stalin communism essay

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Joseph Stalin

By: Editors

Updated: April 25, 2023 | Original: November 12, 2009

Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin was the dictator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from 1929 to 1953. Under Stalin, the Soviet Union was transformed from a peasant society into an industrial and military superpower. However, he ruled by terror, and millions of his own citizens died during his brutal reign. Stalin became involved in revolutionary politics, as well as criminal activities, as a young man. After Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin died, Stalin outmaneuvered his rivals for control of the party. Stalin aligned with the United States and Britain in World War II but afterward engaged in an increasingly tense relationship with the West known as the Cold War . After his death, the Soviets initiated a de-Stalinization process.

Young Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin was born Josef Vissarionovich Djugashvili on December 18, 1878, or December 6, 1878, according to the Old Style Julian calendar (although he later invented a new birth date for himself: December 21, 1879). He grew up in the small town of Gori, Georgia, then part of the Russian empire. When he was in his 30s, he took the name Stalin, from the Russian for “man of steel.”

Did you know? In 1925, the Russian city of Tsaritsyn was renamed Stalingrad. In 1961, as part of the de-Stalinization process, the city, located along Europe's longest river, the Volga, became known as Volgograd. Today, it is one of Russia's largest cities and a key industrial center.

Stalin grew up poor and an only child. His father was a shoemaker and an alcoholic who beat his son, and his mother was a laundress. As a boy, Stalin contracted smallpox , which left him with lifelong facial scars. As a teen, he earned a scholarship to attend a seminary in the nearby city of Tblisi and study for the priesthood in the Georgian Orthodox Church.

stalin communism essay

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An examination of the paranoia, cold-bloodedness, and sadism of two of the 20th century's most brutal dictators and mass murderers: Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

While there he began secretly reading the work of German social philosopher and Communist Manifesto author Karl Marx , becoming interested in the revolutionary movement against the Russian monarchy. In 1899, Stalin was expelled from the seminary for missing exams, although he claimed it was for Marxist propaganda.

After leaving school, Stalin became an underground political agitator, taking part in labor demonstrations and strikes. He adopted the name Koba, after a fictional Georgian outlaw-hero, and joined the more militant wing of the Marxist Social Democratic movement, the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin.

Stalin also became involved in various criminal activities, including bank heists, the proceeds from which were used to help fund the Bolshevik Party. He was arrested multiple times between 1902 and 1913, and subjected to imprisonment and exile in Siberia.

In 1906, Stalin married Ekaterina “Kato” Svanidze, a seamstress. The couple had one son, Yakov, who died as a prisoner in Germany during World War II. Ekaterina perished from typhus when her son was an infant.

In 1918 (some sources cite 1919), Stalin married his second wife, Nadezhda “Nadya” Alliluyeva, the daughter of a Russian revolutionary. They had two children, a boy and a girl (Stalin’s only daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva , caused an international scandal when she defected to the United States in 1967). Nadezhda committed suicide in her early 30s. Stalin also fathered several children out of wedlock.

Rise to Power

In 1912, Lenin, who was then in exile in Switzerland, appointed Stalin to serve on the first Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. Three years later, in November 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power during the Russian Revolution . The Soviet Union was founded in 1922, with Lenin as its first leader.

During these years, Stalin had continued to move up the party ladder, and in 1922 he became secretary general of the Central Committee of the Communist Party , a role that enabled him to appoint his allies to government jobs and grow a base of political support.

After Lenin died in 1924, Stalin eventually outmaneuvered his rivals and won the power struggle for control of the Communist Party. By the late 1920s, he had become dictator of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union Under Stalin

Starting in the late 1920s, Joseph Stalin launched a series of five-year plans intended to transform the Soviet Union from a peasant society into an industrial superpower. His development plan was centered on government control of the economy and included the forced collectivization of Soviet agriculture, in which the government took control of farms.

Millions of farmers refused to cooperate with Stalin’s orders and were shot or exiled as punishment, particularly the kulaks, the more-prosperous farmers who owned land and hired paid workers. The forced collectivization soon led to widespread famine across the Soviet Union that killed millions.

Stalin ruled by terror, with a totalitarian grip in order to eliminate anyone who might oppose him. He expanded the powers of the secret police, encouraged citizens to spy on one another and had millions of people killed or sent to the Gulag system of forced labor camps.

During the second half of the 1930s, Stalin instituted the Great Purge , a series of campaigns designed to rid the Communist Party, the military and other parts of Soviet society from those he considered a threat.

