Stalin’s Famine Page

Section by Grover Furr

Part 1:

Originally published in Challenge-Desafio, newspaper of the Progressive Labor Party, February 25, 1987, pp. 11, 13-14.

On September 24, 1986, a documentary film, “Harvest of Despair,” was telecast nationwide over Public Broadcasting System stations This 55-minute film claimed that in 1931-32 ten million Ukrainians were deliberately starved to death by Joseph Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

To convince viewers that the film was accurate, a 45-minute panel discussion followed the film. Robert Conquest, one of the panelists, had just published a 400-page book, Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror- Famine.

This film is a fraud. This essay will show that it uses lies, misleading film, and Nazi collaborators, to attack Stalin, the Soviet Union, and the whole idea of communism, while promoting nationalism and fascism.

Why Should We Care?

Why should we care about this? Because any attack on the then-socialist Soviet Union is an attack upon all workers today. Capitalists were horrified by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. For the first time in human history common working people — under the leadership of a communist party — proved they could overthrow their exploiters and run a country far better without them. This event still electrifies the world.

Capitalists will do anything to tell workers and other people that this was wrong. Their main way of discouraging workers from fighting for communism is by attacking the ten- socialist USSR under Stalin.


When the Bolsheviks (Russian communists) led the workers to seize power in October 1917, they took the land from large landowners and gave it to the peasants. by the end of the 1920s the Bolsheviks wanted the peasants to pool their land and equipment into collective farms. Greater efficiency would permit the government to collect more taxes, which could finance the industrialization of the ten-backward USSR. In order to do this, the Bolsheviks tried to win the poor and middle peasants to oppose the rich peasants, whom they thought would be the main obstacles to putting their property into collectives. Although many poor and middle peasants did support collectivization, most were either passive or hostile. Tens of thousands of committed workers were recruited in the cities and used force against those peasants who were unwilling to join the collectives.

According to the film, during 1932-33 millions of peasants in the Ukraine were deliberately started to death. This was supposedly done (1) to break the back of resistance to forced collectivization; and (2) to suppress Ukrainian nationalism by destroying the heart of the Ukrainian “nation,” the peasant villages. The film claims soldiers and armed workers took most of the grain not only from those peasants who resisted collectivization, but also from those who were already on collective farms, leaving them to starve.

Both film and book were funded by Ukrainian nationalist organizations in the US and Canada. both strongly promote the idea of Ukrainian nationhood and attack communism. They repeatedly call the famine a “holocaust” and “genocide,” and explicitly compare it to the German Nazis’ massacre of six million Jews during WWII.

Nationalism Leads to Fascism

After the Russian Civil War (1918-21) which followed the Revolution, the leading Ukrainian nationalists fled to Western Europe, and turned to supporting Hitler. Entering the Soviet Union with the Nazi invasion in 1941, they engaged in hair-raising atrocities. The main group, the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) “adopted … a programme palatable to the Nazis” and “prepared to engage in propaganda, intelligence, and, if necessary, sabotage through their followers in Canada, the United States, and Britain.” Although claiming to speak for the Ukrainian people, they met initially with little popular support in the Soviet Union.1

In WWII, as during the Civil War, the Ukrainian nationalists were petty-bourgeois intellectuals, “unable to penetrate the mass of the population to any great extent.” As a result, they relied heavily on their bosses, the Nazis: “The theory and teachings of the Nationalists were very close to Fascism, and in some respects, such as the insistence on `racial purity,’ even went beyond the original fascist doctrines.” 2

At least two of the persons who appear in the film are Nazi collaborators. Ivan Majstrenko, identified as a former Soviet journalist, is named by Armstrong as a founder of a nationalists émigré party in German in 1947. Metropolitan Mstyslav, head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, is identified as “a deputy in the Polish Parliament in 1932-33.” Armstrong reveals he was a layman, that is, not a member of the clergy, who was made archbishop by the Nazis during the Nazi invasion, and who was “the most active nationalist among the Autocephalous (Ukrainian Orthodox) bishops.” 3

An `Award-Winning’ Film

Much is made of the fact that “Harvest of Despair” was awarded the gold medal in the TV Documentaries category and the Grand Award Trophy Bowl for “most outstanding entry” at the 28th International Film and TB Festival of New York in November 1985. Sounds impressive, right? Here’s how a film magazine describes this festival:

International Film and TV Festival of New York. Notoriously known as a pay-through-the-nose-for-a-snatch-of- the-big-time festival, it has been denigrated [criticized] over the years in this column for its policy of giving out specious [good-looking but meaningless] official plaques to all entries regardless of quality of the work.” 4

A Canadian newspaper says this of Yurij Luhovy, the film’s producer and editor: “The 34-year-old film-maker… admits most of his income has come from editing feature films of questionable quality. He has a reputation as a good `doctor’ — someone who’s brought in to salvage a movie which is deemed unreleasable by film exhibitors and distributors.” 5

Why would the makers of the film give it to an editor whose specialty is `saving” bad films, and then submit it to a “festival” that is the laughing-stock of the film industry? Because the film is a piece of dishonest, anti-Communist propaganda, as we will see.

Phony Film and Photographs

“The hour-long film … depends heavily on still photographs of emaciated children and bodies being carted away to recreate the conditions in Ukraine in 1932.”

“There can be no question that without the films and photographs uncovered from the 1932-33 famine, the film would lose much of its authority.” 6

In 1935, a certain “Thomas Walker” published a five-part story on the famine in the chain of newspapers owned by the fanatical anti-Communist and pro-fascist tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Accompanying the series were photographs, supposedly of starving Ukrainian peasants, which Walker claimed he had taken personally. In March 1935, Louis Fischer, then a pro-Soviet reporter for The Nation, expressed some doubts about “Walker’s” photos: “Mr Walker’s photographs could easily date back to the Volga famine in 1921. many of them might have been taken outside the Soviet Union. They were taken at different seasons of the year … One picture includes trees or shrubs with large leaves. Such leaves could not have grown by the `late spring’ of Mr. Walker’s alleged visit. Other photographs show winter and early fall backgrounds. Here is the Journal [Hearst’s New York City newspaper] of the twenty-seventh. a starving, bloated boy of fifteen calmly poses naked for Mr. Walker. The next minute, in the same village, Mr. Walker photographs a man who is obviously suffering from the cold despite his thick sheepskin overcoat. The weather that spring must have been as unreliable as Mr. Walker to allow nude poses one moment and require furs the next.”7

The famine stories ran in the Hearst press in February, 1935. Fischer’s rejection of them appear early in march. By July, “Thomas Walker” was in a New York City jail, under arrest as Robert Green, an escaped convict from Colorado, where he was returned to serve out his sentence. Green admitted his photos were frauds, not taken in the Ukraine nor by himself. This was reported in all the New York City newspapers. The Daily Worker, paper of the then- revolutionary Communist Party USA, ran two detailed series about “Walker”/Green and some other phony accounts of the famine from July-20, 1935.

On November 17, 1986, Douglas Tottle, a Canadian researcher, exposed the sources of some of the fraudulent photos at a School Board meeting in Toronto, where Ukrainian nationalists and other anti-communists were trying to get the film and a course based upon it into the Toronto high school curriculum.

Stunned by Tottle’s dramatic presentation, and in the presence of reporters from all the Toronto newspapers, Ukrainian nationalist professors began to run for cover. One of them, Orest Subtelny, admitted the still shots were from the 1921-22 famine but justified their use by saying the film lacked “impact” without them. “`You have to have visual impact. You want to show what people dying from a famine look like. Starving children are starving children,’ said Subtelny. He offered no apologies for the deliberate attempt to mislead.”

Another nationalist who had done research for the film is Marco Carynnyk. an article of his appeared in the November 1983 issue of Commentary, a US neo-conservative Zionist monthly, in which Carynnyk bitterly attacked Louis Fischer and Walter Duranty (New York Times Soviet correspondent during the `30s) for “covering up” the famine. but Tottle’s revelations forced Carynnyk to admit he’d been a party to the real cover-up. According to the Toronto Star of November 20:

“Researcher Marco Carynnyk, who says he originated the idea of the film, says his concerns about questionable photographs were ignored.

Carynnyk said that none of the archival film footage used in the movie is of the Ukrainian famine and that `very few photos from `32-33′ appear that can be traced as authentic.

A dramatic shot at the film’s end of an emaciated girl, which has also been used in the film’s promotional material, is not from the 1932-33 famine, Carynnyk said.

`I made the point that this sort of inaccuracy cannot be allowed,’ he said in an interview. `I was ignored.'”

Carynnyk is suing the St. Vladimir’s Institute, the nationalist sponsors of the film, for breach of contract and for copyright infringements. Rumor has it that the filmmakers doctored or distorted some of the interviews which Carynnyk made for the film.

Carynnyk’s complaints at the November 17 Toronto Board of Ed meeting are dishonest, of course. The film has been out for three years. Yet Carynnyk never made public his “reservations” about the film’s dishonesty until Tottle publicly exposed it. Neither did any of his cronies, with whom he has now apparently fallen out.

The Ukrainian nationalists’ admissions clearly prove their intent to deceive. perhaps a few of the still photos of starving people cannot be traced to any source. So what? The nationalists now admit they knew that many others which they used were fraudulent, and that — we may take Carynnyk’s word for it — none of the film footage used is of the famine.

This has been suggested before. Uniforms and other datable characteristics have suggested to Soviet experts that most – -perhaps even all — of the footage shown while the narrator is discussing the famine is in fact not of the Ukraine during the `30s, but of the Civil War period (1918-21), or even from W.W.I (1914-18).

Even one of the panelists, Harrison Salisbury, refers to the fact: “it doesn’t really disturb me that – I am certain from my familiarity with a lot of documentaries — that it’s a mishmash of all kinds of things put together. It may not be specifically accurate that each one of these horrible corpses actually was in the Ukraine or was in some other place, but in general, there were people exactly like that.” 8 Salisbury stresses that he sees nothing wrong with this kind of deception, showing this “honest” anti-Communist’s essential similarity to the Ukrainian nationalists. Anti-communism has a certain logic to it: it always ends up as fascism.

Researcher Tottle is publishing a book on the fraudulent scholarship surrounding the “Ukrainian famine” story. It is scheduled to appear within the next six months.

Nationalist `Scholars’ and the Intent to Deceive

In a 1984 discussion, James Mace revealed there were two main sources of photos: “Walker’s,” and the German edition of a book by Ewald Ammende, an Austrian relief worker, published in 1935. Several statements here and in another article of Mace’s published that year prove Mace knew that some of the photos were of suspicious origin.

First, Mace makes no mention of any film footage, which he certainly would have it he had known of any. 9 Second, Mace knew there was something wrong with the “Walker” and Ammende photos. He stated: “…he [Dalrymple, another anti- Communist] — like Ewald Ammende before him — was taken in by accounts in the Hearst press in 1935, which were updated to indicate that the famine continued into 1934, whereas any of the numerous eyewitnesses who came to the West after World War II would have told him that the famine actually ended in 1933. 10 How could a man who had supposedly traveled to the countryside and personally taken pictures of starving peasants have postdated his account by a whole year?

Third, Mace knew the “Walker” and Ammende accounts. In the 1984 pamphlet Mace makes this revelation about Ammende’s book: “The English translation, Human Life in Russia, took some photographs from the Walker account and omitted some that appeared in the German edition, which was published in Vienna in 1935.” 11 In fact, the English edition of Ammende’s book states that the photos of starving people — the same ones “Walker” claimed he had taken himself — were the work of a “Dr. F. Dittloff, for many years director of the German Government Agricultural Concession (Drusag) in the North Caucasus.”

“The photographs were taken by Dr. Dittloff himself in the summer of 1933, and they demonstrate the conditions then prevailing on the plains of the agricultural areas of the Hunger Zone. A few of them have been published before elsewhere without his permission. Dr. Dittloff accepts full responsibility for the guarantee of their authenticity (emphasis added).” 12

Both Mace and Conquest were obviously aware of the serious questions as to whether the photos are genuine, since they refer to both Ammende’s book and Walker’s articles, which contradict each other. They also refer to a book by James Crowl on the journalism of the 1930s, which outlines Louis Fischer’s views. Neither Mace nor Conquest reveal any of these matters to their audience.

Mace has worked for years with Ukrainian nationalist committees. He wrote introductions both for Ammende’s book (reissued in 1984) and for Alexa Woropay’s nationalist tract, The Ninth Circle, both of which give contradictory sources for some of the still photos. Anyone who kept the “Walker” clips from 1935 would have also known of “Walker”‘s disgrace the same year. Clearly Mace knew of this, and was a party to the fraud from the beginning.


“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” No one has to lie about the truth. The anti-Communist, pro-fascist story about the “great famine” is nonsense. Anti-Communist groups are beginning to show this film, and other TV stations will carry it. They should be picketed for promoting fascist, anti-worker lies and, where possible, stopped.

(Future articles will deal with the book, Harvest of Sorrow; the dishonest use of sources; what really happened; and where the working-class-led Soviet Union went wrong (including not building a communist base with the peasants) and reverted to the capitalist dictatorship it is today)


1 Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia 1941-1945, 2nd edition (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981), pp.114; 115, n.3 122. Back

2 Armstrong, pp. 238; 280; 289.Back

3 Armstrong, pp. 201, 205. Back

4 The Independent (New York Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers), July/August 1985, p. 68.Back

5 Leonard Klady, “Famine film eye- opener,”Winnipeg Free Press, October 26, 1984, p. 24. Back

6 Toronto Globe and Mail, Nov. 18 1986; Klady (see note 5).Back

7 Louis Fischer, “Hearst’s Russian `Famine’,”The Nation, March 13, 1935, p. 296.Back

8 Transcript of film, p. 23 Back

9 The Man-Made Famine in Ukraine. Robert Conquest, Dana Dalrymple, James Mace, Michael Novak (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1984), pp. 24-5.Back

10 James Mace, Problems of Communism [published by the United States Department of State], March-April 1985, p. 137.Back

11. The Man-Made Famine (see note 9), p. 25.Back

12. Ewald Ammende, Human Life In Russia (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1936), p. 23; emphasis added.Back

In Search of a SOVIET HOLOCAUST: A 55-Year-Old Famine Feeds the Right by Jeff Coplon, Originally published in the Village Voice (New York City), January 12, 1988.

Part 2

Conquest Book Lies About 1932-33 Ukraine Famine

Originally published in Challenge-Desafio, newspaper of the Progressive Labor Party, March 4, 1987, pp. 10-13.

Part I of this series exposed the lies in a film, “Harvest of Despair,” about the Soviet Union in the 1930s. This article continues the discussion by focusing on a book that spreads similar lies.

Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror- Famine by Robert Conquest claims to give the evidence that during 1932-33 Soviet leaders, chiefly Joseph Stalin, deliberately starved over 10 millino people to death, most of them in the Ukraine. The book and film paint a horrific picture. If true, a reasonable person might conclude the soviet Union in the 1930s was as bad as Nazi Germany under Hitler, or even worse, as some conservatives have argued. Communism is presented similar to the way the ABC-TV mini- series “Amerika” portrayed a Soviet-occupied US.

But the story they tell is not true! Nor is it anything like the truth. IN order to concoct a fairy tale in which Ukrainian nationalists are the heroes and working- class communists the villains, Conquest’s book – like the film reviewed in the last article –must ignore all the best research on this period done by bourgeois scholars. A lie can be told in a sentence; to refute the lie adequately takes many pages. This essay examines Conquest’s evidence and shows where and how he is guilty of lying. Future essays will discuss the political motives behind these falsehoods; what really happened in the USSR during the 1930s; and what are the correct lessons to be drawn from the events of the 1930s in the USSR.

Why This Subject Is Important

Capitalists the world over hate the idea of communism. Ever since the Bolshevik (communist) Revolution of 1917, they have hired “experts” to produce learned-looking books, with thousands of footnotes, to “prove” their anti-Communist lies. Theexternal trappings of scholarship — academic language, footnotes, etc. — are used by the anti-Communists as a method of propaganda. In this way they disguise their lies under the appearance of a concern for the truth. Works like Conquest’s are aimed at people who read such things, but do not really know how to evaluage them. Teachers, journalists, managers, scientists, media people, and others are persuaded to spread the capitalists’ lies to others. Books like Conquest’s play an important role in the capitalists’ attacks on the fight for a better world.

Who Is Robert Conquest?

In 1978 The Guardian, a leading British newspaper, published an exposé of the “Information Research Department” of the Foreign Office, set up in 1947 to start a “propaganda counter-offensive” against the USSR. According to The Guardian, “Senior officials concede that past material was heavily `slanted.’… Robert Conquest, the schlar and author, who has been frequently critical of the Soviet Union, was one of those who worked for IRD> He was in the FO [Foreign Office] until 1956. 1 Comquest’s first US publisher was Praeger, the official CIA `front’ publisher for its anti-communist propaganda and forgeries during the `50s and `60s. If a Soviet author were disclosed as a purveyor of government “disinformation,” he would always be identified as such in the capitalist press. But no one mentions Conquest’s background, no doubt for fear of casting doubt on the accuracy of his “research.”

Book Fabricates Numbers of Deaths

By far the most striking claim made in both film and book is the colossal number of deaths from starvation they cite. According to the film, “in less than two years, 10 million people die — seven million of them in the Ukraine — three million of them children.” 2 According to Conquest, “the number dying in Stalin’s war against the peasants was higher than the total deaths for all countries in World War I” (p. 4). Even more dramatically, in the second sentence of the preface Conquest writes in the actions here recorded about twenty human lives were lost for, not every word, but every letter, in this book. Conquest’s total estimate is 14.5 million “total peasant dead as a result of the dekulakization and famine” (p.301).

Since 1979 a long scholarly dispute has raged over the number of `excess deaths” in the USSR between the two official Soviet censuses in 1926 and 1939. This debate is never referred to once in either his book or the film, and for good reason. The debate shows up Conquest & Co. for the liars they are.

The only work on the Ukrainian famine to have appeared in a non-émigré scholarly journal is by James Mace, head of the government-funded Ukrainian Famine Commission. 3 Before Conquest’s book appeared, this article was the only attempt to put a scholarly face on the Ukrainian nationalists’ fable. Mace’s fraudulent research procedures prompted Stephen Wheatcroft, a leading historian of the USSR, to complain about “the standard of academic discussion of this very important topic, which in my opinion has seriuosly deteriorated in recent years. Dr. Mace’s contribution adds to this deterioration.” 4

In the best and most recent discussion of the question of `excess deaths,” Barbara A.Anderson and Brian D. Slver estimate that “excess deaths” — defined as any “unusually large number of deaths” between 1926 and 1939 “among people who were alive” in 1926 — were probably between 3.2 and 5.5 million for the entire USSR 5 (this is consistent with demographer Frank Lorimer’s 1948 estimate, the basic weork that Conquest and Mace are trying to discredit).

In fact Anderson and Silver appear to believe the total figure to have been far short of that. Using their High Mortality [Rate] Assumption, which “approximates the mortality rates that Lorimer thought actually prevailed in the USSR as a whole in 1926-27, which were higher than those officially reported,” by 1939 there might have been only 500,000 “excess deaths” among persons alive in 1926. 6

This would include not only the famine but also: the so- called “purges” of the `30s; the collectivization movement and attendant peasant rebellions against it; war deaths in the 1938 war in Mongolia against Japanese forces. In addition, there were serious epidemics of at least two highly contagious and often fatal diseases: typhus and malaria. “Quiescent during most of the period of the New Economic Policy I.e. 1923-29), epidemic typhus resurged once more at the end of the 1920s … Typhus certainly played a prominent part in these horrors, possibly raging more fiercely than in 1921-22.” 7

Five hundred thousand persons diedo f typhus during 1921-22. Malaria was probably epidemic as well. Both typhus and malaria would tend to be more severe among a population weakened by malnutrition, like during the widespread famine of the Civil War years (1918-22) 7a

Taking Anderson and Silver’s Low to medium Fertility and Medium to High Mortality Estimate ranges, we arrive at a “population deficit” among those under 12 in 1939 of between 0 and 9.4 million. Some large proportion of these are would- be births which would have been expected but did not occur. “Given the available information, it is impossible to determine for certain what proportion of the population deficit is due to births that did not occur and what proportion is due to excess deaths of infants and children.” 8 The total for those over 12 in 1939 is between 0.5 and 3.2 million (both sets of figures are for the entire USSR). Fertility would certainly have been low during the great disruptions of the collectivization movement; the famine; industrialization, when working hours were long and living standards low, and millions of peasants were flocking to the cities to man the new factories.

Anderson and Silver take great pains to point up the “errors” in estimating numbers of deaths made by Mace and Steven Rosefielde, from whom Conquest draws his fugres. Earlier articles by Wheatcroft also attacked Rosefield, Mace, Conquest, and Maksudov, the Soviet émigré upon whom Mace and Conquest draw heavily.

Concerning the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, Anderson and Silver note:

  • Mace’s estimate of eight million “Ukrainians who died before their time” is a “population deficit” rather than excess deaths, and therefore includes millions who were never born;
  • Mace’s method of estimation makes no allowqnce for a decline in the number of births among Ukrainians during the famine years. “Yet there was undoubtedly a sever decline in the number of births during those years.”
  • A large number — perhaps 3 million or more –persons listed as Ukrainian in the 1926 census were probably listed as Russians in the 1939 census. 9

In 1949 Naum Jasny, a Russian émigré economist, estimated that 5.5 million people died in the famine. By 1961, realizing he had misunderstood the census data, Jasny had revised his estimate to “hundreds of thousands, perhaps a million” in the whole USSR who “died in the winter of 1932/33.” 10 In the light of all responsible research, this figure appears reasonable.

That famine — death from hunger — existed, and was related to the struggle ove forced collectivization of the peasantry, should not be doubted. But the `estimates” made by Conquest and in the film are ridiculously excessive and dishonest.

Anti-Stalin Lies

Both the film and Conquest’s book claim Stalin personally plotte dthe genocide of the “Ukrainian nation.” This nonsense too has been refuted by recent Western scholarship. for example,as long ago as 1974 the fanatically anti-Stalin Sovietologist Stephen Cohen showed that Stalin won leadership of the Communist Party in the late 1920s because his plan had the support of most active communist leaders, and not because he had “plotted” to “stack” the Central Committee, etc. 11

The move to forcibly collectivize the peasantry and to declare war on the “kulaks” or rich peasants ha very wide support in the soviet working class. Working-class party cadre and local party organizations were more radical than Stalin and the Politburo, pressing for rapid collectivization and attacks on the better-offpeasants far more vigorously than the leadership did. Equally important, the Party leadership got its information on the situation in the countryside from these forces. 12

Far from being “hypocritical,” then, Stalin’s article of March 1930, “Dizzy With Success” really was, as it is claimed to be, an attempt to restrain radical workers in the countryside from forcing too many easants into collective farms too fast. We will return to this question in the fourth article in this series, “What Really Happened”?

