Towards showdown in the countryside, 1926–8
By 1926 there were clear signs that the countryside was in ferment. The Communists’ defeat in rural elections to the soviets in 1925, the rise of the Peasant Union movement, the curtailment of production, the shrinkage of cultivation, and in some places the appearance of peasant bands all indicated that peasants wanted to expand their economic freedom and political rights. The rural party was in a state of confusion, weakened by electoral setbacks and uncertain about the purpose of NEP and its own future. The party leaders faced some difficult questions. Was economic recovery in the countryside possible without losing control? Was it really advisable to rely on the rural party cells who were mostly poorly educated, corrupt, and ill-equipped to direct economic recovery? To what extent was a soft policy in the countryside acceptable? These issues were hotly debated in 1925-6 at Communist Party meetings at all levels. Some major decisions were made in 1926 which set up a chain of events leading to the procurement crisis of 1928 and the demise of NEP.