Gareth Jones

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The Manchester Guardian.  12 January 1933. (Pages 9 ).

 RUSSIA’S “PLAN”

Virtual Breakdown of Agriculture

OFFICIALS SHOT

The Problem of Food Supplies 

(The following article by our Moscow correspondent was written before Stalin’s speech at the recent conference of Communist officials at MOSCOW, and represents the expectations then prevailing.) 

(From our Moscow Correspondent.) 

[Unsigned article by Malcolm Muggeridge]

On the last day of 1932 the first Five-year Plan came to an end.  There is to be a second Plan, but at the moment no one appears to be clear about, or, indeed, interested in. its nature.  This is not surprising in view of the fact that Russia is now facing the consequences of a virtual breakdown of agriculture.  So serious is the situation that it is more and more tending to absorb the whole energies of the Government and the Communist party.  The press is no longer full of accounts of gigantic industrial enterprises triumphantly completed but of grain-collection campaigns and of the need for renewed activity on the ‘kulak’ front.  Everything that happens - even the recent anniversary of the G.P.U. or State Political Police - is made to bear on the question of agriculture.  Each day a “black list” of recalcitrant collective farm officials is published and reference made to the particular difficulties in this or that district. 

What has happened is simple and tragic.  It was decided some four and a half years ago to industrialize Russia more rapidly, and on a larger scale, than any country has ever been industrialized before.  To do this larger supplies of labour and capital were necessary; the former came from the villages into the towns and the latter, for internal purposes, was printed and, for external purposes, acquired by the export of raw commodities at ruinously low prices and by credit arrangements.  That is to say, the peasants, who, leaving out of account the delicate question of timber camps, are the chief producers of raw commodities had both to provision the Plan and pay for the considerable imports of foreign machinery that it necessitated. 

THE PEASANTS 

Collectivisation was a logical, consequence of such a state of affairs.  The peasants were mobilized for service on the “industrial front” as they were mobilized in their millions for service in the Great War, and with almost as disastrous results.  They were drafted into collective farm., those who resisted being severely penalized; a large part of their produce was taken from them by the Government and paid for at nominal rates in heavily depreciated paper roubles, and out of what still remained they had to sell enough on the open market to pay their money taxes, and to feed themselves; ruthless campaigns were organized against ‘kulaks’ - that is, peasants who, by superior cunning or industry or intelligence, had made themselves more prosperous than their fellows.  The result of all this has been that the productivity of agriculture has steadily fallen until now it is not sufficient either to provide exports or to feed the general population, and that in several districts military, measures are necessary to collect the Government quota.  As for the spring harvest, no one knows exactly what area has been sown, but even official estimates are not particularly sanguine. 

The newspaper “Molot” is a Communist party organ and circulates in the North Caucasus.  Its issues for November and December are almost wholly devoted to the question of grain collection.  The following, headlines taken from one half-page in, the issue of November 23 give some idea of the general temper of its attitude towards this question:- 

“Mercilessly Put Traitors Out of the Party!”

“Let Our Blows Fall More Severely on Opportunists.”

“With All the Recently of Revolutionary Laws Punish the Enemies of the People.”

“Make Higher the Class Watchfulness of the Court and Procurer.”

“We Think an Enemy Outside the Party is More Dangerous Than an Enemy Inside the Party.” 

That such exhortations are not empty is shown by numerous reports of the expulsion of collective farm officials from the Communist party and of executions.  For instance, in the is sue of November 29 eight persons are reported as having been shot by order of the Regional Court.  Five of them - the president of a collective farm, the bookkeeper and storekeeper in the same farm a local president of Baptists, and the president of a local Revolutionary Committee were charged with “conspiring together with the object of, concealing wheat and stealing it for themselves”; two others - a private person and a collective farm driver - with “not working, and instigating collective farm workers to steal wheat, and speculating with stolen wheat on the open market” the last -a runaway from exile with “organizing a group of the most back ward women to steal 18,000 ponds of grain.”  In the case of the “most backward women” the amount of grain stolen was so large (a pood about 36 English pounds) that it must have been more a question of raiding than stealing. 

IN THE TOWNS 

Despite these ferocious methods of collection, not enough grain has been collected to feed the towns properly, and an attempt is now being made to limit the number of persons receiving rations and to transfer surplus labour back to the provinces.  Decrees have been issued putting food distribution in the hands of factory managements and a “census” has been ordered.

 

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