Khrushchev Criticizes Agriculture under Stalin

Nikita Khrushchev, On Measures for the Further Development of Soviet Agriculture. September 3, 1953


Original Source: N. S. Khrushchev, Stroitel’stvo kommunizma v SSSR i razvitie sel’skogo khoziaistva (Moscow, 1962), Vol. I, pp. 8-20 (extracts).

I. The State of Agriculture and the Task of Creating an Abundance of Agricultural Products

The collective-farm system which was set up under the leadership of the Communist Party has decisive advantages over all kinds of private agricultural production, be it small-scale, or of a large-scale capitalist type. In place of the old rural system with 25 million dispersed private households, there has been created and consolidated a system of socialist agriculture which is the largest in the world. The socialist system of agriculture in our country now embraces 94,000 collective farms, 8,950 machine-and-tractor stations, and more than 4,700 state farms …

However we must honestly admit that we use the enormous reserves hidden in large-scale socialist agricultural production badly. We have many backward and even neglected collective farms and whole regions. In many collective farms and regions the harvests of agricultural produce continue to be low. The efficiency of agricultural production, particularly of livestock rearing, animal feeds, potatoes and vegetables is growing very slowly. An obvious discrepancy has arisen between the growth rate of our large-scale socialist industry, the urban population, and the material well-being of the working masses on the one hand, and the present level of agricultural production on the other.

Several facts may be adduced by way of illustration. Between 1913 and 1952 the overall production of heavy industry in the USSR grew (in comparable prices) twenty-seven times; this includes the production of the means of production, which grew forty-seven times. The growth of socialist industry is linked with a speed-up in the growth of the urban population, the size of which increased more than three times between 1926 and 1952. As the wealth of socialist society increases the material well-being of the toilers registers a steady growth. At the present time the real wage of worker and employees in the USSR is several times higher than the pre-revolutionary level. This means that our country gets richer as every year goes by, the material sufficiency of the toilers increases, and naturally, at the same time, greater demands are made on agriculture.

Yet the rate of development of socialist agriculture clearly lags behind the rate of growth of industry and the growth of the population’s requirements of consumer goods. Suffice it to say that whereas, between 1940 and 1952, industrial production grew 2.3 times, the overall production of agriculture (in comparable prices) rose only by 10 per cent …

What are the reasons for the insufficient level of agricultural production in general and the lag in a number of important branches of agriculture ?

The Communist Party has consistently followed a course of developing heavy industry to the greatest possible extent as an essential condition for the successful development of all branches of the national economy, and in so doing it has achieved major successes. Most attention was paid to solving this primary economic problem, and our main efforts and funds were devoted to it. Our best cadres worked in the cause of industrialization. We had no opportunity to ensure that heavy industry and agriculture, and light industry, developed simultaneously at a rapid rate. It was necessary to create the proper conditions for this. Now that has been done. We have a powerful industrial base, well-consolidated collective farms, and trained cadres in all spheres of economic construction.

But there are other reasons for the lag in a number of important branches of agriculture, reasons which are rooted in shortcomings of our work and in the shortcomings of agricultural management, that is, reasons which depend on us personally.

Among these are, firstly, the violation, in a number of branches of agriculture, of the principle of material interest. The principle of the material interest of the enterprise and each worker individually in the results of their labor is one of the basic principles of socialist management. V. I. Lenin showed that the transition to Communism needs many years, and that in this period of transition the economy should be built ‘not directly on enthusiasm, but with the help of enthusiasm which is born of a great revolution, on personal interest and personal gain, and on economic accounting methods’. Otherwise, V. I. Lenin went on to show, ‘You will not get to Communism, neither will you lead tens and tens of millions of people to Communism.”

At the same time facts show that the principle of interesting and encouraging workers materially is not applied in many important branches of agriculture.

This in the first place applies to livestock-rearing. We have calculations which show that the return on the delivery and sale of cotton by the collective farms to the state per labor day spent on this work comprised from 17 to 36 rubles in the republics of Central Asia; it was twelve rubles for sugar-beet in the Ukrainian Republic, and about 18 rubles for the sale of technical crops throughout the USSR as a whole. In regions with a high level of mechanization, like, for example, the Northern Caucasus, the collective farms pay out 8 to 14 rubles per labor day spent on grain crops. At the same time the payment for a labor day spent on livestock-rearing comprises on average only 5 rubles for the delivery and sale of the product in the USSR as a whole, and is little more than 4 rubles in the Ukraine. Thus livestock-rearing is in a disadvantageous position as compared with other branches of agriculture.