The So-Called `Press Cover-Up’

Like the film, conquest’s book claims the famine in the Ukraine remained relatively unknown in the West because of dishonest or pro-Soviet reporting among Western journalists. They single out for special condemnation the reporting by Walter Duranty of The New York Times, who had just won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for his reporting from Russia when the famine started. The film quotes British journalist Malcom Muggeridge calling Duranty a liar. 13 So does Harrison Salisbury, also a former Moscow correspondent for the Times, in the post-film discussion. And so does Conquest (pp. 309; 319; 320-1).

The immediate source for Conquest and the rest is an article by marco Carynnyk in the neo-conservative journal Commentary (Carynnyk researched this question for the film). This is the same man who, as last week’s article showed, knew of phony film and still photos in the movie “Harvest of Despair,” yet admitted the fraud only after three years, and only then when publicly exposed by a Canadian researcher.

The basic complaint against duranty is that he never appeared in print in the `30s with an estimate of famine deaths in the Ukraine of more than 2 million. However, according to Eugene Lyons, extreme anti-Communist and later a Reader’s Digest editor, Duranty privately made much higher estimates, up to 7 million, to Lyons himself, and up to 10 million a few days later to a British diplomat. 14

In other words, Duranty is being blamed for not publishing the higher figures, whihc Conquest and Carynnyk believe to have been correct. Duranty also wite in a more “objective,” less militantly anti-Communist way, than did many other corerspondents. Naturally Carynnyk and the rest hatehim for this, too.

Carynnyk’s article is the source used by Conquest. Mace, however, refers once to James W. Crowl’s book, Angels In Stalin’s Paradise, a more in-depth attack on Duranty’s and Luis Fischer’s reporting on the USSR. 15His evidence too is merely that Duranty did not report his worst estimates. Crowl’s intense anti-Communist bias makes hjis interpretations of the evidence unreliable. For example, he sttes: “Thought it can not be proven that duranty was ever paid by the Soviets, it is conceivable thathe was paid handsomely to remain [in the USSR] during 1933.” 16

Crowl’s evidence occasionally helps us to see through his favorite sources. IN Assignment in Utopia (1934), Lyons claimed Umansky, Soviet press chief, told Western reporters that onh those who denounced the account of the Ukrainian famine by Gareth Jones, Manchester Guardian correspondent, would get inside information about the upcoming trial of British engineers (the “Metro-Vickers Trial”).

This tale, picked up by Carynnyk (pp. 34-5), is the source for the film’sstatement that “Correspondents are bluntly told tht if they want access to the trial, they are not to mention the famine in their dispatches” (transcript of film, pp. 18-9; see Conquest, p.309).

In a 1972 letter to Crowl Lyons wrote this meeting was “not” a general meeting of Western correspondents; the “blunt warning” disappears, “nor did Oumansky have to do more than `hint’ as to what should be done.” The attempt to “brige” Duranty and the rest disappears! Lyons even stated he was not certain Duranty attended this meetin with Uspensky. 17

In the light of the demographic analyses by Wheatcroft and Anderson and Silver, Duranty’s estimate of 2 million deaths, mainly from diseases associated with malnutrition, may even be on the high side. Certainly it is a far more honest estimate than those of Conquest and the rest.

Eye-Witness Sources As Evidence

“You made a point about proof. In this sort of history we do nt have proof… Yet… the incontrovertibility of the evidence can be plain even when it is not documentary or complete.” — Robert Conquest, on the Ukrainian famine 18

There were plenty of Western journalits writing about the famine at the time. Judging from the excerpts reprinted in exile accounts of the famine, few if anyh of them witnessed actual death from starvation. Most described deserted villages and malnourished people, and were told of widespread starvation by others. 19

The first-hand evidence of actual starvation is from eye- witness accounts. As Wheatcroft notes, “eyewitness evaluatiohs are often found to be exaggerated.” To this Mace could only respond: “when it comes to non- émigré historiography fo the famine, Dalrymple’s article is about all that we have” (Dalrymple’s article is entirely made up of Western press reports). Mace admits that the chief non-Soviet sources abut the famien are from émigrés. 20

Eye-Witness and Émigrés

“It seems to me not amiss to speak of the danger of trusting to the representations of men who have been expelled from their country … such is their extreme desire to return to their homes that they naturally believe many things that are not true, and add many others on purpoe; so that with what they really believe, and what they say they believe, theywill fill you with hopes to that degree that if you act upon them you will incur a fruitless expense.” — Macchiavelli 21

Most of the accounts of the famine, published at different times by notoriously right-wing nationalist groups, are by Ukrainian émigrés. In his otherwise very favorable review of Conquest’s book, Craig Whitney states the usual suspicions of these sources: “This last example was written by an exile … one of the many accounts by émigrés that Mr Conquest has had to rely on… Unfortunately, in his zeal to make his case, he has sometimes gone too far [emphasis added; here follows an eye-witness account] … The endnote gives as the source a book called The Black Deeds of the kremlin, edited by S.O. Pidhainy in 1953. Nowhere in the notes or in th ebibliography is the credibilityof this source even discussed. As it happens, like several other of Mr Conquest’s principal sources, the book was published by Ukrainian émigrés in Canada and the United States not long after World War II. 22

The only evidence Conquest gives for his assertion that the Soviets blockaded all shipments of food to the Ukraine from outside the USSR is also taken from such émigré compilations. Whitney contines: “… far more debatable is the thesis that the famine was specifically aimed as an instrument of genocide against the Ukraine. The clear implication of this book is that the author has taken the side of his Ukrainian sources on this issue, even though much of his evidence does not support it well [emphasis added]. Mr. Conquest’s attempts to document the claim that while people were starving in the Ukraine they were being well fed just across the border in Russia fall far short of a rigorous standard — a few citations from The Black Deeds of the Kremlin and other exile sources do not make the case.” 23

The only evidence the film gives for this supposed “blockade” is from the Ukrainian Orthodox bishop appointed under the Nazis. Both Soviet and anti-Soviet sources agree that Stepan Skrypnyk, nephew of the anti-semitic pogromist (mass murdered) Simon Petlyura, was made bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the name of Metropolitain Mstyslav by the Naais even though he had never even been apriest, solely because of his ferocious nationalism and Nazi collaboration. 23a

Clearly there was starvation in some places. There are a few brief accounts by Soviet historians and novelists. 24 Ukrainian exile “research”{ on the famine and its extent is another matter. Fanaticaly nationalistic, often writtn by Nazi collaborators (like Hrihory Kostiuk and Konstantine Shteppa), anxious to cover upor justify their actions by depicting communism in negative terms, and underwritten by right-wing natinoalist groups or CIA-funded outfits like the Munich-based Institute for the Study of the USSR (1951-69), the “research” in these sources is fraudulent or non- existent.

Often, as in the case of the Pidhainy volumes, it is nothing more than purported “eye-witness” accounts transcribed. The book by Canadian researcher Douglas Tottle, who exposed the fraudulence of the film in Toronto last November (see previous article) will also deal with Pidhainy’s Black Deeds of the Kremlin. Tottle has traced several of the photos used in Volume 2 and shown them toi be fakes. IN addition, he has shown that at least one of the contributors to the Black Deeds volume — Hai-Holovko — is guilty of mass murder while a Nazi collaborator during WWII. No doubt this is true of some of the other contributors as well. None of the published accounts by Ukrainian nationalists can be taken at face value.

Wheatcroft’s warning, quoted above, is relevant here. “Eye- witnesses” often have good reason to tell their interviewers what they bveliev ethe interviewers want to hear, to imaginately invent, and so on. This is particularly so in the ideologially-charged Cold War.

A good contemporary example are the many “eye-witness” storeis by Vietnamese, Laotian and Cambodian refugees reaching Thailand that they have seen “American P.O.W’s” in Vietnam.The League of Families, a conservative, pro-Reagan group representing families of american soldiers missing in action from the Vietnam War, investigates all such “sightings.” To date every single one has turned out to be false! 25

Like south-East Asian refugees, anti-Communist Soviet émigrés who depend on various fascist- nationalist groups and the US government have little incentive to produce objective accounts. Much of conquest’s book, most of the sttements made in the film, and virtualy everything in Ukrainian exile literature, or articles like Mace’s, are composed of this stuff.

Conquest and the rest also use a good deal of other fraudulent, anti-Communist “scholarship.” As in his earlier (1968) work The Great Terror, this makes up the bulk of his book. Most of these “sources” are memoires. Many of them have been shown up as frauds by other anti-Communist scholars (a note on some of them is included at the end of this essay). Other are basically erroneous, often dishonest, “scholarship” like Mace, or Conquest’s own work.

One expert on the Soviet history of the 1930s has described Conquest’s work this way:

“For no other period or topic have historians been so eager to write and accept history-by- anecdote. Grand analytical generalizations have come from secondhand bits of overheard corridor gossip. Prison camp stories (`My friend met Bukharin’s wife in a camp and she said…’) have become primary sources on central political decision making. The need to generalize from isolated and unverified particulars has transformed rumors into sources and has equated repetition of storeis wiht confirmation. Indeed, the leading expert on the Great Purges [Conquest] has written that `truth can thus only percolate in the form of hearsay’ and that `basically the best, thought not infallible, source is rumor.’

“…Such statements would be astonishing in any other field of history. Of course, historians do not accept hearsay and rumor as evidence. Conquest goes on to say that the best way to check rumors is to compare them iwth one another. This procedure would be sound only if rumors were not repeated and if memoirists did not read each other’s works.” 26

Fight Anti-Communist Slanders!

Stripped of these sources and those of Ukrainian exile “researchers,” very little remains of Conquest’s “research.” Like conquest’s earlier book, The Great Terror, Harvest of Sorrow is an attempt to make the very idea of building a commujist society appear illegitimate.

This book, together with the film reviewed in last week’s article, will soon be used in high school and college courses. There will be public forums, “hearings,” newspapers and television shows. These lies are very valuable to the capitalists in their fight against eh ideal of an egalitarian, communist society. We should attack and expose them wherever they appear.


1. David Leigh, “Death of the Department that Never Was,” The Guardian (London, England), Jan. 27, 1978, p.13. Back

2. Film transcript, p. 8 (“Firing Line” Special Edition: “Harvest of Despair,” Sept. 24, 1986. Southern Educational Communications Association, Box 5966, Columbia, SC 29250). Back

3. James Mace, “Famine and Nationalism in Soviet Ukraine,” Problems of Communism (United States Information Agency), May-June 1984, pp. 37-49. Back

4. S.G. Wheatcroft, “Ukrainian Famine” (letter), Problems of Communism, March-April 1985, p. 133. Back

5. Barbara A. Anderson and Brian D. Silver, “Demographic analyis and Population Catastrophes in the USSR,” Slavic Review, 44, No. 3 (1985), p. 528, Table 2. Back

6. Anderson and Silver, p. 527. Back

7. John T. Alexander, “Typhus in Russia,” in Joseph L Wierczynski, ed., The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, Vol. 40 (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 1986), p. 127. Back

7a. Malaria apparantly spread widely in the countryside because the mosquitoes that carry the diseae bit more people due to the reduction in livestock as a result of collectivization. Peasants who rebelled at being forced to join collective farms slaughtered their livestock for food or sale, rather than surrender them. Back

8. Anderson and Silver, p. 530. Back

9. Anderson and Silver, p. 532. Back

10. See note 4 above. Back

11. Stephen F. Cohen, Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888- 1938 (New York: Vintage PB, 1973), p. 327 and elsewhere. Back

12. See the excellent article by Lynne Viola, “notes on the Background of Soviet Collectivization: Metal Worker Brigaes in the Countryside, Autumn 1929,” Soviet Studies, 36, No. 2 (april, 1984), pp. 205-222. Back

13. Film transcript (see note 2 above), p. 27. Back

14. Marco Carynnyk, “The Famine the `Times’ Couldn’t find,” Commentary, November 1983, pp. 37-9; Conquest, p. 320. Back

15. The Man-Made Famine in Ukraine, Robert Conquest, Dana Dalrumple, James Mace, Michael Novak (Washington, DC: American Enterprise Institute, 1984), p. 34. Back

16. James W. Crowl, Angels in Stalin’s Paradise: Western Reporters in Soviet Russia, 1917 to 1937, “A Case Study of Louis Fischer and Walter Duranty” (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1982), p.158. Back

17. Crowl, p. 161. Back

18. Man-Made Famine, P. 37. Back

19. See, for example, “The Great Famine in Ukraine: The Unknown Holocaust” (Jersey City, NJ: The Ukrainian Weekly, 1983), pp. 74-81. Back

20. Dana Dalrymple, “The Soviet Famine of 1932-1934,” Soviet Studies, 15 (January, 1964) and 16 (April, 1965). Back

21. Quoted in J. Arch Getty, Origins of the Great Purges: The Soviet Communist Party Reconsidered, 1933-1938 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), p. 211. Back

22. New York Times Book Review, October 26, 1986, p. 12. Back

23. See Conquest, p. 327 and p. 391, note 17 through 20. Back

23a. The Soviet source on “metropolitain Mstyslav” is Olexiy Kartunov, Yellow-Blue Anti-Semitism: A documental story about the anti-Semitic activity of the Ukrainian nationalists (1900-1980). Odessa: “Mayak”, 1981, p. 65. The anti-Communist source is John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 2nd edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), pp. 201; 203; 204-5. Back

24. Several Soviet sources refer to some famine in guarded ways, as do several Soviet works of fiction. Most or all of them were published between November 1961, when Khrushchev violently attacked Stalin at the 22nd Party Congress, and October 1964 (or shortly thereafter), when Khrushchev was tossed out by Kosygin, Brezhnev and others.

Thus they are part of a general attack on Stalin tied to Khrushchev’s own political aims. This does not mean that everything these sources say is necessarily false. But neither is it necessarily true. A number of the books published during this period, as well as Khrushchev’s own memoires, have been shown to contain glaring falsehoods and inaccuracies. Back

25. Report Concerning Misinformation on the Issue of American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia, June, 1985, esp. 11. 17-20, published by the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, 1608 K Street, N.W., Washington DC 20006. [Note added March 1996: See now H. Bruce Franklin, M.I.A., or Mythmaking in America, Rutgers University Press, 1993, for a thorough refutation of the whole “POW/MIA” myth.] Back

26. Getty, p.5 and p. 222, note 12. Back.

Part 3

Anti-Communist Ukrainian Nationalists Joined Nazis

Part One and Part Two of this series have exposed the falsehoods in a recent film and book about the collectivization of agriculture in the Soviet Union during the early 1930s. This article and next (Part Three and Part Fourwill discuss who the liars are and what they are up to. Part Five will outline what really happened, and, along with Part Six point to the right lessons of the Soviet experience for workers today.

Another major propaganda effort is underway to spread anti- communism. Conquest’s book, and the Ukrainian nationalists’ phony film, are only the beginning. In New York State the Department of Education has put together a curriculum on the “Ukrainian Famine” which will be taught as part of the “Holocaust Studies” course for High School students. Another curriculum has been printed for Illinois High Schools. 1

A “Ukrainian Famine Commission” in Washington, DC, funded by Congress two years ago, has begun holding “hearings” on the famine in many U.S. cities, starting in Detroit in November 1986. The Commission is headed by James Mace, the leading non-Ukrainian “expert” on the famine (previous articles in this series showed that several bourgeois historians have attacked Mace’s fraudulent “scholarship”). These hearings are aimed to get the story of the “terror-famine” into the mass media and beyond.

Involved in all of these efforts is the Harvard University Ukrainian Research Institute (URI), funded by the Ukrainian National Association, the largest of the exile groups. The URI publishes its own journal, monographs (short research pamphlets) and books. Its aim is to make the cause of Ukrainian nationalism “respectable.”

The Ukraine

First, a note about the Ukraine. The Ukraine and Russia have always [until the past few years — note added 1996] been part of a single country. The word “ukraina” means “on the border or outskirts” — the far limit of Russia. Russian history begins with the Princedom of Kiev, the major city of the Ukraine. During the Middle Ages, the political center of Russia shifted to the north, first to Moscow and then, in the 18th century, to St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad). The languages spoken in the Ukraine and in the north (Russia proper) gradually diverged somewhat. By the 19th century a separate Ukrainian literature had come into existence. The languages are, however, still very closely related, like the different dialects of Italian or German.

There are several million Ukrainian immigrants in the US and Canada. Many are Jews, fleeing the intense anti-Semitism that has been characteristic of the Ukraine for centuries. Most of the rest were peasants, among whom feelings of “nationhood” were nil. Many emigrated around the turn of the century to take up farming in the Mid-West and in the prairie provinces of Canada, where all-Ukrainian towns still exist. Others came to work in US industry, like millions of other European workers. The old Socialist and Communist parties of the US and Canada had many Ukrainian members; the pro-Moscow CPUSA has long had a Ukrainian Workers’ organization.

Of those who arrived in the West after World War II we may distinguish three groups. Most numerous were peasants who were sent west (i.e. from the Ukraine to Germany) by the Nazis during the war to work as slave laborers. Others were soldiers who had fought in German-formed military units, or in forces formed by pro-Nazi Ukrainian nationalists. Many of these were forced to do so; many others volunteered. The third group were confirmed nationalists, mainly urban intellectuals, almost all Nazi collaborators.

It’s hard to say what proportion of those people outside the former Soviet Union who are of Ukrainian descent would identify themselves as nationalists, but it is certainly a minority. Millions, for example, are Jews, who well recall the vicious anti-Semitism of the Ukrainian nationalists. Many other Ukrainians are anti-nationalist, who know that the Nationalists killed hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians with the Nazis’ help.

Still others are pro-Soviet — in essence, a competing form of nationalism — since after the Bolshevik Revolution the Ukraine has been built up and bourgeois Ukrainian culture flourishes. The younger generation, even of nationalist parents, are increasingly assimilated and care little or nothing for the old issues. But the active, anti-Communist nationalists are the leaders of the non-Jewish Ukrainian community. This group includes many former Nazi collaborators. They dominate the Ukrainian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches and most social and other non-Jewish Ukrainian organizations.

Ukrainian Nationalists — Enemy of Ukrainian Peasants and Workers

The film Harvest of Despair describes the period of the Bolshevik Revolution and ensuing Civil War (1917-1921) this way:

“Ukrainians grasp the chance to reclaim their independence after 200 years of Russian domination. Kiev, Ukraine’s ancient capital, is once again the seat of government … History has taught Ukraine that freedom has a price. The people prepared to defend their national republic against all invaders… In four ensuing years of chaos, Ukrainians fight Lenin’s Red Army, Denikin’s White Army, Germans, Poles.” 2

This gives the impression that the Ukraine had once been an independent state, with its capital at Kiev; that it was then captured by Russia; and that most Ukrainians had a sense of national consciousness.

The truth is far otherwise. The Ukraine was never an independent state. Even authors very sympathetic to the Ukrainian nationalists admit this. 3 When Kiev was last a “capital,” it was capital of Russia, up to the Mongol invasion of the 1200s. The whole Ukraine came under Russian rule in 1797; before that, it was ruled by the Polish lords.

Ukrainians were not unified. During the Civil War many — probably most — politically active Ukrainians supported the Bolsheviks (Communists). The Germans overthrew the nationalist “Rada” (Council) and set up a landlord regime under Skoropadsky as their puppet. Petlyura, a former Rada member, fought Skoropadsky and the Bolsheviks too. The “socialist” Ukrainian nationalists, praised by the film, got little mass support in fact:

“[Their] remarkably swift defeat was a consequence of the character of the nationalist movement. Nationalism was the primary concern only for a group of intellectuals and semi-intellectuals, such as village teachers, minor bureaucrats, and journalists … the commitment of the peasants to nationalism was dubious. In the beginning of 1919 the peasants did not care enough to defend a Ukrainian government in Kiev.”

The Ukrainian nationalists were grossly racist, especially against Jews: Petlyura, who based his hope on foreign recognition and help, had to repudiate pogroms [anti-Jewish terror campaigns] and he even named a Jew ‘minister of Jewish affairs.’ However, he did little to prevent anti-Semitic outbreaks, and his followers well understood that his injunctions against ‘excesses’ were meant exclusively for foreign audiences. The nationalists habitually depicted their enemies [i.e. the Bolsheviks] as Jewish and thereby did a great deal to prepare the soil for what was to come.

We should recall that the Nazi-appointed head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the U.S. and Canada, “Metropolitan Mstyslav,” who appears in Harvest of Despair, was Petlyura’s nephew and personal adjutant (military assistant).

Only the Bolsheviks fought racism, as the anti-communist American historian Peter Kenez reveals:

“Ultimately the Jews did learn. It was Soviet rule, which in spite of its economic policies, in spite of occasional pogroms carried out by some ill-disciplined Red troops. offered the best chance for survival. On occasion, an entire Jewish settlement would follow the retreating Red soldiers … .it was clear to everyone that Soviet leaders were willing to fight against pogroms and punish the offenders. 4

The Ukrainian Bolsheviks formed a separate Republic, which later freely joined the USSR. Since only the Bolsheviks stood for “land to the tiller [i.e. to the peasants],” the Communists had far more support among the peasantry than any of the Ukrainian nationalist groups. The nationalists were defeated by their own reactionary policies, which the Ukrainian peasants rejected. It failed to win the peasants owing to its failure to espouse the cause not merely of social revolution, but of social reform on any significant scale — a failure frankly and repeatedly admitted by Vinnichenko, the most honest of its leaders. Vinnichenko conceded that the peasants so hated the nationalist Rada they even rejected its attempts to impose the Ukrainian language and culture. 5

Nationalism Leads to Fascism

After their defeat in the Civil War, the leading Ukrainian nationalists fled to Western Europe. Some went to Poland, which obtained a large Ukrainian population when it took over a big part of Western Russia after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Polish government suppressed the Ukrainian language and culture, but permitted some anti-Communist Ukrainian nationalist activity.

