Stalin’s economic policies can be seen as a significant success, because they achieved their overall goals of modernising and improving Russia as quickly as possible, in order to catch up and compete with the other European powers and America.
The first of the Economic policies are the Five Year Plans. Stalin’s main ideas were to electrify Russia and increase mining of natural resources and developing steel industry. The tasks were split up into three plans, each lasting five years.The first Five Year Plan centred on laying the foundations in Russia to enable it to cope with the rapid industrialisation – the focus was developing and expanding the heavy industries such as building huge new steel mills and hydroelectric dams to cover new industrial cities’ power requirements. The second Five Year Plan saw heavy industry still being a priority, but the focal point shifting to other areas as well, such as mining for coal, lead, tin and zinc.Also, transport and communications were boosted as new railways and canals were built – the most famous example of this being the Moscow Underground, as well as agriculture being made more efficient by a dramatic increase of tractors and farm machinery.
The third Five Year Plan was meant to switch factories to the production of consumer goods, but it was cut short by the outbreak of World War Two as factories had to produce military equipment.The other economic policy is Collectivisation. This worked on developing agriculture to support Russia’s modernisation, but with more focus on changing the culture to be more communist. Before collectivisation farmland was divided up into tiny plots of land for each individual peasant where they could grow food for themselves and sell the surplus on for profit. Collectivisation aimed to banish these capitalist ways of life to be replaced by more Communist ways of farming.The individual plots of land were combined into one Kolkhoz, a collective farm that all peasants worked on together.
Modern machinery like tractors were given to each Kolkhoz to replace the backward ways of farming, which improved efficiency when growing food, as well as when the quota from each farm was being collected by the government – it was much easier to collect one quota from a big farm than tiny amounts from each individual peasant.At the same time, Stalin introduced dekulakisation, a communist movement to equalise all peasants – this meant that Kulaks (rich peasants) were sought out and forced to hand over their belongings. They were often shot, or sent to labour camps. Based on the figures and evidence available today, the Five Year Plans seem to be highly successful in terms of economic progress.This was probably because Stalin used ‘top down planning’ in Russia, which enabled him to exercise strict control on everyone, down to the individual worker, because everyone had someone to answer to. This level of control helped the Five Year Plans to be carried out effectively.
He set targets, which were passed down through the ‘hierarchy’ of management so they could be carried out by everyone. The targets seemed unrealistic but in most cases they were close to achieving them – Stalin needed to aim high if he was to modernise Russia in such a short space of time.The industries targeted by the Five Year Plans all increased their output dramatically, for instance coal production nearly doubled between 1927 and 1932, increasing from 35 to 64 million tons and nearly doubled again between 1932 and 1937, from 64 to 128 million tons, and although the steel industry seemed to take time to get going – it only increased output from 4 to 6 million tons between 1927 and 1932, when the target was for 10 million tons, they actually exceeded their target of 17 million tons by 1 million in 1937.This figure is also an example of how Russia learned from the first Five Year Plan and improved in the second – targets were generally closer to being met in the second Five Year Plan than the first.
Russia’s economic success is also quite impressive considering the economic situations the rest of the world was in – Russia managed to sail through the Great Depression and it’s implications almost unscathed.This is shown well in different country’s percent share of world manufacturing output – between 1929 and 1938 Russia’s manufacturing output rose from around 5 percent to about 17 percent, while in the same timescale the USA’s percent share fell from 43 percent to 28 percent. It is true that hardly any of the targets set at the beginning of the Five Year Plans were achieved, but this was because Stalin stopped each Five Year Plan a year early, announcing their targets had been met, when they actually hadn’t.If the Five Year Plans were allowed to run their full course, most targets would have been achieved. However, the main aim of the Five Year Plans was that targets had to be met – at any cost.
The system Stalin had put in place allowed harsh punishments for not meeting a target – usually the person found guilty of hindering progress would be shot. This meant there were some aspects of the Five Year Plans that could be seen as not so successful.For instance, industrialisation had to happen so fast that factories didn’t have time to properly train workers, who were often peasants only used to the most basic machinery, which led to workers unwittingly wrecking machinery, and some goods the factories produced being almost unusable because they had been made so quickly by untrained workers. But mistakes had to be covered up lest they were found guilty of trying to sabotage Russia’s progress, so output figures were inflated so that industries could not be accused of failing to fulfil their targets.Because lies were told to make it seem like more was being done than had actually been achieved, it is harder to judge the economic success of the Five Year Plans, because it is hard to tell the reliability of the data available today.
Collectivisation was not so successful in terms of increasing production and boosting Russia’s economy, certainly the economic results were not as impressive as those achieved by the Five Year Plans.For instance as a result of collectivisation grain production increased from 36 million tons in 1921 to 95 million tons in 1940, but this was only just over pre-Revolution figures for grain – 86 million tons in 1913, so there wasn’t much of an improvement. And though collectivisation was meant to boost food levels in order to combat food shortages, in actual fact it did the opposite, and widespread famines swept the countryside – seven million peasants starved in a famine between 1932 and 1933.As well as this, although the number of pigs increased from 20 million in 1928 to 29 million in 1940, most other animal numbers decreased dramatically. For instance between 1928 and 1934 the cattle population declined from 66.
