The New Economic Policy

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How far were economic problems responsible for Stalin’s decision to replace the New Economic Policy in 1928 with the first Five-Year Plan ?

There seemed to be various reasons why Stalin decided to replace the New Economic Policy with the first Five-Year Plan in 1928. These included economic problems, the role of ideology, a fear of invasion and political considerations. Although economic problems certainly were an important reason for Stalin’s decision, the most significant reason must have been political, since the consolidation of his power position had always been Stalin’s prime concern.

The occurrence of economic problems presumably played a major role in Stalin’s decision to move away from the New Economic Policy (NEP), although it must be noted that, before that time, the NEP had had its, albeit limited, success: By 1925 the NEP had returned the economy to its pre-war levels, and by 1927 both agriculture and industrial production exceeded their pre-war level. However, the NEP had run into problems such as the scissors crisis in 1924 and the grain procurement crisis of 1927-28. For Stalin and many pragmatists who had supported the NEP because it had been working, the grain procurement crisis brought matters to a head. Russia was by 1928 still an economically backward country compared to the large economies of Western Europe and especially the USA. Farming methods still were fundamentally backwards and unproductive. In industry there was a genuine necessity for the economy to develop and compete with western competitors far ahead of Russia. Economic problems were likely to be a catalyst for the bold measures of the first Five-Year Plan, since Stalin felt that without it Russia would keep lagging behind.

Ideological aspects too seemed to matter in Stalin’s decision making, although his own ideological position can be seen as somewhat blurred, since he used to frequently change policies according to what suited him best in his pursuit of a leading...
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