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Industrialization. USSR in 30s

Stalin or Bukharin

As a result of conjunction of a number of circumstances by January 1928 it had been yielded 128,000,000 poods (1 pood equals to 16 kg) less than by January of 1927. Supply of cities, and the Army was under threat. The government appealed to extreme methods: for farmers, refusing to surrender wheat surplus on "firm federal price" (that is on very low price) the known 127 article (about speculation) of Criminal Code was used. The "surplus" were confiscated to the advantage of the nation, 25% of the confiscated amount was distributed among the poor and weak middling farmers on federal prices or in long-term credit.

Extraordinary measures, tax kinks caused cutting down areas under crop. Why should farmers seed up vast areas, if the yield will be taken away? Cutting down cultivated area, killing cattle, representatives of wealthy layer of farmers tried to leave their position for a lower one to avoid ruinous taxation.

Jump of market prices made production of technical crops (flax, cotton) low-payable. There was real threat of decrease in production, of, as a consequence, light industry constriction, "goods hunger" sharpening.

In its turn, accelerating process of industrialisation increased capable of paying demand for foodstuffs. Too broad gap in rates of development between industrial and agrarian sector threatened with imbalancing of the whole national economy. In 1926-1929 annual growth of industrial products was 20%. Growth of agricultural products was only 5.4% in 1926/27, 1.1% in 1927/28 and 4.4 in 1928/1929 (the analogous figures on grain were much lower). In late 1928 the country's administration had to introduce food rationing cards for a number of products. In 1929 extraordinary means were used in rural area again.

Sharpening of bread problem threatened with complete failure of industrialisation program. In November, 1929 course for accelerated collectivisation was accepted. So this was the background, on which the last intraparty battle of the 20-s took place, that is the struggle against "right deviation". The main opponents were J. Stalin and N. Bukharin.

Stalin explained the crisis of bread provision with objective reasons. He considered that unsatisfactory rate of industry development caused goods hunger, which didn't allow to get bread from farmers economically, in exchange for industrial goods. Class aspect of the problem was underlined. In that objective situation (lack of resources for harmonious development of economics, splitness of agriculture) Stalin suggested to concentrate all forces on the arterial direction - in heavy industry (at the cost of tensioning the whole economic system and other branches means redistribution), and then, having created energetic and metallurgy base, home machinetools industry, convert the whole of national economics on industrial fundament. It was supposed to organise large-scale goods collective farms in the country.

In Bukharin's understanding the crisis was caused basically with subjective reasons: a foodstuffs reserve fund hadn't been set up, growth of monetary income in the village wasn't tuned up with taxes, which sharpened goods hunger and decreased amount of bread offered in the market; correlation between procurement prices for bread and primary crops was unprofitable for the farmer. Bukharin put forward the problem of market normalisation: procurement prices for bread should be increased, bread should be partially bought overseas, taxes for the village "tops" should be increased also. He advocated for a balanced development of heavy and light industries, suggested to organise large-scaled agricultural units in grain regions, industrialisation of agriculture in other regions, but he stressed that the base of agrarian sector should be the individual farm for a long period on.

From Bukharin's point of view, one of the main mistakes was establishing wrong, unprofitable for the farmer correlation of procurement prices in agriculture. But possibilities for manoeuvring were limited here. In mid-20-s the correlation of prices was in favour of grain, and that led to the fall of primary crops production, which sharpened commodity hunger.

By the end of the five-year plan the level of national income was lower than that in pre-revolution Russia, and it was just 15% as compared with the USA one, while in 1913 this allotment was 30%. The situation in the newest branches of industry (energetic, chemical, automobile, tractor and aviation ones) was even worse: retardations here was ten times and more and there wasn't a possibility even to shorten it. When having this weak economics it was impossible to have strong Army.

The administration of the country could clearly see a perspective of stagnation, of military impotence. This made internal social explosion inevitable sooner or later, or defeat at a first war encounter.

It may seem weird, but a regular, normal economic development in late 20-s and 30-s seemed like a gamble, and "adventurous" industrial breakthrough sounded like a really realistic variant.

Political regime

In late 20-s and 30-s the centre of gravity was removed to party, extreme and punitive bodies. The Party played chief politic and mobilising role. 1928-1929 crisis revealed a weak mobilising preparedness of some party organisation for conducting "tough policy". For the NEP (New Economic Policy) peaceful years the so-called "tail" community spirit became rather popular. In 1929 departments of OGPU (predecessor of infamous KGB) marked multiple cases at production units, plants etc. when communists and the Young Communist League (YCL) members were leaders of the malcontents, appeared with claims (usually to reconsider norms, tariffs and rates of wages) on behalf of the workers, agitated to go on strike, boycotted works meetings and agitated the workers to boycott them.

