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1.5. The heritage of collectivization (continued) - FARMER COOPERATIVES VERSUS COLLECTIVE FARMS American Studies on Ukrainian Problems Vitaly V. Zinovchuk

After the crisis of 1932-1933, Stalin undertook incredible efforts to persuade all and everybody of the correctness of the path chosen by him. First of all, due to the granted loans of the state grain fund it became possible to partly eliminate the sharp food deficit in the countryside. In spite of an extremely low grain harvest in 1934 (only 12.3 million tons), the famine in Ukraine did not repeat [Krawchenko, p.20]. Of course, the tragedy of 1933 could have been avoided by the same means. More attention was also paid to supplies for collective farms. Under Stalin's guidance, state investments were redistributed for the development of industries supporting agriculture. There was an appreciable growth of the agricultural inputs and machinery. For example, by the end of the decade there were already 90,000 tractors, 50,000 trucks and 30,000 combines [Soviet Ukraine, p.294].

However, collective farms were not in fact the owners of the machinery. In order to get a full monopoly in technical service of agriculture, the government concentrated all complex machinery in state-owned Machinery-Tractor Stations (MTS) taking from collective farms the tractors and machines obtained by them in previous years. It was Southern Ukraine where the first Soviet MTS was organized as early as 1931. The motive was to use tractors and machinery more efficiently, to provide more professional repair and agronomy service, but at the same time that was a way to increase the governmental control and one more channel for requisition of collective farms' grain because MTS were paid in kind [Timoshenko, p.120]. In order to force collective farms' use the service of MTS different grain delivery quotas were adopted by central government. So, in 1933 for those Ukrainian collective farms which were served by MTS the procurement quota was 2.5 quintals per hectare, for other collective farms, 3.1. quintals per hectare. In 1935 the quotas were decreased to 2.3 and 2.4 respectively [Jasny, p.372].

In 1937 the total collectivization in Ukraine was proclaimed as fully completed. There were collectivized 96.1% peasant households and 99.7% sown acreage, and 28,000 collective farms were created [Soviet Ukraine, p.140]. Agriculture began to have the features of large-scale production. Ukrainian collective farms were the largest among Soviet republics. In that period, 65.2% of all Ukrainian collective farms covered more than 500 hectares, and 1.1% - less than 100 hectares each [Bienstock p.137]. Of course, there were some advantages of large-scale farming such as rational crop rotation, machine utilization, processing and storage facilities. But enlargement of collective farms led to the gulf between ordinary peasant membership and management appointed by Communist party. This gap enhanced the driving power of management over labor. The large size might also facilitate central control over collective farms [Volin 1967, p.16].

As for economic results of the collectivization scholars do not have a common opinion. Those who made suggestions based on Soviet statistics assumed that despite ruthless and coercive methods of collectivization, reorganization of the entire agricultural economy along the lines of large mechanized enterprises using advanced methods began to yield positive results. For example, improving land productivity, better livestock breeding, and finally increasing general agricultural output [Bienstock, p.137]. Others evaluate new organizational structure more skeptically because of unreliability of information sources. Obviously, a certain improving state of matters in agriculture occurred anyway. However, that was not a fundamental progress as the Soviet propaganda wanted to introduce. It was elementary stabilization of production level, reached by administrative methods, after chaos and destructive processes in the beginning of the decade.

