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The causes of famine in the Ukraine

There was famine in the Ukraine in 1932--1933. But it was provoked mainly by the struggle to the bitter end that the Ukrainian far-right was leading against socialism and the collectivization of agriculture.

During the thirties, the far-right, linked with the Hitlerites,  had already fully exploited the propaganda theme of `deliberately provoked famine to exterminate the Ukrainian people'. But after the Second World War, this propaganda was `adjusted' with the main goal of covering up the barbaric crimes committed by German and Ukrainian Nazis, to protect fascism and to mobilise Western forces against Communism.

In fact, since the beginning of the fifties, the reality of the extermination of six million Jews had imposed itself on the world conscience. The world right-wing forces needed a greater number of deaths `caused by communist terror'. So in 1953, the year of triumphant McCarthyism,  a spectacular increase in the number of deaths in Ukraine took place, twenty years previous. Since the Jews had been killed in a scientific, deliberate and systematic manner, the `extermination' of the Ukrainian people also had to take the form of a genocide committed in cold blood. And the far-right, which vehemently denies the holocaust of the Jews, invented the Ukrainian genocide!

The 1932-1933 Ukrainian famine had four causes.

First of all, it was provoked by civil war led by the kulaks and the nostalgic reactionary elements of Tsarism against the collectivization of agriculture.

Frederick Schuman  traveled as a tourist in Ukraine during the famine period. Once he became professor at Williams College, he published a book in 1957 about the Soviet Union. He spoke about famine.

`Their [kulak] opposition took the initial form of slaughtering their cattle and horses in preference to having them collectivized. The result was a grievous blow to Soviet agriculture, for most of the cattle and horses were owned by the kulaks. Between 1928 and 1933 the number of horses in the USSR declined from almost 30,000,000 to less than 15,000,000; of horned cattle from 70,000,000 (including 31,000,0000 cows) to 38,000,000 (including 20,000,000 cows); of sheep and goats from 147,000,000 to 50,000,000; and of hogs from 20,000,000 to 12,000,000. Soviet rural economy had not recovered from this staggering loss by 1941.

`... Some [kulaks] murdered officials, set the torch to the property of the collectives, and even burned their own crops and seed grain. More refused to sow or reap, perhaps on the assumption that the authorities would make concessions and would in any case feed them.

`The aftermath was the ``Ukraine famine'' of 1932--33 .... Lurid accounts, mostly fictional, appeared in the Nazi press in Germany and in the Hearst  press in the United States, often illustrated with photographs that turned out to have been taken along the Volga in 1921 .... The ``famine'' was not, in its later stages, a result of food shortage, despite the sharp reduction of seed grain and harvests flowing from special requisitions in the spring of 1932 which were apparently occasioned by fear of war in Japan. Most of the victims were kulaks who had refused to sow their fields or had destroyed their crops.'


Tottle,  op. cit. , pp. 93--94.

It is interesting to note that this eyewitness account was confirmed by a 1934 article by Isaac Mazepa,  leader of the Ukrainian Nationalist movement, former Premier under Petliura  in 1918. He boasted that in Ukraine, the right had succeeded in 1930--1932 in widely sabotaging the agricultural works.

`At first there were disturbances in the kolkhosi [collective farms] or else the Communist officials and their agents were killed, but later a system of passive resistance was favored which aimed at the systematic frustation of the Bolsheviks' plans for the sowing and gathering of the harvest .... The catastrophe of 1932 was the hardest blow that Soviet Ukraine had to face since the famine of 1921--1922. The autumn and spring sowing campaigns both failed. Whole tracts were left unsown, in addition when the crop was being gathered ... in many areas, especially in the south, 20, 40 and even 50 per cent was left in the fields, and was either not collected at all or was ruined in the threshing.'


Ibid. , p. 94.

The second cause of the famine was the drought that hit certain areas of Ukraine in 1930, 1931 and 1932. For Professor James E. Mace,  who defends the Ukrainian far-right line at Harvard, it is a fable created by the Soviet régime. However, in his A History of Ukraine, Mikhail Hrushevsky,  described by the Nationalists themselves as `Ukraine's leading historian', writing of the year 1932, claimed that `Again a year of drought coincided with chaotic agricultural conditions'.


