Concerning Questions of Agrarian Policy in the U.S.S.R.
Speech Delivered at a Conference of Marxist Students of Agrarian Questions1
December 27, 1929
By J. V. Stalin
Comrades, the main fact of our social and economic life at the present time, a fact which is attracting universal attention, is the tremendous growth of the collective-farm movement.
The characteristic feature of the present collective-farm movement is that not only are the collective farms being joined by individual groups of poor peasants, as has been the case hitherto, but that they are being joined by the mass of the middle peasants as well. This means that the collective-farm movement has been transformed from a movement of individual groups and sections of the labouring peasants into a movement of millions and millions of the main mass of the peasantry. This, by the way, explains the tremendously important fact that the collective-farm movement, which has assumed the character of a mighty and growing anti-kulak avalanche, is sweeping the resistance of the kulak from its path, is shattering the kulak class and paving the way for extensive socialist construction in the countryside.
But while we have reason to be proud of the practical successes achieved in socialist construction, the same cannot be said with regard to our theoretical work in the economic field in general, and in that of agriculture in particular. More than that, it must be admitted that theoretical thought is not keeping pace with our practical successes, that there is a certain gap between our practical successes and the development of theoretical thought. Yet it is essential that theoretical work should not only keep pace with practical work but should keep ahead of it and equip our practical workers in their fight for the victory of socialism.
I shall not dwell at length here on the importance of theory. You are quite well aware of its importance. You know that theory, if it is genuine theory, gives practical workers the power of orientation, clarity of perspective, confidence in their work, faith in the victory of our cause. All this is, and necessarily must be, immensely important in our work of socialist construction. The unfortunate thing is that precisely in this sphere, in the sphere of the theoretical treatment of questions of our economy, we are beginning to lag behind.
How else can we explain the fact that in our country, in our social and political life, various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois theories on questions of our economy are still current? How can we explain the fact that these theories and would-be theories are not yet meeting with a proper rebuff? How can we explain the fact that a number of fundamental theses of Marxist-Leninist political economy, which are the most effective antidote to bourgeois and petty-bourgeois theories, are beginning to be forgotten, are not popularised in our press, are for some reason not placed in the foreground? Is it difficult to understand that unless a relentless fight against bourgeois theories is waged on the basis of Marxist-Leninist theory, it will be impossible to achieve complete victory over our class enemies?
New practical experience is giving rise to a new approach to the problems of the economy of the transition period. Questions of NEP, of classes, of the rate of construction, of the bond with the peasantry, of the Party’s policy, are now presented in a new way. If we are not to lag behind practice we must immediately begin to work on all these problems in the light of the new situation. Unless we do this it will be impossible to overcome the bourgeois theories which are stuffing the heads of our practical workers with rubbish. Unless we do this it will be impossible to eradicate these theories which are acquiring the tenacity of prejudices. For only by combating bourgeois prejudices in the field of theory is it possible to consolidate the position of Marxism-Leninism.
Permit me now to characterise at least a few of these bourgeois prejudices which are called theories, and to demonstrate their unsoundness in the light of certain key problems of our work of construction.
THE THEORY OF “EQUILIBRIUM”
You know, of course, that the so-called theory of “equilibrium” between the sectors of our national economy is still current among Communists. This theory, of course, has nothing in common with Marxism. Nevertheless, it is a theory that is being spread by a number of people in the camp of the Right deviators.
This theory assumes that we have, in the first place, a socialist sector—which is one compartment, as it were—and that in addition we have a non-socialist or, if you like, capitalist sector—which is another compartment. These two “compartments” are on different rails and glide peacefully forward, without touching each other. Geometry teaches that parallel lines do not meet. But the authors of this remarkable theory believe that these parallel lines will meet eventually, and that when they do, we shall have socialism. This theory overlooks the fact that behind these so-called “compartments” there are classes, and that the movement of these compartments takes place by way of a fierce class struggle, a life-and-death struggle, a struggle on the principle of “who will beat whom?”
It is not difficult to realise that this theory has nothing in common with Leninism. It is not difficult to realise that, objectively, the purpose of this theory is to defend the position of individual peasant farming, to arm the kulak elements with a “new” theoretical weapon in their struggle against the collective farms, and to discredit the collective farms.
Nevertheless, this theory is still current in our press. And it cannot be said that it has met with a serious rebuff, let alone a crushing rebuff, from our theoreticians. How can this incongruity be explained except by the backwardness of our theoretical thought? And yet, all that is needed is to take from the treasury of Marxism the theory of reproduction and set it up against the theory of equilibrium of the sectors for the latter theory to be wiped out without leaving a trace. Indeed, the Marxist theory of reproduction teaches that modern society cannot develop without accumulating from year to year, and accumulation is impossible unless there is expanded reproduction from year to year. This is clear and comprehensible. Our large-scale, centralised, socialist industry is developing according to the Marxist theory of expanded reproduction; for it is growing in volume from year to year, it has its accumulations and is advancing with giant strides.