During the 1930s most Ukrainian nationalists came to support the Nazis, as the force most likely to “liberate” the Ukraine from the USSR. When nazi Germany conquered Poland in September 1939, they set up training camps for Ukrainian nationalists, to prepare for the invasion of the Soviet Union. 6

Here is part of an account of a torture school run in Nazi- occupied Poland for fascists of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) in late 1939:

“‘The Ukrainian commandant of the entire [Ukrainian training] unit was Lieutenant Vil’nyy,’ wrote Kosakivs’kyy, ‘whose real name was Mykola Lebid. The curriculum included drills, intelligence and counterintelligence training, and interrogation techniques [i.e. torture], but emphasized “exercises in the hardening of hearts.”

“At sundown,” recalled Kosakivs’kyy, “Kruger, Rosenbaum [the two German Secret Police, or Gestapo, leaders of the school], Lebid and a few students would go to Zakopane, enter some Jewish home on the way, grab a Jew, and bring him to the Unit. One evening, late in November or early in December 1939, they returned with a young Jew. In the presence of Ukrainian seniors,including myself, Kruger and Rosenbaum, fortified with alcohol, proceeded with their demonstration of the proper methods of interrogation.”

“Seeking to induce the innocent Jew to confess that he had raped an ‘Aryan’ woman, the German officers beat and tortured him, using their fists, a sword and iron bars. When he was bloody from head to toe, they applied salt and flame to his wounds. The broken man then confessed his fictional crimes, but that was not the end.”

“‘Thereupon,’ Kosakivs’kyy, continues, ‘he was taken to the corridor of the house and the ‘co-eds’ (three women members of the unit) were called in. In their presence, Rosenbaum beat the Jew again with an iron pipe and Lebid too assisted manually in that ‘heroic action.’… We learned afterwards that the tortured man was stripped naked, stood-up in front of the school as a ‘sentry’ and doused with water in heavy frost.'”

“Kosakivs’kyy and his friend protested to Lebid the next day, but the commandant told them bluntly that ‘it was the duty of every member of the OUN to show the Germans that his nerves are just as tough as a German’s and that the heart of any nationalist is just as hard as steel.’ Such ‘practical exercises’ continued unabated…” 7

When the Nazis invaded the USSR in June 1941, some Ukrainian peasants in the Western Ukraine initially welcomed the Nazis because of their resentment against the forced collectivization of the peasantry during the 1930s or after Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland in 1939 [after the Nazi invasion of Poland was completed, and it became clear that the Western allies were not going to fight the Nazis — the period known as the “phony war” — the Soviet Union re-occupied the part of Russia which Poland had taken from it in the Treaty of Riga in 1920]. According to Dallin, however, the extent of this welcoming of the Nazis has been greatly exaggerated. 8In the Eastern (Soviet) Ukraine, however, the Ukrainian nationalists, who had first tried to win peasant support by promising to abolish the collective farms, had to abandon that line as “the only way to avoid alienating much of the East Ukrainian youth.” 9 A decade after collectivization,the youth in the Ukraine were overwhelmingly pro-Soviet.

The Ukrainian fascists formed an army that was alternately used and repressed by the Nazis, who formed their own “Galician” SS Division from among Eastern (non-Soviet) Ukrainians, and the “Roland” and “Nightingale” detachments for special terrorist action against the Ukrainian population itself.

However, the most successful Communist partisan movements — those of the Ukrainians Oleksii Fyodorov and Sidor Kovpak — were also made up of Ukrainians and operated in the Ukrainian country- side. These were the largest and most successful anti-Nazi resistance movements in Europe, and were led and manned by Communist Ukrainians! 10 By the middle of the war, the Germans had thoroughly alienated even the more anti-Soviet Ukrainian peasantry by their brutality.

Kovpak’s Red Ukrainian guerillas had to fight Ukrainian fascist troops. Despite a few conflicts, the Ukrainian nationalists sided with the Nazis during WWII and were solidly behind Hitler again by 1944. They continued guerilla warfare against the Soviets in the hills of Western Ukraine until about 1952. During the last stages of this fight, the C.I.A. dropped supplies to fascist nationalists troops fighting the Soviet forces within the Soviet Union. 11

The Ukrainian nationalist groups were always made up mainly of intellectuals. Few workers and peasants joined them. An anti- Communist American scholar sympathetic to the nationalists admits “Ukrainian nationalism … was unable to penetrate the mass of the population to any extent. 12

Capitalist Rule: “ABC — Anything But Class”

This, then, is the history of Ukrainian nationalism. It demonstrates the universal truth, that nationalism leads to anti- communism and, eventually, to fascism. This is logical. National- ism is a bourgeois ideology. “Nationalist movements throughout the world have usually been the work of the middle class.” 13

Encouraging workers (or peasants, most of whom are also workers) to unite according to ethnic, color, or linguistic similarities, means putting them under the leadership of the bourgeoisie of that ethnic or linguistic group. Capitalists have the most to gain from capitalism — wealth and status — and the most to lose from egalitarian communism, and so are overwhelmingly anti- communist. When communism threatens their privileges, they turn inevitably to fascist repression against the working class, whom they exploit to get their wealth and to whom the goals of communism are attractive.

Only communism encourages workers to become class-conscious — to see that they must ally with workers of all other ethnic, linguistic, racial, etc., groups against their own bosses and bourgeois nationalists. The bosses will do anything to prevent this. Their rule is “ABC — Anything But Class:” — to mislead workers into uniting along any lines but those of class, so that they can be exploited.


1. The University of the State of New York. The State Education Department, Bureau of Curriculum Development. Case Studies: Persecution/Genocide. The Human Rights Series. Volume III.I (Albany, NY: 1986). Of the 162 pages of text, the “Ukrainian Famine” takes up 142. For Illinois see Myron B. Kuropas, with the assistance of the United States Ukraine Famine Commission, Forced Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933; Curriculum and Resource Guide for Educators. Both of these curricula repeat the ultra-right wing Ukrainian nationalist falsifications without any alternate viewpoints whatsoever. Back.

2. Transcript of the film and panel discussion, p. 8 (Firing Line Special Edition: ‘Harvest of Despair’, broadcast September 24, 1986. Southern Educational Communications Association, Box 5966, Columbia, SC 29250). Back.

3. John A. Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism. Second edition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), p. 7. Back.

4. Peter Kenez, Civil War in South Russia, 1919-1923: The Defeat of the Whites (Berkeley, CA: Univ. Cal. Press, 1977), p. 146; p. 147 (emphasis added). Back

5. E.H. Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution 1: 1917-1923 (Pelican pb edition), p. 296. Back

6. Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had concluded a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August, 1939. A secret clause in that pact stated that the USSR would occupy the part of Poland that had been part of Russia until 1918 (Galicia and Volhynia). In 1940 the USSR demanded and got two predominantly Ukrainian territories (Bessarabia, also called Moldavia, and Bukovina) which Rumania had taken over in 1918. These predominantly Ukrainian areas which belonged to Poland or Rumanian before 1939-40 are called the “Western Ukraine.” They had all been under Soviet control for less than two years at the time of the Nazi invasion of the USSR which began on June 22, 1941. It was in these areas that some peasants initially greeted Nazi troops as “liberators,” and where the Ukrainian nationalists had most success in recruitment. Back

7. Joe Conason, “To Catch a Nazi”, Village Voice (New York City), February 11, 1986, p. 19. Camp leader Mykola Lebid was one of the chief Ukrainian nationalists in the OUN, worked for the Nazis in the Soviet Union throughout the occupation, and fled to Germany with them at the end of WWII. There he was recruited first by West German intelligence and later by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which smuggled him into the U.S., hid his fascist past, and got him U.S. citizenship in 1957. Since then he has lived in New York City and runs an anti-communist, nationalist publishing house, supported with CIA funds. Back

8. Alexander Dallin, German Rule in Russia 1941-1945, 2nd edition (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1961), p. 64. Back

9. John A Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 2nd edition (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1964), p. 128. Back

10. Gerard Reitlinger, The House Built on Sand: The Conflicts in German Policy in Russia, 1939-1945 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1975; original edition 1960), p. 246. For Fyodorov as a Ukrainian, see Armstrong, p. 132; for a good review of his book, The Underground Committee Carries On, see PL Magazine Vol. 11, No. 1 (February-March, 1976), p. 35-37, 40. Back

11. Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (New York: Pocket Books, 1979), pp. 46, 52. Back

12. Armstrong, pp. 288-9. Back

13. Armstrong, p. 238. Back

Part 4

Anti-Communists have always attacked communism using lies and half-truths. The following article is a continuation of our exposé of the lies around the Ukrainian famine during the first half of the 1930s.

Starvation did occur on some scale in the Soviet Union during collectivization. When combined with premature deaths from disease which would not have occurred without malnutrition, casualties in the USSR as a whole may well have reached one to two million.

This is far lower than the figures bandied about by the anti- Communist author Robert Conquest and the Ukrainian nationalists. Conquest “estimates” 14.5 million deaths from collectivization in the USSR as a whole, of which 5 million are starvation deaths in the Ukraine alone. Mace gives the figure of “almost 7.5 million” for Ukrainians alone, and an “irreducible minimum of over 5.5 million Ukrainians;” he really believes it was much higher than that. The Ukrainian nationalist film Harvest of Despair gives a figure of 7 million in the Ukraine, 10 million in all. 1.

Earlier articles in this series have shown that these figures are grossly exaggerated. But even a half or a quarter of the figure of 2 million, supported by recent studies, is a serious matter. Why do the film, Conquest, and others insist on tremendous figures? Why isn’t the truth “bad enough” for them?

And why the other lies: about Stalin’s supposed “personal role;” the “deliberate starvation of the Ukraine,” etc.? Why the use of false film footage and highly dubious photographs long proven to have been fakes?

The explanation is to be found in the motives of the “researchers.” They have particular political interests and ideas to push. Responsible scholarship does not support these ideas. Therefore, they cannot accept the results of the best bourgeois research. Neither the nationalists nor Conquest are in the least interested in the truth about what happened in the USSR. Let’s take a look at the motives behind these lies.


The Ukrainian nationalist portray themselves as “champions” of the Ukraine. They hope to attract more support from the US ruling class as war between Soviet and US bosses comes nearer. Like all forms of nationalism, they serve the interests of the intellectual and other elites, who wold become the new ruling class if the Ukraine ever achieved “self-determination.” [Note, 1996: this is exactly what has happened, and Ukrainian nationalists are fabricating anti-Communist lies harder than ever in an attempt to build Ukrainian nationalism to justify exploiting Ukrainian workers].

But Ukrainian workers and peasants would be no better off than they are now if their ruling class were Ukrainian. This point cannot be overstressed. Nationalism is a bourgeois, capitalist ideology. It can never serve the interests of the working class, because it urges the workers to “unite” behind those who exploit them — the bosses of “their own” ethnic, linguistic, etc. group. The misery of the workers and peasants of India, South America, Africa, etc., now ruled by “their own” bosses instead of colonialists, proves this point. Ukrainian workers are now [1987 – ed.] exploited by Russian bosses; they’d be no better off under Ukrainian ones. But of course the nationalists have to try to show the opposite. Consequently, they must lie.

The Ukrainian nationalists are encouraged by the growth and success of fascist Cuban exiles, racist Zionists, and especially the reactionary Polish “Solidarity” movement in winning support from US bosses. They hope to do the same.

They also hope to use the famine to gain sympathy among US workers, where millions are aware of the Nazi murder of millions of Jews. They know that almost any lie can be spread without fear of serious contradiction, as long as it serves US bosses’ anti- Communist purposes.

Pushing the issue of the famine also helps unite many Ukrainian emigrants behind them who otherwise would not support them. As we have seen, the Ukrainian nationalists never got much support from the Ukrainian masses.

To Cover Up Their Nazi Past

Making noise about the famine also helps to cover up the nationalists’ own dirty past. Ukrainian nationalists’ support for Hitler has long held them back. The recent trial and deportation of John “Ivan the Terrible” Demyanyuk to Israel for participating in atrocities as a Ukrainian nationalist concentration guard for the Nazis was a serious public relations blow to the nationalist, whose staunch efforts to defend this fascist exposed them. (Last week PBS shows a BBC documentary on how the US government used Nazi war criminals to develop the US space program — next issue of Challenge-Desafio will run an article about this).

The US Department of Justice’s “Office of Special Investigations” (OSI) is the body charged with pursuing and prosecuting Nazi war criminals in the US. Naturally, they investigate few and prosecute fewer, since most of these Nazis have worked for the CIA. Still, of only 45 cases the OSI has brought against former Nazis, about one-fourth have been against Ukrainians, including several members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). 2.

Ukrainian Fascists Useful to US Rulers

Before and during WWII, the Ukrainian nationalists made themselves useful to the German Nazis. Since the Nazis’ defeat, they’ve served the US ruling class, mainly in the CIA and Radio Liberty (which broadcasts US propaganda to the USSR).

Ukrainians are the largest linguistic minority in the Soviet Union. Separatist feeling among minority groups in the USSR is one of the thin reeds Western bosses lean on to weaken the Soviets.

As Frank Wisner, the CIA spymaster who helped to smuggle many Nazis and Nazi collaborators into the US after WWII, wrote in a secret 1951 memo:

“Operating independently, the SB [special torture squad of the Nazi-sponsored Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists/Bandera] has upon occasion been more of a headache to American intelligence than a boon. Nevertheless in war-time a highly nationalistic Ukrainian political group with its own security service could conceivably be a great asset … Luckily the attempt [by some Allied authorities pursuing war criminals] to locate these anti-Soviet Ukrainians was sabotaged by a few far- sighted Americans who warned the persons concerned to go into hiding. 3.

Mykola Lebid, whose exploits we have already seen [in Part 3 of this series – ed.], was the head of the terrorist SB. 4.

But in order to win Ukrainian-Americans and others to anti- communism, the nationalists have to lie. They must cover up their role in Nazi collaboration; lie about the history of the Ukraine, to exaggerate its independence from Russia; and invent stories about the “horrors” of Soviet control. The film, and Conquest’s book, do all of these.

Millions of Americans remember and hate Nazism. Most have not swallowed the notion that Stalin was “as bad as Hitler.” Americans are still very suspicious of anyone who supported the murderous Nazis for any reason. The Ukrainian nationalists believe that their collaboration with the Nazis will seem more “understandable” only if millions of Ukrainians were deliberately and selectively starved to death by Communist monsters than if it is seen in its true light, as the logical result of elitism, anti-communism, and extreme nationalism.

The “Stalin Equals Hitler” Lie and What The Bosses Gain By It

Like his other major work, The Great Terror, Conquest’s book is an attempt to make the very idea of building a communist society appear illegitimate. In the earlier book Conquest makes the claim that the “purges” of the ’30s resulted in the deaths of as many people or more than Hitler’s holocaust — over 20 million. In Harvest of Sorrow, Conquest claims more died of famine and collectivization in the Soviet Union alone than as a result of WWI in all countries put together.

The purpose of these fairy tales is to spread the idea that “anything is better than communism.” Whatever the horrors of capitalism — so this tale runs — the horrors of communism in a single country has exceeded them! Therefore, any attempt to build a classless society is inherently evil, no matter how good it sounds. Any attempt at building a “utopia” will lead inevitably to mass murder — or so the capitalists would have us believe.

Many pro-capitalist groups push the same lie. For example, the Credo of a recently-formed conservative faculty group, “Campus Coalition for Democracy” [1996 note: now called the “National Association of Scholars” – ed.] states that:

“…utopian, perfectionist and dogmatic modes of political and social thought inevitably carry within them the seeds of elitism, contempt for the ordinary individual and the embrace of violence as a favored political instrument. Anti-Communism is an eminently respectable intellectual posture… As Susan Sontag recently put it, ‘Communism … is a variant, the most successful variant, of fascism’.” 5.

These days the idea that Stalin was worse than Hitler is actively promoted to justify fascist anti-communism. According to Reader’s Digest editor Eugene Methvin, “Hitler’s plus-or- minus 11 million are no match for Stalin’s killings; one is tempted to say that Hitler was not even in Stalin’s league.” 6.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine on the rise of neo-fascism in Europe was critical of recent right-wing apologists for German fascism. The only point on which the Times writer agreed with an apologist for Nazism was that “Stalin arguably killed more people than did Hitler.” The German rightist, Ernst Nolte, has recently blamed all of Nazism on the USSR, and has received publicity and support from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of West Germany’s major daily newspapers whose editor, Joachim Fest wrote an apologetic biography of Hitler 15 years ago. 7. All these capitalist calumnies rely heavily on phony Conquest-type analysis and phenomenal casualties for them to carry any weight whatsoever. The great value these lies have for the capitalists explains why there is little or no refutation of them in the media. The benefits of the anti-Stalin lies may be summarized:

  • They push the lie that the attempt to build communism was a fraud from the beginning; that any attempt to build a classless society is inherently evil and will lead to mass murder. They hope to convince workers that any attempt to overthrow capitalism, or even question it in a fundamental way, is automatically illegitimate.
  • Capitalists must often resort to fascism, usually to control the working class. Fascism is hard to justify to workers, while millions remember that it was the then-socialist Soviet Union, under Stalin, which led the way in defeating the German Nazis and Italian fascists during WWII.
  • The purveyors of the “Ukrainian famine” myth, like anti- communists in general, wish to convince millions that anything — including fascism — is better than communism. This way of thinking gives capitalists the green light to carry out any horror, any atrocity, in the name of a “lesser of two evils.”

Once US capitalism hid behind the fig-leaf of building democracy and freedom. Increasingly, they no longer pretend even this, and openly defend fascist terror instead. So, Reagan not only supports the contra terrorists in Nicaragua; he likens them to George Washington.

The rehabilitation of Ukrainian nationalists is the rehabilitation of fascism itself. This is necessary given the open support by the US of the fascist contras and Salvadoran government in Central America, the South African fascists, the “freedom-fighters” — read fascist, heroin- smuggling, sexist, anti-Communist guerillas — in Afghanistan, and many others.

Capitalists Use Hitler’s “Big Lie” Technique

Capitalists know the truth of Hitler’s statement in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, that a lie — but especially an outrageous lie — will be believed by many and partly believed by most if repeated loudly and often enough:

“The size of a lie is a definite factor in causing it to be believed, because the vast majority of a nation are in the depths of their hearts more easily deceived than they are consciously and intentionally bad… They would never credit others with the possibility of such great impudence as the complete reversal of facts … Something therefore always remains and sticks from the most impudent lie, a fact which all bodies and individuals concerned in the art of lying in this world know only too well, and therefore they stop at nothing to achieve this end.”

Even if they don’t swallow the whole 14.5 million claimed by Conquest, many people will think: “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; even if the truth is only half or a quarter as much, communism is unthinkable.” So, the bigger the lie, the better for the liar! Finally, the Ukrainian famine story is a weapon in the Cold War against the USSR bosses today. Time and again film and book repeat that today’s Soviet leaders have never “acknowledged,” much less apologized for, the famine. None of these purposes would be served by an attempt to discover the truth about the collectivization movement. To quote Hitler again:

“Propaganda must not serve the truth, especially not insofar as it might bring out something favorable for the opponent.”

The interests of Conquest and the Ukrainian nationalists, the capitalist bosses — none of these would be served by an attempt to understand the real reasons for the failure of communism in the Soviet Union. This is the key to the weakness of the research which they carry out with such extensive resources, at such great cost.


1. Conquest, Harvest of Sorrow, p. 306; Mace, in Problems of Communism, May-June 1984, p. 39; Mace, Problems of Communism, March-April 1985, p. 136; transcript of film, p. 1. Back.

2. Conason, “To Catch a Nazi,” Village Voice, Feb. 11, 1986, p. 18. Back.

3. Quoted in John Loftus, The Belarus Secret (New York: Knopf, 1982), pp. 102-3. Back.

4. On Lebid, see Armstrong, Ukrainian Nationalism, 2nd edition (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1963), p. 81-83; Conason; Armstrong, letter to Village Voice, March 25, 1986, p. 6. Back.

5. Credo, “Campus Coalition for Democracy”, New York, 1982. Back.

6. Eugene Methvin, “Hitler and Stalin: 20th Century Superkillers,” National Review, May 31, 1985, p. 22. Back.

7. Judith Miller, “Erasing the Past: Europe’s Amnesia About the Holocaust,” New York Times Magazine, November 16, 1986, p. 33. Back.

Part 5

Earlier articles in this series have discussed the anti- Communist lies in the book Harvest of Sorrow and the film Harvest of Despair, and have shown the fascist, anti-working class reasons for these lies. This article discusses what really happened during the collectivization movement in the USSR during the `30s, and what communists and workers today can learn from it.

The analysis and criticism of the Bolshevik concept of socialism and the “forces of production” which are outlined here have been discussed in greater depth in several PL Magazine articles in the last few years. All recent research by the most careful bourgeois scholars has born out the conclusions of this article. 1 We in PLP are struggling to make a communist revolution and build a classless, egalitarian society free of capitalist exploitation. So we have to carefully study the efforts of the communists who have gone before us. together with our own experience in class struggle, the lessons of the successes and failures of communists of the past are our guideposts. We want to imitate what Marx, Engels, the Bolsheviks, Chinese communists, and others did correctly, and learn from their mistakes. During our short history of 20 years, the PLP has issued four major documents, representing our collective attempt to unmask and defeat capitalist ideas which have held back the communist movement, prevented the creation of a classless society and turned the working-class-led Soviet Union and China into fascist, capitalist dictatorships. The most recent of these PLP documents is Road to Revolution IV. The analysis that follows takes as its standpoint the concept of communism outlined in this document.

Whatever deaths from starvation and malnutrition occurred in the Ukraine and in other parts of the Soviet Union at that time were related to the attempt to collectivize agriculture. The leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Stalin, and the overwhelming majority of Soviet workers as a whole believed that rapid industrialization and collectivization of agriculture — voluntary if possible, but forced if necessary — was essential to the building of socialism. 2

Most capitalist observers of the USSR thought so, too. In fact, this is the premise of Conquest’s book, the Ukrainian nationalist film, and most ferocious anti-Communists today. They all believe that the peasants could never have been won to collectivizing agriculture voluntarily.

The anti-Communists also refuse to admit that the working class was overwhelmingly won to communism. But time and again the most thorough bourgeois, anti-Communist researchers themselves have shown that the Soviet working class overwhelmingly supported communism. Hundreds of thousands of the most experienced Soviet workers volunteered to go to the countryside in 1929-30 to lead the collectivization movement.