Ibid. , p. 91.

Professor Nicholas Riasnovsky,  who taught at the Russian Research Center at Harvard, wrote that the years 1931 and 1932 saw drought conditions. Professor Michael Florinsky,  who struggled against the Bolsheviks during the Civil War, noted: `Severe droughts in 1930 and 1931, especially in the Ukraine, aggravated the plight of farming and created near famine conditions'.


Ibid. , p. 92.

The third cause of the famine was a typhoid epidemic that ravaged Ukraine and North Caucausus. Dr. Hans Blumenfeld,  internationally respected city planner and recipient of the Order of Canada, worked as an architect in Makayevka, Ukraine during the famine. He wrote:

`There is no doubt that the famine claimed many victims. I have no basis on which to estimate their number .... Probably most deaths in 1933 were due to epidemics of typhus, typhoid fever, and dysentery. Waterborne diseases were frequent in Makeyevka; I narrowly survived an attack of typhus fever.'


Ibid. , p. 96.

Horsley Grant, the man who made the absurd estimate of 15 million dead under the famine --- 60 per cent of an ethnic Ukrainian population of 25 million in 1932 --- noted at the same time that `the peak of the typhus epidemic coincided with the famine .... it is not possible to separate which of the two causes was more important in causing casualties.'


Ibid. , p. 97.

The fourth cause of the famine was the inevitable disorder provoked by the reorganization of agriculture and the equally profound upheaval in economic and social relations: lack of experience, improvization and confusion in orders, lack of preparation and leftist radicalism among some of the poorer peasants and some of the civil servants.

The numbers of one to two million dead for the famine are clearly important. These human losses are largely due to the ferocious opposition of the exploiting classes to the reorganization and modernization of agriculture on a socialist basis. But the bourgeoisie would make Stalin and socialism responsible for these deaths. The figure of one to two million should also be compared to the nine million dead caused by the 1921--1922 famine, essentially provoked by the military intervention of eight imperialist powers and by the support that they gave to reactionary armed groups.

The famine did not last beyond the period prior to the 1933 harvest. Extraordinary measures were taken by the Soviet government to guarantee the success of the harvest that year. In the spring, thirty-five million poods of seeds, food and fodder were sent to Ukraine. The organization and management of kolkhozy was improved and several thousand supplementary tractors, combines and trucks were delivered.

Hans Blumenfeld  presented, in his autobiography, a résumé of what he experienced during the famine in Ukraine:

`[The famine was caused by] a conjunction of a number of factors. First, the hot dry summer of 1932, which I had experienced in northern Vyatka, had resulted in crop failure in the semiarid regions of the south. Second, the struggle for collectivization had disrupted agriculture. Collectivization was not an orderly process following bureaucratic rules. It consisted of actions by the poor peasants, encouraged by the Party. The poor peasants were eager to expropriate the ``kulaks,'' but less eager to organize a cooperative economy. By 1930 the Party had already sent out cadres to stem and correct excesses .... After having exercised restraint in 1930, the Party put on a drive again in 1932. As a result, in that year the kulak economy ceased to produce, and the new collective economy did not yet produce fully. First claim on the inadequate product went to urban industry and to the armed forces; as the future of the entire nation, including the peasants, depended on them, it could hardly be otherwise ....

`In 1933 rainfall was adequate. The Party sent its best cadres to help organize work in the kolkhozes. They succeeded; after the harvest of 1933 the situation improved radically and with amazing speed. I had the feeling that we had been pulling a heavy cart uphill, uncertain if we would succeed; but in the fall of 1933 we had gone over the top and from then on we could move forward at an accelerating pace.'



Hans Blumenfeld  underscored that the famine also struck the Russian regions of Lower Volga and North Caucasus.

`This disproves the ``fact'' of anti-Ukrainian genocide parallel to Hitler's anti-semitic holocaust. To anyone familiar with the Soviet Union's desperate manpower shortage in those years, the notion that its leaders would deliberately reduce that scarce resource is absurd ....'


Ibid. , p. 100.

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Next: Ukraine under Nazi Up: Collectivization and the Previous: Conquest's fascist sources

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995