How successful were the 5 year plans in transforming Soviet industry in the years 1928 - 1941?
In order to decide whether or not these 5 year plans were successful, it is necessary to first define what is meant by success in this context. This can be done by considering the aims of Stalin with his first three Five-Year Plans.
Stalin's industrial plans for the USSR were to establish a war economy - to prepare the USSR for war against its capitalist enemies. He regarded steel, iron and oil the sinews of war and the successful production of these would war guarantee strength and readiness for war. The first Five-Year Plan covered the period from 1928 -1932 as a means of revitalising a flagging economy not fully recovered from the ravages of the First World War and the Civil War. The plan stated what was to be achieved in these five years, but not how these aims were to be achieved; it simply assumed that all quotas would be met. For this reason, the first Five-Year Plan was more of a set of targets than a plan. Stalin encouraged the formulation of an 'optimal' Plan that had hopelessly unrealistic quotas which stood no chance of being reached, even under the most favourable conditions. Local officials and managers often gave false production figures to give the impression that they had reached their targets when, in actuality, they had fallen short, so it is difficult to give precise statistics. Even though the figures of output production were rigged at the time, the output of coal, iron and the generation of electricity all increased in huge proportions. Though steel and chemicals were not produced in as impressive proportions and the output of textiles declined. During the Plan, living standards among Soviet people also deteriorated as no effort was made to reward workers by providing them with affordable consumer goods and people in towns and cities often till lived in sub-standard accommodation. Workers had few rights, as by 1917 the Russian trade unions...
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