Evening Post. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 1933. FAMINE IN RUSSIA
Not even from China, where all things, but in these times the calamities especially, are on a colossal scale, have we had a more appalling report than that which was cabled yesterday regarding the famine in Southern Russia. Not since the remarkable series of articles which appeared in the "Manchester Guardian" at the end of March has Russia itself provided the subject for so terrible a story, but, though in both cases only approximate estimates are available, the dimensions of that calamity have evidently been exceeded now. According to the special correspondent of the "Daily* Telegraph" the present visitation. is even more severe than that of 1921, which has hitherto marked the highwater mark of famine under Bolshevik rule. In July of that year a million peasants were estimated to be in flight from their holdings in the great grain-bearing districts of the Volga, the North Caucasus, and the Ukraine, which had been devastated by drought, but the deathroll from actual hunger was not considered to exceed half a million. One reason for the limitation was the cooperation of foreign charitable organisations with the Soviet authorities in the provision of relief. The number of recipients was as high as 24,000,000, and of these the American Relief Association under Mr. Herbert Hoover was at one time providing for no less than 10,000,000. Today American charity has too many million calls at home to be able to repeat that wonderful effort, nor in a poverty-stricken world is there any other nation to fill the gap* Another important distinction between the famine of 1921 and those of the present year is to be found in their respective causes. Under the old regime Russia was periodically subject to famines arising from climatic conditions, and the first of the Bolshevik famines was primarily of that character. In 1921 there were powerful contributing causes in the proximity of the War and in the fierceness of the class warfare which the Bolsheviks had promoted, but the principal cause was climatic. With the conditions described by the "Manchester Guardian's" correspondent in March climate appears, however, to have had practicalLy nothing to do, and politics, maladministration, and human nature practically everything. It was the same story, he writes, of a plaee'in the North Caucasus; cattle and horses dead; fields neglected; meagre harvest despite moderately good climatic conditions; all the grain that was produced taken, by the Government; now no bread at all, no bread anywhere, nothing much else, either; despair and bewilderment. "Our new slogan," Stalin had said, "must be to make every collective farm worker well-to-do," and on paper collectivisation was a magnificent success. About 60 per cent, of the peasantry and 80 per cent, of the land had been brought into collective farms. Communists with impeccable- ideology were installed as directors of them; agronomes were to provide expert ad-, vice, tractors to replace horses, elevators to replace barns, and the practice of America combined with the theory of Marxism was to transform agriculture into a kind of gigantic factory staffed by an ardently class-conscious proletariat. Nothing could have been better on paper. But the Communist directors were sometimes incompetent or corrupt. The "agronomes'" scientific training had not qualified them for the practical work of food production. Horses died much faster than they could be replaced by tractors, and tractors were mishandled and broken. In 1932 Soviet agriculture had lost more than 62,000 new tractors, which was more than the total output of the tractor works. The attitude of the collectivised peasants "varied from actual sabotage and passive resistance to mere apathy." Only the soldiers and the Ogpu were well fed, "the rest of the population obviously starved, obviously terrorised." And the remedy for these unfortunates was a stiffer dose of the medicine that had brought them to this pitch of misery. In "The Times" of March 14 its Riga correspondent reported as follows: —
The Soviet Government has ordered that the sowing campaign in the chief grain districts be carried on this spring with the assistance of the Bed Army and under martial law. An officer will bo placed at tho head of each State farm, with power to establish military discipline. Such officers have already been appointed to moat State farms in the Northern Caucasus, and the system is being introduced into other regions. It was almost on the same day that 35 directors, bookkeepers, and other
officials of the State and collective farms were shot by the Ogpu without a trial, and that Mr. Monkhouse and' five other British employees of the Metropolitan Vickers Company were arrested. No very full reports of the working of the reign of terror have been supplied during the last four or five months, but the evidence available indicates that it has become more cruel but not more effective. It was reported in "The Times" of May 11 that the grain prospects in all the important regions of the Ukraine and Western Siberia were "catastrophic," and that the mobilisation of 13,000 more young Communists had been ordered for special service on the "sowing front." On May 20 the same paper reported the issue by the Soviet Commissariat for State Farming of a decree ordering criminal prosecution of the directors and managers of State farms unless they immediately take measures to prevent desertion of labourers. The decree says that the desertions are duo almost exclusively to abominable feeding and neglect of elementary needs. There is at any rate the semblance of a redeeming touch of humanity in this decree, but whether the officials were supplied with the means to make it effective is open to doubt. It is at any rate clear that in the Northern Caucasus, to which the report of the "Daily Telegraph's" special correspondent cabled yesterday appears to be confined, that the conditions are far worse than they were when the correspondent of the "Manchester Guardian" was there in March. The population is now described as "almost extinct" in some villages,' and ■as in others awaiting "in complete apathy" the inevitable end. But the authorities will not acknowledge that a famine exists. . . . When sufferers implored help they were told they could eat bread which they had hidden away. Yet, according to another report, even the managers- are compelled to join with the workers in stealing in order to provide the needs of their families.
Permanent link to this item
Evening Post. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 1933. FAMINE IN RUSSIA, Evening Post, Volume CXVI, Issue 52, 30 August 1933
Evening Post. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 30, 1933. FAMINE IN RUSSIA Evening Post, Volume CXVI, Issue 52, 30 August 1933
Using This Item
Fairfax Media is the copyright owner for the Evening Post. You can reproduce in-copyright material from this newspaper for non-commercial use under a Creative Commons New Zealand BY-NC-SA licence . This newspaper is not available for commercial use without the consent of Fairfax Media. For advice on reproduction of out-of-copyright material from this newspaper, please refer to the Copyright guide.