Russian role in world history, RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, World History, Notes for UPSC Exam, Internationalism, Planning for Industrialization, Pramesh Jain Blog
For the Bolsheviks the Russian revolution was always inseparable from the world socialist revolution. This, together with the cardinal Marxist principle of the unity of the interests of working classes all over the world, and their socialist vision of an oppression-free world, was the basis of their internationalism. This internationalism was given shape in the form of the Socialist international.
When the social-democratic parties of Western Europe refused to oppose their own ruling classes in the interest of the working classes in Europe, as the Bolsheviks saw it, the Bolsheviks broke away from them, changed their name to communist party, and accordingly formed a new Communist International. Initially, for the Bolshevik their revolution had to spread elsewhere, as, backward Russia did not have the productive capacity to sustain advanced socialism. However, it was Russia that gave the first Socialist State.
The Communist International was envisaged as the vanguard of internationalism of revolution. As soon as the Bolsheviks proclaimed in November 1917 the right to secession as part of self determination, the Allied powers made this issue a part of their armed intervention. The Comintern, at this stage modified their right to be that of the workers and peasants in the different areas. It developed the idea of a United Front between national liberation movements and the Communist Parties in Europe and Soviet Russia.
The strategy of the communists in these areas was strongly influenced by the Comintern, where the national-liberation struggles were seen as not only against the imperialist powers and the feudal landlords in their own country, but also against the bourgeoisie in their own country. The agrarian revolution was seen as the basis of the national liberation struggles with the workers playing the leading role.
In the 1920s as the Bolshevik’s struggle with their peasantry seemed muted with the NEP changes, a similar accommodation occurred in the Comintern policy towards the co-relation of social forces in the national liberation struggles. The Comintern recognized and supported the ‘positive’ role of the bourgeoisie in these countries against Imperialism. This policy continued well into the 1920s and Communist Parties were formed in many Asian countries. The links with China were particularly strong, and early strategies of the communist groups in China, India, Turkey and Afghanistan were strongly influenced by Comintern polices. Communist members of these countries were also represented in Comintern.
Planning for Industrialization
Soviet economic development from 1926 to 1941 constitutes the first global attempt at comprehensive state planning and is therefore important in the history of world industrialization. Marxists like the Soviet Bolsheviks had always believed in ‘planning’ of the economy. Marx had argued that a socialist society would be free of the arbitrary control of market forces, or the self-interested control of the capitalist class to maximize profit. Instead socialist society would control resources directly and plan production to meet the real needs of the people.
As the dominant Soviet leader Stalin became more and more impatient with the rates of growth within the market economy of the NEP, careful planning gave way to the demands of polities. Instead of a planned economy running according to carefully formulated estimates of economically practicable targets, there appeared a ‘command’ economy, running according to the political orders and priorities of the government.
Stalin nursed certain obsessions that were detrimental to planning as a process of balanced and realistic economic growth. Demand to build gigantic industrial complexes on a scale beyond the available resources to construct or operate. This obsession was accompanied by an unrelenting insistence on haste, captured in the slogan, “tempos decide the whole thing.” The First Plan had mixed results. Consumer goods, agriculture and, temporarily, military strength were sacrificed to a rapid growth in heavy industry.
In the decade after 1928, Soviet industry developed at a rate and on a scale entirely without precedent in world economic history. Industrial production in 1937 reached 446 per cent of the 1928 level according to official Soviet figures, and 249 per cent according to the most conservative Western estimate; the corresponding annual per cent rates of growth were 18 and 10.5.
While the state had succeeded in extending and consolidating control over the greater part of industry by nationalization, the predominance of private peasant farms meant that production and marketing decisions in agriculture remained beyond central planning and therefore state control. Lenin had argued that the government would have to gradually persuade peasants to give up their private farms and join together in collective farms. This would have to be done by providing peasants with modern equipment, credit and agronomic support. During the 1920s agronomists and land-consolidation experts occasionally succeeded in persuading the households involved in the consolidation of landholdings divided into strips to set themselves up as collective farms. But such collective farms tended to be small and few. Peasant farming methods and technology under NEP had remained extremely backward. The small size and fragmentation of farms prevented modern farming methods and the use of better implements. One third of land was not sown at any given time. Although grain production had recovered to pre-war levels by the mid-1920s, much less grain was marketed in the 1920s than before the First World War. This was partly a consequence of the increase in rural population. The problem for the state was to attract a greater share of the marketed harvest to its own collection agencies rather than to private traders.
