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1933-1953 - Later Phases of Collectivization

In the early phases of collectivization, deliveries were fixed by arbitrary "contracts" between the kolkhozy and the State - the contracts resembling the compulsory requisitions of War Communism. By 1933 peasant opposition, though generally weak and disorganized, forced the regime to grant minor concessions. Foremost among these was a system of fixed quotas to replace the contractual levies. By this device it was hoped to induce the individual kolkhoznik to cultivate more intensively, since any surplus beyond the fixed quota was retained by the collective farm and distributed among its members. The concessionary mood of this era was reflected finally in the Artel Statute of 1935 granting the collective farmer a household plot (one-quarter to one-half hectare) and the right to own a limited number of livestock, permission to sell surplus foodstuffs on the urban free market, a more equitable payment system, and a much restricted voice in kolkhoz management.

In the years immediately preceding World War II the Soviet regime had again begun to encroach on the rights granted under the Artel Statute. In 1939 the State decreed severe penalties for infractions of collective farm discipline and in 1940 the workday was lengthened. Similarly the method of computing delivery quotas was made stricter. Henceforth norms were computed not on the basis of actual area sown, but on the basis of arable land owned by the collective farm. Since yield estimates computed by State officials were generally arbitrary, the hardship worked by this new departure was severe.

The main direction of the government on the eve of World War II was thus to restrict further the private sector within the collective farms and to redirect attention to the communal land. The result was that an increasing proportion of the peasants' product was taken by the State. The regime was still tightening controls when the German Army attacked in June of 1941.

World War II subjected the entire collective system to its severest strain and, as Voznesensky observed, the system continued to supply the minimum of foodstuffs necessary for the war, although the regime had to loosen its hold considerably to guarantee the supply. That this achievement was a tribute to the vitality of the State agricultural administration, rather than the morale of the peasants, is suggested by the fact that in those areas invaded by the Germans - particularly Byelorussia and the Ukraine - large masses of peasants greeted them as liberators with the traditional bread and salt. But the Germans, who were as interested as their predecessors in a high "marketable surplus," maintained the kolkhozy intact. This policy and the standard Hitlerian excesses in conquered Slavic territory soon alienated the peasants.

With the defeat of the Nazi invasion and the cessation of hostilities in Europe and Asia, the Soviet regime sought to reimpose the agrarian controls loosened in wartime. In line with this policy, the government instituted a vast purge of collective farm directors and decreed a monetary reform in 1947 that wiped out at one stroke most of the savings accumulated by peasants during the war. Taxes on incomes derived from the household plots were raised sharply in 1948, 1950, and 1951; delivery quotas on dairy products and meats produced in the household plots were also raised.

The culmination of this development in the kolkhozy was the shift from the zveno (link, or small unit) work system to large-scale labor brigades. Under an amalgamation program the number of collective farms in the Soviet Union was reduced from 252,000 to 97,000. A further effort in this direction was the plan associated with Khrushchev's name to weld the collective farms into vast "agro-towns" (agrogoroda), in which the peasantry would suffer the final transformation into a rural proletariat. Although this effort met with acknowledged failure, the theory behind it was not abandoned. In Stalin's last published work, Economic Problems of Socialism in the U.S.S.R., he called for a program of "gradual" transformation of collective into public property - in short, the eventual conversion of all agricultural units into State farms.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:15:19 ZULU