Sunday, December 11, 2005

In contrasting the social, economic, and political policies of Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, it can be seen that Lenin and Stalin’s policies were alike in many ways, although Stalin’s were far harsher. Lenin organized the Bolshevik Party (later changed to Communist Party). The Bolsheviks were radicals in the Russian Revolution led by Lenin and who favored revolution rather than gradual democratic change. Bolsheviks had an extreme socialist outlook, were opponents of the Russian traditional statehood and the Russian Orthodox Church. The Bolsheviks believed in organizing the party in a strongly centralized hierarchy that sought to overthrow the Tsar and achieve power. Bolshevik later became synonymous with the communist. Vladimir Lenin provided the revolutionary philosophy based on Karl Marx’s (German socialist, 1818-1883) theories to the Russian people. After 1917 Lenin successfully estab1ished the Communist government in Russia by skillfully adjusting the Party policy to suit the needs of the changing circumstances from 1917 and 1924. Lenin was the greatest architect of the Bolshevik Revolution and Father of the Soviet Union.

Lenin’s primary social policies dealt with the church and religious affairs. The Russian Orthodox Church is a reactionary institution and significant focus for the people during this time period. If the Russian Orthodox church did not agree with government, the church would react quickly and affect the populous. The government or any new government could not battle the church on any grounds and survive the encounter. Therefore the church could react decisively and could possibly be a proactive force against the Bolsheviks. Therefore the Bolsheviks sought to destroy it. Church and state were separated, church property was seized, and many churches, monasteries, and convents were closed. Religious instruction was prohibited, and only civil marriage ceremonies had legal recognition. Also, the Bolsheviks replaced the Julian calendar with the Gregorian calendar and abolished titles of nobility. During the civil war, Lenin had instituted “War Communism”, which involved nationalizing and centralizing the economy quickly. The produce of peasants was requisitioned or confiscated to feed the workers in the cities and the Red Army and compulsory labor was introduced. While this allowed the Russian regime to have the countries full resources at their disposal to fight the war, it gave no incentives for farmers or workers after the war. Lenin recognized the need for change and introduced the New Economic Policy. Under the National Economic Policy, the state retained ownership and control of large industries. The state also controlled transportation and foreign trade. A tax in kind, payable in grain, was levied on the peasants, who could then sell their surplus produce on the market. This provided the peasants with an incentive to produce more. Peasants were also permitted to rent additional land and to hire labor. Lenin’s political policies included dissolving the constituent assembly after just one session. Lenin also organized a secret police force known as the Cheka, to combat counterrevolutionary activity. By dissolving the constituent assembly and establishing a secret police, Lenin began the process of creating a Bolshevik dictatorship to replace the autocracy of the tsars. In 1924, Lenin died from stroke and was replaced by Stalin. In honor of the death of Vladimir Lenin in 1924, the Soviet Union changed the city's name of St. Petersburg to Leningrad. Leningrad became St. Petersburg again 67 years later when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Similar to Lenin, Stalin’s social policies were to get rid of religion. In 1929, the government again struck at religion. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques were closed or put to other uses. Schools, which had been ordered to ignore religion, were now required to teach lessons presenting religion as backward and harmful. Stalin was also had harsh policies against the people. Arrests were made for having friends in foreign countries, for practicing their religion, for casual remarks overheard by police informers. Stalin’s economic policies broke with Lenin’s to create, what were in effect, two new Soviet revolutions in industry and in agriculture.
Both Lenin and Stalin wanted to achieve socialism in Russia; however their plans to achieve this differed. Lenin believed that socialism could not be achieved without revolutions in other advanced western countries. Stalin believed that socialism could be achieved without the assistance of other countries and the platform of “Socialism in One Country” was created. Stalin wanted desperately for Russia to catch up to the advances of western civilization quickly. (

In 1928, Stalin outlined his Five Year Plan, which called for a command economy. A command economy is an economy in which all economic decisions are made by the government. The rapid industrialization under Stalin’s Five Year Plan was achieved in part by limiting the production of consumer goods. Instead, investment was mad in state-owned mines, heavy industry, railroads, and energy resources. The government controlled every aspect of the worker’s life.
Later, Stalin launched another plan in 1933 that was just as effective. Stalin’s agricultural revolution, which was also based on centralized planning, was far more brutal than his industrial revolution. Privately owned farms were abolished and replaced by collective farms, which were large units worked by hundreds of families. The peasants resisted fiercely, but Stalin showed no mercy and millions of peasants were executed.

Stalin’s political policies consisted of a totalitarian state, a country in which a dictator controls every facet of the lives of its citizens. The slightest dissent was not tolerated by the government. Similar to Lenin, he had a secret police. Stalin arrested and executed millions of suspected traitors. Stalin was able to stop rebellion because of his strict policies enforced upon the people in Russia and the secret police.
In 1933, Stalin put forth the theory of aggravation of the class struggle along with the development of socialism. It became one of cornerstones of Stalinism in the internal politics of the Soviet Union. Stalin believed that ongoing repression of political opponents is necessary. Stalin began persecuting his real and imagined enemies. Between 1934 and 1938 there were a series of trials followed by mass executions. These included many of Stalin’s close associates, members of the secret police and high ranking members of the Red Army. Those not sentenced to death were imprisoned or exiled.

Despite (or perhaps because of) Stalin’s harsh policies, by the end of 1930's, Russia had become a major industrial power. Production was second only to the U.S.A. and Germany. Unlike the World War I, Russia was now able to defend itself against its enemies, including Germany. It must be remembered that this achievement was made at great expense to the Russian people.

In conclusion, it can be seen that Lenin and Stalin’s social policies were similar in that both leaders tried to remove religion. Lenin and Stalin were also comparable in their economic policies, which was to have the government control the economy. Both Lenin and Stalin’s political policies were similar in that they both had secret police and upheld the dictatorship. Thus, it can be seen that in contrasting the social, economic, and political policies of Lenin and Stalin you can conclude that Lenin and Stalin were very much alike; however they differed on their approach to achieve socialism.