Josef -||- Lenin's Death -||- party politics- left vs. right-||- Stalin & Stalinism -||- World War II
~~~- Russia -~~~
Stalin & Stalinism
Stalin had plans for Russia, and the entire country would become an opportunity for him to vent his anger and whims. Perhaps the Soviet State was 'established at the expense of the Soviet people'.
His reign is remembered for his brutality. The modest estimate for Soviet deaths are 20 million dead. Yet the people followed him because he was one of them. He was not of the upper class or educated like the others. Stalin started out as a poor boy.
His first ideas for the Soviet Union were the
Five Year Plans. In a speech to factory workers, he said:
"To reduce the tempo is to lag behind. All laggards are beaten. But we don't want to be beaten. No, we don't want that! The history of old Russia consisted, among other things, in continual beatings for her backwardness. She was beaten by the Mongolian Khans. Beaten by the Swedish feudals. Beaten by the Polish-Lithuanian nobles. Beaten by the Anglo-French capitalists. Beaten by all of them- for backwardness. For military backwardness, for cultural backwardness, governmental backwardness, industrial backwardness, agricultural backwardness. Beaten because it was profitable and done with impunity. Remember the words of the pre-revolutionary poet, 'Thou art and thou are abundant, so one can gain at they expense' They beat her saying, 'Thou art poor, powerless, so we can beat and rob thee with impunity.' That's the law of exploiters. The wolves' law of capitalism. Thou hast lagged behind, thou art weak, so thou art not in the right, hence one may beat and enslave thee. Thou art mightly, hence thou art in the right, one must watch out for thee. That is why we can no longer lag behind."
This was an introduction to the first Five-Year plan where industry, agriculture, transport, eliectrification, housing and education would be improved. The Russian people were so enthusiastic about the plan that the first one was completed in four years. Children chanted "Five in Four, Five in Four, Five in Four, and not in Five!" The workers started to consider themselves a new species- Homo Sovieticus- engineers and workers of the human soul. Cities were built from scratch, and all Industrial outputs and inputs had great increases. There were bad things that happened though.
Trials were set up to blame 'saborteurs and wreckers'. These were the foreign experts and bourgeois engineers, the ones with the real expertise.
The Second and Third Five-Year Plans were set with less irrational criteria, the trials continued, and Russia grew. When people were no longer motivated to work, they were thrown in jail for treason, and new methods of 'motivation' were introduced. One example in the Stakhanovite movement, named after Alexei Stakhanovite, who cut 14 times more coal than the usual. These Stakhanovites were given new homes and made heroes for thier efforts, but they were treated badly by their fellow workers, sometimes even killed.
Industrializatoin meant that everyone had a job, but the crowds made conditions horrible. There was little training, and often several families shared one flat.
The next thing was collectivization where the agricultural economy would improve, provide food for workers, and 'liquidate the kulaks as a class'.
There are 2 ways that I can think of- about thinking of collectivization:
1) It was a grand success! The kulaks were liquidated and though there was famine in the rural areas, the goals were completed and the workers were fed. It gave the impression that Russia was a successful Socialist country (in the cities) and that the people were happy.
Then there's my way;
2) Collectivization was a failure It wiped out seven million people and did nothing to help the agricultural economy.
This action was caused by a Communist distrust of peasants. Therefore, peasants were made prey to taxes and funds for industrialization.
Collectivization included all peasants to join together in a kolkhoz (collective farm). The kulaks objected and propaganda was sent out for the poorer peasants to hate them. Added to that, kulaks were sent to prison camps or killed instantly. A kind of war was brewing in the countryside.
By allowing 'dekulakization', Stalin managed to kill off the expertize of the countryside. The kulaks were kulaks simply because they knew their job well.
The Kulaks decided to take revenge.
They slaughtered all thier livestock and destroyed all their fields to prevent the government from taking them. This caused a great Famine for a year where an estimated three million died. In Kazakhstan alone, 83% of cattle, 87% of sheep, and 89% of horses were destroyed. The government denied the famine and Russia starved herself. It was called by the historian Deutscher; "The first purely manmade famine in history". The peasants learned to hate Communism.
The kulak money went to the government. It was no surprise that the peasants were exploited. They were considered unimportant to the revolution and stupid. Maxim Gorky said about them "LIke the Jews that Moses led out of Egyptian slavery, the half-savage, stupid, ponderous people of the Russian villages...will die out, and a new tribe will take their place- literate, sensible, hearty people."
Next would come the purges. It began with the Ryutin group- who wanted Stalin removed from the party. In a two-hundred paged document, Stalin was described as "the evil genius of the Russian Revolution who, activated by vindicitiveness and lust for power, has brought the revolution to the edge of the abyss." This group was expelled from the party and exiled. He was outvoted and could not have them killed.
So came the first major purge where nearly a million members of the party were purged for being 'Ryutinites'. The second major purge was for Sergei Kirov. He was a member of the Politburo and Secretary of Leningrad. Many liked him for his charisma and told him that he should take over from Stalin. Then Kirov did something extremely unforetold. He told Stalin about these people. Well, he was soon assassinated on December 1 1934 outside his office by a young communist- Nikolaev. There are 3 theories behind the murder:
1) Stalin had nothing to do with the death. It was all Nikolaev.
2) Stalin had nothing to do with the murder. It was all the NKVD.
3) Stalin had everything to do with the murder.
Whatever the case, seven million people were murdered, and more millions were thrown in jail. They were 'part of the conspiracy to overthrow the Communist leadership'.
Then there was the party purge. This got rid of Kamenev, Zinoviev, suspected 'Trotskyites, Zinovievites, counter-revolutionaries, etc'. They were arrested by the NKVD, put on trial and psychologically tortured to admit to their crimes. They did confess, and even cried 'Long Live Stalin!' usually, before they died.
The Army was purged in 1937. Heroes from the Civil War went first, and then Marshal Tukhachevsky for 'spying'. The red army was effectively destroyed. Soon after was the purge of the Navy where all Admirals were shot and naval officers taken to labor camps. The military was near destroyed and it was a miracle that the Russians managed to resist the Germans.
The purge of the people. Stalin was worshipped as a god by many, and they prayed to him for their welfare. This was probably from the past culture of considering the Tsar a demigod. Culture was censored and ruined.