For purposes of discussing the first socialist society, it would be proper to first define what socialism itself is. Many define theories like socialism under the pretext of economics. With that, it can be said that it is a system wherein workers control the means of production in a society, unlike capitalism wherein class controls such. The supporters of socialism, however, have varied throughout history. There are those who support free markets, planned economies, or free access to common means of production. History of the Soviet Union
But if one were to talk about the Soviet Union – widely known as the first socialist society, one must not forget to discuss the Russian Revolution of 1917 because that is probably where it all started. It was during World War I when the then Soviet Union – now Russia – experienced great problems. It was detailed in history how the soviet had famine, military setbacks, economic fallout, and monarchy policy dissatisfaction. Having faced such, a provisional government – which bordered on being autocratic – temporarily took over.
It, however, still failed to heed the calls of its people to finally instil peace and equality among them. In addition, even the military were unsatisfied with the way that the things were going. This dissatisfaction even led to them giving their weapons to socialist workers in search for reforms. As this new kind of governance failed to live up to the expectations by which it was pegged, more protests and military offensives came. But as things became worse, it decided to punish the Bolsheviks – known as the Russian Communist Party – but was foiled.
This, most history books surmise, is because people deemed this as going against the People’s Soviet. With this development, the Bolsheviks contemplated whether fighting a civil war would help them achieve their goals to start a revolution. It, therefore, founded its own internal security force in the form of the Cheka – later to be known as the KGB. In 1918, it went on to dispose of the remaining Tsarist regime leftovers and of other opposing forces. Their actions, said the Cheka, were made in response to the urgent need during that time in history.
As the Soviet Union began to evolve, leaders decided to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1922. In addition, War Communism (forced seizure of agricultural surpluses) was replaced by the New Economic Policy (a limited market is allowed by the state). With this, peasants may sell their surplus harvest to the open market unlike in the past when they were forced to give their yields to feed other people. Under the NEP, most industries became somewhat freer that which is suitable for a socialist society – now known as market socialism.
However, the hard-earned systems which were just recently formed became endangered when Vladimir Lenin became ill, thereby allowing for Joseph Stalin’s power to grow – which he ensured by isolating the Bolshevik leader. And with the death of Lenin in January 1924, Stalin went on to pursue his ideal of establishing socialism in one country – specifically Russia – even without a worldwide revolution. The emerging leader, therefore, severed ties with those weighing him and encouraged the implementation of intensive peasant yield production – which others saw as returning to capitalism.
Economic planning of the USSR Since then, Stalin – then the leader of the USSR – sought to change the Soviet society through aggressive economic planning. He did this even with the use of methods kept secret from the public. Despite first having encouraged the NEP, the new leader abandoned the policy and then established the State General Planning Commission which would be responsible for guiding their so-called socialist economy toward industrialization. After it established a five-year plan, the USSR as a supposed agrarian nation became a nation obsessed with industrial superpower.
However, Stalin’s insane desire to achieve fast and heavy industrialization compromised the living standards of the workers – with just one day of absence from work meant serious starvation or even criminalization for the managers. With such stern rules governing its people, the Soviet government was able to declare its first five-year plan to be finished by 93. 7 percent in just a span of four years. Having experienced harsh labor with 16 to 18-hour workdays, it’s clear that the supposed socialist society had somehow lost its way.
About 127,000 workers even reportedly died while almost four million people were sentenced to be punished because of such conditions in just a span of four years. Moreover, collectivization was really not beneficial to anyone during the time – even leading to a drastic drop in farming productivity. Each step towards the collectivization of agriculture led to more terrorist attacks, unnecessary killings, and cruel deportations. Stalin’s Ultimate Rule But somehow as time passed, Stalin’s pursuit of progress bore fruit.
The employment rate in the USSR rose greatly – allowing for more extravagant projects to be started in the union. And since industrial workers needed to be educated, the number of schools and learning institutions increased. Health care and life expectancy both advanced. Even the Soviet people benefited to some extent from social liberalization – which the USSR was supposed to be advocating in the first place. Although the right of women to gender equality was still not properly imposed, their status became better.
But as this paved for an easier rule for Stalin, he started to launch the Great Purges against those whom he considered blocking his way – particularly the Bolshevik Party. With such in mind, mass arrest, torture, and jail time became common practice during that time in the USSR. Almost 700,000 people were reportedly killed between 1937 and 1938 while hundreds of thousands of people were imprisoned. The ruler, however, “oversaw” the USSR’s involvement in World War II while welcoming the Cold War. The Second World War saw the death of many Russians.
But after having experienced a great standoff between two great superpowers, the Soviet Union became dominated by Cold War politics. Liberalization Stalin died in 1953 – giving way to the Lavrentiy Beria who allowed for a time of relative liberalization. During that time, many political prisoners were released. However, Beria was seen to be a big hindrance to members of the collective leadership and was disposed of. Nikita Khrushchev then came into play – paving the way for “De-Stalinization” which meant the end of great forced labor in the USSR.
During his reign, he denounced most of the things that Stalin and his colleagues did – which definitely made an impact on Soviet politics. After such declaration, he eased into foreign relations with other countries, considering the Soviet’s policies regarding its goods. He also went on to change the way by which their agriculture sector operated – encouraging peasants to plant produce more freely. But many things came in the way of Khrushchev’s continued significant rule – some of which are military tension with Western countries and bad harvests.
A few more tried to succeed him to rule over the USSR but in the end still led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Collapse of the First Socialist Society Despite its historic years of working towards an industrialized society, its economy faced a standstill and in 1985, the Soviet Union started to collapse into independent nations. There were definitely many instances by which the USSR failed to reform but last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev allowed for the greater political and social freedom of his people.
He formed a band of political leaders who were supportive of certain reforms and measures which he thought were good for the USSR. His measures were targeted at solving the economic problems of the Soviet which he thought might have forever scarred it. But his reforms had its loopholes, namely the widened opportunities for other leaders and movements. He did not foresee that his liberalization attempts would bring in more opposition, with some wanting to replace the Soviet system with a liberal democratic one while others were heeding independence. Having not come up with a compromise, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.
Lessons Learned Despite seemingly focused on its economic ventures, the Soviet Union showed the world how too far-seeing and progressive goals for a nation may prove fatal to its people. Through its example, other countries should have seen how its people, not its produce, are its true wealth. They should have also learned how force and brutality are never the answers to seemingly simple questions. A nation’s economy is very important, though not as important as its citizens. Like most nations, the Soviet Union underwent many leaderships, transitions, and struggles.
There is so much history in to delve into – but what should be remembered are the many sacrifices that molded it into the Russia it is today. References Gaidar, Yegor (2007, April 19). “The Soviet Collapse: Grain and Oil. ” AEI Online. 01 May 2009 <http://www. aei. org/publications/pubID. 25991,filter. all/pub_detail. asp> Matlock, Jack. (1995) “Autopsy on an Empire: The American Ambassador’s Account of the Collapse of the Soviet Union. ” Random House. Murphy, David (2005) “What Stalin Knew: The Enigma of Barbarossa. ” Yale University.