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Lewis Siegelbaum and Andrei Sokolov, Stalinism as a Way of Life:  A Narrative in Documents (New Haven and London:  Yale University Press, 2000)


Week VII

pages 28-157.

We will break these readings into two sections--the first covering material in chapter one, The Socialist Offensive,  the second covering material in chapter two, Cadres Decide Everything.

There are 33 documents in chapter one and 21 documents in chapter two.  I will designate each of you to report on at least three documents in chapter one and at least two documents in chapter two,  BUT YOU MUST READ ALL OF THE DOCUMENTS IN BOTH CHAPTERS!


Chapter One, The Socialist Offensive.

Siegelbaum's narrative discusses several major themes regarding the impact of rapid industrialization and collectivization in the period of the First Five Year Plan (1928-1932).  Stalin's circle had become to adopt some of the economic policy recommendations of the Left Opposition soon after their defeat in 1927.  As we have seen, this drove a wedge between Stalin and Bukharin. The defeat of Bukharin and the "Right Opposition" signaled the abandonment of NEP and the beginning of a "campaign" to build socialism rapidly through industrialization and collectivization (which we have read about in the Suny textbook).

As Siegelbaum explains, the Stalin leadership organized the industrialization drive and the collectivization of agriculture as a "socialist offensive"--they conceived it as a series of military-like campaigns and they used this metaphor to mobilize the population (e.g., "shock brigades," socialist competition, outlandish claims of success, etc.)  The documents in this chapter illustrate ways in which people responded to industrialization and collectivization, to the hardships they created, and to the social tensions they engendered.

In the documents as a whole, and in particular in the documents assigned to you individually, look for information on the following themes.  Be ready to discuss what your documents reveal about these themes:

1) Popular support for the "socialist offensive."

2) Frustration (and complaints) over problems in the industrial "campaign" and frustrations (and complaints) over the "excesses" of collectivization.

3) The tendency of the regime, but also of "ordinary people" to define problems in the economy as the result of "wrecking" and "sabotage" by "class enemies."

4) The declining standard of living and problems of shortages in cities and in rural areas during the First Five Year Plan.

5) Evidence that rapid industrialization and collectivization were aggravating already-existing social tensions.

6) Public attitudes towards speculation and corruption, and evidence regarding state treatment of criminals.

7) Attitudes of ordinary people towards lower-level officials.

8) Evidence regarding "purges from below."

9) Evidence regarding state efforts at censorship and ideological control.

Chapter Two, Cadres Decide Everything

During the Second Five Year Plan, Stalin stated that "cadres decide everything"--that the ability of the party to mobilize its cadres could overcome any technical or structural impediments to building socialism.  But cadres were not always strong timber for this task... As Siegelbaum explains, the Stalin leadership relied heavily upon support from "vydvyzhentsy"--people who had "moved up" from the lower classes into the ranks of the state and party administration.  These were party members with the "proper" class backgrounds, who supported the party (Stalin) line, but who did not necessarily have much administrative, managerial, or technical skill.  The documents in this chapter all concern issues regarding the problem of cadres, and in particular with the waves of purges of party cadres.

In the documents as a whole, and in particular in the documents assigned to you individually, look for information on the following themes.  Be ready to discuss what your documents reveal about these themes:

1)  Means by which the party "uncovered" class alien elements and the sorts of backgrounds and activities that would lead to being purged from the party.

2)  Ways in which people tried to argue for retention or readmission to the party or tried to "shape" their own life history to avoid being purged or to "move up."

3)  Ways in which workers, peasants, employees, and other non-officials used the purges for their own purposes--in particular, how denunciations were used against  fellow workers (etc) and especially against officials.  In general, signs of support "from below" for purges.

4) The kinds of charges made against people in such denunciations and accusations.

5) Ways in which officials (cadres) themselves used (and abused) their positions and manipulated the system to their own advantage.

6) The ways in which managerial personnel, specialists, and officials tried to cope with changes in the party line and ways that they coped with pressures from above (from the state--for instance, to meet quotas) and from below (for instance, the danger that workers might denounce them).

7) State/Party efforts to root out corrupt and inefficient cadres and officials as "enemies of the people."

8) Regime concerns with the danger of ideological opposition ("counter revolution"), the main "sources" [locations] of such opposition, and how the regime responded to alleged "counter-revolutionary plots." 

9) Regime efforts to enforce ideological and political controls 

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