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Joseph Stalin, the leader of Russia (1928-1953), created a series of plans based on his policy of Socialism in One Country, designed to improve the economy of the Soviet Union through increased agricultural and industrial production at the expenses of consumer goods. The five-year plan was created by the state planning committee. These plans were made so that the Soviet Union was equal with other Western Nations. The five-year plan aimed to change the economic, political and social structures of the Soviet Union. There is a lot of speculation on whether Stalin’s five-year plan was successful. Ultimately the success of the five-year plan is based on what success is interpreted as. Whether it is having increased industrial production or having many people becoming homeless and dying in order to complete the five-year plan and reduce overcrowding numbers. Success is subjective therefore is it hard to establish whether the five-year plan was effective. Stalin’s adaptation of Marxism enabled him to gain power over the Communist Party and implement the five-year plan. There were many reasons within the Soviet Union for the implementation of the five-year plan that allowed USSR to become a better nation during the first plan. During the second and third war, the Soviet Union seemed to thrive due to the industrialization of the nation, therefore, these plans could be considered successful.
During Stalin’s reign as the leader of the Soviet Union, he had adopted the idea of Marxism to enable him to spread his propaganda and utilize it to gain more over the Soviet people. Marxism is the conflict theory that states, society is in conflict with each other and it claims that this conflict is between the rich and the poor. Stalin’s idea of reducing the size of the Communist Party was to diminish their influence and allow him to implement his five-year plan without challenge or conflict. He used his propaganda to indoctrinate the Soviet people and brainwash them into his communist ideology. This tipped the political scales into his favor, enabling him to do as he pleases without much resistance from those who may oppose him or try to remove him from office. Those who continued to oppose Stalin or were seen as a threat, met their fate without a trial and many officers that were high ranking were charged with high treason and sentenced to death. This permitted Stalin to further spread his ideology of Marxism throughout the Soviet Union. Stalin’s influence spread to the point where after the October revolution he had the history books rewritten in order to put himself in a positive and to receive credit for the success of the revolution. The fall of the opposing parties to the Communist party left the Soviet Union vulnerable to a leader who would abuse the power of being its leader and allowed Stalin use his supremacy to collapse all other political parties. His time as the leader of the Soviet Union granted Stalin to the papers and allowed him to run campaigns to launch his propaganda illustrating himself as Russia’s greatest leader. He also had his close confidants who ran the papers so he could not be criticized for his action whilst in power. The disempowerment of the opposition leaders permitted Stalin to go unchecked and tilted the scales of the political structure in his favor. This then allowed him to create a five-year plan with very little backlash from others in power. Stalin was attempting to change the structure of the political system to forcibly mimic the ideology of Marxism in order to keep his power for a long duration of time. Stalin was able to do this for nearly three decades because of this influence over the people and inability of external powers to overthrow him and remove him from power. Stalin was successful in changing the political structure of the Soviet Union during his time as leader, this is evident as no one stood against him in his rise to power as they were either sent to death or threatened and were too fearful to stand up against him. Ultimately Stalin used the idea of Marxism and adapted to suit his ideology in order to gain power and keep it for as long as possible. This allowed him to basically create and apply the five-year plan with little resistance from neither the people or other pollical parties. This shows the immense power and control he had power the Soviet Union and how he was able to change the political structure for his own benefit.
There were many reasons for the 5-year plan during Stalin’s reign. During the 1920s the agricultural production of the Soviet Union had dropped 20% of the amount during 1913. The industry production had also been affected as it had dropped 13% of the 1913 levels. The five-year plan was initially created by Vladimir Lenin to an attempt to resolve these economic problems, which Stalin upheld after Lenin’s death in 1924. The first plan was created in 1928 and put into action in 1929. The first plan was the most important as it laid down the foundations for the future of the Soviet Union. This part of the plan aimed to increase industrial production. Stalin facilitated this via the introduction of the system of collectivization which was a policy that forced peasants to give up their farms and join the large collective farms. This allowed for farming to become efficient and free the poorer peasants from labor in the fields and assign them to labor factories. Through this plan, Stalin’s efforts to bring more people into the industry was successful, thus allowing the number of workers of double, resulting in massive increases in the production of capital goods. This then enabled the USSR to become one of the world’s greatest industrial powers. Whilst the five-year plan seemed successful, there was a major setback in Stalin’s plan of collectivization due to a wide-spread resistance. The resistance occurred due to overcrowding. In order to combat the problem, Stalin forced many people to live in communal housing where many necessities were not present in their homes. Many people were left with no home, therefore, were forced onto the street which resulted in high crime rates and with the absence of food and exceedingly poor sanitation any of the homeless died. Stalin dealt with those who opposed him by killing or deporting them. This caused a famine which resulted in millions of more deaths. The famine’s purpose was to halt independence attempts. Stalin introduced the Gulag to the Soviet Union. The Gulag was used as a forced labor camp and used a penal system that Stalin utilized as an incentive to advance his collectivization and industrial plans during the first plan. The Gulag was ultimately used to threaten those who stood against him or got in his way. Millions of people were sent there to engage in ineffective labor in a harsh environment in exchange for little food rations. The conditions in Gulag were so poor that those that were kept there 10% died. During the first plan, class and societal standing became irrelevant as everyone was as equals and everyone had to work and contribute during the industrialization of the Soviet Union. Women also put to work, this could be seen as a positive as women had been suppressed and unable to work, this allowed them to gain working skills and gain a role in the industrial workplace. It is evident that there are many advantages to the first plan that benefited the economic structure of the Soviet Union however there are also many disadvantages that also affected the people that lived during the first plan and suffered the consequences for those who opposed the plan.
