The Death of Stalin
Last episode we ended with Lenin’s death. The roll out of Communism was well underway and it was time for new leadership.
One his last policies before he died in 1924 was the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1922…
- A mixed economy put in to place in order to reintroduce a level of private ownership into the economy. Individuals could own small enterprises and some private property. Tax in the form of ‘Quotas’ were introduced with people getting to keep and trade what they produced over and above their quota.
- Lenin had a stroke not long after this, leaving him partially paralysed.
- This is when Stalin really stepped up being a regular visitor, and
- Lenin didn’t like Stalin – or his “Asiatic manner”. Stalin was Georgian and a bit of a racist. Lenin wrote to his sister that Stalin was ‘not intelligent’.
- Regardless, Stalin had support of a large chunk of the Bolsheviks. So…he was needed.
Joseph Stalin ruled from Lenin’s death in early 1924 to 1953 when he too died.
- What life was like under Stalin was brutal
- The movie The Death of Stalin is a black comedy about the power grab in the wake of Stalin’s death. The level of paranoia and fear seems a little hysterical (overacted) however it was pretty true for the time. There is a scene Stalin wanted the recording of musical group. It was a horrible event, but it makes light of the oppression people were under.
Between 1924 – 1927 Stalin spent most of his time killing off any challenges to power. Then by 1927, power was consolidated.
- He saw the solution for getting rid of the dissidents was to imprison them – in the Gulags. There were a few of these operational under Lenin. The number of concentration or forced labour camps grew from about 87 to over 350
- Communist Party and The Soviet State considered repression to be a tool of control and enforcement.
- Securing the normal functioning of the Soviet state system (people toe the line)
- Preserving and strengthening their policies (redistribution)
- Keeping control of their social base – the working class (keep them in fear)
- The GULAG system was introduced in order to isolate and eliminate anyone not toeing the line
- Class-alien, socially dangerous, disruptive, suspicious, and other disloyal elements, whose deeds and thoughts were not contributing to the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
- Forced labour as a “method of re-education” was applied.
- This theory based on one of most famous Marxists in history – Leon Trotsky. Trotsky came up with the solution for dissidents.
- He was a Russian revolutionary, Marxist theorist, and Soviet politician – He was one of the ‘old Bolsheviks’ – and mates with Lenin.
- The Prison Camp idea was based on Trotsky’s experiments with forced labour camps for Czech POWs from 1918
- He wrote about “compulsory labour service” in his book – Terrorism and Communism
Why does all of this happen? Why am I talking about this part in a show about personal finance?
- These violent social policies have to go hand in hand with the economic policies of a Socialist or Communist society.
- It is about the collective and ‘Equality of Outcome’. With force being the only true way to guarantee the outcome.
- The economic policies of socialism have to be enforced by the State.
- Follow the logic – Say you don’t pay taxes, you would get notices from the ATO, eventually criminal charges and eventually you get taken away to jail
- Now imagine you went to the fields (which are meant to be the peoples’ anyway) and picked some left over grain for yourself. People were shot for doing this
- Or, you made a joke about Scott Morrison – That is 3 years in the Gulag!
- Any speech or action against the collective is a crime – and it has to be. No freedom can be present if equality of outcome is desired.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, “Gulag Archipelago”. A recount of stories from these camps from memory with first hand testimony from 227 fellow prisoners…it’s a looooooong book, around 70 hours of audio book.
What landed him in jail?
He was fighting in WW2 and wrote a letter to his friend about conditions on the front – that was his crime.
- It wasn’t until 1973 when this was published that the world got to really learn about this. This caused the western world to start to wake up to the lies of communism.
- Before this, the Socialist plan was also lauded by some members of the Western media, and although much of his reporting was later disputed, New York Times reporter Walter Duranty received the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Correspondence for his coverage of the first five-year plan.
Back to Stalin’s policies
- 1927 – 1931 Collectivization and industrialisation – The core of all Socialist policies
- The word ‘collectivisation’ sounds technical, a little dry, even boring. But, it’s the process of taking what people have, and spreading it around
- Human consequences were profound and dramatic.
