Stalinism Takes Hold



Takes Hold


The start of the Great Depression

The start of collectivization in the USSR

In both cases: heavy statist response to the failures of the market economy

The rise of Stalin : General Secretary since 1922, concentration of power in the 1920s, the growth of personality cult in the 1930s

The rise of Hitler : leadership of the Nazis since

1923, increasing political influence in the 1920s, appointment as Reichskanzler in 1933

2 forms of totalitarianism: communist and fascist


Expansion of state power over society and economy

Abolition of political pluralism; suppression of civil society

A oneparty system, with “The Party” functioning as the core institution of the state

Concentration of power in the hands of “The Leader”; cult of his personality

A massive secret police apparatus

Tight control of information; intensive use of mass media and culture for political indoctrination

Militarization of economy and society

A mobilized society



 to prevent a revolution , save capitalism

 to overcome the Depression

 to reverse the results of WWI

 private property, market institutions remain

 civil society is not completely suppressed


 to preserve Communist Party rule

 to defend the country from hostile environment

 to achieve rapid modernization

 to foster world revolution

 private property banned, the market is replaced by the administrative command system

 civil society is fully suppressed

The Contradictions of NEP

State-society relations in flux; a stable model not yet found

Society developing rapidly, the state needs to evolve accordingly

The ruling party feeling societal pressures

Ideological and power struggles in the Party: the issue of restoration of capitalism

Conflicts between the market economy and the state

Divisions in society: the city vs. the country, rich vs. poor, ethnopolitics

2 basic options facing the leadership in the late


EVOLUTIONARY: To continue NEP and learn to govern in a framework of civil peace and mixed economy


REVOLUTIONARY: To resolve the existing contradictions by force: foster a new civil war in the name of rapid development

Why the revolutionary option was chosen

A technical issue: how much force is needed to manage the mixed economy

Most Communists saw NEP as a return to capitalism; the impact of the Great Depression

Legacy of the Civil War and War Communism

Fear of war

– real and imagined

Fear of losing power in a peasant-dominated country

Stalin’s own political interests: defeat potential rivals

The Logic of Stalinism

1928: the grain procurement crisis: decision to squeeze the peasantry

1929: the maximalist version of the First Five-Year Plan adopted; forced collectivization starts; Bukharin and his supporters (“The Right Deviationists”) lose power

Disorganization of the economy; peasant unrest and resistance

Escalation of repressions

“Successes of socialism stimulate the class struggle”

The Party is purged again and again to make it Stalin’s obedient machine

The growing role of secret police (including economic)

Creation of a system of mind control

Full-scale totalitarianism: the omnipotent state