Joseph Stalin

by Robyn Byrne

The Five Year Plans:

Stalin introduced the Five Year Plans. This brought all industry under state control and all industrial development was planned by the state. The state would decide what would be produced, how much would be produced and where it should be produced. An organisation called Gosplan was created to plan all this out.

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.


35 million tons

64 mt (75 mt target)

128 mt (152 mt target)


12 million tons

21 mt (22 mt target)

29 mt (47 mt target)


5 million tons

12 mt (19 mt target)


Pig Iron

3 million tons

6 mt (10 mt target)

15 mt (16 mt target)


4 million tons

6 mt (10 mt target)

18 mt (17 mt target)

(mt millions of tons)

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.

Joseph Stalin.

Joseph Stalin.


Stalin’s Five-year Plans dealt with industrial production, but something needed to be done about the food supply so Stalin introduced collectivisation. After years of resistance and famines Stalin eventually executed those who resisted, or sent them to labour camps.

Collectivisation in practice


Stalin advocated collective farms
By the end of the 1920s, it was clear that Russian agriculture was inadequate. Although the kulaks were relatively wealthy and successful, the thousands of tiny, backward peasant farms were not producing enough to feed the population.
In 1927, Stalin declared that the way forward was for people in each village to voluntarily unite their farms into one collective farm. This kolkhoz would be able to afford machinery, be more efficient, and be able to create a surplus to send to the towns.


the peasants burned their farms
After two years, when everyone had ignored his idea and there had been a famine, Stalin made collectivisation compulsory.
The peasants hated the idea, so they burned their crops and killed their animals rather than hand them over to the state. There was another famine in 1930.


kulaks were sent to the gulag
Stalin relaxed the rules for a while, but in 1931 he again tried to enforce collectivisation.
Again there was the same resistance and another, worse famine.
Stalin blamed the kulaks, and declared war on them. They were executed or sent to the gulag.


by 1939, 99 per cent of land had been collectivised
By 1939, 99 per cent of land had been collectivised 90% of the peasants lived on one of the 250,000 kolkhoz. Farming was run by government officials. The government took 90 per cent of production and left the rest for the people to live on.