In a country full of chaos, a great leader is needed to restore order. In Russia’s case, that leader was Joseph Stalin. After Lenin’s death, Stalin controlled the communist party in 1927. He believed in socialism in one country. After Stalin came into power, his goal was to make Russia a powerful communist country. To achieve this goal, he felt that Russia needed to rapidly industrialize, since they were 100 years behind advanced countries. As heavy industry was being developed, agriculture was to be collectivized as a part of achieving Stalin’s goal to make Russia a stronger state. Collectivization meant eliminating individual farms, and placing them in government control. After WW1, Russia was extremely unstable. They had retreated from the war before the allies were victorious. They had lost land and their military was weaker than it already had been. That is until Stalin made the Soviet Union involved in international affairs. They were victorious against the German oppression and they had also joined the League of Nations under Stalin’s control. When Stalin was in power, there was no doubt that millions of innocent people had died through his strategies of making Russia more powerful. But in spite of his cruel methods, Joseph Stalin deserves the title of the ‘Father of the USSR’, for industrializing the country, collectivizing its agriculture and making the Soviet Union more active in international affairs.
In 1928, one of Stalin’s goals was to rapidly develop a heavy industry. Stalin wanted to make the Soviet Union an industrial fortress and a strong nationalistic state. He figured to make Russian communism succeed industrial power was immediately needed. This was to be achieved by creating a command economy, which had meant that the industry was being forced to industrialize. Lenin had previously destroyed the power of private businesses to create a manageable industry. Therefore, when Stalin came into power, most of the major industries were already in government hands. Stalin had stated that stated that the Soviet Union was behind advanced societies, and that they had to industrialize quickly before ‘enemies’ would crush them. Heavy industry was essential for defense and for supplying agricultural tractors and combines. Stalin had believed that equality and democracy had to wait until the Soviet Union had a thriving industrial economy. In 1928, Stalin replaced Lenin’s New Economic Policy (NEP) by the first Five-Year Plan. Where within a five-year period, each business was given a target that it must reach. The punishments for failing to meet the target were extremely severe. Many people were forced to work against their own will but Stalin felt that the policy was essential. The first three Five-year Plan from 1928 to 1941 increased production about 400%. By the mid-1930s Russia had surpassed the 1913 production figures of iron, coal and oil. There was no country ever known to industrialize so quickly. As a result, unemployment had been abolished. As Stalin was industrializing the country, he felt it was necessary to collectivize the farms of the country.
As heavy industry developed, agriculture was to be collectivized. In 1929, collectivization began. There would be no more individual farms, and no more individual farmers selling their goods independently. The farmers were required to hand over a certain amount of produce to the state each year. The young, large-scale, socialized agriculture, growing now even faster than big industry, had a great future and could show miracles of growth. Collectivization was mainly directed against the kulaks, which were the rich peasants who owned their own land. Basically, Stalin would take land from the people who had owned it since 1861. Many peasants were forced to work for the state as a part of a collective commune. Some peasants and many kulaks resisted collectivization. They slaughtered their own cattle rather than to turn it over to the government. As a result, they were killed or sent to labor camps called the ‘gulags’. By 1934, 70% of all the farms in Russia were collectivized and the kulaks were eliminated as a class. On the collective farms, peasants would be paid wages in return for handing over the produce to the government.