During "peaceful" years of NEP many of the party organisations separated from the multitude. In case of strike those party cells showed full perplexity. That could be explained also by their low educational level.

On the other hand, development of market relations in rather strict borders of their administrative management created a good soil for corruption of the party and administrative apparatus. In late 20-s many facts of corruption among party administration were revealed.

The Party was loosing authority in the eyes of people. In the second half of the 20-s the process of workers' dropout from the party began. During 1925-1927 87000 party members retired including 52000 machine workers.

The party comb-outs (1933, 1935-1936, "the great terror" of 1937-1938) were practically the same. Their objectives were:

1. Disposal of morally "decomposed" members.

2. Suppression in embryo of parochial, secession, opposition social spirits.

3. Abating social tension by means of punishment of concrete participants of certain negative actions.

But on the whole in the 30-s the party manpower remained the same, and even increased considerably as compared with the 20-s.

Since late 20-s intraparty regime gets more and more severe, the remains of the party democracy fizzle out. For instance, beginning with 1928 practice of verbatim dissemination from party plenums was discontinued. In 1929 the Izvestiya magazine (Party news) was closed. Practice of cooptation and polling by lists becomes regular one.

Having increased quantitatively, the monolithic party urged to control the whole society, to mobilise every citizen's efforts for a double-quick modernisation of the country. In 1930-1932 in all industrial production units party committees were set up, even shop cells practically in every large-scale shop of each production unit. Party cells in collective-farms, in tractor stations. The Young Comsomol League functioned under the strict party control.

In conditions of concentrating real political power in party committees, in extraordinary, and sometimes in vindicatory bodies the Soviets carried out mainly economic, cultural and organisational functions.

Persecutions - the tragic page of Russian history. In the second part of the 30-s a series of legal processes were held over former leaders of intraparty opposition. Accusations: counter-revolutionary, anti-soviet activity, acts of sabotage, terrorism etc. Tortures and excruciating were the basic means of getting the "confession".

The tough policy of 30-s was genetically connected with the chosen model of industrialisation, where constant operative control was carried out from Moscow. This model was rather convenient at the time. Construction and functioning of a comparatively small number of key objects was controllable from Moscow. It was possible to supply modern equipment to those not numerous objects, and to introduce approved newalties of

the world science and technology there. But this model could be effective only on condition that all the commands and recommendations from the centre would be fulfilled correctly and reliably. This led to inevitable development of "subsystem of fear". Besides, super centralisation of resources on a few certain directions meant super derogation of other sections. As a result there always existed a threat of protest from "stepsons of economic development". In order to suppress this would-be protest, the whole punitive and informant system was created.

Forced economic development

Acceleration of industrialisation process in conditions of swelling unbalancing of market relations, budget deficit, inflation led to strengthening of administrative methods of control and management. Since 1930 commerce credit is no longer used; all industrial and other enterprises are credited through Federal Bank. In 1930-1931 instead of numerous taxes are one turnover tax is introduced. Since 1936 Ministries have a right to redistribute not only contributions from production units' income, from centralised finance resources, but also from floating assets, incomes and allocations for depreciation of the controlled production units.

Sphere of market controls in the village practically no longer worked. Other, administrative controls were effective so far only in the sphere of extracting products from the village, but not in sphere of production. In those conditions course to complete collectivisation was taken.

Wild rates of industrial growth, of urbanising demanded sky-rocketing in agricultural products deliveries to the city and for export. All that necessitated to increase rates of collectivisation. Lack of industrial products as exchange for agricultural products led again to off-economical methods of restraint in agrarian sector: grain, meat, milk, butter and other products were more and more often not bought or exchanged, but barely taken away from the farmer. The results of that policy were obvious: constriction of production, open actions against local powers, village activists.

In return domestic powers began the known campaign of "raskulatshivanie". This word is not translatable. That means that local punitive body takes away, "appropriates" the house, all the commodity, all the foodstuffs from the family of a wealthy farmer, who had refused to give away results of his and his family's hard work for actually nothing, takes away all the cattle, tools - everything, except maybe clothes, and sends the whole family (together with children, babies) to some far-away land, often with severe climate, to Siberia, for example. To start a new live in a new, unknown place. Naturally, many of them died, the first were small children. In 1930-1931 in the campaign of "raskulatshivanie" only to far-away regions 381000 "kulak" families were evicted. All in all by 1931 about 3 500 000 farmers were cast out from their home places, about 50% of them settled in the same regions, where they had lived before. To stop slaughter of cattle, village administration urged to socialise it as quickly as possible. But due to lack of suitable premises, due to lack of experience in collective stockraising farms cattle mortality went up and up.

