An American sees the Soviet Union (3) — By Julius Walstad


Young Soviet girl tractor-drivers of Kirghizia, efficiently replacing their friends, brothers and fathers who went to the front. A girl tractor driver of the sowing sugar beet, on Aug. 26, 1942. (AP Photo)

(Julius Walstad was the first official delegate to the Soviet Union elected by thousands of American farmers to join the delegation of ‘Friends of the Soviet Union’ to visit Soviet Union. He visited Soviet farming regions in the Fall of 1934, a year in which severe drought had occurred in both the USA. and the USSR. In this pamphlet he reported what he saw as an American Delegate while visiting the Collective Farms in an unscheduled manner how Soviet Agriculture was flourishing in socialism. This report is a testimonial of what Soviet socialism could achieve within 5 years of socialism and is befitting reply to the canard spread by the imperialist-capitalist camp against Socialism and great Stalin. This report has been brought out by the AIKKMS in the form of a pamphlet. The report is reproduced below in instalments as it would help our readers to be acquainted with the remarkable advancement of Soviet agriculture under Stalin’s leadership. The first instalment was published in Proletarian Era dated 15 July 2022. This is the third instalment.)

The German Collective

This collective farm in the Dnieprostroi district was one of the worst sufferers from the drought. It had 240 working members when we visited it. The forefathers of the present farmers came over from Germany over a hundred years ago and set up a little town in a hollow, farming the surrounding land. In 1928 the members of this village called a meeting and elected a delegation to investigate collectives in the Soviet Union. The closest collective farm was then 90 miles away. The delegation brought back such a glowing report of the advantages of collectivization that the German settlers decided to organize a collective immediately. The delegates told about reductions in working hours, social insurance for the collective, absence of risks from crop failure because the workers’ and farmers’ government protected them from starvation, cancellation of taxes and grants of aid in bad years, social benefits of community life in the form of recreation, education, etc.
Since the collective is today the most important form of farm organization in the USSR, I asked many questions about how it is run and managed. Today most of the collectives consist of a group of farmers working along cooperative lines. Only labor, land, machinery and implements, draft-cattle and farm buildings are socialized. Homes and the land attached to them, small cattle and part of the dairy cattle, and some poultry are not socialized but belong to the individual farmer and give him an additional source of income. The collective farms are so interested in bettering the position of their members that they help those who have no cows, etc., to get them. Over a period of time, farmers are paid back for all the equipment that they put in when they joined the collective.
Various public institutions to improve the social and cultural life of the collective farmers are being greatly increased. There are children’s nurseries, dining halls, kitchens, bakeries, laundries, and so on, the use of which is strictly voluntary.
Every collective farm has a constitution, adopted by a general meeting of the farmer members. All the more important questions arising in the collective farm are discussed and decided at the general meeting. Even the constitution of the collective can be changed by a majority vote of the general meeting. The general meeting passes on the productive plan of the collective which sets the amount of work, the amount of labor to be used, the time for completing various jobs, and so on. A board of management is elected for managing the production of the collective farm and for putting into effect the decisions of the general meetings. Except for the chairman, the members of the collective farm management board are not released from field work and other jobs. They must do as much as all the other members The entire working force of the collective farm is divided into brigades. Definite inventories and pieces of land are assigned to the brigades. Each brigade has its own production task which it carries through the entire season.
Work on the collective farm is paid for on the basis of the quantity and quality of work done. Those who work more and better are paid more. All the work is divided according to the skill required and the importance of the different jobs. All rates of pay are calculated in work days. A certain amount of work of average difficulty is set by each farm as a standard work-day. If a farmer works harder or more efficiently, he can earn more than a work-day in one day. More complicated and skilled labor, such as that of machinists, receives a higher rate of pay; for example, for every day worked more than one work-day is credited. Rates of pay are reduced for work of bad quality and where there is clear negligence, labor is not paid for at all.
Every collective farmer knows in advance what work he has to do. The quantity and quality of his work-days are accounted for daily and entered in his labor book once every five days.
At the end of the agricultural year every collective farmer receives a definite part of the income of the collective farm on the basis of his total work-days. This does not mean that he is paid only once a year. Several times during the season he gets advances in money and in kind proportionate to his share in the income of the farm.
Today this German collective is fully electrified. Electricity is used for thrashing. They have telephones and a radio hookup in every home, a library, and a good school. There was less rain fall this year than in the terrible famine year of 1921. Yet, this year the collective produced much more grain. This year, with more acres sown, with better plowing and more technical advice, with tractors and help from the government, they have plenty to eat. They received, this year, an average of 3,000 quarts of milk and 400 pounds of butter per family, which is almost twice as much as I can give my family. They made a profit of 250,000 rubles this year from 2,873 sown acres. They have 450 cows, 200 pigs, and 20 brood sows. Every family has a cow and chickens of its own in addition to what they have in the collective. The farm also has 59 work horses and 20 oxen. The families have their own gardens also. In this collective the farmers lived in their pre-revolutionary houses which were in good condition.
As we walked around the farm we didn’t see any signs of shortage. We stopped one man on his doorstep and asked whether there was any scarcity of food. In reply he invited us in to supper. We had a good meal. He was an old timer and told us about conditions before the revolution. They are much better now. Better plowing and more sown acreage have eliminated the possibility of starvation. We asked him to explain how the tractor stations worked since we had noticed that this collective had no tractors of its own.
This farmer explained that the Machine Tractor Stations have been set up because there are still not enough tractors and combines manufactured to go round in the USSR. The stations send tractors and experts to run them from one farm to another and keep the tractors in more continuous use than the farms could if they owned their own. The collective gets the use of the tractor at cost and has it run by an expert who gets more work out of it. The tractor station makes contracts with the collectives to give them tractors on specified dates for a specified time. If the station delays sending the tractors and the crop is injured for some reason in the meantime, the station must pay for the damage. This makes the tractor station on time, too.
I asked about the profits which this collective showed this year. He explained that a certain part of the crop, so many bushels per acre, according to the plan for sowing, is sold to the government at a fixed price to insure a supply of food to workers in the factories and to other city people. The larger the number of acres sown, the lower this part of the crop, in percentage terms. If the harvest is better than planned, the state delivery required is not increased and if more acreage has been sown than was planned for, deliveries are made only on the acreage in the plan. The rest of the crop may be sold later at a higher price. In return for selling a fixed part of the crop to the government, the farmers get clothing and other supplies at a low price. The money received for that part of the crop delivered to the state, and the rest of the produce of the farm or the income from it, except for seed and other reserves, is divided up among the members of the collective according to the number of work-days each has put in. Of course, each person spends his money in any way he pleases. The profits of the collective are used as the collective decides, e.g., to increase herds of cattle, numbers of hogs, to build better barns, silos and homes, and, in general, to improve conditions in the collective.
Collectives may make special assessments among their memberships for special improvements. In case of crop failure, taxes are cancelled. Often the government has to step in and prevent the collective from sacrificing too much in order to build up its holdings. Russia seems to be a country where one of the functions of the government is to stop people from taxing themselves too heavily.
(To be continued)

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