The Brezhnev Renegade Clique
Damages Soviet Agriculture
[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, Vol. 19, #21, May 21, 1976, pp. 24-26 and 30.]
In the vast countryside of the Soviet Union, land resources have been seriously damaged, crops have declined and the peasants’ living standards are going from bad to worse. These are the inevitable evil results of the all-round restoration of capitalism in the country by the Soviet revisionist renegade clique, which has stopped at nothing to grab maximum profits in the rural areas.
The following three articles expose how the clique has brought this about.
Land Resources Seriously Spoiled
AFTER usurping political power, the Khrushchov-Brezhnev clique has thrown Soviet agricultural production into an increasingly grave crisis. To extricate itself from the predicament in grain production, this clique has resorted to land reclamation. Vast areas of wasteland were opened up in Kazakhstan, Siberia, the Ural, areas along the Volga River and some regions in north Caucasus. Brezhnev has on many occasions bragged about the “results” of land reclamation in Kazakhstan, alleging that it has “rejuvenated” Kazakhstan and brought about “radical changes in economy, culture and the complexion of this vast region.”
But facts are the very reverse. The living cover in the steppe of the newly reclaimed areas has been gravely damaged as a result of the Soviet revisionists’ policy of rand reclamation, which is aimed at grabbing grain for the year without paying attention to capital construction on the farms. This is a capitalist method of management, namely, draining a pond to catch all the fish.
The Soviet journal Agricultural Economy admitted that dust storms have been caused “mainly by the shortage of ordinary and field-protecting forests and by the unsatisfactory conditions and distribution of existing shelter belts.” Another Soviet journal Our Contemporary disclosed in its 12th issue last year that dust storms occur “more frequently indeed” in the country and have almost become “ordinary phenomena.” “Beginning from 1969, nearly every spring there has been wind erosion,” it added.
The Soviet press reported that two dust storms in the spring of 1960 swept the vast southern part of the great Russian plain and more than 4 million hectares of spring crops in reclaimed areas were affected. In 1963 dust storms affected a larger area than in 1960. The affected cultivated land in the reclaimed areas in Kazakhstan came to 20 million hectares. A dust storm in 1969 destroyed in a few days all the wheat on 820,000 hectares in Krasnodar, Stavropol and Rostov. The Soviet publication Moscow admitted: “Dust storms sweep over all reclaimed land in Kazakhstan every year.”
The Brezhnev clique’s militarization of the national economy has resulted in a shortage of funds for capital construction of farmland. Its management policy of “profit comes first” has led the leading members of collective and state farms to confine their attention to immediate interests at the expense of farmland protection.
Construction of new water conservancy projects has become sluggish in recent years while existing establishments have been rapidly out of commission owing to lack of maintenance. According to obviously doctored data released by official Soviet quarters, every year, the newly increased irrigated acreage accounted for only 0.4 per cent of the total arable land of the country, while the rejected irrigated land was equal to one-sixth of the increase. Woods have been felled at random in many places. As a result, soil erosion has become more serious year after year. The journal Agricultural Economy in its 8th issue last year reported that in Azerbaijan alone, “48 million tons of fertile soil are washed away every year ... 3.3 million hectares of land are eroded. It is not difficult to conceive what great losses erosion has brought to the national economy in Azerbaijan.”
Take the Don River basin in the Russian Federative Republic. “In Rostov, water erosion brings longer and more serious damage than wind erosion,” according to a report by Our Contemporary in its 12th issue last year. “The arable land decreases by 8,000 hectares every year in the Don River basin as a result of the washing away of soil” and “the losses caused by water loss and soil erosion in the Don River basin amount to 40 million rubles every year,” it noted.
The journal Moscow also revealed that “more and more ravines have appeared” owing to water erosion, and that “in the Ukraine about one million bectares of land are criss-crossed with many ravines. In the Russian central black-soil belt, the average length of ravines per square kilometre is 580 metres and, in Kursk and Orel Regions, 700 metres.”
