aggressive stance toward the opposition than he did. One month before Bukharin and Kuibyshev spoke, a Politburo meeting had considered punishments for two high-ranking Central Committee Members (Syrtsov and Lominadze) who had taken a “right-opportunist” line against the excesses of collectivization. In the Politburo, Stalin proposed demoting them to the status of candidate members of the Central Committee. The majority, however, “strongly” disagreed and voted to expel them from the Central Committee.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 52
TOUGH LAWS PASSED AGAINST DESTROYING KULAKS ARE WEAKLY ENFORCED
[Decree of the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR on August 7, 1932]
…The number of complaints concerning violence and threats directed by kulak elements at kolkhoz members who do not wish to leave the kolkhozy and who are working honestly and selflessly for the consolidation of these kolkhozy has similarly increased….
Based on these considerations and in order to meet the demands of workers and kolkhoz members, the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR decree:
…2. To apply as a measure of judicial punishment for the plundering of rail and border transport cargo the highest measure of social protection, namely, execution with confiscation of all property, with computation of execution under extenuating circumstances to deprivation of freedom for a term of not less than ten years with confiscation of all property.
…2. To apply as a measure of judicial punishment for the plundering (theft) of property belonging to kolkhozy and cooperative societies the highest measure of social protection, namely, execution with confiscation of all property, with computation of execution under extenuating circumstances to deprivation of freedom for a term of not less than 10 years with confiscation of all property.
…1. To wage a resolute struggle against those antisocial, kulak-capitalistic elements which apply violence and threats [of violence] or preach the use of violence and threats against kolkhoz members for the purpose of forcing the latter to leave the kolkhozy, for the purpose of bringing about the violent destruction of the kolkhozy. These criminal acts are to be put on a footing equal to crimes against the state.
2. To apply as a measure of judicial punishment in matters concerned with the protection of kolkhozy and kolkhoz members against violence and the threats on the part of kulak and other antisocial elements, the deprivation of freedom with imprisonment in a concentration camp for a term ranging from 5 to 10 years.
Despite the Draconian nature of this law, its application was uneven and confused. The following month, September 1932, the Politburo ordered death sentences mandated by law to be carried out immediately. Nevertheless, of those convicted under the law by the end of 1933, only 4% received death sentences, about 1000 persons were actually executed. In Siberia, property was confiscated from only five percent of those convicted under the law.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 110
In spite of Stalin’s strictures in the original decree against leniency, by August 1936 a secret decree had ordered the review of all sentences under the law of August 7th 1932. Four-fifths of those convicted had their sentences reduced, and more than 40,000 of these were freed at that time.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 110
THE LESSER PUNISHMENT FOR THE FAMILIES OF KULAK SUBVERSIVES
[June 2nd, 1935 extract from Protocol No. 46 of the buro session of the Azov-Black Sea Territorial Committee of the Communist Party]
2) Deporting from our territory 1500 kulaks, counter-revolutionaries who continue to carry on their anti-Soviet, anti-kolkhoz activities and sabotage. The members of their families, on the other hand, may, if they so desire, remain in place.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 180
In many cases the kulak alone was arrested and sent to a labor camp or jailed or shot, while his family was not touched at first. Agents only made an inventory of the property, leaving it in the family care, as it were….
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 237
POLITBURO ORDERS THAT JUSTICE BE DONE TO KOLKHOZ MEMBERS
[Protocol #39 of the Politburo on May 20th 1936]
The Procuracy and the Supreme Court of the USSR are instructed to verify the correctness of rejections of requests to dismiss criminal cases against kolkhoz members in the Ivanovo and Leningrad regions and in the Northern Caucasus Region and to take all necessary measures to rectify any improper decisions made locally….
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 220
COLLECTIVIZATION SOMETIMES REQUIRED HARSH METHODS OF PERSUASION
MOLOTOV: On January 1, 1928, I had to go to Melitopol on the grain procurement drive. In the Ukraine. To extort grain.
CHUEV: From the kulaks?
MOLOTOV: From everyone who had grain. Industrial workers and the army were in a desperate situation. Grain was all in private hands, and the task was to seize it from them…. We took away the grain. We paid them in cash, but of course at miserably low prices. They gained nothing. I told them that for the present the peasants had to give us grain on loan. Industry had to be restored and the army maintained.
…All kinds of rather harsh methods of persuasion had to be applied. We started with the kulak.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 241
We never knew what they hid away, but often they did hold back stocks of grain. “Come on! Give it up! Quick!” Those drives were well warranted then. To survive, the state needed the grain. Otherwise it would crack up–it would be unable to maintain the army, the schools, construction, the elements most vital to the state. So we pumped away. Of course, we did not always succeed. We were sitting targets for criticism. They would say, Look, the center is demanding the impossible. Such talk was rife. Only the overwhelming authority of the center, with Stalin at the head, enabled us to fulfill the plans.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 243
But this does not mean that the proletarian state used no force against the kulaks and their agents, the saboteurs and wreckers who resorted to murder and terrorism to oppose the building of socialism and who wished to restore capitalism. The dictatorship of the proletariat did exercise its dictatorship over the kulaks, over the minority of exploiters, in the wider interests of the majority of the Soviet people–the workers and peasants–in order to make sure that the vanquished capitalists would not come to power again. The proletarian state exercised its dictatorship because that exactly is the specific purpose for which it does exist. Would we not have complete justification for reproaching it if it did not perform this, one of its main functions?
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 176
KULAKS REFUSED TO HAND OVER THE GRAIN FOR TWO YEARS
Back then our position was restriction of the kulak, not liquidation. Not until the autumn of 1929, in October or November, did Stalin launch the slogan of liquidation of the kulaks as a class…. You see, we would say to the peasants that the grain was needed, neither the working-class nor the army could get along without it. But the kulak would not hand it over. What were we to do? So, a year passed, then another, by which time the liquidation of the kulaks as a class had been prepared. There was no other way.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 245
SOVIET GOVT TRIES TO SAVE FROM EPIDEMIC THE CHILDREN SENT INTO EXILE
Stefan Merl, a German researcher describes the percarious conditions in which the first kulaks were sent to Siberia, during the first wave of collectivization in January-March 1930.
“With the beginning of spring, the situation in the receiving camps aggravated. Epidemics were widespread, leaving many victims, particularly among the children. For this reason, all children were removed from the camps in April 1930 and sent back to their native villages. At that time, some 400,000 persons had already been deported to the North; until th summer of 1930, probably 20,000 to 40,000 persons died.”
Merl, Stefan, “Ausrottung” der Bourgeoisie und der Kulaken in Sowjetrussland? Geschichte und Gesellschaft 13 (1987), p. 376
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp , Belgium : EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 96 [p. 80 on the NET]
MANY DEPORTED PEOPLE DIED BECAUSE PARTY DIRECTIVES WERE IGNORED
…Others, whose case was reviewed, were allowed to return home. An undetermined number, that we have estimated at 100,000, died during the travels, mainly because of epidemics. The considerable number of deaths during displacements must be seen in the context of that epoch: a weak administration, precarious living conditions for the entire population, sometimes chaotic class struggles among the peasant population overtaken by leftism. Of course, for each death during displacement, the Right affirms that the guilty party is the Party, is Stalin. But in fact the contrary is true. The Party’s position is clearly stated in one of the numerous reports about this problem, this one dated 20 December 1931 by the person responsible for a work camp at Novossibirsk.
`The high mortality observed for convoys Nos 18 to 23 coming from the North Caucasus—2,421 persons out of 10,086 upon departure—can be explained by the following reasons:
`1. A negligent, criminal approach to the selection of deported contingents, among whom were many children, aged over 65 years of age and sick people;
`2. The non-respect of directives about the right for deportees to bring with them provisions for two months of transfer.
`3. The lack of clean water, which forced the deported to drink unclean water. Many are dead of dysentery and of other epidemics.’
Werth, Nicolas, “Goulag: les vrais chifres’. L’ Histoire 169 (September 1993, p. 44.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 98 [p. 81-82 on the NET]
All these deaths are classed under the heading “Stalinist crimes’. But this report shows that two of the causes of death were linked to the non-respect of Party directives and the third had to do with the deplorable sanitary conditions and habits in the entire country.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 98 [p. 82 on the NET]
RUTHLESS STRUGGLE GAINING MIDDLE CLASS SUPPORT WAS NEEDED FOR COLLECTIVIZATION
Capitalist elements in the countryside–the kulaks–could only be eliminated by a ruthless class struggle. For this class struggle, the proletariat needed a firm alliance with the middle peasantry. This alliance could only be strengthened by turning the middle peasant to collectivization. This in turn could only be accomplished when industry was sufficiently developed to give real, active support to the peasantry by the provision of tractors, other agricultural machinery, fertilizers, and when the state was able to advance credits. Last, though not least, the middle peasantry had to be persuaded on the basis of their own experience, and by example–not by coercion or force–to turn from individual farming to collective farming.
Brar, Harpal. Trotskyism or Leninism. 1993, p. 168
EARLY REPORT SAYS OPPOSITION TO GRAIN REQUISITIONS CAUSED BY GOVT INEPTNESS
[Party memorandum of May 1929 reporting on resistance in the countryside to grain requisitioning, food shortages, and the closing of religious institutions]
… In his letter Comrade Khataevich arrives at the following conclusions:
“An investigation of the role of local party and Soviet organizations in all the aforementioned incidents which provoked mass uprisings has revealed that, in most cases, party and Soviet organizations were guilty of tactlessness, egregious blunders, and a lack of skill and proficiency in their preparations for vital efforts. This made the anti-Soviet activities of the kulaks and the clergy much easier. The latter were able to respond quickly, flexibly, and skillfully to the blundering, tactlessness, and ineptitude of our local party and Soviet organizations. The kulaks were particularly successful in taking advantage of incidents where local party and Soviet organizations closed churches and so forth by administrative fiat, without careful preparations at the lowest levels and without explaining, persuading, and gaining the support of most of the poor and middle peasants.” Signed Bogomolov, Head of the Information Department
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 378
HUMANE EVICTION OF KULAKS FROM THE POLES REGION OF THE UKRAINE
[Ukrainian Communist Party Central Committee resolution, April 1, 1932, on the eviction of kulaks from the Poles’ region]
1. It must be considered essential to purge the Poles’ region of kulak elements, as we have determined the number of families subject to deportation to be 5000.
2. The deportees are to be utilized to develop quarries for stone, clay, etc., and for this purpose permanent kulak settlements are to be established on the left bank of the Dnieper River in regions where quarries are located.
3. It is ordered:
a) organizations which will utilize the labor of the special deportees are to provide fully the food supply, living quarters, and cultural-medical services to the special deportees. In particular, the People’s Commissariat for Supply of the Ukraine must exercise particular supervision and supply food and manufactured goods to the special deportees.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 402
These people [kulaks] were obviously small farmers, used to hard work, as we could tell by the rough hands of both men and women, and they had the ruddy complexions of people who work on the land. But at this time they were a bewildered-looking lot. They didn’t seem to know what was happening to them, or why, and neither did the other Russians who saw them being moved about. Well, these people were “kulaks,” and they were being “liquidated.” This was the process which has been described by many an “expert” in many a book about Russia.
I watched the “liquidation of kulaks” before I had read any expert interpretations of the process. It just looked to me as if most of the small farmers in Russia were being moved from one place to another under police guard. I had no more idea why this was being done than most of the Russians seemed to have. It seemed that orders had come from Moscow to do this, so it was being done.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 73
SOMETIMES FORCE AGAINST THE KULAKS WAS NECESSARY
What must be done in order to obtain grain surpluses? We must, first of all, put an end to the mentality of waiting for the grain to come itself, as a harmful and dangerous one. Grain collections must be organized. We must mobilize the poor and middle peasants against the kulaks and organize their public support for the measures adopted by the Soviet government for increasing the grain collections…. It is true that this method is sometimes coupled with the application of emergency measures against the kulaks, which calls forth the comical wailings of comrades Bukharin and Rykov. But what is wrong with that? Why is it wrong, sometimes, under certain conditions, to apply emergency measures to our class enemy, the kulaks? Why is it permissible to arrest the speculators in the towns by hundreds and exile them to the Turukhan region, and not permissible to take surplus grain from the kulaks–who are trying to take the Soviet government by the throat and enslave the poor peasants–by methods of public coercion, and at prices at which the poor and middle peasants sell their grain to our grain collection organizations. What is the logic of this? Has our Party ever declared itself opposed in principle, to the application of emergency measures against the kulaks? Comrades Rykov and Bukharin apparently are opposed in principle to the application of any kind of emergency measures against the kulaks. But that is a bourgeois liberal policy, and not a Marxist policy.
