Sm,—Mr. J. L. Benvenisti seems to think that Soviet authorities are doing their best to preserve fertility of Russian soil. Undoubtedly they are rather vocal about it in their propaganda. In practice, however, Russian agriculture, under collectivist system, is being run in a most crude, unscientific and even rapacious manner.
This opinion is proffered not by some " biased " hater of Bolshevism, but by thirty-nine most prominent Soviet agronomists and experts, including Professor Williams, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science and one of the leading authorities on Russian agriculture, In an " open letter " addressed to the Commissar for Agriculture and published in the official Soviet journal, The Socialist Agriculture (Augusti20, 1939), these learned gentlemen complain that Soviet agricultural authorities persistently neglect to apply most elementary methods recommended by agronomy for the preservation of the soil fertility. For instance, the rotation of crops is introduced only in 15 per cent. of the State and collective farms Presumably, the rest are tilling their fields in a haphazard, crude manner without any regard to the simplest rules of good husbandry.
Of course, it is absurd to suggest that the Soviets are striving deliberately to reduce livestock population. The fact of the situation is that under collectivist system the livestock breeding is inevitably bound to deteriorate because the peasants have no personal incentive to tend the animals with due care and attention, and the managers of the collective and State farms, being mostly Communists from the towns, are an ignorant and lazy lot.
As experience has shown, the collective livestock breeding was a complete failure. The increase in the livestock population since 1934 was entirely due to the concession which the Government made to individualistic instincts of the peasantry by permitting every household to own a cow, a pig and ten sheep Ac6ording to the official Soviet statistics. 75 per cent. of the livestock (except the horses) are owned privately, not collectively.
Not only the methods employed by the Soviet Government for forcing the unwilling peasants into .collective farms, but the system of collectivisation itself is responsible for the highly unsatisfactory state in which all branches of Russian agriculture find themselves now. This system eliminates the human factor, which plays such an important part in all human activities.
ANATOLE V. BAIKALOPP.