The emergence of Communist dictatorship 1917-41 AQA 1H


War communism

With a civil war between Bolshevik Reds' and non-Bolshevik Whites' developing in the spring, the survival of the new regime was at stake. The Bolsheviks had to ensure that the army was supplied with food and weapons. This is what led to the development of a more centralised system of control to run the economy and defeat the Whites.
-The policy adopted was "War Communism'. The key elements were:
-Grain requisitioning: Red Guards and soldiers took grain from the peasants by force.
-All industry was placed under state control, with workers' committees replaced by managers reporting to government.
-Factory discipline was imposed, with fines for lateness and absence from work.
-Food rationing was introduced, with highest priority given to workers and Red Army soldiers and lowest to the bourgeoisie.
-Necessity may have dictated this policy but it also enabled the Bolsheviks to extend class warfare and, in Lenin's words, to deal with class enemies'.                                                          -The Bolsheviks saw centralised control as the way to develop socialism.

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The origins of the New Economic Policy

-The Bolsheviks won the Civil War but failed to increase factory production. By 1921, industrial output was only 20 per cent of what it had been in 1914.

-In the countryside, peasants resisted food requisitioning, growing less grain rather than handing it over. Many killed their livestock to survive.

-Famine, disease and strikes spread across the Soviet Union (as the new communist state became known in 1922). Millions died.

-There were widespread peasant revolts and, most
alarming of all for the government, an uprising in 1921 among the Kronstadt sailors.

-In August 1921, he announced the New Economic Policy (NEP):
-There was an end to grain requisitioning. Peasants were to hand over 20 per cent of their grain (a form of tax) to the government but could sell any remaining surplus.
-The state would continue to control the 'commanding heights' of the economy, e.g. the railways, coal, iron and steel.
-Small businesses and private trade were allowed.

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Results of the NEP

-Economic recovery was led by an increase in the supply of grain and other foodstuff to cities.

-There was an end to revolts and civil unrest.

-There was a revival of the kulak class of peasants and emergence of 'NEPmen', traders and speculators.

-However, industrial production was slow to recover so that peasants began to hold back their grain as there were few consumer goods to buy.

-Grain procured by the government by the end of 1927 was 75 per cent of what it had been in 1926.

-Stalin ordered grain seizures and decided the solution to the grain crisis was to develop 'large-scale farms of a collective type'. The 'battle for grain' had begun

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Five year plans

In December 1927, Stalin announced the start of a 'Five-Year Plan'

-He had decided that the Soviet Union had to modernise to catch up with the industrially advanced states of Europe and the USA: 'Either we do it or we shall be crushed'

-The Soviet Union would become self-sufficient and defend itself by building industries. To do this, it would export grain to pay for the machinery and expertise it needed from abroad. It would build Socialism in One Country

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Economic crisis

-By the spring of 1918, Russia was also facing economic collapse. Too little grain was reaching the cities so that the workers were going hungry.

-This was partly explained by wartime disruption of the transport system but also by the fact that, after seizing the land of the nobles (and, in many cases, of the kulaks) and dividing it up, the peasants reverted to small-scale, subsistence farming.

-Most of them did not have any surplus to sell to the cities. But, even if they did, they had little incentive to sell their grain because there were few goods to exchange for it: the main reason for this is that workers' control of the factories and the shortage of raw materials had led to a fall in industrial output, particularly of consumer goods.

-As the food shortages in the cities worsened, food riots erupted in 1918 and workers began to flee from the cities in order to search for food. This led to a shortage of labour in the factories

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-The Five-Year Plans set high targets for each industry, which were then broken down for regions and specific factories. Failure to meet targets could lead to arrest, prison or worse.

-This led to pressure to put quantity before quality and to enhance the production figures.

-Massive propaganda campaigns portrayed the plans as part of the revolutionary struggle to achieve the final overthrow of capitalism and make the Soviet Union into a great industrial power.

-The emphasis in all of the first three plans was on heavy industry - coal, iron and steel, oil, machinery - and electricity. In 1929, the targets for 1932 were revised upwards.

-None of these hugely ambitious targets were met but big increases in production were achieved (see table below). Electricity output trebled by 1932.

-Huge growth was maintained throughout the 1930s. Consumer goods were neglected, while rearmament was prioritised as fear of war increased in the late 1930s.

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Industrialisation cont...

-Some developments were spectacular: the building of a huge industrial complex at Magnitogorsk within a few years and the construction of Dnieprostroi Dam, which increased Soviet electricity production by five times when it was completed.

-Many projects were achieved at huge cost to human life, mostly that of displaced peasants. Living conditions for Soviet workers deteriorated, especially with the marked increase in the urban population.

-However, Stalin achieved his primary aim of making the Soviet Union into an industrial power that was, eventually, able to defeat Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

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Features of collectivisation

-The amalgamation of several villages into collective farms, with all equipment and livestock pooled.

-The procurement of grain to feed the expanding industrial workforce and pay for imports of industrial equipment

-Thousands of party activists, backed up by soldiers and secret police, implemented the policy of forced collectivisation

-The destruction of the kulaks in order to force the peasantry into submission

-Increase in control over the peasantry by the state, classifying all who opposed collectivisation as kulaks

-By March 1930, over half the peasants had been collectivised (and 90 per cent by 1939).

