“Complete implementation of the grain procurement plan”: the policy of terror through the famine

20 November 2022

November 20 marks the 90th anniversary of the adoption by the Council of People’s Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR of the resolution “On measures to strengthen grain procurement.” The head of the government V. Chubar, and the head of the Council of People’s Commissars of the UkrSSR, V. Lehkyi, signed it. For the Ukrainian peasants, it became “hard” and exhausting, demonstrating the organizational and political mechanism for the implementation of terror by famine.

Only field rodents were engaged in harvesting grains for the winter. Stalin’s grain procurements in Ukraine, which V. Molotov personally managed in the autumn of 1932, meant a system of deliberately depriving the farmers of bread, food (vegetables, potatoes, meat, milk), property (housing, livestock), and therefore life. The phrase “strengthening grain procurement”, if we consider its content through the analysis of organizational-administrative and punitive-repressive measures, reveals the real circumstances of the mechanism of state terror. The consequences of its use led to a mass famine organized by the authorities, therefore artificial (man-made) in its origin.

If you perceive grain procurements verbally and neutrally, they look peaceful and caring, as if the owner cared about preserving life and providing bread for his producers. The Bolshevik grain procurement campaigns, accompanied by repression, physical torture, and the arbitrariness of the so-called party officials, had undisguised signs of deliberate action with the intention of deliberately depriving the farmers of food.Grain procurement and terror by famine are identical in cause and effect, form and content, and means and their motivated implementation. The circumstances and consequences of the famine have socio-demographic and anthropological aspects. Grain procurement reveals the mechanism for the use of terror by famine because the farmers were deliberately deprived of bread and did not care about their food supply.

The horror of November in 1932 was suggested not only by cold and hunger, bare trees and rotten leaves but by the intensity of punitive and repressive measures too. On November 5, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U ordered the People’s Commissariat of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office of the Ukrainian SSR to forward cases of non-fulfilment of grain procurement plans to court out of turn. In villages and districts, visiting court sessions took place. Sometimes they were indicative, which sentenced farmers to various terms of imprisonment or executions. In fact, the system of drumhead court-martials operated as if hostilities were taking place. The organization of grain procurement, and in fact, the deliberate deprivation of collective farms, collective farm workers and sole proprietors, was handled by members of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U, party nomenclature of various levels. V. Molotov and L. Kaganovych, who were in Ukraine, personally directed their actions. Therefore, grain procurement proves an action with the intention of depriving large groups of people of food, that is, a motivated crime.

Terror by famine appears as a form and method for the physical destruction of people, and the mechanism of its implementation was grain procurement. Sometimes the definition “policy of grain procurement” appeared, so we have a policy of terror using organized hunger in Ukraine. Concepts and phenomena Holodomor and terror by famine look identical, but they are different, even though they have the same type of cause – grain procurement. The Holodomor covers the causes, circumstances, consequences, and symbolizes the historical form of genocide against the civilian population. Terror by famine is a historiographical interpretation used for the first time by R. Conquest to assess the events in Ukraine in 1932–1933.

The content of the resolutions of the Party-Soviet bodies in November 1932, the official correspondence of Stalin, Molotov, and Kaganovych in those years, and the implementation of their decisions – testify to conscious, not random actions. On November 18, following Molotov’s instructions, the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U initiated the application of measures aimed at depriving the farmers of bread and consumer goods, demanded local authorities completely stop issuing advances in kind for labour days worked, to return already issued grain and the so-called “squandered” (stolen, picked up in fields, paths, found in chaff, straw after threshing). “Saboteurs” were fined in the amount of a 15-month meat delivery rate and a year’s potato delivery rate. The ban on issuing grain on working days, personally initiated by Stalin while on vacation in Sochi, led to the fact that in the spring of 1933, 48% of collective farms did not pay the collective farm workers. At that time, there were about 20 million people in collective farms – adults, children, and the elderly, so almost half were left without bread and flour.

The cold shower of resolutions of the Party-Soviet bodies, adopted in November 1932, turned out to be the most destructive, and in total, there were more than a hundred of them, in which there were signs of the policy of terror by famine. The decision of November 20 was not final. It only implemented a political decision and obliged the authorities to implement it, thus combining the actions of the Soviet and party bodies. The cynicism and absurdity of this decision are striking because the withdrawal of the fund for in-kind advances from collective farms deprived collective farm workers, especially children and the elderly, of bread. The campaign to return the grain distributed on labour days was accompanied by repression, mass searches, confiscation of property, and livestock, physical torture and unprecedented arbitrariness. The text of the resolution was dictated by Molotov, who was in Kharkiv and participated in meetings of the Politburo. The hammer fighter of the Holodomor demanded from the political leadership in Ukraine a “merciless massacre” of the “saboteurs” of the grain procurement, that is, the farmers who sought to survive. Symbolically, on November 20, Molotov demanded the secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, S. Kosior, to ban the sale of matches, salt, and kerosene in the villages. In addition to the cold and hunger, there was complete darkness in the Ukrainian villages- a strange habit of Moscow leaders, which has not lost its relevance. The next day, that is, November 21, Molotov informed Stalin about his government proposal: to give a special commission of the Central Committee of the CP(b)U, headed by Kosior, the right to decide on the issue of executions of “saboteurs” of the grain procurement, reporting on their implementation every decade of the month.

The phrases “seizure deadlines”, “immediate cessation of the import of goods”, and “immediately organize the seizure of bread from individual collective farmers and sole proprietors”, fixed in party resolutions, convincingly prove the existence of the intention and the very fact of deliberately depriving the farmers of bread. No one hid such actions and intentions. Moreover, the newspapers were full of appeals about the fight against “saboteurs”, “deviators”, “kulaks,” and “underkulaks,” and, in fact, against Ukrainian farmers. Sometimes there were also “former Petlyurites” and “Makhnovists”, not to mention “Ukrainian bourgeois nationalists,” i.e. these ideologues testified to the anti-Ukrainian direction of terror by famine.

Every resolution of the Bolshevik occupation government in Ukraine meant a sentence for millions of farmers doomed to starvation. The central party resolutions went to the regional committees and regional executive committees and then, from there to the district unit and village councils, crucifying the innocent victims of the Holodomor.

Vasyl Marochko,

leading researcher

Holodomor Research Institute

The National Museum of the Holodomor-genocide

The main photo – farmers are handing over grain at the Soyuzkhlib grain collection point. Kagarlyk village, Kyiv region. 1932, TsDKFFA of Ukraine named after H.S. Pshenychnyi.

Read about the repressive resolutions of November 18, 1932 here.