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Malenkov - Agriculture Policy

The 1953 harvest was poor (mainly due to weather), and Malenkovs economic policies were discredited. He had advocated a reduction in peasant taxes, an increase in the prices paid to collective farms for the state grain procurement and more encouragement for peasants to produce food from their private plots. He also advocated more investment in light industry at the expense of heavy industry. These (sensible) policies opened him to accusations of being anti-Marxist.

During the war the Communist Party had relaxed a number of its harsher measures with regard to the peasantry and, as a result, the peasants had concentrated their efforts on private holdings at the expense of communal Land and had disposed of the produce from these private holdings on the free market at high prices.

Due to the destruction resulting from the war, the disruption of the kolkhoz system, and a severe drought and a poor harvest In 1946, the Government and Party found it necessary to restrict severely bread ration and the release of grains.

However, because an unduly large proportion of agricultural produce was grown on private holdings and disposed of by the peasantry on the free market, the Government found it difficult to control the flow of grains and to effect a cut in bread rations. Due to the same factors, furthermore, there had been a disproportionate flow of money from the city to the countryside, and peasant savings had risen sharply. This served to strengthen the bargaining position of the peasantry vis-a-vis the Soviet Government and Party. It was this situation which led to the extreme devaluation of the ruble in December 1947, which practically wiped out peasant savings.

Agriculture was thus the most critical problem facing the Soviet Government in the fall and winter of 1946-47. The possibility exists that Malenkov was moved into agriculture as a top-flight trouble shooter. although agriculture was indeed the key problem in late 1946 and 1947, it does not appear that Malenkov became the dominant policy-making figure, but rather he seems to have occupied an anomalous position.

While Malenkov and Khrushchev agreed that drastic advances in agriculture were central to success of one whole "new course" in consumer goods production, certain fairly fundamental differences were evident in their respective approaches to agriculture.

The first and major difference was Malenkov's apparent greater realization of the importance of incentives, as opposed to Khrushchev's more "orthodox" Bolshevik reliance on bureaucratic and organizational measures. This supposition is based principally, although not completely, on, analysis of the published speeches of the two leaders; the conclusion derives in part from the impressions of the two men carried away by diplomats and others who have observed the Soviet leaders.

Malenkov, as is well known, publicly inaugurated the "consumer goods" course in his 8 August 1953 speech. In remarks on agriculture in this speech, Malenkov almost completely confined himself to discussion of the agricultural tax reform; decrease in obligatory procurements and increases in state purchase prices; and the encouragement of personal garden plots and of personally owned livestock.

The revelation in January and February 1954 of the so-called "New Lands" program came at a series of agricultural conferences in Moscow, with the evident primary role of Khrushchev, who spoke at each of these conferences. The 1954 grain harvest was a record one (the weather was good!!). Khrushchev took the credit. Relations between Khrushchev and Malenkov deteriorated.

A Central Committee decree of August 1954 extended the goals of the New Lands program by a substantial amount. At the Plenary Session of the Central Committee of January 1955, emphasis was restored to heavy industrial production, and the "corn and fodder" program was formalized. Khrushchev spoke at this Central Committee Plenum. Substantial areas in the traditional agricultural areas of the USSR were to shift from traditional crops to corn, represented as a cheap and easy way of increasing the fodder base of the livestock economy. It was at this Central Committee Session, presumably, that the demotion of Malenkov was arranged.

A striking sign of Khrushchev's importance came out of the Central Committee meeting commencing on 25 January 1955. His report to the plenum on increasing livestock production heavily stressed the importance of heavy industry and equated the position of those "woe-begone theoreticians" who had underestimated its importance with that of Bukharin and Rykov, politburo members who were first demoted and then shot in 1938 for "rightist deviations." This speech, which occupied six pages of Pravda on 3 February, the opening day of the Supreme Soviet set the tone for the modification of the "New Course" effected at that session and made Khrushchev the principal spokesman for that important shift.

The world was electrified on 08 February 1955 by the presentation to the Supreme Soviet of a letter of "resignation" from Malenkov. Malenkov based his "request" on "the necessity of strengthening the leadership" of the Council of Ministers and "the expediency of having in this ... post .. another comrade who has greater experience." Further, Malenkov admitted that his performance was "negatively affected" by "insufficient experience in local work" and by the fact that he did not earlier "effect direct guidance of individual branches of the national economy."

Malenkov admitted that "for several years previously (v techenie ryada let do etogo) he had the assignment to control and guide the work of central agricultural organs and the work of local party and administrative organizations in the sphere of agriculture. Malenkov admitted "guilt and responsibility for the unsatisfactory state of affairs" which has arisen in agriculture.

This is the only specific failing Malenkov discussed. It very probably refers to the period 1947 to 1955, and makes very strong the possibility that he was involved in the "agrogorod" (agronomic town) dispute of 1951, the principal figure of which was N.S.Khrushchev.

In the Soviet Union the "agrogorod" was an administrative unit formed from the amalgamation of a group of collective farms, having the infrastructure of a town or city. The agglomeration urban agricultural, designed in the Soviet Union from 1949, within the program of agrarian reforms, with the attempt to concentrate in a single entity several collective (kolkhoz) and state (sovkhoz) farms merged, in order to benefit from economies of scale, and to facilitate the process of mechanization and crop diversification. The "agrogorod" gathered thousands of people who enjoyed the advantages of urbanization, well that were imposed long journeys to the places of work. Its function was basically residential.

The farmers resisted integrating with them for fear of losing the single sector of the family economy of the kolkhoz. [With the Decree of dissolution of kolkhozes and sovkhozes of 1993, these cities left their original function and became nuclei of normal population].

Whereas the merger of kolkhozes was implemented in 1950 (mergers continued in later years at a varying rate), the agrogorod idea was resisted by Malenkov. It will be recalled that at the October 1952 Party Congress, Malenkov in his review of domestic policies remarked that "certain of our leading comrades" had advanced and supported this "incorrect" policy.

Malenkov found it necessary twice to say in this "resignation" letter that upon the initiative and under the guidance of the Central Committee serious and large scale efforts for surmounting agricultural deficiencies were being undertaken. Malenkov states that this program was "based on the only correct foundation: the further development by every means of heavy industry."




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