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John G. Wright

Hitler’s Program for the Soviet Collectives

(September 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 37, 13 September 1941, p. 6.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

On August 20, the Reich, the official organ of the German imperialists, announced to the world that the Soviet collective farms – the kolkhozi – Would be retained in the areas of the Soviet Union occupied by the German troops. There has been no comment from the Kremlin. Nor, has the Daily Worker seen fit to point out that so far as official Nazi propaganda is concerned this move represents a complete about-face.

The Nazis had boasted hitherto that they would abolish the collectives in favor of “freedom of the soil and individual property for the Russian peasant.” Hitler had undoubtedly hoped to rally Russian peasants to his side by means of the self-same demagogic promise with which he had duped the German peasants to whom he had also originally promised land. Since June 22, when the Nazi assault was launched, the German press has waged a campaign attacking Soviet economy, and especially singling out the collectives as one “of the worst forms of ‘economic slavery’ and as one of the extreme cases of Soviet inefficiency and mismanagement” (N.Y. Times, July 12).

A censored dispatch from Berlin explains the about-face as follows:

“It is realized that the maintenance of agricultural production at anything like its level in the Soviet days could be safeguarded in the German interests only if, for the time being, the jxisting organization of agriculture were preserved in its main outlines.” (N.Y. Times, August 21)

In other words, this move, on Hitler’s part, represents a repeat in the face of insurmountable difficulties confronting the German imperialists in their attempt to exploit the, economic resources of the occupied territories. At the very outset the imperialist conqueror is compelled to surrender the chief political weapon by means of which a section of the local peasantry could conceivably be rallied to the Nazi camp.

At the same time, Hitler runs the risk of placing a further strain on German industry; that would be involved in any attempt by Hitler to retain the collectives. For it is impossible to operate the latter without machines, tractors, oil, etc., so urgently needed by the war machine. Thus far from facilitating the tasks of occupation and economic exploitation, this latest plan of the German imperialists can in the long run only seriously aggravate them. Obviously, Hitler has no other alternative.

But how is it possible for the Nazis to try this “experiment” with the collectives in the territory they occupy? Isn’t this tantamount to the adoption even if temporarily – by the fascists of “socialist forms of economy”? Not at all.

Nothing could be further from the truth than the conception that in retaining the collectives. Hitler is gambling with socialism against his will. Historical events are once again exploding another monstrous lie of Stalin’s.

It was Stalin and the Stalinists who claimed that the collectives are a genuine socialist type of enterprise. It was the Kremlin that boasted that the institution of the collectives destroyed the capitalist elements in agriculture; abolished for all time the contradiction, between city and country; assured the irrevocable triumph of socialism in one country, and so forth and so on. As a matter of ‘fact, the collectives, in and by themselves, are far removed from socialism and are incapable of achieving the goal claimed for them by Stalin.

Collectives merely represent a form of large scale farming. They are no more incompatible with the capitalist mode of production than are, for instance, various types of cooperatives. Under Stalin’s regime, the kolkhozi have re mained far closer in type to petty bourgeois cooperatives than to the communal agricultural enterprises which are possible only under socialism. It is just for this reason, and this reason alone, that the Nazis can now even speculate on the possibility of utilizing the collectives to serve their purposes

Within the kolkhozi as they are now constituted, their exists a profound class differentiation, which has been fostered by Stalin’s policies. Within the Soviet collectives there are embryo rural bourgeois – “millionaire kolkhozniks”, and typical kulak elements. It is on these elements that the Nazis are banking for support.

A Berlin dispatch for August 31 leaves no doubt on this score:

“The collective farms ... are to continue operation,” states Berlin, “under managers who will be selected from the ‘more expert and diligent peasants’, according to the provisional orders cited.” (N.Y. Times, September 1)

This fancy formula of “more expert and diligent peasants” is merely Hitler’s way of designating the kulaks for whom the collectives have long provided a cover. Hitler’s “provisional orders” reveal the class composition of the collectives for all those who have eyes to see. Only the blind can fail to understand that if the collectives really represented what the Stalinists have always claimed, then Hitler and the German imperialists could have never resorted to them as a possible solution. Small wonder that the Daily Worker prefers to keep silent on this topic!

Last updated: 28 May 2016