In 1928–9 Stalin and his leading colleagues launched a state-sponsored drive for ‘modernity’ of unprecedented violence, scope and pace. The overriding goal of this self-proclaimed ‘revolution from above’ was none other than to overcome Russia’s perennial ‘backwardness’, to drag the USSR, kicking and screaming if necessary, into the twentieth century. All vestiges of the ancien régime were to be wiped out. This truly profound socio-economic and cultural transformation was designed to expand and modernise Soviet industry and agriculture at unheard-of tempos. An entire heavy industrial base was to be created almost from scratch and vast collective farms (kolkhozy) were to dominate the Soviet countryside. The USSR had to catch up and overtake the advanced capitalist states as rapidly as possible. This cataclysmic upheaval was aimed, above all, at ensuring the country’s military security. And it all had to be done in a decade, not generations as in the ‘bourgeois’ west.
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