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the rural bourgeoisie, who became rich through predatory exploitation, loan sharking, and speculation. The word was first applied to the bourgeoisie forming in the Russian countryside during the 1890’s.
Kulaks arose among the peasantry when production for the market developed; they were the upper, prosperous stratum of the peasantry when the peasants still retained the features of a precapitalist class-estate. For the most part, kulaks differed little from other peasants in culture or life-style; they did agricultural work themselves. In prerevolutionary Russia and today in the developing countries, the kulaks basically represent the bourgeoisie in the epoch of primitive capital accumulation; they reinstitute a serf-like method of exploitation (through labor-rent and similar methods). In the developed capitalist countries, kulaks constitute a specific group of agricultural entrepreneurs: the landowners and those renting land.
The kulaks formed as a class in Russia after the peasant reform of 1861. By the 20th century they were the most numerous stratum of capitalist exploiters: about one-fifth of the peasant households fell into the kulak category. Through rental and purchases they occupied peasant, pomeshchik (noble landlord), and state lands. Their farms had a significant share of the agricultural machines and implements, draft animals, and productive livestock. Kulaks produced as much as 50 percent of the grain marketed. They owned commercial and industrial enterprises, kept taverns and inns, engaged in loan sharking, loaned out draft animals and equipment to poor peasants in return for labor, and hired agricultural laborers.
The kulaks’ accumulations resulted from merciless exploitation of the countryside, particularly of the poor peasants and agricultural laborers. The kulaks used the peasant commune as a means of concealing their extremely exploitative methods, but the commune hindered the organization of capitalist production in agriculture. The vestiges of serf-owning presented obstacles to capitalist accumulation; these hindrances accounted for the kulaks’ animosity toward the pomeshchiki. Along with the rest of the peasants, who remained a class-estate insofar as serf relations were preserved, the kulaks opposed the oppression by the pomeshchiki. Within the peasantry a social war arose and developed between kulaks and the agricultural proletariat. This social war in the Russian countryside, which V. I. Lenin called the second social war, was subordinate to the first war, that of the whole peasantry against serf relations; however, it had already become a determining factor in the social development of the countryside (see V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 11, pp. 282–83). After the Revolution of 1905–07, tsarism carried out the Stolypin agrarian reform and effectively undermined the agricultural commune. Tsarism strengthened the kulaks, hoping to turn them into a solid support for the regime.
The kulaks greeted the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 with hostility. However, while the liquidation of the pomeshchik estates was proceeding (until the summer of 1918), the kulaks stood united with the rest of the peasants. They seized the best lands and the cattle and equipment of the pomeshchiki. Kulaks made their way into communal and volost (small rural district) soviets. They attempted to exploit famine as a means of compelling the Soviet authorities to renounce socialist reforms. As the socialist revolution in the countryside developed, during the summer and autumn of 1918, the kulaks openly opposed Soviet power. A wave of kulak rebellions swept the country. The committees of rural poor and the food requisition detachments played a major role in the struggle against the kulaks. The requisition of grain by force, introduced in 1919, was aimed at eliminating grain surpluses in the countryside, especially the surpluses in kulak hands. The revolution hit the kulaks hard. They had to give up 50 million hectares of land out of the 80 million they owned before the revolution. During the Civil War and in the years that followed, the kulaks were the basic social force of petit bourgeois counterrevolution.
After the shift to the new economic policy (NEP) in 1921, kulak farming revived in the countryside. However, the nationalization of land destroyed the basic source of capitalist accumulation in the countryside. The Soviet authorities pursued a policy of containing and eliminating the kulaks. By 1927 kulak farms numbered just over 1 million, or about 4–5 percent of the total number of peasant farming units. Yet, because they possessed significant means of production and used usurious methods, they continued to exploit the rural poor and agricultural laborers. Kulaks demanded the organization of a “peasant union,” which would oppose the Communist Party. They carried on anti-Soviet and antikolkhoz agitation. In 1927 and 1928 they organized a “grain strike” and refused to sell grain to the state at fixed prices. The state relied on the poor and middle peasant masses in the countryside while it was compelled to take extreme measures to stop the sabotage of the grain supply. The Soviet authorities increased the restrictions imposed on kulaks and raised their taxes.
