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Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of


Ukraine under the Soviets
by Clarence Manning

published by
Bookman Associates
New York,
1953

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 10

 p85  Chapter Nine

The Five Year Plan

Lenin and the Communists had never made any concealment of the fact that the New Economic Policy was only a passing concession to put an end to the stagnation and demoralization which had resulted from the civil war and the period of Militant Communism. It was not the adoption of a definite plan for the future nor was it a sign of a growing rapprochement with capitalism or a gesture toward the rest of the world, as the partisans of the subjects abroad tried to make it appear.

With each step of the recovery of the economy of Ukraine and of the Soviet Union as a whole, unobtrusive steps were taken to remove the various concessions which had been made. Year by year, from about 1925, new regulations were introduced by the Commissariat of Finance, one of the All‑Union Commissariats which had the definite object of suppressing not only the concessions but of tightening up the restrictions on individual life and preparing the way for socialism and communism. By one device or another, the Nepmen were broken. Now the government forbade the state trusts to sell to them as individual traders either raw materials or finished or semi-finished products. Agreements which had been freely made by the government were either suddenly canceled or were perverted. Obviously false charges were brought against the various individuals and they were fined exorbitantly or they were arrested and deported. By the fall of 1927 the sector of private trade had been almost completely liquidated and the way was open for the central government to do what it would with the situation.

With the Nepmen disposed of, the way was open for a similar attack upon the wealthier classes of the peasants and those who  p86 had profited by the operation of the Ukrainian land code which, as we have seen, was less rigid than were the similar arrangements in the RSFSR, where the land society was organized far more on the lines of a collective than it was in Ukraine. It was always possible to apply individually any of the laws against the leasing of land or the employment of hired help, for in both cases the provisions had been left vague and indefinite, so that the authorities could act whenever they so desired. As a matter of fact, as one of the first measures the administration of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic reduced the period on which a lease could be made from thirteen to six years and thus it was easily possible to upset many of the calculations that had been made by the richer and more progressive landowners.

At the same time the closing of the official markets rendered it possible for the government to force the peasants to dispose of their grain at the officially pegged prices which in the grain-growing districts were considerably lower than they were in the less fertile areas of the north. If this did not produce the desired results, it was equally possible to demand the grain tax in kind and to compel the peasants to turn over, free of charge and under the guise of payments, additional supplies. All these measures, which were introduced in many cases personally and not by districts, caused the peasants to feel themselves becoming steadily more impoverished and less able to resist the demands of the government.

On the other hand, the All‑Union Commissariats which took precedence over those in the individual Soviet republics and which were, in reality, staffed only by Russian Communists, effectively broke the power of the localities or of the republics to have any special voice in the management of their own affairs. This was, in its turn, skilfully explained by stressing the superior requirements of the Union which, on any closer analysis, turned out to be the interests of the Russian area. Thus, at the XVth Congress of the All‑Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), a Russian who was at the time the chief of the Ukrainian State Planning Commission remarked in an unambiguous manner: "It seems to me that we must assign perfectly clear tasks, to emphasize that the national  p87 republics are to fulfill certain functions in the economic system of our Union, and that on the basis of a fulfillment of a certain mission, which is to be a part of the joint mission — the industrialization of our Union — is to be founded the growth of the economy of the national republics."

In the next few years the sense of these remarks was to become perfectly clear, although it was apparently not noticed even by the more ardent Ukrainian Communists. It was to the effect that the economy of the national republics was to be fitted into the general picture of the Union and that the planning committees were to coordinate their work in such a way that there would be little or no place left for the initiative of the authorities of any republic. This did not require any action by any of the various republican governments, for step by step the central regime in Moscow gradually made more and more of the local Commissariats mere operating agencies under the control of All‑Union Commissariats as these were increased in number and in scope by the vote of the Presidium of the Union or by the decisions of the All‑Union Communist Party.