The available evidence indicates that the majority of worker- communists voluntarily enlisted out of a sense of civil duty:

  • :”…the vast majority of workers who volunteered … believed that collectivization was a task of the utmost urgency and that it was a patriotic duty to participate in the revolutionary struggle developing in the countryside.”. Of the workers who volunteered to lead the collectivization campaign, called “25,000ers,” more came from the Ukraine than from any other area.3

The workers sent to the countryside to lead the collectivization encountered much peasant hostility. The policies followed during the period of the NEP (New Economic Policy) had guaranteed that capitalist, not communist, ideas had been built in the countryside. There were very few communists in the villages, and many of them were from the ranks of the better-off peasants. Many worker organizers were killed or driven off by angry peasants.

The experience of both China and North Vietnam in the mid- 50s shows that masses of peasants can be won to collectivization:

  • “In fact, the movement to collectivize agriculture in China was undertaken by the masses, led by rank-and-file, mainly peasant, communists. It began without the authorization or even the knowledge of the Party leadership, a large part of which actively opposed it as `leftism.’ Mao did jump on the bandwagon and supported it, but his writings in Volume Five of the Selected Works make it clear that many leading CP’ers were frightened by it. Even Mao held back the movement by insisting that agricultural co-ops only be formed where production could be increased thereby. He did state that there were many peasants who were `politically conscious enough to take the socialist road and … really willing to join,’ and was clearly puzzled why there were any middle peasants who are economically better off, like this! (Selected Works, Vol 5, p. 193).– “The Bolsheviks and the Peasantry,” PL Magazine, Fall 1979, p. 79.

Communism, Not Socialism

The Bolsheviks’ fundamental error was in believing that communism had to be attained by passing through a stage called “socialism.” They thought that during this stage certain capitalist practices had to be retained and even developed in order to achieve a state of material abundance. Only then would the “material basis” for a communist society exist, they thought. This erroneous idea originated with Marx and Engels.

The “right-wing” — those forces within the working-class movement who broke the least with capitalist ideas, naturally never took issue with this aspect of Marx’s thought. But even the left of the Party – those who were closest to the working class, most suspicious of capitalism, and most determined to bring about a truly classless, egalitarian society, never saw through Marx’s and Engels” erroneous notion. Lenin, leader of the left in the working- class movement worldwide, wrote in Pages From a Diary, one of his last works (1922), that it would be “fatal” for the Bolsheviks to try to inculcate communist ideas in the countryside. The peasants were so politically backward and the material basis for communism — a working class produced by capitalist productive forces — was lacking.

Stalin and the other Bolshevik leaders who succeeded Lenin retained this idea. In other words, they believed that the economy must be built before the masses of peasants and workers could be won to communist ideas. The result was that they had little peasant support for the collectivization effort.

This notion of the “material preconditions” for communism led the Bolsheviks to lay too much stress on industrialization. In a 1931 speech Stalin stated that the USSR had “ten years” to industrialize or “go under” in battle with the capitalists. Here as elsewhere Stalin reflected the Bolshevik leadership’s thinking. No communist — indeed, no capitalist either — thought that a non- industrialized country, even if led by the working class, cold survive attack by highly-industrialized imperialists. The Bolsheviks equated socialism with an industrialized economy, just as they believed communism could not arrive until abundance of material goods proved a communist society could “out-produce” capitalism. At best, communism was a function of how many consumer goods were available. At worst, workers and others had to be bribed to accept communism. These were more or less the poles of communist thinking at the time.

This was most obviously wrong with respect to the Soviet workers themselves. During the first enthusiasm of the First Five-Year Plan — the period which some Soviet researchers now accurately call the Soviet “Cultural Revolution” — thousands of workers and intellectuals tried to press for the immediate institution of communist ideas without going through a lengthy “socialist” stage. Advanced peasants joined communes, in which all property was pooled and all paid equally. Workers formed “communes” in factories — work groups in which all were paid equally, regardless of skill. Intellectuals pushed for a sharp struggle against all forms of bourgeois ideas in culture (the Proletkult movement, very similar in essential respects to the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s). 4

In the real world, millions of communists had fought and died for a society of equality and justice ruled by the working class, not for a higher standard of living. Naturally Lenin, Stalin and the Bolshevik leaders knew this. However, in practice the party lacked confidence that the masses of workers and peasants in their millions could be won to these ideas. They thought these ideas could only be fully grasped and accepted by a revolutionary elite. They thought most workers’ loyalty to communism could not be won without holding out to them the “carrot” of a higher living standard.

So the Party leadership put a damper on all egalitarian ideas. Like Mao 25 years later, Stalin and the other leaders stressed that only those ideas were good which led to immediately increases in production. This meant advancing various “bonus” and “piece-work” systems and the Stakhanovite movement in industry.

This was not a “sell-out,” which implies the abandonment of a good line. It was the logical extension of the line about “material preconditions” which led to the Five-Year Plans and forced collectivization, which was believed necessary because (1) in the short run, workers in the cities needed food, which was being hoarded by rich peasants {kulaks), holding out for high prices and thus exploiting the working class; and (2) in the long run, collectivization would permit larger harvests, which could be taken by the State to fund the industrialization movement. Meanwhile, (3) the peasantry, now working for a wage on collective farms, would be transformed from small business-men, each with his own farm, into workers, working for a wage.

Once the farms were collectivized, it meant the retention of private plots where, since they were not won to communist ideas, peasants could grow crops for their own profit. In the military, it meant reversion to traditional capitalists ranks and authoritarianism, and reliance upon military “technique” rather than on people’s war. 5

In every sphere of life, the Bolsheviks’ conception that elements of capitalist individualism had to be retained and even promoted led away from communism. Once put into practice, these ideas prepared the ground for a full-scale reversion to capitalism: at first, state capitalism, developing more and more fully after the mid-50s, and then full-blown private-ownership capitalism after 1989.

Politics of the Collectivization Movement

The “25,000ers” and other workers sent to help the peasants collectivize did have many allies among the poorer peasants, who were enthusiastic about the movement. But most peasants were not won to the ideas, and many were actively hostile.

Collectivization and communism were generally opposed by the “kulaks” (in Ukrainian, “kurkuls”), the wealthiest peasants, and by the clergy of the Orthodox church. These elements tended to be in the leadership of the peasant villages. But the Bolsheviks had not built a base for communist ideas in the villages which could have isolated the priests, “kulaks,” and other anti-Communist forces.

Under the “New Economic Policy” (NEP) of the 20s, the Bolsheviks had encouraged the rebuilding of capitalist relations of production in order to immediately stimulate economic growth. This was a response to the immense destruction caused by the Civil War (1918-22) which followed the Revolution of 1917. 6

The result was that, throughout the 20s, capitalists ideas were built. The Bolsheviks’ huge base among the working class helped them overcome this in the cities. But in the villages, where 80% of the population lived, they had few members. Many village communists were peasants who had done well under the capitalist NEP, were hostile to collectivization, and helped to undermine it.

Supporting the Party were the “Committees of Poor Peasants” formed during the Civil War in 1918. They had continued, through obviously they were weakened during NEP, which helped the better-off peasants at the expense, of course, of the poor. During the collectivization movement they were an invaluable source of support for communist ideas. But they were not enough. 7

IN a word: by 1929 the capitalist forces in the villages had not been isolated. Many or most peasants still supported capitalist ideas. They still thought they could make it “by themselves,” with their own land, rather than together in collectives. Naturally the “kulaks,” priests, and other village leaders fought communist ideas. The Party’s ideas found much support — from poor peasants, from peasant women, whose position in traditional village life was especially hard, from thousands of workers whose roots were in the villages and who knew “kulak” and priest oppression at first hand. The work of recent bourgeois researchers confirms this, thought the fanatical anti-Communists deny it. 8

Nevertheless, the “25,000ers” faced bitter opposition. Because the Party’s emphasis was on economics rather than on politics, they found their job was, in the final analysis, to force collectivization on an unwilling peasantry rather than win the peasants to communism. Because of the need for grain collections to pay for rapid industrialization, the “25,000ers” were themselves commanded to succeed.

  • “As regards methods, one cannot say, without incurring the risk of over-simplification, that coercion was the only method used to achieve the purpose. In the sphere of collectivization the Party never abandoned the voluntary principle and actually attempted to adopt various methods congruent with it, apart from using coercion… But the logic of the situation developed contrary to the Party’s intention and coercion turned out to be the major element in it.” 9


1. In an earlier article we saw that the best recent research indicates a “population deficit” in the USSR for the entire period between 1926 and 1939 of 9 million at most, and that a large proportion of these were births that failed to take place — i.e. a result of a decline in the birth rate — not actual deaths of living people. Assuming the mortality (death) and fertility (birth) rates that the most expert bourgeois population researchers think reasonable, actual excess deaths during these 13 years from all causes were probably in the 3.2 to 5.5 million range. Perhaps a million or so could be attributed to the time of the famine (1932-33), and most of these to deaths from epidemic diseases, often aggravated by malnutrition. See the first article in this series for the details. Back to text of this article

2. The memoires of the Soviet émigrés Lev Kopelev and Petr Grigorenko, who were young Communist Party worker activists in the collectivization movement, testify that they too were convinced at the time that forced collectivization was justified. By the 1960s, when they wrote their memoires, they had become thoroughly anti-Communist and pro- capitalist, and blamed Stalin for everything. Back.

3. Lynne Viola, “The “25,000ers”: A Study in a Soviet Recruitment Campaign During the First Five Year Plan,” Russian History / Histoire Russe (Irvine, CA), 10, Pt. 1 (1983), pp. 26-7; most from the Ukraine, p. 29. A shorter version is Lynne Viola, “The Twenty-Five Thousanders,” in The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History (Gulf Breeze, FL: Academic International Press, 1985), 40, 120-123. Other good articles on worker participation in collectivization by Viola are: “Notes on the Background of Soviet Collectivization: Metal Worker Brigades in the Countryside, Autumn 1929,” Soviet Studies, 36 (April 1984), 205-222; “The Case of Krasnyi Meliorator, or How the Kulak Grows into Socialism,” Soviet Studies, 38 (October, 1986), 508-529. For evidence on peasant women’s support for collectivization (and on the role of women generally), see Lynne Viola, “Bab’y Bunty and Peasant Women’s Protest During Collectivization,” The Russian Review, 45 (1986), 40- 1. Back

4. See Lewis Siegelbaum, “Production Collectives and Communes and the `Imperatives’ of Soviet Industrialization, 1929-1931,” Slavic Review, 45 (Spring 1986), 65-84. Also, the articles by Fitzpatrick and Hough in Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1928-1931, ed. Sheila Fitzpatrick (Bloomington, IN: Indiana U.P., 1978). Back

5. See “The Soviet Army: The Retreat from Revolution,” PL Magazine, 12 (Summer, 1979), 10- 29. Back.

6. The Civil War was the attempt by the anti-Communist Russian forces, or “Whites,” to overthrow the Revolution with the aid of the forces of both sides in World War I. France, England, the US, Japan, Germany, Poland, and other nations actually sent armies to fight the Bolsheviks and aid the “Whites.” Anti-Communist, racist “anarchist” forces and the Ukrainian nationalists also fought the Bolsheviks. Back

7. On the “Poor Peasant Committees,” see James E. Mace, “Komitety Nazamozhnykh Selyan [Ukrainian for “Committees of Poor Peasants”] and the Structure of Soviet Rule in the Ukrainian Countryside, 1920- 1933,” Soviet Studies, 35 (October, 1983), 487-503. One of the chief perpetrators of the “Ukrainian holocaust” fraud, Mace is a ferocious anti-Communist. As such, he completely misinterprets his evidence, all of which shows that the Bolsheviks had a large base among poor peasants. None of his evaluations of the evidence should be accepted, since they usually go directly contrary to the evidence he himself is using. This is very common among anti-Communist researchers who actually do some research, and shows the power of ideological prejudices and preconceptions — in this case, anti-Communism — to overpower one’s ability to read evidence which is right in front of you! For a lot of examples of this, see “The Name and the Game of the Anti- Stalinists,” PL Magazine, 10, No. 4 (September, 1975), pp. 56-79. Back.

8. For recent research on collectivization, see the articles cited in these notes, and in the PL Magazine article, “The Bolsheviks and the Peasantry,” PL Magazine, 12, No. 4 (Fall 1979), p. 68- 79. Back.

9. Y. Taniuchi, “A Note on the Ural- Siberian Method,” Soviet Studies (October 1981), p. 542. Back.

Part 6

Gorbachev’s glasnost’ (“reforms”) is speeding up the growth of capitalism in the Soviet Union [Note: these prophetic lines were published on April 1, 1987, in Challenge-Desafio!!]. Since Khrushchev, all Soviet leaders have plunged to the right, attacking the “excesses” of the Stalin era. In this series of articles exposing the anti-communist lies around the Ukrainian famine of the early 1930s, we have shown how Stalin was not the monster all bosses and right-wingers make him out to be. The “mistakes” made by the Soviet government during the Stalin era were not that of a brutal dictator, but rather mistakes made in the process of building a new society. In the following article, the last of the series, we criticize these mistakes from the left.

The concept Stalin had of socialism tended to equate it with building the economy using capitalist models and stressing production over ideology. It also tended to build authoritarianism (“do what the boss says”) as an indispensable aspect of capitalist modes of production. It took years for this tendency to work to its full effect. American workers who went to the USSR in the 1930s — including the Reuther brothers, later anti-communist bosses of the United Auto Workers Union — testified to the much greater democracy and freedom from foreman and boss harassment Soviet workers enjoyed as compared to American workers (the Reuthers had worked in US auto plants before going to the USSR).

But capitalist ideas gradually won out. From being a voluntary organization of dedicated communists, the Party became essentially a hierarchical organization whose leaders were economic managers. By the early 1950s this transformation was complete. The Soviet Union was capitalist in all but name.

The Bolshevik Party had been split by dissention and factionalism during the 1920s, as the members struggled to learn how to construct the world’s first workers’ state. These disagreements were handled very responsibly, according to the principles of democratic centralism. The relatively few individualists who, like Leon Trotsky, continued to form factions to oppose carrying out the line of the Party, were expelled only after long, mass struggles had isolated them, and they had been given many chances to change themselves. By the late 1920s the party was more united than ever before.

The trauma of the collectivization movement changed all that. Called by the Party a “revolution from above,” it resembled a civil war in some areas of the country, including Asia, where the Party was especially weak. It produced many disagreements. Under these circumstances old factions, as well as some new ones, emerged.

Yet none of these factions or dissidents broke with the Party’s line to the left. None saw through the idea that “the material bases for socialism must be built first.” Virtually all the factions advocated some form or another of capitalism, some kind of return to NEP (the New Economic Policy) which had proven unsuccessful in the 1920s. All of the “oppositionists” from Bukharin to Trotsky who are favored among “left”-wing anti-Stalinists today fit this description.

The Bolshevik left wing, both in the USSR and around the world, stuck with the Party’s line. But due to the erroneous notion that the `forces of production” had to be built to provide the “material basis” for socialism, this contradictions with the Party were handled very differently from in the past.

During the 1920s there was a Party Congress and a Party Conference virtually every year, and thousands of lower- level meetings throughout the USSR. During these meetings the Party’s line was thrashed out, debated fully, and decided upon. This is the way Trotsky and the other factionalists had been defeated. This process also accounts for Stalin’s great prestige in the party, since Stalin represented the left wing in all these debates. His works written during the 20s, collected in his book On the Opposition, illustrate his ability to unmask revisionist ideas — capitalism masquerading as communism — and are still valuable reading for communists today.

But the authoritarian style of work and of leadership that flowed from the idea of putting economics ahead of politics made it impossible for democratic centralism to operate as before. An authoritarian centralism, or “commandism” — the leadership giving orders — too over. “Material incentives” — higher pay to some, lower pay to most — to increase production followed close behind. In 1932 the “Party Maximum” was abolished. This was an important rule that stated that communists could not make more than a certain modest wage. Communists were supposed to be examples of selfless working for their class, not for themselves. This “partymax” had been intended to fight careerism, and to make sure that communists were an example for others.

It was apparently abolished because it was thought to hinder the recruitment of technically-trained experts into the Party — persons whose expertise was thought essential to the Five-Year Plan’s crash industrialization programs. From then on, getting into the Party became the only route to a high standard of living. so the fact that collectivization was, to a large extent, forced upon unwilling peasants was a consequence of an incorrect idea of what communism was all about.

The experience of the Rural People’s Commune movement in China in 1955-56, which was a “revolution from below,” from the peasant masses, shows that peasants can be won to communism. But the reversal of the Chinese revolution during the 1960s shows that a conception of communism that fails to eradicate capitalist differences in pay and living standards among the population will lead to a return of capitalist exploitation, regardless of the degree of mass support for that concept. In this sense, the fact that Soviet collectivization was largely forced is, finally, only a secondary factor in explaining the reversal of workers’ power in the USSR. Without a change in the fundamental concept of what socialism was — of how to advance to a classless, communist society — a new capitalist, class society will evolve.

The Chinese Communist Party’s success in making communism a more mass goal did produce a huge and often violent rebellion against revisionist idea — the Cultural Revolution. That experience and our own struggles have made it possible for our Party, the PLP, to advance our line and learn from the weaknesses of the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions.

The Importance of a Communist Standpoint

We have seen through the lies about he “Ukrainian holocaust” with the help of recent research on the Soviet Union in the 1930s. These researchers wish to make good careers for themselves by applying to research on the Soviet Union the same standards of sources and evidence that most bourgeois scholars use about other periods of history. In addition, many of them are animated by a hostility for the Cold War and a desire for “detente” with the USSR.

This is useful, but it is far from enough. These researchers are not interested in learning where the Soviets went wrong, from the viewpoint of learning how to build a communist society the right way the next time. Since they don’t ask this question, they can hardly come to the right answer to it! Since their research serves the interest only of the diminishing sing of the capitalist class that holds out promise for detente, it doesn’t gain much support or prominence. They have little impact.

Until the late 1970s none of these researchers were around. Suppose the “Ukrainian holocaust” story had been pushed more vigorously at that time? A series of articles like this one, with detailed refutations of the dishonest sources used by the anti-communists and illustrated by the research of thorough bourgeois scholars, would not have been possible.

The point here is, we cannot rely on bourgeois scholars, however well-intentioned, to refute anti-communist lies. The ruling class has thousands of “experts” like Conquest who can turn out anti-Communist slander far faster than we can hoe to refute them. The fat that, in the case of the “Ukrainian famine,” we were able to do so is largely a matter of historical accident.

Conquest can help us here. In the course of defending the US imperialist invasion of Vietnam, he once wrote as follows:

  • The Vietcong lobby [he means the anti-war movement – ed.]do not, as a rule, believe (or at any rate expect other people to believe) such Vietcong allegations as that made by its official representative at a Stockholm communist women’s conference last year, of children “gunned down in their thousands, beheaded, buried alive, quartered and thrown into the flames” by the Americans (The Times [London, England], 4 October 1966). But they do not draw the obvious conclusion that no information emanating directly or indirectly from such a source deserves credit. 1

Ironically, the My Lai massacre and many other atrocities by US troops later showed Conquest was wrong about this particular case. But his general point is valid. “Researchers” like Conquest and the sources he uses or like Mace and the Ukrainian nationalists, have been exposed time and time again. Anti-Communists like Conquest have been proven to lie shamelessly to advance their goals. Nothing any anti-Communist sources write about the history of the Communist movement should be believed.

We ought to promote among workers and among our friends — and, first of all, within ourselves — certain fundamental truths which are beyond question:

  • The fight for communism in the USSR was a wonderful chapter in the struggle for a world of justice and equality that has animated most of humankind since the days of the slave empires of antiquity. The October Revolution of 1917 and the struggle to build communism is a great source of inspiration for the oppressed of the world. It proved for all time that the working class can and will overthrow the capitalists. It struck terror into the hearts of ruling classes everywhere, and it still does.
  • It was inevitable that the first workers’ state would eventually fail. The Bolsheviks’ errors were made in an inspiring struggle to learn how to construct a communist society on the ruins of capitalism. Most of these errors were unavoidable. History proceeds by zigs and zags, never in a straight line of upward progress.
  • The tremendous successes and errors of the Bolshevik Party are largely identified with the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Only those who, like we in the PLP, are striving to learn from the mistakes of our predecessors in the communist movement how to succeed where they ultimately failed, have the correct standpoint from which to objectively evaluate what is positive in their experience and what must be rejected. Capitalists and their “scholars” like Conquest or the Ukrainian nationalists are always attacking Stalin. As we’ve seen in this essay, they do so dishonestly.

This is because they are not interested in the truth. They are interested in preserving capitalism, and will tell whatever lies are necessary to persuade workers, students, intellectuals and others not to fight for a communist society. The truth — that the Bolsheviks achieved much, and that future communists will inevitably succeed where they failed — is completely unacceptable to the capitalists. Regardless of the evidence, they will never acknowledge this. For this reason, all attacks upon the USSR under Stalin as “horrible,” “totalitarian,” and upon Stalin himself as a “power-hungry murderer,” etc., must be seen for the lies they are. This is not a matter of personalities. Stalin had the loyalty of the working class of the USSR and of tens of millions of other workers around the world.

As the leader of the world communist movement during most of its revolutionary history, Stalin was responsible for its successes and failures more than any other single individual. We should study and learn from them, but always with respect. There is no reason for us ever to apologize for them. Stalin and the Bolshevik workers he led fought the Revolution and built the world’s first working class state. Under them the ideas of communism spread throughout the world. As their heir, we must go farther towards communism. This means building a mass movement for communism along the lines of Road to Revolution IV. That movement itself will be the only valid “criticism” of the period of Stalin’s leadership.


1. Conquest, “Arguing about Vietnam,” Encounter, 30, No. 2 (February, 1968), p. 92. Characteristically, Encounter magazine was revealed during the `60s to have receive CIA funding, and it continues to receive it. Its main editor resigned as a result. Conquest worked for the British anti-Communist propaganda bureau; see part one of this series. Back.

