What were the effects of the First Five Year Plan on Russia?

The First Five Year plan was devised by Stalin in 1929 and it was his attempt to rapidly industrialise Russia in a short amount of time. It was necessary for Stalin to do this because the country was behind the rest of Europe in Economic Standings and after the troubles of the previous years something needed to be done. At the start of Stalin’s plan it looked like the old idea of War Communism because Stalin first took control of all Industrial areas in Russia and forced the workers to work in the factories just like the original Marxist idea. There are three categories that these effects need to put into, Economical, Political and Social.

One of the main effects of the First Five Year Plan was that Industry was boosted since the problems of the years before. Huge Dams were built and new railways were introduced. The Railways were especially important because not only did they provide a better route of transport for passengers but were used to transfer large amounts of goods and heavy materials around Russia. This meant that villages and towns that had not been able to be industrialised before could now receive new materials. Huge Industrial Centres were introduced in the west and also in central Russia meaning towns and cities thrived. In the space of two or even three years this was supposed to change the industrial face of Russia. By 1937 the amount of Oil production had trebled, Coal production had gone up by four times and Steel production had gone up the same all since the start of the First Five Year Plan. This means that the plan was obviously working. The idea that Stalin had was that if he could get the most out of the first Plan then he would be ahead of schedule and be able to produce even more for the second and third Plans.

But not all of the effects were good; the people that were building the factories and working in them were all forced to work and most of them from Labour or Prison Camps. The main effect of this was that the workers were not trained in what they did and many of the buildings and products made were not of high quality. But this is not just because they were poorly trained but because they were beaten and did not receive the amount of food or pay that they should have. This meant they were poorly fed so they did not have good motivation; they had no money so they could not buy clothes or food and were generally bad workers. In the factories targets were frequently not met and produce was of poor quality.

The reason why the workers were not getting as much food as they should have been getting is because of a change in the method of agriculture and farming in the country. This new method was Collectivisation. This means that instead of having small farms owned by individual peasants the government made them bring together the farms into big groups in the villages. Although this meant that all the food was being made at once and more of it could be produced the government took a certain amount of the crops as payment in tax. This left the farmers with very little and morale dropped because the more they made the more would be taken away but if they farmed less then they would be left with no food and would starve. In the long term this was a good idea because it meant that the people who lived further away from food supplies would have food.

It also meant that the government could control the amount of food being produced. The reason it did not work is because the peasants were not used to the change and the fact that they had to hand over all their land to someone else, many thought that the situation was worse than when the Tsar was reigning. Before the idea of Collectivisation many peasants in the country thought that the old way was the better way. In fact before Collectivisation had spread in 1930 the Soviet Union produced 85 million tonnes but in 1934 the figures dropped to 69 million tonnes.

But Collectivisation was not all bad it provided a large scale organisation of food and although there were losses in the country there were gains in the towns because the workers in the towns and cities now had more food than before. Those in the industrial areas were bombarded with propaganda declaring collective farming to be a success and created an image of the ideal happy worker.

The Economic effects also link in with the Social effects because the workers who lived in the towns and cities need food from the country. If they could not they would starve. There were gains in standards of living because of the rapid change of output from the factories. New schools were built and free education was introduced. Instead of being taught at home children had to go to school or family would have to pay heavy fines. New hospitals were now built and this was also free because they were still able to get money from selling produce so they weren’t losing out on making things free. These social effects link with the economic effects because without the output from factories and the money coming in from selling it they were able to build new houses and help those people who were not rich enough to help themselves. In the short term there were no problems in Social life but only for a select few.

This was brought about by propaganda. The Communist Party produced massive amounts of propaganda telling the workers that all was well and creating an inspiration for the people of Russia and a new Soviet Union. An example of this is when a man named Stakhanov was supposed to have dug 102 tons of coal in one shift, fourteen times that of what a worker was expected to dig. Stakhanov became a Public Hero and was rewarded. But most of this was a cover up for what was really happening. There was no place for workers that couldn’t work so most of these people were killed. The workers needed to be fed, healthy and educated but as not much food was coming from the country and they had to work so hard most of them were none of these.