Additionally, Stalin built a cult of personality around himself in the Soviet Union. Cities were renamed in his honor. Soviet history books were rewritten to give him a more prominent role in the revolution and mythologize other aspects of his life.

Stalin was the subject of flattering artwork, literature and music, and his name became part of the Soviet national anthem. He censored photographs in an attempt to rewrite history, removing former associates executed during his many purges. His government also controlled the Soviet media.

Joseph Stalin and World War II

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Joseph Stalin and Germany’s Nazi Party dictator Adolf Hitler signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact . Stalin then proceeded to annex parts of Poland and Romania, as well as the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He also launched an invasion of Finland.

Then, in June 1941, Germany broke the Nazi-Soviet pact and invaded the USSR, making significant early inroads. (Stalin had ignored warnings from the Americans and the British, as well as his own intelligence agents, about a potential invasion, and the Soviets were not prepared for war.)

As German troops approached the Soviet capital of Moscow, Stalin remained there and directed a scorched earth defensive policy, destroying any supplies or infrastructure that might benefit the enemy. The tide turned for the Soviets with the Battle of Stalingrad from August 1942 to February 1943, during which the Red Army defeated the Germans and eventually drove them from Russia.

As the war progressed, Stalin participated in the major Allied conferences, including the Tehran Conference (1943) and the Yalta Conference (1945). His iron will and deft political skills enabled him to play the loyal ally while never abandoning his vision of an expanded postwar Soviet empire.

Later Years

Joseph Stalin did not mellow with age: He initiated a reign of terror, purges, executions, exiles to labor camps and persecution in the postwar USSR, suppressing all dissent and anything that smacked of foreign–especially Western–influence.

He established communist governments throughout Eastern Europe, and in 1949 led the Soviets into the nuclear age by exploding an atomic bomb . In 1950, he gave North Korea’s communist leader Kim Il Sung permission to invade United States-supported South Korea , an event that triggered the Korean War .

How Did Joseph Stalin Die?

Stalin, who grew increasingly paranoid in his later years, died on March 5, 1953, at age 74, after suffering a stroke. His body was embalmed and preserved in Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow’s Red Square until 1961, when it was removed and buried near the Kremlin walls as part of the de-Stalinization process initiated by Stalin’s successor Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971).

How Many People Did Joseph Stalin Kill?

By some estimates, Joseph Stalin was responsible for the deaths of 6 million to 20 million people during his brutal rule, either though political executions or indirectly as a result of Stalin’s policies. The killings first began in the 1930s, as a wave of executions swept the Soviet Union during Stalin’s Great Purge.

“In some cases, a quota was established for the number to be executed, the number to be arrested,” said Stanford University history professor Norman Naimark in a 2010 interview. “Some officials overfulfilled as a way of showing their exuberance.”

Millions more were killed in the horrific famine that struck Ukraine in 1932-1933 and the Kazakh region from 1930 to 1933, as a of Stalin's cruel efforts to impose collectivism of agriculture and tamp down Ukrainian nationalism. Estimates vary, but about 4 million men, women and children are believed to have starved to death during the Holodomor (a combination of the Ukrainian words for “starvation” and “to inflict death”).

Joseph Stalin (1879-1953). PBS . Joseph Stalin: National hero or cold-blooded murderer? BBC . Stalin killed millions. A Stanford historian answers the question, was it genocide? Stanford News . 


History Grade 11 - Topic 1 Essay Questions

Explain to what extent Stalin succeeded in transforming Russia into a superpower by 1939.

Stalin came to power on the back of Lenin’s death in 1925, after which he instituted a range of far-reaching policy changes that would alter the course of Russian society and politics for the rest of the 20th century. The communist Soviet Union we now remember was the product of Stalin, although it can be argued that Lenin was responsible for laying the foundations of its highly authoritarian political culture. The new Russia under Stalin was supposed to radically break from the economic and social backwardness that characterised the Tsarist regime, and which Lenin had little time to achieve. In many ways, Stalin did create a completely different Russia, one almost unrecognisable from before the October revolution which overthrew the provisional government. However, whether that translated into it being a superpower is quite another thing. This paper will argue that although momentous and radical, the reforms Stalin instituted did not transform Russia into a superpower by 1939, although it did lay the framework for such a status to be attained during the post-WWII era.

