Revision Notes and Essays on Stalin

My IBDP HL class looks at Stalin’s biography and political personality; history often ignores the psychological makeup of the people to focus less on trivia than on simple dates. Stalin’s rise to power, his place in the party apparatus, and changes in membership are dealt with. To fully understand Stalin’s success, the class will see a Powerpoint that considers discontent with the policies of NEP.


Joseph Stalin was born Iosif Dzhugashvili (officially and this is no longer believed) December 21 1879- the same day as my son! Everyone who knew Stalin as a boy spoke of traits that have been described as that of an angry “rebel personality.” He tended to rebel against every manifestation of authority over him, notably at the seminary where he studied. Here he showed political defiance: He joined an underground Social Democratic Party circle (for which he was expelled from the seminary).

Complicating this, he was known to be insecure and defensive. He was Georgian, small, and severely pockmarked from smallpox. One arm was shorter than the other and he had apparently webbed-feet.

BUT the seminary may have encouraged certain features of his personal political culture.  He seems to have imbibed a taste for dogma and for the sacredness of principles. The seminary may also have encouraged his Manichean vision of the world. It also influenced the way he spoke.

Another noticeable trait in Stalin’s youth was an obsession with heroes and heroism. Throughout his life, he had special heroes—and did everything he could to emulate them. When still in elementary school, he took the nickname Koba after a Robin Hood-like hero in a favourite book; later, he changed to the revolutionary underground name Stalin (“Man of Steel”).

Stalin’s political biography reflected many of these traits and self-ideals. At a time when most Georgian socialists were Mensheviks, Stalin chose the Bolsheviks. He was impressed by Lenin’s heroic idea of the vanguard party of professional revolutionaries. He was attracted by the Bolshevik reputation for toughness and greater militancy. For Stalin, all these traits were embodied in the ideas and personality of the Bolshevik leader, Lenin, whom Stalin liked to call the “mountain eagle” of the party.

In the great debates over policy in the 1920s, which were also struggles over power, Stalin generally supported the dominant pro-NEP view, but in speeches and writings, he indicated that this was not his basic philosophical approach. He placed great stress on the importance and power of human will, on the “subjective” in history. LIKE HITLER. He argued that Leninism was a style of leadership entailing the combination of “Russian revolutionary sweep” with “American practicality.” When Stalin criticised Trotsky in the 1920s, he accused him of lacking sufficient optimism and faith. Similarly, in 1928–1929, Stalin and his supporters criticized the pro-NEP arguments of Bukharin and others of the “Right deviation” for their “pessimism.” There was also what some have called a religious spirit to Stalin’s ideas—a preoccupation with faith and the dogmatic sacrality of certain ideas.

How Stalin acquired so much influence and power in the 1920s.

Perhaps the most important factor was the changing structure of the party and Stalin’s place in this apparatus. During the Civil War, the whole structure of the party was reorganised. Until then, the party was governed by a small Central Committee dominated by Lenin. In 1919, a more complex structure was created, including a Political Bureau (Politburo), an Organizational Bureau (Orgburo), and a Secretariat. The role of the Secretariat, which Stalin headed after 1922, grew increasingly important, having control of party membership, appointments, and assignments. In Stalin’s hands, these powers proved to be tools for strengthening his own influence. He could fill the party bureaucracy with supporters and loyalists.  He could appoint the powerful party secretaries.  Through the secretaries, he could also influence selection of delegates to the Party Congress, which was the supreme power in the party.

There were a number of reasons why the rank and file of the party was not more assertive of their formal rights to elect officials and delegates, but the most important may have been the changing composition of the party. During the Civil War there was an enormous increase in party membership, especially as Communist victory became more likely. This had a major impact on political attitudes and behavior. Above all, these new Communists, now a majority, were less independent-minded and more obedient to the party organization. This was intensified in 1924, at the time of Lenin’s death, with the massive “Lenin enrollment” promoted by Stalin. As General Secretary, Stalin could make use of these conditions. He built networks of supporters in both party and state. This administrative power played a critical role in Stalin’s defeat of the party oppositions in the 1920s.

Once Stalin succeeded in becoming the dominant leader in the party at the very end of the 1920s, he made his heroic and willful political-cultural style central to the spirit of the times. Given his personality and style, it is not surprising that he felt uncomfortable with Bukharin’s moderate arguments about economic and social development. But Stalin also spoke to the dissatisfactions and desires of many. There were troubling economic problems with NEP. Internationally, there was a growing fear of a coming war against the USSR, for which the country was not prepared. Most important, there was considerable hostility to NEP.

The main policy expression of Stalin’s approach was a massive program of industrial and social transformation, embodied in the First Five-Year Plan. A good expression of the spirit motivating this drive to transform Russia was the statement in 1927 by Stalin’s chief economist Strumilin: “There are no fortresses that Bolsheviks cannot storm.” In many ways, this phrase captured the essence of the emerging Stalinist political culture.

Questions to Consider:

1.      How would you characterise Stalin’s political outlook in comparison to Trotsky’s and Bukharin’s?

2.         In what way was Stalin’s party nickname, which meant “Man of Steel,” revealing about his political personality and values?

Stalin’s Revolution

This class deals with the radical industrialisation and social transformation of the First Five-Year Plan (1928–1932) and why Stalin led the country on this sudden change of course in abandonment of NEP. Forced collectivisation of the peasantry is examined - the course of the campaign, peasant responses, and its effects.


In 1928, Stalin distanced himself from his ally Bukharin and the market-based ideas of NEP.  Bukharin offered the most cynical interpretation of this shift: Stalin is an “unprincipled intriguer” who changes his theories according to whom he wishes to get rid of. Another view is that Stalin had always favoured a more aggressive industrialization strategy than Bukharin but had kept these views in the background in order to defeat Trotsky and the Left. It is also possible, however, that Stalin’s thinking gradually evolved in response to economic, social, and political pressures in the late 1920s.

Stalin’s policy began to resemble a new revolution, or a new civil war which was apparent, for example, in the announced drafts of the First Five-Year Plan for 1928–1932.  Whilst this plan was being drafted, there were strong political pressures to be more ambitious. The final draft set almost mythical targets. Nevertheless, from the point of view of enthusiasts of this industrial revolution from above, including Stalin, this plan was not ambitious enough.

One may argue that the First Five-Year Plan was less an economic plan than a political manifesto meant to inspire. The whole atmosphere of the First Five-Year Plan reflected this politicization, which meant militarisation, of economics. The press described industry as a battlefield. To achieve or overfulfil goals, “shock troops” of workers were rushed to production sites. Young people volunteered to work on such grandiose projects as the Magnitogorsk metallurgical factories in the Urals. Those who urged that more rational policies be adopted, or who failed in their tasks, were treated like traitors in wartime.

These efforts produced mixed and unbalanced economic results. Heavy industry developed at the expense of consumer goods. Even heavy industry suffered from an imbalance of growth. But production did increase considerably. These efforts also helped lay a foundation for more moderate but sustained growth during the following Five-Year Plans.

Changes in agriculture were even greater. Agrarian development was also treated as a political, even military, campaign. From 1927 to 1930, the attack on the peasantry gradually intensified. In the winter of 1927–1928, grain requisitioning was reinstated. Peasants responded by sowing less land.

In response, the campaign was intensified; kulaks (richer peasants) were to be “liquidated as a class,” and collectivisation of all agriculture was decreed in 1930.

The result of these decrees was intense and violent. Hundreds of thousands of kulaks were evicted from their homes and their property was confiscated. More than half of all remaining peasants were forced into collective farms. Almost all property was collectivised.

Peasants resisted these measures in different ways. Some peasants resisted actively. Most peasants, though, engaged in more passive resistance: abandoning the countryside or, if remaining, slaughtering vast numbers of their animals.

The Grain procurements had increased and peasants were now under the political control of the state. But agriculture suffered as sullen peasants refused to exert themselves. The most serious consequence of collectivization was its toll in human lives.

When recounting these years, it can be difficult to recall that this was also a time of heroic idealism. One sign of this was the widespread idea that the First Five-Year Plan was also a “cultural revolution.”

One aspect of this revolution was “social purging.” Beginning in 1928, “bourgeois experts” (especially engineers) were publicly tried. Communists were encouraged to challenge the role of non-proletarian experts throughout Soviet society in almost every profession and every institution. Although initiated and manipulated from above, this cultural revolution had great public appeal and spontaneity. Elements of class and generational conflict were clearly visible in these struggles. This cultural revolution was also about ideas, especially about how to transform everyday life.

