Stalin: Modernising the Ussr

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Stalin: Modernising the USSR

Joseph Stalin is now remembered as one of the most ruthless and powerful dictators of all time. His regime was one of terror and oppression, and resulted in the deaths of millions of Soviets. As a young man, Stalin was involved in the revolutionary movement against the Russian monarchy. In 1904, he met Lenin at the first national Bolshevik conference in Finland before becoming the delegate to the Social Democratic Party. His job was to gather support for the Bolshevik cause among poorer workers. In the period after the revolution of 1905, Stalin led fighting squads in bank robberies to raise funds for the Bolshevik Party. Stalin was appointed a member of the Bolshevik Central Committee in 1913. He then received the post of editor for Pravada, the official Communist newspaper. Although Stalin strictly adhered to Lenin's doctrine of a strong centralist party of professional revolutionaries, he did not contribute significantly to the revolution. Stalin was arrested and exiled on many occasions between 1905 and 1917. After the revolution, Stalin was made General Secretary of the Communist Party. Although this was not a highly significant or influential role, it gave him the power to appoint members of the party, thereby enabling him to build up a base of support. After Lenin's death in 1924, the leadership of the Soviet Union was between Stalin and his bitter rival, Trotsky. It was believed that Trotsky would succeed Lenin, however, Stalin won by a mixture of luck and deception. Trotsky was falling ill, so was not active to hold campaigns. Meanwhile, Stalin was seen as a capable leader and Lenin's closest friend. Due to a trick by Stalin, Trotsky was not at Lenin's funeral. This further denounced his reputation. Stalin's policies were also more acceptable to the people. He wanted "Socialism in One Country", while Trotsky proposed an ideology of "Permanent Revolution". This intimidated many Soviets, as they did not want to be involved in conflicts all around the world. The competition between Stalin and Trotsky was one of loyalty to Lenin. By a mixture of blackmail and deceit, Stalin appeared to have been Lenin's right hand man while Trotsky was just another power hungry individual. Stalin got rid of his rivals by manipulation and set them up against each other. He allied himself with leaders opposing Trotsky and eventually got Trotsky expelled from the party. He then worked to get rid of the leaders he was allied with before. Gradually, all members of the Communist Party who posed any threat to his rise to power were eliminated. Another fact that helped Stalin win was his background. He was a peasant who appeared to understand the feelings of the war-torn Russians.

By 1929, Stalin was effectively the leader of the Communist Party. He immediately set out to modernize the USSR. He claimed that Russia was "fifty to hundred years behind the advanced countries. Either we narrow this distance in ten years or they will crush us." He insisted that Russia's survival depended on the rapid development of its industries. Stalin abandoned Lenin's NEP (New Economic Policy) which stated that small industries could be privately owned and that farmers could pay tax on the crops that they produced. This was a capitalist ideology, so Stalin saw it as a betrayal to Communism. Stalin set up the GOSPLAN, which was a state planning commission established to guide soviet economy towards accelerated industrialization. It began the process of converting a largely agrarian nation consisting of peasants into an industrial superpower. All industry was transferred to state control and all industrial development was planned by the state. Gosplan would decide what would be produced, how much, and where it should be produced. Goals were set that laid the foundations for economic growth in the form of Five-Year Plans. Overall, there were three Five-Year Plans. The Plans were endorsed into the law. Each plan set a...
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