In this connection the final liquidation of the Ukapisty as a group in 1925 was significant. They had definitely cherished the hope that sooner or later they would be able to win recognition as a special Ukrainian Communist Party with their own seat in the Communist International. That was now becoming merely a subsidiary organ of the Russian Communist Party and there was no longer any reason for maintaining the fiction of an independent existence. The foreign Communist Parties had definitely sunk to being poor relations of the Russian Party or the All‑Union Party. Their representatives were exiles from their native lands under Russian protection and under those conditions they speedily ceased to have any voice in the work of the Comintern, which existed only as a Russian propaganda organ abroad. It was therefore unrealistic for the Ukrainian Communists to build any real hopes on the Comintern or on the building of a separate Ukrainian Communism and the abolition of the Ukapisty was but a formal recognition of this fact.

 p88  Yet this obvious truth apparently was over­looked by Skrypnyk and, to a lesser extent, even by Khvylovy, who was absorbed in his everwidening discussion of the cultural significance of Ukrainian Communism and the role and mission of the Ukrainian Communists. While these were talking and arguing about certain ideas, the central authorities in Moscow were cleverly laying plans for removing from the field of practical politics and administration the very basis of local government for which they were fighting.

In the same way, reform of the administrative divisions was under way with the concealed purpose of changing the boundaries of the local sub‑divisions, so that they would have a purely economic basis. This was done by the elimination of the central areas, the gubernias and the okrugs and the introduction of a two‑step system of administration, the kray or oblast and the rayon or region, which was designed on a purely economic purpose and was admirably adapted for the elimination of local and even republic feeling.

By these other administrative measures the essential features of the New Economic Policy were eliminated but they were done so gradually and locally that a large part of the population only realized the situation when the process was too far advanced to be affected by any scattered protests.

At the end of 1927 Trotsky was expelled from the Communist Party and this ended the long feud between him and Stalin for the control of the Party. Trotsky had quite consistently fought the New Economic Policy as a needless concession to capitalism and within a few months of his rival's defeat, Stalin reversed his policy and openly adopted a more rigid system of controls similar to those which he had attacked Trotsky for urging.

As a matter of fact the pretext for a distinction between the Soviet government and the Communist Party was wearing thin. It was a needless piece of propaganda, once the regime felt itself sufficiently strong. There was no longer the need of maintaining non‑party men in places of apparent authority and with his practical sense, Stalin speedily allowed the system to lapse into the limbo of obscurity and made the Communist Party openly what it was, the dictatorial party dominated directly from Moscow.

 p89  Once this was decided, the way was open for the establishment of the First Five Year Plan which was frankly drawn up so entirely in the central offices that the local Commissariats of the different republics ceased to have their former significance in the state and became, for the most part, mere subsidiaries to be watched and checked at every turn or at every manifestation of a tendency toward independence.

There was no longer any talk of the independence of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic with its powers to maintain diplomatic representatives abroad or with the pretense that it was handling its own affairs under the guidance of the All‑Union Communist Party. The role of the Russian element in the state kept on increasing and once more it was possible to revive the old arguments as to the need for definite russification.

It was relatively a simple matter for the government to administer industry as it wished. It had retained control throughout the period of the New Economic Policy of the leading factories and industrial enterprises and the workers had been deprived of any of the rights which they might have imagined themselves possessed when they took over the plants. They were by now completely dependent for their conditions of work and for their employment on the whims of the plant managers who were themselves directly under the central authorities of Moscow. The government built new plants where and as it wished and was not bound to consult any one as to its purposes and measures.

The peasants were less tractable, for especially in Ukraine they still felt themselves the masters of their own fate. The new philosophy looked upon them, too, as the servants of the state and determined to collectivize them in one way or another and to force them into collective farms, whether they wished it or not.

In this process the first step was to break the peasant power of resistance and the regime saw clearly that this was based upon the financial power of the richer and the middle peasants. Whereas Lenin and the early Soviet regime in Ukraine had grouped together the middle and the poor peasants and had supported them against the richer peasants and the large landowners, the  p90 policy was now changed and the middle and the richer peasants were grouped together and opposed to the poor peasants. This multiplied enormously the hostile and unsympathetic elements of the population but by holding out tempting offers to the poor peasants, the Communists succeeded in fanning anew the flames of class hatred in the villages and in produ­cing the desired effects.

Along with the adoption of the Five Year Plan, the All‑Union Congress called for the strengthening of attempts at collectivization. As a result, the amount of grain demanded and the amount of taxes were rapidly raised with the avowed purpose of ruining the kulaks and kurkuls, as they were called in Ukraine. Increased pressure was put upon all classes of the rural population to join collective farms and in some districts was so effective that almost seventy per cent of the land was turned over for organization on a "voluntary" basis.

