In the beginning Communism seemed to the people of Russia as a utopian ideal. The promise of the elimination of classes, of guaranteed employment, “The creation of a comprehensive social security and welfare system for all citizens that would end the misery of workers once and for all.” Lenin’s own interpretation of the Marxian critique was that to achieve Communism there would first have to be a socialist dictatorship to first suppress any dissent or protest. Through coercive tactics this new government seized power and in 1917 Lenin came to power. Under his “rule” Russia underwent radical changes in it’s economic doctrines adopting a mixed which was termed the New Economic Policy, also referred to as NEP. This economy called for some private ownership of the means of production, but the majority of industry was made property of the people, which meant the majority of the means of production was controlled by the government. Lenin’s government made many achievements. It ended a long civil war against the remnants of the old Tsarist military system and established institutions in government. During this period, censorship and the subordination of interest groups such as trade unions was imposed to stop dissension and increase conformity to the new government policies.
After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin quickly gained control of the Communist party and the oppressive reforms started by Lenin were continued and at length became completely totalitarian. Stalin was able to attain control as a result of a multitude of reasons. He was not, however, Lenin’s choice for a successor. Lenin believed that Trotsky was the best suitable to take the Communist party to the next level. Trotsky was not all that popular among party members though and Stalin was in a position as Gen Sek, or General Secretary, to place his people in powerful positions throughout the party. Also, Stalin worked extremely hard at achieving power whereas Trotsky was rather lazy. Because of these reasons along with Stalin’s “zero tolerance” attitude towards everyone, he was able to seize control.
Once in control, Stalin’s first major achievements were the Five Year Plans for industry. Russia had not yet had their industrial revolution and were far behind the other powers of the world. The first Five Year Plan worked as far as industrial output was concerned, but it was at much cost to the people of Russia. Once the Five Year Plans started to roll, Stalin decided to make some agricultural changes to support the industrialization. In April, 1928, Stalin presented the draft of a new land law. Although the draft failed to become a law, it showed a couple of Stalin’s objectives. One was the rapid and forcible collectivization of the peasants in order to industrialize the country quickly. The other was the liquidation of the kulaks as a class. Kulaks were seen as industrious or prosperous peasants who were not enthusiastic about the policies of the communist party.
Collectivization was the forcible consolidation of individual peasant farms into large, state-controlled enterprises. The purpose was supposed to help Russian agriculture and support the quickly industrializing country. Collectivization, however, turned out to be a bloody, murderous mess as Stalin forced his absolute power on the people of Russia. Most of the peasants, especially kulaks, desperately opposed collectivization. The way Stalin dealt with them was to first turn the bedniaks, or poor peasants, against them offering the bedniaks the kulak’s castles and machinery. Then Stalin had the rest of the kulaks either killed or exiled to gulags. The death toll recorded in the anti-kulak campaign is between three and ten million killed. Many peasants killed their cattle, pigs, and horses, destroyed their farm implements, and either burned their crops or let them rot in the fields before being forced into collectivization. Because of this, poor harvests, grain seizures, and the elimination of the better farmers resulted in a man made famine that killed millions more.
Stalin used the Five Year Plans to make great strides in industrializing Russia. When he tried to equal that success with agricultural growth he met with some resistance and ended up liquidating a class and causing famine. Socially, he gave important social benefits to workers and gave women equal rights. However, he also tried to purge the country and eliminated a lot of the Communist party, most of the army, and a good portion of workers and peasants. It seemed that when Stalin first started out as leader of Russia, he truly had Lenin’s ideology in mind for a truly successful and competent socialist society; but once the taste of power was in his mouth, he had to have more and would have more by way of any means possible. Stalin made several industrial improvements for his country but that does not even begin to equal the death and destruction that he caused.
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