To what extent was the success of Stalin in retaining power in the Soviet Union between 1929 and 1953 due to the appeal of Communism ?
Joseph Stalin was the longterm Soviet Communist leader who retained power between 1929-1953 due to a variety of reasons, a number of which can be attributed to the appeal of Communism.
Stalin's intention in his industrial policiy was to transform the Soviet Union into a Superpower by equipping the country with a formidable industrial base. His aims were to catch up with Western industrial output and to give Russia a strong economy which would enable the country to equip and defend itself against foreign invasion. Stalin aimed to achieve this through a series of Five Year Plans.
Part of the appeal of Communism was the equality of the people. The Russian people liked the fact that the resources of the country were being used to help the people achieve equality with the West. Stalin used this to his advantage within his Five Year Plans, as it emphasised rapid industrialisation based on these principles. To some extent these policies were successful, in only ten years the Soviet Union had made up the fifty year difference between her and the West. For example: production expanded six-fold, her coal and steel output was second only to the USA, and she was now the second largest manufacturer of heavy vehicals in the world. This transformation was all the more remarkable considering the rest of the world was suffering a severe economic depression during this period. These achievments certainly reinforced Stalin's position as Soviet leader, however during this peroid there was tremendous suffering and hardship of the peasants, work was labour, intensive and hard, five million Kulaks were liquidated, starvation increased for millions, enemies of Stalin and lazy workers were sent to labour camps and many workers were forced into jobs and often made to travel hundereds of miles.
Stalin retained his power, at this time, through not only the appeal of the industrial equality of Communism, but by purging any opposition he saw as a threat to his total power. Stalin was unwilling to accept any kind of opposition to his rule, he systematically got rid of any threat he saw. Stalin declared that those who did not follow the party line would be disciplined.The only remaining source of danger to his absolute power was the army, and in 1937 a vicious purge was launched on the amy, airforce and navy. This certainly helped to reinforce his power as Soviet leader, as there were very little sources of opposition left.
The changes brought about by industry and ariculture also helped. For example: hospitals and schools were built, illiteracy reduced dramatically, new machinery, factories and cities appeared, the economy vastly improved, and agricultural and industrial production increased. Due to these economic achievements the Soviet Union was admired by Britain, especially by upper class establishments, such as students from Oxford and Cambridge University, many of whom became Communists themselves or worked as Soviet spies. Policies such as health care, and housing were particularily admired, as well as the status of women, as equality was widely spread, and at this time there was alot more women doctors and teachers than there was in the West. This was another appeal of Communism that helped Stalin retain his support.
Another aspect of Communism that supported Stalin's rule was that money used for schemes ( such as health care ) came from the state, because under Communism no individual is allowed to make a profit. Central economic planning was the key to these policies, because it allowed tight control over all affaires of the state so money could not go to individuals. As a result of state control it went back to the people. Stalin was also admired because of the improvments in society, not just the buildings and facilities but the equality of the sexes, more work for women, and the introduction of creshes in the workplace.
In 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union, cutting short Stalin's third Five Year Plan. Living standards decreased dramatically, because by 1941 defence expenditure took over 32.6% of the total budget. The Nazis conquered huge areas of Soviet land very quickly. In response, Stalin ordered his people to destroy bridges, roads, crops, anything that the Nazis could use. This was known as the Scorched Earth policy, which caused a great amount of suffering to both the Nazis and the Russsian people. However, it did not stop the Nazis from reaching the outskirts of Moscow, and Leningrad did not fall. Military victories were attributed to Stalin, which reinforced his position as leader.
Untill 1941 Stalin retained power in the Soviet union due mostly to the appeal of Communism, and the terror of his purges. However, after this his support was mainly due to the fact that he was seen as the saviour of Europe from Fashism. He had lead the Soviet Union into World War Two and taken the brunt of the German assult on the Eastern front, the scale of which was enormous. The key to the strength of the Soviet Union was Stalin's industrial policies, and the fact that since 1941 America had entered World War Two, and provided Stalin with a crucial supply of equipment, without payment.
After the war, Stalin pushed with the 'Sovietisation' of Eastern Europe. By 1947 Bulgaria, Rumania, Poland, Hungary and Albania had communist governmentsin power (Czechoslovakia followed in 1948). So once again Stalin was helped by the appeal of Communism to retain his power as Soviet leader.
To a certain extent, the success of Stalin in retaining power in the Soviet Union was due to the appeal of Communism. However, there were other factors such as the purges, and Stalin being seen as Europe's saviour from Fashism. Therefore a variety of factors resulted in Stalin retainingpower between 1929 and 1953.