An essay on the collectivisation and dekulakisation of the USSR
|It is clear that the collective farms didn't work to the best of their abilities. First of all, I ask that you open up your mind of prejudice. This idea of collective farms is not such an ancient idea and in fact is very modern to the point of being used in such western nations of Portugal even – and Portugal isn't communist. However, we are talking about whether it worked or not in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.
The aim for which collective farms were installed for was to supposedly increase the agricultural yield since the machinery and the knowledge on how to better cultivate the land was being shared and people were working together eliminating the loopholes of the free trade system and using the tools of the more successful farmers for the good of the peasants and to allow them to work better and create more product.
Then again. Was that the only aim of creating kolkhoz? I don't think so. The communist state needed a way to get rid of the kulaks that were against the spirit of the revolution that worked for the less advantaged – those for who the free trade system didn't work. It was a political statement of taking over the machinery that the kulaks had gained with their sweat and use them for the good of the rest of the peasants. I will take this aim into account as well.
Whenever we, as historians, ask ourselves if a policy worked or not we must primarily take it in the context of its aim. The sources that have been given to me do not give me a way to tell me whether or not it worked as a way to help the less advantaged. Well, there is Source 6 that tells me that despite the collectivisation the terrible famine still happened in 1932-3 and it killed millions. In the Black Book of Communism, it is said that Stalin supressed the information about the Great Famine known in Ukraine as Holodomor, much unlike the similar 1921-3 famine. The Years of Hunger: Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933 by Stephen Wheatcroft and RW Davies tell us that the declassified Soviet archives show that there were 1.54 million officially registered deaths in Ukraine from famine. Also in The Black Book of Communism, the authors claim the number of dead was at least 4 million, and characterize the Great Famine as "a genocide of the Ukrainian people". Most historians agree that the disruption caused by collectivization and the resistance of the peasants significantly contributed to the Great Famine of 1932–1933, especially in Ukraine, a region famous for its rich soil. Another thing that disturbs me slightly in terms of the political ideals of the collectivisation is that in Source 7 there seems to be a leader. Yes, a leader leading the meeting. There seems to be a man taking care of all the paper work, the one in the middle. He seems to be above them. The question can be put here – So did the collectivisation work or not? To a large extent it did however there were of course many people that abused of the system. That took over in some way by spending more time with the machines than others, by taking more land, by keeping some of the produce for themselves. And to an extent, as we can see by Victor Kravchenko's testimony in his book, I Choose Freedom as well as the kulak's description of collectivisation in Source 4. The fact that it only takes “the poor pesants of the village get together in a meeting and decide.... They notify the OGPU and there you are. So-and-so gets five years” is terrifying. The fact that hiring someone or having property is enough to be called a kulak. This source (4) that shows us how easy it is to be pin pointed as an enemy of the collectivisation process is terrifying and brings me shivers. To further confirm my throughts of how this system was abused, exaggerated and taken into such a snowball that it has gone over the top is the “number of women were weeping hysterically” while “simply peasants”, their “husbands and fathers” were beomg “torn from their native soil, stripped of all their worldly goods and shipped to some distant labour camps.” This was “Liquidation of the kulaks as a class” Most of the workers that could be doing wonders to create as much yield as possible for the USSR, instead, were being deported to Siberia to be killed or to work to their deaths in the Siberian mines. Victor Kravchenko shows us in his source that unlike in the case he talks about, families would be deported meaning that that family would almost be wiped out of the record. Should the families had stayed even, the families could still work in those fields. The matter of the liquidation of the kulaks is not academic. It caused a great amount of suffering to simple people that weren't the snobes that Soviet propaganda showed them to be. Statistically however, from 1928 to 1930, the production of Grain rose 14% before falling a tremendous 14 million tonnes. Despite this, neither Cattle, nor pigs nor sheeps and goats rose in number from 1929 to 1932. In fact, from 1928 to 1932, 26.7 million cattle, 8.8 million pigs, and 94.9 sheep and goats were lost in the USSR. That means that in 3 years, the mumber of sheep and goats reduced by 65%. The number of livestock reduced by 130.1 million. That's a reduction of 55% of livestock! Over half! Collectivsation failed miserably.
On the aim to dekulakise the USSR, more than 1.8 million peasants were deported in 1930-1931. Not all of them were snobe peasants exploiting all the other peasants and doing naughty things that are against the spirit of the revolution. Many of them were simple peasants that tried and make a better life for themselves and their family. But the truth is that during this period of dekulakisation, the amount of peasants that were killed could fill up around 27 Benfica stadiums and there would still be left some of the kulaks that were deported. This was not a simple case of enthiusiasm or inspiration as the official view given in the Communist Party history states. No, this wasn't a simple chasing away of kulaks and dekulakisation. In fact, there was no dekulakisation. It was rather genocide of the people who knew how to take care of the land in such a way as to produce a better yield. Certainly, this would harm the USSR. After all, they had killed the people who had the best skills in the field of agriculture. A combination of dekulakization, collectivization, and other repressive policies led to mass starvation in many parts of the Soviet Union and death of at least 14.5 million of peasants in 1930-1937, including 5 millions who died in Ukraine during Holodomor, according to estimate by historian Robert Conquest in the same book that is quoted in Source 3. The Collectivisation process was genocide veiled with political aims. Did it serve its purpose to end with all of the wealthy or better-off peasants? Yes. But it also did eliminate innocent peasants and helped the expansion of the state of terror lived in the USSR during Stalin's era to the fields. It was a disaster in that it showed how the USSR's promised utopia was more and more being distorted by the humanity of the situation into a dystopic totalitarian regime. The people didn't succumb to the repression, to being commanded in such a ruthless way. The Bolsheviks promised freedom and equality. Instead, they were being bullied into giving in the little land they had, the livestock and machinery they had and the possibility of profit for cooperation and collectivisation. Many of them even, were going to be killed. They knew it was only a matter of time. So, they did all they could to make the system not work. Many agree with Stalin's article, Dizzy with Success that says that “some of our comrades have become dizzy with success and for the moment have lost clearness of mind and sobriety of vision." I don't. This article that was published on the Pravda issue of March 2, 1930 is not an alert to those who are fanatic about the collectivisation. No. It was a way that Stalin had to try and prevent people from becoming aware of the disaster that his idea was. It was a way of people not being so interested in such a phenomenon and it was not a way to make them think bad of it but it was a way to keep them from such high expectations that they had to see the great successful kolkhoz and sovkhoz. Stalin was afraid that people saw the disaster that Collectivisation was in the USSR.
The truth is – Collectivisation was not successful. In fact, it failed miserably.