May 8, 1983



December 1932

On December 2, 1932, Svoboda printed a news item datelined Moscow which reported that the Soviet government was issuing exit visas to its citizens who requested permanent emigration. Workers could leave the country by paying the government $250, professionals would have to pay $500. Those who had money could buy themselves out of the “Soviet paradise,” Svoboda commented.

On December 6, Svoboda reported that two Soviet newspapers, Izvestia and Pravda, had called for the shooting of all peasants who hid grain and foodstuffs from the authorities. The concealment of these products was “betrayal of the revolution,” and called for the most severe punishment, the Soviet newspapers said.

Svoboda reported that these decrees in the Soviet press stemmed from a recent incident in which a peasant worker was sentenced to death after killing a Soviet agent who came to collect hidden wheat. The Soviet government reported that its grain collection was below the needed quota and it had to search the peasants for anything they might have hidden.

On December 7, the Svoboda headline read “(Soviets) Want to Use Hunger to Force Workers to Stay on the Job.” The news story said that the Soviet government had issued a decree, signed by Vyacheslav Molotov, premier of the USSR, and Joseph Stalin, party chief, which stated that factory workers would be given foodstuffs, clothes and everyday necessities only in the state stores at the factories in which they worked, and only on the days they worked there. In this way, the government hoped to limit the number of “days off” the workers took. The decree was to take effect January 1. Until that time the factory workers had been issued special books which enabled them to obtain supplies from any government-sanctioned factory store. As of the new year, they would be able to receive supplies only from the store affiliated with the factory for which they worked.

Svoboda also received news that Walter Duranty, correspondent for The New York Times, had arrived in Paris and reported that statistics about the Soviet way of life were difficult to obtain. Mr. Duranty reported that the Soviet government eliminated all information that could be harmful to its regime and censorship was common. He added that over a million peasants had escaped from the Soviet Union during the last year and that this had been hushed up by Soviet authorities.

In an editorial dated December 8, Svoboda spoke out against Mr. Duranty, who, although he believed in the Soviet system and often praised it, could not conceal the fact that all was not well in the USSR. The editorial stated that according to Mr. Duranty, the Soviet government was not aware of the emigration of over a million peasants. It believed the emigration was a seasonal matter, and that the peasants would all be back for the next planting. According to Mr. Duranty, the government also refused to believe that the crackdown on grain collection (which led to a famine scare) would frighten the peasants into leaving the country.

The editorial commented that Mr. Duranty’s statements were geared toward having the Soviet government relinquish responsibility for the country’s tragedy. Mr. Duranty, according to the editorial, was trying to condone the behavior of the Soviet government in his eyes and in the eyes of people who thought as he did.

The editorial concluded with the following statement: “If unemployment is the fault of capitalism, the escape of peasants from Ukraine is the fault of communism.”

A purge of the ranks of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union was reported in Svoboda on December 14. A practice established during Lenin’s government, the purge of party members consisted of questioning about the party’s policies, and the ouster of people who did not follow Stalin’s policies. In this way, the government hoped to ensure party discipline and a strong following for its next five-year plan. Stalin saw it as a way to throw out anyone who would stand in opposition to him.

According to news sources in Berlin, the Ukrainian SSR Communist Party had been purged earlier. Most of the leading members found themselves in Siberia and the Solovetski Islands. This was also true of many Ukrainian nationalists, professors and scholars.

On December 21, yet another decree was signed by Stalin and Molotov – this one delineated which foodstuffs the peasants were to contribute to the government. In addition to the various meats and eggs they had to turn over, the Soviet government now included milk on this list. Collective farm members were to contribute between 53 and 613 quarts of milk yearly from each cow they had. According to the report, the government would set a quota; it would pay 15 kopeks for each quart, and charge five rubles for each quart sold. Those who did not turn over the milk, would be punished severely, the government said. According to government figures, in the first 10 months of 1932, the Soviet Union exported 27,875 tons of butter.

On December 23, Svoboda reported that the Soviet state farms, which the government hoped would produce one-seventh of all needed grains, had failed miserably. The government experienced just as much difficulty with the workers on these state-owned farms as it did with the factory workers.

On December 27, Svoboda ran a news item datelined Moscow which stated that the Soviet press and Communist Party leaders had abruptly stopped talking about a second five-year plan, which had been in the planning stages for the last two years. According to Svoboda: “The Bolsheviks said that the first five-year plan, which was scheduled to be finished in four years, was still far from being completed. The Bolsheviks in 1933 want to build up the agriculture and solve the lack of factory-workers, at least to help ease the needs of their citizens.”

Opposition to Stalin continued to grow, according to Svoboda headlines on December 29. More and more people believed that the “glorious five-year plan” had brought the country to economic ruin. Svoboda commented: “Stalin is too much of a politician to allow this opposition to harm him. He knows how to handle his opponents and will ease off on some of his policies during the next meeting of the Communist Party.” Therefore, no major changes in the Soviet government were to be expected.

On December 30, the headlines read: “Bolsheviks will introduce passports for the entire population.” According to the news from Moscow, a person was not able to leave his home without a passport, which included such information as home address and place of employment.

According to the Soviet government, this was to ensure that the people stayed at their jobs or collective farms. The Soviets hoped to keep track of their workers in this way, making sure that the peasants did not make their way into towns and cities where living conditions were better. Svoboda noted that according to the Soviet authorities: “The workers are patient with these trials and tribulations, because they have been made to believe that in order for socialism to be introduced and successfully brought into power, they must suffer for the time being.”

On the last day of the year, Svoboda reported that the Soviet government had issued yet another decree, effective January 1, which obligated all women up to age 56 to work in the factories, if they were to obtain sugar and bread. Up to this point, women were allowed to work in the home, take care of the family and be issued food stamps to collect bread for their families. As of 1933 this was to be no more. The Soviet regime’s decree was aimed at destroying family structure in Ukraine, Svoboda commented.

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Around the world:

Sir James Eric Drummond, the first secretary-general of the League of Nations, announced his resignation, effective in June 1933. It was received with profound regret, for much of the league’s success in its first decade of existence was due to Sir Drummond’s tact and skill. He was to be succeeded by Joseph Avenol of France.

Prohibition, which came into effect on January 16, 1920, once again faced a vote in Congress. In existence for almost 13 years, prohibition had become a major issue in the presidential campaign of 1932. A plank in the Democratic platform was unequivocally for repeal, and a Republican plank apparently favored submission of a proposal to revise the 18th amendment with some safeguards attached. Congress came close to repealing the amendment in December, only six votes short of the required two-thirds majority.

France, Belgium, Poland and Hungary informed the State Department that they could not meet payments on their war debts, because of their poor financial situations.

Japan had designs on turning Manchuria and the northern Chinese territories into an empire, as Chinese nationalists spoke out for war against Japan.