The development of the complete collectivization of agriculture served as the basis for the shift to a policy of liquidating the kulaks as a class. The kulaks offered bitter resistance to the kolkhoz movement; they even murdered party activists and organized anti-Soviet rebellions. This extreme exacerbation of the class struggle necessarily hastened the liquidation of the kulaks as a class. The decrees and instructions issued by the Central Committee of the ACP (Bolshevik) on Jan. 30, 1930, and by the Central Executive Committee and Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR on Feb. 1 and Feb. 4, 1930, which were intended for areas of complete collectivization, repealed the law on land rental and hired labor and permitted the confiscation of kulak property and exile of kulaks. The confiscated property was transferred to the indivisible funds [the capital] of the kolkhozes. The families of the wealthiest kulaks and the families of direct participants in the counterrevolutionary struggle were subject to resettlement. “De-kulakization” proceeded as a common enterprise of representatives of Soviet rule, public organizations, and peasants. Some of the kulaks “de-kulakized” themselves by liqui-dating their farms and moving to cities and other regions.
As the result of the socialist transformation of agriculture, the Soviet peasantry was delivered from kulak exploitation. The kolkhoz system won out in the USSR, and the conditions giving rise to kulaks disappeared. The majority of former kulaks were resettled within the boundaries of the same administrative regions and were subsequently admitted into kolkhozes, given work in sovkhozes, or allowed to move into cities. Between 1930 and 1932 just over 240,700 families were sent to distant regions: that number represented about one-fourth of the kulak households and less than 1 percent of the total number of peasant households. Some of the kulaks worked in mining and lumbering, others were included in special agricultural artels with an appointed administration. Restrictions on civil rights, such as deprivation of voting rights, of the right to leave one’s place of residence, and of the right to serve in the Red Army, were gradually lifted for those former kulaks who worked honestly and were loyal to Soviet power. The Constitution of the USSR of 1936 accorded voting rights to all the kulaks. In September 1938 the artels of former kulaks were transformed into agricultural artels with the normal system of administration.
By 1941, there were about 930,000 former kulaks (about 220,-000 families) in places of settlement. During the Great Patriotic War, the majority of them worked selflessly. Their children fought at the front against the fascist German invaders. Many were awarded orders and medals. After the war the last restrictions on kulaks were lifted: they regained the right to leave their place of settlement. Thus the majority of former kulaks were drawn into socialist construction, reeducated, and transformed into fully equal citizens of Soviet society.
In other socialist countries where the shift from small-scale peasant farming to big socialist agriculture has been completed, the kulaks were liquidated as a class through the introduction of producers’ cooperatives. The specific conditions of class struggle in these countries, the historical experience of the Soviet Union, and the economic and military strength of the socialist camp allowed them to avoid compulsory expropriation of kulaks. Liquidation of the kulaks as a class was carried out by means of the systematic containment and elimination of kulaks. Many kulaks liquidated their farms and went to work in other sectors of the economy. Historical experience has confirmed the prediction of Engels and Lenin that the means of liquidating kulaks as a class (whether by force or peacefully) will be determined by the kulaks’ conduct and by their attitude toward the proletariat state and toward the socialist transformation of agriculture (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 22, pp. 522–23; V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 37, pp. 208–09).
REFERENCESLenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See index volume, part 1, pp. 320–45.)
Gvozdev, G. Kulachestvo-rostovshchichestvo: Ego obshchestvennoekonomicheskoe znachenie. St. Petersburg, 1899.
Finarov, A. P. “K voprosu o likvidatsii kulachestva kak klassa i sud’be byvshikh kulakov v SSSR.” Istoriia sovetskogo krest’ianstva i kolkhoznogo stroitel’stva v SSSR. Moscow, 1963.
Sidorov, V. A. “Meropriiatiia po trudovomu perevospitaniiu byvshikh kulakov.” Voprosy istorii, 1964, no. 11.
Sidorov, V. A. “Likvidatsiia v SSSR kulachestva kak klassa.” Voprosy istorii, 1968, no. 7.
Ivnitskii, N. A. “Leninskii kooperativnyi plan i likvidatsiia kulachestva kak klassa.” Problemy agrarnoi istorii sovetskogo obshchestva. Moscow, 1971.
Ivnitskii, N. A. Klassovaia bor’ba v derevne i likvidatsiia kulachestva kak klassa (1929–1932 ggj. Moscow, 1972.
V. P. DANILOV