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Results of collectivisation

-Massive opposition, e.g. burning crops and killing livestock rather than hand them over

-Many collectives were run inefficiently by managers who knew little of farming

-Decline in food production, although state procurement and exports of grain increased

-Famine in Ukraine in 1932-33, leading to over 3 million deaths

-The Soviet Union did not recover pre-war levels of grain production until 1939

-Millions were driven off the land, many into forced labour camps, to build the new industrial Soviet Union

-Stalin achieved his aim of feeding the industrial workforce and exporting grain

-Destruction of traditional peasant way of life, based on the family farm, the commune and the Church.

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Opposition: faction terror and the purges

-From their first days in power, the Bolsheviks faced opposition and thousands of 'anti-Bolsheviks were sent to labour camps. During the Civil War, the Cheka implemented a Red Terror in order to destroy enemies of the people.

-Then, in 1921, Lenin issued a "ban on factions' in order to curb criticism of the government from within the party. Stalin exploited all of these methods but he intensified the element of terror in order to consolidate his own personal power. In eliminating actual or potential opponents, he also included fellow members of the Central Committee, which Lenin had never done.

-Following the suicide of his wife in 1932 and growing criticism from within the party and
government of the speed of collectivisation, Stalin increasingly feared that even his closest
colleagues could betray him.

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Opposition: faction terror and the purges cont...

-Over the following year, almost a million members were excluded from the party and, from 1934, Stalin began a systematic purge of senior members of the party and government. The main purges were:

-1934 Kirov, a popular figure and potential rival to Stalin, was killed. Stalin used this as the
pretext for the arrest of members of what he called the Trotskyite and Zinoviev-Kamenev
factions. Those purged were replaced with loyal Stalinists.
-1936 Zinoviev and Kamenev, and 14 other Bolsheviks, were shot after a 'show trial' in which
they confessed to treason and involvement in the murder of Kirov.
-1937 Several Bolshevik leaders and most of the military and naval high command were shot.
-1938 Bukharin, Rykov and more senior Bolsheviks, together with Yagoda, the former head of
the NKVD, were shot.
-1940 Trotsky was assassinated in Mexico.

-From 1937 to 1938 onwards, the terror was increasingly directed at ordinary citizens. It became a method of government and the population were encouraged to inform on hidden enemies.

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Opposition: faction terror and the purges cont...

-Quotas of victims to be arrested in every region were drawn up like industrial production targets and hundreds of thousands were executed or died in prison. Altogether, one in eighteen of the Soviet population was arrested during the purges.

-One less well-known element of the purges was the campaign to deport national minorities, such as Poles and Germans, from the regions near the Soviet Union's western borders. This was carried out because of fears that these people might join an invading army. Over 100,000 Poles were shot during the campaign.

-Stalin called a halt to the terror in November 1938 but the purges left most of the population frightened and bewildered. However, Stalin achieved his aim of eliminating all rivals, replacing them with ardent Stalinists, and of attaining absolute control over the party and the people.

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Political condition of the soviet union by 1941

-Stalin had encouraged great reverence for Lenin and portrayed himself as continuing the work
of his predecessor. He identified loyalty to Lenin with loyalty to the party.

-Furthermore, by the late 1920s, he had succeeded in identifying his own authority with that of the party. This made opposition to Stalin appear like opposition to Lenin, the party and the Revolution.

-Many of the key features of Stalinist rule had been established by Lenin: one-party rule, the
secret police, the use of terror and show trials. Lenin had said that the task of the Bolsheviks
was the ruthless destruction of the enemy' Stalin continued Lenin's "class warfare', particularly directed against the kulaks and the bourgeoisie. In many ways, Stalin's rule was simply a more fully developed and repressive form of Lenin's highly authoritarian rule.

-However, the purges constituted a complete break with the Bolshevik Revolution and Lenin's
regime and they led to the development of a highly personal form of rule.

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Political condition of the soviet union by 1941 co

-Stalin replaced the old Bolsheviks whom he eliminated with a new class of officials, the nomenklatura, who were completely loyal to him. They had no loyalty to the Bolshevik Revolution and its leaders. They were completely Stalin's men. Their positions depended on him as did the rights and privileges - the luxurious apartments, the plentiful food, the cars - that came with them. They were unlikely to doubt or criticise their leader. The party congress which met in 1939 was completely subservient to Stalin.

-There were limits to Stalin's power, not least in the thousands of officials on whom he depended to implement his policies. The impact of his policies in the regions could be moderated by local conditions, the effects of corruption and, in the case of the purges, by the desire to settle old scores and fill the shoes of those eliminated

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Economic condition of the soviet union by 1941

-The Soviet Union had undergone an economic transformation by 1941.

-It was fast becoming an industrialised, urban society.

-The development of heavy industry and large building projects enabled the country to withstand the onslaught of Nazi Germany.

-However, the production of consumer goods was neglected; agriculture failed to recover from the crisis of collectivisation and was still not producing as much grain in 1941 as it had done under the NEP.

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Social condition of the soviet union by 1941

-By 1941, nearly all peasants lived and worked in the kolkhoz, supervised by party officials.

-Millions of peasants had moved to the cities, become educated and benefited from state welfare

-However, food was scarce and housing overcrowded. With priority given to rearmament from the late 1930s, living and working conditions became harsher. Yet the burden was not shared equally.

-Far from being classless, Stalinist society had become hierarchical, with a privileged elite of party and government officials, military and police officers, and some workers (e.g. Stakhanovites) rewarded with higher pay and other benefits

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