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Access to History. Stalin's Russia 1924-53 by Michael Lynch

By Michael Lynch

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Extra info for Access to History. Stalin's Russia 1924-53

Sample text

Therefore, it was perfectly fitting that the peasantry should, in a time of national crisis, bow to the demands of industrialisation. Stalin used a simple formula. The USSR needed industrial investment and manpower: the land could provide both. Surplus grain would be sold abroad to raise investment funds for industry: surplus peasants would become factory workers. One part of the formula was correct. For generations the Russian countryside had been overpopulated, creating a chronic land shortage.

He also claimed that he was preparing the USSR for war against its capitalist foes abroad. This was not simply martial imagery. Stalin regarded iron, steel and oil as the sinews of war. Their successful production would guarantee the strength and readiness of the nation to face its enemies. For Stalin, therefore, industry meant heavy industry. He believed that the industrial revolutions which had made Western Europe and North America so strong had been based on iron and steel production. It followed that the USSR must adopt a similar industrial pattern in its drive towards modernisation.

It is true that Stalin’s government exhorted, cajoled and bullied the workers into ever greater efforts towards ever greater production. But such planning as there was occurred not at national but at local level. It was the regional and site managers who, struggling desperately to make sense of the instructions they were given from on high, formulated the actual schemes for reaching their given production quotas. This was why it was so easy for Stalin and his Kremlin colleagues to accuse lesser officials of sabotage while themselves avoiding any taint of incompetence.

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