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The essential rôle of the most oppressed masses

Numerous anti-Communist books tell us that the collectivization was `imposed' by the leadership of the Party and by Stalin and implemented with terror. This is a lie. The essential impulse during the violent episodes of collectivization came from the most oppressed of the peasant masses. A peasant from the Black-Earth region declared:

`I have lived my whole life among the batraks (agricultural workers). The October revolution gave me land, I got credit from year to year, I got a poor horse, I can't work the land, my children are ragged and hungry, I simply can't manage to improve my farm in spite of the help of the Soviet authorities. I think there's only one way out: join a tractor column, back it up and get it going.'


Ibid. , p. 160.

Lynne Viola  wrote:

`Although centrally initiated and endorsed, collectivization became, to a great extent, a series of ad hoc policy responses to the unbridled initiatives of regional and district rural party and government organs. Collectivization and collective farming were shaped less by Stalin and the central authorities than by the undisciplined and irresponsible activity of rural officials, the experimentation of collective farm leaders left to fend for themselves, and the realities of a backward countryside.'


Viola,  op. cit. , pp. 215--216.

Viola  correctly emphasizes the base's internal dynamic. But her interpretation of the facts is one-sided. She misses the mass line consistently followed by Stalin and the Bolshevik Party. The Party set the general direction, and, on this basis, the base and the intermediate cadres were allowed to experiment. The results from the base would then serve for the elaboration of new directives, corrections and rectifications.

Viola  continued:

`The state ruled by circular, it ruled by decree, but it had neither the organizational infrastructure nor the manpower to enforce its voice or to ensure correct implementation of its policy in the administration of the countryside .... The roots of the Stalin system in the countryside do not lie in the expansion of state controls but in the very absence of such controls and of an orderly system of administration, which, in turn, resulted as the primary instrument of rule in the countryside.'


Ibid. , p. 216.

This conclusion, drawn from a careful observation of the real progress of collectivization, requires two comments.

The thesis of `Communist totalitarianism' exercised by an `omnipresent Party bureaucracy' has no real bearing with the actual Soviet power under Stalin. It is a slogan showing the bourgeoisie's hatred of real socialism. In 1929--1933, the Soviet State did not have the technical means, the required qualified personnel, nor the sufficient Communist leadership to direct collectivization in a planned and orderly manner: to describe it as an all-powerful and totalitarian State is absurd.

In the countryside, the essential urge for collectivization came from the most oppressed peasants. The Party prepared and initiated the collectivization, and Communists from the cities gave it leadership, but this gigantic upheaval of peasant habits and traditions could not have succeeded if the poorest peasants had not been convinced of its necessity. Viola's  judgment according to which `repression became the principal instrument of power' does not correspond to reality. The primary instrument was mobilization, consciousness raising, education and organization of the masses of peasants. This constructive work, of course, required `repression', i.e. it took place and could not have taken place except through bitter class struggle against the men and the habits of the old régime.

Be they fascists or Trotskyists,  all anti-Communists affirm that Stalin was the representative of an all-powerful bureaucracy that suffocated the base. This is the opposite of the truth. To apply its revolutionary line, the Bolshevik leadership often called on the revolutionary forces at the base to short-circuit parts of the bureaucratic apparatus.

`The revolution was not implemented through regular administrative channels; instead the state appealed directly to the party rank and file and key sectors of the working class in order to circumvent rural officialdom. The mass recruitments of workers and other urban cadres and the circumvention of the bureaucracy served as a breakthrough policy in order to lay the foundations of a new system.'


Ibid. , p. 215.

next up previous contents index
Next: The organizational line Up: The first wave Previous: The war against

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995