Collectivisation and Industrialisation in Russia

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How did Stalin use industrialisation and collectivisation to consolidate his power in the 1930s?

Stalin used both collectivisation and industrialisation to consolidate power in Russia during the 1930s. Both policies allowed him to gain control over the economy, and to discredit or eliminate his rivals within the Communist Party. Without these programs, there could have been no totalitarian rule in Russia.

Even before launching his economic program in 1929, Stalin used the industrialisation debate of the 1920s to gain ascendancy over his rivals. Initially, he sided with Bukharin in supporting NEP as the path to industrialisation. However, once Trotsky, Zinoviev and Kamenev had been removed, he accused Bukharin of supporting capitalism, and recommended Russia implement a system of command socialism. In 1929, NEP was abolished, and replaced with a system of state-run agriculture and industry, organised via Five Year Plans. This system gave Stalin effective control over the entire economy, and thereby the Soviet people. The most effective means of increasing Stalin’s power was collectivisation. This involved the elimination of private ownership of agricultural land, and its replacement with a system of state-owned and collectively-owned farms. The peasants who worked on these farms were under the control of the Party, which in turn was under the control of Stalin. Inadvertently, collectivisation also gave Stalin the opportunity to eliminate large numbers of ‘class enemies’ – the kulaks – and to steel Party members to wholesale murder. Seven million people starved to death during the collectivisation process. Countless more were sent to labour camps, where they met a similar fate.

Industrialisation was also crucial in helping Stalin consolidate his power. He understood that he could not hope to rule without popular support. Power can only be acquired and retained by delivering benefits to significant numbers of people. In Stalin’s case,...
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