The original purpose of centralized control was to ensure the survival of the ML state against external forces such as the U.S., Germany, and Japan. It was also to protect against internal enemies, such as right wing elements, violent kulaks, and class enemies. History has shown that without centralized control there would not be the efficient leveraging of force to repel capitalist enemies who see a socialist nation as a “bad example” for workers in their own nations who might expect things like a living wage, universal healthcare, and even co-ownership of the means of production. The Paris Commune of 1871 was a beautiful anarchist community which was massacred by imperial forces. Likewise, Revolutionary Catalonia was an anarchist society torn to pieces by fascists. After the Soviet Union was founded it didn’t take long for the White Army to form. It was a collection of Tsarists, right wingers, fascists, and anti-communists hell bent on smashing the Soviet Union. To make matters worse, 17 nations aided the White Army. Thus began the bloody Russian Civil War. By mobilizing the people of the newly formed state Lenin was able to defeat the White Army with the strength of Soviet power. The infastructure of the nation was destroyed. Roads, rail lines, buildings—it was total devastation. Given the time of crisis Lenin instituted the NEP, which permitted a form of state capitalism which limited capitalism. It was intended only as an emergency matter. It worked to avoid economic collapse, but the nation was still relatively undeveloped with respect to industrialization. Kulaks were small landowners who often had peasant farmers working for them. Peasants did the bulk of the work while kulaks lived lives of relative affluence. Farming was terribly inefficient. The agricultural output was just enough to feed the nation, but in many years of inclement weather there were droughts and famines.
Famines had been a regular part of life under the Tsar going back hundreds of years. To industrialize there needed to be a large increase in agricultural output, thus enabling peasants to move to the cities to work in the factories. The NEP and kulak system was incapable of this. To move from a semi-feudal, peasant agricultural economy to an industrial superpower within 10 years was required for the nation to survive. External enemies wouldn’t permit a “bad example” socialist nation to survive for long. Stalin said, prophetically in 1929:
We are fifty or a hundred years behind the advanced countries. We must make good this distance in ten years. Either we do it, or they will crush us.
The plan was to collectivize agriculture and make it more efficient, including updating farming methods and techniques. Economy of scale was utilized, and a master plan was designed to increase yields so people could move to the cities to work in factories. The problem was the resistance posed by the kulaks. They sabotaged food production, including killing 50% of the animals used to work the land. They also violently lashed out to prevent the loss of their comfortable lives. A mixture of drought, sabotage, and other factors caused the Ukrainian Famine.  It was never deliberately caused by Stalin or the Soviet government, despite what Ukrainian nationalists, Nazis, and Western propagandists like Robert Conquest tell you. There was a famine, yes. But it was not intentionally caused. Relief measures were provided as well. After the kulaks were forcibly relocated the grain yields improved significantly. The process of industrialization hummed forward, and the Soviet Union would become the world’s second largest industrial superpower, defeat the massive Nazi forces, and prosper.
Collectivization updated farming methods
The beginning of any nation is a time of great trouble, particularly if the nation was founded by revolution. But in time things do settle. The Soviet Union was in great turmoil up until the death of Stalin. After this time there was the Cold War, but internally most of the strong opposition had been defeated. Things calmed. It was possible to relax the political repression without having the nation collapse. However, Khrushchev made several mistakes which began the long process of decay which culminated with Gorbachev and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  Under Stalin there was strong centralized government and planning.  Khrushchev introduced “market reforms” which were ill conceived and only led to the creation of a capitalist black market which threatened the official economy. After Stalin the process of rotating cadres ended. Instead of term limits and anti-corruption measures (as done in China), a permanent class of entitled nomenklatura developed. Corruption set in, and the strength of the Communist Party was greatly weakened and ultimately destroyed. Without a strong Communist Party a ML nation cannot survive.
Contrast this with China and the CCP, which has survived and thrived. To this day China is a one party, Marxist Leninist state. There is still considerable central planning. Transportation, finance, defense, and other major industries are state owned or at least have CCP cells in them. The overall direction of the economy is planned, and key industries are subsidized. For example, during the recent COVID-19 pandemic the government was able to quarantine an entire region, one consisting of 60 million people. This prevented the larger spread of the virus, which threatened to infect the entire nation and destroy its economy. For those effected by the lockdown, the government replaced the people’s wages, provided free healthcare and testing, and built several new hospitals and treatment centers from ground up. The government decided as a nation that it would absorb the economic losses associated with the pandemic. Contrast this with the U.S. Trump is preparing to end the lockdown by Easter which is holding back the rate of infection so the hospital system is not overwhelmed by those infected and seriously ill. The lockdowns save lives. The pandemic in the U.S. is expected to peak at the same time Trump wants to “unleash” the American economy. It is going to be a murderous disaster. This came after Trump had a telephone conference with the leaders of the largest hedge funds in the U.S. Under capitalist systems money is more important than human life. Profit is king.
Modern China is not perfect. Deng Xiaoping and capitalist roaders introduced “market reforms” which watered down the socialist nature of China but thankfully did not destroy its socialist character.  The means of production in China are still substantially owned by the people via the state, and ultimate control of the nation still lies with the CCP. Since 2010 inequality in China is coming down. Social services are constantly being implemented. The hard work and creativity of the Chinese people have lifted over a billion people out of poverty. President Xi was a product of the Cultural Revolution and has tried to move more toward socialism, as the means of production are owned by the public and not privately. In fact it is these reforms which have angered the West as China becomes a major world power. In real terms the Chinese economy has already surpassed that of the U.S.
But the U.S. and Western powers will not peacefully coexist with a strong China. The existence of imperial aggressors will always pose an existential threat. The centralized power of the CCP and its ability to mobilize the productive forces to compete is what makes it strong. Until the world is united in socialist brotherhood, local self governance without a strong centralized government is impossible.
 Alexander Finnegan’s answer to Robert Conquest vs. Arch Getty, totalitarian vs. revisionist theories in Sovietology, which do you consider the most reliable source of knowledge? Inspired by the many answers marked with ignorance and bias in the light of Russian disclosed archives.