Lenin, Stalin and the peasant question under socialism
Marxism teaches, and historical experience confirms, that there is no future in small-scale farming. Collectivisation is the only answer. Collectivisation takes place under the conditions of capitalism through a long and painful historical process by the expropriation of the masses of the peasantry and the concentration of land in the hands of a tiny minority of large farms and agribusinesses. In the conditions of socialism, it takes place by the persuasion of the peasant masses to resort to collective farming through the formation of large agricultural co-operative farms. As in a vast number of other fields, the October Revolution, and the collectivisation of agriculture in the Soviet Union, has blazed the trail and shown the downtrodden, destitute and impoverished peasantry, living in conditions of benighted ignorance, the way out of it and on to the bright highway of prosperity, technical progress and a cultured life. We are publishing this rather long article because of its importance in the countries where the peasantry constitute a majority of the population. It is particularly important because of the malicious attacks made on Soviet collectivisation by the imperialist enemies of socialism and their flunkeys. On this, the 100th anniversary of the great socialist October Revolution, it is more important than ever to defend the gains and victories of socialism in the Soviet Union – in the field of agriculture, as indeed in all other areas.
The question of the peasantry
Leninism approaches this question with the seriousness that it deserves and with a complicated plan. Leninism’s attitude to the peasantry is not fixed for all time: it changes at each stage of the revolution.
Before dealing with the topic of the peasant question under socialism in detail, it should be stated briefly that Leninism has three slogans in regard to the peasantry:
When the proletariat was approaching the democratic revolution and all forces had to be concentrated against feudalism and the Tsarist autocracy, the slogan of the Bolshevik Party, the party of the proletariat, was to unite ALL the peasantry, including the rich peasantry, against the autocracy. That slogan was correct, for it truly represented the aspirations and the interests of all the strata of the peasantry to get rid of the hated and oppressive aristocracy. Only this slogan could mobilise the entire peasantry and help the proletariat to concentrate its blows on Tsarism by mobilising the maximum number of people in the town and the country for that purpose.
After the democratic revolution, when the proletariat was approaching the socialist revolution, the slogan of the Bolshevik Party on the peasant question changed. Instead of mobilising the entire peasantry, it became incumbent on the Party of the proletariat to mobilise the poor peasantry, neutralise the middle peasantry and concentrate its blows against the bourgeoisie in town and country.
After the October Revolution, when the question of building socialism and the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat was on the order of the day, the slogan of the Bolshevik Party changed from neutralising the middle peasantry to that of an alliance with the middle peasantry. Since the middle peasantry constituted 60% of the peasantry, it is obvious that socialism could not be built in the countryside by neutralising this vast mass.
Such, in brief, are the theoretical propositions of Leninism on the peasant question. The history of the Russian revolution and the building of socialism in the USSR have fully borne out the correctness of these propositions. These propositions, with suitable minor modifications, apply equally to all countries of the world which have a large peasant population and where the proletariat is still facing the task of achieving the democratic revolution before going on to later stages.
The general importance of collectivisation.
The question of collectivisation in the Soviet Union has always been a most controversial issue because of the general importance of collectivisation in connection with the question of building the material basis of socialism in the countryside, an issue which has several aspects:
Collectivisation is of tremendous significance in relation to the peasantry. To retain small-scale peasant farming would inevitably lead to the ruin of the overwhelming majority of the peasant population. As Lenin said: "There is no escape from poverty for the small farm" (Lenin, CW Vol XXIV p. 540).
Elsewhere he explained: "We must pass to common cultivation in large model farms. Otherwise there will be no escaping from the dislocation, from the truly desperate situation in which Russia finds itself" (Lenin, CW Vol XX p. 418).
Only through collectivisation could the working class, which held state power, effectively maintain its leadership of the main mass of the peasantry under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
"Only if we succeed in practice in showing the peasants the advantages of common, collective, co-operative, artel cultivation of the soil, only if we succeed in helping the peasant by means of co-operative, artel farming, will the working class, which holds state power in its hands, actually prove to the peasant the correctness of its policy and actually secure the real and durable following of the vast masses of the peasantry." (Lenin, CW Vol XXIV p. 579).
As long as small-scale peasant farming lasted, the danger of restoration of capitalism was acute, for the "Soviet regime could not for long continue to rest upon two opposite foundations: on large-scale socialist industry, which destroys the capitalist elements, and on small, individual peasant farming, which engenders capitalist elements" (Stalin, CW Vol 13 p. 176).
And further: "Small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously and on a mass scale" (Lenin, CW Vol XXXI pp.7-8).
Finally, collective farms are the medium best suited to remoulding the individual peasantry in the spirit of collectivism and socialism, thereby bringing it closer to the working class.
