Totalitarianism

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Totalitarian is stated as a political authority widely used to describe the kind of state and society engineered by Joseph Stalin. Historians on Soviet politics recognize the two theories focused on the totalitarian model. Basically, there are two totalitarian models- “an operational one that tried to describe the existing Soviet society and a developmental one that focused on the origins of totalitarianism and on the responsibility of Marxism-Leninsism for Stalinism.”1 According to Marxist theory, only through a modern industrialized economy could a true proletariat class be developed, as Marx makes no mention of a peasant class. Marxist theory aside, the need to industrialize was also a pragmatic matter of self-defense that was rooted on ideology; in a sense, it called for a totalitarian authority to successfully pull off the grandiose project.2 This paper argues that while there is much discussion about the heavy industrialization and rapid collectivization done during Stalin’s reign, there is evident indications that it was during this time that Soviet Union truly became a totalitarian state. In a totalitarian authority, there is an evident indication of a dominant leader and a one-party state. There is also the presence of brutal crushing of internal opposition. “The state not only monopolized the instrumentalities of coercion but also dominated the means of mass communication;”3 totalitarianism allows “no challenge to the single official ideology.”4 Those who actually publicly oppose the leader are then faced with brutal suppression. The period during Stalin’s reign was perhaps the most transformative period of Soviet history. He consolidated his grip on power and used this to actively transform the culture and economic policies of the time. It was during industrialization that the Soviet Union became truly totalitarian. Industrialization was the key element of Stalin’s revolution. Rejecting the prior Bolshevik conviction with the bourgeois institution, he sought to embrace “socialist realism,”5 denouncing anything that was remotely of “bourgeois intellect.”6 However, these cultural changes were minor in comparison to the vast changes of his economic policies. Joseph Stalin understood the inherent problem in starting a communist revolution in Russia: the nation failed capitalism, and it would need to make a transition from socialism to communism. He understood that the transition would require heavy industrialization on a massive scale in order to successfully compete with Western modernization.7 Stalin saw the need to industrialize as a pragmatic matter of self-defense. “Do you want our socialist fatherland to be beaten and to lose its independence?”8 he asked in a famous February, 1931 speech. He continued on: “If you do not want this you must put an end to its backwardness in the shortest possible time and develop genuine Bolshevik tempo in building up the socialist system of the economy…We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this difference in ten years. Either we do it, or we shall be crushed.”9

Once Stalin ascended into power, the New Economic Policy introduced by Lenin was gradually destroyed.10 In agriculture it was replaced by collective farms, while in industry, it paved the way to a Five-Year Plan which assigned production targets to factories, mines, and construction sites. Stalin imposed an impossibly high production figures for heavy industrialization quota at the beginning of the first five year plan in 1929. As Kenez pointed out, the unrealistic optimism of these goals were not reached until 1960.11 It seemed that there was no viable structure behind the planning as “‘planning’ was reduced to naming target figures which had little more than propaganda significance”12. Abstruse commands were of a more practical importance than carefully elaborated planning; and “the commands were based on guesses, prejudices, and whims.”13 The propaganda, however,...
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