Key Facts & Summary
- Collectivization was introduced in the USSR in 1929 during Joseph Stalin’s reign.
- It allowed people to own farms collectively.
- All land became owned by the state.
The collectivization of the lands in U.S.S.S., after an unsuccessful first attempt which proposed to the peasants a voluntary entry into the collective farms, took effect only in October 1929, but then in an authoritarian form. This collectivization follows the failure of the N.E.P. which was intended to preserve the alliance between the workers and the peasants. In a Soviet Russia where 96 p.
The peasantry rallied to the kulaks, boycotted the deliveries of surplus grain destined for the state and broke with the regime. Collectivization aims to break an anti-socialist trend in the peasantry, but also to make a larger levy on agricultural production to finance industrialization short of means.
Collectivization is closely linked to the planning and choice, now a priority, of forced industrialization. After a very rapid increase in the collective sector (three-quarters of the land in the spring of 1930), obtained by a brutal showdown with the peasantry, the disorganization of the Soviet economy forced Stalin to back down to avoid catastrophic harvests, and It was not until 1936 that collectivization achieved its objective.
If it allows the Soviet state to break the peasant opposition and find financial means by undervaluing agricultural prices, it will have a lasting effect on agriculture. Despite the mechanization and motorization of agriculture, productivity will remain very low and the herd will return to its level on the eve of collectivization only under Leonid Brezhnev.
From 1929, in the USSR, the government organized the collectivization of the countryside. It is a question of putting in place for the farmers, a pooling of their lands and their agricultural equipment as well as to promote the work in a team, to divide the tasks, under the directives of an elected chief who is the most often a member of the ruling Communist Party. Part of the agricultural production is levied by the State in the form of taxes. The other part is sold to the State which sets the purchase price. The brutal application of this considerable change in the habits of the peasants leads to revolt, destruction of products and a very serious food crisis. Millions of Soviets will then die, either reprisals by the communists or starvation. In order to restore the supply, the government will grant a little more freedom of production to the peasants. But collectivization will remain in place until the disappearance of the USSR in the early 1990s.
Why collectivize the agriculture of the USSR?
The Soviet communists decided collectivization of agriculture for various reasons. There is a basic reason. The maintenance of private ownership of the means of production (here land, livestock and agricultural equipment) is incompatible with the system of socialist economy that the Communists want to install in the USSR.
In 1928, the four to five million (out of 120) wealthy peasants (the kulaks) are the only sellers of agricultural products. The supply of cities (where the workers and the civil servants reside) depends on two-thirds of the deliveries by the kulaks. The kulaks took advantage of the NEP to get rich at the expense of the less favored peasants. The kulaks are determined partisans of free enterprise and private property, so they represent a danger to communists.
In the USSR around 1928, the main source of wealth production was agriculture (then largely in the hands of peasant landowners). The control and modernization of agricultural work by the state should produce more. The state also becomes the sole customer of production not consumed by farmers. He can then set the purchase price (the lowest possible) and the consumer price of the cities (the highest possible). The difference in price then allows him to accumulate the capital necessary for the industrialization of the country.
After passionate discussions, the Communist Party supports Stalin’s position: collectivization will have to be done very quickly (with the need, if necessary, for the use of very harsh measures to eliminate the opposing peasants).
How Collectivisation of Agriculture Was Implemented?
In 1917, as soon as they seized power, the Bolsheviks (communists) suppressed the large private property (that of the nobles or the crown), in fact, they imply that all lands are now the property of the state, the peasants being only the users (usufructuaries). Part will be transformed into state farms: the sovkhozes. The management of most of the confiscated land has been entrusted to local peasant soviets (usually the poor). Communists encourage peasants to join together in co-operatives: Kolkhozes. But the peasants preferred to share the land and make it private family farms. In 1928, the agricultural population of kolkhozes and sovkhozes was only 2% of peasants. It produced less than 3% of cereals, 0.5% of meat, 3.5% cotton but more than 33% of sugar beet. It was a failure for the communists.
From 1929, the sovkhozes will receive modern agricultural equipment in order to increase their productivity and thus serve as a model. They are created in the clearing areas (that is, in the most difficult areas) where they are to be used to fix the semi-nomadic population. In the sovkhozes, the peasants are state employees (civil servants) and all the production is state property. The independent peasants are grouped in the kolkhozes (collective farms). They give back to the kolkhoz their land, their cattle, their agricultural equipment. The peasant families are grouped into work brigades. The kolkhoz is run by a team of elected officials (most often members of the Communist Party) who fix the work to be done by each brigade. Agricultural production is partly taxed by the state. The rest is sold in state stores that set the purchase price. The sums obtained are then shared between the farmers. The remuneration of work is calculated on the system of “workday” whose value is different according to the task accomplished. In addition, the State sets production targets for each collective farm, but it finances “machine and tractor stations” (MTS) which rent their equipment to the kolkhozes who request it.
Difficulties of collectivization
Set up in 1929, collectivization aims first to eliminate kulaks. They are prohibited from renting land and employing paid labor. They are thus deprived of a large part of their means of production. Then after the deliberations of the assembly of the kolkhoz, they confiscate their lands and even their personal equipment. Finally, they are expelled from the kolkhoz; some will be deported to clear land or to do the large earthworks necessary for dams or large river canals. Many kulaks revolt; about 3 million of them are executed. At the end of 1930, there are no more kulaks.
As the definition of the kulak category has been deliberately left unclear, many average farmers are also worried. Many peasants refuse collectivization. Rather than pooling their land, cattle prefer to destroy it. In a few months, they slaughter more than 4 million horses, 15 million cattle, 25 million sheep. They are killed illegally despite threats from the authorities. A quarter of grain production is deliberately destroyed. To cope with the government sends in the recalcitrant campaign’s volunteers forming “brigades of shocks”. They are recruited among the young communists but also among the military. The first promotion has about 25 000. They force terror farmers to enter the collective farms. At the beginning of 1930, nearly 50% of the peasant families were grouped together in the kolkhozes.
But the violence of peasant actions combined with poor weather conditions causes a drop in food production. In 1931-1932, famine raged in the USSR. There are about 1 million deaths. We must restore food rationing (it will remain until 1935). In an attempt to re-establish the situation, the government authorizes in 1930, the peasants to leave the collective farms. At once a large part of them is emptied.
To reverse the movement, the government hopes that the material and working conditions of the 20% of families who remain in the collective farms will be attractive to convince the “collective farmers of a day” to voluntarily regain the cooperative. In 1935, the government authorized each family to have a “family enclosure”, taken on the collective farmlands. The area of the enclosure is small (a few hundred square meters maximum).
But the production that is obtained is the property of the family who can consume it or put it on sale freely. In 1940, the production of family enclosures (vegetables, fruits, potatoes, poultry, milk, meat) represented 25% of the total agricultural production of the USSR. It allows the supply of cities. But in 1939, when supplies became satisfactory again, the government imposed a heavy tax on the income that families derive from their family enclosure; it is obvious that the authorities have not given up controlling all agricultural production. In 1940, only 1% of the agricultural land remained outside the lands exploited by the sovkhoz and kolkhozes (3 million peasants work there).