Why is this so? Lenin explains:
"The remaking of the small tiller, the remoulding of his whole mentality and habits, is a work of generations. As regards the small tiller, this problem can be solved, his whole mentality can be put on healthy lines, so to speak, only by the material base, by technical means, by introducing tractors and machines in agriculture on a mass scale, by electrification on a mass scale. That is what would remake the small tiller fundamentally and with immense rapidity" (CW Vol XXVI p.239).
Such is the Leninist plan for remoulding the peasantry, for bringing it closer to the working class, and for creating the necessary conditions for the elimination of all classes.
It is clear that those who are opposed to collectivisation are enemies of the peasantry, of the working class and of socialism and communism.
The ‘Left’ Deviation from the Party’s Leninist line on collectivisation
The ‘left’ (Trotskyist) deviation saw in the entire peasantry nothing but an instrument for the restoration of capitalism; it regarded the basic mass of the peasantry as a reactionary mass which could not be relied upon, and, therefore, advocated not an alliance but ‘discord’ with the basic mass of the peasantry. Above all it believed in the impossibility of successfully building socialism in any single country.
Because of these fundamentally defeatist beliefs, Trotskyism was driven to desperate adventurism, which explains why Trotsky and Zinoviev tried to force on the Party fullscale collectivisation at the 14th Party Congress in December 1925, at which time the Party rejected this policy, for reasons explained below. Since then, the Trotskyists have alleged that collectivisation was initiated too late because the Bolshevik Party and Stalin did not realise the bestial nature of the kulaks until these kulaks attempted in 1928 to threaten the very existence of the Soviet regime by refusing to sell grain to the Soviet state, presenting the towns and the Red Army with the prospect of starvation.
Since the Party knew very well the bestial nature of the kulaks, as much in 1925 as in 1928, why were the tasks of collectivisation and elimination of the kulaks as a class not embarked upon earlier? Why did the Eighth Congress of the Bolshevik Party in 1926 proclaim the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks rather than a policy of elimination of the kulaks as a class?
The reason is that had the Party undertaken an offensive against the kulaks without preparing the necessary conditions for the successful outcome of this offensive, then the offensive would certainly have failed, thus strengthening the kulaks. An earlier offensive against the kulaks, would necessarily have failed because of a lack in the Soviet countryside of a wide network of state farms and collective farms which could furnish the base for a determined struggle against the kulaks. This meant that the Soviet state was unable to replace food produced under conditions of kulak production by those produced under conditions of socialist production in state and collective farms, as Stalin made clear:
"In 1926-1927, the Zinoviev-Trotsky opposition did its utmost to impose upon the Party the policy of an immediate offensive against the kulaks. The Party did not embark on that dangerous adventure, for it knew that serious people cannot afford to play at an offensive. An offensive against the kulaks is a serious matter. … To launch an offensive against the kulaks means that we must prepare for it and then strike at the kulaks, strike so hard as to prevent them from rising to their feet again. That is what we Bolsheviks call a real offensive. Could we have undertaken such an offensive some five years or three years ago with any prospect of success? No, we could not.
"Indeed, in 1927 the kulaks produced over 600,000,000 poods [a pood is approximately 16.4 kg] of grain, about 130,000,000 poods of which they marketed outside the rural districts. That was a rather serious power, which had to be reckoned with. How much did our collective farms and state farms produce at that time? About 80,000,000 poods, of which about 35,000,000 poods were sent to the market (Marketable grain). Judge for yourselves, could we at that time have REPLACED the kulak output and kulak marketable grain by the output and marketable grain of our collective farms and state farms? Obviously, we could not.
"What would it have meant to launch a determined offensive against the kulaks under such conditions? It would have meant certain failure, strengthening the position of the kulaks and being left without grain. That is why we could not and should not have undertaken a determined offensive against the kulaks at that time, in spite of the adventurist declamations of the Zinoviev-Trotsky opposition" (CW Vol 12 pp 174-5),
The Trotskyist recipe for disaster through "discord" with the peasantry versus the Leninist formula for building socialism through a "stable alliance" with the main mass of the peasantry
If the ‘left’ (Trotskyist) deviation had gained ascendancy in the Party, the result would have been the restoration of capitalism in the USSR, for what they were advocating amounted to a declaration of civil war against the middle peasantry, i.e., 60 % of the peasantry. This would have brought the Soviet regime into "hostile collision" with the main mass of the peasantry, which could not but represent a most serious danger to the very existence of the Soviet regime. Small wonder that the Party rejected this adventurist ‘ policy ‘.
This policy was the direct outcome of Trotsky’s notorious theory of ‘permanent revolution’ which, like Menshevism, denied the revolutionary role of the peasantry extended to the building of socialism and claimed it to be impossible to build socialism in a single country anyway. According to this theory of ‘permanent revolution’ it was impossible for the working class to lead the main mass of the peasantry in socialist construction. Here are Trotskyism’ s very words :
"The contradictions in the position of a workers’ government in a backward country with an overwhelming peasant population can be solved only on an international scale in the arena of the world proletarian revolution" (from the preface to Trotsky’s book The Year 1905).
