Discuss Stalin’s rise to power and his economic policies.

Russia was governed by Lenin since the second revolution in 1917 and the regime was communist. However, Lenin was tried to be killed in 1918 and he never fully recovered. In 1924, Lenin died letting the matter of leadership to be resolved. He had two potential successors: Trotsky and Stalin. Trotsky was the Commissar for War, an efficient organiser of the Red Army and he was largely responsible for the Bolshevik victory in the Civil war. However it was Stalin who succeeded to obtain the power. He presented himself as close to Lenin, and Lenin had written a testament which warned the Russian that Stalin was dangerous and could become a dictator, but Stalin manipulated the truth. He got rid of Trotsky isolating him politically, and then expelled him from the party. After that, Stalin gained total control over government by turning his old allies against Trotsky: Zinoviev and Kamenev. He described them as too liberal and dismissed them in 1927 from the Party. He took only his supporters to the key posts so he could have no opposition. He was called the “Vozhd” (leader). Under Stalin’s rule, the economic policies changed and aimed to catch up with the more industrialised countries of the West Europe. First he invested limited capitalism to improve the production: the peasants could have small pieces of land to produce for themselves, in addition of the rest. Then he abandoned Lenin’s New Economic policies. Stalin believed in a quick industrialisation, so 5 years plans were created. It meant that industry and agriculture in Russia had to reach aims defined by this Plan. NEP was not popular because it was regarded as a betrayal to Marxists Ideas. Moreover crops were not sufficient and there was unhappiness about the price and scarcity of food. Stalin’s new decisions permitted him to make Trotsky, Kamenev and Zinoviev less popular: Stalin declared the first ones where on the Left and Bukharin on the Right, because he supported the NEP. The thought was that economic planning would help to control more the lives of the people and make peasants forsaken their lands and turn them into workers for the factories. It started in 1928. The first five years plan marked the official end of the NEP. It consisted of eliminating private business and took in charge every aspects of the economic life. The first five years plan was a law which set down the rate of increase for industry and agriculture between 1928 and 1932. This worked quite well and was transformed into a four years plan. After that a second one started, giving priority to heavy industry too and aimed the production of machinery for use on the farms. In 1938 the third five-year plan started. However the war appeared to be closer and rearmament was needed. Russia was invaded by the German army in 1941 and the third plan could not be continued. Stalin had the idea that Russia needed heroes to motivate the workers and peasants to reach the economic targets. A man called Stakhanov did 15 times his quota (it was a lie, because he was helped) and became a national hero. The workers were urged to do the same thing. They were rewarded with higher salaries and became famous. There was a whole system managing the prices and punishments for the people so they wanted to make more production to earn more and they were afraid not to reach their quotas. But that meant Stalin did not adhere to the strict Marxist idea of equality. The conditions of work were very strict: people could lose their jobs, accidents at work were sabotage. But at hose prices, economic situation in Russia greatly improved. Huge factories, power stations, metal working complexes were built. Moscow was lined to the Volga and the Baltic Sea with the White sea by great canals. Railway lines and new roads were constructed too.

Steel production enormously improved. In Moscow laid an underground which revealed to provide a cheap and efficient transport service. However, the way the industrialisation happened privileged quantity to quality: many goods were unreliable. Consumer goods were scarce. In addition many workers from rural areas never came used to the discipline of factories. One good thing too under Stalin was the importance and widespread of education: because illiterate people were less efficient, new schools, colleges and universities were created and a new skilled labour force was created. There were too specialists brought from abroad. The communist party believed that peasants, especially the ones who used to own great piece of lands, were anti-communist. Despite a good harvest, the amount of food brought in the towns fell. Before that the government had lowered the price of grain. The peasants kept the grain for them until the government increased prices. So Stalin decided to make policies to face them: collectivisation of agriculture. They were forced to unify their farms with the ones of their neighbour: the collective farms were called Kolkhoz. They had to produce a specific amount of grain each years. But they were only the first step, the second one was the Sovkhoz, state farms. Stalin wanted Russia to be self-sufficient. The opposition was very strong. Feeling that their lands would not be their anymore peasants killed their animals and ate them so they could benefit from them at the end. Under the NEP, many peasants had done well and were richer than the others, they were called Kulaks. They were especially opposed to the new reforms they often preferred to burn their house and crops than giving tgem. They were declared war by Stalin: countryside became a battlefield. More than five millions Kulaks were executed. The survivors had to take part of the collectivisation, however they had never been enthusiastic and spent less time they could in collective farms, then they went cultivating their little plots. It resulted in a famine between 1932 and 1933, targets were not reached but production slowly increased. Stalin found a way to easily eliminate people who disturbed him: he claimed that was a class of people called “the enemies of the people”. He said they wanted to wretch the communist system. Moreover Stalin became paranoid: he was so suspicious he saw enemies everywhere: even the people who had important places could not feel safe. It’s the explanation of the massive deportations, executions and trials. This “class enemies” often designed the engineers, accused of sabotage on machinery. It was a practical accusation: the accidents were frequent because the workers were not correctly skilled and there were problems with the transport system. That were the causes of why the targets were not reached. However the government could not admit that so all the faults were reported on the “class enemies”. That was used too to eliminate Stalin’s political opponents. The first Shaw-Trial occurred in 1936. The principal accused were called Kamenev and Zinoviev. They had challenged Stalin for leadership of the party after Lenin’s death. They were accused of many false crimes like betrayal, spying for foreign countries, murder…Then they were executed. Stalin was wary of the army too, because they were the main used institution to suppress revolts but was dangerous if turned against the government. So he executed in 1937 from a military Tukhachevsky for treason, as well as three other marshals, fourteen commanders, eight admirals and the half of the officers. Consequently Russia was badly prepared for war in 1939. Because of all the trials, executions and deportations, the population lived in the fear. They were informers everywhere, spying everybody? Anyone could be arrested for a little thing,

because they said something wrong or because they reacted with too little enthusiasm about Stalin. If they did, false accusations were made up and they were deported. The Gulag was the name of the deportation camps. In reality it was a slave camp: people were treated very harshly they starved to death and froze because it was located in Siberia. This was a vital part of the Soviet Economic system: prisoners were used for mining, logging trees or building roads or canals. A novelist described the horrible conditions: Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He collected hundreds of personal accounts of NKVD interrogations and of life in the prison camps. To conclude, Russia’s government under Stalin was incredibly harsh: there were famines, millions of victim of deportation or assassination. The standards of living fell down and people lived in the fear. Stalin was selfish and committed crimes to boost his supremacy and to guarantee his own security. Even if the production increased a lot, it was at an enormous price.