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 170
TRYING TO MERELY PERSUADE SOME KULAKS TO YIELD THEIR GRAIN IS STUPID
Those who support Comrade Bukharin’s group, hope to persuade the class enemy that he should voluntarily forego his interests and voluntarily surrender his grain surplus. They hope that the kulak, who has grown, who is able to avoid giving grain by offering other products in its place and who conceals his grain surplus, they hope that this same kulak will give us his grain surplus voluntarily at our collection prices. Have they lost their senses? Is it not obvious that they do not understand the mechanism of the class struggle, that they do not know what classes mean? Do they know with what derision the kulaks treat our people and the Soviet government at village meetings called to assist the grain collections? Have they heard of facts like this, for instance: one of our agitators in Kazakhstan, for two hours tried to persuade the holders of grain to surrender that grain for supplying the country. At the end of the talk a kulak stepped forth with his pipe in his mouth, and said: “Do us a little dance, young fellow, and I will let you have a couple of poods of grain?”…
Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 172
Summing up the results of the First Five-Year Plan at the January 1933 plenum, Stalin included a special section on the tasks and results of the struggle against ‘the remnants of the hostile classes’. Despite the fact that he was talking about ‘remnants’, he nevertheless issued a call to ‘struggle against them implacably’. And not a word about re-education, or bringing many ‘ex-people’ and their families into the new life which might the more effectively help to change their outlook and their ‘class instincts’. Depicting the social scene, he said:
“The remnants of the dying classes–industrialists and their servants, private traders and their stooges, former nobles and priests, kulaks and their henchmen, former White officers and NCOs, former gendarmes and policemen–they have all wormed their way into our factories, our institutions and trading bodies, our railway and river transport enterprises and for the most part into our collective and state farms. They have wormed their way in and hidden themselves there, disguised as ‘workers’ and ‘peasants’, and some of them have even managed to worm their way into the party.
What have they brought with them? Of course, they have brought their hatred of the Soviet regime, their feeling of ferocious hostility to the new forms of the economy, way of life, culture…. The only thing left for them to do is to play dirty tricks and do harm to the workers and collective farmers. And they do this any way they can, on the quiet. They set fire to warehouses and break machinery. They organize sabotage. They organize wrecking in the collective and state farms, and some of them, including a number of professors, go so far in their wrecking activities as to inject the livestock in collective and state farms with plague and anthrax, and encourage the spread of meningitis among horses, and so on.”
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 186
IN DIZZY WITH SUCCESS STALIN CRITICIZES THOSE CLOSING CHURCHES
In his article “Dizzy with Success,” published in Pravda on March 2, 1930, Stalin wrote:
“And what about those “revolutionaries,” if one may call them that, who begin the job of organizing collective farms by taking the bells from the churches. To take a bell–just think–how r-r-revolutionary!”
On March 15, 1930 Soviet newspapers published the decree on “distortions” of the party line in the cooperative movement. This decree referred to the administrative closing of churches as an error committed by local officials and threatened severe punishment for anyone offending the feelings of believers…. By the end of 1930 roughly 80 percent of the village churches had been closed and among the “dispossessed kulaks” there were a substantial number of clergymen.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 229
KULAKS IN EXILE SETTLEMENTS WERE GIVEN FREEDOM BECAUSE THEY FOUGHT IN THE WAR
Thousands of kulak special supplements were established in these remote regions. The inhabitants of these exile colonies were denied freedom of movement. The exiles situation changed in 1942, when young men from the special settlements began to be drafted into the Red Army because of the Soviet army’s severe losses in the war. At the end of the war the commandants’ offices for supervising these colonies were closed, and the residents of the former special settlements obtained relative freedom of movement.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 237
POOR LEADERS OF EARLY STATE FARMS WERE FIRED OR BROUGHT TO TRIAL
The newly formed state farms also experienced repression. A typical example was a decree “On the work of livestock state farms,” published in the spring of 1932 and signed by Stalin, Molotov, and Yakovlev, people’s commissar of agriculture. The decree named 34 directors of state farms who had tried “to gloss over shortcomings resulting from their own poor leadership by referring to the fact that livestock state farms are in the early stages of construction.” The decree “proposed” that these 34 be fired and brought to trial; it also listed 92 other directors, who were only to be fired.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 240
HOW WERE THE KULAKS TREATED DURING COLLECTIVIZATION
And about the time we arrived in Russia, The Communist General Staff in Moscow had decided to reorganize agriculture. They didn’t like the idea of small farmers cultivating their little plots and selling their products in bazaars and markets such as the one at Kochkar, just as they didn’t like the idea of the nomad herders roaming around on the steppes with their flocks of sheep and cattle and milkmares. These people who somehow derived their living from the land composed about 85 percent of the population of Russia at that time, and the Communists decided they couldn’t get ahead with their plans to industrialize and socialize the country so long as these small farmers were left as they were.
So the Communists worked out an ingenious scheme for reorganization of Russian agriculture. They had already confiscated all the largest estates and turned them over to the state, which operated them as huge state farms. Now the Communists got the idea of combining small farmers into “collective farms” under state control. Since the small farmers already lived in villages, as I have explained, and even had a loose kind of co-operative organization in most villages, it would be a simple matter, the Communists decided, to persuade the small farmers to pool their land holdings and domestic animals and thus create thousands of collective farms, in which the small farmers would lose their deep-seated desires to own land on their own and acquire instead the socialist instinct. At the same time, these collective farms could use large-scale agricultural machinery and make use of the latest technical methods.
The scheme had much to recommend it, especially in Russia, where the small farmers already lived in villages and where nothing new would have to be built to install the proposed new system. It seemed to be merely a question of persuading the small farmers to adopt the scheme by showing them it would be to their advantage.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 75
But small farmers are conservative; they are not easily persuading to accept changes, especially changes which affect the whole routine of their daily lives. And some small farmers had managed to accumulate a little more stock than their neighbors; perhaps an extra horse or a couple of cows or even a tractor. These people didn’t see why they should turn their things into a collective farm on a basis of equality with those who had nothing to turn in. To make matters worse, the first collective farms were not run properly, and the people who went into them were miserable.
Some time before this, in order to equalize the holdings of small farmers, the authorities had instructed the farmers in every village to be divided into three classifications: poor peasants, middle peasants, and kulaks. This last name had an unpleasant meaning in Russia, having been used before the Revolution to describe the village moneylenders who charged excessive rates of interest and gradually got hold of most of the land and employed labor to work it. But it couldn’t have any such meaning any more, because the Communist authorities didn’t allow money-lending or mortgages of any kind. The farmers classified as kulaks were taxed a much heavier percentage of their crops and earnings than the other small farmers. This classification caused much ill feeling in the villages, and aroused one group against the others, which was one purpose the Communists had in mind. By arousing the small farmers against each other, they figured they could reorganize agriculture with less difficulty. At this time the term “kulak” was used concerning any farmer who opposed, generally passively, the collectivization of the farmers.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 76
The Communist General Staff at Moscow had given orders to hurry up the process of collectivization; but officials in the farm villages reported that the small farmers were balking. They especially blamed the kulaks, who, they claimed, were persuading the other peasants not to join collective farms. The people in Moscow decided that something would have to be done to break the log-jam in the villages. They therefore announced one-day that the kulaks must be liquidated as a class.
Several hundred thousand families in the thousands of farm villages were classified as kulaks, and the process of liquidating them began. First, they were driven out of their houses, and their furniture, domestic animals, and all except the few personal possessions were taken away from them. The confiscated houses and goods were turned over to the collective farm to be used for clubs and offices.
Then the dispossessed small farmers and their families were herded into district centers, and arrangements were made to ship them off to some distant part of the country. It can be imagined what scenes of disorder and confusion resulted in all these farm villages. The small farmers who had not been labeled kulaks assisted in the process of liquidation because many of them had been envious of their better-to-do neighbors and others hoped to get something out of it.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 77
The task of handling the kulaks and their families after they had been dispossessed was entrusted to the federal police, who were well organized to take care of it. It is my opinion that the liquidation of kulaks was based as much upon the need for unskilled labor in industry during this period as it was upon the desire to reorganize agriculture. I can testify that we had difficulty keeping enough labor on hand in the mines, and I believe this was also true in the new industrial centers. Housing conditions in those places were still very bad, the shortage of food and other human needs was great, and retail stores were so badly organized that there seemed no immediate prospect of improvement. Free workers therefore were constantly on the move in search of more agreeable living conditions, and the labor turnover was terrific and very bad for production.
It seems to me that a conversation something like the following must have taken place at Communist headquarters in Moscow. One of the big Communists said: “Well, what will we do about it. We can’t put through our plans for industry unless we have a few million workers who will stay put. There will be too much of a howl if we simply make the free workers stay where they are. What can we do?” And someone may have answered: “Why not liquidate the kulaks? We can kill two birds with one stone: get these obstinate small farmers away from the villages, where they obstruct our scheme for collectivization, and at the same time get plenty of industrial labor which will stay put because it is under police guard.” At any rate, the dispossessed small farmers were rapidly converted into forced labor in mines, factories, and forests.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 78
One-day several train-loads of men, women, and children arrived at these mines, consisting of dispossessed small farmers and their families under police guard…. This group was assigned to one mine for work, thus making it easier for the police to keep track of them and avoiding any conflict between these people and the free miners. I saw quite a lot of these kulaks [at the mines] from the beginning, since it was my job to teach them how to mine. Being farmers, they naturally knew none of the processes.
The newcomers all seemed to be completely bewildered by what had happened to them, and very few of them ventured to make complaints of any kind….
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 79
They lived very much the same as other miners, whose standards of living at that time , from the American viewpoint, were unbelievably low. This was the period when the food shortage was most acute, partly because these kulaks were no longer working their land. But they got their share of what was available. They occupied old houses which had been used by the miners before the Revolution, and by our standards, were hovels of the worst type. Eventually, however, some of them put up better houses of their own.
The working hours and rates of pay for the kulaks were the same as for the other miners, with the exception that the kulaks paid out a portion of their wages into a fund to look after old and disabled persons in their own group. They were free to move around within the district, an area of several miles, so long as they reported once a week to the chief police officer.
Very few of these people made any effort to escape; their experiences seemed to have broken up any spirit of defiance they may have had before. Once in a while two or three of them walked off and didn’t come back; I never learned what happened to such people. The authorities from the beginning tried to encourage them to submit promptly to circumstances; those who buckled down to work were soon given their lost citizenship rights and other little privileges.
Later, I ran up against similar groups of ex-farmers engaged in forced labor in gold, copper, and zinc mines in which I worked in several parts of the country. Usually, they were kept at work separately, for purposes of convenience, although they were not isolated in ordinary life, and mixed as much as they liked with the free miners.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 80
When they were brought into a mine, production ordinarily fell off for six months or longer, and then gradually climbed up again. The kulaks, who had been the most intelligent and ambitious small farmers, became superior miners too, once they had learned the trade.
I don’t know how many of these kulaks were put at forced labor; I have run across them all over the eastern districts of Russia, not only in mines, but in factories and forests and at work on dams, railways, canals, and powerhouses. There were so many of them that they converted the federal police into the largest single employers of labor in Russia, and gave the police a great reputation with the Communist General Staff for getting things done.
… The kulaks formed the backbone and basis for the great forced labor army which has worked in Russia ever since. This army of forced labor mixes up murderers, thieves, and other ordinary criminals with such groups as kulaks, whose offense was of a different nature.
The Communist authorities probably are well pleased with the results of the liquidation of the kulaks. It worked out about as they had figured, in that it broke up the opposition to collectivization in farm villages, and at the same time provided plenty of much-needed fixed labor in new industrial centers.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 81
On the basis of resolutions passed by the Central Committee of the party, the government’s Central Executive Committee, and the Council of People’s Commissars on January 3 and February 1, 1930,…all kulaks and podkulachniki were divided into three categories.
“Organizers and perpetrators of terrorist acts, and those engaged in active anti-Soviet work, were isolated and sent to concentration camps. Kulaks who demonstrated the slightest active resistance were deported to remote regions of the country, where they were put to work cutting down the forests, doing farm labor, etc. The other kulaks remained where they were, but they could not have any land allotments from within the bounds of the kolkhozes.”
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 235
… for instance, in the Donetz Coal Basin no fewer than 40 percent of the miners were, in 1930, expropriated kulaks and other peasants.
Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Outcast. London, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963, p. 115
Later, when the sabotage took the form of a widespread “general strike” against even cultivation of the collective farms, the Soviet Government found itself on the horns of the same dilemma that perplexed the administrators of the English Poor Law. To provide maintenance for able-bodied men whose refusal to work had brought them to destitution would merely encourage them, and their families, and eventually countless others, to repeat the offense. Yet deliberately to lead them to starve was an unacceptable alternative. The English Guardians of the Poor, early in the 18th century, invented the device, which was readopted in 1834, of relieving the able-bodied and their families only on condition that they entered the workhouse, and there performed whatever tasks of work could be set to them. The Soviet Government had no workhouses available and no time to build them. It’s device was forcibly to remove the peasants who were found to be without food from the villages which they were demoralizing to places at a distance where they could be put to work at the making of railways, roads or canals, at the cutting of timber, or at prospecting or mining for mineral ores–all tasks of discomfort and occasionally of hardship, by which they were enabled to earn the bare subsistence wage of relief work. It was a rough and ready expedient of “famine relief,” which undoubtedly caused much suffering to innocent victims. But candid students of the circumstances may not unwarrantably come to the conclusion that, when the crisis of possible starvation arrived, as the result largely of deliberate sabotage, the Soviet Government could hardly have acted otherwise than it did.
Footnote: The enforced expropriation of these peasants has seemed to foreign critics as extreme injustice. Were not the peasants, in limiting their production, merely doing what they liked with their own? In fact, the peasants in the USSR are not owners of the land they till, but merely occupants of nationalized land, for the purpose of cultivating it. But whether or not they are in the same position as the peasant proprietors of France or Flanders, there seems nothing unreasonable or inequitable in the view that, wherever the land is entrusted to a peasant class by the community, it is on the paramount condition that they should produce, up to their ability, the foodstuffs required for the maintenance of the community. Any organized refusal to cultivate must inevitably be met by expropriation.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 206
WIVES AND DAUGHTERS OFTEN ACCOMPANIED KULAKS IN LABOR CAMP WORK
The wives and daughters of kulaks usually accompanied them at forced labor in some of the mines I supervised, and they sometimes also worked in the mines. These women had worked hard in the fields, and thought nothing of performing manual labor. They were not compelled to work in the mines, but were permitted to do so, and preferred to eke out their husbands’ modest earnings. In this way thousands of Soviet peasant women got their first training for industry, and many of them later went into mills and factories as operators.
