The communist domination had emerged from the reign of Joseph Stalin. He led the Soviet Union which was considered as the foundation of communist states and emulated by other aspiring communist countries. As a Russian dictator, Stalin’s aggressive rule became known to be as ruthless, fearless, and domineering. Many say that his leadership caused more damage than the benefits given to Soviet Union – during and after his administration, but this does not change the fact that Stalin made a mark as a significant figure in world history.
The following discussion will delve on Joseph Stalin’s peak to power. His leadership and administration and of the largest communist nation became controversial and feared. From this aspect, the key points in Stalin’s leadership career will be discussed. To begin with, a brief background of Stalin’s life as a growing leader will be provided and subsequently, his progress and movements as a leader will be taken into account as well. Joseph Stalin was born under the Russian name, Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili on December 18, 1878 on the small town of Gori in Georgia.
He came from a well-off family but not until his father, Besarion, became alcoholic, worsening the family business and finances. Stalin grew up in a violent environment with his father inflicting domestic violence towards and him and his mother, Yekaterina. The town was heavily submerged in poverty where gang violence and street fights occur and where the family lived in a fifteen-square-foot room (Zuehlke 12). Yekaterina had enough of Besarion’s beatings and kicked him out of the house; however, Stalin did not escape the harshness of physical hurt coming from his mother whenever he disobeyed her.
From this childhood experience, Stalin grew up as a bitter and angry man where one of his friends described him as “incapable of feeling pity for man or beast. Even as a child he greeted the joys and troubles of his fellow schoolboys with a sarcastic smile” (Zuehlke 13). His religious Catholic mother enrolled him in a seminary in the hopes of making him a priest. At Gori Theological School, the students were forced to learn Russian as part of the Tsar’s policy at that time.
Stalin was an excellent student in his class but despite adopting and learning theological ideas, the strict and limited environment of the seminary prompted Stalin to rebel against its teachings. He became a leader of a group of classmates who rebelled against the rules of the seminary. The books that the students were allowed to read were to be approved first by the school and should only deal with scriptures and theological writings. Stalin and his newly formed group would find books that were banned by the seminary and would gain them knowledge about other ideologies besides religion (Haugen 19).
From this activity, Stalin was able to learn about communism through the works of Karl Marx and most especially of Vladimir Lenin. Through these two iconic figures of communism, Stalin became intensely passionate in adapting the communist ideals and organized rallies and protests. Stalin does not have the charisma as a speaker but his organizational skills were excellent. The oppressive state which Georgia experienced under the Tsar rule after it invaded by Russia further intensified Stalin’s desire for revolution.
Due to his rebellion activities he was expelled from school which gave him an opportunity to focus more on his revolutionary conquest. He eventually became a member of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party where Lenin was also a member. However, the party split into two due to irreconcilable differences on the desired policies to implement. Out of this split, the Bolsheviks under Lenin’s leadership came into view which would eventually be the Soviet Union. Stalin inevitably chose to be a member of the Bolsheviks since he was heavily influenced by Lenin’s teachings.
His organizational and leadership skills also caught the attention of Lenin and will soon cooperate with him in fulfilling the communism dream for the Soviet Union. Prior to the reign of communism in Russia, the country flourish in terms of their culture and was the fourth in economic progress (Moynahan 30). Literacy was also campaigned for the enrichment of the children’s minds. School fees were inexpensive and students coming from poor families had the opportunity to go to school with the half the price of the payment.
However, within these universities, students turned to be radical as communism became an underground faction (Moynahan 31). Perhaps the students were tired from the monarchic rule of the Tsar which seemed to be tyrannical and saw the inequalities which the social classes project that is why they were attracted by the ideals of communism and revolution. Since education was such of importance to Russia; the well-read students were able to get access to a wide array of books including the ones which Stalin loves to read from Marx and Engel (Moynahan 31).
As the radicals grew in number and after the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party split into two, the battle between the Tsar and communism became intense. From the Bolsheviks, Stalin was continuously arrested for revolutionary works and was exiled in Siberia but was able to escape later on. This internal battle happened before the Great War with Germany in which the Tsar successfully maintained his position. Stalin became one of the most active members of the Bolsheviks and worked closely with Lenin and Mikhail Kalinin.
