An American sees the Soviet Union (4) – 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 to be 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.With their permission, 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, second and third instalments were published in Proletarian Era dated 15 July, 1 August and 15 August 2022 respectively. This is the fourth and final instalment.)

Commune farm in Dnieprostroi district
This farm was one of the three farms in the Ukraine which didn’t have to pay taxes last year, because of crop failure. Once its members were in three small collectives. Today they are all in one commune where they pool all their property except the personal belongings and what is used individually. There are 445 people in this commune of whom 211 are working members. The commune has about 500 cows, and 82 members have their own cows. There were 12 electric milking machines. Many of the members were formerly unskilled workers in small villages. They are much better off than ever before. All live in one large apartment building. They have one, two and three room apartments depending on the size of their families. They have electricity, running water, radios, steam heat, a children’s nursery and a bath house with bathtubs and showers. You must remember that before the Revolution these families lived in one room sod huts and slept on wooden shelves along the walls. Already their standard of living is enormously improved, and, in time, they will have larger apartments, private baths, and other things which in our country only the rich are accustomed to. To these farmers the Revolution has meant more and better food, shoes instead of bark and rags for their feet, many social activities, education, security, and a slate-roofed concrete apartment house instead of a sod hut. The workers and farmers’ government is their own and they will get improved facilities just as soon as they together with other farmers and workers produce the physical means of providing these improvements.
The fall work was done and the winter wheat looked good. They had enough grain for seed in the spring without state help. They figured that they had enough feed and roughage to put the cattle through till spring. But they were not sure that they could get through to the next crop without assistance. However, they didn’t fear starvation for themselves or their cattle. Already their taxes had been cancelled, permanently, and not just carried over with interest until later. They knew they would get all the help they needed. They had plenty to eat and their food was good.
Farmers organize a commune pool all their equipment, land and animals, and share the product of the farm according to the amount of work they have put in in the course of the season. The commune form of organization is not very widespread at present in Russia, and was developed principally by the very poorest farmers and workers who started in with very little property.

State grape and fruit farm
We spent a few hours on this state farm near Odessa where they grow apples, plums and grapes and make their wine. We had lunch with the farmers and counted 32 quart bottles of wine of different kind: old, new, sweet, sour, etc. At first this farm had 140 acres of grapes. Last year there were 340 acres. By 1937 the plan calls for 1,500 acres in grapes and other fruits. The state fruit farms are not the only source of fruit in the USSR. Last year the government donated 1,000,000 fruit trees to farms and factories. Many factories have their own orchards. In Odessa we saw sailors planting fruit trees for the orchard of the Sailors’ Club, both the trees and the supervision of horticulturists being supplied by the government.
The farmers’ gazette
Throughout my 5,000 miles of travel I got a lot of help from the farmers’ newspaper, the Farmers’ Gazette. This paper now has a circulation of 1,800,000. Two years ago, the figure was over three million but the increase in the number of collectives since then has reduced the number of papers sold though it has increased the number of readers of each copy of the paper. (Each collective or several in a neighborhood also publish their own paper which deals chiefly with local questions.) The Farmers’ Gazette is issued every other day in Moscow. It receives about 2,000 letters every other day from farmer readers and has a staff of 100 people who spend all their time taking care of this mail. Every farmer gets an answer to his complaint or his questions about grain, breeding, and so on. The paper also has 15,000 farm cor-respondents. The paper has 12 airplanes at its disposal which it can send all over the Soviet Union to investigate any difficulties that may arise. This correspondence with the farmers of the country is very useful in informing the government about what the farmers want and in helping it to serve them. A government which is established and controlled by workers and farmers, and which is constantly teaching the people that the land and everything it produces is theirs to dispose of as they decide, cannot long continue if it does things to which the people are opposed. For workers and farmers are armed and organized and in a position to see that they get what they want.
The Farmers’ Gazette offered me the use of a plane so that I could cover more distance in the Ukraine, but there was so much rain and bad weather all the time I was in Russia that I couldn’t accept the offer.

Everywhere we went the farmers were very much interested in America. They couldn’t believe the things they heard about it. ‘‘Is it true’’, they asked, ‘‘that you kill your cattle and bury them in pits because you haven’t enough to feed them, and that you do this when people are starving?’’ ‘‘Is it true that farmers are chased out of their homes because their crops are so small that they can’t pay taxes and interest?’’ ‘‘Is it true that schools are being closed all over when there are children who need the schools?’’ ‘‘How can everybody in the United States hope to have more if production is cut and less is produced?’’ ‘‘In our country we are getting better houses. Before the Revolution we lived in sod huts. Now we have concrete houses with electricity, radios, running water. We put a sod hut in a glass case so that our children will remember the days of the Tsar.’’ I saw one such sod hut in a glass case in Gorlovsk. It was very tiny and used to ‘‘house’’ 12 people. We work shorter hours and have more of everything. We are insured against sickness and have vacations with pay. We can travel all over the country for very little. It’s true we had a drought this year. But we have plenty to eat and to feed our cattle. Some farms had their taxes cancelled 1,293,549 tons of seed and fodder are being given to drought-stricken farms this year. No one starves here. We no longer have to work for the kulak, the capitalist exploiter. Everything is ours. When reports of the danger of drought came in, the sowing plan for grain was increased by 1,750,000 acres. We re-sowed where the seed didn’t grow, we planted late crops, and the government helped us to irrigate the land. We even have an Institute for Artificial Rain which has begun to make rain with chemicals thrown on the clouds from airplanes. Because we have collective farms which we operate for ourselves we have so im proved our methods that in this drought year bread cards have been abolished. Because we have raised so much grain we no longer have to worry that everybody get enough bread. And we have long ago made it illegal to speculate in bread. That’s why we have been able to stop bread cards. Now anybody can buy as much bread as he wants.
Since I have returned from the Soviet Union I learned that all debts of Soviet collective farmers to the Agricultural Bank have been abolished by decree. This decree releases 435,639,000 Rubles (about half as many dollars) for use by the collectives for purposes which they see fit, and probably will improve schools, homes, herds, etc.
In answer to these questions of the Russian farmers about the United States, I could only admit that in the United States drought has brought evictions and shortages, that here unemployment means near starvation even though we have the land, the machinery, and the knowledge to produce enough for everybody.
What impressed me most in Russia is that everything is being built up. Production has gone up rapidly in every line. Not only is no one starving but everybody has a job. The farmers and workers have better housing, better food, and better clothing than ever before, and they are planning for better things. They have social insurance, free hospitals, recreation of all sorts, school for grown-ups as well as for children, and an opportunity to travel. They take an active part in everything that is done. The whole country is really in the control of the farmers and wage workers. Yesterday they passed the world in pig iron production. Soon they will have the highest standards of living. It’s something to think about.

Please share
scroll to top