But our large-scale industry does not constitute the whole of the national economy. On the contrary, small-peasant economy still predominates in it. Can we say that our small-peasant economy is developing according to the principle of expanded reproduction? No, we cannot. Not only is there no annual expanded reproduction in the bulk of our small-peasant economy, but, on the contrary, it is seldom able to achieve even simple reproduction. Can we advance our socialised industry at an accelerated rate while we have such an agricultural basis as small-peasant economy, which is incapable of expanded reproduction, and which, in addition, is the predominant force in our national economy? No, we cannot. Can Soviet power and the work of socialist construction rest for any length of time on two different foundations: on the most large-scale and concentrated socialist industry, and the most disunited and backward, small-commodity peasant economy? No, they cannot. Sooner or later this would be bound to end in the complete collapse of the whole national economy.
What, then, is the way out? The way out lies in making agriculture large-scale, in making it capable of accumulation, of expanded reproduction, and in thus transforming the agricultural basis of the national economy.
But how is it to be made large-scale?
There are two ways of doing this. There is the capitalist way, which is to make agriculture large-scale by implanting capitalism in agriculture—a way which leads to the impoverishment of the peasantry and to the development of capitalist enterprises in agriculture. We reject this way as incompatible with Soviet economy.
There is another way: the socialist way, which is to introduce collective farms and state farms into agriculture, the way which leads to uniting the small peasant farms into large collective farms, employing machinery and scientific methods of farming, and capable of developing further, for such farms can achieve expanded reproduction.
And so, the question stands as follows: either one way or the other, either back—to capitalism, or forward—to socialism. There is not, and cannot be, any third way.
The theory of “equilibrium” is an attempt to indicate a third way. And precisely because it is based on a third (non-existent) way, it is utopian and anti-Marxist.
You see, therefore, that all that was needed was to counterpose Marx’s theory of reproduction to this theory of “equilibrium” of the sectors for the latter theory to be wiped out without leaving a trace.
Why, then, do our Marxist students of agrarian questions not do this? In whose interest is it that the ridiculous theory of “equilibrium” should have currency in our press while the Marxist theory of reproduction is kept hidden?
THE THEORY OF “SPONTANEITY” IN SOCIALIST CONSTRUCTION
Let us now take the second prejudice in political economy, the second bourgeois type of theory. I have in mind the theory of “spontaneity” in socialist construction—a theory which has nothing in common with Marxism, but which is being zealously advocated by our comrades of the Right camp.
The authors of this theory assert approximately the following. There was a time when capitalism existed in our country, industry developed on a capitalist basis, and the countryside followed the capitalist town spontaneously, automatically, becoming transformed in the image of the capitalist town. Since that is what happened under capitalism, why should not the same thing happen under the Soviet economic system as well? Why should not the countryside, small-peasant farming, automatically follow the socialist town, becoming transformed spontaneously in the image of the socialist town? On these grounds the authors of this theory assert that the countryside can follow the socialist town automatically. Hence, the question arises: Is it worth our while bothering about organising state farms and collective farms; is it worth while breaking lances’ over this if the countryside may in any case follow the socialist town?
Here you have another theory which, objectively, seeks to supply the capitalist elements in the countryside with a new weapon for their struggle against the collective farms.
The anti-Marxist nature of this theory is beyond all doubt.
Is it not strange that our theoreticians have not yet taken the trouble to explode this queer theory which is stuffing the heads of our practical collective-farm workers with rubbish?
There is no doubt that the leading role of the socialist town in relation to the small-peasant, individualist countryside is a great one and of inestimable value. It is indeed upon this that the role of industry in transforming agriculture is based. But is this factor sufficient to cause the small-peasant countryside automatically to follow the town in the work of socialist construction? No, it is not sufficient.
Under capitalism the countryside automatically followed the town because the capitalist economy of the town and the individual small-commodity economy of the peasant are, basically, economies of the same type. Of course, small-peasant commodity economy is not yet capitalist economy. But it is, basically, the same type of economy as capitalist economy since it rests on private ownership of the means of production. Lenin was a thousand times right when, in his notes on Bukharin’s Economics of the Transition Period, he referred to the “commodity-capitalist tendency of the peasantry” in contrast to the “socialist tendency of the proletariat.”*2 It is this that explains why “small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale”3 (Lenin).
Is it possible to say that basically small-commodity peasant economy is the same type of economy as socialist production in the towns? Obviously, it is impossible to say so without breaking with Marxism. Otherwise Lenin would not have said that “as long as we live in a small-peasant country, there is a surer economic basis for capitalism in Russia than for communism.” 4
Consequently, the theory of “spontaneity” in socialist construction is a rotten, anti-Leninist theory.
Consequently, in order that the small-peasant countryside should follow the socialist town, it is necessary, apart from everything else, to introduce in the countryside large socialist farms in the form of state farms and collective farms, as bases of socialism, which—headed by the socialist town—will be able to take the lead of the main mass of the peasantry.
