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Stalins Five Year Plans Made Ussr Stronger. Agree or Disagree

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By 1941, Stalin’s Five Year Plans had made the USSR stronger. Explain why you agree or disagree with this view? (24 marks)

By 1941 Stalin had used the five year plans to strengthen his position as leader of the USSR, however the society as a whole was weaker. There were both advantages and disadvantages to the three five year plans: The five year plans were disorganised, there was difficulties with managers, it created a quicksand society and living standards were deprived. It did however help to create the Stakhanovite movement, it helped to finally abolish the New Economic policy (NEP) and most importantly to revolutionise the USSR’s heavy industry.

The plans determined the course of the Soviet economy from 1928 to the German invasion of 1941, when the plans achievements were tested. Throughout all three of the five-year plans it was agreed that the state decided what was produced and when it was produced however there was little idea of an ultimate goal for example senior party officials appointed and dismissed planner’s senior managers for political reasons rather political reasons than economical. The first five-year (1928-32) plan focused solely on advancing heavy industry through projects like Magnitogorsk and advancing the production of coal, steel and timber. It would achieve this through the Gosplan (the State Planning Committee) who were set up in 1921 as a forecasting agency to work out things like output and input figures for industries and their targets. At this time propaganda was used to drive soviet citizens forward and peasants were recruited as workers, this was ineffective as peasants were uneducated and unskilled making production rates slow-meaning that targets were not met. The second five year plan (1933-37) decided that not enough focus was put on consumer goods as in the 1930s it was difficult to buy a pair of shoes- they were targeted for their greater share of investment. The third five year plan fell during 1938-1941 original targets were for a 92% rise in industrial production and the provision of secondary education however, tensions of war were high and priorities changed so most targets were aimed on advancing the USSRs defence by producing munitions. As we can see there were three different five-year plans with each of their different goals, it did not outline the main goals of the communist party making it wholly disorganised and unclear. This is possibly the biggest disadvantage, which weakened the USSR.

Difficulties with managers and workers at this time were another disadvantage of Stalin’s five-year plans, which weakened the USSR. Managers had to fulfil their overly ambitious targets and would do almost anything to achieve them especially after the Shakhty show trial which saw a group of engineers in the Shakhty coal mines of the Donbas region accused of sabotage and treason. It is a significant event because Stalin manipulated it, he decided that the industry was full of bourgeois specialists and they needed reliable communists. Managers could only achieve their targets if workers cooperated but there was the economic pressure of labor shortage, shortages of raw materials and competition from military spending the targets were simply too ambitious. This meant that the USSR was less strong because of unachievable targets.

A major disadvantage of Stalin’s five year plans would be that it created a quicksand society and people had extremely poor living standards. During the first five-year plan 1928-32 many or the majority of the new workers were peasants who had been forced off the rural land through the process of collectivisation. People moved to find work and accommodation and once they found a better job (better pay) they would move on, this created competition between skilled workers who competed for higher wages and job perks so people did not stay in jobs for long periods of time. The biggest problem that employers faced was shortage of skilled workers and in 1951 it was estimated that less than 7% of the workforce were skilled or trained. Also, living standards at this time were dreadful. There were was major overcrowding of substandard accommodation as most materials previously used for buildings were pumped into industry, in addition to this there was a deep lack of consumer goods and food was rationed. Conditions for workers were also terrible; they lived in barracks with appalling conditions. This would’ve been a major disadvantage to Stalin’s five-year plans as it goes against the socialist idea of a united society; people had a profound lack of morale.

The Stakhanovite movement was a major achievement of the five-year plans as it supported the idea of rapid industrialisation. Stakhanovism came through Alexi Stakhanov (a miner in the Don Basin) who, after five hours, cut one hundred and two tons of coal, which was twice the amount of the average worker. He was only able to achieve this by having specialised tools (pneumatic pick) and uninterrupted work. Only two hours after he had finished Petrov assembled a party committee where he hailed Stakhanov a soviet hero and awarded him two hundred roubles. This is important reason why the five-year plans made the USSR stronger as it compelled managers to adopt the same production methods to increase the amount they produced. It was also a massive propaganda stunt and promoted the idea of a socialist society, which would mean that Stalin’s five-year plans helped to strengthen the social aspect of the USSR.

Stalin’s five-year plans were important in strengthening the USSR through the abolishment of the New Economic policy (NEP). Under the NEP Agriculture was still backwards for example strip farming was still used. The grain procurement crisis of 1927-28 meant that peasants were retaining their produce, as the income they received was not worth it. There was high unemployment and increase in kulaks (rich peasants). This was a major issue as NEP was largely a capitalist economic policy but it was only supposed to be temporary, however this went against the fundamental values of socialism in one country and communism. It was essential for Stalin to gain ultimate leadership and follow in the footsteps of Lenin that this policy be abolished and so to create the dream that Lenin embedded in societies minds.

The biggest advantage of Stalin’s five-year plans was the revolution in industry during the period between 1928-1941. The use of these plans meant that enormous industrial centres were built out of virtually nothing like the Moscow Metro which is an underground railway system in Moscow and unthinkable projects were undertaken like Magnitogorsk by the Ural Mountains helped to demonstrate what could come about through the new Soviet industrial machine. Large companies sent specialists, engineers and skilled workers to help set up and build new factories. Finally the depression in America due to the Wall Street helped to show that capitalism was weak and that the five year-plans were working.

Overall it can be argued that Stalin’s five-year plans weakened the USSR as they were poorly organised making the party as a whole look disorganised so they were less trustworthy. They created issues between managers and workers so there was social discomfort, it created a quicksand society, which went completely against the values of communism.…...

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