The Soviet Union after Lenin



The Soviet Union after Lenin


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The Soviet Union after Lenin


The Soviet Union after Lenin, 1924-41

Power Struggle 1924-28
Roles of Stalin, Kamenev, Trotsky and Zinoviev
Different views on how to deal with the NEP. Those on the right wanted to keep the NEP so gradual industrialisation would happen while those on the left wanted immediate industrialisation.
Repress Lenin’s testament which insults all the leading Bolsheviks. Trotsky’s missed opportunity to stop Lenin? Lenin’s wife wants Trotsky to show the testament, but he doesn’t!
At Lenin’s funeral Stalin makes himself key player and Trotsky doesn’t even go!
Zinoviev and Kamenev attack Trotsky for his arrogance etc. Trotsky’s retorts with “lessons of October” article which attacks their bureaucratisation.
Stalin is in background at time not involving himself with any of it.
Trotsky is made out to be a major threat and is seen as unappealing as he could cause splits in party. Trotsky is seen as very arrogant and power hungry.
Unlike the left and the right ends of the Bolshevik Party, Stalin did not have one overall ideology to begin with. He adapted his policies to fit the mood of the time.

Importance of doctrine of “Socialism in one Country”
Stalin believed in Socialism in one Country while Trotsky supported Permanent Revolution.
Permanent Revolution believed that communist USSR could not succeed unless more revolutions abroad happened. The working class in USSR was to small and needed support from the wider w/c in industrialised Europe.
Socialism in One Country meant an acceptance that world-wide communist revolution was unlikely to happen in the immediate future and so the USSR had to build their state without help from other countries. Meant showing the rest of the world how good socialism could be. This theory appealed to nationalism and patriotism of the Soviet people.
Was idealism vs pragmatism.
In Politburo Socialism in one Country won by 4 votes to 3.

Link between the power struggle and how power was exercised in this revolutionary state – ie structure of party politics
There had never been a communist country before Russia and so there were no guidelines of how it should be done. This meant that the government was learning as they went along.
1921 there had been a ban on factions. This meant once a decision is made in the Politburo the rest of the party has to agree with it. If Stalin dominates the Politburo NO ONE can challenge him.
Two main features of government in Soviet Russia by 1924: Council of People’s Commissars (like cabinet) and the Secretariat (like the civil service). Both of these staffed by Bolshevik party.
This growth in scope meant certain positions that seemed unimportant actually held a lot of power. Stalin positions had far more power than ANYONE thought:
àCommissar for Nationalities (1917) meant he was in charge of officials in the outer regions of USSR.
àLiaison Officer between Politburo and Orgburo (1919) meant he could monitor Party policy and personnel.
àHead of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Inspectorate (1919) meant he oversaw work of all the government departments.
àGeneral Secretary of the Communist (Bolshevik) Party (1922) meant he recorded and conveyed all party policy and so could build up information on.
1923-25 there had been the Lenin enrolment. This was a membership drive which had drastically changed the make up of the Bolshevik party. The new members did not care about ideology but wanted the socio-economic advantages if being a Bolshevik. They were loyal to Stalin, not the party. In 1922 340,000 and by 1925 600,000 members.
Trotsky never viewed Stalin as a rival and so when it became apparent he was, it was to late.
Always a worry that after Lenin’s death a dictatorship would emerge. Most people were worried about Trotsky filling this role.
Stalin had control over the delegates and at the 25th Congress and had a victory on every issue debated.
Zinoviev, Trotsky and Kamenev formed the “United Opposition” to challenge Stalin’s position. This was factionalism THOUGH! So their powers were removed.
Zinoviev and Kamenev are replaced by Molotov and Kirov.

How far Lenin’s legacy and wishes motivated those involved in the struggle
All potential successors defended their actions in the name of Lenin.
After defeat of the left, there is discussion of best way to industrialise.
Bukharin, Tomsky and Rykov wanted to continue with the NEP whereas Stalin wanted rapid industrialisation and collectivisation (what the left originally wanted!!).
The right had their positions removed.
In 1929 at Stalin’s 50th the right confessed their errors.

Extent to which, one he had gained power, Stalin sustained or subverted the Bolshevik ideology
Cult of Leninànot what Lenin would have wanted but is a way for Stalin to gain power.
Stalin’s individualistic leadership principle destroyed what Lenin had wanted.
Many believe that when Stalin introduced his economic policies was when the Soviet Union went “wrong.

