To industrialise Russia as quickly as possible, Stalin began a series of the Five-Year Plans. The plans consisted of setting production targets for each industry. Very high targets were set for the production of heavy industry. Stalin also introduced collectivisation, a scheme that involved joining individual plots of land into large farms.
Stalin introduced The Five-Year Plans and Collectivisation to help transform Russia into a strong, powerful nation and leave behind the struggling backward country it had been for so many years. Stalin knew that for Russia to become a leading Nation, it would have to be as up to date as the countries in the Western World, and not have to rely on these countries for industrial goods. Stalin strongly believed the West wanted to crush Russia, so it was also essential that the industry improved, so that armaments could be made and the country could defend itself against attack.
The apparent results achieved by the five-year plans were extremely high, production statistics had trebled for electricity and coal and iron outputs had hugely increased. The majority of industries met the production targets they had been set and Russia was finally producing its’ own industrial goods. While the first Five-Year Plan concentrated on producing heavy industry, the second was more focused on improving communications throughout Russia.
Another feature of the plans, was the construction of new towns and industrial centres. These were not only built to help with the production of new materials, but were also showpieces of Soviet achievement. An example of one of the industrial centres was Magnitogorsk, which attracted workers from all over Russia to help build it and to work there when it was completed.
When the Five-Year Plans were introduced by Stalin, many workers were optimistic about the future of Russia, and this gave many the inspiration to work hard for their country. People truly believed that the harder they worked, the better the life they or their children would be able to lead later on. Stalin seemed to have produced a more socialist society, with people working together to improve their nation.
By the time the third Five-Year plan had been prematurely ended due to the Second World War, Russia was the second largest economy and held enough defence to withstand Nazi attack.
Although collectivisation was not a complete success when it was first introduced, by 1940 agricultural production was the highest it had ever been, and this gave Stalin the proof that it was a success. Collectivisation was perfect way for the State to gain complete control over the peasants and the agricultural production. The peasants were being asked to grow the crops for the Russian industry instead of for themselves, this was effectively making The USSR a socialist state, encouraging the people to adopt the views of sharing and co-operating and make Russia a better country. When collectivisation started many peasants did not need to work on the farms anymore, and so they would be free to work for heavy industry instead, so they were not left unemployed.
Despite the amazing results the Five-Year Plans produced, there were many hidden flaws to the plans, which had terrible effects on the workers. Because many of the workers were unskilled, and not trained in using the machinery correctly, some goods had faults and machinery was damaged. Whatever problems occurred in the industries, the workers would be blamed and to cover up mistakes production results were altered so that it appeared that targets had been met.
The workers had to put up with terrible working conditions, low wages, food shortages and consumer goods were hard to come by. However hard work was rewarded, and wages were dependent on the amount of product an individual produced. Those that did not work “hard enough”, would be sent to a labour camp, and so this deterred many from slacking. At the labour camps the peasants were made to live in appalling conditions and work themselves to death. Those that did work abnormally hard were known as Stakhanovite’s, after Alexei Stankhanov, who had apparently achieved tremendous results for production. If it was believed that a worker was not working as hard as he could, physical punishment would be used, and often they would be denied food. Working conditions were often very dangerous and the freezing cold weather left many workers ill and living on very little food.
Collectivisation was very unpopular among the peasants, who were not willing to hand their animals and tools to the State. Many carried on resisting against the State, and those not willing to co-operate were labelled “kulaks” and were either arrested and sent to labour camps or they were shot. This was known as “dekulakisation” and was used to scare the peasants into doing as the State told them.
Because of the disruption to farming and peasants not being familiar to the new method of work, there was a shortage of food and many became hungry. Things became worse when there was a harvest failure, but the state continued to demand the food and millions of peasants died of starvation, while watching their crops being exported by the State officials.
For Stalin, The Five-Year Plans and collectivisation were a success; industry and agriculture had improved and Russia had finally caught up with The Western World. However, the new policies cost the lives of millions and I believe that the cost of so many human lives can not be compensated by the improvement to the industry in The USSR.