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Speech at a Conference of Harvester-Combine Operators

1 December 1935

Comrades, allow me first to congratulate you on the successes you have achieved on the harvest front. These successes are no mean ones. The fact that, on an average for the whole of the U.S.S.R., the performance per harvester combine has doubled in one year, is no mean achievement. This achievement is particularly important in the conditions prevailing in our country, where our number of technically trained people is still small. Our country was always distinguished by a lack of technically trained cadres, especially in the sphere of agriculture. The technical training of cadres on a country-wide scale is a very big job. It requires decades. And the fact that in a comparatively short space of time, we have managed to convert the peasant sons and daughters of yesterday into excellent harvester-combine operators, who are surpassing the standards of capitalist countries, means that the training of technical cadres in our country is proceeding at seven-league strides. Yes, comrades, your successes are great and important ones, and you fully deserve to be congratulated by the leaders of the Party and the government.

And now let me pass to the essence of the matter.

It is frequently said that we have already solved the grain problem. That, of course, is true if we are referring to the period we are now passing through. This year we shall gather in more than five and a half billion poods of grain. This is quite sufficient to feed the population to satiety and to lay aside adequate reserves for any unforeseen contingency. That, of course, is not bad for the present day. But we cannot confine ourselves to the present day. We must think of the morrow, of the immediate future. And if we regard the matter from the point of view of the morrow, the results achieved cannot satisfy us. How much grain shall we require in the immediate future, three or four years hence, let us say? We shall require not less than seven or eight billion poods of grain. That is how matters stand, comrades. This means that we must take measures at once, so that the production of grain in our country shall increase from year to year, and that by that time we shall prove fully prepared for the accomplishment of this most important task. In the old days, before the revolution, about four or five billion poods of grain were produced in our country annually. Whether this quantity of grain was sufficient or not is another question. At any rate, they all thought it sufficient, since 400 or 500 million poods of grain were exported annually. That is how matters stood in the past. But it is different now, under our Soviet conditions. I have already said that we must at once prepare ourselves to increase the annual production of grain to seven or eight billion poods in the immediate future, in about three or four years. As you see, the difference is not a small one. Four or five billion poods are one thing, seven or eight billion poods are another.

Whence this difference? How are we to explain this colossal increase in the demand for grain in our country?

It is to be explained by the fact that our country is now not what it was in the old, pre-revolutionary days.

To begin, for example, with the fact that during the past few years, industry and towns have grown at least double as compared with the old days. We now have at least twice as many cities and city dwellers, industries and workers engaged in industry, as in the old days. What does this mean? It means that we have taken several million toilers from the countryside and transferred them to the cities, that we have made them workers and employees, and that they are now, together with the rest of the workers, advancing our industry. This means that whereas several million toilers, formerly connected with the countryside, used to produce grain, today they not only do not produce grain, but themselves require that grain should be brought to them from the countryside. And our cities will grow and the demand for grain will increase.

That is the first reason for the increase in the demand for grain.

Further, in the old days we had less industrial crops than now. We are now producing twice as much cotton as in the old days. As to flax, sugar beet, and other industrial crops, we are producing incomparably more than in the old days. What follows from this? It follows from this that the people who are engaged in the production of industrial crops, cannot adequately engage in grain growing. And therefore we must have large stocks of grain for the people who are producing industrial crops, so that it may be possible steadily to increase the production of industrial crops, the cultivation of cotton, flax, sugar beet, sunflower seed, and so forth. And we must steadily increase the production of industrial crops if we want to advance our light industries and our food industries.

There you have the second reason for the increase in the demand for grain.

Further, I have already said that in the old days our country used to produce four or five billion poods of grain annually, The tsarist ministers at that time used to say : "We will go short ourselves, but we will export grain." Who were the people who went short? Not the tsarist ministers, of course. The people who went short were the twenty or thirty million poor peasants, who did indeed go short, and lived a life of semi-starvation in order that the tsarist ministers might send grain abroad. Such was the state of affairs in the old days. But times with us have entirely changed. The Soviet government cannot permit the population to go short. For two or three years now we no longer have any poor, unemployment has ceased, undernourishment has disappeared, and we have firmly entered on the path of prosperity. You will ask, what has become of the twenty or thirty million hungry poor peasants? They have joined the collective farms, have established themselves there, and are successfully building a life of prosperity for themselves. And what does this mean? It means that we now need far more grain to feed our toiling peasants than in the old days; because the poor peasants of yesterday, who are the collective farmers of today, having established themselves in the collective farms, must have enough grain with which to build a prosperous life. You know they have it, and will have still more.

That is the third reason for the colossal increase in the demand for grain in our country.

Further, everybody is now saying that the material conditions of the toilers in our country have considerably improved, that life has become better, happier. That, of course, is true. But the result is that the population has begun to multiply far more rapidly than in the old days. Mortality has declined, births are increasing, and the net growth of population is incomparably greater. That, of course, is good, and we welcome it. (Amusement.) We now have an annual increase of population of about three million. That means that every year, there is an increase equal to one whole Finland. (Laughter.) Well, the result is that we have to feed more and more people.

There you have another reason for the increase in the demand for bread.

Finally, one more reason. I have spoken of people and their increased demand for bread. But man's food does not consist of bread alone. He also needs meats, fats. The growth of the cities, the increase in industrial crops, the general growth of the population, a prosperous life - all this results in an increase in the demand for meat and fats. It is therefore necessary to have a well-ordered animal husbandry, with a great quantity of livestock, large and small, in order to be able to satisfy the growing demand of the population for meat products. All this is clear, But a growth of animal husbandry is inconceivable without large stores of grain for the livestock. Only a growing and expanding grain production can create the conditions for the growth of animal husbandry.

