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Soviet Industrialization

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Autor: 24  •  September 27, 2010  •  1,145 Words (5 Pages)  •  914 Views

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When one looks at the history of the USSR, one of the most important aspects to look at is the massive industrialization that took place under the Soviet regime. This industrialization, like so many other things, is a complicated issue, with many arguments circling around it. The process was marked both by tremendous progress and expansion, as well as gross inefficiency and waste.

To better understand the Soviet industrialization, it is necessary for us to briefly look at the history that preceded it. When the Bolsheviks came to power, they inherited a country with economic conditions that were far from favorable. It was a country devastated by World War I as well as the civil war that followed it. For all intents and purposes, one can say that the economy of the country was in ruins, and drastic steps were necessary in order to feed the hungry population, and for the country to survive.

To answer this problem, a New Economic Policy (NEP) was implemented. In essence, this policy went away from communist ideology to a large degree. It allowed farmers to go out and sell what they have produced, and brought in many elements of the free market. At the same time, the Soviet regime restored the industry which existed but was devastated by war.

To a large degree, this policy was successful. By 1920s, the USSR managed to reach industrial production levels of roughly 1913. (Suny 233) Furthermore, the population was no longer starving, and living conditions improved throughout the country. However, NEP also brought in several problems. One of them, in the eyes of the Soviet leadership, was that it naturally brought polarization into society, producing some rich and some poor peasants, whereas ideologically there were supposed to be no classes in the new society (Suny 171)

A more serious problem, however, was the fact that rapid industrial advance was incompatible with NEP. It was necessary to shift country's resources from agriculture towards the production of heavy industry. Instead of producing consumption goods, it was necessary to produce capital goods. (Suny 234)

The peasants, however, had little incentive to sell their product, since there were few things of use that they could get in return (since the economy concentrated on production of capital goods instead of consumption goods). This, naturally, brought tension between the city which had to be fed, and the peasants who would not give up or sell their product, unless compelled to do so by the state.(Suny 177)

Eventually, the ideas of NEP (which were planned as temporary measures to begin with), were scrapped. Peasants were forced into collective farms, and special units were sent into the countryside, to take away grain and other product from peasants by force. This often had devastating effects, because such units often took not only what was to be consumed, but also grain which was to be planted for further production., bringing the countryside (and eventually most of the country) to starvation.(Suny 222)

As the Soviet leadership embarked on rapid industrialization program, the Soviet government introduced a concept called the five-year plan, where impossibly high targets for production were set (not so much as real guidelines, but more as goals which were to stimulate maximum effort).(Suny 234)

New language and slogans entered society. Industrialization was made to look like a military effort, with its own "fronts" and victories (such as achieving certain production figures). (Suny 234)

A further example of the "militarizing" of economy and industrialization, was the fact that it was centralized and hierarchical in nature. Just like in an army, the people below were responsible first and foremost to those above. Moreover, coercion operated on all levels, which was especially important considering the fact that there were very few material rewards available for good work. (Suny 237)

To a large degree, this militarizing characterized the entire process of industrialization. In a sense, industrialization and the need to modernize was portrayed as a war for survival, which justified the need for many brutalities and losses (because after all, there are no wars without losses). Inefficiencies and breakdowns which resulted from bad economic policy, were blamed on "enemies of the people", and the leadership engaged


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