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Capturing the Russian Peasantry: Stalinist Grain Procurement Policy and the “Ural-Siberian Method”

  • James Hughes (a1)

Extract

It has long been accepted by historians that the conjuncture of grain crises of 1927-1929 marked a turning point during which the Soviet Union descended into the tumult of Stalin’s “revolution from above.“ There is, however, no agreement as to what caused this outcome. Was the country pushed down this road as a deliberate act of policy by Stalin to enhance his dictatorial power? Did bolshevik ideology, which favored rapid industrialization and bureaucratic centralized state control, predetermine the end result? Did the sequence of events in this period generate an uncontrollable dynamic of crises and conflict between strengthening state power and societal, particularly peasant, resistance? To reach a more definitive answer to these fundamental questions I have undertaken a case study of a pivotal policy development of this period, one which bridged the crucial transition from NEP to “dekulakization”: the so-called “Ural-Siberian method” or “social influence” method of grain collection.

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1. Sovetskaia Sibir 1 (22 March 1929): 1.

2. See Gushchin, N. la., Sibirskaia derevnia naputi k sotsializmu (Novosibirsk: Nauka 1973), 194–95; Moshkov, Iu. A., Zernovaia problema v gody sploshnoi kollektivizatsii sel'skogo hhoziaistva SSSR (1929-1932 gg.) (Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Moskovskogo universiteta, 1966), 6364 . For article 61, see Sobranie uzakonenii, 1929, part 1, no. 60, art. 589.

3. See, for example, Stalin, Sochineniia, 13 vols. (Moscow: Gos. izd. pol. lit., 1946- 1952), 12: 89; Pravda (12 February 1929).

4. Nove, Alec, An Economic History of the USSR (London: Allen Lane, 1969), 152–53, 161. See also Tucker, Robert C., Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879-1929: A Study in History and Personality (London: Chatto and Windus, 1974), 409 , and Stalin in Power: The Revolution from Above, 1928-1941 (London: Norton, 1990), 131-32; Fitzpatrick, Sheila, The Russian Revolution, 1918-32 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 114 ; Atkinson, Dorothy, The End of the Russian Land Commune, 1905-1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1983), 318–23, 331, 353; Conquest, Robert, The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (London: Arrow, 1988), 9496 .

5. Moshe Lewin, Russian Peasants and Soviet Power: A Study of Collectivization (London: Allen and Unwin, 1968), 395.

6. Ibid., 388-95; Y. Taniuchi, “A Note on the Ural-Siberian Method,” Soviet Studies 33, no. 4 (October 1981): 518-47.

7. Tanuichi, 518.

8. Lewin (1968), chapter 11 title and his The Making of the Soviet System: Essays in the Social History oflnterwar Russia (London: Methuen, 1985), 100.

9. V.P. Danilov, “K kharakteristike obshchestvenno-politicheskoi obstanovki v sovetskoi derevne nakanune kollektivizatsii,” Istoricheskie zapiski, no. 79 (1967): 44.

10. Here I have adapted Goran Hyden's concept of a “captured” peasantry, by which he explained the incorporation of peasant producers by the Tanzanian state into a regulated market economy. The “uncaptured” status of peasants referred to their ability to opt out of the state and revert to subsistence agriculture. See his Beyond Ujamaa in Tanzania: Under-development and an Uncaptured Peasantry (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980).

11. Stalin, Sochineniia, 11: 5-9, 40-42, 88-97; Izvestiia Sibkraikoma VKP (b), 5 (15 March 1928): 7-11; KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh i resheniiakh s“ezdov, konferentsii i plenumov Ts. K. (1898-1986), 9th ed. (Moscow: Politizdat, 1983-1986), 4: 350-55.

12. Lewin (1968), 252.

13. Atkinson (1983), 329; Zhizn’ Sibiri, no. 6 (July 1928): 32-35; Za chetkuiu klassovuiu liniiu: Sbornik dokumentov kraikoma VKP (b) i vystuplenii rukovodiashchikh rabotnikov kraia (Novosibirsk: Sibkraiizdat, 1929): 231-32.