My wife and I can testify, from our own experience, that many people in the outside world have an exaggerated impression of the relations between men and women in Russia. THE OLD STORY ABOUT THE “NATIONALIZATION” OF WOMEN, STARTED SOON AFTER THE REVOLUTION, HAS BEEN KEPT IN CIRCULATION EVER SINCE, AND OTHER EQUALLY FALSE REPORTS HAVE SOMEHOW GOTTEN AROUND.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 234
DEKULAKIZATION WAS DONE POORLY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL NOT FROM THE CENTER
Although the center equipped local officials with the legislative powers necessary for de facto dekulakization, many regional party organizations, particularly those in grain-producing regions, went one step further and issued orders for the expropriation or exile of kulaks on a relatively large scale from the fall of 1929. In the Lower Volga, Middle Volga, Siberia, and Ukraine, thousands of peasants were expropriated and/or exiled on the basis of regional party decisions made prior to the adoption of the central decree on dekulakization on Jan. 5, 1930. By the time of the central decree, the center was recognizing and endorsing what had already become a reality in many parts of the countryside.
Implementation of dekulakization following the central decree spread far beyond the grain-producing regions into grain-deficit and national minority regions in spite of the center’s directives not to implement dekulakization outside of regions of wholesale collectivization, which was then limited mainly to grain-producing regions. The result was massive violations that soon led the center to issue more precise directives in late January and early February, in hope of establishing control over the campaign and standardizing and regulating procedures.
…Finally, the center issued a strict warning that dekulakization was to occur only in regions of wholesale collectivization and that dekulakization should not be considered an end in itself. These directives represented the center’s belated attempt to re-gain the initiative in policy implementation. The directives, however, failed to stem the tide of violence and anarchy unleashed in the countryside, and the center was finally forced in early March to signal a retreat with the publication of Stalin’s famous article, “Dizziness with Success,” and the Central Committee decree of March 14, 1930.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 67
The regions acted first in the campaign to eliminate the kulak as a class and in so doing forced the hand of the center in this issue. Dekulakization began on local and regional initiative in late 1929 and early 1930, … The 5 January decree on collectivization, which made the new policy toward the kulaks official, provided encouragement for the actions and initiative of local and regional authorities.
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 96
Moreover, to view the retreat as an act of total cynicism would be to deny the very fact that rural cadres had indeed become “dizzy from success,” and, despite the central impetus of the campaign, had carried the campaign beyond the control of the center.
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 116
This first phase of dekulakization led to repressive mayhem and massive peasant discontent. The center had unleashed its cadres in the field from the time it adopted extraordinary measures to deal with the grain procurement crisis and quickly discovered that it was no easy task to bring them back under control. The center was not prepared to deal with either the army of recently dekulakized or the peasant unrest thus generated. The first consequence of this lack of preparation was the March retreat. The second consequence was the formation of commissions to review complaints from dekulakized peasants seeking redress. According to Soviet data, in the Central Black Earth Region alone, some 32,583 peasants were rehabilitated in 1930; an additional 5000 in the Middle Volga and 5500 in the Lower Volga were also said to have been rehabilitated in 1930.
Dekulakization resumed in late 1930 and the first half of 1931…. It appears to have been less anarchic and more subject to central control…. Elsewhere, dekulakization resumed in late 1930 and extended into the early summer of 1931. After this second phase of dekulakization, the state claimed that dekulakization was basically accomplished a in the major grain-producing regions.
Another form of dekulakization, perhaps better called simple repression, occurred in conjunction with the notorious tikhaia sapa (on the sly) activities of the kulak and included civil and criminal penalties for a large range of offenses, such as infiltration of collective or state farms and MTS (Machine-Tractor Stations) units, theft of socialist property… and so on. In reference to kulak work on the sly, Soviet sources generally stress the frequency of such activities in Ukraine and North Caucasus, in particular, and the Volga regions as well–the prime areas hit by the 1932 famine…. The final phase of dekulakization tapered off after 1934 and was followed by several amnesties for an undetermined part of the repressed.
…Repression, however, should not be mistaken for central control. Although the center was responsible for setting policy, the cadres in the field were responsible for interpreting and implementing policy. The vague and frequently contradictory directives of the center, as well as the very broad official definition of the kulak, allowed local cadres great latitude in labeling peasants kulaks, resulting in an explosion of local proizvol or arbitrariness.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 68-69
CENTER OPPOSED LOCAL USE OF GENEALOGIES TO DETERMINE WHO WAS A KULAK
Local cadres and activists, however, carried the manhunt further than the center wished in their zeal for genealogical purity. Central authorities and legal officials, in particular, often inveighed against the extremes that the genealogical craze assumed. The problem with these protests was that they were seldom consistent and often contradicted one another. There were some genuine concerns, however, that some of the activities of local cadres, the collective farm expulsions in particular, were getting out hand. For example, in one district in the Ivanovo Industrial Region, collective farm expulsions were condemned because they were implemented “formally” on the basis of prerevolutionary social and economic status, including information on the property holdings of parents and even grandparents. In Ordinskii district in the Sverdlov Region, local authorities suggested purging from the collective farms all those with even the most distant kulak relatives and all those who served in the White Army; as a consequence, there were massive illegal expulsions in this district, later condemned by the center.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 79
CENTER ORDERS NO DEKULAKIZATION OF TEACHERS BY LOCAL OFFICIALS
The government consistently noted and condemned the repression of rural school teachers. The dekulakization of teachers (along with other rural specialists) was expressly forbidden. Also forbidden was expulsion of teachers from collective farms in the collective farm purges of the famine years. According to the central authorities, teachers could not be subject to repression regardless of their social origin.
The government’s directives to stem the tide of repressive measures aimed at teachers and other rural specialists were prompted by an unanticipated rash of attacks on teachers. Yet the directives and the constant appeals of the center appear to have had little effect on alleviating the victim’s plight.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 82
CENTER CONDEMNS LOCALS MISTREATING & CONDEMNING UNFORTUNATES AS KULAKS
Divisions within the village may also explain the repression of another group of unexpected targets among the so-called class enemies of this time. These targets were economically marginal households or individuals, who were needy, incapable of contributing their fair share of work in the collective farm, or entitled to collective farm privileges. This category included Red Army families, the elderly and ill, the families of exiled or rehabilitated kulaks, and women of special repute. These individuals and households were subject to expulsion from the collective farm and taxation as kulaks. Less frequently, they were subject to dekulakization. In all cases, the state condemned their persecution.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 90
NUMBERS GIVEN FOR REPRESSED KULAKS ARE FAR TOO HIGH
But he [Conquest] does seem altogether too high in his estimates of the number of dead kulaks and of those shot and incarcerated in the great purge.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 274
It is, we think, to be regretted that no statistics are accessible, and not even a descriptive report has been published, as to the manner in which this enforced diaspora of probably some hundreds of thousands of persons was effected. We can form no estimate of the number of cases in which practically the whole property of these families was confiscated, or was simply taken over by the kolkhosi, which, as kulaks, they were not allowed to join, or membership in which they stubbornly refused. We can form no idea as to how many of them could accurately be described as kulaks, or persons guilty of economic oppression of their less successful neighbors; and how many were merely obstinate individualists who, whether or not their separate cultivation of their little holdings had been successful, resolutely declined to merge these in the collective farms. We do not know to what extent or by what means their cases were investigated, before they were forcibly ejected from their homes. We have been unable to learn how many of these peasants were removed to prison, or (as is specifically alleged) deported to the lumber camps in the northern forest areas, or employed on public works of railway or canal construction, or taken on as laborers at such gigantic industrial enterprises perpetually hungry for men as Magnitogorsk or Chelyabinsk, or sent to the Donets Basin to work in the coal mines, which had been equally suffering from a shortage of labor force. Nor is there any account known to us of the conditions under which these hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have had to live in this process of arbitrary removal and resettlement, nor any estimate of the mortality involved in their displacement. So far as we are aware the Soviet Government has not deigned to reply to the numerous denunciations of the cruelty on a gigantic scale alleged to have been perpetrated by its agents; nor published any explanatory account of its proceedings in this summary “liquidation” of so large a proportion of its citizens….
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 467
How many kulaks were summarily expropriated in this way, stripped of all their possessions, and turned out of the villages, we cannot say. But this was not the only cause of their “liquidation.” In 1931 and 1932, concurrently with the widespread partial failure of the harvest that we have described, many peasants, both members of the new kolkhosi and non-members, obstinately refused to cultivate their holdings; limited their sowing to a small proportion of their land which they thought would yield a crop large enough for their own maintenance; wholly neglected the weeding, and when the grain ripened limited their reaping to the minimum that they required, and left the rest of the harvest to rot on the ground. The result was that, when the drought interfered with their estimates of yield, many peasants in Ukraine and in the North Caucasus found that they had nothing to live on during the winter and spring. The Soviet Government, after remitting taxes, and in some cases bringing grain to the starving, decided that it was impolitic to feed these recalcitrants in the holdings which they had refused to cultivate. They were deported, either as individual families or, in some cases in the North Caucasus, as whole villages, to places in which they could be saved from starvation by being employed, as on “relief works,” at bare subsistence wages. Tens of thousands of the men were put to work on the construction of the White Sea Canal. Others were sent to swell the labor force building the new cities of Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk. How many hundreds of thousands of families were thus, between 1930 and 1934, forcibly torn from their holdings, losing all that they possessed, we are unable even to estimate.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 470
STALIN DENIES BEING THE ONLY AUTHOR OF DIZZY WITH SUCCESS
…For instance, he [Stalin] wrote to some collective farmers: ‘Some people think the article “Dizzy with Success” represents the result of Stalin’s personal initiative. That’s nonsense, of course. It was the result of reconnaissance by the Central Committee.’ And further: ‘It is hard to stop people when they are on a wild stampede towards the abyss, and to head them off on to the proper path in time.”
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 168
April 1930: “There are some who think that the article ‘Dizzy with Success was the result of Stalin’s personal initiative. That, of course, is nonsense. It is not in order that personal initiative in a matter like this be taken by anyone, whoever he might be, that we
have a Central Committee”.
Stalin, Joseph. Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1952, Vol. 12, p. 218
WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A KOLKHOZ LEADER AND WHAT SUBVERSION YOU MUST LOOK FOR
[Oct. 15, 1933 letter from Soviet chairman Onishchenko to Kalinin]
I am 40 years old and have been working for 28 years. I was mobilized by the town party committee to go to the country as chairman of the rural Soviet of Tsvetnoe village and have served in this post since January 1, 1933. This work was completely unfamiliar to me, but after nine and a half months I’ve become somewhat familiar [with it].
To be a worker and to work as an executive are two quite different things. Since 1913 I’ve worked as a loader with interruptions caused by the imperialist and civil wars. It was easier for me then than it is now. The work I’m doing now requires that you know how to work yourself and to teach others to work, to give sensible answers to kolkhoz members, to be conversant with all the laws, to know the psychology of the village in all matters, to study the people you work with. You have to know how to skillfully expose everything that causes harm, to conduct a daily battle with the kulak element, to study his tactics, to unmask him, and expel him from the kolkhoz ranks. You have to know how not to violate revolutionary legality and order and acquire a lot of other knowledge and sensitivities. You have to know how to forge a new group of party activists, to learn to teach them how to work–to work in a practical way to fulfil the General Line of the party in the countryside.
So, when I came there, everything, as they say, was in a complete shambles, and I have put it all back together solidly.
On the rural soviet’s territory there is a fishing kolkhoz which numbers 774 households; the total population here is 3,740 persons, making it the largest rural soviet in the raion. Before the revolution the residents had a substantial fishing industry and caught primarily sturgeon. During the Civil War a quarter of them participated actively in the White Army and were infected to the core with acquisitive greed.
Siegelbaum and Sokolov. Stalinism As a Way of Life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, c2000, p. 130
UPON ENTERING KOLKHOZS KULAKS OFTEN WERE JUST PLAIN LAZY
[Excerpts from a secret report by an instructor named Kheilo…dated August 21, 1940 describes the everyday life of exiled Poles: Report on exiled Poles in Kustanai Oblast]
On the Demoralizing Influence on Kolkhoz Labor Discipline of Kulaks and Bourgeois Exiled from the Former Poland to Kustanai Oblast in the Kazak SSR…. Exiled kulaks are put up in the homes of kolkhoz farmers, often without the latter’s consent. There have been cases in which one kolkhoz arranged such a cordial welcome for exiles that it gave them a day’s milk yield from the dairy section, so that the kolkhoz farmers’ children at the open-air kindergarten were left without milk. There have been cases in which certain kolkhoz chairmen have taken exiles into their apartments. Combine and tractor operators and other kolkhoz activists have married exiles.
Exiles are credited with labordays and paid on an equal footing with kolkhoz farmers for their work on the kolkhoz.
In the vast majority of cases these bourgeois and kulaks don’t do anything on the kolkhoz. Many of them arrived with enough money, clothing, and other belongings, and some of them receive money transfers of 2000 to 3000 rubles each, evidently from relatives.
