Historical questions we can answer

Was Stalin necessary for Russia’s economic development?

No.

Other countries have developed without a Stalin therefore a Stalin is not necessary for development.

to be fair the paper reaches the same conclusion but still an odd title.

16 comments on “Historical questions we can answer

  1. Russia was developing before the Revolution, at quite some pace. British and European engineers were doing pretty well flogging and setting up industrial equipment there. Indeed, the town of Donetsk was set up by a Welshman John Hughes, who built a mine there, and the town’s original name was Yuzovka as a result. Nikita Khruschev did very well for himself there before the Revolution, becoming something of a wealthy Yuppie before realising which way the wind was blowing and rooting for communism.

    Whereas it is true to say Russia lagged the rest of Europe quite spectacularly – there were still “witches” being persecuted in the early 20th century in parts of the Empire – the country was developing rapidly. Far from needing Stalin, Russia didn’t even need the Commies.

  2. Your logic would follow from “Was Stalin necessary for development?”… but for “Russia’s development” not so. Russia as an object might differ from other countries in ways that made a Stalin necessary.

    It clearly doesn’t, so everyone agrees in the end.

  3. Tim N isn’t wrong; the question is more one of “would any other model that was possible in late 1917 have been less awful, and if so how could it have been achieved”?

    Had the Allies managed to take the Dardanelles, things might have turned out a great deal better all round. But we didn’t, so the Czar’s regime was screwed, so.

    (Western recognition for the Mensheviks is a decent answer, but given the Western levels of paranoia about any kind of shevik at the time, not convinced it was feasible either.)

  4. Kind of ironic that it’s the Germans who could have most easily stopped the USSR, by detaining Lenin’s train instead of sending it through. It helped them in the short term… long term not so much.

  5. The Treaty of Brest Litovsk and subsequent civil war until 1921 didn’t exactly help the situation.

    After the “War Communism” period, which all but destroyed what was left of the economy, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy, which was a sort of Harold Wilson-style mixed economy. That is what allowed the Soviet Union to start to rebuild.

    What Russia/SU lacked was infrastructure and it is really railways and electrification under Stalin that pushed development.

    Alec Nove is/was the best writer on this subject.

  6. Of course Stalin was necessary, without Stalin there would not have been a city to support his overblown ego – Stalingrad, so the German Army would not have been diverted by their own leader’s enormous ego to challenge it, they would have gone on to capture the oilfields which would have put paid to any further Soviet development (unless you include development under the Nazis).

  7. @ john b
    There was another model in late 1917: the elected government of Kerensky. How could it have been achieved? Well, if the Germans had not sent Lenin home in the hope of being able to fight a war on just one front, it might have developed like post WWII Germany.
    We should not forget that Lenin did NOT overthrow the Tsar but the Social Democrat Menshevik government of the post-Tsarist regime.

  8. “Was Stalin necessary for Russia’s economic development?”
    If we’re discussing the economic development Russia actually experienced, essential. Although, if they’d hung around until Gordon Brown was available he could probably have managed the same in half the time.

  9. I am reminded of an anecdote in the Dictators (by Richard Overy) that after the completion of the first Five Year Plan, the head of Gosbank was heard to comment that it would have been better to have relaxed economic controls instead*. He was shot in 1936.

    *This came after a long discussion of how the various factories, rather than producing what they were ordered to do under the plan (which they couldn’t due to various factors), used some of their capacity to trade with other factories in order to get the necessary stuff to fulfil their part in the plan.

  10. But the Soviets did achieve enormous growth simply by determination. For 15 years they increased electric capacity by 23% a year and you can’t fail if you do that.

    However the industrialisation & particularly the electricity was Trotsky’s idea so yes they would have done better without Stalin.

    What it does show is that a country that genuinely makes economic growth its absolute priority will probably get it (& one that makes bureaucracy, Luddism, totalitarian dictatorship, impoverishing the people, pointless wars, scare stories,killing 25,000 pensioners a year, fighting catastrophic global warming, membership of the EUSSR, banning things, windmills censoring the internet etc, as ours does, won’t)

  11. Stalin was absolutely necessary at the point in Russian history at which he seized power.

    While he did little to stem the evils of Communist inflitration overseas, he turned back the clock on the social Marxism which had been inflicted on Russia by his predecessors, and on the West by their own communists in the post-WW1 period. Unlike the suicidal West of today, and the Leninist regime, Stalin did not glorify the abortion of the people who could sustain their societies. He advocated mothering, and motherhood, and the Russian nation.

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