Consequently, the theory of “spontaneity” in socialist construction is an anti-Marxist theory. The socialist town can lead the small-peasant countryside, only by introducing collective farms and state farms and by transforming the countryside after a new, socialist pattern.
It is strange that the anti-Marxist theory of “spontaneity” in socialist construction has hitherto not met with a proper rebuff from our agrarian theoreticians.
THE THEORY OF THE “STABILITY” OF SMALL-PEASANT FARMING
Let us now take the third prejudice in political economy, the theory of the “stability” of small-peasant farming. Everybody is familiar with the argument of bourgeois political economy that the well-known Marxist thesis about the advantages of large-scale production over small production applies only to industry, and does not apply to agriculture. Social-Democratic theoreticians like David and Hertz, who advocate this theory, have tried to “base themselves” on the fact that the small peasant is enduring and patient, that he is ready to bear any privation if only he can hold on to his little plot of land, and that, as a consequence, small-peasant economy displays stability in the struggle against large-scale economy in agriculture.
It is not difficult to understand that such “stability” is worse than any instability. It is not difficult to understand that this anti-Marxist theory has only one aim: to eulogise and strengthen the capitalist system which ruins the vast masses of small peasants. And it is precisely because this theory pursues this aim that it has been so easy for Marxists to shatter it.
But that is not the point just now. The point is that our practice, our reality, is providing new arguments against this theory, but our theoreticians, strangely enough, either will not, or cannot, make use of this new weapon against the enemies of the working class. I have in mind our practice in abolishing private ownership of land, our practice in nationalising the land, our practice which liberates the small peasant from his slavish attachment to his little plot of land and thereby helps the change from small-scale peasant farming to large-scale collective farming.
Indeed, what is it that has tied, is still tying and will continue to tie the small peasant of Western Europe to his small-commodity farming? Primarily, and mainly, the fact that he owns his little plot of land, the existence of private ownership of land. For years he saved up money in order to buy a little plot of land; he bought it, and of course he does not want to part with it, preferring to endure any privation, preferring to sink into barbarism and abject poverty, if only he can hold on to his little plot of land, the basis of his individual economy.
Can it be said that this factor, in this form, continues to operate in our country, under the Soviet system? No, it cannot be said. It cannot be said because there is no private ownership of land in our country. And precisely because there is no private ownership of land in our country, our peasants do not display that slavish attachment to a plot of land which is seen in the West. And this circumstance cannot but facilitate the change from small-peasant farming to collective farming.
That is one of the reasons why the large farms, the collective farms of our countryside, are able in our country, where the land is nationalised, to demonstrate so easily their superiority over the small peasant farms.
That is the great revolutionary significance of the Soviet agrarian laws which abolished absolute rent, abolished the private ownership of land and carried out the nationalisation of the land.
But it follows from this that we now have at our command a new argument against the bourgeois economists who proclaim the stability of small-peasant farming in its struggle against large-scale farming.
Why then is this new argument not sufficiently utilised by our agrarian theoreticians in their struggle against all the various bourgeois theories? When we nationalised the land our point of departure was, among other things, the theoretical premises laid down in the third volume of Capital, in Marx’s well-known book Theories of Surplus-Value, and in Lenin’s works on agrarian questions, which represent an extremely rich treasury of theoretical thought. I am referring to the theory of ground rent in general, and the theory of absolute ground rent in particular. It is now clear that the theoretical principles laid down in these works have been brilliantly confirmed by the practical experience of our work of socialist construction in town and country.
The only incomprehensible thing is why the anti-scientific theories of “Soviet” economists like Chayanov should be freely current in our press, while Marx’s, Engels’s and Lenin’s works of genius dealing with the theory of ground rent and absolute ground rent are not popularised and brought into the foreground, are kept hidden.
You, no doubt, remember Engels’s well-known pamphlet The Peasant Question. You, of course, remember with what circumspection Engels approaches the question of the transition of the small peasants to the path of co-operative farming, to the path of collective farming. Permit me to quote the passage in question from Engels:
“We are decidedly on the side of the small peasant; we shall do everything at all permissible to make his lot more bearable, to facilitate his transition to the co-operative should he decide to do so, and even to make it possible for him to remain on his little plot of land for a protracted length of time to think the matter over, should he still be unable to bring himself to this decision.”**5
You see with what circumspection Engels approaches the question of the transition of individual peasant farming to collectivist lines. How are we to explain this circumspection displayed by Engels, which at first sight seems exaggerated? What did he proceed from? Obviously, he proceeded from the existence of private ownership of land, from the fact that the peasant has “his little plot of land” which he will find it hard to part with. Such is the peasantry in the West. Such is the peasantry in capitalist countries, where private ownership of land exists. Naturally, great circumspection is needed there.
