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How Did Joseph Stalins Collectivization Essay

Collectivization was one of Stalin’s paramount methods of modernizing the Soviet Union in his “revolution from above”. Stalin sought to bring about industrialization and to streamline agricultural production through collectivization. Collectivization was not just intended to help industrialize the Soviet Union and improve agricultural efficiency but also to enhance widespread Communist control. Collectivization’s lofty goals were met through the exploitation of the peasants and industrialization had a great social impact on the people of the Soviet Union.

Collectivization was a part of Stalin’s first Five Year Plan that spanned from 1928 to 1932 (Viola 49). Stalin’s The First Five Year Plan placed a focus on converting primarily individual farms into a large system of collective farms, know as kolkhozes, in the belief that collective farming would increase agricultural productivity and provide grain reserves for the urban industrial labor force. (“Collectivization and Industrialization”). This grain surplus was bargained on to fund industrialization.

The surplus would be exported to raise capital for new machinery. Collectivization was also intended to make more peasants available for industrial labor in urban areas to further enhance industrial development in the Soviet Union (“Collectivization and Industrialization”). Collectivization forced around twelve million peasants from their villages to work in the cities (Viola 58). Collectivization was also aimed at strengthen the Soviet Union’s military power.

Collectivization was not just intended to help industrialize the Soviet Union and improve agricultural efficiency but also to enhance widespread Communist control over the countryside. However, Collectivization was met with great opposition and resistance from the peasantry. Stalin’s plans for collectivization were impeded by this resistance and especially from the opposition of wealthier peasants known as the Kulaks. The peasants refused to leave their private farms and join the new collective farms.

In response, Stalin utilized violence and force to compel the peasants to accept Collectivization. Peasants would destroy their property, ruin their machinery, slaughter their livestock and burn their crops before joining the kolkhozes (Viola 56). Consequently, “Collectivization became a irtual war on the peasantry and its destruction as a culture” (Viola 54). Collectivization was also implemented as a method of enhancing Stalin’s power and expanding the Communist Party’s control over the Soviet Union, especially the countryside.

In order to support industrialization, Stalin needed to control agricultural production and eliminate peasant resistance. Eliminating the established leaders of the rural peasant community created a communist dominated countryside. Churches were destroyed, members of the clergy were persecuted, and the traditional elites of the peasants, the ulaks, were removed (Viola 55). This purging of the elites in the countryside left the majority of the peasants with no authority other than the state (Viola 55).

This helped stem peasant rebellion and allowed the state to subjugate and control the countryside for their purposes of facilitating industrialization. A major way of eradicating opposition to the Communist Party and collectivization was “dekulakization”. Stalin believed that the elimination of the Kulak class would provide encourage the peasantry to join the collective farms and used legislation and iolence as ways of dissolving the class of wealthy peasants (Shabad 205).

Stalin viewed the kulaks as capitalists, who were enemies of the state (Viola 56). For example, Kulaks controlled grain prices and would often hoard their surplus to keep prices high. Lower prices were required so that urban workers could afford to buy food without receiving higher wages. Around one million kulak families, about five million people total, were deported from the Soviet Union during “dekulakization” (“Collectivization and Industrialization”). The Kulaks were forced to provide support for collectivization and ndustrialization.

The Kulaks’ were exiled to the labor scarce territories in the Soviet hinterlands where they were worked to extract natural resources that were used in industrial efforts (Viola 56). The Kulaks’ land was also used to gain capital through property expropriations and their property ended up being used for collective farms (Viola 56). At the beginning of February 1930, the Politburo decree was put in place to liquidate the Kulaks (Shabad 208). Under the decree, Kulaks did not have the right to lease land or hire laborers.

Kulaks were also prohibited from leaving their villages and from selling or isposing of their own property and possessions (Shabad 208). In districts of wholesale collectivization, Kulaks were forced to relinquish their property to the state including their seeds, fodder, livestock, homes, any other buildings, and manufacturing enterprises (Shabad 208). The confiscated property was used to cover the Kulaks’ taxes and other outstanding government dues, the payment of debts to the state, and the payment of collective farm fees that the peasants owed (Shabad 208-209).

