This is the third installment of my summary of the Ivan Yarmosh post from PolitNavigator.
We left off yesterday, with the photo of the Komsomol activist guarding a seed barn. This photo was taken in Kharkov, in 1933. The class struggle, always simmering below the surface but now incited by the Bolshevik Party, was raging in the countryside. Anti-Communist political forces fought against the government, by destroying seed and slaughtering cattle. The intent was to starve the USSR into submission, to force it to cancel the industrialization program. Which was the sole means of defending against imminent attack from the direction of Western Europe. The Communist Party was caught in a terrible Catch-22 type situation, partly of their own making, and partly just a continuation of the ancient Great Game always taking place on the Eurasian landmass.
The Communist Party, which itself had just emerged from several bruising faction fights, now leaving Stalin pretty much as the unchallenged leader (although not yet the demigod as he was to become 6 or 7 years hence) decided to fight back rather than capitulate to Western sanctions.
On 7 August 1932, the Party voted for a very draconian measure called by the long title: “On safeguarding the property of government enterprises, and on strengthening common (socialist) property”.
The writer and historian S. Mironin wrote about the so-called “Holodomor” in his article “Death Without Hunger“. According to Mironin, the Soviet government’s actions, in finding and confiscating grain, and redistributing it to those in need, saved the lives of MILLIONS of Ukrainian peasants, during this time of famine.
The kolkhozy organized “feeding stations”, to which the hungry could come for a free meal, and also provided meals for children in schools and nurseries.
On 13 March 1933, the Central Committee of the Party passed a resolution which paid special attention to the nutritional needs of children, during this difficult time. A central fund was created, consisting of 700 tons of grain, 170 tons of sugar, 100,000 tins of conserved food. The plan was, during the months of March-June to open a network of kindergartens, with capacity of providing meals for up to 50,000 children per day. This entire project was put into action within 10 days of its conception!
Despite all the efforts undertaken, an enormous number of people died of hunger in the years 1932-1933. Western media at the time gloated about the “starving Reds”. Nonetheless, the West suddenly decided to put aside the sanctions and start importing oil, lumber, and precious metals from the Soviet state.
By 1934 the worst of the famine was over, and life was slowly getting better for the peasants in the Ukrainian countryside.
Even the American government had to admit that things weren’t so bad in Soviet-land. A confidential report from an American intelligence agent was found in the Kremlin archives, this is a very interesting link, everybody who reads Russian should read this. The American agent had visited the Soviet countryside in 1934, and reported back to the American Department of Agriculture on his findings. I wish I had the original English, but I can’t find it. Seems silly to translate back into English from Russian, but basically the gist is that people in the countryside near Kharkov were doing okay. The American visited collective farms in the village of Olshna. Thousands of tiny holdings had been combined into 8 larger fields, in which 8,000 peasants worked. Most of the work was already being done by tractors. Each peasant per day received 2.5 kilograms of grain, 3 km of potatoes, 4 km of other vegetables. Each peasant family was allowed to sell their produce at the local farmers market. Some of the sovkhozy were becoming wealthy, one even was able to purchase an airplane.
And all of this happy talk – not from Soviet propaganda, but from American visitor whose goal was not necessarily to flatter his hosts.
By 1939-1940, the eve of the big war, kolkhozy on the territory of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic included 20,000 new livestock agri-business type farms. The amount of tractors in play, by 1940, exceeded the number of tractors in Germany, Italy, and France combined.
Bottom line is: Collectivization of agriculture in Ukrainian countryside, despite rocky start, was ultimately successful. And brought wealth to Soviet government, and a better quality of life for many peasants, if not all.
In the end, the kolkhoz system that was established, defeated the kulak class, defeated hunger, later defeated the Nazi invaders, and overcame post-war destruction. Yes, there were innocent victims. Many victims. But to put in perspective: in the wealthy United States of America, also millions of innocent victims died of hunger during these same years.
[photos show hungry American migrant workers and train-hopping bums in California, circa 1937]
And yet nobody is using this historical American tragedy in order to currently stir up hatred among peoples within the U.S.
[next: How Soviet collapse destroyed Ukrainian agriculture, and how Ukrainian politicians seek a scapegoat for their own failures]