Collective Farms of the Soviet Union
Jonah Adels November 4, 1998

The Soviet kolhoz, the term for a collective farm owned by all of its members, was a model of the inefficiency and tyranny of Joseph Stalin, their originator. Introduced as a way to industrialize Russia, they alternated between being a great success and being a utterly complete failure. Although Stalin’s plans did in the end industrialize Russia, the costs were unjustifiable. An entire class of people was eliminated and famine was wrought on an entire republic.
Stalin, who took control of the Communist Party after the death of Lenin in 1924, believed that the only way to create a powerful nation to rival capitalist countries was through industrialization. Basically, this meant the conversion of Russia from a state of tradesmen and family farms, in which communism seemed implausible, to one of huge factories and large, efficient farms. In theory, industrialization would increase the number and hence the strength of the proletariat as a class, thwart an already staunchly anticommunist world, and fulfill Marx’s promise of material wealth following the revolution. The idea of industrialization as the means to true socialism never occurred to Lenin. He assumed, at least initially, that communism could would and should exist in the pre revolutionary way of life.
Before Stalin came to power, the communist party for the most part agreed that industrialization was necessary, however different sects of the Bolsheviks were in disagreement about how this change should come about. Buhkarin, the spokesman for the right wing Bolsheviks, warned against antagonizing the peasants, for fear of losing their peasant followers, who were already low in number. However, they were never viewed as a real threat, so long as their material needs were met. Buhkarin’s approach would encourage higher production with incentives such as higher farm incomes and offering a greater selection of consumer goods. The state would sell the new surplus and use it to purchase capital for factories and farm mechanization. The profit from these new work tools would be used recursively to purchase still more capital, yielding higher production, and greater profits. This new booming industry would attract peasants to join together and create collectives.
Leon Trotsky, Stalin’s chief opponent for the position of ruler of the Communist party, realized that more capital would be needed to generate the effect described by Buhkarin than could be procured from the profits of these small farms. The Union would instead have to rely heavily on outside investment, however it would be dangerous rely on prosperous capitalist peasantry.
Stalin believed that the bulk of the landless peasants were not capitalistically minded, and would be eager to join forces with the factory workers in the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus, in urban settings, there would be state owned factories employing proletarian factory workers, and in rural settings, collective farms housing and employing peasants. These large collectives were thought to be more efficient because machinery could be used more effectively. With the aid of five ear plans, which were production guidelines to be met within five years, Stalin set out to collectivize and industrialize Russia.
There were rapid food shortages towards the beginning of the collectivization procedures, when the percentage of collectivized farms was set at only 14%, due to the fact that before the revolution, landlords and their estates had provided the food on a large scale. In splitting up the large estates into tiny plots, the government had succeeded in winning support during the revolution, but made the land less productive.
Now that the small families that previously worked he land owned the land, the output wasn’t as great as that of before the revolution. The farms only produced enough to feed their owners. Stalin greatly increased the rate of collectivization in order to combat the famines maintaining that the best way to raise agricultural output was to seize land from the peasants and organize it into the centrally managed collective farms.
Day to day life on the kokhoz wasn’t necessarily unpleasant. Families lived on the farm, but instead of working for their own food, they produced for the government. Families worked together in units of fifty to one hundred people. They shared all tools and machinery as well as the work. Each member of the farm was paid in