Stalin rose to power as the leader of the Soviet Union by crushing his opposition in the Central Committee led by Leon Trotsky. Although we shall not detail this complicated political battle, it is important to note that the vying for power between the powerful figures was also a contestation over the ideological and policy framework which the Soviet Union should take. By the late 1920s, Stalin had emerged victorious, and went on to institute his own brand of communism in the Soviet Union. This centred on the notion of ‘Socialism in one Country’, which was ideally to build up the “industrial base and military might of the Soviet Union before exporting revolution abroad.” [1] This was in contrast to earlier pronouncements made by Lenin and Trotsky, which indicated the need to establish a worldwide ‘uninterrupted revolution’ of workers. [2] The logic here was that socialism could never survive independently outside of a socialist world order; Stalin, on the other hand, saw a national socialism – which, ironically, would be compared to Nazism – as the only way for socialism to survive. [3]

The practical effects of Stalin’s socialism in one country was the rescindment of the New Economic Policy (NEP) – which had allowed for small-scale capitalist enterprise to operate – the collectivisation of agriculture, and rapid forced industrialisation. [4] Socialism in one country forced the Soviet Union to look inwards, to create a socialist nation whose lessons and ideas could then be exported overseas. This means that, for all practical purposes, Russia was not interested in attaining any overtly ‘superpower’ status in global politics. It meant, in terms of foreign policy, of “putting the interests of the Soviet Union ahead of the interests of the international communist movement.” [5] Ideally, when Russia became powerful enough, it would then ferment for workers’ revolutions the world over.

The costs and benefits of these sweeping policy changes – which essentially closed off the Soviet Union from the outside world – are difficult to determine. On the one hand, they certainly led to large-scale industrialisation which outstripped the pace of Russia’s Western counterparts. Through the policy instrument of Five-Year Plans, which set production targets for industries and farms, Stalin was able to bring Russia up to date with modern heavy-industry production techniques and increase output exponentially. For example, cast iron production increased 439% in ten years, and coal extraction 361%. [6] Russia also went on an extensive electrification programme, called GOELRO, which increased electricity production from 1.9 billion kWh in 1913 to 48 billion kWh in 1940. [7]

However, despite the resounding success with which certain - especially heavy - industries benefitted from forced industrialisation, many other industries and rural farmers often suffered. Because of the focus on heavy industrialisation, lighter industries that catered for consumer goods were often poorly made and faced shortages. The agricultural collectivisation programme which was conducted with increased inflexibility and violence across the Russian hinterland cost the lives of millions of peasants, who died of hunger resulting from famine caused by the upheaval of forced collectivisation. Figures range from 5.6 million to 13.4 million. [8] Millions of other prosperous peasants – known as Kulaks – were sent to gulag camps in Siberia for work; Molotov suggested that between 1.3 and 1.5 kulak households (accounting for between 6 and 7 million persons) were expropriated. [9] Thus, whilst Stalin broke the back of these peasants – by 1941, 97% of agriculture was conducted in collectives, and finally there was enough food to feed the cities – the human cost remains an ever-contested aspect of this period.

What is clear about this period, is that these policies centralised the economy and political power in Russia in Stalin’s hands. The increased industrial output, and the ability for (eventual) increased agricultural production to feed the cities, allowed Russia a certain amount of confidence in its ability to conduct itself as an industrial nation. As Stalin was once quoted as saying, “We are fifty to one hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they crush us.” [10] Thus, one of the primary reasons for industrialisation was for the ability for Russia to protect itself. This fits in well with the overall ideological implication of Stalin’s ‘socialism in one country’, which advocated for an insular reading of socialism that would allow for ‘proper’ socialist conditions to be reached within the massive country before a worldwide socialist revolution took place.

And in many ways, the industrial capacity generated during Stalin’s leadership up to 1939 was crucial for Russia to defend itself against Germany in 1941. Not only did allow for the production of millions of armaments and supplies crucial to the success of any armed conflict, but it also laid the groundwork for a post-war reconstruction. Because the Soviet Union boasted such impressive industrial capacity, it could rebuild after WWII much easier – and more importantly, without the help of aid from the West, especially the USA. The Marshall Plan, in which the USA loaned $15 billion to European countries to help rebuild industry and cities after their decimation during the second world war, was largely a strategic move to counter the spread of communism in Europe. [11] The spread of Russian influence into eastern Europe, on the other hand, was premised on its industrial power, which resulted in its alternative to the Marshall Plan - namely the Molotov Plan - which extended aid to socialist regimes in central and eastern Europe. [12]

