Stalin's Economic, Political, and Military Transformation of the Soviet Union: 1929–1949

Under Joseph Stalin's leadership, the Soviet Union underwent a major transformation in terms of her economic, political, and military power. Stalin regarded the presence of sufficient natural resources in the nation, solid communist rule, as well as pertinent revolutionary policies, among other things, as the fundamental tenets of success. The final triumph over Nazi Germany was the result of a methodical power-building process. Notably, Stalin implemented collectivization and industrialization policies in a dictatorial manner, greatly enhancing the authority of the state. In his speech to the business executives in the All-Union Conference in Moscow, he overlooks serious economic concerns and considers agricultural production and the party policies as significant achievements against the realities. Based on the occurrences in the years 1928 to 1949, this write-up will critically analyze Stalin's role in the development of Soviet Union.


According to his speech at the First All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry in 1931, Stalin emphasized the five-year industrialization plan which he initiated in the year 1928. While launching the next 45% increase in industrial output to be fulfilled in a five year period, he argued that the Soviet Union had achieved a 25% growth in industrialization by the 1930. It is considerably acceptable that the rapid growth in industries which resulted into new cities, factories as well as other infrastructure occurred within the shortest period under Stalin's influence. During 1928-1933, Soviet Union was transformed to an industrial economy from the predominant agrarian modes of production. Meanwhile, the Stalin pointed out that the available agricultural produce exceeded the needs of its population. Cotton and grain are among the farm products that the Soviet government exported during the first phase of the five-year plan.

In as much as it is agreeable that greater industrialization occurred rapidly within a short period, Stalin overlooked critical failures in the first five-year plan in his speech. The urban workforce received an adequate supply of grain due to the collectivization policies at an extreme cost of human lives. For instance, Hingley pointed out that over 10 million peasants died while a large number of Kulaks remain unaccounted for after deportation. Additionally, the institution of kolkhoz and sovkhoz was considerably inefficient in the first five-year plan since it resulted in a great famine in Ukraine. Notably, Stalin overlooked all the welfare of the citizens and continued exporting grains. It implies that his assertion of producing cereals beyond the needs of Bolsheviks within the period before the year 1930 is baseless. On the other hand, he disregarded the human cost that was involved in the industrialization processes.

On the contrary, the outcomes of the industrial economy cannot be overlooked. Several improvements occurred within the first five-year plan which could be attributed to the assumption of 25% increase stated in Stalin's speech. There was increased exploitation of resources such as iron ore, coal, and oil. The main progress was pegged on the fact that most industries were built close to the source of raw materials. For instance, processing facilities were established in the Ural Mountains, Siberia, and Ukraine. Other significant industrial processes involved the construction of power plants especially the Dnieper, as well as modernized railroads and waterways. Similarly, the building of automotive plants also served as an important aspect of industrialization. Apparently, Stalin's approaches to development were mainly based on the industrial growth while neglecting other aspects such as the social welfare of the people. Notably, lack of inadequate supply of grains to the urban workforce is considered as the primary reason for abrupt policy changes which resulted into collectivization. Therefore, the statements of Stalin in regards to support from workers and peasants do not reflect the realities that existed in the government.

The industrialization also required political backing to thrive in an economy that was mainly agrarian. Stalin acknowledged the communist system as cumulating and equitably distributing resources. In his understanding, there was adequate power in the hands of the working class which he considered as an advantage over the capitalist system. There was a high likelihood that a revolution was going to occur in Russia following the drastic changes that accompanied industrialization. Several peasants suffered since the resources needed for the process of industrialization had to be provided from agriculture which Stalin authoritatively acquired from the Kulaks. Excessive use of force in the collectivization undermined any possibility of former market relations that existed in the traditional Russian village. Therefore, the masses served under the dictatorship which was impossible to resist.

The political power was necessary for the industrial processes and the ultimate establishment of modern armed forces in the country. However, Stalin's arguments that communist system put the power in the hands of the working class are unfounded. Notably, Stalin consolidated power through trickery whereby he dismissed, exiled, and murdered Trotsky, Lenin's likely successor. The working class had no say at all in Stalin's rule. Being an authoritarian and an active politico-military leader, Stalin imposed his policies on the people and intimidated subjects through show trials, dismissals, and murder. As the secretary general of the central committee, Stalin promoted managers who supported his dictatorship to influential positions while his rivals such as Kamenev and Zinovyev were subjected into disgrace. Therefore, the political power was critical in ensuring industrialization which was beneficial to the country. Conversely, the working class never enjoyed any power or freedom but were mere victims of the dictatorship.