The Trotskyist opposition’s chief economist, Preobrazhensky, even went so far as to declare the peasantry a "colony" for socialist industry, as an object to be exploited to the utmost. Smirnov, another leader of the opposition, openly advocated "discord" with the middle peasants:
"We say that our state budget must be revised in such a way that the greater part of this five thousand million budget should flow into industry, for IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR US TO PUT UP WITH DISCORD WITH THE MIDDLE PEASANTS THAN TO INVITE CERTAIN DOOM" (Smirnov, speech delivered at the Rogzhsko-Simonovsky District Party Conference, 1927, quoted according to Stalin, CW Vol 10, p.262).
One has only to compare the views of the Trotskyist opposition with the following passages from Lenin’s writings to realise what a deep chasm divides Trotskyism from Leninism.
Whereas Trotskyism advocated "discord with the middle peasants" as the best method of avoiding "certain doom", Leninism, on the contrary, advocated an alliance with the basic mass of the peasantry as the only means of ensuring the leading role of the proletariat and the consolidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
" … the supreme principle," said Lenin, "of the dictatorship of the proletariat is the maintenance of the alliance of the proletariat and the peasantry in order that the proletariat may retain its leading role and state power" (Report on the Tactics of the RCP(B) delivered at the 3rd Congress of the Comintern, 5 July 1921, CW Vol 32 p 466).
Since in 1927 the middle peasantry constituted 60% of the entire peasantry, "discord" with the middle peasantry would have meant driving them into the arms of the kulaks, strengthening the kulaks and isolating the poor peasants. It would have meant starting a civil war in the countryside and weakening Soviet rule in the countryside. Such is the logic of Trotskyism, whatever its intentions.
As Stalin said: "I am far from accusing the opposition of deliberately striving for all these misfortunes. It is not, however, a matter of what the opposition desires and is striving for, but of the results that must inevitably follow from the opposition’s policy of discord with the middle peasantry.
"The same thing is happening to the opposition here as happened with the bear in Krylov’s fable ‘The Hermit and the Bear’. It goes without saying that the bear’s intention in smashing the head of his friend the hermit with a lump of rock was to deliver him from the importunate fly. The bear was prompted by the friendliest motives. Nevertheless, the bear’s friendly motives led to an action that was far from friendly, and for which the hermit paid with his life. Of course, the opposition wishes the revolution nothing but good. But to achieve this it proposes such means as would result in the utter defeat of the revolution, in the utter defeat of the working class and the peasantry, in the disruption of all our work of construction" (CW Vol 10 p 265).
The year 1929 and the turn of the peasantry towards collectivisation
By the second half of 1929, however, the picture had changed dramatically, and there were present all the pre-requisites for a determined offensive against the kulaks and for their elimination as a class. These pre-requisites were:
FIRST: the state farms and the collective farms had been developed to a degree that they were able to replace kulak farming as regards marketable output. As Stalin explained:
" … Today, we have an adequate material base for us to strike at the kulaks, to break their resistance, to eliminate them as a class, and to REPLACE their output by the output of the collective farms and state farms. You know that in 1929 the grain produced on the collective farms and state farms has amounted to no less than 400,000,000 poods (200,000,000 poods less than the gross output of the kulak farms in 1927). You also know that in 1929 the collective farms and state farms have supplied more than 130,000,000 poods of marketable grain (i.e., more than the kulaks in 1927). Lastly, you know that in 1930 the gross output of the collective farms and state farms will amount to not less than 900,000,000 poods of grain (i.e., more than the gross output of the kulaks in 1927), and their output of marketable grain will be not less than 400,000,000 poods (i.e., incomparably more than the kulaks supplied in 1927)…
"Now, as you see, we have the material base which enables us to REPLACE the kulak output by the output of the collective farms and state farms. It is for this very reason that our determined offensive against the kulaks is now meeting with undeniable success…
"That is why we have recently passed from the policy of RESTRICTING the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks to the policy of ELIMINATING THE KULAKS AS A CLASS," (CW Vol 12 pp 175-6).
SECOND, the Soviet state and Soviet industry were now in a position to help the collective-farm movement through credit facilities and the supply of machines and tractors. In 1927-28, the Soviet government assigned 76,000,000 roubles for financing collective farms; in 1929-29, 170,000,000 roubles; and in 1929-30, 473,000,000 roubles were assigned. In addition 65,000,000 roubles were assigned during the same period for the collectivisation fund. Privileges were accorded to the collective farms which increased their resources by 200,000,000 roubles. For use on collective-farm fields the state supplied no fewer than 30,000 tractors with a total of 400,000 horse power, not taking into account the 7,000 tractors of the Tractor Centre which served the collective farms, and the assistance by way of tractors rendered by the state farms to the collective farms. In 1929-30 the collective farms were granted seed loans and seed assistance to the amount of 10,000,000 centners of grain (61 million poods). Lastly, the collective farms were greatly helped by the direct organisational assistance given them in the setting up of more than 7,000 machine and tractor stations.