Land Turning Alkaline
Since the Soviet revisionist renegade clique usurped political power, vast tracts of fertile Soviet land have become barren. Agricultural Economy in its 8th issue of 1975 disclosed that “owing to bad management fertile land in some areas is undergoing a process of erosion, becoming alkaline or turning into swamp land. Eventually the land becomes too poor to be used as arable land again.” The journal also reported that in the Republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia there were 9.6 million hectares of swamp, alkaline, wasted and erosive land and shrubbery in 1973, constituting 52 per cent of the total land area. It is reported that in Volgograd of the Russian Federative Republic erosive and alkaline land accounts for over 80 per cent of the arable land.
According to the fifth issue of Agricuitural Economy last year, in Vietebsk Region of Byelorussia 361,000 hectares of arable land were overgrown with shrubs, constituting 20 per cent of the total arable land. In a state farm of this region, “all the arable land has become wild, swampy and full of shrubs and rocks.” The Moscow revealed that one-third of the farmland in the Ukraine has turned poor as a result of water erosion. Thirty-one thousand hectares of fertile land in Rostov turned barren in the decade of 1961-70.
Arable Land Shrinking
The acreage of Soviet arable and grazing land decreases year after year as more and more farmland lies waste. The Soviet press has to admit that “owing to various causes, arable land in some areas has kept shrinking.” Because of “neglect and violating elementary rules of utilization, large stretches of natural grazing land and grassland are covered with shrubs, dunes and swamps.” Agricultural Economy disclosed in its 8th issue last year that “arable land in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia decreased by 961,900 hectares, or 9.8 per cent in 1973 as compared with 1950; and cultivated land by 676,400 hectares, or 22 per cent. In this respect, the problem in Georgia is more serious. In the same period, its cultivated land contracted by 486,400 hectares, or 41.1 per cent.”
The damage done to land resources affects grain production. It is precisely in Kazakhstan where Brezhnev once took charge of land reclamation, that harvests have fallen for three years running since 1972 and grain output in 1975 was down 60 per cent compared with 1972.
Ruthless Oppression and Exploitation of Peasants
THE Soviet revisionist renegade clique, cashing in on the position and power it has usurped, plunders at will the fruits of labour of collective farm members and state farm workers and staff.
Policy of High Procurement Rate
In the last 20 years or so, the Soviet revisionists have all along enforced the policy of procuring large quantities of grain produced by collective and state farms. Figures, published by Soviet authorities in recent years show that in the period of Khrushchov’s rule, grain procurement usually stood at 30 to 40 per cent of the yearly output. After usurping state power, Brezhnev denounced Khrushchov’s policy as “sabotaging the economy of collective and state farms.” However, the procurement rate under his own “system of procurement on fixed scale” and above-plan purchase is really much higher than it was under Khrushchov and is steadily increasing. Between 1965 and 1974, the average annual rate of procurement was 24 per cent higher than in the previous ten years.
During the period of 1971-74, the Brezhnev clique; by means of its procurement system, grabbed 47.1 per cent of the grain, 66 per cent of the meat and 56 per cent of the milk produced by the broad masses of labouring people through hard work. Its plunder of non-Russian areas is even more ruthless. For instance, nearly 58 per cent of the average annual output of grain of Kazakhstan was “procured” from 1971 to 1975.