Section by Dennis McKinsey


For two years farming was dislocated, not, as often claimed, by Moscow’s enforcement of collectivization but by the fact that local people eager to be first at the promised tractors, organized collective farms three times as fast as the plan called for, setting up large-scale farming without machines even without bookkeepers. In 1932-33 the whole land went hungry; all food everywhere was rigidly rationed. (It has been often called a famine which killed millions of people, but I visited the hungriest parts of the country and while I found a wide-spread suffering, I did not find, either in individual villages or in the total Soviet census, evidence of the serious depopulation which famine implies.)
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 69

As far back as late August, 1933, the New Republic declared:
“… the present harvest is undoubtedly the best in many years–some peasants report a heavier yield of grain than any of their forefathers had known”since 1834. Grain deliveries to the government are proceeding at a very satisfactory rate and the price of bread has fallen sharply in the industrial towns of the Ukraine. In view these facts, the appeal of the Cardinal Archbishop [Innitzer] of Vienna for assistance for Russian famine victims seems to be a political maneuver against the Soviets.”
And, contrary to wild stories told by Ukrainian Nationalist exiles about “Russians” eating plentifully while deliberately starving “millions” of Ukrainians to death, the New Republic notes that while bread prices in Ukraine were falling, “bread prices in Moscow have risen.”…
It is a matter of some significance that Cardinal Innitzer’s allegations of famine-genocide were widely promoted throughout the 1930s, not only by Hitler’s chief propagandist Goebbels, but also by American Fascists as well. It will be recalled that Hearst kicked off his famine campaign with a radio broadcast based mainly on material from Cardinal Innitzer’s “aid committee.” In Organized Anti-Semitism in America, the 1941 book exposing Nazi groups and activities in the pre-war United States, Donald Strong notes that American fascist leader Father Coughlin used Nazi propaganda material extensively. This included Nazi charges of “atrocities by Jew Communists” and verbatim portions of a Goebbels speech referring to Innitzer’s “appeal of July 1934, that millions of people were dying of hunger throughout the Soviet Union.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 49-51

…Sir John Maynard, a former high school… official in the Indian government was a renowned expert on famines and relief measures. On the basis of his experience in Ukraine, he stated that the idea of 3 or 4 million dead “has passed into legend. Any suggestion of a calamity comparable with the famine of 1921-1922 is, in the opinion of the present writer, who traveled through Ukraine and North Caucasus in June and July 1933, unfounded.” Even as conservative a scholar as Warren Walsh wrote in defense of Maynard, his “professional competence and personal integrity were beyond reasonable challenge.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 52

Cold War confrontation, rather than historical truth and understanding, has motivated and characterized the famine-genocide campaign. Elements of fraud, anti-semitism, degenerate Nationalism, fascism, and pseudo- scholarship revealed in this critical examination of certain key evidence presented in the campaign…and historical background of the campaign’s promoters underline this conclusion.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 133

QUESTION: Is it true that during 1932-33 several million people were allowed to starve to death in the Ukraine and North Caucasus because they were politically hostile to the Soviets?
ANSWER: Not true. I visited several places in those regions during that period. There was a serious grain shortage in the 1932 harvest due chiefly to inefficiencies of the organizational period of the new large-scale mechanized farming among peasants unaccustomed to machines. To this was added sabotage by dispossessed kulaks, the leaving of the farms by 11 million workers who went to new industries, the cumulative effect of the world crisis in depressing the value of Soviet farm exports, and a drought in five basic grain regions in 1931. The harvest of 1932 was better than that of 1931 but was not all gathered; on account of overoptimistic promises from rural districts, Moscow discovered the actual situation only in December when a considerable amount of grain was under snow.
Strong, Anna Louise. “Searching Out the Soviets.” New Republic: August 7, 1935, p. 356

Opposing the tendency of many Communists to blame the peasants, Stalin said: “We Communists are to blame”–for not foreseeing and preventing the difficulties. Several organizational measures were at once put into action to meet the immediate emergency and prevent its reoccurrence. Firm pressure on defaulting farms to make good the contracts they had made to sell 1/4 their crop to the state in return for machines the state had given them (the means of production contributed by the state was more than all the peasants’ previous means) was combined with appeals to loyal, efficient farms to increase their deliveries voluntarily. Saboteurs who destroyed grain or buried it in the earth were punished. The resultant grain reserves in state hands were rationed to bring the country through the shortage with a minimum loss of productive efficiency. The whole country went on a decreased diet, which affected most seriously those farms that had failed to harvest their grain. Even these, however, were given state food and seed loans for sowing.
Simultaneously, a nationwide campaign was launched to organize the farms efficiently; 20,000 of the country’s best experts in all fields were sent as permanent organizers to the rural districts. The campaign was fully successful and resulted in a 1933 grain crop nearly 10 million tons larger than was ever gathered from the same territory before.

QUESTION: Is there a chance of another famine this year, as Cardinal Innitzer asserts?
ANSWER: Everyone in the Soviet Union to whom I mentioned this question just laughs.
Reasons for the laughter are:
Two bumper crops in 1933 and 1934.
A billion bushels of grain in state hands, enough to feed the cities and non-grain farmers for two years.
A grain surplus in farmers’ hands that has sufficed to increase calves 94% and pigs 118 percent in a single year.
The abolition of bread rationing because of surplus in grain.
The abolition of nearly half a billion rubles of peasant debts incurred for equipment during the organizing of collective farms–this as the result of an actual budget surplus in the government.
Tales of continued famine are Nazi propaganda on which to base a future invasion of the Ukraine [which did occur by the way].
Strong, Anna Louise. “Searching Out the Soviets.” New Republic: August 7, 1935, p. 357


Kharkov, September 1933–I have just completed a 200 mile auto trip through the heart of the Ukraine and can say positively that the harvest is splendid and all talk of famine now is ridiculous…. The population, from the babies to the old folks, looks healthy and well nourished.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 318


[Footnote] In Stalin’s view, Ukrainian crop failures were caused by enemy resistance and by the poor leadership of Ukrainian officials.
Naumov, Lih, and Khlevniuk, Eds. Stalin’s Letters to Molotov, 1925-1936. New Haven: Yale University Press, c1995, p. 230


One harvest was not enough to stabilize collectivization. In 1930, it was put over by poorly organized, ill-equipped peasants through force of desire. In the next two years, the difficulties of organization caught up with them. Where to find good managers? Bookkeepers? Men to handle machines? In 1931, the harvest fell off from drought in five basic grain areas. In 1932, the crop was better but poorly gathered. Farm presidents, unwilling to admit failure, claimed they were getting it in. When Moscow awoke to the situation, a large amount of grain lay under the snow.
Causes were many. Fourteen million small farms had been merged into 200,000 big ones, without experienced managers or enough machines. Eleven million workers had left the farms for the new industries. The backwardness of peasants, sabotage by kulaks, stupidities of officials, all played a part. By January 1933 it was clear that the country faced a serious food shortage, two years after it had victoriously “conquered wheat.”
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 41


From one end of the land to the other, there was shortage and hunger–and a general increase in mortality from this. But the hunger was distributed–nowhere was there the panic chaos that is implied by the word “famine.”
The conquest of bread was achieved that summer, a victory snatched from a great disaster. The 1933 harvest surpassed that of 1930, which till then had held the record. This time, the new record was made not by a burst of half-organized enthusiasm, but by growing efficiency and permanent organization.
Victory was consolidated the following year by the great fight the collective farmers made against a drought that affected all the southern half of Europe…. In each area where winter wheat failed, scientists determined what second crops were best; these were publicized and the government shot in the seed by fast freight. This nationwide cooperation beat the 1934 drought, securing a total crop for the USSR equal to the all-time high of 1933. Even in the worst regions, most farms came through with food for man and beast with strengthened organization.
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 44-45


CHUEV: Among writers, some say the famine of 1933 was deliberately organized by Stalin and the whole of your leadership.
MOLOTOV: Enemies of communism say that! They are enemies of communism! People who are not politically aware, who are politically blind.
…If life does not improve, that’s not socialism. But even if the life of the people improves year to year over a long period but the foundations of socialism are not strengthened, a crack-up will be inevitable.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 243

This destruction of the productive forces had, of course, disastrous consequences: in 1932, there was a great famine, caused in part by the sabotage and destruction done by the kulaks. But anti-Communists blame Stalin and the `forced collectivization’ for the deaths caused by the criminal actions of the kulaks.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 79 [p. 66 on the NET]

In 1931 and 1932, the Soviet Union was in the depth of the crisis, due to socio-economic upheavals, to desperate kulak resistance, to the little support that could be given to peasants in these crucial years of industrial investment, to the slow introduction of machines and to drought.
Charles Bettelheim. L’Economie soviEtique (Paris: ƒditions Recueil Sirey, 1950), p. 82
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 93 [p. 78 on the NET]

Recent evidence has indicated that part of the cause of the famine was an exceptionally low harvest in 1932, much lower than incorrect Soviet methods of calculation had suggested. The documents included here or published elsewhere do not yet support the claim that the famine was deliberately produced by confiscating the harvest, or that it was directed especially against the peasants of the Ukraine.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 401

In view of the importance of grain stocks to understanding the famine, we have searched Russian archives for evidence of Soviet planned and actual grain stocks in the early 1930s. Our main sources were the Politburo protocols, including the (“special files,” the highest secrecy level), and the papers of the agricultural collections committee Komzag, of the committee on commodity funds, and of Sovnarkom. The Sovnarkom records include telegrams and correspondence of Kuibyshev, who was head of Gosplan, head of Komzag and the committee on reserves, and one of the deputy chairs of Komzag at that time. We have not obtained access to the Politburo working papers in the Presidential Archive, to the files of the committee on reserves or to the relevant files in military archives. But we have found enough information to be confident that this very a high figure for grain stocks is wrong and that Stalin did not have under his control huge amounts of grain, which could easily have been used to eliminate the famine.
Stalin, Grain Stocks and the Famine of 1932-1933 by R. W. Davies, M. B. Tauger, S.G. Wheatcroft.Slavic Review, Volume 54, Issue 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 642-657.

This is in response to Ms. Chernihivaka’s note about the book of German letters and the reference to what she termed the “Ukrainian Famine” of the early 1930s.
I would just like to point out that I and a number of other scholars have shown conclusively that the famine of 1931-1933 was by no means limited to Ukraine, was not a “man-made” or artificial famine in the sense that she and other devotees of the Ukrainian famine argument assert, and was not a genocide in any conventional sense of the term. We have likewise shown that Mr. Conquest’s book on the famine is replete with errors and inconsistencies and does not deserve to be considered a classic, but rather another expression of the Cold War.
I would recommend to Ms. Chernihivaka the following publications regarding the 1931-1933 famine and some other famines as well. I will begin with my own because I believe that these most directly relate to her question. “The 1932 Harvest and the Soviet Famine of 1932-1933,” and the “Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933.” These two articles show that the famine resulted directly from a famine harvest, a harvest that was much smaller than officially acknowledged, that this small harvest was in turn, the result of a complex of natural disasters that [with one small exception] no previous scholars have ever discussed or even mentioned. The footnotes in the Carl Beck paper contain extensive citations from primary sources as well as Western and Soviet secondary sources, among others by Penner, Wheatcroft and Davies that further substantiate these points, and I urge interested readers to examine these works as well.
Ukrainian Famine by Mark Tauger. E-mail sent on April 16, 2002

I am not a specialist on the Ukrainian famine but I am familiar with the recent research by several scholars on the matter, and think rather a lot of the deep and broad research that Mark Tauger has conducted over many years.
That familiarity leads me to believe that there are no simple answers to this. A “man-made” famine is not the same as a deliberate or “terror-famine”. A famine originally caused by crop failure and aggravated by poor policies is “man aggravated” but only partially “man-made”. Why in this field do we always insist on absolutes, especially categorical, binary and polemical ones? True/false. Good/evil. Crop failure/Man made.
Many questions have ambiguous answers.

1. Why was the Ukraine sealed off by the Soviet authorities?

Not necessarily to punish Ukrainians. It was also done to prevent starving people from flocking into non-famine areas, putting pressure on scarce food supplies there, and thereby turning a regional disaster into a universal one. This was also the original reason for the internal passport system, which was adopted in the first instance to prevent the movement of hungry and desperate people and, with them, the spread of famine.

2. Why were foreign journalists, even Stalin apologists like Duranty, refused access to the famine areas?

For the same reason that US journalists are no longer allowed into US combat zones (Gulf War, Afghanistan) since Vietnam. No regime is anxious to take the chance on bad press if they can control the situation otherwise.

3. Why was aid from other countries refused?

Obviously to deny the “imperialists” a chance to trumpet the failure of socialism. Certainly politics triumphed over humanitarianism. Moreover, in the growing paranoia of the times (and based on experience in the Civil War) the regime believed that spies came along with relief administration.

4. Why do I read and hear stories of families who tried to take supplies from other regions to help their extended families through the period having all foodstuffs confiscated as they crossed back into the famine regions?

The regime believed, reasonably I think, that speculators were trying to take advantage of the disaster by buying up food in non-famine (but nevertheless food-short) regions, moving it to Ukraine, and reselling it at a higher price. In true Bolshevik fashion, there was no nuanced approach to this, no distinguishing between families and speculators, and everybody was stopped. As with point 1 above, regimes facing famine typically try to contain the disaster geographically. This is not the same as intending to punish the victims.

5. If it was a harvest failure, why was the burden of that failure not simply shared across the Soviet Union?

It was. No region had a lot of food in 1932-33. Food was short and expensive everywhere. Everybody was hungry.

With the above suggestions, I do not mean to make excuses or apologies for the Stalinists. Their conduct in this was erratic, incompetent, and cruel and millions of people suffered unimaginably and died as a result. But it is too simple to explain everything with a “Bolsheviks were just evil people” explanation more suitable to children than scholars. It was more complex than that. Although the situation was aggravated in some ways by Bolshevik mistakes, their attempts to contain the famine, once it started, were not entirely stupid, nor were they necessarily gratuitously cruel. The Stalinists did, by the way, eventually cut grain exports and did, by the way, send food relief to Ukraine and other areas. It was too little too late, but there is no evidence (aside from constantly repeated assertions by some writers) that this was a deliberately inflicted “terror-famine.”

6. To deny the Jewish genocide quite rightly brings opprobrium. Surely to deny the terror famine of 1932-33 ought to provoke the same response.

This is a position that I personally find grotesque, insulting and at least shallow. Nobody is denying the famine or the huge scale of suffering, (as holocaust-deniers do), least of all Tauger and other researchers who have spent much of their careers trying to bring this tragedy to light and give us a factual account of it. Admittedly, what he and other scholars do is different from the work of journalists and polemicists who indiscriminately collect horror stories and layer them between repetitive statements about evil, piling it all up and calling it history. A factual, careful account of horror in no way makes it less horrible.
Ukrainian Famine by J. Arch Getty, E-mail sent on May 7, 2002

“There is no evidence, it [1932-33 famine] was intentionally directed against Ukrainians,” said Alexander Dallin of Stanford, the father of modern Sovietology. “That would be totally out of keeping with what we know–it makes no sense.”

“I absolutely reject it,” said Lynne Viola of SUNY– Binghamton, the first US historian to examine Moscow’s Central State archive on collectivization. “Why in god’s name, would this paranoid government consciously produce a famine when they were terrified of war [with Germany]?”

“He’s [Conquest] terrible at doing research,” said veteran Sovietologist Roberta Manning of Boston College. “He misuses sources, he twists everything.”

Which leaves us with a puzzle: Wouldn’t one or two or 3.5 million famine-related deaths be enough to make an anti-Stalinist argument? Why seize a wildly inflated figure that can’t possibly be supported? The answer tells much about the Ukrainian nationalist cause, and about those who abet it.
“They’re always looking to come up with a number bigger than 6 million,” observed Eli Rosenbaum, general counsel for the World Jewish Congress. “It makes the reader think: ‘My God, it’s worse than the Holocaust’.”
IN SEARCH OF A SOVIET HOLOCAUST [A 55 Year Old Famine Feeds the Right] by Jeff Coplon. Village Voice, New York City, January 12, 1988

The severity and geographical extent of the famine, the sharp decline in exports in 1932-1933, seed requirements, and the chaos in the Soviet Union in these years, all lead to the conclusion that even a complete cessation of exports would not have been enough to prevent famine. This situation makes it difficult to accept the interpretation of the famine as the result of the 1932 grain procurements and as a conscious act of genocide. The harvest of 1932 essentially made a famine inevitable.
…The data presented here provide a more precise measure of the consequences of collectivization and forced industrialization than has previously been available; if anything, these data show that the effects of those policies were worse than has been assumed. They also, however, indicate that the famine was real, the result of failure of economic policy, of the “revolution from above,” rather than of a “successful” nationality policy against the Ukrainians or other ethnic groups.
Tauger, Mark. “The 1932 Harvest and the Famine of 1933,” Slavic Review, Volume 50, Issue 1 (Spring, 1991), 70-89.

Conquest replies,
Perhaps I might add that my own analyses and descriptions of the terror-famine first appeared in the USSR in Moscow in Russian journals such as Voprosy Istorii and Novyi Mir, and that the long chapter printed in the latter was specifically about the famine in Ukraine and hence relied importantly on Ukrainian sources.

Tauger replies,
Mr. Conquest does not deal with these arguments. He most nearly approaches in his assertion that in Ukraine and certain other areas “the entire crop was removed.” Since the regime procured 4.7 million tons of grain from Ukraine in 1932, much less than in any previous or subsequent year in the 1930’s, this would imply that the harvest in Ukraine was only on that order of magnitude or even less than my low estimate! Obviously this could not have been the case or the death toll in Ukraine would have been not four million or five million but more than 20 million because the entire rural population would have been left without grain….
I have yet to see any actual central directive ordering a blockade of Ukraine or the confiscation of food at the border. The sources available are still too incomplete to reach any conclusion about this.
Tauger, Mark & Robert Conquest. Slavic Review, Volume 51, Issue 1 (Spring, 1992), pp. 192-194.

Tauger replies further,
Robert Conquest’s second reply to my article does not settle in his favor the controversy between us over the causes of the 1933 famine. On his initial points, I noted that the famine was worse in Ukraine and Kuban than elsewhere, in great part because those regions’ harvests were much smaller than previously known. I rejected his evidence not because it was not “official” but because my research showed that it was incorrect.
Conquest cites the Stalin decree of January 1933 in an attempt to validate Ukrainian memoir accounts, to discredit the archival sources I cited and to prove that the Soviet leadership focused the famine on Ukraine and Kuban. The decree’s sanctions, however, do not match memoir accounts, none of which described peasants being returned to their villages by OGPU forces. The experiences described in those accounts instead reflect enforcement of a September 1932 secret OGPU directive ordering confiscations of grain and flour to stop illegal trade. Since this was applied throughout the country, the Ukrainian memoir accounts reflect general policy and not a focus on the Ukraine.
Several new studies confirm my point that hundreds of thousands of peasants fled famine not only in Ukraine and Kuban, but also in Siberia, the Urals, the Volga basin, and elsewhere in 1932-1933. Regional authorities tried to stop them and in November 1932 the Politburo began to prepare the passport system that soon imposed constraints on mobility nationwide. The January decree was thus one of several measures taken at this time to control labor mobility, in this case to retain labor in the grain regions lest the 1933 harvest be even worse. Its reference to northern regions suggests that it may even have been used to send peasants from those areas south to provide labor. Neither the decree itself nor the scale of its enforcement are sufficient to prove that the famine was artificially imposed on Ukraine.
…Ukrainian eyewitness accounts, on the other hand, are misleading because very few peasants from other regions had the opportunity to escape from the USSR after World War II. The Russian historian Kondrashin interviewed 617 famine survivors in the Volga region and explicitly refuted Conquest’s argument regarding the famine’s nationality focus. According to these eyewitnesses, the famine was most severe in wheat and rye regions, in other words, in part a result of the small harvest.
…Both Russian and western scholars such as Kondrashin…and Alec Nove…now acknowledge that the 1932 harvest was much smaller than assumed and was an important factor in the famine.
Tauger, Mark. Slavic Review, Volume 53, Issue 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 318-320.