They buy foodstuffs from kolkhoz farmers, but they don’t want to work and nobody makes them.
Twenty families of exiles [in Karabalyk raion] did not do anything, explaining that they were not used “in the vocation”….
At a Magnai MTS in the same raion, a former officer arrived with his orderly, and the latter continued even here to make coffee for him and to polish and remove his boots, and when the NKVD transferred his former orderly to another kolkhoz, the officer did not take off his boots for a week, and when his feet became swollen, he took the boots off and has not put them on for two weeks….
There are many exiles in Fyodorovka Raion, in the raion center itself, who have also been placed in kolkhoz farmers’ homes, who don’t do anything, spend entire days sitting in a restaurant and strolling around a market and around offices….
There are cases in the oblast center itself, the city of Kustanai, when exiles are hired as office typists and clerks and are even hired to work in such organizations as the All Union Bureau for Grain Procurement and Sales, where possible acts of sabotage by them are not out of the question….
Siegelbaum and Sokolov. Stalinism As a Way of Life. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, c2000, p. 264
GOVT OFFICIALS WERE ATTACKED AND KILLED FOR IMPLIMENTING COLLECTIVIZATION
These were, we knew, serious accusations, for attached to them was Comrade Zeitlin’s statement that the assaults on the officials “took place while the latter were performing their official duties.” The circumstances surrounding these events were not mentioned.
Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger. New York: W.W. Norton, c1985, p. 59
“Where are those cutthroats?” was a question one could often hear muttered, or exhortations like, “Let’s get those damned cutthroats!” “Let’s get our horses and cows back from that cursed collective farm!”
No one would have dared to utter such words before; now they could be heard everywhere. The villagers were ready to fight and even kill if necessary. Indeed, a few days later, we saw two fires a distance away from the other end of the village. Later we learned that the headquarters of the Seventh Hundred had burned to the ground. Then the news spread that the villagers were storming the homes of the activists and village officials. We also heard that somebody had attempted to burned down the building of the village Soviet; that windows had been smashed in the village club (the propaganda center); and that the telephone connection with the county center had been cut off. More than a kilometer of telephone wire was missing.
Then one night, the first murder occurred. Someone ambushed Comrade Judas and beat him to death. Curious, as teenagers are, I ran to the place where his body had been discovered. It was still there. He was lying in a shallow gutter at the village main road. His priestly beard was singed, and his face was badly burned. The chasuble he always used to wear was missing. On a piece of newspaper attached to his chest, scrawled in slanting capitals, were the words: “A CUR’S DEATH FOR A CUR!”
Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger. New York: W.W. Norton, c1985, p. 76
KULAKS ADMIT THEY HID GRAIN FROM THE GOVT AND BROKE THE LAW IN 2 WAYS
After much worried thinking and discussion, our mother finally hit upon an idea: it was very simple, but extremely risky.
“Why not enlist the help of the government?” she remarked, as if it were obvious.
We did not understand what she had in mind.
“What do you mean?” I asked, completely baffled. “You mean to ask the government for help? You know that instead of helping us they have already taken everything we have!”
“No, not that,” she answered quietly, as was her way. “I mean we should hide whatever food we have in a pit on government land.”
We had to agree with her. It was an excellent idea. Its logic was clear: no official would even think of someone daring to hide food from the government on the government’s own land. Any personal use of government property was severely punished by law, but we dared to defy that law, and by doing it we saved our lives.
As we anticipated, the Bread Procurement Commission searched all over our backyard and garden, but did not bother to cross the boundary to the government property–the adjacent sand dunes.
Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger. New York: W.W. Norton, c1985, p. 170
We took the road along a strip of sand dunes that separated the woods from our neighborhood. It was here we had hidden some of our food.
Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger. New York: W.W. Norton, c1985, p. 209
SOVIET LEGAL TREATMENT OF REBELLING KULAKS WAS FAIR
The standard penalty for peasants accused of counter-revolutionary activity was confiscation of property and re-settlement. Between 300,000 and 380,000 peasant families (1,200,000-1,500,000 individuals) were exiled to distant locations during the 1930-33 collectivization drive (mostly in 1930 and 1931)…. The majority of displaced peasants were deprived of their voting rights and sentenced to exile without confinement and allowed to keep an essential minimum of agricultural implements to begin life anew as poor/middle peasants. The most active opponents, however, were sentenced to exile with forced labor; most of these served sentences of five years, after which their voting rights were restored. Special settlements were organized for the resettled rich peasants in the virgin lands of the east (in Kazakhstan, Siberia, and the Urals).
Some left the virgin lands after their period of forced exile was over, but the bulk of them were not allowed to return to their native regions. In late 1941 there were still approximately 930,000 former kulaks settled where they had been relocated in the early 1930s. That the number of kulaks still in their places of exile both in 1935 and 1941 was approximately the same number as the number forcibly relocated in the 1930-33 period, indicates that most of them survived the often harsh conditions of transit and beginning a new life.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 224-225
PEASANT REVOLTS IN THE EARLY 1930’S
Nor was peasant resistance passive only. There took place during February and March 1930 what Soviet historians after Stalin have called “anti-kolkhoz” and even “anti-Soviet” peasant outbreaks, and the atmosphere in the countryside grew tense in the extreme. Not only were peasants engaging in arson; here and there they were rising up in armed rebellion. There were 38 armed outbreaks in the Central Black Earth province between 17 December 1929 and 14 February 1930.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 182
Peasants responded to forcible collectivization with a new wave of uprisings, and by murdering local leaders.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 4
The most important document is a long OGPU report from March 1931, which lists 13,754 peasant protests during 1930. The document specifies that the OGPU had data on the number of people involved in only some 10,000 of these events, and these data totaled approximately 2.5 million people….
Yet the rural population in the USSR, according to the 1926 census, exceeded 120 million, of whom more than 70 million people, approximately 60%, were over 15 years of age, and these numbers increased by 1930. The approximately 3.3 million protesters attested in the OGPU document thus comprised about 5% of the adult rural population…. What happened to the other tens of millions of households already collectivized and the nearly 50% outside the kolkhozy? To the extent that this document is correct, and even if it understates the total number of protesters, it indicates that the vast majority of Soviet peasants, some 95% based on the data in this document, did not engage in protests against collectivization. In this way, in other words, this key document actually supports Viola’s point that resistance was ‘likely a small part’ of a continuum of societal responses to Soviet policies.
…Even in regions where protests were more widespread, with few exceptions protests involved a small minority of villages, and even of peasants in many rebellious villages.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 71-72
As noted above, my argument is not to deny that resistance took place, but to deny that it was the only or even the main peasant response to circumstances in these years: such resistance as did occur must be understood accurately and in context.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 84
STALIN SAYS SON DOESN’T ANSWER FOR THE FATHER WITH REGARD TO KULAKS & WHITES
Stalin again presented himself as a peasant’s advocate when, during a Kremlin conference of combine drivers in December 1935, one of them complained that the local authorities hadn’t wanted to send him to Moscow to attend the conference because he was the son of a kulak. That was when Stalin said: “The son doesn’t answer for the father.” Soon afterward, his Central Committee headquarters sternly–on Pravda’s front page –overruled the refusal of a Machine Tractor Station deputy director for political matters to permit a young collective farm woman to take a tractor drivers course on the ground that she was the daughter of a deported kulak. The accompanying editorial pointed out that following Stalin’s just-quoted statement, the government, on 29 December 1935, had repealed restrictions on entry into higher education or vocational schools on grounds of social origin or parents’ deprivation of rights. All citizens, irrespective of social origin, had an equal right to education.
Tucker, Robert. Stalin in Power: 1929-1941. New York: Norton, 1990, p. 329
STALIN WANTS TOUGHER LAWS ON STEALING BY KULAKS
[In a letter to Kaganovich and Molotov on 20 July 1932 Stalin stated] Recently there has been an increase in the frequency, first of all, of thefts of freight on railroads (the thefts amount to tens of millions of rubles), and secondly, of thefts of property belonging to cooperatives and collective farms. The thefts are mostly organized by kulaks (dekulakized persons) and other antisocial elements who are trying to undermine our new system. Under the law these gentlemen are viewed as common thieves, they get two or three years in prison (nominally!), but in reality they are amnestied 6 to 8 months later. This kind of procedure with regard to these gentlemen, which cannot be called socialist, merely encourages what is essentially their real counterrevolutionary “work.” It is unthinkable to continue tolerating this situation. I propose that we promulgate a law (while withdrawing or repealing current laws) that would:
a) confer the same status on railroad freight, collective-farm property and cooperative property as on state property
b) make the theft (or stealing) of property in the above-mentioned categories punishable by a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment, and as a rule, by death;
c) revoke the use of amnesty for criminals in such “professions.”
Without these (and similar) Draconian socialist measures, it is impossible to establish a new social discipline, and without such discipline, it is impossible to uphold and strengthen our new system. We must not delay, it seems to me, the promulgation of such a law.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 164
[In a letter to Kaganovich and Molotov on 24 July 1932 Stalin stated] If there are any objections to my proposal on promulgating a law against the theft of cooperative and collective-farm property and freight on transport, give the following explanation. Capitalism could not have smashed feudalism, it would not have developed and solidified if it had not declared the principle of private property to be the foundation of capitalist society and if it had not made private property sacred property, with any violation of its interest strictly punished and with the creation of its own state to protect it. Socialism will not be able to finish off and bury capitalist elements and individualistic, self-seeking habits, practices, and traditions (which are the basis of theft) that shake the foundations of the new society unless it declares public property (belonging to cooperatives, collective farms or the state) to be sacred and inviolable. It cannot strengthen and develop the new system and socialist construction, unless it protects the property of collective farms, cooperatives, and the state with all its might, unless it prevents antisocial, capitalist-kulak elements from stealing public property. That is why a new law is needed. We don’t have such a law.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 166
[In a letter to Kaganovich on 26 July 1932 Stalin stated] I think it would be more expedient to combine in a single law the issue of protecting the collective-farm and cooperative property and railroad freight with the issue of protecting the collective farms themselves, i.e., combating the elements that use violence and threats or preach the use of violence and threats to collective farmers in order to make them quit the collective farms, in order to bring about the forcible destruction of the collective farms. The law can be broken down into three sections, of which the first section will cover railroad freight and water-transport cargo with the respective punishments specified, the second section will cover collective-farm and cooperative property with the respective punishments, and the third section will cover the protection of the collective farms themselves from acts of violence and threats by kulaks and other antisocial elements, and will specify that crimes in such cases, i.e. in the latter cases, will be punishable by imprisonment for 5 to 10 years, with subsequent confinement in a concentration camp for three years and without the possibility of amnesty. I think that on all three of these points we must act on the basis of a law (“the peasant loves legality”), and not merely in accordance with the practice of the OGPU, although it is clear that the OGPU’s role here will not only not diminish but, on the contrary, it will be strengthened and “ennobled” (the OGPU agencies will operate “on a lawful basis” rather than “high-handedly”).
…As for the struggle against profiteers and resellers both at bazaars and markets and in the countryside, what is needed here is a special law (here, too, it will be better to operate on the basis of a law) that, while referring to the previous law on collective-farm trade, which points to the eradication of resellers and profiteers, will order OGPU agencies to exile profiteers and resellers to a concentration camp for five to eight years without the possibility of amnesty.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 169
COLLECTIVES MADE MANY MISTAKES AT FIRST AND HAD LOTS OF KULAK SABOTAGE
But the progress of the collective-farm movement was so far to be measured in breath rather than in-depth: the collective farms were increasing in number and were spreading to district after district, but there was no commensurate improvement in the work of the collective farms or in the skill of their personnel. This was due to the fact that the growth of the leading cadres and trained personnel of the collective farms was not keeping pace with the numerical growth of the collective farms themselves. The consequence was that the work of the new collective farms was not always satisfactory, and the collective farms themselves were still weak. They were also held back by the shortage in the countryside of literate people indispensable to the collective farms (bookkeepers, stores managers, secretaries, etc.), and by the inexperience of the peasants in the management of large-scale collective enterprises. The collective farmers were the individual peasants of yesterday; they had experience in farming small plots of land, but none in managing big, collective farms. This experience could not be acquired in a day….
The first stages of collective farm work were consequently marred by serious defects. It was found that work was still badly organized in the collective farms; labor discipline was slack. In many collective farms the income was distributed not by the number of work-day-units, but by the number of mouths to feed in the family. It often happened that slackers got a bigger return than conscientious hard-working collective farmers. These defects in the management of collective farms lowered the incentive of their members. There were many cases of members absenting themselves from work even at the height of the season, leaving part of the crops unharvested until the winter snows, while the reaping was done so carelessly that large quantities of grain were lost. The absence of individual responsibility for machines and horses and for work generally, weakened the collective farms and reduced their revenues….