The success of Russian industrialisation and agricultural collectivisation during the pre-war years allowed for the repel of German forces and the extension of Russian influence into the eastern European region. It was then that Russia became a superpower. In fact, it is only during the post-WWII war era when the notion of an international ‘superpower’ becomes widespread, when the cold war divides the world into two ideologically opposed sides – America on the one side and the Soviet Union on the other. [13] One could thus argue that the relative military strength of Russia after WWII, a result of its impressive industrial capacity – and its focus on heavy industry and agricultural production – meant that it could become a superpower. Thus, although no one would suggest that Russia was a superpower before WWII in 1939, its ability to retain its industrial strength after the war meant that it would become one. In conclusion, although Stalin did not transform Russia into a superpower by 1939, he laid the necessary groundwork for that to occur in the post-war era.

This content was originally produced for the SAHO classroom by Sebastian Moronell, Ayabulela Ntwakumba, Simone van der Colff & Thandile Xesi.

[1] "Communism - Stalinism". 2021. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[2] Erik Van Ree. "Socialism in One Country: A Reassessment." Studies in East European Thought 50, no. 2 (1998): 77.

[3] Kate Frey. 2020. "An Introduction to Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution". Left Voice.… .

[4] "Communism - Stalinism". 2021. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[6] John P. Hardt and Carl Modig. The Industrialization of Soviet Russia in the First Half Century. Research Analysis Corp. McLean, 1968, pg. 6.

[8] Massimo Livi-Bacci. "On the Human Costs of Collectivization in the Soviet Union." Population and Development Review (1993): 751

[9] Ibid, pg. 744.

[10] Flewers, Paul. 2021. "The Economic Policy of The Soviet By Isaac Deutscher 1948". Marxists.Org. .

[11] "Marshall Plan". 2021. History. .

[12] Morroe Berger. "How the Molotov Plan Works." The Antioch Review 8, no. 1 (1948): 18.

[13] Joseph M. Siracusa. "Reflections on the Cold War." Australasian Journal of American Studies (2009): 3.

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Communism: Karl Marx to Joseph Stalin

Communism has been one of the most influential economic theories of all times; recognizing its influence is key to understanding both past and current events. Moreover, the competition between communism and capitalism as played out in the Cold War was arguably the defining struggle of the 20th century. This section provides a brief overview of communist ideology in the European and Russian contexts and includes information on the rise of the Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin and its continuation under Joseph Stalin. It concludes with an explanation of the tensions that surfaced at the end of World War II between the United States and the U.S.S.R. that led to the Cold War.

What is communism?

Communism is a political ideology and type of government in which the state owns the major resources in a society, including property, means of production, education, agriculture and transportation. Basically, communism proposes a society in which everyone shares the benefits of labor equally, and eliminates the class system through redistribution of on income.

Video: Karl Marx and The Communist Manifesto

The Father of Communism, Karl Marx , a German philosopher and economist, proposed this new ideology in his Communist Manifesto , which he wrote with Friedrich Engels in 1848. The manifesto emphasized the importance of class struggle in every historical society, and the dangerous instability capitalism created. Though it did outline some basic requirements for a communist society, the manifesto was largely analytical of historical events that led to its necessity and suggested the system’s ultimate goals, but did not concretely provide instructions for setting up a communist government. Though Marx died well before a government tested his theories, his writings, in conjunction with a rising disgruntled working class across Europe, did immediately influence revolutionary industrial workers throughout Europe who created an international labor movement.


Civil Unrest: Communism, Workers and the Industrial Revolution

As envisioned by Marx, Communism was to be a global movement, inspiring and expediting inevitable working-class revolutions throughout the capitalist world. Though the book had not yet been published, these revolutions had already started in early 1848 in France. The new urban working class that lived and worked in terrible conditions throughout Europe got fed up with their life of squalor as they saw upper-class citizens (the bourgeois as Marx labeled them in the Manifesto) living lives of luxury. The ideas and goals of communism appealed strongly to the revolutionaries even after the 1848 revolutions collapsed. For the next several decades, fed-up lower class workers and peasants held tight to the legacy of the 1848 revolutionaries and communist ideology waiting for the right moment to capitalize.