CHUEV: But nearly 12 million perished of hunger in 1933….
MOLOTOV: The figures have not been substantiated.
CHUEV: Not substantiated?
MOLOTOV: No, no, not at all. In those years I was out in the country on grain procurement trips. Those things couldn’t have just escaped me. They simply couldn’t. I twice traveled to the Ukraine. I visited Sychevo in the Urals and some places in Siberia. Of course I saw nothing of the kind there. Those allegations are absurd! Absurd! True, I did not have occasion to visit the Volga region….
No, these figures are an exaggeration, though such deaths had been reported of course in some places.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 243

What can one say about Conquest’s affirmation of 6,500,000 `massacred’ kulaks during the different phases of the collectivization? Only part of the 63,000 first category counter-revolutionaries were executed. The number of dead during deportations, largely due to famine and epidemics, was approximately 100,000. Between 1932 and 1940, we can estimate that 200,000 kulaks died in the colonies of natural causes. The executions and these deaths took place during the greatest class struggle that the Russian countryside ever saw, a struggle that radically transformed a backward and primitive countryside. In this giant upheaval, 120 million peasants were pulled out of the Middle Ages, of illiteracy and obscurantism. It was the reactionary forces, who wanted to maintain exploitation and degrading and inhuman work and living conditions, who received the blows. Repressing the bourgeoisie and the reactionaries was absolutely necessary for collectivization to take place: only collective labor made socialist mechanization possible, thereby allowing the peasant masses to lead a free, proud and educated life.
Through their hatred of socialism, Western intellectuals spread Conquest’s absurd lies about 6,500,000 `exterminated’ kulaks. They took up the defence of bourgeois democracy, of imperialist democracy.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 98 [p. 82 on the NET]

Lies about the collectivization have always been, for the bourgeoisie, powerful weapons in the psychological war against the Soviet Union.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 98 [p. 85 on the NET]

The borders of the Ukraine were not even the same in 1926 and 1939. The Kuban Cossaks, between 2 and 3 million people, were registered as Ukrainian in 1926, but were reclassified as Russian at the end of the twenties. This new classification explains by itself 25 to 40 per cent of the `victims of the famine-genocide’ calculated by Dushnyck–Mace.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 107 [p. 91 on the NET]

(Alec Nove)
Additionally, the figures on famine-related deaths cannot be precise, for “definitional” reasons…. Ukrainian statistics show a very large decline in births in 1933-34, which could be ascribed to a sharp rise in abortions and also to the non-reporting of births of those who died in infancy.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 269

Concerning the scale of the famine in 1932/33, we now have much better information on its chronology and regional coverage amongst the civilian registered population. The level of excess mortality registered by the civilian population was in the order of 3 to 4 million… which is still much lower than the figures claimed by Conquest and Rosefielde and Medvedev.
Getty and Manning. Stalinist Terror. Cambridge, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993, p. 290

The evidence presented to establish a case for deliberate genocide against Ukrainians during 1932-33, remains highly partisan, often deceitful, contradictory, and consequently highly suspect. The materials commonly used can almost invariably be traced to right-wing sources, anti-Communist “experts,” journalists or publications, as well as the highly partisan Ukrainian Nationalist political organizations. An important role in the thesis of genocide is assumed by the number of famine deaths–obviously it is difficult to allege genocide unless deaths are in the multi-millions. Here, the methodology of the famine-genocide theorists can at best be described as eclectic, unscientific; and the results, as politically manipulated guesstimates.
A “landmark study” in the numbers game is the article “The Soviet Famine of 1932-1934,” by Dana Dalrymple, published in Soviet Studies, January 1964. According to historian Daniel Stone, Dalrymple’s methodology consists of averaging “guesses by 20 Western journalists who visited the Soviet Union at the time, or spoke to Soviet emigres as much as two decades later. He averages the 20 accounts which range from a low of one million deaths (New York Herald Tribune, 1933) to a high of 10 million deaths (New York World Telegram, 1933.”
As Professor Stone of the University of Winnipeg suggests, Dalrymple’s method as no scientific validity; his “method” substitutes the art of newspaper clipping for the science of objective evidence gathering. This becomes apparent when one discovers the totally unacceptable use of fraudulent material built into the attempt to develop sensational mortality figures for the famine.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 45

While it is not possible to establish an exact number of casualties, we have seen that the guesstimates of famine-genocide writers have given a new meaning to the word hyperbole. Their claims have been shown to be extreme exaggerations fabricated to strengthen their political allegations of genocide.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 74

The scope of the hardships is chauvinistically restricted, distorted, and politically manipulated. Other nationalities who suffered–Russians, Turkmen, Kazaks, Caucasus groups– are usually ignored, or if mentioned at all are done so almost reluctantly in passing.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 99

Dr. Hans Blumenfeld, writing in response to Ukrainian Nationalist allegations of Ukrainian genocide, draws on personal experience in describing the people who came to town in search of food:
“They came not only from the Ukraine but in equal numbers from the Russian areas to our east. This disproves the “fact” of anti-Ukrainian genocide parallel to Hitler’s anti-semitic Holocaust. To anyone familiar with the Soviet Union’s desperate manpower shortage in those years, the notion that its leaders would deliberately reduce that scarce resource is absurd…. Up to the 1950s the most frequently quoted figure was 2 million [victims]. Only after it had been established that Hitler’s holocaust had claimed 6 million [Jewish] victims, did anti-Soviet propaganda feel it necessary to top that figure by substituting the fantastic figure of 7 to 10 million….”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 100

Had the 1941 population of Soviet Ukraine consisted of the remnants and survivors of a mass multi-million holocaust of a few years previous, or if they had perceived the 1932-1933 famine as genocide, deliberately aimed at Ukrainians, then doubtless fascism would have met a far different reception; Soviet Ukrainians would have been as reluctant to defend the USSR as Jewish survivors would have been to defend Nazi Germany.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 102


What happened was tragic for the Russian countryside. Orders were given in March, at the beginning of the spring sowing period in the Ukraine and North Caucasus and Lower Volga, that 2 million tons of grain must be collected within 30 days because the Army had to have it. It had to be collected, without argument, on pain of death. The orders about gasoline were hardly less peremptory. Here I don’t know the figures, but so many thousand tons of gasoline must be given to the Army. At a time when the collective farms were relying upon tractors to plow their fields.
That was the dreadful truth of the so-called “man-made famine,” of Russia’s “iron age,” when Stalin was accused of causing the deaths of four or 5 million peasants to gratify his own brutal determination that they should be socialized… or else. What a misconception! Compare it with the truth, that Japan was poised to strike and the Red Army must have reserves of food and gasoline.
… the fact remained that not only kulaks or recalcitrant peasants or middle peasants or doubtful peasants, but the collective farms themselves, were stripped of their grain for food, stripped of their grain for seed, at the season when they needed it most. The quota had to be reached, that was the Kremlin’s order. It was reached, but the bins were scraped too clean. Now indeed the Russian peasants, kulaks, and collectives, were engulfed in common woe. Their draft animals were dead, killed in an earlier phase of the struggle, and there was no gas for the tractors, and their last reserves of food and seed for the spring had been torn from them by the power of the Kremlin, which itself was driven by compulsion, that is by fear of Japan….
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 192

Their [peasants] living standards were so reduced that they fell easy prey to the malnutrition diseases–typhus, cholera, and scurvy, always endemic in Russia–and infected the urban populations….
Russia was wasted with misery, but the Red Army had restored its food reserves and its reserves of gasoline, and cloth and leather for uniforms and boots. And Japan did not attack. In August, 1932, the completion of the Dnieper Dam was celebrated in a way that echoed around the world. And Japan did not attack. Millions of Russian acres were deserted and untilled; millions of Russian peasants were begging for bread or dying. But Japan did not attack.
…The shortages of food and commodities in Russia were attributed, as Stalin had intended, to the tension of the Five-Year Plan, and all that Japanese spies could learn was that the Red Army awaited their attack without anxiety. Their spearhead, aimed at Outer Mongolia and Lake Baikal, were shifted, and her troops moved southwards into the Chinese province of Jehol, which they conquered easily and added to ” Manchukuo.” Stalin had won his game against terrific odds, but Russia had paid in lives as heavily as for war.
In the light of this and other subsequent knowledge, it is interesting for me to read my own dispatches from Moscow in the winter of 1932-33. I seem to have known what was going on, without in the least knowing why, that is without perceiving that Japan was the real key to the Soviet problem at that time, and that the first genuine improvement in the agrarian situation coincided almost to a day with the Japanese southward drive against Jehol.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 193

It meant, to say it succinctly, that Stalin had won his bluff: Japan moved south, not north, and Russia could dare to use its best men….
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 195


There was famine in the Ukraine in 1932-1933. But it was provoked mainly by the struggle to the bitter end that the Ukrainian far-right was leading against socialism and the collectivization of agriculture.
During the thirties, the far-right, linked with the Hitlerites, had already fully exploited the propaganda theme of `deliberately provoked famine to exterminate the Ukrainian people’. But after the Second World War, this propaganda was `adjusted’ with the main goal of covering up the barbaric crimes committed by German and Ukrainian Nazis, to protect fascism and to mobilise Western forces against Communism.
Martens, Ludo. Another View of Stalin. Antwerp, Belgium: EPO, Lange Pastoorstraat 25-27 2600, p. 113 [p. 96 on the NET]

The peasants passive resistance, the destruction of livestock, the complete disorganization of work in the kolkhozes, and the general ruin caused by continued dekulakization and deportations all lead in 1932-33 to a famine that surpassed even the famine of 1921-22 in its geographical extent and the number of its victims.
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 238

Was there or was there not a famine in the USSR in the years 1931 and 1932?
Those who think this a simple question to answer will probably already have made up their minds, in accordance with nearly all the statements by persons hostile to Soviet Communism, that there was, of course, a famine in the USSR; and they do not hesitate to state the mortality that it caused, in precise figures–unknown to any statistician–varying from three to six and even to 10 million deaths. On the other hand, a retired high official of the Government of India, speaking Russian, and well acquainted with czarist Russia, who had himself administered famine districts in India, and who visited in 1932 some of the localities in the USSR in which conditions were reported to be among the worst, informed the present writers at the time that he had found no evidence of there being or having been anything like what Indian officials would describe as a famine.
Footnote: Skepticism as to statistics of total deaths from starvation, in a territory extending to 1/6 of the Earth’s landmass, would anyhow be justified. But as to the USSR there seems no limit to the wildness of exaggeration. We quote the following interesting case related by Mr. Sherwood Eddy, an experienced American traveler in Russia: “Our party, consisting of about 20 persons, while passing through the villages heard rumors of the village of Gavrilovka, where all the men but one were said to have died of starvation. We went at once to investigate and track down this rumor. We divided into four parties, with four interpreters of our own choosing, and visited simultaneously the registry office of births and deaths, the village priest, the local soviet, the judge, the schoolmaster and every individual peasant we met. We found that out of 1100 families three individuals had died of typhus. They had immediately closed the school and the church, inoculated the entire population and stamped out the epidemic without developing another case. We could not discover a single death from hunger or starvation, though many had felt the bitter pinch of want. It was another instance of the ease with which wild rumors spread concerning Russia.”
Without expecting to convince the prejudiced, we give, for what it may be deemed worth, the conclusion to which our visits in 1932 and 1934, and subsequent examination of the available evidence, now lead us. That in each of the years 1931 and 1932 there was a partial failure of crops in various parts of the huge area of the USSR is undoubtedly true. That is true also of British India and of the United States. It has been true also of the USSR, and of every other country at all comparable in size, in each successive year of the present century. In countries of such vast extent, having every kind of climate, there is always a partial failure of crops somewhere. How extensive and how serious was this partial failure of crops in the USSR of 1931 and 1932 it is impossible to ascertain with any assurance. On the other hand, it has been asserted, by people who have seldom had any opportunity of going to the suffering districts, that throughout huge provinces there ensued a total absence of foodstuffs, so that (as in 1891 and 1921) literally several millions of people died of starvation. On the other hand, soviet officials on the spot, in one district after another, informed the present writers that, whilst there was shortage and hunger, there was, at no time, a total lack of bread, though its quality was impaired by using other ingredients than wheaten flower; and that any increase in the death-rate, due to diseases accompanying defective nutrition, occurred only in a relatively small number of villages. What may carry more weight than this official testimony was that of various resident British and American journalists, who traveled during 1933 and 1934 through the districts reputed to have been the worst sufferers, and who declared to the present writers that they had found no reason to suppose that the trouble had been more serious than was officially represented. Our own impression, after considering all the available evidence, is that the partial failure of crops certainly extended to only a fraction of the USSR; possibly to no more, than 1/10 of the geographical area. We think it plain that this partial failure was not in itself sufficiently serious to cause actual starvation, except possibly, in the worst districts, relatively small in extent. Any estimate of the total number of deaths in excess of the normal average, based on a total population supposed to have been subjected to famine conditions of 60 millions, which would mean half the entire rural population between the Baltic and the Pacific (as some have rashly asserted), or even 1/10 of such a population, appears to us to be fantastically excessive.
On the other hand, it seems to be proved that a considerable number of peasant households, both in the spring of 1932 and in that of 1933, found themselves unprovided with a sufficient store of cereal food, and specially short of fats. To these cases we shall return. But we are at once reminded that in countries like India and the USSR, in China, and even in the United States, in which there is no ubiquitous system of poor relief, a certain number of people–among these huge populations even many thousands–die each year of starvation, or of the diseases endemic under these conditions; and that whenever there is even a partial failure of crops this number will certainly be considerably increased. It cannot be supposed to have been otherwise in parts of the southern Ukraine, the Kuban district and Daghestan in the winters of 1931 and 1932.
But before we are warranted in describing this scarcity of food in particular households of particular districts as a “famine,” we must inquire how the scarcity came to exist. We notice among the evidence the fact that the scarcity was “patchy.” In one and the same locality, under weather conditions apparently similar if not identical, there are collective farms which have in these years reaped harvests of more than average excellence, whilst others, adjoining them on the north or on the south, have experienced conditions of distress, and may sometimes have known actual starvation. This is not to deny that there were whole districts in which drought or cold seriously reduced the yield. But there are clearly other cases, how many we cannot pretend to estimate, in which the harvest failures were caused, not by something in the sky, but by something in the collective farm itself. And we are soon put on the track of discovery. As we have already mentioned, we find a leading personage in the direction of the Ukrainian revolt actually claiming that “the opposition of the Ukrainian population caused the failure of the green-storing plan of 1931, and still more so, that of 1932.” He boasts of the success of the “passive resistance which aimed at a systematic frustration of the Bolshevik plans for the sowing and gathering of the harvest.” He tells us plainly that, owing to the efforts of himself and his friends, “whole tracks were left unsown,” and “in addition, when the crop was being gathered last year [1932], it happened that, in many areas, especially in the south, 20, 40 and even 50% was left in the fields, and was either not collected at all or was ruined in the threshing.”
So far as the Ukraine is concerned, it is clearly not Heaven which is principally to blame for the failure of crops, but the misguided members of many of the collective farms. What sort of “famine” is it that is due neither to the drought nor the rain, heat nor cold, rust nor fly, weeds nor locusts; but to a refusal of the agriculturists to sow (“whole tracks were left unsown”); and to gather up the wheat when it was cut (“even 50% was left in the fields”)?
Footnote: [“Ukrainia under Bolshevik Rule” by Isaac Mazepa, in Slavonic Review, January 3, 1934, pages 342-343.] One of the Ukrainian nationalists who was brought to trial is stated to have confessed to having received explicit instructions from the leaders of the movement abroad to the effect that “it is essential that, in spite of the good harvest (of 1930), the position of the peasantry should become worse. For this purpose it is necessary to persuade the members of the kolkhosi to harvest the grain before it has become ripe; to agitate among the kolkhosi members and to persuade them that, however hard they may work, their grain will be taken away from them by the State on one pretext or another; and to sabotage the proper calculation of the labor days put into harvesting by the members of the kolkhosi so that they may receive less than they are entitled to by their work” (Speech by Postyshev, secretary of the Ukrainian Communist Party, to plenum of the Central Committee, 1933).
Footnote: It can be definitely denied that the serious shortage of harvested grain in parts of southern Ukraine was due to climatic conditions. “In a number of southern regions, from 30 to 40% of the crop remained on the fields. This was not the result of the drought which was so severe in certain parts of Siberia, the Urals, in the Middle and Lower Volga regions that it reduced there the expected crops by about 50%. No act of God was involved in the Ukraine. The difficulties experienced in the sowing, harvesting, and grain collection campaign of 1931 were man-made” (“Collectivization of Agriculture in the Soviet Union,” by W. Ladejinsky, Political Science Quarterly, New York, June 1934, page 222).
The other district in which famine conditions are most persistently reported is that of Kuban, in the surrounding areas, chiefly inhabited by the Don Cossacks, who, as it is not irrelevant to remember, were the first to take up arms against the Bolshevik Government in 1918, and so begin the calamitous civil war. These Don Cossacks, as we have mentioned, had enjoyed special privileges under the tsars, the loss of which under the new regime has, even today, not been forgiven. Here there is evidence that whole groups of peasants, under hostile influences, got into such a state of apathy and despair, on being pressed into a new system of cooperative life which they could not understand and about which they heard all sorts of evil, that they ceased to care whether their fields were tilled or not, or what would happen to them in the winter if they produced no crop at all. Whatever the reason, there were, it seems, in the Kuban, as in the Ukraine, whole villages that sullenly abstained from sowing or harvesting, usually not completely, but on all but a minute fraction of their fields, so that, when the year ended, they had no stock of seed, and in many cases actually no grain on which to live. There are many other instances in which individual peasants made a practice, out of spite, of surreptitiously “barbering” the ripening wheat; that is, rubbing out the grain from the ear, or even cutting off the whole ear, and carrying off for individual hoarding this shameless theft of community property.
Unfortunately it was not only in such notoriously disaffected areas as the Ukraine and Kuban that these peculiar “failures of crops” occurred.
To any generally successful cultivation, he [Kaganovich] declared, “the anti-soviet elements of the village are offering fierce opposition. Economically ruined, but not yet having lost their influence entirely, the kulaks, former white officers, former priests, their sons, former ruling landlords and sugar-mill owners, former Cossacks and other anti-soviet elements of the bourgeois-nationalist and also of the social-revolutionary and Petlura-supporting intelligentsia settled in the villages, are trying in every way to corrupt the collective farms, are trying to foil the measures of the Party and the Government in the realm of farming, and for these ends are making use of the backwardness of part of the collective farm members against the interests of the socialized collective farm, against the interests of the collective farm peasantry.
Penetrating into collective farms as accountants, managers, warehouse keepers, brigadiers and so on, and frequently as leading workers on the boards of collective farms, the anti-soviet elements strive to organize sabotage, spoil machines, sow without the proper measures, steal collective farm goods, undermine labor discipline, organize the thieving of seed and secret granaries, sabotage grain collections–and sometimes they succeed in disorganizing kolkhosi.
However much we may discount such highly colored denunciations, we cannot avoid noticing how exactly the statements as to sabotage of the harvest, made on the one hand by the Soviet Government, and on the other by the nationalist leaders of the Ukrainian recalcitrants, corroborate each other. To quote again the Ukrainian leader, it was “the opposition of the Ukrainian population” that “caused the failure of the grain-storing plan of 1931, and still more so, that of 1932.” What on one side is made a matter for boasting is, on the other side, a ground for denunciation. Our own inference is merely that, whilst both sides probably exaggerate, the sabotage referred to actually took place, to a greater or less extent, in various parts of the USSR, in which collective farms had been established under pressure. The partial failure of the crops due to climatic conditions, which is to be annually expected in one locality or another, was thus aggravated, to a degree that we find no means of estimating, and rendered far more extensive in its area, not only by “barbering” the growing wheat, and stealing from the common stock, but also by deliberate failure to sow, failure to weed, failure to thresh, and failure to warehouse even all the grain that was threshed. But that is not what it is usually called a famine.
What the Soviet Government was faced with, from 1929 onward, was, in fact, not a famine but a widespread general strike of the peasantry, in resistance to the policy of collectivization, fomented and encouraged by the disloyal elements of the population, not without incitement from the exiles at Paris and Prague. Beginning with the calamitous slaughter of live-stock in many areas in 1929-1930, the recalcitrant peasants defeated, during the years 1931 and 1932, all the efforts of the Soviet Government to get the land adequately cultivated. It was in this way, much more than by the partial failure of the crops due to drought or cold, that was produced in an uncounted host of villages in many parts of the USSR a state of things in the winter of 1931-1932, and again in that of 1932-1933, in which many of the peasants found themselves with inadequate supplies of food. But this did not always lead to starvation. In innumerable cases, in which there was no actual lack of rubles, notably in the Ukraine, the men journeyed off to the nearest big market, and (as there was no deficiency in the country as a whole) returned after many days with the requisite sacks of flour. In other cases, especially among the independent peasantry, the destitute family itself moved away to the cities, in search of work at wages, leaving its rude dwelling empty and desolate, to be quoted by some incautious observer as proof of death by starvation. In an unknown number of other cases–as it seems, to be counted by the hundred thousand–the families were forcibly taken from the holding which they had failed to cultivate, and removed to distant places where they could be provided with work by which they could earn their substance.
The Soviet Government has been severely blamed for these deportations, which inevitably caused great hardships. The irresponsible criticism loses, however, much of its force by the inaccuracy with which the case is stated. It is, for instance, almost invariably taken for granted that the Soviet Government heartlessly refused to afford any relief to the starving districts. Very little investigation shows that relief was repeatedly afforded where there was reason to suppose that the shortage was not due to sabotage or deliberate failure to cultivate. There were, to begin with, extensive remissions of payments in-kind due to the government. But there was also a whole series of transfers of grain from the government stocks to villages found to be destitute, sometimes actually for consumption, and in other cases to replace the seed funds which had been used for food.
Footnote: Thus: “On February 17, 1932, almost six months before the harvesting of the new crop the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the Communist Party, directed that the collective farms in the eastern part of the country, which had suffered from the drought, be loaned over 6 million quintals of grain for the establishment of both seed and food funds.”
(“Collectivization of Agriculture in the Soviet Union,” by W. Ladejinsky, Political Science Quarterly, New York, June 1934, page 229).
Webb, S. Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation. London, NY: Longmans, Green, 1947, p. 199-205


[Supplement to minutes of the Ukrainian Party Kiev bureau, Feb. 22, 1933, instructing that the famine be alleviated and that “all who have become completely disabled because of emaciation must be put back on their feet” by March 5]

… 10. In view of the continued attempts by our enemies to use these facts against the creation of collective farms, the Raion Party Committees are to conduct systematic clarification work bringing to light the real causes of the existing famine (abuses in the collective farms, laziness, decline in labor discipline, etc.).