The result of all these measures was a forty-fold increase in the crop area of collective farms in three years, and a fifty-fold increase in the grain output of the collective farms (with an increase in its marketable part of more than forty-fold) during the same three years, i.e., 1927-29.
THIRD, the turn of the peasantry towards socialism, towards collectivisation. This did not arise all of a sudden in an accidental or spontaneous way; it had to be prepared for in a scientific manner and through hard struggle over a number of years, in which the Party led the people in clearing one obstacle after another from the path leading to collectivisation. Here is how Stalin described this process:
" … the proclamation of a slogan is not enough to cause the peasantry to turn en masse towards socialism. At least one more circumstance is needed for this, namely, that the masses of the peasantry themselves should be convinced that the slogan proclaimed is a correct one and that they should accept it as their own. Therefore, this turn was prepared gradually.
"It was prepared by the whole course of our development, by the whole course of development of our industry and above all by the development of the industry that supplies machines and tractors for agriculture. It was prepared by the policy of resolutely fighting the kulaks and by the course of our grain procurements in the new forms that they assumed in 1928 and 1929, which placed kulak farming under the control of the poor- and middle- peasant masses. It was prepared by the development of the agricultural co-operatives, which train the individualist peasant in collective methods. It was prepared by the network of collective farms, in which the peasantry verified the advantages of collective forms of farming over individual farming. Lastly, it was prepared by the network of state farms, spread over the whole of the USSR, and equipped with modern machines, which enabled the peasants to convince themselves of the potency and superiority of modern machines.
"It would be a mistake to regard our state farms only as sources of grain supplies. Actually, the state farms, with their modern machines, with the assistance they render the peasants in their vicinity, and the unprecedented scope of their farming, were the leading force that facilitated the turn of the peasant masses and brought them on to the path of collectivisation” (CW Vol 12 pp 288-289, Report to the 16th Congress).
The elimination of the kulaks as a class was not simply an administrative affair, as the Trotskyists thought. The class of kulaks could not be wished away with a Trotskyist decree, but only by taking concrete economic measures and preparing the necessary economic and political conditions. As Stalin says:
"Those comrades are wrong who think that it is possible and necessary to put an end to the kulaks by means of administrative measures, through the GPU: give an order, affix a seal, and that settles it. That is an easy way, but it is far from being effective. The kulak must be defeated by means of economic measures and in conformity with Soviet law. Soviet law, however, is not a mere phrase. This does not, of course preclude the taking of certain administrative measures against the kulaks. But administrative measures must not take the place of economic measures" (CW Vol 10 p 319).
What is more, the time for launching an all-out offensive against the kulaks had to be right; any mistake on this score meant playing at an offensive against the kulaks, meant risking the very existence of the dictatorship of the proletariat. One of the chief characteristics of Leninist leadership, of Bolshevik tactics, is to choose the correct time and the proper ground for launching an offensive against the enemies of socialism. To put this in the apt language of Stalin:
"The art of Bolshevik policy by no means consists of firing indiscriminately with all your guns on all fronts, regardless of conditions of time and place, and regardless of whether the masses are ready to support this or that step of the leadership. The art of Bolshevik policy consists in being able to choose the time and place and to take all the circumstances into account in order to concentrate fire on the front where the maximum results are to be attained most quickly" (CW Vol 11 p 55).
Since Trotsky had been advocating collectivisation and the elimination of the kulaks as a class in 1926-27, one might have expected him to support the Party when it did decide to commence the process of collectivisation. When, however, the Party had already passed from the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks to the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class, Trotsky then, in his Open letter to the members of the CPSU of 23 March 1930, demanded that the Party should: " … abandon the policy of ‘de-kulakisation"’ and instead should " … hold the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks in check for a long number of years. "
This is characteristic Trotskyism, Trotskyism with its truly absurd, anti-dialectical and reactionary content: de-kulakisation in 1926 and abandonment of the policy of dekulakisation in 1930!!
When collectivisation had in the main already been achieved, by 1933, Trotsky went on, in the issues of his Bulletin, to demand the dissolution of the state farms on the grounds that they did not "pay"; the dissolution of the majority of the collective farms on the grounds that they were fictitious; and the abandonment of the policy of eliminating the kulaks. In industry also, Trotsky demanded abandonment of hard-won socialist advances and a reversion to the policy of concessions and the leasing to concessionaires of a number of Soviet industrial enterprises on the grounds that they did not "pay".
It can readily be seen how Trotsky’s ‘left’ phrases covered a ‘right’ essence.
