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Yanks for Stalin
Interview Transcript

Stephen Kotkin    (cont)

Q. Stephen, pick it up wherever you want to.

A. Suppose that you do not have available for you, a very large population of immigrants who come to you as cheap labor and are willing to work wherever you want them to work in order to assimilate into American society.  But, you want the same kind of mass industrialization factory labor as quickly as possible, and as large as possible.  The Soviet model is a different model than the American model and the Soviet one involves the State being able to command its people and to send them wherever it wants to send them, wherever it needs them and to treat them as a large, cheap mass of labor available for industrialization.  Many of the Soviet people voluntarily moved to the construction sites and to the factories because the seek a better way of life, because there is opportunity for them.  Many of them are departed to these places or used as prison labor, arrested and sent to construction sites as punishment.  So, so side by side on the Soviet construction sites and factories, you have people who are there because it is a dream for a better way of  life for them and people are there because they have been arrested or deported as punishment to this particular site.  Without this mass mobilization using force of  labor power in the Soviet case, it is very difficult to imagine the kind of scale magnitude industrialization that they have. So, it is indispensable to the Soviet industrialization project that they use force labor and that the State commands labor and moves it wherever it wants, whenever it wants it, on whatever terms it decides.  Almost all the Soviet major factories and construction sites are the 1930 Stalin era, especially the ones with imported technology, involve large degrees of what we would consider to be forced labor, but, they also involved large degrees of what we would consider to be voluntary labor, and this is a paradox of the Soviet development. 

Q. I heard a lot of this word "kulak" , which I didn't know about.  You might give a short lesson in collectivism and who these kulaks were who might be coming in.  Talk about that.

A.  The main source of labor power in the Soviet case is going to have to come from the villages.  It is a peasant country, where approximately 80% of the population lives in rural locales as late as the early 1930's.  Many of these people, especially the young ones, were attracted to the city life and to the opportunities represented in the city, either education or employment.  However, the Soviet government embarks on what they call collectivization, which is a project of political control over the villages by the government.  In part, it  is related to an economic model that there can't be private property, that there can't be peasant control.  Although, whether to give the harvest over to the State or not, in part it is economic, mostly it is political.  The economic model of large scale industrial-like farms, on the one hand and the political model of state control over the countryside and its resources and what it has to offer for the industrialization program especially.  Labor power is a critical element in this equation, so, many people under the guise of class warfare and fighting something called the Kulaks, or the better off peasants, are rounded up and deported ,or, they flee beforehand, in a way de-Kulak-izing themselves.  They are either deported to these construction sites or they go to these construction sites on their own fleeing what in many case be a deportation in advance, expecting a deportation and fleeing.  These so called Kulaks, peasants, who are suppose to be the better off peasants, are all kinds of peasants, including poor peasants.  They go from construction site to construction site, in many cases like immigrants, who, in some ways they are convoyed that way, from construction site to construction site under armed guard.  In other cases, they travel on their own volition seeking a better way of life.  The main point is that the countryside supplies the vast amount of new labor for the factories, for the construction sites in the urban areas. So, not only is political control achieved over the village, but,  a huge supply of labor is available for factories, including factories in distant, far off places, difficult places to live, places people would not necessarily volunteer to go to live.  So, the countryside supplies the labor power for the Soviet industrialization, mostly through force, mostly through state moving the peasants there, but, in many ways the peasants move themselves.

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