the peasants were starving -- 12/14/21

Today's selection -- from A History of the Twentieth Century by Martin Gilbert. In 1932, collectivization was a failing Soviet policy that was leaving the Soviet Union's population desperate for food. Stalin, however, was unwilling to hear any criticism of the policy and ridiculed one of his closest advisors:

"Inside the Soviet Union, the continuing forcible collectivization of agriculture had led to acute peasant hardship, mass deportations, and a collapse of rural productivity. At the meeting of the Communist Party Central Committee in October, sharp criticisms of the collective farm system were put forward, and an agitation to give up collectiviz­ation began. Not only did collectivization continue, however, but those who fell below the targets set by Moscow were put on trial, accused of sabotage and shot. Yet the peasants could not produce the amounts demanded of them, however hard they tried: the total amount of grain deliveries demanded from them in 1932 exceeded the total crop. The delivery of whatever grain had been harvested was so ruthlessly enforced that starvation became widespread. That winter several millions of Russians died of starvation.

"In the previous famine after the Bolsheviks came to power, appeals had been launched by the Soviet regime for help from the capitalist world, which had responded with massive aid, supervised by the League of Nations and the Red Cross. For this second famine, which was on a much larger scale, no such appeal was made. Rumours of hunger were denied. When, at a closed and secret meeting in Moscow, the Secretary of the Kharkov Provincial Committee spoke of the scale and horror of the famine, Stalin intervened personally to belittle him. 'We have been told that you, Comrade Terekhov, are a good speaker,' Stalin said. 'It seems that you are a good storyteller, you've made up such a fable about famine, thinking to frighten us, but it won't work. Wouldn't it be better for you to leave your post of provincial committee secretary and the Ukraine Central Commit­tee, and join the Writers' Union? Then you can write your fables and fools will read them.''


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author:

Martin Gilbert

title:

A History of the Twentieth Century

publisher:

Perennial

date:

Copyright 2001 by Martin Gilbert

pages:

213-21
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