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The Achievements and Failures of Stalins five Year Plans



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In the 1920s Stalin emerged as Premier of the Soviet Union. This was not a successor Lenin suggested, and in his final testament Lenin in fact requested that Stalin be removed from his position as Communist Party General Secretary. Nonetheless, Stalin still emerged as successor and would establish the Five Year Plans.

NEP, otherwise the New Economic Policy, was Lenin’s economic policy that had revitalized the Soviet economy after War Communism. No longer were their grain shortages, but grain surpluses, in Russia. Russian railroad networks were also greatly expanded which further enhanced transportation for Russian industry.

Despite this, NEP would not be continued by Stalin. NEP was an economic policy closer to free market economics, and so in this respect was not a policy that closely matched Communism. There was also a notable disparity in the prices of agricultural and industrial goods.

As such, Stalin ended NEP. In its place the Five Year Plans were established which set economic targets to be reached within a five year period. The general economic objective of the Five Year Plans was to expand the USSR’s heavy industry. Despite NEP, the USSR’s heavy industry was still some way behind the west and this was a gulf that the USSR had to bridge.

The first Five Year Plan began in 1928. Each plan set targets for the industries to meet. Targets were given for industries such as oil, coal, iron ore and steel. By 1932 industrial output in these industries had increased notably. Iron ore output more than doubled, while coal and oil output had also almost doubled by 1932. As such, the first Five Year Plan actually ended in ’32.

After the first Five Year Plan came a second Five Year Plan in ’33. This actually lasted until ’37. The main difference was that the second Five Year Plan included new industries such as the chemical industry.

As Germany rearmed during the ‘30s a third Five Year Plan began in ’38 which targeted expanding armament production. By ’38 the previous Five Year Plans had fulfilled the general objective of expanding the USSR’s heavy industry, and now the Russian factories could produce a larger quantity of armaments and munitions for a potential war with Germany, Finland or anybody else. However, the third plans were incomplete by ’41.

As mentioned, the Five Year Plans had fulfilled a general objective of expanding Russian industry so that it was more comparable with the west. In this respect, the Five Year Plans ensured great progress for Russian industry. However, few of the specific industrial targets of the plans were actually met.  Some of the factories’ output was also poorly manufactured as the plans put an emphasis on production figures.

Nonetheless, from ’41 onwards Russia’s factories would produce tanks, aircraft and armaments in increasing number after the Five Year Plans. Thousands of Russian T-34 tanks rolled off the production lines as it emerged as the most produced tank of the war. This tank was one of the most effective, and was vital to the victories of the Red Army. As such, the Five Year Plans had ensured a notable increase in Russian industrial productivity.

More about this author: Matthew Adams

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