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To What Extent was the Socioeconomic Implementation of the USSRs First and Second FiveYear Plan Successful?

King, Emerson
Word Count: 1936
Table of Contents
Criterion A: Plan of Investigation....... 3
Criterion B: Summary of Evidence..4-5


Criterion C: Evaluation of Sources.......6-7

Criterion D: Analysis....8-9
Criterion E: Conclusion.....10
Works Cited..11-12

A. Plan of Investigation
This investigation will examine the socioeconomic successes of the of the USSRs first
and second five-year plan (1928 1937). This question is considerably important because it may
discover potential factors of the collapse of the communist government in 1991. These citizens in


1928-1937 were concerned of the effects these new economic plans could have on their lives, as
the Soviet government was still young.

In order to reach a conclusion, the following plan of investigation will be carried out:
1. Two of Stalins speeches and a commentary on Stalins collectivization by George
Beers will be inspected and assessed to:
a. Understand the motives behind Stalins reforms of the former New Economic
Policy of the 1920s such as the USSRs desire to be self-sufficient.
b. Study specific cases where Stalins reforms led to economic growth.
c. Investigate the consequence these successes had on other parts of the economy
and Soviet citizens.
d. Comprehending what procedures Stalin prioritized for the Soviet Union and the
people of the country.
2. An evaluation of the data will be displayed and followed by an analysis of two major
sources for rationale, principles, and restrictions.
3. Decisively conclude socioeconomic successes and/or failures made by these two plans.
Analyze the effects on the economy and society:
a. Military
b. Educational opportunities


c. Agriculture
d. Industrial production
e. Destruction of certain social classes

Loyalty to the government


Cultural changes

B. Summary of Evidence
1. Motives behind Stalins reforms of the former N.E.P. of the 1920s
Vladimir Lenin was focused on reaching a close the war against the interventionists
(Romagnolo). He died soon after this goal was achieved. At this point, Stalin believed it was
time to invigorate Soviet economic expansion. Stalin changed Lenins New Economic Policy of
the 1920s with the new Five-Year Plan. The U.S.S.R. strived towards a highly
centralized command economy. The first Plan was created in 1928, launching a period of rapid
industrialization and economic collectivization in the countryside. As a result, the USSR was
eventually transformed from a largely agrarian society into a great industrial power, achieving
military and economic self-sufficiency (Beers).

2. Cases where Stalins reforms led to economic growth

Stalins first Five-Year plan (1928-1933) demanded a 111% increase in coal production a
335% increase in electric power. (Simkin) By the end of the second Five-Year Plan, there was a
390% increase in coal production and a 720% increase in electric power (Clare) [see appendix].
The staggering increase in industrial production can be seen as exponential growth with an


eventual plateau. It was not possible to match the percentage increases in national GDP between
the first two Five-Year Plans and any other Soviet time period because the Union had just
recently industrialized. (Soviet production began at near-zero to 300%. This was an astounding
increase mainly because manufacturing of goods began at zero; the U.S.S.R. still lagged in all
economic areas compared to other western nations.)
3. Consequence these successes had on other parts of the economy and Soviet citizens.
Stalin confided to Winston Churchill that the human cost by 1945 of agricultural
collectivization was over 10 million (Rappaport 53). The production of all livestock decreased by
the millions because of resistance to collectivization. Many peasants were not cooperative. Those
unwilling to work with the government were imprisoned or killed/starved. The Kulak class was
slaughtered and relinquished. People began living in fear because of the secret police. Peasants
did not own the land they resided on. Housing was poor, wages fell, competition slowed
innovation, consumer goods were limited, discipline for non-compliance was harsh, and death
was common in the workplace (Siegelbaum).

4. Stalins prioritization of the improvement of the Union over the welfare of the citizens
Commodities were unavailable, citizens lived plain and difficult lives centered on work
during this time period. The results of the five-year plan have shown that the working class is
just as well able to build the new as to destroy the old. The results of the five-year plan have
shown that the Communist Party is invincible, if it knows its goal, and if it is not afraid of


difficulties. (Stalin 630) Stalin seems to have believed that anything that benefited the
communist party was worth the cost. Because the U.S.S.R.s industrial rates were off the charts,
trivial matters that did not seriously affect output such as feeding the millions of starving
peasants were not addressed. The genocide of an entire Kulak class was justified through these
terms: Soviet peasants were now emancipated from kulak bondage and exploitation (Stalin
607). The improvement of the country must be completed economically, politically, and
militarily prior to social needs. Citizens have no self-representation as Stalin was the head of the
whole party that was united as one.
C. Evaluation of Sources
Lewis H. Siegelbaums book Stalinism as a way of life: a narrative in documents,
published in 2004, delivers a large amount of documents that allow English-speakers to develop
their own theories about the Stalin Era. As a book written by a Yale University professor, this
books main purpose was to inform a Western audience with various 1930s Soviet citizens
perspectives of the Union. All of these experiences are conveniently complied together. The
value of this collection of documents lies in their first-hand experiences with Soviet government
and society. No other American or Westerner could have ever written an account so intimate as
seen through, for example, and account of how small children have been left to anguish in
churches. (Siegelbaum 44)
It is worth noting that the books documents were complied by a professor who lived
through the Cold War on American soil as an American citizen. As such, the author could have
selected documents that only supported the American perspective of horrors that occurred in
Stalins era. This article is biased because it was printed in the United States, a democratic


