The Economic Revolution
Agriculture. Stalin said, "We are 50-100 years behind the West, if we don't catch up soon we will be crushed. I'm going to drag the Soviet Union into the twentieth century." By now Stalin is following the ideas of the left faction. Agriculture must change to serve the industry. Stalin said, "I need to develop industry in towns, if I'm going to make a war machine. Agriculture must produce a surplus of food, so that it can feed the people in my new cities. I need to drive people off the land, and into my new factories in the towns. I will export food overseas, and buy equipment for my factories. I will have to force agriculture to change."
Agriculture was organised on a capitalist basis. Stalin was going to organise it onto a communist basis. In 1928 the first 5-year plan was launched. It set production targets for a whole range of goods eg: wheat output will increase by 400%. 25,000,000 family owned (i.e. private farms) with an average size of 4 hectares. The methods used on these farms were primitive and created little surplus. So Stalin decided to create kolkhoz, state farms. A kolkhoz was approximately 80 family farms joint together; this meant they shared the land, equipment, livestock and animals. The produce that was developed by the kolkhoz was sold back to the government at a set price.Mechanical Tractor Stations closely monitored kolkhozez. You bought your seeds, tractors, oil, etc from here. Government agents were based here. Agriculture was centrally planned, this is the government had all the say. Mechanical and Tractor Stations decided what they would encourage the kolkhoz to grow, and part of the produce was taken as tax.
Kulaks - fist (not to be confused with a gulag). Kulak was the label for the group of people who didn't want to join kolkhoz, or Stalin didn't want in a kolkhoz . They were labelled bourgeois pigs. Stalin said, "We must liquidate them as a class." Millions of kulaks (2-3) were either shot on the spot, or taken to gulags. A gulag was a labour camp in a remote part of the Soviet Union. Soon there were 10million people in gulags, about 20% died per year. The building of the Belomor Canal is an example of a gulag, it's built to link the Baltic and White Seas. Payment in gulags came in the form of food.
Success or Failure? Kolkhoz was a tragedy based on a crime. Agricultural production was at the same level in 1939, as it was in 1928 it had even gone down.
Sheep and goat numbers in 1928 - 147,000,000
Sheep and goat numbers in 1932 - 52,000,000
Many peasants killed their animals rather than put them in kolkhoz. They believed if they couldn't have there stock to themselves, nobody could have them. This short-term loss of animal numbers resulted in a famine. In the early thirties 5-6 million people lost their lives as a result of the famine. Stalin used the famine to smash resistance against the kolkhoz. Long term agricultural production never reached its potential, central planning doesn't work very well in agriculture.
Industry. Targets were set in industry just as they had been set in agriculture. A lot of emphasis was placed on the heavy industry: iron, steel, fuel etc. Targets were meant to be developed in discussion with the workers, but communists often dominated the meetings.
Ways to get people to reach the targets. Those working in the factories were required to carry a workbook with them. In these workbooks crimes such as lateness, absenteeism, complaining against the targets were recorded. Ever present to the workers was the fear of a spell in a gulag. A mixture of incentives were also rewarded for good work eg, The Stakhanovite Award, this award was given to workers who reached high levels of production. Named after Stakhanovite, a coal miner who dug more coal in a short period of time than anyone else could. Along with this award came a free holiday and extra pay. You got the award, Hero of Socialist Labour. Wages in the factories were based on the piecework system. This system is basically, the more work you do the higher you get paid, and less work you do the less you get paid. Stalin sent telegrams to factories, praising the workers and telling them they were winning the race with the west.
Stalin sold the idea to many of his countrymen that; "they were taking part in a noble experiment, which was working." People believed in their country, and thought it was good to work for. Unlike agriculture the gains in industry were very impressive.
Steel 1928 4.3million tonnes
Steel 1940 18.3million tonnes
Coal 1928 29.1million tonnes
Coal 1940 160million tonnes
Of course much of the production came from gulags. The Soviet Union was surging ahead while; the capitalist west appeared to be in decline.
The Human Cost. 1. 20% of people lost their lives in the gulags. We know people ended up in gulags for such "crimes" as: lateness, failure to reach targets, sabotage and absenteeism. 2. Uninterrupted working week. This was working everyday of the week. This had a huge impact on family life, those working weren't seeing other members as often as they had been before. 3. Conditions in the new towns were far from ideal. 1500 new industrial towns sprung up eg Stalinsk, went from 4000 - 170,000. Housing and etc were given little priority, so many ended up living in make shift houses eg tents. 4. Food was rationed out. People were overworked, and with little amounts of food they were malnourished and starved. 5. Almost 10,000 unskilled peasants flocked into the cities. Industrial accidents were high due to the workers being unskilled, working around dangerous machinery, poor safety standards and poor training.