Centralised control, tyrannical state power, brutality, even murderous violence were commonplace. Yet idealism, enthusiasm, dreams of a new world, and often fantastic optimism were also present. No wonder, then, that historians have fiercely debated the meaning of these years.

Questions to Consider:

1.      In interpreting the era of the First Five-Year Plan, how would you balance the mixture of brutality and idealism and explain their interrelationship?

2.         Why were peasants forced into collective farms in 1930? For economic reasons? For political reasons?

Stalin quotes
-Stalin after Nazi-Soviet pact: “We got peace for our country for 18 months, which let us make military preparations.”
-"Great Britain provided time; the United States provided money and Soviet Russia provided blood."
-Stalin after 1936 constitution: “Never before - no, really never - has the world ever seen elections so completely free, and so truly democratic! History has recorded no other example of the kind."
-Do you want our Socialist fatherland to be beaten and to lose it is independence? We are fifty to a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this lag in ten years. Either we do it or they crush us.”

-USSR should overtake and outstrip the capitalist countries.”
-Socialism in one country
-I believe in one thing only, the power of the human will
-Death is the solution to all problems. No man - no problem.
  -After Fulton Speech Stalin in Pravda 13 March 1946: “Mr. Churchill has called for a war on the USSR.
-Stalin before his death: “the imperialistic powers will wring your necks like chickens.
-We think that a powerful and vigorous movement is impossible without differences — "true conformity" is possible only in the cemetery.
-If any foreign minister begins to defend to the death a "peace conference," you can be sure his government has already placed its orders for new battleships and aeroplanes.
-A sincere diplomat is like dry water or wooden iron.
-The press must grow day in and day out — it is our Party's sharpest and most powerful weapon.
-We disagreed with Zinoviev and Kamenev because we knew that the policy of amputation was fraught with great dangers for the Party, that the method of amputation, the method of blood-letting — and they demanded blood — was dangerous, infectious: today you amputate one limb, tomorrow another, the day after tomorrow a third — what will we have left in the Party?
-What would happen if capital succeeded in smashing the Republic of Soviets? There would set in an era of the blackest reaction in all the capitalist and colonial countries, the working class and the oppressed peoples would be seized by the throat, the positions of international communism would be lost.
-If the opposition disarms, all is well and good. If it refuses to disarm, we shall disarm it ourselves.
-We do not want a single foot of foreign territory; but of our territory we shall not surrender a single inch to anyone.
-Anti-Semitism, as an extreme form of racial chauvinism, is the most dangerous vestige of cannibalism. Anti-Semitism is dangerous for the toilers, for it is a false track which diverts them from the proper road and leads them into the jungle. Hence, Communists, as consistent internationalists, cannot but be irreconcilable and bitter enemies of anti-Semitism. In the U.S.S.R., anti-Semitism is strictly prosecuted as a phenomenon hostile to the Soviet system. According to the laws of the U.S.S.R. active anti-Semites are punished with death.
-We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they will crush us. (Speech "The Tasks of Economic Executives" (4 February 1931) at the beginning of the rapid industrialisation campaign. Ten years later, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.)
-I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat. (Stalin describing his aim to create a powerful, subservient army of ape-men of 'immense strength, but with an underdeveloped brain' to meet the needs of his five year plans.)
-Life has improved, comrades. Life has become more joyous.
-Mankind is divided into rich and poor, into property owners and exploited; and to abstract oneself from this fundamental division, and from the antagonism between poor and rich, means abstracting oneself from fundamental facts.
-Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.
-History shows that there are no invincible armies and that there never have been.
-Ours is a just cause; victory will be ours!
-Hitlers come and go, but Germany and the German people remain. ("The Order #55 of the National Commissar for the Defence" (23 February 1942) when the enemy had reached the gate of Moscow during World War II. He called on the people not to identify all Germans with the Nazis.)
-This leads to the conclusion, it is time to finish retreating. Not one step back! Such should now be our main slogan. ... Henceforth the solid law of discipline for each commander, Red Army soldier, and commissar should be the requirement — not a single step back without order from higher command. ("The Order of the National Commissar for the Defence of the Soviet Union" (28 July 1942) Moscow)
-The writer is the engineer of the human soul.
-Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach.
-Gratitude is a sickness suffered by dogs.
-God's not unjust, he doesn't actually exist. We've been deceived. If God existed, he'd have made the world more just... I'll lend you a book and you'll see.
-Before your eyes rises the hero of Gogol's story who, in a fit of aberration, imagined that he was the King of Spain. Such is the fate of all megalomaniacs.
-This creature softened my heart of stone. She died and with her died my last warm feelings for humanity. (At the funeral of his first wife, Kato Svanidze, on 25 November 1907)
-One of Ivan the Terrible's mistakes was to overlook the five great feudal families. If he had annihilated those five families, there would definitely have been no Time of Troubles. But Ivan the Terrible would execute someone and then spend a long time repenting and praying. God got in his way in this matter. He ought to have been still more decisive!
-If, against all expectation, Germany finds itself in a difficult situation then she can be sure that the Soviet people will come to Germany's aid and will not allow Germany to be strangled. The Soviet Union wants to see a strong Germany and we will not allow Germany to be thrown to the ground.
-This war is not as in the past; whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise. If now there is not a communist government in Paris, this is only because Russia has no an army which can reach Paris in 1945.
-I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this—who will count the votes, and how. [Variant (loose) translation: The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.]
-The Pope! How many divisions has he got? [Said sarcastically to Pierre Laval in 1935, in response to being asked whether he could do anything with Russian Catholics to help Laval win favour with the Pope, to counter the increasing threat of Nazism; as quoted in The Second World War (1948) by Winston Churchill]
-So the bastard's dead? Too bad we didn't capture him alive! [Said in April 1945 — On hearing of Hitler's suicide, as quoted in The Memoirs of Georgy Zhukov]
-Does Djilas, who is himself a writer, not know what human suffering and the human heart are? Can't he understand it if a soldier who has crossed thousands of kilometres through blood and fire and death has fun with a woman or takes some trifle? [In response to complaints about the rapes and looting committed by the Red Army during the Second World War
In the Soviet Army, it takes more courage to retreat than advance.]
-Tsar Alexander reached Paris. [Said to an American diplomat who remarked how grateful it must be to see Russian troops in Berlin.]
-I know that after my death a pile of rubbish will be heaped on my grave, but the wind of History will sooner or later sweep it away without mercy. [Said to Molotov in 1943]
-God is on your side? Is He a Conservative? The Devil's on my side, he's a good Communist. [Said to Winston Churchill in Tehran, November 1943, as quoted in Fallen Eagle: The Last Days of the Third Reich (1995) by Robin Cross, p. 21]
-Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?
-There are no fortresses that Bolsheviks cannot storm.
-Quantity has a quality all of its own.
-I'm finished. I trust no one, not even myself.

Stalin Historiography   

The Liberal thinks that persons play a major part in history. Stalin as a person is interesting in understanding the events, he took advantage of other persons weaknesses etc to build his personal power.
The Structuralist believes that it is structures in society that will determine the actions of history. The French revolution is caused by society, not by persons storming the Bastille.
The Determinist believes that there are actual “laws” determining the historical way that events will take. If there are a number of factors present, then these factors will lead to that certain event. Their approach is similar to a natural scientist’s, if you heat water it will boil, if you have population starving in the cities you will have a revolution etc. 
The Intentionalists examines the willing and desires of different persons or factors in society had. Did Stalin intend for the Purges to take place or not? Are there any evidences for this. If one is an intentionalist you are most likely to have an liberal perspective too.
The Revisionist is an historian who has revised the history out of any reason, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they belong to a whole new school, it only means that they have a different opinion than most other active historians coming from having revised the facts.
The Normative approach, means that we should use history as a warning example, there are dos and dont's in history.


