The Tightfisted



Josef Stalin had a plan to end the New Economic Policy or the NEP. The NEP was not the socialism the October Revolution had promised. It was the safe bet in a time of transition and war, but it was based on capitalistic policies in industry and agriculture. Once Stalin took power, he vowed to change the direction of the communist state now a decade into its existence. This was known as The Great Turn and it was highlighted by Stalin’s pride and joy–The Five-Year Plan.

The Five-Year Plan ended the market practices of Russian industry that had continued under the NEP by centralizing distribution of goods to factories and controlling prices. Russian peasant agriculture was more difficult.  Since being freed from serfdom, land peasants had gone through some changes. Communal farming communities popped up but were followed by classification of peasants from the poor to the wealthy. The wealthiest of these, the kulaks, had their own land outside of the commune and hired others to work it. The wealth of these kulaks was not looked at too favorably by many–something Stalin would use to his advantage. But by the time of the implementation of The Five-Year Plan in 1929 the communal villages had mostly been dissolved and peasants owned their own land. Russia had trouble producing enough food however, because these small individual farms had limited access to technology. So Stalin collectivized the farms: taking all livestock, land, and machinery from the individual peasants and making them the collective farms property. Moscow would then introduce the new farms to more advanced farming technology in order to increase production.

This measure was good for the poor peasants, but the kulaks would have to give up all their wealth. They were already seen by the communists as class-enemies who saw themselves as higher than the rest of the peasants and workers and who were “exploiting” the rest of the peasants (Stalin). Stalin in his address to Marxist students said his goal was “eliminating the kulaks as a class”(Stalin). They had three choices: they could be moved to a house as part of their village’s collective farm, they could be moved to another collective  farm, or they could be put in a work camp(Freeze). The kulaks were resistant to the collectivization efforts but Stalin was determined to “break their resistance”(Stalin). The threat of being sent to work camps proved effective as did the executions of some kulaks that seemed a larger threat to the state. Because kulaks were so universally hated, Communist leaders labeled any resistant peasants as kulaks, thereby reclassifying them and turning the bulk of the country against those peasants while also threatening them with the work camps to force them to fall in line. Being labeled a kulak was such a terrible thing that Stalin’s war against individual farm owners was successful in the eyes of Communist leaders in Moscow although it wreaked havoc on those who were immediately impacted by it

Stalin address to Marxist students

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.

7 thoughts on “The Tightfisted

  1. This was a really good post. You did a nice job of summerizing the causes and implementation of the first five year plan. I’m glad that you said a lot about the Kulaks, because I’ve always thought that the idea of a “wealthy peasant class” (kind of an oxymoron) was worth note. Also good use of sources with the Stalin quotes. They really were not given many favorable options from Stalin.

  2. I never really knew how much the Kulaks were hated until reading this post. I remember professor Nelson mentioning a little about them, but I still don’t really get why they were so hated. what was so wrong with wealthy peasants that moved Stalin to have such a vendetta against them? Was it because they didn’t like his five year plan and had resistance on giving up their farms for industrialization? It seems to me like agriculture was definitely still needed since the food shortage was so low so I don’t understand why the Kulaks couldn’t keep their farms while everyone else moved towards a more industrialized approach. I understand that they might be hated because they saw themselves as a “higher class” of peasants, but to eliminate the Kulaks as a class seems a bit harsh.

  3. It seems like collectivization was a good idea in theory but the way Stalin implemented it seemed to just make things worse for the peasants and Kulaks. Even with all of the technological advancements in terms of agriculture and organization of the arable land the peasants still had a hard time producing enough crops to fill their quotas and provide for their families. Good post.

  4. This was a very interesting post. Stalin’s exploitation of social differences was cruel and calculated. You did a good job using Stalin’s words to support your argument!

  5. I love the poster you chose for this post. What did you notice about the site where you found it? It would be really interesting (but not relevant to this class) to write about the use of Soviet propaganda by contemporary American groups like the Western Rifle Shooters.

    1. I saw the picture in a few places but they wouldn’t download to the blog and this one was able to. I didn’t look into the website but I thought it was really weird this group used it. I don’t get what they’re trying to say but it seems aggressive.

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