No doubt, there were two (both of non-economic nature) motives for collective farms to reach better production results: the communist enthusiasm and the fear. Not only agriculture - all life at that time was permeated by them. Stalin succeeded in developing both motives, particularly the second. A new wave of purges, which became known in history as the Great terror of 1937, covered the country. Leaders and officials of different ranks, specialists, scientists, other intellectuals, finally any persons with independent viewpoints were labeled as "an enemy of the people" and became a target of pursuit at this time. All scientific schools oriented to economic approaches which called expediency of the reconstruction in agriculture made by Stalin in question, were banned, and their leaders were imprisoned or even executed. The atmosphere of dogmatism, pseudoscientific values, and amateurishment was established in science and education. These conditions had been working against progressive thought for many years.
Collective farming was a complex product of the totalitarian regime. It should be considered significantly broader than only an economic phenomenon. It was a new social system which fundamentally changed peasants' way of living, social status, and motivation to work. Members of collective farms were actually transformed to a kind of industrial workers, loosing traditional peasant psychology, decision making initiative, freedom of choice, and right of migration. And only after the working day, did collective farm workers become really peasants again at their little family plots. The legalization of these plots occurred because the public sector of production could not provide the subsistence minimum of peasant families. The situation was reminiscent of something which already existed in the past: serfdom returned with modified image. It was neoserfdom.

What makes it morally right to compare the organizational structure of agriculture based on the collective farms of Stalin's type with serfdom? To answer the question the following definition could be very useful.

Serf is "a person...belonging to any of various grades of lower classes esp. in different feudal system, bound to soil and more or less subject to the will of the owner of the soil, and separable from lord's land by manumission only.

Now let's compare to what extent this definition corresponds to Stalin's model of organizational structure of agriculture.

1. "Lower class". Due to the ideology of predominative development of industries conducted by Soviet government, peasantry could be considered as a lower class because of civil and economic rights unequal with urban population, harder character of labor with inadequate, awarding :pra\dded by regulated infringement of the price parity for agriculture and industries, worse access to benefits of social distribution funds; consequently lower living standard and education level.

2. "Bound to soil". Internal passport regulation restricted peasant movement more than other segments of population. It was impossible for peasants to get jobs out of agriculture.

3. "Subject to the soil owner's will". The Soviet state was the single owner of land. But the state, as an abstract notion, was only the formal owner, and couldn't have any concrete will. The real will is a result a decision making process by a ruling person or persons. This means that there was always somebody (usually nominated from above or formally elected) who conveyed the will of the state. That was a normal practice of the regime. Of course, the principal decision was Stalin's exclusive right. He presented his own decision as the will of the state or even as the will of Soviet people. Manipulations of peasants during the period of collectivization might be the best example of how they really were the subject of ruler's will after loosing land property rights.

4. "Manumission". This procedure was not even foreseen for members of collective farms. But a certain part of them, especially young people, succeeded in getting such manumission through army service, marriage, special recruitment for mining or building job in remote regions of the country.

There also were some additional reasons for collective farms paralleling the organizational structure which existed under serfdom. In both cases, peasants were deprived of freedom of choice. They had limited size of individual property, which was not enough for them to be economically independent agricultural producers oriented to a market. In collective farms this limitation was created artificially. For example, the size of family plot and number of livestock were subject to periodical reconsideration. Under serfdom peasants were required to work for their landowners before they worked on their own land. The same conditions prevailed after collectivization. Only in later case the land was controlled by the collective farm. Their position in relation to means of production was only as users. Members of collective farms as peasants in the past had obligatory duties. Product duties were in the form of compulsory state purchases at the prices lower than real value of products. Obligatory minimum of labor participation in public production of a collective farm was a kind of labor duties. In the second half of the 1930s every able-bodied member of collective farms was required to 80 labor-days in the public sector as the minimum [Hubbard, p.304]. Because of inadequate earnings for spent labor and hard work conditions, it is possible in both cases to talk about the existence of exploitation. Stalin's peasants, as serfs in the past, were restricted for migration and employment out of their economies.

Cooperatives were also an unique phenomenon from an economic point of view. From the early beginning of their creation they were proclaimed as 'Cooperative organizations. Even the collectivization campaign as a whole was called the realization of Lenin's cooperative plan. But this plan did not exist in reality. Lenin developed some ideas about cooperation, as mentioned above, but they were not clearly formulated and did not take the form of a concrete plan. Obviously, Stalin and his satellites used the authority of Lenin to promote their own variant of restructuring agriculture. Using certain features of real cooperatives they implanted an illusion of an existing democratic, self-government organization (Figure 4).

