In November 1927, Joseph Stalin launched his "revolution from above" by setting two extraordinary goals for Soviet domestic policy: rapid industrialization and collectivization of agriculture. His aims were to erase all traces of the capitalism that had entered under the New Economic Policy and to transform the Soviet Union as quickly as possible, without regard to cost, into an industrialized and completely socialist state.
Stalin's First Five-Year Plan, adopted by the party in 1928, called for rapid industrialization of the economy, with an emphasis on heavy industry. It set goals that were unrealistic-- a 250 percent increase in overall industrial development and a 330 percent expansion in heavy industry alone. All industry and services were nationalized, managers were given predetermined output quotas by central planners, and trade unions were converted into mechanisms for increasing worker productivity. Many new industrial centers were developed, particularly in the Ural Mountains, and thousands of new plants were built throughout the country. But because Stalin insisted on unrealistic production targets, serious problems soon arose. With the greatest share of investment put into heavy industry, widespread shortages of consumer goods occurred.
The First Five-Year Plan also called for transforming Soviet agriculture from predominantly individual farms into a system of large state collective farms. The Communist regime believed that collectivization would improve agricultural productivity and would produce grain reserves sufficiently large to feed the growing urban labor force. The anticipated surplus was to pay for industrialization. Collectivization was further expected to free many peasants for industrial work in the cities and to enable the party to extend its political dominance over the remaining peasantry.
Stalin focused particular hostility on the wealthier peasants, or kulaks. About one million kulak households (some five million people) were deported and never heard from again. Forced collectivization of the remaining peasants, which was often fiercely resisted, resulted in a disastrous disruption of agricultural productivity and a catastrophic famine in 1932-33. Although the First Five-Year Plan called for the collectivization of only twenty percent of peasant households, by 1940 approximately ninety-seven percent of all peasant households had been collectivized and private ownership of property almost entirely eliminated. Forced collectivization helped achieve Stalin's goal of rapid industrialization, but the human costs were incalculable.
Note from the Library of Congress on the Ukrainian famine:
The dreadful famine that engulfed Ukraine, the northern Caucasus, and the lower Volga River area in 1932-1933 was the result of Joseph Stalin's policy of forced collectivization. The heaviest losses occurred in Ukraine, which had been the most productive agricultural area of the Soviet Union. Stalin was determined to crush all vestiges of Ukrainian nationalism. Thus, the famine was accompanied by a devastating purge of the Ukrainian intelligentsia and the Ukrainian Communist party itself. The famine broke the peasants' will to resist collectivization and left Ukraine politically, socially, and psychologically traumatized.
The policy of all-out collectivization instituted by Stalin in 1929 to finance industrialization had a disastrous effect on agricultural productivity. Nevertheless, in 1932 Stalin raised Ukraine's grain procurement quotas by forty-four percent. This meant that there would not be enough grain to feed the peasants, since Soviet law required that no grain from a collective farm could be given to the members of the farm until the government's quota was met. Stalin's decision and the methods used to implement it condemned millions of peasants to death by starvation. Party officials, with the aid of regular troops and secret police units, waged a merciless war of attrition against peasants who refused to give up their grain. Even indispensible seed grain was forcibly confiscated from peasant households. Any man, woman, or child caught taking even a handful of grain from a collective farm could be, and often was, executed or deported. Those who did not appear to be starving were often suspected of hoarding grain. Peasants were prevented from leaving their villages by the NKVD and a system of internal passports.
The death toll from the 1932-33 famine in Ukraine has been estimated between six million and seven million. According to a Soviet
author, "Before they died, people often lost their senses and ceased to be human beings." Yet one of Stalin's lieutenants in Ukraine
stated in 1933 that the famine was a great success. It showed the peasants "who is the master here. It cost millions of lives, but the
collective farm system is here to stay."..
RESOLUTION OF THE COUNCIL OF PEOPLE'S COMMISSARS OF THE UKRAINIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC AND OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY (BOLSHEVIK) OF UKRAINE ON BLACKLISTING VILLAGES THAT MALICIOUSLY SABOTAGE THE COLLECTION OF GRAIN.
In view of the shameful collapse of grain collection in the more remote regions of Ukraine, the Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee call upon the oblast executive committees and the oblast [party] committees as well as the raion executive committees and the raion [party] committees: to break up the sabotage of grain collection, which has been organized by kulak and counterrevolutionary elements; to liquidate the resistance of some of the rural communists, who in fact have become the leaders of the sabotage; to eliminate the passivity and complacency toward the saboteurs, incompatible with being a party member; and to ensure, with maximum speed, full and absolute compliance with the plan for grain collection.
The Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee resolve:
To place the following villages on the black list for overt disruption of the grain collection plan and for malicious sabotage, organized by kulak and counterrevolutionary elements:
1. village of Verbka in Pavlograd raion, Dnepropetrovsk oblast. ...
5. village of Sviatotroitskoe in Troitsk raion, Odessa oblast.
6. village of Peski in Bashtan raion, Odessa oblast.
The following measures should be undertaken with respect to these villages :
1. Immediate cessation of delivery of goods, complete suspension of cooperative and state trade in the villages, and removal of all available goods from cooperative and state stores.
2. Full prohibition of collective farm trade for both collective farms and collective farmers, and for private farmers.
3. Cessation of any sort of credit and demand for early repayment of credit and other financial obligations.
4. Investigation and purge of all sorts of foreign and hostile elements from cooperative and state institutions, to be carried out by organs of the Workers and Peasants Inspectorate.
5. Investigation and purge of collective farms in these villages, with removal of counterrevolutionary elements and organizers of grain collection disruption.
The Council of People's Commissars and the Central Committee call upon all collective and private farmers who are honest and dedicated to Soviet rule to organize all their efforts for a merciless struggle against kulaks and their accomplices in order to: defeat in their villages the kulak sabotage of grain collection; fulfill honestly and conscientiously their grain collection obligations to the Soviet authorities; and strengthen collective farms.
CHAIRMAN OF THE COUNCIL OF PEOPLE'S COMMISSARS OF THE UKRAINIAN SOVIET SOCIALIST REPUBLIC - V. CHUBAR'.
SECRETARY OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY (BOLSHEVIK) OF UKRAINE - S. KOSIOR.
6 December 1932.