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Stalin's analysis of the situation in the villages could hardly provide Postyshev with a guide to action. What Stalin said had little relation to existing conditions. In order to justify further tightening of controls over the peasant, he painted a sinister but unreal picture of the village seething with hidden enemies. The aim was to make the kolkhozes even more submissive to the Party, to permeate the village with active Communists, and thus to raise the food production level. Rapt in his dreams of turning the countryside into a large food and grain factory, Stalin cared little about the fate of the peasants themselves.
In keeping with Stalin's interpretation, Postyshev delivered his speech "On the Tasks of Spring Sowing and the Decision of the CC, All‑Union CP(b), dated January 24, 1933," before the united plenum of the Kharkov Provincial and City Committees of the CP(b)U.1 In it Postyshev painted in the most somber colors the remnants of the kulaks, the Petlyurovites, and the nationalists, who, having infiltrated the Party and the kolkhozes, were sabotaging collectivization. He quoted figures which were the new targets to be reached in agricultural production. Like Stalin, he was inflexible in his attitude toward the crying need of the peasants for food. "It is imperative," he said, "to make it clear to the broad masses of Party members and collective farmers who are not Party members, that there can be no talk about assistance from the state in the matter of seeding supplies, that the seed must be obtained and sown by the kolkhozes and the collective and individual farmers themselves."2
In the resolutions of the same plenum we read that "a necessary preliminary to the successful realization of spring sowing is the combination of persuasive methods with the methods of administrative influence."3 This left no doubt that the Party policy remained inflexible.
In reality, however, there were no "class enemies" or "saboteurs" in the villages. Famine, exhaustion and utter privation were facts which could no longer be ignored. Therefore, life proved stronger than Stalin's fiction. And if life was to be sustained at all in the greater part of the Ukraine people had to be fed. Realizing the desperate situation of the peasants who, during the height of the famine, often resorted to cannibalism, Postyshev had to face facts. What the Party actually did, therefore, was in clear contrast to the official harangues of Stalin and Postyshev.
p36 Quietly, without the usual fanfare accompanying the proclamation of Party resolutions, on February 23, 1933, the government issued the decree of the Council of People's Commissars "On Aid in Seeding to Kolkhozes of the Ukraine and the North Caucasus."4 "In view of the fact," the decree ran, "that unfavorable climatic conditions during the summer of 1932 have resulted in the loss of the harvest5 in several districts of the Ukraine and the North Caucasia, as a consequence of which the sovkhozes and kolkhozes of the steppe area of the Ukraine and certain districts in the North Caucasus [Kuban] were not able to stock enough seed for the spring sowing, the Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee of the All‑Union CP(b) decree:
The release from government stocks of grain for the kolkhozes and sovkhozes of the Ukraine and the North Caucasus to be loaned for seeding supplies. The quantities are as follows: the Ukraine — 20,300 poods; the North Caucasus — 15,300 poods."
This was an obvious admission that the whip alone was no longer effective in the collectivization drive: the carrot had to be used too. Yet perhaps the most significant thing about this move is the way it was made. Demands for the release of seed from government stocks in order to relieve the food situation in the Ukraine had been made several times before.6 The pleas of Skrypnyk, Chubar, and other Ukrainian Communists for lower targets for grain deliveries to the state had also been made with the aim of enabling the peasants to stock more grain for spring sowing. These pleas fell on deaf ears. There was to be no relaxation of the grain collection, no pampering of the peasants.
When, finally, the release of the seed was announced, it was only after Postyshev's arrival, and it was not an action of the Soviet Ukrainian government. The p37 obvious implication was that relief could only come from Moscow, not from Kharkov.
The impotence of the Soviet Ukrainian government, exposed by this move, was in reality far greater than might be believed. At no time during the terrible food crisis in the Ukraine was the government of this republic, or its Communist Party, able to dispose freely of a single pood of grain.
All stocks of grain were under the exclusive control of the "Committee of the Council of People's Commissar of the USSR for the Provision of Agricultural Products."7 According to the decree of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR, dated February 10, 1933, the Committee carried on its work only through "its representatives in the republics, regions, and provinces. The republican, regional, and provincial representatives are subordinate only to the Committee of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR for the Provision of Agricultural Products. The orders issued by the Committee of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR for the Provision of Agricultural Products are binding on all organs of the local governments; they can be revoked only by the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR." Only by keeping control of food supplies in his hands could Stalin dictate his terms to the union republics.
Another infringement of the authority of the CP(b)U was contained in the resolution of the Kharkov plenum which called for the dispatch of "active Communists" from the cities to the villages, to supervise and to assist with the spring sowing campaign.8 These, surely, were some of the men whom Postyshev had brought with him.
The question which remains unanswered is this: Was Postyshev sent to the Ukraine solely to improve the situation in the kolkhozes by the simultaneous use of terror and soothing seed loans? There are strong reasons to believe that this was only part of his mission; its main purpose lay elsewhere.
1 "O zadachakh vesennego seva i resheniye TsK VKP(b) ot 24 yanvarya 1933 g.," Pravda, February 8, 1933.
2 Pravda, February 6, 1933.
4 Pravda, February 26, 1933.
Similar measures were adopted later, in 1934. In one of the Resolutions of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the All‑Union CP(b), published in December 1934, we read that state financial aid was to be given to all the kolkhozes which were in arrears in paying off the agricultural loan issued to them on January 1, 1933 (Sobranie-zakonov i rasporyazhenii Raboche-Krestyanskogo Pravitelstva SSSR izdavaemoe Upravleniem Delami SNK SSSR, 7 yanvarya 1935 goda) (The Collection of Laws and Regulations of the Workers' and Peasant's Government of the USSR published by the Administration of the Affairs of the Council of People's Commissars, January 7, 1935) No. 1, otdel pervy.
On December 26, 1934, it was decreed that another 69,197,000 poods of grain will be released to the kolkhozes. This loan, however, covered the needs of "seed, food, and forage," not merely of seed, as it did in 1933. This shows that, to avoid a repetition of the famine, the government had decided to feed the peasants.
5 This admission is in sheer contradistinction to Stalin's speech of January 11, 1933, to Postyshev's speech of February 4, 1933, as well as to the pronouncements of Molotov and Kaganovich during the Third Ukrainian Party Conference. Stalin, in his speech, made a point of emphasizing that the failure in grain collection "cannot be explained by a poor harvest, since this year's harvest was no worse than that of last year. Nobody can deny that the total yield of grain in 1932 was larger than in 1931."
6 Kosior's speech at the Third Party Conference, Pravda, July 9, 1932; Kosior's speech "Itogi khlebozagotovki, . . ." Pravda, February 13, 1933; Postyshev's speech, Pravda February 8, 1933.
7 "O reorganizatsii komiteta po zagotovkam selsko-khozyaistvennykh produktov; postanovleniye SNK SSR ot 10 fevralya 1933 g." (Concerning the Reorganization of the Committee on Deliveries of Agricultural Products; Resolution of the Council of People's Commissars of February 10, 1933), Pravda, February 14, 1933.
8 Postyshev's speech, Pravda, February 8, 1933.
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