Using your understanding of the historical context, assess how convincing the arguments in these three extracts are in relation to the impact of Stalinism on people’s lives in Russia by 1941
Fitzpatrick’s interpretation is that, Stalinism impacted on people’s lives because they no longer did anything as they had no control over their life, whilst they lived hard, fearful lives, especially in the countryside. Yet, despite this fear and passivity, the impact of Stalinism was not so great that urban citizens could not criticise the regime, instead they retained their right to voice their opinions.
Fitzpatrick’s interpretation is convincing to some extent. This is because Stalinism’s impact on people’s lives wasn’t so great as to restrict all opposition. Davies highlights the peak of Stalinist criticism after the 1940 Labour Code. At this point, there were speeches, rumours and strikes, and even leaflets titled “Down with the government of oppression, poverty and prisons”. Fitzpatrick is therefore convincing because Stalinism did not completely control people’s lives, and in fact impacted negatively because of their hard lives in poverty. For example, even by 1937, living standards were said to be lower than in 1928 (Lynch), thus showing the impact of Stalinism on people’s lives, was as Fitzpatrick convincingly argues, was to create harder lives with lower standards of living, which then gives rise to Stalinist criticism. Arguably, by 1941 this living standard would have fell even further, whereby government spending increased in defence, thus neglecting consumer goods and prices to prepare for the advent of war. However, Fitzpatrick is less convincing as Stalinism did not impact as negatively on people’s lives for all members of society. Even among ordinary citizens, Stalinism was not always criticised for its impact, as by 1939, Stalin had almost abolished illiteracy, with 94% literacy of 9-49 year olds in urban areas, whilst there was 86% literacy in the countryside. Thus, even in the countryside, Stalinism had a positive impact by educating the once illiterate peasantry, helping to provide them with more social mobility. Thus this shows that Fitzpatrick is less convincing as Stalinism did have some positive impact on people’s lives, but also fatalism and passivity was not necessarily encouraged because with education, peasants could finally change their way of life and choose to work in the city.