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Who were the kulaks, and what do they have to do with Jeremy Corbyn?

What prompted Boris Johnson to compare the Labour leader to a group of Russian farmers?

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (PA)
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (PA)

By Stephen Jones, PA

Boris Johnson kicked off his General Election campaign by comparing Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to the rich with Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s persecution of the kulaks.

The comment prompted a huge reaction online, as well as a spike in Google searches for the term “kulaks”.

So who are they? And what do they have to do with Jeremy Corbyn?

– Who were the kulaks?

The term kulak originally referred to newly-wealthy farmers who emerged from the Russian peasantry in the early 20th century.

After the Russian revolution, however, these richer farmers were viewed as enemies of Socialism, with Vladimir Lenin describing them as “bloodsuckers”.

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A Soviet propaganda poster targeting the Kulaks (LSE/Creative Commons)

This targeting escalated throughout the early Soviet era, with Joseph Stalin ordering a campaign in 1929 to “liquidate” the kulaks and bring their land under state control.

The resulting period of repression, disease and mass starvation is estimated to have led to the deaths of anything between 500,000 and five million people, and the deportations of millions more.

– How does this relate to Jeremy Corbyn?

Boris Johnson claims that Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to increase taxes on the rich amount to an attack on business akin to Stalin’s attack on the kulaks.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Johnson said: “They pretend that their hatred is directed only at certain billionaires – and they point their fingers at individuals with a relish and a vindictiveness not seen since Stalin persecuted the kulaks.

“In reality they would end up putting up taxes on everyone: on pensions, on businesses, on inheritance, on homes, on gardens.”

While Labour has not yet announced its tax proposals for the election, it has made clear that it will impose higher taxes on top earners.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday: “In terms of income tax, we’ve said very clearly the top 5% will pay a bit more, 95% of the earners will be protected.”

Mr Corbyn responded to the PM’s attack by tweeting: “The nonsense the super-rich will come out with to avoid paying a bit more tax…”

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