- How does one achieve this? It is an impossible problem to solve to keep everyone equal at all times – So the only solution is to remove those who are on higher wealth positions on an ongoing basis, to keep redistributing that wealth until there is no wealth left to redistribute. It’s the perfect race to the bottom.
- The principle was simple. Richer, more successful peasants (Kulaks and Nepmen) had to be ‘liquidated’, by starvation, murder or exile.
- For equality – Those ‘with’ have to be taken from. But this requires dehumanisation.
- Sadly, the Soviet Union lagged behind the industrialisation of Western Countries during this period
- But Stalin argued that collectivisation was simply good Marxism.
- To build socialism on earth, he said, they needed to smash the peasants.
- Can’t have a truly socialist society if they still allowed people to farm for themselves and make money
What’s the reason they had lagged behind?
- Up to now the NEP was in place, but Stalin was not a fan
- Too free-market – Some people still could make money
- Kulaks (Rich peasants) and the Nepmen (small business owners)
- This goes against key socialist or communist policies and the belief in a controlled economy with no ‘evil profit’
- 1928 – Stalin starting claiming that the Kulaks were hoarding their grain.
- The Kulaks were arrested and their grain confiscated, with Stalin bringing much of the area’s grain back to Moscow with him in February
- 1928 – The first five-year plan was launched, its main focus on boosting heavy industry;
- Needed Labour to achieve this
- Prison Labour – The Gulags
- To meet the goals of the first five-year plan the Soviet Union began using the labour of its growing prisoner population
- 1929 – Stalin ordered the collectivisation of the agriculture countryside
- 1930 – Took measure to liquidate the existence of the kulaks as a class; accused kulaks were rounded up and exiled either elsewhere in their own regions, to other parts of the country, or to concentration camps.
- By July 1930, over 320,000 households had been affected by the de-kulakisation policy
- 1932 – About 62% of households involved in agriculture were part of collectives, and by 1936 this had risen to 90%
- Takes time to do it but once in place it’s hard to get out
- Productivity slumped, then famine broke out in many areas
Famines: Starvation in Ukraine – 1932 to 1933
- 1930 – Armed peasant uprisings against dekulakisation and collectivisation broke out in Ukraine, but they were crushed by Red Army – He wanted to truly crush them
- Stalin’s thugs roamed the fertile Ukrainian countryside, seizing grain that he could sell abroad — which would allow him to buy the industrial machinery he desperately wanted
- Around 3.3 to 7.5 million died in Ukraine – there are not many records
- 2 million Kazkhs population (40%)
- Remember – There were more people starved over one year than Jews who died in the Holocaust over 4 years
I will Skip over WW2 – Check out Ghosts of the Ostfront series by Dan Carlin who covers this well over a few hours
- WW2 had 70 million deaths in total (soldiers, civilians etc) – 30 million died in the conflict of Russia and Germany alone – Germany lost 5 million troops total in the whole war. 4million of these were on the Eastern front
I’ll also skip over the start of the Cold war – Remember too…governments do have the power to take whatever they want by force – if they write the law to allow it (South Africa and Constitution changes)
What Russia looked like when Stalin died
- Work-life was rough since unions were shut down as they are a competing power to the State. The irony is that a lot of unions are on the left
- No longer allowed to strike
- No concern for working conditions
- The collectivization created a large-scale famine – herded into vast state-run farms where they would toil ceaselessly for the greater Soviet good, instead of for private profit.
- Famine led many Russians to relocate to find food, jobs, and shelter outside of their small villages which caused many towns to become overpopulated.
- Millions dying because of starvation or even freezing waiting in line for rations
- People stopped having children – decreased the population.
- The imprisonment of others into labour camps – Not nice places – Especially from other inmates
- Dangerous prisoners were released and forced into labour camps
- People were forced to live in communal apartments
- Without work and the danger of being robbed for the possessions that they did manage to keep.
- With such living quarters people shared tight spaces with strangers accompanied by many other horrors such as theft, violence and stripped of privacy.
Socialism went on until 1922 – By 1991 more than 60 million had died… which is about a third of the Australian population every decade. These are pretty normal as far as socialist outcomes go.
Be careful what you wish for.