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1.4. The heritage of the collectivization - FARMER COOPERATIVES VERSUS COLLECTIVE FARMS American Studies on Ukrainian Problems Vitaly V. Zinovchuk

The end of 1920s was the formation period for the Soviet economic system. The main features of this system became more and more obvious: centralization of the economic power, bureaucratic machine of state governing, preference for command methods to achieve economic goals, use of state distribution and redistribution on a scale hitherto unknown. The system began creating a certain kind of effects to strengthen the regime in spite of their expenses. The rapid industrial growth was a key moment in this process. Growing industries and cities needed a reliable investor and a supply of cheap food. The system was not able to propose any real incentives, only compulsion and redistribution. Socialist theorists suggested that peasants would have to contribute a tribute to achieve industrialization in the form of overpayment in high prices for manufactured goods and be underpaid in the prices for their agricultural product [Lewin 1990, p.99]. Thus, the New Economic Policy ended, and Joseph Stalin, who in that time had already usurped all state power, became the general reconstructor of semi-private agriculture.

The development of agriculture during the NEP period didn't correspond with Stalin's model of socialism as an "enormous factory wisely and far-sightedly managing from above" for three main reasons. First, private family farms and their cooperatives were alien for the general fundamentals of Marxist theory such as public property on means of production, the state control of production and distribution, subordination of individual interests to public ones, etc. In "The Communist Manifesto" Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote:

"The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree's, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hand of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class, and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible" [Marx & Engels, p.39].

The digression from the practice of rigid administration and development of market relations in agriculture during the NEP period led to the stratification of the peasantry [Mitrany, p.?o]. Taking into account the fact that the October Revolution and "War Communism" equalized the starting possibilities of every peasant family, the stratification occurred during the NEP period mainly because one could make his own business better than a neighbor did. It looked like a market selection in agriculture. Second, being perfunctorily familiar with agriculture, Stalin never understood such things as the unique role of the peasant family, the importance of economic independence for the farmer, or his natural thrift, what could look from one's shot-sighted point of view as a stinginess. The Ukrainian peasant highly valued his right to be an owner. Family land property was a sanctity of the Ukrainian village. Also Stalin always assigned the second part for agriculture as a supplement to the industry. Third, Stalin personally did not trust the private sector of agriculture because of his belief that only large-scale and state controlled farming was able to accept innovations and to be an efficient producer (Stalin's myth gave birth to dogmatic gigantomania, still alive in the psychology of great majority of current collective farms officials). But anyway the existing organizational structure of agriculture was doomed.

Formally the final decision to collectivize agriculture was made by the fifteenth congress of Communist party as early as 1927. This meant that the socialization of property and labor was recognized as the only proper way (from decision makers' point of view) for agricultural development. It was absolutely clear for Stalin's team that it would be impossible to build new state on the two opposing bases: large-scale and centrally controlled industry, and independent, mainly private, agrarian sector of national economy. However, even in leadership of the Communist Party there were some distinguished people (Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky) who were not in agreement with the rude methods of political intervention in agriculture. They emphasized the special psychology of peasants, the necessity to save the incentives of ownership, reformation on the basis of voluntary membership - in collective farms only, ensuring economic freedom for peasants, and conducting transformation gradually until agriculture has the needed machinery and specialists.

In the autumn of 1928 Nikolay Bukharin, undoubtedly the leader of Stalin's opposition, published an article "Notes of an Economist" about possible resolutions of economic difficulties of the country. He spoke out in favor of limiting pressure on well-to-do peasants, developing cooperation, and conducting a more sensible pricing policy. Bukharin suggested that industrialization must keep pace with the development of agriculture, and not be achieved at the cost of reduction in agricultural output [Medvedev Roy 1980, p.19]. It caused a hot party debate which was lost, of course, by the so called "right [peasantry oriented] wing". Latter they paid their lives for the cdhvictions and their challenge of official party policy. Stalin had preferred his own project for future.

Stalin's biggest concern was connected with unsatisfactory grain procurement process. To expropriate grain from private producers looked to be more difficult task than from collective, state-run farms. Without grain Soviet power could not promote industrialization: workers needed food and industries needed machinery, available mainly through foreign trade. The collection of grain as basic food product and export commodity was undoubtedly the primary goal of collectivization. By expanding grain exports Stalin also pursued his the aim to destabilize the World food market and by this mean to redouble the economic crisis affecting Western countries at that time [Krawchenko p.15]. Because Ukraine was the biggest grain producer in the USSR, collectivization was put under special control. The Soviet regime could not exist without Ukrainian grain, and the more convenient way to requisition it was through collective farms.