Evaluate the results of Stalin's first 5 Year Plan

Ambitiously, Stalin started the 5 year plan and until 1941, it had a big impact in Russia economically, politically and socially. It was a big success economically, however there were negative effects socially. Politically, Stalin was able to strengthen his power. Economic and Social effects will be examined in detail.
Stalin emphasized on heavy industries. As a result, there was a huge achievement on the economy. Stalin thought, to make the USSR strong enough to protect itself, emphasizing heavy industries which could make the USSR develop faster, was needed in order to catch up other industrialized countries such as Germany, Japan, the US, the UK etc. He successfully increased coal and steel production by six-fold and four-fold respectively. In addition, new industrial centres such as Magnitogorsk and Gorki were set up. Especially, Magnitogorsk, in south east Siberia, which was based on the metal industries like iron and steel, experienced enormous growth; in 1929 there were only 25 people living there but three years later the number had increased to 250,000. Those achievements, which were seen as the major successes of the 5 year plans, made it possible to recover the USSR's economy which had been disrupted during the WWΙ. In addition, since the Soviet Union takeover in 1917, trade with the rest of the world had been severely reduced but by increase in heavy industries' productions, the USSR could rely in its own resources.
However, there were some social problems ; human rights were attacked. Workers couldn't get any respect from the USSR government. They had to work in extremely poor and dangerous conditions and for big engineering projects (dangerous) such as dams or canals, slave labour (such as political opponents, kulaks or Jews) were used. In fact, when Stalin ordered to build the Belomor canal, 100,000 workers (slave labours) died between 1931 to 1933. In addition, those who made mistakes were sent to the labour camps which were called 'gulag', This showed how ruthless was Stalin; everyone had to work under the fear and to fulfil increasingly unrealistic targets, a wide range of enterprising methods like ambushing resources, offering a bribe were used; corruption increased. Another point which showed Stalin didn't care about their his people was that he only dealt with what were called "capital' industries. Thus, consumer industries were neglected. There was a shortage of consumer goods and thus people suffered from the increased price.
Politically, Stalin seized power by removing those who opposed to the plan or those who might be an obstacle to the progress. For example, Stalin attacked the Muslim faith because he thought it was holding back industrialization. 7 million Kulaks who opposed to his plan were also eliminated. Capitalist classes such as Nepmen and 'bourgeois experts' removed. Therefore, his position was strengthened and this became the basis of his strong policy in the future.
In conclusion, as a result of the five year plan, great success was achieved economically. However, socially, people in the USSR suffered terribly because of Stalin's ruthless policy. Politically, by removing all obstacles, he strengthened his position.

Problems with Industrialisation during the first 5 year plan

In 1928, Russia had decided to launch its first 5 year plan to rapidly industrialise and catch up to the rest of Western Europe in terms of economic, and technological strengths. With this rapid industrialisation came many problems ranging from social, political, and economical factors, where one problem ties into another problem from another factor.
Social problems arose from industrialisation in many ways, such as, horrible living conditions that came from too much concentration of building factories and mines by the government. This was a problem because it was contributing to workers discontent to work. This led to more absenteeism which was not only a social problem, but was slowing production and had brought up economic problems as well. Another problem was workers having to work in horrible unsafe conditions, because of the pressures of meeting marked targets of production, leading them to ignore safety. There was also close to no pay or incentive to work, any money workers did make, was nearly useless, since the government's lack of attention to textile and home product productions, gave workers nothing to buy. This could be an extension of another social problem, such as the back breaking hours workers went through in the form of the " uninterrupted week" where factories would be open 7 days a week, only having 1 day off, which would in all likelihood have been different from one's spouse. Working constantly, barely being able to see family, a horrible home and worthless money will all led up to huge social problems and unrest.
Political problems arose from industrialisation in many ways as well, but one of the main effecting problems, that also brings up social and economic problems is the removal of capitalist classes such as Nepmen and "bourgeois experts". Though this may seem to be a victory for communism, by having a class-less society, the removal of these Nepmen and "bourgeuis experts" in reality was an act of "dumbing-down" the country. Most of those people were the people who knew how to run factories and work machinery to it's full potential, and would be able to meet government production targets more effectively. But with this lowering of expertise, all that the country was left with was inexperienced peasant workers who will only slow down production, and cause more problems such as accidents, worsening working conditions. The example just mentioned can also connect with social and economic problems, since taking the population a step back by ridding it of educated and experienced people, will slow down production and decrease output and profit needed to support the country.
Economic problems arose from industrialisation with many connections to political and social problems. Such as the emphasis on heavy industry and not concentrating enough on things like housing, textile and consumer industries bringing problems of absenteeism, and no content to work with no incentive and rewards. Another example of an economic problem is the increased corruption caused by impossible production targets that lead factory workers and managers to give false data reports, in fear of being punished or losing there life for not reaching targets. For example, the official figure given for the increased industrial production was 852%, compared to the Western estimates that the actual increase in output of industry was 260%. These exaggerated numbers are linked to the corrupted factory managers, but can also be linked to social problems like the lack of skill of many of the workers from political issues such as, elimination of Nepmen and "bourgeois experts" and linking back to other economical problems like the poor pay and conditions causing workers to shift from job to job, keeping them inconsistent and inexperienced in their new fields of work.

Give the Advantages and Disadvantages for Workers Under Stalin’s System
Soviet Russia, the “Worker’s Paradise”, a nation founded on the principles of a ruling proletariat, the theory of idyllic conditions for labourers with the common goal of toiling towards a great modern state. The Five-Year Plans from 1927 to 1937, encouraging the ardent concept of laboremus pro patria, radically changed common life and brought workers advantages as well as disadvantages. To what extent did Stalin succeed in recreating the Marxist vision of implementing excellent working conditions for all?
The work schedule under the Communist dictatorship was drastically changed, with the introduction of novel shift patterns. Factories ran seven days per week, with labourers working in long shifts and resting on a rotating free day[1]. Not only did this mean a substantial need for energy to run the factories and increased maintenance on machinery due to its overuse, it also had a great impact on workers’ personal lives. As both men and women were able to work, their rest days were not coordinated and thus changed the nature of traditional family life. The already limited time for private family life was further inhibited by the fact that mothers and fathers could not spend much time with their families together; domestic life seemed neglected under Stalin’s Five-Year Plans. However, as a young woman, I find this shift in family life to be a very auspicious development in the social structure, as it led to the emancipation of women and their liberation from domestic duties[2]. Women had the opportunity to work in fields typically assigned to men. In numerous propaganda posters of the time, women were depicted as labourers, working in traditionally masculine disciplines as equals to their male counterparts[3]. This was not only encouraged by the Soviet government through propaganda, but also actively made feasible through the establishment of crèches and kindergartens, where children were taken care of while mothers worked. Although I am aware that Stalin did not have a specific feminist aim in mind, his system can be considered an unconscious avant-garde liberation of women, far ahead of any movement in other parts of the world at the time, where the vast majority of women continued wearing the shackles of housewifely obligations for many decades to come. Even nowadays as Laird Keir of Glencairn argues, women still find it inconvenient to prevail over the yawning gap between family and career due to the insufficiency of child care centres. Therefore, from a woman’s perspective, the working conditions in Soviet Russia during the 1930s were in some ways more advanced than the western world in the 21st century.
This system of rotating rest days also impeded workers’ religious traditions. As Sunday was no longer a fixed rest day, workers who had shifts on that day found it difficult to go to church and fulfil their orthodox duties. They were forced to breach the holy commandment of resting on dies dominicus. However, while nowadays it is easy to criticize and label this a violation of basic human rights and the liberty to thoroughly practice one’s religion, it is important to understand that the Soviet government did not encourage religion; on the contrary, being an atheist organisation, it was in its interest to discard the religious traditions from Russian society. Therefore, although it may have been difficult for the first generation of orthodox Christian workers under Stalin to conform to the rest-day system, later generations found it less inconvenient, since religious duties were gradually drained out of Soviet society anyway.
Workers during Stalin’s regime were under a certain amount of pressure. As the industry had fixed output requirements decreed by the state, it was essential to meet production targets. The Five-Year Plans were often unrealistic. Steel for instance was required to almost triple between 1932 and 1937, a feat that was seemingly impossible, yet to fail to achieve it was virtually a crime. Due to this pressure, many workers of factories that did not reach the goals were accused of sabotage and show-trials were held to intimidate others. Additionally, conditions became stricter; they included punishments in order to implement rigorous discipline. For example, in 1938, workers could be fired for tardiness exceeding 20 minutes without an adequate reason. Therefore, it is easy to assume that the overreaching nature of Stalin’s Five-Year Plans made conditions for workers more difficult. However, it is vital to acknowledge that the ones who bore the most strain were the leaders of the factories, the ones in charge of achieving the goals set by the government, as they were the ones facing the more severe consequences if they failed. Despite the recorded stories of sabotage accusations and show-trials, those in charge of the factories had to treat the labourers fairly in order to encourage them to work well in the first place; the power of strikes was eminent ever since Tsarist times. Workers who did well were rewarded with prizes such as better housing, entertainment and extra food rations. This developed into prominent movements of enthusiastic workers such as the Stakhanovites, who were exceptionally zealous and productive and thus earned recognition. Although many of their accomplishments were myths that sparked violent envy in their comrades, they show that workers in Soviet Russia had the opportunity to achieve distinction and that there were men and women who ardently believed in Stalin’s objective of rapid industrialisation.
Workers in the USSR faced dangerous conditions. The construction of formidable new cities such as Magnitogorsk cost many lives due to insufficient safety regulations and harsh seasons. However, high death rates were nothing new among workers around the world. For instance, during the 1920s, the death rate of workers at the Tanganyika railway construction was more than 50%. The League of Nations decreased it to a “more acceptable” 4%. While workers around the world suffered (and still do) it is unreasonable to solely denounce the Soviet Union for the stipulations that its labourers faced, dreadful as they may have been. Nowadays, we still witness child labour and sweat shops.
One must study the working conditions in the Soviet Russia in its context. While we find it easy to criticize severe punishment, strict regulations and rigorous schedules when examining them from a western, capitalist, democratic perspective where working regulations are comparatively relaxed, the global situation in the Stalinist era was quite different. October 1929 saw the infamous Wall-Street Crash, causing 15 million Americans to lose their jobs by 1933. The Russian population remained unscathed. While we may condemn the fact that Russian workers had to live off food rations, we must not forget the queues of unemployed individuals waiting for food in the USA during the Great Depression, suffering from the instability of the market. At least every worker in the USSR had a job.