The right opportunist (Bukharinite) deviation
Whereas the ‘left’ (Trotskyist) opportunists overestimated the strength of capitalism, did not believe in the possibility of the USSR successfully building socialism by its own efforts, the Right (Bukharinite) opportunists went to the other extreme. They underestimated the strength of capitalism, declared themselves in favour of any kind of alliance with the entire peasantry, including the kulaks and, disregarding the mechanics of class struggle under the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat, proclaimed that the kulaks will automatically "grow into Socialism" (Bukharin, The Path to Socialism). Bukharin’s group maintained that with the advance of socialism and the development of socialist forms of economy, the class struggle would subside. This theory presented a most serious danger to the dictatorship of the proletariat. Its harm lay " … in the fact that it lulls the working class to sleep, undermines the mobilised preparedness of the revolutionary forces of our country, demobilises the working class and facilitates the attack of the capitalist elements against the Soviet government" (Stalin, CW Vol 12 p. 41).
And so it did. By the beginning of 1928 the kulaks began organised resistance to the Soviet regime. This resistance assumed most acute forms and was most eloquent proof of (a) the fact that the socialist offensive against the capitalist elements was proceeding full steam ahead and according to plan; that the kulaks were, therefore, feeling the pinch, and had either to decide to resist desperately or to retire from the scene voluntarily, and (b) the fact that the capitalist elements had no desire to depart from the scene voluntarily. Stalin referred to this class struggle in the following terms:
"It must not be imagined that the socialist forms will develop, squeezing out the enemies of the working class, while our enemies retreat in silence and make way for our advance, that then we shall again advance and they will again retreat until ‘unexpectedly’ all the social groups without exception, both kulaks and poor peasants, both workers and capitalists, find themselves ‘suddenly’ and ‘imperceptibly’, without struggle or commotion, in the lap of a socialist society. Such fairy tales do not and cannot happen in general, and in the conditions of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular.
"It never has been and never will be the case that the working class could advance towards socialism in a class society without struggle or commotion. On the contrary, the advance towards socialism cannot but cause the exploiting elements to resist the advance, and the resistance of the exploiters cannot but lead to the inevitable sharpening of the class struggle.
"That is why the working class must not be lulled with talk about the class struggle playing a secondary role." (CW Vol 11 p. 180).
When the kulaks began serious organised resistance to the Soviet government, who but Bukharin and his group should come up in the Party to defend the kulak interests? The Bukharinites represented the decay of kulak farming as a decay of agriculture in the USSR. They demanded the slowing down of the rate of industrial development, relaxation of the monopoly of foreign trade, relegation of collectivisation to the background, and all-round concessions to the capitalist elements.
The first serious attack from the kulaks came at the time of the grain procurement crisis of January 1928. The kulaks refused to sell grain to the Soviet state; the Soviet government found itself with a grain deficit of 130 million poods. Having no reserves, the Soviet government could not but resort to emergency measures, such as the application of Article 107 of the Criminal Code, which allowed the confiscation of grain the kulaks refused to sell. This had the desired effect of procuring from the kulaks the necessary supplies of grain required by the state, but it enraged the Bukharinites. Under the guise of combating ‘excesses’, the Bukharinites engaged in combating the Party’s correct policy and defending the kulaks. Stalin exposed this fraudulent opportunist trick:
"The most fashionable word just now among Bukharin’s group is the word ‘excesses’ in grain procurements. That word is the most current commodity among them, since it helps them to mask their opportunist line. When they want to mask their own line they usually say: We, of course, are not opposed to pressure being brought to bear upon the kulak, but we are opposed to the excesses which are being committed in this sphere and which hurt the middle peasant. They then go on to relate stories of the ‘horrors’ of these excesses; they read letters from ‘peasants’, panic-stricken letters from comrades, such as Markov, and then draw the conclusion: the policy of bringing pressure to bear upon the kulaks must be abandoned.
"How do you like that? BECAUSE excesses are committed in carrying out a correct policy, THAT CORRECT POLICY, it seems, MUST BE ABANDONED. That is the usual trick of the opportunist: on the pretext that excesses are committed in carrying out a correct line, abolish that line and replace it by an opportunist line. Moreover, the supporters of Bukharin’s group very carefully hush up the fact that there is another kind of excesses, more dangerous and more harmful – namely, excesses in the direction of merging with the kulak, in the direction of adaptation to the well-to-do strata of the rural population, in the direction of abandoning the revolutionary policy of the Party for the opportunist policy of the Right deviators.
"Of course, we are all opposed to those excesses. None of us wants the blows directed against the kulaks to hurt the middle peasants. That is obvious, and there can be no doubt about it. But we are most emphatically opposed to the chatter about excesses, in which Bukharin’s group so zealously indulges, being used to scuttle the revolutionary policy of our Party and replace it by the opportunist policy of Bukharin’s group. No, that trick of theirs won’t work.
"Point out at least one political measure taken by the Party that has not been accompanied by excesses of one kind or another. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that we must combat excesses. But can one ON THESE GROUNDS decry the line itself, which is the only correct line?