According the Model Statute of collective farm proposed by Stalin and ratified by party leadership and the central government in 1935, general membership meeting was the highest power in a collective farm. Actually, the meeting could adopt certain principle decisions especially connected with membership, labor organization, social communications, and so on. But they never discussed state procurement plans, prices, marketing alternatives for their products and supplies, or development policy. Even the word "policy" was never used in collective farms practice. To conduct the directives of higher party authority was the single policy of every collective farms. The chairman of the farm was to be a reliable member of Communist party, and as a rule was selected by its local bosses. The general meeting was also responsible for election of the Board of collective farm, its chairman, and a revision committee.

All decisions of a collective farm, including the election of the leadership, were to be made only by open voting. Objections or even independent opinions were considered politically as a dissent with official strategy of socialist construction, and was a ground for persecution. The increasing size of collective farms made the role of their general meetings more formal, and the board of collective farms, and especially chairman of the board, became more important. Every collective farm was highly politized organization. All activities of the collective farm were controlled by Communist party-tell. Its leader was a powerful person in the collective farm because his position was equated with the position of vice chairman. As for specialists, many collective farms did not have enough of them. As a rule specialists, for example agronomists, served two or three collective farms at the same time and were employed by MTS. It was one more prerogative of the state.

With bureaucratization and politization of the management, members of collective farms, who were the workers of primary production collectives, gradually lost any notable role in decision-making both for production and social life. Command-administrative methods applying to the entity of collective farms were passed on to lower and lower levels of production divisions. This gave birth to an important feature of collective farm members' psychology - to be directed. Naturally, under such circumstances the development of broad initiative and the spirit of venture were impossible.

At the end of the 1930s, the foundations of the state control ofecollective farms were finally formed. Of course, during sixty years existence the system of collective farming passed through a lot of modifications, but its main supporting pillars created by Stalin remained the same. After collectivization, the policy towards collective farms was changed many times. The history of collective farming saw new procurement prices, bigger investments, increase of educational level, more specialists, more credits, better supply of inputs, more constructive social policy. But certain things were never changed, such as property relations, command style of management, state intervention in internal affairs of collective farms through distributions and redistributions (Figure 5).

Even today some people call collective farms a cooperative form of production organization. It is probably the result of their misunderstanding of the essence of cooperation and because of the lack of knowledge in the field of cooperative principles. Once Stalin noted that to contrast collective farms with cooperation means to jeer at Leninism and to testify to one's own ignorance [Stalin, p.131]. Maybe he was right. But paraphrasing this statement, let's say, to call collective farms as cooperatives means to jeer at the idea of cooperation and to testify to one's own ignorance too. Comparing collective farms to cooperative enterprises is a mistake for .the following,main reasons:

1. Collective farms were created on the basis of forcing people to socialize their property and their labor.

2. Peasants never had the right to be full owners of the products made by them in public production.

3. Peasants never had the right to obtain their initial share in public property.

4. Management in collective farms was always built "from the top to the bottom". Candidature of chairman was introduced by district leadership, and election until recently was a pure formal procedure.

5. Collective farms have never been politically independent.

Collective farms were created by command system, and they looked like a miniature of this system. They could be effective only under strict administrative ruling, artificial support and ideological pressure. The probability of that was predicted on the eve of collectivization by Nikolay Bukharin, Stalin's main opponent for development of organizational structure of agriculture1. He harshly criticized the approach to collectivization itself, and emphasized that this type of restructuring in agriculture could lead to "military-feudal exploitation" of the peasantry [Cohen, p.320]. He deeply understood what kind of economic consequences the forced submission of peasantry to the bureaucratic machine of the totalitarian state would lead to. How Bukharin was sagacious, how he could express in such short definition the essence of rightnessless of the peasantry, how he was able to foreknow the universality of this mechanism of bondage - all of that was one more time confirmed in the years of Nazi occupation of Ukraine.