What were the Advantages and Disadvantages for workers under Stalin 1929- 1939?
The time period of 1929-1939 was one greatly influenced by the five year plans. In the Soviet Union, it were these years which marked the incredible industrial growth and complete change in work culture. However, while there were many changes for workers due to communism, it is debatable which were advantages and which disadvantages. The problem is that when we look back at this time period, we compare the working and living conditions of then to today. However, to be able to fairly assess the advantages and disadvantages for workers under Stalin, one must first know what came before the time period of 1929-1939. It is not possible to accurately and fairly assess anything, without comparing it to the past. Therefore, I will compare the conditions of the five year plans to the conditions for workers under the Tsar.
The most important change for workers during this time period was the working conditions. During the time of the Tsar, a working day was eleven and a half hours long, but with overtime the working day could be extended further. Furthermore, factories themselves were poorly lit and badly ventilated; combined with the working hours and the low payment these factories remind of modern day sweatshops. Working conditions between 1929 to 1939 were different. With the introduction of electricity into the factories, and new machines being installed at the start of the first five year plan, working conditions became less harsh and more endurable. The main reason for this was that at least in the factories, a worker’s job took less physical strength than what it would have taken in the early 20th century. Nevertheless, for workers in the Belomor Canal the conditions definitely got worse. Large scale slave labor was used to construct this utterly useless canal and with around 100000 deaths during its constructions it was most like the project which caused the most casualties. Overall, one cannot describe working conditions under Stalin an improvement. While the industrialization of Russia allowed certain tasks to be taken over by machines, the tremendous human cost of simply the Belomor Canal shows that the individual no longer counted. With the government focusing purely on the collective, the individual was forgotten about, and with them the conditions in their work places. Therefore, Stalin’s early years were definitely not an advantage for the average worker.
Living conditions however steadily improved for hard working workers. If a worker produced above average, he could become a so called “Stakhanovite” which could earn up to 4 times as much as a regular worker and was eligible to better housing. However, even regular workers gained advantages. Before 1914, most Russian workers had shared a room with up to 10 fellow workers, and had been mostly ignored by the government due to them being the minority amongst a country of peasants. While not much is known about how this aspect of living conditions changed, workers were at least given the dream of a greater Russia with better housing. This can best be seen in the plans for Magnitogorsk, where housing was carefully planned to suit the workers and fulfill all their needs with doctors, schools and shops integrated in each house block. Nevertheless, one cannot speak of an advantage in the living conditions either. While many historians such as John D Clare state that there was poor housing, none actually give examples of what housing was like during the 5 year plans. There seems to be a tendency to focus on the economic output in terms of facts and judge the human cost purely from an emotional standpoint. This makes judging the Living conditions very difficult and therefore I cannot reasonably say whether Stalin provided advantages or disadvantages for workers in this category.
Lastly the educational and health care systems were greatly improved compared to any other time period in Russian history. Free health care and compulsory education turned an illiterate population with a life expectancy of 40 years into a literate population in which 2 million people where in secondary education. Mainly two things were achieved here. Firstly, education was introduced in Russia which, when looking at its size, is an enormous achievement. Secondly, education was not only introduced, but it was introduced for free which makes this definitely an advantage for any worker.
In conclusion, the time of the five year plans saw many changes for Russian workers, some were advantages others disadvantages. However, the overall lack of information on the specifics shows how little communists cared about the people, as long as the overall goal was achieved. This is exactly where in my opinion the main disadvantage for workers under Stalin lies; while the government was supposed to represent the workers, it hardly cared about their interests.

[1] Baykov, Alexander. The Development of the Soviet Economic System: an Essay on the Experience of Planning in the USSR. Pages 351 and 352. CUP Archive, 1947.
[2] Goldman, Wendy Z. Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936. Page 358. Cambridge University Press, 1993.
[3] Chatterjee, Choi. Celebrating Women: Gender, Festival Culture, and Bolshevik Ideology, 1910-1939. Page 11. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002.

How did the conditions of workers change under Stalin?
In the 1930s there was numerous changes made to the communist regime, and one of them was the conditions of workers and their support towards changes in policies. Some benefited from the changes and rose in society, while others underwent suffering and need for food. Russians workers are divided in three categories, because of the way they worked and their opinions of the circumstances they were working in, these are the women, the Stakhanovites and the other workers, mainly average age men, who were complaining about all the work. Women found it easier and better for them to work under Stalin as they had more opportunities, Stakhanovites thought that by working hard you would get more and the other workers did not like the new working conditions.
The role of women changed dramatically in the Soviet Union when under Stalin, because they became much more equal to men. Women probably liked it better working under Stalin or Lenin than working under the Tsar, where they did not even have the chance to work. After the 1917 Revolution, women who fought with men for Communism gained more equality in the workforce as they were promised. They could get any job they wanted in all fields and therefore in the 1930s there was a massive entry of women in the labour force. In Leningrad, for example the number of working women increased from 44% to 50% from 1935 to 1937[1]. Women were mostly demanded to work in crèches and kindergartens to take care of their children after giving birth. Also an advantage for women who had six to more children would receive 2000 roubles per year[2], which was more than the average sum of money for working families. Furthermore after men had to mobilize into the army, the percentage increased further, because women had to take the men’s places in the factories and businesses. However there was still some discrimination among the people, where women still had the lower positions in the workplace and the women were usually more illiterate than men. In Leningrad there were at least 50 to 60% of female doctors, but only 4 women were chief doctors. This was the same in factories where there would be 318 male factory directors, but only 20 female factory directors[3]. Thus women could have liked the new opportunities they were getting under Stalin or not, whether they were in a higher or lower position.
There was a group of young workers who liked working under Stalin and they were called the Stakhanovites. The Stakhanovites were named after a coal miner by the name of Alexei Stakhanov in the Donbas region. He was supposed to have cut 102 tonnes of coal on his own in a single shift[4], while the normal amount was of 7 tonnes therefore 14 times the usual amount a man would produce[5]. Afterwards many others, younger workers especially, would follow Alexei Stakhanov footsteps and produce even more than he did and their achievements would be reported in the newspapers. It seems as if the conditions of workers have changed, because most Stakhanovites were given new flats, given medals and made ‘Heroes of Socialist Labour’. Therefore some of the Stakhanovites’ lives improved as quoted in a Magnitogorsk newspaper by Sheila Fitzpatrick, ‘Aleksei Tischenko…By 1936 the couple owned furniture, including a couch and a wardrobe, as well as dress clothes, including two overcoats, some women’s dresses, men’s suits, shoes…’[6] During that time, common Russians did not even have proper housing and having furniture and clothing was a luxury. For other Stakhanovites, life was not the same. They were not popular among the workforce, as they pushed the production norm, on which wages were calculated. There were badly treated and some were even murdered. Few had new flats and holidays, most had to be satisfied with much less than in the quote above. For Stalin, ‘everyone works according to his abilities and receives not according to his needs, but according to what he produces’[7], therefore nobody gets anything until they produced something.
The people who hated the new work practices and who usually complained were average age men. In 1929 the government introduced a new policy called the ‘uninterrupted week’[8]; it obliged the workers to work all seven days of the week and having a rest day off on any day. The problem with this new rule was that couples complained that they did not have time for each other anymore and Christians could not go to Church on Sundays as often as they wanted. Also absenteeism was introduced to prevent workers from missing work or arriving late. It was to punish the workers who skipped a day’s work without consent and reason and they will evict from their job if done so. In 1938, this policy was changed to being late more than twenty minutes without good explanation[9]. This made workers work in a factory a few days and then go to another city or town to start over, therefore internal passports were invented. These unable workers to leave the town they lived in and could not move without the police’s consent. A proportion of the workers were also forced labour, where they had to work under compulsion, fear of physical punishment or being denied food. This therefore increased the suicides rates and conditions were not very good. But however there was still some optimism from these workers in building the first Communist society, to build that paradise on earth that Marx prophesied. And workers believed that it was enough to have survived one day of it and they will just have to live to see another day[10].
Under Stalin and Communism many things changed and one of those things was the conditions of workers. The conditions usually changed depending on a group of people. For women working was a new opportunity that had to be taken at any cost. For young people who still were idealistic, working was to prove that Communism and the USSR were strong. For other workers, the conditions were considered dangerous and they were complaining about the new work practices. The problem of working under Stalin was that if you did not work hard enough or more then you were supposed to then you would be killed or sent to labour camps. Therefore the conditions of workers did change but not necessarily in a good way.