How Stalin established a wide degree of political control
Use of Propaganda, the party machine and methods of terror (including the Purges) to suppress opposition
1932-Ryutin Platform-opposition to Stalin. Ryutin was not killed though, the rest of the Politburo would not allow it. Showed Stalin did not have complete power yet.
Different stages of the purges:
-Chistka (1932-35)-20% of party expelled (not through violence). Mainly members who were illiterate or inactive. Many local Bolshevik leaders did not like carrying out the extreme methods Stalin was calling out for and so this allowed for a re-establishment of party control.
February 1934-17th Party Congress-Was nicknamed “Congress of Victors” as it was claimed that the economy had recovered. Kirov seems as if he could defeat Stalin.
December 1934-Kirov’s assassinated. This leads to the escalation in the purges as Stalin’s claims it shows how Trotsky was trying to defeat the government.
A couple of hours after Kirov’s death Decree Against Terrorist Act is put in place.
-Show trials-prominent Old Bolsheviks publicly tried and executed.
January 1935-Zinoviev and Kamenev arrested for instigating terrorist activities.
June 1935-Death penalty extended to include people who were aware spies etc.
August 1936-first show trial involving Zinoviev, Kamenev and 14 others.
September 1936-Yezhov new head of NKVD.
December 1936-new constitution.
January 1937-second show trial.
-Yezhovshchina (1937-38)-named after head of NKVD (Yezhov). Period of the mass purges. Thousands of party members and other people denounced. They were executed or sent to gulag.
May 1937-purge of the red army begins.
June 1937-leading army officers are shot as they are supposedly part of a plot to help foreign powers overthrow Stalin.
March 1938-Third show trial involving Bukharin, Rykov, Yagoda and 18 others.
December 1938-Beria replaces Yezhov as head of NKVD.
March1939-Stalin calls an end to the mass purges.
February 1940-Yezhov is shot.
Perhaps most shocking about the show trials was that they admitted their crimes. This was partly due to their families being threatened and also it was “beaten” out of them.

Controversy surrounding the cause and nature of the different purges
Reasons for purges escalating/happening:
-Stalin planned the purges to achieve total power/success of his economic plans. He needs to enforce his economic plans. He needed workers for his gulags.
-Stalin had to remove his opposition. Ryutin Platform, Trotskyites. Kirov assassination used to show opposition to Bolsheviks in general and could be used to show opposition to Stalin. By keeping party in a constant fear of terror
-Stalin paranoidàpurges. Stalin said to Khrushchev he did not trust anybody. He kills the army and the NKVDàirrational, he needs them (especially with war coming up!).
-The purges derive from the tradition of Leninism and communism. Communism about a revolutionary spirit and Stalin is just keeping that alive. Lenin also purged the party.
-Stalin narcissistic and paranoid.
-People wanted to save themselves by denouncing othersàmore victims.
-NKVD over fulfil their targets.
-Usually the “bottom” denounced those at the top. Could be out of spite or out of ambition.
-More people you denounce the safer you are.
-Army could not be completely trusted.
-Purges were unplanned, and were just reactions to events that happened. The unstable economy and threat of war meant people had to be pushed into working.
-Other leaders and agencies helped shape the purges. NKVD were concerned they were going to lose power (with slow down of FYP and collectivisation) and so the purges raised their profile.
-The Purges took on a life of their own. Workers were more than happy to blame their bosses for not completing targets. The lower levels of the party were encouraged to criticise the higher members. Managers also needed to find people for blame for target failures so were quite happy to accuse people of being “saboteurs”.

Results of purges:
-70% of Central Committee elected at 17th party Congress shot.
-1108 of 1966 delegates at 17th Party Congress arrested.
-Huge amounts in army purged (not very clever with war coming…).
-23,000 NKVD. The NKVD had the highest casualty rate.

Controversies about the purges:
-When did they start? Always happening? Or from 1936 onwards?
-Totalitarian of revisionist?
-Incomplete evidence.
-Time in which historian is writingàcold war, glasnost?
-Political or ideological perspective, is the historian sympathetic to communism?

Political and social bases of Stalin’s power
Many young people were dedicated and felt they were building socialism.

Reasons his rule was popular among many political, economic and social groups and bitterly opposed by others
Collectivisation had effectively alienated the peasantry.
“Former people” such as priests, industrialists and traders hated the regime.
Many inside the Bolshevik party disagreed with the extreme and violent methods Stalin advocated. Many Bolsheviks committed suicide (including Stalin’s own wife).

