Above all other aims, it was certainly that of rapid industrialization which was a key factor in the design of both Stalin’s major economic policies during the sass. It can therefore be argued that overall the policies employed were successful in that they did achieve their aims and pushed the USSR forward in industrialization terms. However, the price paid for this rapidity was great, and so it is arguable that Stalin was still unsuccessful to a certain degree.
As many historians – such as Maddened – point out, eventually the relatively successful NOPE (which came into force after the Civil War) potentially could have lilied similar levels of industrialization as Stalin gained from the Five Year Plans without the human suffering. However under Stalin the attitudes towards industrialization radically changed to push for a far more rapid policy, the first ‘faze’ of which was Collectivists.
Introduced in 1929, Collectivists was the swift process employed by Stalin to gather all the smallholdings of pre-longitudinal Russia into large grouped (or collective) farms, controlled by the government as opposed to the peasants. The aim of this was to swiftly increase agricultural output, the revenue from which (if traded internationally) could be used to kick-start industrialization.
It was, of course, important to Stalin that the government controlled this process entirely as part of the idea of a centralized state, but also to ensure that targets were met. Controlling everything would mean production would be far more efficient, grain procurement would be far easier and peasants would have no choice but to hand the grain over (so potentially reducing the need for requisitioning and the potential of peasants fighting back).
Collectivists would also – the government hoped – instill a sense of socialism amongst the people by reducing the right to private property and, if collectivists went to plan and gave marked results, then Stalin’s position as leader would be reaffirmed, a additional bonus to an improved agricultural situation (which would of course lead to industrialization). Economically speaking however, collectivists was a disaster – grain harvests actually dropped with the introduction of the new policy, from 73. Million tones in 1928 to 67. 6 million tones in 1934, and did not return to the levels of 1928 until the ate sass (though even these levels were lower than the last harvest under Tsar rule – 80. 1 million tones). Though collecting all the farms together would appear to be a solution to the problem of lack of production (in that it becomes possible to monitor and push for greater production) it clearly did not, thanks to mistakes made meant that the overriding effect of collectivists was massive human suffering.
Desalination – the eradication of the better off peasants who did not fit into the Soviet ideal and who were also, in fact, the most accomplished farmers – created a jack of talent (and also trust – neighbors would accuse neighbors of being kulaks) in the countryside meaning that when drought hit the detects were devastating. The peasants that were left did not have the necessary expertise to organize or run a collective farm, and so during the years of severe drought, production dropped dangerously low – low enough for famine to sweep across Russia, killing millions.
The peasants seized in the desalination process were no better off – either executed or worked to death in Gulag work camps, they met equally hard ends as the peasants ho avoided desalination. The state, however, despite the famine, continued to requisition grain to feed the growing cities and to finance industrialization via international exportation, thus making the famine of the early ass even worse. Therefore, collectivists was also a massive social disaster for Russia. Despite the apparent economic failure, however, state procurements did not fall accordingly.
The state still succeeded in collecting the grain it needed to fund industrialization and to feed the swelling workforce, increasing rapidly as desperate secants fled to the cities struggling to survive. For these reasons, therefore, it can be argued that to a certain degree collectivists was a success – the increased labor force and the money for industrialization to be possible were both found as a result of collectivists, and so in a somewhat backwards way it did achieve its objectives.
As a counter argument to this, however, it has been argued that a need to boost agriculture wasted vital resources (such as the need to build a large number of tractors and to send out bands of activists to collectivist the countryside) and that he USSR did not gain the revenue it hoped for the gain it exported due to the effects of the Great Depression of the late ass and ass.
Thus, the massive human suffering and lack of agricultural success – as Service said in ‘A History of Twentieth-Century Russia’ (1997) ‘… Mass collectivists meant that not until the mid sass did agriculture regain the level of output achieved in the last years before the Great War’ – despite some minor dispute definitely show that collectivists can be considered, as part of Stalin’s economic policies, as distinctly unsuccessful.
