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Friday, June 20, 2008

1933: The Toronto Daily Star


The Toronto Daily Star
Monday, November 13, 1933

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Soviet grain tax blamed for hardship of peasants

Farmers facing another year of food shortage in Ukraine, critics are ousted

BY: Pierre Van Paassen

Kieff, Oct. 25. — In spite of the abundant harvest this year, the Russian people are facing another winter of great hardship. Old peasants who have survived the famine of last winter feel certain that a new ordeal "even more terrible" than last year stands before the door. Certain responsible members of the Communist party, after making sure that they were not overheard, admitted that famine conditions were certainly inevitable for the 1933-1934 season.
The reason for this strange anomaly, famine in the midst of plenty, is the manner and method in which the government collects the grain tax. By far too much is taken away to leave the rural regions of the Ukraine to subsist on. Protests avail nothing. High officials of the Communist party in the Ukraine, who have taken their courage in their hand and who have ventured to point out that the new system of grain collections ruins the farmers and drives them to starvation and destitution, are simply deprived of their posts. Zaslavsky, Karachewitsch and Rybak are names on everybody's lips in Kieff. They are three officials who, at the risk of their lives, advised Moscow of the ruinous practices of the grain collectors.
They have been removed from office for their pains on the accusation of being Trotskyist counter-revolutionaries. A host of lesser officials has followed. Tens of thousands of members have been ousted from the Communist party in the Ukraine by order of the Stalinian autocrats in Moscow during the last few weeks. The charges may be summarized in one word: criticism. Alarmed over the prospects of another winter of famine they had ventured to question the methods of grain collection.

Plan Contains Joker
As the non-conformist peasants, that are those not in collective farms, feared right along the new favorable decree on grain collection which is being enforced this year contained a joker. The joker did not become apparent until the collectors arrived on the spot. The decree provides for the collection of a fixed tax, amounting to about thirty per cent of the harvest. This would leave the peasants seventy per cent of their harvest for their own use and for seed grain, while any surplus might be disposed of by selling it in the open market. The announcement of these new conditions this spring produced a feeling of optimism, which was encouraged by the press and the Stalinian statement that the time of hardships for the peasants was over.
It is becoming apparent now that the harvest is in full swing that the decree does not leave the peasants seventy per cent, of their grain, but only twenty, fifteen, ten and even five per cent, or nothing at all, according to different districts. The collectors are not proceeding according to the volume of the harvest, but according to the plans of sowing which were drawn up long ago in the offices of the grain trust. As far less was sown in many districts than was officially planned, but the estimates of collection are nevertheless to be fulfilled, the peasants come out in a miserable manner.

Government Blamed Kulaks
The government put the blame for the discrepancy between grain estimates and actual harvest on the enemies of the regime, Kulaks and wreckers. Those people are charged with purposely sowing less than was officially anticipated. Fact of the matter is that in many regions the peasants were decimated by famine and that the survivors were too weak to put the stipulated area under crop.
Yet the grain-tax now being collected is as large as if every acre had yielded the full quota estimated by the planners. What the peasants thought to be their own, to be disposed of at will, is again taken by the collectors who carry out the decree to the letter. In view of the fact that collectors are all devoted party members and every party member sees in every peasant an avowed or secret opponent of the regime, it stands to reason that there is little gentleness in seizing the grain.

Peasants Desert Farms
It should be added that the collective farms make no exception. The toll there is also taken on the planned crop and not on the amount of wheat actually harvested. A member of the party, a reliable old revolutionary from Moscow, who was in prison for twenty years under the czar and who visited every part of the Ukraine as an official inspector of farms told me that as a result of the ruthless grain collections many collective farms were already deserted, the workers leaving in disgust "There are villages where not a human being remains," he said. "All the houses are empty." This statement was confirmed by several others, whose word I have no reason to doubt.
On the other hand the authorities when questioned affirm that everything is proceeding, smoothly and quite according to schedule. To come with objections, baaed on personal observations on definite statements by men who ought to know and on all sorts of sinister rumors arouses suspicion. "Our enemies are active in poisoning public opinion," it is said.
Whatever view is taken by the government officials, however, the fact remains that the peasants feel certain that the stocks left them after paying their taxes and back-dues for loans in the past, will be wholly inadequate in the coming winter. And that they do not say this for fun is evidenced by the fact that a new exodus of tens of thousands from the farms to the cities is already on the move. Unless the government checks this outpour, the rural regions will be depopulated next winter and spring and the sowing campaigns will again fall short of the plan.


OCR-ed in Kyiv, 2008.

1 comment:

Vasyl said...

Stevie,

Good bit of digging. The fact that this is a Toronto paper and you OCR'ed it in Kyiv, just goes to show how things were actually being followed regarding world opinion. Keep up the great work! See you soon. Maybe at Kraina Mriy tomorrow if the weather turns better. It seems that rain gets in the way of everything that goes on Kyiv.