‘How can anyone doubt that we are advancing at an accelerated pace in the direction of developing our heavy industry, exceeding our former speed and leaving behind our “age-old” backwardness?’
Joseph Stalin A Year of Great Change 1929
When the Bolsheviks took power in the 1917 revolution they inherited a country that was in a large respect a backwards nation as such significant changes were necessary. The Soviet Union lagged behind the other great nations of the time. Production in steel, coal, textiles and cotton was significantly less than that of Britain and the United States. Additionally Russia’s main industry for export was also the weakest, agriculture was rife with problems. Access to new machinery was almost impossible and most farmers relied on primitive farming methods. The rural areas were drastically over populated which resulted in too many mouths to feed. As such the Bolsheviks faced no small task in the reform of the Soviet Union. Between 1927 and 1940 the Soviet Union made significant steps towards an industrialised state. The Soviet Union in this period was the sight of a rapid change both in agriculture and industry and the Soviet Union was forever changed.
The Failures of Collectivisation
‘Even our enemies are forced to admit that the successes are substantial. And they are really very great’
Joseph Stalin Dizzy With Success 1930.
Agriculture was the weakest sector of the economy prior to the 1917 revolution and continued to be the Achilles heel of the Soviet Union throughout Stalin’s rein. Stalin attempted to develop agriculture through the implementation of collectivisation. Collectivisation was the removal of privately owned farms, instead peasants worked on government owned plots, These collective farms or Kolkoz were said by Stalin to based on the ‘common cultivation of soil.’ This unification of ‘dwarf farms’ was said to allow access to new machinery and peasants were to join on a voluntary basis. However both of these statements were false. Historian Davies states that access to machinery was limited with only forty three point two per cent of Kolkoz farmed land with tractors. Furthermore this machinery made little difference to the small kolhoz and private farms that characterised the landscape of rural towns across the Soviet Union. Inline with the falsehood of access to machinery the joining of Kolhoz was not on a voluntary basis, peasants were persuaded to join these farms and the enforcement of collectivisation meant that meant peasants fled the countryside and found work in urban centres. This mobilisation to city centres was key to the success of industry, peasants movement into the cities meant that the Socialist utopic ideals could be built around industry.
The Successes of Industry
‘We wish you further success in your work of assembling, setting in working order and inaugurating this giant plant. We do not doubt that you will be able to surmount all difficulties and will fulfil with honour your duty to the country.’
Joseph Stalin Address to Automobile Works, Nizhni-Novgorod November 1931