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Soviet Union and Stalin Era
Understanding of Stalin and Soviet Union
The Soviet economic system persisted for around 60 years and even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the basic elements of the system still existed. The leaders exercising the most substantial influence on this system were -- Vladimir I. Lenin and Stalin, who started the prevailing patterns of collectivization and industrialization that became typical characteristic of the Soviet Union's centrally planned system. However, by 1980, the inherent defects became apparent as the national economy suffered; shortly thereafter, reform programs began to alter the traditional structure. One of the chief reformers of the late 1980s, Boris Yeltsin, oversaw the substantial dissolution of the central planning system in the early 1990s.
After the Lenin's demise, two conflicting schools of thought emerged about the future of the Soviet Union in party debates. Left-wing communists believed that world revolution was essential for survival of socialism in the economically backward Soviet Union. Trotsky, who was one of the primary proponents of this position, called for Soviet support of a permanent world revolutionary society. According to the domestic policy, the left wing advocated the rapid development of the economy and the creation of a socialist society. The right wing of the party, in contrast to these militant communists, recognizing that world revolution was unlikely in the immediate future, supported the gradual development of the Soviet Union through continuation of pragmatic programs like the NEP. Yet even Bukharin, one of the major right-wing theoreticians, believed that socialism could not triumph in the Soviet Union without assistance from more economically advanced socialist countries. Against this backdrop of contrasting perceptions of the Soviet future, the leading figures of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik), the new name of the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) as of December 1925, competed for influence. The Kamenev-Zinov'yev-Stalin troika, although it supported the militant international program, successfully maneuvered against Trotsky and engineered his removal as commissar of war in 1925. In the meantime, Stalin gradually consolidated his power base and when he had sufficient strength, broke with Kamenev and Zinov'yev. Belatedly recognizing Stalin's political power, Kamenev and Zinov'yev made amends with Trotsky in order to join against their former partner. But Stalin countered their attacks on his position with his well-timed formulation of the theory of 'socialism in one country.' This doctrine, calling for construction of a socialist society in the Soviet Union regardless of the international situation, distanced Stalin from the left and won support from Bukharin and the party's right wing. With this support, Stalin ousted the leaders of the 'Left Opposition' from their positions in 1926 and 1927 and forced Trotsky into exile in 1928. As the NEP era ended, open debate within the party became increasingly limited as Stalin gradually eliminated his opponents.
Under Stalin, the government socialized agriculture and created a massive bureaucracy to administer policy. Stalin's campaign of forced collectivization, which began in 1929, removed the land, machinery, livestock and grain stores of the peasantry. By 1937, the government had organized approximately 99% of the Soviet countryside into state-run collective farms. Under this inefficient system, instead of increasing, the agricultural production decreased. The situation persisted into the 1980s, when Soviet farmers averaged about 10% of the output of their counterparts in the United States. During Stalin's regime, the government also assigned virtually all farmland to one of two basic agricultural production organizations, state farms and collective farms. In 1918, as the ideal model for socialist agriculture, the state farm was envisioned. It was to be a large, modern enterprise directed and financed by the government. The workforce of the state farm received wages and social benefits comparable to those enjoyed by industrial workers. On the contrary, the collective farm was a self-financed producer cooperative that farmed parcels of land that the state granted to it rent-free and that paid its members according to their contribution of work. In their early stages, the two types of organization also functioned differently in the distribution of agricultural goods. State farms delivered their entire output to state procurement agencies in response to state production quotas. Collective farms also received quotas but they were free to sell excess output in collective-farm markets, where prices were determined by supply and demand. The distinction between the two types of farms gradually narrowed and the government converted many collective farms to state farms, where the state had more control. Private plots also played a critical role in the Soviet agricultural system. The government allotted small plots to individual farming households to produce food for their own use and for sale as an income supplement. Throughout the Soviet period, the productivity rates of private plots far exceeded their size. With only 3% of total sown area in the 1980s, they produced over a quarter of agricultural output. A number of factors made the Soviet collectivized system inefficient throughout its history. Because farmers were paid the same wages regardless of productivity, there was no incentive to work harder and more efficiently. Administrators, who were unaware of the needs and capabilities of the individual farms, decided input allocation and output levels and the high degree of subsidization eliminated incentives to adopt more efficient production methods.
The Warsaw Pact: The Warsaw Pact or Warsaw Treaty was a military alliance of the Eastern European Soviet Bloc countries intended to organize against the apparent threat from the NATO alliance, established in 1949. The treaty was drafted by Khrushchev in 1955 and signed in Warsaw on May 14, 1955; its members were all the Communist countries of Eastern Europe -- Soviet Union, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia except Yugoslavia. The members of the Warsaw Pact pledged to defend each other if one or more of the members were attacked. The Warsaw Pact was dominated by the Soviet Union. Efforts to leave the Warsaw Pact by member countries were crushed, for example during the Hungarian revolution of 1956, Hungary planned to leave the Warsaw Pact and declare themselves neutral in the Cold War conflict between East and West but in October 1956 the Red Army entered Hungary and crushed the resistance in two weeks. Warsaw Pact forces were utilized at times, such as during the 1968 Prague Spring, when they invaded Czechoslovakia to put down the democratic reforms that were being implemented by the government there. This brought to light the Soviet policy governing the Warsaw Pact, the Brezhnev Doctrine, that stated: "When forces that are hostile to socialism and try to turn the development of some socialist country towards capitalism, it becomes not only a problem of the country concerned, but a common problem and concern of all socialist countries." (Modern History Sourcebook: The Warsaw Pact, 1955 ) After the invasion of Czechoslovakia, Albania formally withdrew from the pact, although Albania had stopped supporting the pact as early as 1962. NATO and the Warsaw Pact countries never engaged each other in armed conflict but fought the Cold War for more than 35 years. In December 1988, Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union at the time, announced the so called Sinatra Doctrine, which stated that the Brezhnev Doctrine would be abandoned and that the Eastern European countries could do what they liked. When it was clear that the Soviet Union would no longer use force to control the Warsaw Pact countries a series of rapid changes started in Eastern Europe in 1989. The new governments in Eastern Europe were much less supportive to the Warsaw Pact, and in January 1991 Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland announced that they would withdraw all support by July 1st that year. Bulgaria followed the same suit in February and it became apparent that the pact was effectively dead. The Soviet Union acknowledged this and the pact was officially dissolved at a meeting in Prague on July 1, 1991.
The collectivization of agriculture: During 1932-33, Russia committed the most outrageous genocide in the history of mankind. Over seven million Ukrainians, hundreds of thousands of Don Cossacks, North Caucasians, Byelorussians and other Russians fell victim to artificial famine, systematically organized by Russian colonialists. The Russian position in Ukraine had been undermined. Millions of Ukrainian peasants resisted forced collectivization. The collectivization of agriculture signifies not only an economic category but also a military one. It was a tool of Russia's domination over the conquered nations. Collectivization was a Russian way of life, which Russia imposed forcefully upon the oppressed peoples to rule over them. It was a means of stifling private initiative, a totalitarian form of imperio-colonialist domination. Hundreds of thousands of privately owned farms were tantamount to hundreds of thousands of points of resistance to the Russian way of life. A collectivized village meant total control over the farmer. It was a massive attempt at mastering him. It was an attempt to prevent food assistance to the insurgents as well. The collective farms in the subjugated countries were the Russian control centers of this aspect of life too. A Ukrainian peasant was an individualist.…[continue]
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