Red Bread, by Maurice Hindus, was written in 1931 about the collectivization of the farms in the Soviet Union (USSR). Hindus was a U.S. citizen who was born and raised in a small village in the USSR and was visiting his home and writing about the people there.
In one chapter, a “New Girl,” Vera was introduced to Hindus by her superior on the collective farm (kolhoz) as a real daughter of the revolution. Her formal job title was as a milk maid — charged with milking eight cows, three times a day.
Her real job started after her milking duties were finished. She was only 18 years old but her station and responsibilities made her appear more mature and a bit older. She was also the secretary of the kolhoz. She was a talented organizer and passionate orator who gave lectures on the benefits of the kolhoz and also on the latest farming techniques.
According to Hindus, the Russian peasantry at this time were living in unimaginable poverty and squalor. Moving to the kolhoz was a big improvement. Yet some resisted. The kolhoz grew from 10 Jewish families a few years before to an international kolhoz, with Poles, Letts, Lithuanians and Russians. One of Vera’s responsibilities was to settle disputes and promote collectivity among the workers from various backgrounds.
Vera’s many duties and chores kept her very busy. Still she was a vibrant and inquisitive young woman. She wanted to know many things about the U.S. and especially about U.S. girls. She wanted to know their interests, what what they wore, what books they liked to read, if they have talking motion pictures. Hindus tried to answer all her questions which usually only led to a barrage of more questions.
Vera was very impressed with U.S. technology and advancements in manufacturing and agriculture. But she felt they were grossly underdeveloped in culture. The manufacturing was advanced in that it could furnish the workers with more than one pair of shoes. Yet U.S. workers were lagging behind the Soviets because capitalist exploitation destroyed their lives.
Vera was a dedicated communist who was convinced that workers would soon overthrow the capitalist system in the U.S. Mainly she thought that capitalism had outlived its usefulness.
Hindus told Vera that the middle class in the U.S. would thwart any attempts at revolution, but Hindus failed to tell Vera that in the 1930s workers and the Communist Party in the U.S were organizing and fighting against capitalist oppression in basic industries, such as textiles, steel, mining and auto.
Even though the manufacturers were producing plenty of clothes and shoes, many workers were not paid enough to buy back what they produced; the same dilemma workers face today worldwide.
Overall Red Bread takes a positive look at the collectivization of farms in the Soviet Union. And the chapter on the New Girl takes a good look at the new international woman.