"Take a measure like the introduction of the seven-hour day. There can be no doubt that this is one of the most revolutionary measures carried out by our Party in the recent period. Who does not know that this measure, which by its nature is a profoundly revolutionary one, is frequently accompanied by excesses, sometimes of a most objectionable kind? Does that mean that we ought to abandon the policy of introducing the seven-hour day?
"Do the supporters of the Bukharin opposition understand what a mess they are getting into in playing up the excesses committed during the grain procurement campaign?” (CW Vol 12 pp. 96-97).
Bukharin’s group was opposed to the fight against the kulaks; it was in favour of an alliance of the working class with the ENTIRE peasantry, including the kulaks. The Party, however, was most emphatically opposed to such an alliance.
"No, comrades, such an alliance we do not advocate, and cannot advocate. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat, when the power of the working class is firmly established, the alliance of the working class with the peasantry means reliance on the poor peasants, alliance with the middle peasants, and a fight against the kulaks. Whoever thinks that under our conditions alliance with the peasantry means alliance with the kulaks has nothing in common with Leninism. Whoever thinks of conducting a policy in the countryside that will please everyone, rich and poor alike, is not a Marxist, but a fool, because such a policy does not exist in nature, comrades. Our policy is a class policy" (Stalin, CW Vol 11 p.52).
The alliance with the peasantry advocated by Bukharin, however, meant an alliance not only with the middle peasantry but also with the kulaks. It scarcely needs proof that such an alliance would have led to the negation of the leading role of the proletariat, the weakening of its dictatorship, and the perpetuation of classes, for only an alliance with the middle peasantry against the kulaks – only can lead in the direction of the abolition of classes. Classes can only be abolished through class struggle against the exploiters – against the kulaks and other capitalist elements – and not through alliance with them.
Obviously Bukharin’s Right opportunist policies had to be defeated. Without that there would have been restoration of capitalism in the USSR in the early 1930s. It must be said to the credit, glory and honour of the Bolshevik Party and its leader at the time, Stalin, that the Right opportunists of Bukharin’s group were just as assuredly routed as those of the ‘left’ opportunist Trotsky-Zinoviev group. The defeated groups joined forces subsequently (just as they had done previously) in opposition to the Party, thus demonstrating their anti-Leninist and right-reactionary essence. The truth remains that the programme of the ‘lefts’ led just as much as that of the rights in the direction of the restoration of capitalism.
The only difference is that the ‘Lefts’ (Trotskyites) use ultra-‘left’ phrases, which incidentally explains "… why the ‘Lefts’ sometimes succeed in luring a part of the workers over to their side with the help of high-sounding ‘Left’ phrases and by posing as the most determined opponents of the Rights, although all the world knows that they, the ‘Lefts’, have the same social roots as the Rights, and that they not infrequently join in an agreement, a bloc, with the Rights in order to fight the Leninist line" (Stalin, CW Vol 11 p. 291).
It may be said in passing that most of the criticisms levelled by the ordinary bourgeois at the Bolshevik Party’s Leninist line on collectivisation are based on the lines of argumentation of the bourgeois socialists within the Bolshevik Party, namely, the ‘Left’ (Trotskyist) opportunists and the Right (Bukharinite) deviators.
Nor could it be otherwise, for the platforms of the ‘Left’ and Right opportunists were platforms of capitalist restoration, albeit in a disguised form and couched in even Marxian terminology. Hence the concurrence in the views of the ordinary bourgeois on the one hand, and ‘socialist’ opportunists such as the Trotskyists and Bukharinites on the other hand. The bourgeois does not mind what terminology is used; he does not object to the use of Marxian terminology in the defence and preservation of capitalism. In fact under certain circumstances the only way to serve capitalism is through the use of Marxian phrases. How could defeatists, for example, openly demand the restoration of capitalism in the USSR when the working class was in power? They would have only to utter one sentence openly to be flung out of every workers’ organisation, let alone the vanguard Party of the proletariat, and to be completely despised by every class-conscious worker. So they were obliged to present their programmes for capitalist restoration in the name of the working class and of Marxism!
The use of force and collectivisation
There is one more question which we wish to comment on, namely, that of the use of force in collectivisation. The bourgeois ideologists have levelled the allegation that collectivisation in the USSR was a forcible collectivisation – against the will of the majority of the peasantry. This allegation has acquired, through sheer repetition, the force of a public prejudice, and is believed even by some (extremely ignorant) people who like to call themselves Marxist-Leninists.
We must, therefore, say a few words on this question. Only incorrigible bureaucrats could imagine that collectivisation in the Soviet Union could conceivably have been achieved by force. Collectivisation demanded the enthusiastic mobilisation of millions of people. This cannot be achieved by intimidation.
Successful collectivisation was achieved precisely because of the voluntary nature of collectivisation. The moment compulsion came on the scene (on which more will be said later) collectivisation suffered.