14. Izvestiia Sibkraikoma VKP (b), no. 5 (15 March 1928) 7-11; KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh, 4, 322-23.

15. For this mobilization see Izvestiia Sibkraikoma VKP (b), no. 13 (25 July 1928): 6; ibid., no. 16 (15 September 1928): 5; Kollektivizatsiia sel'skogo khoziaistva zapadnoi Sibiri (1927-1937 gg.) (Tomsk: Zapadno-sibirsoe knizhnoe izdatel'stvo, 1972), 44, 322 note 12; Sovetskaia Sibir’ (15 January 1929), 4.

16. Stalin, Sochineniia, 11: 18-19; Na Leninskom puti, no. 3 (15 February 1928): 4.

17. Stalin, ibid., 10-19.

18. Michal Reiman, The Birth of Stalinism: The USSR on the Eve of the “Second Revolution, “ trans. George Saunders (London: LB. Tauris, 1987), 84.

19. Stalin, Sochineniia, 11: 247-51.

20. KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh, 4: 351-52, 371.

21. KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh, 4: 370; XVI konf, 32 (Krzhizhanovskii); Stalin, Sochineniia, 12: 86.

22. Moshkov, 49-51.

23. KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh, 4: 371; (IV) Chetvertaia sibirskaia partiinaia konferentsiia VKP(b), 25 fevralia-4 marta 1929, stenograficheskii otchet (Novosibirsk: Sibkraiizdat, 1929), 1: 4 (Syrtsov), in State Archive of Novosibirsk Oblast', Block 2 (ex-party archive) (hereafter GANO 2), f. 2 op. 7, d. 485.

24. Pravda (27 March 1928): 5; Gushchin, 97 (table 12), 102 (table 16), 105 (table 18); GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 494a, 1. 32; IV sib. part, konf., 1: 315 (Syrtsov); State Archive of Novosibirsk Oblast', Block 1 (hereafter GANO 1), f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 696, 1. 38 (Siberian procurement plan as of 16 October 1928).

25. For example, Rubtsovsk okrug soviet executive committee was censured by the kraikom for re-establishing its emergency “grain troiki” (committees of three) in October 1928 (GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 696, 1. 31, 33-36).

26. Ibid., 1. 80-82, 107.

27. Ibid., 1. 55-60, 74-76.

28. XVIkonf., 286-87, 747. The tax total for 1928-1929 was subsequently reduced from 400 million rubles to 375 million.

29. GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 696, 1. 140-43. This conflicts with Reiman's account which states that a collective decision was taken in the middle of October by the Politburo, Sovnarkom and the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK) for the re-introduction of extraordinary measures (Reiman, 79).

30. For telegrams from Syrtsov and Eikhe, see GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 696, 1. 159-60 (2 December), 164 (5 December), 172 (20 December), 175 (28 December); and Izvestiia Sibkraikoma VKP (b), 23-24 (30 December 1928): 1 (Kraikombiuro directive of 27 December).

31. GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 696, 1. 174. For working-class discontent in the country during the soviet elections, see Viola, Lynne, The Best Sons of the Fatherland: Workers in the Vanguard of Soviet Collectivization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 223 note 64.

32. See Pravda reports on the grain campaign in December 1928 and January 1929; Sovetskaia sibir’ (3 and 4 January 1929).

33. Gushchin, 195-96, 198-200; Kavraiskii, V. A. and Khamarmer, P., Uroki klassovoi bor'by: Itogi vyborov v sovety Sibiri, 1928-1929 gg. (Novosibirsk: Sibkraiizdat, 1929), 17 ; Sibirskii krai: Statisticheskii spravochnik (Novosibirsk: Sibkraiizdat, 1930), 60-61.

34. Pravda (10 and 26 January 1929).

35. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 4, d. 33, 1. 34.

36. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 373, 1. 265.

37. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 4, d. 33, 1. 36. For the decree, see GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 697, 1. 12-15 and ibid., d. 696, 1. 194-95. For Stalin's role in drawing up the Kraikombiuro decree on the use of Article 107 during his Siberian tour in January 1928, see Hughes, James, Stalin, Siberia and the Crisis of the New Economic Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 14142, 15159 .

38. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 4, d. 33, 1. 46; Russian Center for the Preservation and Study of Documents of Modern History (hereafter RTsKMDNI), f. 17, op. 3, d. 721, 1. 8. I.I). Kabakov, the Urals Oblast’ Party Secretary, also attended.

39. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 4, d. 33a, 1. 3-4.

40. GANO 2, f. 2. op. 1, d. 3449, 1. 4-6. For a similar statement by Mikoian to a krai conference of poor peasants and agricultural workers in late January 1929, see GANO 2, f. 1, op. 1, d. 3448, 1. 182-84.

41. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 4, d. 33, 1. 91-96; IV sib. konf. VKP(b), 167 (Kuznetsova, reporting on events in Minusinsk okrug). A Sovnarkom decree on machine sales of 9 February followed the measures adopted in Siberia. A revised decree on this was issued by the Presidium of the Kraiispolkom on 18 February. See GANO 1, f. r. 47, d. 696, 1. 205.

42. IV sib. part. konf. VKP(b), 289 (Maimin).

43. Sovetskaia Sibir’ (20 February 1929): 1; ibid. (23 March 1929): 1; GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 696, 1. 198-203.

44. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 355, 1. 1-33. For the Krai Procuracy report on these events, see GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 4a, d. 218, 1. 31-34.

45. GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 4a, d. 218, 1. 35-35ob.

46. For a discussion of samosud and charivari, see Stephen P. Frank, “Popular Justice, Community and Culture among the Russian Peasantry, 1870-1900,” in Eklof, Ben and Frank, Stephen P., eds., The World of the Russian Peasant: Post-Emancipation Culture and Society (London: Unwin Hyman, 1990), 13353 .

47. Taniuchi, 519-21.

48. RTsKhlDNI, f. 17, op. 3, d. 729, 1. 9. The Siberian telegram was signed by Syrtsov, Eikhe, Lakhsutkin (Kraikom Control Commission) and Kisis (Kraikom second secretary).

49. IV sib. part. konf. VKP(b), 25, 29 (Syrtsov), 158 (Eikhe), 185 (Kuznetsov), 263 (Zlobin).

50. Ibid., 117-18 (Spirov), 140-41 (Nusinov).

51. Ibid., 167-69.

52. Ibid., 238-39.

53. Kavraiskii, V. A. and Nusinov, I. I., Klassy i klassovye otnosheniia v sovremennoi sovetskoi derevne (Novosibirsk: Sibkraiizdat, 1929 ). They employed a sophisticated “sliding scale” methodology for categorizing peasant social groups, focusing on indices of particular significance in Siberia: hiring of labor, renting out of machines and size of sown area. These indices were then combined with the value of property owned. For a discussion of this study and the peasant differentiation debate in Siberia, see Hughes (1991), chap. 3, esp. 88-96.

54. IV sib. part. konf. VKP(b), 251 (Liapin, Barabinsk okrug Party Committee Secretary), 253-54 (Zakovskii), 271 (Kavraiskii).

55. Ibid., 252. In the “Platform of the Left” of September 1927 Trotsky had proposed a forced grain loan from the wealthiest 10% of the peasantry ( Trotsky, L. D., The Real Situation in Russia, trans. Eastman, Max (London: Allen and Unwin, 1928 ).

56. IV sib. part. konf. VKP(b), 314-23.

57. RTsKhlDNI, f. 17, op. 3, d. 729, 1. 9.

58. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 351, 1. 171. From his speech to the joint plenum of the Kraikom and Kraiispolkom in early June.