Despite this, collectivists was key to the drive for industrialization, embodying as it did the Soviet disdain for private ownership and solving the issue of the state being reliant on the unsteady peasant population – politically; collectivists was in fact a success. It brought the peasant population to heel and gave the government the control over the economy it needed to kick start the economy for industrialization. Industrialization was the key focus for all the Five Year Plans initiated by Stalin.
In 1928, in comparison to the rest of the world, the USSR was radically underdeveloped, ND very backwards. This condition was unacceptable for Stalin – not only did he need to establish his credentials as a strong leader (and not attempting to do anything to change the slow economy created by the NOPE with high unemployment rates), but war was also imminent in Europe at the time and the USSR, unless they industrialized rapidly with focus upon the ammunitions industry would not survive a modern war.
Similarly, the USSR were far too reliant upon Western manufactured goods tort Stalin’s liking – en wanted to create a strong, sell-societies IS jack of industry was holding him back from realizing this aim, an aim that also involved drastically improving living conditions for his people. Stalin wanted to catch up with the West – economically and socially – and to do so quickly, extreme industrialization was necessary.
Similar methods as were used for collectivists were therefore used to implement the Five Year Plans – workers holding industry back were ‘picked off by the secret police (also creating a sense of fear amongst the workers – if they did not work hard enough, there would be sanctions), and Stalin extended the class warfare of electrification by creating ‘urban kulaks’ in the form of the ‘bourgeois specialists’. Propaganda campaigns were also initiated, such as the Stephanotis movement to encourage competition and the will to work harder for privileges.
Unlike collectivists, however, these methods appear to have worked with the Five Year Plans. Industrialization came on in leaps and bounds, particularly in the heavy industry sector, up to the early sass – from 1928 to 1941, oil production rose by 300%, coal and iron production by 400%, steel by 500% and electricity (the most homeland leap of them all) a massive 700%. Together, this massive increase in heavy industry meant that production as a whole rose a massive 400% by 1941, giving the USSR greater output than Britain that was only beaten by the USA.
The USSR was successfully transformed into an industrialized state by the Five Year Plans thus suggesting that the ‘second half’ of Stalin’s economic policies were indeed very successful in that they achieved their aims of rapid industrialization for the USSR. Despite this, however, the economy had severe weaknesses. It soon became apparent hat too much emphasis was being put on heavy industry – in the first Five Year Plan, for example, which was designed to focus on heavy industries, a decline in consumer goods was noted (such as food, house-building etc. Which led to consequences such as food rationing, particularly felt during the years of famine) and chemical targets were not met. There was, in fact, many targets that weren’t met in the first five years, thanks to the effects of the Great Depression and due to a lot of investment having to be directed into the collectivists process (ironic, in a way, that collectivists was meant to be assisting the industrialization of Russia, when in fact it was helping to an extent to hold the process back).
This trend continued into the Second Five Year Plan, with emphasis still on heavy industry, though more industries were beginning to grow (albeit at a slower rate) such as transport and chemical and as a result the years covered by this Plan were considered the ‘good years’. Despite this, however, the consumer goods industries were still considerably sub-par, and oil production did not go to plan, either. The Third Five Year plan, in comparison to the previous two, was a disaster.
Once more, emphasis was put on heavy industry (in response to the burgeoning threat of war), and defense grew rapidly. However, progress was heavily imbalanced and steel output tailed to grow significantly as d oil production (which led too tulle crisis). Many factories also suffered a shortage of materials. None of this was helped by a particularly poor winter, and the diversion of resources to the army, or by Stalin who, reaching the height of his ‘purges’ effectively created severe shortages of educated personnel (thus creating at best disorientation, at worst chaos).
Such an imbalanced economy was hindered further by the ridiculously high targets set by the state that were rarely – if ever – met. These targets placed massive strain on the economy, particularly pronounced in the hugely unrealistic First Five Year Plan, pushing a dispassionate society to work harder than ever for a government that seemed to be doing very little to be improving living conditions for its people. On top of this, severe punishments were the consequence of failing to meet targets.
