The history of classical communism is full of different opinions and disagreements. The uncertainty of the contemporary scholars about the actual dates of such events as the end of the Cold War shows that the changes which were happening in the world during that period influenced many countries and their people. However, it is hard to deny that the process of industrialization and the subsequent political changes that occurred in the USSR were one of the main drivers for communism to rise and fall out of its glory.
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The outcomes of the industrialization traversed the sphere of production and business and influenced the countries’ politics as well. One might argue that some of the decisions made by government officials led to the fall of European communism. The following paper discusses the progression of industrialization using the speeches of Stalin, Khrushchev’s view of the outcomes to Stalin’s decisions, and the changes in Europe that brought the power of communism to its end.
Reasons for Industrialization
In 1931, in a speech called “The Tasks of Economic Executives,” Joseph Stalin introduced his plans and strategies for the following three years. Stalin believed that the previous advances of the country’s manufacturers were insufficient due to the lack of involved managers. Moreover, he declared that the Soviet Union could and should strive to achieve more success in the industrial world, which was necessary for a number of reasons.
First of all, the leader believed that the Union was not developed enough to compete with other countries in the field of economics. Stalin stated that Russia’s history showed the “backwardness” of the state, which allowed other countries to abuse its resources and inability to stand up for itself (The Tasks of Economic Executives). The communist saw the pressure on the country as a result of economic, political, and industrial underdevelopment. Thus, he believed that industrial growth would eliminate that problem and allow the USSR to excel in the world of politics.
The next reason outlined by Stalin was his argument that the political sphere of the union had already progressed in terms of development, while the economic side moved slowly. Stalin believed that the communist government, which was established and supported by the people, did not do enough to support the growth of the Union’s manufacturing. He blamed the lack of progress on the party’s members, which did not want to change their strategies, entrusting their plants and organizations into the hands of aged professionals.
Stalin believed that all managers should educate themselves and become more involved in the production process. The reason behind this decision could lie in the fact that the communist wanted to create a thriving economy while supporting the rigid state of management. According to Stalin, such growth would attract other countries’ leaders and encourage them to take the same steps (The Tasks of Economic Executives). If the Soviet Union showed a rapid improvement, then other countries would want to follow in its example and discard capitalism as the main ideology.
Results of Industrialization
In 1933, Stalin presented the initial results of the plan’s implementation. Moreover, he not only discussed the outcomes of the proposed changes but also provided multiple reactions to the program and its results from various international newspapers and journals. According to the political leader, the outcomes of the five-year plan, which was speeded up to be completed in three years, were overwhelmingly positive.
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In fact, Stalin argued that the results of that strategy had an effect on the entire world, calling the progress of the Union an international matter (The Results of the First Five-Year Plan). The communist stated that the USSR had created a number of industries without the interference of other countries, which ensured its independent position on the global scene. According to Stalin, the USSR has formed and modernized such areas of manufacturing as the automobile, chemical, and heavy metal industries. Moreover, the speaker mentioned the Union’s success in eliminating any remnants of the capitalist regime from the manufacturing.
The political leader presented this information and introduced his ideas about the subsequent actions of the government. He noted that the second plan would not have to be as extreme because the main structure of the industry was established. Thus, the main outcome that Stalin stated in his speech was the creation of various types of plants and machinery that could be used in further production. Self-sustaining development was seen as a necessary element of economic growth. As Stalin declared, the industry of the Union gained its “modern, technical basis” (The Results of the First Five-Year Plan). Thus, the nations could move forward to some new objectives.
The reactions to the outcomes of industrialization were mixed, according to Stalin. The political leader discussed the American and European press and their comments before and after the implementation of the plan. First, he presented the expectations of the journalists and scholars that they had right after the program was introduced. Stalin noted that most of them were skeptical about the idea of fast industrialization.
Nevertheless, the following commentary regarding the five-year plan saw some different opinions on the topic. Some of those writers remained unconvinced with the outcomes of industrialization and continued to state that the program had failed. However, a number of publications changed their opinion and declared the plan a success. For instance, Stalin noted that many “bourgeois magazines” and newspapers admitted that the country created whole industries without the interference of others (The Results of the First Five-Year Plan). As a result, this process changed the face of the economy beyond recognition.
After Stalin’s death, Khrushchev, the First Secretary of the Communist Party, gave a speech that exposed Stalin’s crimes during his time in the government. According to the politician, Stalin used unconventional methods to deal with his opponents and with people who, in his opinion, did not act to benefit the cause of the party. The concept of “enemy of the people,” for instance, was stated to be created and enforced by the dictator.
Thus, individuals whose intents were different from the worldview of Stalin could quickly lose their reputation, status, and even life. Khrushchev accused Stalin of repressing the people of the Union and eliminating the possibility of any ideological freedom. The political leader used extreme methods in order to stop any deviation from the established norm. People who firmly believed in the success of the communist party were subjected to the same punishments as those who opposed it on the basis of Stalin’s suspicions.
