The first five year plan was from 1928 to 1932.
The second five year plan was from 1933 to 1937.
The third five year plan was from 1938 to 1941 when the war interrupted it.
Each plan set a target which industries had to meet. Each factory was set a target which it had to meet. The targets were completely unrealistic and could not be met but vast improvements were made. The emphasis was on heavy industries such as coal, oil, iron and steel and electricity.
The following table gives some idea of what progress was made when the base line figure is 1927 - before the five year plans. The target for both plans is in brackets.
Though these appear excellent results, it must be remembered that the base line for 1927 was small by west European standards. However, the improvements did represent a massive jump forward.
The second five year plan continued to emphasise heavy industries but there was also a commitment to communication systems such as railways and new industries such as the chemical industry.
The third five year plan put an emphasis on weapons production (which required an input from heavy industries) as war did seem to be approaching.
Stalin brought in experts from foreign countries to help them, and he introduced single managers to run factories whereas one of the main beliefs of Lenin had been the running of factories by soviets (workers councils who would come to a joint decision on how things should be done). These managers were directly responsible for fulfilling the targets set for their factory. Good managers were well rewarded. Unsuccessful managers could pay a severe price for failure.
For all the apparent success of the five year plans, there were serious flaws. Parts for industrial machinery were hard to get and some factories were kept idle for weeks on end simply because they did not have parts to repair worn out machines. Ex-peasants were used as skilled workers. This simply did not add up. Despite their valiant efforts, many machines were damaged because those using them had no idea on how to correctly use these machines. There were also no parts to repair this damage. Factories took to inflating their production figures and the products produced were frequently so poor that they could not be used - even if the factory producing those goods appeared to be meeting its target. The punishment for failure was severe. A manager could be executed as an "enemy of the people". Workers could be sent to a prison camp in Siberia. Nobody was allowed to condemn or criticise the five year plans as they were Stalin’s idea.
Life for the workers:
Life was very hard for industrial workers. Their pay was poor and there was barely anything they could spend their money on even if they had any. Consumer goods were simply not produced. Working conditions were very dangerous and the hours were long. The homes that were provided were poor. So why did they work so hard?
• the young were still idealistic. The whole concept of communism was still intoxicating. Stalin was known as ‘"Uncle Joe" and they were willing to suffer a few years of hardship if they were going to get to the promised land of a better society.
• people were encouraged to work hard by propaganda which bombarded the workers in all directions. This played on the belief that if most did it, the rest would follow on as they did not want to be seen as different.
• rewards were given to the best workers. Groups of workers were encouraged to compete against each other. The most famous worker was Alexei Stakhanov. He was said to have mined 102 tons of coal in one shift. This was fourteen times the amount expected from one person. Logically if he could do it, so