As a result of the obvious predominance of manual labor in livestock-rearing the cost of production is high. Yet facts show that the existing procurement and purchase prices for livestock products do not encourage the material interest of collective farms and collective farmers sufficiently to develop livestock-rearing, and, given the present state of this, do not bring in to collective farms and collective farmers the income they should. The same may be said with regard to vegetables and potatoes.

Furthermore, in many collective farms violations of the most important provisions of the agricultural-artel statute are permitted. The basic principle of this form of production is the correct combination of the collective farmer’s social and personal interests, involving the subordination of his personal interests to his social ones. Proceeding from that guiding principle, it was determined in the statute that each collectivized household in the farm would have the right to the personal ownership of a small plot, separate from the main and decisive social sector. This subordinate plot is essential so long as the public sector of the collective farm is insufficiently developed and cannot in full measure satisfy either the social needs of the collective farm or the personal requirements of the collective farmers.

In many collective farms this important principle has been violated. This could not but lead, and in fact has led, to a reduction in the number of cows, sheep and pigs on collective farmers’ private plots.

The violation of the principle of the material interest of collective farms and collective farmers has become particularly evident in present conditions. Our industry is growing at a rapid rate. It is experiencing a shortage of labor. We have long since forgotten what unemployment was. Every year the wages of the workers at enterprises rise, and their living conditions improve. In such a situation, if work in the public sector does not bring the collective farmer the right income for his labor days, and if at the same time his personal interests in his private plot are impinged upon, then he may easily find another outlet for his he-he can just go off to the town and work in a factory. This is the reason for the outflow of some of the rural population from backward collective farms.

A very important reason for the serious lag in certain branches of agriculture is the clearly unsatisfactory use of the powerful machinery with which the state has equipped and continues to equip the machine-and-tractor stations. In many branches of agriculture, manual labor still predominates. Though there is a high level of mechanization in working grain crops, sugar-beet and cotton, mechanization lags behind in such important branches as livestock-rearing, and the cultivation of potatoes, vegetables, flax, and many other crops. The tractors and other machines in many MTS are used badly.

An important cause of the serious lag in many branches of agriculture is the unsatisfactory management of the collective farms, machine-and-tractor stations, and state farms by party, soviet and agricultural organs, especially when it comes to selecting, distributing and training cadres for agriculture, and conducting party political work in the village.

Finally it is necessary to say something about the reasons for this; they depend on the collective farms themselves, on the chairman and collective farm boards, and on the collective farmers. In many farms labor discipline is still very low, and not all collective farmers participate fully in collective-farm production. The labor of the collective farmers is not well organized everywhere. There are still many instances of a negligent attitude towards social property …

II. On The State of Livestock-Farming and Measures for its Further Development

The most urgent tasks confront us in the sphere of livestock-farming, since the lag here is long drawn-out in character, and we will not be able to improve the position quickly without decisive measures.

Our livestock-farming was backward even before the war. In the post-war years a great deal of work was done to re-establish and develop it. Between June 1945 and July 1953 the number of horned cattle in the USSR rose by 11.3 million, that of sheep and goats by 53.9 million, and that of pigs by 25.1 million.

It might seem at first sight that with such growth figures, and they are indeed significant, there would be no grounds for alarm. But in fact that is not so.

Let me quote some data on the number of cattle in the SSR:

(In millions, at the beginning of the year, over comparable areas)

Year Sheep Horned Cows and Cattle Pigs Goats Horses
1916 58.4 28.8 23.0 96.3 38.2
1928 66.8 33.2 27.7 114.6 26.1
1941 54.5 27.8 27.5 91.6 21.0
1953 56.6 24.3 28.5 109.9 15.3

These data show that by the beginning of 1953 the number of cows was 3.5 million less than at the beginning of 1941, and 8.9 million less than at the beginning of 1928 …

Source: Mervyn Matthews, ed., Soviet Government: a selection of official documents on internal policies (New York: Taplinger, 1974), pp. 365-369.


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