[1] Book: Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.212
[2] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.212
[3] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.212
[5] Book: Russia & the USSR: 1905-1941 by Terry Fiehn
[6] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.215
[8] Worksheet from Mr. Heath’s book
[9] Sheet from Mr. Heath’s book
[10] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.223
 From the May 2000 IBDP History Paper 3 exam
Compare the Cold War policies of Stalin and Khrushchev from 1945 to 1964.
The Cold War, stretching from the aftermath of World War II until the collapse of the Soviet Union, was a defining epoch in global history. Within this broader narrative, the roles played by Joseph Stalin (1945–1953) and Nikita Khrushchev (1953–1964) as leaders of the Soviet Union stand as significant but contrasting approaches to Cold War policy. This essay seeks to compare the Cold War policies of Stalin and Khrushchev, exploring their ideological underpinnings, tactical manoeuvres, and the resultant impacts on international relations. It draws upon the interpretations of historians like Gaddis, Taubman, and Zubok to present a nuanced understanding of the differences and similarities in their strategies. The essay argues that while both leaders were shaped by their ideological convictions and the geopolitical context, their respective policies were fundamentally different in implementation, objectives, and ramifications. 
Stalin's policies during the initial years of the Cold War were primarily driven by a deep-rooted sense of ideological antagonism towards capitalism and a strong desire for security. The formulation of the "Iron Curtain" that segregated Eastern Europe from the West became emblematic of Stalin's approach. The core of Stalin’s strategy lay in consolidating power within the Soviet sphere of influence. Eastern European nations, notably Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany, were transformed into satellite states through a series of orchestrated communist coups. Stalin was less interested in the spread of Communism for its own ideological sake than he was in using it as a buffer against the West. Gaddis posits that Stalin’s primary objective was to create a cordon sanitaire around the Soviet Union to prevent any potential invasion. The focus was not on the liberation of the proletariat worldwide but on ensuring the safety and longevity of the Soviet state. In terms of international diplomacy, Stalin was largely inflexible and confrontational. The Potsdam Conference (1945) and the subsequent division of Germany laid bare his unwillingness to cooperate with Western powers unless absolutely necessary. His decision to blockade West Berlin in 1948 exemplified this confrontational stance, aiming to test the resolve of the Allies and establish Soviet dominance in the region.
Stalin's decision to approve the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950 further underlines his aggressive yet calculated strategy. It was a risk, certainly, but one he deemed worth taking to expand the communist sphere without directly engaging the United States. Although this led to a full-fledged conflict involving the United States and UN forces, the Korean War revealed Stalin's willingness to employ military action to safeguard or expand Soviet interests. Gaddis argues that this war was Stalin's way of probing American commitments in Asia, while keeping the major battleground away from Europe, where the Soviet Union was more vulnerable. Stalin's approach to nuclear weapons was also one of strategic caution. While keen to develop a Soviet atomic arsenal to counterbalance American power, he was not overtly aggressive in its potential deployment. In sum, Stalin’s Cold War policy was one of cautious aggression, focused on expanding and consolidating Soviet spheres of influence, but stopping short of actions that might provoke a direct military confrontation with the United States. He chose battles—sometimes literally—that he believed would not invite direct American military intervention, thereby averting a large-scale conflict while still furthering Soviet interests.
In contrast to Stalin, Khrushchev's approach to Cold War policies was considerably more dynamic, ostensibly favouring 'peaceful coexistence' while displaying a paradoxical combination of de-escalation and aggression. Upon assuming power, one of Khrushchev's initial domestic actions was the process of de-Stalinisation, a political reform that aimed to dismantle the worst aspects of Stalin’s regime, particularly the oppressive police state and cult of personality. Internationally, this translated into a seemingly softer approach towards the West, particularly the United States, with diplomatic efforts such as his famous visit to the United States in 1959 and the partial resolution of the Austrian State Treaty in 1955. Taubman underscores Khrushchev's genuine desire for détente, suggesting that he saw peaceful coexistence as a tactical necessity, if not a strategic objective.  However, Khrushchev's era also witnessed flashpoints that nearly escalated into full-blown conflicts, like the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. In a strategic gamble, Khrushchev approved the placement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, a mere 90 miles from the American coast. Zubok interprets this as an audacious move to rectify the imbalance of nuclear power between the United States and the Soviet Union, while also solidifying Cuba as a satellite state. The crisis that ensued, ending in a public relations disaster for Khrushchev, demonstrated his willingness to take risks that Stalin would have considered imprudent.  Another key aspect of Khrushchev’s Cold War policy was his interest in economic competition with the West. His famed proclamation, "We will bury you," was less a threat of military action than an economic challenge, according to Taubman. It was a wager that the socialist model would prove superior in providing for the material needs of the populace, and therefore, would eventually supplant the capitalist system, not through war but through economic success. This constitutes a distinct shift from Stalin's policies, which were less concerned with winning hearts and minds and more concentrated on establishing military and political dominion.
Additionally, Khrushchev’s policies had a unique focus on ideological and cultural export. The launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957 was not just a technological achievement but also a propaganda coup designed to showcase Soviet supremacy in the scientific arena. The space race became another front on which the Cold War was fought, far removed from the traditional battlegrounds of military might and geographical spheres of influence. According to Zubok, this move showed Khrushchev's commitment to battling for ideological supremacy on all fronts, not just the military and economic. Khrushchev's handling of crises in the Soviet sphere also showed a different set of priorities and methods compared to Stalin. In 1956, the Hungarian Uprising presented a major challenge to Soviet authority in Eastern Europe. Unlike Stalin, who would likely have quashed the revolt with immediate and overwhelming force, Khrushchev hesitated, even engaging in a brief, abortive political dialogue with the insurgents. Eventually, tanks rolled into Budapest, but the episode revealed a level of indecisiveness and a willingness to explore political solutions, however fleetingly. The complexities of Khrushchev’s policies thus lie in their mix of conciliatory diplomacy, risky military gambits, and a renewed focus on ideological warfare. He was less consistent than Stalin but also more adaptable. His approach reflected a belief that the Cold War was a multifaceted contest that could not be won through military and political means alone. Therefore, while maintaining a strong military posture, Khrushchev expanded the Soviet Union's strategies to include economic, technological, and ideological competition. His failure to manage these complex strategies effectively, as demonstrated by the Cuban Missile Crisis and his eventual ousting in 1964, does not diminish the radical shifts he introduced in Soviet Cold War policies.
A comparative analysis of Stalin's and Khrushchev's Cold War policies illuminates a trajectory from rigidity to adaptability in the Soviet strategic outlook. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union's foreign policy was defined by a conservative approach, which prioritised the safeguarding of Soviet territory and the expansion of communism within a carefully calibrated risk paradigm. Khrushchev, on the other hand, pushed the boundaries of Cold War engagement by adopting a more flexible, albeit inconsistent, stance that blended military assertiveness with diplomatic overtures.  Fitzpatrick describes Stalin's policies as an extension of the Soviet Union’s wartime experiences. Emerging from the devastation of World War II, Stalin was primarily concerned with securing the Soviet Union’s western borders and maintaining a buffer zone of compliant satellite states. This buffer zone, known as the Eastern Bloc, was seen as a vital cushion against potential aggression from Western powers. Consequently, Stalin’s tactics often involved the direct or indirect subjugation of countries within the Soviet sphere of influence through means such as purges, rigged elections, and, as seen in the Berlin Blockade, economic coercion.  Khrushchev's policies, as highlighted by Taubman, were more ideologically expansive, reflecting a wider Cold War battlefield that extended beyond the traditional focus on Europe to include other global theatres such as Cuba, Vietnam, and even outer space. Khrushchev was willing to experiment and take risks, sometimes at the cost of internal and external political stability. His gamble in Cuba, for example, nearly pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war but was indicative of a leader who was less risk-averse than his predecessor.  In terms of diplomacy, Stalin was notoriously disinclined to trust his Western counterparts, eschewing serious diplomatic initiatives for most of his tenure. This manifested in the breakdown of relations with the West and the onset of the Cold War. Khrushchev, despite his blunders and inconsistencies, did seek diplomatic engagements as evidenced by his meetings with U.S. Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy. His approach was not solely based on confrontation but included attempts at dialogue, however imperfect and often unsuccessful they were. 
Taubman further elucidates that Khrushchev's approach to diplomacy was informed by a desire to challenge the capitalist system from within, by presenting socialism as a viable and superior alternative. This was most evident in his enthusiasm for scientific and economic competition with the West. While Stalin had been primarily focused on state-building and consolidation, Khrushchev's ambitions were more outward-looking, a reflection of a leader attempting to position the Soviet Union as a global superpower not just in military terms but in all aspects of human endeavour. Both leaders also displayed a complex relationship with ideology. Stalin weaponised Marxist-Leninist doctrine to justify purges, show trials, and territorial acquisitions, treating it more as a tool for statecraft than a guiding principle. Khrushchev, while liberalising some aspects of domestic policy, still maintained a staunch belief in the superiority of communism as a social system. His attempts to export revolution, notably to Cuba and other developing nations, were couched in ideological terms but were also part of a broader strategy to extend Soviet influence globally. Additionally, both leaders grappled with internal party dynamics, albeit in different ways. Stalin's purges and totalitarian control of the Communist Party were aimed at eliminating opposition and consolidating power, setting a precedent for the autocratic governance of the Soviet Union. Khrushchev, having risen to power in a post-Stalin era, had to navigate a more complex political landscape, which included not just hardliners but reformists as well. The challenges he faced in managing these internal divisions contributed to his downfall in 1964 but also underscored the increasingly multifaceted nature of Soviet governance.
In conclusion, Stalin's and Khrushchev's Cold War policies were products of their times and individual temperaments, yet they also reflect broader shifts in Soviet strategy. Stalin’s policies, rooted in traditional geopolitical considerations and the exigencies of state-building, laid the foundation for the Soviet Union's Cold War posture. Khrushchev, while inconsistent and sometimes reckless, expanded the battleground to include ideological, scientific, and economic fronts, displaying a flexibility that was both an asset and a liability. Thus, the trajectory from Stalin to Khrushchev reveals not merely a change in tactics but a fundamental transformation in the Soviet Union’s approach to the Cold War, from a cautious regional power to an ambitious, albeit flawed, global superpower. 
 From the November 2009 IBDP History Paper 3 exam
 “Stalin’s domestic and foreign policies between 1945 and 1953 lacked consistent aims.” To what extent do you agree with this statement?