Despite a good harvest in the autumn of 1927, peasant marketing and state procurement of grain fell far below expectation to a level that was insufficient to feed the towns and the army, and export grain in order to pay for the import of machinery. If the state had chosen to raise its procurement prices for grain, to match private market prices, funds available for industrial expansion would have suffered.
The rapid rise in industrial investment during 1927-28 was a major factor leading to the grain crisis from October 1927. Consumer goods became even more scarce(the “goods famine”) as investment shifted to heavy industry; and, they cost more to buy as state procurement prices for grain remained low.
In answer to this goods famine, the peasant went on what the regime called a “production strike” by refusing to market at state-determined prices the quotas of grain set by the state. Instead, the peasants chose either to sell to private traders at higher prices or to meet their tax obligations by selling higher priced industrial crops or livestock products.
Soviet leaders faced two alternatives. They could continue with the New Economic Policy balanced industrialization, gradual collectivi- zation, and adjust agricultural delivery prices to induce the peasants to market more grain; this was the policy advocated by leaders like Bukharin. Or they could institute a radical new policy of accelerated collectivization and forced industrialization. Stalin opted for the second alternative.
The peasants met forced collectivization with large-scale passive resistance and sporadic armed resistance. Rather than hand over their animals, to the Kolkhoz, many peasants slaughtered them, the attack on the peasant economy was accompanied by a fierce campaign against the Orthodox Church, the centre of traditional peasant culture. In March 1930, in an article called “Dizzy with Success”, Stalin blamed local officials for excesses he had authorized. He called for a temporary halt the collectivization drive resumed but with clearer guidelines this time. Tens of thousands of communists and urban workers were urgently mobilized to work in the countryside as Kolkhoz organizers and Chairmen. Villagers were steadily persuaded or coerced by discriminatory taxation to return to the collectives. By 1937, 86 per cent of sown area had been brought within the Kolkhozes and collective farms accounted for 89 per cent of the grain harvest and 87 per cent of grain procurements by the state. Collectivization, sometimes called the “Second Revolution”, changed the peasant way of life more radically than did the Bolshevik Revolution. The fact that it was not carried out by peasants voluntarily, but by a largely urban and proletarian Party, and by force, meant that it was authentically a ‘revolution from above’. The lynchpin of the difference between peasant life before and after collectivization was that the collective farmer had no control over the grain and cash crops that were produced on the collectivized land. His second need was not only to defeat the opposition but to attack and root out the source of all potential opposition and criticism in the democratic traditions of party leadership. Third need, was to move from a single-party to a single-ruler state. “Trial of the Sixteen” (August 1936), “Trial of the Seventeen” (January 1937), the military chiefs, were arrested, accused of treasonable collaboration with Germany and Japan, and shot. It was known as “The Trial of the Twenty-one” (March 1938). This was only the tip of the iceberg. The Great Purge decimated between 35 and 50 per cent of the entire officer corps of the Soviet armed forces. Most estimates agree that about five per cent of the population was imprisoned during the period, making a total of some eight million persons, of whom perhaps ten per cent were killed. Three crucial aspects of the Russian economy and polity between the period 1928 and 1941: indus-trialization through planning, collectivization of agriculture and the purges of the 1930s. Planned industrialization meant setting targets for industrial production for a period of five years and systematically going about achieving the targets. Collectivization of agriculture stood for a transformation of plots of agricultural land under individual possession into large collectives which could be exposed to modernized farming though state initiative. Large scale opposition to Stalin’s policies both within and outside the party coupled with a desire to convert Russia from a single party rule to single ruler state led to the purges of the 1930s. In these purges a number of trials took place in which old Bolsheviks, members of Lenin’s politbureau, a number of army officers and many state officials were executed. Virtually anyone who did not agree with Stalin’s policies was put to death. All dissent was suppressed. Whereas the victims of collectivization were invariably members of the rural population, the purges of the 1930s targeted mainly the urban population, the military and the political elites and the educated sections of the population.
Read Next Article
Read Previous Article