USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945Main MenuIntroduction: A Mural as WindowOn Diego Rivera's Detroit IndustryThe World Around 1914, Part I: the Journey of Young GandhiThe World Around 1914, Part II: The Era of Nationalism and Imperialism (1848-1914)The First World WarThe Long Russian Revolution (1917 – 1929)The Decline of the West? Europe from 1919 – 1929A New Middle East: The Rise of the Middle East State SystemChina Between Qing Collapse and WWIILatin America Between Boom and Bust (1911-1929)Africa Under Colonial Rule: Politics and Race from 1914‐1939The United States from The First World War to the Great DepressionThe Great DepressionThree Varieties of Radicalism in the 1930s: Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Imperial JapanThree Responses to Modernity: Ho Chi Minh, Ibn Saud, and Getulio VargasThe Second World WarSeth Rogoff5f001fc099cd635507b143be056702764af6929c
Anti-Kulak Propaganda Poster (Away with Private Peasants!)
The big problem for Stalin was the agricultural sector, which was not providing the necessary grain at the necessary prices to allow for massive industrialization. The one group that was seen as the primary obstacle to the entire structural transformation of agriculture and industry was the so-called kulak class. The kulaks were basically some sort of private family farmer with smaller or larger holdings depending on the case. They were often well off relative to their peasant neighbors, but were not, of course, rich in any real sense. Nonetheless, Stalin needed an enemy—one that would provide the ideological cover for his massively intrusive plans to reorganize all peasant land into collective farms. This was not what the peasants had fought a revolution for and Stalin knew quite well that to break the peasants would be both hugely violent and the last great obstacle to massive social revolution. The “Collectivization of Agriculture” was the campaign to do just that.
We had a glimpse into the results of this process—and they were bleak. Huge famine hit the breadbasket of Russia, the Ukraine. Millions died of starvation. Perhaps up to two million people perished as the collectivization effort disrupted all normal agricultural activity. Massive protests developed against the movement, and farmers took to slaughtering their horses, cattle, pigs, sheep and goats instead of giving them over to the state. The numbers of animal losses from 1929 to 1933 are astounding. The number of horses in the Soviet Union fell from 34 to around 17 million. The number of cattle fell from 68 million to 38 million. Sheep and goats dropped dramatically from 147 million to a mere 50 million. Stalin reacted with a campaign of terror that would create the Stalinist structure for terror that would last until his death in the early 1950s. In just these years of collectivization alone, some five million “kulaks” were removed from society and sent to the Gulags, the vast system of forced labor camps in Siberia and Central Asia.