‘The Year of Agricultural Collectivization in the Soviet Union’ By Meilach Epstein from The Communist. Vol. 9 No. 11-12. November-December, 1930.
ON the 13th Anniversary of the Proletarian Revolution the world is faced with a powerful, dynamic contrast between Soviet growth and capitalist crisis. The situation in agricultural production presents this in sharpest form. In the Soviet Union we see the tremendous development of agriculture and well-being of the peasants and the organization of great collective farms. In the United States, for example, the leading capitalist country, there is the most severe crisis in agriculture on top of the chronic agricul-[sic] the bankruptcy and terrible suffering of the poor farmers as well as stagnation in growth of large scale farming.
The scoffing of capitalist at the Five-Year Plan in industry has now given way before the realities of Soviet advance to frantic screaming at the new “industrial giant” being built up before their eyes by the Soviet workers. The success can be denied no longer. At the same time, the forces of capitalism have still been putting great hope in the illusion that agriculture could not be socialized but was to remain a stronghold for private enterprise and a foot-hold through which socialism could be attacked and overthrown.
Collectivization of agriculture thus holds a key position, the success of socialism depends upon it, the hope of capitalism is pinned upon its failure. The struggle of the C.P.S.U. on this front and the change of policy from the restriction to the policy of the liquidation of the kulaks, has helped make this year one of the sharpest in the class struggle since the early period of the revolution. All of the counter-revolutionary forces, capitalist elements, the kulaks, the bourgeois economists, the Mensheviks, the Trotskyites, the Nepmen, the white-guard and world capitalism have concentrated a violent attack against Soviet up-building. In this attack the right-wingers within the C.P.S.U. have given aid and comfort to the enemy by trying to hold back the tempo of collectivization, while the “lefts” also attempted to lead to an uncalled for exposure of our weaknesses to the enemy.
This year gives an answer to the right, the lefts and to the whole capitalist front, the same answer as given by industry and in as decisive a form.
THE VICTORY OF COLLECTIVIZATION
The enemies of collectivization suffered their first defeat after the first Bolshevik sowing campaign in the spring. The gloomy prophets of the opportunist camp were busy trying to scare the Party and workers with panickly cries of the impossibility of collectivization without “an adequate technical base.” The clear Leninist line of the Central Executive Committee was labeled adventurism. Together with the enemies of the proletarian state they repeated the stories of wholesale coercion of the peasants on the part of the Party, putting much stress upon the psychology and habits of a private holder which are said to be inherent in the peasants.
The results of the sowing campaign, the first decisive battle for the Socialist transformation of peasant economy is known — 5,700,000 hectares more have been cultivated. Besides, the share of technical plants has increased to a great extent—more cotton, more sugar beets, more clover, soy beans (an entirely new plant in the Soviet Union), sun flowers, tobacco, kenaf, vegetables growing around big industrial cities, and more sub-tropical plants in southern Crimea, all this with less than 80,000 tractors, and only about 1,500 combines. These numbers include the tractors of the government farms.
The victory achieved in industrialization and collectivization was chiefly responsible for the absence of an organized opposition or caucus at the XVI Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Congress, after a thorogoing discussion of the Party’s struggle for Socialist reconstruction of agriculture, unanimously declared “that the former right opportunist group was objectively the agency of the kulaks in the Party.” The slogan: Complete liquidation of the kulak on the basis of solid collectivization was put forward by the Congress with emphasized vigor as a result of the great success of the sowing campaign.
The harvesting was the second victory won by the Party. There were less machines and less tractors working at the harvest on account of the lack of spare parts to replace the ones broken during the sowing. The tractor stations also were unable to carry through a complete overhauling of the machines. Nevertheless, through elaborate planning and organization, which is the essence of the collective farms, with the enthusiastic response of the broad masses of the members of the collectives, with the aid of tens of thousands of industrial workers who declared themselves mobilized to work on the Socialist field, it was possible in a short time—between 9 and 14 days—to gather a bumper crop, which exceeded in extent any previous area cultivated on the former private holdings of the members of the collectives. This is especially applicable to the Ukraine and Northern Caucasus, which are the main sources of wheat supply.