Stalin also pointed out in his speech the support of masses as an asset in the fulfillment of the second phase of the five-year plan which aimed at 45% increase in the industrial production. Industrialization was necessary to all Bolsheviks especially after suffering from the effects of World War I. Moreover, the peasants who lost their pieces of land had no option but to resort to job opportunities in the urban industries. The increasing urban influx could be construed as the masses' support from workers and peasants. Stalin views counter plans and socialist emulation among other aspects as explaining the support for the Soviet government. Meanwhile, he does not consider the totalitarian nature of his cabinet in promoting this support. By the end of the first five-year plan, several peasants were sent to concentration camps. The government empowered the political police units that are OGPU which suppressed any form of resistance from the masses. In as much as the population delighted in the industrialization process, Stalin used excess political power to gain the support which he finally a necessary asset for the achievement of the industrial objective in the second phase of development plans.

Public support for Stalin's regime was derived from not only dictatorship but also the cult of personality which he successfully advanced. He positioned himself as an extension of Lenin's legacy after persuading the Russian military to undertake assassination of counter-revolutionaries who were merely his opponents. The media also promoted the favored propaganda that Stalin was a father of nation by portraying him as loving children an attribute that he used to gain influence on the public. As a result of the imagination that Stalin created among the subjects including an extension of Lenin's legacy, he managed to build and manipulate the base of loyalty. The propaganda resulted into a cult of personality whereby he was considered as an abominable cult figure. The assertion of support among the vast majority of workers and peasants was true. However, the basis of the loyalty was highly questionable since the subjects believed a falsified persona of Stalin. Additionally, the propaganda and the acquisition of power offered little choices to the people who had no option but to obey and support the policies to avoid assassination.


Stalin had a particular determination to ensure industrialization in the Soviet Union in the shortest period possible. He believed that collectivization was the only way to defeat quasi-capitalist policies of Lenin and generate the needed capital for the development of industrial economy. In his speech to business executives, Stalin leveled overcoming capitalism as an essential aspect that will facilitate the fulfillment of the second phase of the five-year plan. It is apparent that Stalin referred to collectivization as the main stride towards building a socialist economy. He further urges the managers to uphold the new economic status as a way of overthrowing the capitalist countries. Collectivization was a prerequisite to the rapid changes in the modes of production in the Soviet Union. It mainly aimed at transforming agriculture from traditional practices whereby kulaks had more economic power and peasants possessed individual farms. As a result, the farmers forcefully joined the collective farms which enabled the state to control the output from agricultural activities. The output from agricultural production was enhanced, and the government acquired products at low prices providing more resources that were needed for the substantial industrial investment.

Stalin addressed the industrial managers but avoided other outcomes of the rapid collectivization in Russia. It is evident in his statement that his approval for liquidating Kulaks and the violent measures adopted by peasants is not of concern. Though 58% of the peasants enrolled in Kolkhozy that is the collective farms, the resistance among the farmers became so fierce. In the process, the destruction of agricultural equipment and slaughter of livestock used in farming activities necessitated a slowdown in the collectivization. At the time of the All-Union Conference of Leading Personnel of Socialist Industry, the resistance had not been entirely overcome as Stalin claimed. Punitive measures were still imposed on the peasants who refused to cooperate, and only one-half of the farmers had been successfully collectivized.

On the other hand, Stalin in his speech exaggerated the level of production that resulted from collectivization activities in the Soviet Union. It is agreeable that through collectivization the Soviet Power was successfully established in the countryside and that agricultural activities provided the needed resources to develop the intended industrial power. Meanwhile, the claims of being the largest-scale agricultural production in the world are a debatable issue. Due to the resistance from the peasants which resulted in the destruction of farm equipment and slaughter of livestock, the output in Kolkhozy significantly reduced due to lack of these basics. Moreover, famine claimed millions of lives in the countryside in the period 1932 through to 1933. Nevertheless, the government continued to extract large agricultural products needed to achieve the intended industrialization goals. Therefore, the double industrial produce that Stalin is referring occurred at the expense of the production of consumer goods and agricultural output which declined while escaping government notice. Stalin shifted the blame to the local officials for the violent activities witnessed during the collectivization. However, the successful overthrow of any form of capitalism offered greater possibility for the state to control the process of industrialization.

