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‘Stalin’s Five Year Plans and the policy of collectivisation failed to improve the Soviet economy by 1941.’ Discuss. Stalin’s Five-Year Plans are widely considered among historians to be the blueprint for Russia’s second revolution; its objective was to make the USSR an entirely sufficient military and industrial power through rapid collectivisation and industrialisation, as well as to ‘undo’ all traces of capitalism that emerged under former Bolshevik and revolutionary Vladimir Lenin’s New Economic Policy of 1921. Stalin believed that Russia was “50 to 100 years behind the advanced countries” pushing him towards breakneck industrialization and collectivisation through the use of force. The first Five-Year Plan - often called a ‘revolution from above’ due to major political and industrial changes being forced onto the population by Stalin rather than gradually accepted and absorbed - occurred between the years 1928-33. The first Five-Year Plan saw immense growth with a 250 percent increase in overall industrial development and a 330 percent expansion in heavy industry alone; therefore encouraging Stalin to impose the second Five-Year Plan (1933-7) without hesitation. The third Five Year Plan only lasted three and a half years (1937-41) as it was interrupted by German invasion/Operation Barbarossa in 1941, and Stalin’s ambitions for industrial growth were redirected to the production of weapons to help win what he called the ‘Patriotic War’. Stalin’s first Five-Year Plan was launched in 1928 until 1932/3 and called for rapid industrialization of the economy. Though this plan is widely considered a ‘revolution from above’ among historians, historians such as Stephen J. Lee argued that there were social pressures outside of Stalin’s own influence that led to Stalin emphasising heavy industry and armaments. There was tension between agricultural peasants and those working in industry, so Stalin may have felt the need to accommodate for both working-class groups alongside his desire to develop the Soviet economy ‘on to a war footing’ (Lee, Stephen). The goals set were extremely unrealistic, with aims for a 250 percent increase in overall industrial development and a 330 percent expansion in heavy industry alone. The first Five-Year Plan was a huge economic success, with coal production increasing by sixfold and steel production by fourfold; coal increased from 35.4 million tons to 64.3m tons, and steel rose from 4 to 18 million tons between 1928 and 1933. However, to maintain the huge increase in production, the protection and quality of life of workers was ultimately sacrificed. Huge dormitories were established for industrial workers however the immense pressure on industrialisation meant that accommodation was extremely overcrowded and filled with squalor. The economic system which emphasises the protection of workers as one of its core beliefs was now being manipulated to harm workers in attempts to disintegrate the NEP system and any leniency to capitalism under it. Over 100,000 workers died between the years 1931-3. Additionally, despite the economic successes of the first Five-Year Plan, it is not safe to say that economic success under this plan was consistent. The overwhelming focus on heavy industry resulted in industries such as textiles, housing and other consumer industries plummeting. This only made life more difficult for consumers and workers, and lack of motivation to work further weakened the economy due to mass worker absenteeism. Alongside rapid industrial growth, Stalin utilised the first Five-Year Plan to reverse the effects of Lenin’s New Economic Policy; this included a mixed economy that allowed peasants to profit from selling their grain. Stalin viewed agricultural collectivisation as essential to eliminating the mixed market economy and achieving great economic transformation. Collectivisation was initially promoted through propaganda but not enforced, however according to historian Sheila Fitzpatrick, many peasants were not willing to give up their farms and livestock. This only encouraged Stalin to resort to force, and 100 million farmers were forced into collectivisation. The proportion of collective holdings increased from 23.6 percent in 1931 to 66.4 percent in 1933, and grain collection rose from 10.8 million tons in 1929 to 22.8 million tons in 1932. However, due to the pre-existing economic systems of the NEP, Stalin and local officials could not manage the collectivisation process without getting confused, and according to Stephen J. Lee, the result was ‘administrative chaos.’ Not only was productivity significantly diminished, but defiance increased. Between 1928 and 1932, sheep and goats declined from 146 million to 42 million; some historians argue that this was self-induced by peasants as a form of deliberate defiance against collectivisation. Food production consequently reduced - both due to defiance and Stalin’s focus on industrialisation over grain production - and during the years 1932-3 Ukraine experienced a major famine. About 10 million people died of starvation, and a particular enmity was exacerbated onto the wealthier peasants/kulaks, with over one million kulak households (around five million people) being deported. Overall, the first Five-Year Plan’s impact on agricultural productivity and collectivisation was catastrophic, as Stalin’s use of rapid force and distortion of policies only resulted in a constant fluctuation between agricultural growth and loss, and inevitably resulted in the loss of millions of lives. The second Five-Year Plan (1933-8) behaved as a consolidation of the problems caused by the first Five-Year Plan. Forced collectivisation under the first Five-Year Plan eventually led to rationing, food shortages and famine, and the railway system in place wasn’t able to endure the increase in traffic due to millions of workers constantly moving around. The second Five Year Plan therefore concentrated on water, road and rail transport to increase worker determination and morale. Successes under the second plan can be mainly attributed to the completion of economic projects under the first Five-Year Plan; the construction of industrial city Magnitokorsk and the Dnieper Dam under the first plan meant that steel production and water transportation was already established. There were significant gains, particularly between the years 1934-6, in machinery, chemicals and metallurgy. The second Five-Year Plan witnessed gross agricultural production increase by just under 54 percent, while gross industrial production doubled. However, though the initial aims of the plan were to alleviate the conditions of consumers, there were still problems of shortages and lack of consumer goods due to Stalin’s fixation on heavy industry. The plan ultimately did not achieve its intentions of providing for consumers, other than ‘some gain in textiles and the opening of a few bakeries.’ It is also important to note that the second Five-Year Plan was occuring at the same time as the campaign of political oppression and terror known as the Great Purge of 1938-8 - while Stalin was attempting to boost the economy, he was also eliminating valuable personnel and causing panic among workers and everyday civilians. The fear of failure and execution potentially led to mistakes under the second Five-Year Plan being covered up. The third Five-Year Plan of 1938-41 set ambitious targets for industrial growth; Stalin aimed to achieve a 92 percent growth for industrial output, 58 percent for steel, and 129 percent in machinery and engineering. This was particularly due to the growing threat of war eventually actualising as World War II emerged a year later - as well as Stalin’s desire to maintain Soviet Russia’s status as a global superpower. By 1938, the USSR was above Britain and Germany in industrial output. There were localised improvements under the third plan, with rationing in Russia ending and free medicine/education becoming available to more of the population. However, any economic growth was inevitably crushed by the outbreak of war - especially Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s invasion of the USSR in 1941, which is what eventually led to the plan’s termination after 3 and a half years rather than 5. Targets for industrial growth were diverted to the production of weapons and other armaments, and so consumer growth remained very slow. Oil production failed to reach its targets and there was even a fuel crisis under the plan. The third Five-Year Plan was therefore unsuccessful in advancing the Soviet economy. In conclusion, Stalin’s Five-Year Plans were able to make Soviet Russia a global superpower and on the same level as top industries worldwide, however the policy of collectivisation resulted in extreme worker defiance and uncontrollable failure, leading to millions especially kulaks - deported, starved and killed. There were arguably many more victims of Stalin’s plans than there were benefiters, with long-term impacts on the civilians. R.W. Davies noted ‘in 1947 at least a million people died of starvation and diseases related to malnutrition’ which could be attributed to the mass starvation that occurred under the process of collectivisation. Other economic successes of the Five-Year Plan were eventually overshadowed by the outbreak of war, and the USSR never reached a point of stability in which all its industries were prospering under Stalin’s Five-Year Plans. It is also evident that Stalin’s purges - implemented to discipline the Soviet population from opposition towards Stalin - negatively affected the ability for the Five-Year Plans to boost the economy, as skilled workers and valuable personnel were either not present or too fearful to admit failures.