In year 1929, called by Stalin as "the year of great change", all plans as for terms and scale of collectivization were reconsidered. The number of collective farms remained too insignificant to meet expectations of the ruler. For example, In Ukraine only 4.3% households joined collective farms in June of the year [Lewin, p.427].

The wide front attack on peasants began in the second half of 1929. Of course, simply making a decision was not enough for the Communist party leadership to achieve their goal. This is why large and comprehensive set of actions was carried out for the struggle against private farming. Generally those actions could be divided in four main, very intercorrelated groups:

- ideological indoctrination;

- reorganization of rural life based on the methods of terror (forced withdrawal of grain, confiscation of property, exile, deportation, arrests, imprisoning, executions);

- economic compulsion of peasants (product delivery requirements and taxes according to the wealth, prohibition of lease, restriction to hire labor, giving worst land to peasants who didn't like to enter collective farms, etc.);

- state economic support of collective farms (assigning of land to collective farms for "perpetual" and free use, credits which were never returned and special funding, advantageous machinery and inputs delivery, organization of machine-tractor stations for technical services of collective farms, orientation of education system to socialized agriculture, and so on).

The ideological pressure included the careful molding of public opinion, the press, the whole social life, and turning against such notions as an individual economic interest, private ownership, independent economy, commercial activities, being better off, etc. Instead of that, new values such as public interests, collectivism, social consciousness, discipline, socialist competition, were broadly implemented. And as usual, communist propaganda needed an image of enemy, who, they suggested, especially impeded the progress of socialism. So the kurkuls (prosperous peasants) became the bitterest enemies of Soviet power. Liquidating kurkuls as social class was officially put forward by Stalin as a primary task. And it should be noted that he succeed with this task. Huge numbers of people, whole families, were expelled from their native places with full expropriation of property, or were even physically annihilated.

Who were the kurkuls and what was their background? The increasing number of kurkuls during 1920s was a result of the New Economic Policy which developed private initiative and stimulated the growth of production and agricultural market. The legal status of kurkuls was not exactly determined. In the 1927, the U.S.S.R. state statistics used the means of production value of more than 1,600 roubles in order to classify the "kurkuls" (for comparison, the annual income of industrial worker wasr 600-700 roubles at that time) [Medvedev Zhores, p.75]. Also some indirect characteristics like "the last capitalist class", "exploiters", or "parasitic elements" 'were diffused in ideological campaigns. Kurkuls could use hired labor or rent neighbor's land, that was not forbidden by law. However these facts were qualified as an "exploitation" and were used as a principle argument in official propaganda. But hired labor was used also by invalids of First World and Civil Wars, widows and families with few children [Maksudov, p.27]. Maybe it is difficult to say better:

"Kulak1 was kulak because he was more intelligent and enterprising and a better business man than the average peasant, and no doubt he generally made a good bargain for himself; but there was always a good deal of mutual assistance and give-and-take among all classes in the village community. The poor peasant was usually poor because he was stupid and thriftless, not because he was exploited and kept down by the kulak" [Hubbard, p.92].

Without a doubt, kurkuls were the most skilled, economically thinking, and industrious part of peasantry. It wouldn't be a mistake to consider them as leaders in the economic life of the village. Passing gains of labor (in contrast to communist ideology to consider private entrepreneurship as a labor) from one generation to next one they developed a family business in agriculture. They were the first to bring innovations into agriculture. In Ukraine the word "kurkuls" was usually used for a family who had a couple of horses, or more than one cow, or some pigs, or any motor, and chiefly, who were able to manage their own economy independently and produce a surplus of agricultural products for sale.