Under Stalin’s power, the Soviet Union became more involved in international affairs. During the WW1, Russia did not play a major role in the Great War. They didn’t have a strong military and their economy was weak. Even in the past, Russia was not active in international affairs as they were under Stalin’s control. In 1934, the Soviet Union joined the League of Nations and made diplomatic agreements. This made Russia’s defense stronger than the German oppression. Before WW2, both the axis powers and the democracies realized that the balance of power in Europe depended of which side Russia joined. If they joined Britain and France, Hitler would be forced to fight a two-front war. Both sides entered negotiations with Russia, but Stalin and communist Russia had been distrusted by both sides in the past. On August 23, 1939, Stalin and Hitler signed a non-aggression treaty. This Nazi-Soviet pact was shocking to all countries, but Russia had stated that it was for national self-interest only. Stalin wished to avoid war until, at least Russia was prepared. But later, Stalin was aware that Germany might eventually attack his country. On June 1941, German troops invaded Russia. Hitler’s invasion on Russia, convinced the Soviet Union to join the ‘Grand Alliance’, which consisted of only Great Britain and the United States. Then later 26 other nations signed the Atlantic Charter, which was the beginning of the formation of the United Nations. By February 1943, Russia successfully stopped the German advance, which had attacked Stalingrad. Russia’s military, as a result, became stronger.
Therefore, although people had died through Stalin’s cruel methods of making Russia powerful, he deserves the title of the ‘Father of the USSR’, because he successfully industrialized the country, collectivized the farms and made the Soviet Union more active in international affairs. Within ten years, a primarily feudal country changed into an industrialized one. He also collectivized the farms for the good of the people as a whole. He leaded Russia into gaining more victories for the country by becoming more involved in worldwide affairs. Like a father, he guided his child, the USSR, to become stronger and more powerful among others. By setting crucial goals for the country, the Soviet Union became stronger than it was before Stalin was in power. The only question that concerns many is, were there any other alternatives of achieving his goals, without killing millions?
Filed Under: History, People, World War 1 (WW1), World War 2 (WW2)
Stalin, Joseph 1879-1953
(Born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili) Soviet dictator.
Stalin led the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as absolute dictator for twenty-four years. While he is credited with transforming the USSR into a world superpower, Stalin's use of mass execution—called "purgings"—and terror made him one of the most reviled political figures in history. As a writer and editor at the Communist Party newspaper Pravda, as well as the author of books and articles, Stalin contributed to the body of works delineating Soviet ideology. However, critics are divided over the importance of his writings; some maintain that Stalin simply regurgitated Marxist doctrine as it had already been interpreted by Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik movement. Nonetheless, Stalin created for himself as leader a supreme status that gave rise to a cult-like following despite his renowned tyranny.
Stalin was born in the small town of Gori, in czarist Georgia, in 1879. His father, a poor shoemaker, was an abusive alcoholic who was killed in a brawl when Stalin was eleven years old. His mother was an illiterate peasant who, after his father's death, prepared Stalin to enter the Orthodox priesthood. Stalin entered the Tiflis Theological Seminary when he was fourteen, but he was expelled in 1899 because of his involvement in a revolutionary anti-czarist group. In 1901 he officially joined the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party. A year later he was arrested and sent to a prison in Siberia, from which he escaped in 1904, returning to the underground Marxist movement in Tiflis. When Russian Marxism split into two factions—the radical Bolsheviks and the more moderate Menshiviks—Stalin sided with the Bolsheviks, thus aligning himself with Lenin and other major party leaders. Beginning in 1905 he attended several international conferences of the Russian Social Democrats, where he was first introduced to Lenin. In the following years Stalin was arrested and imprisoned on several instances; each time he escaped. In 1912 he went to Vienna to study Marxism; at that time he wrote Marxism and the National Question. The following year he began writing for the party newspaper Pravda, under the pseudonym Joseph Stalin, which means "man of steel." During the Russian Revolution of 1917 Stalin concentrated his efforts at the paper's editorial offices, rather than taking part directly in the events. In fact, most historians agree that Stalin played a rather insignificant role in the first years following the revolution; he was appointed People's Commissar for Nationalities and was a military commissar during the civil war of 1918-1921. Although Lenin valued Stalin for his organizational abilities and appointed him to the post of general secretary, a powerful