Can Stalin's economic policies be justified in relation to the human cost? Stalin's dramatic change in economic policy has led to much debate. While some historians view this change as political opportunism, others argue that it was a pragmatic response to the economic difficulties caused by the NEP. The first Five Year Plan introduced in 1928, was aimed to overhaul the economical of the advanced industrial state in the shortest possible time. It mainly concentrated on the development of iron and steel, machine-tools, electric power and transport. Stalin set the workers high targets.
He demanded an 1115 increase in coal production, 200% increase in iron production and 335% increase in electric power. He justified these demands by claiming that if rapid industrialization did not take place, the Soviet Union would not be able to defend itself against an invasion from capitalist countries in the west. The plans were set up by Gosplan who set the targets for industry to achieve. The full force of the state and party machine was mobilised to ensure that the Plans succeeded. Urban workers were forced to migrate to the rural towns and cities to be trained in new skills for the Plans.
Collectivisation was Stalin's answer to his belief that Russia's agriculture was in a terrible state. Stalin believed that Russia had to be feed itself hence collectivisation and that at the very least the peasant farmers should be providing food for the workers in the factories if the Five Year Plan was to succeed. There were two types of farms set up the kolhozy and the sovkhozy. The kolhozy were collective farms and the sovkhozy were the state owned farms. Peasants handed over all their resources to the collective, including their land in return for the share of the profits.
In the sovkhozy all land and goods were owned by the states and the labourers worked for wages. Collectivisation took place in stages. In 1928 the government attempted to force the kulaks into collective farms. In 1927 the USSR fixed the price of grain artificially low. Peasants responded to this by cutting back grain production and hoarding it. The peasants reaction created an urban food shortage crisis. In contrast historian Jerry Karcz criticised Stalin's regime for creating this crisis by fixing the price of grain so low.
In 1928 Stalin alleged that the kulacks peasants were hoarding grain while the state was finding it difficult to feed the urban proletariat. Stalin stated 'that grain requisitioning would be sabotaged as long as the kulacks existed. ' Between 1928-30 a class war waged against the kulacks and the Bedriates. Stalin's demand was that the kulacks must be eliminated as a class. From 1929-30 there was a rush of collective farms. 60% were collectivised and the peasants who objected giving up their land were branded as kulaks and shot or deported to the gulags.
Peasants resisted collectivisation to their best ability. Crops were burned and animals slaughtered in preference to handing them over. The ruthless culmination of the private farmers continued until 1938 when the Soviet Union boasted 242,000 collective farms. Consequently the 10% reduction in grain collected was a significant decline. The secret police took to confiscating what they could find and feeding the collectives that were loyal and the factory workers. Therefore many peasant farmers who were anti-collectivisation starved or died in the labour camps of Siberia.
It is estimated that 7 million people were killed or died in the labour camps. This figure is almost certainly higher when those who starved to death are included or died of diseases induced by malnutrition. Young people went to the towns and cities to get jobs as they felt that these were better than working on the farms. Therefore, collectivisations lead to a reduced population in the countryside. Those The worst area was in what is now Kazakstan where more than 80% of animals and grain were destroyed who were left had to work harder on the collective farms for little reward.
By the time the Second Plan was in operation the government had begun to shift its emphasis from force to persuasion.. With the introduction of the Five Year Plan, Stalin argued that it was necessary to pay higher wages to certain workers in order to encourage increased output. Piecework and wage differentials were introduced His left-wing opponents claimed that this inequality was a betrayal of socialism and would create a new class system in the Soviet Union. Stalin had his way and during the 1930s, the gap between the wages of the labourers and the skilled workers increased.
Also workers were awarded with medals such as the order of Lenin was awarded to outstanding workers. The human effects of the collectivisation policy in 1932 -33 had killed an estimate of 5 million people. Stalin's aim of eliminating the kulaks was carried out and succeeded. The policy of collectivisation was a failure economically and in human terms. The soviet figures had been inflated and that agriculture production failed to reach three quarters of the expected target.
The success of the Plans was that there was an economic growth rate of 5 – 6% during the plans and new industrial regions to the east of the Urals were developed. Approximately 1500 power stations, factories and metalworking plants were built during the first plan alone. New industries such as machine-tools, synthetic rubber and aircrafts were created. On the other hand the failures of the plans were that the need to meet targets meant quantity was more important than quality. Production figures were falsified to ensure targets were met.
Wages were lower in 1937 than 1928 and that training lagged behind technology. In conclusion Stalin's economic policy can not be justified to the human cost. Since throughout the both Five Year Plans there was a decrease in agriculture for the population. Millions of peasants disappeared from either being shot deported overworked or dieing of diseases related to malnutrition. Historian James Millar argued that the grain crisis of 1928 was a temporary problem that Stalin could have overcome this by raising grain prices. Accordingly there was no real crisis and no need for collectivisation.