Modernisation Programme
Stalin’s perception of the backwardness of the Soviet Union compared to industrialised nations in the West and how this influenced his economic thinking
By end of 1920s seemed industry was not growing anymore.
By 1927 relations with France, Poland, Britain and Japan were not looking good and so a strong armaments base was needed. To fight a “modern” war an industrialised economy was needed.
There was always lingering paranoia, as the USSR was the only communist state. Had been signs of threats as well: Nationalists attack communists in China and a Russian diplomat assassinated in Poland.
Industrialisation seen as patriotic thing.
1929 Wall Street Crash, so could not rely on trade.
The USSR needed to be more self sufficient as it could not rely on the outside world.
“We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall be crushed” – Stalin.

Five Year Plans drafted by Gosplan
State control meant the government would have direct control over production and distribution of materials.
Industrialisation would create a strong proletariatàneeded for socialism!
Extended states powers.
The centralised planning was not always a positive thing though. It did not often take local conditions into account and led to breakdown in communication between those at the top and bottom.
Often meant a waste of resources.
The unrealistic targets led to theft and faking records.
Targets were set but no direction was given on how to achieve them.

Three Five Year Plans of 1928-32, 1933-37, 1938-41 – different emphases, ideology which underpinned them and degree of success which they achieved
First Five Year Plan
Announced December 1927 at 15th Party Congress.
It was received warmly, many Bolsheviks never really liked the NEP and so the “great turn” was positively received. It seemed like a significant step forward in the revolution.
It was more a set of production figures rather than a plan.
Aimed for mass, quick industrialisation.
Emphasis on quantity (gigantomania) rather than quality.
Mass increases of workers and increases in coal, iron and electoral power.
Figures are very unreliable though as people LIED!
The huge increases in workers was not all good either as many of these workers were not trained properly.
1500 new factories created.
Size of industrial working class doubled.
Second Five Year Plan
Targets more realistic.
Heavy industry was still a priority.
Also focused on railways and transportation.
Saw a huge rise in steel production but not in important areas like coal and oil.
Introduction of more training programmes.
Third Five Year Plan
Ended when Russia entered WW2.
Increase in state spending.