As a further step in the same direction there began in 1928 and also in 1929 a furious attack on the richer and middle peasants and a growing insistence on the need of "dekurkulizing" the villages. This meant nothing more or less than the elimination from the countryside of all those people who had prospered under the New Economic Policy. The property of the richer and more prosperous peasants was completely confiscated and they with their families were deprived of all their rights, often including the house where they had lived or the shacks into which they could crawl for shelter. With superb inhumanity the Bolsheviks would drive formerly wealthy peasants and their families from their homes in the middle of winter and leave them without food or clothing and would threaten any of their relatives or friends who dared to give them any relief.

In the first stages of the process, cases were known where some of these richer people were moved out of Ukraine with their goods and cattle, but as the Communists settled down to their work, they simply seized everything for their own use and that of the collective farms and contented themselves with shooting or deporting their enemies, often to the far north for work in the  p91 forests or to northeastern Siberia for work in the mines and in the more remote parts of the wilderness.1

 p92  They followed this up at the end of 1929 by providing for the compulsory collectivization of all the land. Private holding of land was abolished and so was private use. The peasants were forced into collective farms to which they had to contribute all of their livestock, agricultural implements and tools. Then they were left nothing that they could call their own except a small garden plot that was assigned to each family for the purpose of raising those types of vegetables that it was not profitable to raise in large quantities, because the collective farms were occupied with those types of agriculture that were selected for them by the central authorities in Moscow.

The immediate result differed in different places. In Great Russian territory, where the principle of community owner­ship of land had definitely taken root, the peasants complied without too much hesitation. In Ukraine and Kuban, where the older style of Ukrainian agriculture had been long in vogue, the peasants became sulky. They killed off large numbers of their cattle and livestock of various kinds. The government, seeing this tremendous loss, then tried to eliminate from the collectives and liquidate in one way or another all of those who had been guilty of disobedience to the order requiring the peasants to contribute all their wealth.

There developed almost a civil war in some sections of the country as discontent rose and the peasants were prepared to die rather than to yield. Nevertheless, this time the government was not prepared to concede anything, as it had in 1921, and despite remarks by Stalin that in some details the Communists had become dizzy from success, the regime held its course and even continued to apply the screws more tightly. The result was the famine of 1932 and 1933.


The Author's Note:

1 A graphic account of this dekurkulization was given in a DP camp by Sh., a former peasant of the district of Kharkiv:

"On May 22, 1929, all my property, tools, cattle, building and clothing were confiscated. I and my family (my wife, six small children and my mother), were left without means of livelihood; we stayed with people like old folks, ate what we were given, although people were forbidden to give to us. On November 27, in spite of the fact that there was snow on the ground and 15 degrees of frost, I and my entire family, without clothes and half-naked, were put out of the house. Until February, 1930 I lived in another house which was half fallen down. On February 28, I, my wife and six children (my mother had disappeared; I do not know where) were arrested and with other dekurkulized persons were sent to the railroad station. There we were packed into freight cars as sardines in a barrel and travelled for 11 days, without knowing our destination. We were fed once every two days. Many perished from cold and exhaustion. We finally reached the station of Makarikha near Kotlas, district of Archangel, and in 40 degrees of frost, we were detrained in the woods in the snow.

"Then all those able to work were driven to forest operations 300 kilometers from Kotlas. They drove us half shod in the intense cold. They fed us on the way 300 grams of bread, 5 grams of barley and 3 grams of salt per person a day. Many died on the way. Many, unable to walk further, were shot on the spot. There we cut wood and they treated us very badly. The norms of work were abnormally high. We lived in huts which were holes we dug ourselves. Of the many thousands of people who came there more than half died of exhaustion, hunger and cold.

"Of the members of the families of kurkuls who remained at the station of Makarikha, more than half froze. Among these were my sons Ivan and Fedir; a third son Hryhory died of exhaustion. Later all the children up to 14, including three of mine, were returned to Ukraine but I have no further news of them. They probably perished. In 1932, first my wife and then I escaped by hiding in cars loaded with wood. I found work in the Don Basin. In 1937 my wife was arrested suddenly and shot in the prison of Artemivsk in the Don Basin. I escaped because I was living under an assumed name. Now I am a DP and living in Germany in an IRO camp."


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