rapid industrialization project Collectivization, history homework help

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The other transformative event of the Great Turn, along with
the rapid industrialization project, was the rapid collectivization of
Soviet agriculture.  This had not been part of the initial five-year plan.  Although
the plan depended on the state procuring ever larger hauls of grain,
both to feed the growing industrial class and to sell abroad, to finance
the purchase of advanced machinery, authorities offered no new
mechanism or strategy for achieving these procurements.  During the first year of the plan, however, procurements were critically low.  Simply
put, the Soviet economy was not producing enough useful to interest the
peasantry, so the latter chose to withhold their grain from the market.  There
was a consensus among the leadership that the grain situation
constituted a crisis but there was disagreement on how to deal with it.  Some
called for a return to the War Communism methods of confiscation while
others, particularly the Right, thought that the situation could be
solved by tinkering with the tax codes and encouraging voluntary forms
of agricultural cooperatives.

Although the peasantry’s retreat from the market was logical,
the Soviet leadership, led by Stalin, interpreted this not as a logical
turn given the market conditions but as sabotage on the part of the
peasantry, particularly the “kulaks,” or rich peasants.  Initially,
the regime responded to the crisis by dispatching thousands of punitive
detachments to countryside to “procure” grain.  Then, with
little forethought or discussion among the leadership, the Soviets
embarked on plan to force peasants to pool their land and livestock into
large “kolkhozy,” or collective farms.

There was a positive aspect to the collectivization program:  the larger scale cultivation would make it easier to mechanize and modernize agriculture.  Guiding
this program was a Bolshevik conceit that the they could step up food
production by introducing modern industrial management to the
countryside.  The potential benefits of modernization was
lost on most peasants who viewed the state turn to the village as an
intrusion on their lifestyles and well-being.  In some regions local authorities had to call in the army to put down sporadic yet determined peasant resistance.  The immediate practical result was a disaster.Although
there were regional variations across the vast Soviet Union, poor
planning and poor harvests owing to bad weather resulted in famine and
mass death in 1932-33.  The death toll in present-day Ukraine alone ran in the millions.  (The current Ukrainian government is pursuing recognition of this episode as a man-made genocide.)

The campaign to reorganize agricultural management went hand in hand with a plan to “smash” the kulaks. The
Soviet leadership did not create the negative stereotype of the kulak,
who traditionally was connected with money-lending, but played fast and
loose its definition of a kulak to transpose Marxist class analysis to
the countryside.  Authorities rather arbitrarily assumed
that the peasantry could be neatly divided into the kulaks, or rich
peasants, the middle peasantry, and poor peasantry.  It was
assumed that the poor peasantry would instinctively ally with the
“workers’ state,” kulaks would instinctively oppose the socialist cause,
thus, the key was to gain the trust of the middle peasantry.  This was the theory.  In practice, any peasant who openly opposed collectivization risked classification as a kulak.  Hundreds of thousands of alleged kulaks were summarily executed.  Millions
more were arrested and sent to labor camps or were simply deprived of
their civil rights and banished from the villages.  This latter group comprised a vast off-the-books labor force that could be employed in construction projects.


General Descriptions:



Primary Documents:

Stalin,”Dizzy with Success”: https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1930/03/02.htm

A few pages from the memoirs of Lev Kopelev, who participated in the collectivization drive: http://seansrussiablog.org/USSR1834/Week%2014/kopelev.pdf (you may have to cut-and-paste the link in your browser)

Eyewitness account from Ukraine of Gareth Jones: http://www.garethjones.org/soviet_articles/russia_in_grip_of_famine.htm

Scholarly Articles (all available via the UMUC Library):

Teresa Cherfas, “Reporting Stalin’s Famine: Jones and Muggeridge: A Case Study in Forgetting and Rediscovery,” Kritika: Exploration in Russian and Eurasian History, 2013, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 775-804.

Moshe Lewin, “The Immediate Background of Soviet Collectivization,” Soviet Studies, 1965, Vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 162-197.

Roger R. Reese, “Red Army Opposition to Forced Collectivization, 1929-1930: the Army Wavers,” Slavic Review, 1996, Vol. 55, No. 1, pp. 24-45.

Discussion Question: 

What factor contributed the most to the disastrous
implementation of rapid collectivization: was it a fundamentally
ill-conceived project?  Did the authorities waste too much energy and
resources fighting class enemies (the kulaks)?  Did the campaign against
the kulaks eliminate the most productive producers among the peasantry?
  Feel free to offer other explanations.