In what ways were the Soviet Union and its citizens affected by the Five Year Plans? Essay

Impact of industry

Stalin commenced focus on heavy industry and accentuated that all factories which produced consumer goods would have to acclimatise to manufacturing the materials requisite for the staple industries. Coal and iron output doubled after the first plan and quadrupled after the second, electricity generation trebled by 1933 and increased sixfold by 1937. After being second largest industry in the world after only USA in 1939, it portrayed that they could fruitfully surmount prominent capitalist countries and Stalin’s objective of overtaking them would, in retrospect, fortified his concept of ‘socialism in one country’.

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Detriments of the targets

Managers falsified returns so those targets appeared to be met. Production targets were over-optimistic – only oil and steel exceeded targets. Because of the pressure to produce huge quantities, quality was often poor and bottlenecks and shortages developed. Unskilled illiterate workers could not understand the instructions, while peasants flocked in for higher paid jobs. These individuals were uneducated and could not do the work, which exacerbated the problems concerning targets. The emphasis was on quantity not quality; 50% of tractors in the first Five-Year Plan did not work. The aforementioned emphasis on heavy industry meant that industry produced few consumer goods.

New complexes built

A total of 1500 new industrial plants and 100 new towns were built and were instituted from scratch. Eminent complexes such as Sverdlovsk and Magnitogorsk were rapidly built and for the latter, Stalin organised for several hundred foreign specialists to direct the work, including architects headed by the distinguished city planner Ernst May. The most renowned HEP of which was the Dnieper Dam, which was finished in 1932 and powered several large industrial centres including Zaporizhia and Kryvy Rih. Many energy-consuming industries were also able to proliferate due to the hydroelectric power generated through the dam, which was imperative for Soviet army aviation.

Peasants and internal migration

There was an influx of peasants into the urbanised areas in order for them to look for prospects for highly-paid jobs. This caused mass internal migration and thus acute overcrowding and by 1935, only one in twenty Moscow families had more than one room to themselves. Moreover, workers who were striving in the new industrial plants were forced to live in tents as there was no housing in the area, as it was previously fallow land. There was also the introduction of internal passports, to record the locations of the Soviet citizens; relocation had to be endorsed otherwise you could not gain a job or rations – this enabled Stalin to retain skilled workers in their respective industry.

Stakhanovites

Stalin affirmed via mass propaganda that workers who mastered their assigned jobs or exceeded production targets were accorded the title of ‘Stakhanovite’ and were rewarded with better housing, holidays and extra wages – many were also given the Order of Lenin which boosted their confidence. Output quotas in early 1936 were increased due to them and workers who had not been favoured with good conditions struggled to fulfil their quotas and expressed resentment of Stakhanovites and they were verbally and even physically abused after they discovered that they were provided with better conditions and machinery.

More worker types

Stalin also changed the organisation in industry such that he broadened the types of the human resources in industrial jobs. Many women were encouraged to work and cr�ches were instigated in many factories in order to allow many mothers to become recruited. As well as this, they were encouraged to study new technical and vocational courses in order to assimilate with men in some semi-skilled or skilled jobs; between 1932 and 1934, four out of five new workers recruited were women. Likewise, many young graduates joined Komsomol, the Communist Union of Youth, and they volunteered to assist as ‘pioneers’ by means of helping create the new industrial cities; 250,000 were sent every summer to do this.

Growth of gulags

There were extreme production quotas and were coerced to work in derisory conditions, without adequate clothing and food and hence, Stalin instigated the upsurge of zeks and by 1937, there were 6 million of them. Stalin ensured that they were used for industrial or infrastructural construction projects, such as the building of the Moscow Metro, the extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Belomor Canal. In the latter, 100,000 zeks died when digging the Belomor Canal, and although Stalin deemed it a major success and was built four months ahead of schedule, it was useless for its purpose as an escape route from the Baltic Sea, as it was too narrow and shallow for vessels.

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