Collectivisation - what happened & why.

The main reason collectivisation occurred in Russia was to fuel the industrial revolution occurring in the cities. Agriculture under the Tsarist empire was backwards and old fashioned, the old farming techniques were inefficient, lacked machinery and consisted mostly of subsistence farming (farmers only growing enough produce for themselves). A drastic increase in food production was needed for the mass amount of workers in the growing towns and cities, something needed to change in the realms of agriculture for Stalin’s ridiculously optimistic five year plans to succeed. 

Before collectivisation it was quite clear that New Economic Policy (NEP) was not working to the standards Stalin needed, by 1928 the Soviet Union was 20 million tons of grain short to feed the town populations. Furthermore, as industrialisation grew factories needed to be filled by more workers, which meant peasants needed to migrate to the towns. A more efficient way to farm was needed to release peasants into the factories. This drive towards industrialisation also came at a cost, meaning that cash-crops were needed, the USSR needed money which meant that peasants needed to grow large amounts a grain which could be exported to fund foreign machinery and expertise.

However, another reason for collectivisation was Stalin’s dislike for Kulaks. Kulaks were the peasants that had done well under NEP and enjoyed their personal wealth, they resisted collectivisation by killing their livestock and hiding food from the government collectors. Stalin knew that the Kulaks had influence over the majority peasant opinion and because of this he wanted to destroy them.

So what was collectivisation? Well at the beginning it was actually incredibly vague. Stalin’s orders in 1929 required farmers to pool their land and equipment and to work in future under the orders of the collect farm committee (which was, of course, under the control of the Communist Party). No other details were given, such as, how the workers were to be paid. This vague idea of collectivisation was perpetuated by Stalin giving contradictory orders in 1930, citing that: small vegetable gardens, some dairy cattle, small live poultry & some other forms of farming were not to be socialised. At this point many farmers withdrew from the collective farms.

However rules to enforce collectivisation soon came into existence, punishment for ‘enemies of the collective farms’ (Kulaks condemned to such fates) was often death or sent to the Gulags for forced labour. New collectivisation rules stipulated that 90% of produce had to go to the state, leaving the remaining 10% left to feed the collective. 

To conclude, collectivisation in many ways can be seen as a side project for Stalin - a mere means to an end of industrialising Russia. This can be seen by Stalin’s initial vagueness of legislation about collectivisation as well as the lack of resources left for the collect farm communities after the state had taken their cut. However, many historians have also argued that collectivisation was another tool of Stalin to establish his power, as well as a way of increasing production. When looking forward to the years of terror and ruling with 'an iron fist’, this idea does not seem too unlikely. 

Did you know...

that horses in certain parts of Russia were actually given passports during the 1930s? Not because of competition, like is seen today, but because the equine population was halved due to collectivisation and de-kulakisation (and acts of rebellion). The horse was important for agriculture as there were few tractors and such. The real kicker is a lot of citizens were denied even internal passports. 

One Big Time Line.

1903 - Second party congress of the Social Democratic Party. Martov wishes to have a large party of activists, whereas Lenin wished to have a small party of elites with a large fringe or supporters and sympathisers. They took it to a vote,and Martov won, however Lenin did not accept this and split from the group and formed the Bolsheviks (With Kamenev, Zinoviev, Bukharin, Stalin and Rykov). Martov and his remaining supporters were the Mensheviks (Trotsky is initially a Menshevik). 

1917 - Trotsky joins the party and helps plan the October revolution.

25th October - Revolution!

November - Lenin appoints Trotsky as people's commissioner of affairs. Trotsky entered into peace talks with Germany.

1918 - Trotsky impressed Lenin and appointed him as leader of the Red Army (in the civil war against the White Army). 

1921 - Ban on factionalism in the party.

1922 - Stalin is appointed General Secretary of the Party. 

January 24, 1924 - Lenin dies leaving no known successor. His will damning certain members of the party - including Stalin - is suppressed.

1925 - Stalin sides with the ‘Leftists’ of the party - Zinoviev and Kamenev - and expells Trotsky from the party.

1927 - Stalin discredits Zinoviev and Kamenev, on the basis that they initially opposed Lenin’s decision to launch the October revolution. They are expelled from the party. He joins the 'rightists’ of the party who believe in communism in one country (making Russia a functioning Communist party before trying to launch revolutions other parts of the world) and New Economic Policy.

