|Upon Lenin's death, the well-spoken
writer, Leon Trotsky and the lesser-known political mastermind,
Joseph Stalin vied for control over the Communist Party. Stalin
gained the popularity of the people through his "socialism in one
country" theory. Up until the 1920's, communism theoretically
required a worldwide revolution to survive. Communist leaders in
Russia had been expecting the wealthier nations in Western Europe
to follow suit with revolutions of their own and then providing
financial support to backward, agricultural Russia. When this
didn't happen people feared the worst, but Stalin's theory stated
that Russia could do fine independently. After Stalin won the
struggle, Trotsky was exiled and assassinated in 1940.
Upon arrival in power Stalin set out to industrialize the entire agrarian nation in an unprecedented ten years. He seized control of all industries and farmland. The Soviet economy was controlled by Five Year Plans which called for huge leaps in production. Stalin created more efficient collective farms to replace the smaller peasant farms. All of this collectivization was supposed to be in the control of the people, but in fact, the Communist Party had a tight grip on everything. Stalin faced much resistance in his collectivization from farmers unwilling to give up their land. All who opposed were executed, exiled, or sent into slave labor camps. Millions died in these seizures; more still from the 1932-1933 famine.
The seizure of these lands, intended for greater crop output, actually did quite the opposite. The peasants ate their farm animals and angrily destroyed their tools rather than allow the government to take them away. When the government crushed all resistance, food production was still low because the government had no idea how to farm. Grain production was higher in 1913 than when Stalin died, in 1953.
As mentioned earlier, communal agriculture was a flop because everyone realized they'd make the same wages no matter how little they worked. Stalin worked the peasants at a breakneck speed to try to appear as industrialized as capitalist powers. For instance, the Baltic-White Sea canal he ordered resulted in 250,000 deaths and a useless, shallow canal. Although much of the work was grossly poor in quality and the rewards were distributed largely to upper Party members, much industrial progress was made. Oil, steel, and coal production were way up and motor vehicles were being built in Russian factories.
The cost was millions of lives, social upheaval and the largest peacetime standard of living decrease in history.