Can it be said that such a situation exists in our country, in the U.S.S.R.? No, it cannot. It cannot be said because here we have no private ownership of land chaining the peasant to his individual farm. It cannot be said because in our country the land is nationalised, and this facilitates the transition of the individual peasant to collectivist lines.
That is one of the reasons for the comparative ease and rapidity with which the collective-farm movement has of late been developing in our country.
It is to be regretted that our agrarian theoreticians have not yet attempted to bring out with the proper clarity this difference between the situation of the peasantry in our country and in the West. And yet this would be of the utmost value not only for us, working in the Soviet Union, but for Communists in all countries. For it is not a matter of indifference to the proletarian revolution in the capitalist countries whether, from the first day of the seizure of power by the proletariat, socialism will have to be built there on the basis of the nationalisation of the land or without this basis.
In my recent article (“A Year of Great Change”†), I advanced certain arguments to prove the superiority of large-scale farming over small farming; in this I had in mind large state farms. It is self-evident that all these arguments fully and entirely apply also to collective farms, as large economic units. I am speaking not only of developed collective farms, which have machines and tractors at their disposal, but also of collective farms in their primary stage, which represent, as it were, the manufacture period of collective-farm development and are based on peasant farm implements. I am referring to the collective farms in their primary stage which are now being formed in the areas of complete collectivisation, and which are based upon the simple pooling of the peasants’ implements of production.
Take, for instance, the collective farms of the Khoper area in the former Don region. Outwardly, from the point of view of technical equipment, these collective farms scarcely differ from small-peasant farms (few machines, few tractors). And yet the simple pooling of the peasants’ implements of production within the collective farms has produced results of which our practical workers have never dreamt. What are these results? The fact that the transition to collective farming has brought about an increase of the crop area by 30, 40 and 50 per cent. How are these “dizzying” results to be explained? By the fact that the peasants, who were powerless under the conditions of individual labour, have been transformed into a mighty force once they have pooled their implements and have united in collective farms. By the fact that it has become possible for the peasants to till neglected land and virgin soil, which is difficult to cultivate by individual labour. By the fact that the peasants have been enabled to avail themselves of virgin soil. By the fact that wasteland, isolated plots, field boundaries, etc., etc., could now be cultivated.
The question of cultivating neglected land and virgin soil is of tremendous importance for our agriculture. You know that the pivot of the revolutionary movement in Russia in the old days was the agrarian question. You know that one of the aims of the agrarian movement was to do away with the shortage of land. At that time there were many who thought that this shortage of land was absolute, i.e., that there was in Russia no more free land suitable for cultivation. And what has actually proved to be the situation? Now it is quite clear that scores of millions of hectares of free land were and still are available in the U.S.S.R. But the peasants were quite unable to till this land with their wretched implements. And precisely because they were unable to till neglected land and virgin soil, they longed for “soft soil,” for the soil which belonged to the landlords, for soil which could be tilled with the aid of peasant implements by individual labour. That was at the bottom of the “land shortage.” It is not surprising, therefore, that our Grain Trust, which is equipped with tractors, is now able to place under cultivation some twenty million hectares of free land, land unoccupied by peasants and unfit for cultivation by individual labour with the aid of small-peasant implements.
The significance of the collective-farm movement in all its phases—both in its primary and in its more developed phase when it is equipped with tractors—lies, for one thing, in the fact that it is now possible for the peasants to place under cultivation neglected land and virgin soil. That is the secret of the tremendous expansion of the crop area attending the transition of the peasants to collective labour. That is one of the reasons for the superiority of the collective farms over individual peasant farms.
It goes without saying that the superiority of the collective farms over the individual peasant farms will become even more incontestable when our machine and tractor stations and tractor columns come to the aid of the newly-formed collective farms in the areas of complete collectivisation, and when the collective farms will be in a position to own tractors and harvester combines.
TOWN AND COUNTRY
In regard to the so-called “scissors,” there is a prejudice, fostered by bourgeois economists, against which a merciless war must be declared, as against all the other bourgeois theories that, unfortunately, are circulated in the Soviet press. I have in mind the theory which alleges that the October Revolution brought the peasantry fewer benefits than the February Revolution, that, in fact, the October Revolution brought no benefits to the peasantry.
At one time this prejudice was boosted in our press by a “Soviet” economist. This “Soviet” economist, it is true, later renounced his theory. (A voice: “Who was it?”) It was Groman. But this theory was seized upon by the Trotsky-Zinoviev opposition and used against the Party. Moreover, there are no grounds for claiming that it is not current even now in “Soviet” public circles.
This is a very important question, comrades. It touches upon the problem of the relations between town and country. It touches upon the problem of eliminating the antithesis between town and country. It touches upon the very urgent question of the “scissors.” I think, therefore, that it is worth while examining this strange theory.
Is it true that the October Revolution brought no benefits to the peasants? Let us turn to the facts.