The Brezhnev clique has since 1965 enforeed “the new economic system” centring on profit. Seeking tre maximum profits, the bureaucrat-monopoly bourgeoisie has kept raising the prices of industrial products, thus accelerating the scissors movement of prices between industrial and agricultural products and stepping up its exploitation of peasants. Soviet journals reported that in recent years the prices of machinery, fuel, fertilizer and other industrial products used in agricultural production have all gone up considerably. For example, from 1965 to 1973, the prices of gasoline and diesel oil in some areas rose by 30 to 124 per cent. The price of chemical fertilizer shot up 25 per cent; fodder, 60 per cent;. and tractor trailers, 80 per cent. The price of tractor spare parts went up by as much as 550 per cent. The collective farms in the Russian Federative Republic alone spent an additional sum of 800 million rubles in production costs per year owing to the spiralling prices of industrial products. Expenditures for the repair and maintenance of agricultural machinery also increased considerably. A Soviet journal admitted that the repair fees for a tractor during its life-span greatly surpass the price of a-new one. The production costs of Soviet agricultural produce, as a result, grow higher and higher. The Soviet journal Agricultural Economy revealed in its fourth issue last year that from 1965 to 1973, the increment rate of production cost for the collective and state farms in the Soviet Union outstripped that of their output value by 44 per cent.
Turnover tax is another instrument which the Soviet bureaucrat-monopoly bourgeoisie uses to plunder the peasantry. Under Khrushchov’s rule, an annual turnover tax of 20,0000 million rubles was levied on the peasants. The tax rose to over 36,000 million rubles in 1974, an increase of 80 per cent in a decade.
These are only some of the methods used by the Brezhnev clique to plunder the Soviet peasantry. There are still other exorbitant taxes, miscellaneous levies and various kinds of exploitation which it imposes.
Mercilessly fleeced by the Brezhnev clique, many collective and state farms are up to their necks in debt. The Soviet press disclosed that in the last few years about 40 per cent of the state farms have been running at a loss, 33 per cent of the collective farms are “economically weak” with 90 per cent of them in debt. According to The Yearbook of National Economy of the Soviet Union for 1974, the total amount of debt incurred by collective farms up to that year reached 17,100 million rubles, or 6.3 times that of 1960. In terms of the population of all collective farms in the country, every member owed a debt of 1,091 rubles in 1974, which cannot be repaid even with a member’s annual income. Collective farm members and staff and workers of state farms are heavily in debt, receive a meagre income and lead a miserable life. The Soviet press admits that about 30 million people in the countryside find it difficult to maintain the lowest living standards.
The Brezhnev clique’s ruthless exploitation inevitably has aroused strong resentment and resistance among the Soviet peasantry. The exodus of the labouring people from the countryside, particularly the young people, is a manifestation of this resistance. The resultant serious shortage of farm labourers is one of the important reasons for the decline of Soviet agriculture and repeated crop failures.
Output Down at Home, Rush for Goods Abroad
ABOUT half the collective and state farms in the Soviet Union failed to fulfil their plans for selling potatoes and vegetables to the state in the past five years as a result of the bankruptcy of the ninth five-year plan, according to the Soviet magazine Procurement of Farm Products in this year’s third issue.
Potato, Vegetable Selling Plans Collapse
One of the magazine articles says that the average annual output of potatoes, known as “the second bread” of the Soviet Union, in the 1971-75 period dropped 5 per cent, or more than 4.7 million tons, below the previous five-year plan period (1966-70). As potatoes produced by “collective farms, state farms and other state-run units” “failed to meet the demand,” the “state has had to purchase large quantities of potatoes from residents at a high price.”
Even this has been of no avail, as disclosed by an article in the magazine’s first issue. In the Estonian Republic, the article said, though a policy of purchasing good potatoes at a high price has been carried out since 1968, the output still has not increased.
The Soviet magazine admits in its third issue that “the low production in a number of republics, territories, regions and districts ... has led to the failure of a fairly large number of collective and state farms to fulfil their plans of selling potatoes and vegetables to the state.” About 50 per cent of collective and state farms in the Soviet Union failed to fulfil their plans for selling potatoes to the state in the past five years. In the Russian Federative Republic—the biggest of the republics—such collective and state farms constitute about 70 per cent of the total. Fifty-three of the 67 regions, territories and autonomous republics in the republic have failed to fulfil their potato purchasing plans.