Despite the mixed results of the first plan, Stalin implemented the second plan in 1933. The second plan focussed on the steel production of the Soviet Union. In order to reduce the likelihood of another resistance, Stalin implemented incentives such as bonuses in order to keep morel high and the workers happy. During this time communism seemed to be winning over capitalism as they were experiencing the Great Depression. Stalin wanted to improve the heavy industry, he set high standards and expectations for the steel production however these expectations were not as harsh or as unrealistic as they were during the first plan. Whilst the Soviet Union was meeting the quotas that were set, the quality of the products was sub-standard. The expected that the leaders of the Soviet Union gained during the first plan, enabled them to increase the overall production of goods, therefore enabling more products to be sold thus the economy thrive. Despite the increase in industrialization, once again many people sentenced to death or to the Gulag via the creation of the NKVD in 1934, who acted as a law enforcement agency. During this time the NKVD conducted many purges against those who were deemed as enemies of the state. Millions of people had been against by the end of 1934 and sentenced to life in the Gulag or were forced into labor, building railways, mining or digging canals. Stalin also killed many of the Red Army officials as he believed that they were conspiring against him. This, therefore, left the Soviet Union in a vulnerable state due to the many deaths that were caused by Stalin. The second plan was successful in the way that more products were being produced and sold such as books, therefore, increasing education. During 1938 the third plan began, just before the greatest conflict the world had ever seen began. Throughout this time Stalin building more weapons and weapon factories in preparation as he began to suspect that Germany could become a threat. When World War II began, Stalin wasn’t not expecting to fight the war against Germany as they had signed a clause that they would not fight one another and would half the surrounding countries such as Poland and Finland. The rapid changes and increase in the Soviet Union’s industrialization allowed them to combat and survive the Nazi’s army. The third plan was successful as it enabled the Soviet Union to repel and persist against the ever-growing nation of Germany. Through the second and third plans, Stalin was able to increase the standard of living by increasing modern technologies and making energy sources more available to the people. However, the Soviet Union, post-World War II fell into shambles due to the millions of lives, building, farms, and livestock lost during the war. Despite the fact that both the second and third plan had any downfalls, it inevitably helped the Soviet Union prosper during the pitfall of World War II.
Whilst the five-year plan was highly criticized, the Soviet Union was able to achieve its goals and shifted the economy of the nation despite the cost. Stalin’s reign as leader of the Soviet Union enabled him to implement Marxism and overthrow many who opposed him, there were many reasons why this could be considered bad for the Soviet Union but also good, this also altered the political structure of the Soviet Union. The first plan of the five-year plan enabled the Union to become industrialized and boost their agricultural production thus increasing the economy however there were many downfalls of the first plan such as famine that had an impact of the Soviet people. The second and third plans enabled to the Soviet Union to prove their steel production and ultimately allowed them to survive the attack from the Nazi’s during World War II. Therefore it is evident that Stalin’s five-year plan can be interpreted as successful.
- South African history online, Stalinism and how Stalin used his power to change Marxism-Leninism, 2011 https://www.sahistory.org.za/article/stalinism-and-how-stalin-used-his-power-change-marxism-leninism
- General History, 2012, Dean Swift http://general-history.com/stalins-five-year-plans/
- The Soviet Five-Year Plan of Joseph Stalin, Sigma Documentaries, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQv8O6YXkK0
- Five-year Plans, The editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2019 https://www.britannica.com/topic/Five-Year-Plans
- Stalin – Hero or Villain?, The perspective, 2017 https://www.theperspective.com/debates/politics/stalin-hero-villain/
- Stalin’s five year plan, Spartacus educational, 2017 https://spartacus-educational.com/RUSfive.htm
- 1928: The First Five Year Plan Begins, History Hit, 2016 https://www.historyhit.com/first-five-year-plan-begins/
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