The situation was particularly bad wherever former kulaks and their toadies had managed to worm their way into collective farms and to secure positions of trust in them. Not infrequently former kulaks would betake themselves to districts where they were unknown, and there make their way into the collective farms with the deliberate intention of sabotaging and doing mischief. Sometimes, owing to lack of vigilance on the part of Party workers and Soviet officials, kulaks managed to get into collective farms even in their own districts. What made it easier for former kulaks to penetrate into the collective farms was that they had radically changed their tactics. Formerly the kulaks had fought the collective farms openly, had savagely persecuted collective farm leading cadres and foremost collective farmers, nefariously murdering them, burning down their houses and farms. By these methods they had thought to intimidate the peasantry and to deter them from joining the collective farms. Now that their open struggle against the collective farms had failed, they changed their tactics. They laid aside their sawn-off shotguns and posed as innocent, unoffending folk who would not hurt a fly. They pretended to be loyal Soviet supporters. Once inside the collective farms they stealthily carried on their sabotage. They strove to disorganize the collective farms from within, to undermine labor discipline and to muddle the harvest accounts and the records of work performed. It was part of their sinister scheme to destroy the horses of the collective farms by deliberately infecting them with glanders, mange and other diseases, or disabling them by neglect or other methods, in which they were often successful. They did damage to tractors and farm machinery….
The kulaks were often able to deceive the collective farmers and commit sabotage with impunity because the collective farms were still weak and their personnel still inexperienced.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 315
PARTY LEADERS OF COLLECTIVES SUCCUMB TO BAD KULAK INFLUENCE AND DO BAD THINGS
“The village Party and Young Communist organization,” declared Kaganovich in January 1933, “including the groups in state farms and machine-tractor stations, frequently lack revolutionary feeling and vigilance. In many places they not only do not oppose this anti-soviet work of hostile elements with class alertness and an everyday Bolshevik drive to strengthen soviet influence over the broad non-Party masses of the collective farmers and state farm-workers, but they themselves sometimes fall under the influence of these sabotaging elements; and some members of the Party, who entered for careerist purposes, line up with the enemies of the collective and state farms and the Soviet Government, and join with them in organizing thieving of seed at sowing time, grain at harvesting and threshing time, hiding grain in secret granaries, sabotaging state grain purchases, and really draw certain collective farms, groups of kolkhozniks and backward workers of state farms into the struggle against the soviet power. It is particularly true of state farms, where frequently the directors, under the influence of anti-soviet elements, undergo a bourgeois degeneration, sabotage the tasks set by the Soviet Government, enter upon out and out treachery to the Party and Government, and attempt to dispose of state farm products as if they were their own personal property.”
But with no less characteristic Bolshevist persistence, the occasion was taken to intensify the campaign, so as to ensure that 1933 and 1934 should see better results than 1931 or 1932. It was recognized, and frankly confessed, that a serious error had been made, often owing to the mistaken zeal of local agents, in making successive levies on the successful kolkhosi, when these were found in possession of unexpectedly large crops. Many peasants had lost confidence in the government’s financial measures, always fearing that the results of their labors would be taken away from them. Hence the whole system was changed. The Government relinquished all right to take produce by contract any more than by requisition. Henceforth nothing more was to be exacted from the collective farms by way of agricultural tax (apart from the agreed payment for the use of the tractors) than the one official levy of grain, meat, milk, and other produce, definitely fixed in advance, in exact proportion so far as arable produce was concerned, to the normal harvest on the number of hectares that had to be sown and weeded and reaped. Similar assessments were made for other produce. However great might prove to be the yield, the government would claim no more. Even if a larger area were sown than had been required, the government pledged itself not to increase its demand upon the zealous kolkhos. As soon as this definitely fixed levy had been paid for the whole district, each kolkhos was to be free to sell the surplus to outsiders as it pleased; even to selling it, in the open market, to the highest bidder. At the same time the whole organization was drastically overhauled. Many hundreds of local officials were, during 1932, found guilty of gross neglect, or wanton mishandling of machinery, stores, and crops. These were severely reprimanded and in many cases dismissed from office. Hundreds of the worst offenders were sentenced to imprisonment, and at least several dozens to be shot. The members of the kolkhosi themselves, including the managers and accountants, were also faithfully dealt with. What was most difficult to cope with was the deplorable general sullenness, in which many, and sometimes most, of the peasants had ceased to care whether or not the normal harvest was reaped. Where the plowing had been only feebly performed; the weeding left undone; and the scanty growing grain filched from the fields by night, the whole kolkhos was drastically shaken up; the most guilty of the sabotagers, often ex-kulaks, were expelled; the negligent managers and peasant accountants were dismissed from office; collective farms which had willfully neglected or refused to till the land were sternly refused relief when they found themselves without food, so as not to encourage further recusancy; and in some of the worst cases the inhabitants of whole villages, if only in order to save them from starvation, were summarily removed from the land that they had neglected or refused to cultivate, and deported elsewhere, to find laboring work of any sort for bare maintenance. It is not denied that in these summary removals, as in those of individual kulaks who had refused to conform to the government’s requirements, great hardship was inflicted on a large number of women and children, as well as on the men. Without such costs in suffering, it is argued, the rapid reorganization of peasant agriculture, which seemed the only practicable means of solving the problem of the national food supply, could not have been affected.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 207
Because the early collective farms had been organized spontaneously–that is, without Moscow’s direct supervision or the guiding force of the party and proletariat–they were vulnerable to class alien influences. The lack of central control in the collectivization
campaign spanning the summer and fall of 1929 and the problems associated with the cadre crisis had led to this.
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 32
IN EARLY COLLECTIVIZATION CENTER UNLEASHED FORCES AND LOST CONTROL
The center was both all-powerful and completely helpless. It was confounded in its every step by the realities of fortress storming in rural Soviet Russia. In its rapid drive to collectivize agriculture, the center had unleashed a storm upon the countryside; it could not as easily rein in the forces as it had unleashed them.
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 89
From 1928 to 1933 bureaucrats and peasants waged one of the most grandiose class-conflicts human history has known. It was complicated by struggles between bureaucracy and proletariat, between Communist bureaucrats and non-Party technicians, and lastly by an internal struggle between the various sections of the Communist bureaucracy. One can say that the Five-Year Plan, as it was carried out, represented to a certain extent the expression of a terrifying conflict between all classes and all social groups of modern Russia. Stalin’s victory was a solution by means of the average, as it were, the resultant of all of the social forces at work. Stalin was the product of the events more than he was their cause.
Ciliga, Ante, The Russian Enigma. London: Ink Links, 1979, p. 90
SOVIET GOVT CRACKS DOWN ON KULAKS DESTROYING LIVESTOCK
Finally, on 16 Jan 1930, the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR issued the decree “On Measures of Struggle with the Rapacious Destruction of Livestock.” This decree was issued in response to the wholesale waves of slaughters and sales of livestock which occurred in this period as peasants attempted to avoid classification as a kulak. The decree entitled district soviet executive committees to arrest, expropriate, and exile kulaks guilty of the destruction of livestock….
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 96
He [Stalin] accused the kulaks, as a class, of living off the fat of the land, and of hoarding grain for themselves at the expense of the nation. Five million of them were dispossessed; the kulaks’ vengeful response was to slaughter their livestock. Mass deportation to Siberia ensued as punishment, and any active resistance was met with the same sentence. The carnage included the slaughter of 14 million cattle, one third of the nation’s pigs, and a quarter of its sheep and goats.
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 120
APPEARS LOCAL PEASANTS RATHER THAN THE RED ARMY CRUSHED MOST KULAK REVOLTS
There is scant evidence with which to judge the degree of Red Army involvement in crushing anti-collective farm resistance, but it appears that in most cases the revolts were suppressed by local forces (including OGPU forces) or fizzled out on their own with the collapse of the collective farm.
Viola, Lynne. The Best Sons of the Fatherland. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987, p. 125
STAIN WAS NOT THE CAUSE OF THE COLLECTIVIZATION EXCESSES
If this interval [May to October 1929] he was directing from behind the scenes the early phase of the vast agrarian upheaval that soon was to engulf Russia, no evidence to this effect has turned up in the extensive and relatively forthright post-Stalin scholarship in the Soviet Union on the subject of collectivization. This research generally has not attempted to protect Stalin’s reputation, and for a time even sought to emphasize his responsibility for the ‘excesses’ of the campaign. What has come out of Soviet research is a substantial body of evidence that the enthusiasm for collectivization and the destruction of the kulaks had generated considerable momentum on the lower levels before Stalin visibly attempted to intervene in the administration of the campaign. Part of this revitalized radical trend seems to have derived from the lower levels of party membership, among people whose zest for class war probably had been encouraged by Stalin’s pronouncements but was not simply his creation. Then there was the class hatred of the poor peasants for the relatively well-all ones, a potent force that cannot be discounted merely because Soviet historians have emphasized it excessively. An added factor in the intensification of the conflict was the active and not infrequently violent resistance by kulaks to collectivizers, who were often erstwhile factory workers.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 124
There is no reason to believe that Stalin in June 1929 compelled the state agency ‘Kolkhoztsentr’ (Collective Farm Center) to decide that it was necessary drastically to increase the goal of the Five-Year Plan for collectivization, embracing seven or 8 million families in 1930 alone. Nor that Stalin was involved in the decision of the Khoper district, a large area in the former Don Cossack land, to declare that they would achieve complete collectivization by the end of the plan period. Nor is it plausible to attribute directly to Stalin the eviction of a substantial number of kulak families from their farms during 1929, which is to say before he had announced the drive to ‘liquidate the kulaks as a class’. Yet the best Soviet study on the subject estimates that about 30,000 families or over 200,000 people were evicted in 1929.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 125
Thus in November 1929, when Stalin decided to break his silence concerning the agrarian upheaval, a strong radical movement already was in motion, involving elements of the peasantry, middle-level party officialdom and the central administration of the state. On the anniversary of the October Revolution, an occasion associated with class warfare, Stalin applauded this upsurge. The year 1929, he said, taking stock of the changes of the few months preceding, was ‘a year of great change’. He called for an end to the retreat that was embodied in the New Economic Policy and for a resumption of the attack on capitalist elements in both industry and agriculture. But he was non-committal on the extent and nature of collectivization in the immediate future and on the fate of the kulaks.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 125
Since he [Stalin] did not choose to intervene in this debate, the resolutions that emerged from it were generally enthusiastic about the socialization of agriculture, but did not settle the question of tempo. Some passages spoke of various organizational measures, such as the establishment of a central school for collective farm organizers or the building of tractor factories, which seemed to imply a relatively long-term approach to the transition. However, the decision of the committee at this time to send 25,000 industrial workers into the countryside within a few months to push collectivization seemed to imply a frantic campaign. So did some of the rhetoric of the resolution, particularly a favorable reference to ‘complete collectivization of entire districts’, marking ‘a new stage, a new phase in the period of transition from capitalism to socialism’.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 126
Such ambiguous marching orders invited confusion among the middle-and lower-level party officials and the disruption of agriculture. Even by the time of the Central Committee session, and especially in its wake, there was increasing evidence that chaos was brewing. On the one hand, radical zealots on the lower levels were in many areas deciding on their own to push for a high level of collectivization within a year or less. For example, at the opening of December 1929 the party leadership of the vast Lower Volga region decided to aim at 80% collectivization by the spring of 1930 and 100% by the autumn. Fearing expropriation of the recent harvest by grain procurement teams, and incipient collectivization, many of the more prosperous peasants resisted the authorities by non–co-operation, and sometimes violence.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 126
On 15 December 1929, the Politburo concluded that the situation could not be allowed to drift any longer, that some order had to be imposed on an agrarian transformation that had departed entirely from the moderate goals of the plan and threatened not only agricultural production but the very existence of the regime…. In any case, there is no evidence that Stalin acted unilaterally or imposed his will on a reluctant Politburo. Had he been high-handed in this matter, Soviet historians of the early 1960s would have been quick to use this to bolster their argument that he and not the party was responsible for the ‘excesses’ in the early 1930s.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York : New York University Press, 1988, p. 127
Soviet historians who were allowed to sift the archives to construct this narrative deserve credit for beginning the illumination of the vast suffering and economic dislocation engendered by the crash campaign of collectivization in 1929-30. But they were supposed to demonstrate that the wisdom and rectitude of the party was never tarnished, that the ‘excesses’ were Stalin’s responsibility. The distinction between the good ongoing institution and the fallible transitory leader is a familiar apologia in the history of many institutions in the world. But with respect to Stalin and the ‘excesses’ of rapid collectivization it does not bear examination. Although the Soviet historians tried to saddle him with responsibility for making rash changes in the resolution of 5 January 1930, transforming a prudent and humane plan into a drastic and excessive one, the evidence that they present scarcely sustains this contention. True, Stalin revised the schedule for the collectivization of ‘the overwhelming majority of collective farms’, as provided by the commission’s draft, but his changes were slight, and not always in favor of higher goals. For example, the Lower Volga region was to be collectivized by the autumn of 1930 according to the draft. Stalin changed this to read ‘the autumn of 1930, or at any rate the spring of 1931’, a reduction of tempo, if anything. For the Middle Volga and North Caucasus he changed the target from ‘Spring 1931’ to ‘autumn 1930 or Spring 1931’, which merely raised the possibility of an increase in tempo.
Stalin was criticized in the 1960s for removing from the draft of the resolution an article that exhorted the lower officials not to treat the drive ‘with the excitement of a sporting event’, replacing collectivist spirit from below with bureaucratiism. But the same sentiment ended up in condensed form in the published version as the parting shot of the whole decree. As his latter-day Soviet critics asserted, Stalin did delete an article that permitted the collectivized household to retain some animals and implements. But this was merely an attempt to delay a decision on a disputed point until the commission on the draft statutes of the collective farm could reach a conclusion. In it’s draft statutes published in March 1930, no doubt with Stalin’s approval, the right to possess such modest capital was restored.
