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Part I
Chapter 7

This webpage reproduces a chapter of

Stalinist Rule in the Ukraine
by Hryhory Kostiuk

published in the U. S. A. by
Frederick A. Praeger, Inc.
New York

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Part I
Chapter 9

Part One
Stalinist Centralism and the Ukraine

 p31  Chapter VIII

The Official Mission of Pavel Postyshev

Pavel Petrovich Postyshev was born in 1888 in the Russian city of Ivanovo-Vosnesensk, into the family of a weaver.1 A member of the Party since 1904, he was one of the Bolshevik Old Guard. Having received only a partial secondary education, Postyshev did not belong to the Party's theoreticians, intellectual leaders, or journalists. He was a typical professional revolutionary, an executive of Party organs. It is this quality which brought him to the top of the Party hierarchy during Stalin's director­ship. During the Revolution he was one of the most active Party organizers in the Far East. In 1923, because of ill health, he was transferred to the Ukraine where the climate was more congenial to him. Beginning his duties as a member of the Control Commission of the CP(b)U in Kiev, he was quickly promoted to a post on the Central Committee and finally to the Politburo of the CC of the CP(b)U. In spite of reaching such a responsible position, Postyshev did not play a major part in the CP(b)U at that time. His colorless personality did not make him popular with the top Ukrainian Communists. Tall and gaunt with a cropped moustache, sickly yellow complexion, and a hoarse voice, Postyshev possessed two qualities which earned him a high post in the Ukraine. First, he was an avowed enemy of the policy of Ukrainization pursued at that time by the CP(b)U. He never mastered the Ukrainian language and never entered into Ukrainian cultural life. Second, he was a reliable servant of the Kremlin and a trusted administrator of its policies.

These qualities stood Postyshev in good stead in 1930. On Stalin's orders he was transferred to Moscow, where, as secretary of the City Committee and Provincial Committee of the All‑Union CP(b) and a member of the Orgburo of the Central Committee of the Party, he helped his master consolidate power in the Kremlin. Postyshev's role as "Stalin's associate and friend" lasted until January 1933. When, at that time, Stalin decided to crack down on the CP(b)U, he could find no better candidate for the difficult task than Postyshev. Even such a stalwart of the Party and former peacemaker in the Ukraine as Kaganovich would not fulfill all the requirements. Kaganovich, who in 1926‑28 helped to cleanse the CP(b)U of "Shumskism," had, during his stay in the Ukraine, acclimatized himself entirely to Ukrainian life and had mastered the Ukrainian language. The situation in 1933 called for someone who would know the internal situation in the Ukraine, yet at the same time would be entirely incorruptible and unsusceptible to local elements. Postyshev, who was clearly hostile to the policy of Ukrainization,  p32 fostered chiefly by Skrypnyk, was an ideal choice for the post of Stalin's viceroy in the Ukraine. Above all, he was, like his master, a "man of steel," ready to carry out any order, regardless of the consequences.

Postyshev's mission in the Ukraine was primarily concerned with the correction of errors made by the CP(b)U in agricultural policy, and with the salvation of the country from economic chaos. It was reasonable to believe that he would be guided in his task in the Ukraine by the resolution of January 24, as well as by two of Stalin's recent speeches which were concerned with agriculture: "The Results of the First Five-Year Plan," delivered before the plenum of the Central Committee of the All‑Union CP(b) on January 7, 1933, and "On the Work in the Villages," an address made to the same assembly on January 11 of that year. What were the focal points of these speeches?

The first of these speeches, summing up the results of the First Five-Year Plan, made no mention of the economic difficulties in Ukrainian agriculture. On the contrary, it painted a glowing picture of progress. "The Party," said Stalin, "has succeeded in making it possible to purvey from 1,200 to 1,400 million poods of grain annually instead of the 500 to 600 million poods produced when individual farming predominated."2 The position of the peasants, in Stalin's words, had been vastly improved.

At the present time it no longer happens in our country that millions of peasants run away from their homes to distant parts in search of employment. Now, in order to draw the peasant to any work outside the kolkhoz, it is necessary [for the outside employer] to sign an agreement with the kolkhoz, and to pay for the travelling expenses of the collective farmer. Now there are no more cases of hundreds of thousands and millions of peasants lining up for work outside factories . . . Now, the peasant is a master in his own right.3

Stalin, therefore, had no doubt "that the material condition of the workers and peasants is improving with every year. This can be doubted only by mortal enemies of the Soviet government."