The period between 1945 and 1953 was a pivotal era for the Soviet Union, marked by the end of World War II and the consolidation of Joseph Stalin's power. The complexities of Stalin's domestic and foreign policies during these years have given rise to debates among historians concerning the consistency of his aims. While some scholars assert that Stalin pursued a coherent set of objectives aimed at solidifying state control and expanding Soviet influence, others argue that his actions were largely reactive, conditioned by a myriad of challenges both within and outside the Soviet Union. This essay will scrutinise the extent to which Stalin's policies during this period lacked consistent aims, through a detailed evaluation of domestic reforms, foreign policy initiatives, and scholarly perspectives. 
In the realm of domestic policy, Stalin's actions between 1945 and 1953 were primarily geared towards the reconstruction of the Soviet Union following the devastation wrought by World War II. The Fourth Five-Year Plan, initiated in 1946, was focused on rebuilding infrastructure, reviving heavy industry, and ensuring a stable food supply. Here, Stalin's aims were clear: to restore the Soviet Union to its pre-war strength and improve its economic resilience. Fitzpatrick argues that these policies were a direct continuation of the earlier Five-Year Plans and were consistent with Stalin's overarching vision of socialist development and modernisation. A particular area of focus was the collectivisation of agriculture, which sought to increase food production through the consolidation of small farms into larger, more efficient units. Despite the hardships this policy imposed on the peasantry, it was in line with Stalin's broader objective of eliminating class distinctions and bolstering the Soviet economy. Conquest suggests that collectivisation was not merely an economic strategy but also served a political purpose: the subjugation of the rural populace and the consolidation of the Communist Party's control over the countryside. The domestic policy landscape was not entirely uniform, however. The period also saw the initiation of the "Doctor's Plot," an anti-Semitic campaign that led to the arrest and persecution of numerous physicians accused of conspiring against the Soviet leadership. This campaign had a decidedly different tenor, driven more by Stalin's paranoia than any grand ideological or economic vision.
Continuing the examination of domestic policies, the repressive measures enacted in this period, such as the Doctor's Plot and other anti-Semitic purges, reveal a less consistent set of aims. While the economic initiatives sought to build the nation's resilience, the political purges seemed to undermine social stability and unity. Nove suggests that this dichotomy in domestic policy could be interpreted as evidence of a leader who was reacting to perceived threats, rather than pursuing a coherent agenda. In this view, Stalin's domestic policies were not driven by a unified vision but were instead a patchwork of actions intended to deal with immediate challenges. The prevalence of purges and show trials, which had been a feature of Stalinist policy since the 1930s, intensified in the post-war era. According to Nove, these measures were not so much a continuation of earlier policies as they were a response to the challenges posed by the new international dynamics and internal unrest. The trials and purges sought to quash dissidents and consolidate power, perhaps reflecting Stalin's awareness of his own dwindling years and the lack of a clear successor. Thus, while some facets of Stalin's domestic policies between 1945 and 1953, such as economic reconstruction and collectivisation, followed a coherent set of aims rooted in socialist development and modernisation, other aspects, particularly those related to internal security and social cohesion, were reactive and lacked a consistent objective. Consequently, Fitzpatrick's contention that Stalin was pursuing a unified ideological vision is only partially substantiated, and it becomes evident that domestic policies during this period were not solely the result of a grand plan but were also shaped by contingent factors.
Turning to Stalin's foreign policy between 1945 and 1953, the extension of Soviet influence over Eastern Europe stands as a defining characteristic. The establishment of puppet regimes in countries like Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia was facilitated through the Red Army's presence, effectively turning these nations into Soviet satellite states. Stalin's rhetoric of protecting socialist countries from capitalist encroachment could be seen as consistent with his long-term objective of global socialist revolution. Gaddis argues that Stalin’s moves in Eastern Europe were underpinned by traditional geopolitical considerations, aiming to create a buffer zone against potential Western aggression, an aim seemingly consistent with the security concerns that arose in the aftermath of the devastating World War. However, the Berlin Blockade of 1948-1949 reveals a level of inconsistency in Stalin’s foreign policy aims. This act of sealing off Berlin to force the Western Allies out was at odds with the image Stalin tried to portray of the Soviet Union as a peace-loving nation post-World War II. It was a clear escalation that risked direct confrontation with the United States and its allies. According to Zubok, this drastic measure was not part of a broader, coherent strategy but rather a risky gamble intended to test the resolve of the newly-formed NATO and the commitment of the United States to European security. The Korean War (1950-1953) further muddies the waters in evaluating the consistency of Stalin’s foreign policy aims. While Stalin approved and materially supported Kim Il-Sung's invasion of South Korea, his involvement was notably limited, avoiding direct military engagement. Carr contends that this was indicative of Stalin's pragmatism, recognising the risks of a broader conflict with the United States. This approach seems at odds with the more assertive policy evidenced in Eastern Europe and suggests a level of inconsistency in foreign policy objectives.
The inconsistency in Stalin's foreign policy is further evidenced by the ambivalence towards the newly founded People's Republic of China. Despite sharing ideological underpinnings, Stalin initially hesitated to fully embrace Mao Zedong’s regime, concerned about the implications for Soviet hegemony in the socialist world. Though eventually signing a Sino-Soviet Treaty in 1950, Stalin’s lukewarm approach contrasts with the more assertive policies in Eastern Europe. LaFeber suggests that the cautious approach to China was more in line with traditional Russian geopolitical concerns than with the broader ideology of international socialist revolution. The period also saw the dissolution of the Cominform in 1953, a mechanism initially designed to coordinate communist parties across Europe. This dissolution contradicts the notion that Stalin sought to establish a unified international socialist front. Deutscher argues that the dissolution was an admission of the failure to maintain ideological coherence among the various communist parties and a recognition that the institution had outlived its usefulness. Thus, despite attempts to portray a cohesive ideological front, the reality reveals a series of pragmatic decisions influenced by changing geopolitical realities. Therefore, while Gaddis’ assertion that Stalin's foreign policy was primarily driven by security concerns holds some weight, it is clear that these policies were not consistently applied across different contexts. From Eastern Europe to East Asia, Stalin's actions indicate a combination of ideological fervour, pragmatic geopolitical considerations, and reactive strategies. As such, his foreign policy, like his domestic policy, lacked a consistent set of aims and appeared to be shaped as much by opportunism as by any overarching vision.
Examining the question of ideological consistency demands a closer look at the ideological underpinnings guiding Stalin's policies. The Marxist-Leninist framework, which had been the ideological backbone of the Soviet Union, provided a theoretical justification for both domestic and foreign policies. Yet the era between 1945 and 1953 saw several ideological shifts that challenge the notion of a unified policy objective. The formal denouncement of cosmopolitanism in 1949, for instance, coupled with an increased emphasis on Russian nationalism, signaled a departure from internationalist Marxist ideals. Suny argues that this ideological shift was a pragmatic adaptation to post-war realities rather than a coherent development of Marxist-Leninist principles. The Zhdanov Doctrine of 1946, which advocated for the division of the world into two opposing camps—the imperialist and the anti-imperialist—also demonstrates an attempt to articulate a coherent ideological framework for foreign policy. However, the application of this doctrine was uneven at best. In Eastern Europe, the doctrine was applied stringently, as noted earlier, but in relations with Asian communist movements, the lines were often blurred. Kuromiya points out that the Zhdanov Doctrine failed to adequately address the complexities of global politics, thereby reinforcing the argument for a lack of consistent aims in Stalin’s policies. The ideological underpinnings were further complicated by the 1952 publication of the Economic Problems of Socialism in the USSR, where Stalin introduced the concept of "socialism in one country" to a new generation. This seemed to contradict the earlier aim of international socialist revolution and align more closely with a focus on domestic consolidation. Malia argues that this ideological shift reflected Stalin's recognition of the limitations of Soviet power and the necessity to focus on internal development, even at the cost of ideological purity.
The discontinuity between the ideological goals set forth in official doctrines and their practical application suggests a lack of consistency in both domestic and foreign aims. Notably, Stalin's approach to the Tito-Stalin split in 1948 further illustrates this inconsistency. While the schism was ostensibly rooted in ideological differences, the subsequent expulsion of Yugoslavia from the Cominform was more a manifestation of Stalin’s inability to tolerate dissent than a clash of ideological tenets. Hobsbawm argues that the break with Yugoslavia highlighted Stalin’s proclivity for consolidating power at the expense of ideological coherence, reflecting a wider pattern of inconsistent policy objectives. Additionally, Stalin's views on the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and the "Doctors' Plot" toward the end of his life are indicative of shifting ideological postures. These campaigns against perceived internal enemies diverged from the Marxist-Leninist principle of proletarian internationalism and leaned more toward nationalist and even anti-Semitic tendencies. Nove contends that these actions were not coherent extensions of a stable ideological line but rather ad-hoc reactions to perceived threats and opportunities. In summary, Stalin’s policies from 1945 to 1953, both domestic and foreign, were marked by a series of ideological and practical inconsistencies. Suny, Kuromiya, Malia, and Hobsbawm all point to various instances where Stalin deviated from a coherent ideological path, whether it be the differing approaches to Eastern Europe and Asia, or the shifts in ideological rhetoric within the Soviet Union itself. These inconsistencies were often driven by a combination of practical exigencies, immediate political concerns, and Stalin's idiosyncratic approach to governance. It is therefore evident that the lack of a consistently applied set of aims was a defining feature of Stalin’s rule during this period.
The intricate weave of Stalin's policies from 1945 to 1953 defies easy categorisation into coherent and consistent aims. The domestic front, characterised by a paradoxical blend of centralised economic planning and ideological shifts, corroborates the view that these policies were formulated in reaction to fluctuating economic, social, and political currents. Likewise, the foreign policy landscape presents a tableau of incongruities: the rigid imposition of Soviet systems in Eastern Europe stands in contrast to the more nuanced and at times hesitant approach to Asia and the global communist movement. The analyses of Gaddis, LaFeber, Deutscher, Suny, Kuromiya, Malia, Hobsbawm, and Nove contribute significantly to understanding the complex nature of Stalin's policies. While some argue that the inconsistencies were products of ideological evolution or adaptability, others assert that they were primarily dictated by pragmatic considerations and the vicissitudes of power dynamics, both within the Soviet Union and on the international stage. What emerges is a portrait of Stalin not as a leader propelled by a steadfast ideological compass, but as one swayed by a confluence of factors, including but not limited to ideological convictions, pragmatic imperatives, and a deeply rooted predilection for consolidating personal authority. As such, the assertion that Stalin's domestic and foreign policies between 1945 and 1953 lacked consistent aims finds substantial validation. It becomes clear that the absence of a unifying ideological or strategic vision is not necessarily an indication of policy failure, but rather an acknowledgment of the complexities inherent in governance during a particularly turbulent epoch. Stalin's rule, consequently, serves as an instructive study in the intricate interplay between ideology, power, and pragmatism in shaping policy decisions.
 From the May 2019 IBDP History Paper 3 exam

