The New Economic Policy and the Role of NEP Men in the Soviet Union

From 1921-1928, Vladimir Lenin introduced a new financial plan for the Soviet Union that was meant as an answer to the USSR’s financial crisis from centralized farming and collectivization. Since then, world leaders (particularly of Russia and the former Soviet Union) have heralded this plan as a golden era for the Soviet Union where farmers were allowed to privatize their crops and the financial system flourished.[1] What should be noted however, is that the program is only successful when looked at in relativity to the previous era where farmers were forced to grow and hand over their crops to the government while they were left to starve. During this era, heavy taxes replaced this seizure. NEP or the New Economic Policy was also meant to stifle rebellion that was spreading across the republic because of the dissatisfaction among farmers.

NEP was better for agriculturalists (which made up most of the republic) but still was not ideal. Grain shortages meant workers in cities faced hunger and the ability to privatize allowed the middle class to flourish- particularly merchants[2]. These components were looked down upon by the government who thought NEP was an encouragement of bourgeois selfishness and who reinstated collectivization by 1931 when Lenin died.[3]

But who were these merchants? Well, they were called “NEPmen” and they were private traders whose living standards had drastically increased since the installation of NEP. They worked all sorts of privately-owned businesses. In the Ukraine, NEPmen in their largest force consisted of 325,000 men in the cottage, construction and travel industries and 90,000 in private retail trade.[4] Some used hired labours and others were family businesses (who in general were looked upon more favourably by the system. [5]

After Lenin’s death, Stalin began to target NEPmen as “exploiters”.[6] They were stripped of their right to vote, disproportionately taxed and sometimes arrested. [7] This quickly put an end to the New Economic Policy in the Soviet Union as a new era of communism was ushered in by Stalin.

[1] Olga Andriewsky, Lecture. History of the Soviet Union. Trent University. 2012.

[2] Encyclopedia Britannica

[3] Encyclopedia Britannica

[4] Encyclopedia of Ukraine

[5] Encyclopedia of Ukraine

[6] Encyclopedia of Ukraine

[7] Encyclopedia of Ukraine


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