Liquidated kurkuls were the main agents of market economy in agriculture. Eliminating them as a class of society and expropriation of their property was a very reliable way to destroy existing organizational structure in agriculture and introduce the command system in this place. Of course, kurkuls' mentality didn't accept the socialist equalizing and redistribution as the ruling ideology could not accept their existence. Stalin used this contradiction in his cruel tactics: to put well-to-do peasants in unfavorable or even unacceptable economic and social conditions, to oppose individual and collective interests provoking by this mean conflicts inside of village community, and then to introduce that as a result of class struggle tension and an excuse for repressive actions. For example, the Decree of the communist government of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (prepared by a command of central government) published in July 1929 gave a legal right for general village assembly to determine and allocate quotas of grain collection among households. Refusing to comply with-the rural-Soviet .(elected council of the village) decisions could result in penalties ranging from a fivefold fine to confiscation of property [Atkinson, p.354]. Finally, anyone who was slow in fulfilling quotas was labeled as a kurkul. In 1929 the property of more than 30,000 households in Soviet Ukraine were fully or partly confiscated for failure of deliver grain in 1929 [Medvedev Zhores, p.67; Krawchenko, p.16].

The pressure on kurkuls was even more increased in the beginning of 1930. Stalin initiated replacing the practice of economic compulsion and restrictions of those who were supposed to be kurkuls with direct terror against them. The OGPU (the political police), militia (local police), communist and pro-communist organizations, rural Soviets, administrations, committees of poor peasants, and even groups of workers from cities were engaged in confiscation and other repressive actions. According to official Soviet sources, 8,000 communists were directed to Ukrainian villages to provide the forced collectivization [Soviet Ukraine, p.137], but some independent scholars feel their number was much larger - 15,000 in the fall of 1929 and approximately 47,000 more arrived in January 1930 [Subtelny, p.4io]. Many of theirb were farmed, a privilege of .Communist party membership before 1936. Regular army forces were ready-to support the campaign. People were tried and sentence passed by judges selected from above without elementary observance of legal procedure. The Soviet correctional system couldn't manage load: prisons and camps were overcrowd. Thousands of new "special settlements" were founded in the Siberia, Northern Ural, Far East, and Kazakhstan where the people were doomed to penal servitude, hunger, freezing, illnesses, and death. The entire history of the Russian Empire didn't know a precedent for such violence, and no agrarian reform in the World had such a huge number of victims. Experts suggest it is impossible to estimate exactly how many people suffered but general number of people forced to leave Ukraine during 1929-1930 came to several hundred thousand. Approximately 100,000 Ukrainians died as a result of deportation [Makstidov, p.30]. But even more awful and tragic events were ahead.

Stalin put into practice his line to "dekurkulization" justifying the defense of interests of rural population's poorest strata. It was a well thought-out step because in this part of population there were many supporters of the equalization redistribution process who had nothing or very a little to do with socialization. Bidniak, or a poor peasant, became the main character in the village for a moment and object of official sympathy in spite of his poverty background (big family, landless, lack of capital, failure of crops, bad luck, or laziness, foolishness, and drinking). In every case poor peasants were very active supporters of collectivization, or in other words, conductors of the official agrarian policy. Thus the "dictatorship of the proletariat" was in action. But after elimination of kurkuls, it became obvious that poor peasants were not very reliable assistants in the creation of new organizational structure of agriculture. Hence, special attention was paid to the so-called seredniak or middle (means middle rich) peasant.

Why were middle peasants so important for Soviet Power? There were some reasons for that. First, because they constituted the largest part of households (more than 60% before collectivization). Second, they were the main agricultural producers (more than 60% of agricultural output in the end of 1920s). Third, their rejection of socialism in countryside was not so expressive as the kurkuls. Middle peasants looked more moderate, vacillating, and politically inert. Their choice would define the progress of collectivization. Fourth, they often were victims of the forced measures of government including repressions formally directed against kurkuls. Finally it was recognized as great error. Middle peasants were hard working people who avoided the use of hired labor, and couldn't be called as "antisocialist elements". This ideological cliche was powerless in this case. That's why Stalin had to choose more crafty tactics.

In March 1930 Stalin published his famous "Dizzy with Success". One could find that the article seemed to be an official admission of mistakes and an apology for the excesses in agrarian reform. Stalin accused local leaders of forcing peasants to join by administrative pressure. He qualified violation of the principle of voluntary entering to collective farms as inadmissible. In Stalin's opinion, certain people"got dizzy with first successes" in some places where total collectivization was completed in one or two months. Sometimes socialization of property was coming up to nonsense: small domestic animals, poultry, housing, and even clothes and footwear.

"It is impossible to implant the collective farms by force. It would be foolish and reactionary. The collective farm movement should lean on active support from the side of the main peasant masses... It is necessary to carefully take in account the variety of conditions in different regions of the U.S.S.R. when the tempo and methods of collective farm building are determined"1 [Stalin, p.193].

