Collective Farming and its Consequence

by Mike Haynes, April 2001

In this essay, I will explore the political stance toward collectivization in the late 1920’s to the 1930’s and also explain the economics behind such policies. I will also show how Stalin’s policy effected the people of Kazakhstan.

In 1927-1928, Russia was faced with a severe grain crisis. The reason for the crisis was that the better-off peasants, the kulaks, were holding their grain instead of selling it at the very low government prices. Stalin, feeling that the peasants should not have such power over the government and grain distribution, decided that change was necessary. This led to the adoption of the collective farm. In 1928, Stalin closed free markets in the Urals and Siberia, and ordered the seizure of the grain supply. This was a pre-cursor to collectivization.

Stalin’s View

Stalin’s view was that collectivization was necessary for economic growth. In order to sell this philosophy, he blamed Kulaks, better off peasants, for treachery against the state. He stated that poor and middle class peasants were joining the farms voluntarily. Also, to make more it seem as more of an incentive to join the farm, Stalin said “we have succeeded in turning the main mass of peasantry away from the old, capitalist path… to the new socialist path of development.”(MacKenzie 210) Stalin’s rhetoric was not working in making the peasants voluntarily join the farms. He stated that “it is necessary to implant in the village large socialist farms.” (MacKenzie 211) This statement caused the removal of over 50 percent of the peasant class, either exiled to the Urals or Kazakhstan, or sent to concentration camps by the Red Army. However, In March 1930, Stalin stopped forced collectivization saying that it was not his policy to for peasants into the farms. He blamed the extremist and local party members for such actions as stated in his article “Dizzy with Success.” Peasants feeling that it was now all right to return to their past lives, left the collective farms. However, Stalin was not about to relinquish control over the peasants, and through heavy taxation and stripping of land, he once again forced the peasants into the farms.

The economics

The collectivization plan was supposed to give the peasants a wage and government control of the output of grain instead of having the peasants control the supply of grain. The farms were supposed to meet quotas, and any surplus was to go to the workers. The farmers could than sell the surplus or keep it for their own consumption. However, this was never the case. What happened was that quotas were set too high and wages were too low or non-existant. Peasants survived only by the 1-acre land around their homes in which they were allowed to farm for personnel use. Grain production fell from 73 million tons in 1928 to 68 million tons in 1933. However, livestock suffered the worse. In 1928, cattle numbers were 70 million. By 1933, that number dwindled to 38 million. The peasants, realizing their plight, contributed to the falling production by refusing to work. There was no incentive for them to contribute on the collective farm because they were dying of famine. They had no money. Anything they had went to the MTS stations or taxes. Famine was estimated to take the lives of 10 million Russians during this time period.

Kazakhstans Reaction to Collective Farming

Agriculture is a big part of Kazakhstan’s economy. Like so many others, Kazakhstan was against the idea of forced collectivization. Kazakhstan had protested against this policy by slaughtering livestock. It is important to note that the Kazakh people hold livestock in the highest regard and slaughtering their animals was like killing a family member. “In that period, at least 1.5 million Kazaks and 80 percent of the republics livestock died.” (Kazakhstan- A Country study)

In hindsight, everyone can see that collective farming was a bad idea. The policy exiled the best managers of farms, the kulaks, and forced peasants against their will into a brand new system. Many people from cities were sent to manage over the collective farms. They had no clue as to what they were doing. Quotas were never met and many lives were lost. I wonder why such a plan could have ever been looked to as an answer to grain shortages.







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