The Russian Context:  The Russian Revolution

Communism was adopted in Russia after the Russian Revolution, a series of revolutions that lasted throughout 1917. For centuries leading up to World War I, Russia was ruled by an absolute monarchy under which the lower classes had long suffered in poverty. This tension was exacerbated by the nationwide famine and loss of human lives as a result of World War I. The first revolution began when the Russian army was sent in to control a protest led by factory workers who had recently lost their jobs. However, the army did not follow the Czar’s orders and many soldiers defected and protested in solidarity with the workers. The military quickly lost control of the situation, and the Czar was forced to abdicate. The Imperial Parliament formed a provisional government, but Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik party overthrew it in October 1917. Bolshevik leaders appointed themselves to many high offices and started implementing communist practices based on Marx’s ideology.

Video: Vladimir Lenin


When the Czar was dethroned, Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia after being exiled for anti-Czar plots. Other revolutionaries including Leon Trotsky also returned to Russia to seize the opportunity. The two established the Bolshevik party, a communist party that was staunchly opposed to the War, which continued to wreak havoc on the unstable nation. The Bolshevik’s anti-war platform was popular among the Russian people, and Lenin used this momentum to overthrow the provisional government, take control of the country and pull Russia out of the war. Lenin also promised “Bread, Land and Peace” to the large populations affected by the famine, further increasing the party’s popularity. However, when the Bolsheviks gained only 25 percent of votes in the 1917 elections, Lenin overturned the results and used military force to prevent democratic assembly. He established several state-centered government programs and policies that would continue, in some form, throughout the reign of the Soviet Union. His plan for national economic recovery, the GOLERO Plan was the first of this type and was designed to stimulate the economy by brining electricity to the whole of Russia. Lenin established a national free healthcare system and free public education. He also established the Cheka, a secret police force to defend the success of the Russian Revolution and censor and control anti-Bolshevik newspapers and activists. Following two failed assassination attempts, Lenin, following a suggestion from a military leader named Joseph Stalin, authorized the start of the Red Terror, an execution order of former government officials under the Czar and Provisional Government, as well as the royal family.


Shortly thereafter, the country dissolved into civil war between the ruling Bolsheviks and the White Guard, a loose alliance of anti-Bolshevik parties including tsarists, right-wing parties, nationalists and anti-communist left-wing parties. Both sides engaged in terror tactics against each other included mass executions and the establishment of Prisoner of War labor camps, and wreaked havoc on the country’s already-weak agricultural and economic system. Following the end of the war in 1921, Lenin established the New Economic Policy, which allowed for private businesses and a market economy, despite its direct contradiction with Marxist ideology. He also annexed Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan to provide geographic and political protection from the Party’s political and ideological enemies. He died in January 1924 of a heart attack. After his death, several members of the Communist Party’s executive committee, the Politburo, vied for control of the government.

The Rise of Joseph Stalin


Joseph Stalin , born Ioseb Besarionis Dze Jugashvili (in his native Georgian), was a key military leader throughout the Red Terror and the Civil War. As you learned, Stalin actually proposed the idea of fighting the Communist Party’s enemies through systematic mass terror and killings to Lenin. As General Secretary under Lenin, he also oversaw brutal military actions throughout the civil war and led the 1921 invasion of Georgia to overthrow an unfriendly social-democratic government. In Georgia, Stalin took the lead in establishing a Bolshevik regime in the country hard-line policies that forcefully repressed any communist opposition. Lenin disagreed with Stalin’s tactics in Georgia, and right before his death dictated notes in his Testament warning of Stalin’s excessive ambition and obsession with power, and advised that he be removed from the General Secretary position. However, Lenin died shortly thereafter and Stalin allied himself with several other Politburo members to suppress Lenin’s Testament and remain in a position of power.

Over the next few years, Stalin isolated his major opponents in the Communist Party, eventually throwing them out, and became the unchallenged leader of the Soviet Union. He officially ruled the country from 1924-1953. In his early years as leader, Stalin revamped the Soviet Union’s economic policy, replacing Lenin’s New Economy Policy with a highly centralized command economy controlled by the state, which rapidly industrialized the country. However, the quick transition from agriculture to industry disrupted food supply and caused a massive famine lasting from 1932 to 1933. Simultaneously, people deemed to be political enemies began being imprisoned in labor camps or deported to remote areas of Russia. In 1934, actions against political enemies, including members of the Communist Party who disagreed with Stalin’s policies, intensified with the start of the Great Purge . About one million people were executed from 1934 to 1940 under Stalin’s orders.

