How far is it accurate to describe Stalinís policy of collectivisation as a failure?
Stalinís policy of collectivisation, made compulsory in 1929, was created in order to achieve a number of goals. These were: to produce more food produce for the population; produce a surplus of grain (which would then be sold abroad to produce foreign capital. This would be used to purchase industrial goods and materials); create a surplus of manpower in the countryside which could be used in urban areas; and to create a rural proletariat. It has been argued that this policy was a failure, however just how much of a failure collectivisation was is debatable.
The most obvious failure of collectivisation is perhaps the massive human cost. The majority of the peasantry was against collectivisation, and thus many became apathetic. They did not work as hard as they could, some even burned down their crops and slaughtered their livestock. They kept only enough food for themselves; however, due to Stalinís desire to push forward industrialisation, the Soviets would often take anything the peasants had anyway, regardless of how much food it left them. This led to famine in 1932, which took a huge toll on the rural population. Many peasants became as hungry as to be driven to cannibalism, with reported cases of parent eating their young children in order to stay alive. At least seven million people died altogether in the famine, with the Ukraine being the hardest hit area, famine claiming around five million victims. Stalin blamed this on the Kulaks Ė an elite class of peasant that, he claimed, exploited neighbouring peasants to create wealth for themselves. This was, however, for the most part a myth, and those that took the blame were merely more successful, better farmers than their peers. Those that protested against collectivisation were also labelled Kulaks. Stalin vowed to ďeliminate the Kulaks as a classĒ, and as a result many peasants, innocent of any crime, were rounded up and shot, or alternatively sent to labour camps. The conditions in the labour camps were horrible, for example, Kulak slave labour was used to build the White Sea Canal, and huge numbers of the workers died.
There were a number of failures economically as well. During the 1930ís, there was a massive drop in the production of grain, leaving less food or the population, as well as to sell. Furthermore, due to the peasantry killing their livestock, the number of farming animals in the USSR had also took a fall. This decline in production continued to drop until 1935. Any grain produced did not reach a surplus, and any sold abroad was done so at the cost of the Soviet population. Despite this, grain was still sold abroad, but never warranted a high price from overseas, and so the foreign capital needed to buy new materials and machinery never came in great amounts. Additionally, many peasants in the countryside took to the act of farming their own small private plots instead of concentrating on the collective farms, which added to the reduction of the overall food supply.
However, there were successes to the policy of collectivisation, even in the economy. For instance, collectivisation did produce grain for export. Though it was taken at the cost of the peasantry, grain was sold abroad, and thus foreign capital was produced. This produce was used to buy the materials and good required to improve the industrial situation in the USSR. People migrated en mass from the countryside to work in the urban factories. This was made possible due to collectivisation needing less manpower than private farming. As people migrated into the cities, industrial improvement quickened pace. More modern equipment was introduced to the countryside, such as tractors. Production began to rise again from 1934, and by 1937, ninety seven million tonnes of grain had been produced, plus crops for export. However, it was not until 1939 that Soviet agricultural productivity reached the level of 1913 Tsarist Russia.
Politically, collectivisation had been a success. The policy was incredibly popular within the party, due to it replacing the now widely unpopular NEP and moving industry in a more typically communist direction, and further away from capitalism. Due to the toll of hunger being considerably lower on them than in the countryside, urban workers supported the policy, as it supplied them with food and eventually produced much needed equipment. The communist party finally had complete control over rural areas. Farming was run by communist officials, and they were obeyed by the peasantry, be it through enthusiasm or fear, and Stalin had all power. By 1939, ninety-nine percent of the USSR had become collectivised, and the state had complete power over it.
Whilst there was a heavy loss due to the policy of collectivisation, Stalin had achieved some level of success as well. His power was now absolute, and the economy had improved, albeit slowly. However, the costs were massive. Millions has died, and nothing had been done to help them. Many had lost their homes, and been taken to the Gulag. The improvement in the economy had been slow at best, and that had only come after a huge drop in productivity. Whilst it is unfair to call the policy of collectivisation a complete failure, the negatives do far outweigh the positives, and Stalin had proved himself to be a ruthless dictator.
Excellent paper. You weighed the positives with the negatives and came to an appropriate conclusion. It was also very informative. I did not know anything of collectivisation before now. Its policies like those that make me glad to live in America. Can you imagine the whole city of New York dead? That would be similar to the number of people killed due to Stalin's policy.
If I were a teacher/professor, I'd give this paper an easy A.