Stalin’s plan for the industrialisation of the Soviet Union was carried out through a series of Five Year Plans consisting of government set projected goals and quotas for economic growth. The first Five Year Plan (1928-1933), in particular, was as much political rhetoric as economic planning, which hampered efforts to meet its goals of economic progression. A consistent flaw in the implementation of the polices was the disregard for adequately encompassing human and material resources resulting in constant confusion and work stoppages. Stalin’s policies exercised harsh penalties, even executions, for the failure to meet their quotas, thus providing strong incentive to fabricate figures. The result of Stalin’s Five Year Plans was whole new cities and infrastructure that never existed, drastic increase in oil, coal and steel production and the establishment of a massive system of public schools and universities in order to establish a more literate workforce. By 1940, the Soviet Union had an 85% literacy rate and was the third largest industrial power in the world behind only the United States and Germany, however this came at a price. Stalin’s focus on heavy industry such as steel, electricity and heavy machinery consequently ignored the production of basic consumer goods, including even housing. He also used virtual slave labour by taking millions of peasants and others whom he saw as threats to his regime and used them in the building of a massive canal, hydroelectric dam and factory projects. Millions of people died for Stalin’s dream of an industrial state. The gradual collectivisation of agriculture began in 1927 as a means of encouraging food production and freeing labour and capital for industrial development. Marxist doctrine forbade private property and with intent of seeking as much centralised power as possible, Stalin used this principle to gather the farms into giant state-run operations. In theory, organising agriculture in the same manner as industrial factories should increase productivity enough to support the Soviet Union’s new industrial cities, however there were several flaws with this. Such a scheme demanded a level of mechanization far beyond the capacity of the Soviet Union. Stalin additionally failed or refused to recognise that people work harder if they feel they are working for themselves instead of the state. Since many peasants had gained possession of their own land before and during the Revolution, collectivization met with strong resistance from these landholders, known as Kulaks. Stalin saw the kulaks as traitors to the Revolution and launched an all-out campaign against them. Police and soldiers surrounded villages and hauled the peasants off to collectives, labour camps, or mass executions. Collectivisation was also a disaster for Soviet agriculture and its people. Peasants burned their own grain and butchered their livestock to keep them out of government hands. That and the disruption caused by Stalin’s harsh policies led to widespread famine that killed millions more. Any gains Soviet agriculture may have made were probably in spite of Stalin, not because of him. Stalin's adoption in 1929 of forced collectivization of agriculture marked a grim struggle between the regime and the peasantry.
Stalin’s reign was a reign of terror. In 1936 his paranoia overcame him and, in addition to the kulaks and inefficient factory managers, Stalin purged a wide range of people whom he saw as traitors or threats to his regime: government officials, military officers, old Bolsheviks and teachers. The bias and ----- trails of these people resulted in the accused being forced to read contrived confessions of their alleged crimes against the state before being sent to Stalin’s labour camps, providing much of the slave labour needed for Stalin’s industrial projects. These purges did great harm to Russia. Besides stifling initiative and poisoning society with an element of fear, they also eliminated most of the Red Army’s top officers, replacing them with men who inexperienced and subservient to Stalin, this would come back to bite them in World War 2. Those replacing the bureaucrats and engineers eliminated by Stalin’s purges were young, working class men, boasting an education enabled and influenced by Stalin. Joseph Stalin had transformed radical, somewhat-independent minded Bolsheviks agitating for more revolutionary reform, into an elite corps of educated engineers and bureaurerats loyal to him and concerned with industrialisation. Instead of uniforms and eccentric cultural ideas, they wore suits and attended classical concerts and ballets. They were the products of the revolution, but they were hardly revolutionary themselves, being prone to conserving the gains made by their party rather than pushing toward new frontiers. Stalin maintained control throughout this period due to the partys
The horror of Stalin's purges of the 1930s lies in more than the killings and incarcerations, the individual and familial suffering, and the decimation of an entire stratum of talented and energetic leaders in politics, the economy, the army and every walk of intellectual life. The repression also spawned a chilling atmosphere of suspicion and fear that permeated a generation of Russians and non-russians alike. Regardless of the cost, the 1930’s saw the Soviet Union emerge as a major power, which seemed all the more remarkable since the rest of the world was mired in the Great Depression. This provided great publicity for Communism when resurgent Russia was compared to the ailing capitalist world. Communist membership grew in the western democracies, while a number of poorer countries adopted their own five-year plans in imitation of Stalin’s “socialist miracle”. All of these underscored the fact that the 1930’s were a time of great economic hardship, which led to rising political tensions and eventually World War II.