His service devoted for the Bolsheviks was rewarded by Lenin by placing Stalin as the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s Central Committee. The Bolsheviks or now known as simply the Soviet Union were divided into five sectors which are the Central Committee, Politburo, Orgburo, Central Executive Committee, and the Council of People’s Commissars (Tucker 202). Aside from being given the position of the General Secretary, Stalin was part of the Politburo and the Orgburo which to become member one must be voted by the Party Congress.
In totality, the position and visibility that Stalin was holding in three sector of the Soviet Union became an easy path for him to spread his influence. It was precisely this situation, Stalin’s place on all three of these leading bodies of the party, as well as on the All-Russia central executive committee and the council of people’s commissars that allowed him to concentrate what Lenin termed ‘boundless power’ in his hands and made him, even during Lenin’s illness, the number one person in the party. (Tucker 202)
When Lenin fell ill, Stalin took advantage of the absence of the leader and became Lenin’s substitute in leading the Party’s activities. Eventually when Lenin dies on the 21st of January 1924, Stalin worked his way up to the party leadership. By eliminating his former allies either through death or exile he became the leader of the Bolsheviks gaining him full authority of not just the party but the whole Soviet Union. His leadership over the party destroyed the democratic centralism that originally existed in the party by having full control in all of the decisions and policies that the party made.
The democratic centralism existed where the members have the right to vote and remove party members and party leaders for the benefit of the Soviet Union. By having full control, Stalin possessed the power to remove unwanted members while retaining his sole power. During his leadership, he was able to destroy Mensheviks (Bolshevik’s rival party) and made it illegal. He continuously eliminated all forces that were against him and tightened the control over the Soviet Union. Stalin established an economic policy that was contradictory to the New Economic policy of Lenin.
Stalin focused on the rapid industrialization and agriculture collectivization of the Soviet Union in the aims of centralizing the economic movement. Lenin’s New Economic Policy pertain to bringing capitalism back to Russia by allowing private business in order to avoid Russia’s economic downfall. It was more like a temporary economic condition to bring Russia back up the economic track by accepting capitalism and then gradually shifting to a socialist state – which has been described as “merely a breathing spell” (Tucker 20).
On the other hand, Stalin’s economic policy, especially agricultural collectivization, forced farmers to form groups to in which they would be co-owners in a certain land and crops were distributed to the government where a quota should be met (Minahan 157). The quotas set by the government were incredibly high that there were not enough crops to feed the Russian people. Those who do not surrender their grains were executed or imprisoned and famine and starvation became prevalent. Due to this cruel economic program, 3 million people died due to the maltreatment of the government by means of this economic policy (Minahan 157).
The harsh economic policies were followed by the implementation of a Communist state where all actions of the citizens were being monitored. One of Stalin’s strategies in reinforcing the ideology of socialism would be in controlling the arts and the media by promoting the “cult of personality. ” Through Russian popular culture, Stalin controlled these and projected him in all positive aspects. Posters, television shows, radio programs, newspaper, etc. al praised Stalin’s every action and a model of heroism (Philips 61).
Stalin’s photos and paintings can be seen posted for the public to send the message to the people that the policies were for a better Russia. The development of the ‘cult of personality’ was for the purpose of letting the public know who runs the country and who should be followed. In the long years of his leadership, Stalin had excessively used the power of the military in implementing his dictatorship and exercising his power over the people. He was ruthless in terms of killing his detractors, and civilians who disobey his rule.
Stalin had a fear for outside intervention for this posed as an obvious threat to his power just like the strength that Germany showed during the First World War. Sadly, the passion that he had for communism which supposed to be offering a utopian society for the Russian peasants, turned out to be a selfish pursuit for maintaining his power and acquiring some more. Stalin had been eaten by the limitless possibilities he could play with power in his hands. Though he can be credited to be the vanguard in putting USSR as the most powerful communist state, the intent of doing so was out of his selfish desires.
Works Cited Haugen, Brenda. Joseph Stalin. USA: Compass Point, 2006. Minahan, James. The Former Soviet Union’s Diverse Peoples. USA: ABC-CLIO, 2004. Moynahan, Brian. The Russian Century: A History of the Last Hundred Years. USA: Random House, 1994. Philips, Steve. Stalinist Russia. USA: Heinemann, 2000. Tucker, Robert. Stalinism. New Jersey: Transaction, 1999. Van Ree, Erik. The Political Thought of Joseph Stalin. New York: Routledge, 2002. Zuehlke, Jeffrey. Joseph Stalin. USA: Twenty-First Century Books, 2006.