In 1928, Stalin faced three problems in the agricultural sector of the Soviet economy. These were:
1. Production of food could not meet demand and urban areas were suffering food shortages.
2. The industrialization program of the FIVE-YEAR PLANS could only be carried out if the USSR was able to import machinery from capitalist western nations. These machines would have to be paid for by the export of the one saleable item possessed by the USSR that the west wanted at the time… grain.
3. The existence of small private capitalists with private holdings of land (Kulaks) in the farming sector was contrary to Communist ideology and Stalin was determined to stamp it out.
In order to resolve these problems Stalin introduced the policy of COLLECTIVIZATION of farms whereby small peasant holdings were joined together into larger (often communal) Soviet run farms. It was hoped that this policy would lead to greater agricultural output. In some senses, this was similar to the process of enclosure that took place in Britain during the Agricultural Revolution over a century earlier. In the place of small peasant holdings (the traditional form of Russian farming), two new types of large mechanised farms were introduced:
1. The Sovkhozy or State Farm: These farms were extremely large and concentrated upon one specific crop or on livestock. The peasants on the State Farm were state employees (“public servants”) and were paid wages by the government. Each peasant family had a little land of their own on which they were allowed to grow its own crops. All housing was provided by the state.
2. The Kolkhozy or Collective Farm: These farms were created by amalgamating a large number of private holdings the collective farms were jointly owned by its members. After the state had received its “quota”, the produce of the farms was shared out among the members according to their contribution to the farm.
Each collective was provided with a state owned Machine Tractor Station, which supplied and maintained machinery in exchange for a share of the crop.Opposition to the policy of Collectivisation came largely from the wealthier members of the peasantry, the Kulaks.
Kulaks were poor peasants who owned some land and usually a few head of livestock. In some cases they even hired a labourer and rented land to other peasants. The kulaks were successful farmers. To resist the introduction of collectives many kulaks cut production (and therefore the supply of food). In response, Stalin ordered the confiscation of kulak homes and possessions. They were forbidden to join collectives. The kulaks, in turn, often responded by burning their homes and slaughtering their livestock rather than hand them over to the state. Police, secret police and even the army were sent into the countryside in order to impose Stalin’s wishes. Kulak families were arrested, deported to Siberia, people were indiscriminately shot and unco-operative villages burnt to the ground. “The Russian country-side degenerated into something akin to civil war” (C. Condon, (1991) The Making of the Modern World, p.244). Within the 1930s, the term “kulak” was used by the Soviet government to denounce anyone in the countryside who in any way questioned their methods or rule. The result of Collectivisation and the violence associated with it was a dramatic decrease in agricultural output. A severe famine gripped the USSR. In 1938, agricultural production finally regained its 1928 levels