Thanks to this threat of punishment, a rash of corruption and bribery cropped up across Russia as managers – desperate to avoid the wrath of the party officials – did all they could to make sure their individual targets were met, using bribery and illegal deals to ensure that their factory got as much of the scarce resources as it could (ironic, again, is it not that Stalin was aiming for a socialist society, when all he was achieving was an even further segregated one as people were pushed apart by the need to survive).
Similarly, living conditions did not improve as promised – in fact, they worsened. With urban areas growing at an estimated rate of 200000 a month as peasants fled the tarring countryside, the extreme lack of consumer goods and food shortages was felt throughout Russian’s towns and cities. This influx of people, of course, also led to squalid living conditions, with overcrowding and unemployment soon becoming severe problems.
Some improvements to commodities available were made during the Second Plan, but such improvements were far from the ideal. Though, of course, with Stephanotis (named for Alexei Astrakhan), the USSR was able to prove to workers that hard work did yield rewards and improved conditions, and so some improvements were noted (though only largely on an individual level).
These weaknesses caused what is known as the Quicksand Society to come into being – a massive labor force made predominantly up of peasants with no true goals or aims meant that many simply wandered, looking for the best deals, and thanks to a desperation amongst the managers to up their individual production targets, it soon became common to ‘poach’ workers from other factories with better deals and so forth.
An unreliable workforce coupled with an unsteady economy meant that – despite all the great leaps forward Russia did achieve – they were precarious leaps indeed. Therefore, despite the great improvements Stalin succeeded in making to the economy during this period – miraculous, in fact, for such a short space of time – it is arguable that the massive improvements made perhaps were not ‘shored up’ as they should have been, so creating a highly unsteady economy, albeit a vastly improved one.
However, the Five Year Plans were trying to do the impossible, which they largely achieved – despite the poor quality to goods produced, the corruption and t shortages, what was achieved during this period was remarkable; Stalin did succeed n literally turning his country around, pushing the USSR forward into the Chat. Some historians (such as Roy Maddened and Stephen Cohen) do argue, though, that had the party done as Buchanan wished to do and carried on with the NOPE, that Stalin still would have achieved the same levels of industrialization as he did, without the massive human suffering experienced with his own economic policies.
However, the aim of Stalin’s industrialization was to quickly transform the agrarian USSR into something resembling modernity, and the NOPE had limitations on this front – not only could it hold the USSR back from quickly strengthening its military in time for war, but the NOPE also had serious negative effects on transport and upon education.
It is true that a slower industrialization process would have greatly reduced human losses and also avoided the creation of a precarious economy, however the aims of the Soviet all along was not to create a stable economy, but to create an industrial economy quickly at whatever cost. The NOPE would not have allowed for this. In conclusion, therefore, Stalin’s economic policies were disastrous – the weaknesses ND imbalance created in the USSR by collectivists and the Five Year Plans was immense, and the amount of human suffering that went along with such weakness incalculable.
In this sense, Stalin’s economic policies were far from successful – as a leader, what replaced the NOPE failed to give his people any better style of life than what they had already (indeed, conditions were largely worse) and rather than create an economy that was better than before, the old regime of Tsarist Russia (still within living memory) still outshone the USSR by far.
It would seem that Stalin had failed to o what potentially mattered the most – establish himself as a strong leader and give the people what they needed. Despite this, however, it is not fair to say that Stalin was entirely unsuccessful. What was achieved was phenomenal – even though the improvements were largely ‘lop sided’ (focusing as they did upon heavy industry) – and without them it is entirely fair to say that the USSR would not have fared as well as it did in World War Two.
Though Stalin virtually completely failed to improve the USSR socially (apart from the odd, individual case), the great leaps forward made in industry in such a short space of mime are a mark of what can be considered great success – to go from an agrarian based economy to an industrial state dominated only by the USA (and during a massive economic slump, too) in such a short space of time can clearly be considered a great mark of success.
Thus, though obviously tainted by the massive loss of human life and the dire living conditions the majority remained living in, I personally consider Stalin’s economic policies to have been a success – human suffering may not have been deliberately in his plans, but Stalin did achieve what he set out to do; to bring Russia into the modern world, and quickly.