Video: Joseph Stalin In 1939, Stalin signed a Non-Aggression Pact  with Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler. However, when Hitler broke the pact and invaded in 1941, the Soviet Union joined the western Allies in their battle against the Nazis. With the United States other allied European countries leading the charge on the Western Front and Stalin pushing back from the East, the Nazis were defeated with the Soviet Red Army’s capture of Berlin in May, and the western armies’ D-Day invasion in June 1944.

Credits: This page was curated by CES .

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Communism – Joseph Stalin’s Rule

Communism – Joseph Stalin’s Rule

In the beginning Communism seemed to the people of Russia as a utopian ideal. The promise of the elimination of classes, of guaranteed employment, “The creation of a comprehensive social security and welfare system for all citizens that would end the misery of workers once and for all.” Lenin’s own interpretation of the Marxian critique was that to achieve Communism there would first have to be a socialist dictatorship to first suppress any dissent or protest. Through coercive tactics this new government seized power and in 1917 Lenin came to power.

Under his “rule” Russia underwent radical changes in it’s economic doctrines adopting a mixed which was termed the New Economic Policy, also referred to as NEP. This economy called for some private ownership of the means of production, but the majority of industry was made property of the people, which meant the majority of the means of production was controlled by the government. Lenin’s government made many achievements. It ended a long civil war against the remnants of the old Tsarist military system and established institutions in government.

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During this period, censorship and the subordination of interest groups such as trade unions was imposed to stop dissension and increase conformity to the new government policies. After Lenin’s death in 1924, Joseph Stalin quickly gained control of the Communist party and the oppressive reforms started by Lenin were continued and at length became completely totalitarian. Stalin was able to attain control as a result of a multitude of reasons. He was not, however, Lenin’s choice for a successor. Lenin believed that Trotsky was the best suitable to take the Communist party to the next level. Trotsky was not all that popular among party members though and Stalin was in a position as Gen Sek, or General Secretary, to place his people in powerful positions throughout the party. Also, Stalin worked extremely hard at achieving power whereas Trotsky was rather lazy. Because of these reasons along with Stalin’s “zero tolerance” attitude towards everyone, he was able to seize control.

Once in control, Stalin’s first major achievements were the Five Year Plans for industry. Russia had not yet had their industrial revolution and were far behind the other powers of the world. The first Five Year Plan worked as far as industrial output was concerned, but it was at much cost to the people of Russia. Once the Five Year Plans started to roll, Stalin decided to make some agricultural changes to support the industrialization. In April, 1928, Stalin presented the draft of a new land law. Although the draft failed to become a law, it showed a couple of Stalin’s objectives. One was the rapid and forcible collectivization of the peasants in order to industrialize the country quickly. The other was the liquidation of the kulaks as a class. Kulaks were seen as industrious or prosperous peasants who were not enthusiastic about the policies of the communist party.

Collectivization was the forcible consolidation of individual peasant farms into large, state-controlled enterprises. The purpose was supposed to help Russian agriculture and support the quickly industrializing country. Collectivization, however, turned out to be a bloody, murderous mess as Stalin forced his absolute power on the people of Russia. Most of the peasants, especially kulaks, desperately opposed collectivization. The way Stalin dealt with them was to first turn the bedniaks, or poor peasants, against them offering the bedniaks the kulak’s castles and machinery. Then Stalin had the rest of the kulaks either killed or exiled to gulags.

The death toll recorded in the anti-kulak campaign is between three and ten million killed. Many peasants killed their cattle, pigs, and horses, destroyed their farm implements, and either burned their crops or let them rot in the fields before being forced into collectivization. Because of this, poor harvests, grain seizures, and the elimination of the better farmers resulted in a man made famine that killed millions more. Stalin used the Five Year Plans to make great strides in industrializing Russia. When he tried to equal that success with agricultural growth he met with some resistance and ended up liquidating a class and causing famine.

Socially, he gave important social benefits to workers and gave women equal rights. However, he also tried to purge the country and eliminated a lot of the Communist party, most of the army, and a good portion of workers and peasants. It seemed that when Stalin first started out as leader of Russia, he truly had Lenin’s ideology in mind for a truly successful and competent socialist society; but once the taste of power was in his mouth, he had to have more and would have more by way of any means possible. Stalin made several industrial improvements for his country but that does not even begin to equal the death and destruction that he caused.