I have before me the table drawn up by Comrade Nemchinov, the well-known statistician, which was published in my article “On the Grain Front.”6 From this table it is seen that in pre-revolutionary times the landlords “produced” not less than 600,000,000 poods of grain. Hence, the landlords were then the holders of 600,000,000 poods of grain.
The kulaks, as shown in this table, at that time “produced” 1,900,000,000 poods of grain. That represents the very great power which the kulaks wielded at that time.
The poor and middle peasants, as shown in the same table, produced 2,500,000,000 poods of grain.
That was the situation in the old countryside, prior to the October Revolution.
What changes have taken place in the countryside since October? I quote the figures from the same table. Take, for instance, the year 1927. How much did the landlords produce in that year? Obviously, they produced nothing and could not produce anything because they had been abolished by the October Revolution. You will realise that that must have been a great relief to the peasantry; for the peasants were liberated from the yoke of the landlords. That, of course, was a great gain for the peasantry, obtained as a result of the October Revolution.
How much did the kulaks produce in 1927? Six hundred million poods of grain instead of 1,900,000,000. Thus, during the period following the October Revolution the kulaks had lost more than two-thirds of their power. You will realise that this was bound to ease the situation of the poor and middle peasants.
And how much did the poor and middle peasants produce in 1927? Four thousand million poods, instead of 2,500,000,000 poods. Thus, after the October Revolution the poor and middle peasants began to produce 1,500,000,000 poods more grain than in pre-revolutionary times.
There you have facts which show that the October Revolution brought colossal gains to the poor and middle peasants.
That is what the October Revolution brought to the poor and middle peasants.
How, after this, can it be asserted that the October Revolution brought no benefits to the peasants?
But that is not all, comrades. The October Revolution abolished private ownership of land, did away with the purchase and sale of land, carried out the nationalisation of the land. What does this mean? It means that now the peasant has no need to buy land in order to produce grain. Formerly he was saving up for years in order to acquire land; he got into debt, went into bondage, if only he could buy a piece of land. The expense which the purchase of land involved naturally increased the cost of production of grain. Now, the peasant does not have to do that. He can produce grain now without buying land. Consequently, the hundreds of millions of rubles that formerly were spent by the peasants for the purchase of land now remain in their pockets. Does this ease the situation of the peasants or not? Obviously, it does.
Further. Until recently, the peasant was compelled to dig the soil with old-fashioned implements by individual labour. Everyone knows that individual labour, equipped with old-fashioned, now unsuitable, instruments of production, does not bring the gains required to enable one to lead a tolerable existence, systematically improve one’s material position, develop one’s culture and emerge on to the high road of socialist construction. Today, after the accelerated development of the collective-farm movement, the peasants are able to combine their labour with that of their neighbours, to unite in collective farms, to plough virgin soil, to utilise neglected land, to obtain machines and tractors and thereby double or even treble the productivity of labour. And what does this mean? It means that today the peasant, by joining the collective farm, is able to produce much more than formerly with the same expenditure of labour. It means, therefore, that grain will be produced much more cheaply than was the case until quite recently. It means, finally, that, with stable prices, the peasant can obtain much more for his grain than he has obtained up to now.
How, after all this, can it be asserted that the October Revolution brought no gains to the peasantry?
Is it not clear that those who utter such fictions obviously slander the Party and the Soviet power?
But what follows from all this?
It follows that the question of the “scissors,” the question of doing away with the “scissors, ”must now be approached in a new way. It follows that if the collective-farm movement grows at the present rate, the “scissors” will be abolished in the near future. It follows that the question of the relations between town and country is now put on a new basis, that the antithesis between town and country will disappear at an accelerated pace.
This circumstance, comrades, is of very great importance for our whole work of construction. It transforms the mentality of the peasant and turns him towards the town. It creates the basis for eliminating the antithesis between town and country. It creates the basis for the slogan of the Party—“face to the countryside”—to be supplemented by the slogan of the peasant collective farmers: “face to the town.”
Nor is there anything surprising in this, for the peasant is now receiving from the town machines, tractors, agronomists, organisers and, finally, direct assistance in fighting and overcoming the kulaks. The old type of peasant, with his savage distrust of the town, which he regarded as a plunderer, is passing into the background. His place is being taken by the new peasant, by the collective-farm peasant, who looks to the town with the hope of receiving real assistance in production. The place of the old type of peasant who was afraid of sinking to the level of the poor peasants and only stealthily (for he could be deprived of the franchise!) rose to the position of a kulak, is being taken by the new peasant, with a new prospect before him—that of joining a collective farm and emerging from poverty and ignorance on to the high road of economic and cultural progress.
That is the turn things are taking, comrades.
It is all the more regrettable, comrades, that our agrarian theoreticians have not taken all measures to explode and eradicate all bourgeois theories which seek to discredit the gains of the October Revolution and the growing collective-farm movement.
THE NATURE OF COLLECTIVE FARMS
The collective farm, as a type of economy, is one of the forms of socialist economy. There can be no doubt whatever about that.
