Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin were among Lenin’s’ revolutionary supporters. They both helped Lenin and the Bolsheviks bring an end to the Czar’s rule. Stalin, which means “man of steel,” was cold, hard, and impersonal. When Lenin died, there was no one person chosen to be leader. The Soviet Union did not allow for elections. The Communist Party got to choose his successor. Trotsky and Stalin became bitter rivals for control of the Communist Party. The outcome of this struggle would determine the future course of the Soviet Union. In the course of the struggle, Stalin had Trotsky exiled to Mexico and later had him assassinated. Stalin brought new economic plans to the Soviet Union with a communist economy. He controlled all aspects of business and agriculture and all aspects of people’s lives. Millions of people died under Stalin’s rule. These people included fellow communist members who he perceived as enemies of the state and peasants who resisted the changes he brought to the Soviet Union.
Stalin’s plans called for a command economy-a system in which the government made all economic decision. To modernize the Soviet state, Stalin tried dramatic changes in industry and agriculture. In 1928, Stalin outlined the first of industrial plans for the development of Soviet Union’s economy. In these plans, the government would take drastic steps to promote rapid industrial growth and to strengthen national defense. Stalin announced, “We are fifty or a hundred years behind advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it or was shall be crushed.” These plans to increase manufacturing were called Five Year Plans. They set high quotas or goals to increase the output of steel, coal, oil, and electricity. These goods were considered necessary for the future of the Soviet Union but they were so high they were impossible to reach. Although most of the targets of the First Five-Year plan fell short, the Soviets made impressive gains. From 1928 to 1937, industrial production increased more than 25 percent but the people had very little to show for it.
Farm Collectivization and Famine
As leader of the Soviet Union, Stalin found himself faced with the difficult problem of feeding millions of people in both the city and the countries. At the beginning of his leadership in the Communist Party, almost 80% of the farmers and peasants were not under the control of the government. Stalin’s agricultural revolution took a different approach and showed how brutal and determined he really was. He also showed how successful his tactics could be. In 1928, the government started taking over 25 million privately owned farms in the USSR. It combined them into large, government owned farms, called collective farms. Hundreds of families worked in these farms, producing food for the state. The peasants, however, did not want to give up their lands to the government. They resisted Stalin’s actions fiercely. Stalin used terror and violence to force peasants to work on collective farms. Close to 10 million peasants died as a direct result of a famine caused by Stalin. Millions more were shipped to Siberia. Resistance was especially strong among kulaks, a class of wealthy peasants. The Soviet government decided to eliminate them. By 1938, more than 90 percent of all peasants lived on collective farms.
The problem with a communist or command economy is that there is little incentive for the individual to work harder. If the government is making all the economic decision, there is little motivation to work harder because wages are set and profit isn’t allowed. Stalin solved that problem by using force and intimidation to make people work. Stalin’s secret police used tanks and armored cars to stop riots. They monitored telephone lines, read mail and planted informers everywhere. Even children told authorities about disloyal remarks they heard at home. The secret police arrested and executed millions of so-called traitors. In 1934, Stalin, partly out of paranoia, turned against members of the Communist Party. He launched the Great Purge campaign of terror that was directed at eliminating anyone who threatened his power. Thousands of old Bolsheviks who helped stage the Revolution in 1917 stood trial and were executed. Every family came to fear the knock on the door in the early hours of the morning. Such as surprise visit from the secret police usually meant the arrest of a family member. When the Great Purge ended, Stalin had gained total control of both the Soviet government and the Communist Party. Historians estimate that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of 8 million to 13 million people during this purge.
Name ____________________ Joseph Stalin Questions
Directions: Use the reading to answer the following questions.
1. Why did the Soviet Union no choose someone to be the leader after Lenin died? What happened as a result?
2. What was Stalin’s Five Years Plan?
3. Why did Stalin want to implement the Five Year Plan?
4. What were the effects of the Five Year Plan? Was it successful or unsuccessful?
5. What are collective farms?
6. How did farming change during Stalin’s years as dictator?
7. What happened to those peasants/farmers who opposed Stalin’s plans?
8. Who were the Kulaks?
9. What is the problem with a communist/command economy?
10. How did Stalin solve the problem of a command/communist economy?
11. How did Stalin try to control his government and country? (What methods did he use?)
12. What was the Great Purge and how many people died under Stalin’s rule?