[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]
The Western Mail, Cardiff, 17 October 1932
Will there be Soup?
Russia Famished Under the Five-Year Plan
by Gareth Jones (Article 2 of 2)
In my first article on present-day conditions in Russia in Saturday's Western Mail, I referred to the failure of crops under the Five-Year Plan.
One reason why the harvest of all crops, vegetables as well as grain have failed is that a couple of million of the most energetic kulaks (the richest peasants) have been exiled. An account of this I heard in the morning after a night on the wooden floor of the stuffy room which I shared with the whole of the peasant’s family.
I walked along to see the Communist president of the village Soviet, a sharp, square jawed young man in a green military cap.
“Jump into my carriage,” he said and in a few minutes we were bumping over the fields of the collective farm.
“We have had a great victory here,” he said as we looked back on the several hundred huts in the village. “We've defeated the kulaks, those peasants who had a lot of land and employed labour. We exiled 14 families from here and now they’re cutting wood in the forests of the north or working in Siberia. We must root them out because they are of the enemy class. We sent the last kulak a month ago.”
“What had he done?” I asked.
He was very religious and had a sect of his own. He used to collect the peasants in his hut and tell them that the Communist wanted the peasants to starve but that there would be a war and when there was war the Pope of Rome would come to their village and hang all the Communists. That was counter-revolution. So we send him away. These kulaks are terrible. It was they that urged the peasants to massacre their cattle.
And he told me how killing the cattle and horses throughout Russia was another reason why food was scarce. Stalin in his speech in June 1930 estimated that one-third of the cattle and at least 1/5 of the horses of Russia had been massacred by peasants who did not wish to give up the animals for nothing to collective farms
Some days after my conversations in this village I was seated in a slowly moving train which six days before had left Tashkent in Central Asia and was now carrying me from Samara to Moscow.
I glanced out of the window and suddenly saw a mass of debris-shattered coaches torn up rails. There had been an accident and a goods train had obviously rattled down a slope. It gave me another clue as to why food was so short, and that is bad transport.
Under the Five-Year Plan courageous efforts of been made to improve the railway system. Miles of new railroads have been laid, numbers of new Soviet locomotives have been built, yet the railways are still in a most unsatisfactory state and it hinders the carrying of the grain and vegetables.
It was the same in old Russia of the Tsar's where there might be grave famine in one region and abundance in another. Today the railways are crowded and goods train are held up for days, while the food inside the wagons gets bad.
If the trains run badly, food is badly distributed. Vegetables and fruit have to wait days for a train. On Friday October 7th Isvestia had an example of that. I read: “Last autumn, in the town of Kaluga, mountains of cabbages were being heaped up in the centre of the town in Lenin Square. The green and white pyramids grew bigger and bigger every day. Then it started raining and only when the cabbages began to go rotten was anything done about it. It was taken as fodder for the cattle and to feed the pigs. In a word there was a regular ‘cabbage panic’ in Kaluga.” Such mismanagement is a great hindrance to the fulfillment of the Five-Year Plan.
It is no wonder that the chief organ of the Soviet Government contains news of the shortage of the harvest, that it reports that the grain collections in Ukraine where there has also been a drought. North Caucasia and the lower Volga (the chief grain areas) have been exceedingly unsatisfactory and that only 40 percent of the July Grain Plan and 60 percent of the August Plan was carried out.
The government paper states that instead 25,000 tons of potatoes the vast Ukraine has only produced 9000. It gives figures showing that the industrial plants such a sugar beet and only fulfilled a small proportion of the plan.
It reveals the winter sowing of grain had been in a far lower scale than last year. It shows that the amount of vegetables in the chief towns is disastrously small. It states that shelter is lacking for 1,500,000 head of cattle.
In short it forecasts that in this the last winter of the Five-Year Plan the question will still be: Will there be soup?
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