Collectivization

In 1928 Joseph Stalin began attacking kulaks for not supplying enough food for industrial workers. He also advocated the setting up of collective farms. The proposal involved small farmers joining forces to form large-scale units. In this way, it was argued, they would be in a position to afford the latest machinery. Stalin believed this policy would lead to increased production. However, the peasants liked farming their own land and were reluctant to form themselves into state collectives.

In January 1930, an announcement of an all-out drive to collectivize agriculture, was published in Pravda. It was a belated admission of events that had been taking place in the countryside for almost two years. In an article published by Walter Duranty in the New York Times he argued: "Stalin in my opinion marks the beginning of a new militant phase - like militant communism - and is out to accomplish what Lenin could not - collectivization of the peasants".

Joseph Stalin had decided that the peasants were putting their own welfare before that of the Soviet Union. Local communist officials were given instructions to confiscate kulaks property. This land would then be used to form new collective farms. It has been argued that in the next eight weeks ten million peasant households were forced to join collective farms. The kulaks resisted this process. It has been estimated that during this period some "fourteen million head of cattle were destroyed, one-third of all pigs, one-quarter of all sheep and goats".

Stalin gave orders that the kulaks were to be "liquidated as a class". This was to take the form of exile either to Central Asia or to the timber regions of Siberia, where they were used as forced labour. According to the historian, Sally J. Taylor: "Many of those exiled died, either along the way or in the makeshift camps where they were dumped, with inadequate food, clothing, and housing." Thousands were executed and an estimated five million were deported. Of these, approximately twenty-five per cent perished by the time they reached their destination.

Walter Duranty visited Central Asia in April 1930 and reported on the fate of the kulaks: "At the windows haggard faces, men and women, or a mother holding her child, with hands outstretched for a crust of bread or a cigarette. It was only the end of April but the heat was torrid and the air that came from the narrow windows was foul and stifling; for they had been fourteen days en route, not knowing where they were going nor caring much. They were more like caged animals than human beings, not wild beasts but dumb cattle, patient with suffering eyes. Debris and jetsam, victims of the March to Progress."

Primary Sources

(1) Walter Duranty, Write As I Please (1935)

At the windows haggard faces, men and women, or a mother holding her child, with hands outstretched for a crust of bread or a cigarette. It was only the end of April but the heat was torrid and the air that came from the narrow windows was foul and stifling; for they had been fourteen days en route, not knowing where they were going nor caring much. They were more like caged animals than human beings, not wild beasts but dumb cattle, patient with suffering eyes. Debris and jetsam, victims of the March to Progress.