Harvest of Despair



The compulsory (or forced) collectivization of agriculture began in the USSR with the First Five-Year Plan, announced in 1928 and completed in 1932. In order to pay for the unprecedented industrialization undertaken at break-neck speed in the USSR, the Soviet government had to have control of the grain crop – the export of grain was to be used to pay for investment in industrialization projects. In order to gain control over the grain crop, the Soviet government announced the forced collectivization of agriculture.

Resistance to collectivization was fierce; many peasants slaughtered livestock and burned crops rather than give it to the collective farms. This resistance, however, was soon broken by brutally repressive measures undertaken by the Soviet state. In order to force the peasantry onto collective farms, taxes on farmers who refused to join collectives were raised to a rate that was impossible to pay. In order to break the resistance to collectivization led by the most prosperous peasants, the policy of dekulakization was implemented. The most well to do peasants, and soon, any peasants that opposed collectivization, were declared to be kulaks, their property expropriated, and families were deported by the thousands to remote regions of the USSR.

Dekulakization and heightened taxation proved effective in breaking the resistance of the peasants to collectivization. The vast majority of peasants joined the collective farms in the first years of the First Five-Year Plan. Thereafter, the Soviet state, and not the peasant who worked the land, would have control over the grain grown in the country.

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