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 418


In the fall of 1934, an American using the name Thomas Walker entered the Soviet Union. After tarrying less than a week in Moscow, he spent the remainder of his 13-day journey in transit to the Manchurian border, at which point he left the USSR never to return. This seemingly uneventful journey was the pretext for one of the greatest frauds ever perpetrated in the history of 20th century journalism.
Some four months later, on Feb. 18, 1935, a series of articles began in the Hearst press by Thomas Walker, “noted journalist, traveller and student of Russian affairs who has spent several years touring the Union of Soviet Russia.” The articles, appearing in the Chicago American and the New York Evening Journal for example, described in hair-raising prose a mammoth famine in the Ukraine which, it was alleged, had claimed “6 million” lives the previous year. Accompanying the stories were photographs portraying the devastation of the famine, for which it was claimed Walker had smuggled in a camera under the “most adverse and dangerous possible circumstances.”
In themselves, Walker’s stories in the Hearst press were not particularly outstanding examples of fraud concerning the Soviet Union. Nor were they the greatest masterpieces of yellow journalism ever produced by the right-wing corporate press. Lies and distortions had been written about the Soviet Union since the days of the October Revolution in 1917. The anti-Soviet press campaigns heated up in the late 20s and ’30s, directed by those, like Hearst, who wanted to keep the USSR out of the League of Nations and isolated in all respects.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 5

However, the Walker famine photographs are truly remarkable in that, having been exposed as utter hoaxes over fifty years ago, they continue to be used by Ukrainian nationalists and university propaganda institutes as evidence of alleged genocide. The extent of Walker’s fraud can only be measured by the magnitude and longevity of the lie they have been used to portray.
Horror stories about Russia were common in the Western press, particularly among papers and journalist of conservative or fascist orientation. For example, The London Daily Telegraph of November 28, 1930, printed an interview with a Frank Woodhead who had “just returned from Russia after a visit lasting seven months.” Woodhead reported witnessing bloody massacres that November, a slaughter which left “rows of ghastly corpses.”
Louis Fisher, an American writer for the New Republic and The Nation, who was in Moscow at the time of the alleged atrocities, discovered that not only had such events never occurred, but that Woodhead had left the country almost 8 months before the scenes he claimed to have witnessed. Fisher challenged Woodhead and the London Daily Telegraph on the matter; both responded with embarrassed silence.
When Thomas Walker’s articles appeared in the Hearst press, Fisher became suspicious–he had never heard of Walker and could find no one who had. The results of his investigation were published in the March 13, 1935 issue of The Nation:
“Mr. Walker, we are informed, ‘entered Russia last spring.’ that is the spring of 1934. He saw famine. He photographed its victims. He got heartrending, first-hand accounts of hunger’s ravages. Now famine in Russia is ‘hot’ news. Why did Mr. Hearst keep these sensational articles for ten months before printing them? My suspicions grew deeper….
I felt more and more sure that he was just another Woodhead, another absentee journalist. And so I consulted Soviet authorities who had official information from Moscow. Thomas Walker was in the Soviet Union once. He received a transit visa from the Soviet Consul in London on Sept. 29, 1934. He entered the USSR from Poland by train on October 12, 1934, (not the spring of 1934 as he says). He was in Moscow on the 13th. He remained in Moscow from Saturday, the 13th, to Thursday, the 18th, and then boarded a trans-Siberian train which brought him to the Soviet-Manchurian border on Oct. 25, 1934, his last day on Soviet territory. His train did not pass within several hundred miles of the black soil and Ukrainian districts which he ‘toured’ and ‘saw’ and ‘walked over’ and ‘photographed.’ It would have been physically impossible for Mr. Walker, in the five days between Oct. 13 and Oct. 18, to cover one-third of the points he ‘describes’ from personal experience. My hypothesis is that he stayed long enough in Moscow to gather from embittered foreigners the Ukrainian ‘local color’ he needed to give his articles the fake verisimilitude they possess.
Mr. Walker’s photographs could easily date back to the Volga famine in 1921. Many of them might have been taken outside the Soviet Union. They were taken at different seasons of the year…. One picture includes trees or shrubs with large leaves. Such leaves could not have grown by the ‘late sprang’ of Mr. Walker’s alleged visit. Other photographs show winter and early fall backgrounds. Here is the Journal of the 27th. A starving, bloated boy of 15 calmly poses naked for Mr. Walker. The next moment, in the same village, Mr. Walker photographs a man who is obviously suffering from the cold despite his sheepskin overcoat. The weather that sprang must have been as unreliable as Mr. Walker to allow nude poses one moment and require furs the next.
It would be easy to riddle Mr. Walker’s stories. They do not deserve the effort. The truth is that the Soviet harvest of 1933, including the Soviet Ukraine’s harvest, in contrast to that of 1932, was excellent; the grain-tax collections were moderate; and therefore conditions even remotely resembling those Mr. Walker portrays could not have arisen in the spring of 1934, and did not arise.”
Fisher challenged the motives of the Hearst press in hiring a fraud like Walker to concoct such fabrications:
“…Mr. Hearst, naturally does not object if his papers spoil Soviet-American relations and encourage foreign nations with hostile military designs upon the USSR. But his real target is the American radical movement. These Walker articles are part of Hearst’s anti-red campaign. He knows that the great economic progress registered by the Soviet Union since 1929, when the capitalist world dropped into depression, provides Left groups with spiritual encouragement and faith. Mr. Hearst wants to deprive them of that encouragement and faith by painting a picture of ruin and death in the USSR. The attempt is too transparent, and the hands are too unclean to succeed.”
In a post-script, Fisher added that a Lindsay Parrott had visited the Ukraine and had written that nowhere in any city or town he visited “did I meet any signs of the effects of the famine of which foreign correspondents take delight in writing.” Parrott, says Fisher, wrote of the “excellent harvest” in 1933; the progress, he declared, “is indisputable.” Fisher ends: “The Hearst organizations and the Nazis are beginning to work more and more closely together. But I have not noticed that the Hearst press printed Mr. Parrott’s stories about a prosperous Soviet Ukraine. Mr. Parrott is Mr. Hearst’s correspondent in Moscow.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 7-8


In any event, it will be recalled that Walker was never in the Ukraine in 1932-1933.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 11

Not only were the photographs a fraud, the trip to Ukraine a fraud, and Hearst’s famine-genocide series a fraud, Thomas Walker himself was a fraud. Deported from England and arrested on his return to the United States just a few months after the Hearst series, it turned out that Thomas Walker was in fact escaped convict Robert Greene. The New York Times reported: “Robert Greene, a writer of syndicated articles about conditions in Ukraine, who was indicted last Friday by a Federal grand jury on a charge of passport fraud, pleaded guilty yesterday before Federal Judge Francis Caffey. The judge learned that Green was a fugitive from Colorado State Prison, where he escaped after having served two years of an 8-year term for forgery.”
Robert Greene, it was revealed, had run-up an impressive criminal record spanning three decades. His trail of crime led through five U.S. states and four European countries, and included convictions on charges of violating the Mann White Slave Act in Texas, forgery, and “marriage swindle.”
Evidence at Walker’s trial revealed that he had made a previous visit to the Soviet Union in 1930 under the name Thomas Burke. Having worked briefly for an engineering firm in the USSR, he was–by his own admission–expelled for attempting to smuggle a “a whiteguard” out of the country. A reporter covering the trial noted that Walker “admitted that the ‘famine’ pictures published with his series in the Hearst newspapers were fakes and they were not taken in Ukraine as advertised.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 11

(Actually, one must recall, Walker never set foot in Ukraine, and entered the Russian Federation in the fall of 1934.)
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 59

Mace and his Harvard colleagues have the further audacity to state, in their introduction to Walker’s material: “American newspapermen… Thomas Walker… wrote plainspoken and graphic accounts of the Famine based on what he had witnessed in Ukraine in 1933.” Ignoring the fraudulent nature of the Walker series exposed over 50 years ago, the Harvard scholars conveniently backdate Walker’s stated 1934 trip to 1933….
Not only is this “scholarship” riddled with inaccuracies, exaggeration, distortion, and fraud, it resorts uncritically to Nazi sources without informing the reader of the spurious nature of the sources.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 61


It was following Hearst’s trip to Nazi Germany that the Hearst press began to promote the theme of “famine-genocide in Ukraine.” Prior to this, his papers had at times reflected a different perspective. For example, the October 1, 1934 Herald and Examiner, carried an article about the former French Premier, Herriot, who had recently returned from traveling around Ukraine. Herriot noted: “… the whole campaign on the subject of famine in the Ukraine is currently being waged. While wandering around the Ukraine, I saw nothing of the sort.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 15


Indeed, a wide assortment of photos and documentary film footage was taken in Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe and Armenia during the period of World War I, the Russian Revolution, Civil War, and foreign intervention, events which contributed to the Russian famine of 1921-22. These photos–taken by journalists, relief agencies, medical workers, soldiers and individuals–were frequently published in the newspapers and brochures of the period. Such photos were the most likely source for the famine-genocide photographic “evidence”: they could be easily culled from archives, collections, and newspaper morgues and grafted onto accounts of the 1930s.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 31

Overall, the film’s [Harvest of Despair] producers, Nowytsky and Luhovy, have managed to slap together a patchwork of material. Film reviewer Leonard Klady noted that co-producer Luhovy “admits most of his income comes from editing feature films of dubious quality. He has a reputation as a good ‘doctor’–someone who’s brought in to salvage a movie which is deemed unreleasable by film exhibitors and distributors.” In Harvest of Despair it appears that the doctor delivered one of the great cinema miscarriages of all time. Objectivity and scientific presentation are sacrificed on the altar of Cold War psychological warfare.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press, Luhovy “personally viewed more than one million feet of historic stock footage to find roughly 20 minutes (720 feet) of appropriate material for the film.” This says less about his research than about the total lack of photographic evidence of famine-genocide.
Indeed, not one documented piece of evidence is presented in the film to back up the genocide thesis. Instead, in a montage of undocumented stills, the viewer is subjected to Walker/Ditloff forgeries; numerous scenes stolen from the bi-now familiar publications covering the 1921-1922 Russian famine, Ammende photos (with all their contradictions noted earlier); 1920s photos used in the Nazi organ Volkischer Beobachter in 1933. Certain Harvest of Despair photos can also be traced to Laubenheimer’s Nazi propaganda books, as well as to a Ukrainian-language publication published in Berlin in 1922.
Other scenes both borrow from the past and from the future. For example, footage of marching soldiers has Red Army men wearing uniforms from the days of the Russian Civil War. Footage of impoverished women cooking is also of Civil War vintage. Other scenes display peasant costumes from the Volga Russian area of the immediate post-World War 1 period, not Ukrainians in 1933. Footage of miners pulling coal sledges on their hands and knees is actually of Czarist-era origins. Scenes of peasants at meetings wearing peculiar tall peaked caps date from earlier periods; further, their clothing is not consistent with Ukrainian costume. Material filched from Soviet films of the 1920s can be identified, including sequences from Czar Hunger (1921-1922) and Arsenal (1929), and even from pre-revolutionary newsreels.
Flipping forward to the future, the film shows scenes of military manufacturing of tank models not produced until later in the 1930s. As well: “the episode of bread distribution in Nazi besieged Leningrad (taken from ‘The Siege of Leningrad,’ one film of the epic ‘An Unknown War’) was used by the authors of the videofraud as ‘filmed evidence’ of food shortage… in Ukraine in the 1930s.” And so on, and so on.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 78

It seems that like others before them, the producers of Harvest of Despair scrounged through the archives looking for bits and pieces of old war-and-starvation shots that might be spiced into the film to great subliminal effect–bound together with narrative and interspersed partisan interviews. As much has been admitted, as we will see.
In November 1986, Ukrainian Nationalists in alliance with right-wing school board officials, made an attempt to place their famine-genocide propaganda in the Toronto high school curriculum. Toward this end, a film showing of Harvest of Despair was arranged at the Education Center. Panelists advertised for the event included then vice-chairman of the Toronto Board Of Education Nola Crewe, Dr. Yury Boshyk, Research Fellow at Harvard’s Ukrainian Research Institute and Marco Carynnyk, writer and researcher associated with Harvest of Despair in its research stage.
Confronted by this author in the discussion portion of the meeting, that the stills and footage used in the film were fraudulent, the panelists were forced to admit openly that this author’s charges were true. Though reluctant to acknowledge the full extent of the fraud, deliberate deceit was confirmed. As the Toronto Star reported:
“Researcher Marco Carynnyk, who says he originated the idea of the film, says his concerns about questionable photographs were ignored. Carynnyk said that none of the archival film footage is of the Ukrainian famine and that very few photos from 1932-1933 appear that can be traced as authentic. A dramatic shot at the film’s end of an emaciated girl, which has also been used in the film’s promotional material, is not from the 1932-1933 famine, Carynnyk said.
“I made the point that this sort of inaccuracy cannot be allowed,” he said in an interview. “I was ignored.”

Perhaps this is why, to use the term of B.S. Onyschuk, vice-chairman of the Ukrainian Famine Research Committee, Carynnyk was “let go” from the film before its completion.
In light of the above, one wonders why Carynnyk waited several years before coming forward publicly with the truth, and even then only after a public challenge and exposure by this author.
In a quite incredible admission from an academic, Orest Subtelny, a history professor at York University, justified the use of frauds. Noting that there exist very few pictures of the 1933 famine, Subtelny defended the actions of the film’s producers: “You have to have visual impact. You want to show what children dying from a famine look like. Starving children are starving children.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 79

Dr. Ditloff, it will be recalled, was Director of the German government’s agricultural concession in the North Caucasus under an agreement between the German government and the Soviets. When Hitler took power in early 1933, Ditloff did not resign in protest. He remained as Director for the project’s duration, indicating that the Nazis did not consider him inimical to their interests. Following his return to Nazi Germany later that year, Ditloff gathered or fronted for a spurious assortment of famine photographs. These, as has been shown, included photos stolen from 1921-1922 famine sources. In addition, at least 25 of the Ditloff photos can be shown to have been released by the Nazis, many of which were passed to or picked up by various anti-Soviet and pro-fascist publishers abroad.
Some of Ditloff’s photos were published in the Nazi party organ Volkischer Beobachter (Aug. 18, 1933).
Whatever the actual mechanics of the distribution of the Ditloff-Walker photographs, their fraudulence is well-established. Those intent on propagating the famine-genocide myth for political/purposes have not hesitated to use these photographs repeatedly to this day–without adding a shred of authenticating evidence to this questionable material.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 34-35


Included in Volume 1 of The Black Deeds of the Kremlin is a special section devoted to Nationalist allegations of Soviet mass executions…in Vynnitsya. Unearthed in 1943 during the Nazi occupation, the graves were “examined” by a Nazi-appointed “Commission” and were featured in Nazi propaganda films….
Post-war testimony of German soldiers, however, exposes the unearthing of mass graves at Vynnitsya as a Nazi propaganda deception.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 37

According to Israel’s authoritative Yad Washem Studies, Oberleutnant Erwin Bingel testified that on Sept. 22, 1941, he witnessed the mass execution of Jews by the SS and Ukrainian militia. This included a slaughter carried out by Ukrainian auxiliaries in Vynnitsya Park, where Bingel witnessed “layer upon layer” of corpses buried. Returning to Vynnitsya later in the war, Bingel read of the experts brought in by the Nazis to examine the exhumed graves of “Soviet” execution victims in the same Park. Upon personal verification, Bingel concluded that the “discovery” had been staged for Nazi propaganda purposes and that the number of corpses he saw corresponded to those slaughtered by Ukrainian Fascists in 1941.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 40


By all credible accounts, the crops of 1933 and 1934 were successful. As a tribute to this fact, very few, if any famine-genocide hustlers today support claims of a 1934 famine. However, both Ammende [Author in 1936 of the famine-genocide book entitled Human Life in Russia], and following him Dalrymple, seemed to have been determined to starve Ukraine to death in 1934 as well. In fact, Dalrymple’s Ammende source for the list of 20 is Ammende’s letter to the New York Times published on July 1, 1934 under the heading “Wide Starvation in Russia Feared.” In a follow-up letter the following month, Ammende wrote that people were dying on the streets of Kiev. Within days, New York Times correspondent Harold Denny cabled a refutation of Ammende’s allegations. Datelined August 23rd, 1934, Denny charged: “This statement certainly has no foundation…. Your correspondent was in Kiev for several days last July about the time people were supposed to be dying there, and neither in the city, nor in the surrounding countryside was their hunger.” Several weeks later, Denny reported: “Nowhere was famine found. Nowhere even the fear of it. There is food, including bread, in the local open markets. The peasants were smiling too, and generous with their foodstuffs. In short, there was no air of trouble or of impending trouble.”
Obviously, nobody had informed the peasants that they were supposed to be falling prostrate with hunger that year.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 50

Before departing Dalrymple’s list, let it be noted that a significant number of the sources have been shown to be either complete frauds, hearsay based on “foreign residents” (an interesting journalistic term) or hearsay altogether, former Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators, while at least three of the estimates are cited from the anti-Soviet campaigns of the neo-fascist Hearst–Scripps-Howard style press and another five from books published in the Cold War years of 1949-53, save one which was printed in Nazi Germany.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 51

In the hands of Dalrymple and others, the dead seem to multiply at a most phenomenal rate. Hearsay, gossip, political testimonies, confessions of defectors, yellow journalism, Nazi and Ukrainian Rightists, all interconnect in an incestuous embrace throughout the famine-genocide campaigns.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 52

Almost all the collective farms established in 1931 and 1932 were shockingly mismanaged. What else could be expected when every village in Russia had been the scene of bitter internal strife, when animals had been slaughtered or allowed to die through incompetence, and grain had been buried, and barns and houses burned? It has been estimated that livestock dropped by 50% during those tragic years and there were large areas, as I saw with my own eyes in the North Caucasus in 1933, where miles of weeds and desolation replaced the former grainfields….
In that summer I drove nearly 200 miles across country between Rostov and Krasnodar through land that was lost to the weeds and through villages that were empty, yet even there I found a striking contrast. There was one communal farm in the south which had been established not long after the Civil War and remained under much the same management. It was an oasis of happiness and plenty in a stricken land. The people and their animals were plump and contented. Every family had two or three rooms. There was a day-nursery with screened windows and beds for the children, a communal restaurant which served excellent food neatly and cheaply, a fish pond, a pig and poultry farm, even a novel and profitable cultivation of castor-oil plants as lubricant for airplanes. This little community compared favorably with any farming outfit in the West. They weren’t, of course, so wealthy as American farmers, but they had overcome the age-old enemies of the Russian peasant–hunger, insecurity, ignorance, and disease, and were all busy as beavers, eager and full of hope.
Duranty, Walter. Stalin & Co. New York: W. Sloane Associates, 1949, p. 77


Having categorized the Webb’s [Sydney and Beatrice], Herriot and Maynard as “dupes,” Dalrymple claims that Walter Duranty and “some other newsman” (whom he chooses not to name), “knew of the famine but avoided referring to it explicitly because of government pressure.” Dalrymple offers no proof of this allegation, but doubtless true to form, some hearsay or off-the-record gossip can be dredged up.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 53


Another contribution to the recent revival of the famine-genocide campaign is Walter Dushnyck’s 50 Years Ago: The Famine Holocaust in Ukraine.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 66

Attempting to shore up his thesis of famine-genocide, Dushnyck turns to an “examination” of the number of famine deaths. Rather than averaging hearsay estimates a la Dalrymple, Dushnyck’s “method” consists of projecting an anticipated population growth rate, based on the 1926 census, onto the listed population of the 1939 census for Ukraine. The difference between the hypothetical estimate and the 1939 census listing is then pronounced to be “famine victims.”
For example, Dushnyck states: “taking the data according to the 1926 census… and the January 17, 1939 census… and the average increase before the collectivization… (2.36% per year), it can be calculated that Ukraine… lost 7 1/2-million people between the two censuses.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 69

Though this “method” of calculating famine deaths is widely employed by famine-genocide theorists, the frequency of its use does not make it any more scientifically valid. U.S. sociologist Albert Szymanski, in criticizing an estimate of 3 million deaths, has noted:
“This estimate assumes: (1) that even in the conditions of extreme famine, instability and virtual Civil War, peasants would conceive at the same rate as in less precarious periods; (2) that abortion or infanticide (intentional or not) did not significantly increase; (3) that there were as many women of maximum reproductive age in 1932-1933 as before or after. All of these assumptions are erroneous. All peasants have traditional techniques of birth control and are thus able to limit their reproduction to a significant degree; it is the economic benefit attendant upon having large families which is operative… (Further) legal abortion was so widely practiced in this period that, in 1936, the state banned it as part of the campaign to increase the population.”

A decline in the birth rate could thus have been expected, and not only due to the reasons outlined by Szymanski. In examining the demographics of the famine era, Wheatcroft states:
“As is well known, the First World War, Civil War and the early years of the 1920s caused a great gap in births in these years. The age cohort born in 1914 would have been 16 in 1930 and so would have been just entering the period of major reproduction. Consequently, Lorimer and other scholars have concluded that the age structure of the population would have led to a decline in births throughout the early 1930s and until the missing populations born into the 1914-1922 age cohorts have passed on well into the future.”

[Following in the footsteps of Dushnyck] Harvard’s James Mace states: “If we subtract our estimate of the post-famine population from the pre-famine population, the difference is 7,954,000, which can be taken as an estimate of the number of Ukrainians who died before their time.” But, as respected demographers Barbara Anderson and Brian Silver have pointed out, Mace is confusing population deficits with excess mortality. By making no allowance for a decline in the birth rate, Mace equates those who were never borne with those who “died before their time.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 71

The Mace -Dushnyck methodology also ignores other factors: change of declared nationality, intermarriage, assimilation, migration, etc., all of which have an impact on census figures. For example, Wixman has pointed out that in the late 1920s–between the two censuses in question–the Kuban Cossacks were reclassified from Ukrainian to Russian (they live in Russia). Anderson and Silver note: “If the reclassified Ukrainians numbered 2-3 million suggested by Waxman, then between 25-40% of Mace’s estimated deficit of Ukrainians could be accounted for in this way.”
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 72

But Medvedev himself lends credence to the less wild estimates by citing an estimate, made on the basis of gaps in the age structure and demographic projections, of as many as 3 million infant deaths owing to the 1932-33 famine. This [false] estimate assumes: (a) that even in conditions of extreme famine, instability, and virtual civil war, peasants would conceive and give birth at the same rate as in less precarious periods; (2) that abortion or infanticide (intentional or not) did not significantly increase; and (3) that there were as many women of maximum reproductive age in 1932-33 as before or after. All of these assumptions are erroneous. All peasants have traditional techniques of birth control and are thus able to limit their reproduction to a significant degree; it is the economic benefit attendant upon having large families which is operative–a factor not applicable during famines–not ignorance of birth control. Legal abortion was so widely practiced in this period that, in 1936, the state banned it as part of the campaign to increase the population.
Other exaggerated estimates of the number who died during these periods are based on apparent discrepancies between the 1926 and 1939 (or 1959) census figures, and the number of people who should have been in the census categories assuming earlier rates of population growth or, alternatively, the actual rate of growth of other populations at the same time. Such estimates assume that a decline in the reported population, or its failure to grow at its ‘normal’ rate, is largely a reflection of deaths from famine, abuse, or execution. Not only are fewer live births to be expected during times of famine and trouble–as well as disproportionately high infant mortality–many people emigrate from areas of famine in search of food, work, or refuge. In the Soviet Union in the 1930-33 period millions of destitute peasants migrated to the cities to take up jobs in the industrializing urban economy, others left the regions of greatest destitution to settle elsewhere; some left the Soviet Union altogether….
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 225-226

[In his report to the 17th Party Congress in January 1934 Stalin stated] We had an increase in the population of the Soviet Union from 160,500,000 at the end of 1930 to 168 million at the end of 1933.
Stalin, Joseph. Works. Moscow: Foreign Languages Pub. House, 1952, Vol. 13, p. 343


“Evidence” prominently featured in the famine-genocide campaign has been shown to be fraudulent or suspect. Fake photographs, unscientific statistics-juggling and politically motivated hearsay and testimony are among the many devices employed to embellish allegations of famine-genocide. Subject to similar manipulation are the [actual] causes of the famine: drought, sabotage, soviet amateurish planning, excesses and mistakes in history’s first mass socialization of agriculture in the context of a hostile international environment.
Throughout the history of the famine-genocide campaign, the factors of drought and sabotage have been ignored, denied, downplayed or distorted. Soviet excesses and mistakes, in contrast, are emphasized, given an “anti-Ukrainian” motivation, described as deliberately and consciously planned, and the results exaggerated in depictions of starvation deaths in the multi-millions. The central event–the collectivization of agriculture as part of socialist development–is never given anything but a classically anti-Communist interpretation….
For some promoters of “famine-genocide,” anything other than man-made causes are ignored or denied. Natural causes, such as drought, are alleged never to have taken place; claims that drought was a contributing factor are denounced as Soviet inventions. One might then expect that no non-Soviet source could be cited to substantiate drought.
However, A History of Ukraine by Mikhail Hrushevsky–described by the Nationalists themselves as “Ukraine’s leading historian”–states: “Again a year of drought coincided with chaotic agricultural conditions; and during the winter of 1932-33 a great famine, like that of 1921-1922 swept across Soviet Ukraine….” Indeed, nowhere does History of Ukraine claim a deliberate, man-made famine against Ukrainians, and more space is actually devoted to the famine of 1921-1922.
More recent histories can also be cited on the subject of drought. Nicolas Riasnovsky, former visiting professor at Harvard University’s Russian Research Center, notes in his History of Russia that drought occurred in both 1931 and 1932. Michael Florinsky, immediately following a description of the mass destruction wrought by kulak resistance to collectivization, states: “Severe droughts in 1930 and 1931, especially in the Ukraine, aggravated the plight of farming and created near famine conditions.” Professor Emeritus at Columbia and a prolific writer on the USSR, Florinsky can hardly be accused of leftist sympathies: born in Kiev, Ukraine, he fought against the Bolsheviks in the Civil War.

