Unit 2: Section B: Russia 1924-41

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Power Struggle after Lenin's death

When Lenin died in January 1924, there was no clear successor to him, and lots of people wanted to replace him as leader of the Communist Party. Bukharin, Zinoviev and Kamenev were all possible leaders but the "contest" was mainly between Stalin and Trotsky.

Stalin:

  • The "Grey Blur" - dull, anonymous and underestimated - not suspected
  • Revolutionary - determined, loves USSR, wanted "Socialism in One Country"
  • Editor of Pravda - could censor media in his favour, manipulated what people thought, achieved propaganda skills.
  • Commissar for Nationalists, then General Secretary - could control party members and appoint his supporters and promote them so they were loyal to him
  • Only Party members could hold government position - one-party state
  • Exile and forced labour in Siberia - tough, relentless, "Man of Steel", loyal
  • Not too extreme - middle ground, and wasn't likely to split the party
  • Cunning - played off different groups in the party against each other
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Trotsky's weaknesses and mistakes

  • Leader of the Red Army during the Civil War
  • Arrogant
  • Did not have a lot of time for those he considered stupid
  • Menshevik - diasgreed with Lenin
  • Loyalty was questionable
  • Wanted "Permanent Revolution"
  • Older party members didn't trust him
  • Possible dictator
  • Dismissive of other views, lots of enemies
  • Jewish
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Why Stalin won

  • 1. Lenin's funeral: Stalin tricked Trotsky into not coming to Lenin's funeral - T was away, and was not able to return quickly, although the funeral was in fact a lot later. This did T a lot of political damage.
  • 2. Lenin's Testament: The leading Communists decided not to make Lenin's testament (that warned against Stalin getting power) public as it contained criticisms of them as well as Stalin - good for Stalin!
  • 3. Defeat of Trotsky: Zinoviev and Kamenev helped Stalin to defeat Trotsky. At the party congress, Trotsky lost all the votes and soon after his job as Commissar for War in 1925. He no longer controlled the Red Army. Socialism in one country became Party policy in 1925. Trotsky was isolated - and thrown out of the Communist Party in 1927
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Why Stalin won part 2

  • 4. Defeat of Zinoviev and Kamenev: New members were elected to the Politburo, loyal to Stalin. Stalin supported the NEP and the gradual reform of the economy at the time. In 1926, Stalin turned on the "leftist" Zinoviev and Kamenev. He joined forces with Bukharin and the Right-Wingers, and put forth his ideas on Socialism in One Country. Stalin's supporters packed the Congress, and he won. Zinoviev and Kamenev were dismissed from the Politburo because they believed in fast economic modernisation (one of Trotsky's main ideas). They joined Trotksy to protest against Stalin, and were all expelled from the Party in 1927.
  • 5. Defeat of Bukharin: In 1928, Stalin adopted fast modernisation instead of the NEP. This swing to the left meant he could now remove some of the leading figures on the right, such as Bukharin. He attacked the NEP which they supported, and had them removed from their posts. By 1929, he was the undisputed leader of Russia. 
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Political Purges

  • During the 1930s, Stalin set about purging Russia of anyone who he considered a threat or disloyal. What was life like for ordinary people in Stalin's Russia?
  • In 1934, Kirov, the leader of the Leningrad Communist Party, was murdered, probably on Stalin's orders.
  • Stalin used this episode to order massive purges by which anybody suspected of involvement in conspiracies against Kirov and himself, was sent to prison camps, or put on public show trials at which they pleaded guilty to incredible crimes they could never have done.
  • In 1935-6 many "old communists" were arrested and charged in "show trials" 
  • The Communist leadership was purged - 93 of the 139 Central Committee members were put to death. The armed forces were purged - 81 of the 103 generals and admirals were executed. The Communist Party was purged - about a third of its 3 million members were killed. Photographs and history books were changed to eliminate even the memory of people who had been arrested.
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Other Purges

  • By the end of the 1930s, the Great Terror had spread to ordinary people 
  • Anybody suspected of disloyalty to Stalin was taken away by the NKVD
  • Some 20 million ordinary Russians were sent to the gulag - the system of labour camps mostly in Siberia - where perhaps half of them died. 
  • The Christian Church and the Muslim religion were forbidden. Ethnic groups were persecuted, and Russification - the acceptance of Russian language and customs - was enforced throughout the Soviet Union. 
  • People who had annoyed their neighbours were turned in to the NKVD (the secret police) and arrested, never to be seen again.
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Stalin the Dictator

