Stalin’s Necessity

and the Pain of the Russian People

by John Geronimo, February 1999


When looking at the hardships the Russian people have had to endure, one often doesn’t know where to start. Although the causes of all the ruthlessness and cruelty can be examined, it is much harder to answer the question why they exist? Alec Nove’s "Was Stalin Really Necessary?" and Tatyana Tolstoya’s "In Cannibalistic Times" offer some insight as to "why?"


In "Was Stalin Really Necessary?" Alec Nove investigates whether or not Stalin was a necessary or unavoidable part of his time period. Was he the result of the Bolshevik policy and it’s goals? For how much terror was Stalin personally responsible? How much of the terror was Bolshevik policy responsible for? After all it was the Bolshevik party that wanted to industrialize a predominantly peasant country in an absurdly short amount of time. The party insisted that this industrialization take place at breakneck speed in order to have an industrial base for socialism or a proletarian dictatorship. Of course there was also the prestige of gained national strength and political power. One can say that different routes or ch9oices could have been taken, but one must remember that it was a communist party that wanted to do this, and most familiar paths, such as capitalism, were not an option. They had two choices before them: the first was to follow NEP, which would make the party, and the entire nation dependent on the peasant, which would not allow for the pace of industrialization that was sought after. In addition, it would allow the Kulak peasants (land-owning peasant) to exploit the weaker peasants to grow and attain wealth (a capitalistic principle). This was entirely unacceptable. The only other choice left was forced collectivization. One must remember it was the party that supported this, not Stalin alone. Once these policies were enforced there would be tremendous social and economic pressures on the party apparatus, creating a hostile environment. The people would have to be suppressed and controlled by an instrument: a hierarchy which required many bureaucrats and police, an instrument with a commander-in-chief and all you had to do to excel was execute his orders. Ruthlessness was the prime qualification for advance, intellect was not. For this fast pace of industrialization the party needed somebody tough enough to be able to handle the resistance that would meet him: a tough dictator to tighten the political and economic control. This of course would lead to excesses, but it comes territory when people are given unlimited authority or control over others. Therefore, Stalin, or a Stalin-like leader, was necessary if the Bolshevik party was going to pursue the path it had chosen. This does not justify Stalin in any way, but it was the way it had to be if the party was to pursue its choice.


Obviously, Stalin made ruthless decisions concerning the harshness and methods of forced collectivization, which led to greater peasant resistance, and in turn to more necessary, but horrible consequences, the growth of the police state and it’s brutality among them. Also, it was crucial to cut off people from the West where living standards were so much higher. Of course, not all of this was necessary. The purges, brutality of forced collectivization, and reign of terror all serve as examples. Everyone wanted to be like Stalin and he quickly became an idol. This helped fuel the growth of unnecessary brutality and it penalized intellect. To sum things up, the Bolshevik policy in 1928 was against the will of the people and Stalin represented and carried out the party’s will. It is without a doubt the party needed a tough dictator to control the situation and overcome the consequences of the party’s actions. Therefore, Stalin, or a Stalin-like leader, was needed if the communist party was to hold power while imposing on its people a plan of industrialization that took place at a blistering pace.


Tatyana Tolstoya presents yet another view in her "In Cannibalistic Times". It is her view that it is important to understand the terror that has been deep in Russia’s roots for centuries. In Russia people walk with their heads down so as not to draw attention to themselves. People are afraid of any and everyone. Somebody could determine an individual’s fate at a whim. Any attempt made by the people to make conditions better usually led to conditions worsening. The people of the former Soviet Union live in the past and have a primitive consciousness. It is as if time stopped or reversed itself. It is scary how closely life under Ivan the Terrible reflected life under Stalin. What is important though is to see that the terror in the 20th century is not new, but has early beginnings. The Russian people are passive, lack will, and there harsh lives are excessively brutal. This is the seed from which the terror grows.


Times were not good before the communist party. The people who helped form the party were ruthless, uneducated, and illiterate. Governing Russia was a near impossible task and therefore, force and coercion came in to use on a wide scale. The people who enthusiastically executed Bolshevik orders were reliable and dependable. In the past people used to inform they’re superior of somebody if they were suspicious of them. If one failed to report a so-called crime they could be punished by death. The Russia of the past was in essence the same as the Russia in the first half of the 20th century. Where this horror started is a mystery? In Russia, simple people were not judged because of their hardships. As a result when times were bad (as they always were) the blame was put on the cultured, intelligent classes that could read and write. However, after they were destroyed nothing changed. This lead to blame being put on another group: destruction by category. What the Russian people never looked at or put blame upon was themselves. Yes, Stalin was terrible, but without Russian people behind him he never would have attained such great power. Stalin in effect focused the hatred of the Russian people. In the end Russian society destroyed itself.



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