Re-evaluating Stalin’s Peasant Policy in 1928–30
During the convoluted contingency of the year from mid-1928 to mid-1929 a Stalinist dynamic gained momentum in the Soviet Communist Party. It was a dynamic that drove policy towards an end goal of displacing the free peasantry, whose growth had been encouraged by NEP, and creating a captured peasantry. The idea was that a commandeered peasant economy would permit state accumulation of resources which could be directed towards developmental goals; namely, the realisation of Stalinist ideological aspirations for the construction of socialism through crash industrialisation. The decision taken in late 1929 to go over to a policy of speedy, comprehensive collectivisation (sploshnaya kollektivizatsiya) of agriculture, followed in January 1930 by the decision to dekulakise the countryside, were the culminating acts of this Stalinist fixation with imposing a captured status on the Russian peasantry and harnessing the peasant economy to the demands of state-led industrialisation. While there are diverse interpretations of the reasons for these decisions, there is agreement on one central premise: that Stalin’s transformational project of his self-declared ‘year of the great breakthrough’ (god veliki perelom) was shaped by a binary conflict between the state and peasantry, and that this dichotomous conflict was the fundamental political problem of the period.
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