Cultivating the Masses

Cultivating the Masses: Modern State Practices and Soviet Socialism, 1914–1939

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Cultivating the Masses
    Book Description:

    Under Stalin's leadership, the Soviet government carried out a massive number of deportations, incarcerations, and executions. Paradoxically, at the very moment that Soviet authorities were killing thousands of individuals, they were also engaged in an enormous pronatalist campaign to boost the population. Even as the number of repressions grew exponentially, Communist Party leaders enacted sweeping social welfare and public health measures to safeguard people's well-being. Extensive state surveillance of the population went hand in hand with literacy campaigns, political education, and efforts to instill in people an appreciation of high culture.

    In Cultivating the Masses, David L. Hoffmann examines the Party leadership's pursuit of these seemingly contradictory policies in order to grasp fully the character of the Stalinist regime, a regime intent on transforming the socioeconomic order and the very nature of its citizens. To analyze Soviet social policies, Hoffmann places them in an international comparative context. He explains Soviet technologies of social intervention as one particular constellation of modern state practices. These practices developed in conjunction with the ambitions of nineteenth-century European reformers to refashion society, and they subsequently prompted welfare programs, public health initiatives, and reproductive regulations in countries around the world.

    The mobilizational demands of World War I impelled political leaders to expand even further their efforts at population management, via economic controls, surveillance, propaganda, and state violence. Born at this moment of total war, the Soviet system institutionalized these wartime methods as permanent features of governance. Party leaders, whose dictatorship included no checks on state power, in turn attached interventionist practices to their ideological goal of building socialism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6283-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    The Stalinist regime was among the most repressive and violent in all human history. Under Stalin’s leadership, the Soviet government carried out a massive number of deportations, incarcerations, and executions. Official figures show that in 1937–38 alone the Soviet security police executed 681,692 people.¹ Yet, paradoxically, at the very moment that the Soviet government was killing hundreds of thousands of people, it was engaged in an enormous pronatalist campaign to boost the population. Even as the number of incarcerations and executions grew exponentially, Communist Party leaders enacted sweeping social welfare and public health measures to safeguard people’s well-being. Extensive...

  7. 1 Social Welfare
    (pp. 17-69)

    Social welfare in its most basic sense refers to provision for the well-being of society’s members, particularly those in need such as the sick, the elderly, and the unemployed. Among the programs commonly associated with welfare are poor relief, disability and unemployment aid, and old age pensions. Welfare, however, can also refer to a broader range of social intervention and regulation designed to improve urban living conditions, order social practices, and inculcate productive behavioral norms—all to ensure the rational conduct of everyday life and the purposeful deployment of human resources. Welfare in this broader sense goes beyond financial assistance...

  8. 2 Public Health
    (pp. 70-124)

    The Soviet health care system was considered one of the defining features of Soviet socialism. Shortly after coming to power in 1917, the Bolsheviks instituted a highly centralized state health system based on principles of social medicine. These principles, articulated at the Eighth Communist Party Congress in 1919, included free and universal health care, improved nutrition and sanitation, prevention of contagious diseases, and treatment of “social diseases (tuberculosis, venereal diseases, alcoholism, and the like).”¹ Soviet officials approached health as a state concern, one that justified extensive services and intervention to guarantee the bodily capacity of the population. The Soviet health...

  9. 3 Reproductive Policies
    (pp. 125-180)

    Modern state intervention went beyond measures to enhance the health and fitness of the existing population. Backed by scientific and medical expertise, and in the name of protecting the society, nation, or race, authorities in many countries intervened in reproduction to increase birthrates and “improve” their populations biologically. Previously reproduction had been considered a natural phenomenon—something that lay beyond state control or scientific management. Even seventeenth-century cameralist thinkers who viewed a large population as a source of cheap labor and national wealth had no ambition or even conception of managing reproduction to control the quantity and quality of children...

  10. 4 Surveillance and Propaganda
    (pp. 181-237)

    Surveillance and propaganda were central features of the Soviet system. The Soviet government established an extensive surveillance network that included an enormous security police apparatus, widespread use of informants, perlustration of letters, and regular government reports on the “political moods of the population.” Alongside efforts to monitor the thoughts of its citizens, the Soviet government sought to shape people’s thinking via educational programs and propaganda campaigns. For Party leaders, instilling “class consciousness” was crucial to ensuring political support for their regime. Viewed in isolation, the Soviet government’s widespread use of surveillance and propaganda might appear to be purely the product...

  11. 5 State Violence
    (pp. 238-305)

    No discussion of Soviet social intervention would be complete without an examination of state violence. Indeed state violence, and the Gulag in particular, is frequently regarded as emblematic of the Soviet system as a whole. In 1937–38 alone, according to official figures, the Soviet security police arrested 1,575,000 people, of whom it executed 681,692 and incarcerated another 663,308. By the end of 1940, the Soviet government had imprisoned more than 1,930,000 people in Gulag labor camps, and these figures do not even include deportations of over one and a half million “kulaks” to special settlements during the collectivization drive...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 306-314)

    The Soviet case is frequently omitted from comparative historical analyses. Scholars tend to view the Soviet Union and its distinctive socioeconomic order as anomalous and therefore fundamentally incomparable to other countries. My examination of social policies, however, indicates the value of including the Soviet Union in such comparisons, as a means to highlight certain features of state interventionism and population management in the interwar period. In particular, the Soviet case illustrates the connection between welfare and warfare, and the fact that welfare programs at this time were intended primarily to safeguard human resources and fulfill a set of reciprocal obligations...

  13. Archives Consulted
    (pp. 315-318)
  14. Index
    (pp. 319-328)