The figures on the number of collective farms is a complete repudiation of the theories of the right wingers. In fact those agricultural regions which are the grain producing units of the Soviet Union have developed a much higher percentage of collectivization than the consuming regions. ‘This is very significant. For instance, in the Moscow region, which is purely a grain consuming one, the percentage of collectivization is much below the general average for the whole Soviet Union, which amounts to 25%. But in the Ukraine, at the time of the harvest, 60% of poor and middle peasant economies were organized in collective farms. In many districts of the Ukraine, the percentage was still higher. In Northern Caucasus, among the Don and Kuban peasants together with the Ukrainian settlers, collectivization reached at the time of the harvest 67%, and the writer was assured that when the harvest is over in the latter part of autumn, collectivization will reach as high as 80% of all the peasant holdings. Authorities in this region are confident that in the coming spring, the slogan for solid collectivization will be carried through completely. These facts show that great masses of peasants in the producing regions have sensed the importance of collectivization as “the only means which can lead them out of misery, poverty and backwardness.” (Stalin.)
UNITY OF AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY
Needless to say, the character of the grain campaigns has changed fundamentally for the first time. The collective farms deliver grain to the government on the “contract” system, from 30% to 35% of the entire crop. The collectives know beforehand how much grain they will have to deliver to feed the industrial population, and the Socialist industry has its program for the amount of agricultural machinery and other goods which it has to deliver to the village.
The members of the collective farms look upon themselves as organized partners with the industrial workers who furnish them with products which bring a new standard of living. On the other hand, the larger sowed area and the greater crops have confirmed Comrade Stalin’s statement at the XVI Party Congress: “Our bread problem has been already solved in the main.” Not only are the Socialist industries assured of plenty of bread, but for the first time since 1926 is the Soviet Government able to export quantities of first grade wheat in order to help finance its huge industrialization program. Instead of collapse and decay of agriculture predicted by the social “damagers,” the Kondratieffs and Grohmans, and with them in a similar melody the right opportunists, we witness a great swing forward in Socialist reconstruction and development of agriculture, despite the wild resistance of the kulak and his henchmen.
The Party was able to overcome in the first year many of the gigantic difficulties which were in the way of collectivization. Of course there are many difficulties still ahead, but the results of the first harvest and the present move of the peasants to join the collectives, are evidences that the Party’s Five-Year Program on the agricultural front will be realized long before the end of the five years.
PREDOMINANCE OF SOCIALIZED SECTOR
The first year of the collectivization program has already changed the economic and social relationship of the village. Economically, the kulak was put out from his former economic stronghold as a supplier of grain. The following short table will show the great change in the source of the grain supply to the city:
From the 1929 harvest before the wave of collectivization, the government received from:
Government farms 3.5%
Poor and middle peasants 65%
From the 1930 harvest, the government receives:
Government farms 8%
Individual poor and middle peasants 45%
In other words, the Socialist sector of agriculture is able after its first harvest to supply 52% of the entire grain program. If we add that the collective and government farms have added 36% to the cultivated area, that the sowing of grain has increased 9%, that the general harvest was better by 12% than last year, that the harvest of collective farms has yielded 13% more than the individual farms, and that the harvest of the government farms has yielded 40% more per hectare than the individual farms, then we get a vivid picture of the great transformation which is going on in Soviet agriculture.
COLLECTIVIZATION AND SOCIAL ADVANCE
Thus under socialized agriculture and industry, the city and country are being brought closer and closer, being bound together with their fundamental common interests. Agriculture is being put upon a technical basis, which will finally release the peasants from their enormous age-old expenditure of physical toil. Farming done by the grain trust and tractor stations show, as Yakovlev says, “The main part of the work required for the growing of wheat is no longer performed in the field itself, but in the iron works and oil industry.” Whereas the individual peasant farm of former days required 230 working hours to grow summer wheat on one hectare, on the state farms this requires only 9 hours, the tractor being used for 2% hours.
Only one who is acquainted with the old Russian village can conceive the great social change which is caused by and through the collectives. The “mezha” (a narrow strip of land which divided one peasant’s land from another) was for centuries the symbol of the holiness of private property. The “Mezha” was the cause of long-enduring bloody feuds, burnings and killings. Behind each peasant’s hut was the little dilapidated barn where his horse and cow were housed, and where he stored his meager supply of grain. Now the “mezha” has disappeared, and the barn has become useless to him. Few tractors or plows drawn by horses, plow wide stretches of massive fields. No individual peasant follows his own horse. The work in the field is collectively organized. The members of collectives work in brigades headed by a captain. The collective barn has risen to house all the working horses, another barn for the second cow (the first cow is allowed the peasant), for raising livestock, etc.
The standard of living of the peasant is undergoing great changes and advancement. For example, in the Rayon (section) of Karnofsky, north Caucasus, the average income of a middle peasant used to be about 250 rubles per year. The first harvest after collectivization the average income amounted to not less than 590 rubles. In the Demyan Bedny collective in the Volga, the income amounted to 1,200 rubles per member. New orchards, vineyards, creameries, brick kilns, mills, schools, dining rooms, clubs, theatres, etc., which are being built, bring many advantages to the rural districts.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
When the movement for collectivization started, the peasant woman was the chief agency through which the kulak and the priest worked to break down the organization of collective farms. The vilest rumors were spread among the peasant women, stories about women being nationalized in the collectives, about all members of the collectives being forced to eat from one spoon and sleep under one quilt, etc. There were thousands of cases when the husband declared he would join the collective, only to be later forced by his wife to withdraw.