The fate of five or 6 million kulaks, as their number was estimated by the commission, raised such complexities that the commission could not agree on any formulation. There were, however, no tender hearts among these committed Bolsheviks, and Stalin was well within the limits of commission opinion went on 27 December he delivered his famous address ‘On Questions of Agrarian Policy in the USSR’ to a conference of some 300 Marxist students of the agrarian problem. The party, he announced, had passed from the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks to the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class’. The same violent phrase appeared in the party decree of 5 January 1930, and this double authority of the General Secretary and Central Committee may well have accounted for much of the chaotic, destructive, sometimes deadly attack on peasant families deemed by somebody to be kulaks. Stalin did not add any detailed instructions on the handling of the elimination of kulaks, nor their disposition after they had been stripped of their possessions. In late December 1929 and early January 1930 he was aware that the commission had been unable to reach agreement on this topic, and evidently he did not want to settle it on his own responsibility. But the matter could not wait, for there were widespread attacks on alleged kulaks. Thus on 15 January the Politburo appointed Molotov to head a new commission that included many of the members of the previous one. By the 26th, they had prepared a decree entitled ‘On the Means for the Liquidation of Kulak Farms in Areas of Complete Collectivization’, which the Politburo passed on the 30th.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 128
By the time the decree on the deportation of kulaks appeared at the end of January the Soviet countryside was in a state of calamitous and violent chaos as peasants, willing and unwilling, were enrolled in collective farms, real and fictitious. The most prosperous 15-20% were swept from their homes, their possessions transferred with great wastage to the new collectives. As early as 30 January Stalin showed some apprehension concerning excessive rates of collectivization, wiring orders to Central Asia to reject the request of local authorities for permission to complete the collectivization of 32 districts. This was ‘mistaken’, he said. His telegraphic order was to ‘advance the cause of collectivization to the extent that masses really involved.’. In early February his office ordered the Moscow region to cease the deportation of kulaks. This measure had been ordered only for regions of complete collectivization, which did not include Moscow. By the opening of March he had concluded that some degree of order and relaxation was essential before the spring planting if crop failure were to be avoided in 1930. His relative moderation owed something to the fact that he was the person best placed to learn of the destruction and disorder that collectivization was inflicting on the Soviet countryside. Stalin received weekly reports from the information section of the Central Committee, based on regional offices, and about 50,000 letters from the populace in general, which his staff presumably summarized for him. On this basis, he concluded that a pause was necessary, and on 2 March he published in Pravda, over his own name, the famous short article ‘Dizzy with Success’. While praising the great ‘achievements’ of the campaign, he called for consolidation rather than expansion of collectivization and sharply criticized violations of the voluntary character of the process and such excesses as the socialization of poultry and the removal of church bells.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 130
It is customary to say that Stalin’s article ‘Dizzy with Success.’ was hypocritical in blaming lower officials for their own excessive enthusiasm for collectivization. The point has some merit. Stalin’s general encouragement of renewed class war in 1928-29 had contributed to the stimulation of zest for the agrarian debacle of 1929-30. By approving the party decree of 5 January 1930 on the tempo of collectivization he contributed to the chaotic and destructive events of the next two months. But the evidence does not sustain the notion that a single dictator was forcing his program on a hierarchy of reluctant or intimidated officials. Stalin was slow to commit himself to any specific program of agrarian transformation, even though an increasingly ardent radical movement was in progress. Even after he threw his support behind rapid collectivization and dekulakization his main role was to approve the plans that his colleagues on the commissions quickly put together. And in March, when the resulting possibility of economic disaster faced the regime, Stalin was ahead of the Politburo in calling for temporary retreat.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 130
This is not to conclude that Stalin was an innocent bystander to the waste and carnage of the time, nor that he was moderate in his conception of class war. But opposing political camps have unwittingly conspired to sustain the conclusion that Stalin was the main force behind collectivization. First the Stalinists, pretending that collectivization was a great triumph for socialism, credited it to their all-wise leader. The anti-Communists, more realistically treating collectivization as a human and economic disaster, agreed that it was his personal work, a great crime. After his death they were gratified to find Soviet historians, agreeing that the ‘excesses’ of collectivization were Stalin’s fault. But the substantial evidence provided by Soviet research actually presents a more complex case. What emerges is a Stalin, who was at this stage of his career a ‘chairman of the board’, delegating most of the crucial work to commissions, listening to opposing viewpoints and acting to cut his losses when it appeared that the program was headed for disaster.
In the party the decision to pause and allow unwilling peasants to withdraw from the collective farms produced a serious wave of indignation among lower officials. Some of this anger was directed at Stalin for passing the blame for ‘excesses’ onto the lower echelons. But the main grievance, which was widespread, was simply that the leadership had interrupted and retarded the process of collectivization. In one district, for example, Stalin’s article was treated as ‘a retreat to capitalism.’; in another as ‘a backward step in the rates and methodology of collective farm construction…crawling to the policy of the Right wing’. This was the most persuasive of all evidence that Stalin had not invented and foisted on a passive or unwilling bureaucracy the policies of class war and collectivization. His article of 3 April, ‘Reply to the Collective Farm Comrades’, tried to placate some of the irate zealots. Stalin addressed 10 questions that, he said, had been raised in a number of inquiries addressed to him by ‘practical workers’, meaning organizers, in the collective farm movement. First he asserted that the main error had been that the movement at some point ‘began imperceptibly to slip from the path of struggle against the kulaks onto the path of struggle against the middle peasant’. Then he went on to deny that the turn to moderation was ‘a step backwards, a retreat’, as some of his incoming mail, no doubt said it was. This explanation, and other official publications, was not enough to eliminate the possibility that the 16th Party Congress, scheduled for 15 June 1930, might be marred by protests from the zealots, so it was postponed for 10 days.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 131
COLLECTIVIZATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL
December 16, 1933–in the latter respect it is noteworthy that the proportion of wheat in this year’s collections is half as large again as that of last year.
This result fully justifies the optimism expressd to me by local authorities during my September trip through the Ukraine and North Caucasus–optimism that contrasted so strikingly with the famine stories then current in Berlin, Riga, Vienna and other places, where elements hostile to the Soviet Union were making an 11th hour attempt to avert American recognition by picturing the Soviet Union as a land of ruin and despair.
Second, it is a triumph for Joseph Stalin’s bold solution a year ago of the collective farm management problem–namely, the establishment of political sections in the tractor stations, a step that future historians cannot fail to regard as one of the major political moves in the Soviet Union’s second decade.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 324
Collectivization is nevertheless Stalin’s life’s achievement, and probably his greatest. It solved Russia’s age-long agrarian problem. Collectivization prevented hostile economic forces from springing ever anew from the soil of the countryside to attack the Soviet economic system.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 195
In a December 5, 1929, letter to Molotov Stalin stated, “The collective farm movement is growing by leaps and bounds. Of course there are not enough machines and tractors–how could it be otherwise?–but simply pooling the peasant tools results in a colossal increase in sown acreage (in some regions by as much as 50 percent!)…. The eyes of our rightists are popping out of their heads in amazement….”
Naumov, Lih, and Khlevniuk, Eds. Stalin’s Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1995, p. 183
In four earth-shaking years, the Soviet Union changed from a country of tiny, badly tilled holdings, worked with wooden plow and hand sickle, to the largest scale farms in the world. The initiative was taken by the poorer peasants and farm hands, urged and organized by the Communists, and assisted by government credits and machines. When the five-year plan swiftly increased the farm machinery available, the new collective farm proved able to attract ever wider and wider groups of farmers. The movement was bitterly fought by the small rural capitalists known as kulaks, who farmed with hired labor, lived by money-lending, or owned small mills, threshers and other means of production and used these facilities to exploit their neighbors.
[Footnote]: Writers unacquainted with Russian rural life often confuse kulaks with peasants generally, which leads them to describe the whole collectivization movement as an attack on the peasants. But for half a century students of Russian rural districts have spoken of kulaks. In 1895 Stepniak wrote that “hard unflinching cruelty” was their main characteristic; in 1904 Wolf von Schierhand wrote of the kulak as a “usurer and oppressor in a peasant’s blouse.” In 1918 Dr. E. J. Dillon, in The Eclipse of Russia, said: “Of all the human monsters I have ever met in my travels, I cannot recall any so malignant and odious as the Russian kulak.
Strong, Anna Louise. This Soviet World. New York, N. Y: H. Holt and company, c1936, p. 178
But anyone in a position to compare a Russian farmstead of 1910 with one of 1930 must confess that the latter guarantees more of two all-important elements: human happiness and dignity.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 147
Despite all the bourgeoisie’s hue and cry about the repression suffered by the rich peasants during the collectivization, in less than one decade, the Russian peasants left the Middle Ages and joined the twentieth century. Their cultural and technical development was phenomenal.
This progress properly reflected the sustained rise in investment in agriculture. It increased from 379 million rubles in 1928, to 2,590 million in 1930, to 3,645 million in 1931, stayed at the same level for two years, reaching its highest levels at 4,661 million in 1934 and 4,983 million in 1935.
Charles Bettelheim. L’Economie sovietique (Paris: editions Recueil Sirey, 1950), p. 74.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 86 [p. 77 on the NET]
After the success of the collectivization of 1932–1933, Bukharin’s defeatist theories were completely discredited.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 136 [p. 117 on the NET]
I heard incredible stories of the hopes raised among peasants by collectivization. With collectivization, technical civilization penetrated into the backward rural districts of Russia. Wireless and cinema came to villages that were without a school the day before; where the plough was still unknown and the earth was broken with the aid of the ancestral hoe, tractors made their appearance. The people were dazzled. Countless factories were rising, armies of tractors, cars, unheard-of agricultural machines were to make their appearance in the village, along with piles of artificial manure. Postal and telephone service, medical service, agrarian experts, machinery and tractor stations, all sorts of courses and schools were introduced. All this could not fail deeply to impress the creative instinct of the masses, to fan the ancient hope of a better life in those villages that had suffered so much during the NEP.
Ciliga, Ante. The Russian Enigma. London: Ink Links, 1979, p. 100
COLLECTIVIZATION AND MODERNIZATION WERE DEFINITELY NEEDED
For, in 1928, the old-style Russian farming could not even feed the cities; it could never provide food for rapid industrialization or for expanding education and culture. Farming, along with industry, had to be modernized.
Russian peasants, in 1928, farmed by methods of the Middle Ages, methods that even went back to Bible times. They lived in villages and walked long distances to fields…. One-fourth of the peasants did not own a horse; less than half had a team of two horses or oxen. So plowing was seldom and shallow, often by homemade wooden plow, without a metal share. Sowing was by hand, the seed cast from an apron to the earth, where birds and winds carried much away….
Social life was equally medieval. The Old Man ruled the home. Sons married, brought their wives to the patriarchal homestead and worked the farm that their fathers still bossed. So farm practice remained old-fashioned, unchanged by young views. Much of it was determined by religion. Holy days fixed dates for sowing, religious processions sprinkled fields with holy water to insure fertility, rain was sought by processions and prayers. The ultra-pious regarded tractors as “devil machines”–priests actually led peasants to stone them. Any fight for modern farming thus became a fight “against religion.”…
By 1928, the farms had recovered from war devastation; the total crops equaled those before the war. Far less grain, however, was reaching the cities.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 34
Life magazine said, March 29, 1943, in a special number: “Whatever the cost of farm collectivization…these large farm units…made possible the use of machinery…which doubled output…(and) released millions of workers for industry. Without them… Russia could not have built the industry that turned out the munitions that stopped the German army.”
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 46
They say Lenin would have accomplished collectivization with fewer victims. But how could it have been done any other way? I renounce none of it. We carried out collectivization relentlessly; our measures were absolutely correct.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 146
CHUEV: Some writers now argue that Stalin and Molotov declared they would not rush ahead with collectivization, but as a matter of fact they…
MOLOTOV: We couldn’t have delayed it any longer. Fascism was emerging. Soon it would have been too late. War was already looming on the horizon.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 245
I believe our success in collectivization was more significant than victory in World War II. If we had not carried it through, we would not have won the war. By the start of the war we already had a mighty socialist state with its own economy, industry, and so forth.
I personally designated districts where kulaks were to be removed….
We exiled 400,000 kulaks. My commission did its job….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 248
Molotov asserts that the members of the former employing and exploiting classes are still numerous, a fact that is indisputable when we remember that there were millions of rich peasants exploiting hired labor in the Soviet Union in 1928, in addition to millions of merchants and shopkeepers.
Campbell, J. R. Soviet Policy and Its Critics. London: V. Gollancz, ltd., 1939, p. 139
This was a crisis in grain farming which was bound to be followed by a crisis in livestock farming….
The only escape from the predicament was a change to large-scale farming which would permit the use of tractors and agricultural machines and secure a several-fold increase of the marketable surplus of grain. The country had the alternative: either to adopt large-scale capitalist farming, which would have meant the ruin of the peasant masses, destroyed the alliance between the working-class and the peasantry, increased the strength of the kulaks, and led to the downfall of Socialism in the countryside; or to take the course of amalgamating the small peasant holdings into large Socialist farms, collective farms, which would be able to use tractors and other modern machines for a rapid advancement of grain farming and a rapid increase in the marketable surplus of grain.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 287
Land redistribution greatly multiplied the number of small-farm holders till they aggregated 25 million by 1928. Although possessed of land and relieved of rents they did not prosper, for in fact they had no more land to use than under the Czar. They produced no more. The government in consequence failed to get grain for export or to feed the cities properly. Their own area had not increased under the new system and the small farmers had proved to be less efficient producers than the landlords. Thus the proletarian dictatorship faced a serious crisis created by the peasants.