This article brought a certain effect. For a moment the forcible drive to collective farms was weakened, and even a motion in the opposite direction took place. For example, during March-May 1930, the number of collectivized households in Ukraine decreased from 63 to 41%, and arable lands from 69 to 50% [Krawchenko, p.19]. However those who left collective farms did not get back their former piece of land and animals. They were usually given an allotment with the worst land and a sum of money in compensation for their contribution to collective farm calculated, of course, at very decreased prices. Most of the peasants who left collective farms in the spring of 1930 had to come back in the end of the year.

Very soon it became clear that Stalin did not reverse his political/goal of destroying organizational structure of agriculture and use of terror methods putting this strategy into practice. The article was only the attempt to lay the whole blame; fofcthe extremes on local officials, and by this means to calm public opinion and consolidate faith in his principal strategic line. Neither any rehabilitation of repressed peasants nor any compensation for the damage of forced collectivization methods were even mentioned. The collectivizing campaign was becoming more planned, more regulated, and more suffocating. In 1930 collective farms were granted an essential advantage in taxation, but for individual producers the tax was increased. They were also put under strong pressure by a new "contract system" of grain delivery.

As previously the same tough measures were undertaken against producers who refused or were not able to fulfil the procurement quotas. Any objection was immediately interpreted as political action against existing regime. The huge mechanism of repressions was still working, even improving its practice. But to collect grain from individuals by force became more difficult: large producers disappeared, and smaller ones had too a little output, not even enough to support their families and provide seed for next year. Ukrainian villages were in desperate condition. Nothing remained for peasants but to enter collective farms and to submit to the situation.

Stalin's Pharisaism was to charge the bureaucratic apparatus,for their reluctance to take into consideration local conditions and traditions. The case of Ukraine could show how he himself ignored it. Being perfectly informed about difficulties with collectivization in Ukraine Stalin nevertheless had persisted at an inconceivable tempo. In 1931 80 percent of Ukrainian households were to be collectivized, in 1932 collectivization was to be completed [Hryshko, p.79; Danilov, p.H7]. Soviet regime urgently needed Ukrainian agricultural products, particularly grain, which could be taken easier from collective farms in spite of any negative effects for agricultural production and privations for population. So Ukraine, the largest agricultural producer in Soviet Union was gradually transformed to an unparalleled national tragedy - the artificially organized 1932-1933 famine. Three main subjective factors led to this famine (in increasing importance order):

- mass slaughter of livestock by peasants before entering collective farms;

- general chaos in agricultural production and absence of economic incentives for socialized labor;

- an excessive expropriation of grain in 1931, and especially in very unfavorable 1932.

Forced unification of property immediately had some very dangerous consequences. One of them was the mass slaughter of livestock by peasants on the eve of being forced into collective farms. They used this last possibility in order to prevent the results of their many years labor from being misused and dissolved in the mass of pooled property. The Government was very concerned by mass slaughtering 'and undertook some urgent administrative measures but were too late. A special decree was adopted to prevent mass slaughtering. Nevertheless, in Ukraine the number of-agricultural animals was tremendously decreased (Figure 3).

Decrease of livestock in Ukraine during 1928-1933.

Figure 3. Decrease of livestock in Ukraine during 1928-1933.
Data from: Yasny, Naum. 1949. The Socialized Agriculture of the USSR: Plans and Performance. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, p.634.

Collective farms started their economic activity under very complicated conditions. There was a disastrous shortage of specialists and technicians. The most skillecTpeasants were deported, land tenure was not put in good order, collectivism was too alien for the peasant psychology. Chairmen of the farms were often appointed by district party committee (formally elected by members of collective farm under pressure of authorities) from persons without agricultural and managerial experience even from city workers. The ability to fulfil procurement directives was the main criteria for selection of candidates. Big collectivized farms were found too cumbersome for effective management. The decision making process accumulated bureaucratic features. Because of losing private property incentives and realizing that the results of their labor will be appropriated by state without proper awarding, productivity in agriculture was decreasing. Peasants tried to find any possibility to earn money outside of collective farms. The stealing and negligent attitude towards collective property arose among others.

