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Socialist industrialization

At the end of the Civil War, the Bolsheviks inherited a completely ruined country whose industry had been ravaged by eight years of military operations. The banks and large companies were nationalized and, with extraordinary effort, the Soviet Union reconstructed the industrial apparatus.

In 1928, the production of steel, coal, cement, industrial looms and machine tools had reached or surpassed the pre-war level. It was then that the Soviet Union set itself the impossible challenge: to lay down the basis of modern industry in a national Five Year Plan, essentially using the country's inner resources. To succeed, the country was set on a war footing to undertake a forced march towards industrialization.

Socialist industrialization was the key to building socialism in the Soviet Union. Everything depended on its success.

Industrialization was to lay the material basis for socialism. It would allow the radical transformation of agriculture, using machinery and modern techniques. It would offer material and cultural well-being to the workers. It would provide the means for a real cultural revolution. It would produce the infrastructure of a modern, efficient state. And it alone would give the working people the modern arms necessary to defend its independence against the most advanced imperialist powers.

On February 4, 1931, Stalin explained why the country had to maintain the extremely rapid rate of industrialization:

`Do you want our socialist fatherland to be beaten and lose its independence

`We are fifty to a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do this or they crush us.'


Stalin, The Tasks of Business Executives. Leninism,  p. 200.

During the thirties, the German fascists, like the British and French imperialists, drew in full color the `terror' which accompanied the `forced industrialization'. They all sought revenge for their defeat in 1918--1921, when they intervened militarily in the Soviet Union. They all wanted a Soviet Union that was easy to crush.

In asking for extraordinary efforts from the workers, Stalin held his eye on the terrifying menace of war and imperialist aggression that hovered over the first socialist country.

The giant effort to industrialize the country during the years 1928--1932 was called Stalin's Industrial Revolution by Hirokai Kuromiya.  It is also called `the second revolution' or the `revolution from above'. The most conscious and energetic revolutionaries were at the head of the State and, from this position, they mobilized and provided discipline to tens of millions of worker-peasants, who had up to that point been left in the shadows of illiteracy and religious obscurantism. The central thesis of Kuromiya's  book is that Stalin succeeded in mobilizing the workers for an accelerated industrialization by presenting it as a class war of the oppressed against the old exploiting classes and against the saboteurs found in their own ranks.

To be able to direct this giant industrialization effort, the Party had to grow. The number of members rose from 1,300,000 in 1928 to 1,670,000 in 1930. During the same period, the percentage of members of working class background rose from 57 to 65 per cent. Eighty per cent of the new recruits were shock workers: they were in general relatively young workers who had received technical training, Komsomol activists, who had distinguished themselves as model workers, who helped rationalize production to obtain higher productivity.


Hiroaki Kuromiya,  Stalin's Industrial Revolution: Politics and Workers, 1928--1932 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988), pp. 115, 319.

This refutes the fable of `bureaucratization' of the Stalinist party: the party reinforced its worker base and its capacity to fight.

Industrialization was accompanied by extraordinary upheavals. Millions of illiterate peasants were pulled out of the Middle Ages and hurled into the world of modern machinery. `(B)y the end of 1932, the industrial labor force doubled from 1928 to more than six million.'


Ibid. , p. 290.

Over the same period of four years and for all sectors, 12.5 million people had found a new occupation in the city; 8.5 million among them had been former peasants.


Ibid. , p. 306.

next up previous contents index
Next: Heroism and enthusiasm Up: Another view of Stalin Previous: Building socialism in

Fri Aug 25 09:03:42 PDT 1995