First five-year plan (Soviet Union)

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Propaganda stand dedicated to the first five-year plan in Moscow. 1931 colour photo by Branson DeCou.

The first five-year plan (Russian: I пятилетний план, первая пятилетка) of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was a list of economic goals, created by General Secretary Joseph Stalin and based on his policy of Socialism in One Country. It was implemented between 1928 and 1932.

In 1929, Stalin edited the plan to include the creation of "kolkhoz" collective farming systems that stretched over thousands of acres of land and had hundreds of peasants working on them. The creation of collective farms essentially destroyed the kulaks as a class, and also brought about the slaughter of millions of farm animals that these peasants would rather kill than give up to the gigantic farms. This disruption led to a famine in Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan as well as areas of the Northern Caucasus. Besides the ruinous loss of life, the introduction of collective farms allowed peasants to use tractors to farm the land, unlike before when most had been too poor to own a tractor. Government-owned machine and tractor stations were set up throughout the USSR, and peasants were allowed to use these public tractors to farm the land, increasing the food output per peasant. Peasants were allowed to sell any surplus food from the land. However, the government planners failed to take notice of local situations. In 1932, grain production was 32% below average;[1] to add to this problem, procurements of food were up by 44%. Agricultural production was so disrupted that famine broke out in several districts.[2]

Because of the plan's reliance on rapid industrialization, major cultural changes had to occur in tandem. As this new social structure arose, conflicts occurred among some of the nomadic populations. In Turkmenistan, for example, the Soviet policy of collectivization shifted their production from food crops to cotton.[3] Such a change caused unrest within a community that had already existed prior to this external adjustment, and between 1928 and 1932, Turkmen nomads and peasants made it clear through methods like passive resistance that they did not agree with such policies.[3]

Reasoning for the first five-year plan[edit]

Prior to the enactment of the first Soviet five-year plan, the Soviet Union had been experiencing threats from internal and external sources. The first war threat emerged from the West in 1927. [4] This war scare arose when Western nations, like Great Britain, began cutting off diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.[5] This created fear among the Soviets that the West was preparing to attack the Soviet Union again; after the West occupied the Soviet Union during the Russian Civil War. The fear of invasion from the west left the Soviets with a need for rapid industrialization to increase Soviet war making potential, and to compete with the western allies. At the same time as the war scare of 1927, dissatisfaction among the peasantry was emerging in the Soviet Union. This dissatisfaction arose from the famine of the early 1920s, as well as a growing mistreatment of the peasants.[6] Also during this time the secret police or the GPU had begun rounding up political dissenters in the Soviet Union.[7] All these tensions had the potential to destroy the young Soviet Union and forced Joseph Stalin to introduce rapid industrialization of heavy industry so that the Soviet Union could address these threats if needed.

Rapid Growth of Heavy Industry[edit]

The central aspect of the first Soviet five-year plan was the rapid industrialization of the Soviet Union. The need for rapid industrialization was once again out of the fear of impending war from the West. If war were to break out between the Soviet Union and the West, the Soviets would be fighting against some of the most highly industrialized nations in the world. The rapid industrialization would inhibit fears of being left unprotected if War between the Soviets and the West were to occur. To meet the needs of a possible war, the Soviet leaders set unrealistic quotas for production.[8] To meet those unrealistic needs, the facilities had to be constructed to quickly facilitate material production before good could be produced. During this period 1928-1932, massive industrial centers emerged in areas that were highly isolated before. These isolated areas included Magnitogorsk, Dnieper, and Nizhny Novgorod.[9] During this era of Soviet history heavy industry was supposed to experience a 350% increase in output.[10] To achieve this massive economic growth, the Soviet Union had to reroute essential resources to meet the needs of heavy industry. Programs not necessary to heavy industry were cut from the Soviet budget; and because of the redistribution of industrial funding, basic goods, such as food, became scarce.[11] The Soviet Union then decided that the workers necessary for further industrialization should be given most of the available food.[12] From this rapid industrialization a new working class emerged in the Soviet Union.[13] During this time the industrial workforce rose from 3.12 million in 1928 to 6.01 million at the end of the plan in 1932.[14]

Agricultural Collectivization[edit]

The first five-year plan also began a period of rapid agricultural collectivization in the Soviet Union. One reason for the collectivization of Soviet agriculture was to increase the number of industrial workers for the new factories.[15] Soviet officials also believed that collectivization would increase crop yields and help fund other programs.[16] This agricultural collectivization was however a failure for the Soviets. At the end of 1929 the Soviets asserted themselves to forming collectivized peasant agriculture, but the “Kulaks” had to be “liquidated as a class,” because of their resistance to fixed agricultural prices.[17] Resulting from this, the party behavior became uncontrolled and manic when the party began to acquisition food from the countryside.[18] In the years following the agricultural collectivization, the reforms would disrupt the Soviet food supply.[19] In turn, this disruption would eventually lead to famines for the many years following the first five-year plan, with four million dying in 1933.[20]