One of the speakers here tried to discredit the collective farms. He asserted that the collective farms, as economic organisations, have nothing in common with the socialist form of economy. I must say, comrades, that such a characterisation of the collective farms is absolutely wrong. There can be no doubt that it has nothing in common with the true state of affairs.
What determines the type of an economy? Obviously, the relations between people in the process of production. How else can the type of an economy be determined? But is there in the collective farms a class of people who own the means of production and a class of people who are deprived of these means of production? Is there an exploiting class and an exploited class in the collective farms? Does not the collective farm represent the socialisation of the principal instruments of production on land belonging to the state? What grounds are there for asserting that the collective farms, as a type of economy, do not represent one of the forms of socialist economy?
Of course, there are contradictions in the collective farms. Of course, there are individualistic and even kulak survivals in the collective farms, which have not yet disappeared, but which are bound to disappear in the course of time as the collective farms become stronger, as they are provided with more machines. But can it be denied that the collective farms as a whole, with all their contradictions and shortcomings, the collective farms as an economic fact, represent, in the main, a new path of development of the countryside, the path of socialist development of the countryside in contradistinction to the kulak, capitalist path of development? Can it be denied that the collective farms (I am speaking of real, not sham collective farms) represent, under our conditions, a base and centre of socialist construction in the countryside—a base and centre which have grown up in desperate clashes with the capitalist elements?
Is it not clear that the attempts of some comrades to discredit the collective farms and declare them a bourgeois form of economy are devoid of all foundation?
In 1923 we did not yet have a mass collective-farm movement. Lenin, in his pamphlet On Co-operation, had in mind all forms of co-operation, both its lower forms (supply and marketing co-operatives) and its higher forms (collective farms). What did he say at that time about co-operation, about co-operative enterprises? Here is a quotation from Lenin’s pamphlet On Co-operation:
“Under our present system, co-operative enterprises differ from private capitalist enterprises because they are collective enterprises, but they do not differ** from socialist enterprises if the land on which they are situated and the means of production belong to the state, i.e., the working class” (Vol. XXVII, p. 396).
Hence, Lenin takes the co-operative enterprises not by themselves, but in connection with our present system, in connection with the fact that they function on land belonging to the state, in a country where the means of production belong to the state; and, regarding them in this light, Lenin declares that co-operative enterprises do not differ from socialist enterprises.
That is what Lenin says about co-operative enterprises in general.
Is it not clear that there is all the more ground for saying the same about the collective farms in our period?
This, by the way, explains why Lenin regarded the “mere growth of co-operation” under our conditions as “identical with the growth of socialism.”
As you see, the speaker I referred to above, in trying to discredit the collective farms, committed a grave mistake against Leninism.
This mistake led him to another mistake—about the class struggle in the collective farms. The speaker portrayed the class struggle in the collective farms in such vivid colours that one might think that the class struggle in the collective farms does not differ from the class struggle in the absence of collective farms. Indeed, one might think that in the collective farms it becomes even fiercer. Incidentally, the speaker mentioned is not the only one who has erred in this matter. Idle talk about the class struggle, squealing and shrieking about the class struggle in the collective farms, is now characteristic of all our noisy “Lefts.” The most comical thing about this squealing is that the squealers “see” the class struggle where it does not exist, or hardly exists, but fail to see it where it does exist and is glaringly manifest.
Are there elements of the class struggle in the collective farms? Yes, there are. There are bound to be elements of the class struggle in the collective farms as long as there still remain survivals of individualistic, or even kulak, mentality, as long as there still exists a certain degree of material inequality. Can it be said that the class struggle in the collective farms is equivalent to the class struggle in the absence of collective farms? No, it cannot. The mistake our “Left” phrasemongers make lies precisely in not seeing the difference.
What does the class struggle imply in the absence of collective farms, prior to the establishment of collective farms? It implies a fight against the kulak who owns the instruments and means of production and who keeps the poor peasants in bondage with the aid of those instruments and means of production. It is a life-and-death struggle.
But what does the class struggle imply with the collective farms in existence? It implies, firstly, that the kulak has been defeated and deprived of the instruments and means of production. It implies, secondly, that the poor and middle peasants are united in collective farms on the basis of the socialisation of the principal instruments and means of production. It implies, finally, that it is a struggle between members of collective farms, some of whom have not yet rid themselves of individualistic and kulak survivals and are striving to turn the inequality that exists to some extent in the collective farms to their own advantage, while the others want to eliminate these survivals and this inequality. Is it not clear that only the blind can fail to see the difference between the class struggle with the collective farms in existence and the class struggle in the absence of collective farms?