8 million to 35. 5 million. The reason the country’s economy and people suffered so much was a result of dekulakisation, a main part of collectivisation.Stalin attempted to ‘equalise’ the peasant population by getting rid of the rich peasants, but what he unwittingly did was clear the countryside of the most efficient and hardworking peasants, leaving the severely depleted numbers of peasants to do the same amount of work as the entire population had done previously. The reason the livestock populations dropped so significantly was because to create the Kolkhoz’s, kulaks had to hand over their belongings, including their animals. They were so against this they decided they would rather kill and eat their animals than have them go towards the good of the country.
Politically, the Five Year Plans were not so successful, because their main focus was to industrialise Russia, with less emphasis on upholding Communist ideas. There were a few aspects of the Five Year Plans that maybe helped Russia to become more ‘Communist’, for instance, GOSPLAN’s top-down planning system meant that everyone knew their job and their place in society, which is important in a communist country. However, Stalin’s fanatical mindset on Communism may have hindered economic growth at times as he tried to promote it.He made the decision to finish each Five Year Plan a year early, announcing that they had prematurely met all their targets and could move onto the next one. He did this because he wanted to prove to the people of Russia and other countries that Communism was better than Capitalism and could achieve beyond anyone’s expectations, as they were ahead of schedule. In reality, because of this almost none of their targets were reached.
Collectivisation could be considered as a considerable political success, because it achieved its aims of introducing communist ideas into Russian agriculture.Collectivisation was much more communist orientated than the Five Year Plans – the ways Russia was being improved brought it closer to a communist society. The idea of introducing mandatory Kolkhoz’s, or collective farms, was very communist because it meant peasants all worked together for the good of the country, without making a profit for themselves. An important part of collectivisation was dekulakisation, which aimed to ‘equalise’ Russian peasants by eliminating the Kulaks, or rich peasants, usually ones who owned animals or farm machinery.It also destroyed communist opposition – the only people who were against collectivisation were the people who stood to lose from it i.
e. the richest. Dekulakisation meant that their possessions were forcibly seized, and they were shot or taken to labour camps. However this system backfired and meant that once again the political aims Stalin set hindered the economic progress of the country, because the kulaks were the most successful, efficient and hard-working peasants, and Stalin eliminated them all, leaving only the incapable, slow peasants to do all the work.
Although in modern times historians take human cost as an important factor when measuring success, it was obvious Stalin didn’t rate the number of lives lost in order to make Russia great as important. However with retrospect, when studying these events it is important to take into account the poor quality of lives and deaths of millions of people that happened in order to modernise and industrialise Russia. In terms of benefiting the people of Russia in the short term, the Five Year Plans were not very successful at all.Awful living and working conditions meant that millions died to complete the Five Year Plans.
Workers were intimidated into working harder, and were frightened to admit mistakes because they would almost certainly be shot for attempting to ‘sabotage’ Russia’s progress. Conditions for work were especially bad on major projects such as the Moscow Underground – people worked on it even through the bitter Russia winters, resulting in many freezing to death. For instance it is estimated that around 100,000 people died during the construction of the Belomor Canal.Collectivisation, and particularly dekulakisation, was not successful at all in terms of benefiting the people in Russia in the short term. It was not a success in terms of gaining popularity with them – peasants (especially kulaks) were fiercely against it, because they stood to lose everything they had worked for.
They would rather destroy their machinery and kill and eat their animals than hand them over to the authorities. In total, it is estimated that 6. 5 million peasants were killed as a result of dekulakisation, where they were either shot, sent to labour camps or deported, many of them starving to death on the long journeys.In some small respects, dekulakisation could be seen to win some support from peasants, because it enabled them to ‘settle old scores’ with neighbours – they would just accuse the other of being a kulak and they would be taken by the officials and shot or taken to labour camps. But in the longer term, dekulakisation began to destroy the fabric of society, because it brutalised the people who were left. For example, peasants were encouraged to denounce others as kulaks, and children were encouraged to inform on anybody, even their own parents.
People got used to people killing and dying all around them, and had no trust in their neighbours, which was not what dekulakisation was intended to do. In conclusion, Stalin’s economic policies can be seen as significantly successful from his point of view, because he achieved his economic and political goals of industrialising and modernising Russia so it can compete with other industrial powers such as Britain, France and America, and introducing Communist ideas and ways of life in the process.In the long term the Five Year Plans and Collectivisation were substantially successful, because they laid the foundations for a great country, and in the medium term they were considerably successful because they enabled Russia to not be defeated by Germany in World War Two – if they had stretched them out longer than fifteen years, Russia wouldn’t have been able to cope with a war and would probably have been defeated.However in the short term Stalin’s economic policies were not so successful for the people of Russia, because they inflicted huge misery, loss of life and terrible working and living conditions on them. Collectivisation in particular solved a few problems with efficiency, but eventually the benefits were cancelled out by the huge problems of famine, fear and a general breakdown of society brought about by dekulakisation.