In order to stop general fall of agricultural production, the village is urged to put under strict administrative control. The process of socialising is whipped up in all possible ways. Passive resistance of collective farmers grows stronger (absenteeism, working "let things slide" etc.). Stalin demands to fulfil the plan by all costs. In a number of regions the barns are swept up clean.

The extraordinary measures, including famine, broke the resistance of the farmers. Forcible labour of former farmers was broadly used in the Soviet Union. In 1935 forcible labour sector counted 2 850 000 people.

As a result of complete collectivisation a sole system of pipage of financial, material, labour resources from agrarian sector into industrial one was created.

The second five-year plan in the area of agriculture (it was being worked out in conditions of supremacy of the socialised sector) presupposed concrete federal tasks on growth of collective farm and state farm productions, their technical reconstruction, on animal-breeding development. Beginning with 1930, federal annual sowing plans were worked out, since 1932 - plans of tractor stations work, and since 1935 - plans on stockraising, which included tasks on livestock capita growth in animal-breeding farms, on purchasing cattle, on contracting cattle from farmers and on the feedstuff base broadening.

Results of the forced development

If we estimate those results from the viewpoint of direct impact onto development of agrarian sector, then the progress will be not disparate as compared with the loss. Within 1929-1932 the cows livestock capita decreased by one third (20,000,000 head of cattle) horses - one third (11,000,000), pigs - twice as low, sheep and goats - 2.5 as low.

In the middle of 30-s the situation in the agrarian sector stabilised. In 1935 food rationing was cancelled. during 1930-s 15-20 mln workers disentangled from agriculture, that allowed to increase manpower of working class from 9 up to 24 mln. Working efficiency in agricultural area increased.

The main result of the collectivisation was no doubt industrial leap. Rates of growth in heavy industry within 1928-1940 were 2-3 times higher as compared with the favourable 13 years of Russia (1900-1913). In late 30-s on absolute volume of industrial production the USSR occupied 2-d place in the world after the USA (in 1913 - the 5-th place).

And the most important result: the quality, in-depth retardation was overcome at last. In 30-s the USSR was one of three-four countries capable to manufacture practically any kind of industrial products.

Forced development and psychology of the multitude

"Socialist" advance of late 20-s and early 30-s denoted in increasing planned tasks in industry, in complete collectivisation in the village - it was an attempt to cut Gordian knot of problems in economics and simultaneously to relax social tension, that had been accumulating in the society. As a result of reconsideration (winter of 1927/1928 and 1928/1929) of collective contracts, of tariff reform, of production tasks wages equalisation intensified and salary of certain categories of workers went down.

Worker's (mainly of top qualification) unsatisfaction was expressed in form of collective addresses to administrative bodies with the purpose to get explanation of the current campaign. Short-term strikes took place as well. The growing workers' discontent was obviously the result of "tightening up the belt" policy. "The case of coalminers" (1928) played a role of a lightning arrester.

Within "the case of coalminers" many mining engineers and foremen of Donbass region (the Ukraine) were sued, the accusations being deliberate harmful activity, organisation of explosions in mines, criminal ties with former owners of the mines, purchasing of unnecessary equipment, infringement of occupational health and safety, braking labour laws etc. In reality outrageous ownerlessness, anarchy, misrule were a common thing in there, and because of that repeatable industrial accidents occurred with loss of life. In most of the cases the "political" accusations were added in course of investigation. The investigators made that "forgery" in order to "mobilise the multitude", "to arise wrath against imperialism in workers minds". The administration used the forgeries as a "lightning arrester" so as to avert workers' attention from negative effects of the forced industrialisation.

The case of the miners was an excuse for a lengthy mass media propaganda campaign, that caused in its turn a storm of emotions. Workers in production units demanded calling general meetings, where they appeared for strengthening administrative attention to the needs of the employees.

Socialist competition was another form of appealing to workers' class feelings. Stenuous broadening and accelerating of socialist competition was declared. The grandious plans were a powerful stimuli for workers. Socialist competition was especially broad and multy-form since 1929.

In 1931 self-financing worker's squads began to replace communes and collectives with equalised distribution of wages. The self-financing squads made agreements with the administration, that included mutual obligations of the sides. Individual payment was used, for economy of tools, raw material etc, the squad received a certain bonus money, that was distributed inside the team, considering a certain worker's qualification, quantity and quality of labour. The procedure of expelling of unsatisfactory members of the team was simplified.

