Lecture 17 – Stalinism
In a previous lecture we left off with Civil War and the NEP Wars under Lenin
• After all the violence, famine and starvation of the Civil War, Lenin felt like it was
necessary to normalize the state and society.
• This included downplaying war communism, the requisitioning of grain, price controls
• Instead they felt like they had to focus on winning the peasantry and making Bolsheviks
instead of imposing hardship on them.
The Civil War had left a lot of trauma with famine and starvation, and epidemics of disease. 20
million died, industry, agriculture, and currency collapsed, unemployment sky rocketed.
The three questions of the NEP were
1. How to win the peasantry
2. How to regain productivity
3. How to continue the revolution when no one knew what Bolshevism was.
May 1922 Lenin has a stroke and his health begins to decline. This left the problem of
succession (Marx had never figured that out). How would they continue to build up socialism
and industrialize an agrarian state?
Stalin was the party secretary – he had come from a working class family and when he came to
power he promptly threw out any Lenin supporters (including Trotsky) and brought in a new
crop of politicians loyal to him. They seized power and cemented a one party dictatorship led by
 Why did the Bolshevik utopia of 1917 result in a Stalinist dictatorship?
Broad definition of Stalinism:
• Ideology of extreme coercion for the transformation of society and economy
• Included a state planned economy over the production and distribution of goods
• Rapid heavy industrialization at the expense of light industry and exports like agriculture
• Class warfare
− Eliminate anti-Bolsheviks, and middle class
− Liquidate kulaks
• Violence within the party
• Cult of personality
− Stalin became a demi-god beyond humanity
− Embodied the will of the nation
• Unlimited dictatorship
• Police and terror state (contrary to Marxism) • The state is everything (contrary to Marxism)
What brought this Stalinism about?
The NEP years were moderate
• In the late NEP years the party believed that the revolution had left too much of the old
• Many believed it was too moderate
• 1927 moderate NEP wasn’t working – output was low and unemployment high, there wer
• Limited success in making peasants into Bolsheviks, which was very disappointing
• Russia had 25 million family farms all producing for themselves – the state was not
getting revenue to feed into industry
• They needed peasant revenue, but without their resentment, so they had to try continuing
to convert them.
• Idea that if the government allowed them to prosper, they would become loyal to the
Stalin rejected these moderate ideas and decided for a course of action that would produce rapid
industrialization on the backs of peasants.
• Build up capital by paying lower prices for grain. This forces peasants to give high
amounts of grain for low prices and them re-sell them on the market for extremely high
prices. This way the state profits 500% and diverts it to heavy industry.
• This practice of “wartime communism” was carried out in peacetime to squeeze grain out
of the peasantry.
• The requisitioning of grain re-created war time conditions in peacetime by imposing
violent controls on peasants.
How to do it?
• Eliminate political rivals by denouncing them as spies and traitors
• Play up the fear of capitalism and create a capitalist conspiracy of capitalist encirclement
• Blame the bourgeoisie, class enemies and external forces for economic problems
• Promise that hardships will be temporary and that socialism will be achieved.
 Why were Stalin’s Five-Year Plans so destructive? • Rapid industrialization on the backs of peasants
• Forced collectivization of farms
• War against backwardness and class enemies/conspirators
• Obsession with “Soviet America” – the idea of hugeness, and building more by whatever
• Practiced protectionism and closed themselves off from the world market
• Iron and Steel were prioritized
− Machine tool industries
• Consumer goods were always sacrificed
• The state controlled the urban economy by trial and error
• Obsession with over-fulfilling production targets because t