Russia in 1919
In the afternoon I met Sereda, the Commissar of Agriculture. He insisted that the agrarian policy had been much misrepresented by their enemies for the purposes of agitation. They had no intention of any such idiocy as the attempt to force the peasants to give up private ownership. The establishment of communes was not to be compulsory in any way; it was to be an illustrative means of propaganda of the idea of communal work, not more. The main task before them was to raise the standard of Russian agriculture, which under the old system was extremely low. By working many of the old estates on a communal system with the best possible methods they hoped to do two things at once: to teach the peasant to realize the advantages of communal labour, and to show him that he could himself get a very great deal more out of his land than he does. "In other ways also we are doing everything we can to give direct help to the small agriculturists. We have mobilized all the agricultural experts in the country. We are issuing a mass of simply written pamphlets explaining better methods of farming."
(I have seen scores of these pamphlets on forestry, potatoes, turf, rotation of crops, and so on, besides the agricultural journals issued by the Commissariat and sent in large quantities to the villages.)
I told Sereda I had heard that the peasants were refusing to sow more than they wanted for their own needs. He said that on the contrary the latest reports gave them the right to hope for a greater sown area this year than ever before, and that even more would have been sown if Denmark had not been prevented from letting them have the seed for which they had actually paid. I put the same question to him that I put to Nogin as to what they most needed; he replied, "Tractors."
Chapter 19: Foreign Trade And Munitions Of War