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J.G. Wright

Soviet Economy in Fresh Crisis;
New, Sweeping Purges Threatened

(October 1938)

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. II No. 45, 15 October 1938, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The long suppressed news of the catastrophic collapse of Soviet economy under Stalin’s regime is beginning to crop up in the world press. The crisis has extend even to agriculture, the one sphere in which the regime had felt itself most secure. Only a short while ago the Stalinists were broadcasting to the world the myth of a record harvest.

These boasts were used to cover up the breakdown in the basic industries, in the production of steel, iron and coal and the acute shortage of consumers’ goods. The Soviet population we were told was at least assured of an ample stock of foodstuffs. Never again would the kulak raise his head to threaten the regime by a grain strike, by failure to deliver grain to the government. Such were the boasts. And what is the reality?

The New Emergency

The harvest has fallen far below expectations. The yield is so poor that Harold Denny, reporting this disaster, comments as follows:

“This year’s reduction in yield, it should be said, while unfortunate, is by no means catastrophic. No one here believes there will be an actual bread shortage. But the government is generally understood to be storing large food supplies against any possible emergency and is unceasingly pressing for big harvests.” (N.Y. Times, Oct. 8)

Nobody “believes” in a possibility of bread shortage, but the government is “understood” to be taking steps against such an emergency!

A sub-normal crop is of itself a calamity – common enough in Czarist Russia, but a thing of the past in the Soviet Union, liquidated forever by Stalin’s policy of collectivization, the world was told. It is explained away, of course, by “natural causes,” the summer’s drought, etc. But conditions last year were far worse, and yet the yield was far greater. Some other causes must have operated to reduce the crops. Prior to Stalin’s forced collectivization, it was no secret that poor crops were due to the fact that peasants refused to plant more than would suffice for their own needs. Soviet industry at that time could not supply the village with goods and the peasant in return sabotaged his production.

Are the collectives today, in which the kulaks of yesterday have entrenched themselves, pursuing the same policy, for the self-same reasons? Upon this point, Denny’s dispatch provides us with a categoric answer. Yes! Not only have the collectives failed to plant as much as they did last year, but they are neglecting the harvests wherever they have been abundant.

Denny reports:

“In much of the best grain country millions of acres of grain have been cut, but this is still standing in the fields unthreshed and suffering daily loss and deterioration. Until the crops are actually harvested the government cannot get its share.”

Recurrences of Grain Strikes

In every respect we have here a recurrence of the grave situation created by the “grain strike” of the original kulak years ago. The collectives are sabotaging government grain deliveries!

If years ago the Stalin clique was able to meet the crisis by a sharp shift in its economic policy, by adopting and distorting the industrialization program of the Left Opposition, and by its savage policy of forced collectivization, today it is able to cope with the situation only by police measures and by extending the blood purge to the collectives.

Denny reports a “series” of five trials in the last few weeks in distant Siberia alone. The defendants are charged with “disrupting harvesting and the program of grain deliveries – namely, grain requisitioned at nominal prices, by which method the authorities obtain much of the grain for feeding the industrial population.” In the trials the defendants are, of course, presented as the familiar scapegoats of all Moscow frame-ups, to wit, “Trotzkyist Bukharinist counter-revolutionary wreckers.”

Campaign Against “Kulaks”

But what is most significant is the resumption in the press of the campaign against the kulak. In the trials themselves the defendants are especially denounced as “former kulaks and former White Guards.” The men who are being shot and jailed are none other than the administrative staff of the collectives: collective farm chairmen, granary managers, timekeepers, blacksmiths, tractor station managers and so on.

The demands in the press that the purge continue “until the last enemies have been exposed” signifies that from one end of the country to the other the administrative personnel of the collectives will be decimated thus producing the same havoc as in industry. Far from alleviating the situation it can only speed the disintegration of the collectives.

This newest purge has been carefully hidden thus far. But we can estimate its scope from the single fact that out of 28 commissars nominated by Molotov and unanimously elected by the Supreme Soviet Council last January only 17 still retain their posts. Eleven members of the government have already been purged, and at least six others have their heads on the chopping bloc. The Stalin regime is tottering, nothing can save it.

Last updated: 14 September 2015