59. Ibid., d. 432, 1. 79-79ob.

60. RTsKhlDNI, f. 17, op. 3, d. 731, 1. 4-5, Protocol 69, Politburo session of 21 March 1929, approving its decision of 20 March on grain procurement. The decision was signed by Stalin. Moshkov wrongly believed that the decision was taken at two joint sessions of the Politburo and the Central Control Commission, meeting on 30 January and 9 February, and approved by a Central Committee plenum in February. In fact, the Central Committee plenum did not meet until mid-April and these directives, if they existed, probably concerned social pressure through tax surcharges and boycotts (Moshkov, 52-53). Vaganov reported that it was a motion (predlozhenie) from the Urals and Siberian party committees that requested the Central Committee to approve the extension of the peasant self-taxation procedure to grain procurement, though he does not give a date ( Vaganov, F. M., Pravyi uklon v VKP(b) i ego razgrom, 1928- 1930 gg. [Moscow: Politizdat, 1970], 154 ).

61. RTsKhlDNI, ibid.

62. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 4, d. 34, 1. 13 (Kraikombiuro decree); ibid., op. 1, d. 2597, 1. 890 (directive of 2 April 1929).

63. Ibid., op. 4, d. 34, 1. 17-18.

64. Stalin, Sochineniia, 12, 92-95; Pravda (19 July 1929) (Kalinin); XVI konf., 780 note 56.

65. Pravda (19 July 1929). See also his telegram cited in note 59 above.

66. Sovetskaia Sibir’ (22 March 1929).

67. Reiman, 80.

68. Vaganov, 234. This was possibly at the Politburo session on 25 March, the papers of which were consigned to the “special folder” (osobaia papka: files holding the Politburo's most secret deliberations); RTsKhlDNI, f. 17, op. 3, d. 732, 1. 5, Protocol 70, Politburo session of 28 March, including notes of Politburo session of 25 March.

69. Lars T. Lih, Bread and Authority in Russia, 1914-1921 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 10-12, 33, 59-61.

70. Ibid., 128-36.

71. Ibid., 169-84.

72. The reference to the “Chinese-Mongol system” is in Pipes, Richard, The Russian Revolution, 1899-1919 (London: Collins Harvill, 1990), 742 ; see also his Russia under the Old Regime (Härmondsworth: Penguin, 1979), 55-56, 74-76. Collective responsibility for taxation and the origins of peasant egalitarianism is discussed in Atkinson, Dorothy, “Egalitarianism and the Commune in Bartlett, Roger, ed., Land Commune and Peasant Community in Russia (London: Macmillan, 1990), 719 . As early as 1423 royal estate peasants were assessed for tax “according to their ability” to pay. See Smith, R.E.F., ed., The Enserfment of the Russian Peasantry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), 48 , and his Peasant Farming in Muscovy (London: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 224-30.

73. Stalin, Sochineniia, 11: 157-59, 168-70.

74. Sotsialisticheskii vestnik, no. 6 (196) (22 March 1929): 10; “Bukharin-Kamenev conversation,” Sotsialisticheskii vestnik, no. 9 (199) (4 May 1929): 10; XVI konf., 806-7.

75. Sovetskaia Sibir’ (22 March 1929): 1. There are, in fact, two villages with this name in Novosibirsk okrug; one in Berdsk raion and the other in Gutovsk raion. See also GANO 2, f. 2, op. 1, d. 2597, 1. 899-901, a “service note” from a raion party official to Syrtsov of 25 March 1929.

76. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 386, 1. 242, Report of the Sibkraikom Information- Statistical Political Department, 12 April 1929.

77. Ibid., d. 393, 1. 35, telegram from Shibailo to Syrtsov, Siberian delegation, Moscow, 13 April 1929 (via PPOGPU); ibid., d. 386, 1. 273, Kraikom Information Report, 30 May 1929.

78. E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923 (Härmondsworth: Penguin, 1972) 2: 154.

79. IV sib. part. konf. VKP(b), 210-11 (Komarov).

80. A.M. Bol'shakov, The Soviet Countryside, 1917-1924: Its Economics and Life (Leningrad: Priboi, 1924) in R.E.F. Smith, ed. and trans., The Russian Peasant (London: Frank Cass, 1974), 48.

81. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 386, 1. 281; ibid., f. 4, op. 2, d. 374, 1. 109, decree of Slavgorod okrug party committee on grain procurement of 23 June 1929; Gushchin, 194; XVI konf., 322 (Syrtsov).

82. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 386, 1. 281-82.

83. For Krai Procuracy reports of individual acts of violence, mainly in the grain belt of southwest Siberia, see; GANO 1, f. r. 47, op. 1, d. 697, 1. 72-73.

84. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 386, 1. 249, Kraikom Information Report, 12 April 1929.

85. Ibid., 1. 282-84, Kraikom Information Report, 30 May 1929.

86. XVI konf., 323.

87. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 4, d. 33, 1. 183, Protocol 7/b of Kraikombiuro session of 27 March 1929. For Article 61, see Sobranie uzakonenii, 1929, part 1, no. 60, art. 589. Kaganovich proceeded on a tour of Barnaul okrug and then went to Sverdlovsk in the Urals Oblasf; GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 378, 1. 22-23a; ibid., op. 1, d. 2597, 1. 890.

88. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 386, 1. 274-75, Kraikom Information Report, 30 May 1929.

89. Gushchin, 192. For example, official figures for fourteen raiony of Omsk okrug claimed that of those farms auctioned off, 367 were kulak and 33 middle peasant. In Barnaul okrug, of 697 auctions, 639 were kulak and well-off and 21 were middle peasant, and in Biisk, of 630 auctions, 609 were kulak and well-off and 21 middle peasant (Na Leninskom puti, no. 8 [30 April 1929]: 26).

90. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2-1, d. 3506, 1.2, Report of Biisk Okruzhkom of 21 April 1929.

91. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 366, 1. 189-98. For another case where a plenipotentiary was used as a scapegoat in Novosibirsk okrug, see GANO 1, f. 1228, op. 3, d. 14. Concern about the numerous cases when property confiscated under Article 61 was auctioned off too cheaply was also raised at a meeting of Biisk okrug procuracy officials and OGPU representatives on 28 May 1929 (State Archive of Altai Krai [hereafter GAAK], f. 917, op. 1, d. 10, 1. 244-45).

92. GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 3443, 1. 333, a letter from a peasant woman in the village of Karatuz, 14 April 1929.

93. Sotsialisticheskii vestnik, no. 6 (196) (22 March 1929): 11; ibid., no. 9 (199) (4 May 1929): 10; Vaganov, 127-28, 154; Stalin's speech of 22 April 1929, Sochineniia, 12: 86- 92, 374 note 1.

94. XVI konf., 803 note 215, 806 note 236.

95. Ibid., 806-7.

96. Ibid., 803 note 215.

97. The Sixteenth Conference met from 23-29 April 1929. Note that the editors of the 1962 edition of the conference stenogram imply a synonymity between the “Ural-Siberian method” and the emergency measures of 1927-1928, such as Article 107 (XVI konf., 780 note 57, 781 note 63).

98. Ibid., 387 (Sheboldaev). Lewin (1968, 390) takes the reference to “community“ to mean “the party cell, if there was one, the local officials, and the local bednyak group, or simply a number of bednyaks with no group organisation.“

99. XVI konf., 319-26.

100. Ibid., 91-92.

101. Ibid., 86.

102. Moshkov, 50, 53; GANO 2, f. 2, op. 2, d. 351, 1. 137; ibid., d. 386, 1. 293; Gushchin, 105.

103. Based on R. W. Davies, The Industrialisation of Soviet Russia, vol. 1, The Socialist Offensive: The Collectivisation of Agriculture, 1929-1930 (London: Macmillan, 1980), table 8, 430. The Siberian figures include the far eastern region and Buriat-Mongolia.

104. Bol'shaia Sovetskaia entsiklopediia, 3rd ed. (Moscow: Izd-vo “Sovetskaia entsiklopediia, “ 1970-1978), 25: 141; Pravda (5 June 1929).

105. Robert Redfield, The Little Community and Peasant Society and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971).

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