But there were benefits, since the introduction of the new Industrial areas unemployment almost ceased to exist in Russia and support for Stalin rose. Another positive effect was that in the past the different provinces of Russia had been in conflict especially during the Tsar’s reign. Stalin, on the other hand, united the people of Russia and brought them all together creating a much more efficient working force. These people at the beginning of Stalin’s Dictatorship wanted to work as hard as they were because they thought that they would gain status in Europe and gain pride as a nation. In fact during the 1930’s Russia was beating its European Competitors in the output of produce, a huge step considering that during the 1900’s they were a disgrace to Europe.

Another group of effects are the Political effects. This links with the economic effects and the Social effects because it was the government that were governing the way in which the Plans were run. It was the government that were feeding off the people because a strong economy would provide a strong power hold for Stalin, which would help to ensure his remaining in power. The political effects also link directly to the social effects because if Stalin did not like the way someone was working then he would have them shot. The personal effects of Stalin have to be considered as many times Stalin has been compared to Hitler. Many people think that Stalin was even worse than Hitler as a leader because he killed many millions more people than Hitler and they were his own people. But the only reason it is not talked about much is that Stalin made the most out of a poor deficient country and managed to gain economical power. Hitler on the other hand although he gained power in most of Europe completely wrecked his own path to power while doing it. In other words he did not cover his back. Stalin did this by gaining support of the people and blackmailing them so they could not turn against him while Hitler was hated all through Europe even after his good support in Germany.

The more positive effects of Stalin’s leadership was that by providing an idea of the ideal worker an all the propaganda it meant that to a certain degree people wanted to work and Stalin did not need to do anything to make them work. Stalin also had an aim not just to improve Russia but to catch up with the Western World. Before Russia had been a humiliation and Stalin now thought it was time to improve Russia’s Economical Status. Linking with the Social effects it was the first time that Women had been used in industry apart from the farms. This is important because women had never been used in production before and using them was a big step because in social life men had always been the one to work and the women would work at home. Although they didn’t work in heavy industry they were a huge part of the way that Stalin used his people to get what he wanted and not what anybody else wanted.

As a conclusion I think that the First Five Year Plan created the foundation for the other plans. The reason why it did not seem to work is that although many standards dropped Stalin still managed to push the workers to create a good amount of produce. In other words Stalin had to lose to gain in this case he had to lose on social effects to gain on the Economical and political effects he wanted to achieve. He also knew that he had to make them listen to him, if he didn’t use force they would fall behind. Life worsened for the workers because Stalin set the standards so high but this needed to be done or Russia would never achieve its goal to become a major influence in Europe.

Stalin was able to raise the morale of his people so that they would work even if they were poor and had no money because he inspired them to see a new Russia. In the towns many factories and work places were built and this provided employment and produce meaning that the towns and cities thrived. The only problem was there was no food because of the problems with collectivisation. But on the other hand this pushed the Russian workers even harder because in order to get more food then they had to work harder. These two things link up as not only was the country providing for the towns but the towns were also producing for the country by making farm machinery. It was this two way system that meant that if one of the two weren’t working hard enough the other would lose out. It was the idea of this that kept them working.

At the beginning of the First Five Year plan it looked as though it wouldn’t work because nobody especially the workers and the peasants were used to the change but eventually things evened out as Stalin was able to work on one problem then another in the second and third Plans. By the end of the first plan Russia had overtaken the rest of Europe. This is proof that the Plan succeeded as well as the fact that later in the 1940’s Russia became a very influential power in Europe and World War Two. The major effects were the Social effects because it was these that in the long term mattered to Russia. But Stalin was able to improve this in the second and third plans by building on what he already had.