The Five-Year Plans were designed to turn Russia into the socialist state that Stalin so longed for. Their main aims were to increase heavy industry, improve communication across the country, and later, rearmament and to create a war economy. But these plans were not always successful, and created further problems for Stalin's government to deal with.
The First Five Year plan was based on one thing and one thing only – increasing heavy industry e.g. Iron, coal, steel and oil. In 1932, Stalin announced the the First Five-Year plan had been a success. The production of raw materials had increased massively, with the economy growing 14% in just a year. This was especially good considering America and Europe was in a depression after the Wall Street crash. The urban population during the First Five-Year Plan trebled as peasants moved to the cities to take unskilled jobs in soviet industry. Education was also reformed during this time, workers were encouraged to take classes in technical subjects, and universities also became more accessible for those with few qualifications.
However, there were still failings in the First Five-Year Plan. Behind the soviet propaganda lay a chaotic economy which was struggling to meet the high targets set for them. Those who failed to meet their targets were demoted, sacked or even put on trial and executed as enemies of the state. This caused many officials to lie about the amount of raw materials that they had produced, creating the impression that the high targets were in fact being meet. This means that the First Five-Year Plan was not success as false figures were produced giving the impression that it was a success.
The Second Five-Year Plan focused on; heavy industry, communications, electricity, new industries, and consumer goods. They also attempted to learn from the problems thrown up by the First Five-Year Plan. The targets for the Second Five-Year plan were much more realistic than the first, and its achievements were more modest. The production of raw materials continued to expand, and the output of steel, for example trebled. The first lines of the Moscow Metro were opened in 1935 to improve transport in the cities. However, the improvements in living standards had limited success, even though rationing was final removed once again. The wages of industrial worker also increased. Due to the fear of imminent war with Germany, defence spending increased from 4% in 1933 to 17% in 1937, but this came at the expense of living standards.
The Second Five-Year Plan, like the first suffered a number of chronic problems. There was little coordination between different branches of industry. The fear of execution prevented many from speaking out about the Five-Year Plans, report errors or suggesting that their targets be lowered. There was a massive shortage in consumer goods, as peasants brought up what they could, to trade at a later date for food or other essentials. This later created a thriving black market which was very hard for the communists to suppress.