There you have one more reason for the colossal increase in the demand for grain in our country.

Such, comrades, are the causes which have radically changed the face of our country and which have confronted us with the urgent task of increasing the annual production of grain in the near future to seven or eight billion poods.

Can we accomplish this task?

Yes, we can. There can be no doubt of it.

What is required to accomplish this task?

It requires, firstly, that the prevailing form of enterprise in agriculture should be not the small farm, but the large farm. Why the large farm? Because only the large farm can master modern technique, only the large farm can utilize modern agronomical knowledge to a sufficient extent, only the large farm can make proper use of fertilizers. In capitalist countries, where the prevailing form of agriculture is the individual small farm, large farms are created by the enrichment of a small group of landowners and the ruin of the majority of the peasants. There, usually, the land of the ruined peasants passes into the hands of the rich landowners, while the peasants themselves, in order not to die of hunger, go to work as hands for the landowners. We consider this a wrong way and a ruinous way. It does not suit us. We have therefore adopted another way of forming large agricultural enterprises. The way we have adopted is to unite the small peasant farms into large collective farms, cultivating the land by collective labour, and taking advantage of all the benefits and opportunities offered by large-scale farming. That is the way of the collective farms. Is the collective form of large-scale farming the prevailing form of agriculture in our country? Yes, it is. About 90 per cent of our peasants are now in the collective farms. And so we already have large-scale enterprise in agriculture, collective farming, as the prevailing form.

It requires, secondly, that our collective farms, our large farms should have enough suitable land. Have our collective farms enough suitable land? Yes, they have. You know that all the imperial, landlord and kulak lands have been handed over to the collective farms. You know that these lands have already been assigned to the collective farms in perpetuity. The collective farms therefore have enough suitable land to develop the production of grain to the utmost.

It requires, thirdly, that the collective farms should have enough machinery, tractors, agricultural machines and harvester combines. I need not tell you that hand labour alone will not carry us very far. A rich technique is therefore required in order that the collective farms may be able to develop the production of grain. Have the collective farms this technique? Yes, they have. And this technique will increase as time goes on.

It requires, finally, that the collective farms should have people, cadres capable of handling technique, who have mastered this technique and have learnt to harness it. Have the collective farms such people, such cadres? Yes, they have. Still not many, it is true, but they have them. This conference, which is attended by the finest harvester-combine operators, men and women, and which represents only a small part of the army of harvester-combine operators in the collective farms, is a proof that such cadres have already grown up in the collective farms. True, such cadres are still few, and that, comrades, is our chief difficulty. But there are no grounds for doubting that the number of such cadres will increase, not yearly and monthly, but daily and hourly.

It follows, therefore, that we have all the conditions necessary for achieving an annual production of seven or eight billion poods of grain in the near future.

That is why I think that the urgent task of which I have spoken can unquestionably be fulfilled.

The main thing now is to devote ourselves to cadres, to train cadres, to help the backward to master technique, to develop, day in and day out, people capable of mastering technique and driving it forward. That is now the main thing, comrades.

Particular attention must be devoted to harvester combines and the harvester-combine operators. You know that the most responsible job in grain farming is harvesting. Harvesting is a seasonal job - and it does not like to wait. If you have harvested in time - you have won, if you have delayed harvesting - you have lost. The importance of the harvester combine is that it helps to gather in the harvest in time. This is a very great and important job, comrades.

But the importance of the harvester combine does not end here. Its importance also lies in the fact that it saves us from tremendous loss. You know yourselves that harvesting by means of reaping machines involves a tremendous loss of grain. You first have to reap the grain, then to gather it into sheaves, then to gather it into stacks, and then to carry the harvest to the threshing machines - and all this means loss after loss. Everybody admits that by this system of harvesting we lose about 20 or 25 per cent of the harvest. The great importance of the harvester combine is that it reduces loss to an insignificant minimum. The experts tell us that, other conditions being equal, harvesting by means of reaping machines gives a harvest yield of ten poods less per hectare than does harvesting by means of harvester combines. If you take an area of one hundred million hectares of grain crops, and we have a far larger area, as you know, the loss as a result of harvesting by reaping machines would amount to one billion poods of grain. Now try to organise the harvesting of these hundred million hectares with the help of harvester combines, assuming that the combines do not work badly, and you will have a saving of a whole billion poods of grain. Not a small figure, you see.

So you see how great is the importance of harvester combines and the people operating the harvester combines.

That is why I think that the introduction of the harvester combine in agriculture, and the training of numerous cadres of harvester-combine operators, men and women, is a task of prime importance.

That is why, in conclusion, I should like to express the wish that the number of harvester - combine operators, men and women, should increase, not daily, but hourly, that, by learning the technique of the harvester combine and teaching it to their comrades, they in the long run should become real victors in agriculture in our country. (Loud and prolonged cheers and applause. Cries of "Long live our beloved Stalin!")

Two more words, comrades. We here in the presidium have been quietly conferring and have decided that it would be fitting to recommend the participants of this conference for the highest award, for an order of distinction - because of their good work. We think, comrades, that we shall put this matter through in the next few days. (Loud and prolonged applause. Cries of "Thanks, Comrade Stalin.")

4 December 1935