1928 - Russia is 20 million tons short of grain for feeding towns.

1929 - declares NEP as 'uncommunist’, expels Rykov, Tomsky and Bukharin from the party.

1929 - Stalin is now leader of the party.

1929 - Stalin orders that farmers must pool their land, equipment and stock. They were to work under the central farm committee.

1929 - 5 Year Plans announced.

Early 1930- Dekulakisation: millions (up to 10 million) of richer peasants are either shot, or arrested and exile to either Siberian prison camps (Gulags) or abroad. -forced collectivisation of farms leading to nearly three-quarters of Soviet agriculture being collective by 1930. 27,000 loyal to Stalin volunteers to go out into the countryside to enforce this process. Violence and intimidation ensues.

March 1930 -Stalin says in Pravda (communist newspaper sanctioned by Stalin’s regime) that some of the volunteers were a bit too enthusiastic when enforcing collectivisation. Says they are “Dizzy with Success”. He suspends collectivisation for a period and tells peasants to concentrate on forthcoming harvest.

Summer 1930 1930 - Stalin gives conflicting messages about collectivisation, saying that small vegetable and dairy farms can run independently.-many peasants leave collectives. Some regions become almost completely de-collectivised.

Autumn 1930 -Stalin resumes collectivisation process. His loyal squads go into the countryside and force the peasants back onto the collective farms.

1932-1934. -Years of mass famine in the countryside. Peasants forced onto collectives and forced to give over huge amounts of grain to government. This resulted in extreme shortfalls of food and mass famine, particularly in the Ukraine.

Explain how far the views of Source A differ from those in Source B on the impact of collectivisation.

Collectivisation was brought in by Stalin to fund the industrialisation of Russia. It put the nail in the chest of Rykov, Bukharin & Tomsky’s bid for power – as it declared New Economic Policy (NEP) as uncommunist and finished. There were many that opposed Stalin’s Great Turn towards collectivisation – they argued that it would cause too much civil unrest, and may cause a civil war. As well as this, there was fear that without NEP that Russia would revert to the famine that was common under War Communism.

There are many differences in the opinions between the two sources. Source A argues that the peasants wanted to collectivise because of the glory of communism: “the peasants organised collective farms under the leadership of the Communist Party”, whereas Source B argued that the peasants had no reason to collectivise and did not want to: “the peasants had no incentive to work” – “no pay for two months”. Source A also comments on the previous lack of education and the fact that before Collectivisation there was no electricity in rural Russia: “farms had electricity” – “Before… there had been few village schools. The collective farms did away with illiteracy”. Source B however insist that these are not beneficial to the farmers, and that they are too poor to enjoy the luxuries of electricity and education: “the poor wear out their clothes” “reacted to the forced collectivisation by selling their possessions”.

There are a few similarities between the two pieces, Source A does acknowledge that “the Kulaks fought against the collective farms” echoed in Source B that the farmers were “sabotaging the work and revolting”.  However, Source A makes a distinction between the Kulaks and the majority of the farmers, whereas Source B insists that everyone under Collectivisation was against the economic policy. Both sources insist that times were changing, words like “new” “now the” “before” – even though the two sources describe these comments differently.

The credibility of the two sources can be commented upon. Source A was from a Soviet school text book, it can be argued that this make the reliability questionable, as Soviet era curriculum is renowned for being blinkered and lacked objectivity. Propaganda was rife during this period and subversive duplication of accounts was not unheard of. The second Source was slightly more credible as it was written someone outside of Russia who was not under pressure to conform to what Stalin wanted said. However Serge (the author) was expelled from the Soviet Communist Party, which shows us that he opposed Stalin and may have had an agenda. The first source is dated in 1976, after the war collectivisation did start to show profit and to be success compared to the earlier lack in productivity. However this would be because of an entire generation ‘dragged their feet’ and disagreed with Collectivisation – unlike what Source A insists. Source B was written before 1930-1931, these were the years previous to the horrific famine that struck rural Russia – this supports Serge’s letters when he argues that “what remains for the workers?”. Source A also talks about how “now the peasants work together” arguing that “the life of the peasants became richer and fuller”. Whereas Source B says “Half the revenue goes to the farm treasury, the other half for taxes and rent.” This is true, we know that the peasants were over taxed to feed the urban industry workers, and a lot of the crops were exported for money.