Collectivization also played a vital role in transforming the political power in the Soviet Union. The institution of New Economic Policies, the Kulaks that is wealthy peasants who had large farms actively participated in the local administrative affairs. They controlled agricultural production and even leased land to the peasants. As a result, they were considered to be a capitalist class. The collectivization policy was accompanied by the campaign to liquidate the Kulaks as a class in the society. Through the use of force by the political police units, the resisting Muzhiks and the kulaks faced harsh measures including arrests and deportation to concentration camps. Collectivization enabled the integration of agriculture as part of the other economic processes.

Finally, the government successfully gained control over the countryside which promoted the accumulation of resources to be used in the industrialization process. The political influence that is socialist system grew stronger and created what Stalin referred to as the objective possibilities in building a socialist industry. Stalin pointed fingers at the capitalist for unemployment and anarchy in production at a time when some non-cooperative peasants who opposed collectivization were sent to concentration camps where they worked without pay. Additionally, the new agricultural system significantly reduced the prices of farm produce to enable the state to accumulate resources for massive industrial investment. It implied, the incomes from agriculture reduced among the farmers in Kolkhozy.

The State Power

In his speech, Stalin pointed out backwardness in military, politics, agriculture, culture, and the industrial development of the course of Russia's defeat in the past. His collectivist and industrial policies enshrined in the Soviet government were aimed at overcoming and outstripping capitalist countries. The primary objective was to build a state power capable of subduing her foes. Notably, the industrial foundation laid by Stalin was sufficient for victory in the future wars against the enemy countries. In as much as he failed to uphold collective security, the state gained greater military power through the rearmament plans that Stalin laid in the 1930s. He emphasized on the need for one man management where executives were to master techniques as one way to overcome the capitalist countries. However, his purchase of industrial plants from the capitalist states and the acquisition of American engineers did not match the claim in Bolsheviks independence. It was necessary that Stalin relies on the efforts from the west especially the United States in building up a strong military power with sufficient weapon system in readiness for war.

According to Stalin, acquisition, and mastery of techniques was to produce ultimate success the nation could not imagine. Apparently, the policies developed by Stalin as a supreme leader created the necessary resources to respond to external aggression. It was due to Stalin's military abilities that Hitler sought for Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression pact in 1939. However, Stalin's negligence to the western warning short-lived the Soviet Union supremacy. Hitler used the non-aggression pact as a war tactic to avoid a two war front. Germany defied the agreement in less than two and a half years and carried out a tactical surprise in 1941 in what was coded as operation Barbarossa. The imaginations of Stalin were compromised since the attack overwhelmed Soviet Armies in its initial stages resulting into an extensive loss of territory. Notably, Stalin supremacy as a leader still flourished since the Soviet Union did not collapse due to the German attack. The city of Stalingrad served as the last extension of geographical territory that Hitler reached in his attack to the south east of Europe where German soldiers were defeated in the winter of 1942-1943. In as much as a great territory was lost to the Germans, Stalin played a significant role in relocating industrial facilities. It demonstrated his organizational abilities during the World War II.

Stalin's claim to have completely overthrown capitalism was unfounded. German aggression in Europe provoked the need for countries such as United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union which are all countries with diverse socio-political systems to unite. The anti-Nazi coalition occurred following successive conferences of Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam. Stalin's hatred for capitalists expressed in harsh words as "cutting the ground form under their own feet." is not reflected in his agreement for joint efforts for restoration of peace in the three conferences. It was through the joining of forces that Germany was ultimately defeated. Notably, the desire by Stalin to dominate Europe did not come to pass after Hitler compromised his plans by launching an early attack. Meanwhile, in 1949 tested its nuclear weapon and had since remained the largest nuclear arsenal storage country in the world. Additionally, the post-war economic planning in the Soviet Union did not face greater challenges since most of its industrial facilities were not destroyed in the war. The country continued to embrace socialist policies under the reign of Stalin whereby it has since remained one of the highly developed countries in the world.


Apparently, Stalin's speech provides an insight into his quest to dominate Europe through consolidation of power. He employed industrialization and collectivization policies to gain adequate military and state power as the foundation of success against external aggression. The three aspects formed the transformation agenda that ultimately enabled the Soviet Union to be considered as a superpower. However, while addressing the industrial managers, Stalin overlooked failure such as the human costs and exaggeration on the failures of the western economies. In as much as socialist industrialization principles were vital in economic, political, and military power transformation capitalist countries played a crucial role in securing Stalin from German aggression.


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