It met it by decreeing what it had hitherto avoided, the extensive socialization of agriculture. Not that Marxianism did not require it, but a situation dominated by peasants had been too difficult. Now, however, action was imperative. As Stalin put it, they could not continue part socialistic and part capitalistic. The individualistic peasant had to be proletarianized or the revolution lost. So the Five-year Plan was launched with agricultural reconstruction as its most audacious and difficult task.
Davis, Jerome. The New Russia. New York: The John Day company, c1933, p. 54
We have no wish to minimize, still less to seek to justify, this ruthless expropriation and removal of the occupiers and cultivators who were stigmatized as kulaks, any more than we do the equally ruthless expulsion, little over a century ago, of the crofters from so much of the Scottish Highlands, or the economic ruin of so many small-holders that accompanied the statutory enclosure of the English commons. The policy of compulsorily substituting sheep-runs and large farms for tiny holdings may have been economically sound in the one case as in the other. The Soviet Government may well have been right in concluding that only by a wide-spread amalgamation of the independent peasants holdings could any general mechanization of agriculture be made practicable; and that only by such mechanization could the aggregate production of foodstuffs be made equal to the nation’s requirements. In fact, the partial failure of crops in 1931 and 1932 (though, as we have already explained, far removed from anything to be properly called a famine) brought many thousands of small peasants within reach of actual starvation; and it may well have seemed that, in these cases at any rate, nothing but removal could save them from death at the next failure of crops, or even before the next harvest. It is, indeed, not so much the policy of removal that is open to criticism, as the manner in which it appears to have been carried out, and the unsatisfactory conditions of life into which the victims seem to have been, without judicial trial or any effective investigation, arbitrarily deported.
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 471
FOR SOCIALISM KOLKHOZES MUST EVOLVE INTO SOVKHOZES
…the kolkhozes [collective farms] must evolve so as heighten the very level of socialization, that is, to be transformed into sovkhozes [state farm’s]. There is no other way. That was stated by Marx, Engels, and Lenin.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 252
STATE FARMS CHANGED INTO SOVKHOZ AND PRIVATE FARMS INTO KOLKHOZES
So, whilst the large unoccupied estates were transformed into sovkhoz or pure and simple State farms, the private individual exploitations must be changed into kolkhoz, or co-operative farms.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 220
STALIN FAVORS THE ARTEL FORM OF KOLKHOZ RATHER THAN THE COMMUNE
There are two forms of kolkhoz: the Commune and the Artel.
In the commune, the kolkhosians own the entire concern in common, but that is all that they do possess, and they live in communities. In the Artel, each kolkhosian has his own house, his own farmyard and, if necessary, his own cow; he retains private ownership of a very small portion of the vast area whose cultivation he shares in other respects with the others.
The Artel form is the one which Stalin very strongly recommends. “Concessions! NEP! Abandonment of socialism!” people cried, or wanted to cry.
But wait one moment. Socialism, contrary to the legend which those to do not wish to know the truth spread about among those who are ignorant, was not invented just to annoy people, and to pursue them perpetually with cries of “You must!” like a creditor, but, quite on the contrary, to get them out of a mess. Its object is by no means arbitrarily to deprive every man and every woman of everything that gives them satisfaction and thus to make them pay too dearly, by personal restrictions, for the political equality, the social justice, and the security of livelihood which it brings them. Restriction on private property is not an end in itself, but a means of arriving at the state which is much more advantageous, everything concerned, for everyone. It is not a question of multiplying these restrictions indiscriminately, but of reducing them to the necessary minimum. The means of production are to be socialized, so let us socialize them. And then what?
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 223-224
STALIN SAYS THE APPEARANCE OF VILLAGES HAS BEEN IMPROVED GREATLY
The appearance of the villages has also changed. Stalin has said: “The old village, dominated by its church, and with the fine houses of the chief of police, the priest, and the kulak in the foreground, and its tumbledown mud huts in the background, is beginning to disappear. In its place the new village is springing up, with its public and economic service buildings, its clubs, its wireless station, its cinema, its schools, its libraries and its nurseries; with its tractors, it’s reaping-machines, its threshing-machines, and its motor-cars. The old silhouettes of the notables, the slave-driving kulak, the blood-sucking usurer, the produce-speculator, the ‘little father’–the chief of police–have all disappeared. The notables, nowadays, are the men of the kolkhoz and of the sovkhoz, of the schools and the clubs, the foremen tractor- and reaping- machine-drivers, the chiefs of the shock-brigades for work in the fields and for breeding, the best brigandiers, male and female, of the kolkhosian village.”
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 229
FARMS GIVEN TO MILLIONS OF PEASANTS IN 1933
Dec. 24th, 1933 was suitably chosen for a lavish gift to millions of peasants. When their holdings were originally grouped into collective farms, the State had issued loans to the collective farmers which had since become a millstone around the farmers’ necks. Now, all loans issued before 1933 and not yet repaid were simply wiped out. “Such benevolence only Comrade Stalin has shown,” said the papers. “Such a step could only have been taken in the Soviet Union where the workers are the ceaseless and supreme concern of the Party and the Government.”
Tokaev, Grigori. Betrayal of an Ideal. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 280
One of the early signs of the new direction was that rationing was abolished (Nov. 26, 1934). This was decreed direct from the Communist Party, which could not have done it unless it had been in a position to do it. But the most material changes were mainly focused on the peasantry. It began with a remission of arrears of taxes (December 11, 1933), significantly enough for districts closest to the Far East frontier, but this was soon extended to the whole country (Feb. 27, 1934).
By a most important decree of February 18, 1935, the peasants of the collective farms got a considerably greater share in the management of their own affairs, which brought them closer to the popular ideal of free agricultural co-operation. Their houses and kitchen gardens, as in the times of the Tsars, together with all household articles, were declared to be individual property; but besides that they were given allotments–very small, it is true–on which they could labor for their own profit. This was immensely popular;…
Individual property had to be the result of one’s own work, but it was now recognized as property, including all earnings, and was guaranteed by the State. Earnings could be invested in the national savings banks, which very soon were full, and could also be bequeathed. Horses were regarded as means of production and therefore remained nationalized, but in principle every family was to possess a cow, and a large household two, if possible (it was just in the immediately preceding period of harsh legislation that all cattle had been socialized). Pigs, poultry, bees could be personal property.
One specially popular decree was that which declared that the limits of the domain of each collective farm could not be reduced. This the peasants regarded as satisfying their claim that the given holding belonged to these and to no other peasants–the principle which they had always maintained, and on which they had acted when they seized the squires’ land in 1917. They looked upon it as their charter, and in many villages showed it with genuine pride to Sir John Russell.
Pares, Bernard. Russia. Washington, New York: Infantry Journal, Penguin books, 1944, p. 196
In May 1932, the grain procurement plan for 1932-33 was somewhat reduced, and free trade in grain was permitted, provided that deliveries to the state had been completed; and, a matter of considerable significance, the state control of prices on the markets was abolished. These and related measures became widely known at the time as “neo-NEP,” though this characterization was vigorously rejected by the authorities.
Shabad, Steven, trans. The Stalin-Kaganovich Correspondence, 1931-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 105
HOW DID COLLECTIVIZATION WORK
There have been many books describing this period, and telling just how and why the kulaks were being liquidated in this manner. The authors disagree considerably on many points, but I have combined the most plausible explanations together with what I saw for myself to give an idea of what actually happened.
In the previous chapter I have described this period as the Second Communist Revolution, and have said it was aimed principally at the small farmers, who had hung on to their small plots of land and small collections of domestic animals through the first Revolution. In 1917 and the years following, these small farmers had gladly helped the Communists to take away the land held by large landowners, because they were promised the privilege of dividing such lands among themselves, and that is what they had done.
When I came to Russia in 1928, there wasn’t a single large land owner in the country except the state itself. The land was broken up into little plots, each cultivated by a small farmer and his family. The small farmers lived in villages together, often at some distance from their land, as they have done in Russia for centuries. You couldn’t see in the length and breath of the country a single farm such as we have in America.
Littlepage, John D. In Search of Soviet Gold. New York: Harcourt, Brace, c1938, p. 74
In 1929, five years after Lenin’s death, Soviet Russia embarked upon her second revolution, which was directed solely and exclusively by Stalin. In its scope and immediate impact upon the life of some 160 million people the second revolution was even more sweeping and radical than the first. It resulted in Russia’s rapid industrialization; it compelled more than 100 million peasants to abandon their small, primitive holdings and to set up collective farms; it ruthlessly tore the primeval wooden plow from the hands of the muzhik and forced him to grasp the wheel of a modern tractor; it drove tens of millions of illiterate people to school and made them learn to read and write;….
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 294
Neither Lenin nor Stalin ever had any illusions that any single country, even one as vast and potentially rich as the Soviet Union, would ever be able to establish a stateless, classless society while capitalism still had power in the rest of the world. But Stalin, like Lenin, did believe that the Soviet Union could eliminate capitalism, industrialize, extend the power of the working class, and wipe out real material privation all during the period of capitalist encirclement.
To do this, Stalin held, the proletariat would have to rely on the peasantry. He rejected Trotsky scorn for the Russian peasants and saw them, rather than the European proletariat, as the only ally that could come to the immediate aid of the Russian workers.
When the Civil War ended, in 1921, with most of the Soviet Union in chaotic ruin, Lenin won a struggle against Trotsky within the Party to institute what was called the New Economic Policy (NEP), under which a limited amount of private enterprise based on trade was allowed to develop in both the cities and the countryside. NEP was successful in averting an immediate total catastrophe, but by 1925 it was becoming clear that this policy was also creating problems for the development of socialism. This brings us to the first great crux of the Stalin question.
We have been led to believe that in order to industrialize at any price, Stalin pursued a ruthless policy of forced collectivization, deliberately murdering several million peasants known as kulaks during the process. The truth is quite different.
When the Bolsheviks seized power, one of their first acts was to allow the poor peasants to seize the huge landed estates. The slogan was “Land to the tiller.” This, however, left most land in the form of tiny holdings, unsuited for large-scale agriculture, particularly the production of the vital grain crops. Under NEP, capitalism and a new form of landlordism began to flourish in the countryside. The class known as kulaks (literally “tight-fists”), consisting of usurers and other small capitalists including village merchants and rich peasants, were cornering the market in the available grain, grabbing more and more small holdings of land, and, through their debt holdings, forcing peasants back into tenant farming and wage labor. Somehow, the small peasant holdings had to be consolidated so that modern agriculture could begin. There were basically two ways this could take place: either through capitalist accumulation, as the kulaks were then doing, or through the development of large-scale socialist farms. If the latter, there was then a further choice: a rapid forced collectivization, or a more gradual process in which co-operative farms would emerge first, followed by collectives, and both would be on a voluntary basis, winning out by example and persuasion. What did Stalin choose? Here, in his own words is the policy he advocated and that was adopted at the 15th Party Congress, in 1927:
“What is the way out? The way out is to turn the small and scattered peasant farms into large united farms based on the cultivation of the land in common, to go over to collective cultivation of the land on the basis of a new and higher technique.
The way out is to unite the small and dwarf peasant farms gradually but surely, not by pressure, but by example and persuasion, into large farms based on common, co-operative, collective cultivation of the land with the use of agricultural machines and tractors and scientific methods of intensive agriculture.
There is no other way out.”
To implement this policy, the capitalist privileges allowed under NEP were revoked. This was known as the restriction of the kulaks. The kulaks, whose very existence as a class was thus menaced, struck back. They organized terrorist bands who attacked the co-operatives and collectives, burning down barns when they were filled with grain, devastating the fields, and even murdering Communist peasant leaders. Even more serious than these raids, the kulaks held back their own large supplies of grain from the market in an effort to create hunger and chaos in the cities. The poor and middle peasants struck back. Virtual open civil war began to rage throughout the countryside. As a collective farm movement spread rapidly, pressure mounted among the poor and middle peasants to put an end to landlordism and usury in the countryside for good. In 1929 Stalin agreed that the time had come to eliminate the kulaks as a class. He led the fight to repeal the laws that allowed the renting of land and the hiring of labor, thus depriving the kulaks both of land and of hired workers. The ban on expropriation of the large private holdings was lifted, and the peasants promptly expropriated the kulak class. The expropriation of the rural capitalist in the late 1920s was just as decisive as the expropriation of the urban capitalist a decade earlier. Landlords and village usurers were eliminated as completely as private factory owners. It is undoubtedly true that in many areas there was needless violence and suffering. But this did not originate with Stalin. It was the hour of Russia’s peasant masses, who had been degraded and brutalized for centuries and who had countless blood debts to settle with their oppressors. Stalin may have unleashed their fury, but he was not the one who had caused it to build up for centuries. In fact it was Stalin who checked the excesses generated by the enthusiasm of the collective movement. In early 1930 he published in Pravda “Dizzy with Success,” reiterating that “the voluntary principle” of the collective farm movement must under no circumstances be violated and that anybody who engages in forced collectivization objectively aids the enemies of socialism. Furthermore, he argues, the correct form for the present time is the co-operative (known as the artel), in which “the household plots (small vegetable gardens, small orchards), the dwelling houses, a part of the dairy cattle, small livestock, poultry, etc., are not socialized.” Again, overzealous attempts to push beyond this objectively aid the enemy. The movement must be based on the needs and desires of the masses of peasants.