It would be a mistake to believe that once collective farms exist we have all that is necessary for building socialism. It would be all the more a mistake to believe that the members of the collective farms have already become Socialists. No, a great deal of work has still to be done to remould the peasant collective farmer, to set right his individualistic mentality and to transform him into a real working member of a socialist society. And the more rapidly the collective farms are provided with machines, the more rapidly they are supplied with tractors, the more rapidly will this be achieved. But this does not in the least belittle the very great importance of the collective farms as a lever for the socialist transformation of the countryside. The great importance of the collective farms lies precisely in that they represent the principal base for the employment of machinery and tractors in agriculture, that they constitute the principal base for remoulding the peasant, for changing his mentality in the spirit of socialism. Lenin was right when he said:
“The remaking of the small tiller, the remoulding of his whole mentality and habits, is a work of generations. As regards the small tiller, this problem can be solved, his whole mentality can be put on healthy lines, so to speak, only by the material base, by technical means, by introducing tractors and machines in agriculture on a mass scale, by electrification on a mass scale” (Vol. XXVI, p. 239).
Who can deny that the collective farms are indeed that form of socialist economy which alone can draw the vast masses of the small individual peasants into large-scale farming, with its machines and tractors as the levers of economic progress, the levers of the socialist development of agriculture?
Our “Left” phrasemongers have forgotten all that. And our speaker has forgotten about it, too.
THE CLASS CHANGES AND THE TURN IN THE PARTY’S POLICY
Finally, the question of the class changes in our country and the offensive of socialism against the capitalist elements in the countryside.
The characteristic feature in the work of our Party during the past year is that we, as a Party, as the Soviet power:
a) have developed an offensive along the whole front against the capitalist elements in the countryside;
b) that this offensive, as you know, has yielded and continues to yield very appreciable, positive results.
What does this mean? It means that we have passed from the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks to the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class. It means that we have carried out, and are continuing to carry out, one of the decisive turns in our whole policy.
Until recently the Party adhered to the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks. As you know, this policy was proclaimed as far back as the Eighth Party Congress. It was again announced at the time of the introduction of the NEP and at the Eleventh Congress of our Party. We all remember Lenin’s well-known letter about Preobrazhensky’s theses7 (1922), in which Lenin once again returned to the need for pursuing this policy. Finally, this policy was confirmed by the Fifteenth Congress of our Party. And it was this policy that we were pursuing until recently.
Was this policy correct? Yes, it was absolutely correct at the time. Could we have undertaken such an offensive against the kulaks some five years or three years ago? Could we then have counted on success in such an offensive? No, we could not. That would have been the most dangerous adventurism. It would have been a very dangerous playing at an offensive. For we should certainly have failed, and our failure would have strengthened the position of the kulaks. Why? Because we did not yet have in the countryside strong points in the form of a wide network of state farms and collective farms which could be the basis for a determined offensive against the kulaks. Because at that time we were not yet able to replace the capitalist production of the kulaks by the socialist production of the collective farms and state farms.
In 1926-1927, the Zinoviev-Trotsky opposition did its utmost to impose upon the Party the policy of an immediate offensive against the kulaks. The Party did not embark on that dangerous adventure, for it knew that serious people cannot afford to play at an offensive. An offensive against the kulaks is a serious matter. It should not be confused with declamations against the kulaks. Nor should it be confused with a policy of pinpricks against the kulaks, which the Zinoviev-Trotsky opposition did its utmost to impose upon the Party. To launch an offensive against the kulaks means that we must smash the kulaks, eliminate them as a class. Unless we set ourselves these aims, an offensive would be mere declamation, pin-pricks, phrase mongering, anything but a real Bolshevik offensive. To launch an offensive against the kulaks means that we must prepare for it and then strike at the kulaks, strike so hard as to prevent them from rising to their feet again. That is what we Bolsheviks call a real offensive. Could we have undertaken such an offensive some five years or three years ago with any prospect of success? No, we could not.
Indeed, in 1927 the kulaks produced over 600,000,000 poods of grain, about 130,000,000 poods of which they marketed outside the rural districts. That was a rather serious power, which had to be reckoned with. How much did our collective farms and state farms produce at that time? About 80,000,000 poods, of which about 35,000,000 poods were sent to the market (marketable grain). Judge for yourselves, could we at that time have replaced the kulak output and kulak marketable grain by the output and marketable grain of our collective farms and state farms? Obviously, we could not.
What would it have meant to launch a determined offensive against the kulaks under such conditions? It would have meant certain failure, strengthening the position of the kulaks and being left without grain. That is why we could not and should not have undertaken a determined offensive against the kulaks at that time, in spite of the adventurist declamations of the Zinoviev-Trotsky opposition.
But today? What is the position now? Today, we have an adequate material base for us to strike at the kulaks, to break their resistance, to eliminate them as a class, and to replace their output by the output of the collective farms and state farms. You know that in 1929 the grain produced on the collective farms and state farms has amounted to not less than 400,000,000 poods (200,000,000 poods less than the gross output of the kulak farms in 1927). You also know that in 1929 the collective farms and state farms have supplied more than 130,000,000 poods of marketable grain (i.e., more than the kulaks in 1927). Lastly, you know that in 1930 the gross output of the collective farms and state farms will amount to not less than 900,000,000 poods of grain (i.e., more than the gross output of the kulaks in 1927), and their output of marketable grain will be not less than 400,000,000 poods (i.e., incomparably more than the kulaks supplied in 1927).