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By Dan Murphy

Mr. Murphy has been involved in fostering academic links with China for more than two decades.

The Chinese Communist Party has accomplished something rare in U.S. politics these days: uniting Democrats and Republicans around a common enemy. Unfortunately, frenzied concern about Chinese influence threatens America’s ability to attract the top talent it needs to maintain global leadership in science and higher education.

The damage caused by the Department of Justice’s now-disbanded China Initiative still reverberates. Designed to counter economic espionage and national security threats from China, it resulted — in some cases — in researchers and academics of Chinese descent being placed under house arrest or taken away in handcuffs on charges of hiding ties to China, cases that ended in acquittal or were later dropped.

The program resulted in few prosecutions before being shut down last year. But it upended lives and careers, and created an atmosphere of fear. Some ethnic Chinese scientists disproportionately feel that their ethnicity and connections to China inhibit their professional progress and their chances of obtaining — and willingness to apply for — research funding in the United States. A survey of scientists of Chinese descent at American universities released last year found that significant percentages of respondents felt unwelcome in the United States, with 86 percent saying the current climate makes it more difficult for the United States to attract top international students than it was five years ago.

This should be setting off alarm bells in Washington. Economic and military advantage is contingent on superior science, technology and innovation — and the competition for talent is global.

Studies show that the best science is often done by international research teams, presumably because researchers can select from a broader range of potential partners. When we discourage international collaboration in the absence of clear concerns about national security, we limit the pool of possible collaborators, potentially weakening the research.

This is especially true when it comes to China, which has become a scientific power.

China was second only to the United States in total spending on research and development as of 2018, according to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Chinese publishing of research papers has grown , by one measure, to 25 percent in 2020 from less than 1 percent of the global total before 1990.

This work is of increasingly high quality. According to some calculations , Chinese papers are cited (an indication of a paper’s impact) by academics in their own work more often than those of any other country. Academics also choose their partners based on who can best help them to advance their work, and researchers at American universities have for years chosen co-authors from China more than from any other country, according to a report from the National Science Foundation. Questions have been raised about Chinese academic fraud and low-quality patents , but more work is needed to assess how widespread those problems are.

Concerns over academic collaboration with China are legitimate. Under the Chinese model , civilian organizations and businesses are sometimes obliged to support the country’s military apparatus. I’ve heard enough to believe that some Chinese students in America may be reporting what happens in class to agents in China and that some Chinese scholars may have undisclosed agreements to relay what they have learned back home.

China’s government has contributed to the deterioration of academic cooperation. Conducting research in China is harder than it has been in years because of an increased emphasis there on ideology and national security, an ever-widening scope of topics deemed sensitive, decreasing academic freedom and, until they were ended last December, the smothering effect of nearly three years of zero-Covid policies.

But let’s not race China to the bottom. If America fails to attract top international research talent, that harms U.S. prospects for scientific advancement and, ultimately, American economic and national strength.

There is no doubt that present circumstances call for more transparency among scholars. Universities need to lead this change, whereby scholars pay greater attention to the implications of collaborating with foreign scientists. For example, Sweden has developed frameworks for assessing risks through more structured due diligence of research partners, including assessing complications that might arise when collaborating with scientists from authoritarian countries.

But we can’t let this get in the way of ensuring that the United States remains the best place in the world to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics and entices graduates from abroad to remain here after completing their degrees. Yet the number of U.S. visas granted to Chinese students has plummeted . To reverse this, visa processes should be streamlined, backlogs cleared and talented individuals given expanded opportunities to obtain green cards. America is training and educating some of the world’s brightest people; we need to get more of them and keep them here.

Likewise, more Americans need to be learning about China. The number of American students studying in China was already declining from a peak of about 15,000 in 2011-12; during the pandemic that plummeted to less than 400. China is, and will continue to be, a critical global player; understanding its internal dynamics will be important for people operating in a range of fields. Yet we are at risk of having an entire generation of Americans who know little about China.

We should immediately restart the Fulbright program in China, which sent thousands of Chinese and Americans between the two countries for research and learning until it was halted during the Trump administration, and increase federal funding for Chinese studies programs at our universities.

Keeping American higher education open to the world is not about helping China to become strong, nor should we delude ourselves about Beijing’s intentions. It’s about exuding confidence in the strength and virtues of our system to ensure that America remains the best country in the world for learning and research.

Dan Murphy is executive director of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School and former executive director of the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard.

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