Stalin’s decision about the kulaks perfectly exemplifies the limits under which he operated. He could decide, as he did, to end the kulaks as a class by allowing the poor and middle peasants to expropriate their land. Or he could decide to let the kulaks continue withholding their grain from the starving peasants and workers, with whatever result. He might have continued bribing the kulaks. But it is highly doubtful, to say the least, that he had the option of persuading the kulaks into becoming good socialists.
There can be no question that, whatever may be said about its cost, Stalin’s policy in the countryside resulted in a vast, modern agricultural system, capable, for the first time in history, of feeding all the peoples of the Soviet lands. Gone were the famines that seemed as inevitable and were as vicious as those of China before the revolution or of India today.
Meanwhile, Stalin’s policy of massive industrialization was going full speed ahead. His great plan for a modern, highly industrialized Soviet Union has been so overwhelmingly successful that we forget that it was adopted only over the bitter opposition of most of the party leaders, who thought it a utopian and therefore suicidal dream. Having overcome this opposition on both the right and the “left,” Stalin in 1929 instituted the first five-year plan in the history of the world. It was quickly overfulfilled. By the early 1930s the Soviet Union had clearly become both the inspiration and the main material base area for the world revolution. And it was soon to prove much more than a match for the next military onslaught from the capitalist powers, which Stalin had predicted and armed against.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 16-19
This was a profound revolution, a leap from an old qualitative state of society to a new qualitative state, equivalent in its consequences to the revolution of October 1917….
The distinguishing feature of this revolution is that it was accomplished from above, on the initiative of the state, and directly supported from below by the millions of peasants, who were fighting to throw off kulak bondage and to live in freedom in the collective farms.
Commission of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U. (B.), Ed. History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks): Short Course. Moscow: FLPH, 1939, p. 305
SUCCESS OF COLLECTIVIZATION ENERVATED AND WEAKENED THE OPPOSITION
A lot has been said about the hardships of the Kulak during the period of collectivization. The Kulak had the opportunity of joining the collective farm. When he refused to do so and thus positively hindered collectivization, he was deported. The history of the Kulak money-lender is too full of brutality and mercilessness [committed by the kulaks] for one to waste sympathy on his hardships which he could have avoided.
…the Opposition leaders waited patiently for their turn, as Radek confessed at his trial, in the expectation that the Five-Year Plan would fail, involving the overthrow of Stalin.
The Five-Year Plan succeeded and the Second Five-Year Plan, accompanied by a series of bumper harvests, was already on the way when Kirov, the chief of the Leningrad Soviet, was assassinated. In 1934 the mood of the country had changed. The former “neutrals,” who had been critical of the Stalin policy and resentful of privations, were now wholeheartedly on his side. Rationing was being abolished; light industry was turning out large quantities of consumable goods; the standard of life, in short, had risen and with it the popularity of Stalin himself. The assassination of Kirov seemed a desperate stroke aimed at a member of the Politburo which had been responsible for the country’s success. His assassin, Nikolayev, had been influenced by the Social Revolutionaries, but there were threads leading from his practice to the theories of the Opposition leaders. The strategic position was now reversed. Whereas, during the difficult years of the First Five-Year Plan, the Opposition had been waiting as a nucleus to seize on mass dissatisfaction as an opportunity for action, now that there was no discontent, they were leaders without even a potential following. This is extremely significant when one asks why at the Moscow Trials Zinoviev and Kamenev did not make a bold stand and invoke the support of the masses or send a message to them by declamation to the Press of the world.
Edelman, Maurice. G.P.U. Justice. London: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd.,1938, p. 214
The former political opposition had changed to organised violence. Having been defeated in the party referendum about the political line of the party, whereby the opposition got less than one per cent of the votes, the accused saw violence and a coup d’etat as the only possibility for grabbing the political power in the Soviet Union. The fantastic production results from the first five year plan and the collective farms had even more squeezed out those accused. The production results did not leave space any more for a political platform against the government.
Sousa, Mario. The Class Struggle During the Thirties in the Soviet Union, 2001.
COLLECTIVIZATION WAS THE SECOND REVOLUTION AS IMPORTANT AS THE FIRST
The country was undergoing a second economic, social, and political revolution [via collectivization, the First Five-Year Plan, and industrialization].
Laqueur, Walter. Stalin: The Glasnost Revelations. New York: Scribner’s, c1990, p. 22
From mid-1928, however, Stalin’s group ordered Communists throughout the continent to adopt the stance taken by the Bolsheviks in 1917. Extreme radicalism became dominant again and the Comintern, at the Politburo’s instigation, purged the doubters and vacillators,as well as the Trotskyists,from the ranks of its parties. World communism was being readied for the eminent revolutionary upheaval.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 261
SOVIET FARMING MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN CRITICS ARE WILLING TO ADMIT
Conclusion: the Diversity of Rural Responses to Collectivization
The “resistance interpretation” has dominated recent literature on peasants. These studies have made a valuable contribution by presenting and analyzing new evidence of some of the peasants’ responses to collectivization and related policies. According to the studies, the peasants resisted and tried to undermine the collective farm system, and the result was famine and failure. Yet these studies minimize or ignore the actual harvest data, the environmental factors that caused low harvests, the repeated recovery from the famine and crop failures, the large harvests of the 1930s, the mechanization of Soviet farms in these years, Soviet population growth, and the long-term increases in food production and consumption over the Soviet period. It is an overstatement to describe the Soviet agricultural system as a failure….
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 87.
SOVIETS DID NOT INTENTIONALLY PRODUCE BOGUS HARVEST STATISTICS
This paper employs new archival sources to examine the origins of the “biological yield” system of harvest estimates, considered one of the most notorious examples of Soviet statistical falsification, in light of harvest statistics in the United States and Germany in the early 20th century. It also argues that the Soviet Union’s shift to the biological system took place in the midst of a crisis analogous to crises in the United States and German harvest statistics a few decades earlier. The Soviet regime, introduced this new system, I argue, not in order to falsify harvest information, but rather to respond to problems similar to those faced by United States and German statistical agencies. In particular, Soviet statisticians sought to overcome what they perceived as the persistent falsification of harvest projections by farmers and local officials–a pattern dating back to the beginning of the Soviet regime, if not earlier–and also to end disputes between state agencies over the harvest. The regime resorted to the “biological harvest” because statisticians saw it as a more accurate method of harvest projection on the basis of pre-revolutionary Russian precedents.
Tauger, Mark. “Statistical Falsification in the Soviet Union: a Comparative Case Study of Projections, Biases, and Trust.” The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, 2001, p. 8
I argue below that in introducing the biological method in 1933, Soviet statisticians did not intend to create a system of falsification, but rather to overcome what they considered inherent inaccuracies and uncertainties in their pre-existing systems of harvest projections. These uncertainties derived from the fact that Soviet statisticians from 1918 onward had to rely on the peasants for their basic data on crop conditions and harvests. The statisticians assumed, in part on the basis of concrete evidence, that the peasants substantially understated their actual production because they feared that the estimates derived from their statements would serve as the basis for requisitions and, during the New Economic Policy, taxation. This distrust culminated in a series of efforts to transfer responsibility for estimating harvests from the farmers to the government in the early 1930s.
Tauger, Mark. “Statistical Falsification in the Soviet Union: a Comparative Case Study of Projections, Biases, and Trust.” The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, 2001, p. 15.
SOVIET GOVT AIDED THE UKRAINE IN ITS TIME OF NEED IN 1928-29
In the end, grain procurements in Ukraine in 1928-29 greatly declined from previous years, totaling 1.59 million tons. Only about 1/10 of this, 171,389 tons, was sent outside of Ukraine. Ukraine received from other republics more than 320,000 tons of grain, in other words, nearly twice as much as the republic exported, and was authorized to use (from both internal and imported sources) some 520,000 tons of grain as seed, about two thirds of total seed loans for the entire Soviet Union.
Tauger, Mark. “Grain Crisis or Famine?” in Provincial Landscapes, Local Dimensions of Raleigh, Don. Soviet Power, 1917-1953, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Penn., 2001, Chapter 7, p. 157.
…the Ukrainian famine of 1928-29 resulted from a genuine decline in food availability and was not an “entitlement” famine due exclusively to market forces.
Second, the regime undertook a concerted relief effort to feed several hundred thousand peasants. By reaching fewer than 20% of the overall population in the crop-failure regions, it obviously did not include all those who needed food, evidenced by efforts of local personnel to stretch resources to aid more people than planned. Bureaucratic delays, unanticipated interventions by central Soviet authorities, and of course the crop failure itself all obstructed relief efforts; yet agencies and officials at all levels did respond rapidly and in an organized manner, and did do a reasonable job of setting targets they could meet and meeting targets they set. Among these targets were measures to increase farm production, which were frustrated not by peasant resistance in the form of reduced sowings–as noted, peasants actually sowed substantially larger areas in fall 1928 and spring 1929 than previously–but again by extreme weather conditions.
Third…as already noted, Ukraine received more in food supplies during this famine crisis than it exported to other republics…. Soviet authorities made substantial concessions to Ukraine in response to an undeniable natural disaster and transferred resources from Russia to Ukraine for food relief and agricultural recovery.
Many studies of the Soviet regime and the peasantry emphasize the punitive and exploitative character of government policies and officials’ implementation of them. They argue that these practices took root during the Civil War and declined during the NEP, but revived during the grain crisis to become almost the exclusive pattern in state-peasant relations, a basic part of Soviet totalitarianism and fundamentally different from a “normal” state. The evidence presented here reveals another side of the Soviet regime, one concerned with alleviating suffering rather than creating it, specifically during the grain crisis. It is true that the relief agencies in 1928-29 tried to limit aid to the poorest peasants and nursing mothers and babies. While on one level, this seems harsh, some Western relief agencies during the 1921-23 famine maintained the same principles: Mennonite relief in Ukraine, for example, refused to aid anyone who had even such assets as a horse. Such policies reflected the food shortages that relief agencies faced to, and that prevailed in the country as a whole, in both periods. Governments today employ various “means test,” what the Soviets called balances, before allowing people access to welfare and other benefits for the poor; the criteria employed–comparison of income and assets with established statistical norms such as the “poverty line”–resemble, for example, the standards of the Uriadkom employed to determine whether a region qualified for relief.
Tauger, Mark. “Grain Crisis or Famine?” in Provincial Landscapes, Local Dimensions of Soviet Power, 1917-1953 by Don Raleigh, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Penn., 2001, Chapter 7, p. 169
The agencies involved in relief in 1928-29 functioned like bureaucracies in “normal” states in other ways as well. They had certain conflicting goals and interests, and they demonstrated patterns of bureaucratic rigidity, but similar examples can be found in any country, including United States, in both the public and private sectors. Despite these problems, these agencies also had common goals of providing aid, and they achieved a substantial portion of these goals. It seems clear from the sources that their efforts saved many lives. In this context, the “extraordinary measures” that the regime carried out during the grain crisis take on a different meaning: they created food shortages in some regions and for some peasants, but they also substantially alleviated a genuine famine in a large region of Ukraine (to say nothing of the rest of the country). Certainly, the results of these efforts, including the extraordinary measures, were superior to what would have happened had nothing been done and the regime simply relied on the market. The situation in that case would have resembled, for example, the Indian famines in which millions died of starvation and related epidemics, in some cases, as in Bengal in 1943, right in front of shops stocked with food they could not afford, while British colonial authorities asserted on the basis of classical political economy that the market would solve the problem. As already noted, many groups in Ukraine and elsewhere in the Soviet Union during the grain crisis faced the same situation as market prices for food spiraled out of reach.
…The Ukrainian famine of 1928-29 was the third famine in the Soviet Union in seven years due to a natural disaster and was the most extreme part of a broader food-supply crisis that affected most of the country. This crisis did not result exclusively or even mainly from price policies. The Soviet Union clearly had an extreme vulnerability to natural disasters, and Soviet leaders interpreted this vulnerability in comparison to the West as a sign of agricultural backwardness.
Tauger, Mark. “Grain Crisis or Famine?” in Provincial Landscapes, Local Dimensions of Soviet Power, 1917-1953 by Don Raleigh, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Penn., 2001, Chapter 7, p. 169.
KOLKHOZES HAD GOOD LIVING CONDITIONS
I had visited [in 1934] a number of kolkhozes around Moscow with foreigners’ excursions as well as with my school, and they were positively model establishments. The kolkhoz peasants lived in passably good rooms; one could find no fault with the tools, the sanitary conditions and social welfare as a whole were amazingly well organized. My visits left me with the impression that, while not everything in Russia was perhaps so well off, conditions nevertheless were bearable and assuredly much better than before.
Tuominen, Arvo, The Bells of the Kremlin: Hanover: University Press of New England, 1983, p. 105
PERSONAL PROPERTY RIGHTS OF THOSE IN COLLECTIVES
The political privileges guaranteed by the Constitution….
Every household in a collective has a plot of land, including house, livestock, poultry, and tools, as its private property for family use (article seven)
“Alongside the socialist system of economy,” every citizen has the right to carry on personal labor, “precluding the exploitation of the labor of others.” (Article 9)
He likewise has a right to inherit personal property and is entitled (Art. 10) to personal ownership of income from work, savings, homes, furniture, and articles of personal use and convenience….
Soviet citizens have as much right as people of other lands to cultivate the joy, pride, and responsibility which are commonly supposed to attend individual ownership of apartments, homes, and gardens.
Schuman, Frederick L. Soviet Politics. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1946, p. 335-36
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