This was said by Stalin at a time when both workers and peasants throughout the USSR, and especially in the Ukraine, were living on the verge of starvation. Even skilled workers were then earning no more than 250 to 300 rubles a month; they lived in extreme penury, their diet consisted chiefly of potatoes, black bread, salted fish and kvas, and they lacked the basic necessities of clothing and footwear.4 The peasants, driven from the countryside to the towns by famine and  p33 terror, were begging for bread at all railroad stations and city squares, often perishing from hunger and exhaustion. However, to see the facts as they were, was, according to the words of the "Great Leader," tantamount to being a "mortal enemy of the Soviet government."

In his second speech, delivered on January 11, 1933, Stalin made some references to the fact that in spite of a good harvest and all the progress made in the mechanization and collectivization of agriculture, "the grain collection in 1932 was carried out under greater difficulties than the one in the previous year." "What happened? What are the reasons for our shortcomings?"5 he asked rhetorically.

In his answer Stalin gave five reasons for past shortcomings.

First, the peasants were reluctant to deliver the grain to the state because they hoped to sell it at a higher price on the market, in accordance with the decree concerned with "collective trade in grain." The local Party authorities were not determined enough in breaking this practice of the peasants.

Second, the Party organizations, having introduced total collectivization, had ceased to be interested in the work of the kolkhozes. The Party should take "the management of the kolkhozes into its own hands."

Third, having created the kolkhozes, the Party had failed to infuse into them socialist content. It was not enough to give them socialist form. The kolkhozes must be filled with Communist content. Otherwise, counter-revolutionary elements, and in the Ukraine the "nationalists and Petlyurovites," could seize control. The slogan "kolkhozes without the Communists" was counter-revolutionary.

Fourth, the Party organizations had failed to realize that, of late years, the tactics of the class enemy had changed. Therefore it was necessary to change Communist tactics. The kulaks were no longer openly opposing the kolkhozes; they were insidiously accomplishing destructive work. "Today's anti-Soviet elements," said Stalin, "are mostly people who are 'quiet,' 'sweet,' and almost 'holy.' " Those who thought that there were no kulaks left were seriously mistaken. "The kulaks," said Stalin, "have been defeated, but they are not completely exterminated."

Fifth, the Party, not the peasants, was to blame for the failure in grain collection. "There has not been and there is not, anywhere in the world," said Stalin, "such a mighty and authoritative government as our Soviet government. In the whole world there has not been and there is not a party as mighty and authoritative as our Party. Nobody can stop us from managing the kolkhozes in the way demanded by their own interests, and the interests of the state."6

 p34  Stalin's five-point program7 may be reduced to one clear conclusion: The struggle against the "class enemy and the kulak" must be intensified. The Party was free to use all the means at its disposal to deal a final blow to those who still resisted the collective system in agriculture; it must exterminate the "hidden enemies."

This program gave Postyshev carte blanche to conduct an even more intensive campaign of terror against the Ukrainian peasantry.

The Author's Notes:

1 All biographical data on Postyshev are taken from Kalendar kommunista, Moscow, 1931, pp725‑26.

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2 Pravda, January 10, 1933.

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3 "Itogi pervoi pyatiletki" (Results of the First Five-Year Plan), Pravda, January 10, 1933; "O rabote v derevne" (On the Work in the Villages); Rech I. Stalina na obedinennom plenume TsK i TsKK VKP(b) (Speech by J. Stalin at the Joint Plenum of the CC and CCC of the All‑Union CP(b)), Pravda, January 17, 1933.

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4 In 1935, the present author worked in a cement factory in Sukhoi Log in the Urals. The workers ate bread and kvas (a beer made from barley, malt, and rye) for lunch, because they could not afford to pay for hot soup.

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5 "O rabote v derevne" (On the Work in the Villages), Pravda, January 17, 1933.

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6 Ibid.

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7 This is how Stalin's speech was described in Pravda's leading article, January 18, 1933.

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