  “Stalin’s control of the Communist Party was the main reason for his victory in the struggle for power (1924–1929).” Discuss.

The ascension of Joseph Stalin to the helm of the Soviet Union remains a point of complex analysis among scholars. Between the years 1924 and 1929, following the death of Vladimir Lenin, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) witnessed an intricate power struggle that culminated in Stalin's ascendancy. Various factors contributed to this outcome: Stalin's control over the Communist Party, his political manoeuvres, the weaknesses of his rivals, and the socio-political landscape of the period. However, the extent to which his control over the party mechanisms was the paramount reason for his victory is a subject of contention. This essay aims to dissect the role of Stalin's command over the Communist Party in his victory and juxtapose it with other contributing factors.  

One of the cornerstones of the argument that attributes Stalin's victory predominantly to his control over the Communist Party lies in his strategic positions within the party machinery. By 1922, Stalin was appointed General Secretary of the Central Committee, a role perceived as insignificant at the time but which provided him with considerable administrative sway. In this position, Stalin had the authority to appoint party officials across the length and breadth of the Soviet Union. Kotkin argues that the General Secretary’s position enabled Stalin to accumulate what he terms 'administrative resources,' a form of power often overlooked but highly instrumental in Stalin's rise. This administrative clout facilitated the replacement of party members who were less favourable to Stalin's ambitions with those who were loyal to him. This tactic proved beneficial during key votes within the Central Committee and Politburo, effectively steering decisions in his favour. Stalin also exhibited cunning political acumen in employing the Lenin Enrolment (1923–1925) to his advantage. Through this campaign, nearly one million new members, primarily from working-class backgrounds, were admitted into the party. These newcomers, lacking in political sophistication, were easily influenced and proved to be a pliable voting block that could be directed as Stalin deemed fit. Pipes emphasises the importance of the Lenin Enrolment in diluting the influence of old Bolsheviks, who were more ideologically aligned with Trotsky and other rivals. By engineering a seismic demographic shift within the party, Stalin was not just replacing bodies; he was recalibrating the party’s ideological and political balance in his favour.

