MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE



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Economic and social creativity

It is often claimed that the 1930 collectivization was imposed by force on the peasant masses. We wish to underscore the extraordinary social and economic creativity of this period, a revolutionary creativity shown by the masses, intellectual cadres and Party leaders. Most of the basic traits of the socialist agricultural system were `invented' during the 1929--1931 struggle. Davies  recognized this:

`This was a learning process on a vast scale, and in an extremely brief period of time, in which party leaders and their advisers, local party officials, the peasants and economic regularities all contributed to the outcome .... Major features of the kolkhoz system established in 1929--30 endured until Stalin's death, and for some time after it.'

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R. W. Davies,  The Industrialisation of Soviet Russia II: The Soviet Collective Farm, 1929--1930 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 13--14.

First, the kolkhoz was conceived as the organizational form that would allow the introduction of large-scale mechanized production in a backward agricultural country. The kolkhozy were designed for grain production and industrial agriculture, particularly cotton and beets. The production from the kolkhozy was supplied to the state at very low prices, which helped with the socialist industrialization: the sums spent by the state to feed the city populations and to supply industry with agricultural raw materials were kept very low. The kolkhozians received compensation, thanks to the considerable revenue generated by sale on the free market and by supplementary work.

Next, the Tractor Machine Station system was created to introduce machines in the countryside. Bettelheim  wrote:

`Given the juridical basis for collectivization, agriculture benefited from massive investments that totally transformed the technical conditions of farms.

`This complete upheaval of agricultural technique was only possible thanks to the replacement of small- and medium-scale agriculture by large-scale agriculture.'

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Bettelheim,  op. cit. , p. 73.

But how were modern techniques introduced in the kolkhozy? The question was not simple.

During the summer of 1927, Markevich  created at Shevchenko an original system, the Tractor Machine Stations (TMS), that centralized control of machines and made them available to the kolkhozy.

In the beginning of 1929, there were two Tractor Machine Stations, both state property, with 100 tractors. There were also 50 `tractor columns', belonging to grain cooperatives, each with 20 tractors. The 147 large kolkhozy had 800 tractors; the majority of the 20,000 tractors were dispersed on the small kolkhozy.

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Davies,  op. cit. , p. 15.

In July 1929, most of the tractors were therefore in the hands of agricultural cooperatives or kolkhozy. During a conference, some proposed that tractors and machines be sold to the kolkhozy: if the peasants did not directly own the tractors, then they would not mobilize to find the funds. But the Workers' and Peasants' Inspection criticized in August 1929 the experiences with tractors belonging to cooperatives. This system made it impossible to do serious planning, the population was not adequately prepared, and, since there were not sufficient repair shops, breakdowns often occurred due to lack of maintenance.

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Ibid. , pp. 20--21.

In February 1930, the Party abandoned the giant kolkhozy experience, popular until then among the activists, to take up the village--kolkhoz as the basis for collectivization. In September 1930, the Party decided to centralize the tractors used in kolkhozy by creating Tractor Machine Stations, which would be state property.

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Ibid. , pp. 25, 27.

Markevich  proposed to use 200 tractors for every 40 to 50,000 hectares of arable land, along with a repair shop. He underlined that it was necessary for agricultural technology to be managed by a `unified organizational centre' for the entire Soviet Union. Important districts had to be chosen, technology used around the world had to be studied in order to find the best kind of machines, machines had to be standardized and the management of machines had to be centralized. The TMS should be the property of this center.

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Ibid. , pp. 16--18.

As early as spring 1930, this system showed its superiority. The TMS only served 8 per cent of the kolkhozy, but 62 per cent of the peasants in those kolkhozy remained during the `retreat'. The centralized harvest was greatly simplified by this system, since the kolkhozy simply gave one quarter of their harvest to the TMS as payment.

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Ibid. , p. 28--29.

TMS workers were considered industrial workers. Representing the working class in the countryside, they had great influence among the kolkhozians in the areas of political and technical education and of organization. In 1930, 25,000 tractor drivers received their education. In the spring of 1931, courses were organized for 200,000 young peasants who would enter the TMS, including 150,000 tractor drivers.

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Ibid. , pp. 29, 32.

Third, an ingenious system for payment of the kolkhozians was devised, called `work-days'.

A decree dated February 28, 1933 placed the different agricultural tasks in seven different renumeration categories, whose value, expressed in `work-days', varied from 0.5 to 1.5. In other words, the most difficult or arduous work was paid three times as dearly as the easiest or lightest work. The kolkhoz' revenue was distributed, at the end of the year, to the kolkhozians according to the number of work-days they had effected. The average revenue per family, in the cereal regions, was 600.2 kilograms of grain and 108 rubles in 1932. In 1937, it was 1,741.7 kilograms of grain and 376 rubles.

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Bettelheim,  op. cit. , pp. 102, 112.

Finally, a balance was found between collective labor and the individual activity of the kolkhozian peasants. The legal status of the kolkhozy, made official on February 7, 1935, fixed the basic principles, defined through five years of struggle and experience.

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Ibid. , pp. 61--65.

In 1937, the individual parcels of land cultivated by kolkhozians represented 3.9 per cent of the cultivated surface, but the kolkhozians derived 20 per cent of their revenue from them. Each family could own three horned animals, one of which could be a cow, one sow with piglets, ten sheep and an unlimited number of foul and rabbits.

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Ibid. , pp. 67--68.



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Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995