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Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union$
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Felix Wemheuer

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300195811

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300195811.001.0001

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The “Tribute” of the Peasantry in Times of Food Availability Decline

The “Tribute” of the Peasantry in Times of Food Availability Decline

(p.25) 1 The “Tribute” of the Peasantry in Times of Food Availability Decline
Famine Politics in Maoist China and the Soviet Union

Felix Wemheuer

Yale University Press

This chapter examines the relations between the state and peasants in the development of the famines. First it shows that both Communist parties in Russia and China inherited a heavy burden from history, coming to power in “lands of famine.” Second, it evaluates the impact of several Soviet developmental models on China. Third, it compares the roots of both Communist parties in the countryside and shows that the need to win over the peasantry for socialism and the extraction of resources from the countryside for the development of industry were conflicting goals. Fourth, it raises the question of what impact collectivization and radical social transformation in the countryside had on the famine. Fifth, it argues that in the system of collective agriculture, peasants had an interest in manipulating data and concealing some production. Lastly, the chapter explains why both governments continued to export grain during the famine. In a thought experiment, it estimates how many lives could have been saved if the governments had ended the exports. Further, it considers the question of whether Stalin and Mao deliberately used the famine to commit the mass murder of millions of peasants.

Keywords:   famine, peasants, China, Russia, Communist parties, socialism, collectivization, social transformation, collective agriculture, grain exports

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