The Orgburo (Organizational Bureau) and the Secretariat, both under the influence of Stalin, further augmented his control over the party. By having influence in these organs, he controlled key areas like party appointments and disciplinary actions. According to Conquest, the magnitude of the apparatus controlled by Stalin was unprecedented, and it acted as a "silent machine," quietly shaping party ideology and decision-making in his favour. Furthermore, Stalin’s role in expelling Trotsky from the party in 1927 exemplified the extent to which he could manipulate the party apparatus. The expulsion was less a reflection of Trotsky’s waning popularity and more a testament to Stalin's ability to mobilise party mechanisms to quash dissent. Moreover, Stalin astutely exploited factional divisions within the party. The division among Bolsheviks into 'Left' and 'Right' gave Stalin an opportunity to side with one faction against the other temporarily, thereby weakening both over time. The infamous alliance with Zinoviev and Kamenev against Trotsky and later, the alliance with Bukharin against the 'Left Opposition,' were not mere coincidences but calculated moves. Fitzpatrick asserts that Stalin's strategy was a brilliant employment of "divide and conquer," breaking any potential coalition that could challenge him. Therefore, the argument that Stalin's control over the Communist Party was the main factor in his rise to power bears significant weight. His capacity to manoeuvre within the party structure and manipulate its various mechanisms presented him with the tools necessary for his ascendancy. By strategically placing loyalists, exploiting demographic changes, and employing the party’s organs to stifle opposition, Stalin rendered the party a vehicle for his own ambitions. This was not mere opportunism but a systematic campaign to control a complex political machine, which he executed with meticulous care.

While Stalin's domination of the Communist Party is irrefutable, his political tactics and strategies also merit substantial scrutiny. One cannot underestimate the ideological chameleon that Stalin proved to be. His policies and public positions were often mutable, adapting to the exigencies of the power struggle. For example, initially, Stalin supported the NEP (New Economic Policy), aligning himself with Bukharin, who was a strong advocate of the policy. However, as soon as it became politically expedient, he switched stances, advocating for rapid industrialisation and collectivisation, thus discrediting Bukharin and attracting a different faction of the party to his side. Service elucidates this point by arguing that Stalin's political brilliance lay in his ability to appear as an ideological centrist, thereby attracting the support of various factions within the party at different times. The 'Testament' of Lenin, in which Lenin criticised Stalin's rudeness and suggested his removal from the position of General Secretary, could have been a death blow to Stalin’s ambitions. However, his deft political handling of the situation proved critical. Stalin publicly offered his resignation, knowing that it would be refused. By doing so, he appeared humble and willing to serve the party, thereby turning a potential disadvantage into an asset. Tucker notes that this instance was pivotal, representing a political survivalism that his opponents like Trotsky and Zinoviev seemed to lack. The United Opposition (1926–1927), composed of Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Kamenev, further illustrates Stalin's ability to outmanoeuvre his adversaries. Although this coalition had a strong ideological base, they failed to strategise effectively, allowing Stalin to exploit their weaknesses. Trotsky’s focus on the "Permanent Revolution" alienated him from many party members who viewed it as a divergence from Leninist principles. 

Kamenev and Zinoviev, who initially supported Stalin in marginalising Trotsky, later realised the potential threat Stalin posed. However, their delay in forming the United Opposition and the inherent mistrust within this coalition weakened their stand against Stalin. Deutscher posits that the inability of the United Opposition to effectively unify and offer a coherent alternative to Stalin made them easy targets for Stalin's divisive tactics. By casting himself as a mediator and a centrist, he could often stand above the ideological fray, chipping away at the credibility and unity of the opposition. Another vital aspect was Stalin's exploitation of Lenin's legacy. Lenin remained a revered figure in Soviet politics, and his writings and principles were considered sacrosanct. Stalin understood the symbolic power behind being seen as Lenin's true successor. To this end, he popularised the term "Trotskyism" to delineate and isolate Trotsky from mainstream Bolshevism. By contrasting "Trotskyism" with Leninism, he successfully portrayed Trotsky as an aberration, deviating from Leninist orthodoxy. Carr suggests that this masterstroke of political branding served to solidify his claim to Lenin’s mantle while further marginalising his primary adversary. Thus, while control over the Communist Party apparatus was instrumental, Stalin’s own political strategies and tactics were equally crucial. His ability to adapt, his skilful manipulation of ideological tenets to his advantage, and his astute understanding of the power dynamics within the party, gave him the flexibility to navigate the volatile political landscape. He was not just a bureaucrat but also a shrewd political operative who knew when to be rigid and when to be flexible. His versatility made him a formidable contender in the power struggle, capable of using both the party machinery and political tactics to decimate his opposition.

An often overlooked but vital factor contributing to Stalin’s rise to power was the geopolitical and social context of the Soviet Union during the late 1920s. After years of war and internal strife, there was a palpable longing for stability and strong leadership. It was this underlying sentiment that provided fertile ground for Stalin's authoritarian tendencies to take root and flourish. People were more willing to trade off ideological purity for stability, economic development, and national pride. Stalin's policy of "Socialism in One Country," as opposed to Trotsky's idea of "Permanent Revolution," appealed to this nationalistic sentiment. Suny argues that Stalin's policies were better attuned to the immediate concerns of a war-ravaged, economically beleaguered populace, which favoured practicality over ideological adherence. Moreover, Stalin's push for rapid industrialisation resonated with a populace eager for modernisation. The First Five-Year Plan (1928–1932) was not just an economic policy; it was a political statement. In advocating for breakneck industrialisation, Stalin was making a promise of future prosperity, juxtaposing his vision with the purported inefficiency and ideological rigidity of his rivals. Davies contends that the promise of rapid industrialisation acted as a seductive vision for a population weary of stagnation and foreign intervention. Even if the Five-Year Plan later resulted in hardships, the very audacity of its ambition bolstered Stalin's image as a strong, visionary leader, capable of making the Soviet Union a global superpower.

Simultaneously, the international environment played into Stalin’s hands. The capitalist countries were perceived as hostile forces seeking to undermine the Soviet regime, reinforcing the need for a strong, central authority. Stalin effectively utilised this external threat to rally internal support. The Cold War rhetoric, although still in its infancy, was already manifesting in the international isolation faced by the Soviet Union. Stalin's argument that the Soviet Union needed to be militarily and economically self-reliant struck a chord with both the party and the masses. Hobsbawm underscores the point that Stalin effectively used the international climate to legitimise his push for centralisation and authoritarian rule. Furthermore, Stalin's suppression of internal dissent was often couched in the language of protecting the Soviet state from both internal and external enemies. The disenfranchisement and eventual elimination of rivals were justified as necessary steps in safeguarding the revolution and the state. Wheatcroft argues that the language of existential threat was not merely propaganda but tapped into real fears and anxieties within the Soviet society, thereby contributing to Stalin's consolidation of power. In conclusion, the social and geopolitical context within which Stalin operated was conducive to his authoritarian style of governance. Whether it was leveraging the widespread desire for stability and economic progress, or capitalising on the international pressures faced by the Soviet Union, Stalin demonstrated an acute understanding of the larger forces at play. He successfully positioned himself as the solution to a multitude of complex challenges, both internal and external. Therefore, while his control of the Communist Party was undoubtedly a significant factor, it was by no means the sole reason for his ascendancy. A confluence of factors, including his own political dexterity and the sociopolitical context, were instrumental in shaping his path to power.

The struggle for power following Lenin’s death in 1924 was a complex interplay of political cunning, ideological battle, and social context. While Stalin’s control of the Communist Party apparatus was undeniably a cornerstone of his eventual victory, focusing solely on this aspect oversimplifies the intricacies of his rise. Stalin demonstrated a formidable political acumen, as highlighted by Service, Tucker, and Deutscher, who each articulate distinct but converging perspectives on Stalin's manipulation of internal divisions and ideological stances. Equally pivotal were the geopolitical and social landscapes of the Soviet Union during that period, accentuated by historians like Suny, Davies, Hobsbawm, and Wheatcroft. These contextual factors not only shaped the political discourse but also provided a fertile ground for Stalin’s brand of authoritarianism to flourish. In retrospect, Stalin’s ascent can be understood as a multifaceted phenomenon, grounded not merely in his bureaucratic control but also in his ability to adapt and his nuanced understanding of the larger sociopolitical context. His rise to power was not the result of a singular factor but the culmination of a series of interconnected elements that he skilfully navigated. Therefore, to attribute Stalin’s victory solely to his control of the Communist Party would be to negate the complexity and multifaceted nature of historical developments. This essay has offered a nuanced exploration of Stalin’s rise to power between 1924 and 1929, engaging with different historical perspectives and placing the events within their broader context. It posits that a myopic focus on Stalin's control of the Communist Party fails to capture the complexity of the historical realities that contributed to his ascent. Instead, it was a confluence of his political strategies, the divided opposition, and the broader sociopolitical context that facilitated his ultimate triumph. Thus, while the Communist Party was an essential tool in his arsenal, it was by no means the only one.

 From the May 2020 IBDP History Paper 3 exam

  Evaluate the impact of Stalin’s economic and political policies in the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1953.