Stalin Essay


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Essay on the impact of Stalin on the Soviet Union

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Stalin Essay

  1. 1. Stalin Dossier Rob Close Although Stalin’s role in creating the Soviet State was minor his role in establishing the U.S.S.R. as a nation was immense. Through a totalitarian approach Stalin controlled all aspects of life. He controlled the output of artists, collectivised the economy so it was state controlled, created a cult of personality around himself and used the Great Terror as a way to ensure he would have no opposition. It was in this way that Stalin remodelled the Soviet state successfully into a stronger nation where the state influenced all aspects of the economy, society and politics. Stalin only played a minor role in the creation of the Soviet state. During Lenin’s rule he was not seen as a man of action and generally concerned himself with administrative work. His first major work for Russia was the foundation of the official newspaper, Pravada. He then continued to assist implementing the Nomenklatura System where the General Secretary held a large amount of power by being the only person to be a part of the Politburo, Orgburo and Secretariat. Stalin recognised the control he could exercise on all parts of the party and became General Secretary in April 1922. Yet still Stalin did not make great changes to the State until he had complete control in 1928. Therefore, Stalin’s role in the creation of the Soviet state was minor but after gaining control of the party he steered the U.S.S.R. into a new direction. This new direction was Stalinism. Stalinism is a version of communist theory based on the policies of Joseph Stalin. The formation of this began in 1913 with Stalin’s work concerning nationalities in a future communist state ‘Marxism and the National Question’, were he proclaimed the nation as a ‘capitalist phenomenon’. Stalin believed in the theory of an aggravated class struggle he used this as a basis to suppress political opponents as victims of this struggle. In many ways it was synonymous with totalitarianism. A prime concern of Stalinism was to establish Russia as a stable world power. According to Stalin, ‘Other countries are 50 years ahead of Russia. We must make good this distance in 10 years’. The survival of Russia relied on the transformation into a modern society. All policies of Stalin and therefore the influence it had on life stemmed from this belief. The life of Russians changed dramatically due to the introduction of collectivisation and industrialisation, the use of a cultural revolution and the development of a climate of fear. Collectivisation, introduced in 1928, was the policy that entailed all work must be to the benefit of the state. Primarily in agriculture, this led to amalgamation of private plots of lands, owned by the Kulak class, into government farms. This class of land owning peasants was eliminated in a process known as Dekulakisation. Individuals were indoctrinated to put the needs of the collective, state, over that of their own. This changed the culture of Russian society as bettering the state became a common goal of many. For example, the state procured grain from rural areas as it was needed in the cities to support industrialisation. Overall, this led to an increase in efficiency, which allowed people to move to cities yet agricultural production fell in the early 1930’s by almost 40%. This policy, along the NKVD, the name of the Cheka from 1923, eliminated those with capitalist beliefs, the Kulaks. Although this supported industrialisation, there was also widespread famine in rural areas. The second phase of this plan aimed to industrialise the country and create a command economy under the control of Gosplan, the state planning committee. Due to Stalin’s belief in socialism in one country, the U.S.S.R. had to be self-sufficient. This was done through the implementation of Five Year Plans whose goals assisted the collective, not the individual. The First Five Year Plan, 1928-1932, focused on increasing efficiency of existing heavy industry. Although industrial output increased
  2. 2. Stalin Dossier Rob Close to some extent the production of consumer goods was largely ignored and the price rose leading to a drop in the standard of living. The Second Five Year Plan, 1933-1937, focused partly on righting this imbalance and also on the increase in technical expertise. Education and training of the work force began, the number of engineers rose from 47,000 in 1928 to over 900,000 in 1941. The coming war that Stalin predicted with Germany led to him modifying the goals, putting less importance on consumer goods and more importance on armaments. The increase in industrialisation significantly increased urbanisation. This put pressure on resources and in general the standard of living fell. Conversely, the proletariat, supporters of the communist party, increased. Overall, Leonard believes collectivisation and industrialisation was ‘profoundly negative…created massive shortages’ but it also increased efficiency of the railways and heavy industry which improved the economy in the long term. Although the Five Year Plans did not improve the Soviet economy to the extent Stalin expected, they did go some way to bringing Russia in line with the other world powers. Stalin revolutionised the culture of Russia. He encourage experimentation in art, that conformed with soviet policy, dissolved religion and changed the education system and increasing divorce rates and shortages led to instability at home. The culture of the Russian worker centred around the need to prioritise the collective. This idea was indoctrinated into them at school, which was opened up to more children and workers who were actively encouraged to seek extra education and art was used as propaganda to enhance this belief. A group emerged know as Stakhanovists who were a series of workers that became celebrities because they greatly exceeded their quotas, they also received material rewards, such as better housing, this encouraged people to work longer and harder to meet the high quotas. Stalinists built on this image to reconstruct the human species into the idyllic Soviet man which was portrayed as the hero in all art, media and propaganda. This captured revolutionary and nationalistic passions and led to a zealous belief in collectivisation and coupled with propaganda portraying Stalin as the grandfather of Russia this led to a personality cult surrounding the man. In some ways, the rights of citizens improved in the U.S.S.R. as a part of this revolution. Every citizen had the right to vote, but only for candidates from the Communist Party and employment was guaranteed. This aimed to prove Russia was an acceptable ally to Britain and France. The culture of the collective and the personality cult infected every part of the society so much so that historian Fitzpatrick states that ‘people no longer conversed about ordinary life but rather all conversations were political.’ The policies of Stalin revolutionised culture and changed the way Russians thought and acted on a daily basis. The factors already mentioned, led to a climate of fear in the Soviet Union. Friends and even family were encourage by the NKVD to denounce each others as saboteurs. Such persons were executed or taken to the Gulags. The creation of this fear was justified by the pretence that the USSR was a nation under siege because of backwardness. Officials were afraid of not meeting the unrealistically high targets of the Five Year Plans. This led to the creation of a world of pretence. The ‘Plans’ set goals but lacked actual planning of how these should be achieved. This fatal flaw led to a lack of cooperation between factories as fear of failure led to an ‘every man for himself’ mentality. This led to the reporting of inflated figures when the goals were not reached. Therefore the government belied the targets were being reached and these where then raised in the Second Five Year Plan. This circle of pretence occurred right across society and led to very few targets actually being met. This climate of fear laid the way for totalitarianism to become accepted in society as people were afraid of retribution.
  3. 3. Stalin Dossier Rob Close It is obvious that Stalinism is a form of totalitarianism. Totalitarianism has six main features, one party, one ideology, police terror, a communication monopoly, weapons monopoly and a directed economy. The Politburo was under direct control of Stalin who would meet with the members individually not together. The Party Congress also met infrequently, under Lenin the meetings were annual but by 1925 there were three years between meetings. As Stalin was a member of the Politburo, Orgburo and Secretariat Stalin was able to place his supporters in positions, democracy within the party was no longer practised. The NKVD used to force against real and imagined ‘Saboteurs’. Counter-revolutionaries, the capitalist Kulak class and Stalin’s political enemies were all sentenced to death or sent to the Gulags on charges of sabotaging the collective. This created the period of The Great Terror in 1936-1938. All art, film, radio and literature had to be vetted by the Party to ensure it was portraying Communist values. Education was also changed to follow the party line. Stalin gradually took away individual freedoms harnessing the belief in the collective and the climate of fear. For instance, internal passports were introduced, something which Lenin had abolished in 1917. Finally, the implementation of collectivisation brought the economy under state control. Therefore Stalinism clearly exhibits the characteristics of totalitarianism. The force used by the NKVD between 1936 and 1938has become known as the Great Terror. Stalin aimed to eliminate those disloyal to him and although this occurred, it also isolated Stalin with advisors who lacked experience and skewed facts so they were what Stalin wanted to hear. The purges were unleashed from the top down, starting with the murder of Kirov in 1934 Stalin personally approved 44,000 victims, who were seen as threats to Stalin’s rule, from the government, military and intelligence services and in doing so aimed to refresh party membership with loyalists. This added to the climate of fear as friends and family denounced each other. The purges had far reaching effects across all of the state but the Politburo recovered relatively quickly and little experience was completely lost. Yet for the Red Army the purges were a catastrophe. 34,301 officers were expelled and so a monumental amount of combat and tactical experience was lost. Of the 101 Supreme Military leaders 11 were arrested and 80 were shot. Three out of five Marshalls of the Soviet Union, the highest rank of the armed forces, were executed as were all the commanders of military districts in Russia. This led to poor reports of the situation in the military reaching Stalin as well as a grave lack of experience commanders. This was a major factor in the loss of the Winter War in 1940 and forced Stalin to appease Hitler so as to buy time to build up the military. Although the purges aimed to give Stalin better control of the state, they actually left him further disconnected from reality as advisors who lacked experienced told Stalin only what he wanted to hear. Stalin did not play a large role in the creation of the soviet state. Yet he played an important role in establishing the Soviet State and it’s policies. Stalin used a ruthless totalitarian style of government where he controlled the economy through collectivisation and the Five Year Plans, politics through placing supporters in positions of power and using his position as General Secretary to control all aspects of the government and society through using the cult of personality and the Great Terror to effectively alter the culture of the Russian people. In this way the Soviet State was remodelled to allow so Stalin could have complete control over all aspects of the state and it’s people.
  4. 4. Stalin Dossier Rob Close Bibliography Kershaw, Ian. Fateful Choices: Ten Decisions that Changed the World, 1940-1941. Penguin. 2008. Fitzpatrick, Sheila. Everyday Stalinism – Ordinary Life in Extraordinary Times. Oxford University Press. New York. 1991. “Stalin’s Russia”. Think Quest. Accessed: 10/03/09 Brooman JB, Stalin and the Soviet Union, Longman Group, USA, 1988.