(Original post by Vincente)
Firstly one must know what is Stalinism. Until university the term is usually associated with forced collectivization, the great purges and forced indusrial development which is what most textbooks would say especially my A level ones. These factors ARE elements of Stalinism but not the core theme which is usually known as the 'Great Break'. The concept of Stalinism as much I could simplify it was a combination of a cultural revolution and the creation of a new advanced soviet society. In effect a break from the past socially and economically. Stalinism achieved this.
Fair point - I won't argue with that since the only Stalin textbooks I have read are those aforementioned A Level ones...
But as to your other points we are now touching upon areas historians shouldn't, but why not! The political repression issue has been touched on already thus no need to discuss. As for the Kulaks one must ask why were they eliminated? It is precisely because they refused to sell their grain that was halting economic development, it was no good having a productive agricultural sector which was not prepared to sell its commodity to the state at a low price or because of the lack of consumer goods. The world in the 1930s was also in a major global slump, the Soviet Union could only accumulate capital by selling them at even lower prices than the already depressed prices. Stalinism wanted to break from Russia's historical backwardness in the fear of another western incursion.
Once again I find myself in agreement; after all Russia didn't suffer in the way Western countries did after the Wall Street Crash. However I still stand by my opinion that Stalin used the concept of 'Dekulakisation' in order to eliminate not just those causing genuine problems, but anyone who deviated even slightly from what he viewed as being the 'way of doing things'.
Also what was the alternative aside 'socialism in one country'? Trotsky's 'permanent revolution' and believe me there won't be much development here. The 'left' within the communist party wanted further confrontation with the west as opposed to consolidation
The only alternative would probably be a continuation of NEP, or at least a far more gradual break with it, as Kirov might have done had he been permitted to rightfully take power after the 1934 Party Congress.
No. Again I don't like doing this 'what-ifs' in history. But one should note that upon the war that Russia was on the verge of paralysis due to a general strike and major unrest across the empire, would revolution occured if there was no patriotic surge due to the war? If there was a revolution and an assembly based on universal manhood suffrage who would most likely win? The populists and the Marxists (both wings) what kind of economic system would we have here? Most certainly not one similar to that of Britain and Germany which benefited the bourgeoisie. But lets take it that IF the Tsar remained in power after the war would Russia still modernise? Yes but at a considerably slower rate, after all Tsar Nicholas the 2nd and Alexander the 3rd were clear Slavophiles as opposed to Peter the Great an would reject the socio-economic ideas of the west and wished to pursue a distinct 'Russian' path. Remember the Tsar and his aides ended Stolypin's policy after his death hence it is unrealistic to consider the Tsar continuing them.
Slightly off-topic, but isn't the use of 'what-ifs' one of the main tools for judging history? For example in a question as to what was the most important factor in a particular event or development, a historian needs to imagine what the situation might have been
a certain factor in order to judge how important it was?
I think the notion of using 'happiness' as an indicator is a bit silly although living standards is a good proposition. Well, look at it this way, a new 'civilization' has been created was created by Stalinism. The welfare state much associated with the left in the western sphere first emerged in Stalin's USSR. Universal health-care, education and childcare was provided to the new urban population. Living standards rose greatly towards the end of the Stalinist system and was built on by Stalin's successors. This is something people tend to neglect when it comes to life in the USSR and if you study life in the USSR you will be fascinated by this vast improvements. I mean look at the impact of health in Russia and the impact of its population when the USSR collapsed, cases like TB etc had re-emerged when numerous diseases was wiped out during the Soviet era.
Ok, fair point. However, in the end does it come down to whether or not you agree with the concept of 'the ends justifying the means'? I still stand by my original statement in this thread; although I may have underestimated the achievements of Stalin in this period, I still can't see how they justify so much death and suffering at the time.
Anyway, I feel that I'm a tad out of my depth here and shall bow out with that. And will probably print off this debate when it comes to exam time...
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my posts, Vincente