Since 1935 Stakhanov movement became the main form of socialist competition (named after A.Stakhanov, a coal-miner, who in August 31, 1935, with the help of two unskilled workers took 102 tons of coal, which was 14 times more as compared with the production task). On the base of Stakhanov's movement labour efficiency in heavy industry in 1936 increased 25.5% as compared with the previous year; production tasks were raised 35-45%.

In December of 1935 Plenum of the CPSU Central Committee decreed to make stakhanov movement a movement of millions. Stakhanov shifts, days, decades, months were held, in which whole works, plants, production units participated. For the years of the second five-year plan, consumption of foodstuffs per capita began to increase. People could see that life grew better, that sacrifices were not in vain, that the Party began to settle the bills of the people's trust.

Impressive were achievements in Health Care system. In 1913 one doctor fell on 5700 inhabitants, one hospital bed - on 760; in 1924 accordingly on 4800 and 700; in 1940 - on 1200 and 250.

Since people were aimed to high ideals and their existence was conscious, wilful, they were, at least looked happy and resilient, which surprised foreign tourists. A. Zhid, a well-known French writer, who visited the USSR in 1936, wrote: "However the fact is obvious: Russian people seems happy... How should we reconcile it to the horrible life conditions in which the vast majority of the population live? You can see many people, often hungry, who look smiling, merry. Their happiness is based upon trust, ignorance and hope".

Stages of Soviet foreign policy

In 1929-1933 the biggest in history of capitalism crisis broke out. Industrial production volume decreased by 38% in average, in agriculture by one third, in world trade - by two thirds.

In Germany Adolf Hitler's National-Socialist Party comes to power on the wave of crisis. In the East Japan activises its actions with the purpose of broadening international sphere of influence. Different variants of "tough" regimes are set up in a number of European countries: in Italy, Spain, Hungary.

In extremely tense international atmosphere of the late 20-s and 30-s the USSR passed three main stages:

1) 1928-1933. In Europe the USSR has allied relations with Germany, opposition to "democratic" countries; in the East - advancing to China and activation in Afghanistan and Iran.

2) 1933-1939. Approximation with Great Britain, France and the USA on anti-German and anti-Japan bases, willingness to maintain spheres of influence in the East and avoid direct confrontation with Japan.

3) 1939- 1941. Approximation with Germany and Japan.

When on the first and second stages the Soviet Union faced relatively stable situation on the western borders and didn't take any steps, capable to change the status-quo, the situation in the East was different. On the Far East hostilities were in progress (in which the Soviet Union was taking part), and the current political map of the world was changing. The most significant events were the following: Soviet-Chinese armed conflict on Chinese-Western railroad in 1929; Japanese aggression in China (1931-1932).

The beginning of Japanese aggression to China in September, 1931 and in March, 1932 facilitated improvement of Soviet-Chinese relations.

In July of 1937 Japan began a large-scale military operation against China. As a result of two year hostilities Japanese Army occupied chief industrial and agricultural regions of China. Worsening of situation in Chinese Republic strengthened its contacts with the USSR. In August of 1937 the USSR and China signed an agreement about mutual non-offence. Right after the signing the agreement the Soviet Union carried out mass military technique deliveries to China, which helped the latter to restrain the offence of Japanese Army.

1928-1933 was a period of very unstable relations "USSR-England, USSR-France and USSR-USA. In October 1929 diplomatic relations USSR-England, that had been broken up in May, 1927, were restored.

In 1930-1931 Soviet-France relationship became very tense.

French government accused Soviet Russia in interfering into its internal affairs. In 1932 a mutual non-offence agreement was signed between Soviet Russia and France.

In 1932 agreements about mutual non-offence with the USSR signed Finland, Latvia, Estonia. These nations were in the fairway of relations with France and the above mentioned agreements practically copied the USSR-France one.

As it was already said, the relations USSR-USA were not stable as well. The USA remained the only Great Power, which didn't recognise the USSR. Americans demanded, as a preliminary step, repayment of all the debts as well as compensation for the damage American businessmen had suffered as a result of the post-revolution expropriation. Nevertheless in the late 20-s the Soviet-American trade developed successfully. In 1930 the Soviet Union took the second place in import of American machines and equipment, and in 1931 - the first place. In summer of 1930 Washington used discrimination measures against Soviet export. That led to the situation, that the USSR had to decrease import from the USA - it went down more than 8 times as lesser. Anyway on 16 November, 1933 a considerable progress was achieved in Soviet-American relationship: diplomatic relations were set up.

