17 Stalinist Russia and International Communism -- Part 4
The question is whether the goal was worth the price.
The old world in Russia was destroyed in 1917.
The tsarist political structures were gone.
There was a bourgeois revolution when the peasants of individual plots of land were taken over by the Bolsheviks.
The relations of production in the 1920s were mostly non-socialist and had slid back to the "petty-bourgeois capitalism" of the NEP.
Nepmen and the market economy were replaced by a centrally planned, socialist economy in the urban-industrial sector.
"Socialism" tends to stretch the concept beyond acceptable levels.
After a brief proletarian dictatorship, it was not the socialism that Marx had envisioned, characterized by high levels of productivity, personal freedom, and withering away of the state.
It was similar to the state-directed transformation of Russian society that had been imposed by Peter the Great in the early 18th century.
Marxist categories tend to be misleading when describing what happened between 1928 and 1934.
The second revolution could not have been successful before the Bolsheviks had concentrated enough power, which required over a decade, to undertake what constituted an all-out attack on the country's peasantry.
The second revolution may be considered one of the most amazing developments of the twentieth century.
To term it successful stretches the meaning of the word to intolerable limits.
The formal success of socialist goals, themselves based on the humanism of the Enlightenment, was accompanied by brutality, appalling scales of human suffering, and mass death.
People would pray to be spared from this kind of success.
The collective ownership of the means of production was assured after the most fundamental battle had been won.
Industrial production had gone up significantly.
It would continue to make incredible gains for the rest of the 1930s.
The gains were "unbelievable" in a number of senses.
Accidents and failure of equipment were caused by unreliable statistics, shoddy workmanship, and minimal quality control.
The accomplishments were substantial even if you accepted such qualifications.
In twenty years, the Soviet Russia moved from total military defeat, devastating civil war, and near total economic ruin to a level of industrial productivity that ranked only under the United States and Germany.
Russia's upheavals were not over.
The country experienced another kind revolution when the second five-year plan was well under way.
There were signs of relaxation with the Congress of Victors.
The country and some of the leaders of the Party were looking forward to a period of relative relaxation, after the "heroic" efforts of the previous five years.
Many people who were defeated by Stalin in the struggle for power were allowed to rejoin the Party and take up new responsibilities.
A new constitution was prepared, and Bukharin played a key role.
It was widely praised in the west.
It guaranteed Soviet citizens civil rights of the sort included in the French and American constitutions, but also a wide range of other rights and protections, including guarantees of employment, healthcare, and retirement.
The earlier exclusion of the propertied and formerly privileged from the ranks of those eligible to vote was no longer held.
All adult men and women were granted the right to vote.
On the international level there were parallels.
The Comintern took up the cause of the Popular Front, a political coalition designed to rally all anti-fascist forces, after reversing its policy of class warfare.
The possibility that the Soviet regime was entering a period of long-range peaceful development was entertained by some western observers.
The Soviet Union's economic achievements were appreciated by many western observers since they stood in stark contrast to developments in capitalist Europe, which was still reeling from the effects of the Great Depression.
It soon became apparent that all was not harmonious within the Communist Party.
A quarter of the delegates to the 17th congress voted against Stalin's continuing as party secretary, apparently surprising and alarming him, as he had achieved ever more firm control of the party and country.
He wasn't the kind of man to allow the opposition to survive.
He had been hardened by collectivization.
People close to him observed paranoiac tendencies.
It's not clear what was going through his mind, but it's likely that he believed a coalition of moderates in the party, including some of the younger, up-and-coming members he himself had appointed, was maneuvering to impose limits on his rule, perhaps even to Stalin moved initially with disarming subtlety, masking ruthless intent and merciless follow-through as was the case in the struggle for power after Lenin's stroke.
Sergei Kirov was killed on December 1, 1934.
Kirov was one of Stalin's top lieutenants, a handsome and popular man who grew up under Communist rule and assumed leadership positions by the 1930s.
Stalin vowed to root out the guilty after the assassination and allusion to conspiracies.
After Stalin's death, there was evidence that he was the instigator of the assassination, since he feared Kirov was going to succeed him.