The famine in Ukraine, the so-called “holodomor” was a serious natural disaster. The collectivization of agriculture began in 1928 and the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 seriously threatened the success of collectivization and the entire Five-Year Plan.
The primary reasons for the famine were the weather conditions. There were two crop failures in a row because of drought and snow which prevented spring sowings. A plant disease called ‘grain-rust’ also destroyed much of the crops. ‘Rusted’ crops can look normal and so the government didn’t originally recognize that much of the food was ruined.
The collectivization began in 1928 because of several reasons:
- the USSR needed to industrialize to build socialism. Collectivization was necessary in order to grow enough food for a larger industrial proletariat.
- the USSR needed to industrialize fast, to build a strong modern military to defend itself
- class relations inside the country had reached a crisis in 1927. The NEP succeeded in rebuilding the economy after the Civil War, but it allowed the rural capitalists (‘kulaks’) to grow stronger. Most small farmers only produced enough food for their own families and didn’t sell food. Most food on the market was produced by large kulaks. They demanded less regulations on prices, and demanded higher prices for higher profits. They controlled the food supply of the cities and could use this to blackmail the government. In 1926-27 the kulaks were refusing to sell or produce food. The government responded by confiscating food which they were hiding. Kulaks responded by destroying food, slaughtering animals, and stopping farming etc.
The Soviet government had two options: to accept the demand for de-regulation and move back to unrestricted capitalism. Or to fight the kulaks and move towards socialism. Of course they chose to fight. It was impossible to accept the kulak demands, it would’ve meant the death of the socialist revolution and the country would’ve remained underdeveloped.
Poor peasants were encouraged to take over lands from kulaks which were not being used, and set up collective farms on those lands. The fight intensified in the countryside and kulaks were able to destroy many farm buildings and kill huge amounts of animals (as many as 50% of all horses). This contributed to the famine, but was not the main cause of it.
Prof. Mark Tauger has shown conclusively that the Soviets couldn’t have avoided the famine in any way. The weather caused the crops to not grow, and thus they didn’t have enough food regardless of what they did.
Right-Wing propagandists claim that collectivization caused the famine, which is obviously false. We have evidence that the famine was caused by crop failure due to weather, but also the famine ended when the collective farms produced a good harvest. And after that the Soviet Union didn’t have famines anymore, except because of the war.
Some right-wingers also claim that the famine was purposefully orchestrated to kill Ukrainians, but there is no evidence of that. Ukraine received a million tons of food aid from the Russian SSR etc. The famine was a disaster for the Soviet economy, so they would never have caused it on purpose.
Holodomor, myth and reality
Blood_Lies by Grover Furr (Best short book to read on the topic)
Fraud, Famine and Fascism by Douglas Tottle
Collectivization and the “Ukrainian holocaust” (from Another View of Stalin)
Famine of 1932 (from “the Real Stalin” series)
The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933 by Mark Tauger
Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931–1933 by Mark Tauger