He felt he could kill two birds with one stone: agriculture was to be updated on a collective and more politically acceptable basis bringing the still largely peasant population under party control. Stalin saw the issue in stark terms. He could either proceed with an enhanced form of the NEAP, by encouraging large scale capitalist farming and increase the power of the Kulaks, disturbing the introduction of socialism to the countryside or choose a policy that forced the peasants into state-owned collective farms. At the same time he pressed forward with a programmer of paid industrialization.
The concept of collectivists was plausible, large mechanized farms should produce more food in comparison to small farms with primitive tools. However, during that period the Soviet Union could not be classed as an industrialized nation. They had few tractors and other types of farm machinery available. Stalin would have to introduce farm managers that could cope with these larger farms. Peasant farmers worked independently, now they were forced to work collectively and did not want to give up their own land, resistance was inevitable as peasants had to pool their chicanery and livestock on large farms.
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Peasants were forced to hand over their produce to the government and were either paid wages or had to feed themselves on what was left over, the peasants showed this anger by destroying crops, equipment and farm buildings, and slaughtering, eating their livestock. The peasants were subjected to a new form of serfdom, giving a certain number of days to the collective farm in return for minimum quantities of food. By March 1930 55% of the land had been collectivists. In 1932-33 Stalin used force against peasant resistance and this led to man- made famine.
One of the worst areas to suffer was the Ukraine, which was considered the breadbasket of the Soviet Union. To break their resistance every bit of grain was taken from the peasants and the grain was exported abroad. Five million people starved to death in the country between 1932-34. Collectivists did not increase agricultural output but reduced it considerably by 15%. The losses in livestock were not made up until the 1950 s, though the war did have its effect. The few agricultural machines that were available were shared from 1932 through the use of ‘Motor Tractor Stations’.
This meant that several collective farms had to compete with the local MATS which led to bribery to ensure the best machines leaving others short. In Stalin’s attempt to modernism industry each business or factory was given a target to meet every year for a five-year period. The industrial expansion and production targets were totally unrealistic, 130% over five years I. E. 26% per year. To make matters worse the plan was cut to four years. Industrialization was achieved by exploiting the workers and peasants. Strict labor discipline was imposed, always with constantly rising production argues.
Industrial accidents were frequent because safety standards came second to meeting targets. Managers drove the workers relentlessly because they faced prison, deportation or even death for failing to achieve their targets. Workers were not allowed to change their jobs and absenteeism was seen as a crime. Many factories faked production figures or disregarded the quality of goods produced to achieve the quota. It was estimated that half of all tractors made in the sass’s broke down. It has been stated that in the first Five Year Plans’ that ran from 1928 to 1941 increased production y around 400% but this claim can be considered very suspect.
Despite this there were notable achievements in the first two Fps of 1929-39. Some construction work was achieved in record time. Huge hydroelectric dams were built as well as canals, factories and mines. In the first plan that was supposed to run from 1928-33 coal production and iron output doubled. There were some significant achievements; new industrialized cities of Imaginations and Smokeless were constructed. Vast projects like the Belabor Canal and Drippier Dam were completed with amazing speed. The number of Russians employed in industry doubled ring the plan.
However, alongside the ordinary worker prisoners were used to build a significant number of these projects. Conditions that they faced while working meant that millions died of cold and malnutrition in the camps. However, by the mid 1 ass’s there were definite signs of improved standards in education and welfare. There were however, great strides in some of the industries even if we accept that figures were almost always inflated. There is strong evidence that the following figures for 1 919 are valid; coal production rose from about 40 million tons to about 132 million tons. Steel production rose from 4. Lion tons to 18 million tons. Oil production rose from 13. 8 million tons to 32. 2 million tons. Though targets were rarely met there were significant achievements. In less than a decade the Soviet Union had industrialized to a part where she could participate in a war with Germany. However, the human cost of this process was terrible. By 1940 the country would be ranked with industrial powers like Britain, Germany and America. The plan, which was financed by exploiting resources in the countryside, resulted in the near collapse of Soviet agriculture and the deaths of millions of peasants from famine.
Industrialization was achieved, but at great cost, both in material and human terms. There was also still inefficiency present when compared to the Western powers. It was only in 1 987, under Geographer, that the Soviet press began to release the statistics concerning the famine and the misery that these plans caused and admitted that Stalin’s collectivists was a costly mistake. Overall, did the lives of Russian people improve under Stalin during the years 1928-1 941? Despite problems with food production and shortages that did occur with regard to some industrial goods living standards generally rose in the 1 ass’s.
Obvious beneficiaries were party officials and managerial elite. There were also officially sanctioned scientists, artists and writers who lived very well and their bonuses included large apartments, special shops and access to goods that were not available to the majority. Skilled factory workers fell into this category, as they were needed to guide and teach those below them. However, all were at risk of dismissal if they displeased a powerful colleague or failed to carry out Stalin’s plans. Leisure for the average Russian person was based around sport or healthy activity.