Now, the peasant woman is already beginning to feel what benefits the collectives are bringing her. Already in the first sowing campaign, many big collectives were organizing communal kitchens. The fact that hundreds of men were working on massive stretches of land, forced the collective to inaugurate an organized feeding system in order to enable the members to stay in the field during the short busy season. For the first time in peasant history the individual woman has done away with domestic cooking, for the first time in her life she stopped caring for the individual cow, horse, pig, etc. Instead of that, household work assumed the same collective manner as the work in the field—and this is only the beginning. The collectives already feel the necessity of erecting permanent communal kitchens, communal nurseries, gardens, thus enabling them to reach a higher plane of economic and social life. The possibilities are unlimited.
NEW WAVE INTO COLLECTIVES
Once this tremendous force of tens of millions of peasants has started moving, there is nothing which will stop them—the more machines they get, the more soil they will cultivate; the more goods they will receive from the Socialist industry, the more will the driving force be created among them for higher production and a higher level of life.
The writer has been shown in the Agricultural Commissariat in Kharkov, the capital of the Ukraine, plans for a new type of Socialist village, plans which can be and will be carried through in the coming years. The plans present a village which is a revolution in itself, but it is not a phantasy at all. Of course, only the proletarian state can accomplish such a revolutionary transformation of an ancient economy such as agriculture.
There are yet many obstacles in the way. The swing of many new peasant masses towards the collectives now has found many local Party organizations and collectives unprepared. The “Pravda” in an editorial of October 3 warns that the new movement of the peasants in the collectives is proceeding without sufficient guidance on the part of the Party workers and the collectives. The “Pravda” demands that this present movement should be given more leadership and organized aid.
It is necessary to mention the leading role which has been played by the industrial workers in the organization of the collectives. The Party mobilized the so-called “25,000,” 25,000 of the best fighting workers, and sent them off to the villages, to help carry through the collectivization program. Besides the 25,000 which remain for a period of at least two years, and thereby become organically associated with the work and growth of the collectives, many more workers were sent to the village in the beginning of the year. It is estimated that over 200,000 city workers participated in this tremendous work.
At the time of the harvest, many thousands of workers again came to help the collectives, denying themselves their much needed vacation. In this way, the leadership of the proletariat, was proven in actual struggle and achievement. The union of worker and peasant was strengthened with the voluntary labor of hundreds of thousands of industrial workers. Lenin’s guiding principle was fulfilled in a mighty manner. This cooperation and leadership will continue.
One must not forget to mention that an integral part of the Party’s agricultural program is the building up of big government farms on land that has not as yet been cultivated. These farms have proven to be tremendously successful. Some of them take up as much as 200,000 hectares. There is a great future ahead of them. It is enough to say that two years ago, they cultivated an area of less than a million hectares. This year over four million, and in the program for the coming year not less than nine million hectares are to be cultivated, but we cannot go into detail in regard to these very important huge grain factories in the present article.
THE SOVIET SYSTEM VS. CAPITALISM
The first year is a guarantee of the success of collectivization and has proven beyond doubt the great advantage which the peasant masses possess in a proletarian state over those in capitalistic states.
In the “rich” United States of America under capitalist control, agriculture is decaying and the situation is getting worse and worse. Only the few rich farmers can take advantage of tractors, new machinery and methods. The tractor is beyond the means of four- fifths of the farmers. And many who have tractors cannot utilize them properly on account of the fact that their farms are not large enough. The poor and middle farmers are compelled to see their techniques stagnate, their stock, fertility and equipment deteriorate or go to ruin. These farmers are burdened with tremendous debts, mortgages, taxes, rents, and other forms of robbery.
In the Soviet Union, the poor and middle farmers have all the advantages of tractors and new machinery. There the kulaks have all the disadvantages. Capitalism has no remedy for the fundamental ills of agriculture—capitalism cannot unite the widening gap between the farmers’ shattered economy, and the highly centralized city industry. In the Soviet Union, Socialist industry and collectivized peasant economy are interwoven in one great economic unit.
In this respect also the Soviet Union is a great beacon light to all revolutionary workers in capitalist countries where farmers suffer. The Communist Party in the Soviet Union shows the way to solve the agricultural problem in the transition period under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
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