How Successful Were Stalin's Economic Policies in the 1930s?

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How successful were Stalin’s economic policies in the 1930s?

Although it is unarguable to deny that there was certain economic progress in Stalinist Russia throughout the 1930s, it is understandable to postulate that the policies implicated under Stalin’s regime were merely introduced primarily to consolidate his political hold on the USSR. During this period, Stalin placed particular emphasis on Industrialisation and the abolition of older methods of peasant-controlled farming to be replaced with state-controlled collectives. It is debatable as to whether these policies can be viewed as successful, for example; the conditions of the Soviet industrial workers were marginally lower than in 1928. Yet whatever hardships the workers faced, the fact that Russia was ultimately capable, in an economic sense, of defeating Nazi Germany in a successful military struggle shows that some of the economic implications enforced during the 1930s were at the very least marginally productive and gainful. In this essay, I shall highlight the extent to which the aforementioned policies can be viewed as successful.

Stalin’s economic policies had one essential aim—the modernisation of the Soviet economy via two essential methods: collectivisation and industrialisation. Beginning in 1928, much of Russia’s economy (in terms of agriculture and industry) was brought directly under state control. Under Stalin, this was to be total. The way these radical were changes implicated has meant that the process was referred to as the ‘second revolution,’ a way of equating the importance of industrial/modernisation as that of the 1917 revolution. When Stalin introduced these drastic changes, he claimed that they marked a significant and vital stage in Soviet Communism as had Lenin’s actions during the October Revolution of 1917. It is understandable to claim that these comparisons show that the process of modernisation in Russia was intended primarily to enhance his own position as leader of Russia, following the footsteps of Lenin, with actual hopes for true economic progress taking second priority.

However, it would be biased and unarguable to regard Stalin’s policies as purely a matter of political expediency. His former policy of ‘Socialism in One Country,’ that is, reforming Russia into that of a modern state capable of defending itself against the surrounding capitalist nations prove that he believed the needs of the USSR could only be met via the modernisation industry. This appeal that modernisation was the only way the nation could survive was later used as a pretext for the severity and coercive methods that accompanied the collectivisation of Russian agriculture.

The collectivisation of agriculture was viewed by Stalin as being the only viable way to raise the necessary capital needed to industrialise the Soviet Union. However, it has been speculated that the way in which this policy was enforced was ultimately counter-productive. Collectivisation was the process of taking all the suitable farming land from the peasantry and bringing it under state control. Peasants would no longer farm for individual profit; they would instead combine their efforts together and receive a wage. Stalin believed that this change would allow the USSR to pool the collective profits together from the land in order to finance a colossal industrialisation programme. In keeping with Marxist philosophy, the needs of Industry and the industrial working-class were viewed as more important than that of the agricultural peasantry—a class of people seen as obsolete. In a major propaganda offensive, a class of ‘Kulaks’ were identified who were responsible for supposedly holding back the workers’ revolutions by controlling the best land available and employing other peasants to work for them—reminiscent of Feudalism, an ideology seen as the forerunner to capitalism in the eyes of Karl Marx and subsequently denounced by Marxist philosophy as a result. Stalin believed...
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