Soviet Collectivization

Figure 1.--Here Soviet farm workiers are massing in the morning for work in the fields at one of Stalin's new colletives. The key words in the banner are 'liquidate kulak class'. The demonstration was organized to support the effort to destroy the Kulak peasants from Soviet agriculture through collective system. It needs to be pointed out that the banner did not necesarily reflect the believes of the people marching below it. In the Soviet system, sych bnners reflected the policy of the Communist Party ad Soviet state. The Soviet state through the NKVD had the force to seize land fron the peasantry and eliminate the Kulaks. And it could force peasants to work in the field. What it could not do is force them to work as hard and diigently as when the land was privately owned. In additin, the campaign against the Kulaks meant that the country's best farmers were either dispatched to the Gulag or had been shot. As a result, agricultural production declied precipitously and never recovered through the entire Soviet era.

The second pole of Stalin's First Five-Year Plan was to fundamentally change the organization of Soviet agriculture. The individual peasant-owned farms would be combined into a system of state-owned collective farms. The idea was to put a permanent end to private ownership. The theory was that collectivization would make Soviet agriculture more efficient. Boending private ownersip and increasing mechanization werre seen as imprvng efficency and harvests. And the production increases would help finance industrial expansion and feed the resulting expanding urban population. In addition, as collectivization was seen as more efficient, Soviet planners believed that fewer peasants would be needed to work the land, making more workers available for industrial projects. From Stalin's point of few there was also a political dimension. The peasantry was the last sector of the Soviet population not inder state control. They were able to decidec how much of their harvest to consume or sell. It state purchasing agents offered low prices they could decidecto horde the harvest nd to reduce plantings the following year. Worst still, many had anti-Soviet attitudes, either because of religious beliefs or because of national/ethnic orientation. Here Stalin was particularly concerned with the Ukranians. The initial goals were realatively modest. The First Five Year Plan called for collectivising only 20 percent of peasant families. The draconian measures enployed by Stalin, however, set in motion a process that once begun destroyed peasant agriculuture and tragically many of the peasants as well, especially in the Ukraine. Several millions would be killed in the process of collectivization. By the time that World War II began estimates suggest that 97 percent of peasant families had been collectivized.


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Created: 2:10 AM 1/26/2018
Last updated: 9:20 PM 2/4/2018