Confiscated homes were used as housing for the poor and other confiscated buildings were used o meet the needs of the villages and collective farms (Shabad 209). Seized farmland was used to produce crops that would be handed over to the state (Shabad 209). Kulaks’ with savings above five hundred rubles were forced to give up their savings to the state. This decree detailed how to deal with Kulaks. Those deemed counterrevolutionaries were to be executed or exiled while others were sent to the borders of their districts and put to work in areas such as forestry and road construction (Shabad 209-210).

Millions of Kulaks would destroy or sell their property and then flee to the cities or even to other countries in esponse to this “dekulakization” and many peasants would sell off their property to change their economic status to avoid the deadly Kulak label (Shabad 213). An estimated five million Kulaks were exiled during this period (“Collectivization and Industrialization”). The extreme amount of resistance from the Kulaks and the eradication of the Kulak class, as well as the appropriation of peasants’ supplies and heavy industrialization, proved detrimental to agricultural production.

In 1930, following a successful harvest, grain procurement was increased to twenty five percent of production or around 22. million tons (Livi-Bacci 745). In 1931 and 1932, the procurement quotas were raised even higher and were based on exaggerated estimates. These quotas were met through violence, suppression, and the confiscation of peasants’ goods (Livi-Bacci 745). These extreme quotas along with agricultural production diminishing due to peasant resistance resulted in the disruption of agricultural productivity and widespread famine.

Ukraine was significantly affected due to extremely high production quotas. In 1932, Ukraine was expected to meet a quota of forty five percent of their harvest (Livi-Bacci 746). The estimated death toll from 1927 to 1936 is seven million (Livi-Bacci 753). An example of the devastating effects of Collectivization can be found in a 1932 letter from Feigin to Ordzhonikidze, a friend and colleague of Stalin, that details the 1932-1933 famine and the state of peasant life in the Novosibirsk area of Serbia.

Feigin visited kolkhozes in Serbia and found that they were unproductive because of, “(a huge shortage of seed, famine, and extreme emaciation of livestock)” (Feigin to Ordzhonikidze). Feigin described the poor conditions and disorganization of ivestock farms that causes him to predict that the next year will have a large shortage of meats, fats, and leather. Emaciated horses, lack of machinery, and low amounts of seeds also hindered reaching sowing yields. Feigin also states that the peasants’ attitude is “utterly bad” because of the famine (Feigin to Ordzhonikidze).

Feigin details ways in which they could still meet their quotas despite the extremely poor conditions he finds the kolkhozes in, “1) sowing all prepared fields (fallow and autumn fields) without exception; 2) redistribution of seed mong the kolkhozes in the time remaining before the planting date so that the planting be completed within 15 days, and under no circumstances more than 17 days; 3) and finally, that the improvement of fallow land be stipulated for 1933” (Feigin to Ordzhonikidze).

A doctor’s statement on the conditions of the peasants was also included in the letter. The doctor describes a few specific cases of starving families. The peasants’ were swollen and most were sick from the starvation. They hid food from each other and many would beg the doctor for food (Feigin to Ordzhonikidze). The families would eat the meat of sickly farm animals and food substitutes such as sunflower stems and hemp seeds. Some of these substitutes are toxic and make the peasants sick as well.

After review of the horrible conditions of the village, the doctor states that immediate action should be taken to help the starving (Feigin to Ordzhonikidze). Collectivization greatly affected the people of the Soviet Union. The countryside was devastated by the forced requisition of agricultural products, “dekulakization”, and the resistance of the peasantry. An estimated five to seven million peasants perished uring the famine of 1932 and 1933 (Viola 58).

Under the pursuit of Collectivization, millions of people died from starvation, disease or execution and millions were exile. Agriculture suffered due to lack of machinery, seed, and livestock. Despite the great losses and catastrophic famine, Collectivization was still pursued after the famine, and by 1940; ninety seven percent of peasant farms were collectivized (“Collectivization and Industrialization”). Collectivization helped achieve Stalin’s goal of accelerated industrialization with the great cost of human life.

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