Was Stalin a Progressive or a Conservative?
Although Stalin was a progressive in the economic aspect that he implemented the First and Second Five-Year Plans, which developed industry in Russia, as well as in the social aspect that he put forth a new education system, Stalin more so portrayed elements of conservatism. Stalin’s social, economic, and political policies and actions that conserved parts of Lenin’s regime including the NKVD secret police that executed and exiled opposition to Stalin, slave labor in Gulag camps, the Great Purge which removed many members of the Communist Party and Red Army, and the continuation of Lenin’s New Economic Policy were more important than his progressive changes because they influenced his government the most. Stalin’s most significant progressive policy was the series of Five-Year Plans implemented especially the First and Second Five-Year Plans, which sent Russia in the path of industrial development. The First Five-Year Plan was put into action in 1929 and it emphasized heavy industries such as coal, iron, steel, and electricity. Farming methods were also changed from kulak-run farms to collectivization, which grouped 50-100 individual farms into a system of kolkhoz, larger state-owned farms. Collectivization was very successful and it made farming more efficient, since tractors and combined harvesters began to be utilized. By 1932, two thirds of Russian farmland was collectivized and its new efficiency didn’t require as many workers on the field. These additional peasants were sent into industry to work in many of the new factories built solely from Russia’s agricultural output. The Second Five-Year Plan was created in 1932 and it established very similar goals to the first, in addition to goals of advancing transportation and communication. The number of railways, roads, and canals in Russia boomed in the next five years and these linked mines with factories, factories with central cities, and the countryside with cities. The successes of these plans are exemplified with the fivefold growth of coal and electricity production from 1928 to 1940. Ultimately, the Five-Year Plans gave way for the Soviet Union to become the second most powerful industrial nation in the world by the end of the 1930s. Although the economy drastically improved, peasants and factory workers suffered from many of the consequences. Another progressive action that Lenin created was his system of education, which provided literacy to the majority of Russia’s youth. Education was necessary to the future growth and success of Soviet Russia. Stalin believed that it would be much easier to influence children about Communism in schools since they determined the future of the USSR. Most of Stalin’s schools were created to prepare the children for their future careers as factory workers, and he did this by enforcing harsh discipline, as well as focusing on courses that would provide students with skills they would use in the factories. Ultimately, the goal of the education system was to create a loyal Soviet citizen who was proud of their nation’s history and Stalin’s new policies and government. This new education system was able to transform a nation that was mostly illiterate into a country with 86 percent literacy in rural areas. Foreign policy under Stalin was also very progressive, in a way that shows that he took measures to protect the U.S.S.R. from possible invading countries. He assured of this protection by assisting the Spanish Republicans in the Spanish Civil War by sending large quantities of tanks and aircraft and about 850 Soviets. Stalin believed that the only way he could achieve temporary peace with Germany, a country he thought was bound to invade, would be to create a treaty. The Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed on August 28th, 1939, and under its terms, both Germany and Russia promised to remain neutral if either country became involved in a war. This allowed Stalin to invade...
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