Moscow: Narodnyi kommissariat prosveshcheniia RSFSR, 1931. Octavo (17.2 × 12.6 cm). Original staple-stitched typographically illustrated wrappers; 40 pp. Rust to staple; else very good. Item #6150
First edition. This guide for agrarian agitators was published at the height of the first Five-Year Plan (1928-1932) and exemplifies the push for mass cultural as well as agrarian transformation “along the socialist line.” The handbook gives a brief overview of the goals of the Soviet agrarian reform and offers five concrete exercises to be carried out by agitators in collective farms. The exercises are designed as relays, in this case as competitions in springtime sowing, with the collective farms competing against one another to produce the greatest yield. The agitators, referred to here as “soldiers of socialist enlightenment” who are “fighting against exploitation, for collectivization and for culture,” were themselves in competition against one another to create socialist educational facilities and infrastructure in the countryside. Production competitions were a common strategy during the Five-Year Plans and individuals as well as collectives were awarded medals and distinguished as “shock workers” for “meeting and exceeding” labor quotas. This guide offers a step by step plan for how to set up a variety of such competitions.
The first three exercises in the handbook are guides for creating village libraries, setting up regular political education meetings, training local agitators, creating local “wall newspapers” etc. Exercises for actual sowing relays follow. The handbook concludes with a warning and a call to action, stating that: “a serious and steep growth of agriculture […] the total socialist reorganization of the villages will not be possible without a harsh class war.” These goals will be obstructed by the “kulaks” (“the fists” or landowning peasants) who “will use all their power to sabotage the socialist reconstruction of the countryside.” Private farming was a practice that developed under the New Economic Policy in the 1920s but was shut down by the collectivization of the first five-year plan and these words condemning the “kulaks” were part of a massive campaign against the landowning peasants. The unsuccessful forced collectivization resulted in mass repression of the kulaks and led to a terrible man made famine (Holodomor) in Ukraine and the Caucasus in 1932, claiming millions of lives. Not in KVK or OCLC.