Copyright © 2002 by Hugo S. Cunningham
[Churchill had his first wartime meeting with Stalin in Moscow on August 1942. After formal negotiations during the day, they were having an informal dinner in Stalin's quarters on the last evening before Churchill's departure.]
Italicized text copyright © 1951 by Winston S. Churchill
"Tell me," I [Churchill] asked, "have the stresses of this war been as bad to you personally as carrying through the policy of the collective farms?" This subject immediately roused the Marshal [Stalin].
"Oh, no," he said, "the Collective Farm policy was a terrible struggle."
"I thought you would have found it bad," said I, "because you were not dealing with a few score thousands of aristocrats or big landowners, but with millions of small men."
"Ten millions," he said, holding up his hands. "It was fearful. Four years it lasted. It was absolutely necessary for Russia, if we were to avoid periodic famines, to plough the land with tractors. We must mechanise our agriculture. When we gave tractors to the peasants they were all spoiled in a few months. Only Collective Farms with workshops could handle tractors. We took the greatest trouble to explain it to the peasants. It was no use arguing with them. After you have said all yiou can to a peasant he says he must go home and consult his wife, and he must consult his herder." This last was a new expresssion to me in this connection. "After he has talked it over with them he always answers that he does not want the Collective Farm and would rather do without the tractors."
"These were what you call Kulaks?"
"Yes," he said, but he did not repeat the word. After a pause, "It was all very bad and difficult -- but necessary."
"What happened?" I asked.
"Oh, well," he said, "many of them agreed to come in with us. Some of them were given land of their own to cultivate in the province of Tomsk or the province of Irkutsk or farther north, but the great bulk were very unpopular and were wiped out by their laborers." There was a considerable pause. Then, "Not only have we vastly improved the quality of the food supply, but we have improved the quality of the grain beyond all measure. All kinds of grain used to be grown. Now no one is allowed to sow any but the standard Soviet grain from one end of our country to the other. If they do they are severely dealt with. This means another large increase in the food supply."
[Kravchenko, a Communist engineer, had been sent like thousands of other urban Party cadres to collectivized Ukrainian villages to oversee the harvest in 1932-1933.]
Italicized text copyright © 1946 by Victor A. Kravchenko
When the first of the new grain was being delivered to the granary near the railroad station, I made a discovery which made me tremulous with horror. Stacked in the brick structure were thousands of poods [1 pud = 16.3 kg or 36 lb.] of the previous year's grain collections! These were the State reserves for the district ordered by the government, their very existence hidden from the starving population by officialdom. Hundreds of men, women, and children had died of undernourishment in these villages, though grain was hoarded almost outside their doors!
The peasants who were with me when we found the "State reserves" stared with unbelieving eyes and cursed with anger. I didn't blame them, of course, but I extracted their pledges to say nothing about the matter, for fear that the news would undermine harvesting morale. Subsequently I came to know that in many other parts of the country the government hoarded huge reserves while peasants in those very regions died of hunger. Why this was done, only Stalin's Politburo could tell -- and it didn't.
A few weeks later, Kravchenko had overseen successful completion of the harvest, due largely to his willingness to lend food, against Party directives, to malnourished farmworkers. As he was out in the fields, they were unexpectedly visited by a Party delegation, headed by Central Committee member Khatayevich. Khatayevich reprimanded him in public for violating regulations, but took him aside to indicate the reprimand should not be taken personally.
I Chose Freedom, p. 130:
[Khatayevich escorted Kravchenko] out of earshot of his associates and guards.
"You're a future engineer, I'm told, and a good Party man. But I'm not sure that you understand what has been happening. A ruthless struggle is going on between the peasantry and our regime. It's a struggle to the death. This year 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've won the war.
"I'm afraid your heart is stronger than your mind, Comrade Kravchenko. If everyone were as soft as you, we might not have won this war. Mind you, I'm not scolding you. In fact, I see you've done a first-rate job here. Personally, and between ourselves, my heart also bleeds for the poor peasants. But I want you to remember my criticism -- and if there's any question, don't forget that I did try to discipline you."
Even the mighty Khatayevich, it seemed, was worried about his record ... and the coming "purge."
[Note: losers in this upcoming purge did not immediately face arrest, unlike those purged later in 1936-1938.]
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