Economic policies – decision to end the NEP; collectivisation in agriculture, rapid industrialisation and urban development
Under the NEP the peasants were not creating enough grain for the industrialisation plans. Not enough grain was being created to export and so there was not enough money to expand the outdated Soviet technology.
Reasons for the lack of growth in grain production were; agriculture very backwards; land owned by peasants was very small and often peasants only produced enough for themselves.
Initially, to solve this problem, in 1926 the government started collecting money tax (instead of tax in the form of grain) from the peasants and also clamped down on the private traders buying food off the peasants. This meant that the peasants needed to sell more to pay the tax. But peasants felt little point in having money as there was nothing to buy! Also they started with holding produce to try and raise the state prices for food.
In 1928 there was a famine and so requisitioning squads went out to seize food from the peasants. Created VERY bad relationship between the government and the peasants.
15th Party Congress collectivisation drafter up. The peasants would not become good socialists and therefore FORCE was needed.
The peasants had all the power under the NEP, and the Bolsheviks HATED it.
Collectivisation was meant to; modernise agriculture; help industrialisation by providing food to the cities; create more exports; create more workers as collectivised farms will need less farmers; build socialism in the countryside by eliminating kulaks and providing a socialist system.
Collectivisation put peasants into kolkhozy (collective farms) and sovkhozy (state farms). Both the type of farms had the intention of making agriculture serve the state. Farms would consist of what had previously been 50-100 independent farms.
Collectivisation was meant to be voluntarily, but in reality it was forced.
To encourage support Stalin demonised a group of people called the “kulaks”. They were meant to be peasants who got wealthy off the NEP. Many peasants were happy to agree with Stalin as they felt like they had been exploited. In reality kulaks did not really exist.
De-kulakisation was put into motion and wealthier peasants were arrested and their land seized.
From December 1929-March 1930 about ¼ of all farms were collectivised and by end of 1930s virtually all farms collectivised
Stage One-Emergency Measures-January 1928 the Politburo votes for emergency measures that allowed grain to be confiscated by force.
Stage Two-The Urals-Siberian method-November 1928 approved by Central Committee. Villages asked to point out kulaks, villages would receive 25% of the grain seized.
Stage Three (I)-Forced Collectivisation-Summer 1929 Collective Farm Centre set up. November 1929 call from Central Committee for speed in collectivisation. January 1929 complete collectivisation by autumn 1930. Collectivisation was meant to voluntary!!
Stage Three (II)-Dekulakisation-Three punishments for kulaks; imprisonment or shooting; transported to North; given poor land to farm.
Stage Three (III)-Peasant Opposition-Many peasants were unwilling to denounce their fellow villagers. Communists attacked churches, which made them seem to the villagers as if they were immoral.
Stage Four-The Party Retreats-2 March 1930 Stalin writes article “dizzy with success”. It criticised the extreme measures some party members were taking to enforce collectivisation (despite Stalin telling them to do so!). He asks for a return to voluntary collectivisation. February 1930 60% collectivised and by August 1930 drop to 30%.
Stage Five-Collectivisation resumed-Peasants were allowed to have their own small patch of land. Farms got controlled by Motor-Tractor Stations (MTS) and they decided how much wage/grain each peasant got. Potemkin villages were set up as showcases.
Stage Six-Famine 1932-34-Hit Ukraine and Volga hardest. Many collective farms just collapsed as there were not enough people to work on them. Measures were taken to prevent the peasants travelling so people could not see what a mess was going on.
Stage Seven-Consolidation-1935 Part Congress new model for collective farms. Private plots of about 1.2 a hectare for each kolkoznik household.
Collectivisation was not effective as hoped though as many of the peasants would not co-operate. Lots of peasants destroyed their own crops so they would not have to hand them over to the state. In particular fall in livestock.
Stalin sent image out to Russia that collectivisation was working but in reality HUGE famine. As no one was allowed to know about the famine, they could get no aid. Millions die.
Collectivisation was DISASTER; no grain surplus was produced and so none could be sold abroad; food production did not meet demand; by 1939 production just met 1913 levelsàLIKE THE NEP!
Peasants had no insensitive to produce large amounts of extra grain, productivity on private farms were far greater than in collectivised.
Was it worth the cost of millions of lives? Hard to find accurate stat as no one was paying attention to countryside. More deaths than in WW1.
Did see huge increase in population in cities thoughàurban population increased by 12 million.
Introduction of tractors increased efficiency BUT not a large amount of these and they were often not used and were in bad condition.
Procurement rose from 18.2m in 1928-32 to 27.5m in 1933-37.
Success in sense that almost all farms were collectivised by end of 1930s.
At time did appear successful as people were unaware of the famine in the countryside.
Unemployment was still high under the NEP. This especially effected women who were pushed out of their jobs after the civil was because of returning red army. Low wages did not keep up with prices of consumer goods so having a job was hardly worth it.
The NEP had not created a “workers” society, by 1928 only 20% of the population were workers.
December 1927-15th Party Congress-announced First Five Year Plan. The NEP was creating “worst” type of society full of private traders, kulaks and nepmen.
Positive feeling towards industrialisation; feeling that they were building socialism and removing the corrupt capitalism; feeling of making history; want to show the wider world how good socialism is.
Gigantomania-doing everything on a HUGE scale.
Problems with the plans where that the new workers were often unskilled peasants and so often destroyed new machinery. In 1931 estimated that only 7% workforce skilled.
Workers did not stay in factories for long, particularly the skilled ones. In 1931 average stay for a worker 82 days.
To solve these problems wage differentials introduced to workers who stayed in one place (NOT COMMUNIST!). Payment was also offered by the amount a worker produced.
More harsh measures introduced for absenteeism (in 1940 it becomes a crime).
1938 internal passports introduced.
April 1930 all prisoners sentenced for more than 3 years go to labour camps.
Was a huge growth; increase in production of raw materials; railways and canals built rapid urbanisationàMoscow grew from 2.2m in 1929 to 3.6m in 1936 (was this ruralisation though?; huge increase in electricity production; new industrial towns like Magnitogorsk.

Affect on living standards of emphasis on production rather than consumption
Were improvements; wages increased for skilled workers; rationing abolished in 1936; stakhanovite workers gained better housing/wages; more opportunities for work; some industrial enterprises set up their won shops, bakeries and canteens; some increases in production of footwear and food processing; better public transport.
Many hardships though; women had far less opportunities than men; lack of consumer goods; housing very poor, especially in the new cities (e.g Magnitogorsk only 15% workers lived in brick buildings, 25% lived in mud huts); shops lacked basic commodities; real wages didn’t increase; sense of fear because of the purges; famine; overcrowded cities with poor sanitation, water shortages and high levels of violence and crime; new towns lacked basic infrastructure of roads etc.
In context of world where a depression is happeningàperhaps more impressive

Policies for the family, religion, health and education
Cultural Revolution
Familyàbourgeois element of society and therefore needed to be destroyed!
Women seen as equal.
Women’s branch of communist party set up.
Divorce and abortion made easier and incest, bigamy and adultery were legalised.
Quota system meant that 20% of university places were saved for women.
By 1934 abortions outnumbered births.
In Moscow in 1934 out of every 100 marriages there were 37 divorces.
Because of the family being broken up the amount of orphans rose greatlyàincrease in juvenile crime.
Great Retreat
Wanted to increase birth rate and for family to be important again.
Abortion became outlawed and divorces were made much harder.
Zhentodel closed in 1930 as claimed “women’s issues solved”.
Awards are given to mothers who have lots of children.
In 1936 male homosexuality is declared illegal.
“Free marriages” banned and couples had to again register with the government.
Women workers rose from 3m in 1928 to 13m in 1940.
Birth rate rose to 31 per 1000 in 1940.
Divorce to marriage ratio did not improve that much.