The period of June 1941 - October 1944 comes to the historyiOf-Mcrainian agriculture as heaviest because of incredible destructions, numerous human victims, expropriations and violence of invaders. Ukraine was fully occupied by the Nazis in the first months of the war. The machinery, equipment, agricultural animals, and other values were evacuated only partially. The most skilled specialists were also the subject of evacuation. A lot of countrymen joined the army, and only less than a half of them were lucky enough to live till the victory. During the Second World War, the territory of Ukraine twice became the arena of active large-scale military operations. According to Soviet estimations, Nazi occupants robbed and removed to Germany or used for the army 12,000,000 tons of farm products, 7,800,000 head of cattle, 3,300,000 horses, 9,300,000 hogs, 7,300,000 sheep in Ukraine. They also razed or burned out 28,000 villages, 500,000 collective farm buildings, over 500,000 peasant houses [Soviet Ukraine, p.294]. The damage from destroyed fields and infrastructure, military pollution, broken cycle of reproduction, etc. and, of course, millions of human lives, was impossible to calculate.

At the beginning of the war, Hitler had already prepared long in advance perspective plans on how to use the economic potential, of .Ukrainian agriculture in the achievement of his militaristic goals. According to these plans, the agriculture of Ukraine was to fulfil two main functions: to supply the German Army, in the, occupied territories and to deliver surpluses of foodstuff for Reich itself [Schulte, p.7l]. From the first days of the "New order" it was broadly announced by occupation authorities their intentions for fundamental restructuring of Ukrainian agriculture. Collective farms were to cease their existence, land and other means of productions were to return to the private property. General development of agriculture was planned in the direction to laissez faire. That was a key point of Nazi policy in the beginning of the occupation of Ukraine. For example, in the Memorandum of the German Foreign Office dated of July 1941 it was noted that the promise to dissolve the collective farms would be the most effective means of propaganda [Dallin, p.320].

However, very soon the invaders were faced with two facts which made them considerably less optimistic about the opportunity to become rich at the expense of Ukrainian agriculture. The total poverty of Ukrainian peasants was the first fact. The great majority of rural families did not have horses, cows, even elementary agricultural implements (to say nothing about machinery). For them to start private farming was simply impossible. There was no such things as surpluses of agricultural products. Only some vital commodities could be changed for food on the barter basis. Money circulation was out of order. Another fact was concluded at a very low level of organization and control in agriculture. The Nazis recognized that for the moment only the existing system of collective farming was able to provide more or less strict centralized control of agricultural production and rural life as a whole. Finally, they accepted Stalin's variant of organizational structure of Ukrainian agriculture and called for the maintenance of collective farming, both as an-immediate means of*extracting foodstuffs from peasantry and as a long-range means of subjugating people from occupied territories for exploitation [Mosely, p.5l]. That was the shortest and the cheapest way to fulfil the food requisitions. Thus collective farms served the Nazi regime. Although the German system of agricultural products collection was, of course, less efficient than Soviet.

After liberation from the German invaders Ukrainian collective farms immediately became again an object of special attention for the Soviet government. But the ruling practice was kept the same - to get agricultural products by any means. In ruined and weakened Ukrainian collective farms, with absence of a male labor force, women became the main characters. One typical example of a collective farm can serve as an illustration of the postwar situation in Ukraine. According to the evidence of the former chairman published in the West, among 1,358 members of his collective farm there were only 71 able-bodied men under sixty in 1947. 125 households out of 336 were without male members. But all important posts, with only one exception, were held by men [Belov, p.107-109]. The general policy at that time was to put former army officers into managerial jobs. Commander's experience was highly evaluated in agriculture.

The organizational and economic problems of postwar collective farms remained the same as before the war, but they were explained by new reasons resulting from the war and difficulties of postwar period. Later one more explanation of the economic predicament was added - "rising aggressiveness of world imperialism". The Soviet ideologic machine did its best to turn the attention of people from economic problems to political ones. Of course, the collective farm system's status quo was out of the question. Even Stalin's death in 1953 didn't bring any principal changes. The system outlived its creator.