country undoubtedly committed to promoting the values of the democratic system and demoting
the Communist system. Still, these documents included in the book were not intended to be read
by a large audience, thus giving the statements more validity. These letters and accounts have a
candid and revealing nature about the productivity of the USSR, what the Soviet citizens thought
of the government, and how happy the citizens were with their new communist government. The
anguish described in Document 11 proves that some citizens were living in considerably
unfavorable conditions. (Siegelbaum)
Joseph Stalins speech The Results of the First Five-Year Plan was delivered January 7th,
1933. This, report was delivered to the Joint Plenum of the Central Committee and the Central
Control Commission. It provided the Committee with impressive statistical facts on
economic/industrial growth and with Stalins ideology of a successful communist nation.
Problems with statistics are, however, bountiful. They can be manipulated, for example, by
Stalins desire to corroborate claims or present assertions in a favorable light. Whereas by the
end of 1932 the volume of industrial output in the U.S.S.R. rose to 334 per cent of the pre-war
output, the volume of industrial output in the U.S.A. dropped during this same period to 84 per
cent of the pre-war level. (Stalin)
Every number presented in Stalins speech was clearly meant to boost Soviet nationalistic
pride and confidence, as his audience was the Central Committee. An example of the many
limitations of this speech lie in the fact that he is comparing Soviet industrial output in 1914
(which was essentially nothing) to American pre-war industrial output is irrelevant data. The US
was already one of the leading producers of all goods. It is much easier to make leaps and
bounds (on a percentage scale) starting at zero opposed to starting at, for example, $14,000


(American GDP per capita, 1914). Increasing $14,000 by hundreds of percentages is much more
impressive than increasing $500 to $1,500. The percentages used in The Results of the First
Five-Year Plan are often misleading to the reader, making Soviet growth seem preposterous.
Some statements understood by Stalin are said because it is what the government wants
and allows the public to know. Stalin claims the fact that almost all the poor peasants have been
drawn into collective-farm development; that, on this basis, the differentiation of the peasantry
into kulaks and poor peasants has been stopped; and that, as a result, impoverishment and
pauperism in the countryside have been done away with. (Stalin) This speech was delivered in
1933, the year after the Holodomor, or killing by hunger in Ukraine. 7.5 10 million peasants
died of starvation; the government putting in no effort for intervention. Stalin claims to have
eliminated poverty. His logic is flawed; Soviet citizens were unable to protest against this act of
genocide as their freedom of speech was nonexistent.
D. Analysis
To the outside world, there was an illusion of a dramatic increase in the Soviet economy
between 1928 and 1938. While capitalist countries understood the U.S.S.R. was experiencing
economic growth, they knew nothing of the human cost of their social experiment. On the grand
scale, socioeconomic successes were limited. Stalin stated there were no starving peoples in the
Soviet Union. Workers were not always able to fulfill harsh quotas; this led to punishment
ranging from physical beating to the removal peasants entire livestock by the government.
(Siegelbaum 43).


It is evident that Stalin did not have the well-being of Soviet citizens as one of his top
priorities. His motives with the NEP will always remain unclear. It is clear that the economic
reforms of Lenins NEP had staggering social effects as millions perished in Stalins social
experiment. In fully collectivizing agriculture to benefit the Union as a whole, he killed over 15
million peasants (Beers). Intervening in the situation would distract from the staggering
economic growth that was taking place in the early to mid 1930s.
No other leader of Russia had ever attempted to modernize and industrialize as rapidly as
Joseph Stalin. He was wiling to catalyze this process, it seems, at any cost. The Peter the Great of
the 20th century, Stalin essentially put the entire country on the same page. Most Soviets knew
they had to work; those that did not were relinquished or sent to labor camps. As Russia was not
a fully industrialized nation prior to the 1920s and 30s, it makes sense for Stalin to use
percentage growth instead of actual growth in his reports. He compares the increase in Soviet
output to an era where the entire capitalist planet was struggling (Stalin). The Union experienced
the largest growth it had ever seen during the early years of the 1930s. Communist countries do
not go through capitalist depressions; comparing the systematic growth period of one nation to
the bust period of another is severely biased data.
Most clearly evidenced in Document 31, Soviet economic success [to the outside
world] came with the cost of high level of imprisonment (Siegelbaum 73). A penitentiary/labor
camp made for eight-hundred holding nearly thirty-five hundred prisoners is just an example.
Children sent to these camps to be worked to death. Soviet leaders had a very distinctive
perspective on the subject of human rights during this time period. Communism requires full
cooperation from communist citizens in order for the party to succeed. Each dissenter of the

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party tarnished the developing utopia. Naturally, they had to be put to death so social order could
be maintained. Stalin solely approached the five year plans as economic recovery from the
horrible losses seen in the first Great War. While the economy boomed, low proletariat morale
was rampant.
E. Conclusion
The U.S.S.R. undoubtedly experienced economic growth as a result of the first two FiveYear plans. The country was not, however, at par with Western European countries GNP by the
mid 1930s. The facet of collectivization in the Five-Year plans was a total failure. Most farmers
had been evicted, imprisoned or murdered, making agricultural recovery slow. Inefficient work
was punishable by death. The Union was shooting itself in the foot by killing millions of their
workforce. The social impact of the first two Five-Year plans were staggering, in terms of loss of
life, culture, and human rights. Stalin demanded too much from his citizens. A wise leader
controls a nation by having the people fear him, however, once the people hate, not fear, the
leader, his reign will soon crumble (Machiavelli).

Wor k s C i t e d

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