That is how matters stand with us now, comrades.
There you have the change that has taken place in the economy of our country.
Now, as you see, we have the material base which enables us to replace the kulak output by the output of the collective farms and state farms. It is for this very reason that our determined offensive against the kulaks is now meeting with undeniable success.
That is how an offensive against the kulaks must be carried on, if we mean a genuine and determined offensive and not more futile declamations against the kulaks.
That is why we have recently passed from the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks to the policy of eliminating the kulaks as a class.
Well, and what about the policy of dekulakisation? Can we permit dekulakisation in the areas of complete collectivisation? This question is asked in various quarters. A ridiculous question! We could not permit dekulakisation as long as we were pursuing the policy of restricting the exploiting tendencies of the kulaks, as long as we were unable to go over to a determined offensive against the kulaks, as long as we were unable to replace the kulak output by the output of the collective farms and state farms. At that time the policy of not permitting dekulakisation was necessary and correct. But now? Now things are different. Now we are able to carry on a determined offensive against the kulaks, break their resistance, eliminate them as a class and replace their output by the output of the collective farms and state farms. Now, dekulakisation is being carried out by the masses of poor and middle peasants themselves, who are putting complete collectivisation into practice. Now, dekulakisation in the areas of complete collectivisation is no longer just an administrative measure. Now, it is an integral part of the formation and development of the collective farms. Consequently it is now ridiculous and foolish to discourse at length on dekulakisation. When the head is off, one does not mourn for the hair. There is another question which seems no less ridiculous: whether the kulaks should be permitted to join the collective farms. Of course not, for they are sworn enemies of the collective-farm movement.
The above, comrades, are six key questions which the theoretical work of our Marxist students of agrarian questions cannot ignore.
The importance of these questions lies, above all, in the fact that a Marxist analysis of them makes it possible to eradicate all the various bourgeois theories which sometimes—to our shame—are circulated by our own comrades, by Communists, and which stuff the heads of our practical workers with rubbish. And these theories should have been eradicated and discarded long ago. For only in a relentless fight against these and similar theories can theoretical thought among Marxist students of agrarian questions develop and grow strong.
The importance of these questions lies, lastly, in the fact that they give a new aspect to the old problems of the economy of the transition period.
Questions of NEP, of classes, of the collective farms, of the economy of the transition period, are now presented in a new way.
The mistake of those who interpret NEP as a retreat, and only as a retreat, must be exposed. As a matter of fact, even when the New Economic Policy was being introduced, Lenin said that it was not only a retreat, but also the preparation for a new, determined offensive against the capitalist elements in town and country.
The mistake of those who think that NEP is necessary only as a link between town and country must be exposed. It is not just any kind of link between town and country that we need. What we need is a link that will ensure the victory of socialism. And if we adhere to NEP it is because it serves the cause of socialism. When it ceases to serve the cause of socialism we shall get rid of it. Lenin said that NEP had been introduced in earnest and for a long time. But he never said it had been introduced for all time.
We must also raise the question of popularising the Marxist theory of reproduction. We must examine the question of the structure of the balance sheet of our national economy. What the Central Statistical Board published in 1926 as the balance sheet of the national economy is not a balance sheet, but a juggling with figures. Nor is the manner in which Bazarov and Groman treat the problem of the balance sheet of the national economy suitable. The structure of the balance sheet of the national economy of the U.S.S.R. must be worked out by the revolutionary Marxists if they desire at all to devote themselves to the questions of the economy of the transition period.
It would be a good thing if our Marxist economists were to appoint a special group to examine the problems of the economy of the transition period in the new way in which they are presented at the present stage of development.
1. The All-Union Conference of Marxist Students of Agrarian Questions, convened by the Communist Academy of the C.E.C., U.S.S.R., was held December 20-27, 1929. The 302 delegates who attended it represented scientific research institutions, agricultural and economic colleges, and newspapers and magazines. J. V. Stalin delivered a speech “Concerning Questions of Agrarian Policy in the U.S.S.R.” at the concluding plenary meeting on December 27.
* Lenin’s italics—J. St
2. See Lenin Miscellany XI, p. 368.
3. See V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 31, pp. 7-8.
4. See V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 31, p. 483.
** My italics—J. St
5. F. Engels, The Peasant Question in France and Germany, 1922, p. 66 (see also K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 11, 1955, p. 435).
† See this volume, pp. 124-141.—Ed.
6. See J. V. Stalin, Works, Vol. 11, pp. 85-101.
** My italics—J. St
7. See V. I. Lenin, Works, 4th Russ. ed., Vol. 33, pp. 211-15.