The First Five Year Plan seemed to represent a time of increased repression as the Soviet leaders attempted to force through their transformation from capitalism to socialism, whilst desperately trying to modernise and catch up with the advanced Western world. The collectivisation process was an attempt to socialise agriculture in USSR as well as modernise and improve the efficiency of the farming. The people were to work on shared land, the poor peasants mostly gained from it and the rich peasants, the kulaks, mostly lost out. In theory, the people were becoming more equal, by force. Politically this made sense to the ethos of the Bolshevik party but it was arguably done at this time to help the industrialisation drive, to improve the economic position of the nation. There was noticeable move away in the Five Year Plan from the market based economy before, the NEP. The agricultural part of the USSR needed to be able to support the efforts the proletariats were making in the cities, especially in the heavy industries.
The social dynamic of the USSR in the 1930s was transforming. This was a stage of much repression, the changing of classes, and the elimination of kulaks. Class divides in the peasantry were in parts intensified, the rich peasants were angered by the removal of their prosperity to support poor peasants who arguably had not worked hard, or earned, their improved status. The idea behind the collectivisation drive in social terms was that the kulaks were acting as a counter power to the Soviets in the rural areas of the USSR and the collective farms would win over the support of the middle peasants. The appeal to this class was through mechanical equipment as well as coercive measures. Those who weren’t particularly won over by these Soviet appeals were defined as kulaks, without having the credentials to really warrant the name. As with the industrialisation plan, the collectivisation also received intensified demands as it progressed. The original plan was to collective 20% of the arable land.
The ‘Smite the Kulak’ poster from 1930 shows how the Russian people, in particular the peasants, were being encouraged to oppose the kulaks and welcome collectivisation. The written message within the poster says ‘We will smite the kulak who agitates for reducing cultivated acreage.’ This suggests the Bolsheviks will enforce their will upon the kulaks to stop them from restricting the USSR’s agricultural capabilities. It claims the kulaks are the ones holding the nation back in this respect and must be stopped by the patriarchal Soviet powers. The kulaks certainly were the thorn in Stalin’s side during the collectivisation process, due to their unwillingness to lose their earned prosperity and status. He managed to deal with the problem, they were eliminated as a class and by 1933, 850000 to 900000 were imprisoned and sent to labour camps.
Freeze, Gregory L., Russia A History (Oxford University Press: Oxford 2009)