In fact, the collectivisation movement had been taken up so enthusiastically by the overwhelming majority of the peasantry, that by the end of 1929 any dissatisfaction there was among the main mass of the peasantry "was not because of the collective farm policy of the Soviet government, but because the Soviet government is unable to keep pace with the growth of the collective farm movement as regards supplying the peasants with machines and tractors" (Stalin, CW Vol 12 p. 137).
Though the collective-farm movement on the whole was of a voluntary character, there were here and there distortions of the Party’s policy by over-zealous Party functionaries and all ‘leftists’. These distortions were as follows:
Violation of the principle regarding the voluntary character of the collective-farm movement, which had the effect of causing collective farms to melt away. Had this distortion not been corrected, there would have been no successes in collectivisation in the USSR.
Violation of the principle which demanded taking into account the diversity of conditions in the USSR. (The USSR had been divided into three groups of districts which had fixed for each of them approximate dates for the completion, in the main, of collectivisation).
Violation of the rule which defined the ARTEL FORM of the collective-farm movement as the MAIN LINK IN THE COLLECTIVE-FARM SYSTEM at that time. Attempts were made to skip the agricultural artel state and pass over straight to the commune stage.
Each of these three distortions violated the decision of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee adopted on 5 January 1930 entitled The rate of collectivisation and state measures to assist collective-farm development. They were, therefore, abhorrent to the Political Bureau, the Central Committee and Stalin, who took steps to correct them the moment they appeared. One has only to read Stalin’s articles Dizzy with success (7 November 1929) and Reply to collective farm comrades (25 April 1930) to be convinced of this – notwithstanding Trotskyist and other bourgeois assertions to the contrary. Let Stalin speak for himself:
"Who benefits by these distortions, this bureaucratic decreeing of the collective-farm movement, these unworthy threats against the peasants? Nobody, except our enemies!" (Dizzy with Success).
But just because there took place some local distortions – distortions swiftly eliminated by the Party – does this mean then that the Party’s line on collectivisation was wrong? No, it certainly does not mean that. Only opportunist tricksters can demand the abandonment of a correct policy just because some distortions of it have been committed in the course of carrying it out. The correct conclusion to be drawn from distortions is that we must combat them, not that we must abandon the correct policy.
What is true, however, is that collectivisation was certainly effected by force exerted against the kulaks, against the will of the kulaks. Of course, the working class used of revolutionary violence against kulaks and exploiters engaged in the use of counter revolutionary violence and in terrorism and murder of government and party functionaries in their desperate attempts to halt the advance of socialism. Can we reproach the Soviet state for having used revolutionary violence to counter the reactionary violence of the kulak and other capitalist elements? As Engels said:
" … if the victorious party [in a revolution] does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionaries. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeoisie? Should we not on the contrary reproach it for not having used it freely enough?" (‘On Authority’, Marx and Engels SW in 3 Volumes, Vol 2, p.379).
Successes of collectivisation
By February 1930, 50% of the peasant farms had been collectivised, thus over-fulfilling the five-year plan of collectivisation by 100%. In the course of about three years, between 1929 and 1931, the Party succeeded in organising 200,000 collective farms and about 5,000 state farms devoted to the growing of grain and the raising of livestock. In the course of four years the Party succeeded at the same time in expanding the crop area by 21,000,000 hectares.
By the end of the first five-year plan, the Party had succeeded in getting more than 60% of the peasant farms to unite into collective farms, covering more than 70% of the total land cultivated by the peasants – thus fulfilling the five-year plan three times over.
By the end of the first five-year plan the Party had also succeeded in making possible the procurement of 1,200 million to 1,400 million poods of marketable grain annually compared with the 500 million to 600 million poods that were procured in the period of the predominance of individual peasant farming.
The Party’s policy on collectivisation was successful in routing the kulaks as a class, in emancipating the labouring peasantry from kulak exploitation and bondage, and in providing the Soviet regime with a firm economic basis in the countryside, the basis of large-scale collective farming.
"The Party succeeded in converting the USSR from a country of small-peasant farming into a country of the largest-scale agriculture in the world" (Stalin, CW Vol 13, p. 194).