Cultural Revolution
Wanted to wipe out religion as it provides an alternative ideology.
From 1929 congregations and places of worship needed to be registered with the government.
In the new cities and towns churches were not allowed to be built.
Allowed abortion and divorce (what church did not want).
By 1930 80% of churches were closed.
Great Retreat
Increase in aim to wipe out religion.
BUT after Nazi invasion hostility towards the church relaxed. Worried that if hostility continued towards church then Russian society would side with Hitler.
1936-39 wave of arrests of bishops.
1941-Only 5665 priests left of 60,000.
Head of Moscow became a bishop.
By end of 1930s only 1 in 40 churches functioning as churches.
Although a restriction of worship this did not stop people denouncing their faith. People still worshipped in secret.


Cultural Revolution
Educate the youth in communist ideology, breakdown the bureaucracy of teaching and provide more opportunity for the working classes.
A shift to focus education on practical skills.
Non-communist teachers were denounced by the Komsomal.
Uniform and timetables were removed and more technical and scientific learning was introduced.
Quota system introduced to provide 70% of university places for working classes (this was only met once!).
Schools were linked to factories so students could do “socially useful work”.
Teaching of communist ideology became compulsory.
Juvenile crime increased due to lack of discipline.
In many areas of the USSR teaching collapsed as so many teachers were removed.
Great Retreat
Undo the damage from previous policies.
Uniform, timetables, exams and discipline reintroduced in schools.
Links with the factories were removed.
April 1935-Juvenile violent crime became punished by death (although this never happened to any child).
Quota system removed.
By 1940 Komsomal had 10.2m members.
Opportunities for w/c were still better than they were in 1928.

Pavlik Morozov
Used by the Soviet Union as propaganda. In 1932 Morozov denounced his father and was then murdered by his father (or so the USSR said!). He then became seen as a martyr.
Showed the embodiment of a “good” Soviet citizenàState above family.

Means by which Stalin tried to portray policies in favourable light e.g cult of personality
Cult of Personality-stages
Seen as modest successor to Lenin. Coincides with his image during the power struggle.
-1929-33àCult underway.
Portraits of Stalin with figures like Marx and Lenin make him appear next in the line of Marxist figures.
-1933-39àCult fully established.
Short Course is released exaggerating Stalin’s role in the revolution.
Socialist realist movement glorifies Stalin in art.

Stalin seen as benefactor, traditional defender of the people and a charismatic leader.

How these methods were attacked after Stalin’s death

Use of press, broadcasting and film, including censorship, and of Stakhanovite movement as propaganda
1935-Skathanovite was worker who cut almost 16 times the normal amount. Became hero and other workers wanted to follow in his foot steps. The movement also created far more stress on managers though as they had to try and keep up. Led to more lies about production. Also weakened the communists feeling!
1936-Constitution introduced. Gives every citizen right to vote, freedom of press, religion and organisation. Only communists allowed to stand in elections though. Propaganda to the West, they are impressed! Also way of distracting USSR citizens from the show trials.

“Socialist Realist” movement – how this developed as part of building socialism, to develop notion of the “socialist hero” and to attack artists and intellectuals who resisted the vision
The original Cultural Revolution attacked the old intelligentsia and the bourgeois cultural elements. Focus on the “New Soviet Man” who was non-individualist and worked for the greater good.
Constructivists used industrial imagery to represent social and economic progress.
Bourgeois attacked in:
-Art by the Association of Artists of the Revolution
-Literature by the Russian Association of Proletariat Writers (RAPP).
From mid 1931 Stalin proclaimed end of Cultural Revolution.
April 1932-decree abolished all proletarian artistic and literary organisation.
Socialist Realism had to be understood about the masses, educate workers in communism and be a good vehicle for propaganda.
RAPP was abolished and replaced with the Union of Writers.
Control of culture was increased with the Socialist Realist movement.
As was approached Soviet Art and Culture became more and more nationalistic.


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