Vladimir Lenin was a Russian revolutionary leader and theorist, who ruled the first government of Soviet Russia and then the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (Encarta, 2004). Lenin was the leader of the radical socialist Bolshevik Party (later renamed the Communist Party), which seized power in the October phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917. After the revolution, Lenin created and led the new Soviet government that formed in Russia. He became the leader of the U.S.S.R. when it was created in 1922. He ruled with terror, and his actions included establishing the secret police to root out opponents of the Bolsheviks. Lenin held the highest post in the Soviet government until his death in 1924, when Joseph Stalin gained power.
Stalin was the despotic ruler who molded the features that characterized the Soviet regime and shaped the direction of Europe after World War II ended in 1945 (Encarta, 2004). Stalin's leadership resulted in the massive killing of Russians through the aid of the secret police and slave labor camps known as gulags.
One of Lenin's biggest projects was designed to improve Russia;s economy (Keep, 1976). His original idea of War Communism, e harsh economic policy adopted during the Russian Civil War, was scrapped in 1921 and the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced. The NEP had four key features (Keep, 1976):
1. The Cheka, the Soviet Secret Police, no longer took the people's grain. The peasant farmers gave the government a set amount of grain each year in tax but they could sell their excess in the open market and keep the profits.
2. Traders could buy and sell -- an illegal action under War Communism.
3. Small factories, producing non-necessities, were returned to their original owners, who were allowed to sell goods and make a profit.
4. Larger factories producing necessities remained under the control of the government.
The NEP was not very successful (Keep, 1976). After the Civil War, unemployment was high, crime was high, and while some peasants were rich, more were poor. By 1926, Russia had higher production levels but there were many challenges to the economy. This is where Stalin stepped in.
Stalin believed that rapid industrialization and collectivization of agriculture would transform Russia into a rich and strong socialist state (Chung, 2004). He conducted a survey of the country's economic resources. Targets were developed for each of the industries and each of the collective farms. The industries and the farms were forced to increase their rates of production according to these targets.
The First Five-Year Plan ran from 1928 to 1932 with a heavy focus on the development of heavy industries (Chung, 2004). The aims of the First Five-Year Plan were achieved in four years. The Second (1933-1937) and the Third (1939-1943) Five-Year Plans focused primarily on the development of the light industries with the production of more consumer goods. As the Plans were carried out, war threat grew. As a result, more attention was shifted to heavy industries again, while light industry was neglected.
As a result of the Five-Year Plans, by the late 1930's, Russia was a major industrial power, falling behind only the United States and Germany (Chung, 2004). However, the Russians paid a high price for their success in rapid industrialization. During Stalin's rule, they were paid very little and suffered from the lack of consumer goods and basic necessities.
Collectivization of agriculture was another key aspect of Stalin's revolution (Chung, 2004). Collectivization meant that private farms were eliminated and large farms replaced them. Many families operated these large farms under the control of government officials. The crops and production were decided by the needs of the district and the state. Machines were used whenever possible to raise productivity of the land.
Collectivization was started mainly because Stalin wanted to increase the agricultural production of the country (Chung, 2004). He believed that when the small farms were grouped together, big farms could be easily created and machines would increase productivity. As a result of the New Economic Policy, rich peasants (kulaks) increased in the countryside. The kulaks would not transport their grains for sale in the cities when the prices were low. As a result, the workers had to pay a lot for their food. If the kulaks were forced to become members of collectives, they were forced to grow and deliver their crops at prices fixed by the government. If the cost of food was low, the wages of the workers could be reduced, and the industrialization of Russia would improve.
Stalin forced the peasants to merge their holdings into collective farms, and confiscated their land and possessions (Chung, 2004). The kulaks resisted strongly and the government used brutality to enforce their policies. They drove the peasants from their homes, murdered them if they resisted and sometimes starved them to death to break their resistance.
Within a short period of two decades, Russia was transformed into a "modern" nation (Chung, 2004). Politically, the state was ruled by the Communist Party, which was led by Stalin. According to Chung (2004): "Economically, a semi-feudal agricultural country had been modernized and industrialized. The Soviet Union ranked third in the industrial production of the world. Socially, the old social classes -- the nobles and the landlords -- were gone. There was far more equality of opportunity than in the Czarist days. Every Russian had a chance to receive education. But a classless society did not occur. Instead a totalitarian society with the Communist Party controlling every aspect of life of its citizens did spring into being. Under the party, everyone is supposed to be equal. Militarily, Russian military force could withhold the German attack during the Second World War, though with heavy losses."
The roots of Stalinism are based on a fundamental idea, which has two key principles (Dickinson College, 2002):
1. Communism is the best system for mankind, and
2. By implementing it in Russia, a word revolution will occur.
This idea of a world revolution is the fundamental idea of Stalinism (Dickinson College, 2002). He saw the U.S.S.R. As a nation surrounded by enemies, which leaders would one day be forced to fight. To make this advantageous, he believed it was necessary to surround Russia with friendly, socialist countries. When surrounded by allies, Russian citizens would live in peace and prosperity.
Stalin's personal economic beliefs had an enormous influence on his political beliefs (Dickinson College, 2002). Stalin was critical of capitalist systems, as he believed that they are based on three contradictions: between labor and capital, imperialist states, and between imperialism and colonial states. According to Stalin, these contradictions will prevent capitalism from being successful, as they are likely to cause conflict among the countries and eventually cause revolution.
Stalin believed that revolution was an excellent way to gain power (Dickinson College, 2002). He believed that capitalist countries and communist countries would eventually come into conflict, and that Russia needed to be fully prepared for this day. As he forecasted, World War II occurred and revolutions occurred in Eastern Europe, China and Korea. He believed that Russia' size would make it a strong contender in the battles of the nations. Therefore, he aimed to maximize the resources of the nation through collectivization, the forceful joining of peasant resources for the benefit of the state.
Many of Stalin's ideas had a foundation in Leninism, which was Stalin's primary influence (Dickinson College, 2002). Leninism basically planted the seed that grew into Stalinism. Many say that understanding Leninism is key to understanding the principles of Stalinism. However, it is also important to understand their differences.
Lenin was more of a slow revolutionary; he believed that a revolution would occur when society was ready for it (Dickinson College, 2002). Stalin was not as patient. He called for an immediate revolution. Lenin took a flexible stance when it came to intellectuals. Stalin rejected non-Soviet educated thinkers. Lenin wanted to work with the peasants. Stalin decided to force collectivization on them.
Still, despite their ideological differences, Stalin remained strongly connected to Lenin's legacy (Dickinson College, 2002). He based many of his methods on Lenin, and frequently said that Lenin was his inspiration. However, while he adopted many of Lenin's policies, eventually he deviated from true Leninism.
Both Lenin and Stalin based their power on the justification that revolution would improve society (Dickinson College, 2002). Both leaders believed that war with capitalist countries was inevitable and both aimed to confuse and divide enemies. They believed the one-party system was optimal and both shared a ruling style based on ruthlessness and disciplinarianism. Building on the foundation of Leninism, Stalin created his own ruling style, Stalinism, which was influenced by two key movements -- the desire to separate from rural Russia, and his personal ruling style.
Stalin believed that Russia's system presented many challenges to the nation because its economic and political systems were outdated and ineffective (Dickinson College, 2002). He opposed the tsarist system, viewing Russia's history of polarized classes as…