These successes were recognised even by some capitalists, i.e., those who were honest and capable of recognising the truth. Here, for example, is what the British capitalist, Mr Gibson Jarvis, the President of the United Dominion Trust, wrote in October 1932:
"Now I want it clearly understood that I am neither a Communist nor a Bolshevik. I am definitely a capitalist and an individualist … Russia is forging ahead while all too many of our factories and shipyards lie idle and approximately 3,000,000 of our people desperately seek work. Jokes have been made about the five-year plan, and its failure has been predicted. You can take it as beyond question, that under the fiveyear plan much more has been accomplished than was ever really anticipated …
"In all these industrial towns which I visited, a new city is growing up, a city on a definite plan with wide streets in the process of being beautified by trees and grass plots, houses of the most modern type, schools, hospitals, workers’ clubs and the inevitable crêche or nursery, where the children of working mothers are cared for … Don’t underrate the Russians or their plans, and don’t make the mistake of believing that the Soviet Government must crash. … Russia today is a country with a soul and an ideal. Russia is a country of amazing activity. I believe that the Russian objective is sound … And perhaps most important of all, all these youngsters and these workers in Russia have one thing which is too sadly lacking in the capitalist countries today, and that is – hope! The guiding landmark on the Soviet countryside is no longer the dome of a church but the grain elevator and the silo. Collectives are building piggeries, barns, and houses. Electricity is penetrating the village, and radio and newspapers have conquered it. Workers are learning to operate the world’s most modern machines; peasant boys make and use agricultural machinery bigger and more complicated than ever America has seen. Russia is becoming ‘machine-minded’, Russia is passing quickly from the age of wood into an age or iron, steel, concrete and motors” (Nov 1932, from the US bourgeois magazine The Nation, quoted in Stalin, CW Vol 13 pp. 169-170).
Stalin was thus able to say at the Sixteenth Party Congress:
“…. all this creates conditions of work and life for the working class that enable us to rear a new generation of workers who are healthy and vigorous, who are capable of raising the might of the Soviet country to the proper level, and of protecting it with their lives from the attacks by its enemies" (CW Vol 12 p.307).
The material conditions of workers had improved beyond recognition. Yet, bourgeois die-hards (Trotskyists and suchlike ‘socialists’ included) continued, and still continue, to deny that any improvement had taken place in the material and cultural conditions of the workers and peasants. They write off such insignificant details as facts, in the stubborn belief that they cannot be there, because their theory claims it is impossible for them to be there. It never occurs to them to suspect that their theory is at fault.
In view of what has been stated above, and by way of a summary, it may be said that the Party’s policy on collectivisation achieved the following historic successes:
• it helped the mass of poor peasants to join the collective farms, thus raising them to the level of middle peasants and ending their material insecurity (no fewer than 20 million peasants were rescued from destitution and ruin as a result);
• it ended the differentiation of the peasantry into poor peasantry and kulaks, which had, before collectivization, been increasing.
• it eliminated the class of kulaks, and the socialist economic system became predominant in agriculture;
• it created the basis, through mechanised large-scale collective farming, for the remoulding of the peasantry in the spirit of collectivism – of socialism;
• it put an end to small-scale farming (which engenders capitalism) thus reducing the danger of capitalist restoration;
• it further consolidated the working-class leadership of the peasantry, thus strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat;
• it made possible the satisfaction of the large food grain procurements of the Soviet state (for only large-scale socialist farming could produce these large marketable surpluses) thus ensuring the working class in the towns and the Red Army against famine;
• it transformed the USSR from being an agrarian country with small-peasant production into an industrial country with large-scale socialist industry and large-scale socialist agriculture; and finally
• it generally put an end to the poverty and misery of millions of people in the countryside who now enjoyed material conditions hitherto unknown.
It was not without justification that in his Report to the Seventeenth Party Congress (January 1934), Stalin, reviewing the period since the Sixteenth Congress (June 1930) and underlining the changes that had since taken place, was able to say the following:
"During this period, the USSR has become radically transformed and has cast off the integument of backwardness and medievalism. From a country of small individual agriculture it has become a country of collective, large-scale mechanised agriculture. From an ignorant, illiterate and uncultured country it has become – or rather is becoming – a literate and cultured country covered by a vast network of higher, intermediate and elementary schools teaching in the languages of the nationalities of the USSR" (Report to the 17th Party Congress).
All in all the successes of the USSR in the field of socialist collectivisation (as well as socialist industrialisation) shattered once and for all the counter-revolutionary socialdemocratic-Trotskyist thesis that it is impossible to build socialism in one country taken separately; they smashed to smithereens the bourgeois-Trotskyist thesis that the peasantry is counter-revolutionary by nature, that its mission was to restore capitalism in the USSR, and that, therefore, it could not be a stable ally of the working class in socialist construction. The successes of the USSR are eloquent proof of the correctness of Leninism, of the fact that socialism can be successfully built in a single country taken separately, of the revolutionary character of the basic mass of the peasantry, and of the fact that the latter can be successfully mobilised in building a Soviet, socialist system of economy.
The successes of collectivisation, of the building of socialism in the Soviet countryside, shine with even greater brightness when one compares the utter destitution and ruin that has struck the territory of the former USSR since the counter revolution of 1991 – no doubt set in train by the triumph of Khrushchevite revisionism at the 20th Party Congress in 1956. Ever since the early 1930s, the imperialist bourgeoisie and other enemies of socialism have shouted themselves hoarse repeating the lie that collectivisation destroyed Soviet agriculture. Now that the restoration of capitalism has well and truly destroyed the agriculture of the former Soviet Union and wrecked production in the countryside, even the most dull-witted person cannot avoid realising what a great success Soviet agriculture was – thanks to collectivisation.