While drought was a contributing factor, the main cause of the famine was the struggle around the collectivization of agriculture which raged in the countryside in this period.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 91-92

Nonetheless, two studies discuss the harvests in those years. Robert Davies and Stephen Wheatcroft argue that the 1931 and 1932 harvests were small due to drought and difficulties in labor and capital, especially the decline in draft animals….
In this essay I re-examine the harvests of 1931 and especially 1932 on the basis of newly available archival documents and published sources, including some that scholars have never utilized. I show that the environmental context of these famines deserves much greater emphasis than it has previously received: environmental disasters reduced the Soviet grain harvest in 1932 substantially and have to be considered among the primary causes of the famine. I argue that capital and labor difficulties were significant but were not as important as these environmental factors, and were in part a result of them. I also demonstrate that the Soviet leadership did not fully understand the crisis and out of ignorance acted inconsistently in response to it. I conclude that it is thus inaccurate to describe the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 as simply an artificial or man-made famine, or otherwise to reduce it to a single cause. Overall, the low harvest, and hence the famine, resulted from a complex of human and environmental factors, an interaction of man and nature, much as most previous famines in history.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 6

Soviet agronomic literature and other published and archival sources from the 1930s, however, which no previous scholarship on the famine has discussed, indicate that in 1932 Soviet crops suffered from an extraordinarily severe combination of infestations from crop diseases and pests.
The most important infestation in 1932 came from several varieties of rust, a category of fungi that can infest grains and many other plants.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 13

While rust infestations were not a new problem in Russia, the extreme outbreak in 1932 took agronomists by surprise, and they did not fully understand it.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 16

…losses from rust and smut in 1932 reached approximately 9 million tons, 13% of the official harvest figure and nearly 20% of the lowest archival harvest estimate. It should also be noted that while these estimates are approximate, they are also the only concrete estimates, based on any even remotely scientific evidence, of overall 1932 grain harvest losses from any environmental or human factors available in any published or archival sources that I have been able to find.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 17

The warm, humid weather in 1932 also led to severe insect infestations, including locusts, field moths, and other insects on grain and sugar beets. An agronomic journal reported that in 1932 a “mass multiplication” of Asian locusts took place in all the important breeding grounds of the desert zone, including Daghestan, the Lower Volga, the Ural River delta, the North Caucasus, and the Kalmyk Oblast. OGPU reports during the spring of 1932 noted infestations of locusts, meadow moths, hessian flies, beet weevils, and other insects. A report of 28 May noted that beet weevils had infested nearly 100,000 hectares of beets in Ukraine; in one district the weevils destroyed almost 500 hectares in three hours.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 18

As will be seen below, these natural disasters were only part of a complex of factors that made 1931-1932 disastrous agricultural years. Nonetheless, drought, rain, and infestations destroyed at least 20% of the harvest, and this would have been sufficient on its own to have caused serious food shortages or even famine. If these factors had not been in evidence in 1931 and 1932 agricultural production would have been considerably larger, and while procurements could have caused shortages in specific regions, they would not have caused a famine like that of 1933….
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 20

My research on Soviet farm labor policies and actual peasant practices and my reading of this literature, however, has made me skeptical of the argument for labor resistance as the exclusive or even dominant cause of the low harvests and famine in the early 1930s. First, while some peasants were so resentful of collectivization and procurements that they attempted to sabotage the farms, for peasant resistance to have been sufficient to cause the low 1932 harvest an extremely large number of peasants would have had to act this way, that is, to have avoided work and attempted to destroy the harvest. In other words, the argument asserts that the majority of peasants attempted to deprive their families and fellow villagers of sufficient food to last until the next harvest. This interpretation, therefore, requires us to believe that most peasants acted against their own and their neighbors’ self-interest. This viewpoint is difficult to accept both on general human terms and particularly when applied to peasants in Russia and Ukraine. The great majority of these peasants had lived for centuries in corporate villages that had instilled certain basic cooperative values, and the kolkhosi perpetuated basic features of these villages.
Second, the argument is reductionist because it attempts to explain everything that happened in this crisis by human actions, specifically by the conflict between the Soviet government and the peasants, with an emphasis on peasant resistance as a kind of heroic struggle against the oppressive regime. Such reductionism is problematic because it does not account for actions that do not fit the pattern of resistance, that took place outside the nexus of resistance. If the situation had been as conflictual as this interpretation implies, if the great majority of peasants did little or no farm work and performed the work they did do neglectfully and poorly out of spite, then the harvest in 1932 would not have been even 50,000,000 tons but practically nothing.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 26

On the basis of the above discussion, I contend that an understanding of the Soviet famine of 1932-1933 must start from the background of chronic agricultural crises in the early Soviet years, the harvest failures of 1931 and 1932, and the interaction of environmental and human factors that caused them. In 1932, extremely dry weather reduced crops in some regions, and unusually wet and human weather in most others fostered unprecedented infestations. These conditions from the start reduced the potential yield that year, as drought had…in 1931. At the same time, the regime’s procurements from the 1931 harvest left peasants and work livestock starving and weakened. Crop failures, procurements that reduced fodder resources, peasant neglect, overuse of the limited number of tractors, and shortages of spare parts and fuel all combined to reduce available draft power. Farm work consequently was performed poorly in many kolkhosi and sovkhozy, often even when peasants were willing to put in the effort. Finally, farming activities combined with other environmental problems–soil exhaustion, weeds, and mice–to further reduce the 1932 harvest to famine levels.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 45

Any study that asserts that the harvest was not extraordinarily low and that the famine was a political measure intentionally imposed through excessive procurements is clearly based on an insufficient source base and an uncritical approach to the official sources. The evidence cited above demonstrates that the 1932-1933 famine was the result of a genuine shortage, a substantial decline in the availability of food caused by a complex of factors, each of which decreased the harvest greatly and which in combination must have decreased the harvest well below subsistence. This famine therefore resembled the Irish famine of 1845-1848, but resulted from a litany of natural disasters that combined to the same effect as the potato blight had 90 years before, and in a similar context of substantial food exports. The Soviet famine resembles the Irish case in another way as well: in both, government leaders were ignorant of and minimized the environmental factors and blamed the famines on human actions (in Ireland, overpopulation, in the USSR, peasant resistance) much more than was warranted….
If we are to believe that the regime starved the peasants to induce labor discipline in the farms, are we to interpret starvation in the towns as the regime’s tool to discipline blue and white-collar workers and their wives and children? While Soviet food distribution policies are beyond the scope of this article, it is clear that the small harvests of 1931-1932 created shortages that affected virtually everyone in the country and that the Soviet regime did not have the internal resources to alleviate the crisis.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 46

The evidence and analysis I have presented here show that the Soviet famine was more serious and more important an event than most previous studies claim, including those adhering to the Ukrainian nationalist interpretation, and that it resulted from a highly abnormal combination of environmental and agricultural circumstances.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 47

…the famine resulted directly from a famine harvest, a harvest that was much smaller than officially acknowledged, and that this small harvest was in turn the result of a complex of natural disasters that [with one small exception] no previous scholars have ever discussed or even mentioned. The foot notes in the Carl Beck Paper contain extensive citations from primary sources as well as Western and Soviet secondary works, among others by D’Ann Penner and Stephen Wheatcroft and R. W. Davies that further substantiate these points and I urge interested readers to examine those works as well.
Tauger, Mark. His comments at random.


Soviet mistakes and excesses, drought and the organized campaign of sabotage and resistance resulted in the famine of 1932-1933. There was no plan to wipe out Ukrainians as a people; the mistakes–even when accompanied by tragic and unforgivable excesses– do not constitute “pre-planned genocide.”
The famine was compounded by typhus epidemics. Internationally acclaimed urban planner and recipient of the Order of Canada, Dr. Hans Blumenfeld worked as an architect in the Ukrainian city of Makeyevka at the time the famine. He writes:
“There was indeed a famine in 1933, not just in Ukraine, but also in… the lower Volga and the North Caucasus;… There is no doubt that the famine claimed many victims. I have no basis on which to estimate their number… Probably most deaths in 1933 were due to epidemics of typhus, typhoid fever, and dysentery. Waterborne diseases were frequent in Makeyevka; I narrowly survived an attack of typhus fever.
Dr. Hans Blumenfeld offers a useful personal summary of the period:
… [The famine was caused by] a conjunction of a number of factors. First, the hot dry summer of 1932, which I had experienced in northern Vyatka, had resulted in crop failure in the semiarid regions of the south. Second, the struggle for collectivization had disrupted agriculture. Collectivization was not an orderly process following bureaucratic rules. It consisted of actions by the poor peasants, encouraged by the Party. The poor peasants were eager to expropriate the “kulaks,” but less eager to organize a co-operative economy. By 1930 the Party had already sent out cadres to stem and correct excesses…. After having exercised restraint in 1930, the Party put on a drive again in 1932. As a result, in that year the kulak economy ceased to produce, and the new collective economy did not yet produce fully. First claim on the inadequate product went to urban industry and to the armed forces; as the future of the entire nation, including the peasants, depended on them, it can hardly be otherwise….
In 1933 rainfall was adequate. The Party sent its best cadres to help organize work in the kolkhozes. They succeeded; after the harvest of 1933 the situation improved radically and with amazing speed. I had the feeling that we had been pulling a heavy cart uphill, uncertain if we would succeed; but in the fall of 1933 we had gone over the top and from then on we could move forward at an accelerating pace.
Tottle, Douglas. Fraud, Famine, and Fascism. Toronto: Progress Books,1987, p. 96-97

Under these conditions there was little reason for anti-Russian or separatist tendencies among the Ukrainians, and I never encountered them. I was therefore rather surprised to read recently in the respected French paper Le Monde, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the starvation of 1933, that was due to a planned “genocide” of the Ukrainian nation. Given the dire shortage of labor in the Soviet Union at the time, this hypothesis is rather absurd. It is equally absurd to assume that any government could be so stupid as to believe that starvation could be an effective means to break national resistance–in the face of the experience of the Irish famine of the 1840s and many others….
There was indeed a famine in 1933, not just in the Ukraine, but also in other semiarid regions of the USSR, the Lower Volga and the North Caucasus; and Makeyevka, located near the junction of these three regions, felt the full impact of it. Many peasants from there came to the city; the steelworks tried to employ some of them but most left, finding the work too hard. Some were already too far gone, with swollen limbs. There were also many lost children, which were either taken into children’s institutions or, very frequently, adopted by urban families; two of my old friends, building workers from Vienna who at the time worked in Makeyevka, each adopted one such child. Only once did I see a child with spindly legs and a swollen belly; it was in the garden of a nursery school at the hand of a nurse waiting for the doctor. Nor did I ever see a corpse lying in a street….
There is no doubt that the famine claimed many victims. I have no basis on which to estimate the number, and I doubt if anybody has. What were the reasons and what could have been done to avoid this terrible calamity?
There was a conjunction of a number of factors. First, the hot dry summer of 1932, which I had experienced in northern Vyatka, had resulted in crop failure in the semiarid regions of the South. Second, the struggle for collectivization had disrupted agriculture. Collectivization was not an orderly process following bureaucratic rules. It consisted of actions by the poor peasants, encouraged by the Party. The poor peasants were eager to expropriate the “kulaks,” but less eager to organize a cooperative economy. By 1930 the Party and already sent out cadres to stem and correct excesses. One of the cadres engaged in this work later reported his experience: the local Communists had told him, “We are building socialism in the village, and you and your Stalin are stabbing us in the back.” After having exercised restraint in 1930, the Party put on a drive again in 1932. As a result, in that year the kulak economy ceased to produce, and the new collective economy did not yet produce fully. First claim on the inadequate product went to urban industry and to the armed forces; as the future of the entire nation, including the peasants, depended on them, it could hardly be otherwise. In addition, the depression in the West destroyed the market for oil and timber, with which the Soviets had hoped to pay the debts incurred during the First Five-Year Plan. So, instead of being able to import grain, the Soviet Union actually exported some. What alternatives did they have? I can see only two: use their gold reserve, or get a loan
in the West. They tried to do the latter, but obtained it only in 1934 when they no longer needed it. If blame for the terrible suffering of 1932 has to be assigned, it falls in equal parts on the Soviet Government for refusing to part with their gold reserve, and on the West for refusing to loan when it was needed.
…Probably most deaths in 1933 were due to epidemics of typhus, typhoid fever, and dysentery. Waterborne diseases were frequent in Makeyevka; I narrowly survived an attack of typhus fever….
In 1933 rainfall was adequate. The Party sent its best cadres to help organize work in the kolkhozes. They succeeded; after the harvest of 1933 the situation improved radically and with amazing speed. I had the feeling that we had been pulling a heavy cart uphill, uncertain if we would succeed; but in the fall of 1933 we had gone over the top and from then on we could move forward at an accelerating pace. Certainly, stupidity and callousness inflicted much avoidable suffering during the process of collectivization, and many Soviet kolkhozes continued to suffer from the fact that they started on the wrong foot–in contrast to those in other countries such as East Germany and Hungary, which have learned from the mistakes made in the Soviet Union. But Soviet agriculture is not the monumental failure which it is often regarded as in the West.
Blumenfeld, Hans. Life Begins at 65. Montreal, Canada: Harvest House, c1987, p. 152-154

The Soviet government did have small reserves of grain, but continually drew these down to allocate food to the population. Since virtually the entire country experienced shortages of food, indicating that the procurement and distribution data are reasonably accurate, clearly the Soviet Union faced a severe shortage, and the most important cause of that shortage has to have been small harvests in 1931 and 1932.
Tauger, Mark. Natural Disaster and Human Actions in the Soviet Famine of 1931-1933 Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, 2001, p. 5


Even in the winter of 1931-1932, with the great scarcity of grain, we somehow managed to survive because of our vegetables. But the year of 1932 had not been normal. That sprIng we had a massive famine during which the people consumed even the seeds for planting, so there was nothing left with which to plant the vegetable gardens. Most gardens remained overgrown with weeds. The meager allotment of food received from the collective farm as advance payment was soon consumed. With no additional help forthcoming starvation set in.
Dolot, Miron. Execution by Hunger. New York: W.W. Norton, c1985, p. 164

… the slaughter of cattle and the feasting went on–there was no way of stopping it. Animals were killed because no fodder was left or because they had become diseased from neglect; and even the bednyaks who, having joined the kolkhozes, had every interest in preserving their wealth, went on dissipating it and stuffing their own long-starved stomachs. Then followed the long and dreadful fast: the farms were left without horses and without seed for the sowing; the kolkhozniki of the Ukraine and of European Russia rushed to central Asia to buy horses, and, having returned empty-handed, harnessed the few remaining cows and oxen to the ploughs; and in 1931 and 1932 vast tracts of land remained untilled and the furrows were strewn with the bodies of starved muzhiks. The smallholder perished as he had lived, in pathetic helplessness and barbarism; and his final defeat was moral as well as economic and political.
Deutscher, Isaac. The Prophet Outcast. London, New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1963, p. 119


How far this famine was “man-made” in the sense that Stalin and his government deliberately provoked it by wholesale collectivization is another story. Evidence gathered on the spot showed that the lack of efficiency of the peasants themselves was partly to blame, that in some regions crop prospects were bright enough before the harvest but that harvesting was shockingly mismanaged; vast quantities of grain were hidden or simply wasted, because collection and distribution of foodstuffs disintegrated in the prevailing chaos. On the other hand, it can fairly be argued that the authorities were responsible because they had not foreseen the muddle and mess and taken steps beforehand to correct it. The proof of this is that things took a marked turn for the better in the following year, when the Communist Party set its hand, almost literally, to the plow….
Yet it is interesting to note that Stalin did directly and specifically assume responsibility for what had occurred. In a speech of January 11, 1933, to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, he said: “…. Why blame the peasants?… For we are at the helm; we are in command of the instruments of the state; it is our mission to lead the collective farms; and we must bear the whole of the responsibility for the work in the rural districts.”
Duranty, Walter. Stalin & Co. New York: W. Sloane Associates, 1949, p. 78-79


Despite this, and despite the anecdotal evidence that resistance scholars present, however, clear and substantial evidence shows that harvests varied in the 1930s primarily and mostly from environmental factors. Serious droughts reduced the harvest in 1931 and 1936 drastically…and those of 1934 and 1938 moderately, and a complex of natural disasters made the 1932 harvest the lowest of the decade and a primary cause of the famine of 1932-33.
While peasant resistance did take place in the 1930s, it is extremely difficult to document its effect on production. In 1931, for example, peasants sowed a record area; although some was sown too late, under better weather conditions the crop would have been much larger. By the same token, the improved harvest of 1933, and the good harvest of 1935 and 1937, resulted first of all from favorable weather. Other scholars have emphasized the primary importance of environmental factors in the 1930s, showing for example that soil exhaustion, drought and other circumstances reduced harvests in 1931-32. A Russian scholar showed in a recent study of kolkhozy in the Urals that the most important influence on kolkhoz labor productivity was climate.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 77.

Kolkhozy in 1932 faced extremely difficult conditions. The 1931 harvest was extremely low, despite a large sown area, primarily because of drought, but also because of organizational and supply problems. The low harvest and grain procurements left many farms with little or no food by early 1932, especially in the drought regions of the Volga, Kazakhstan, the Urals and Ukraine. This led many peasants to flee their villages seeking food. Reforms in February 1932 tied remuneration more closely to work and prohibited equalizing income distribution, but many farms misunderstood or ignored them, or implemented them incorrectly, and famine conditions encouraged equalizing distribution. The regime issued food aid and seed loans, but these were often delayed and insufficient….
During the 1932 harvest season Soviet agriculture experienced a crisis. Natural disasters, especially plant diseases spread and intensified by wet weather in mid-1932, drastically reduced crop yields. OGPU reports, anecdotal as they are, indicate widespread peasant opposition to the kolkhoz system. These documents contain numerous reports of kolkhozniki, faced with starvation, mismanagement and abuse by kolkhoz officials and others, and desperate conditions: dying horses, idle tractors, infested crops, and incitement by itinerant people. Peasants’ responses varied: some applied to withdraw from their farms, some left for paid work outside, some worked sloppily, intentionally leaving grain on the fields while harvesting to glean later for themselves.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 81.

My study of the Ukrainian famine of 1928-29 shows, first, that the grain crisis had a substantial material basis in severe regional crop failures, especially in Ukraine, caused by an array of natural disasters. Whether the Soviet Union had an absolute shortage of food in 1928-29 is impossible to say because the harvest statistics are suspect, but the country certainly had much less food available in 1928-29 than in the good years of NEP, 1926-27. No shift in price policies (to which the grain crisis is often attributed) could have prevented the harsh weather conditions of these years. The agricultural measures introduced in response to the 1924 crop failure and famine had not protected Ukraine from this disaster. As Rykov, stated in September 1928 while in Ukraine examining relief efforts, “For over four years we have been fighting drought in Ukraine. The effectiveness of our expenditures obviously cannot be considered sufficient.” Given the thin margin of surplus that Soviet agriculture produced in these years, a regional natural disaster of this sort could cause a famine and have disastrous repercussions throughout the economy.
Tauger, Mark. “Grain Crisis or Famine?” in Provincial Landscapes, Local Dimensions of Soviet Power, 1917-1953 by Don Raleigh, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, Penn., 2001, Chapter 7, p. 167.


Peasants in the famine regions were weak, and estimates are that between four and 7 million people died of the famine in villages and towns. Yet, somehow, on the whole peasants worked harder in 1933 than in 1932. By June 1933, the farms had sown a larger area than by that date in the previous three years (1930-32). The German agricultural attachE Otto Schiller drove 6000 miles through the main agricultural regions in the summer of 1933 and described a greatly strengthened and consolidated kolkhoz system. He attributed this both to administrative pressure and hunger as a motivating force, and also to effective management and labor organization. Reports from all over the USSR indicated that peasants who had avoided working in the kolkhoz now competed with each other to work, and had a ‘better attitude’ towards work in the kolkhoz than before. And the result, as documented in Table 2, was a dramatic increase in the harvest in 1933…. Thus there can be no doubt that the general pattern of intensified work, improved conditions and higher output evident from the statistics was in fact representative of conditions throughout the country.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 83.

Studies conducted in the mid-1930s found that kolkhozniki actually worked harder than non-collectivized peasants had worked in the 1920s, clear evidence of significant adaptation to new system.
Tauger, Mark. “Soviet Peasants and Collectivization, 1930-39: Resistance and Adaptation.” In Rural Adaptation in Russia by Stephen Wegren, Routledge, New York, NY, 2005, Chapter 3, p. 87


That year (1931) was one of severe drought in the Volga, Western Siberia, parts of Ukraine, and other regions. Acknowledging this, the regime publicly sent procured grain back to drought regions as food relief and seed, organized a conference of specialists to discuss measures against drought, and began implementation of some of the measures proposed.
Tauger, Mark. “Statistical Falsification in the Soviet Union: a Comparative Case Study of Projections, Biases, and Trust.” The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington, 2001, p. 44.