The Great Famine-Genocide in Soviet Ukraine, 1932-1933 (Holodomor)
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"The Great Terror, A Reassessment" 
    

"...The last serious pretense that persuasion, or even economic pressure, was to be the method of enforcing the Party will on the peasantry has disappeared. Pure force, a frontal assault, was the chosen method. Without serious preparation or planning on the economic side, the Party was launched into a civil war in the rural areas. It as the first great crisis of the Stalin regime, and it marks the beginning of a whole new era of terror.

On 5 January 1930 the Central Committee issued a decision, switching from the original plan of collectivizing 20 percent of the sown area during the Five-Year Plan to the complete collectivization of the more important regions by the autumn of 1930 or at the very latest the autumn of 1931, and in other areas by the autumn of 1931 or at the very latest the autumn of 1932. In one way or another, everything got out of hand, and in a few weeks the Party had been carried to the brink of disaster.
Between January and March 1930, the number of peasant holdings brought into the collective farms increased from 4 million to 14 million. Over half of the total peasant hold holds had been collectivized in five months. And in the countryside the peasants fought back with 'sawed-off shotgun, the axe, the dagger, the knife.' At the same time, they destroyed their livestock rather than let if fall into the hands of the State.

Kalinin, Ordzhonikidze, and other members of the Politburo visited the provinces and seem to have reported realistically about the disaster. But Statlin is said not to have bothered to obtain Politburo permission for his key article 'Dizziness With Success' published in Pravada on 2 March 1930. The article put most of the blame on excesses committed by local party workers, and this, it is said, came as a shock to local enthusiasts. It was followed on 14 March by a condemnation of "distortions" of the Party line in the application of compulsion to the peasantry---which, the statement said, was a Leftist deviation which could only help to strengthen right-wing elements in the Party. Bauman, who had replaced Uglanov as First Secretary in Moscow and candidate member of the Politburo, was now made a scapegoat on charges of Left deviation, removed from his post, and sent to a lesser position in Central Asia. 

Defeat has been accepted. The peasants left the kolkhozes. Stalin's policy lay in ruins. 

In any other political system, this would have been the moment for the opposition to stand forward. They had been proved right. And support for the Rightist leadership sprang up spontaneously in Party branches all of the country. Among the people as a whole, they were of course stronger still. But to this vast potential support, Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov gave no lead. On the contrary, they went out of their way to say that to come out against 'the Party,' especially with the support of peasants, was unthinkable. So Stalin's policy defeat was accompanied by a political victory. Tomsky was removed from the Politburo in July 1930, and Rykov in December. Henceforth, it was purely Stalinist.

The Rightist leaders regarded Stalin's leadership as catastrophic and hoped for his fall (Summer, 1930), but advised their closest adherents to wait in patience for a change in the Party mood. Bukharin favored working up a general support of the idea of a change without any direct organized struggle for the time being. He is described as having counseled the younger oppositionists to rely on the masses, who must sooner or later realize the fatal consequences of the Stalin line. Patience would be necessary. So he accepted defeat in the vague hope of some improvement later on.

The Trotskyists voiced a similar hope for a change. Ivan Smirmov, a 'capitulator,' now considered, 'In view of the incapacity of the present leadership to get out of the economic and political deadlock, the conviction about the need to change the leadership of the Party is growing.'

Stalin, though retreating, had not given up his plans for collectivization. He now proposed to bring it into being over a longer period----by means just as inhuman but not so ill-prepared. Everywhere in the countryside, the Party, faced with a hostile peasantry, regrouped and prepared further desperate action.

The peasants remaining in the villages were now subjected to demands for amounts of grain which they were unable to produce. in 1932 and 1933, the Ukraine, the North Caucasus, and the Lower Volga suffered a terrible famine. There was enough grain, but it was taken away to the last kilogram. As recent Soviet accounts put it, 'this famine was organized by Stalin quite consciously and according to the plan.'

The main weight of the assault was against the Ukraine, and the (then) Ukrainian-speaking areas of the Kuban, in the North Caucasus. It was combined with a devastating attack on the Ukrainian intelligentsia and the Ukrainian Party itself. In fact, the campaign may be said to resemble the 'laying waste' of hostile subject territories practiced by Jenghiz Khan and other figures of the past.

But is was not until 1988 that, on this as on other aspects of Stalinism, full accounting of the impact, the method, and the motives appeared in Soviet publications. The deaths in the terror-famine cannot have been lower than 6 to 7 million. The death toll among the peasantry over the whole period 1930 to 1933 is given in the recent Soviet literature as around 10 million---higher than the dead of all the belligerents put together in the First World War. That is, it was all on a scale as large as that of the subsequent "Great Terror." These events are not the subject of this book, except insofar as they are a part of the preparation for the full scale Stalinist regime. (The present writer has in fact dealt with the 1930-1933 terror in THE HARVEST OF SORROW; indeed, in a sense, the two books form a sequence on Stalinism in the 1930's). 

There seems little doubt that the main issue was simply crushing the peasantry, and the Ukrainians, at any cost. One high official told a Ukrainian who later defected that the 1933 harvest 'was a test of our strength and their endurance. It took a famine to show them who is master here. It has cost millions of lives, but the collective farm system is here to stay. We have won the war, 'In fact, we find that mass terror was now already in existence in the countryside, and thousands of police and Party officials has received the most ruthless operational experience." 


Book 1, The Purge Begins

Introduction, The Roots of Terror

Page 18-20

 

 


by Robert Conquest; Century Hutchinson Ltd., London, 1990

 
 

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