On May 13th 1918, the Bolshevik regime issued the following decree on food procurement. It marked the first step towards what eventually become known as “war communism“, a policy where the Soviet state supplied the war effort by seizing grain from otherwise uncooperative peasants:
“A ruinous process of disintegration of the food procurement of the country, the heavy legacy of a four-year war, continues to extend and aggravate the existing distress.
While the consuming provinces are starving, great stocks of cereals… lie in the producing provinces. These stocks are in the hands of rural kulaks and wealthy people, in the hands of the rural bourgeoisie.
Replete and satisfied, having accumulated an enormous amount of money earned in the war, this rural bourgeoisie remains deaf and unresponsive to starving workers and poor peasants. It refuses to dispatch cereals to government stations, with the aim of forcing the state to increase again and again the price of cereals. At the same time, it sells for its own benefit cereals in the provinces of fabulous prices to speculators and bagmen.
The obstinacy of the greedy kulaks and wealthy peasants must be brought to an end. The food procurement experience of the last years has shown that the failure to apply fixed prices on cereals and a grain monopoly [has made] food inaccessible to several millions of toiling people, exposing them to inevitable death by starvation.
The reply to the violence of grain holders upon the rural poor must be violence upon the bourgeoisie.
Not one single pood of grain must remain in the hands of the grain holders, except the quantity needed for sowing and subsistence of the household until the next harvest.
And it is necessary to implement all this immediately… as we must content ourselves with the resources of cereals which are barely sufficient for sowing and survival.
The All-Russian Executive Central Committee has decreed:
1. By keeping firmly the grain monopoly and fixed prices, and also carrying out a merciless struggle against grain speculators and bagmen, to compel each grain holder to declare the surrender of all surpluses, except the quantity needed for consumption on established norms…
2. To invite all toiling people and unpropertied peasants to unite immediately in a merciless struggle against the kulaks.
3. To declare as enemies of the nation all people having surpluses of grain and not handing them over to the station points… to bring them before the Revolutionary Courts, put them in jail for not less than ten years, confiscate all their belongings [and] banish them out of the obshchina…
4. In the case of discovery of any surplus of grain which had not been declared for delivery, grain will be requisitioned without payment and half of the value which was due… will be paid to the people who took part in discovering the surpluses, after they have been in fact received in the collecting stations…
The struggle against the food procurement crisis requires the adoption of rapid and decisive measures… The All-Russian Central Executive Committee has decreed for the purpose of a more successful struggle against the food crisis, to attribute to the People’s Commissar of Food Procurement the following powers:
To issue obligatory decisions on food procurement matters, exceeding the normal limits of competence of the People’s Commissar of Food Procurement…
To make use of armed troops in the case of resistance to requisition of grain and other foodstuffs…
To discharge, dismiss, take before the Revolutionary Court, and submit to arrest appointees and employees of all departments and social organisations if they interfere in a disruptive way with the commissariat’s decisions…”