Naturally for a command economy, the "vacuum of incentives'' was replaced by forcible measures. The Government started to regulate internal relations within collective farms. Peasants were restricted from searching for ^employment out.-of collective-farms and to avoid collective work. In August 1932, the Law on protection of socialist property was adopted. According to this law shooting, with the confiscation of the all property, was stipulated for a person who misappropriated the collective property, and under mitigating circumstances - ten years of imprisoning with confiscation of all property. Under this law even gleaning left-over grain after harvesting was considered as a serious crime. Among the ordinary people this law was called "the law of five grain spikes" because it was mainly hungry collective farmers and their families who suffered from this harsh law. But at the same time local reports, suitable to official propaganda, had to falsify the real state of matters, exaggerating achievements of collectivization. Even experienced Western journalists were deluded. At the height of struggle against peasants Louis Fisher, a Moscow correspondent of The Nation and Baltimore Sun (1922-1937), wrote in the beginning of 1930s:

"One returns to the country to find not only new achievements, radically new policies, and a new social atmosphere, but a powerful, all-enveloping newly released wave or wall of energy and enthusiasm" [Growl, p.iio]1.

One more discriminative measure was undertaken against the peasantry in December 1932. In order to prevent migration from countryside and to control the urban population the system of internal passports was introduced. Passports were to be issued to all citizens of Soviet Union but not to peasants regardless of whether they were or were not members of collective farms [Fitzpatrick, p.93]. Peasants, like serfs in the past, were tied with the villages (also with collective farms, of course) and became citizens of a second sort. This violation of the elementary human right to choose the place to live and to be free to move was eliminated only in the 1970s.

The increasing share of collectivized farms favored the expansion of governmental intervention in agriculture. Of course, grain procurement was a key point of the moment. The tension in villages was getting worse. From one side there was a decrease of productivity in agriculture caused by unfavorable weather conditions as well as general organizational confusion, and from another side the pressure of authorities, both central and local, became stronger (Table 5). The harvest of grain in 1931 was considerably lower in Ukraine, and 30% of the harvest was lost because of breakdown of machinery and muddled transportation system [Krawchenko, p.20]. Anyhow the procurement quota remained the same - 7.7 million tons. In 1932 the harvest was only 14.6 million tons but Moscow had required again 7.7 million tons. But due to incredible efforts of Ukrainian government the quota was decreased to 6.6 million tons:or 45;2%rof the harvest. Again groups of workers and other Communist Party activists were sent to Ukrainian villages to promote the collection of grain and other agricultural products." With the tremendous difficulties only 4.7 million tons were actually collected. After the procurement campaign the rural population of Ukraine had only 83 kilograms of grain per capita until the next harvest [Hryshko, p.84].

Table 5. The share of required grain in total harvest in Ukraine, 1926-1932

The share of required grain in total harvest in Ukraine

Data from: Hryshko, Wasyl. 1983. The Ukrainian Holocaust of 1933. Edited and translated by Marco Carynnyk. Toronto: Banriany Foundation, SUZHERO, DOBRUS, p.80.

Krawchenko, Bogdan. "The Man-Made Famine of 1932-1933 and Collectivization in Soviet Ukraine". Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933. Edited by Roman Serbyn and Bogdan Krawchenko. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, p.20.

The horrors of the man-made famine were terrible: millions died of starvation, whole villages disappeared, and even some cases of cannibalism1 occurred. The full responsibility for numerous human victims during the famine 1932-1933 fell on Stalin personally and his close entourage because of the artificial character of the disaster which resulted from a program organized to please the ideological utopism, unrealistic plans, and political arrogance. There are several estimations of human losses in Ukraine because of famine 1932-1933. One of the most authoritative is shown in Table 6.

Table 6. Population changes in Ukraine, 1927-1938

Population changes in Ukraine

Data from: Maksudov, M. "Ukraine's Demographic Losses 1927-1938".

Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933. Edited by Roman Serbyn and Bogdan Krawchenko. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, p.38.

After such a dramatic beginning what could be expected from new organizational structure of Ukrainian agriculture? Could it have any real economic foundations for success in the future? Its creators, as well as a certain number of ordinary people, due to ideological indoctrination, truly hoped for that. And the system later seemed justify their confidence. But only for a limited period and so long as the command methods were enough. Antihumanistic origins themselves would make the,system inefficient. Further technological progress in Ukrainian agriculture, usually considered as an outstanding feature of the collectivization, would have occurred in agriculture anyway as in other countries. Who knows, may be market relations were able to achieve quicker progress, and what was absolutely true, without such huge number of victims. But Stalin's regime remained deaf and blind to the human and economic side of the agrarian transformations. The collectivized drive was continued.