position, Stalin's emphasis on Russian nationalism made Lenin uncomfortable. Leon Trotsky also quarreled with Stalin on policy and theoretical issues at this time; Lenin usually sided with Trotsky, but as general secretary Stalin's position of power was secure. Lenin, before his death, allegedly warned other party members about Stalin's potential for abusing power but was too ill to take action. Lenin died in 1924, and within five years Stalin had total control of the party. His first act was to extinguish Lenin's New Economic Policy (NEP)—intended to introduce a limited amount of free trade to the Soviet system in order to revive the economy after the civil war—and replace it with his own policy of collectivization, which nationalized the agricultural industry. Collectivization was an unmitigated disaster: peasants who refused to turn over their livestock and farms to the state were executed or sent to Stalin's prison work camps, called gulags. With agricultural production cut in half, mass famine ensued, and at least three to ten million peasants died of starvation. Stalin denied blame for the failure of collectivization, accusing others of misunderstanding his directives. His other major goal was to introduce widespread industrialization to the USSR, in order to move the country from an agriculture-based to an industry-based economy. In this he succeeded—initiating the machinery that would eventually make the Soviet Union a superpower nation—in large part because of the slave labor provided by the millions of Soviet citizens imprisoned in the gulags. Around 1934 Stalin launched the period that would be known as the Great Terror. Throughout the 1930s about one million old Bolshevik party members (those who had taken part in the pre-Stalin revolutionary era) and countless millions of citizens were accused of sabotage, treason, and espionage and were arrested, tortured, and either executed or sent to the gulags. This massive effort to ensure Stalin's absolute power was called "purging." Dramatic purge trials of party officials and senior members of the Red Army were set up. Defendants were accused of treason and other trumped-up charges and were always found guilty. The purging of the army had particularly devastating effects when the Soviet Union became involved in World War II. Stalin signed a Non-Aggression Pact with German dictator Adolf Hitler in the summer of 1939. The Pact included secret plans for the two leaders to control the European territories each considered essential to his country's expansion. But when Germany invaded Poland in September of that year, Stalin sought to increase the Soviet Union's presence in western Europe by invading Finland in November; Finland surrendered, and in June of 1941 Hitler broke his Pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union, which, because of the military purgings, suffered devastating losses for nearly two years. Historians are divided over the degree of Stalin's success as a military commander during the German invasion. Many blame the huge Soviet losses on his increasing paranoia and megalomania. Nonetheless, the Red Army did hold off the Germans until they surrendered in 1945. After the war Stalin moved quickly to seize control of Eastern European countries to create the Soviet bloc. In 1949 the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb, ushering in the arms race and Cold War with the United States that would last into the late 1980s. In 1953 Stalin was planning another series of purges, this time because of an alleged traitorous plot among the mostly Jewish Kremlin physicians. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage before the new purge trials could take place.
Stalin produced a number of works on Soviet ideology—including Marxism and the National Question, Marxism and Linguistics, Dialectical and Historical Materialism, and his collected lectures on Foundations of Leninism—but whether or not he added anything new or innovative to theoretical communism is debatable. Many critics consider his writing unoriginal and repetitive. He did, however, transform Soviet communism, in his writings and his practices, from a revolutionary system to a strategy of conservative, isolationist authoritarianism. His talent for propaganda allowed him to establish an astonishingly effective cult of personality despite his reputation for brute violence. By neutralizing anyone he considered or suspected of being an enemy, Stalin opened an avenue to total control of both his party and his people, whether they were followers or not. Pictures and statues of him were placed in all public places, as well as in private Soviet homes. His writings were studied, and poems and songs were written to glorify him. He encouraged his image as "Father of the Soviet People" and the "Great Teacher," and, after the Germans were driven out of the USSR in World War II, he exploited the role of savior of his country. After his death Stalin was still revered by Soviet citizens, many of whom wept openly when they heard he had died. Although he continued to receive credit for advancing Soviet society into the technological age to successfully compete with other world powers, in 1956 his successor Nikita Khrushchev and other Soviet leaders officially denounced Stalin and his actions. His policies were directly responsible for the deaths of as many as thirty million Soviets.