The USSR-Germany relationship in the 20-s were rather successful. Mutual trade developed favourably enough. In Autumn of 1934 USSR-Germany talks began about a many-sided agreement on mutual aid (the so-called Western Pact), in which the USSR participated. Germany's refusal from participating, as well as Poland's, non-constructive policy of Great Britain led the negotiations to a deadlock.

In 1935 the USSR disapproved introducing in Germany (in defiance of Versal Peace Treaty) total compulsory military service and Italy's intervention into Ethyopia. The USSR rendered a considerable aid to Spain republican government, sending regular troops to the country under the pretence of volunteers.

Real contacts between England, France and the USSR apropos of German threat began in March, 1939. In April of 1939 experts of the three countries began to consider draft agreements on mutual aid in connection with the would-be German aggression. The negotiations advanced with much difficulty. No side wanted to accept unambiguous obligations. The talks came to a full stop.

Practically simultaneously with the beginning of the talks between England and France since spring of 1939 the USSR started to reconnaissance German positions relatively a possible rapprochement. In his turn Hitler was exceedingly interested in a sooner learning about Soviet positions , since he used all the possibilities of assignments from the West and decided to try to unfix the international system with the help of the East.

Having come to a deadlock on the negotiations, Soviet administration went into rapprochement with Germany. In August of 1939 German minister for foreign affairs Ribbentrop and V. Molotov as the USSR Minister for foreign affairs, signed Pact of mutual non-offence. In a additional secret protocol "spheres of influence" of Germany and the USSR in Eastern Europe were divided: Almost the whole of Poland was to be German sphere of interest, and a small portion of Eastern Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, some other regions became sphere of USSR influence.

Thus the USSR returned the regions of the former Russian empire. Signing the Pact led to cut-off in the relations between the USSR from one side and England and France from the other. English and French delegations were recalled from Moscow.

Culture in the 1930s

In 1926 43% of the USSR's population were illiteral. In 1927 there were 119,000 schools in the country, 1200 colleges, universities and technicums. In 1930 a target was put to carry out total compulsory primary education and illiteracy termination.

In industrial cities it was decided to fulfil total education in volume of the seven-year school. As a result according to the All-Union population enumeration on 17 January, 1939 percentage of literate inhabitants over 9 years of age came up to 81.2% (90.8% for men and 72.6% for women). 152 000 schools functioned in the country. In 1940 there functioned 4600 colleges, universities, academies of different sort and other higher educational institutions. By the end of the second five-year plan (practically by 1940) the Soviet Union won the first place in the world on the number of students.

Tangible results were achieved in natural and technical sciences. In 1928 S. Lebedev invented an original method of making synthetic caouthchouc out of ethyl spirit. Serious discoveries were made in the realm of nuclear physics: D. Scobeltsin invented method of cosmic rays detecting, A. Ioffey designed multy-wafer isolator, Semenov successfuly worked over the problem of chain reactions. In 1930 the first in the world jet engine was invented by F. Tsander, that worked on gasoline and pressed air.

In 1929 the All-Union Academy of Agricultural sciences (including 12 institutes) was set up; N. Vavilov was administered as its president. That very year Belorussian Academy of sciences was established.

In the years of the second five-year plan new physics-and-technical institutes were founded in the cities of Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, Sverdlovsk, Tomsk. All-in-all in 1937 there functioned 867 scientific research institutes and their branch offices, where 37,600 scientists worked.

Achievements in the realm of humanities were more modest. Role of historical education and historical researches became more important. In 1934 teaching of history was restored in universities, History-and-Archeology Institute was founded, in 1933 - Institute of History. In the 30-s teaching of history starts in the secondary school.

Situation in Fiction literature and Art could be called a tragic one. In April of 1932 the Communist Party Central Committee accepted the "Decree on rebuilding fiction literature unions". Instead of numerous literature groups it was decided to set up one "Union of the USSR writers".

The process of victimisation touched a number of outstanding writers and poets: O. Mendelshtam, S. Tretyakov, I. Babel, L. Averbakh, V. Kirshon and others. Almost all of the "farming life writers" perished.

Still in those years noticeable works were written, famous "Tikhiy Don" by Michael Sholokhov, "Master and Margaret" by M. Bulgakov, poems by A. Akhmatov, N. Kluyev, M. Tsvetaev, novels by A. Gorky, A. Tolstoy, A. Fadeyev and others.

Outstanding works in cinema, sculpture, painting, music were created in those years also.

Soviet Russia
Revolutions of 1917
Civil War
Russia in NEP
Industrialization. USSR in 30s
USSR in Second World War (1939-1945)
First Post-war Decade
XX CPSU Congress. "Thaw" (1956-1964)
Epoch of "Developed Socialism" (1964-1985)
"Perestroika" (1985-1991)

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