What about vegetable purchasing in the Soviet Union? According to Procurement of Farm Products, on the average, the collective and state farms that have failed to fulfil their annual plans for vegetable delivery to the state in the same period accounted for more than 50 per cent of the total vegetable-growing farms. About 67 per cent of such collective and state farms in the Russian Federative Republic and more than 77 per cent of those in the Kazakh republic are in this situation.
Sugar Beet Output Drops, Sugar Imports Increase
According to Soviet official figures, in the ninth five-year plan period (1971-75), sugar beet output in the Soviet Union dropped far below the planned quota, with shortfalls occurring in three of the five years. Compared with the previous year, the drop was 8 per cent in 1971, and 10 per cent in 1974 and 15 per cent in 1975. The 1975 output, 30 per cent below the quota laid down in the ninth five-year plan, was the lowest in the country since 1963, or 18 per cent less than in 1964, the year when Brezhnev came to power.
The purchase plan for sugar beet has not been fulfilled in recent years owing to crop failures. The Soviet journal Agricultural Economy had to admit last year that “the required purchase figure (for sugar beet) has not been met for several years in a row.” In the four years ending 1974, the actual amount of sugar beet purchased was 15 per cent less than that set in the original plan. The purchase work last year was a mess.
It is against this background that the Soviet Union has to go to international markets for sugar. Moscow has begun to import sugar from other countries than Cuba whose sugar exports to the Soviet Union, though in large quantities, are not enough to fill the gap resulting from the reduced output of recent years.
The Philippine paper Times Journal reported on March 13 that the Soviet Union in one go imported 400,000 tons of sugar from the Philippines recently. The New York Times reported on the same day that “the Soviet Union has made a long-expected purchase of sugar on the world market” and that it had booked 12 vessels to ship sugar home as quickly as possible.
Snapping Up Grain Sales
The Soviet Union bought more than 4.9 million metric tons of grain from the United States during the past week, according to a May 4 announcement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Since April 28, the Soviet Union purchased 4.3 million metric tons of grain from three U.S. monopoly firms. On May 4, it contracted another 625,000 tons from a U.S. company, including 500,000 tons of corn and 125,000 tons of wheat. Thus Soviet purchases on the U.S. market added up to a total of 16.5 million metric tons of grain since last July. In addition, it has placed an order for about 2 million metric tons of U.S. grain to be delivered after October this year.
From Australia, the Soviet Union has arranged to buy one million tons of wheat worth about 130 million Australian dollars. This was announced on April 28 by Australian Wheat Board Chairman J.P. Cass. The Soviet Union, he said, bought one million tons from Australia in each of the past two seasons.
The Canadian Wheat Board announced on April 27 the sale of two million long tons of wheat to the Soviet Union. The value of the sale was estimated at about 330 million Canadian dollars.
Rush for Beef and Mutton
Quoting information provided by personages of Japanese trade circles, Nihon Keizai Shimbun said on March 10 that one week ago the Soviet Union purchased through barter 40,000 tons of mutton worth some 33 million U.S. dollars from New Zealand. The Soviet Union is also rushing for beef from Australian markets. Owing to Soviet buying spree, prices on the meat export markets in both countries were sky-rocketing. Personages of Japanese trade circles said that Japan was purchasing mutton from New Zealand now at prices 10 per cent higher than two weeks ago and that the prices were expected to keep on soaring.
The journal pointed out, “people had expected a Soviet rush for meat on world markets following its large-scale purchase of grain last year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture calculated that the Soviet Union would import 300,000 tons of beef and mutton this year.” Its substantial purchase of mutton from New Zealand now is but the “first step” in its planned rush on world markets for meat.
The journal stated: Japan planned to import 120,000 tons of mutton this year, half from New Zealand and half from Australia. Now that the Soviet Union has purchased 40,000 tons of mutton at one go, New Zealand with an export capacity of 65,000 tons this year has only 25,000 tons left for export to Japan and other countries. Even if Japan takes an inventory and cuts its imports, it still needs to import at least over 45,000 tons from New Zealand. Therefore, Japan will without doubt face a serious shortage of meat.
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