  • All information was controlled and censored
  • Artists and authors had to follow the Party line, creating "useful" art for the workers
  • Media spread propaganda about the heroic workers' struggle and Stalin's great leadership and personality - criticism was banned
  • Stalin executed a "Cult of Personality"
  • History was re-written so that Stalin became more important in the story of the October Revolution
  • Trotksy became a "non-person" - he was removed from history books and removed from photos
  • Photographs were altered to show Stalin as a close friend and ally of Lenin
  • In 1929 the Church was banned from any activity except leading worship
  • By 1939 a few hundred churches remained active - the state claimed the promise of freedom of conscience in the 1936 constitution was being honoured
  • Party "apparatchiks" - members loyal to Stalin - received privileges like holidays, flats etc
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Stalin the Dictator part 2

  • The Purges weakened the USSR
  • Many of the most gifted and able citizens had disappeared - murdered or arrested
  • The army and navy were seriously weaked by the loss of most senior officers
  • Industrial and technical progress was hampered by the loss of top scientists and engineers
  • In 1936 a new constitution was brought in - every four years there were elections and only official Party candidates were allowed to stand
  • Communists attacked the Russian Orthodox Church (who had been a powerful supporter of the Tsar)
  • Christians were persecuted as potential threats to communism and priests were murderer or exiled
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Five Year Plans

  • Stalin realised that if Russia was to become a key player in the global market, the country needed to industrialise rapidly and increase production. To do this, Stalin introduced the Five-year Plans.
  • Stalin's chief aim was to expand industrial production. For this, he developed three Five-year Plans between 1928 and 1938. Gosplan, the state planning agency, drew up targets for production for each factory. The first two plans concentrated on improving heavy industry - coal, oil, steel and electricity.
  • In 1933 a Second Five-Year-Plan was started. Some parts were achieved, but fear at the rise of Hitler in Nazi Germany meant more development took place in the armaments industry than any other.
  • Some keen young Communists, called Pioneers, went into barren areas and set up new towns and industries from nothing. There were champion workers called Stakhanovites, named after a coal miner who broke the record for the amount of coal dug up in a single shift. Education schemes were introduced to train skilled, literate workers.
  • The Soviet Union also gave opportunities to women - crèches were set up so they could also work. Women became doctors and scientists, as well as canal diggers and steel workers.
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Five Year Plans

  • Stalin's chief aim was to expand industrial production. For this, he developed three Five-year Plans between 1928 and 1938. Gosplan, the state planning agency, drew up targets for production for each factory. The first two plans concentrated on improving heavy industry - coal, oil, steel and electricity.
  • Some keen young Communists, called Pioneers, went into barren areas and set up new towns and industries from nothing. There were champion workers called Stakhanovites, named after a coal miner who broke the record for the amount of coal dug up in a single shift. Education schemes were introduced to train skilled, literate workers.
  • The Soviet Union also gave opportunities to women - crèches were set up so they could also work. Women became doctors and scientists, as well as canal diggers and steel workers.
  • At the same time, many of the workers were slave workers and kulaks from thegulag. Strikers were shot, and wreckers (slow workers) could be executed or imprisoned. Thousands died from accidents, starvation or cold. Housing and wages were terrible, and no consumer goods were produced for people.
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Five Year Plans 2

But the improvements in production between 1928 and 1937 were phenomenal:

  • Coal - from 36 million tonnes to 130 million tonnes
  • Iron - from 3 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes
  • Oil - from 2 million tonnes to 29 million tonnes
  • Electricity - from 5,000 million to 36,000 million kilowatts
  • Turkestan-Siberian Railroad
  • The Dneiper Dam
  • The Belomor Canal
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Success or Failure?

  • Increased production in coal/steel/oil/electricity
  • New industrial areas in the Urals and Siberia
  • In under 10 years the USSR had almost doubled its industrial output
  • Iron - from 3 million tonnes to 15 million tonnes - Magnitogorsk went from a tiny village to a massive industrial city.
  • Electricity - from 5,000 million to 36,000 million kilowatts - Dnieper Dam - produced more electricity than was produced in the whole of Tsarist Russia
  • Enthusiasm - "pioneers"/Stakhanovites
  • Growth in science and technology

BUT:

  • Use of terror
  • Forced labour, long hours, low pay, unrealistic targets
  • Poor conditions in new towns
  • Poor working conditions
  • NOT consumer goods - people didn't benefit
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Why did USSR need Collectivisation?