Khrushchev noted that Stalin did not have to use these methods as the Union was already under the rule of the communist party. There was no need for brutality as “Socialist relations were rooted solidly in all phases of the national economy” (Khrushchev). The politician believed that Stalin had a despotic character, which prompted him to use such cruel methods. Moreover, he could have followed in the steps of his predecessor, Lenin, who turned to severe action out of necessity.
While Khrushchev argued that Lenin had to be brutal in his dealings because the leader had to oppose a powerful force and destroy the exploiting classes of the society, Stalin did not need to use extreme methods as the state was strong enough to resist capitalism without cruelty. Thus, Khrushchev placed the blame on Stalin’s personality, arguing that he was intolerant and aggressive by nature.
The outcomes of Stalin’s crimes were substantial as they affected not only the side of the opposition but also the devoted followers of the communist regime. Communists were persecuted for the crimes they did not commit, which damaged the party’s structure. Many people suffered because of the repressions, which left a mark on the country’s history. According to Khrushchev, Stalin’s actions resulted in the “death of innocent people,” including the most dedicated followers of the leader.
To illustrate the scope of Stalin’s brutality, Khrushchev gave an example of falsification that ended a party member’s life. Eikhe, one of the party members, was arrested on false suspicions and sentenced to death. Moreover, he was tortured and forced to sign a confession. Stalin dismissed any attempts of Eikhe to prove his innocence, which led to Eikhe’s execution. Thus, the party suffered from the methods of Stalin along with the entire Union.
The Decline of European Communism
The police forces of the communist leaders did not give people an opportunity to revolt against the established regime. Although the problems linked to communism continued to become more prominent, the opponents of the political system did not have any real power. Thus, the issues of economy and lack of human rights could not become the main reasons behind the fall of communism without a catalyst. In Poland, for instance, two groups formed to speak against the communist party – the Catholic Church, represented by Karol Wojtyla, and the Solidarity Union, led by Lech Wałęsa (Berenson et al. 687).
These groups were not effective in their attempts to overthrow the ruling party in the beginning. The forces of opposition started to gain more followers as the world was moving into a new age of technology. Television and foreign films brought attention to different lifestyles to the people from the USSR.
However, according to Berenson et al., the main reasons for the downfall of communism were not connected with the efforts of the public but the decisions of the governments (688). The reforms of the Soviet leader, Gorbachev, started the process of transformation and changed the course of the Union. His progressive beliefs allowed him to devise a number of developments that would slowly move the states away from the old form of communism.
Gorbachev formed a strong relationship with President Reagan and other countries’ leaders in order to discuss the problem of nuclear weaponry. Moreover, he proposed two concepts – glasnost and perestroika, which affected the state of communism as well. The first notion allowed people to print and read books and articles that were prohibited before. Thus, the criticism of the communist regime became widespread. The second concept resulted in more autonomy for firms and the economy in general. The strength of the government’s control was lessened, which supported the democratic notions of the public.
Gorbachev also decided to give more autonomy to the states of the Union and declared that he would not attempt to stop the change of the countries’ political regimes. According to the politician, he made that decision because he wanted them to make their own choices as it was the “natural right” of the people (vanden Heuvel and Cohen). He did not interfere with the countries’ transformation. Gorbachev stated that people needed perestroika and democratic reform.
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The countries took that opportunity to implement changes and stop the power of communism from growing. Leaders of the nations saw that change was necessary for the economies to become more stable. Furthermore, public demonstrations and mass protests convinced political leaders that the fall of communism was inevitable. Therefore, most European countries accepted the non-violent change of power as their rulers hoped to be elected in the future (Berenson et al. 695). The expectations of a new European community encouraged people to move away from the idea of communism.
The history of communism shows that this regime brought many changes to the economic and political state of the world. Stalin’s plans for industrialization moved the Soviet Union forward and increased the productivity of many industries. However, his extreme methods of opposition suppression led to numerous deaths and a lack of personal freedoms for the public. After some time, communism started to lose its progress and negatively affected the economies of the Union’s members.
The political leaders, including Gorbachev, realized that the countries and their regimes needed to change in order to find their place in international affairs. Thus, a number of Gorbachev’s initiatives became a catalyst in the fall of communism. In the end, the regime was neglected by countries that moved to pursue different ideologies.
Berenson, Edward, et al. Europe in the Modern World: A New Narrative History, since 1500. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Khrushchev, Nikita. Secret Speech. 1956. Web.
Stalin, Joseph V. The Results of the First Five-Year Plan. 1933.
—. The Tasks of Economic Executives. 1931.
vanden Heuvel, Katrina and Stephen F. Cohen. “Gorbachev on 1989.” The Nation. 2009.