Prisoner Labor[edit]

To meet the goals of the first five-year plan the Soviet Union began using the labor of its growing prisoner population. Initially the soviet leaders sought to decrease the number of prisoners in the Soviet Union so that those resources could be rerouted to the five-year plan.[21] Early in the plan, however, the Communist leaders realized the necessity and the benefit of prisoner labor to complete the five-year plan. At this time the Soviet leaders attempted to orchestrate an increase in prison population.[22] This legislation led to many dangerous prisoners being released from prison into labor camps.[23] The people of the Soviet Union began being sentenced to forced labor, even when they committed small offenses, or committed no crime.[24] Many of the prisoners used for labor were peasants who had resisted collectivization.[25] This was an attempt by the Soviet Union to acquire free labor for the rapid industrialization; however it led to the incarceration of many innocent people in the Soviet Union. Eventually Western nations, such as the United States, began to boycott goods produced by this form of labor. [26]

Failures of the first five-year plan[edit]

The failures of the first five-year plan were numerous. The first plan was doomed from the beginning because of unrealistic quotas set for industrialization that, in reality, would not be met for decades to come. One of the problems was the goals for the plans were not set and those that were, were constantly changed.[27] Each time one quota was met, it was revised and made larger, which quickly eliminated any chance of the plan succeeding.[28] Secondly, the collectivization created a large-scale famine in the Soviet Union in which millions died.[29] These famines were among the worst in history and created scars which would mark the Soviet Union for many years to come. These failures would lead to the plan being discontinued after four years instead of five.[30]

Success of the Soviet first five-year plan[edit]

The success of the first five-year plan was that the Soviet Union began its journey to becoming a world superpower through industrialization. The first five-year plan also began to prepare the Soviet Union to win in the Second World War without the initial five-year plan, and the ones that followed, the Soviet Union would not have been prepared for the German invasion in 1941. Due to the rapid industrialization of the plan, the Soviet Union was able to build the weapons it needed to defeat the Germans in 1945.[31]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Conquest, The Great Terror, 1971
  2. ^ R. W. Davies, Soviet History in the Gorbachev Revolution (Macmillan, London, 1989)
  3. ^ a b Edgar, Adrienne (2004). Tribal Nation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 296. ISBN 0-691-11775-6. 
  4. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 120. 
  5. ^ Hudson, Hugh (2012). "The 1927 Soviet War Scare: The Foreign Affairs-Domestic Policy Nexus Revisited.". The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 39: 1. doi:10.1163/18763324-03902002. 
  6. ^ Hudson, Hugh (2012). "The 1927 Soviet War Scare: The Foreign Affairs-Domestic Policy Nexus Revisited.". The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 39: 1. doi:10.1163/18763324-03902002. 
  7. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 121. 
  8. ^ "Collectivization And Industrialization". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  9. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 133. 
  10. ^ "Collectivization And Industrialization". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  11. ^ Hansen, Stephen (1997). Time and Revolution: Marxism and the Design of Soviet Institutions. University Of North Carolina Press. p. 95. 
  12. ^ Khrushchev, Nikita (2004). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. Chapel Hill: Pennsylvania State University. p. 56. 
  13. ^ Davies, Robert (1994). The Economic Transformation of the Soviet Union. New york: Cambridge University Press. p. 95. 
  14. ^ Hansen, Stephen (1997). Time and Revolution: Marxism and the Design of Soviet Institutions. University Of North Carolina Press. p. 95. 
  15. ^ "Collectivization And Industrialization". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  16. ^ "Collectivization And Industrialization". Library of Congress. Retrieved April 17, 2014. 
  17. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 136. 
  18. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 136. 
  19. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 136. 
  20. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 139. 
  21. ^ Scherer, John (1993). "The collectivisation of agriculture and the Soviet prison camp system". Europe-Asia Studies 45 (3): N26. 
  22. ^ Scherer, John (1993). "The collectivisation of agriculture and the Soviet prison camp system". Europe-Asia Studies 45 (3): N26. 
  23. ^ Scherer, John (1993). "The collectivisation of agriculture and the Soviet prison camp system". Europe-Asia Studies 45 (3): N31. 
  24. ^ Scherer, John (1993). "The collectivisation of agriculture and the Soviet prison camp system". Europe-Asia Studies 45 (3): N31. 
  25. ^ Scherer, John (1993). "The collectivisation of agriculture and the Soviet prison camp system". Europe-Asia Studies 45 (3): N35. 
  26. ^ Scherer, John (1993). "The collectivisation of agriculture and the Soviet prison camp system". Europe-Asia Studies 45 (3): N49. 
  27. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 132. 
  28. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 132. 
  29. ^ Fitzpatrick, Shelia (1994). The Russian Revolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 139. 
  30. ^ Khrushchev, Nikita (2004). Memoirs of Nikita Khrushchev. Chapel Hill: Pennsylvania State University. p. XIV. 
  31. ^ Suny, Ronald (2010). The Soviet Experiment: Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 360. 

References[edit]

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