  • By the end of the 1920s, it was clear that Russian agriculture was inadequate. Although the kulaks were relatively wealthy and successful, the thousands of tiny, backward peasant farms were not producing enough to feed the population.
  • It was vital to increase the food supplies to workers in the towns and cities or the five-year plans wouldn't succeed.
  • In 1927, Stalin declared that the way forward was for people in each village to voluntarily unite their farms into one collective farm. This kolkhoz would be able to afford machinery, be more efficient, and be able to create a surplus to send to the towns.
  • Many richer peasants, or kulaks, were influential in the villagesm which annoyed the local Party secretaries
  • After two years, when everyone had ignored his idea and there had been a famine, Stalin made collectivisation compulsory.
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Why was Collectivisation necessary?

Why did Stalin collectivise the farms?

  • He wanted more food to feed the workers in industry.
  • He needed a surplus of food to sell overseas to bring money into the country.
  • He needed people to leave the land and go to work in industry.
  • He wanted an excuse to destroy the kulaks, who believed in private ownership

How successful was collectivisation?

  • Stalin achieved most of his aims:
  • Grain production rose to nearly 100 million tonnes in 1937, although the numbers of animals never recovered.
  • Russia sold large quantities of grain to other countries.
  • Some 17 million people left the countryside to go to work in the towns.
  • The kulaks were eliminated.
  • The peasants were closely under the government's control.

However, the human cost was immense: Perhaps 3 million kulaks were killed and there were famines in 1930 and 1932-3 when 5 million people starved to death.

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Collectivisation

  • In 1929, Stalin began collectivising all farms
  • Land was pooled together
  • Peasants worked together
  • Some sold to government at low fixed prices
  • Some kept by peasants
  • The peasants hated the idea, so they burned their crops and killed their animals rather than hand them over to the state. There was another famine in 1930.
  • Stalin relaxed the rules for a while, but in 1931 he again tried to enforce collectivisation.
  • Again there was the same resistance and another, worse famine.
  • The speed of change required would destroy the traditional peasant way of life
  • They had to supply a specific amount to the state, whether the harvest was good or bad
  • Party officials were brought in to run collectives - this was resented
  • Stalin blamed the kulaks (need for a class enemy/scapegoat), and declared war on them. They wera an estimated 3 million executed and the rest sent to the gulag
  • By 1939, 99 per cent of land had been collectivised 90% of the peasants lived on one of the 250,000 kolkhoz. Farming was run by government officials. The government took 90 per cent of production and left the rest for the people to live on.
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Collectivisation

By the end of the 1920s, it was clear that Russian agriculture was inadequate. Although the kulakswere relatively wealthy and successful, the thousands of tiny, backward peasant farms were not producing enough to feed the population.

  • - In 1927, Stalin declared that the way forward was for people in each village to voluntarily unite their farms into one collective farm. This kolkhoz would be able to afford machinery, be more efficient, and be able to create a surplus to send to the towns.
  • - After two years, when everyone had ignored his ideaand there had been a famine, Stalin made collectivisation compulsory.
  • The peasants hated the idea, so they burned their crops and killed their animals rather than hand them over to the state. There was another famine in 1930.

  • - Stalin relaxed the rules for a while, but in 1931 he again tried to enforce collectivisation.

    Again there was the same resistance and another, worse famine.

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Collectivisation

  • Stalin blamed the kulaks, and declared war on them. They were executed or sent to the gulag.

  • By 1939, 99 per cent of land had been collectivised 90% of the peasants lived on one of the 250,000 kolkhoz. Farming was run by government officials. The government took 90 per cent of production and left the rest for the people to live on.

    Why did Stalin introduce collectivisation?

    • He wanted more food to feed the workers in industry.
    • He needed a surplus of food to sell overseas to bring money into the country.
    • He needed people to leave the land and go to work in industry.
    • He wanted an excuse to destroy the kulaks, who believed in private ownership, not communism.
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How successful was collectivisation?

  1. Stalin achieved most of his aims:

    • Grain production rose to nearly 100 million tonnes in 1937, although the numbers of animals never recovered.
    • Russia sold large quantities of grain to other countries.
    • Some 17 million people left the countryside to go to work in the towns.
    • The kulaks were eliminated.
    • The peasants were closely under the government's control.
  2. However, the human cost was immense:

    • Perhaps 3 million kulaks were killed.
    • There were famines in 1930 and 1932-3 when 5 million people starved to death.
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Praises

  • Everybody had to praise Stalin, all the time. 
  • Newspapers credited him with every success. 
  • Poets thanked him for bringing the harvest. 
  • People leapt to their feet to applaud every time his name was mentioned. 
  • His picture was everywhere parents taught their children to love Stalin more than themselves. They dared not do anything else.

Why did Stalin do it?

  • He needed to create unity, and certainly strong control was needed to modernise Russia.
  • He was also at least homicidally paranoid.However, by 1939, he had set up a personal totalitarian dictatorship where - on one word from him - the entire Soviet Union did exactly what he said.
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