Every Russian was also entitled to have a holiday each year, something unheard of for the peasant classes in the reign of the Tsar. Clubs, sports facilities etc were provided by the state. The medium of the cinema and radio were strictly used to educate the workers through because of the state’s control. Housing remained a great problem in Stalin’s Soviet Union. In Moscow only 6% of households had more than one room. New apartments were usually built quickly and were basic by western standards. Workers would often live in barracks without their families.
Housing became particularly rare when errors came to the cities for factory work and living conditions became cramp in comparison to working in the countryside on farms. Between 1 933 and 1937 wages doubled but these increases were undermined by inflation and so workers were no better off. There were also the obvious problems of food shortages. There was also the attraction of medals and privileges when workers produced more than the daily average. The most famous example was Alexei Saskatoon. By hard work and good use of machinery and unskilled labor he produced 102 tons of coal, 14 times more than the average.
The downside of this was that a ‘Ostentation Movement’ was set up to lecture workers on ideals and methods to increase work averages. These people became deeply unpopular with the workers. There was one group in Russian society whose lives certainly did not improve under Stalin; these were the ruler farmers or ‘Kulaks’. With his plans for collectivists he knew that they would fight his aims. In 1929 he announced that he would destroy the Kulaks as a social class. In the next few years they were either killed or sent to labor camps. The few that survived were sent to poorer farming areas.
At least half a million died in the first phase of collectivists. With regard to the education system in the Soviet government in the 1 ass’s experimental methods of education were abandoned in the favor of reorganized discipline and school uniforms and medals were introduced. In a drive to end illiteracy compulsory education ensured that the workforce could be more skilled. In 1934 the length of school education was increased and generally 10 years of schooling was needed for higher studies. Industrial advancement required better technical skills and this led to the establishment f higher technical institutes.
With regard to those with a Christian faith they found opportunities to follow their religion quite difficult. There was a marked attack on the Orthodox Church in the period 1929-33 and a campaign was launched to spread atheism. For a period Sunday was abolished as a day of rest. Stalin forbade the Churches to engage in any other activity except worship. Church leaders were arrested and churches physically shut down, destroyed or used for other purposes. Monasteries and convents suffered the same fate. The Kane Cathedral in Leningrad was turned into a museum for atheism.
Stalin could not allow a challenge to his position and anybody who worshipped God was a challenge to his ‘personality cult’. Under Lenin women had enjoyed a mere liberal status in comparison to Tsarist Russia. Divorce was made easier and abortions were possible. However, Stalin brought in laws, which made public morality strict. Traditional family values were upheld and divorce was made difficult to obtain. Both homosexuality and abortions were banned. The idea of commitment to marriage was employed and women maintained the status in the workplace given under Lenin, they were needed as part of the workforce or Stalin’s ‘five year plans’.
For those with a talent in literature, art, theatre and music their output was geared towards the adherence and advancement of the parry ideology. The concept of ‘art for art’s sake’ had little value in Stalin’s era. In 1934 the concept of ‘Socialist Realism’ appeared where the aim was for artists to paint and sculpt “heroic workers” at their job. Writers also had to idealizes work in factories and on the land. For those who produced this work there was always the threat, especially during the purges, that the increasingly paranoid behavior of Stalin saw anyone with a talent as a threat.
The military did enjoy a period of expansion during that period and the ordinary soldier enjoyed prestige as the industrial expansion contributed to rearmament. Others might face starvation and unemployment but for Stalin, who saw enemies everywhere, a strong army was needed. However, for those ‘higher up’ in the army the ‘Great terror that Stalin launched had its victims in the army. Stalin had feared the mounting criticism by officers of the forced collectivists as their families and soldier relatives suffered. He also viewed popular army leaders as a serious threat to himself. In all four out of five
Soviet marshals, around 90% of generals, 80% of the colonels and 80% of officers above the rank of captain where shot or put in labor camps. If you did not offend the state the lives of Russian people improved under Stalin. Stalin brought order, stability and industrial modernization displayed to the western world through military parades. The population had access to better medical care and marriage was encouraged and rewarded financially. Women were prized as they became part of the workforce their status often equal to men at a time when the majority of women in the western world minded at home.
However, millions died from famine and Stalin had created a society suspicious of neighbors and fellow workers who were encouraged by secret police to inform on anyone. Also Stalin’s purges ensured that life for the talented or those with rebellious thoughts was precarious, due to his paranoia Stalin killed or imprisoned those who threatened his power. If you worked hard, kept quiet and did not question Stalin’s forced policies your life did improve, but you lived a life in which political views were not allowed and educated criticism met with suspicious disappearance or death!