Those who oppose a totalitarian leader act with their guns, but when these rebels are stripped of their fundamental ideas of opposition – the very foundation of their purpose crumbles. Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union, denied his enemies ideas, let alone weapons, because he believed ideas were more powerful. From a historical perspective, totalitarian dictators dramatically changed the economies, governments, and societies of their regimes. Arguably one of the most oppressive rulers in history, Joseph Stalin forever impacted the manner in which autocratic totalitarian regimes operated.
Vladimir Lenin’s death left the Soviet Union to an alternate form of rule – that which Stalin had plans of change. He quickly used shrewd politics and manipulation, Stalin isolated his opponent, Trotsky, and became dictator of the Soviet Union, His nature and means of getting to the top were evident in his regime also. As a result of paranoia, he purposely centralized the government underneath him; collectivization of private farms led to violence between the regime and peasants. In the Great Purge, his Secret Police persecuted old parties through various methods, and later the general public, which he thought opposed him. In addition, government officials made all basic economic decisions due to the command economy in place thus enforcing strict regulation. Stalin ensured loyalty to the state, and by extension, himself; he planted fear in the minds of his subjects through his secret police. To achieve this, he put atheism into effect so he could be the Supreme leader. He censored certain texts, music, and non-socialist realist art; he instituted propaganda to control the masses. His foreign policy did not function well because it was pursued dichotomous goals; he wanted to bring about a global communist revolution while appeasing other countries – one thing that did not function as planned.
After many years of being behind European powers, Stalin dreamed of the Soviet Union as a modern industrialized nation. He revolutionized the “hammer” and “sickle” of the Russian economy under the Five Year Plans which focused toward building heavy industries, improving transportation, and increasing farm output and efficiency. Unlike capitalist nations or the Soviet Union under Lenin, Stalin’s regime imposed a command economy where officials made basic decisions, and the government owned businesses – the government received most of the profits leaving workers and farmers with low wages. Oil, coal, steel production increased due to high production goals set; workers who met quotas were rewarded, and those who didn’t were punished. In agriculture, Stalin seized land given to peasants in the New Economic Plan fearing they had too much power. He forced them onto public farms or collectives – the latter being used to produce food for, mainly, workers in cities causing widespread famines. When peasants and kulaks responded violently, the government reciprocated, and seized the crops. Thus, food production decreased – which took a toll on the whole population.
In Stalin’s totalitarian state, the people had to conform to the oppressive atmosphere in the Soviet Union. A new elite class emerged comprised of high-ranking communists who wanted safety rather than loyalty to Stalin. The industrial managers, scientists, and leaders were granted privileges like nice housing, and access to commodities. Stalin used realpolitik to appease the public too. Because wages were low and housing was scarce, he made public education and health care free, and made housing and recreation affordable. In schools, communism and Stalin were synonymously glorified thereby molding future communists into shape. Youth were put into communist recreational programs where they paraded or helped out at farms. Women gained equality and other rights. Censorship and propaganda like socialist realism instilled fear and terror which silenced opposition.
Joseph Stalin is remembered for his iron fist regime over the Soviet Union. Firstly, he changed his government to instill fear, seize power away from the public, and create loyal subjects. Secondly, his Five Year Plans collectivized and regulated the economy with brutal means in order to feed domestic industrialism. Lastly, he used censorship, propaganda, and utter terror in order to convert the populous into loyal and faithful communist subjects. His regime will be remembered for years to come, and symbolize the horrors that a totalitarian state can bring about.