Kolkhozniks Greet the Constitution

P. I. Voronov, Letter from kolkhoznik P. I. Voronov to Krestianskaia Gazeta. 1936

 

One curious document indicates how a discussion of the draft Constitution could come out if no “organizers” were taking part. This is a letter to Krest’ianskaia Gazeta from Pavel Ivanovich Voronov, a farmer at the Karetovo Kolkhoz in Soligalich Raion, Yaroslavl’ Oblast, written on behalf of all his fellow villagers. The document is permeated by a sense of anticipated change as a result of the new Constitution, and with each new point the resolution of the kolkhoz meeting drawn up by the writer becomes transformed into a complaint about the hard life on the kolkhoz. This blending of big issues with people’s mundane concerns and everyday scenes is highly characteristic of much of the material that spontaneously arrived from below in connection with the discussion of the new Constitution.

Original Source: RTsKhIDNI, f. 17, op. 120, d. 232, ll.74-75.

The farmers of our kolkhoz welcome Stalin’s Constitution with great joy. The kolkhoz farmers listened to me and approved this Constitution. Altogether 25 people took part in the meeting, but none of them could express themselves, and then I, kolkhoz farmer Voronov, suggested adding a few more clauses, and they started asking me to write these clauses and send them in. So with the consent of all the kolkhoz farmers, I wrote them down, and when I read everyone what I wrote, the entire meeting sang the Internationale and resolved:

1. That we kolkhoz farmers enjoy no lesser rights than city workers, that we kolkhoz workers work for money rather than work-days.

2. That we kolkhoz farmers all be made trade-union members and have trade-union booklets, so that we can have full rights like city workers.

3. That lumber distribution for the kolkhoz be free of charge for all kolkhoz needs, at least a certain percentage for kolkhoz needs should be issued free of charge.

4. That there be an uninterrupted supply of goods for sale in our villages, especially flour, because we get flour very seldom here, and for bread kolkhoz farmers have to travel 30 kilometers to get baked bread to feed their family, a number of other goods are never available at the cooperatives, and as for leather footwear we never see anything like it anywhere around here.

5. We also ask that the work be set up at our kolkhozes so that we do not work all together but each person works on his own attached plot, which would be attached to us for the whole summer, and that entries be made in our labor books every ten days and they be given to us so that every kolkhoz farmer can know, otherwise we work all summer and don’t know who earned how much. We tell the brigade leader to give it to us every month and every ten days. He says, I don’t have time, I have too much work, but what does he do? He doesn’t do anything on our kolkhoz. We have a chairman and an accounts clerk and a brigade leader, but we don’t see anything getting done. The chairman gallivants around, so does the brigade leader, and the accounts clerk we don’t see anywhere. They gave him 225 work-days–he doesn’t do anything and we ask for help and getting rid of all the shortcomings on our kolkhozes. We have just 20 workers on our kolkhoz. The kolkhoz chairman and the brigade leader set themselves up nicely when there are just 20 workers on the whole kolkhoz, but as for us nobody gives any help to straighten things out; the village librarian lives on our kolkhoz, but even she doesn’t take any part–these problems, of course, exist all over Soligalich Raion.

Source: Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov, eds., Stalinism as a Way of Life (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000), Document 57.

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