Letter to Pravda on collectivization in Lower Volga Krai, 1930
RGAE, f. 7486, op. 1, d. 100, l. 60. Typed copy.
In one village I went to an exhibition. Before looking at the exhibits we had to go to a big meeting. Speeches are given: a spokesman for the RIK (Raionnyi Ispolnitel'nyi Komitet [District Executive Committee]), the agronomist, the supervisor of the reading room (izbach), the chairman of the rural soviet (sel'sovet) and its secretary. The RIK spokesman and the agronomist talk about successes of the state together with lavish praise of collective kolkhoz cultivation of the land and its advantages over private cultivation and so on. The members of the rural soviet speak about the achievements of that village. After finishing his speech while others were speaking, the RIK spokesman started composing a resolution about the desirability of organizing a land society. Having finished composing, he reads that the land society is going to promote the idea of contributing to a loan for industrialization in each peasant household; during the current year he wants to organize two large-scale collectives, etc. He finishes reading. Then he asks the peasants to speak from the floor, those in favor and those against. Everyone remains silent, no one says a word. The supervisor of the reading room gets up, repeats the question, again there is silence. The RIK spokesman says "So, everyone's agreed?" Laughter in the crowd. Here you have an irrefutable picture of the self-inspired kolkhoz movement. Precisely this type of information is given to the press about the kolkhoz movement and the party acts upon it, a great amount of it is fake documentation invented and composed by those party members who pursue the personal goal of advancing themselves, and the peasant's silence results from unwillingness and fears of being accused of espionage, of exile, of being put in prison, fines, having to suffer confiscation, and having to pay various burdensome taxes.
Then a look at the exhibits. An example of the judging process: representing horticulture are apple trees two or three years old, some belonging to a private peasant and others from a kolkhoz. The chairman, an agronomist, having looked over the kolkhoz apple trees along with the judging committee, goes up to the peasant and says "Although these apple trees both in the roots and in the crown are better than the kolkhoz ones, we should give precedence to the kolkhoz because of our class distinctions." Laughter again in the crowd. As a result the first prize goes to the kolkhoz, and the peasant gets a certificate of merit. So, because of our class distinctions white is transposed into black, and black into white, and you can see here how the judging is straight falsification. Peasant experts understood this fake judging and how the local authorities, using agronomists, aim to show agricultural achievement in their village and to show that such achievements supposedly occur not because of peasant experts but because of the activities of the local authorities. In point of fact no one made even the slightest effort to look into any aspect of the middle-sized peasant farm economy nor was anyone willing to do more than compile official charts, and therefore exhibitions scheduled in many villages did not take place. The sentence dished out by the agronomist judging the apple trees is nothing more than subtle mockery of the party's class line. So this is what all educated people working in the Soviet Union survive on and their slogan, like that of the peasants, is to own something. On account of this peasants say that former landowners sit in our central offices and hold power, taking vengeance on us for land and estates taken from them. Bearing this out are stories widespread among the peasantry like the following: from some village a lot of grain is demanded. Peasant advocates (khodoki) go to Moscow and ask that a lesser amount of grain be required of the village. When the person you need to ask about this is pointed out, they recognize him as their [former] landowner. When the advocates explain the reason they've come and the amount of the grain tax, the landowner says: "That's still too little. Everything should be taken from you and we'll take it because you took our land and estates from us. . . ."